Earlier this week, I went and got x-rays taken of my spine and hips, hoping to eliminate “stress fracture” as a possible cause for my sciatica. When I woke up this morning, I was greeted with an email message from my doctor with the results and it was worse than what I had imagined: I have degenerative disc disease/arthritis in my lower back. The pain isn’t going to go away. I’m not rehabbing an injury, I’m dealing with a permanent condition. There’s even a class I’m supposed to take (gotta love Kaiser and their classes) to help me manage it.
The first handful of websites I went to for information tossed around phrases like “chronic lower back pain,” “common in people over 50,” “low-impact aerobic activity” and “pain management techniques.”
I was already planning on going to the gym this morning for a swim, but I got there a little later than usual (what with the crying and all) and the lanes were starting to fill up. I shared a lane with a frog-kicking girl for a little bit, but honestly my head was such a mess that I bailed out on the workout after just a few laps.
When I got home, I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement. I know this doesn’t sound like a smart thing to do, but it had to be done. I had too many thoughts swirling around in my head to process them all, and running is the only way I can sort this kind of stuff out.
I spent the first half of my run feeling sorry for myself and pondering the what-ifs:
What if I can’t even make it to the starting line of my Half-Iron?
What if I never run another marathon?
What if I never run another race again…ever?
That last one nearly brought me to my knees. I know I’m not fast and it’s not like I’m competing for prizes or even a spot on the podium, but being a competitive athlete is WHO I AM. Who will I be if I’m not a runner?
By the time I turned around and headed for home, I was getting mad. F#ck you stupid back pain. F#ck you knee pain and waking up achy and never feeling completely comfortable. F#ck you “pain management” and “chronic condition.” I am running, do you hear me?!? I don’t care if it hurts, I. AM. RUNNING!
The thing is, I am a glass-half-full kind of girl, so I need to find the positives in this situation. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far and I feel certain that I’ll be adding to the list soon:
- It could be one bajillion times worse. I will be alive to raise my kids and love my husband for many, many years, even if my stupid back hurts.
- IronHubs and I have been kicking around the idea of getting a Tempurpedic bed, now I have a real reason!
- I am REALLY going to kick ass in the pool now that it is my primary sport. No more holding back and thinking “I’m working on my swimming (until I get back to running).”
- I’ve come across several websites that suggest I will be able to bike again, which is awesome.
Thank you in advance for all the nice comments and positive thoughts. You guys are the best! I would also be happy to hear any “My cousin’s brother’s wife’s friend had this and she made a miraculous recovery by following these specific steps”-type stories!
I have no wonderful stories of miracles for you, but I DO know that as a “glass half full” kind of girl, you’ll figure out a way to make this work.
Lots of positive thoughts heading your way…
Katie V. says
Good vibes coming you way. Sorry to hear that it was discouraging news. I think you’ll find a way to make this work because you’re such a positive person.
Way to find the silver lining!
I have an L5 degenerative disc and I often deal with injuries. The key is to keep a strong core. I can run, bike and swim but I have to keep a strong core or none of this is possible!
You will be able to do everything again!
Jogging with Fiction says
Oh man, I’m so sorry to hear that! It sounds like you have found the silver lining, though. I know you can figure this out, I mean, c’mon, you’re the badass who swims OUTSIDE in the freezing cold.
Matthew Smith says
Wow, that’s a rough start to the day. Way to be positive about it, I guess. Hang in there!
Candice @ I Have Run says
You are my hero. It would have taken me weeks to find the silver lining and you are already kicking a$$!
And I like what Christi said. It sounds like you aren’t going to let this beat you down =)
Stay positive. The body is pretty amazing.There are people out there whose doctors told them they would never walk much less run and they are running marathons. Not to discount doctors, but it is “the practice” of medicine. I don’t know how your biomechanics are but you might check out ChiRunning. It gave me my running life back after taking several years off. It’s just a thought.
I’m sorry to hear that! A few years ago my orthopedist told me I would need to really lower my mileage or I’d be having knee replacement way too soon. I started pool running all my recovery days (& sometimes the other runs too) and everything feels so much better. I am not a triathlete, but I always thought pool running would be a great way for triathletes to get their “miles” in without having to hop out of the pool. I’m glad you are looking at all of your options! Hope you find something that works! 🙂
Small Town Runner says
oM GOODNESS! So sorry 🙁
I do have a friend with arthritis who is a runner, despite it. It helps with her pain, she says.
I am so sorry about your diagnosis!! That just sucks!
And, although I’m sorry that I don’t have any positive stories to share with you, I know you will find a way to make it work and get through this!
I’m sending lots of positive vibes your way!
We’ll start with honesty: This sucks.
But, yes, it could be so much worst. And you’ll find ways to deal with it. And it cannot strip you of who you are, it may just make you get more creative.
