What did a day in the life look like for me? Honestly, I’ve been living groundhog day for so long, it’s all I knew. I would wake up as early as I could so I could visit with Hannah before she took off to school. I’d help her put her lunch together and then she’d be out the door. I would then wash my face, put in my contacts, get dressed and put on “the shoes.” As soon as those shoes are on, a big white doggie knows it’s time for her to get outside and walk! The day is always about her.
Most of the time, we would drive up to Wildwood baseball field where I would leave the car and begin our descent into our neighborhood. Because Marleigh has hip dysplasia (and we really don’t know what this means), Marleigh gets the “downhill” portion of the walk; strolling and sniffing at her leisure.
We’d walk home; I’d make sure she had plenty of water and is cool enough and then off I’d go, on my trek where the car was parked, back up on the hill. Back and forth from the car is the minimal version of the walk. I usually would extend myself and go the longest way through our neighborhood, through Larkspur, Forrest Green or even sometimes I’d go to Bradley Lake before making my way back to my ride. My goal was always to be inside of trees as much as possible; pretending I’m deep in the woods. I’m usually full of energy so the longer I could go, the better. My walking is also my reading (listening to books), writing (dictation) or meditation time. It is multitasking at its fullest.
If I have errands to run, I make sure I have my credit card on me, so I’m able to run the errands after I get back to the car. It’s an efficient machine! Before I drive away to Olympia for work, I always have at least five miles under my belt with room for many more miles throughout the day.
My walking is also my reading (listening to books), writing (dictation) or meditation time. It is multitasking at its fullest.
If it is a Monday, you can be sure to find me at 7:30 at the Tacoma Soccer Center for my ladies soccer night. Over the last seven years, I haven’t missed many Mondays. I used to plan my vacations around it!
I would leave the house for work at noon, returning around 7:00 to nestle in for the night. Groundhog day.
Monday, October 16th, everything I knew to be “my life” changed drastically.
I woke up with a backache. As the day progressed, the pain increased. By 3:00 in the afternoon I had shooting pains going down my left leg as well as pain in my hip and pelvis. Occasionally during the day, I felt similar pain going down the right leg. The only thing I did was wake up – other than that I had absolutely no idea what could have brought this on.
When I went to bed Monday night, I was acutely aware that it was going to be a very long and uncomfortable night. When I awoke at 1:30, my thoughts were confirmed.
The first longest-step of the night was figuring out how to “get out” of bed! No matter which way I turned, shooting pains came from my back and legs and disabled my entire body. It felt like I had a metal plate completely covering my lower back. It was stiff as metal yet the actual place where the pain started; I could not put my finger on it.
After maneuvering as many ways as I could, I finally got my legs from the bed to the floor. I’m now touching the floor with my toes and my face is buried in the mattress.
It was a long learning process trying to figure out which direction I needed to go, which arm I could use, where I could apply pressure and where I could not.
I eventually was able to get my whole body down to the floor. Once there, I found that with crawling, I could go anywhere in the room. Going from a crawl to an upright position would be an entirely new learning experience, one that over the days, I would learn what worked and what did not.
All of this energy was exerted just in my attempt to get to the bathroom. Realizing that I was suddenly almost completely disabled, I knew I had to crawl to the car and go to the emergency room. There was no way I could survive without pain relief.
I checked into the emergency room at 2:30 in the morning. It felt like it was moving quickly because you see multiple people for the registration process. After I did my final registration, I overheard another woman telling someone how they had already been there for three hours. No! This can’t be so.
I was in a wheelchair, but the chair was incredibly uncomfortable. I found myself profusely sweating and getting light-headed from the pain. I knew I was going to pass out. A woman across the way said, “Ma’am, are you okay? Can I get you anything?” I asked if she could tell them that I had to lay down.
They wheeled my chair to a bench by the door where I would curl up and sob until I heard them call my name. I’m not very big, and this bench was a two butt bench, at best. It was tight but better than the plastic chair.
Three hours had passed since I arrived at the ER. I am now finally in a room waiting for the doctor. Relief would be on its way!
When the doctor came in, he told me almost immediately that they don’t do MRI’s from the ER anymore. I would need to wait for TEN days before they would consider this step. I understand many back problems get better over a few days, of course, they don’t want to put me through an expensive test. I get that. I just needed relief!
He sent me home with prescriptions for pain meds, muscle relaxers and a steroid pack for inflammation. If someone was driving me, they could have given me a shot to take the edge off immediately. Unfortunately, I was on my own. I had to wait until the pharmacist could create the magic of medicine.
