A Philosophy of Pain….. and Recovery. PCDF Recovery Day 13

Photo on 7-16-13 at 8.51 AM“Oh….. I heal up fast. I’ll be fine in two weeks.”

Maybe, not.

I can however- dress myself and shower without a spotter in the other room in case of passing out or falling down. (This is good.) I can also: wipe the bathroom mirrors and counter tops if I’m really careful. The Swiffer is my friend (weighs nothing) but…. I need someone else to clean up the dust piles it leaves behind…. (Either- the commercial lies… or- our 2 cats 2 dogs and 5 people’s worth of mess is more than the poor little swiffer can handle.  I still can’t: vacuum, mop, do laundry, cooking is iffy, and actually cleaning toilets is kind of out of the question right now.

Post surgical rules: No bending, twisting or lifting… more than 5 lbs. People. My bible weighs 5 lbs or something….and my purse? Oy had to clear it out. Now: I feel totally un-prepared. I just hope the zombies don’t show up until I/m healed… I’m NOT apocalypse ready.

I have made it out of the house a few times. Once was for my nieces wedding shower… and then on Sunday we actually went to church and dinner!. 😉  Go me1

Every time someone comes over… Or I go somewhere.. I make sure I’m cleaned up and looking like “myself.”  (Well- except last night when a friend brought dinner and I was drooly sleeping in the recliner when she arrived…. oopsy.)

Honestly? For most of the pics I’ve posted, I made sure I’m as “together” as one can be when you can’t: bend twist or lift……Not to mention: lean forward to see how your applying makeup- or pluck the loverly strays that start arriving after 40…..(Bonus- the neck brace covers my chin… 😛 What you can’t see, won’t harm you.)

So- today I thought I’d post a real “How are you feeling pic”  This is it. I’m about as comfortable as I look. I wear the brace most of the time. (off to bathe and eat…. and for a few breaks during the day when i’m just lying back in the recliner.) Last night was a bad night. No real reason why…… it just: hurt. Lots of spasming.

Hopefully, today will be better.

I have to be honest….. this really hurts. It hurts in a lot of ways. It hurts that I’m a mess and feel guilty for making more work for my husband who’s fighting cancer like a BOSS. It hurts that my kid is spending yet another summer with his mom in a chair.. unable to drive… go camping…. or even take him to a movie- let alone the normal fun stuff I plan for the summer…..

It also: HURTS. Did I mention, that already? Probably…but trust me..it bears repeating… it does.

Which- the doctor warned me about. Pretty explicitly. He said: “This surgery hurts like hell, and you will hate me. I’m Sorry.” When I asked him about the scar he said: “It will be ugly. I’ll do my best. But ugly.”

He was right. Except I don’t hate him. What he did hurts…. but it’s in order to make my body better. (Let’s hope.)

I have a philosophy for pain. 1) Pain is part of life, it is not the enemy. 2) Pain that is healing vs. never ending (Chronic worsening pain is what provoked this surgery.) is much easier to cope with- at least in my brain. I can remind myself that pain is part of the healing process. 3) Pain means things are working. Nerves are firing. Muscles are knitting back together. 4) Pain is a protective reminder: My body needs to rest. The parts that hurt, hurt for a reason and they need to not be strained. In other words: Pain is protecting me from hurting what the doctor just repaired. Maybe it’s crazy.. but when I’m really hurting.. I TELL myself all of these things. (I also use my Lamaze breathing techniques…. didn’t help with labor- but sure helps when I’m getting dressed;)  PS: I failed Labor. just fyi.

Basically- I believe there is something to be learned from and or listened to- in all of our pain.

I believe this pain is growing me and healing me. In patience. In empathy. In compassion. In humility. (Trust me… needing my husband to dress me for a few days and pull up my drawers every time I had to pee…. was been a lesson in humility. ) And in my understanding that I can’t DO everything… and don’t need to.  And in my body. I believe God has a purpose to fulfill in everything… even pain. I may not like it… but I believe it.

It still: sucks. Philosophy of pain or not…. I take the meds. (But I’m down to about 3 vicodin a day so I’m tapering off those- hat e the idea of getting hooked on those things…)

I also hate wincing and grunting and making scary autonomic “IT HURTS” sounds if I move wrong. It scares my kid and makes me feel embarrassed. (FYI? “moving wrong” changes day to day…. it’s not about breaking rules… it’s about what’s twitchy and spasmy each day. It’s a little like a game of Pin the tale on the donkey only you get kicked if you miss the right spot….and you’re blind folded, so you don’t even know it’s coming. Yeah, it’s like that.

But, I keep playing. Why? Because at some time.. the game will end.. and I will win. Maybe a lot slower than I wanted to…. (Doctor said 4-6 weeks for the bulk of the recovery then around 3 months to feel more normal. It can take up to a year for the spine to fully fuse. My plan of 2 weeks…. was ridiculous. (ambitious would sound better…. but I was being dumb. it was: ridiculous.)

There are lots of types of pain we  humans feel: Emotional, physical, Spiritual, chronic, acute….. Its important to develop a philosophy of pain that helps you get through it………its also important to develop coping skills…..