Oh, I’m so sorry. What awful news. 🙁 I’m glad you’re already looking for the positives. I personally think swimming is awesome and I know that whatever happens you will still totally rock! Hang in there.
I felt so awful reading this post I wish I could reach through the computer screen and give you a hug. I’m very sorry about your news…but I truly don’t believe this is the end. I KNOW that you can do your half iron and run again. You want it badly enough, it WILL happen.
You are truly inspirational. I like to think I’m a glass half full kinda person too, but I definitely would have melted into a puddle of despair and not seen the positives nearly as quickly. And there are positives – yay new bed! You are going to be the QUEEN of swimming. You are going to have strong sexy swimmer’s arms!!
Runners are not defined by how many miles they run and how consistently they run them. I think a runner is defined by the overwhelming desire to run any and all the time (when it’s cold, when it hurts, when it’s too far) and a runner is the person who gets excited about their next race, whenever that may be, and who cheers for other runners whenever and wherever s/he spots them.
Stay strong P – you’ve got a crowd of supporters online waiting to read your miraculous success story as it develops!
I’m like Christi and have a couple of degenerative discs in my lumbar area with some arthritic changes. My physio told me that this was pretty normal for a woman of my age – and I didn’t feel offended about the age comment cause she’s a week older. She gave me lots of core work, stretching and mobility exercises which I did religiously and I rarely have back pain now. I don’t know if yours is the same or worse but I do recommend finding a good PT and seeing what they can do for you.
Jim ... 50after40 says
I have no words of wisdom, other than imagine the inspirational story you will be when you DO COMPLETE your next half-iron or marathon! Hang in there – I can’t imagine that much pain. The good news is … it’s 2011 and there’s gotta be a way to manage it for an active person like you! Best wishes!
Ok. I can’t tell you something like “My cousin’s brother’s wife’s friend had this and she made a miraculous recovery by following these specific steps.”
I CAN tell you I have degenerative disk disease, have had L5/S1 surgery 20+ years ago and so much arthritis that multiple doctors have told me it is not a question of if but a question of when for a hip replacement. Oh, and by the way I am doing IMFL in November.
Send me a private email if you want but focus on what you can do, not what you think you can’t and you will amaze yourself.
Wow. I am very sorry to hear this. You started out kind of joking and I am so sure you didn’t feel that way! I can’t imagine how this would make me feel. I am glad you are a half full kind of girl. Keep looking for those positives. Yes, it could be much worse but give yourself time to be upset with this. BUT I am looking at the comment above and that looks great! Get in touch with RockStarTri! Good luck!
Chris K says
I am so sorry to hear about that. Search the internet for fellow endurcance athletes with the same condition and you just may find some amazing stories of people who found a solution to overcome it without affecting their performance. You never know.
Please please please try Bikram yoga! I know I’m not comparing apples to apples here but it completely eliminated my back pain. I used to wake up in the early morning and curl myself up in a ball or sleep on the floor because of the pain. Bikram yoga not only helped but completely eliminated my back pain. It’s got to be worth a shot, right? There’s a bunch of testimonials on the Bikram website about how it’s helped with a bazillion different things. Here’s one on sciatica.
I’m so sorry! Sounds like this came as a total shock. I don’t remember if you already go to physical therapy or not but I highly recommend it. Anything you can do to strengthen your back muscles, your core, and your glutes will take some of the pressure off your back. Good luck, things will look better in a few days once you’ve adapted to the news, I’m sure…
This is terrible to read! I am really sorry that it has come to this. But I am happy to read that you are looking for the good in all of this. You are strong!!
I totally recommend getting a Tempurpedic bed. It literally overnight made sleeping WONDERFUL. The thicker the foam, the nicer it is. I will NEVER buy another non-Tempurpedic bed ever again.
The Green Girl says
Sending you tons and tons and tons of positive energy!
Big hugs girl– I am sad to read this and sorry I’m seeing this so late. It sucks for sure but it’s lifes way of putting obstacles in your path. Obstacles you can overcome and emerge stronger, mentally and physically. I know you’ll find a way around this, whether it’s more swimming, another hobby, whatever. Hang in there.
Oh P, I am so sorry. I immediately teared up for you and how challenging this whole concept must be for you to deal with. You are super strong and should not be thinking about what you won’t be able to do. Most doctors will be cautious with you, but you know your limits. Find a doctor that is an athlete would be my advice (runner or multisport). I bet you can continue much of what you do and that it will hep you stave off the negative effects of this disease. Best of luck, your half iron is in the bag.
I’m sorry… this is crappy! 🙁 But, like the others have said, I know you’ll find a way to push through! ((HUGS))
MCM Mama says
I’m sorry. That’s truly sucky news. I think you’ve gotten some great advice above, so I’ll just send some virtual hugs your way.