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“How Am I Doing?”

2013 September 21
by Becky

Thursday marked two weeks since my successful microdiscectomy surgery.

Two weeks since my disc herniation was scraped away and a bone spur was shaved off, both to release a ragged nerve that’s been smashed and thrashed for what I guess has been about six months.

SO many people have called, emailed, texted, commented here on the blog, and even Instagrammed me to ask “how I’m doing”. I’ve gotten flowers, a beautiful design book (one that’s been on my list to buy for a loooong time), dinners, and, probably the most special gifts of all, help with Ethan. Not just help, entertainment. Loving care for my sweet boy whom I’m not allowed to lift or carry for six weeks (well four now, but it still feels like forever). 

MomGrandmaEthanMeTrioThe middle shot is pre-surgery…when lifting Ethan was less taboo.

First of all, my parents were here for over a week before the surgery and my mom stayed on another week after (in total, well over two weeks), so Ethan has been enjoying LOTS of grandma time—I think it’s safe to say they are best buds. There was also plenty of grandpa, great-uncle, great-grandma, and cousin time in those two weeks. And, to my personal delight, his best friend Claire (and her parents) invited Ethan not once but twice to attend very fun events—a trip to the zoo and then a parade complete with a bag-full (and tummy-full) of candy.


We are loved, of that we are sure.

But back to this question about “how I’m doing.”

I apologize if I’m elusive, repetitive, overly vague, or not-so-honest-sounding in my answer to this question when you ask. It’s not that I’m tired of being asked or trying to be evasive. Really, I’m not.

It’s that I don’t honestly know.

I don’t know how I’m doing. I don’t know if the surgery worked or if I’m getting better.

I can’t tell if the pain is worse, less, the same or different.

For perspective, when I say “I’m in pain”, it’s not like I’m in excruciating pain. It’s aching, pretty constant, and wears me out a lot. And sometimes it’s not there at all…hiding under the disguise of pain meds (which is Tylenol only now…no more hard stuff, it messes with my head too much) or really just isn’t bothering me right then. It’s just been going on for SIX MONTHS. And definitely keeps me from doing things.

Some days I’m really positive. I tell myself it’s healing, I head out for morning walks (not going that far, a mile or less at a pretty slow pace—doctor recommended) and think happy thoughts about the near future of Pilates and yoga classes, swimming, maybe evening spinning again. Just wearing workout clothes to take walks invigorates me.

Other days I’m completely defeated. I feel like I’m losing days of my life. Like this pain has forever changed me and I will never be the same person I was before…or whoever I wasn’t even finished becoming. I think about all the simple things I want to do—sit comfortably in planes and cars for longs periods of time in order to travel, trek through orchards picking apples, bend over to pick up toys or a dropped sock, lift my son and carry him up the stairs before bed—and am scared, no, terrified from here on out I’ll be unable to do them because of this ridiculous, unexplainable, injury.

And I am jealous when I see someone bend over to tie their shoe. JEALOUS.

This is when I stop and convince myself I’m A) being a huge drama queen, and B) feeling entirely too sorry for myself. People endure so so much more pain and still live happy lives. So many more traumatic and life-changing things are happening to friends, family, and people all over the world that make my little leg-ache issue seem like more than nothing.

But then as my friend Kate would tell me, “Yes, but this is your life and your problem and it’s important to you.” I hope she knows I always listen…even when it’s hard to hear.

So! To sum up. I’ve still got pain. I think it’s different. I’m moving slower, although I’m constantly trying to trick my brain into thinking nothing hurts, there’s nothing wrong. Which is 100% going against my doctors recommendation of doing “as little as possible other than walking” for six weeks, which is COMPLETELY different than what they said before the surgery.

Before the surgery they said “Some people are back to work within a week!” and “You’ll just have to be careful for six weeks” and “You will be able to function.”

My post-surgery instructions? “Do not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Don’t twist or bend. Be careful. Don’t do anything. Make sure to walk a lot. For six weeks. Or maybe three months.”

Prior to scheduling this procedure I told them I have a 2.5 year old. They didn’t inquire about my livelihood, like do I work or stay at home? So if I’m not supposed to do anything for six weeks wouldn’t they have told me to work out full time care for Ethan? For my household? For my job? For our lives?

What exactly is the outline of a day that follows these rules? I have a very very hard time doing nothing, letting things go, and feel ridiculous accepting help taking care of my child who really just wants to build with legos, read books, watch movies, and play with toys. I can do all that stuff, right? What about laundry, cooking dinner, going grocery shopping, and potty training my very-ready kid? Driving? Are those things ok?

I have no idea. But I’m doing them. But I’m being careful.

It’s very confusing to me, what I’m actually supposed to be doing during my recovery. I have asked. But I’m pretty sure if I leave my doctor’s assistant one more message “checking in” she will be kicking me out of the practice.

