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!

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!

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).

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.

Rainy Wednesday

Today started out as most weekdays –with the struggle over Roger’s shoes not being tight enough.  I know the weather change enhances some sensory issues.  This Wednesday it manifested itself over a shirt to wear.  The first shirt I chose was sweatshirt material.  Roger said it was too soft and to get it off him.  He was very upset.  The second shirt’s sleeves were a 1/4 inch too long for him, so he completely freaked out for a second time.  The third shirt worked but his shoes had to be tied multiple times.   The walk to school had light rain.  That he did not complain about.  The walk home the rain became heavier.  C’est la vie!

So today is a cold, rainy day.  The perfect day to be under covers in bed.  I tried to convince myself that I could skip my exercise for the day, since I did it the previous 3 days.  However, this seems to be my cycle.  By mid week, I usually start excusing myself from exercise.  Since I am volunteering the next two days and have an ENT appointment, I know I may not have time which made today’s workout more crucial for me.

Well, I did it and it’s over and I’m glad I did it and I’m glad it’s over.

Back in the Saddle Again

Yesterday was my first day back at work.  It was an 8 hour day.  I took hourly breaks to walk and move my arms.  During my lunch break, I did my 10 minute headspace meditation program and rested in bed an additional 10 minutes or so.  After school, Roger had homework and then Occupational Therapy.  After OT, we had our normal Chick-fil-A dinner and play date with his friend at our house.  It was a long day, especially since part of my workload occurred between the 7 to 9 o’clock hours.  I was very sore by the time I went to bed and woke up pretty sore too.

Today, I, again, took breaks and had my meditation/rest time during lunch.  This afternoon will be pretty packed with Roger having a trial singing lesson at School of Rock, followed by his swimming lesson, followed by dinner at my parents house, followed by spelling homework, followed by showers/bed.  I’m exhausted thinking about it!  However, the routine and new 5 minutes-per-hour (in the morning) exercise schedule has put me in a better mood than I have been.

I am hoping my health, wellness, and recovery will flourish.

Today I am very hopeful.

Health update

Yesterday morning I had a lumbar epidural.  I had a choice between local or general anesthesia.  I chose general anesthesia and am glad I did.  The back doctor had wanted a caudal epidural but I had extra bony growth, so the needle could not go the whole way in.   They had to do a higher injection.  The downside is that while I was under I coughed/sneezed the entire time.  I came out of anesthesia with a bad sore throat, almost no voice, and a raw nose.  Thankfully, they said I kept apologizing, so at least I was nice while under!  However, I had Rob make me an appointment at our internist to see if I had more than just bad allergies.  Today was my appointment and I have ANOTHER sinus infection.

My second appointment of the day was my follow-up with my orthopedic surgeon re: my ulnar nerve surgery.  I am doing very well and she released me back to work on Monday.  I told her how my other fingers are going numb and she fit me for a carpal tunnel splint.  However, she thinks the problem is stemming from my cervical issue.  I guess time will tell.  I have another follow-up in 3.5 weeks.

I would be in a better mood if I got more than 2 hours 19 minutes sleep last night.  The antibiotic shot must be somewhat working because my headache has subsided.  Here’s hoping I am more myself before I head back to the workforce Monday!

A bit down

Today I woke up feeling down, just an overall feeling of sadness.  I looked around the messy living room and felt unease.  I really wanted to clean it all up but was lacking the energy.  Also, I had plans for coffee with some friends.   I reluctantly went to coffee, for when I am down I am not feeling social.  It was a nice hour but I still felt down and tired when I left (despite the additional 16 ounces of coffee).

I keep wondering why I feel so down and today’s Headspace meditation had me realize one factor.  Today, it was focusing on if you are feeling pain and I realized my intention through the meditation and during this sick leave was to recover and rejuvenate.  I am still in pain through my arms, my entire back, and now my feet.  With virtually weeks of rest, my body has not rejuvenated itself.  It has actually worsened in some areas.  I was hoping when I was to return to work I would feel better than when I had my last working day.

Still on Medical Leave

Everyday I have thought about updating my blog and everyday I am too exhausted to open the computer.  The high allergens are not helping my activity level.  Add to that the limited activity of the day and I am an achy zombie most of the day!  I have not been consistently taking any pain medication (even OTC, especially due to the fact I am having a lumbar epidural next Wednesday).  My sleep and energy levels are the same post-op as pre-op, which I am not very happy about.  I have been sleeping alone downstairs and I still cannot get a consistent five hours of sleep per night.  I have begun taking melatonin which makes me fall asleep quicker, but does not aide in any other way.

I don’t want this post to be all bah humbug, so I will note some positive changes I have been trying to make in the past couple weeks.  I have been attempting daily meditation via the app Headspace.  Secondly, I have started using MyFitnessPal app again, consistently.  I have shed a couple of pounds but find it hard to lose weight if I try to eat more than 1200 calories, which is too restrictive for me.  Hopefully when I can add some exercise in, that will help my endeavor of losing these 35 pounds I have gained in TX the past 4  years!

Next Thursday, I have my next appointment with my surgeon and am hoping I can go back to work part-time, at least.  I am very bored but do not think I have the energy level for full-time work, yet.

Sunday, Glum Day

Well, I tried the hydrocodone with Benadryl to see if I could avoid the itchiness. It did not work, so I am taking 4 Advil every 8 hours or so.  I slept much better last night due to the lack of itching and lack of repeated daytime naps. The day of surgery was like one long nap most of the day. Yesterday and today, I took only one afternoon nap. 

