Although I am generally happy and optimistic, the months since I've come out have been extremely stressful and I've been on a "emotional edge" most of that time. I know it was this stress which triggered my spinal episode which I posted about here: Pain, Torso, Guys that Get Me Hard and Slowly Healing. Many of you have asked how I am, so here's my current status.
I've been frankly overwhelmed by all the support I've received, in online comments and e-mails and in my real life. Reading your words of support brought me to tears many times, a rarity for me. When I returned to work last week, I received a prolonged standing ovation from a group of thirty colleagues when I walked first walked in. I spent the entire day on the edge of tears, overwhelmed by everyone's support and concern.
At its worse, I was in continous, excruciating pain and had lost most of the use of one arm and both feet as my spinal cord was being compromised. I was was imagining life in a wheelchair. Although I am no stranger to life-changing medical problems, this episode highlighted to me how fleeting our health really is.
One day, I was training for a marathon and a few days later, I could not walk up three steps of a clinic without assistance. I spent that first consultation lying on the floor of the doctor's office in a fetal postion, gasping in pain. My pain was so extreme that I didn't even check out the bulge of the handsome young(ish) doctor sitting directly in front of me in an open-crotched pose. A shocker and very unlike me, I know!! Darn! Yet another missed opportunity!
Right now, I am pain-free and have been off of all pills for several weeks. I've regained use of my arm and feet although some numbness will return if I do too much.
I am bit hunched over with a slightly crooked neck and am extremely stiff everywhere. (I am happy to report that the part of me that I actually want to be stiff is working just fine, thank you very much.) Seeing myself in the mirror, I thought, "I look like some decrepit, twisted-up old man!" It was an 'aha!" moment when I realized, "Hey.... I actually am a decrepit, twisted-up old man!"
Diagnosis: both the X-Ray and an MRI showed that four neck vertebrae were involved, two 'severely degraded' and two 'moderately degraded.' I was first diagnosed with this in in my early 30s but it has gotten much worse. The excellent news is that the MRI showed no disk involvement at all and my spinal column was not compromised.
Final verdict.... my neurologist says that my condition is not yet bad enough for 'vertebrae-rebuilding' surgery. It may be needed next year or in twenty years. I've been referred for physiotherapy to restore full neck mobility and I will have to commit to doing daily maintenance exercises. In the meantime, I will do everything possible to maintain the status quo. Every type of holistic remedy has been suggested to me, from massage, yoga, acupuncture, 'visualization' techniques, relaxation techniques, medication and reiki. At this stage, frankly, I am open to anything.
The most important lesson learned is this:
You have to look after yourself: no one else is going to do it for you!