I realized this week that this summer turned out to be my own "Summer of George." If you don't get Seinfeld references, I am sorry. Truly, I am sorry for all you have missed. I reference Seinfeld at least once on most days, I think.
I had grand plans for the summer. I was going to organize the whole house, from the closets out. I was going to donate and trash massive amounts of things we don't need in order to de-clutter our lives. I was going to paint our master bedroom and bathroom so the chalky quickie paint job done by the previous owners would finally be no more. I was going to stain our back fence and work in my flowerbeds. I was going to continue my diet success and lose another 30 pounds to match what I'd lost since February.
I was so looking forward to turning 40 this month and I even had a private Pinterest board with ideas for how I might celebrate. I had the dream of a little party and decided I could throw myself one with a Mad Men-era theme. My thirties were a rough decade for me and I was happy to move forward. I wanted just a bit of normal, like everyone else, not perfection, just normal and I set myself up, left myself open, with child-like hope. And I was going to write, as in non-blog writing, in a disciplined manner. I am doing this post now as an update and a record for our family.
I've mentioned back pain in previous posts, along with my immune system being taxed over the past few years. I've had spots of pain since my 1998 back surgery, but it would go away in a day or so. Since May, the pain hasn't gone away, though, and it's become worse. I ended up having an MRI done July 15. I was lying in the machine, feeling so happy that my pain was so intense, because my neurosurgeon would surely be able to see what was causing my pain. I was worrying what I would do if I had surgery again, this time with three children. Last time, I was still a new wife, with no children.
I started to tear up in the the doctor's office as he looked at the image on his computer screen. He could see nothing like a pinched nerve which could explain my pain. There was nothing he could easily identify as the cause of my pain. Then, he started to point out something to his assistant and I heard the words "bone marrow." He explained to me that he saw mottling in the marrow and that he was sure that a call to Radiology would result in a non-specific label for mottling. I heard him make the call and he was right. My brilliant surgeon, who is focused and not very demonstrative, took my hand in his, looked me in the eye and said, "We've just got to find out what's going on in this marrow."
I learned there is very little good news to find in internet searches involving the terms I began looking up. The next week, I saw my OB/GYN, who is also my General Practice doctor. My neurosurgeon consulted with her and they put a plan in place. I had lab work-ups, followed by CT scans, an x-ray, appointments scheduled with a pulmunologist (still coughing since my pneumonia), rheumatologist, and based on those visits, possibly a visit to an oncologist just to rule out cancer.
Okay, my focus after that visit, just as it was after my searches, was on the word cancer. And I was still in pain, although it would ebb and flow. I found relief in the swimming pool, where there was no pressure on my back. I spent lots of time resting and avoided bending over to pick up anything. The house got messier. I was eating junk foods I hadn't eaten in years. I ended up gaining half of the weight I had lost earlier in the year. Some nights, after the sun went down and the temperatures dropped slightly, I would walk two-three miles in our neighbourhood. Other nights, I wasn't able to walk to the end of the next street. And I was scared that I might not see my babies grow up. And I was guilty that they had a mom who just lay around all day while they wanted to go on vacations or have adventures. It's my personality to stand up, pull myself up by those bootstraps and face challenges. But I physically couldn't pull up the straps and that affected my mental attitude.
I'm going to skip a lot of details. The pulmonolgist feels that my coughing is sinus-related, which makes total sense with my life-long sinus issues. The happiest day came a few days after school started when I finally visited my rheumatologist. I had to wait an hour and a half to see him, but once he came in the room, he took his time with an exam and questions. I finally seem to have some answers and they may even explain why something would show up in my bone marrow. There will be some more lab work and possibly, more scans, but for now, he feels very certain that I have sacroiliitis. It's all possibly related to my ulcerative colitis. In relation to sacroiliitis, he thinks it may be caused by another condition, ankylosing spondylitis, which is shown in this pamphlet the doctor gave me to explain the situation:
|Thus, the alternate title for this post, "Aw, Grow A Spine" ;)|
I'm thankful for a possible answer that has a treatment plan. We can't reverse damage, but it seems we can prevent further damage, although the more I read the more I learn that this chronic condition can worsen over time. I've started a half dose of a maintenance medicine, based on my gastronenterologist's concerns about the medicine's effects on my ulcerative colitis. I see her in a week for a check-up. I am on another round of Prednisone after a painful weekend. I had pain down my left leg that really couldn't be relieved and numbness throughout my left foot. The dose pack has given me some relief and I slept through the night last night. Sitting is the most painful. I was nauseated on the morning school drive because of the pain. So, if you invite me somewhere that requires me to sit this week, don't take it personally when I say, "No."
It was not a fun summer. It was not productive in any visible way. At some point, I'll be able to discuss--unpack, to use a cliche-- the spiritual side of it, but I'm not there, yet. I almost didn't write this much. Because I was raised in a family where self-pity was not an option. And examples of others who had it worse were plentiful. I don't think that was a bad thing. My mother listened to me and comforted me; she just didn't want me to worry and wallow. There have been some horrible tragedies in our community recently. There are people with pain on the extreme end of the spectrum and there are parents watching sick children suffer or who are facing life after losing a child. I'm nowhere near that end of the scale and I know it. And I am so thankful, even as I pray for their healing and comfort.
I'm still resting. The house is a wreck. We're eating the same simple meals over and over, which is a welcome improvement compared to the period between the MRI and the rheumatology appointment when we were eating out WAY too much. I made a pie the other day and I had to rest afterword. I don't know when I'll make multiple pies or teach pie-making classes. My 40th, for whatever reasons, was a quiet day, even thought it came before the intense pain. I am so thankful that before my spell that left me home-bound, I was able to go to a surprise lunch, thanks to my friend Amber, who drove into town just to treat me!
I will probably call on friends to help me next week as I try to get the house ready so I can host my Bunko group next Thursday. It's not that I'm too proud to ask for help, it's that I feel that I need to save up my "help points" for a time when we really, really have something big happen. I've felt that way since my mother passed away. But, these are thoughtful, unsolicited offers and I'm not going to turn them down. I have an appointment for physical therapy next week, which should help a great deal and I'm going to get back to healthy eating. Being overweight didn't cause any of this, but losing extra weight can only help joint issues. Also, I will be on a near-Paleo diet to possibly help with the inflammation in my joints.
I don't feel 40 and Fabulous. I'll be honest; I feel forty feckin' years old. But I am going to own every one of those forty years. They are my years. They are my lessons, my joys, my sorrows, my journey. They are what led me to God, over and over. They are my proof He exists and He loves me. They are moments of near-perfection amidst the hard times. They are a badge of honor because I survived them and I'm now on the other side of forty. And that in itself is pretty feckin' fabulous.
|A toast to the next 40|