My Spinal Fusion Journey – The Night Before

I’m going in tomorrow at 5:30 AM to get prepped and ready for my spinal fusion surgery of the lowest vertebrae in my spine. It’s a proven surgery and the surgeon, Dr. Reichman (62 years old) is well renowned here in Provo, UT for doing it. He’s done thousands of them and I feel confident that over the long term, this is going to be the best thing for my back.

It’s funny because I’ve done a pretty good job of getting my back pain healed without surgery. I still feel the nagging ache and sciatica, however, and I know the joint is only going to get worse over time and I cannot live my life like I have the past 3 months with no physical activity hardly at all. I need to be active and for me to do that, this joint has to get bolted up.

I know the recovery will not be easy. Moving will be difficult for a few weeks. I believe a positive mental attitude, a desire to succeed and overcome this, and pushing myself will help me get through it. I know I’m not going into something easy right now. It is going to test me more than anything I’ve faced to this point. But I will overcome it.

Here’s a short little video I did about it. This is the beginning of my spinal fusion blog posts :)

Full Speed Ahead, Captain!

My spinal fusion surgery is about two weeks away. That’s two weeks until I get sliced open like William Wallace from Braveheart :) I’m anxious, nervous, and ready to do it. It’s funny, because my back feels the best it has felt since I had problems with it nearly 3 months ago. Funny how that works…

For me, the process of getting my back issue solved is very simple. What are my options and what will provide the greatest permanent result so that moving forward, I can still live an active life. To me, this is fusing the damn L5-S1 joint and getting rid of the disc. Of course, some will say that this might cause discs above to wear faster. Who really knows? Certainly, I will have to modify my physical activity.

I’ve spent this past week with my two daughters and have had a lot of time to play with them, take them swimming, and do a lot of fun things. It’s been great and I love being a dad.

I’ll be going on short term disability at work for about 5 weeks after my surgery and will stay at the hospital for about 3 to 4 days and then a rehab center which will come pick me up in a green bus! I’ll be there for two weeks before I come back to my place to putz around and live life the best I can :)

I say, let’s fucking do this and make it happen. Full speed ahead, captain!

My Next Book: Earthly Angel

I’ve been having a good time with my two daughters this 4th of July weekend, and I’ve also taken a liking to the song, Earth Angel, an oldies song from 1954 and also part of the classic movie, Back To The Future.

I’ve had an idea for a romance novel for a while now and seeing as how I will be laying down quite a bit, I feel it is time to get it started. For whatever reason, I’ve been feeling the romance mood and the song, Earth Angel, has inspired the name for my book. I’m calling it, “Earthly Angel.” Here is the rough outline.

On a planet near the center of the Andromeda Galaxy, is Heaven. This planet contains an advanced species who has evolved to have super-human abilities and intelligence. To us on earth, they would be considered angels or gods.

 

A male from this species, an archangel, is wrongly committed of a crime – killing a fellow angel. This has not happened for a century and his punishment for the crime is to be teleported to earth to live out his life as a mortal man, while still having the ability to use his powers.

 

If he can live his life without using any of his powers, he will be returned to his home planet upon his mortal death. If, however, for any reason, he uses his powers while on Earth, he will be stripped of his powers, continue to live his life as a mortal man, and never be able to return to Heaven again. He will be cast out to a dark planet after he dies, with others who have committed crimes.

 

While on Earth, the archangel saves a child from falling into a deep hole. While in the act of saving this child, he runs into the child’s mother. The two have an immediate sense of familiarity and begin to see each other and fall in love.

 

Over time, the woman the archangel loves faces immediate death unless he uses his powers to save her. The archangel faces a difficult situation. Use his powers and save her, at the expense of his own life, or forego the use of his powers, allowing her to die so he returns to his home planet.

 

Earthly Angel is the story of deep love, which often gets interrupted by challenging situations in life. It stares directly at the difficult situation of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Me Being Vulnerable

This video outlines some of the things that I feel vulnerable about at this time in my life. There may be more, but this covers a good chunk of them.

Thanks to Maren Kate Donovan for the inspiration for this video. Ironically enough, she represents one of the vulnerabilities I talk about in this video.

I’m continuing to focus on my vulnerabilities to better understand them. The first step is to admit them publicly and here they are.

Changes

I’ve been thinking about what to do with my website here. Should I keep it, get rid of it. I’ve written so many articles on it that it seems like it would be a shame to just get rid of it. On the other hand, there are some things that I don’t like about the website either and I don’t have a good answer for it.

My header image is outdated. This is not the website of a technology developer. It is much more about my life and thoughts than anything technology related. Yes, I work in tech and know how to write programming code, but the focus of my website has always been my learning and thoughts about life.