She hates me. I can tell.

I’m a horrible patient. But I swear I’m trying to do what I’ve been told.

My mantra is: This is going to get better. 

I’m young(ish), healthy, in good shape (or used to be anyway), and WILL be repaired.


I just hope it’s very soon. And hey, trying to “lay-low” gives me time to work on our 2012 family photo album that I’ve been extremely delinquent in completing.


MyPublisher and I have had a minor (possibly major) falling-out since they don’t allow books to exceed 100 pages and, well, our year was pretty full and I need at least 50 more. It’s looking like the Blurb plug-in for InDesign may be my solution.

So if you ask me “how I’m doing”, please bear with my stupid responses. I hope eventually to tell you “GREAT!!!!”

More surgery-related posts:
Blog Silence
My Microdiscectomy 6 Week Report
My Microdiscectomy 6 Month Report

**Just a side note for regular readers. I’ve been told that, even during our most scary life moments, my blog posts are always upbeat. It’s because I don’t like reading negative, complain-y, or critical blog rants and therefore I refuse to write them. This post was originally written during a very emotional moment. It involved tears. It was a BIG DOWNER. But when I write things like that, in moments of emotional distress, I always save the draft and come back later. Edits are made, things turn around, and just making my writing more positive, makes me feel more positive. So, while I’m always honest, my life is out here on the table for the world to read, I will always edit, always try to turn things around, and always make my best attempt see the positive side of every situation. 

17 Responses
  1. September 21, 2013

    Girlfriend, get thee a phone call through to your DOCTOR, not his/her assistant. So often they are not correctly speaking for the doc – I assure you this is unfortunately the case. It’s your body and you have a right to know – demand a phone call back from your actual surgeon. It will set your mind at ease maybe a little bit, and ensure you really are doing what you should/shouldn’t be (and truthfully post-op, sometimes those recs change based on how you’re healing, so it is completely possible that what they want you to do is different). For a lack of better words, don’t let that assistant cock block you ;)
    Jen recently posted..still alive!My Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      September 21, 2013

      I love you. This comment made my day! I think maybe I’m afraid the surgeon will blow me off even more, but that shouldn’t deter me. I should just suck it up and call. It honestly shocks me that they never planned to check in on me after surgery on their own!!

      • September 26, 2013

        Glad to have made you smile AND that you are feeling better!!! Bah surgeons….sometimes they need personality checks. But I’m very happy you are doing better!
        Jen recently posted..still alive!My Profile

  2. Linda Johnson permalink
    September 22, 2013

    I’m with Jen on this one. I too would call your Surgeon!!!

    Big hugs and love

  3. September 22, 2013

    I agree with the above. You have a right to ask, and they (should) have an interest in your ultimate outcome post-surgery.

    I can imagine that I would feel exactly the same way in a similar circumstance. You know you can do it all because you are used to doing it all. Not doing it all – for even a little while – is a tough pill to swallow. It’s hard to lower expectations, but I have to remind myself during the hardest, busiest times, that they are MY expectations, not anyone else’s. So you aren’t letting anyone else down, just yourself, and you get to choose just how much.

    I battled serious PPD with both girls, completely debilitating and terrifying. The second time around I could at least get to the point where I could accept the help (but only after hitting rock bottom again). Beating myself up only made it worse, but that’s different than feeling genuinely sad about the work ahead of you. It is work, and that sucks, but it has to be done, and you will do it.

    I know it’s so hard to do, but cut yourself some serious slack on everything else.
    Kristin recently posted..unplanned, but lovelyMy Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      September 22, 2013

      I am SO sorry you dealt with PPD…that sounds extremely awful and I can only imagine you were beating yourself up a lot…you are a very active mamma! Thank you for the advice, you are 100% correct. It’s just so hard not being able to do what I want, while wondering if holding back is even helping anything.

      Stu and I have decided, after talking A LOT about my back issues, that I HAVE improved since the surgery. There were certain times I’d have ridiculous pain (getting out of my car, standing up from a seated position) that I got so used to, I forgot about. but those NEVER happen any more so there. Stepping stone. I’m excited to even say it!

  4. Kristan permalink
    September 23, 2013

    Sounds like you actually ARE doing better, give yourself a little credit!! Major back surgery two weeks or so ago, seriously. I hope the coming weeks get easier and I think you’ll especially feel better when you can truly PLAY with Ethan. Take care of yourself, we miss you!

  5. Melinda Bradley permalink
    September 24, 2013

    Becky! I’m so sorry to hear (again) of your situation. I really can’t imagine. I believe there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, and you will feel true relief when you heal up, back to new. I really enjoyed your blog. I just came to it for the first time. Great stuff. You are one of those crafty moms I long to be. And, the school bus party idea. MWAH. I had a fantasy of starting a “party” place that had nothing but construction vehicles and school busses for the kids to play in. You pretty much made it happen, only cooler. Yours moved. So much admiration coming your way, today. Hope to see you tonight, lady.

