Following John’s post, I, too, wanted to publicly thank our friend Matt at Lemond who lent us this awesome bike. I am nervous for lots of reasons, but having first-class equipment at my disposal and a first-class trainer to map my recovery seems to be making this endeavor much less stressful.
I had a micro-discectomy on Monday, July 11th. The previous Saturday, after having suffered increased leg pain throughout the week, I found myself on the floor unable to get back up. Fortuitously, a friend was visiting and John had just arrived home. It was quickly decided that Emily would bring me to the ER, where I underwent several X-rays and an MRI. Late that night, the surgeons suggested that surgical repair was most definitely in my best interest. As they put it, my disc was in the 80th percentile of herniations. It was capital-B bad. They said that I could go home and go through months of physical therapy, epidural injections, chiro, and acupuncture, and for at least the first two of those months, I would not be able to pick up Wyatt. Or, they could operate, and for two months I would not be able to pick up Wyatt… but after that, I would be fine. The thought of what this would do to all the plans I’d made for my first summer home with Wyatt weighed heavily on me, but ultimately John and I saw no other option. I’ve rehabbed one herniated disc already; it was a long, arduous journey and I didn’t see myself successfully doing so again, at least, not with an active toddler at home.
A short history: The surgeon blames my issues on genetics (thanks for the crappy collagen, Mom) and our very large baby. In 2008, I herniated L4-L5 and L5-S1, but was healthy seven months later and, until this spring, remained mostly pain-free. I was able to row and lift, though I’ve known since the first injury that I would never squat or deadlift again. I had no issues through my pregnancy and only a slightly nagging pain in my left thigh through the spring of 2011, which naturally, I largely ignored until it rendered me helplessly wailing on the living room floor. The surgery in July was easy; it took only 45 minutes and I was able to leave the hospital that afternoon. I was sore for about a week, and then resumed life as normal, minus lifting Wyatt and working out. At three weeks, the doctor allowed me to see my physical therapist. They both agreed that I could use my TRX to do presses and rows, as well as a short list of PT exercises. By six weeks, I was cleared for “normal” activity by the surgeon.
This is what threw me for a loop, though. I kept asking him what “normal” meant for me, and he had no answers. MOST people who get a microdiscectomy never herniate again. In fact, there is only a 7% chance of re-injury in the first year; after that, it goes down to 3%. But knowing that I’d already done this to myself once, I asked him for reassurance that these numbers really did apply to me as well… am I normal? “Not likely,” he answered, “but I don’t think that should really affect your lifestyle. You have a bad back and while you need to be careful and mindful of how you exercise, it may happen again or it may not.” Uh, thanks. He told me that he would not be at all surprised to perform a fusion on me sometime in the future, nor would he be surprised to never hear from me again. And, adding to my frustration, both the surgeon and my physical therapists are confident that this is not an issue of core strength or poor technique, so while both of those things are crucial to a healthy back, I feel like fixing one or both of them would be much easier than simply knowing that I have a “bad” back.
I should note that I really do like this surgeon, but left his office after my 6-week check-up feeling as scared as I did when I went in. I am afraid of lots of things. The most basic of these fears is never wanting to feel that kind of pain again. I’m a pretty physically strong person, and people who know me (and love me) would agree that I’m fairly headstrong as well. So, not being able to get myself off the floor was more than a little disconcerting. It hurt. A lot. But there’s also a fear of the future: how many more times will this happen to me? (No one knows). How can I prevent re-injury? (Be careful, though it may not even be possible). How can I be a strong role model for my son, for my students, and for the women who look to me for fitness guidance? (Get back on the horse!) How can I continue to challenge myself in fitness with all these fears nagging? (And that is what the husband is for!).
I’m looking forward to getting on this new bike and to feeling competitive again, even if – at least for the near future—that means competing with myself. I’m also excited to do some boxing and to work with a plan that has been tailor-made for me to accommodate both my fears and my physical limitations.