So this has been a long time coming. I have been SUCH a slacker about this blog. There have been a few times were I made something that was deliciously fantastic, and started to blog about it, and didn't get around to finishing. I just have not had it in me.
The scoop. Last April, while we were house hunting, I was ergo wearing my 1 year old. For at least 10 hours a day. While standing and looking at homes. On the plane ride home I noticed that my back was killing me and would not settle down. Our chiro tried working on it, but nothing was really helping. He said he thought it could be a disc issue....but then we moved to Charleston, and I started to see another chiro.
After about a month, my new chiro, Dr. Kukes of Elite Health solutions, said the same thing and I went for an MRI in early September. And what he said was "I have never seen an MRI this bad with the amount of flexibility and movement you have." Basically, it's because I have 2 toddlers and zero choices about being able to move around and function. I wasn't letting it effect my life. I was just pushing through the pain and doing what I needed to do.
With 3 bulging discs, but still able to walk, stand, and do life, I was doing all the natural things I could think of to fix the problem. I drank warm lemon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, & turmeric water every morning. I took 4 fish oils (omega 3's), 3 hemp oils, 2 BCQ supplements, and a raw vitamin d supplement to help stop inflammation. I did all the stretches I'm supposed to, I foam rolled, I stayed as active with walking as I could. I did acupuncture. I drank all the anti-inflammation smoothies. I did not, however, stop picking up my son. I also occasionally still stuck him in the ergo because desperate times and all. I did not stop DOING ALL THE THINGS, or even slow down doing them, because of pain.
By Christmas time, it was definitely not feeling great, but I thought since we were going up to Jersey for 2 weeks and the hubbs was off from work that I'd get a nice relaxing break- no cooking, no cleaning, help with running after the small one. I also got a super intense deep tissue massage right before we left. Christmas break was supposed to be my saving grace.
Instead- the massage made me a little achey. The tightness in my hip was apparently keeping everything in check. And the cold weather seeped into my bones, and I suddenly started to notice where they said my disc had completely degenerated in the form of a bone-deep, arthritic ache that nothing could touch.
The drive home was unpleasant. And during those 12 hours, hubbs and I discussed our plan forward for life. By the end of the Jersey trip, in order to stand up straight and walk, I had to lay down and stretch for at least 10 minutes. Even after I would just go to the bathroom- any kind of sitting meant I had to start all over again with the stretching to get me totally straight again. But once I got walking, I was fine. But we both decided that it wasn't really feasible to continue life with 2 active kiddos that way. And we agreed that perhaps now was the time to call in the hail mary and get the cortisone shot. We thought, just one and done, and I can continue to get my back into shape with exercise and supplements, but still be able to do all the things I need to do.
We make plans and God laughs.
I made an appt with the Spine Institute right down the road from my house. They saw me for about 15 minutes, looked at my MRI from September, told me I should get the shot, sent me downstairs for it, and in I went. I asked not to be sedated (which was just what they typically did). They gave me an IV in my arm "just in case" and sent me into a waiting area. It was all very assembly line like. The doctors administering the shot were joking about vacay time and stuck me in the back with a giant needle and sent me on my way. They said it could take up to 14 days to feel the effects so they would see me back in 2 weeks.
Enter my own personal hell.
It did not feel any different when I left. Which I thought was a little weird. But whatevs. That night was pretty bad, but I took some ibuprofen and was able to get a little sleep. The next day the shit hit the fan in a big way.
I was writhing on the floor in pain, after attempting to come down the stairs and make breakfast for my kiddos. Pretty sure I threw a bag of crackers at them, grabbed my phone and sobbed to the nurse. The pain was like nothing I had ever felt before. She said it was normal and she would have a prescription waiting for my hubbs to go pick up and fill.
It was, of course, for a pill that not only was NOT an anti-inflammatory, but also was not a great one for a nursing mamma- something I told them multiple times that I am. Awwwwwweeeeeeesome.
So I scoured our medicine cabinets and found a bottle of oxycodon from my c-section with baby boy. They were old, but it was almost full and I knew it was safe for nursing. So those kept me alive that week. I couldn't move. I could barely crawl out of bed to go to the bathroom, nursing positions were agony, sitting, standing, laying down- all of it were just the most pain I have ever been in. I would rather have a c-section EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK then go through that pain again. I called the nurse every day to tell her how bad it was and that I didn't think it was normal (and neither did any one else) but she said it was fine, and that if I was still nursing then I could just take ibuprofen. Super super helpful.