The surgeon told Rob that my pain level would not increase from how I felt post-surgery. That’s not really been the case. Today my inner arm and elbow both feel like they’ve been cut open (which they have). Plus, my right shoulder feels wonky. It must be because of relying on my right arm these past few days. And, of course, when moving some Garbage Pail Kids, my left lumbar back went out/popped. I took muscle relaxers and put the heating pad on it, but it still hurts.

I attempted my first shower with a garbage bag arm and Rob waiting right outside. Who knew that a simple shower that is usually refreshing could wipe someone out so much!  

Tomorrow is the first day of 1st grade and Rob’s last day home with me. Here’s hoping it is an easier day!

Twas the Night Before Surgery

Yes, tomorrow is the big day:  ulnar nerve decompression and transposition.  I haven’t written lately due to trying to get done as much as I can before surgery and before Roger’s first day of school on Monday.  I have been so wrapped up in planning that I have not had much time to think about the surgery.  That was until last night.

Last night, Roger woke me up around 1 am to move into his bed.  After he woke me, I started calculating the amount of hours I had before my surgery.  I was up the next two hours, consumed with thoughts of surgery.  Thankfully, I fell asleep for a couple more hours before starting the day.

Anxious is the feeling of the day.  Hopefully, that will soon pass, and the new feeling will be rested.

2nd opinion – ulnar nerve

Today’s appointment was the  polar opposite of yesterday’s appointment.  The nurse brought me back about 10 minutes early to thoroughly go through my paperwork.  A few minutes after that the doctor came in.  She wanted to see my cervical reports and wanted to make a clear determination of pain stemming from my elbow v. pain stemming from my neck.  She said that what I have is called “double crush syndrome”.  This led to doing many different tests.  A few showed “Wartenberg’s sign” where I am unable to keep my pinky finger squeezing my ring finger.  The tests were timed and by the time they were done both fingers were far apart from each other.  Another test showed my incredible weakness in my left arm.  I was not even aware it was so weak.  It seemed like one of those illusions.  She scratched along the nerve and did strength tests and she easily pushed my arm towards me.  Unlike yesterday’s opinion, she said the EMG had shown severe compression and my nerve is working less than 50%.  Due to all of the above, the only solution would be surgery on my left arm.  She said it was beyond the realm of physical therapy or just wearing a brace at night.  Also, the other surgeon suggested decompression surgery.  This surgeon disagrees.  She states decompression usually ends with another surgery down the line to move the nerve.  Therefore, the surgery would combine both decompression and transposition of the ulnar nerve.  From what I have read, a lot of patients agree with this approach and do not understand why their surgeons only opted for decompression.  She also thoroughly went through the surgery process and will have a pre-op with me to review the surgery and all my instructions.  She said to bring a list of questions.  Wow!  The other surgeon was not going to have a pre-op.

Surgery is scheduled for Friday, August 25th and the pre-op that Monday, August 21st.  She was so thorough that I currently cannot think of any questions! Three days after surgery is Roger’s 1st day of 1st grade.  I am hoping to be on my feet to see him into the doors of the school with Rob.  These next few weeks will be crazy and the following six will be in recovery.   Full recovery takes 3-6 months.  Roger was happy to announce that in 6 weeks after surgery, I can tie his shoes again!  Silly boy!

 

Ulnar nerve entrapment, 1st Opinion

Today, I had the first appointment with a surgeon to discuss my ulnar nerve entrapment.  After a large packet of paperwork was completed, I was brought into the back by the nurse and/or surgeon’s assistant.  He led me through a series of tests and questions (a lot that I had just answered in the pile of paperwork).  After about 10 minutes, he said the doctor would be in.  The doctor repeated a couple of the tests I had just done and really did not ask too much about symptoms.  Maybe he read the paperwork!  He said there were two options:  1)  sleep in a brace to improve the symptoms, which would take roughly 3 months or 2) cubital tunnel release surgery.  He said since the muscle in my hand is not atrophied, surgery is not the only option.  I forgot how he worded it, but my retort was, “Well, I do not want to wait for atrophy to have the surgery”.  He said since my nerve entrapment is severe, he recommends surgery but wanted to give me another option since some patients want to avoid surgery at any cost.  He did not go into the details of the surgery at all.  I had a few questions for him regarding the surgery and recovery.  If I had not asked any questions, the appointment would have lasted maybe 3 minutes with him.  I said I would like to schedule the surgery and he said, “My staff will come in to schedule, I’ll next see you at surgery”.  Lack of bedside manner is an understatement.

From the get-go, I was a little hesitant of this appointment.  When I left the pain doctor, she said I needed surgery and had 2 recommendations but knew my primary care physician would want to give her own referral.  When my PCP’s office called to discuss the EMG and referral, the nurse said my doctor wanted to use this practice and the nurse saw there was a specialist in hand, wrist, elbow at the Flower Mound office.  It was a recommendation for a practice, not a doctor.  I still kept the appointment due to good online reviews of the surgeon (and would still use him, if need be).  However, I reached out to my pain doctor for her recommendations and have a second opinion appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning.  I am hoping to get a better vibe from this doctor.  I know this surgery is inevitable, I would just like a surgeon who discussed it further with me, rather than me having to pry information out of them.