I’ve turned off comments on articles older than 90 days. It’s just becoming too much of a pain to moderate comments, especially on the articles where they are coming in constantly. Still, having comments on articles that are new for 90 days seems OK to me.

My back has been feeling OK recently. By OK, I mean I can walk and maybe even speed walk, light jog. But I can still feel my nerve go haywire if I do anything crazy. The vertebrae joint and disc are shot – they are degraded to the point that one day, the disc will be gone and it will just be bone on bone. I don’t want to have to wait for a visit to the ER and emergency surgery for a slipped vertebrae to crush a nerve…

I’ve been reading a lot about healing my back pain naturally. Definitely, my mind seems to play a major role in my pain and stress. I also believe that there is physics involved with my back, that eventual gravity and pressure are going to wear my vertebrae together and I’m not interested in that happening.

I’m scheduled for a spinal fusion on my L5S1 part of my spine July 22. I live alone, so I don’t have a solution yet for how I will be taken care of. In the mean time, I’ve been doing what I can to heal my back naturally. I’ve learned a lot about my mind and some of the issues I have in how I think about things.

I’m going to seek out a new header for my website here. I’m going to write more about things that the market wants. For whatever reasons, the market wants stuff about twin flames. Personally, I find the subject a bit taxing and like a horse that has been beaten to death. Yet, that’s what the people want, so should I write about that, or just the things I feel like writing about. Decisions, decisions.

That’s about it. I was seriously contemplating deleting my entire website and cancelling my hosting server contract. It’s been a few dark months laying in my bed and feeling my body waste away. The call to press on is strong though and I will do the best I can. My writing this article is pretty lackluster. The pacing and wording is sub-par. But, at least I wrote an article and made an attempt :)

Life

I Bring Life and Hope – Alexstrasza, the LifeBinder (a powerful dragon)

Yesterday, I spoke about death. Nothing is always one-sided in life. This morning, working with a physical therapist, I felt a bit of life return to me. Now, it could just be my Lumbar Epidural shot blocking nerve pain. I don’t quite know what it all looks like in my lower back even after MRI’s. I still feel tingling and nerve impairment in my lower back. I still have some soreness. But, what I’m realizing is that even if I’m feeling those effects in my body, that I can still move. I can still think. I can still charge forward as a leader. I’m very young still at 38 and feel I have so much more life to live.

I have 12 people I manage at work. My job is to lead them to complete important company projects on time and on budget. I don’t always succeed at this. Sometimes things take longer. What I am witnessing with my people made me cry while I was at home today laying in my bed. They are inspired that I am still coming in to work. They are self organizing together, setting up meetings with our product and marketing people, and pushing forward as I do the best to lead them as a wounded general.

I watched a video of NBA basketball finals moments today. I was touched in particular by Isiah Thomas, a point guard for the Detroit Pistons who played with them in the 1980’s and 1990’s. In the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, Isiah threw a pass that was stolen by Larry Bird, who then passed to Dennis Johnson for a layup, beating the Pistons. I watched how devastated Isiah was. He spoke about how he was the leader of the team and he let everyone down.

The next year, in game 6 at the Los Angeles Lakers, his ankle was hurt. He sat out for a bit, but couldn’t stand to watch his team lose. He came back in for the 3rd quarter and scored 25 points on a hobbling ankle in that quarter alone. That’s an astonishing basketball feat. I remember watching him in an interview crying when he recalled that game. Though the Pistons lost, he felt he did all he could and the Pistons went on to win two NBA titles the following two years.

Life comes after death. The new comes after the old. I’m shedding a part of me again, with this intense lower back issue I am having. I am finding my voice. I am finding my emotions. I am finding all the things that I bottle up and seeing them come to the surface. I know that I have to face the demons that are my emotions and the things that make me angry. I’m terrified of getting angry. My father’s anger abused me as a child and I’ve been afraid of anger and confrontation ever since.

But I can no longer be afraid of anger, confrontation and facing it. My body cannot continue to absorb these emotions. My backbone is literally deteriorating as a result of me silencing myself. This is the major lesson I am learning through my back problems. That I cannot keep quiet and silent. I must fight for myself. I must fight for my team at work. I must voice what makes me upset and angry.

What’s interesting is I have friends now that want to hear me share these things. They don’t look at me as needy for being angry, sad, or frustrated. They are there for me and believe in helping each other. I’m learning that it is not needy to speak up what you are feeling. It is not needy to share what is on your mind and ask for answers. It is human to do so. We all want clarity and understanding. I’ve learned that it is selfish to turn people away in need – notwithstanding that each person should learn to be a self sufficient person in life – but human-kind should be there for each other to buoy each other up.

