Tuesday, September 29, 2009

When medicine becomes your enemy.

After two major back surgeries in a span of three weeks I was in excruciating pain that only "heavy duty" medicine could push down to a level that I could endure. With this medicine I experienced side effects that caused me to rethink whether pain would be better than what I was left feeling.

First of all the depression hit me and with it the feeling that even holding my cell phone took too much effort. I have always loved to talk on the phone, but my family and friends would call and I honestly couldn't hold my tiny phone to my ear longer than a minute or two. Switching to the speaker part proved to be frustrating as well, since the person on the other end couldn't hear me. This isolation from the outside world fueled my depression and I sank even lower.

My physical therapy taxed what little strength I had and after the sessions I would escape in a nap. My world consisted of showering, physical therapy twice a day, meals (which I was too tired to eat) and precious naps. Sleep became an escape from my arduous life of pain and weakness. Everyone kept encouraging me to push through the weakness and depression and being the good soldier that I am, I did not stop. Honestly, I was basically on "auto-pilot" and did what I was told to do with a smile on my face. Someone once had told me that when I found myself in situations that seem to be overwhelming to just keep breathing and keep on keeping on. And so I kept on keeping on.

Towards the end of my stay in physical rehab I was hit with a new problem that most people won't even discuss because of the embarrassment of the topic. I lost all bladder control. I was sure that something had gone terribly wrong with my surgery. A stop at the doctor's office on the way home confirmed through an x-ray that the surgery wasn't the culprit for this new hurdle.

My husband went to the store and bought me adult diapers and I began to realize that now I was crippled (had to use a walker), in pain, incontinent, and on top of everything else, depressed. Just a few short weeks earlier I had been so hopeful and now I was wondering if this would be me for the rest of my life. Not a very pretty picture. Can't do anything without pain and peeing my pants without even knowing when it would happen.

My handwriting vanished and was replaced by a scrawl that even I couldn't read and my thinking skills became like someone whose head is filled with jello. Television shows couldn't entertain me, books didn't make sense any more (I have always been an avid reader), talking to friends took too much energy, food tasted horrible (which is WAY NOT me), and depression had gathered a dense curtain across my mind's eye where NO ONE was welcome.

One day after watching the clock to make sure that I knew when I could have my next medication dose I decided that I couldn't become a sad shadow of my former self. So, instead of taking my medication, I didn't. What difference would it make? I wasn't going anywhere and my husband would be home to make lunch soon enough. Not only didn't I take that dose, but the evening time came and I went without the medicine to cut the pain. I refused to give up who I was to the medication that was stealing my life.

Everything went okay for the first skipped dose and by the time the next scheduled time arrive I was feeling more hopeful about regaining my essence. However, here's the clincher, by the third scheduled time I wasn't feeling too good. I thought maybe I had come down with the flu. I was throwing up, shaking with chills and ached as if I had been snowplowed onto a bed of nails. My skin crawled and I begged my husband to take me to the ER. After talking to me (he didn't know I had stopped my pain medicine) he told me that he could do anything at home that I would receive at the ER. I didn't have the flu; in fact I was going through drug withdrawal.

When I think about the forty-eight hours of that drug withdrawal, I remember watching the clock and timing my throwing up to see if I could go longer than twenty minutes in between times (took a long time to do that.) Couldn't keep anything down, but I kept trying with chipped ice and sometimes just holding the wet, cold glass next to my mouth made me feel better. I was hot, then I was cold, I couldn't really sleep, but when I could doze I had horrible dreams and I remember begging my husband to give me a pill. He said that I shouldn't start up and we called the doctor who prescribed something for the nausea and a different pain pill that wouldn't cause such drastic effect when stopped. I then understood why drug-addicted people keep on their drugs, because deciding to quit HURTS so very much. Without support of family and friends, I believe that I might still be bed-ridden on that drug that stole my life.

Now, I don't take any strong pain medication and the best part of all, my bladder control returned to its previous state of function. At first, I thought maybe it was because I was dehydrated, but after a week of having bladder control without the pain medication, I realized that the medication was screwing up the signals from my bladder to my brain. Leftover adult diapers are in my bathroom closet as a gentle reminder of the journey that I not only survived, but where I rescued my life from a dark,deep and isolated place.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Where this year has brought me.

This week I visited my surgeon for a follow-up visit and discussed some options with him. I sat there and listened and it finally hit me that this time last year I was anxious for the surgery that would enable me to live my life without so many limitations. I had never had such intensive surgery before, so I didn't really have a clue about how much pain and how long the recovery would take. Sure I had researched the surgery and the doctor had explained everything in great detail, but the experiences I had after surgery were few more painful and stressful than I had ever imagined.

Before my surgery, my back pain had gotten so terrible that I basically couldn't walk more than ten minutes and I would have to sit down with my back curved and my head tucked between my knees. My family was very supportive by pushing me in my wheelchair during vacations and shopping trips. Looking at the world from the wheelchair and depending on someone all the time took a large emotional toll on me. My family never complained, but I didn't feel like a contributing member of our family. The surgery wouldn't take place until I had been on bone strengthening medicine for six-months, so that pushed the surgery to January of this year.