Over the next two weeks, the pain would increase, never subsiding. My night-time ritual – or just “getting up” from a couch or chair routine remained as explained earlier, having to drop my legs to the floor face first before I could lower myself all the way to the ground. I would learn what direction my body needed to be leaning to ascend. Rather than as a baby learning how to walk, I was learning how to get up and exist with as minimal movement as possible. Movement equals pain. I was losing my ability to handle pain. This was bigger than anything I’d ever dealt with.
My world became the family room where we got a recliner; this would become my bed. I find myself going upstairs no more than twice a day. Changing clothes, taking out or putting in contacts and brushing my teeth are the only reasons I need to go up. My neighbor lent me a walker on day three and what a little slice of heaven it has been. You don’t realize how much something like a walker can help until you get around with one. Without the walker, I was leaning backward and moving incredibly slow. Using the walker, it took so much pressure off of my body; I could lean forward and allow my lower body and legs to drag along as best they could.
During this two-week life-changing experience, I was back in the ER one other time, this time in the morning. The experience confirmed that I would never again visit Good Sam in Puyallup. I heard from others and after my experiences, never, ever again would they see my face there! I also went to a new doc-in-the-box where they would help enhance my supply of muscle relaxers and pain medication.
I learned the fine art of alternating pain meds, so you always had something in your system. When you only have one type, you can take it “every six hours” or whatever the medication recommends. You know when you are close to the time to take another because the pain would be unbearable. Having two different types, you can alternate them. This way you never have to hit a period when you have no relief in your system. You want to keep your body medicated, but at the same time you are looking at how many you have left and wonder if you need to cut back as you will need it for surgery!
Two weeks ago tonight, I was feeling a little “off” in my back, yet I went to bed in hopes of having a typical night but ended up in the ER. From that day forward, my everyday routine of walking, meditation, reading, working, taking care of my dog, everything was pulled out from underneath me. My day in, day out living and breathing nature and movement were now replaced by walls. Everything that defined who I am and what I do is gone.
I have felt so solidly in control of my life and everything in it. This experience changed everything. When you are so in control and know what’s going on – life is good. These last two weeks, I’ve felt pain so intense that I honestly thought “if we had a gun in our house, I might be that desperate as to shoot the pain away.” This morning was one of those mornings. I couldn’t sleep all night. With the walker I was pacing back and forth for hours. The few times I tried to lay down or get comfortable, impossible. Pain was shooting and stabbing in the left side of my butt. I literally thought “if I had a gun, I could just shoot it through this pain, right in the left cheek!” However I know full well that all of the pain I am experiencing is deferred pain. When you are suffering that much, nothing makes sense. It may feel good for 1/2 second to shoot my butt, but the pain and extra consequences after I’d get out of Harborview are not worth it.
I have asked the universe for clear signs over the last few months and let me tell you; the universe has more than delivered. There is no gray area in need of further explanation. To me, this complete lifestyle change beats any flashing billboard sign. Any question I might have had before has been answered. When the universe speaks, you have to listen!
As if everything in the universe is aligning perfectly (now that it has my 100% attention), I thought the surgery had been approved – unfortunately I just got off the phone with my insurance company and was not. It is “in the file” awaiting further review. At least today, I was on the phone with a human and she heard my cries in every way possible. The fact that I am “in a file” waiting for someone to sit down with a fine toothed comb and make a decision about my health – when they have time, is a little unnerving. My life has ceased to exist. I am completely disabled at this time. My entire life is in the hands of my insurance company right now.
The woman I talked to said she would pull the file and ask for a status update to get it moving again. That is the best I can hope for at this point.
I know back pain and recovery can be incredibly vague, at least having a date on the calendar when the surgery is scheduled, I can have a good idea what I am looking at time wise for recovery. I know tomorrow starts a whole new chapter in my life.
When the universe speaks, you have to listen!
The last two weeks have been challenging to say the least. I’ve had to process letting go of my routine of being outside, having more energy than the Energizer Bunny, being in the woods and taking all of nature deeply within, to where I am now barely moving and looking at walls day in and day out. I’m completely okay with every little detail in all of it. I’ve thrown in the towel and relinquished all control. I just “am.”
As much as I loved my routine little world of living groundhog day, I am ready for the next stage life is taking. The universe has spoken, and I have listened.
Let’s get this surgery done!
UPDATE TUESDAY 12:10PM: Surgery scheduled Wednesday November 8th, 7am. The squeaky wheel got some grease!
UPDATE TUESDAY 6:00PM: Apparently I spoke too soon. I will be going back to Good Sam! This is where the surgery will be taking place. It will NOT be through the emergency department… just saying. Never will I see the walls of the ER there again.