Conspiracy aka Spinal Fusion: Month 4 Update

At the 3 and a half month point, I felt amazing and invincible. Well, not QUITE, but it was the best I had felt since spinal fusion in late June. I even used the word “renaissance” to describe my days. I was pushing myself on the bike, working full time, cooking, cleaning, and generally feeling like a normal human being for most of my days. This was not to last.

I went into work on a Monday morning and was met with emails requesting I make an emergency trip to Chicago to help out one of our manufacturing plants. By noon, my tickets were booked and I would fly out later that evening. I loaded up my suitcase with my 7 lb, high-powered laptop built for running complicated simulations, steel toed shoes, as few other items as possible, and headed for the airport. I didn’t notice much trauma during the flight, but when I stood up to get off the plane I realized part of my left leg had gone numb. Oh shit. It had been a while since I had that particular sensation, and I went on high alert.

I drove the hour to the hotel, took a muscle relaxer, and fell asleep for a few short hours. Early the next morning I got up and worked a 12 hour shift (thank goodness for another coworker, who was willing to fly out and cover night shifts). I spent most of my day in a folding chair in the control room surrounded by monitors and screens displaying what was happening in the nearby tanks and pipes. I worked more hours the following morning and then jumped on a plane to fly home.

I had more nerve pain in my leg on the flight home, but I didn’t go into full terror mode until I stood up to get off the plane. By that point, the numbness that comes along with the pain made it very difficult to get off the plane. I limped and shuffled down the aisle, feeling extremely uncoordinated. By the time I got home, the numbness and pain had died down significantly and like the idiot I am, I decided to go to the Wednesday night group ride anyway.
I felt great on the ride, stayed in the pack well, pulled a little bit, and eventually made the decision to get dropped on a climb. My body felt happy, but knew I had pushed enough for one day. I had made a custom route that led me home, and I enjoyed the night sky and the gorgeous sunset by myself.

Somewhere about 10 miles from home my leg began to ache. It’s hard to describe the pain, except that when it gets severe it feels like it’s coming from deep within my hip socket. The ache turns into shooting pains, and each pedal stroke brings a sharp jolt down my leg. My quad, calf, and foot also start to go numb, which doesn’t seem fair — how the body can simultaneously start to lose control of a limb AND experience excruciating pain is beyond me. I pedaled the paved paths home, holding back the tears due to the pain. I debated calling someone for a ride but was stubborn (stupid?!) and pedaled it out. I limped back into the house and laid on the floor. Soon after, my boyfriend got home from the ride, having ridden much farther than me in the same amount of time.

After that horrible experience, I drastically cut back my activity levels and saw my physical therapist twice over a four day period. On Saturday I could ride the trainer for 45 minutes and then my leg hurt and went numb. On Sunday, I only made it 15 minutes before the dreaded pain and numbness hit. At our second session I begged her for solutions, and she had some suggestions ….

When I got home, I announced to my boyfriend that I had a new set of restrictions, or rather, a rewinding or revoking of privileges. I am currently not supposed to cook, wash dishes, scrub anything, or vacuum. I’m limiting lifting, bending, and twisting again. Exercise should ideally be limited to about 15 minutes at a time to try to¬†allow my body to move while avoiding numbness and pain. Ideally I’d exercise multiple times a day in these small doses. I should change positions every 30 minutes and continue to stretch. My boyfriend looked at me warily and said “Well, this just sounds like a conspiracy.” Poor thing. He’s carried the burden of taking care of the house, dog, and child for most of the last 4 months, and just when I seem useful again I go back to my status of essentially functioning as a hood ornament. Not a pretty one either, a rusty, dinged up, and lopsided hood ornament.

I’ve been restricting activity for a week and I’m still dealing with the nerve issues. I head to the surgeon’s office on Friday to ask for any additional restrictions or advice. Fingers crossed they say this is just a temporary blip on the road to recovery, but I’m still trying not to lose my shit. This much of an unexpected setback makes me want to throw toddler tantrums of epic proportions. I’m fighting the urge to stress eat and undermine my weight loss progress and so far I’ve kept it MOSTLY in check. Keep your fingers crossed for me and hope I get calming news on Friday.

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