  6. Stacey MacLeod permalink
    December 30, 2014

    How are you doing today? I found your blog as I was researching microdiscotemies. Today, I have a surgical consultation for the same herniation you had. I’ve had it for six months and tried everything else. I think it occurred from overuse, running, spin. I have a four-year-old son, who I miss cuddling with. I have to ask him to stand on the couch arm, so I can hug and kiss him. My “bad” leg is my left. I need some hope and would love to know your pain is just a memory.

    • Becky permalink*
      December 30, 2014

      Stacey I can honestly say pain is just barely a memory!! I didn’t even have back pain during pregnancy. I haven’t seen a chiropractor or taken any pain killers for my back in over a year now. It’s like a miracle. The recovery seemed long and hard at the time, but I’ve had a totally normal, very active life since about 3 months post-surgery. I’ve been spinning, walking, stand up paddle boarding, snorkeling, swimming, carrying kids all over, carrying a baby in a carseat, you name it I can do it. Of course I’m careful, no funky workouts or stretches that I know will aggravate it, and I consistently sleep on my side now, but things are very very good. The surgery gave me my life back.
      I wrote more about the recovery here and here. Good luck to you!!!

      • Stacey MacLeod permalink
        December 30, 2014

        Thanks for your reply! The surgeon recommended a microdiscotemy and I’m waiting for a call to schedule. I’m feeling a wierd mix of excitement and fear. I keep praying I make the right decision. My husband and I both think enough is enough, so.

  7. Stacey MacLeod permalink
    January 4, 2015

    I have to wait two months until the surgery! If the pain doesn’t get any worse during the wait, I can make it! I have my nest on the floor and my husband just ordered me a treadmill (I live in Michigan and the snow will soon prevent me from going to the gym. )We decided I can’t teach this semester, so money is a concern. Speaking of “we,” right now, I wish I had my relationship back with my husband. I have nothing to give him now. He spends all his time taking care of me and my son. I feel so needy and self-centered. This injury is so isolating, but I try to imagine how appreciative I will be of every day when the pain is gone. I’m having a tough time believing it will ever end. Somewhere in my heart, I know it will, but it’s difficult to focus on that. Again, thank you for this blog. I’m going to write about my experience too. There is much talk of how attitude matters in healing, but so little support in figuring out how to be positive–especially considering that any research conducted online leads to many sad stories. It feels like victim blaming, because the tools for positive thinking aren’t offered. They never tell you how to keep believing in tomorrow. What’s more, many administrative staff are downright miserable people, making it even harder to believe in good news. Physical therapists are often desensitized to the human suffering aspect of this injury. That’s why blogs like this are important, positive food. I know people recover from this injury all the time, but reading other hard, slow, glorious truth is the proof I need. Thank you. Sorry about my rant.

  8. Stacey permalink
    March 12, 2015

    I searched for this to reread today, as I am not having a good day. I still haven’t needed any pain killer, but I had a little more pain today than I have had since the surgery, even though I feel like I’m taking it easy. I had a bit of pain sitting today, just enough to scare me into laying down. I went to Target today with my husband and son, and I had a weird tinge of pain in my thigh of which I’ve never felt before. I cannot believe how slow I have to walk. It made my Target experience full of anxiety, because I felt like people were coming at me from everywhere. It was terrifying. Anyways, it sucks to be in this in between space. Tomorrow my husband goes back to work and I’m pretty worried about functioning and taking care of my son without any help. I’ve been living on easy street the last few weeks. I definitely don’t feel good enough to drive yet.

  9. Liz permalink
    February 17, 2018

    I just had a microdiscectomy a week and a half ago. Not yet at the two week mark. I’m still experiencing the scitatc pain in my leg….this all started 8.5 months ago. I found your blog looking for success stories and it’s giving me hope that I will overcome this and my life will be normal again, thanks for writing this when you did!

    We have something else in common…my son who will be seven in June is also named Ethan! He was two weeks late though.



    • Becky permalink*
      February 18, 2018

      Hi Liz! Congrats being almost two weeks out! At that point after my surgery I was 150% completely freaked out and convinced it didn’t work. Follow your docs orders, get off the meds as fast as you can, and try to be patient…it’s really hard. But you’ve spent the last 8.5 months in pain and it’s only a few more weeks till it will be fully on the mend, you can do it!!

      And how cool you have an Ethan too!! I adore that name, it’s the best. Ethan has another buddy Ethan here in VA, it’s really funny when we say their name and they both look up or come running.

      Thanks for reaching out and I’m SO GLAD I can give you some hope and GOOD LUCK!!!! Check back!

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