Since I started this blog 2 years ago, I have written a lot about life and the world around me. I have written about some of my struggles with mental health and my participation in Celebrate Recovery.
Today I decided to write about my physical struggles. This is not something I normally talk about. I go on as though nothing is wrong because it is easier that way. No one really knows the truth. Except for God.
I have dealt with various forms of back pain for over 20 years. It started as scoliosis when I was working at McDonalds. I leaned down to about knee height and couldn’t get back up. I saw a back specialist and all he told me was to stay active and keep my weight under control.
Within 10 years, I was diagnosed with an anterior disc herniation. This may have been caused by doing martial arts and falling (and being thrown) to the ground on a regular basis. I had to stop this sport because I kept getting numbness in my feet and hands.
The things gradually got worse. The pain got worse. I was trying to work out as best I could. There were some exercises at the gym I couldn’t do – the elliptical and any jumping or running. As well, my weight kept creeping up. At some points I was able to bring it back down to a reasonable number but never for very long.
Fast forward to about a year ago. I woke up one morning and could barely walk. I went to work even though I was in a lot of pain and was certainly not moving very fast. Keep in mind that since my early twenties, I had been seeing physiotherapists on and off. They never seemed to ever really do anything. In my early thirties, I started seeing a chiropractor. I was also seeing a massage therapist on and off.
When I woke in pain a year ago, I saw my chiropractor, he thought it may have been Trochanteric Pain Syndrome, aka bursitis of the outer hip. Because of COVID, I was not able to see my doctor but he gave me an anti-inflammatory to get me through the worst of it. Thankfully, all throughout COVID, I was able to continue to see my chiropractor and physiotherapist. On occasion, I was able to see the osteopath as well. Let’s call them all my health gang.
By the time fall came, there were many times when I was unable to walk for very long. I asked my health gang to send progress updates to my doctor so that he could understand the struggles I was dealing with. Once he read these he finally took some action.
First of all, he sent me for an CT scan for my back but not my hips. Once I got these results back, the news was not the worst but not the best either. At this point I knew I was already dealing with a Grade 1 Anterior Spondylolisthesis. I knew I had arthritis as well but did not really know the severity. It turns out I have moderate arthritis but I also have moderate bilateral spinal stenosis with contact with the root nerve . The kicker is, all of this is happening at ONE vertebrae. It is not something at different parts of my spine. It is all at the exact same spot.
So what is the prognosis? Well, I am to keep doing physio, try to get my weight under control as I am now about 30 lbs over weight. That’s it.
Upon doing some research, they don’t consider it an issue unless I start to lose control of my bodily functions. I don’t want back surgery but I figured there was going to be more proactive steps to avoid getting to that point.
Whenever my doctor talks to me about my weight, he tries to push his vegetarian diet on me. I will decrease the amount of meat I eat but I will not completely stop eating meat.
In addition to that, I did get a cortisone injection in both hips to control the bursitis. Ironically, we think this is being caused by the strain of the hip and back issues.
I decided to share all of this tonight because after dinner tonight, my husband and I went for a walk. I almost didn’t make it back. I am usually able to walk for about 20-30 min without an issue. I started feeling the pain after about 10 and it slowly got worse.
When the bursitis was really bad, I was not able to walk for more than 7 minutes. There is a big flight of stairs at work that I am not allowed to walk up anymore. My hips flexors would completely lock up and my hips would not move as I needed to be able to walk. I had to rest on the couch for a few minutes tonight before I could even go have a shower.
There have been many times over the last year when I have been really struggling physically and it completely impacts my mental health. I want to give up. I think through the worst case scenarios. How long will it be before I am no longer able to walk? Will I end up with a dead leg? Will I end up in wheelchair? Will I loose controls of my bodily functions and have to have surgery? How long will I be able to work for? Will I have to give up my job?
I asked my friend Michele, who is a breast cancer survivor, how she managed to get through it mentally. That is the worst part of chronic pain. And when you struggle with depression on top of that already, it seems to be even more difficult.
There have been many times when I have surrendered my life and my pain to God. It is the only thing I can do. I listen to worship music to try to stay encouraged. I put on a happy face when I am struggling through the pain so that I don’t put the burden on anyone else. But inside I am screaming with physical and mental pain.
I continue to see my health gang. I have tried various techniques to try to reduce or maintain the pain. Some of it works but much of it doesn’t. I do not blame them or the processes. My current health gang all listen to me. It is the condition I have that will not get better. I know that. They know that. The only thing we can do is control it. We can try different exercises that might work to get the muscles to work the way they are supposed to.
In the meantime, I ask God for peace for my soul, especially at night when I can’t get comfortable enough to sleep. I have for peace to be able to stop the thoughts from churning around in my brain like a hamster on a wheel that never gives up. I ask for forgiveness when I am so focused on the pain that I can’t think of anything else. I ask for forgiveness when I get so wrapped up in my head and my thoughts that I am unable to connect with the world and the people around me. I pray for the strength and self-control to get focused on my diet to try to lose weight and stop eating the inflammatory foods, especially sugar.
Sometimes my prayers get answered, not not always. I keep having faith that God is having me go through this for a reason. Of course, as is always with God, I have no idea what His plan is yet. One day I will understand.
The only thing I can do now is pray. Pray for His strength when I am feeling mentally and physically weak. I pray He will use my pain as a lesson for someone else. That I am an example of God’s Kingdom while I am struggling.
I will leave you with this verse. It is one I think of often. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5:1-5
As we are here to love and serve others, how can I pray for you today?