Monday, February 4, 2013

F-you back surgeries, H1N1, busted ankle! I'm taking my body back!

As I respite on the couch following a long (but fulfilling) morning at the barn, I'm reflecting on how much my body has been through--and celebrating how much it can do, now.  

There are many, many others who have (and have had) it far worse, but admittedly, it's been a rough past three years or so physically. Hmm, past 7 years, really. I had back surgery in 2006 (shattered a disc giving birth to my first), then again in 2007.  That second time around was the most frightened I have ever been; the tough outer lining of the disc, all that was left of it, had herniated and had kinked the sacral nerve root like a garden hose.  

The pain was indescribable and incomparable.  I gave birth to my first with pitocin-augmented contractions and not a drop of pain medication of any sort, and I will do that every freakin' day over being in that sort of pain again.  

Surgery removed centimeter-sized chunks of material normally measured in millimeters--but unkinking that nerve provided immediate relief of the agony.  It took months of physical therapy to strengthen my atrophied body, but in time, I was riding again.  I have some arthritis and minor nerve damage, but it's nothing that even appears on my radar 95% of the time--and again, I will gladly take that in exchange for getting my life back.

Incidentally, an MRI of my spine appears in the book Shit My Kids Ruined, heh.  I'm under "V" for "vertebrae." 

Then in October 2009, I came down with H1N1 (the infamous "swine flu") while pregnant with my second.  Full disclosure: I was diagnosed, but not tested specifically for H1N1; they said it was the only flu that people were getting at the time, and they were treating everyone (especially pregnant ladies like me) with the assumption that that is what it was.  

This beast did the most lasting damage--I ran a fever for two weeks and my OB called me on a daily basis at home (!!!) to check on me.  I was still trying to go to work and actually tried to convince him to let me.  WTF, Laura??  He actually barked at me that old physician cliche, "No, you are NOT going to work--that is an ORDER!" <yes sir>

In the days after a c-section delivered my son (with my history, I was advised to avoid a vaginal birth, and they weren't about to give me a spinal; I was knocked out), I started coughing up nasty black stuff  that resembled contents of a dirty ash tray.  (Um, minus the cigarette butts.)  The specialist later said it was due to the medication I was given when I was intubated; all that gunk was sitting in the bottom of my lungs, and the medication--meant to dilate the respiratory tract--and intubation drudged it up.  YUMMY.  

I'd like to add, coughing that deeply and violently after abdominal surgery SUCKED.  Su-UCK-ed.

I was sent to a pulmonologist, amusingly yet appropriately named Dr. Leung, who had this peculiar way of interrupting me with active listening.   

"So what is going on?"

"Well, they think..."


"...I had H1N1 when I was..."

"Uh-huh, yeah..."

"...about 27 weeks pregnant with my son..."

"Yeah, okay..."

Oh...kay.  But hey, he was listening, and managed my case well, so...he can "uh huh, yeah, okay" in randomly timed non-pauses all he wants.

He warned at my first visit (uh huh) it would take 2 (yeah) years to recover (okay). I "Bah"-ed this--two years?  Psh, sure. Oh, but indeed--it was 2 years to the month after my diagnosis that he finally said my lungs were clear, and staying clear, and I could wean off the medication. A year into my recovery, I found myself in the ER; another time, I wound up in Leung's office getting a steroid shot in the "hip" (doctor speak for "butt") for an out-of-nowhere infection. A cold could send me from zero to bronchitis in 6 hours. 

Ugh. Wow, it sucked. I suppose it makes sense I was diagnosed with post partum depression in that phase, too.  But haven't I whined enough?  This is a bit uncomfortable for me--me, the over-sharer--because I've learned I need to just deal with what is given, and when need be, get some help with dealing.  Seriously, this is getting to be too  much.

(Um...well...I also busted my ankle last April, which put me in a cast for 6 weeks and a brace for 6 months.  It's stiff, but healing.  That story awaits another day; it involves a moment a supreme stupid with Trilogy, and it was alllllll my fault.)

Obviously, I cannot be trusted with gravity.  I'm like a horse that can impale themselves on bubble wrap.  "What the hell did you do to yourself NOW?"

All those years of medications (the steroids, in particular) and all that inactivity (I couldn't do anything because my lungs/back/whatever wouldn't allow it the majority of the time) meant the baby weight gained from baby #2 stuck. I'm only about 17lbs up from what I weighed on my wedding day, but I hate it.  Around November, I gave up, resigning myself to just being overweight and trying to make myself accept and own it. 

Then another epiphany came. We went to a campground this past Christmas, the same one we went to when youngest was barely one (and thus, I was just at the halfway point in my H1N1 recovery). I remembered going there that time and being winded--more than winded, just whole-body fatigued--walking up and down the main hill just to the kids' playground. Yet, this most recent visit, I realized I was able to walk everywhere. EVERYwhere. Up that hill, down that one, hiking that trail, going to that playground two times a day alone--PLUS all the other walking. 

It dawned one me, I can do this, and I couldn't before. It excited me to the point of tears.

So I've started 2013 using My Fitness Pal. I'm calorie counting and eating healthily, and prefer it. I've always had good eating habits; I just realized my portions were too large. 4.4lbs lost in the first 3 weeks.

Also helps that my riding horse is a hard mouth lazy boy. He makes me WORK to ride him--at least, to ride him so he's not just willy-nilly loosey goosey on the forehand. 

I hope to get down to my prepreggo-with-second-child weight, but more than anything, I just want to be healthy--and ENJOY being healthy. 

I feel like for the first time in years, I'  My neurosurgeon told me after my second back surgery to start physical therapy to "regain confidence in your body."  Yes, that was it completely.  My body had betrayed me, I'd felt.  In the years since, it has continued to confound, confuse, and frustrate me.

But now, now, I am exercising, walking, breathing, riding...I'm me.  Nice to have her back.


  1. All I can say is :(. I had H1N1 too, but totally wasn't pregnant through it, it sucked, sucked worse for you. Glad you have you back too.

  2. Thanks, and yeesh, glad you're okay now as well. I was a bit of a poster child for the "who is most at risk for H1N1." Pregnant? Check. Third trimester? Check. History of asthma? Mild, exercise-induced, but yeah, check. Add that I'm a teacher, and it pretty much guaranteed I'd get it if it showed up in my teaching community. The vaccine didn't come out until it was too late.

    Honestly, it's a happy face thing for me now, because it's all in the past. Allllll in the past. :)

  3. I was lucky not to get H1N1 but I did get Pertussis (a.k.a Whooping Cough). That was the WORST illness I have EVER had. You have been through the ringer. :(