My Journey With… Back Pain & Surgery

If you spend most of your life on social media (and, just be honest, almost all of us do these days), you’d be forgiven for thinking that everything is roses in everyone’s life!

Life looking pretty fantastic through a VSCO filter…

Except that it isn’t!

We’re ALL struggling with something and this was made very apparent to me when I put out the call on my personal Facebook page for people who’d be willing to share their REAL story. The hard, the ugly, the bad and the broken. I was overwhelmed with the response. It was almost like people wanted to get real. They wanted to share their stories. They wanted to tear the veil and go deeper.

I’m so grateful because My Journey With… is exactly that! Real people getting real.

Without these first brave friend who’ve been prepared to share their journey there wouldn’t be a series… and that would be a shame because it’s doing such great things!

Thank you to the brave few who stuck out their necks and got vulnerable. It’s amazing to see how a little bit of brave can help so many others find theirs.

 

Today’s journey is from Vicky

My Journey with…. Back Pain & Surgery

I have always suffered with lower back pain, thinking it was caused from ballet which I loved, I regularly went to the Chiropractor and continued as normal until I was of the age where I thought enough is enough. I needed to take control and get to the bottom of why I’m experiencing pain.

I had my first MRi in 2013 which showed degeneration of my lower disc L4L5 S1 – the Dr didn’t think surgery was necessary and I took a course of anti-inflammatories and pain killers and then took up Pilates which was amazing.

I really felt a huge improvement from doing Pilates, however I still had back pain from time-to-time but learnt how to manage my pain. I even took up running – joining the Jog Squad in Sept 2015 and literally learnt how to run from walking.  I never thought I’d run but I did.  I even completed a few 10km runs with my last run being the FNBCTOne Run in the May 2016.

Then our family went on a dream holiday to Disney World in Orland which we’d been saving and planning for a few years.  It was phenomenal and a must – with or without children. Unfortunately while over there I started experiencing what I thought was sciatica as it was nerve pain that shot down my right leg into my foot. It was excruciating and no pain meds helped.

Once back in Cape Town I went to see my Dr and he sent me for another MRi – the result was that the disc was definitely bulging and the nerve was being constricted a bit.  He suggested a facet block (injection into spine done by radiologist) this gave me 3 months relief (Aug-Oct). From November I felt pain again and then I did another facet block in January but it didn’t help.

I then started having the nerve pain down my leg again which was unbearable. In February 2017 I had another MRi and you could see a huge change and the nerve was under huge pressure from the disc.

I had a pending trip to the USA for work which was scheduled for the 24th February so my Dr suggested doing a Rhizotomy on Thursday 16th Feb (basically they severe the nerve under general as well as inject steroid / cortisone into area) this usually gives patients relief and can sometime prevent surgery.

Unfortunately this procedure didn’t work – it actually made things worse and on top of the pain I was experiencing I couldn’t sleep, no matter what I tried I literally couldn’t fall asleep.  I think my body reacted to the meds they used or something.

I eventually had to make the call to cancel my trip and have surgery which I did on Thursday 23rd Feb. As you can image I was totally exhausted from not sleeping for a week and being in discomfort. I was the last patient of the day going into theatre at 6:15pm – the theatre sisters were amazing and made me feel calm.  The operation was a success!  I had nerve pain relief which was great. Unfortunately they kept me in High Care for the first night and we had a snorer which meant I still couldn’t sleep!!

The next step was rehab!  The physio’s come around the very next day to get you up and walking. It was very sore but I did it and I must say it wasn’t too bad once you got the hang of how to move. I had sexy pressure stockings to wear to avoid blood clots. 4 nights later I was home in my own space which was great. 5 weeks later Thursday 30th March I saw the Dr for a check up – feeling great. He gave me the thumbs up and said I can drive, go back to work and start physio. I saw my physio the next day, she gave me more stretches and exercises to do at home.

Monday 3rd April I went back to work. I drove myself and all fine until I got back to my desk, suddenly it felt like I had pulled a muscle in my upper back – when I breathed it hurt and I felt really stupid as everyone was coming over to welcome me back and asking how I was.

