Post-workout Recovery

Despite my pride for finishing that hard-as-hell circuit training class on Monday, my body was not very happy with me.  When I decided to go back to working out and joined a gym after my surgery, I told my husband (and myself) that I would ease back into it.  That is what I had been doing with beginner’s Zumba and beginner’s Yoga, the exercise bike, and very little (due to lack of fitness) elliptical.  Monday’s workout was way too advanced.  It was not easing in but something I may hope to be able to do in a year’s time when I fully recover from ACDF.

Monday night I could already feel the pain beginning while trying to sleep.  By 4 am (my ‘wake-up and begin work’ time), literally every muscle in my body ached.  There were muscles that no matter how in shape I was I must never have worked out.  The most striking is whatever muscle is from the elbow to the wrist.  I have never exercised that muscle and I’m not sure I want to again!  My neck muscles, shoulder muscles, back muscles, stomach muscles, glutes, quads, inner thighs, calves all hurt like hell all day Tuesday.  I felt like crap and had to take a nap after work.  I still felt crummy when I woke up from the nap.

This morning my muscles tamed down a bit but definitely not enough to do any sort of exercise besides walking Roger to school and back.  Fortunately, I had a massage booked from a Groupon and that helped immensely.

Tomorrow I am going to attempt gentle yoga.  I know I can always go into child’s pose if need be.

* An aside:  I get an inspirational quote in my email daily.  Today’s rocked and I want to share it with everyone.
“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.”
Mark Twain

Namaste

Misread

Last week, I signed up for an orientation class at the gym.  They have this large piece of equipment in the middle that is capable of numerous exercises but pretty difficult to decipher without training.  I received a confirmation email and kept it in my inbox.

This morning I look at the email again.  It states “Small Group Training”.  GULP.  Did I sign up for a circuit training class?!  I called the gym and explained that I am completely out of shape and, probably, unable to handle this type of class.  (Also, at 10 am tickets were going on sale for the Polyphonic Spree’s 17th Annual Extravaganza.  That was the time the class started).  The person who answered the phone reassured me that modifications would be given and to try it out.

Reluctantly, I went to the gym.  Thankfully, the first warm up the trainer put me and one other lady on was the treadmill.  I was able to walk and buy the concert tickets (Row C in the Middle Section!!!).  The following 40 minutes were treacherous.  I had ACDF surgery in July, so I had many modifications.  Even with the modifications, my body started dripping in sweat halfway through the class.  By the end of class, my legs were jelly.  We took a snapshot since this was the first class of its kind at the gym.

Tomorrow my body (especially my neck and back) will let me know if I can handle this class or if it’s too soon for me.  Either way, I am super proud of myself for not cancelling, not giving up half way through and not half-assing it.  I DID IT!

Stress

Stress has been eating away at me this week.  I wrote a quick list of my stressors hoping it help with my stress level.  Yeah, no.

Currently, like many folks, a big stressor is financially-based.  We have had some health issues this year and even with medical and dental insurance we are spending oodles.  On top of that, we need a new fence.  The wrought iron fence that was here when we bought the house is incredibly rusted.  In some areas, you can push your finger through the rusted areas and disconnect the fence.  We have put down half the money and just waiting for our place in line.  A fence around an entire property that is not shared with neighbors is a huge expense.  Both of our neighbors are fence-less.  This morning our downstairs TV died and our dogs both getting a badly-needed grooming.  On top of that the pile of expenses add the amount it cost us to put my niece and her son up at a hotel for a week.  The money is all going out before it has a chance to come in.

My next stressor is my life schedule.  I love having a scheduled routine.  I love putting my plans down on calendars.  However, I do not like the back-to-back-to-back schedule that I will be facing in October (and probably through the end of the year).  Rob is having two procedures in October and, possibly, a third in December.  Besides the procedure dates, there will be post-op appointments.  In addition, I still have my post-op and x-ray appointments.  On top of that add Roger’s appointments at the orthodontist for an expander.  I just realized that we all need our flu shots too.  And, of course, we have Roger’s weekly OT, Swimming, Baseball, and Tutor.  He also has nightly homework that I need to help with.  I also signed up to be Room Mom Helper and trying to fit in volunteering at the school.  Finally, I have my full-time work schedule.  Just typing that all out stresses me out AND exhausts me!

My third stressor I listed under the category of FOOD.  Then, I decided to add a slash and put weight loss.  That reminds me that I am also trying to keep exercise and house cleaning in my schedule, as well as preparing dinner (Rob is usually the cook).  As my blog stated yesterday, food/eating has been a life-long stressor since I was called “tub of lard” in elementary school.  Kids are wonderful, eh?

My fourth stressor is work.  Work has been overwhelming lately.  I love my job and my colleagues.  I actually prefer when there are projects that are due.  However, returning a few weeks ago from my medical leave, I still have have back pain on and off.  My supervisor would understand my need for breaks still.  BUT I feel obligated to get the work done quickly and accurately.  That is just my thing.  I guess work is not the stressor but my expectation of myself at work.  This morning I woke with terrible pain between the shoulder blades.  This is an area that is known to flare up post-ACDF surgery.  I need to be kinder to myself re: work (and life).

I usually don’t unload as much as I did today.  My little sheet of paper lettered A-D with subheadings was just not doing the trick.  I am hoping getting this all out of me will release a teeny bit of the stress.  Re-reading this blog, I guess my only true stressor is my EXPECTATION of myself.

Bip Zim Bop

Totally non-sensical title.  I didn’t want to put a title like: “Beyond Exhausted” for the umpteenth time or “Feeling the pain”.  But that is where I am at today.

