For me, December was a month spent mostly away from my desk. Here’s why.
I leave my bed at 5:30 on a Wednesday thinking Walking on the treadmill yesterday DEFINITELY didn’t help my back. At my bedroom door, a very sharp railroad spike is driving into my lower back. When I reach the freezer, I’m holding my breath while I retrieve the ice pack. The spike is knifing its way down my left leg and my foot’s throbbing. I spend fifteen minutes face down on the couch before I can stand long enough to take some pain meds and turn on the heat. I know this pain. I’ve been here before.
The days that follow don’t show much improvement. I stand very little, and sitting at my desk is out of the question. I’m praying that somehow although the pain is exactly the same, I haven’t herniated a disc. Surgery could be much worse the second time around.
Days before Christmas, I see my doctor. He schedules an MRI, and I leave with three prescriptions and little hope. A week later, the MRI tech looks at my chart. “I’m not allowed to tell you anything. Is he going to call you after he gets the results?”
“I have an appointment on the eighth,” I answer. She assures me someone will call me sooner. This isn’t good news, and she’s right. I get the call the following morning.
A few days later I’m looking at a scan of my herniated L5 disc. The doctor explains that it’s big and the steroid injection might not yield any more results than last time although he plans to administer it a little differently. I’m offered a sedative which I decline. I wasn’t allowed to eat before the procedure and the idea of this medicine making me vomit fills me with terror. Besides, I did okay last time.
Facedown on the table, I get the sting of the needle which holds the numbing agent. Then the slightly nauseating pressure in my lower back as the medicine starts.
“This is the medicine. You’ll probably feel some pressure.”
I nod. This will be over in a few—Oh my GOSH!!! This doctor has somehow reached into my spine and is crushing my spinal cord! The pain travels the nerve down my leg and into my left foot. The sound coming from my mouth isn’t a scream only because my breath is locked in my lungs and my teeth are firmly clenched.
“I’m going to give you a minute and then inject some more.”
Unable to speak, I nod.
The procedure is repeated twice more to administer all of the steroid, and when it’s finished this grown woman is reduced to a child crying in the doctor’s office after a shot. Two nurses help me from the table and the pressure begins to dissipate. Only one nurse is needed to escort me to recovery where my very worried husband suggests I should have taken the sedative. I agree.
Fifteen minutes later I rate my pain at a five. Down three points from when I arrived. Four days later, I rate it at two, resting pain zero. My surgeon doesn’t try to hide his surprise. His advice? If I’m not experiencing significant pain, I should avoid surgery. If the pain increases, I can schedule another injection. If I have weakness or debilitating pain, I need to call him immediately. For now, I should listen to my body. If it hurts don’t do it.
How much writing did I accomplish in those weeks? Very little. In fact, for the first three weeks, the only thing I did was send a very late critique to a wonderfully understanding member of my crit group. However, on New Year’s Day, I received a surprise in my inbox: My very first full request from an agent. I was shocked – and completely unprepared. I spent two hours on the couch reviewing my manuscript on my tablet. It took two tries at my computer before I got everything ready. It was about five hours after I checked my email when I clicked send.
Could I have done more? Definitely. Should I have? I think so. I know you might be thinking—Wait! Not at the expense of your health! I agree. But I could have used my tablet to work on revisions, to continue building my agent list, and to keep working on my WIP. It’s not like I was getting much else accomplished, and I certainly managed it after getting that jump start from an agent. According to my MRI, I shouldn’t be feeling better now. I’m blessed to be feeling wonderful today, but none of us know what the future holds. I’m not confident doing all of my work on a tablet, but I’m learning. I hope to one day have deadlines to meet, and fans anticipating my work. When I need to I’d like to be creative about getting things done, because no matter what, this isn’t a job I want to give up.
So what about you? Have you had an illness or injury keep you from your desk? Had the flu the week of an important deadline? How do you get things done when it seems physically impossible? Please share your experience in the comments. Or if you suffer back pain and have a secret weapon (cushion, chair, back brace, exercise) please share those too.
Growing up, I was the