I think it's pretty clear that this spring has been off the rails! Since I've been MIA for so long, I wanted to tell you a little about my story and why this time off was so important to me.
Wayyyy back in 2005, I had my first back-related surgery. For most of my high-school years, I was totally sidelined by back pain and headaches. I never played sports. I took a lot of days off school. And it turned out, it was all fixed by a breast reduction right after I graduated high school. Hooray!
For the next five years, I focused on losing weight and getting healthy. Which happened to be MUCH easier with the ability to be active and exercise. I ran 5ks and 10ks. I worked out with my friends. But something was never right.
My back pain lingered. Nothing like it was before, but enough to make me slow down on running and take days off from the gym. I slept a lot but was always tired. I had terrible skin and mood swings and I just wasn't well.
It wasn't until 2012 that they found the cancer in my thyroid. I completed back-to-back surgeries to remove my entire thyroid and nuclear radiation treatment to kill the little piece wrapped around a nerve.
My back pain continued to get worse. But still, when dealing with cancer treatment, it was so far down on my list of priorities, I just managed it and lived with it.
Then in 2015, just four months after moving to New Jersey, I ruptured my L4-5 disc. Most people rupture a disc in a car accident or some other form of major trauma. I managed to rupture mine wrapping birthday presents... It was a clear sign my back had been damaged for a long, long time.
Additionally, my L3-4 disc was herniated, and my L5-S1 disc was bulging. The trifecta!
In January 2016, I had my first true back surgery, a microdiscectomy to remove the piece of the L4-5 disc that was pushing on my spinal cord.
And it was a success! For months, I enjoyed a relatively pain-free back and tried to get back to my life. But little by little, my back pain returned. I started receiving cortisone injections, which let me tell you, are the worst thing ever. Absolute misery! And they didn't help even one little bit. So I was prescribed a cocktail of opioids and anti-inflammatories to help reduce my pain.
By fall 2017, I was back to being miserable all the time, even with all the drugs. It was then I asked for a new MRI and another consult with my surgeon. Something just wasn't right.
Sure enough, my L4-5 disc had completely collapsed. The entire contents of my disc had shot into my spinal cord, crushing all the nerves to my legs. Even worse, the cushioning effect of the discs was gone, and my L4 and L5 vertebrae were grinding together. They'd been grinding together so long, there was already significant damage on the L4 bone.
That's how I ended up in surgery getting a lumbar fusion in mid-March. The surgery involved cutting off the laminae (back pieces of the vertebrae), grinding them into a slurry, and injecting that slurry into a titanium spacer placed between the vertebrae. Also, titanium rods were screwed into the bones to keep them in place while the bones fused.
As you can imagine, it wasn't the most fun thing I've ever done. But, shockingly enough, I was in virtually no pain after surgery. My crushed nerves were relieved and began to heal. My spinal cord had space to function normally and my bones were no longer grinding together.
Even better, I got off all the drugs. After a year on some serious opioids, I worked to wean myself off and have a fully functional brain!
It's been a tricky road to get back to my life, but little by little, I'm getting there. I walk 3-4 miles a day. I take my kids to the park and on hikes and practice tee-ball with them. I've done more activity in the last month than I had in the entire year before.
And now, at last, I feel like I'm ready to get back to work. I can sit comfortably in any chair for any length of time. I can hold my computer and lift it without pain. I'm off all the drugs that were clouding my brain for over a year.
So little by little, I'm going back to writing. I'm letting my thoughts breathe on paper and my stories have the outlet they need.
I can't thank you enough for all you patience and understanding, for waiting for stories that are coming late, for keeping me in your thoughts and letting me live vicariously through your life while I worked to get off my couch. I wouldn't be here without you!