When I went to bed last night, my back/body was in so much pain that I took Tylenol 3.  I have only a few left, so I must ration them!  I probably should have gone for the muscle relaxer since I awoke at the same pain level.  I am sure the pain is not helping my energy levels.  I am exhausted.  I have done my squats, arm exercises, and, currently, riding my bike.  I plan on jumping in the shower after this and am hoping that wakes me up some before Roger gets home from school.  I always need energy for that!

 

Fallen off

The past week or so I have fallen off the logging food/eating healthy cycle.  If I don’t log, it usually means I am eating things I’d rather not log!  Also, with the new work schedule and things popping up at Roger’s school, I have missed some of my exercise goals.  I know I cannot be perfect all the time but I know the exercise does help me mentally as well as give me more energy.  You may have realized I was not cycling as much due to the lack of blogging.  Again, I do realize that these posts do help my mind settle down a bit.

I know most people always start their diets back on a Monday.  I hate being that cliché but my husband’s 41st birthday is tomorrow.  That means a delicious dinner tonight.  Tomorrow, drinks and cake will be devoured.  Today and tomorrow I will log my exercise on MyFitnessPal but will go back to strictly logging my food on Monday, cliché and all.

One goal I have met is walking over 10,000 steps every day this week.  YAY for me!  Today I am not confident I will reach that goal since it’s pouring out but will try going up and down the stairs a bunch today.  I do have to clean up the house a bit anyhow.  That should help with my step goal.

Another goal I have been keeping is my squat challenge.  Today was 160 squats.  Tomorrow is the rest day.  I had been planning on resting my body on the squat rest days.  SO, I am not sure I will be on this bike tomorrow or back on it Monday.

Thanks for all the support!

New schedule

With my early morning wake-ups, I decided to ask my job if I could make a schedule change.  And, as always, I sent them my schedule for the following week on Friday.   The big change is starting work at 4 a.m.  I know to the bulk of you that sounds crazy.  However, after last’s week’s early risings, I was starting my work day between 3 and 4.  I am an early morning person and had much more focus and energy working early.  I did not have my afternoon slump at my desk either.

Today I worked from 4-6, got Roger ready for school and had some time together before school, and finished my work day at 11:40 am.  Again, nutso to some, but great for me.  I try to be in bed by 8:45 and get 6 hours of sleep (or more).  This weekend made me realize that over 7 hours is worse for me than only 4 hours of sleep!

I am now riding the bike post-work and, if I ever want to take any exercise classes, I won’t have to make up work time.  These hours will be great for the gym I joined that is opening in November.  By that time, most or all of my physical limitations from surgery should be lifted.

Of course, with upcoming doctor’s appointments and such, the work day will not always be done so early.  BUT I won’t have the worry of when I can make up my work hours or have time to spend one on one with Roger and Rob!

Back on the bike

The previous two days I skipped my stationary bike.  Friday I felt horrible and my legs and body were hurting.  I think I was progressing too far in my workout.  Saturday I had intended to be my full body Day of Rest.  Today I am back on the bike and will be back to the squats (I challenged myself to a 30 day squat challenge).

If I felt bad Friday, mentally I felt awful Saturday.  Uncharacteristically, I got 9 hours of sleep.  When I saw that I was amazed and thrilled.  The rest of me was not.  I was more tired than on days I get a few hours of sleep.  I could not wake up at all. I was in a constant haze. I drank copious amounts of coffee that did not help.  I was in a terrible mood too.  I was depressed, impatient, and very antagonistic.  Those with depression may understand this but when my husband asked me why I was depressed and there was literally no reason that I was depressed but just in that sinking feeling.   However, that answer never seems to be satisfactory.  It is odd I was so down.  I had a denied insurance claim from my surgery since the hospital used some out-of-network providers.  Supposedly that is common, but seeing a “YOU OWE $21,750” EOB a month ago was devastating.  Yesterday, the reprocessed bill was updated on the website and we owe nothing.  That should have put me in a stellar mood.

Well, today I am in a stellar mood on 4.5 hours of sleep.  I am on the bike, blogging, and enjoying the morning. I am super happy that we get to proceed with the new fence that was on hold due to the medical bill above.  Today I know life is good and that those little dips in mood can easily turn around in a day. My body and mind feel rested and ready for this week.

Surgery Insomnia

I’ve always been a light sleeper which makes for a restless night when sleeping with someone else.  And when I complain about Roger waking between 5 and 6 every day despite the time he goes to bed, my mother reminds me that I did the same. “If you were up until 2 am, you still were up by 6.”

Since pregnancy my sleep has worsened.  I used to be a still sleeper – staying asleep on one side all night long.  With pregnancy, I could never get comfortable and my husband’s coming into bed late (the night owl) would wake me too. Once Roger was born, he slept terribly as an infant.  Through his toddler years he would only nap if in constant motion, which meant I had to walk him around in a baby carrier or stroller (if I sat or stopped walking he would immediately wake up) or drive him for an hour or so twice a day.  During ages 2-4, Roger would wake up extremely early in intervals (a week period of 3 am wake ups) and return to the normal 5 am.  And then, a month later, he’d do the 3 am wake ups again.  It was cyclical.  That did not mean he would go down for his one nap any earlier or, on good days, just skip that nap altogether.  Lucky me, his naps ended at 3 years old, as well. On rare occasions, Roger will still have his extremely early morning wake ups and be up for the day.