I’m learning some wonderful lessons lately and starting to undo some of the negative and damaging things that I thought were truth from my childhood and even from the last couple years.

Death

Every man dies. Not every man really lives. – William Wallace, Braveheart

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought heavily on death the last month and a half. When you are laying on your back and struggling to move, the mind has a funny way of making up stories about what might happen. Death is something you don’t think of when you are healthy and able to run around and function at a high level. When your body feels like it is constantly being tortured, you start to wonder what is going to happen to you – at least, that is what I’ve been thinking about.

I don’t know what is going to happen to me. By the end of work today, I was exhausted, having only slept for two hours the night before. I’m battling Insomnia, which is causing me issues in and of itself. I don’t say this to seek your pity either. I don’t want your pity – take it somewhere else. But I do say it so that someone else going through an experience where their back is jacked up can see that other people are going through it too.

I have a lot of pent up emotion – frustration, anger, sadness. I don’t express it because I seek to keep the peace with people. In my marriage, I sought to keep the peace and in the end, I lost my spine – figuratively and now literally it would seem. I gave away a fortune in my divorce and was still asked to give away more money even after that. That frustrates me.

Yet, I take solace in that I lived a pretty active life this last year and a half, almost two years now, on my own. I really put myself out there and had a lot of great experiences. I’m not sitting here in my bed wondering if I gave life a good shot. I certainly did. Do I have regrets? Sure. But I’ve found that you can always look at your life and see things that you might have done better or put more effort in. It is just the way of things.

I hope to live forever. However, my recent physical struggles have given me a healthy dose of reality. My life may not last as long as I would like it to. Mr. Grim Reaper may decide to claim me before my time. If that is to be the case, I take comfort in knowing that I made a choice to follow my heart and gut, even if in the end, it led me to an early death.

And what is death really? A release from the consciousness of the physical form we all take? Perhaps it is the traveling of our souls to another plane of existence. Or perhaps we just cease to exist. Whatever the fate of death is, I say come what may. I chose to make a brave decision and live my life to the fullest as best as I know how the last year and a half. And that to me is good enough.

My Strategy to Heal My Back

I’m very focused right now on my lower back and getting it healed. In order to have it heal, I am going to have to take action. Based on what I’ve been researching, there is no silver bullet to fix it. There are a variety of opinions, thought patterns, exercises, and surgeries that can make an attempt to fix it. Because I don’t see a sure fire way to fix it, I’ve got to try a number of things. To show my strategy for healing my back, I’m going to adopt a process my current day job is using: Objective and Key Results (OKR). I’m going to include a problem statement before I go over the objective. Here goes:

Problem

My lower back is severely limiting my ability to bend, run, sit, drive, play basketball, hike, go to the gym, and my sleep.

Objective

To have a healthy, functional lower back that allows me to live an active lifestyle and sleep normally – avoiding surgery if possible.

Deadline

Before December 31, 2016

Key Results

  • I can sleep 8 hours straight in a night.
  • I can bend down and put all my clothes on without pain and without help.
  • I can jog for a mile in 10 minutes without pain..
  • I am able to drive to work, work a full day, and drive home without pain.

Measurement of Key Results

The measurement of success for the key results is very easy. Each one will either be accomplished or not accomplished. I have until the end of the year to achieve this. Let’s go over what I can do to make this happen.

I can sleep 8 hours straight in a night

Action Items

  • Get my desk out of my bed room (Do this tomorrow, 6/5/2016).
  • Get a dark cover for my blinds (Order this on Amazon by 6/5/2016).
  • Play soft music before I go to bed each night (Do this every night).
  • Do not eat food after 7:00 PM (Do this every night).

These are very doable action items. They don’t have much to do with my back, but as I do the work to heal my back, this will help my room become a comfortable place to sleep.

Measurement of Success

Measuring success will be fairly easy. I will set an alarm for 7 AM and retire to bed at 10 PM. This gives me an hour to fall asleep. If I wake up at anytime before the alarm goes off, then I have failed for that night.

I can bend down and put all my clothes on without pain and without help

Action Items

  • Buy a grasping stick from Amazon to help me in the short term (already ordered).
  • Do light stretching of my body, back, and legs every morning for 10 minutes (daily).
  • Lay on my stomach for 5 minutes (daily).

These simple action items are meant to loosen up my body and to help my disk in my spine reverse what it is doing.

Measurement of Success

Success here is very simple. I am able to easily put on my socks, underwear, a pair of pants, and a shirt without any help, and without having to make any major modifications to how I am bending to get dressed. If I’m unable to do this, I have not met this key result.

