My back is hooped! I need a new one.

My lower back is permanently damaged because of an industrial injury that I had when I was around 20 years old, followed by a disc removal in my lumbar region. Over the decades that injury and surgery have often left me incapacitated and practically immobilized at times. The pain spikes up to a 10 at times although if I lie still it’s manageable. Dare I try to move and I get gut wrenching debilitating pain spikes. In 2002 I was diagnosed with kidney cell cancer so a surgeon removed my left kidney leaving a 14 inch scar from my abdomen in front to close to my spine at the back. Gladly, the cancer had not metastasized and I’m cancer free 16 years later. The pain from the surgery, however, has not abated much and it has joined up with the pain from my disc surgery and injury to create a crazy nexus of pain on my left side from my hip  to my upper thoracic area. Joining this happy little pain scenario is a B12 deficiency that has left me feeling constantly hung over and exhausted. Add to that a couple of other injuries to my right knee and both shoulders makes life very interesting. So, what have I done about this and what can I do now about this?

Through all of this I’ve tried to maintain some normalcy in my life. At times it was impossible and I had to take months off of work on three occasions. Now that I’m retired I can’t take time off anymore! Such a drag.

Over the years, I’ve tried a number of ways of dealing with my back pain and I’ve had scores of very well meaning people suggest ways that they’ve tried and found effective  in dealing with back pain including any number of varieties of physiotherapy, exercise, massage, acupuncture, yoga, meds, diet, etc., etc., etc. I have availed myself of most of the remedies recommended. Nothing seems to work for any length of time although I have gotten stretches of pain-reduced time over the years and I have been able to paint, sculpt (even using a chainsaw), printmake and putter in my shop. I cherish those times, and I want them back.

A couple of days ago, we (my family and I) attended my mother’s funeral in Maillardville. Before leaving my daughter’s home in Vancouver to go to the church for the ceremony I thought I would reach down and tie my shoes. Big mistake. That triggered a pain reaction in my back that almost had me passing out. The ceremonies at the church and later at the cemetery were very difficult because of the pain, never mind the grief. Yesterday, I drove home and although I was not entirely pain free, I was more or less comfortable. That’s the way this pain syndrome works. It comes and goes. This morning I did a stupid thing again. I tried to tie my shoes. Not too bright, this old man. I was aiming to go with Carolyn to walk the dog. Instead, I lay on the couch hopped up on T3s. I’ve got some pain relief right now and can sit and type this on my computer, but I have no idea how long this will last. Tomorrow, I call my M.D. I doubt he can do anything, but maybe prescribe some more T3s. I see a neurologist at the end of February. I hope he will be able to help me with the pain, the exhaustion, the dizziness, etc.

I tell you this not because I want sympathy. Maybe a little understanding would be good, but that can only come with knowledge. Hence this blog post. One problem is that most of the time I look pretty normal and healthy. People assume that I am and I don’t blame them. I do, however, find it a little frustrating when people ask me how I’m feeling. I don’t know what to say. It’s complicated. I have normal blood pressure, my pulse is good. In fact all my vital signs are good. I’ve just had an MRI that told me that my brain is in pretty good shape. So, yeah, it’s complicated. It might be good for those of us who experience debilitating pain to have a gauge implanted under the skin of our forearms indicating the level of pain we are experiencing at any given moment. I’m joking, of course, but…

Being at my mother’s funeral a couple of days ago was sobering to say the least. I couldn’t help but think about my own mortality and morbidity. My eldest sister is 82, almost 83 years old. She’s in good shape and could easily live well into her 90s. Most of my siblings are in good shape although MS and other autoimmune issues run in the family and I expect most of us will live long lives. It’s in our genes. But my parents’ generation is almost all gone. It’s our turn now to leave this mortal coil, and we will, one after the other, it’s just a matter of time.

More about my take on life and death in my next post coming soon.

10 thoughts on “My back is hooped! I need a new one.

  1. Roger – thanks for the courageous post. It takes a lot to speak about pain without whining…and you don’t whine! I feel very fortunate that pain is not part of my everyday life and I simply can’t imagine how it must be otherwise. I get debilitated with pain whenever I’d had a little and after a day or two of it, I’m just grouchy and miserable.

    I have no ideas for therapy but sit here wishing this wasn’t your reality (or anyone else’s for that matter0.

    Just letting you know I”m out here and I hear you.




    1. Thanks, Bette. Unfortunately it seems to be a reality for too many people in my family. We are prone to autoimmune diseases, but we are still a crazy bunch of irreverent, upbeat people. Well, most of us, anyway.


    1. I do what I can, when I can, Marilyn. But it frustrates me because I have many ideas for projects that I can’t do right now because of the pain. Thanks for your thoughts.


