Happy Co-dependence Day!
Yes it SHALL be a memorable twist on a jubilant and worthy holiday for me this year. In a time of celebrating independence from a freedom-squashing body of individuals, I am celebrating my great dependence upon others and the blessings of having such a support web. For 13 weeks I fought a battle of mental fortitude and physical debilitation with sciatic pain resulting from my ruptured L5/S1 disk. My right leg was my least favorite companion, but it let me know of it’s grumpy presence constantly. My family, my friends, my health care professionals backed me, built walls of resistance, kept my spirits high, coached me through the pain and frustration. But I reached a point of diminishing returns in the aggressive non-surgical treatment I pursued. Apparently in some herniations, the disk fragment doesn’t fully detach and remains connected to it’s home base; mother disk. In these cases, the body is less likely to fight the ejected “foreign body” and attempt to reabsorb it. Rather, it tries to build a cozy, “scar”y home over the top while accommodating little to no room for the exiting nerve. In these cases, the patient is much less likely to find nerve pain relief without surgery, and if they do, it is on the order of over three years down the road.
I’m not that patient. In the levels of patience I scored a B+. Most folks who can achieve relief from sciatic pain sans surgery generally become asymptomatic in the 8-12 weeks following the injury. I was at 13 and even after a second epidural steroid shot, I still was fiending for ibuprofen to take the machete out of my right calf and butt cheek. It came down to a personal decision; did I want to remain in limboland with a somewhat able body that may or may not ever get resolution of sciatic pain and could likely battle symptoms exacerbated by my profession and passions the rest of my life? Or was surgery a viable option with some known complications but a somewhat predicable outcome with linear healing to return to a normal healthy life, job, and extracurricular activities. I opted for surgery. These three months have been some of the longest of my life, but they have taught me much. They have carved deeper into where I find my identity, where I seek respite. They have given me a higher awareness of my body, it’s intricacies, it’s abilities, and it’s limitations. They have coaxed patience, and they have given me a greater respect for the health care professionals in our nation. Along the path of seeking healing, I have gone beyond being a private investigator and into seeking every possible opinion I could find suggesting which direction I should go. At each junction Dr.’s, PT’s, Chiropractors, nurses, and PA’s have all informed me of what they know with respect to my injury, answered my questions, and allowed me to make decisions that I wanted to make with encouraging support. They have answered my repetitive questions, calmed my concerns, encouraged me on the bad days, and cheered for me as I threw everything I had at healing a problem I had no control over. When I finally caved to the decision of surgery (a microdiskectomy) they all supported that decision and we understood that in a sense, I was stepping back to ground zero and hitting the reset button on getting back to feeling good again. The last three months were not for nothing. Though it would be great to be healed and getting back to life by now, I think the next three months have much more to teach me, stretch me, and grow me into a stronger, smarter, and more mature individual. I owe it to my supporters, my wife, my kiddo, my family, my friends, my co-workers, my health care providers to continue to pursue healing with ambitious intention and become a newer and better version of the Ben I currently am.
So here I am, 72 hours out of surgery, in a recliner, listening to the crack of fireworks out on Halfmoon Lake, recovering at my parents house in West Glacier, reflecting on what a crazy year it’s been. Surgery was a success the neurosurgeon said. He remarked that the nerve took much “coaxing” to free it from compression and there was a large thumb-sized extrusion of “crab meat” that he removed leaving my disk wide open. He directed me to be extra conservative in my approach to rehab so as to not re-herniate the disk. Hmmm, sounds like surgery wasn’t such a bad option after all. Most of y’all that know me are probably waving the red flag and shouting, “Ben! Take it easy for the love of all that is good and righteous!” Worry not good fellows! This battle has left it’s firm dent in my ego and taught me that I am not invincible. Though I take great care of my body, sometimes taking great care of it looks a lot different than what I want it to look like. I have no interest in regressing, in battling sciatica, in pushing through this pain. I want nothing more than to have the neurosurgeon direct my every movement, my progress of rehabilitation, my posture! Unfortunately I’m running a little thin on a bank account at this point so that’s not gonna be an option. But I am going to do my best to be the best darn “take it easy’r” this side of the herniated disk!
I’m going to lay on the couch for the lions share of every hour. I’m going to go for 15 minute walks every couple hours. I’m going to listen to the words my body is telling me. I’m going to err towards laying low. I’m going to enjoy armchair surfing the mountains you all have climbed and posted from. I’m going to look for the daily growth and development of my little 8 month old boy RTG. I’m going to be thankful for the amazing health I do have and the promise of being fully healed and stronger than ever. I’m going to be thankful for the loving, compassionate friends and family that continue to buffer me from depression and hopelessness. And I’m sure going to enjoy ‘le Tour every morning!
Yes I am dependent upon my wife, my family, my friends, and my health care providers. But it’s the kind of dependence that gives me hope in humanity. I couldn’t have made it this for without that dependence. This Independence Day, I celebrate my dependence on others as they carry me through one of the most challenging seasons of life I’ve had the joy of weathering.