No matter what issue you may have, visiting a neurosurgeon is nerve-wracking. Last Monday morning when I got up, I did my best to go about my normal routine. Things were wacky anyway because the weather was yucky and there was no school. But I still exercised, ate breakfast, spent time with my kiddo and got ready for work, just like any other day. My appointment with Dr. Waterman was in the mid-morning, so I headed to the hospital after leaving my home. I listened to an audiobook on the way and just lost myself in someone else’s story for a while.
Once I got to the doctor’s office, there was the usual check-in and the medical assistant taking vitals and such. There were two of them, though, one training the other. Normally I don’t mind this, but on this day it bugged me. Have you ever met someone and for whatever reason, they just don’t like you? It may be you remind them of someone they despise, or maybe you don’t smell right or something. I don’t know, but I just got the impression that at least one of these women didn’t like me or I bothered them. And then the lead assistant offhandedly said something about the doctor’s favorite part of the exam being when he got to poke his patients.
Ummmm…excuse me? I was already doing everything in my power to not feel anxious and just breathe and not worry about what this doctor would say about my future. Then you joke and laugh about a doctor poking me with a needle? How is this fucking funny?!? When the doctor did come in, I started to initially feel a bit claustrophobic because now there were four of us in this small room, with all eyes on me. Dr. Waterman was great, though, very relaxed and a little silly, and when he asked if I was worried about anything, I told him that right now I was more worried about this needle he was going to poke me with. It was actually a small pin and he showed me how little it would hurt. (It was more annoying than painful.) He then poked both of my legs and feet various times to see where exactly the numbness and weakness was, to confirm what the MRI stated. The really weird part? He poked my right shin—ouch. He poked my left shin—nothing. I didn’t even feel it. THAT was weird.
I did a few other tests with him like pushing against his hands with my feet, walking on my toes and then my heels. (When I try to walk on my heels, the weakness in my left leg is still quite obvious.) At this point, Dr. Waterman showed me a few pictures from the MRI, showing me the herniated disc between L3 and L4 of the vertebrae in my lower back. He then asked if I could live with it. Did I want to do anything about it? Was physical therapy working? I told him that right now, things were good. I was just starting to run again and I was still doing my physical therapy exercises, so I guessed it was ok. “You guess?” he asked. Well….I don’t know! I was starting to get irritated with him. What are my choices then?
Dr. Waterman explained that the surgery was the simplest “procedure” he did. If I wanted the herniated disc taken care of, I would come in one morning, the assistants would prep me, he would make about a 2-inch incision in my back, operate and I’d go home later that day. I honestly can’t tell you what he would do if he operated (discectomy maybe?) because while he was talking I was already thinking, “Nope. I’m ok. I don’t want this.” And yet after the explanation and already deciding that I was not going to go through with this….I still felt so unsure. Was this the right thing to do? How long do I just deal with the pain and when am I supposed to ask for help? I thought I already did that, yet here I am saying “No thanks.” When the doctor realized my hesitation, he asked me the questions that I needed him to. “Tell me your concerns. So…you’re running now, right?”
“Yes,” I replied, “but I can’t run like I used to and I don’t know what exactly I *should* be doing.” My voice started to shake. “I….I don’t bend over anymore because my physical therapist told me not to. Do you know how hard it is to get clothes out of the dryer without bending over? And I don’t do a bunch of stretches I used to because I was told not to. I just don’t know what to do anymore!”
Dr. Waterman put his hand up. “Stop,” he said. “Live your life. Live your life the way YOU want to live it. If you can’t do that because of the pain, then I can fix that for you.”
Wow. That was….that was awesome. Ok.
I stood up, a little moist-eyed but good, and shook his hand. As he takes my hand he says, “And you know, I think with just some positive thinking, you’re going to be just fine.”
At that moment, I felt like this man had known me for a very long time, had known how negative thoughts have eaten away at me for most of my life. How they’ve ruined my self image, have made me doubt myself and my capabilities in nearly everything I’ve ever attempted to do. It was extremely unnerving and yet I felt like I was given an amazing gift.
“With some positive thinking, you’re going to be just fine.”
I’ve thought about this statement all week. And it’s been a tough week. Nothing extraordinary happened, but I just felt tired, worn out, wanted a vacation from my life. But this morning….I woke up and the sun was shining. We had been iced in the day before, but the roads looked ok today. It was 35 degrees and I wanted to be outside. So I donned my running clothes, put on my sunglasses and headed out for a 5K run. The road was much icier than I thought, but I just took it slow then sprinted the few bare stretches of road that existed. It just felt so damn good to be outside in the sunshine and moving my body. (Yes, I did dance once or twice.)
And the rest of the day? It was filled with cleaning the house, laundry, going to a 1-year-old’s birthday party (sweet!), playing UNO with my family, and reading. As I finished up the dinner dishes, I thought, “Man, I’d love to have a margarita right now.” So….I did. Just a week ago I would have thought, “Well, it’s Sunday and there are a bunch of calories in it so I’ll wait until next week or the weekend.” But tonight? Tonight I decided that the perfect way to end the week and be ready for the next one, was to drink a margarita (or two) and blog about how positive thinking is going to make me just fine.