So, this blog post is going to be a little bit different. Usually I try and sit down on one of our super comfy ikea couches, get my laptop into that perfect “I’m going to get inspired and write” position, have a few sips of my coffee, and away I go.
Today though, is different. It’s 7:45am, I have just had a very pleasant conversation about the confusion of OHIP not updating my address (or family doctor… or phone number…) with a lovely nurse practitioner at a mini-hospital, a 45 minute drive from home. Jo and the brotato chip weren’t able to come with me today, which led to a few tears and panicked feelings as I left the house this morning at 6:40. The roads in our city were fine- the roads in Hamilton, however, were not and I didn’t want to be stuck on a highway, running late to an appointment I heard about yesterday.
So- how did we get here? We alluded to chatting about chronic pain (mine specifically) in our introductory post, but had to leave you guessing a little bit. But, after the phone call I received yesterday, I suppose now is the time.
In October 2017 I was running a restaurant kitchen on my own, working 50+ hours per week, with support from my mother and business partner as the “front of house” authority. Most of the prep work was being done, by me, alone in the restaurant between 8:30-11:30 each morning. I loved this time. It was quiet, I just got to cook (which is why I wanted to open a restaurant in the first place), I had my local grocery store memorized, and things were going pretty well. I wouldn’t say we were “busy” or “successful”, but people loved my food and we had a small group of regulars that I looked forward to seeing each week (Jo included!).
I still don’t know what “happened”. I don’t know if it was the hours I was working, how physical the work was, maybe it happened during sex? Maybe I just twisted the wrong way grabbing something from the fridge? Whatever it was, it hit me hard, and it hit me fast. I woke up one morning that October, and all of a sudden I could barely move. My lower back felt like there was a constant dagger buried into it, and someone (I’m pretty sure it was the devil himself, honestly) would come and just twist it around a bit when they felt like it. My left leg was constantly on fire with the fury of a million suns, and if it wasn’t – it was numb.
I tried to work through it. I took a lot of Tylenol, used some Rub A535, got a couple of massages, saw a chiropractor. I tried to work the same hours I had been, because who else would? My mother could run the restaurant by herself, but things were starting to get busy and the prep work wasn’t something she had been prepared to tackle solo. It was my restaurant. They were my recipes. All of the chefs I have had the pleasure of knowing have been the hardest working, dedicated, most under rated people I’ve met. My best friend at the time, K, was working almost 70 hour weeks – and running himself ragged – but there was something glamorous to me about pushing through. That being said, my main culinary mentor, who owns an incredibly successful BBQ restaurant in our region, has also always been one of those “work-til-you-drop” people, and ended up having a heart attack in 2015 due to stress. I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for punishment, I guess. I guess us culinary folk all kind of are.
It was hard. It was painful. I would come home from work and not be able to sit down because I’d been standing all day and sitting just hurt too much. I started having a(n even more) difficult time sleeping, my panic got much worse very quickly, and I spent most of my time drinking to be able to relax enough to, well, relax. I didn’t really feel like there was any other option, and then the worst happened.
2017, from what I remember, was a decent year for a winter in Canada. It wasn’t cold, we had more rain than snow, but we got a BIG dump, early in the season. Jo was working their old sales job, and my mother and I decided we didn’t want to dig the restaurant out, and most places in the area were either closed, or business was dismal. So we sat down, went over the pros and cons, and decided on two words: snow day.
Now. Why on earth would someone who is already in a load of pain, decide it would be a stellar idea to try and dig their little red sports car out of the foot and a half of snow in the driveway? Who knows. I sure don’t.
But I did it.
And I fell. On my ass. And slid down the driveway.
Everything that occurred after that point is blurry, fuzzy and just altogether a little f’ed up. I don’t remember much, but I do remember that that wasn’t the only time I fell that year (down the stairs, on the sidewalk, in my kitchen… I’m really f’ing clumsy, ok?!). I also remember that it became very clear, startlingly quickly, that I wasn’t going to be able to do much, let alone run a restaurant, for much longer.
(I also have to mention that closing my business was not my first choice. I have a universal/energetic theory about why I hurt myself – seemingly without cause – that I will get to by the end of this post, because I do honestly believe it holds weight. BUT, moving on.)
I saw my family doctor in late 2017/early 2018 and was told that herniated discs are pretty common and that it would clear up on its own in 6 weeks if I took it easy and essentially stayed on my back for a month and a half. Granted – I didn’t do that. I owned a business. So I bought a back brace (that I tried but failed miserably at remembering to wear), started doing some stretching semi regularly, and even changed the hours at the restaurant to give myself some time to rest, without shutting everything down entirely in the process. It was supposed to clear up “on its own” in 6 weeks. I could get through 6 weeks.
