Waiting may be the worst part…

I will admit, the internet is both a blessing and a curse.  Never before have we had so much information at our fingertips in an instant.  I have taken advantage of this blessing many, many times throughout the years.  But therein also lies the curse:  the information on the internet can be inaccurate, misleading, or sometimes downright scary.

Consider my current (or recurrent, as the case may be) problem:  my back and leg pain has once again returned.  Though not as all-encompassing as it was this past February or last summer, it’s there.  It’s interrupting my sleep, but not eliminating it.  I’ve been unable to walk every day like I genuinely would like to, but not keeping me from doing most household necessities.  My family will tell you that I’ve been increasingly grumpy, a bit hard to live with, and other euphemisms. I have learned that pain requires a lot of patience and reliance on prayer, and I don’t even have to live with chronic or debilitating any more like so many people do every single day.  I get that.  But even so, some days, it can be quite frustrating.  Haven’t I already dealt with this and gone through two procedures to fix it?  (I’m not so naive to think that any one surgery is a cure-all, but still…I was hoping for relief for longer than six months at a time.  Unreasonable? I’d like to think not.)

I ignored this last recurrence for a few weeks, chalking it up to doing too much around the house or overdoing things for Hannah’s party, but when the backache started traveling down the old familiar path to my sciatica and down my leg, I had the growing realization that something else was afoot.  When it started radiating down the right side–when I had only ever dealt with pain in my left side–I was definitely not happy.  Without further delay, I called my neurosurgeon’s office and found out the first available appointment wasn’t until November 21! That was not good news at all.  After talking it over with a PA friend who works for another neurosurgeon and Todd, we decided to be that squeaky wheel and see if something could be done sooner.  Mind you, squeaky wheels don’t have to be ugly wheels, so before you think we called up and had “words,” we did not.  But when your husband calls on your behalf, I will say that the gears started moving.

I talked to a PA who told us it could be inflammation (those nerves have been through quite the adventure over the past year or so, after all), and suggested I run through a course of steroids to see if the pain level decreased.  I had instructions to call back if it did not seem like the steroid pack was making a considerable difference by Monday.   It did not improve.   When I called back that Monday (feeling like a whiner), things started moving.  MRI later that afternoon.  I don’t know if it’s a good thing to allow me to take home a copy of my own MRI, though, because I spent the rest of the evening poring over those images, comparing them to my previous MRIs looking for something, anything that could be out of place and causing pain.   I was happy to see no obvious herniation at the previous site (and the second herniation in March was so large that I think even a caveman could have diagnosed it.  One doctor used a four-letter word in reaction to it and another called it “catastrophic.”  I like to overachieve, you know)  Still, I was not content to just give one look and walk away.  I’m a tad obsessed like that.

It wasn’t until later that I found the written report from a radiologist included with the CD.  Oops!  It said no obvious reherniation was observed, but there were some terms that I had no understanding of whatsoever.  I hoped to hear from the doctor the next day to go over the results.  That happened, thankfully, and they moved my appointment up from November 21 to October 31.  The PA who called me to go over the report actually told me that I had a new herniation at a different level, but none of my symptoms matched that nerve root.  I had not been paying too much attention to L3/L4, to be honest.   In my mind, that was not good news.

At the appointment on the 31st, I was so relieved that my surgeon seemed to take me seriously, even though the MRI didn’t show obvious injury.  He explained possible causes for the pain that had once again returned, and did not act happy that it was happening.  The “new herniation,” however, was actually not concerning to him since it had remained unchanged since my original MRI in July of 2012.  Good news indeed!

Before recommending any further action, my doctor suggested two additional tests that he felt would show more information than the MRI.  I was scheduled for an Nerve Conduction Study first, and a CT Myelogram a few days afterwards.  Of course, I read and read and read.  Everything I could find.  YouTube videos and pages, benefits and risks, and on and on.  Really.  You’d think I would have learned by now!  I haven’t.

The nerve test was nerve-racking, I will definitely say that.  In the end, though, while it was uncomfortable to have someone place and hold electrodes in different locations on my leg and cause current to voom through, it was not what I would call painful.  The tiny needles he inserted into different muscles in my leg and hip were not pleasant, but it was quick and I got over it.

The CT myelogram tomorrow, however, includes a spinal tap, and there have been a lot of days between when the doctor recommended it to me and when it will actually occur.  There is no way around the fact that the waiting is tough.  In those thirteen days, I think I’ve over-educated myself to the point of scaring myself senseless.  I am anxious about every aspect of the test, from the spinal puncture to the dye to the chance of a spinal headache after the procedure.  The test is performed in the hospital and I will have to stay there for several hours after to ensure there is no spinal headache.  Todd will have to be there to drive me home.  To read about it for yourself, here’s a bit of info on CT myelogram.  Honestly, I wish they could just knock me out and wake me up when it’s all over!!

Here’s the truth, though: it’s not torturous (I hope); lots of people have the test done all the time (I’ve heard); and it can be a tremendously helpful diagnostic tool (I’m banking on).   But I’m still incredibly anxious about it.  What’s worse, in the back of my head, I’m wondering what it will reveal:  something that can be fixed? something that cannot be fixed? absolutely no problem at all?  If there is nothing on the test, does that mean I just have to wait for my body to settle down and stop hurting? In the way back of my head, I’m a little bit worried that the test will show there’s nothing wrong with my back, and all of it is wrong with my head.  I don’t think I’m crazy.  I’m definitely feeling something that’s not right with all that back there (to put it in technical terms).

I’m relieved it’s tomorrow.  This waiting is terrible.  Through all of this, however, I have relied heavily on what I know to be true vs. what my emotions tell me.  Sometimes that’s a tough battle, and the feelings almost take over.  I have to fight to take those thoughts captive, even for back and nerve injury.  When I couldn’t sleep over the winter, probably when my pain was at the worst level, a song kept going through my head in the quiet of the nights:  “I called, You answered…and You came to my rescue and I want to be where You are.”  Here it is if you’d like to hear it too:   Came to My Rescue by Hillsong

It helped–a lot, even just to repeat it again and again.  It reminded me then and reminds me now of the TRUTH recorded in Isaiah 41:10:

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

There are countless other people walking through hardships so much greater than mine, but for me, this affords a timeless reminder of Who is watching over every detail and to Whom I should always give every concern and every minute over to.  1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Tonight, I am standing on these two verses!


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