I wanted to give you a background of my sleep before delving into this “post-surgery insomnia”.  I realize that immediately following surgery, and the first couple of weeks after, sleep is going to be all messed up due to medications and pain.  I think I actually slept better those first few weeks getting the most sleep I have had in years.  However, the past two weeks or so I have had several days of early morning wake ups (being up for the day ranging from 1am to 4 am).

When I returned to work, the insomnia was not the worst thing since I could work instead of drowning in thoughts of “c’mon sleep” and trying techniques to fall back to sleep.  This morning I awoke at 2 and tried my version of counting sheep.  By 2:45 I decided, instead of lying there and doing nothing and being wide awake, I should just get up and start work and hope for a nap later.  BUT before I did that I googled various searches for post-surgery insomnia.  Most articles dealt with the immediate weeks following, but I found an orthopedic surgeon’s website that wrote about the matter:  “Surprisingly, there are no published studies on the frequency of sleep disturbance several weeks or months following joint replacement surgery. However, in one study of patients with broken bones, 41% of patients with shoulder fractures and 36% of patients with knee fractures had difficulty sleeping 3 months after the injury. Even a year later, 20% of patients still reported insomnia.”   I may not have had joint replacement, but I did have cervical disc replacement with a plate and screws.

My husband suggested I add more whimsy to my blog.  With my lack of sleep, I respond, “Well, tough titties”.

Surgery Files: My recovery at home

I was discharged on July 15th after two nights in the hospital.  (That tells you what a big surgery it is since they love to release you right after the recovery room!)  I remember very little of that day except that I stayed in bed the first 24 hours at home, in the dark, without the tv on, or reading books, or looking at my phone.  I could not handle any light.  When I wasn’t sleeping, I was crying over my horrible decision to have had this surgery.  For me the worst part was my throat – I could not swallow ANYTHING.  Everything hurt so much.  I had anxiety over taking medicine and staying hydrated. Drinking water hurt so terribly and I choked continually trying to eat or drink anything.  I started taking pills with applesauce which seemed to be the only substance I could “easily” intake.

On July 16th, I made it downstairs and took my first post-operative shower on my shower chair.  The whole ordeal exhausted me and put me in an utterly foul mood.  I was not very optimistic at this point.  Thankfully, Rob called my neurosurgeon’s office regarding my choking.  They prescribed prednisone and by the end of that pack, I was doing much better.  I was still choking on water but to a lesser degree.

By July 18th, I was turning a corner and not just sitting/lying in bed or sitting in the recliner.  I started walking around the house more.  On the 19th, I took my second shower and it, again, exhausted me.  I think I was overdoing the walking and started feeling not-so-great again on the 20th.

The days and weeks since surgery have had many ups and downs.  Today I am feeling pretty good, but yesterday was a really terrible day where I did not/could not leave the house.  I had to use the shower chair to get dressed after my bath.

Here’s hoping for continued good days and fewer of those bad days!

 

Surgery Files: Remainder of Hospital Stay

The remainder of my hospital stay is pretty fuzzy.  This post will be less story-like and, instead, be a list of what I can recall (since it will not form a complete story).

  • The inability to swallow anything without choking — I was put on a liquid diet.  Things like applesauce I could swallow best.  Drinking items like water were the hardest to get down without constant choking (even on one little sip).
  • Being taught to use the mechanism that tests lung capacity (googled it and found the name to be Spiro-Ball) and my lung capacity was awful.
  • Rob staying the first night in the hospital with me (I remember he did but cannot remember that night at all)
  • Realizing, after being constantly itchy, that I am allergic to morphine (instead of giving me an alternative medicine, they just gave me Benadryl and continued with the morphine drip)
  • Being told I needed to walk more but really doing the bare minimum
  • Not really being taught how to put my brace on and adjust it correctly (or at all for that matter)
  • Switching rooms and trying to reach my parents before their visit.  This ended up in my parents first going to the first room and then having to walk to the opposite side of the floor and my mom falling.
  • My mom refusing to immediately get an x-ray (which the staff probably would have gotten her into ASAP) and instead, after an hour or two, going to ER and being there til 1 in the morning.
  • The nighttime staff being non-attentive the second night when I needed to make my several trips to the bathroom
  • Still being allergic to morphine (so not using it as often as I needed) and given Benadryl.  FINALLLY, before being discharged after the second night in the hospital, they took off the morphine drip and gave me pills: Tylenol 3 and muscle relaxers.  Trying to swallow pills with water was a nightmare.
  • Telling the nurse how I was given the instructions to only take one Tylenol 3 every 8 hours and up to 3 times a day for the muscle relaxer after she told me to repeat the meds in 4 hours.  She could not believe that infrequency.

I do not remember the drive home (although I do remember waiting with the nurse for Rob to drive up).  I do not remember walking upstairs and lying down for the first time.  It is probably best not to remember those things too clearly for I am sure they hurt like hell.

Tomorrow I will try to post about my first week at home (or at least the first full day).

Surgery Files: Day of Surgery

I am going to explain what I remember about my surgery and recovery.  There are definitely really foggy areas, but bear with me.

We arrived at the hospital at 5:30/6 am on Friday, July 13th.  The check-in was the normal process but instead of heading to the back where I have gone through some out-patient procedures, they brought us to the second floor.  I knew I would be spending a minimum of one night for this ACDF procedure (anterior cervical disc fusion) on two levels: C5-C6 and C6-C7.  In layman’s terms, they are taking out those two discs, replacing them, spacing them out as they should be (instead of rubbing on each other and the spinal cord) by putting a plate and screws.  In the process, they move your esophagus and vocal cords to the side.

