One Year On // Post Op

This was me post-op, listening to an 8 hour long worship playlist which got me through!

It’s now just over one year since I suffered a ruptured disk in my back and had surgery to correct it.

Recovery is ongoing.

They told me it would be at least a year and they were right. It has been so up and down throughout the entire year and yet hitting the 12 month mark did seem to bring a realisation that actually it is basically ok. The ups and downs are less violent and the swinging fear of it happening again, and euphoria over new things I can now do again are less pronounced.

I still carry a cocktail of painkillers with me wherever I go, along with my trusty back chair or roll cushion. I have to plan long journeys carefully and take time out from sitting for long periods, often choosing to work at home from the floor of my study, propped up by cushions laying in front of the laptop.

As I write a lone runner zooms past, red, sweaty and clearly enjoying herself. A momentary pang of despair hits me. We are on holiday at Spring Harvest in France. Last time I was here I was doing the same, taking time out of each day to run along the river soaking up the sun and enjoying a new route that hasn’t bored me yet. Last time we were supposed to be here I was actually at home in the post surgery phase. Hard to believe that that was now over a year ago.

There are still things I can’t do, or more perhaps, won’t risk doing. There’s talk of going canoeing this week and whilst I am desperate to go the truth is I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. To get to where I am now, I’ve seen physios regularly, faithfully done my exercises twice, if not three times a day, attended Pilates classes, sat correctly and not done anything stupid, and it still seems any kind of full recovery is a way off. Why would I risk it now? And yet I also don’t want to live in fear, don’t want to be defined by my health. Don’t want to be the boring mum who can’t play football in the garden with the kids, can’t actually change the beds for fear of tweaking something, can’t push a trolley full of food round the supermarket (thank goodness for online ordering). It’s all so boring.  People still ask me regularly how is your back? I’d love to say yes it’s fantastic, never better, but the truth is and my stock answer is ‘it’s ok, bit up and down but I’m fine’. It’s actually nice, having moved churches for curacy to be somewhere where many people don’t know I had the op, so I can escape the questions.

But as this is an update, for those that want to know… I am still doing physio twice a day (at home, I have a set of exercises to do), I walk every day, 3 miles if I can, to keep my back mobile and from seizing up, it’s also the only exercise I get. I am allowed to cycle too but I’m not a cycling fan to be honest so walking it is. Clinical pilates is once a week and boy do I notice it if I miss one. The pain is up and down, I still get nerve pain in both legs and numbness in one foot occasionally. It’s varied and changes from day to day. Sitting for long periods produces latent pain (ie: it appears after the event -usually the next morning), and I know when I’ve pushed it too much like lifting something I shouldn’t, or twisting awkwardly and usually the results last for a few days or longer. Paracetamol and Nurofen are my best friends and I don’t go anywhere without them, but I am thankful that the super strength pain killers, which I also carry with me in case of a relapse, have not been used for months now.

However. It’s all ok. Yes it can be frustrating at times and I hate carrying my back chair or cushion with me like some old lady, but it’s all manageable and I still say I wouldn’t change it for the world. Earlier this year I found myself focussing on the pain too much and I made a choice to remember the blessing of it all every time I felt weighed down by the pain. After all the pain is a reminder of a time which I doubt will be repeated. A time with God that was a gift. Such a special time, unable to do much at all except rest in his presence, read his word, pray. It was like being soaked in him for weeks on end. Oh how I miss that.

So now every time I feel the pain I remind myself of the blessing. And a blessing it was. Is even. It has changed my life, my faith, altered my view on so many things, given me more empathy and understanding and I hope helped me to be a better minister.

So for now I focus on that gift, that blessing and move forward…

Back Update // Week 4 Post-Op

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Small pleasures, brand new ‘TOMs’ for walking in…

Another update on my back…

So this week is week 4 since the op and it’s been a week of two halves. People told me at week 3 I’d start to feel a lot better and that was true, last week I felt I really turned a corner, stopped taking all pain killers (woop!) and was able to do quite a bit more. The result of this was (which I was also warned about) that I did too much and then was exhausted and in pain again. And when I say overdid it, I mean just a few outings of about an hour each. So then, Tuesday this week became a write off as I pretty much went back to bed. I’ve been quite taken aback just how tired I am and how the simplest of things takes so long to do. I get up, have breakfast or a shower, then have to go back to bed for an hour. Get up for a walk, then go back to bed… and so on, that’s the pattern of the day. Apparently this is normal but I still wasn’t prepared for it. Pre-op Googling that suggested some people were back to work after 2-3 weeks! frankly, they must have been lying…

On top of all that but last week we made the final decision to cancel our holiday, which was gutting as we had booked it a year ago and would have been going with friends. But to be honest it would have been too much of a risk and based on what I can do at the moment would probably have set me back in my recovery. So then we thought we’d just find somewhere local, maybe hire a cottage and just hang out together somewhere away from home. We miraculously found somewhere near the beach and then a day later (also on Tuesday) the owner decided they wanted it that week and they cancelled our booking. Gutted again.

So, Tuesday I think was the lowest point so far. Funny to think of all I, well we, have been through and it was 4 weeks post-op that that point came. I guess it was just a culmination of all these things, doing too much, being exhausted, the holiday fiasco and as the kids have now broken up from school too, realising that I was going to a pretty dull Mummy this summer.

