Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekend Update

What a weekend, oh my. After being on disability for four months, I
almost forgot what a whirlwind the weekends can be. I've been back at
work for two weeks now, and I can see that I am going to make a
concerted effort to schedule some relaxation into my Saturdays and

It all started on the Wednesday before the weekend, when I got my
second epidural steroid injection. It's a series of three injections,
spaced at one-month intervals. The first injection was a breeze,
relatively. The doctors told me that the injection itself would cause
increased pain for a couple of days but after that I should expect to
see some relief. It hurt a little bit, sure, but no more than any
other injection. It was like a flu shot, where the injection site is
tender for a little while but goes away within a few days. THIS time,
however, it's a whole different kind of pain. This is miserable. At
work I have doubled my dose of painkillers just to get through the
day. At the Kingdom Hall I can't sit in the chairs so I'm bringing
blankets and pillows so I can lay on the basement floor.

I went out with a group on Saturday to do some preaching. Because of
the brutally cold weather and the lack of sidewalks in the area, we
agreed to drive the car from house to house instead of walking. I
learned that this type of preaching is very hard on my back! I
climbed in and out of the car every five minutes for an hour. Despite
painkillers and plenty of rest afterward, I was a ball of jelly for
the rest of the day.

On Sunday I wanted to skip the meeting at the Kingdom Hall and just
use the telephone tie-in to hear the talk. I meditated on Proverbs
22:6 about rich blessings that we don't have to "pay for" in pain and
suffering. Yes, this principle cleared my conscience so that I had no
problem with my decision. Then suddenly I remembered that my friend
Kim had agreed to help with some shopping, but in order to get her
help I would have to go to the meeting first and we would be leaving
together. So I changed my mind and then felt a little guilty that a
shopping trip was "worth" the pain, but the rich blessings were not
enough on their own. I resolved this guilt by lying on the Hall's
basement floor again, receiving all the fine association and spiritual
food, and still preserving my strength for the shopping trip.

That was a long day. We had lunch and also bought furniture, window
treatments, rugs, lighting, and other decorating supplies for my
living room. Since I spent very little time sitting down, my back
didn't really hurt much until late in the afternoon. I came home and
ate dinner and watched football (stupid Ravens! stupid Eagles!) and
suddenly the weekend was over. I'm longing for the days past when
every day was a weekend.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

And the pain goes on

My doctors are still looking for the problem that explains all the back pain I'm experiencing.  They've ruled out a lot of possibilities so far.  So we know a lot about what it's not.  I've tried tons of physical therapy, and chiropractic adjustments, and steroid injections, and massage therapy, and analgesic patches, and narcotics, and anti-inflammatories, and and and.... ugh.

I've also had two X-rays, three MRI's, and a CT scan.  All the imaging studies show normal bones and normal vertebral discs.  Only recently did one of the scans show a small spot on a nearby muscle - but thankfully not on the complicated spots like on the spinal cord or other nerve.  It's kind of like having a freckle or a mole on your skin... it's an abnormality, but it's not worrisome.  You examine it for the presence of this and that characteristic to see whether it's something worth worrying about.  When those characteristics aren't present, then it's considered just a variation on normal.

In my case though, since this abnormality is accompanied by so much pain, it's definitely worth investigating.  Ideally we hope it can be excised or drained with a simple procedure and all my pain will be gone.  Wouldn't that be great!  Really I don't know whether to place my hope in this treatment.  Over the last several months I've heard about a lot of possibilities from my doctors; we won't know for a while if this is just one more thing to rule out.

I have returned to work.  My back is only a little bit better than it's been for the past month or two, but I had to go back to work or I was risking the loss of my job.  The atmosphere at my company is extremely unstable: they just began a series of layoffs a couple of days ago, with further major restructuring to come down the pike.  Fun times.

My lower back is what started all of this back in August.  It was from that improper lifting that I wrote about previously, as you might remember.  Thankfully that part of my back feels perfectly healthy.  It got better after four or five weeks of physical therapy, and that's why I tried to return to work back in September.  When I think back on it, I now realize that it was my upper back that was hurting so badly at that time.  It's just that the pain was so extensive that it was impossible to isolate.

My day at work is not easy.  I am using a different chair that gives my back more support, and I spend as little time in it as I can.  I look for opportunities to get up and walk to others' offices instead of calling them.  Even so I need to take a painkiller by 11AM, and that relief lasts until about 3PM.  At that point in the afternoon, I grit my teeth and try to forget about the pain until I can get home and lie down.  I don't want to take a second dose of painkillers just to get past those last two hours because once I get home, I can have a normal evening with my family after I spend an hour or so lying down on the hard floor.

I do still have additional doctors I want to see, and a few more treatments to try.  I am not yet willing to accept this as a lifetime condition!