A couple of weeks ago, pain invaded my world, but MS was not the culprit. No, this was purely self-inflicted. I apparently have a short memory because every time this occurs, I swear to everything I hold dear it will be the last time. But there is always a next time, and this one was a doozy.
I’ve known for a while that any kind of stoop labor will, within twenty four hours, result in my lower back becoming sore and stiff. The discomfort isn’t too bad when I sit, but when I stand or walk, it radiates from my back and shoots down the front of my bad leg, which makes walking exponentially more difficult.
These episodes often can’t be avoided during the winter when snow removal is required, and the truth is that the fallout has generally been something I can tolerate and manage fairly well. But there is one spring and summer chore that I should avoid like the plague because it sets me back more than snow removal ever has, and I once again failed to take this into account two weekends ago when I instructed Shodan to weed the slope around the pool in our back yard.
As we walked together to inspect what needed to be done, I was aghast at how overgrown the area had become. Clumps of weeds that extended two feet into the air had bloomed between the plantings we set many years ago when we needed something to hold the earthen platform our pool sat upon. There were also sections of low, creeping kudzoo-type growth that stretched along the ground and were beginning to strangle some of the bushes. In retrospect, I wish I took a picture to show you how ugly and overgrown it had become.
It was obvious that this was going to be a very long and tedious job, and it was hot an humid to boot. I can say I took pity on Shodan and decided to lend a hand so he didn’t have to spend hours getting it done, but that is only partially true. The other truths are: 1) I am a little bit of a control freak, and the overgrowth was so vast and widespread that I wanted to make sure the job was done thoroughly, and 2) I steadfastly refuse to give into the disability and keep doing shit I know I’m going to regret later.
It took about 90 minutes for both of us to complete the task, and it was hot, nasty work. Balance is always an issue with me, and since the work that needed to be done was on a hill, I was hunched over at the waist and hips most of the time instead of crawling around on my hands and knees, which would have been the smart thing to do. Our arms, hands and legs were caked in dirt when we were done.
My back also felt like an alligator was gnawing on it, my legs were weak from having to support all my weight as the job was getting done, I could barely lift my foot, and I was totally sapped of energy. Shodan had to stop once or twice during the job to put his head between his knees to ward off some dizziness because of the heat and humidity, and because he was proceeding at his typical 150 mph and did not hydrate.
So we hosed off the dirt, jumped into the pool, and cooled down. I trudged back into the house, found my way to the recliner, grabbed a beer, turned on the Red Sox game, and waited for rigor mortis to set in. Oddly enough, that didn’t happen.
It didn’t happen the next day either, when I rose from bed and expected my back to feel like it was replaced by a electrified, inflexible steel rod. I had taken Monday and Tuesday off so K and I could go to various places looking at stuff for the new house, and spent the better part of the next two days sitting in the car. I was no worse on Monday evening, and still limber Tuesday morning, but that quickly changed after another day in the car. By afternoon, the stiffness came, and I could barely move.
But something was different this time. The discomfort wasn’t localized in the lower back region, where it normally torments me. This time it settled more into my right hip, which was infinitely worse. The pain radiated not only down the front of my bad leg every time I moved it but also down my ass and the back of the same leg. It hurt every time I put weight on my foot, and for the first time, I not only needed the cane to walk but to literally keep me upright.
For the next three days, the only time I felt comfortable was when I was laying down. I’d feel halfway decent getting out of bed in the morning, but that would change after sitting in the car during the drive to work and sitting in an office chair for most of the day. I walked around like an inchworm with each painful step.
Historically, it normally takes a couple of days after the stiffness sets in before I begin to get loose and the pain starts to subside. This time around, I was still walking like an inchworm five days later. Every time I rose from a sitting position and put weight on the bad leg, I’d see stars.
It took six days before I could walk freely, but not without some discomfort, and an additional three days before I was loose and pain free. Nine freaking days of misery!
You’d figure that by now I’d know better than to allow my mind to write checks my body can no longer cash. You would also think that after this episode, I have learned my lesson, and finally acknowledge that there are certain things I simply shouldn’t do. I’d like to believe it myself, but I wouldn’t bet on it. You see, I have turned into my father.
This was a man who was active well into his eighties. It was only once he reached his nineties that the chinks in his body armor began to appear, and he became unsteady on his feet. Having said that, he would still climb on a ladder with nobody around to assist or watch in the dead of winter to clear ice dams from the gutters, which drove my Mom nuts. She became so frustrated at him for doing these kinds of things that she sternly chastised him on more than one occasion, declaring in her typically blunt way that if he ever fell and broke his hip, she would let him lay there and let fate settle things. He’d respond by saying that at least that way he would never have to worry about dying in a nursing home.
So even though I understand there are tasks I should simply defer to Shodan from now on, I also know it won’t happen unless or until I lose all my strength or mobility.
After all, the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.