It hardly seems possible that it’s really been 6 months since my surgery, but I can’t deny the truth of the calendar. I’ve gone from the heat of summer, to a beautiful fall of color, to the depths of a snow packed winter. I’ve gone from walking with a walker, to a cane, to slow but deliberate walking, to the ability to walk as much as I want. I’ve gone from no lifting, bending, twisting, through a slow and steady recovery, to being able to lift what I need, bend forward and touch my toes, and gentle twists in my upper body. I’ve learned how to protect my back muscles and keep my spine stable. I’ve learned to kneel and squat down instead of bending at the waist to reach things on the floor. I’ve strengthened my hips and legs, and I’ve worked to strengthen my core muscles, the big and little ones, and I’ve worked to strengthen and stretch my back muscles and the muscles in my legs and hips. It’s been a huge recovery process, but I feel good with my process and what I can do now.
This past week I had a visit with my surgeon. New x-rays show my fusion is growing stronger, and all the rods and screws and cages are doing their job. He is pleased with my progress, and the strength and flexibility I’ve gained. He commented that it looked like I’d dropped a few pounds (yes, validation!), and that it looked like I was more comfortable. I agreed with him, and asked him about continuing restrictions. For the past 6 months I’ve been to avoid using a heating pad, and no use of NSAIDS. I’m cleared to use them now if i feel the need. I’m cleared to lift safely and smartly. We talked about craft shows, and that I am to be careful and not lifting while bending or twisting, and to keep my boxes packed on the light side. I’m allowed to walk, jog if I want (not likely), ride a bike, swim (also not likely), and do as much yoga as I like so long as I’m careful during twisting poses and don’t ask too much of my body. I’m to be careful and extra cautious in the snow and ice – NO FALLING. The fusion itself will continue to heal for the next year, but I’m right on track. His parting words to me were, “Call me if something comes up, but you MUST DO YOUR EXERCISES EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.” Alrighty then, message delivered doc!
The next day was my appointment with Brenda, my physical therapist. She put me through the paces and did some massage on my whole back (I was a little extra stiff apparently). She talked about challenging my strength and using some resistance along with more repetitions. She sent me home with some bands to use. She agrees with the doc’s assessment to keep doing what I’m doing, and keep adding strength challenges. She talked a lot about being aware of my body mechanics, and listening as my muscles gain strength. When you get stiff or sore, take the time to rest and stretch things out before doing more. When you feel like you need to sit and rest, do so. When you feel like you need to get up and move, do so. When your muscles get tight, use your massage stick and tennis ball to release the tension. And you MUST DO YOUR EXERCISES EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
So apparently, I keep moving along and doing my exercises for the rest of my life. I knew going into this surgery that as important as what happened that day in the operating room was, that my recovery and rehab would be even more important, and a life long commitment.
My food tracking app tells me that I’ve been tracking food and eating cleanly for 47 days now. I’ve also been riding my exercise bike regularly, and working hard on my PT exercises and doing yoga a few times a week. I feel like I’m in a healthy mindset, and the doc was right, I have lost weight since the first of the year. I’m not dieting per say, but I’m also not eating crap. I’m monitoring my calories each day, and avoiding eating grains and starches, and avoiding sweets and overly processed food. I don’t feel deprived, and I’ve been enjoying looking for and trying new recipes. We have been eating a lot more fresh produce, and I know I’m feeling much better in general – I have more energy and am sleeping better too.
If you aren’t in the Pacific North West, let me share that we have been given our entire dose of winter…in a couple week’s time. It just keeps snowing…many inches in the cities, a lot of wind, and out in the hinterlands where I live – we are measuring the snow in FEET. There have been school closures, road closures, and when you do get out and about, the roads have been a mixed bag of snow covered, slush covered, clear, and drifts. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful…but I’m tired of it. The closed the university for a day last week, and we had late start another day…and those things hardly ever happen. It’s been several years since the last time it happened.
Last weekend the snow created all kinds of havoc. Wind gusted snow across the roads creating white out conditions, and drifts accumulating in the roads. It just wasn’t safe to travel out of the cities. After a series of messages between our pastor, the elders in the church, and myself, and a bit of prayer – I was asked to not only lead our service because our pastor couldn’t make it down, but also to deliver the sermon. I’ve had to do this before due to weather, but she wrote the sermon, and I just read it. This time, she and I spoke at length, and her sermon wasn’t a good fit for me to deliver. God has been pushing me recently to step out of my comfort zone more and more. So I spoke to my pastor about a sermon idea I had. She approved of the direction I was being led, and I sat down Saturday evening using a sermon outline another pastor had written, I wrote a sermon on the Power of Prayer. I used my lovely new bible to find appropriate scripture references, and listened to my heart as I was writing. I sent it to my pastor to look at, and for any last minute changes, and I went to bed.
Sunday morning I got up and ready for church, printed the bulletin that Pastor E had sent me, read her words of encouragement, and printed my sermon notes. My little country church congregation was lovely and supportive as I not only lead our service, but delivered my first official sermon. I went ahead and recorded it with my phone, to send to pastor, and a few close friends. After prayerfully considering my options, and the motivations behind them, I’ve decided to share it with you as well. May my words truly bless you.