Henna fun

So, in all that where was God? Of course right next to me as he always is! But I have to admit, I had a few moments of wondering. In the end all I could do was to go back to my iPod, and the ‘epic worship playlist’, set it going and fell asleep. Yet again the scripture ‘Be still and know that I am God’ has been my comfort. When all I could do was lay down and cry, I know that he was right with me. I refuse to give in to the enemy, whatever is thrown at me will just draw me closer to my heavenly Father. Matt Redman did an interview at our church a few weeks ago (available online here) and he talked of those tough times when you just pray ‘help me’, but also how important it is to also pray ‘hallelujah’. That’s what I choose, to seek him and praise him, whatever I ‘feel’.

I’ve been delving into John this week, I really love his more spiritual approach, and I’ve been struck in Chapter 3 where Jesus says again and again ‘I tell you the truth’, and finally in verse 21:
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‘but who ever lives by the truth comes into the light says it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God’.

The only way I can remain positive, full of faith and upbeat, is through the truth of Jesus Christ and who he is in my life. 

So, with that in mind, the positives… thankfully the week has improved and I have to remind myself (again) it’s only a few weeks since the op. I am now walking up to 1 1/2 miles each day and the weather is beautiful so this is a real joy. I mean it would be a joy anyway having been cooped up for so long but in the sunshine it is doubly so! Plus I can walk with the kids as they are off, stopping off at the village cafe for an ice cream each day. I’ve enjoyed spending time with the kids, playing card games in bed, watching cricket with them on the ipad (Hashtag TheAshes !) and having fun with henna with the youngest.

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Date ‘hour’ on the beautiful South Downs.

We also managed a date night (or date hour) for the first time in weeks having some time to hang out and chat with my lovely husband without discussing back pain, surgical intervention or how we would manage the week ahead. Chips on the South Downs, just for an hour, but lovely…

And finally I got my nails done this week! When I was first off I decided to get gel nails (never had them before) as a treat to cheer me up. Then I found out I couldn’t have them for the op, then I found I couldn’t sit long enough after it, so finally I got them done this week and they look fab – thanks Kim!

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funky nails!

I have also taken a decision to really focus on my health – if that’s not an obvious thing to say after all this! – but I realised having totally lost my appetite after the op I hadn’t yet re-gained it and just wasn’t feeling hungry, let alone enticed by any food. So I’ve set myself a little programme of healthy snacks and things to give me energy, and tried to get excited about cooking again – which I can now do to a certain extent (with the help of kids now on summer hols!) plus I’ve started talking multivitamins too.

And another big achievement this week (well it will be, as not yet happened!) is that I will be at church preaching on Sunday – all being well. My Vicar told me not to worry when he realised I was on the rota, but I really want to do this, simply so I can stand up there and give glory to God for all he has done in the last few weeks. I won’t be able to do the whole service but I am really excited about this!

So there were are. Still rather up and down but I am improving and God is still good!

Quick back update

Thanks again for all the nice emails/cards etc, here’s where I am up to…

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Selfie on my (short) walk

So it’s 2 weeks tomorrow since the surgery. Amazing really, seems to have flown by. Got to admit the first week was pretty grim, I was really struggling with the after effects of the anaesthetic and drugs etc. Since then it has been rather up and down, I guess I expected a gradual improvement but it has been very varied. However in the last few days I seem to a have turned a corner. I’m only taking paracetamol (and the occasional ibuprofen when needed), and I’m walking further. In fact today I walked round the field behind our house, it’s probably about 1/2 mile in total and included a stile (or perhaps ‘style’ as in my slightly limpy, incredibly slow walking way). It seems crazy to be measuring progress in such small steps but considering I haven’t been able to walk more than a few yards for 6 weeks, this is a massive achievement! I’m still spending a large amount of time lying down and I think I will be for some time yet, but at just 2 weeks post op I’m ok with this. Plus, I still feel an amazing amount of peace in all this, God is soooo good! (I’m planning to vlog about this peace thing in the next few days, much easier than typing at the mo!)

So, I’ve been measuring each day by making a list of small achievements and nice things in my journal so that I can remind myself when I’m having a bad day pain-wise of how far I have come. Here’s some of my faves so far…

  • The early days – spending hours listening to my 8 hour worship playlist on the iPod This totally got me through!
  • Managing to take a shower unaided! (on day 5 – oooh smelly)
  • Saving a bumble bee (day 10) (It was dying stuck by a window so I gave it a spoon of sugar water and it revived and flew off, made me feel so good that I had been able to do something useful in a time when there’s not much I can do!)
  • Being unable to sit for long I’ve been missing the sunshine, until I realised the garden table was the perfect height for lying on – hey presto makeshift bed in the sunshine :) (day 9) Of course it has pretty much rained ever since…
  • Realising I can put my tea mug in the top rack of the dishwasher (day 8) 
  • 2015-06-17 16.09.42Getting to grips with the ‘nimbus 2000’ (right) which enables me to do all sorts of basics (like putting on knickers which had been a tricky one!)
  • Errr, how can I put this, there was ‘movement’ on about day 5, which post op had not been happening… such blessed relief! (sorry for TMI lol!)
  • Praying for prophetic words for people and sending notes with them.
  • Watching all the Darren wilson movies – so inspiring
  • New coloured pens… the simple joys
  • Getting creative again for the first time in years
  • Discovering ‘suits’ on Netflix and that there’s several series to watch :)

So there we are. 2 weeks in and I’m improving, that’s about the size of it. I did a little vlog for my church family here if you want to know a bit more (foolishly shot in portrait, clearly my brain is not quite back to normal…)

If you are the praying type, please keep praying, I really do feel covered in it. Thanks.