July is nearly over.
I’m sitting on a comfy couch, drinking coffee while the thunder rolls softly in the background. I love rain. I love thunderstorms, which is good since I live in the south. It’s been too long again; I haven’t had the luxury of writing over the last several weeks because we’ve been painting the interior of our new house, celebrating birthdays and getting our old home ready for our first-ever tenants. It’s quite the learning curve. At about 5:00 every day I end up in a major slump, meaning I just want to go to bed. But it’s mostly because I’m just freaking tired, not that I’m debilitated by pain (more on that in a moment.) I grossly underestimated how difficult it would be to make this move even though I’m still very glad we did it. But boy howdy, it has been stressful and very physically demanding.
Tomorrow I will be exactly 26 weeks post-op, which translates to roughly 6.5 months. I’m halfway to a year. I will cut to the chase and say I am happy with where I am in terms of post-op outcomes. Over the last four days I’ve often said to myself, “I would never have been able to do this much before my surgery.” I’d be painting or cooking or cleaning or making one of my eleventy-million runs to Home Depot, and I’d suddenly become aware that I wasn’t in a lot of pain. Remember when you were little (or your kids were) and you learned to ride a bike without training wheels? It’s been kind of like that—look mom! No debilitating pain! Of course I didn’t say no pain at all, because if you follow my journey you know I think completely pain-free is a pipe dream for many of us. We’ve got more than one thing contributing to our pain cocktail (see this post on comorbidities if you’re not sure what I mean.) But 90% of my low back pain is still gone, and that is HUGE. You have no idea how much this has improved my quality of life. Or maybe you do.
Still, for a while after we moved I was really struggling. I was hurting all over and having trouble sleeping on my right side again (which is the screwy side.) And then I realized that my new bed (which was delivered to the new house the night we moved in) might be contributing to the problem. My husband and I had finally pulled the trigger on a brand new Tempurpedic bed, and we picked one that we thought would soften over time. It was the Contour Elite Breeze, which they say is medium firm, but is only one step away from the firmest mattress they sell. It didn’t soften, even though I got my children and grandchildren to have a jump-fest on it. I gave it the requisite 30 days and then took advantage of their guarantee (thank God!) and swapped it out for a Cloud Supreme Breeze, which is three steps away from their softest mattress. And it is incredible.
Here’s my conclusion: we people with back problems are always told we need a firm mattress. And I think in one sense that’s true. We need solid support. But firm without some sort of cushion puts pressure on cranky parts of my body (hip, back, shoulders) and fires up the stiffness and inflammation. Getting a cushy top with the firm bottom has been perfect for me. I absolutely love my new bed and wake up so much more fluid and refreshed than I had been. And my groin pain has even gotten better. The bed cost a lot, but we spend a third of our lives in the sack. And since I’ve had chronic pain for years, I figured it was time to make a different kind of investment in my body. I’m still gasping over the expenditure, but I am grateful to have been able to do it.
I have also been spending a significant amount of time looking in to my labral tear and my abdominal scar tissue (you can read about them here.) I had a hip injection appointment scheduled for July 21, but put it off until August since my husband’s birthday was the next day and we had plans. I also had another appointment with the surgeon who I thought would probably be the one to take out my ovaries and deal with adhesions (if there were any.) But yesterday I got some really bad news. My husband’s office has decided to switch from Blue Cross Blue Shield of TX to United Healthcare at the end of this month. Which means the free ride I was counting on after meeting my deductible and out of pocket is going up in smoke. Ugh. I thought I had until December 31 of this year to address these other problems without having to lay out another $6k, but alas, no. I even saved a few of my remaining PT benefits for later in the year and now I’m not going to be able to use them. Major bummer. But perhaps this is a sign that I don’t need to be doing any more surgeries right now. I was on the fence about both and was considering them for financial reasons. This has already been one helluva year. At some point you’ve got to stop and catch your breath.
Other news: I joined my local YMCA so I could swim laps. And on several occasions while I was swimming I thought I needed to report back here that I notice such a huge difference the strength of my right side. Whereas I used to have to be super careful about how I kicked on the right side, now it feels much more stable and powerful than before.
One last thing I’ve noticed. When my neck and T1 rib are wonky, it flares everything else up, including the soft tissue around my hip, knee, and even around my fusing SI joint. So I’ve been going to my chiropractor to try and keep the upper part of my body in check. It definitely helps.
All in all, I think six months marks another turning point in my recovery. When I was two, three and even four months out I was tempted to think that perhaps this was as good as it gets. But I’m definitely better than I was two months ago. And I’ve even been pushing my body to the max with this move! If you’re not quite that far out, be encouraged: it is possible to significantly improve later on.
I am still planning on finishing my interviews with two of my kick ass physical therapists, and posting them here. But yeah, I’m still treading water from the move. It’ll happen soon. In the meantime, here’s a short video from my new backyard this morning. As you’ll see, I have an awful lot to be grateful for.