April 13, 2011

Boo for Back Surgery, Yay for Sweat, Blood & Blisters!

For reals son. I understand enduring injuries is to be expected when you're an athlete, when you push yourself to brink of sheer exhaustion, when you over analyze micro-movements in hopes that it'll help your PR...  Sometimes injuries give you pause and make you be creative with your training, to train a body part that you otherwise ignore. Other times they level you, mentally and physically. Now I don't want to sound like a whiner, but dealing with a back injury for 9 months is getting a little old. Its completely taken me out of my normal game, out of the mountains, off the pavement, and made me put the olympic bar in the rack to collect some dust. And honestly I'm really & truly pissed about it the whole thing. By far there are many 'a people out there suffering from much worse that have much less and far worse health insurance than I do. I am thankful for what I can do, for my creativity (and insanity) when it comes to training, for my strength and tough freak'n mutha of an attitude, and I'm especially thankful for the encouragement I get from the people around me. I am truly grateful. With that said, I still get PISSED now and again that I have to deal with it. I get pissed and frustrated that I can't brush off the daily minutia by hitting the pavement or trail, throw weights around to calm my nerves, or simply chase a bus down the street... Perspective is great, but sweat, blood and blisters are better. 

My family demanded proof that I was
actually resting as much as doctor's orders. 
After 6 agonizing months trying to rid myself of severe glut & leg pain with every conservative method imaginable, I came to the decision of going in for my first ever (and second*) surgery, a microdisectomy on my L5/S1 disc. Now in the grand scheme of back surgery a MD is no big deal, in fact it's all the rage these days it seems (just start talking to people about back surgery... It's like 1 or 2 degrees of separation). Surgery just weirds me out. Your bones, joints, organs, and muscles should just happily reside in the space in which they developed. Your body should take care of itself. I've spent so much of my time thinking and practicing "proper nutrition" and "fitness" and for what?! Apparently so I can recover faster and exercise more in recovery than most "healthy" Americans do on a daily average. People will tell you that they woke up from surgery pain free other than a back ache from the surgery itself. Assholes. My response should let you know that I didn't have such a lovely experience. No, I couldn't possibly just be satisfied with one surgery. Oh no, not me. If I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it right! Three lovely weeks after my first surgery I was back on the operating table going in for my second. The damn disc popped right out again. But that lovely story is for another day... 

Before surgery I did a lot of research. I mean a lot. I read and read and watched animated videos, and then real videos of the procedure. I don't like to be surprised when it comes to my body and sharp instruments. This is the one time I don't want surprises. I have a tendency to get obsessive and this my friend was no exception. Now, I can take pain. When you push & challenge your body on a regular basis, you understand pain. It's about making a decision about how you're going to handle that pain. I was not prepared for the pain aftermath from surgery. I never thought scooting around in bed could be so painful. I have never needed to start a timer to ensure timely doses of narcotics only to stare at the timer willing time to go faster so I could take more. Thankfully this dreadful period only lasted a few days. I truly hate taking these things. I like to be in control. I like to feel my body and listen to its cues. Apparently, at the time it was telling me to give up the tough chick bullshit and take some damn pills. 

Before surgery and during my initial recovery phase, I read several support forums for people recovering from back surgery. I had to stop. Reading other people's stories was paralyzing. I was turning an already anxious situation into one that was not healthy or conducive to a glorious & triumphant recovery (would you really want it anything less than glorious or triumphant? Oh hell noh!). I decided that it wasn't a healthy activity to occupy my newfound sedentary lifestyle with horror stories or stories about how they'll never do <insert activity here> ever again. I have enough demons in my head, I don't need more. I had to be positive and realize the amazing challenges (opportunities) ahead of me. Now, not all that I read was depressing, scary, and down right upsetting. I found solace in a few people's experiences and especially appreciated the smile I got every time I read the unapologetic posts of Patagonia sponsored climber, Kelly Cordes. Now this man is absolutely hilarious and just refuses to quit. I love that about him. He is a climber, he doesn't do climbing. It's a part of him, so it's unacceptable to him to think that after each one of his injuries that he wont be back out in the mountains some day. There is no if, just when. This is how I feel. I refuse to allow anyone to tell me that I can't do something. I know it's going to be a lot of hard work. Hell, it's already a lot of work.... I look forward to the new challenges ahead of me. Bring it on!

I'm grateful that I can tie my shoes again, that I can walk my dog & bend down and pet or feed her, that I can walk as far as I want, that I can sit for longer than 30 minutes, that I can pick something up off the floor, that I can walk to the grocery store and carry more than 10# of food home... I look forward to lifting heavy again, doing pull ups, sit ups, squats, & burpees(?!??!), to going hiking & trail running, to riding my motorcycle, to picking up my 60#+ dog and giving her a big hug...

To be continued...

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