Wisdom from My Mom

More late-night ramblings:

I’m post-surgical day ten from my fusion surgery for L2-L5. While this is the most painful thing I’ve physically gone through (that includes childbirth) and although there have been moments of, “WTF did you DO!” I don’t regret surgery—well, at least today, right at this moment. The leg pain and numbness are decreasing every day. I’m weaning off narcotics and each day is just a tiny bit better. What I did NOT expect was the emotional outbursts that would happen. Post anesthesia reaction, loss of independence, pain, poor food intake (I did expect a lack of appetite—that’s just me) and being exhausted all contribute to this emotional roller coaster. I’m trying to take this recovery one day at a time. I’m finding it helpful to look back at the end of the day and recount what I was able to accomplish. It’s helping emotionally, which, for me, also helps with the pain. What also helped was a conversation with my mom about just what was making me emotional.

What I discovered:

My emotional roller coaster was born out of frustration due to the inability to do the little things around the house that I felt kept our home running. I was getting frustrated at Shawn because these were not his priorities and therefore, didn’t get done. I was turning into a cranky nag. I was also frustrated, because, while I remember having a distinct conversation with him about what life would look like for us during the healing process, I didn’t feel it sunk in with him. I didn’t feel that he recognized the physical pain I was having, nor the effect of a loss of independence.

My mother could look around the house (which is NOT messy by any stretch of imagination) and see what I was upset about. She reminded me this situation was temporary—unlike her’s after her stroke. I get what she was saying, even though I felt a bit annoyed. I don’t WANT to be reminded it could be worse. Honestly, and probably selfishly, I’m focused on how I feel right now. She also reminded me just how overwhelmed Shawn  was feeling. His very independent partner of many years, who was an equal partner in running the home and hobby farm, was not able to do her normal chores. Tasks, which he took for granted, were magically done. I failed to look at this situation from his viewpoint. 

Her suggestion was to pick the top three things that were the most important to me.

That was easy. The animals—take care of feeding and watering the chickens and gathering eggs every day, particularly in winter due to the freeze risk. Scoop Kitzi’s box every day—big cat, big box. Make sure his kibble dishes are full—I can take care of his twice daily wet food feeding.

Keep the kitchen counters and island clear—this enables me to take care of getting my own snacks and beverages. This also makes it easier for me to feed Kitzi his wet food—not a fun chore since we cat food reeks!

Keep the floors picked-up: a messy floor is a trip hazard since I’m still using a walker and am unsteady on my feet. 

Picking my top three items has also helped me exercise a little more patience when other tasks come up. However, what was truly important was sharing this with Shawn because communication is the key to any good relationship. My mom and I also talked about taking the time to say ‘thank you’ when he completed a task that I normally did. His love language is words of affirmation, so this simple idea makes a huge a difference. I noticed HE was less stressed and more willing to help with other tasks. Yes…we discover just how wise our mothers are, once we are adults ourselves. Thanks mom!

WTF: My Body is Betraying Me. Spinal Stenosis Recovery

I haven’t sat down to write for months as my time has been filled writing lectures and assignments for classes I’ve been teaching in a prison contract. Distance learning classes take just as much work as teaching in a classroom so my time has been FILLED.

I have taken time away from teaching in order to have back surgery. A TLIF (Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion) of levels L2-L5. After failing 2 ˝ years of conservative treatments and noting how rapidly the spinal stenosis was progressing, this was the best option to decompress the nerves and spinal cord as well as preventing further progression and restore some semblance of normalcy to my life. This ‘failure’ of my back, I have been assured, is not entirely due to overuse. Some of this is genetic, some attributed to body structure, and some is just the luck of the draw. Although I probably shouldn’t have been lifting 50# of chicken feed—EVER!

I have a core group of friends called, the “Non-Trad Squad Extraordinaire” who helped me come up with the idea to blog during this journey. Not only the physical journey, but also the emotional mental journey that inevitably comes with a life change based on health. There are strong, incredbily talented, women writers in this group and when they presented this idea as a challenge, I knew they were on to something. Whether these random thoughts over the next few months help anyone, I know that they will help me as I recover.

Spinal Stenosis: Just what is it?

The Mayo Clinic explains it this way:

“Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. Spinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and the neck. Some people with spinal stenosis may not have symptoms. Others may experience pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness. Symptoms can worsen over time. Spinal stenosis is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis. In severe cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves.”

Adding to spinal stenosis, are two herniated disks and some slipping of one vertebra—issues which have been progressing. Issues, which have prevented hunting, kayaking alone, snowshoeing, and strenuous hiking. The back pain and leg pain has also begun to affect every other aspect in my life. So, it was time to jump in and have this taken care of…fully aware that the time to full recovery is 12-18 months. This summer, I’ll be back to hiking (gently at first). The fall, hunting. Winter, snowshoeing. However, it will be the following summer until I can kayak.

So today (January 21st) is the morning of surgery. Here we go. Time for the “carpenter” (aka neurosurgeon Dr. Terzic) to rebuild my scaffolding (aka back.) and make me into a titanium, bionic woman. In the time of COVID, there are no visitors in the hospital and I could only have one person accompany me from arrival to pre-op. Shawn was prepared, however a close friend had the day off and wanted to accompanying me through pre-op. The best friends are those who have your “back.”

Although this isn’t my first trip to surgery (it’s actually number 14!), I am terrified. Scared of how we’ll handle post-op pain with my poor track record of narcotic tolerance. Petrified of what the first 3-months will look like with no BLTs (bending, lifting, and twisting.) And, quite honestly, what will this dependence on my partner do to US? 

Now, bring on the relaxing drugs they provide in pre-op…and bring on that stupid cheesy grin that comes with it.


© Avie Layne 2012