Monday, August 29, 2011

Surgery instead of Skiing

So Chile is out. Uuuugggh. It's such a bummer, after six years, to finally have the means, a plane ticket, a writing gig, and a willing partner, the time and health (other than my neck) to go.

But over the past month, my fingers on my left hand have begun to lose motor function.

Yesterday, I went for my third opinion on my neck with Dr. Corenman of Steadman/Hawkins clinic. This guy is amazing, he has a reputation for being incredibly conservative and trying everything possible before cutting.

But now the motor nerve from c6 is compromised. Here's how he said it: I don't really care about pins and needles and pain. (he cares, it's just not that urgent). Those nerves, when compromised, come back well.

The motor nerve is deeper and when it begins to be compromised there becomes a chance that the longer you wait for surgery the less likely it will come back.

SO. About two weeks ago I had to stop working as a massage therapist, because i can't withstand any downward pressure with my left hand. It doesn't hurt at all, it just doesn't work, either.

Then, over the course of the next two weeks as I was waiting to get in with Dr. Corenman, it became hard to do things like button my pants, type, pull up a zipper, and push buttons on my phone (OH GOD! NOOO!!!)

Clearly tragic. Tweeting is difficult. My world may be ending.

One bright spot? I can still hold on to the handlebars of my bike. :-) and I don't have a thumb shifter on the left side because its a downhill bike, so I'm good to go.

I headed over to Steadman Hawkins on day 3 of the USA pro cycling challenge (the day they rode in Vail, yay!) and here's the news:

My lack of motor function is concerning, it is definitely from disc degeneration from my car accident in 2008, the ski fall I had last year did not exacerbate it at all (the herniation looks the same from the accident MRI and the post fall MRI), but over the last year, the herniation has become worse, as it will when you tear a hole in a jelly filled bag.

The reason that it feels better when I go trail running, DH mtn biking and yoga is because I flex the spine continuously in a way that makes it take pressure of the nerve, over and over and over again.

Sitting still hurts, sleeping hurts, computer time hurts. Riding in a posture other than DH hurts more, because my head is picked up higher, riding DH, my spine is in a more straight line, even though I'm looking ahead, because of the bike set up.

I go in for a nerve block on September 12 to diagnose if its going to be a one level or a two level fusion, and if its two level, here's the plan:

C5/6 disc will be removed and fused from the front with a titanium plate. C6/7 will be removed and replaced with an artificial disc. So I'll be a hybrid! (I hope that means I'm more fuel efficient.)

(Video of Artificial Disc Replacement - caution - Graphic!!)

What does this mean? It means no trip to Chile. Because I'm out of work until surgery, I have to take the money I'd saved for Chile to live on before and after. And its not enough. I had planned on working till we left, and working right when we got back. Now, I'm out of work from two weeks ago until Thanksgiving, unless I can find an office job. (which I'm working on).

I have a ton of Pre op work to do, as well, so I'm trying to wrap my head around getting organized in body, mind and spirit to do this.

Because State Farm is still not paying for all of this stuff, I'm getting creative. I have found some amazing people who are willing to work on me for trade or on credit, or against anything I eventually get from State Farm.

I spent about a week being really, really sad about all this. I really thought by one means or another, I'd get a month on snow to train in South America, either with a job, a client, or on my own after Labor Day, but its not to be. Okay.

I'm sad not to get to see Patagonia, and not to get to go explore and relax (while training my butt off) and do some good writing for SNOW, not to get to see Ushuaia, and not to get to spend some much needed alone time with my hard workin' man.

But wishing is suffering. I spent a few days feeling angry about those things, and then I let it go, its time to get this fixed, and that's way more important. I Can still train hard and do everything that I can to be ready if I get invited to tryouts. I can still be a strong Domestique for my training partner and try to get her in yellow!

Then, I got really worried and scared about the fact that I finally have had enough work to make an emergency cushion, which will not be enough to see me through the surgery and into recovery and then ski season.

I'm angry and frustrated with State Farm for not upholding their responsibility to pay for the fix I need as I see my livelihood and motor skill in my left hand disappearing daily. I am angry with them that I'm going to go into this with the additional crushingly scary idea of being without work and without income, incapacitated, swamped with medical debt, out of shape and with no means to support my kids. Again.

Man, I thought we'd got through this.

I spent about two days riding my bike and crying suddenly, just panicked about the whole thing.

And here's where I've landed.

My job now is to find some work I can do, so I earn something, so I can make it to Thanksgiving, recovered and ready to ski.

My job is to build my body as strong as I possibly can so that it heals faster because I have built a strong cardiovascular base and my blood is moving well, doing good nutrient exchange, and speeding healing.

My job is to build lots of extra muscle so that I have extra to lose while I recoup.

And i can't focus on what I didn't get to do. I can't feel sorry or wonder what if. I'm still gonna go for it. I'm still gonna train. It can only make me stronger, there are obviously lessons to learn from this, and i'm ready to learn them.

I'm going to give it my all, and that way, when I'm on the table, I'll know I've prepared myself as best i can, emotionally, financially, and physically.

THen, I'm gonna give it my all in recovery to come back healthy, strong and balanced so I can be the best teacher I Can be this season. And hell yeah, I'm gonna make as many turns as possible and tune those feet up as soon as i can, be it at 20% or 50%, so that when the day comes in April, I'm proud of what I have.

I will know that I've done what I can, and if I Do that, if I work as hard as I Can and I show up knowing I've done that, well, that will be enough for me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Lauren H said...

I feel your pain, I just went under the knife on Friday. I will again in about 4 weeks. It is scary but at the same time you can't go through life with the pain. I know that if I could never ski again or bike again I would be devastated. That's what I was facing when it came down to the surgery. I had to get it done because every time I put my boots or shoes on I would be in pain. The financial part is hard too. I am employed currently as a temp worker, so no sick time. It makes it even harder. BUT you will get through it. If you need someone to chat with about it, I am here. I wish you luck in your surgery. I am sure everything will work out.

Jeremy said...


Your in good hands. Since my t3-t10 fusion, performed by Dr. Corneman, I have achieved my cert 2 and cert 3 alpine, CS2, Freestyle 1, etc. Surgery Sucks, but hard work and focus through recovery makes all the difference.

Good Luck.

Jeremy @vivreaski

Liat said...

BRAVO! {{standing and clapping}} how inspiring! Thank you for sharing all these tough decisions with us.

Unknown said...

You guys are AWESOME! Thank you so much. It seems like it will be what I make of it. I love to hear inspiring stories of people who have gotten repaired and gotten out there and ripped!

Jeremy, Lauren, Weems, Andy... its gonna be not just okay, but BETTER cause, you know, its easier to pick my zits with two hands than one. :-)