It’s 2:15 am and I am pacing around the house like an anxious parent waiting for a kid who missed curfew. It has been about 2 weeks since I have slept soundly through the night. I move from the couch to the chair, to the floor, back to the bed. About every hour I get up. I stretch, I twist, doing everything possible to find a position that will alleviate the pain. This is my new routine, and one of the many daily battles of dealing with chronic back pain.
I tend to think I am invincible. And to be honest until now, I have never had a surgery, been hospitalized, broken bones. But that can change in an instant.
About 2 years ago, November of 2016 I went for a run. Man, I love running. It was a perfect Fall afternoon. I remember I had these new shoes, could not wait to try them out. About 2 miles in a felt a little pull in the back of knee…but I figured this was called mid-thirties and years of running, training, not always being the best about listening to my body. I pushed on. I got in my standard 6 miles but as I pulled into the final finish I was now feeling it in my outer hip, and IT band.
“Ehhh, it’s fine. I will just stretch, roll it out, no big deal. Per my usual routine, I went to a HIIT class on Friday, and then Saturday it was COOOOLD. I warmed up, stretched, activated a bit and hit the road again. WHY? That’s what I do on Saturdays. I run.”
Now here I sit, two years later. 2 MRIs later, 3 Epidural steroid injections later. Hundreds, if not thousands spent on massages, adjustments, treatments, acupuncture, medications. Just this week I have seen 2 chiropractors, 2 orthopedic physicians, and an imaging center. I have taken nerve blockers, pain meds (NOT going there again…), anti-inflammatories, E-Stem, and good ol’ fashioned ice. I am so tired.
I am tired of the constant pain, the constant feeling that no matter what I am doing…walking, working, training, sleeping that I am walking on egg shells with my body.
… “is this going to hurt”
… “maybe I shouldn’t do that, it might hurt my back”
… “…oh, I don’t know maybe I should stop”.
This injury, and the subsequent pain has impacted my daily life, but it more than that is has taken a toll on my marriage, my quality of life, my mental state. What hurts most is that it is affecting Stew too. He wants so much to be able to take away my pain. He wants to trade places. Something I would not wish on my worst enemy. But, that is what partners do, they want to protect and share in everything. I have ruined multiple vacations because of the agony of plane rides, car trips, hotel beds. I have to say no to things like kayaking on the weekend, or going to King’s Island to ride roller coasters, or standing in long lines for concerts or games.
I was an athlete. I remember when I could accelerate to a full sprint in two short steps, hit a cone, turn on a dime, cut and jump, and man, I was good at it. I used to golf every week with my dad. I have not swung a club in two years.
I am not willing to believe that I will never be that competitor again. That, at 37 years old, this is my new normal. That someone who has taken care of themselves with consistent, dedicated exercise, focused nutrition, weight training, cardio, yoga…that someone who does not abuse drugs or alcohol, have excess weight pressing on their spine, has to give up all the things they love. I will beat this. I am committed to beating this. Even as I sit here wishing I was sleeping and not typing, I am ready to face another day, one day closer to a resolution. One day closer to being back on the road, sun just coming up, cool, fall air, new shoes…a new start. I refuse to stop believing that.
If I get that chance, I will not squander it. I will never again take my body for granted. I will listen to when I need a rest. I will fuel it to grow and thrive with the longevity it needs to take me down that road. To catapult me back to the athlete I know I am and want to continue to be. If I get that chance, I will remember what this pain feels like. I will embrace every opportunity to have the courage to live strong and resilient.