I’m baaaaack and feeling better than the last time I was here. Who knew that what this girl needed was a quick back surgery?
I certainly didn’t see that one coming!
It all started just after I walked to see my ill friend in my last post. I’d seen my doctor the day before and she’d scheduled an MRI for me. That Friday I went in, had the scan done, and then we waited until Monday. At the worst, I was expecting a cortisone shot or some pain medications and rest. But then she called and told me I needed to see a neurosurgeon. Wha!?! She explained that the scan showed some bulging and other irregularities and she hoped I could get in to see the specialist soon.
I waited through another long weekend. I’d made an appointment for early Monday morning and honestly I was curious about what was going on. By then I was experiencing constant pain, numbness and a pins and needles sensation in my left arm. The pain was making me miserable so I stayed away from blogging. Instead, I worked on the garden even though I was hurting so badly. It kept me busy and I did see some great results. (More on that in another post.) Maybe it wasn’t the wisest decision, but it helped with my worry too.
|Dranunculus vulgaris looking lovely this year.|
Now, all gardeners know back pain, am I right? It’s just what happens to us after hauling, digging, and sifting through the dirt. The pain is our Badge of Courage. We’re proud of our backs.
My back has been a wreck for a long time and I honestly cannot recall when it all began. What I can say is that it’s been getting worse and worse for the past few years and working outside has been exhausting for me.
The pain begins and I’m simply spent. I retreat indoors in defeat.
|The front garden is partially a riot of color right now and I’m sort of in love with it.|
Since my relationship with pain is rather complicated I didn’t really know if what I was going through was a problem or not. I blamed my swelling disease. I blamed falling down the stairs. I nursed it as best as I could but I just decided at some point that sometimes my back hurt—a lot.
|I found this Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ bloom in my garden the day of my surgery. It’s my first and I’m a proud Mama.|
|Lovely Begonia leaf.|
Pain is already part of my chronic illness condition. Swelling causes pain. I know that type of pain though and it’s lessened a lot since I was prescribed my new medication several years ago.
The back pain I felt—especially after returning from Italy—was different. I could barely stand up and I just wanted to cry. It was excruciating. Thinking things through, this sort of explained the urgency, but I still didn’t really understand what was wrong with me and how it had happened.
|Lovely Bletilla striata about to open.|
On Monday the neurosurgeon examined me, then we looked at my scans together. When I saw my spinal cord being pinched by a collapsed spinal canal, I nearly jumped out of my seat. It was clear that my spinal cord wasn’t happy and the herniation caused by the narrowing in the spinal column explained the pinching pain when I moved my head. And of course, the pressure from this was pinching my nerve.
Ok, I got it. So I looked at him and said, “What do we do about it?”
|Lathyrus sativus azureus.|
|The front garden on the day of surgery. John and I both laughed at the lone orange lily in the boxwood hedge.|
Well it’s true, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”
I had one week to prepare for 1 month of little to no upper body physical activity. For a gardener in the month of June this isn’t exactly easy when you’re the primary gardener in the household. I’m working hard to recover quickly though. I can begin going on nice walks again soon and I’ll focus on that first.
Many of my garden plans for this summer had to be folded up and put away but I didn’t mind. I’ve never been so desperate to feel better and I was truly at the end of my rope.
|Flowers John bought from Quinn in the City Flowers. These were just what I needed during my overnight stay in the hospital.|
It’s not completely clear to me when the debilitating pain began, but I suspect that when I fell down the stairs in the front of my house nearly 3 years ago I seriously hurt my back. At the time I was more concerned about my swollen ankle. Weeks later I discovered after the Fling in Seattle I’d broken two fingers too but I continued to believe that my back pain was only temporary and I chose not to have it examined.
The injury lingered and remained consistent throughout the divorce and remarriage. While working as a caregiver, it made my job impossible at times. I ended up quitting because of it.
|A box of trial plants from Terra Nova Nurseries arrived the day I came home from the hospital. It felt a bit like Christmas.|
|This is what a Posterior Cervical Laminectomy looks like a week after surgery.|
|My nurse often sleeps on the job but he’s been with me 24/7 this past week.|
|My view from bed could be worse.|
These things take time to heal, and seeds of change must be planted, so as I lie here in bed, I’m just reading gardening and plant books. This is a nice time to reflect on the past and while moving forward to a healthier and brighter future.
I’m so excited.
My life just keeps getting better and better. I’m so thankful. I just cannot say that enough.
A friend of mine returned home for a visit to New Orleans before we knew about the surgery and she didn’t return to Portland until after it had happened. So, she bought me this statue of St. Expeditus while she was there as a souvenir. Seeing as he’s the patron saint of emergencies and expeditious solutions he’s more than welcome to look over my garden and I until I’m well again.
So far, I think he’s doing a great job, don’t you?
9 thoughts on “The Fragile Spine: The Gardener’s Nemesis”
Oh my goodness what a story…….. Despite all the pain, your garden looks just stunning, love the frontgarden, the beautiful blue Lathyrus, the spectacular Dracunculus flowers, the Begonia leaf and the wonderful Magnolia flower. I really do hope you recover soon and can go into your garden soon again. Wish you all the best and in the meantime make yourself comfortable with reading lovely gardening books.
Your situation sounds scary, but I am glad it looks to be turning around. I had suffered a herniated disc years ago that left me unable to work, garden, play with my son, or enjoy any kind of pain-free moment. Fortunately spinal steroid injections worked for me and no surgery was needed. Heal well, and soon.
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God bless, my dear. I am a regular reader but somewhat of a lurker in my old age (80). You have lovely plants; I admire your west coast climate. Here in the Midwest many of your blooms require a greenhouse. I hope your health problems will resolve somewhat. I had decent health for many years, but strained myself, as you mention, digging, hauling, bending. Mainly I brought on arthritis–steel knees, plastic hip, etc. A nurse questioning me one time expressed surprise that I had been a college professor as my body indicated a more physical job. Not my job, my life! Anyway, I identify with your remark that having a high pain tolerance is not good. My current caregiver, my son, has decided that whether we call the squad or not will not be up to me in the future! Love your photographs and Italian travel narrative. I like to read about Sicily and reminisce about growing up in the Italian neighborhood of Schenectady with its marvelous restaurants where men in black suits ate lunch every day.
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I love your attitude throughout this post, it's obvious your already feeling better. Here's to you being able to “Fling” in July!
Thank you! I'm recovering well and tomorrow the staples will be removed. I have to say that luxuriating in plant books is fun. I might even do some seed shopping.
I am so happy now whenever I hear about steroid injections working. That's fantastic it worked for you. Am trying to heal as quickly as possible. My garden needs me.
I think that your comment made my husband rather emotional tonight. It's comments such as yours that keep me going. Lurk away! I promise to be posting a flurry of posts in the upcoming weeks since I have time to finally catch up and I'm not in as much pain. There is more from northern Italy and a lot more plants too. Be well and thank you so much for commenting.
I AM feeling better. Glad you could sense it and it's good to hear. Still can't hold my head up for more than an hour or so but each day I'm getting stronger. Will be Flinging soon and I might even post all the posts from Seattle I never posted. Why not!?!
Yea for St. Expeditus! I'm glad you're feeling better. Obviously, some things were seriously out of whack. Yikes. The plants you posted look wonderful. Enjoy them and the flowers and your honey and the next step to a better you!