Denial is an amazing coping skill! It effectively blocks out the things I don’t want to think about allowing me not to accept what is happening to me!

A year ago, I had an L4-5 spine fusion. Prior to this surgery, the pain was excruciating. After a series of x-rays and MRI’s, this was the “fix”. Afterwards, no bending, lifting, or twisting was allowed. I followed those instructions explicitly. I was up walking working on rehabbing almost immediately afterwards. People kept telling me to “rest” but lying around in bed would only pose other problems so regardless of the pain, I got up and moved!

I think my pain was somewhat resolved immediately after the surgery minus the acute pain from the surgery? But by three months… I remember my three month post-op appointment like it was yesterday. The irritation from nerve pain was undeniably. This was treated with meds that, for the most part, resolved the nerve pain. X-rays were done every three months watching for bone growth from the pelvic graft I had done. The ‘filling in’ of new bone was minuscule. A year later and it was determined I did not heal (grow enough new bone) to set the fusion.

My neuro doc now has sent me to the University Hospital to a neuro doc who specializes in revisions. The thought of undergoing that same surgery is horrible! The pain the first time around is not something I would wish on anyone! More MRI’s, X-rays, CT Scan and now they want a nerve test to be done. I’m told this test is “not too painful”! Before committing to anything, we are getting another opinion from the ortho docs on what they would suggest doing for my failed fusion?

And all I can think about is the extended hospital stay! How in the world can I stay in any hospital for that many days? I’m just not one of those people who can be in a hospital complaining about the food! Who is going to “take care of” things at home? And to make matters worse, the drive to and from the University Hospital has flared up my knee arthritis. I should probably plan another steroid injection to calm that down knowing full well that eventually, I’m going to have to get something done about that joint (like a knee replacement?!)

This new surgery would use artificial bone to get the fusion to heal. And they want to fuse not only L4-5 but also S-1 (because of nerve pain coming from that level). From all the tests, they know the levels above L4-5 are not that great. Their hope is that those levels can hold out for some future surgery down the road? As my son simplicitically says, “his mommy is crumbling!”

I’m so angry that this is happening to me! This is NOT where I saw myself at this point in my life! All these joint problems stem from osteoarthritis. This is a genetic problem; my mother also has severe arthritis with several joint replacements. Too bad you can’t replace your spine though?! I’ve been tested for Rheumatoid Arthritis and other auto immune diseases. Nope, it is plain, boring arthritis that is causing my problems! Yeah, people complain about “arthritis” all the time. In my case, my arthritis is NOT like theirs! They can take an Advil and go about their day. I wish my joint pain was that easily treated!

I’m also angry about the things I’ve had to “give up”. Slowly but surely I’ve had to “give up” doing the thing I most loved to do. I physically can’t do it any longer. So I’ve found “another thing” I love to do. And now I’m having problems physically doing that! I don’t know what I’ll be able to do in the future? More then anger, I’m almost in a panic about all the things “I” want to do that I may not be able to do? In my mind, they aren’t that hard to do. But physically… I know I’m going to have a problem!

So far, I make a lot of “accommodations”. I hide my pain from most people. When suggestions are made that I do (fill in the blank here), I make excuses. The truth is, I physically can not do those suggestions. I’m really good at making those excuses. I think about whatever effort any activity is going to require and how I will be able to “fake” getting through that activity? If I can’t easily a) find a chair to sit down or b) have something to lean on to shift my weight from standing or c) know the activity will have break periods, I make excuses why I can’t do them. The biggest problem with this is… I WANT to do those activities! In my mind, I can easily do them. Physically, I can’t.

I hesitated writing about my arthritis, back pain, upcoming surgery because it isn’t a “fun thing” to read. And I won’t “share” this on other sites because… It isn’t who I am (or is it?) As I start my day, I’m going to try to focus on the things I can do… One step at a time. I’m going to try to make the most of this day and the days to come. Will I get everything done on my “do-list”? Probably not but if I can get a few items marked off, then I will be happy!

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