But 6 turned into 12. Strings of weeks turned into months of maybe-opening-maybe-not, people stopped coming to the restaurant because they didn’t know whether or not we would be there. Today, the day I’m writing this, marks a year and a half long battle with my body just not doing what it used to, and almost a year since I made the decision to close the restaurant for good.
I saw a wonderful doctor through the ISAEC program, who recommended me for surgery, saw a great surgeon that is pretty confident that this micro discectomy is going to make me feel better, and after almost a year of waiting, I got a call yesterday.
See, the thing about surgery here in Ontario is that you know it’s coming. You’re on a list, you “should get a call within the year”, and you know, at some point- you gotta go under the knife. This, thankfully, gives you some time to talk with your family, plan for the day, settle your nerves, get everybody on board.
The other cool thing about surgery in Ontario is that they have this option that, if you choose, they can call you in the night before and boom– you’re having that surgery that wasn’t supposed to happen until next year!- but you’re having it tomorrow so let’s get you in to see all these doctors and specialists and hospital admins and X-ray techs….
So. Today is Friday. It is now 9:00am and I have seen 2 nurses, an anesthesiologist, had my blood taken, had an ECG, and am now sitting in a completely different waiting room, patiently listening for my name, to get a chest X-ray. Monday morning, I will be walking into a different hospital, getting shot up with a bunch of stuff to knock me out, getting a breathing tube (oh god), getting my spine sliced open and then hopefully coming out feeling at the least a little bit better than I did when I went in.
If I’m going to be honest, my main concern isn’t (and hasn’t ever been) the surgery itself. Jo’s father was paralyzed, as I’m sure they will get into eventually (if not sooner, being triggered by this medical adventure we are about to embark on). THAT is my main concern. Your spine is tricky. Everything kind of works from that little line of nerves that travels the whole length of it. One slip; my legs, arms, body could no longer be under my control. The other concern is obviously not waking up, making my family worry. There’s so much on the line for such a “simple, routine” operation. But it’s happening.
To quickly jump back to my comment about my energetic reasoning for getting hurt: I believe we know what we honestly, truly want – even if that is subconscious. I was not happy with the way my restaurant was going. I worked a lot, I felt really tired all the time, I felt like nothing I was doing was helping to make us more money, I was losing time with my son, and it blew my relationship with my mother to smithereens. I wanted out; but consciously, didn’t feel like I could, honourably, surrender.
I was the one running the kitchen. So if I wasn’t able to- we couldn’t be open. Easy way out, right?
Don’t get me wrong- this wasn’t ideal. Lots of debt, even more stress, a lot of pain, grief, hurt. I felt it all. I filed for bankruptcy. I begged and pleaded for my landlord to let me out of the remaining 2 years of my lease (which, bless him, he did) and then literally loaded out almost everything I’d loaded in – with Jo’s help, of course – locked the door, and walked away from what I had thought was going to be my “thing”. And, strangely enough, my back slowly started improving (in fractions).
The universe will let you know when you’re ready to move forward. Things have improved, my life has improved since closing my business, but my back has become a constant 9/10 on the pain scale. I am a high-functioning person with chronic pain, and that was something I thought I would have to be for a long time, if not the rest of my life. But a simple phone call can flip the whole world, twice over, right in front of your eyes. This is the universe telling me I’m ready to not be hurt anymore. Im ready to move forward and go back to doing the things I love; like yoga, running and tossing my kid around. I had to wait a year and a half, but if my theory stands, I did this to myself anyway – and am so much happier for it now.
I’m terrified. My anesthesiologist told me today that I am going to wake up to a breathing tube sticking out of me, and I’ll have to be conscious and responsive for them to remove it. My surgery has been rescheduled twice, in the day since it’s been booked, and I haven’t met my surgeon yet. I’m scared. I’m anxious. I’m nervous. But I have a great support system to help me, I know I’ll be well taken care of, and I know that the people that love me now will still love me if I’m a different person at the end of it all.
Obviously, whatever happens, I’m still going to be me. But hopefully, by Monday evening, I’ll just be the same old me; minus a herniated disc.
(At least being couch bound means I’ll have lots of time to write!)
“Don’t do what you want. Do what you don’t want. Do what you’re trained not to want. Do the things that scare you the most.” – Chuck Palahniuk