The enjoyment of the surgery day began with the first nurse trying to put the IV in my right hand.  Once in, she said she lost the vein and was digging inside my hand with that large IV.  I could not hold back tears – so friggin’ painful.  The second nurse comes in and tries to put an IV on the side of my left hand/wrist area.  She sprays something to numb the area and, again, misses.  A third nurse, who looked utterly pissed off because she is probably always called in to do things correctly, quickly inserted the IV into the top of my left hand.  However, by the time the surgeon came in, I was still in tears over the first IV attempt still hurting. The normal paperwork was signed and questions asked and I was rolled back closer to 7:30 than 7 am .

I awoke in the recovery room unable to breathe.  That I do remember.  I was crying trying to breathe.  Rob relayed that rather than the 45 minutes we were told I would be back in recovery, I was there for roughly two hours.  He was not informed of what was occurring but just told the surgery went well and no drain was needed.  At some point, I passed out again and woke in my room.  I saw Rob quickly and, again, upon waking, I could not breathe.  They rushed Rob from the room, took an in-bed X-ray and wheeled me down to get an emergency CT scan.  Thankfully both came back “normal”.  I had to keep oxygen on at all times.  At that point I had not been able to drink anything but given grotesque swabs for my mouth.

Other things I recall from that day:  Carolyn bringing Roger with Get Well balloons to see me (she was so sweet to watch him while I was having surgery).  Rob being utterly sweet and kissing me in the bed.  My parents visit is utterly blurry.  The itchiness of the oxygen up my nose was horrible.  My inability to swallow without choking was horrendous and lasted about a week.  They told me they were putting steroids in my IV.  The nurses wanting me to get up and walk around after the breathing ordeals (yeah, no – to the bathroom and back was fine – and there were many walks to there since I pee a lot).  I remember trying to push the morphine button as often as possible while conscious.  That is about all I remember.

Tomorrow I hope to blog about the rest of my hospital stay.   Thanks for reading!

The Swing of Things

Right before the 3 day weekend, I start getting back into the swing of things.  Last night I was in SO MUCH PAIN.  I really could not believe that a simple desk job could affect my pain level so much.  Also, when I went to bed last night I was utterly freezing.  I turned the air off and asked Rob to get me an extra cover.  I will still freezing.  However, I woke up this morning feeling great.

The waves of pain/stiffness are coming more frequently today, so I have been getting up and walking much more than yesterday.  My job understands that I need to do this.  Yesterday, though, I was pretty glued to my seat pouring through emails.  Yes, people covered some of my work, but some items fell between the cracks which meant reviewing every bit of work.  Today my work pile is still large but manageable.

I am currently on my lunch break and using the stationary bike.  Luckily, the wordpress site is working and I no longer have to type a post out on my phone!  I vow to keep up the bike riding which means I shall keep up the blog!  Slowly, I plan on integrating yoga.  I found a video on youtube for yoga after back/fusion surgery and avoiding certain movements for your spine (cervical included).  I will try that first before attending a class.  BUT my motivation to do that is somewhat lacking.  BUT I should be proud of my ability to stick to one exercise since I have not been consistent since I don’t even know when!  Baby steps… or maybe I shall make a lame joke and say baby pedals!

Surgical sabbatical

Tomorrow I return to work.  My last day of work was July 12th.  I had grand ideas of blogging about my recovery from ACDF surgery.  Then, once the surgery was over, the brutal reality of how difficult of a recovery it was going to be sank in.  I may still blog about it one day in the near future.  However, today, I just wanted to dip my toe into the wordpress waters, scream a jaunty HELLO, and tell you that I will be, hopefully, updating more regularly in the future.  Thank you all for your love and support!

Tomorrow is the day

Since being back from vacation, my thoughts have been occupied by my upcoming ACDF surgery (anterior cervical disc fusion). This week, by far, was the most stressful. My urinalysis showed moderate blood and had to be sent to another lab for further testing. I also had to wait extra time for my C-reactive protein results. I got the phone call today at 10:30 am saying that all is good and the results would be sent to the neurosurgeon’s office. Mind you, this was only 19 hours before my arrival time at the hospital.

Every moment of today I feel like I am going to have a full-on panic attack. Currently, it is 14.25 hours until my arrival time. I have been told that if I feel this anxious at the hospital they may give me something to calm me down. I hope so!

To quickly describe my surgery: an incision will be done through the front of my neck, my vocal chords and esophagus will be pushed aside, the bad discs removed and donor bone inserted, finished with a plate and screws. I am having two-levels done: C5-C6 and C6-C7. I will be in a neck brace until my post-op appointment on August 1st. I’m lucky because some surgeons require a brace for 3 months.

My plan is to give updates on my blog. However, medication and pain may halt that for a bit.

Positivity shall rule the day! Send good vibes my way!

Double-crushed

Previously I have written about how I was diagnosed with Double Crush Syndrome from the orthopedic surgeon who performed my ulnar nerve transposition surgery.  For those not aware, it means my nerves are compressed in more than one place.  I had severe compression on my left elbow but also have spinal cord compression which will be remedied (hopefully) with my ACDF surgery in July.  One of the key components is the inability to tell from which compression the pain (or numbness/tingling/weakness/other issues) is stemming from in the body.

