Boy, do I know that last statement all too well now. After my back surgery, I was unable to take care of myself which forced me to surrender to a new level of dependency on my spouse. I thought it was only fitting to have my producer, husband, and caregiver, Scott Cannon, as today's guest to share the challenges we faced from a loss of independence to experiencing caregiver burnout.
A few weeks before surgery on my two lowest lumbar discs, I was anxious to be pain-free. Knowing I may not have as much flexibility after the surgery made me feel apprehensive going through with the surgery, but I needed this corrective procedure for my ruptured discs so there was no way around it. The surgeons prepared me for the procedure itself with quite a bit of literature and pictures, so I knew what to expect but there was still quite a bit of unknown details for me to worry about.
Would I be as active once I healed? Would I lose my swagger? Would I be able to do yoga again? Could I get tattoos to hide my scars? These were the things that occupied my mind before the surgery. What did not come to mind until after the surgery was getting out of bed on my own to use the bathroom, taking a shower, or getting some steps in for the day for strength training? What quickly became quite a shock is how much of my core strength affected so many of my daily activities. Lifting my head to eat was painful. Rolling out of bed in the middle of the night to pee was painful. Lifting my arms to wash my hair in the shower was also so painful. My body was not the same anymore which was disturbing. I now have a rod, plate, and screws to support my spine that did not feel sturdy yet.
While I was seeing the scars in the mirror and having to accept help from my husband for the basics of tasks, I found it extremely hard to remain positive for better days. I knew it was going to take time for my body to heal but each day felt like an eternity. Every pain medication that knocked me out day and night made time feel like time was standing still. It did not take long before I was feeling sorry for myself and thinking like a victim instead of a triumphant survivor.
The days became weeks even though I felt stuck in time and my recovery gained momentum. I started to walk about the upstairs of the house and feel better with each day. I was getting in and out of the bed with less and less help each day. When I was able to shower and wash my hair on my own, I started to feel human again with a real sense of hope for my future. By this point, I remembered the power of visualization. So even though I could not be under my meditation tree just yet, I still spent time visualizing my body healthy, flexible, and engaging in all sorts of activities.
For many years before this procedure, I had not only learned to live with intense pain, but I was also learning to cope with limited mobility as time passed. Once the procedure was done, I had to start all over again in not only regaining the flexibility in my muscles, but I had to find a level of comfort to trust my body was stable. Now that the sciatic pain is gone, I was only having to deal with the pain and tenderness of the incisions. One in my lower abdomen (anterior) and one in my lower back (posterior). Until one day when I felt pain in my right rib, beneath my breast.
This sudden pain in my chest quickly turned into labored breathing and a trip to the emergency room by ambulance. By the time I was admitted to the hospital my previous progress had come to a halt. I was fighting to breathe and no longer concerned with regaining flexibility and core strength. I developed a pulmonary embolism which was more painful than the sciatic nerve and incisions combined. I had finally started to feel good about the surgery and my progress to then be afraid to sleep at night or relax from the pain of trying to take a deep breath. This was a nightmare come to life with the added fear that my body would never be physically fit.
After a week in the hospital and a trip back home my recovery started all over again. Scott was slowly becoming burned out as he balanced his regular workday with caring for me and household chores. When your loved one is sick or unable to live without assistance, we do not hesitate to give everything we can to help. On the other hand, I hesitated to receive the help because I did not like the feeling of being out of control in general and so dependent on someone for daily activities. These moments of surrender made me think more about Mom and her reluctance to allow me to help her at times.
Our age makes no difference when it comes to coping with the lack of independence. The main thing that helped me was to trust God had a plan, even in the middle of fighting for breath. I had to let go to allow for the Spirit to do its work in me and through the care from the nurses and doctors as well. The thought of a new me was not settling well until I was able to see my ex-rays at the 3-month checkup. Once the doctor said it looked perfect and was progressing as planned all the doubts and worries in my mind were gone. I was able to put everything possible into my recovery and not look back.
Finding a level of comfort to receive the care and accept my loss of independence was temporary turned out to be much harder than I anticipated. Refocusing the worry energy into a creative project made every bit of difference in positive thinking and visualizing a stronger healthier version of myself. Finding my “can do” attitude over the “can’t” mentality
is what changed the pace of my recovery.
I now have a more profound understanding of the moments I took personally when Mom pushed me away. I know what it feels like to lose my independence or ability to do simple daily tasks. Going from the caregiver to the care recipient was scary. My recovery is getting better by the day but there are other caregivers who might still feel stuck. It is hard to believe these seasons of trial towards transformation are temporary, but they really are.
Thank you for joining in and listening with us today. You can find more about this topic on the blog at www.jessicalizelcannon.com. I hope this gave you more food for thought and until next time, BE PROACTIVE. Take care, everybody.
Intro: Vacation Time by Khris Paradise
Outro: Misty by Khris Paradise