By now it was the end of January. This had all started in November. I had my appointment with Dr #3- the third back specialist.
I brought my dad to this appointment. I respect my dad's opinion and I wanted someone else there to ask the right questions and remember what he said. I explained what had been going on with me since I been injured, and we reviewed my MRI and xrays. After a good discussion, this doctor felt that the next step should be surgery. He suggested that he would do a microdiscectomy, to remove the part of the disc pressing on the nerve root. He agreed that I may have nerve pain that continues for a few months after surgery, but reasoned that I have had pain for such a long time anyway, that it's worth doing. He would do the surgery at an outpatient surgery center- it was a pretty quick procedure. I would be walking right afterward and home that night.
I was so happy to be having surgery. It's not that I wanted to be cut open- don't get me wrong. But for so long I had been struggling with everyday pain. The worst part for me was not knowing what would be happening. I am not a control freak, but I do like to know somewhat what to expect or what will happen. A lot of people struggle with this, but addicts have an especially tough time with this. We spend a lot of time and energy trying to manipulate people and things around us, with the false belief this will enable us to control our world. For the past three months, I had absolutely no control over what was happening to my body. I had no idea how long it would last, or what would be happening in my life in relation to it all. So for me, surgery appeared to be (hopefully) the beginning to the end of all of this. I had faith that this would fix the problem and I would be on the road to recovery and get back to living.
Surgery was February 17. It went fine. After the surgery, Dr #3 did tell us that the nerve root looked very red and inflamed, so I should expect to still have pain for a while (possibly 2-6 months!). When I was able to walk to the bathroom and my pain was somewhat controlled, I was discharged home. I got a large back brace to wear. I was told no twisting or bending. The overall pain wasn't too bad, but certain positions were very painful. I could not sit up in the beginning- as time went on I was able to sit for longer and longer periods of time. Sitting to go to the bathroom was the worst. I used a lot of ice, and took the percocet Dr #3 prescribed when I needed it. I was still very worried about my using narcotics, and in the beginning I was trying to hold out and not take them. My family actually had to remind me of the right way to take pain meds: keep a steady level of them in your body, so take them at evenly spaced intervals so you don't get behind the pain and have to play catch up. Things I have told thousands of patients over the years...but I was hesitant. The last thing I needed was to get hooked on opiates. Slowly but surely the surgical pain went away and I was able to return to the level of activity I was at before the surgery.
Four weeks after surgery, I still had pain. It was getting better in my lower leg, but I still had pain, bad pain, in my hip and thigh and knee and shooting down the back of my thigh. I couldn't sit or flex my hip without pain. It seemed to be activity related- the more I was up on my feet and moving around, the more it hurt. By the end of the day I the pain was unbearable. The longer I was flat, the better. But then I was always falling asleep- because I was laying down most of the time. And I am one of those people that the percocet seemed to have an opposite effect on in terms of sleep- it wired me! I spent many nights wide awake (good thing I'm a Law and Order fan!). I tried to get into a daytime "schedule" to at least busy my mind, to give my day some structure. The internet and my laptop became my best friends. I started reading again. I even started knitting scarves. And I am not the knitting type...
At my 4 week post-op appointment, Dr #3 saw how much pain I was in. I could barely sit (and I had to wait in his waiting room for an hour before seeing him!). We decided to repeat the back MRI to make sure everything was healing right and that I had not re-herniated the disc. My dad was with me again, and we both asked the doctor to order an MRI on my pelvis as well. We wanted to make sure that there wasn't something going on below my back that could be causing the pain. He agreed.
A week later I had both of the MRI's and another week later I was back in Dr #3's office. This time my appointment was first one of the day, so we did not have to wait as long to be seen. I had brought my dad along again, Good thing I did, because I was about to have my world turned upside down.