Spondylolisthesis February 2017
I had never heard of this condition and then one day in October 2016 whilst sat in a consulting room in a hospital it came crashing into my life. Sat there staring at an MRI scan of my lower back I did not need a radiologist to explain to me what I was looking at. The spine is a series of building blocks neatly piled on top of one another with bits of cushion in between each one to act as the shock absorbers as it is designed to support us but needs to move and be flexible, to be strong to take all the strains, the knocks and the bangs and enable us to get up and keep on going. Without it, we would quite literally crumple.
The ‘wings’ the outer bits of my L4 have fractured rendering the vertebra unstable to the point that it could not stay where it was supposed to be because there was nothing there to keep it in place so it slipped. Slipped forward into my spinal cord, taking a disc or two with it and is now sat on top of my L5. There are innumerable reasons as to why this has happened. I am awaiting further tests to narrow it down.
I cannot believe that I was unknowingly functioning with this condition in my back and for such a very long time. I used to say to myself to ‘just keep putting one foot in front of the other’ to just keep on going.. To get up in the dark to go and stand and lift and carry and bend and stretch, to lean over and stir, to chop, to think, to serve. It was the nature of my job, I was working as a chef and not your ordinary chef, I was working in a deli so working with the customers face to face.
I thoroughly enjoyed the rapport with them and with my colleagues but I absolutely enjoyed the creativity of my work. I never knew what I was going to cook from one day to the next. It was dictated by what needed to be cooked, keeping all food waste to a minimum. My aim was always to inspire those around me and those for whom I was cooking.
I am sure it was these elements of my work that kept me going as long as it did. My body eventually simply just screamed at me one day to stop. To stop before it stopped.
It may sound odd but it reminded me of the demise of my dear old dog whose back legs went. I had to make that heartbreaking decision to let him go as I could not bear to see him struggle anymore. Dogs are amazing, we could learn a lot from them. They attach no emotion to disability. My dear dog would have carried on following me dragging his back legs if I had allowed that to happen. Needless to say, I didn’t.
It took too long a time for me to accept that I wasn’t invincible, at the time I saw it as defeat, but now I see it as a moment in my life when I had to listen to myself, respect and care for myself. I am sure I am not alone in saying that this was a very new place of acceptance for me.
I am now on a journey. One where I am trying everything I can to avoid the possible surgery on my spine which includes metal work, bone grafts, removing muscles, poking nerves.. All totally terrifying.
Experiencing intense pain for such a long time does very odd things to your head. Someone described it to me as a type of torture. Yes it is. My understanding is that by subjecting people to pain as result of torture is to wear them down psychologically, to break them. In that process I imagine they would go through unimaginable emotions and only ones I can have compassion and empathy for.
Fear, anxiety, self doubt, despair, stress and resentment to name a few. It took me some time to acknowledge that it was myself subjecting me to this situation. The first stage of me accepting it was to stop.
Part of my journey now is not just about me physically healing, it is also about my continuing journey in learning to accept myself, to let go of that denial. Denying myself of myself.
Whether this is armchair psychology or whatever you may want to deem it to be, but I think the psychological relationship that we have with ourselves is an important one. It can demonstrate itself in how we respect ourselves, how we choose to eat, our relationship with food, our relationship with those around us, how we choose to communicate. I think a good example of this is our ability to know when it is ok to say, ‘No’ without it causing some sort of guilt tripping explosion within your psyche. There are many ways we can find to harm ourselves indirectly, directly, physically, mentally, literally.
Crikey not sure where this writing is taking me now, but just know I have had to write something down about the present chapter in this life.
I also want to mention that at a time when we are witnessing so much divisive hatred in the world, I have experienced SO much kindness and compassion from those that I would not otherwise have met. Humility is still very much in existence and I am touched by it. I have had to fight those feelings of not being worthy enough to receive, but in actual fact if I met someone like me I would like to think that I would have that sense of compassion and humility and I would try and help.
I have now been to the hospital for my pre op assessment. I have now requested that I meet the surgeon – I have questions and I would also like to request another scan /X ray. The MRI I had to diagnose this was done at the beginning of June last year. That makes it about 8 months old. I would like another one if I am to then make the decision to have open spinal surgery. There are risks obviously and it could invite further back problems. I have some very big decisions to make which is why I am exploring every avenue to fix myself. At this moment in time I still believe that our bodies want to heal themselves, they just need a helping hand sometimes.
To be continued..