The meeting was over, the fighting was done, the battle of wills was coming to an end. If you remember I was told by the spine doctor that the back shots may take up to three times to feel better. He insisted not to give up after the first one and that my legs should feel better, too. However, the pain manager stated that the shots could and hopefully would help my back but were going to do nothing for my legs. He even had doubts that I had Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, even though I could barely have wind touch my legs without sending off pain signals to my head like daggers stabbing me all over. Almost everywhere I went, regardless of temperature outside, I had to wear a blanket over my legs.
It mattered not, I was just happy to have the first set of back shots. A very simple procedure, I lay on my stomach, the doctor disinfected my back with wipes, and after two minor aches on each side of my spine it was done. He completed putting fluid between my arthritic L4 and L5 vertebrae in a matter of minutes.
Afterwards the first set of shots hurt a lot. The bottom of my back turned black and blue. However, after a few days of lying on and stomach, my back was starting to feel better. I actually couldn’t believe it and thought the feeling better was just a figment of my imagination. If this is how the first set of shots felt I couldn’t wait for the rest.
I remember standing in the kitchen washing dishes the first and second week after the minor procedure, not feeling any pain. I almost felt young again. My legs still hurt, just like he said, but I could bend and stretch. I had some movement back. I marked on the calendar three months from the day for my next set. I was told it was safe to have three sets of injections in a six-month period. I am not sure why that is, maybe build up of the medicine in the back, but neither the doctor nor the insurance company approved more than 3. I also read on Google that was the maximum amount of this medicine I could have.
As the second week turned into the third week I felt so much better. I couldn’t believe the relief I had. Something after all these years worked. Sure the pain still was going through my feet and my ankle felt weaker, but my back felt stronger than ever. I was able to do house chores to help Amanda again and even play my guitar a little bit. It was bliss.
I thought the solution was found. However by the end of the third week, much like how my ankle felt after each surgery, I felt the slightest jab of pain go through my back while standing at the sink cleaning up after a dinner I made for Amanda.
I disregarded the sensation, thinking maybe I was doing too much and decided to rest the next few days. As the fourth week went by, I found myself resting on the floor more and more. The floor provided a hard, but comfortable surface. I tried not to get too anxious, but the jabbing lightening sensation was returning. I still had a month to go before my next shot. I was not deterred though. I had a whole month of relief from the first shot, imagine what the second and the third will give me!
As the weeks went by, I felt discomfort once again forming in my lower back. I could no longer do the extra house work or prepare any dinners. However, the second shot was only a little bit away. The best part of it all was that the future shots were pre-approved, so I did not have to call the insurance company.
By the third month, I found myself back in the office, explaining to the pain manager I had experienced a month of relief, but I eventually felt just as bad as I had before getting the first shot. He stated the way I felt shouldn’t have degraded that far, but he was willing to do a second. The second procedure was done very much like the first. The only difference was that I had no pain from the injections this time.
Much like the first time, I felt great again. I tried to do a little less, but the whole point of getting these shots, was getting back to a normal life. I once again found enjoyment in my little bit of renewed freedom. Being able to do things for myself felt like the chains of disability were broken once again. I had all the expectations in the world that this was going to work.
My enthusiasm only lasted a week. By the second week, I found myself back on the floor for longer periods of time, until I was stuck there again. The chains of disability were wrapped around me once more, secured by a lock whose key had been thrown away.
I was so close this time, I remember thinking. It actually helped for a little while. Some relief was better than none was it not? Even though the relief had only lasted a week, maybe the benefits of the third shot would last longer? However, that shot would only be allowed more than two months later. My only choice was putting my tens unit back on and managing until then.
I coped with my situation the best I could. All I could think of is another procedure and another failure. However, there was something inside me that said, do not give up hope, and keep trying. I called it my dad’s determination. A determination that forbids giving up that he taught me long ago. So, I resolved to wait until my next appointment to come up with a new plan or continue with this one.
The streaking of pain that went up and down my back, around my legs, through my feet, was becoming almost unbearable. In the meantime, my neurologist put me on more pills like Lyrica and Cymbalta to help with the pain. My pain manager increased my dose of Backlofen and Oxycodone at least until a solution was found. This started the interval of my life I liked to call the zombie period.
I was feeling so medicated that I became a zombie. I felt very dizzy and very sleepy. However, the feeling of dizziness and falling asleep was a much better alternative than lying in pain all day. My short term memory almost ceased to exist. Amanda had to keep repeating herself throughout the weeks, to remind me of stuff. We downloaded a calendar on our phones to share appointments, events, and her work schedule, so I knew what was happening that day. She also bought a pill container that she filled with my medication each day, that included compartments for morning, noon, and night. She had to do this because I was forgetting if I took my pills and at times I was taking double doses or missing doses completely. Each day ran into the next, and the only thing that was important to me was what was on the calendar that day. I never knew what day it was. I just knew if there was anything highlighted in blue, that noted something was happening that day. The most important thing was, the pain was being dulled. I was drugged, but the pain was less. It was then I realized how people could get hooked on pills. Yet again, I was determined not to become addicted, and to only take what was prescribed – even if the relief wore off and the pain returned before my next dose.
Two months passed, which seemed like a year – or maybe an hour. I’m not sure. I only knew I was sitting back in the doctor’s office explaining to him that the second shot only lasted a week. He then stated that he was not going to do a third as there was no point. The third would not help. He added that normally the next step would be to burn off the ends of my nerves. However, he was convinced that my nerves were not getting pinched by my arthritic spine or bulging disks, even though my pain manager disagreed. I remember sitting there wishing one doctor would agree with another. I would have found that amazing. I had experts not agreeing with each other and the only thing in the balance was my well-being. However, trying to get them to talk to each other was like a forbidden ritual in the medical world. At least so it seemed to me.
He presented one last alternative. This type of procedure had a 60% chance of relieving some of the pain. A procedure called a spine simulator. He stated that he could implant a temporary spine simulator that would be placed on top of my back with wires going down to my hip. I would wear it for a few days and if I liked it, they would schedule a procedure with another surgeon to implant a permanent one in my spine that would be placed under the skin. He said this is the best next step since a tens unit did provide some relief for me. He continued to explain the procedure. I looked over towards Amanda to make sure she was paying attention, so she could summarize it for me. But as soon as he said there was another option to help my pain, my mind drifted to an image of Rocky training by running up the mountain, not giving up, striving to reach the top and achieve his goal. His goal was to avenge Apollo’s death. Mine was to avenge the pummeling I endured from the pain that stormed through my body and had taken control of my life. With another chance of relief, the gloves were on and I was ready for the next round in the fight against my pain.
I was not going to write anything this time in my afterword section. The article speaks for itself. I just wanted to once again thank my readers and let them know that nothing I write is exaggerated. The pain, process or the way I felt. I also want to reiterate what my goal is. My goal is to have one person learn from my experiences. From fighting for their right for treatment to knowing that feeling nervous about a first surgery is normal. As my mentor, friend, and a person I respect as much as my dad Brad G. told me. If I could write a blog that helped one person, than I paid it forward. So, I have been typing for a year hoping that will come true.