Back to Normal or Abnormal?

This is the happiest I have ever been to say goodbye to a single year. 2014 can kiss my a$$. I hope some day to look back on all of this and be able to count all of the blessings, lessons learned, and strength gained. Maybe I’m getting there…slowly… But I am really impatient for this all to be over. I want to feel like I’m not on hold anymore. I haven’t blogged in a while, and honestly it’s because I haven’t really felt like it. Writing has been therapeutic and I am glad I decided to do it, but it has become a little more difficult. Maybe it’s because I have grown so impatient for the end. I have a hard time picturing exactly what and when the end is. Is there even an end to this? I am often comforted with the idea that this is just a season and it will pass. A long, cold, crappy season. I really do believe that most of this crap will pass, but what is the end? Or actually, will there be a “back to normal”?

My old normal was waking up and going to a job that I love. I know that not many people can say that, but it’s true. I really do love my job. I knew during my first month that I had hit the jackpot, and I am beyond lucky for how my group has taken care of me and ensured my job security. As a physician assistant in diagnostic radiology I handle most of the fluoroscopy studies. Fluoroscopy is like a live X-ray. I do mostly GI studies but I also do a lot of joint injections with contrast and lumbar punctures, and several other contrast guided studies. I wear a lead vest and skirt that I think weighs about 15lbs. Many days are quiet, but many days are not and I run around quite a bit and rarely take my lead off throughout the day. The fluoro tower is dynamic and for most cases I guide it around to obtain the images I need. It’s mechanically assisted but still difficult to move at times. I want this normal back. I need this normal back. I am confident I will be back to myself at work some day. I don’t know when that day will be, and hopefully it is sooner rather than later. I knew I would be out of work for about 3-4 months but initially I assumed I would be back to my work “normal” around then. I have been in the hospital several times over the past few weeks, and I am able to do some studies, but not most. It has been really great to see everyone, and to feel like I’m re-gaining a little bit of purpose.

Another old normal was riding my bike almost every day. I know I have brought this up several times before, and this surely won’t be the last that you hear about it. My bike pretty much lived in my car in the parking garage at the hospital so I could ride every day after work. My weekends were planned around my bike schedule. It was just a part of me. I have no idea whether or not my new normal will include a bicycle. None of my bikes are in my house at the moment. My commuter is in storage, my road bike is at Havey’s, and my mountain bike is at Doug and Cate’s. I don’t want to see any of them. Our team kits came in the other day and they are awesome, but I kind of wish I didn’t have them. I bought a mountain bike for many reasons, one of the major reason was that because I didn’t want to break myself racing on the road again. How about that for a slap in the face of that idea? I don’t think I could have possibly broken myself much worse than this. I want to sell my mountain bike. I really do, but I think I have several friends that wouldn’t let that happen at this point. I don’t even know if I want to get on my road bike. The closer I get to being able to, which I realize I am still very far away from, the less I want to do it. I’m not sure what that means. I love racing. I am competitive. I’m not sure I will be able to get the same amount of joy riding on the Legacy Trail. Maybe my competitiveness is a character flaw… Maybe I will “grow up” some day. Maybe my new normal will be on my commuter around town, or my road bike on a trainer, or worse even, a spin bike. Or maybe I become a runner again?! I don’t know what my back will be able to tolerate in the future, and I also don’t know what risks I will be able to or willing to take.

I long for back to normal, but I just don’t know if it is in the cards for me to be exactly as I was pre Sep 10th. The truth is, this accident has changed me. It wasn’t just a broken hand that heals and as soon as it does I’m back on my bike doing the same things I was before the break. Maybe that’s what happens when an incident threatens your life. Cycling is dangerous. Period. Road, or trail. There is no guarantee that this type of accident won’t happen again. There is no guarantee that this type of accident won’t happen to any of my friends. I do realize that this was a one in a million wreck. But do I really want to trust my future safety on statistical odds? I have no idea what my new normal will look like. Perhaps it won’t be normal at all, but rather a new and improved abnormal. I do know that I want it to include healing, strength, and growth. 2015 sounds like the perfect year for all of those things.

I just realized I haven’t discussed any of my updates in this post. Physically speaking, it has been a very good week. After discussing my transition from the CTO to the Miami J with one of my radiologists, we decided to try to image T3 in flexion and extension first before removing the CTO. Saturday I had plain films and CT done with my thoracic spine in slight flexion and extension. Although the anatomy of T3 has been irrevocably altered, the vertebrae has remained stable. That was very good news and I have been spending most of my time in the Miami J except when I exercise I am still wearing the CTO. My neurosurgeon also gave me the go ahead to be brace-less when I am at home to start working on muscle tone in my neck. I cannot begin to describe how amazing it feels. My neck feels incredibly weak and stiff beyond what I ever imagined it would feel, and I get fatigued pretty easily, but it feels so much better than that big stiff, uncomfortable brace. There is definitely more pain without the CTO, and I’m pretty guarded most of the time. I am trying to not do too much, and I’m working on relaxing and taking it easy considering the muscles in my back and neck have essentially been inactive for the past 3+ months. My next appointment is January 12th and I am really hoping to be able to start physical therapy at that point.

I don’t think I have ever shared any of my images, and if I shared all of them it would be overwhelming and or boring so here is one image of the last MRI I had. It shows what T3 looks like now, it’s shape, and it’s impression on my spinal cord. This image is a sagittal plane, so imagine if you had cut me right down the middle into left and right halves. The left of this image is the front of my body, and the right is my back. T3 is pretty easy to pick out, the vertebral body is fragmented anteriorly, and wedge shaped in comparison to the more square shaped appearance to the above and below vertebrae. Behind the vertebral bodies is the spinal cord, and you can see the “impression” of the edge of the vertebral body of T3 on my cord. Luckily I still have enough room in my spinal canal for the cord and still the only symptoms I have at this point is some localized tingling in my upper back. Anyway, here’s another example of my new normal or abnormal?FullSizeRender (1)

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