I went to my chiro in the hopes that he could do something, anything to help relieve the pain that the oxy was only taking the edge off of. I was literally bent over in half trying to walk into his office. He told me that my back was in such a severe spasm it was no wonder I was like that. He used a heating pad with moisture to try and relax the spasming. He had to do that 3 different times that week, and I finally bought one so I could do it at home. We also started using a TENS machine in the hopes that it would help tame the inflammation and spasming. I also bought one of those.
My acupuncturist tried to help as well, and it did for a bit, but this pain was ridiculous and would not be killed. Hubbs took the rest of the week to work from home so he could take care of the kids, and my mom flew down over the weekend, because it was pretty clear that I was unable to be at home alone.
The 2 week mark was approaching, and I went ahead and cut off any other appointments with the Spine Institute. It was pretty clear they had no interest in individual patients, and they didn't really know what they were doing, since they essentially paralyzed me for 2 weeks. The pain started to back off a bit, but there was no walking happening. There was barely standing. Sitting didn't feel that great either.
I scheduled an appt with back specialist Dr. Bright McConnell, but he's crazy busy (because he's amazing) so it took 2 weeks to get in to see him (and it was only that soon because of a cancellation in his schedule). In the meantime, I tried to do the TENS machine, and ice and use the moist heat whenever I could, and I tried desperately to get around, even though it was completely hunched over. I used the stroller to lean on as much as possible. And then I realized. I needed a cane.
That's right. Big old, blingy cane. And yes, I managed to go out for a girl's night because it had been almost 2 months of me laid up in my house and I wanted to get all pretty again. I, of course, did that sitting down (which drying your hair in bed is strangely relaxing). But I did it. I was not super prepared for the staring (or maybe I just thought people were staring) but whatevs. It is what it is. So I rolled with it.
And also. Yes. That is the absolute most I could stand straight up. And I was pushing it so I could get a decent picture. I was full queen of the tilt.
And I was still under the impression that this was an easy fix. I've known plenty of people who have bulging discs and they bounce back pretty quickly.
And then, the day before my first appointment with Dr. McConnell, I was sitting on the couch, and suddenly, everything from my hip down went all pins and needles. It felt like a waterfall inside my leg. I got up to go to the bathroom, and on the way back, I remembered what my mom had said about the heel and the toe test. If you can still walk on just your heels, and just your toes, then it's fine. So I tried it. And when I tried to walk on my toes, my whole foot rolled . Tried again. Same story. So I cried, and called my mom, who told me to call my chiro, who had me come in.
Turns out, I have nerve damage. I didn't have nearly as much feeling in my left foot and calf as I did on the right (couldn't really tell the difference between a sharp pokey thing and a dull one). This raised the stakes considerably. Because if I didn't get this crap worked out, and soon, I would probably have permanent nerve damage.
So I went to the doc and had some scary conversations and then was scheduled for another MRI. Apparently, everyone and their mother must be breaking themselves in Charleston, because between all of the Imaging places, the soonest they could get me in was 1 week. And then another almost full week to go back to the doc to talk about it. And yup. Between September and February, I had absolutely done more damage. My S1 was now invited to the party, not just L4 and L5. Thank you hip, for crapping out on me, too.
So we scheduled me to see Dr. Goltra, who is basically brilliant, and not only does he do cortisone shots, but he also is the guy that reads the MRI's to tell you what's going on. It took FOREVER to get in to see him (again- super popular and brilliant), but when the nurse heard I could barely walk, had 2 toddlers to take care of and it had been almost 2 full months of me being non-functional, she stuck me in a cancellation slot.
It, of course, was the week the hubbs got sent to Seattle for work. So my parents drove down to take care of me. Seriously...who can even live without them??? Filling my freezer with SO MUCH FOOD and taking care of the kids. Dropping their lives to help me out. They are just the best.
So in I go. And he tells me that I have a mild spinal stenosis. Which means my spinal column is too narrow, and over the years it gets more and more narrow. Which means, if I have bulging discs, it will affect my nerve a lot more quickly because it doesn't have very far to go. AWESOME. He also tells me that it is fully pushing on my nerve (cue foot falling asleep all the time, 2 toes that are constantly pins and needles, and peg leg if I try to walk for more than 10 minutes at a time). I stand up and turn around and he says that he can physically see that my nerve is swollen- and if he can see that through my clothes and skin it means I've REALLY managed to piss it off. It's no wonder I'm in this much pain, why on earth did I go to the Spine Institute, and he knows he'll be able to help. And also, NOT to go get surgery. He said "If anyone tells you you need surgery, you come talk to me."
And then he gives me 2 shots. One is the typical cortisone shot. The other he's putting basically directly on my nerve to tame it out, otherwise I'd never be able to do any sort of rehab on my back.
