The year I got my 2x4 wake up call

First Published - January 2022

It was supposed to be my year...2020 is the year of the Rat in the Lunar Calendar. I started the year with a very optimistic outlook, then - all hell broke loose!

You're probably very aware of all the drama that went on in 2020. So much so that I didn't even write this blog until 2022!! Go figure right! It was the year that shook the world to its core. Covid made its breakthrough and countries around the world were closing down. Shops, schools, restaurants, companies all came to a grinding halt and the streets were empty!

I personally was suffering from sciatica, and the shooting pains running down my right leg were getting worse by the day. I was still teaching English to some foreign Japanese wives living here in Malaysia, and it was getting to a point that my husband had to drive me to classes as I couldn't put any pressure on my leg.

I'd been to see an orthopedic surgeon and had an MRI and was told that I had a prolapsed disc in the L5 S1 area of my back. I needed to have an operation to reduce it. It was protruding so much that it was touching the nerve and hence the excruciating pain I was experiencing.

But of course, we've all heard the horror stories around back operations, knowing that it's the LAST thing anyone should do for fear of a slipped needle causing permanent damage to the spine and maybe even paralysis. At least, these were the thoughts running through my head. So I decided to take every other course of action to help "heal" my back.

I went to a chiropractor - didn't help!

I went to try acupuncture - those who know me must know how desperate I was to do this as I am freakily scared of needles!! Oh, and it didn't help either!

I tried Chinese Medicine - didn't help!

This had all been going on at this stage the first 3 months of the year. During this time, of course, I got worse and I was as stubborn as all hell. It got to a point that I actually couldn't stand up for very long, let alone sit down or even sit on a chair long enough to eat my dinner.

It got to a stage where I was standing and eating my meals, and even then, I was doing so very quickly as I was tiring myself out.

And yet, I still had not decided to have an operation - I was determined to make myself suffer and suffer I did!.

It got to a point, towards the end of March, where I was literally a dead weight. I needed help in standing, sitting, getting up and down the stairs. The pain was unbearable and yet I was still holding out for some "miracle".

Of course, none came and on the morning of March 24th, 2020 I decided enough was enough. Get me to the hospital and get me sorted! My husband called my orthopedic surgeon and he said to bring me in, the problem was, I couldn't sit in the car - it was just too painful. Could they send an ambulance?

It took a few hours - but here's the best part, whilst I was mentally preparing myself for a major back operation, my thoughts were elsewhere! As Covid had just reached the shores of Johor and we were in lockdown, my thoughts immediately went to the neighbourhood and what would they think if they saw an ambulance coming in!! So I jumped onto our neighbourhood whatsapp chat and sent a message, "The ambulance coming in is to take me to hospital for a back operation, and nothing COVID related - please don't panic."

Here I was still thinking about others!!

I was in the ambulance on the way to hospital. It was the tiniest ambulance and I really wondered how on earth I even fit inside, my feet were touching the doors!

I got to the hospital and went straight to the A&E to be checked in and sorted out. Eventually, I was wheeled up to a ward where I would spend the night before my operation the next day.

24 hours later, it was all over - I had no pain and I was feeling so much better. Of course, I asked myself why I took so long to do the operation in the first place, but I know it was all part of my journey of discovery for myself. Learning to understand that finally after so many years, it really was important for me to put myself first.

The Surgeon came in and got me out of bed, had me walking around by the end of the day of the operation. The following day, the cathater was removed and I went to sit on the toilet for the first time in weeks. I can't tell you how elated I felt actually being able to do that. How did something so simple and mundane become such a blessing and the immense gratitude I felt to be able to sit on the toilet seat was unbelievable!

Its been nearly two years now since my operation, and I can honestly say its been an eventful two years. With Covid and the country in lockdown, physiotherapy was all I could manage to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Now, all things are open and I am able to swim and walk daily and really enjoy it.

My back still aches from time to time, and with the delay in the operation, the nerves down the side of my right leg are damaged, and they do feel numb - yes that is an oxymoron, but how else to describe it!

Whilst I would never wish this on my worst enemy, I am immensely grateful that I have been through it and come out the other side.

I guess the saying really is true - "what doesn't kill you, will make you stronger!