It would take pages to describe the exact surgery that took place in January, so let me just state that I now have more hardware in me than some Lowe's stores. Because of a previous surgery, the "anchors" couldn't be connected to enough stable vertebrae to keep everything in place, so another surgery was done in February to rework some "anchors" into my hip. That second surgery gave me more hope and dropped the pain from "having my leg step into a bear trap" to a level of about a two. Ten days in a physical rehab facility got me on my feet again. I started over with ALL functions from self-care to literally learning how to walk, again.

My husband came up every weekend and stayed to encourage me at the rehab center and when I got home, he was there to make sure that I had everything that I needed to get stronger (both physically and emotionally.) You see when a person has been living with constant pain, it becomes a very desperate situation and depressing for the person. I didn't start having hope until I realized that my pain was lessening as my strength and endurance was increasing. My daughter came to stay with us to encourage me as I healed and she was comforting in her "new role" of the caretaker. Friends brought me food and sweet cards, as well as gifts from the heart. I felt bolstered by the love and concern so freely given to me during this time.

Within two weeks of being home I traded the walker for a cane for stability and then no extra support was needed. Physical therapy three times a week for eight weeks and exercises helped to get my strength back and the pain medicine's dosage lowered. I had to wear a huge back brace and a bone stimulator twenty-four hours a day until this week (eight months.)

Now, I have pain that doesn't stop me from living and enjoying my hobbies, my family and friends. Walking isn't measured in twenty-feet or ten minutes increments. I park way far away in parking lots and shop until I run out of money (which usually happens quickly these days.)

I will have another cat-scan in February to make sure all the hardware is staying where it is suppose to and then we decide if we want to remove some of the screws. If everything is where is suppose to be, I have already decided that I really don't want to remover anything. I don't set off metal detectors and my old bones are kind of slow growing, so they need the extra support.

If I could clone my doctor I would and I would make sure that if ANYONE needed a smart, kind, caring doctor, they would have my doctor. He listens to his patients, he doesn't hurry when you asks for explanations, and he acknowledges the part the patient plays in the recovery process. He is a rare young man and I am so blessed to have him as my surgeon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Where is my mom when I really need her?

When I started my life I had a great teacher, my mom. Throughout my life, my mom taught me many things, sometimes without even either one of us aware of the process. She taught me what it is to be a giving, caring mother. Unfortunately, I wasn't really paying close attention to when she was a mother-in-law to my husband. Sure, I was present, but I was too busy trying to keep both of them happy to realize that my mom had been given the task of trying not to interfer, judge and sometimes strangle my husband.

I dearly love my husband, in spite of his shortcomings. The Husband store was out of the "perfect" husband and so I got what was on the shelf that day. Lucky for me, the Wife store was also out of "perfect" wives, so my husband chose me. When my mother would point out the lack of some "talent" I would take the defensive stand and tension between the two of us would set in. Don't get me wrong, my mother grew to dearly love my husband, even while she still pointed out how our life could be easier/better/nicer (pick one) if only my husband would...(you get it, right?)

Now my role has changed, my mom is gone and I am now the dreaded MOTHER-In-LAW. Being a mom wasn't all that difficult for me, actually. But when you add those last two words (In Law) it's then that I find myself on a slippery slope. My daughter has been married for a couple of years, so I thought being the MIL would get easier; boy was I wrong. Now, add a grandchild into the mix and bammo I get another role, Grandmother!

Keeping the proper distance is difficult, as I usually speak my mind and being a MIL and Grandmother causes me to bite my tongue very often. Whenever I find myself wanting to make a "suggestion for your own good" I actually think I hear my mom laughing from Heaven. I didn't realize how much control she had, because looking back on our lives, I would imagine that Mom could have really said MUCH more than she did.

Thanks, Mom for being there and not saying ALL that you could have. My failures and successes in life have both taught me so much. Being a MIL and grandmother will push the limits of my patience, love and control.

Isn't life great. I wouldn't trade my new responsibilities for all the tea in China.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Where have the good posters gone?

"Where are the good posters?" I asked myself as I was reading the Victoria Advocate. I was shocked, because another "poster" bit the dust, so to speak. The posters who are intelligent and don't nit-pick are dropping like flies. I guess that C.J. Castillo gets a bonus for ever poster she bans on the paper's website. Pretty soon all that will be left are angry, tunnel-visioned, bigots who rage at causes. Gone are the posters who could agree to disagree without name-calling and blaming each other for all the world's woes.

If anyone who hasn't completed the third grade successfully and anger is the main emotion, feel free to comment on the Advocate's website, as that is what the paper is looking for. It would be especially helpful to your postings if you can wag your finger (or AK-47) in an avatar, as the editors seem to really like that image. What ever you do though, don't disagree with two posters (that would be BJ and Kenneth) on the web-site, because if you do, you too will be banned from posting.