Surgical Solutions And Resilience

If you read my last post, you know that I live with a number of health issues, and have for many years. What I didn’t talk about was a more recent issue that has come up involving a bump on the back of my left ankle and my Achilles tendon that is tearing away from the bone.

The bump is called a Haglund’s Deformity. I’ve had it for over a year now and it seems to have developed after I had my right hip replaced, perhaps in response to a changed gait in my walking. I didn’t notice it at first, not until it became painful. What my Physiatrist (my pain doctor) and I didn’t realize is that it was also affecting my Achilles Tendon and that tendon was slowly pulling away from the bone. It wasn’t until I could no longer walk without constant pain that we came to understand the full severity of what we were dealing with. 

I was sent for x-rays and the results showed the truth. Since November 2018. I’ve been wearing an Air Cast to help protect my ankle and reduce the pain when I walk. We’ve tried Botox in the calf muscles to try to tighten the tendon so it will reattach to the bone, but if this doesn’t work, it’s going to mean a complicated ankle repair in surgery. 

So, why I am I sharing this with you?  Because this isn’t the only surgery I’m facing in the next little while and I want to talk about resilience. 

Resilience is a funny word. The official definition is this: 

re·sil·ience
[rəˈzilyəns]

NOUN

1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
“the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
“nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience”
synonyms:
flexibility · pliability · suppleness · plasticity · elasticity · springiness ·

Now, I wouldn’t say that definition number 2 is all that appropriate as I certainly don’t feel all that “elastic” or “springy”.  I do agree with the first one though. I think I have a remarkable ability to recover from difficulties. With everything I’ve been given in life to handle, and each new challenge I’ve been given to face, I’ve been able to rise to the occasion and deal with it as it’s happened.

As I said, I am facing another surgery this year and it’s one I never thought I’d hear myself say – Brain Surgery. Because of my Trigeminal Neuralgia, we have come to the point where I’ve exhausted every medication out there and I’ve been left with no other options for treatment. I am meeting with the Surgeon on April 30th and the surgery we will be discussing is called Microvascular Decompression. It has an 80% success rate, which is the highest of all the available surgeries, and is the least likely to cause lasting facial numbness afterward.

Trigeminal nerve branches

In Microvascular Decompression surgery, the Neurosurgeon creates an opening in the skull behind the ear on the affected side and using delicate tools, places a sponge between the nerve and the blood vessel causing compression, which in turn reduces the irritation caused by the nerve. It also prevents almost any facial numbness from happening which is a common side effect in most other surgical procedures, such as Sensory Rhizotomy, Gamma Knife Radiosurgery or Peripheral Neurectomy.  A small titanium plate is used to replace the bone removed and is put into place with tiny screws. 

A sponge is inserted between the nerve and the blood vessel, usually the superior cerebellar artery, causing compression.

MVD sponge placement

A sponge is inserted between the nerve and the blood vessel, usually the superior cerebellar artery, causing compression.

After the surgery, you spend a night in the ICU and then 1-2 days in hospital before being released to recover. 

It all sounds pretty scary, but it’s my best hope for relief from this insidious pain. I’m now averaging a flare up every week and they generally last for 12 hours at a time. It’s sheer agony when they happen – there’s a reason this condition is called the suicide disease. 

So, how do you bounce back from something like this? Where does the courage come from? Part of it for me is my faith in God. Part of it is my natural positive outlook on life. My Dear Readers know that my motto is “there is always hope”. I end each post with those words, they are tattooed on my left arm, they are my favourite words from the movie The Lord of The Rings, when Aragorn is talking to the young boy just before the Battle at Helms Deep. They remind me that no matter what we are facing in life, things could be worse. I know that might sound silly, but truly, they could be. I could be facing a terminal illness, not just an issue that causes tremendous pain. There could be NO solution for me at all.

The thing is, I believe we have a choice in how we react to news, good and bad. Being joyful is easy in good times, but I choose to be joyful in the bad times too. I choose to stay positive in the dark days. I choose to believe that things can get better. My attitude is one of gratitude despite the circumstances. And I encourage others to try to do the same thing. You have a choice. Be resilient. Fight with all you have inside you. Choose to find the joy in your circumstances, as small as it might be. Remember…

There is always hope.

 

Ranting and Swearing…Grrr!

Back in my post of Two Months Later…and counting, I mentioned I was having problems with my Achilles Tendon. Well, I finally made an appointment with a Physiotherapist to have it looked at, as the pain and tenderness has been increasing. And what did I find out? It’s not just tendonitis in the Achilles Tendon, oh no….I have to have Bursitis on top of it, AND it’s most likely there are tears in the tendon itself.
Fuck
Rod is the therapist I’m seeing, and he gave me all the information to explain his findings. He could tell via massaging the tendon and my reaction to the pain that it spread beyond the tendon and into the bursa as well. He did 20 minutes of acupuncture with 4 needles (what is it with me and needles???) and will do that for a few weeks, plus he showed me some stretches like calf raises and modified lunges he wants me to do, to stretch the tendon out. If I want a permanent solution though, he said it’s most likely that I’d need surgery to repair the tendon. Otherwise, the only other option is to just put up with the pain.
Like, I don’t already live with enough pain? UGH! Here Pam…have another heaping helping. Go on…there’s plenty more where that came from apparently. Plus I haven’t even dealt with my shoulder yet -I think I’ve torn the Rotator Cuff. I have an appointment in August to see Dr. Winston, my Pain Doctor, about that on a more official basis. I mentioned the pain last time I was there (for the Synvisc and Botox), as I couldn’t even put my right arm behind my back, and I still can’t. I can’t raise it above my head or beyond straight to the side – it just won’t move any further. And yes, there is pain. And numbness.
Who does this??? Who has a body like this, that just falls apart for no apparent reason???
I’m done. I am simply done. I am worn out physically and I’m sick and tired of things breaking down in my body. I’m scared to ask “what’s next” because there’s going to be a “what’s next” and I’m not sure I’m prepared to deal with it.
Oh yeah – I have my Brain MRI on Friday, June 22nd at 6pm.
Great.

There is always hope!