  2. Hi Roger
    Thank you for all your posts.
    Pain is a demon that is hard to tolerate let alone embrace.
    I admire your tenacity and have for many years. I hope your Drs can help and that you can enjoy an active life as best as you can for many many more years. You have had quite the assault on your body in the years I’ve known you. You are a great mentor in so many ways Roger.
    I am so glad to know you and to have shared time with you.
    Injuries and arthritis. Damn !!
    What a challenge it became to do the simplest of things.
    Spine knees hands neck head shoulders …. all the fun we have had over the years and Yes I still want more too !!
    Old injuries plague me too, though getting them at the time seemed to be just the cost of the adventure.
    Mind you, the lack-of-skill saw into the knee wasn’t particularly adventurous, nor falling through and also off the roof twice !? Daft.
    I used to jump off waterfalls just for fun, and to feel scared. What a rush.
    I take lyrica anti depresssants and sleeping pills every day. Some days I add ibuprofen, motrin, anything that might help. Some days I am good, some days unable to stand let alone walk.
    I used to take 1800mgs of ibuprofen 3 times a day on top of the lyrica etc just to be able to keep teaching part time at NIC. I think I did that for 8 years. I know I wasn’t able to keep going like that. I did the same the last 4 or 5 years when I was instructing in outdoor ed and guiding, and teaching the future instructors.
    I stopped that out door ed work before the time arrived when I knew that I would
    be a liability, meaning before I couldn’t carry an injured client ‘out’. I still had a lot useful information and experience to share. I think I still have.
    It is all harder to do in a set timeline.
    In case you are wondering, yes
    I still have a kayak and work at being able to sit in it and do stretches. I had it on the floor in my studio all last year. I haven’t put it in the water yet. Maybe this year, and with company.
    I always thought I’d repeat solo, many of the trips I used to guide, and travel slowly and sketch and paint the journeys at a pace akin to a meditation afloat.
    I still hang onto that possibility and keep working towards it.
    I also know I am so fortunate to have worked in that life for nany years. I have been very fortunate !!
    I love reading and that takes me out of my body and into my senses, which is also what the kayaking and climbing and skiing and snowboarding and mountain biking and sailing all used to do too.
    The adrenaline rush was a bonus : )
    As for the art, well that continues to be a release and relief and a frustrating challenge.
    I don’t bend to tie shoes anymore, I kind of kick them on and off because I have them laced and double knotted a bit loose because elastic in socks or tight shoes put me over the edge. A long shoe horn is a worthy friend : )
    Over the years Tom Brudenell showed me a ‘swiss army knife’ (my name for it) of strategies, and the very kind nurse and the library at the pain clinic in courtenay too.
    I found sessions at the pool with physios trained in aqua workout to be really helpful.
    Also Amanda Howe gave me info on herbs and diet that I am still using.
    Winters are challenging.
    I have a SADlight and D3’s and B’s etc. Just getting out for a walk is so rewarding even in this pissing grey windy wet weather.
    Despite all I have written here about pain and depression, I Know I Am Very Fortunate. Being Alive is an amazing thing. I don’t have the language to put that into words. I try to paint it into view, but the ‘real thing’ is the real message.
    Here we are. It is fantastic to be here. Even Trump will pass. All things will pass.
    Be well Roger.
    Know you are loved.
    Keep being strong and putting the pain to one side when you can to live fully despite the difficulties and be alive in your senses. It is a beautiful life no matter how ‘diminished’ and difficult it might become. This is what we have and it is always ‘now’.
    Well that was a long ramble.
    I have been sick with flu for 3 weeks. Living alone I guess I have a lot of unspoken words chomping to get out : )


  3. Hi Roger I think I posted a comment to this but am not sure it worked. I have been mostly in bed for 3 weeks with the flu. A bit starved for conversation haha. You are a revelatory awesome human being. I am really sorry you are dealing with debilitating pain. It is such an effingmofo. And that is an understatement. I hope your Drs can give you some relief. I have been living on anti inflams antidepressants and lyrica and sleeping pills for so long I don’t remember what it used to be like. I miss so many things, and also am so grateful that I enjoyed them in the first place. Yes, I want them all again. I live alone and have since 1993 and for most of my pretend adult life before that. I have ‘issues’. I know I am sometimes useless at comunicating. Most times I adore the solitude. Sometimes it is crushing. I have a few very dear friends and am so thankful for them. For you : ) I struggle with reading your posts because you are so honest and I admire your honesty, and I hurt for you. That hurt doesn’t help you with your pain. I am sorry I don’t know how to help you fix it. I think my family role was as mr fixit. Never fukin worked haha humph. I have been living with brutal pain for many years. It hasn’t gone away, and actually gets worse in frequency. A 10 is always a 10, and that is a wierd comfort on the bad days. I took a very unhealthy dose of ibuprophen for years so I could manage to teach at NIC. I wasn’t always there at 100% and regret that. I truly loved that ‘job’. I am still having difficulty accepting that I am no longer useful there. So here I am in a little old cold damp house in the Q Cove ferry parking lot looking to re-invent myself into retirement. At times I think I feel so old and useless even though I know that is a load of bull. Keep your feet warm : ) Xo j



    1. Your first post did come through, John. I wasn’t able to respond right away, but it was moving and welcome. I have a few friends and family who live with debilitating pain and they understand what I’m experiencing. Sometimes I wonder if all my pain is self-inflicted. I’m sure some of it is. I’ve had concussions, skull fracture and broken ribs as well as other bone fractures, some from hockey and others from car crashes. I’d have to say that some of those were mainly self-inflicted, at least tangentially. If I’d never played hockey or driven a car, I would have avoided those injuries. The kidney cell cancer and consequent nephrectomy, appendectomy and laminectomy were probably not self-induced, but I don’t know. In any case, my body is a bit of a wreck in some ways and not at all in others. It’s complicated. I see my MD this afternoon. I would like him to book an x-ray on my side and back. Not sure what that would show, but if it shows anything, I want to know about it to better explore options for rehabilitation, if that’s even possible. In any case, life goes on, as with you. At least we live in a beautiful part of the world. It’s sunny right now. We’ll go out soon for my appointment. Take care, John. By the way, I love my long shoehorn. I’d have to go barefoot everywhere without it.


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