ACDF

It’s a process – ACDF recovery

It’s been a while since I wrote about my recovery from anterior cervical disectomy fusion, or ACDF. Let me tell you, it’s a process.

After 83 days in a neck brace, I’m free. But it doesn’t mean this is over.

My end goal was two weeks after surgery. By then, I’d be feeling better. But, in that time, I dealt with pain, nausea, tingling fingers, lack of sleep and post-surgical aches and pains. I was not “better.” Improved, maybe, but not better.

Then I had my eyes on six weeks post-surgery. By then, for sure, I’d be better. But, in that time, I dealt with numbness and tingling, exhaustion, tight muscles and more spasms.

The end game was scheduled for March 11, my 12 week appointment. Nearly 90 days post-op. And brace removal day. I MUST be better by then. But I have shoulder pain, tightness, I still have pressure when swallowing and my thumb is still screwed up.

Today, I started physical therapy. Now, this has to be the key, right? Wrong. While she was able to help loosen up some muscles, I’m sore. My muscles are having to engage and they haven’t had to work in months. I can feel my muscles just spasming.

Last week, when I sat in my doctor’s office and talked about moving forward, I said, ” So, the next time my neck hurts, do I call you or go back to my PCP?” He said, “Well, I’ll see you again in three months, then six months after that, and then annually. We’re in your life now.”

I guess this is just my life now.

Before surgery, my husband, who has plates and pins in his forearm from an accident at work, said, “It’ll never feel the same again.” And, so far, he’s right.

My second cousin, who had the same surgery over a year ago, has told me that she stained her deck over the weekend with no pain, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, my tunnel is dark and long, but it’s to be expected again. This is a marathon, not a race. As much as I want to believe I can sprint through miles 1-15, I can’t. I might as well pace myself.

It’s hard to know that I still have limitations and restrictions when I look completely normal. No brace. My scar is hidden by a lot of clothes. I don’t have a limp. I don’t have anything that would make me look as though I’m still in pain and I’m still restricted.

At least with the brace, I felt like it was ok to still be in pain and tired and recovering. Now, I feel like I should be better.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’d be horrible at an invisible illness. If I can’t see it, I also don’t think I should feel it. I get mad at my body for taking “too long” to recover. I push myself when I should. I mean, four days after I left the hospital for pneumonia and sepsis, I was at my daughter’s outdoor field trip to a farm in 50-degree weather. Not my best work. I’m in or out. Hot or cold. Sick or well. In pain or fine. I don’t like a gray area. I don’t like the in-between.

Yet here I sit.

I had to take muscle relaxers today. I had to sit more than I should have. I am typing this with heat on my neck. A week ago, I would have been dreaming of days without my brace. Frolicking among the flowers, painless.

I’m hoping with the meds on board and bedtime quickly approaching, I can start tomorrow with less pain and a better attitude. If not, I’ll have to remind myself that life in the middle can be an adventure.

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