Here are a few of mine:

1) Distraction. I’m catching up on a lot of netflix and amazon prime videos I’ve been meaning to watch. Not to mention reading. Next will be knitting….. but my arms aren’t very cooperative with that yet. It hurts.

2) Be proactive and prepared. I know I can’t sit on chairs without head rests right now- so I have an ergonomic seat thing I take everywhere. I’m also NOT dong everything.

3) Distraction: I’m also catching up on a lot of reading….and have knitting planned when my body will cooperate….

4) Get up and move. Sometimes my body lies. It tells me that if I sit still enough… the pain will stop….it won’t. Sometimes I have to- change positions, get up and walk around. Change seats. (The hammock out back is a great spot.. once I’m in it.. and until I have to get out of it, anyway.)

5) Get up and dressed and bathed and ready like you’re doing something…. because you are. Your primary job is to get better…. so take it seriously. (Says the woman sill in her jammies…..) This may only work for me…. But, in general- getting myself pulled together- makes me feel better. Even though the process leaves me exhausted. (It also makes me look less scary sick and in pain to my kids…..)

6) Don’t try to medicate all the pain away. Pain helps you remember your limits. Pain helps you focus on healing. Besides….. recovering from addiction is way worse than recovering from physical pain….. I try to be careful and take what I need- but not too much. Or too little. Too little means you’re in too much pain to cope or move around and get things back in movement which just makes the healing take longer……..it’s a fine line you (and your doctor) alone can find.

So….What’s your philosophy of pain?  Grin and bear it? Suck it up? Avoid at all costs? Pain is ….. what?

How do you respond to pain?

How do you cope?

How do you feel, today?

“Dear Lord…. I know that pain has purpose in our lives….. but I don’t like it. Please help me to cope, to heal and to grow through this process……..I love you lord- amen.”

If you’re experiencing pain of some sort and want to develop some kind of framework or philosophy for coping.. I highly recommend the book: The Problem with Pain by CS Lewis, and the Gift of Pain by Paul Brand and Philip Yancey.

The scar is ugly. It’s about twice as long as I expected….. but should heal well. I hate to post it…. because I hate it… But part of the reason for writing about this- is so that when the next chick has this done…. she can find the details i was looking for.No worries for the squeamish- I’ll hide it behind the cut…. It’s angry and red and swollen.. as it should be after all it’s been through. But- it’s healing. will post again when it’s prettier….. this is what the scar from a PCDF 4-t1 looks like about a week post surg…

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6 thoughts on “A Philosophy of Pain….. and Recovery. PCDF Recovery Day 13

  1. Carol roberts says:

    I surely do appreciate your help with others recovery. I know it will help my daughter heal in all of those areas addressed. Thanks for sharing so eloquently. |,,|

  2. Johnny Roe says:

    I go in for my PCDF on Aug 15, 2013 so after 5 days in the hospital I guess the pain that I felt was not to bad with thew ACDF 3 LEVEL last year will make me regret that I did this surgery, the doctor did tell me that this is going to be very painful but I am a tough guy and after sitting around for 3 and half years through therapy,injections, acupuncture, etc. I am taking the drive and hope that I can resume a normal life again, thanks for your post, I am glad I have no kids but a elderly Mother that I neglect do to my condition.

    1. I’m just past 4 weeks now- and in PT. Still hard- but much better. Driving for about 10 days and Doc released me from the brace of doom. Still pretty spasm-y but the pain is much better. PT is helping with the dexterity and weakness issues. Just a long slope- but at least the slope is going up now and I’m feelig better- not worse- like I was before surgery;) Praying for yours!

      1. Johnny Roe says:

        I have ten days to go until mine and I have no support other than what the insurance company will give me as fas as a nurse, it is really difficult to explain this operation to people that are not willing to do some homework, my family or friends, they have their own issues with everyday life, most feel that I am getting paid to be home so what can be so bad about it or why do you need to do the surgery anyway.
        the problem with spine pain is most people can not see like a cat scan to understand what the central nervous system can do to the extremities of the body, pain and symptoms travel from the place of origin and are never the same level.
        insurance investigators do their best to down play the severity of the injury, pain, or surgery.
        if my arm was split open and blood was gushing out it can be recognized.
        so frustrating to me and i have not been cut open as of yet, thanks for your reply.

  3. Sharalyn Heinly says:

    Thank you for your brutal honesty and eloquent way of writing. Your words helped me so much in my recovery. I gave this blog to my family members and said this is exactly what I am feeling. I read it, being two ish weeks behind you in my recovery, learning what I could expect. My surgeries couldn’t be googled ahead of time like everything else in my world. My life changed in an instant when on 28 June I fell while rock climbing. I broke my neck and my back. I had ACDF surgery on 29 June which was not successful and pinched the nerve that runs down my right arm. They released me from the hospital still broken and on heavy medication, and having not pooped, on 4 July to be read mutated through the ER because of the pooping problem. They kept me through the end of the month for PCDF on 17 July and a spinal fusion T10-L2 on 24 July. Your writing really helped me in my recovery. Thank you and God bless.

    1. Hey how are you doing now? Thinking of you!

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