What a difference a year makes…

One year ago today, February 4, I shuffled into the Cedars-Sinai Pain Management Center to have a second procedure to help aleviate my chronic back pain.  This morning, exactly one year later, I ran sprints with my workout partner and it felt great.  In my early twenties I was in a car accident that knocked me around a bit.  Since then I had lived with maybe a 2 on a 10 scale of pain (mostly slight discomfort) with maybe one flair up a year that would keep me flat for a few days, no exercise for a week, and then back on track.  In May, 2007 something happened, I still don’t know what, that made the discomfort grow.  Over the Summer and into the Fall I did just about everything that I could to get the pain level back to manageable.  I did Chiropractic, Pilate’s, Physical Therapy, Swimming, layed off hard core running, and all my core-strengthening exercises.  I finally went to a Spine Specialist who recommeded a treatment of oral steroids to bring the inflammation down.  My MRI showed significant deterioration of my two lowest discs, L4-5 and L5-S1.  Well the steroids, which I begrudgingly took, made me a Sweaty Betty.  I would be presenting at Neighborhood Watch meetings, or in the middle of a Trevor Project Board meeting and just start sweating profusely.  I now know what Hot Flashes feel like.  The pills lasted 7 days, the hot flashes lasted 3 months, the discomfort remained.  At the end of 2007 it was getting worse and I went to a Spinal Surgeon.  He told me what he tells most back pain patients, surgery is the absolute last option.  There are too many unknowns.  There are equal chances for worsening the pain as there are for no change.  Not great odds.  At 40, and a very active person, this was news that I was not prepared for.  He gave me pain medication.  At 40, as a person that doesn’t particularly care for meds, this was very discouraging.  Fortunately, a friend, a very good friend, at Cedars-Sinai got me a quick appointment with a Pain Specialist the very next day.  I was in so much pain that morning that I had to lie, face down, on the exam table to be comfortable.  Then in walked Dr. Azita Far with this light around her.  She was upbeat, comforting, and positive.  She immediately scheduled me for a series of injections.  Steroids, through a needle, into my spine!  Say what?  The pain meds were really not helping so Round One was done on January 4.  They knock you out.  I woke up crying.  I think that all of the stress and tension of the last few months, plus the anesthesia, just broke me down.  Dr. Far was great with me.  I had a little improvement but not significant and soon I had what can only be described as the dark days of January.  They scheduled me for Round Two but I was not convinced. I was still doing PT 3 times a week to maintain my current condition.  I will say that I found that chilled vodka worked a whole lot better than any of the meds, and I am talking about Vicodin, Percocet, and the like.  I was not a happy person.  Life looked bleak.  I was having a hard time wrapping my brain around living like this for 40 years.  Then something happened.  The B-man found an article in Best Life Magazine ( Feb, 2008 ) that had a lengthy article about the Pain/Brain connection.  How stress contributes to pain and the multiple studies that were being completed by top medical schools around the country.  Dr. John Sarno appeared to be the leader in the field.  He has published books and provides seminars on the Pain/Brain connection.  I got his book; Healing Back Pain.  Now let me qualify that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the world that suffer back pain.  And every one of them has a solution that works for them.  And every one of them will give you advice or tell you,“you must do this!” I like to read.  It was a quick read.  It had a lot of data and I am all about the data.  What does the data tell us?  Round Two was scheduled and the book was on its way.  Within three days Round Two took a significant turn.  I had a major reaction to the ‘roids.  My BP and temp spiked, I couldn’t make urine, and I knew something was wrong.  The B-man rushed me to Cedars where I waited, and waited, and waited and then I peed and then I started to feel better.  I had talked to my Doc a few times and she felt that the steroids had kicked in (the timing was right) and my body was reacting to them.  But then they worked.  Later that night I got out of bed like a normal 40 year old.  And the book came and I connected to a lot of what his theory was.  Dr. Sarno has over 30 years of data.  Also, Cedars required me to meet with their own Pain/Brain Specialist and we worked on relaxation and breathing exercises.  I was starting to move again.  I was starting to walk normally again.  There was hope.  That was early February, 2008.  What a difference.  I’m not kidding, we ran sprints this morning and I was good.  I still have a ways to go to drop some of the belly weight that I picked up during the 10 months of very little physical activity but I am well on my way.  I can’t run like I used to but I can jog.  And last year I couldn’t sit in a car for more than 20 minutes and in November I drove to Las Vegas (4.5 hours) and back!  I know that it is a good day.  I know that I need to remember how far that I have come.  The two most important things are, 1) even in the worst moments I hung on and pushed through, and 2) I relied on so many wonderful friends who got me through the tough times.  Celebrate FriendsCelebrate Life!



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