Friday, September 19, 2008

Not too bad at all...

Considering the big day I had yesterday, I fully expected to hurt like the devil all day today. Not as bad as I'd expected, not at all. I did sleep more, and I'm sleepy now after a two hour nap - but I suppose that'll be happening for a while longer. My body is definitely telling me what to do these days.

I've got some odd cravings surfacing as well. This happened after the last surgery, too. I always hated Diet Coke...then all of a sudden a month after surgery I craved it like mad. Still do. This time, I'm now craving salad and oranges. I suppose if one must crave something, these two choices are among the best of the bunch. I've devoured a beautiful gift basket full of AMAZING chocolate concoctions in recent I've had that fix already. I opened my tin of choc covered expresso beans this afternoon - no desire. Strange.

Managed to put on real pants today. Not sweats, not shorts - actual cargo pants. Took like 20 minutes and it was a little awkward, but I did it. Wasn't going anywhere - just wanted to see if I could do it. And the best news? The pants are VERY loose. Salads and oranges, salads and oranges!

*Quick update: I asked a nutritionist friend about the strange cravings...she says it is definitely my body trying to tell me what it needs...and in this case, it is most definitely Vitamin C and possibly fiber. So there you go, mystery solved. Bought some orange juice - a lot less messy than trying to peel an orange in bed.*

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Dog...the Blogger

I love Chico Seymour Hoffman

Doc Update

Wooh. What a morning...I'm currently teetering on the edge of total exhaustion. My first car ride in three weeks, then sitting and standing and walking...more than I've done in a long time. Before I collapse and (hopefully) wipe out for a while, I thought I'd write all this down while it's fresh in my noggin.

First, none of the ongoing recovery symptoms I'm having surprised Doc. The numbness, the pains, the electric current running from my posterior to my toes...all of it totally "normal." So at least that's something, right?

He confirmed it: I am a circus freak of the highest order. The fragment that broke off after the disc herniation was indeed the largest he's ever seen. The length of your fingers - it literally blew out this time, and the force somehow drove the L4 disc material down into the L5-S1 nerve area in the canal. Once it found a home there, I immediately experienced the intense pain and then the almost instant numbness and weakness. Managed to wedge between (and sort of around, it's hard to write what he showed us) two nerve roots that control all sorts of stuff. It was almost as if I'd had a car accident and the trauma did it - but I didn't. I remember that morning I woke with the usual pains (the herniation, no doubt) in my back - then, as I sat for 8 hours working and not really focusing on anything else (this is a gift, I think, and a blessing for me, to be able to hyperfocus on work to shut out the discomfort), the fragment began to move. I remember the instant the pain blinded me (that must have been when it hit the nerves), then Jeff calling the doc's answering service and him saying go to the ER now and the MRI and all the rest of it...but I am so thankful I didn't know at the time how bad it really was...even now I'm a bit scared after the fact.

Doc admitted he was shocked by the size and the position of the fragment - he had others come in to see it during the surgery. They videotaped, too. So my suspicions that I'll soon be anonymously famous are spot on.

He said this is the type of injury that does often result in permanent disability. In my case, though, he believes this numbness and most of the weakness will resolve as the nerves heal. There is little I can do to speed up the process (I asked). He says it is entirely possible I will be left with a little weakness and some numbness - but nothing like it is now, and nothing like it was before the surgery. I am going to have to accept certain facts that I don't want to accept. I'll get there. I know I am lucky and I am so thankful we acted quickly - but it is frightening when I can't control something. This is definitely out of my control for the time being.

My regimen: walking, daily, a LOT (as much as I can tolerate, the pain does tend to guide you in these matters) and swimming daily. No physical therapy yet. I am a hugely high risk case - as he put it I am "genetically prone to herniate." Every single female on my mother's side has had back surgery, I have recently learned (I'm adopted, for those who don't know, and it's complicated - but I do have contact w/several members of her family). So, no PT for a month - the PT is on ME. That's fine. I need to make this my top priority now. The pain is definitely a strong motivational factor here. I can and I will work my tail off (so to speak) to get the muscles stronger. That is the one thing I can control in all of this...