Today, I have been having a lot of pain in my left arm.  I am thinking it is from my surgery.  The surgeon said it takes about a year to heal from the surgery.  I am 8/9 months post-op.  The nerves regenerate and fire off signals. I am not sure if I have been leaning on the place my nerve was moved to in my sleeping and/or waking/working hours.  All I know is this pain today is really annoying.  I tried some Aleve but it’s not alleviating that pain or the headache I have had today.  Unfortunately, with upcoming surgery and vacation, I have no additional time I can take off to rest.  For these type of issues, sedentary work may actually be the most painful!

I feel cruddy and totally anti-social.  I wish I could remain “hidden” all day.  But, alas, my son’s school has an art show I assured him I would attend.  Maybe it will lift my spirits.  He always has a tendency to make me feel happy/silly, even if just for a fleeting moment.  In the between time of work and art show, I am hoping to rest in bed by myself for a bit.  I am sure co-sleeping may be another culprit in my painful day(s)!

Anyhow, as you can plainly see, today is also a major complaining day. Hopefully, tomorrow I will be in a less whiny place.  And, perhaps, pigs will fly!

To write or not to write…

I have a little down time before we head to Roger’s afternoon activities.  I had to sign onto my laptop to pay a bill and figure I should blog.  I get reminders from Facebook that my Spinning Wheels page has not had a post in quite some time.  However, what is there to write about when everything seems to be at the same place it was the last time you wrote?

I am still trying to get everything in order for our trip to Denver and my surgery.  I am still trying to not fall down the depression/anxiety hole by meeting with my psychiatrist every couple of weeks.  I am still trying to make it through work and life everyday and be somewhat positive.  I am still letting little things interfere with my mood and perseverate about them.  I am still watching documentaries on Netflix (after finishing Love).  I am still functioning better during the week since life has less routine on the weekends.  That makes me concerned with summer that begins in 3 short weeks!

Now it’s your choice:  to read or not to read…

Hump Day

Every day, lately, has felt like “hump” day.  Every day I start with my usual tasks and by about 9:30 am usually exhausted and ready for the end of the day.  Today, at Texas’ version of the DMV, I was waiting at the window not a particularly long time and just felt my overwhelming exhaustion.  I felt like placing my head on the ledge and closing my eyes.  Multiple times, lately, I have had to put my head down on my desk for a few minutes to make it through each work day.  I am even putting my head down on the kitchen table, sometimes the kitchen counter, sometimes on the crossed arms on my lap.

Besides the exhaustion, I have been much more aware of my arm and leg pain.  It’s become a nuisance.  It’s not interfering much with my daily routine, but just a reminder.  I told Rob that over the next ten weeks I was going to cut back on chores/tasks that seem to increase pain.  I want to be well enough for vacation and to enjoy my pre-op summer time with Rob and Roger.

New Hobbies

I am still very low energy and short on patience.  However, I figured I should write a short post now that I am done with the day’s work and Rob is out with Roger.

Recently, I pulled out a puzzle Roger won and decided to build it by myself, since no one else was interested.  What I did not expect is that Rob would be sucked in to the puzzle building as well.  We are currently on our third puzzle.  Rob calls it a time suck, but I find it enjoyable (albeit sometimes frustrating!).

My next new “hobby” is a bit macabre.  While watching the show, “It Was Him” on the Paramount Network, I realized how much I enjoy true crime shows, movies, and documentaries.  I always watch Law and Order: SVU but always find documentaries more fascinating.  On Audible I downloaded and listened to Inside the Mind of BTK.  It was interesting but the narrator was horrible and horribly mispronounced so many common words and names.  I just started listening to Killer Clown (about John Wayne Gacy).  So far I can tell you the narrator is much more knowledgeable about speaking correctly and has a “detective-like” voice.  I am liking this one much more.  I have also downloaded fiction crime stories as well.

It is nice having these distractions lately!

Up and So Far Down

The past two weeks have been a trying time for me.  I went to a new psychiatrist and started a new medicine.  It worked well and I had a follow-up appointment two week’s later.  Since all was good with my mood (but still having some OCD and anxiety) we decided to not increase medication dosage and “wait and see” for two more weeks.

I was in much better spirits, actually enjoying myself, not feeling as angry and not lashing out as easily.  My motivation was coming back and I wanted to focus on eating healthier, exercising more, adding in meditation, and doing a really good housecleaning.

Although my exercise was only about 20 minutes a day, that (with the repetitive motions of cleaning), irritated my cervical spine issues.  That’s putting it nicely – the cleaning and exercising caused significant pain.  I had to sleep with a travel pillow.  By Friday, my back was in such bad shape that I could hardly move.  To say it put me in an awful mood, again, is putting it nicely.  I have been severely depressed since the pain began.  Will I be able to function normally post-surgery?  Dusting the house exacerbates my issues, I recall from an earlier cleaning attempt.  Taking a scenic walk in our area caused my upper back to be in such severe pain, I had to take my muscle relaxers along with the icing and heating.

This weekend I have been in bad spirits.  I feel like I’m back in that place I was prior to seeing the psychiatrist.  I just want to be in bed.  I feel anti-social, unhappy, in pain, exhausted, easily irritated and overly anxious.

Will I survive a summer vacation to Colorado?  Roger is way too excited to cancel it.  Am I putting off surgery too long?  Will I be able to handle Roger’s birthday party post-surgery? Will I gain another 30 pounds being unable to do simple tasks around the house?  I keep going on and on and getting lost in my own thoughts.  I am hoping typing this out will get these thoughts “out there” and I will stop perseverating.

Is 6:30 too early for bed?!

