In three days, I will have back surgery. I still cannot believe this is happening. But after two months of complete disability, and a neurosurgeon's opinion that I will not get better on my own, I no longer feel I have any choice. I have all the indications that surgery is warranted and necessary and very likely to help. There was no agonizing over the decision. In fact, I felt immense relief when I found out that surgery was an option for me. Knowing there was some way to fix this problem almost immediately brought me out of a depression during which I spent most days sobbing, wracked with despair. Not knowing how long this ordeal would last was the hardest part.
Still, I am scared to death. I am scared of the surgery, yes. But I am even more scared of the future beyond it. The doctor says the prognosis looks good, that I should feel better quickly, that the surgery is minimally invasive and I should feel better a couple days after than I do right now. (That wouldn't be a high bar, since I can barely walk or sit right now.) I've heard lots of stories of people who made full recoveries from this type of problem and went on to many years of active healthy living.
But I've also heard the other kinds of stories, some from friends and some on the internet. (Oh lord, why can't I stop Googling?) Stories of people who had poor results. People who were still having lots of pain many months after the surgery. People who were cured temporarily but then the pain came back. People who reherniated their discs shortly after surgery. I'm terrified that it won't work, or that it will take many months to make me feel better. I'm scared that I will no longer be able to live an active healthy life. I'm scared of what my future with a weakend back looks like. I'm scared that this kind of pain and disability can just descend on a relatively young, healthy and active person for absolutely no reason. Another layer of my innocence has been stripped away by this realization.
I know I need to stay in this moment and deal with what is here now. I know there is no sense in playing out these scenarios in my head. I know that life is full of uncertainty, that anything can happen at any moment. I know that worry is useless. I know that people face far worse than this. Still, this is so, so hard.
I guess I never knew what a back problem could do to your life. As this blog has chronicled, mine has reduced me to a pile of rubble over the past two months. Two months doesn't sound like much when I type the words, but it has felt like eternity. When you are lying on the couch hour after hour, every day feels like a month. I can hardly imagine what it's like to live without pain anymore. I believe in my heart that this experience will make me stronger, that it will transform me. I am still on the hero's journey. But I'm so ready to get out of the mountains and onto smoother terrain again.