Once this initial surgery trauma wanes, we'll deal with the vertebrae collapsing on top of each other. This happened w/L3-4 - I remember the bone on bone pain and while it's bad, I was able to control w/Ultram, Motrin 800 and a TON OF EXERCISE. He knows I can do this - I'm not the patient who runs screaming every time I have some pain (I have a ridiculously high pain tolerance now). Once the collapse is final, then the two vertebrae can begin to fuse - my L3-4 is completely fused. No surgery needed. Took about 18 months. So I can do this again. Once that L3-4 fused I remember two years with virtually no pain. I can DO THIS.

Let's see....oh yes. Meds. Motrin I can deal with, anything beyond I get uppity. Lyrica is on standby for nerve pain that gets too intense, but I gained 13 pounds in two weeks on the big dose (haven't lost it, either, and that's always bad for lower back), and I swelled up all over. My eyes looked all was strange. We will use it if it becomes absolutely necessary. Oh yes, it also makes me "trippy" - I see pretty colors and shapes. Some would pay for that kind of high, I think, but I hate it (despite my years as a Deadhead I never really went the "trippy" route). Ultram if needed when the bone scraping starts - and a patch or something even stronger, whatever I need in my arsenal. We'll deal with that when it happens, and I feel confident Doc will make sure I have whatever I need to be as "comfortable" as possible throughout.

Bottom line: I am lucky to be walking at all. I didn't know until today how serious this was - I knew it was bad, but I didn't know it was something that could compromise me forever. I'm in battle mode now. Time to get this done. I may be a circus freak, but I am the most motivated circus freak you will ever meet.

As for the future, we just don't know. I know I'll be okay, it might be a little tougher than I'd planned...but I know I'll hike my Colorado mountains and walk in NYC at a New Yorker's pace (!) and play in the Quarter and see Bruce from the front row again. And I might even have a baby...though not now. Ohhhhhh no.

And I am amazed at my foresight to secure a wonderful job that doesn't require driving 120 miles each day. I'm getting faster on the laptop, learning Apple a little more and thinking a little more clearly each day. I'll be back to speed before you know it. I have an incredibly solid support system in place, I've got a fabulous surgeon who understands my need to understand what is happening and why and I've found work that stimulates my curious mind and feeds that news-y beast that lives within and probably always will. Life is good. I will probably have bad days (tomorrow comes to mind, after all the activity of today), but I'm writing this down so I can go back on those days and remember who I am and what I can do.

One other thing: he said the MRI (with contrast, YUK that kinda hurt) showed VERY little scar tissue formation from my previous discectomy/laminectomy in Feb 2007. That is HUGE. I did what he told me, worked w/swimming, stretching and walking, and kept the scar tissue to a bare minimum. I also took B vitamins and E, which are supposed to help w/nerves. The reason this is important: scar tissue is a big complication w/back surgeries like mine...the tissue can wrap around nerves and cause the same pains and problems that the fragments cause. Once it forms, there is no way to fix it. Going back in to remove only creates more excess scar tissue. Never ending cycle. Failed Back Syndrome (shudder). I did it once, recently, I can do it again. Bare minimum. Walk so the spider web doesn't get you.

I see Doc again in one month, to check progress. And there will be progress. I am sure of it.

Off to crash now, hopefully for a while.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Doc Tomorrow...nervous

First recheck since the surgery is tomorrow morning! One of many milestones to come. I actually am curious about how he thinks things went - I was still snoozing when he spoke to my spouse. Have my list of questions and concerns ready. Biggest concern: continued numbness. Pain I expected, goes with the territory and never really leaves me anyway. I can handle a certain amount of pain...but the numbness freaks me out.

More than likely he'll clear me to walk more to prevent scar tissue formation, and (hopefully) I can start swimming soon. Swimming saved me last time. My physical therapy place (I may soon have a wing named after me) specializes in spine injury rehab, and they've got a great therapeutic pool. I've already pulled out the swimsuit, the boring yet practical one piece, and I'm really ready to go. Spouse has arranged time to carry me hither and yon until I can start driving (last time it took months to clear me but if I'm still numb I doubt he'll green light me until that goes away). Poor spouse. I'm really lucky, and I know it.

By this time tomorrow I'll have a better handle on what's going on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Choo Choo

I think I can I think I can I think I can...

