Acceptance and work

Christmas morning was beautiful. In theory I could have slept in. It was a Saturday, so I didn’t have to get up for work (winter town job, M-F from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.). I did have to work out, though, and my body’s clock doesn’t have a snooze alarm, so as usual my eyes popped open at 3 a.m.

Why so early? It’s a matter of fitting necessary tasks into time available. Two daily priorities are working out and getting eight hours of sleep. I’m very fit and in very good health, but I’m also 60 years old. If I want to enjoy life going forward -- and I do -- the price of continued fitness and health includes proper exercise, diet, and sleep. It’s easiest to do my daily workout in the very early morning, before work.

So on Christmas morning I stretched, which takes most of an hour for an old guy, then ran stadiums at the high school for an hour. I came home and worked on writing until the sun began to peek over the southwest horizon. It was cool and breezy but clear outside and it seemed like adding a Christmas morning run would be a good idea, so that’s what I did. It was a lovely experience. By the time I got home and showered the kids were ready to do the Christmas morning kid thing, so I headed over to their house and had a simply wonderful time.

How does this all relate to acceptance and work? Let’s take a look.

In last week’s cliffhanger, I described what it was like to check in for back surgery and some of the pre-surgery preparation. I also touched briefly on the “why” of my pending surgery. This week we’ll close out the tale with more detail of the underlying problem and a description of my post-surgical experience and progress.

In early June, 2019, I slipped and fell while moving cattle up out of a draw. It wasn’t much of a fall but it did cause a good bit of hip pain, which persisted in a most annoying way. Over the next few weeks the pain shifted from the right hip to the left and extended down into my leg.

X-rays and an MRI revealed a number of interesting but distressing findings. There was a growth in my abdomen which was pressing against my lumbar spine. The lumbar spine was being pushed out of shape. Spinal discs were bulging to the left and right and pressing, to various degrees, against nerve roots. Arthritis had caused bone spurs to develop in the affected areas, narrowing nerve canals and further pressing against nerves. This nerve impingement was the cause of my pain.

Over the next couple of years I had a number of procedures and tests. The benign growth in my abdomen was taken care of and I underwent a series of targeted steroid injections in my lumbar area to reduce inflammation and hopefully reduce or eliminate the nerve pain. I had more imaging studies and a nerve conduction test.

Having exhausted all the available non-invasive therapies, we decided to do surgery to fix the nerve impingement. In my case the procedure was a three level laminectomy where vertebral bone would be cut away to eliminate nerve impingement.

On September 10, 2021, the knife dropped.

After surgery I woke up in the recovery room. Although I was still loopy from the anesthesia and had some surgical pain I quickly realized that my nerve pain was gone. It was a wonderful feeling, and the sudden absence of nerve pain made me realize just how miserable tha constant pain had been. I’d lived with it and managed to do pretty well, but having that pain as a constant companion for so long had been a severe trial.

I spent a couple of days in the hospital while a drain allowed blood to escape from around my spine. Orthopedic surgery causes a lot of bleeding and the last thing I needed was to have a big pool of blood form in the area with nowhere to escape to. Once the blood stopped draining the drain was removed and I went home.

After a week of rest I began physical therapy. I did very well in PT and began increasing my physical activity and recovery day by day. In six weeks I was able to resume my regular workouts and celebrated by running stadiums for an hour. It was tough to get back in the workout saddle after a month and a half of idleness, but it felt good to work hard. It felt doubly good to do so without nerve pain.

I’ve continued to work hard physically. It’s the price of feeling good and keeping fit and healthy as I grow older. There’s not a day goes by when I don’t reflect on the miracle of the surgical fix which removed my nerve pain and let me get back to a normal life.

Of course I am 60 years old, so I have plenty of old-guy aches and pains. These are just part of the whole life deal, and they are easy to bear when I look around and see so very many people in my age cohort who have much heavier burdens to bear. I am so very thankful and grateful for my great good fortune to be fit and in good health, and my great good fortune to live in a time when my medical maladies can be successfully addressed.

It’s easy to look at the negative side of things these days. While it’s true that there’s no lack of negative happenings in the world, it’s also true that this has always been the case and that every negative thing is balanced by a positive thing. It’s harder in many ways to seek out and look to the positives, but the work of looking on the bright side is well worth it. At least it seems so to me.

The new year is upon us, and my personal resolution is to continue to accept the things I cannot change while working hard to do the things I can do; physically, spiritually, and mentally, in order to take best advantage of my great good fortune.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.

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