Thursday, March 22, 2012

Recuperation Ended (Mostly): Part 3

-----Not quite this yet

but approaching this ------

Well, mostly free. I am now officially  weaning off the collar after 12 weeks under wraps. (The process is to take ANOTHER 9 weeks. Bah humbug!) Twelve weeks ago today I had my anterior cervical corpectomy with fusion. I have been a good and obedient patient. I have worn the collar as instructed. (Alright- I loosened it once in a while, but I had permission to do that if I was just sitting and watching TV.)

I have learned patience and how much we move our heads on our necks. I have learned to be a (very slightly) better passenger in a car driven by my wife. I have learned that people are concerned when they see the collar and usually express concern that it wasn't caused by an accident. I have learned how many people have actually had to wear one of these things.

But the greater lessons actually came from the time of surgery and early recovery when things I had taken for granted were not as easy as they used to be. Swallowing- food or water- became a chore and at times even a slight sense of fear. Speaking clearly was a joke. Surgery is a major trauma to the system and I wonder how much two surgeries between August 15 and December 29 affected me in ways beyond my understanding.

I also learned a little bit about aging. Okay, maybe a great deal of bits. One morning in the hospital, probably on my second day- about 24 hours after surgery- I was being walked into the hall by a nurse. I was pulling my IV pole while the nurse held my other arm. I glanced over as we passed a mirror and was shocked by the "old" guy in the mirror. I felt every bit of my 63 years. And I think I looked it, too. Ragged around the edges, slightly slumped over, neck in a brace.

It reminded me again of the fragility of life. We never know what's ahead, regardless of what age we are. Back at the start of 2011 I would never have even considered that I would be having two surgeries by the end of the year. It reminded me that as we age the options can change rather quickly. Our health can flip in no time. It also became clear that time does get shorter. This is something I have been wrestling with but that "old" guy in the mirror brought it into focus.

Chances are I have 2-4 more years of doing what I am doing now. Sure there may be more- and I plan on it- but I have to be realistic. Which brought it all home- I want these years to be fun, meaningful, and filled with hope and joy, and love in whatever ways I can give and receive that. I want my work to be fulfilling to me and those I work with. I want to enjoy life. The old, cynical, whiner can get in the way of that, I know.

There are bicycle trails to ride; rivers to walk along; people to visit; sights to see, baseball games to go to. I would love to do the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain- at least 300 km by bike for retirement. And books- wow- so little time for so many books. Not to mention taking pictures and writing and well, living.

What a joy. I'll keep you posted. After all, if Peyton Manning can go back to football after the same surgery, think what I can do if 300 pound defensive ends aren't trying to tackle me.

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