Anyway I popped into a friend that’s a physio so she could possibly help with the pain I had in my back.  The kids were on holiday and the Wednesday night I started feeling a stitch-like feeling in my ribs on the left when I breathed in. Not thinking anything of it I went to bed but I couldn’t lie on my left side or flat on my back. I managed to sleep lying on my right side but had discomfort – eventually when I got up on the Thursday 6th (exactly 6 weeks post op) I couldn’t breathe properly, I definitely couldn’t think of driving or doing anything.

My hubby was in JHB for work so I called my mom-in-law.  Feeling really stupid I headed back to Constantiaberg ER to be checked. They were very helpful, took blood, sent me for a chest X-ray which was all clear.  Then they said they were calling a specialist as my blood results came back, but one level was raised for possible blood clots.

Still feeling rather calm but in pain they sent me for a CT scan with iodine. That was very quick and painless and confirmed that I had a blood clot in my left lung lower ventricles otherwise known as a lung embolism. I never really understood the possible complications or seriousness of this (luckily). I remained calm and knew the situation was not in my hands. I’m sure that is why I remained calm.  I put my faith in the Lord that he had this and I’d be OK. They then started injecting me with Clexane (to thin the blood), I was told to stop any oral contraception immediately and that I would have to spend 3 nights in hospital.

I was terribly lonely in hospital this second time and I think because I was in pain and not feeling well I had a horrible time. The meds they gave me made me nauseous so I didn’t feel like eating as I got ill quite a bit. Finally I was allowed home and was on the mend, I was prescribed Xeralto for 6 months (blood thinning meds) which meant I shouldn’t drink alcohol or take certain meds like anti-inflammatories.

Unfortunately since coming out of hospital I started having back pain again!!!

I have been seeing a physio every week since but I still have pain when I move in certain positions.  It’s not a constant ache, so I can manage, but it does make life difficult. My chiro also doesn’t know what to suggest. They both think it’s a facet joint. I definitely feel like I’ve regressed, I’m currently trying not to lose faith and remain strong. To be continued…

 

Now that you have the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you might have done differently before, during, or after, your tough life experience? 

Visited more friends that were in hospital.  I definitely have a new respect for people that are bed ridden or recovering at home. The visits from friends and the support from my family has meant the world to me.

What, or who, helped you to overcome or push through this experience? A book, a person, an incident, therapy, medication or was it just simply time etc?

Funny enough I never actually did much reading even with so much time literally on my back.  For some reason I didn’t feel like doing anything. I had all these ideas that I’d catch up on my reading or knitting but never did. I pray all the time and I must say having the support of my friends and family made the world of difference. I’ve never felt alone or abandoned, had a quiet sense of peace inside throughout everything which I credit to my faith.

Obviously there is not always a reason for going through such hard times in life, but now that you are further down the journey can you share any insights or personal growth that the experience taught you? 

I’m definitely learning the skills of patience and endurance. At times I’m starting to think God has a strange sense of humour as I’ve really had enough now… I even got a soccer ball kicked into my back yesterday while having tea after Church, a little ironic don’t you think?

Where do you find yourself now? 

Even though the surgery was successful I’m still struggling with pain unfortunately which is very disheartening so unfortunately I’m not home dry yet! I’m waiting to hear from my Dr what the next step is.

 

Images & Words: Vicky Goslett

 

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Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for almost 7 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

3 Comments
  1. Hi Vicky, I read your story with great interest, I suffer from lower back pain since my teenage years, not so severe as yours, I never had a surgery, I am able to do sports, running hiking….sport actually helps me feel better, The worse pain I always had was when working long hours in the office. I quit my job in December to go to travel the world and first few months I felt great, no pain at all, But it came back later, it always comes back when I have to sit down and work (I am a freelancer). So I think it’s connected to stress. Many people think any physical pain is connected to mental health and I am planning to look at it closer once I come back to Europe. Maybe it will be worth for you too. Anyway, wish you good luck, don’t give up on your body just yet 🙂
    Tereza

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