SURGERY TIME ?

The surgeon called on August 5, and said that after looking at the results of my CT scan and my MRI which I had had done three days previously, he felt he could offer me an 85% chance of success for surgery which would alleviate the lower back and right leg pain which was making walking so difficult for me. Though I would prefer 100% guarantee of success I was ready to go with the 85%. What I wanted to know was did he think I would ever be able to golf again. I am not a champion golfer but I am a very happy golfer. I love the beauty of our golf course. Even if I am not playing well I find the golf course setting to be very relaxing.

A surgery date was set for August 22. By August 15, I had gone through two of the four pre op exams required for this surgery. On August 16 I had a conference with the anesthesia department and the next day a final examination was scheduled with the surgeon. Husband Jerry and daughter Maura were with me for that. Was surprised that the surgeon was open to Maura being present. But the surgeon is definitely open to family participation – particularly when the patient is an 85 year old woman. Felt a little annoyed that the surgeon seemed to imply that 85 year olds were not all that reliable but I didn’t really care. He came highly recommended. The fact that Maura is a very competent nurse practitioner made her an ideal person to accompany Jerry and me. Our son Joe – the doctor- would have come too but his schedule is only open on Fridays – it did not mesh with the surgeon’s availability. Would have liked to have also had Joe present but I could not wait. I wanted to get the surgery over with. I had to go with the date that fit the surgeon’s schedule.

And then after several weeks of horrible pain – it suddenly wasn’t as bad. When I went for my final pre op visit I wondered if I should put off the surgery, should I let the surgeon know I was feeling some improvement in my symptoms? What if the pain started heading again in the wrong direction? Fortunately the decision was taken out of my hands. The surgeon detected my confusion. He made the decision to put off the surgery and to get a second opinion. He gave me the name and number of an orthopedist that he said he would go to if he had symptoms similar to mine. I was able to get an appointment for September 12 – three plus weeks off. The surgeon further suggested that, if possible, I gradually increase my daily activity routine. I have always been a faithful exercise lover but once the leg and back issues surfaced all that came to a screeching halt.

In early summer I started lectoring at the 9AM Wednesday mass at our church. Had not lectored in over thirty five years but now in spite of being nervous at getting up in front of the sixty to eighty parishioners who normally attend the weekday services at our church I was able to do it and I loved it. It was an honor to be able to share the word of God. But as walking became more difficult, I was unable to easily climb the few steps to the altar so my lectoring days were short lived – to be started again when the medical issues were resolved. When they showed some improvement I was ready to return to lectoring but the stair issue assumed a greater importance than it should have. At home I was walking up and down fifteen stairs going from the first to our second floor. I was doing that slowly, taking my time and holding on to the railing. Reflecting back now on the big deal I made in my mind over the three steps, I have told myself that this is a classic example of sometimes giving myself a hard time. I blame it on not feeling well but I think there are lots of times in life when we judge ourselves or circumstances too harshly.

I am now feeling so much better. When I saw the arthritis doctor this past week he was delighted at my progress and suggested I cancel the medical appointments related to my surgery – the second opinion surgeon, the pain management doctor. He felt strongly that time, rest, appropriate eating and exercise would lead to a complete recovery. He limited my golf to chipping and putting till I see him again in a month. In his opinion my swollen lumbar spinal disk was finally going down in size on its own. He felt that a surgical procedure was no longer necessary to facilitate this process and to stop the disk from pressing on the nerves which were causing all the pain.

I was a little tentative about canceling the various medical/ surgical appointments. It takes so long to get these appointments lined up. But when I finally made the cancellation calls I felt liberated and pleased.

According to Google ,” Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong. It can be steady, throbbing, aching, pinching …………………it can be debilitating.” These words provide a good description of what I was experiencing. Pain medication was not very helpful. The weaker meds did not lessen the pain and narcotics made me feel loopy. My most powerful tool against the pain was prayer and prayerfully offering up the pain for either our wonderful family, for friends or for a meaningful cause. I like to reflect on the words of the baseball player Satchel Page. ‘” Don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.”

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