 

The Shoes

Amidst all my praise for all the progress Roger has made, there is one area in which he has not improved.  It’s his feet.  When he was little, Roger never wanted to be barefoot.  Then, there were a couple of years that Roger would only wear rain boots.  It was when he was 3-5 years old.  Any other shoes would cause him to meltdown.

Sneakers have been really tricky.  We used to be able to do Velcro sneakers.  But, alas, the Velcro starts to be less effective/less sticky and Roger would meltdown trying to reattach the Velcro over and over again.  We decided, since the Velcro were never tight enough, to do lace up sneakers.  He has been using lace up sneakers since he’s been in baseball.  That was how we got him out of rain boots for one day a week — he had to wear sneakers if he wanted to play baseball.  Thankfully, he eventually gave up the rain boots and will wear either sneakers (for school and baseball) or flip-flops.

Every morning has gotten increasingly worse since spring break.  It used to be tying his shoes 2, maybe three times, for him to be okay with them, for the shoes to be tight enough for him.  This morning I tied his shoes five or six times before we left for school.  He was in tears, screaming and hitting his head.  They still did not feel right to him.  I told him we had to leave or he’d be late.  Once we got to his school, he asked me to tie them one last time.  I did.

It’s so heartbreaking to see my son react like that.  When he was younger, he had many more meltdowns and would hit his head.  He outgrew/out-therapied the majority of that.  It’s just the damn shoe issue that keeps rearing it’s ugly head.  It will subside for a bit and then get ridiculous, and then subside, and then get out of hand again.  I am wondering if it is linked to anxiety.  Obviously there is a sensory component but for it to flare up, I think there is something else going on: anxiety, OCD, control issues.  These are the only times he gets violent — recently with hitting himself in the head and in the past (January 2018) with him hitting his head into my back.

Tomorrow he has baseball and I know the shoe tying will be a nightmare in the morning.  He’s also informed me that he is getting a small hole in the toe of his shoe and that he wants to buy new sneakers tomorrow.  Oh boy, sneaker shopping with Roger is a whole other story!

I look forward to Sunday when he can wear his flip-flops.

One week later

This week has been mentally exhausting for me. I had my second neurosurgeon opinion on Tuesday (3rd opinion overall, including last year’s orthopedic surgeon opinion).  All surgeons agree that I should have surgery.  Two told me the time frame was up to me while one told me I needed to have it in 2-3 weeks (all were looking at the same MRIs, x-rays, reports).  I had read that for cervical surgery one should have a neurosurgeon instead of an orthopedic surgeon.  That narrowed my decision to two.

After consulting with my husband, asking on a few ACDF Facebook groups, texting/messaging nurse friends, and writing a pro & con list, I made my decision by Wednesday morning.  It was an incredibly difficult decision filled with much anxiety and sleeplessness.  I didn’t have a “gut feeling” about one doctor as I had with the ulnar nerve surgery.  Each surgeon had polar post-surgery protocols.  That made my decision much more confusing.  I was not only choosing a surgeon but choosing which recovery I thought would be best for me.  One said I would be in a collar for 3 months 24/7, the other said I would be in a collar for two weeks when I was up and about (not while sleeping/sitting).  Thankfully I am OCD, so researching is second nature!

This week I also began seeing a new psychologist. I am trying “telehealth” which is basically skyping with a therapist.  My new insurance uses Amwell, so I thought that with my time constraints it would be an easy solution.  It was the perfect timing with surgery happening in less than four months from now.

The psychologist was a good fit.  She understood having a special needs kid, my stress level and, overall, current situation.  I feel like it was almost kismet that I made the decision on which therapist to use.  The past few weeks it has been suggested to me (by independent sources) that I should use Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.  The psychologist also made this referral.  She told me a couple of websites to consult, one being a link to a free MBSR online course. I read the Introduction/Getting Started sections and will, formally, take the plunge this upcoming week.  It is an eight week course which requires 30 minutes of practice time per day.  That will be difficult but I really want to make this commitment to myself.  (If anyone is interested, the website is palousemindfulness.com)

 

Quick updates

Today has been a slow and steady type of day.  I had a nice workflow going, had my “maintenance” allergy shots (which are itching up a storm still), did a teeny bit of straightening around the house, walked with Roger to and from school, and am now stationary bike riding and typing.

The wind picked up on the way home from Roger’s school and I question whether these allergy shots do a damn thing.  I still take a Zyrtec and one Benadryl each night and sometimes an allergy pill during the day.  I still get congested and sneeze quite a bit — which Rob is concerned with re:  cervical fusion/ACDF surgery.  And, I still get numerous sinus infections, which the allergist touts does not occur once you get allergy shots.  I think it’s been 3 years since I’ve been getting them and the only reason I am not stopping is fear that it may be worse without them. Then I’d have to start from the beginning again and build up my tolerance.

My mother had her follow-up with the orthopedic surgeon regarding her broken pelvis.  The bones are healing nicely, but she is in the worst pain of her life.  When the doctor did her exam, it was obvious that her intense pain is stemming from her back.  She is trying to get a spinal cord stimulator implant to relieve her chronic back pain.  She is getting in-home OT and PT.  She is such a strong woman!  My father has been ceaselessly taking care of her.  He is really remarkable, though exhausted, at nearly age 82.  We try and go over to visit and when my father needs time away.  However, it is hard with our daily work/Roger schedule!

Roger is doing well though he’s starting to complain about being tired much more often.  I am thinking he may be affected by seasonal allergies or still adjusting to the time change.  He has asked to stop taking Hip Hop Boys.  He is still in swimming lessons, School of Rock, Miracle League baseball, and occupational therapy.  Maybe that is why he is exhausted!

