No excuses, or too many?
I had surgery August 26th to have some problems with my cervical (neck area) spine corrected. The fusion I had done back in 1990 had deteriorated, and the C5-C6 area was no longer fused. The surgery corrected that, and also fused the C6-C7 disk space. The C4-C5 fusion was still intact, but the new surgery expanded a two-level fusion to a three-level fusion, with corresponding loss of range of motion in my neck. The doctor also put in a titanium plate to ensure a better fusion this time. Prior to the surgery, I was having headaches almost constantly. Afterwords, the number has dropped to one or two a week. I also don't have as much pain in my shoulders and neck area as I did before.
My wife's father went into the hospital in late September, and we had to make an emergency trip to Ruston, Louisiana. I was still in a neck brace, and couldn't drive. My wife and youngest daughter did all the driving. The trip is a two-day marathon each way. We only spent a single day with Smitty before lack of money drove us back home. At least Timmy got to see his great-grandfather one more time (this makes twice...), and at an age he might be able to remember him. Smitty died October 10th. He was 91 years old. I plan to write more about him in a later post. We weren't able to make the trip back south so soon, and didn't get to go to the funeral. It was physical problems more than money that kept us from going.
I got my neck brace off October 8th, but still had a long list of restrictions (no lifting of more than 5 pounds, no prolonged sitting, etc.) on me. I've finally had a few of those restrictions eased, but none of them are totally lifted yet. Maybe when I see the doctor again in January...
About the same time Smitty died, we found out that one of our friends from the 1970's, Roberta Clark, was in the hospital in Denver with a terminal illness. Jean went up there to see her three times, but I was still having problems with long drives, and wasn't able to go. Roberta died in mid-October, about ten days after we learned she was in the hospital.
I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes last February, and was doing pretty well on the medication I was taking until about the end of October. About that time, Walgreen, where I get my medication, changed vendors. My blood sugar has been bouncing up and down ever since. It hasn't gotten completely out of hand, but it's about 30 points higher than it was before the change. With the increased blood sugar level has come more pain and more foot problems. Apparently, something called "Diabetic neuropathy" is to blame, along with some just plain old-fashioned osteoarthritis, which I've had problems with for 30 years.
I used to get Ultram, a prescription pain reliever, in bottles of 720 for three months from the Peterson pharmacy, with three refills - a year's supply. Things have changed since those days, and now I can only get a month's supply at a time, with no refills - apparently to cut down on the abuse and resale of this very strong medication. I need it too much to do anything but take it, but we all pay the price for those that abuse medications. I at least now have things set up so that I can get a refill without having to make a doctor's appointment. Twice each year my pain level goes up significantly - in the fall and in the spring. I guess the change in weather patterns has something to do about it, but it's decidedly present. My pain level during six to eight weeks before the winter sets in more than doubles. The same thing happens in the spring, before summer kicks in. Luckily my pain doctor understands this, and is willing to work with me.
I saw my pain doctor Friday, and he and I discussed my lower back problems. He told me that I have "significant stenosis of the L5-S1 area", which is causing my pain. I hope to have him do something about it next year. I want to wait until after the summer, so I can take Timmy fishing. We only got to go three times this year. I should feel better, with my neck problems not causing me as much pain as it did this year.
Jean has back problems, too, although not as bad as mine - thank God! Unfortunately, every time her stress level goes up, she gets stress-related migraine headaches from her back. She's had them a lot the past three months, as you can imagine. She had to do ALL the driving for at least six weeks while I was wearing my neck brace, then her father was sick and subsequently died, then we learned about Roberta. She started having really bad migraines when we returned from Louisiana. This was one of the main reasons we didn't return for the funeral. Timmy started to kindergarten the week after my surgery, and Jean had to drive him to school and pick him up - I wasn't allowed to drive. Timmy does show some signs that the abuse he suffered back in 2007 has caused some developmental delays, and we've been taking him to physical, occupational, and speech therapy at least twice a week. All that put a much greater amount of stress on her than normal. She's finally, in the last week or so, begun to recover from the two previous months.
We've been worried about Timmy's school progress, but the last couple of weeks have been filled with one surprise after another. We can definitely tell he's learning, and more than just what he's being taught in school. He hasn't learned to read yet, but we expect him to be able to read simple books by the end of this school year. His handwriting has been a significant problem, but the extra practice he gets at home and from his speech therapist seems to be paying off. He still wants to write from right to left, instead of left to right. That would be ok in Japan, but English just doesn't work that way. When a little boy shows you a frisbee he got from McDonald's that he'd stuck a piece of Styrofoam plastic into, and tells you it looks like Saturn, you know he's learning SOMETHING!
As we get closer to the holidays, things are looking up. The only problem we still have is one a lot of people are having - a lack of money. My son-in-law has been out of work for several months now, and we're trying to help them out. My youngest daughter has had to take a pay cut, and we're helping THEM out. Our oldest son just plain doesn't have any money, and we're trying to help HIM out. We have enough to cover our expenses, but none left over for frills. Hopefully Blair will get a job, Anna will get a promotion (or a better-paying job), and even Joe can find something that will allow him to pay for his own bus pass and cigarettes. That will take quite a few burdens from us.