Spine Surgery Preparation aka Priorities and Panic

Surgery feels like its simultaneously breathing down my neck and way too far away, depending on my mood, perceived state of preparation, and pain levels. Preparation falls into two categories – fun and functional.

I asked my kiddo to think of a list of things he wanted to do with mom before mom “can’t drive” for a while. I didn’t go into details of just how immobilized I’ll be considering our active lifestyles, but the “mom can’t drive” thing seemed to click. His list included places he wants to go and he tried to alternate every other item as something for him and then something for me. It looked a little like this, all notes and emphasis are his —

  1. skate park
  2. restaurant in Northfield that mom wants to try
  3. water park and water slides no water slides for mom.
  4. outside jenga

I was both surprised and a little saddened by #5 – it’s what he honestly thinks I want to do right now. I said “Oh sweetie, mom doesn’t WANT to lie around all day. It’s just what I need to do to make my back hurt less right now.” He hugged me and said he was sorry for writing that down, and then furiously crossed that out too. So far we’ve made it to the restaurant with outdoor Jenga, but it was raining too much to play. He was ok crossing it out anyway in hopes that we can try again later this summer or early fall.


Dammit I love this kid.

I’ve also gone to happy hour, made impulse trips to Target, Ulta, TJ Maxx, etc. and have been eating at restaurants more. I’m really trying to savor the solo impulse shopping trips — it’s one of the things I’ve missed the most in the past during periods when I can’t drive. There’s nothing quite like wandering around a store you enjoy, with no deadlines, and no particular purpose. I’ve had to strategically time these trips on low pain days or days when I’ve done nothing else, and it’s been great. I’ve stocked up on stupid foods like goat cheese, pita chips, instant macaroni and cheese, peanut butter M&Ms, and instant ramen. All comfort foods that will entice me to eat after surgery during the week or two after the 24/7 help is gone but I can’t get myself to a store. What else do you think I should add to my must-do list??

HH time! After this, we went to Ulta and I purchased lipstick (lipstick!!) and other frivolous pick-me-up items, then it was off to the fancy grocery store where I bought cake and a dozen roses for myself. So much fun!


Functional preparation is the boring stuff. It involves getting all of my projects squared away at work, training the poor souls that are covering my various trainwrecks, and writing down the whirlwind of ideas on my head so others can decipher them. My coworkers are great, and I’m not just pandering in case one of them reads this. Unfortunately, we’ve had a handful of people needing to take leave for good and bad reasons over the years (childbirth, ill family members, other surgeries) and everyone’s willingness to assure me that no, it’s not a huge burden and yes, they’ll manage without me, and yes, they’ll miss my expertise really helps. People tell me not to stress about work, and I reply that it’s not the projects I’m concerned about, it’s making sure the people there helping me out are well taken care of.

My key area for panic right now is getting my house ready. I went to a very informative class at the hospital where I’ll have spine surgery and they more clearly explained all of the mobility restrictions I’ll have in place for months.

Basically, if an object isn’t between my waist and shoulders or can’t be retrieved with a grabber, it’s off limits. Considering I’m basically a midget and/or hobbit, the length of my torso is approximately 12″. This leaves a very small margin to stage reachable items. I’m in trouble! I’m taking over all of the kitchen counterspace, all tables and horizontal surfaces have been cleared and are slowly being repositioned next to my favorite lounging spots – the recliner, the bed, both couches. It’ll look like a mess in here, which makes my minimalist-wannabe self cringe, but it is what it is!

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