Robert quit his office job about a month ago and is now working from home as a full-time, independent artist.  He has been building up his Instagram followers to over 82,000 and been doing some vendor shows.  Next month, we got a booth in the artist’s row at a convention in Dallas.  He is making a steady income and much happier.  We still have to adjust to having only one car though — I think that may be the hardest adjustment in the weeks to come.

That’s a wrap!

 

 

What a Pain!

Today I have the best of intentions to clean the remainder of the house while my son is out with daddy this late afternoon. In anticipation, I have been doing a little bit of dusting here and there. Oh my, my back/neck/arms hurt! I am doing NOTHING intense, just walking and mildly dusting.

My thoughts as I continued to dust: do I even need another neurosurgeon appointment?! (I do just in regards for timeframe surgery may be necessary). A few days ago I read through blog posts from July describing my neck/arm/head pain and remembered how physical therapy made it more unbearable. I guess the months that the pain diminishes or lessens in degree, I forget about the painful months. I don’t have many readers to my blog but this journal really helps me in keeping a log of pain (physical and emotional).

Last night, I looked over at my son beside me in bed. It caused he most excruciating pain. I must turn my body when I am upright and looking side to side. It brought tears to my eyes realizing surgery may be closer than I hoped.

End of week

It is the Friday of spring break.  Unfortunately, it was not quite a break for us.  My husband and I had work and my son was in camp all week.  Luckily, he was so excited for camp each day and said he had a best friend at camp.  Last night, we went to Main Event and played video games and Roger got to play laser tag with a friend from his school.  Today, after camp, my husband is taking him to the park and then we will all go to my parent’s place for dinner (bringing over Chinese food).  Roger is probably a bit disappointed I did not go to the park, but I woke up with horrible allergies.  It’s that time of year when I start having days that feel flu-like but know it is just what happens when the weather is nice.  I get to only explore the great outdoors on hundred degree days that are allergy-free.  This is truly not fair!

I have decided to have another appointment with the neurosurgeon I met with last year prior to my ulnar nerve surgery (who recommended traction).  I have an appointment with him two days before my follow-up with the new neurosurgeon.  As you can see, I am really wanting avoid surgery!

I have not received a call from the imaging place yet re: x-rays.  I called them yesterday and they did not get the order yet.  They said they will call me.  So, this afternoon I emailed the neurosurgeon office via the patient portal and will follow up with both over the phone on Monday early afternoon, if I hear nothing.

Now that a couple of days have passed, I feel like the idea of surgery is a long-past memory.  I am cheerful, despite allergies.  I am loving my new office arrangement and ordered a new, larger turquoise rug (to compliment the orange walls), so I can stretch during breaks.

Tomorrow hopefully my allergies can subside so we can enjoy a day outside in the gorgeous weather.  There is a St. Paddy’s Day Texas Style festival in Lewisville I would like to check out.  I have also heard the Dallas Arboretum is beautiful.  Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Neurosurgeon

First off, let me say that I have been dealing with this back pain for over a decade.  I was working in NYC when I started treatment on my back.  I have been in and out of physical therapy, had a few epidurals, and many x-rays and MRIs over the years.  The pain in my back specifically and has been pretty constant since 2014 and my limited range of motion since 2007.

Since being in TX, I was referred to one orthopedic doctor who said I had three options:  1. Physical Therapy 2. Epidurals 3.  Surgery.  He said it was up to me.  I went the PT route and never returned to him, since he offered no advice.  Then, I went to a different orthopedic surgeon who set me up with a pain doctor for epidurals, since PT was not helpful.  Last year this orthopedic surgeon said I needed ACDF surgery.  I was hesitant because he suggested the same to a friend who was told her disc issues were very minor by another doctor.  So, I met with a different neurosurgeon at the time that recommended traction over surgery, since, at the time, my arm and hand pain were the biggest issues.  Also, my PCP at that time suggested I get an EMG to see if my arm pain stemmed elsewhere before committing to ACDF surgery.  That is when it was discovered that I had severe compression of my ulnar nerve at my elbow.  I had ulnar nerve transposition surgery last August and “forgot” about my back.

Currently, the past couple of months, arm pain has returned, along with the ever-present neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain and mid-back pain (all due to my C5-C7 discs).  I went back to the surgeon who performed my arm surgery.  She said that what I described was most likely due to the my neck issues.  I went back to the pain doctor, set up two epidurals and a referral to a neurosurgeon who she highly recommended and was conservative in his approach.

The new neurosurgeon was very straight forward.  He said, at this point, physical therapy or epidurals will not help.  They may help some of the symptoms but will not make the underlying issue better.  He tested my reflexes and did some sort of flicker test on my fingers. My middle finger on my left hand twitched.  He said this was definitely indicated that surgery is necessary. He recommends ACDF surgery on 2 levels (as the orthopedic doctor suggested).  He said the level above is having some slippage but, since he is conservative, would not work on that level unless the new x-rays he ordered show more slippage from the x-rays of 2015.  He said surgery was not urgent but needed to be done.  Our perception (my husband and I) thought that meant that we would discuss in a year, maybe five.  Thankfully my husband asked for a specific time frame.  The neurosurgeon said 2-3 weeks.  Um, we would define that as an “urgent” time frame.  He retorted that in the medical field “urgent” meant surgery needed to be done within a 48 hour time frame.