Today I walked around the cul-de-sac by myself (with observant and slightly antsy spouse cheering me on from the backyard) and only teetered ONCE! I think this would be easier if I wasn't a klutz by nature. I'm honestly not sure how I managed to dance for so many years without breaking a bone.

Okay so I need help with certain things...

and believe me, I've got help. Obviously by now we've established that my cooking skills are...lacking. Sorely lacking. Not sure if it's a lack of patience or what...but it's scary when I get the urge to cook something. Baking, I think I can handle that...

Check out these Halloween recipes...very nice. and, if you need a good overview of the upcoming holiday, try this!

Halloween! YAY!

New Rachael Yamagata!!!

Yes! FINALLY she has a new album coming out. One of my favorites...saw her live about 3 years ago and she was incredible. So talented! If you're into the whole singer-songwriter vibe, Ms. Yamagata is worth a listen.

"Elephants" video

OMG this is awesome!
Now for a little flashback...
"Worn Me Down"

Monday, September 15, 2008

My one really famous relative...

is in the news in a major way today. Alabama Congressman Henry Bascom Steagall was my great uncle. Normally NO ONE would know who he is - but there seems to be a resurgence of interest in the banking act he co-sponsored, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.

So there you go. I need a Ouija board, pronto!

FINALLY we made it onto YouTube!

Okay after three remarkable Springsteen shows - all seen from the FRONT ROW of General Admission, I might add, we made it onto YouTube!!! I'm certain more vids are coming, as everyone we know who was there saw my mug plastered on the giant screens multiple times...but this is the first we've found to confirm.

Here we are, vid is sideways for several minutes but at exactly 4:40 in, you can clearly see my beaming face (I'm the one wearing glasses, not hard to spot and NO they are NOT Sarah Palin glasses)

This is awesome. I cannot wait to see more! With roughly 1,000 of us holding GA tickets per show, we drew numbers to see what order we'd be allowed in. Each time, we were among the first 100 in. EACH TIME. Of course, we all know I wound up in surgery less than a week later...but the memories of the few days before that are priceless. If this was the last go around for E Street, we sure went out in a big way. Thank you, Bruce Springsteen Organization (including the brilliant but scary tough Jerry Fox), for allowing "regular" fans (ha!) like us to have a shot at something so very, very special.

And to our beloved fellow Springsteen travelers and dear, dear friends (old and new): Paige, Andrew, Bethie, Paul, Doc, Denise and Ken (I'm coming to Oxnard someday!) - we miss you already, and with or without a new tour, we will see you very soon.

Le Pew?

How the hell do you mistake a skunk for a cat, exactly?


So, I'm not the most creative person - and that is especially true in the kitchen area of my home. I'm not sure why, but the cooking gene missed me completely. Sometimes I do get a bit of inspiration...

and this looks interesting!

I might actually be able to pull this off. Will let you know. At least it's something to do w/all my pumpkin guts. I tend to buy and carve several pumpkins each is almost that time!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Small Victory

So today, I decided to turn on the burners a little harder in hopes of revving up those spinal nerves that are still refusing to work. I walked and walked (slowly, with help of course) - did almost a quarter mile. I know that doesn't sound like much but I've got a 5 inch incision at the small of my back and no feeling in my left leg. A victory. Tomorrow I'm going to rinse and repeat.

One caveat: if the insomnia continues (like up til 4-5am) I'm probably going to start the day later. They tell me this is all so super normal...the steroids they're giving me will do it. Apparently this is why my face is so red, too. Looks like I've been sunning on a rock for a week, sans sunscreen. Unfortunately, I probably won't have the tan once the redness wears off. Sadness.

I Have Been Remiss...

So I start a blog all excited cause I'm blogging and what do I do? Forget about it. Forgive me, reader (as in one reader, my dog, Chico Seymour Hoffman - his blog is longer than mine). I've had a lot of amazing things happen to me in the past year...some good, some very much not good. I'll try to slip them in as we go.