I can jog a mile in 10 minutes without pain

Action Items

  • Begin walking around my neighborhood block every morning for 10 minutes (daily).
  • Reduce caloric intake and lose 20 pounds (deadline: July 31, 2016).
  • Start using an elliptical machine for 10 minutes, 3 times a week (Mon., Wed., Fri., starting July 1, 2016).
  • Begin physical therapy a couple times a week (start: June 8, 2016).

These are simple and measurable action items with assigned dates. This biggest part of this will be starting my morning off right by doing the walking as well as the stretching in the key result above it.

Measurement of Success

Before the year ends, I am able to jog for a mile in 10 minutes without pain. I should feel just as good as I did before the run as I do after it.

I am able to drive to work, work a full day, and drive home without pain

Action Items

  • Read the book, “Healing Back Pain” by John Samo (before June 30, 2016).
  • Incorporate releasing my feelings daily by writing them in my personal journal (every night before bed).
  • Whenever someone says or does something I don’t like, don’t hide it in my mind – acknowledge that I am upset (as it comes, write about it).
  • Positively reinforce myself through speech and thought for 5 minutes every morning and night (starting June 5, 2016).

These action items are quite doable. In order to achieve this result, I’m focusing on the mind-body connection that I’ve read about so far in the book mentioned here.

Measurement of Success

I drive to work, work a full day until 5 PM, and drive home and feel just as good as I did before work – assuming I felt good before work :)

Conclusion

To accomplish my objective of having a healthy lower back without surgery, I’ve outlined some things I believe I can do. Ultimately, I will be visiting with the surgeon’s assistant on June 13, 2016, to go over options there. Surgery may be a foregone conclusion. However, I believe I have a very healthy strategy here to conquer this back pain without needing surgery. It includes the following key actions:

  • Daily walking, stretching, and light exercise
  • Knowledge through reading
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Acknowledgement of all feelings – especially anger, sadness, etc…
  • Adjusting my diet and losing weight.

It is my hope that through this strategy and taking action that I will make a vast improvement in how my lower back feels and ultimately conquer it without surgery. If it doesn’t work, I will know I’ve done all I can and can go into a surgery with confidence.

The Heart of a Champion – Let the Pain Speak to You

I’m listening to the song, “Heart of a Champion” by Nelly right now and it resonates with me. Why? I am going to do whatever the fuck it takes to heal from this back ailment and come back stronger than ever. I will go through whatever pain and hell I need to. This back issue is fucking unacceptable and I will not allow myself to be a damn cripple. I am going to heal this fucking piece of shit back of mine.

This morning I had a Lumbar Epidural in my lower back, which was done directly in the nerve that is being irritated and impinged in my lower back. I didn’t know what to expect when I went in. i just knew it was recommended by a surgeon to try and relive the pain I am in.

I had to get on my stomach on an operating table. Just doing that brought me to tears, but I was able to make it happen. Once the doctor came in, he started to ask me questions. I knew he was trying to distract me while he stuck the needle in my lower back. After about 10 seconds, I felt an initial jolt of nerve pain and it hurt. A few seconds after that, everything changed for me in how I view pain and tolerance.

The needle shifted to the right side of my nerve, which is severely irritated right now. I can barely walk at the moment. When I felt the injection hit the nerve, it was a pain unlike anything else I’d ever experienced. I’ve had broken fingers, broken arms, a kidney stone, a prior lower back surgery, but the pain I experienced for about 15 seconds straight was at another level.

When it hit my nerve, it was like my nerve in my lower back and going down my right leg was in a fire and being expanded with a bellows all at the same time. It tensed up my entire body and all I could do was scream and cry – over and over. I cried like a little baby and I felt like I was right next to the nerve in my body. I could not hear the doctor’s words trying to comfort me. I was just wracked with pain that I didn’t know was possible. Within those 15 seconds, I flooded the bed I was on with tears and yelled as loud as I’d ever yelled before – a cry for help and relief from the pain.

The pain spoke to me. My body spoke to me through the pain. It told me i can endure. It told me that I am strong. It told me that I am one of the special souls in this world. It told me to never accept any kind of shit or mistreatment from anyone. It told me that I am going to do some great things that impact a large number of people. It told me to FUCK all those people who can’t see me for who I am. The pain spoke to me deeply.

It did eventually end. And god it hurt like fucking hell. And if I knew I had to do it again to be healed, I would gladly do it again… I will know in a couple days if this injection is going to help or not. I can go back if I need to. I’m going to be starting physical therapy as well. I AM GOING TO BEAT THIS SHIT! Either through mental force of will and modern medicine or through surgery. It’s going to happen.

Here’s the song that Nelly wrote. I imagine he wrote it while he was under intense pain or pressure. Either way, that is what the song means to me – I will rise above this challenge and conquer it through sheer force of will and utilizing all that is around me to do so. You hear this my lower back. Fuck you. You answer to me now.