I have a follow-up appointment in two weeks where the new x-rays will be discussed, as well as the plan for surgery.  I did tell him I could not have surgery so quickly.  I have a colonoscopy in May and we have been planning  a very nice summer vacation for the end of June.  I will be in a neck brace for 3 months post-surgery. I cannot drive in a neck brace and we are driving to Denver.  He did not like me waiting so long — but I’ve been waiting for a year with all the last minute attempts at another round of physical therapy, epidurals, and ulnar nerve transposition surgery.  He said to avoid anything jarring: running, jarring exercises, riding a horse, being on a boat, and not to fall when on the mountains!

I guess I need to get back in touch with HR tomorrow and find out what short-term disability I can get since I had surgery not so long ago…What a fun Wednesday!

Big Ball of Stress

Achieving balance is what most people are striving for  – or at least I am.  However, at this time in my life, I view everything as stressful.  Work is stressful, cleaning is stressful, trying to find time to exercise is stressful, eating healthy is stressful, getting Roger ready for school/camp/bed/classes/therapy is stressful, playing with Roger is stressful, trying to fall asleep at night is stressful.  BUT doing nothing is the most stressful of all for I think of everything I should be doing.

I think I have forgotten how to relax.  What is the first step?  How do you train yourself to relax?  It really pisses me off when I see others relaxing while I am stressing out.

I also think I have forgotten how to have fun.  It takes a lot to make me smile or genuinely enjoy myself.  It wasn’t until The Dead Milkmen were actually onstage playing that I enjoyed that night.

I genuinely feel bad for my son and my husband.  I want to have fun.  I want to let go.  Will a brain swap work?

Any tips or advice appreciated (just comment).

Post-anesthesia Blues

This week has been mentally, physically, and, mainly, emotionally hard.

Prior to my epidural, I had a change in my workspace.  Instead of working on my personal laptop, that I could move from an exercise work station to different areas of the house, I am now confined to an upstairs workstation.  The set up is quite impressive with large dual-monitors provided from my job.  I am thankful but this has been a learning curve for me.  I had to learn some new programs, spent the majority of Tuesday on the phone with the help desk, and am still not equipped with everything needed.

Wednesday was my “oh-not-so-fun” epidural experience that you can read about in an earlier blog.  They days following have been tough work days.  I was physically exhausted but thought I did not need to take off extra time.  Boy, was I wrong.  I lumbered through them physically but was hit mostly emotionally.

Since Wednesday’s epidural reprimand, I have been in and out of streams of tears.  I have not cried this much in so long.  I have read theories over why anesthesia could make someone cry.  I am wondering if the stress of the past year is finally releasing itself with the help of the anesthesia.  If so, when will the tears finally end?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday’s Epidural

Yesterday I had my third cervical epidural.  My two previous ones were done a couple of years ago.  I had some nerve issues after my second one but did not have any issues with the actual procedure.  That was not the case yesterday.

First off, we had to be at the hospital at 6 a.m.  So, we woke up about 1.5 hours earlier than normal.  That wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I could not sleep at all due to the fact I was worried my alarm would not wake me.  I was up every few minutes looking at the clock.  Therefore, when it was time to wake up, I was already awake and exhausted.  My husband had to get my son ready for school so he had to leave me at the hospital.  I was glad they were gone before I got my IV.  Normally, I get my IV in my hand.  However, this time the nurse put it on the side of my hand/wrist.  The only other time I had it there was when I had surgery on my ankle (almost 20 years ago) and it hurt so bad that I clearly remember that.  Yesterday, it hurt as much as I recall it hurting then.  She even commented that something was up with the nerve and she had to reposition it.  Fun times!

The fun continued in the endoscopy room.  We had to wait for the anesthesiologist.  I chatted a tad with the doctor and staff while waiting.  I was being chipper.  They positioned me face down and, eventually, started the anesthesia. My next memory was the anesthesiologist commenting that I had to stop moving.  I felt like he was reprimanding me.  I started crying and was thankful I was face down and no one could see.  Then I swore I could feel the procedure taking place. It hurt like hell and I cried from then until I was brought in the recovery, where the nurse commented a few times on when my husband would be back — he had to drop our son off at school.  I was still crying when he arrived and on the drive home.  It took me some time before I could tell him about it.

I have been under anesthesia many times and never woke crying.  It makes me very nervous about having my next epidural in three weeks.  I sent a note to my doctor telling her the above in a more vague manner.  She tried calling but I was at my son’s school’s Chili Cook-Off.  She responded via email and asked me to call her tomorrow.  I have a lot to consider in the next few weeks.

Follow up on yesterday’s 1-4

For those interested:

  1. Pain doctor – she is sending a referral to a neurosurgeon.  We both discussed the Orthopedic Surgeon who I previously went to and I said he was too “surgery happy” and I would prefer to see someone she recommended, since her recommendation for a surgeon for my elbow was fantastic.  She said the doctor she is sending me to was head at UC Davis and is conservative in his approach.  Also, we scheduled two cervical epidurals on March 7th and March 28th with a follow up with her in April.
  2. Dental cleaning – they said all is good and that I have been doing well with my upkeep
  3. Open House was really great.  Roger was super excited and he got to show us all around.  It makes me waffle a bit about our decision to switch to the STEM Academy at Donald next year.
  4. The Dead Milkmen were phenomenal.  So much fun!  It’s always nice going to a concert with most of the attendees your general age.  There were some younger kiddos as well (middle school aged).  However, about 3-4 songs near the end I was aching to go.  My back was feeling it!

Last night we got home too late and this morning came too early.  My back is in dire straights today which is calling for a lot of icing and, soon, a hot bath which will, hopefully, be followed by a nap.