We finished the summer of 2012 with the kids, friends, family and more cycling. Our oldest was entering high school and our other son was entering 8th grade. Seemed like a great start to the fall, the only thing that would make it more complete would be another century bike ride. This ride was closer to home and I decided to ride it with a gal that I had met while organizing Team B.I.M.B.O. She and I had a strong start, however 3/4 into the ride, I began experiencing really bad lower back pain. (really?.. insert: super sad face here).
I finished that ride, but it was not the prettiest finish, if I could've found a SAG van, I probably would've taken it. The following week, I scheduled an appointment with my friend who operated on my neck, to see what he thought. We both felt that I could benefit from a spinal injection or facet joint injection. His partner saw me and treated me on three different occasions before he told me that I would really benefit from spinal surgery. My lower back had DDD (degenerative disc disease) and a couple areas were pretty nasty and two discs were herinated. The injections provided very little relief and the pain was beginning to radiate down the front of thigh, wrapping around my hip. Something in my spirit suggested I seek a new surgeon, not because I didn't trust my friend who repaired my neck, rather I didn't want to tempt fate!
I found another well respected physician and we scheduled my second spine surgery for April 2013. Seemed like a good time and would give me time to train for the 2013 Make A Wish 300 bike ride in July. Remember, I only needed four weeks to train last year, so my arrogant mind told me that I'd be okay with the same amount of training in 2013. What I didn't expect was sharp, sometimes debilitating pain in my middle back. Huh? We looked into that and wouldn't you know it. Gall stones. Bye bye gallbladder.
As I sit here and type the insanity of two surgeries in 2012 and two already by April of 2013, I almost want to stop here and not write any more. But, instead, I allowed several minutes to pass and decide to keep writing - because God was in it all. My gallbladder came out relatively easily. The worst part of that that procedure, was the nasty gas pains from having the surgery done robotically. The doctors pump your abdomen full of air and use only one entry point for the procedure. The advantage of the robotic surgery, is that the accuracy is spot on and you're left with only one small incision through your belly button. The major downside is the gas pain. It's simply impossible for the docs to release all of the air they pumped in, back out through that tiny hole. So, basically the next day you have excruciating pain that you can do nothing to rid yourself of. It simply rises up and releases through your shoulder. And once it's gone, it's gone. But wow, what a really bad 24 hours.
Anyhoo, so here it is July 2013 and I am going to bike once again, the 300 miles to raise money for Make A Wish. Except this time, God blesses me with my husband and a darling girl friend to ride with. The three of us rode, and her husband was our personal support. Yeah, well, it sounded good to us, except, he kept getting yelled at by the Make A Wish people for providing individual support. (a ride no-no). We figured out ways to keep him on the down low, and enjoyed his support on the course and in our hotel room. He took care of all of our bike needs and our fuel. That was awesome! The three of us were slowed down, only by me. My girlfriend and my man were strong each and every day, but I had moments each of the three days when I was really hurting. Percocet didn't touch the pain, it was that bad. They were kind to wait or allow me to catch up when I needed it. And we had loads of laughter on the ride. The middle day we had a lot of rain and the last day we started out with temps in the 40's. But we finished, and we finished as a team of three. Breathe...
I was determined that the pain I was feeling was just healing pain of lumbar surgery and sucked it up all summer long. Between July and October I biked over 2,000 miles. I biked everywhere I could! Trails, roads, metro parks. I didn't really care where I was riding, as long as I was riding. Much to my dismay, my back and hip pain was not getting better and I knew I was in trouble.
I went to my primary doctor and he of course, asked me to slow down a bit. But I was believing the lie that if I slow down, I'll stop and I certainly didn't want to do that. My cycling time had become a time of pain, but also of great time with The Lord. I would sing, pray, cry and bike. It also became a part of my identity. And I really like to bike... I agreed to slow down a bit, but almost the moment I mentally agreed to slow down, I realized that my body had agreed long before my mind. Pain again in my lower back, hip and thigh. This time, it wouldn't let up. Nothing I could stop the pain. Back to my doctor (thankfully, he's a friend first), this time, tears gallore came and I opened up about the pain. I think up until this point, I faked it quite a bit. I'd hide the severity of the pain or down play it.
He orderd an MRA (MRI with dye contrast) of my hip to see if perhaps the injury I had first experienced running the Brooksie a couple years earlier was the root of my problems. LONG story made short, yes, yes, it was. I found a local surgeon who specializes in hip labram tears and booked a time with him. The end of 2013 was quickly approaching and at this stage, we had well hit our medical insurance deductible, so getting in the hip repair was a no brainer. After my appointment with the surgeon, we discussed all that needed repairing and in short, he fixed the tear in the hip labram, he lengthened my trochanter tendon, repaired the hip bursa, and removed two large lesions off the top of my left femur. All arthroscopically. Crazy!
The only thing that would make all of this even nuttier, would be a surprise three weeks before the hip surgery. Drum roll please... that would be my appendix deciding to burst. Ha! I was sitting at bible study and felt crazy weird pains in my lower abdomen. I sucked it up for the duration of the study, but went directly to my gynocologist aftewards and a quick exam proved that I needed to go to the emergency room right away. I drove myself to the E.R., which is just as weird as you'd expect it to be. Upon exam there, they confirmed it was my appendix and it hadn't burst yet, and I was wisked away quickly. Bye bye appendix!
Voila! Inside of a year's time I literally have had four surgeries! Gall bladder, spine, appendix and hip surgery. All the while, God has been right here with me. He has provided me a crazy great family, caring husband, the best friends a girl could ask for, the best doctors, and time. Time to think, time to pray, time to heal. Time to slow down enough to write this blog. As I write this, I am wrapped up in a funky "ice man" which keeps ice cold water pumping through specially designed padding that is wrapped around my hip. It has been my main source of pain control for nearly four weeks. I can now walk with one crutch and even started sleeping in my own bed again Christmas Eve.
Romans 8:28 speaks directly to my heart and I am glad for it. "And we know, that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." God is moving in my life and through this blog, I pray I am able to communicate His goodness. You can see that I have explained seven surgeries in three years, in all these posts. It's my prayer that through these babblings you will see that things in your life are going to be okay. Any tragedy or difficult time can be a great spring board for you to see God at work. Because truth be told, when things are really great, we quiet His voice and work in our own strength. Ah, maybe that's just me...