Let The Games Begin!

Go Tigers Go!
Have you done your NCAA Basketball Bracket(s) yet?  I have!  I'll just let you guess who I've picked on my #1 Bracket to be the upset winner.  Hint:  photo (left).  I'm picking from the heart, don't you know?  My Tigers haven't exactly made positive impressions this year, especially whenever they tip-off on TV.  Hopefully, they will continue playing like they have been for the past month or so.  Fingers crossed...toes, too!

Speaking of crossing body parts...

I know many of you have been checking this space to see if I had any good news about my back issues. Let's say I'm cautiously optimistic.  Of course, my natural state is optimism, so that may not sound like a news item...but, I have to admit to a few hours of negativity over the past couple of months.  OK...maybe a day or two.

You see, I have been struggling since January with back pain that "isn't what it was like 'before'".  I've said this all along.  'Before' was when the disc(s) in my lower back actually herniated, pinching various nerves, causing pain to radiate down my left leg, into my foot.  The first time this happened, we were moving from GA to FL in 2002; I ended up having surgery in October...a partial ('hemi-") lamenectomy on the disc/space between L3and L4.  (If you have back problems, you will recognize the technical terminology and the numerical designation of lumbar discs in the spine.  If you don't...well, be happy and move along...:)

That was the beginning of the saga.  After the surgery, I said to anyone who would listen...and that did NOT include the orthopedic surgeon in Orlando...I am still having problems; I can't seem to get back to 'normal.'  He said I just needed to keep doing physical therapy...walk 2 miles a day...lose weight...move on.

Well, I did move on...sort of.  We moved to Missouri in 2003...and I eventually found an answer...sort of.  I connected with the Pain Management Doc in St. Peters who was treating Momma (for back pain, following her lumbar fusion surgery in 2005).  He ordered an MRI, and then we had a better picture of what I was dealing with.  I have apparently inherited my spine directly from Momma, as I also have Spinal Stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal column) and Degenerative Disc Disease [AKA: 'slipped discs,' at L2-L3, L3-L4 (yep...where I had the surgery) and L4-L5...more on that later]...all aggravated by osteoarthritis.

Then, bless him, he prescribed what I have come to call my 'arsenal:'  Celebrex (for the arthritis, in general...marvelous stuff!); pain meds (because I am extremely sensitive to the narcotic effects, he finally found a really mild one for me in Ultram/Tramadol); muscle relaxers (I have tried several...they give me some temporary relief, but I can only tolerate 2-4 days usage); topical pain relief (I use a 12-hour patch called LidoDerm, which is lidocaine); and what I refer to as The Zapper (a TENS unit, or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator, that provides pain relief by using electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves of the lower back). He also advised a series of epidural steroid injections, of which I received 4 over about a year and a half.

Moving on...

Well, I did...again.  This time to North Carolina, as you know.  And, you also know what my time here was like through last year.  I guess I was fortunate not to have too many back attack episodes...until...

January.  When I took that shortcut down the stairs, I thought I'd bruised my tailbone.  Owwww.  Apparently not. I apparently caused an annular tear at L4-L5, which is the final lumbar disc...just above the tailbone. Whatever...it hurt...and it has continued to hurt for weeks beyond when it should have stopped hurting. Enter:  a Neurologist.  He's a nice guy who apparently was absent the day they taught all the other Neurologists their terrible bedside manners.  I hate to generalize, but this one is the ONLY one I've met who actually seems to care...and to want to help.

Blah, blah, blah...more medical stuff.  Anyway, he ordered a new MRI, since the previous one was 5 years old, and that confirmed the annular tear, as well as the state of  the 3 herniated discs. He gave me an injection (he called it a nerve block) to alleviate the pain in my hip (probably due to bursitis, he says), and he recommended another round of epidural spinal injections for the back pain. Enter: the insurance company.

Apparently, the SAME insurance company we had 5 years ago looked at the new MRI of the SAME spine...which itself was now 5 years older...and decided that they would decline coverage for the SAME treatment(s) they had approved 5 years ago. Go figure.  They also did this two days before the procedure was scheduled, so it had to be cancelled.

Oh no they don't!  While I felt discouraged and so lacking in energy to fight, Mr. T was of a different mind, shall we say.  He soon found out how to contest their decision...they said they needed 'more information from the doctor'...which they got...and now I'm rescheduled for the injection on Monday the 19th...just a two-week delay. Way to go, Mr. T!

So, how am I feeling...really?  Better...really!  I've been using my TENS unit ('The Zapper') regularly...and I find I don't need the meds nearly as much. I'm trying to be a good patient by not overdoing it, and I've gotten lots of knitting done (more on that in the next post)...but...

It has been SO beautiful lately...and the Garden Siren is calling.  Spring has arrived, no matter what the calendar says, and in honor of the Season, I have changed my blog's skin...out with that wintry background!.  Well, it's actually more like Summer this week, with record-breaking temps in the 80's.  Yesterday, we were warmer than Phoenix!

Anyway, it's difficult to be an invalid when it is so warm and welcoming outside...and I have to admit to a few hours spent in the garden...well, the broccoli, cabbage, spinach, potatoes, lettuces, onions, carrots, and beets won't wait any longer to get into the ground!  Of course, I also have to admit I paid the price for those hours...by having to spend the next two days recovering.  Ah well...

Maybe the Tournament is coming at the perfect time. That should keep me inside...glued to the new big-screen TV (yowza!), knitting at near-record speed...and allow a few more days of "rest and relaxation," right?

If you believe that, you have obviously never been around me when there is basketball involved.

Oh yeah.  Let the games begin...indeed!


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