Healing Process

Last year, I went from having chronic neck pain, to having neck pain and a numb hand – being told all different manner of things were wrong, then I went to those things PLUS shoulder pain, ending with removal of a herniated disc between C5 and C6, and all the things that go along with that healing.

Doctor's Office Illustrations...

Doctor’s Office Illustrations…

Looking back, almost a year later, I have a “top ten” of what I WISH I had known about chronic pain and healing from surgery.

10.  Pain is not always located in the source (i.e. numb hand caused by neck issue)

Try not to resist when the doctors look in other places for causes.

9.  MRI’s are terrifying.  Your fat may jiggle, it’s freaking noisy, claustrophobia-inducing

– it’s all good, and over quickly enough to let you relax…

8.  It’s important to get rest.

But don’t rest too much – get up and move, even if you’re achy – you’ll kick yourself for not moving enough later.

7.  You will have ALL the emotions.  Do your best to communicate to others that you’re healing, and it heightens  everything – good people won’t care, and people who care will at least leave you alone.10420098_10100396581635186_7304592368400618984_n

6.  Ask for further clarification.

Often.

I heard things that were so often corrected later that would have saved me a lot of trouble…

5.  Pain meds are delightful – but doctors are not careful about how much they give you.

You may have an addictive chemistry.

Quitting these drugs may make you nuts.  (Shaky, sweaty, paranoid.)

Doctors may or may not understand/be able to support.

Try not to take any more than you need – ask for help if this is a concern.

DO NOT feel too embarrassed to get help.

4.  You will take longer to heal than you’d like.

I’m sorry – I can’t think of anyone that doesn’t wish they could be done healing just a little bit sooner.

Even once you are “healed” there will be latent pain – achey-ness that is normal – it will get better, keep moving!

3.  If your procedure requires you to wear some sort of equipment to support the injured area, i.e. a neck brace, you will have to worry about explaining it.  To everyone.  Strangers in the McDonald’s drive thru, people in the store, everyone where you work – you will be completely unable to escape your surgery if you are out in public.

Hard to be inconspicuous in that thing...

Hard to be inconspicuous in that thing…

I think they mean well, but I must say it was infuriating at points…

2.  Find a doctor you can trust.  This person will be responsible for how your healing goes!

(I happened to have one fall into my lap and found out after surgery he was THE BEST I could have possibly had…should probably have done research before, I lucked out!)

1.  Some people will fall out of the woodwork to help.

Others might need to be asked – they don’t want to bother you.

Remember that no matter how people act, they care.

Some people worry about being in your hair, some can’t seem to leave you alone – nobody’s perfect.

It’s hard to find forgiveness when YOU are the patient, but do your best.

All this to say, you will heal.  There may always be a hint of your surgery – a scar, other treatment, other equipment – but in the end, this is a step towards fixing something that wasn’t working in your body – and I’m grateful there was that help!

And in my case, I’ll treasure the scar, and the awesome hardware in my neck – I feel tough, and will set off old fashioned metal detectors EVERYWHERE I go, like a really tough person…because without them, I’d not be able to use my dominant hand, and be in pain on a regular basis – not a great way to feel.

Check out that hardware!

Check out that hardware!

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Week after surgery

As you may have seen from my prior post, the first few days after surgery were not the easiest.  It’s still not easy, but I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel that gives me hope for the near future.  “All I want for Christmas is to not wear a neck brace…”

I’ve been in the office this week, mostly half days, but it’s been wonderful to be out of the house and seeing people – always gives me energy!  I’m still taking it very easy, and I’m lucky Marty is willing to do so much with the boys and around the house, because I’m not supposed to lift, and with the collar, I can’t even turn to look and see if a kid is safe with the right timing.  Argh!

I learned Wednesday that I had been misinformed in the hospital – I don’t need to wear the collar at night.  I had been wearing it 24/7 – stiff, uncomfortable, and very paranoid if it wasn’t just right, what could I be doing to negatively affect my healing.  The provider reassured me the collar is there to keep me from going wild, but that I was allowed to move my head slowly, and indeed do not have to sleep in it.  Last night was the first night I didn’t sleep in it, and let me tell you what, I haven’t felt better than this morning in a long time!  The pain I experience now is almost exclusively in my shoulders, and it’s from wearing the collar.  It’s goofy that the incision doesn’t hurt the most, but I suppose it’s not seeing too much action thanks to the collar.

I’ve allowed myself to take it off to eat my lunch and to talk in a meeting earlier.  I figure if I’m seated and stable, I won’t do anything “Crazy” as they mentioned in that phone call.

Tossed aside my brace for lunch in my office.  Admire the smiley faces in the background...:)

Tossed aside my brace for lunch in my office. Admire the smiley faces in the background…:)

If I get out of a chair, it’s back on – I am dedicated to keeping my new neck hardware stable in case of impact, but I must say it’s relieving to know it’s stable enough to hold my head up without the brace.  Maybe I was naive or stupid, but I was convinced my head being upright was based on that thing…terrifying.  Incidentally, it will always be on when the boys are around – at 2 and 4, they just aren’t able to remember that mom’s neck is hurt, and hitting her or bumping her might be catastrophic…too much pressure, best to just wear at all times around them.  And I’m willing, thanks to the break I get when I sleep.

My voice sounds mostly normal in regular speech -but my upper register is still missing, as well as any kind of volume – I notice that the most with my children or if I try to sing.  I’m hopeful this will be better, too, soon enough, but for now I’m relegated to hearing music sung for me, and doing my best to wait for quiet moments to speak, so I can be heard.

I’ve been grateful for the care and kindness I have received from everyone – near and far – during this time of recovery, and I hope it continues to trend upward in these coming weeks and to be back to normal, and caring for others.  I’m also amazed at what the medical field is capable of, and immensely grateful that my arms are starting to feel their age again!  It has been worth the pain and frustration if only for that improvement.

Thanks for your care, words of comfort and actions of love.  I feel more blessed than I can say.