I am so very lucky when it comes to health care options. It’s distressing to think of the millions of people live (and used to live) with deep or searing chronic pain who did not have this kind of treatment available. I was lucky to have good health insurance and highly competent doctors. No one, however, should have to deal with this sort of pain without treatment and hope.
For the past two years, I’ve been struggling with a pinched nerve in my neck that caused serious pain in my left arm and left side of my back. On several occasions, I referenced some of the treatment I have been receiving, including this post on acupuncture, this post on the incredible fact that there is a skeleton inside my body, and this confession that I don’t do well when it comes to getting injections.
I’ve had all kinds of conservative treatment, including intensive physical therapy. None of my conservative treatments worked.
The most recent symptom was numbness several in my fingers (feeling in some of my fingers came back, but not in my left index finger). It’s worth taking the time to tell you what my doctor told me about numbness. If you have it, permanent nerve damage is being done. If you don’t jump on it and address it quickly (within a matter of weeks), you might lose that sensation permanently. Numbness is different than pain, then, which doesn’t usually cause permanent injury.
Because I had significant numbness, I had surgery, which occurred four days ago.
This past week has been quite a ride for me. Lots of good things, magic things, have been happening to me, over a background of physical pain and worry. I’ll explain with two examples, two of many.
On Saturday, my 10-year-old daughter (“JuJu”) was walking about the house constantly singing a song that sounded familiar. She explained to me that it had recently become one of her favorite songs, “Vida la Vida” by Coldplay. It was enchanting to see her so excited about a particular piece of music (and it really is a terrific song). After saying good night to my two daughters in their room, I went outside to walk the dog around the block. It was now 10 pm. Once outside, however, I saw and heard three young men with guitars and a drum walking along my street singing “Vida la Vida.” I ran upstairs to get JuJu out of bed so she could hear her new favorite song being sung by these three strolling musicians. It was just one of those things. I had never before seen anyone walking in front of the house strumming a guitar and I’ve lived in this house for 25 years. The music, the clear night, the perfect weather. The moment seemed almost orchestrated. Because I am a skeptic, however, I don’t personify the reason why such moments sometimes happen. I simply enjoy them.
Today, I had another unusual moment. I need to provide context first, however. I’ve been struggling with the symptoms of a pinched cervical nerve root for about two years. It has caused several periods of terrible pain in my back. I’ve seen a massage therapist, an acupuncturist who was a chiropractor, a sports medicine doctor, two surgeons and three physical therapists. Until three weeks ago, it seemed as though the problem, or at least the pain, might simply fade tolerably into the background, letting me get on with my life. “Not so fast!” Fate must’ve thought.
My family shared a vacation house with several other families this year. One afternoon, one of my wife’s friends (a philosophy professor in his 40′s) was relaxing on the porch when I looked down and noticed his unusual right foot: I found myself blurting out, “So tell me about your foot.” He explained that his [...]