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…

Quick back update

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

2015-06-23 16.07.29

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.