It works IMMEDIATELY. I can stand up straight. I walk to the car. Dad drives me home. I try and walk up the stairs. My leg is now complete jelly (I was warned this may happen) and Dad is behind me, trying to make sure I don't fall while I'm cracking up because no matter what I do, my leg refuses to listen to me. Novocaine of the leg for sure.
I make an appointment for 3 weeks later. I am told that I am still not to push it. No real walking, not too much standing. Basically what I've been doing for the past 2 months, to allow the shot to heal me. I *try* to listen, but let's face it, I don't. I mean, I kinda do, but I pushed it a bit. And I felt it.
So 3 weeks later, I get the 2 shots again. And I'm given the all clear to start physical therapy. Where I'm currently 2 weeks in. Doing traction and stretches. Not much else. Walking, with a stroller or some sort of support, until my foot starts to go numb (which is currently about 6 minutes). If the numbness is still occurring that means the nerve is still aggravated, which should be worked out by the traction after a while. And THEN I can FINALLY do strength training and yoga.
HOLY LORD it's been a loooooong process. The original shot from hell was mid January. It's now April, and I still can't do things like bring my kids anywhere by myself without doing some serious damage to my back. And yes. I've tried. BECAUSE I NEVER LEARN THINGS.
In the midst of all of this, my amazing friends sat me down (well, I was already sitting, wrapped up in my blanket because apparently I was now cold all the time as well), and they said "we know it's hard to accept help. But we're sistering you. And you have no choice. Just take it." Which is basically the best thing that anyone could ever say. Cause they're right. If they asked what they could have done for me, I would have said "Nothing. We're fine. But thank you." And then hubbs, who was doing all the things all the time, would've cheerfully choked me. But they didn't ask. They told. And they brought us meals. And they played with our kids. And they brought me chocolate and magazines. And they hung out in our driveway so that I wouldn't have to walk anywhere, just sit in my chair wrapped up in a blanket.
And I read a whole lot. And I realized a whole lot. I realized how very blessed we were to move into a community a few short months prior, and to have made such amazing friends, who were there when I was down for the count. Most of whom lived in my cul-de-sac. God put us exactly where we needed to be. I also realized that PERHAPS the reason we were in this mess is because I super super suck at accepting help, never mind trying to ask for it. Little Miss I-Can-Do-It-By-Myself learned some serious lessons in humility. And also, the beauty of leaning on your village.
There was a night when hubbs got some weird 24 hour pukey bug, and there was a crock pot of food sitting on our high countertop. I almost tried to reach up to put it in the fridge but realized that if I ever wanted to get better, I had to start acknowledging that I could no longer lift ALL THE THINGS. I texted my neighbor Kirsten for assistance. I admit, it was hard to ask for help. But she, and later, hubbs, both agreed that if I had tried to lift that crock pot, there may have been a throw down. And after she left, I realized I was a little proud of myself for finally reaching out. And I've tried to be good about it since then. Tried being the key word.
I'm just starting to get back into the kitchen. I'm not making any fancy pants things. I don't always make bread- sometimes I allow him to buy the organic fresh baked stuff from Whole Foods. Hubbs always has to help. And most of the time, I do as much as I can sitting down. We hired a cleaning crew to come every other week. I actually hired Kirsten's niece to watch the kiddos when I go to physical therapy. I mean, WHO EVEN AM I!?!?!
Most days, I'm ok with all of this. Some days, I feel like I'm failing at life since my whole job in life is to take care of the kids and the house. But I'm trying to give myself some grace. This is just a season, and keeping all the people alive is my job- the clean house and yummy food is a nice benefit for all. (Please see "Cleaning up is not my destiny" by my brilliant friend, Michelle).
And maybe it's all the reading of all the books I've done (hello Jen Hatmaker, Shauna Niequist, Glennon Melton, and THE BIBLE)- but I'm noticing a softening of my heart. There's way less anger and rage. Way more compassion and grace. Which is interesting for this blog, as it's based on raging about all the ways I hate Monsanto and how our government is poisoning us. Which I still believe. I'm just not into yelling about it as much anymore. I'm trying more of a gentle nudge approach. So there's that. At some point there'll be a whole post on that. I've got other things on my mind currently...
So, yeah. You haven't heard from me in a while. And this is why. I'm still healing. I actually tried to write this post a month ago. I got a ways through it, and then my computer decided not to save it. And I was all done with that nonsense.
And also, this is a better place to leave it.
Taking this stuff one day at a time. Trying to find the humor. Hoping I haven't broken myself permanently. I'm not gonna win any awards by paralyzing myself trying to do it all alone.
I have really smart friends (near and far) who have gently beaten that into my skull. And I'm a slow learner, but I'm getting there.