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.

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!

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).

Discouraging

Initially, I was going to make this blog a remainder of the week post.  However, today I am feeling quite cruddy and that’s just discouraging.  I have been eating healthy, exercising, and doing meditation.  Instead of energized, I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.  I still have this same sinus infection/ear infection.  It has almost been a month.  The antibiotics do not help and, unfortunately, today I started wheezing a bit.  That means a third trip back to the doctor’s office next week is most likely.  I did tell Rob that if I still feel this terrible on Sunday that I am taking the day to rest/sleep.  Work and after school have been very busy and a tad stressful.  I have had very little down time this week.  I am sure that is not helping my recovery.

However, I will now list the positives of my week:  being a classroom helper on Tuesday, Roger advancing to the next level in swimming, starting a liberal local book club, a very good teacher conference on Thursday, coffee with some great ladies this morning, dinner and conversation with my parents on Wednesday, and lots of love and sweetness from my son and my husband.  Seeing that list makes my infection not seem so bad!

ACDF 2nd Opinion

Today I had my second opinion for ACDF surgery with a neurosurgeon.  I already scheduled ACDF surgery with an orthopedic surgeon for October 19th.  I spent a long time with the nurse going over my back pain history, therapies, treatments, and doing some reflex and strength tests. Once that was completed, the nurse said the surgeon would come in to discuss the results of my MRI.  He plainly stated that he only urges surgery if 1) the spinal cord is compressed or 2) weakness. Since I don’t have either at the current time, he does not recommend surgery now.  He did say, though, that I will need surgery in the future due to the disc degeneration/spondylosis.  He recommended traction kit to use at home for 30 minutes a day/daily for 3 months.  He  put off having ACDF surgery on himself for 10 years by doing traction for 3 months, every two years.  He said he knew it was time once traction no longer worked.
At first I was relieved.  I am looking at a possible surgery on my arm/elbow and cannot imagine two surgeries in such close proximity of each other.  However, then I was wondering how long do you put off surgery?  I have read of individuals who waited too long and had the surgery but the nerves could not recover.  I will reach out to my PCP and let her know and ask her thoughts, since my thoughts are overwhelming!  

End of Week 9, Beginning of Week 10

The end of last week started Roger’s 7th birthday celebration.  Thursday night he could not sleep because he was so excited for Friday night’s Queen concert.  He was tossing and turning all night, sounding like he may be sick, and awoke at 4 am.  That day his sitter was sick and he had to occupy himself while I worked.  In the afternoon, we met his first grade teacher, looked around the classroom and around the school at some new things going on.  He was even given a kit kat for that night and some M & Ms from his principal.  He was thrilled, especially as she announced his birthday on the loudspeaker as we left the building.  I had an afternoon dentist appointment, which the candy made Roger hyper for but he did well waiting for me.  Luckily, I got him to take an hour nap before we left for the concert.  He enjoyed the show and was very excited during “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” but starting crashing at 10:30 pm.  However, when we got in the car, he perked up and fell asleep around 12:30.  Unfortunately, he woke up at 6 am on Saturday for his birthday.  Saturday was a pretty full day that started with gift opening.  We also had our dogs’ obedience class, followed by lunch, a classmate’s birthday party, School of Rock, pizza and cake with my parents and his best friend, Amanda, and her family.  Finally, he fell asleep around 9:30 pm and woke up at 7:30 am.  He NEVER sleeps that late.  It was amazing!  Sunday was his formal 7th birthday party at Bach to Rock.  It was the latest party we have had for him — ending at 4:30.  We were exhausted afterwards.  The birthday weekend ended with some lego play and Mooyah for dinner.

Last night an allergy attack woke me up around 4 am.  To say that I am a little tired is an understatement.  So, the start of my day was trying to fall back asleep followed by some Buzzfeed, mail, facebook, etc.  For some reason starting a new week put my mood in a bit of a damper.  In the past (even recent past), weekends seemed more stressful than weekdays.  Possibly, that is due to the fact that I like structure.  However, the past few weekends have relaxed me quite a bit.  I was blaming some of my back/arm pain on lack of sleep.  My pain levels have been pretty low Friday and Saturday which does not correlate with the lack of sleep.  It doesn’t even correlate with stress levels.  Setting up the house and the party are both stress factors for me, but neither aggravated my upper back/neck/head aches.  This week I have my 3 important surgeon appointments while experiencing virtually no pain.  My left arm was in a ton of pain last Thursday but that feels like a lifetime ago.  My headaches have been very mild the past 1.5 weeks.  I feel like my body is correcting itself before I make a commitment to surgery!  Due to no known nerve damage, I am pretty sure I will not opt for neck surgery .  The severe damage to my left arm nerve (assuming ulnar nerve entrapment) may force me to have surgery, pain being present or not.  If the time allots, I will give a brief synopsis of my appointments Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.