For starters, 18 months later I'm recovering from yet another back surgery - one which was far more serious and may leave me with some long lasting complications. This time it was the opposite side of L4-L5. Herniated and a large fragment broke off - MUCH LARGER than last time. So much so that neuro says it was the largest piece he's ever had to remove. The size of his thumb. This one managed, somehow, to wedge between two major nerves, including branches of the sciatic. I cannot even begin to describe the level of pain I was in. I screamed, literally laid on the floor and screamed for hours. I couldn't hide it from my beloved (normally I try hard to spare others, especially him). Went straight to the ER as soon as beloved came home. They knew, I knew. I cried, because I knew this was big stuff. TWO demerol shots. NO relief. Bad bad bad. MRI the next morning. Neuro called that afternoon, said no fusion (thank God) but discectomy, and quickly before the fragment severed something that could not be repaired ("Be careful. Don't move." - nooooo problem). Surgery 36 hours later (the longest 36 hours of my life, I mean I was making deals with the Almighty on an hourly basis). I literally couldn't see at one point, it was so painful...and I did pass out once. So I'm above average with my back problem...nice. *sigh* This is the ONE AREA of my life where I want to be average. Apparently I'm not. The consent form for the study and videotaping and lectures should've clued me in. Lovely. My spine will be plastered in medical schools all over the country - can't they at least photoshop my smiling/grimacing face on the top? I'd be asked for autographs by up and coming neurosurgeons who'd look at me with wild wonder - how is she walking? How does she do anything? Surgery blows, especially when you're in your late 30s and you've been married 13 years SO happily AND have been planning to have a baby before the eggs pack up and move on to egg heaven.

Tick. Tock. Yes I hear it and it is getting louder. Much louder. Each day I'm down is one more day I might not be able to have a child. So far, two doctors (including my neurosurgeon, who is pretty much my primary care doctor now), have told me I'd be taking a major risk by carrying a child...not to the child, but to me. The only remaining "good" disc in my lumbar region (the largest one) could collapse, resulting in some ugly nasty horrible things happening, including fusion surgery. So I've been reading, and thinking. I've ready many stories from women who've done it - they've been on bed rest for months leading up to the birth, and some needed surgery shortly after their children were born, but they did it. And they're raising wonderful children. My mother was fused at several levels and managed to keep up with me my whole life (she was truly a superwoman though). I'll keep you posted. For now, the idea IS still on the table.

Okay enough. Must rest. But has anyone out there found themselves facing multiple back surgeries (first two were discectomy/laminectomies, but the next one coming will be full fusion of at least one, possibly two levels) and managed to have a child anyway, despite the odds? I need to hear from you. I need to hear good and bad. Bad doesn't scare me - the more I know and understand, the better prepared I will be to make the choice. I am stubborn, and so far (despite the surgeries), I have beaten the odds. I don't believe the docs when they tell me I could very well be in a wheelchair from the pain and weakness in 10 years (though I hope this explains why I live the way I do - never know when it will all end). WATCH ME WORK IT! I am extremely determined. Mind over matter and all that...

In the meantime, I am loving my new job - and so thrilled to be rid of the Evil Empire of Radio. I tried. Gave it my best shot and then some for a very long time. Cared all the time, day or night. Not enough to the bottom line. I genuinely loved my co-workers, they are amazing people who share my passion for radio. I miss them. I don't miss radio right now. But radio has been calling (unexpected and interesting). And while I have no intention of jumping back in, it certainly gives me hope that those of us who remember the way radio should be will get a chance again. So far none of the offers move me to take action, but maybe someday one of the mavericks will pluck me out of the pile of radio bodies and plop me down in front of my mic with my notes and voila! Radio Girl is back in business, baby! I would only do that, though, if I felt I'd really be making a difference. Right now, that's just not really possible. Not a priority. To those who continue to fight the good fight: good luck, and I am cheering you on from the sidelines. I always will.

Oh the new job - smiles all around. Peace. Change. NEVER boring. More about that later. I LOVE IT. I love the people I work with that I've never met. They are interesting and super intelligent and creative and quirky and generally fun (I know I'm doing this remotely but I am certain I am correct in this assessment). I love feeling like I'm contributing to something meaningful. That's really all I ever wanted. I love watching a company take shape and change and morph and move in the right direction. I get an adrenaline rush often from the work itself. Sure sign I've found a great fit. Happy happy happy dance!

More more more to come ladies and gents. Must go pop all sorts of drugs and shuffle off to bed.