I have never been a particularly patient person. This is ironic to my nature, because I tend to require a lot of patience from others.......exemplified more than a little bit by my tendency to post extremely long and indulgently verbose blog entries. It's a pretty fair snapshot to my general personality: I am loud, and extremely talkative, and whimsical and spontaneous and high energy and more than occasionally annoying. I run primarily on my heart, which means when I'm happy, I'm OMG SO HAPPY, and when I'm sad, I feel it down to my bones. I'm not easy to love or put up with, which is why if you're one of the people to do so, I will truly, deeply, passionately adore you til the end of time. And though I'm obviously prone to hyperbole, that's not an exaggeration. The only time I don't have a problem being patient is when it comes to taking care of those whom I love.
But I digress. The point is- my general inability to BE patient directly conflicts with the fact that I frequently AM a patient. And it's why this latest installment of health shenanigans has been particularly trying.
For those of you in need of an update: I've had general back pain since some time in 2008. This was pretty well managed by a good solid massage to my lower back, right shoulder, and neck every few months. However, about six months ago I began to notice a very distinct increase in my discomfort level. My occasional migraines developed into a consistent headache, my lower back was in constant pain and started a bad habit of spasming at inopportune moments, and I started hearing a popping sound and grinding sensation in my back whenever I walked. I tried more frequent massages....then ice and heat therapy...then yoga and pilates...and finally overcame my fear of the chiropractor, to no avail. So finally, prompted by my family and aforementioned not-as-scary-as-I-anticipated chiropractor, I went to see my doctor. And thus began a nearly month-long journey of agony and frustration.
First, my doctor tried to convince me that the pain would just go away and no action was needed. When I insisted that the pain had been going on for months already, she suggested I try alternative remedies. When I reminded her that I'd already exhausted those options, she laughed them off as pointless, which seemed to contradict her suggesting them in the first place, but whatever. She finally gave me a back examination and seemed legitimately surprised to discover that my back was indeed swollen and spasming the heck out. She ordered X-rays, prescribed medication, and assured me she'd sent a referral to a back specialist.
Long story short, it took her a week to actually send the referral, which turned out to be for not a back specialist, but enrollment in some kind of physical therapy class.......which made absolutely no sense at all. I scheduled a phone consultation to explain to her that the medication wasn't helping, I could no longer walk without agony, and I'd like to get examined by a specialist. She still seemed to think that debilitating back pain was totally normal for a 19-year-old girl, so she asked me to "hang in there," and scheduled a follow-up for the next week. By this point I was considerably enraged, so I brought my totally fierce mom to that appointment for backup. I told the doctor in no uncertain terms that the medication she gave me wasn't helping at all and if I didn't see a specialist in the next 48 hours then I was just going to the ER. She sheepishly called in the referral right then and there, and 24 hours later I was FINALLY sitting in the specialist's exam room.
The specialist turned out to be almost as disappointing as my primary care physician. He conducted a very thorough examination, but didn't seem to really understand what I was explaining to him about my symptoms. Finally, he finished, sat me down, and told me I had fibromyalgia. Which made me want to punch him in the face.
(At this juncture, I'd like to point out that while I'm no medical specialist, I've spent a very considerable portion of the last seven or so years of my life in hospitals and dealing with various health crises, so I'm a little more knowledgeable than the average person. And I'm a certified pro at explaining my symptoms, knowing what is and isn't normal for me, and deciphering physician BS. End side note.)
Fibromyalgia is classified as a nerve disorder causing general widespread pain, which is intensified by touch, and appears primarily at joints in the neck, elbows, knees, and hips. It's also considered by many doctors to be a mythical diagnosis used to blanket a large array of symptoms rather than further investigate the cause. However, the debate over it's existence is technically irrelevant, because even if it is real, it didn't explain the problems I was having. I flat-out asked the doctor how that would relate to the pain and noise in my lower back. His response? "I have no idea what's causing that."
I wish I had an appropriate verbal explanation to illustrate my feelings at that moment. This is pretty close:
Beyond that.....just use your imaginations.
It's extremely hard to speak civilly when you're in tears and beyond aggravated, but I think I did somewhat admirably at this point. I told him I wasn't comfortable accepting a diagnosis or medication for something that didn't explain the symptoms I came in to get examined in the first place, and asked for an MRI. I think he was afraid of me by now, because he didn't argue. I threw my clothes on and hobbled my way to Radiology, where an angel of a man named Amrit saw my distress and announced to the receptionist that he'd do my MRI right that very moment, no matter what the schedule said.
(Let's pause for a serious round of applause for this guy, the most cooperative and helpful person in that entire hospital. I owe you one, Amrit.)
I left feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, but relieved that in the next couple days I would hopefully have some answers. Which was overly optimistic of me, as it turned out, because this all happened last Wednesday, and I only heard back from my doctor today.
The official diagnosis : "You have a large protrusion in the L4 and L5 vertebrae of your lower back. In addition, the L4 vertebrae has become oriented behind your L5 vertebrae."
Decoded: I have a slipped disc and two inverted vertebrae.
To rephrase from several posts ago: "I know, I'm super exciting."
My general feeling is one of huge relief. I was so tired of running from doctor to doctor with nothing but escalating pain and frustration that I was just anxious for something- ANYTHING- that explained my symptoms. All the pain I've been in was making my mind go to pretty scary places, so my relief is double: first that I have an explanation, and second that it's not something extremely bad like cancer or a bone disease or a broken hip. I'm so glad that we can finally move on to figuring out how to fix this badness.
And now, for the most important part of this post: I'd like to give a huge ginormous THANK YOU to all of you beautiful people who have been so supportive through this ordeal. In times of trauma, I push my already stretched-pretty-thin luck when it comes to people putting up with me, so your patience and kindness are even more appreciated than usual. I'm overwhelmed by the love and awesomeness of people around me. You guys are so cool, and are absolutely vital to my ability to cope with my considerable array of health challenges. Solomon observes in Proverbs 18:13-15,
"The human spirit can endure in sickness,
But a crushed spirit, who can bear?"
I've found this to be so true in my life, and especially apparent in the past month. All of the health struggles I've had in my life seem totally liveable as long as I've got such wonderful people to spend my life with. As rough as these past weeks have been, they were also filled with such an outpouring of awesomeness from people that my spirit felt lifted and buoyant in spite of my physical pain....which is great, because there are very clear remedies for ailment of the body, but no way to soothe a broken spirit without love. God sure wasn't joking around when he bestowed that wisdom on Solomon. He also wasn't joking when he promised his faithful in John 11:3-5:
"This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it."
This statement is particularly powerful when we realize that he was referring to Lazarus who DID, in fact, die.....and then was raised to life by Jesus. I'm definitely not dead, which means that my healing seems pretty easy by comparison to the recovery of Lazarus! And it also means that God can work wonders out of even the most desolate of situations, be it a dead loved one or a bum spinal column. My mission for the next few months is to see God's hand in my situation, and to open my heart to any way He wishes to use me for His glory even in my suffering. There have already been some surprisingly good consequences from this ordeal, which will have to wait for another post (or you could scroll down to see my initial thoughts on that.)
I promise, someday you'll all get the cookies you deserve for making it through these monsters. I love all of you and am so thankful for your prayers and general fabulousity!
"Do I need anybody?
I just need somebody to love....
I get by with a little help from my friends."
(A Little Help From My Friends, The Beatles.)