Sunday, September 13, 2009
Wow, and entire month without a single post—and not just any month, but the best month of all!
Here's what's been going on…
To be honest, running has felt off since that first surgery in 2006, but I have trudged along anyway, taking hits to my ego as I watch my average pace increase on my Nike+ profile. I had to develop a "no pain, no gain" attitude to conquer my weight loss challenge almost a decade ago, so I have the ability to ignore the queues from my body…you know, the ones that tell you when something isn't right and, "By the way, you should stop before you really screw up your back."
I participated in the 5K Waunafest Run at the end of July, and besides the frustration that running three miles suddenly seemed difficult, there was undeniable pain radiating up to my shoulders and down the backs of my legs, all from a seeming epicenter of my low back. "Walk it off, Laura, you're just not eating right or sleeping enough."
So, I walked it off and hit the running trail again two days later. Four miles in, I stopped at an intersection to allow a car to pass before stepping from the curb to continue along. That step from the curb is permanently imprinted on my mind as one of the worst feelings I have ever felt in my whole life. I had such an overwhelming sensation of pain that I couldn't specify the source, only that I couldn't run anymore and the urge to vomit was going to be difficult to suppress. Without telling Nick how bad I felt (I just wasn't eating right or sleeping enough, after all), I sent him along on the rest of the six mile run while I took a short cut to hobble the one mile home.
I could barely wash myself in the shower much less stand long enough to hit the important parts. I could not get out of bed on my own, and getting up from the couch summoned tears. I called my surgeon through the pain clinic who I had seen on July 20th for bilateral sacroiliac joint steroid injections. The nurse who spoke with me did not seem to comprehend that this was a different pain than before and told me to "stay the course" with my treatment. I called my primary care provider who advised me to call the pain clinic.
At a loss, I asked for the name of my aunts' chiropractor. I know that they can't prescribe drugs, but I needed someone to at least listen to me and tell me whether or not I was dying. My first appointment was both enlightening and frustrating. In all the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on my body in the last three years, in all of the MRI and CT scans, nobody had ever looked at my back (just my butt and all my "extra parts"). Turns out that I have an excessive lumbar curve--excessive as in 35-40° too sharp. Again, another genetic malformation that I was born with, but has been made worse since that first surgery three years ago and the physical therapy that followed.
Needless to say, after I called my primary care physician (I was still in mad-pain, and chiropractors don't prescribe medications) to let them know what the chiropractor found, they wanted copies of the X-Rays and to see me right away. I left the clinic with narcotics, muscle relaxers, lidocaine patches, and the promise of a CT of my spine to follow. Going back to PT, my therapist admitted her frustration with my body.
The majority of patients undergoing PT treatment have experienced some sort of trauma—a car accident, broken leg, etc.—genetic mutations that go undiagnosed for 25 years are a bit more rare, apparently. As such, my body has been compensating for my weaknesses all my life. So, when my chronic pain set in the tailbone-region of my anatomy, it is the body's instinct to freeze the muscles surrounding that area.
I have been moving around with minimal glute involvement for three years but exercising at the same intensity, though less frequently. This means that my back has been doing more of the work, and deep lumbar curve I had before became excessive. To support the curve of my spine, my abdominals decided to stop contributing to movement. The exercises given to me through PT (before learning about my spine) had enough range of motion that my body was able to compensate as always, and exercises meant to strengthen my glutes and stomach worked my shoulders and medial back and forced my deep curve more inward.
Once again, I was told that there was something very wrong in my structural makeup that cannot be fixed. I was told to stay away from all high impact exercise until it no longer hurts. I finally got into see my surgeon at the pain clinic a week ago, and how they have scheduled me for another steroid injection after reviewing my CT scan, a "bilateral lumbar medial branch block", whatever that means.I have that tomorrow. I feel like they're chasing the pain, and something higher up is going to start hurting after the pain to this area lessens. I feel like this has drastically aged me…and then comes my 28th birthday.
My movement has improved since that step off the curb, and the pain is much much lower than the days when I was watching the clock for when I could take the next pill. There is a lot of talk out there about national health care. I see a chiropractor twice a month, a physical therapist twice a month, a doctor through the pain clinic every six weeks, and my primary care physician whenever I have a pain flair—add the cost of prescriptions on top of all that (plus the outrageous costs of imaging), and I would be destitute by now. At the end of 2007, the tally for my care from mid-2006 reached over $300,000, and thankfully I have insurance coverage that allowed me to pay a very small fraction of that. I have not added the services I have received since the end of 2007. Believe me, this pain at its worst is not something that you can just live with.
I haven't felt like posting before now because I really didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel, I really didn't know if the day would return where I could function without muscle relaxers to take the edge off…only just. I bought myself the new Nike+ Sportband for my birthday. I like Nike+, but I am not found of having music blaring in my ears while I am running. It's okay every now and then, but not as a rule. Running is my time to sync with your body and with the earth, which is not easy to do when Linkin Park is screaming "Crawling" over the symphony of the crickets.
I haven't exactly been given the clear to run by all parties yet, but I have come to the decision that I am not going to let this hold me back. On my 28th birthday I thought, and this is awful considering I lost my mother well before she was ready to go, "Is it mid-life yet?" I realize that this mentality stems from the fact that I am merely surviving the hand I have been dealt, never learning how to play it. I think everyone deserves to feel sorry for themselves now and then, and I have paid myself my dues, hah! I don't know why my body turned on me after I got into the best shape of my life, but I am never going to wake up pain-free, and activity throughout the day is always going to make it worse, but I can't let it victimize me any longer.
I have been running for about two weeks now. Physically, I do not feel substantially worse after a run, but mentally I am on a high. I am not a competitive person. I actually shy away from things when they start to get competitive. I do not enjoy running races because it feels like, well, a race (go figure). I guess I just run for me, and I've missed it.
So, this may seem like a pointless update, which is why I haven't made it earlier. My body is still fighting me every step of the way, but I am resolved to give more effort to push back. With just one year of school left, hopefully I won't feel like I am living so hard when I shake hands with "30".
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