Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Best Laid Plans...

I had great plans for the upcoming race season. A fantastic long distance swim, an Olympic distance triathlon, the Skinnyman, kicking ass at the Mountain Goat race in May. Really, working on improving my performance instead of 'just finishing'.

Then, well, the pain in my leg/back that I thought was sciatic pain? Got worse. Before Christmas it got to the point where I couldn't even walk properly. It hurt to get in and out of bed, pain stabbing me in the back. An electric kind of pain that hurt with every twinge. Phil and I had a lot going on around Christmas, no time to see a doctor. Phil and I went to Salem to finish cleaning out the condo (closing was approaching) my mom watched the girls. We had a fabulous time. Except.

My back was killing me. I just pushed through it though, my thought was if I stay active enough eventually whatever 'it' was would get better. Keep the muscles loose and all that. We cleaned out the condo. Pushing queen size mattresses and box springs down the stairs. My back really hurt after that day. Then the 5+ hour ride back to Syracuse. By the time we got to my mom's, I was in agony. I could barely walk without bending over. It was at that point that I knew I should go to my doctor when we got back home. No doubt about it, something was wrong.

Sunday, January 2nd, we went to spend a gift card that we had. I was able to walk! Upright! I was feeling pretty good. Some pain but not nearly as bad as what I had been dealing with recently. I even set my sneakers and running gear up so that I could do some walking on the treadmill the next morning before I returned to work after a being off the week between Christmas and New Years.

Monday, January 3rd, I woke up in pain. I hobbled to the bathroom thinking that by the time I got up, dressed, my muscles will have warmed up to the point that I would still be able to do my walk. Oh how wrong I was. I went to sit on the toilet and immediately bounced back up my back hurt so badly. I thought to myself: that's odd. Tried again with same result. I then tried to stand up like I had been, searing hot pain everywhere up and down my back and left leg. I was paralyzed with pain. Silently freaking out, I made my way to the medicine cabinet and took a couple ibuprofen. Then, I could no longer stand the way I was, my muscles were getting really weak. I tried to lay down on the floor, I couldn't, I couldn't even bend down to get in the position. EVERY position hurt. Finally, I thought if I could just get to the living room and lay down, flat on my back, with my feet on the couch and my legs in a 90 degree position it would feel better.

With low moaning I got myself into the crawling position and crawled to the living room. I was able to get in the position and it offered some relief. I had my phone with me so I texted Phil that I was in pain, please come help me, bring a blanket (I was freezing). He came out and tried to help me but nothing worked, EVERYTHING hurt. I was starting to panic. By this time the girls' started to wake up. I had to put on a brave face as Kirsten and Lindsey got ready for school and daycare. When Phil took Kirsten to school it was just me and Lindsey. I had made my way back to the bedroom and found a semi reliable pain free position. Lindsey was watching cartoons on PBS. At one point, I panicked because I could not get comfortable. Phil came home, and took Lindsey to daycare. While he did that I called my primary (who I was not real thrilled with the first time I met her and had planned on switching, but she was better than nothing).

My appointment was set for later that morning. I 'walked' into the office, bent over in constant pain. We'll fast forward to my primary being of no help until I started crying in her office that the pain was so horrible. Phil went to fill prescriptions for perc*ocet, muscle relaxer, and xan*ax (I was going to have an MRI, I needed something to help with the anxiety of enclosed spaces. I'm very claustrophobic). While he was off doing that I had a regular x-ray done. Pure agony at first. Then, I started to calm down and relax, the x-ray room was warm, dark, and quiet. The x-ray tech was very compassionate and nice, I wanted to stay there until Phil got back from the pharmacy.

As I waited for the MRI Phil showed up with the medications and breakfast sandwich, I was starving. I ate, I drank, I took pills. MRI wasn't so bad. About half way through ALL the meds took effect, I was just about asleep in there. I got home, I fell asleep until about 4pm when my primary called me with MRI results: herniated disc at L5/S1. I was told not to do anything that might make it worse. Stay on the pain killer/muscle relaxer until further notice, appointment made with neurologist to over results with more depth. Hmmm, 'awesome'. At that point is when I realized that the outside of my left leg all the way to my pinky toe and the one next to it, was numb.

My appointment with the nurse practitioner of neurosurgery went well. Based on the images and my symptoms it's a herniated disc hitting the nerve that runs down my left leg. Two options were given: physical therapy and time or surgery. Here's the sticking point, physical therapy MAY work for some. It could take up 6+ months. That's a long time for me on a 'maybe'. The surgery itself is very noninvasive. They go in, cut the bulging part out, call it a day. Recovery time is relatively short, PT will prescribed for a number of weeks.

I am an impatient person. The thought of putting off all my activities for 6+ months and dealing with annoying numbness for so long just did not seem like an option. With the surgery, it would be in. out. My life would start to go back to normal. Now, I'll say this, nobody pushed me into the surgical route. It was left completely up to me.

I met with the actual surgeon on Monday. He went over the results of my MRI again. He then showed me what the surgery would actually look like (on his i*Pad no less). Recovery time would be shorter than what the nurse practitioner had told me. I would be up and doing 'normal' activities by Saturday if my surgery was on a Tuesday. Swimming could resume once my stitches are healed, biking can resume by the time the weather holds out long enough to allow me to get out there, running... Well, running is a little different. He didn't tell me NOT to run, he cautioned me that I take it easy. Ease back into running. So, there will be some time spent getting back into things.

He did say the likelihood of a herniation to occur again in the same spot is unlikely but it can happen. Chances are if it is going to happen again, it will happen within the first 18  months.

For now, my 'plan' is to get through surgery, get through recovery, and see where I am. Races? I don't know, we'll see.

This blog? Will have more frequent updates. I plan on using it to document my surgery and recovery.

This wasn't 'The Plan' for my 2012 race season, I'm okay with that now. I love my workouts, my swims, my bikes, my runs so much that I plan on getting back into them and building up again. I just can't WAIT to get out there again.