Novels, naps and Netflix


Optimist: someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it’s a cha-cha. ~Robert Brault

I’ve been reflecting on a possible change of sub-title, something that more accurately reflects my current circumstance. “Adventures in strategic pillow placement?” Sounds more like an interior decorators blog than a post-surgical quest for comfort. This too shall pass; I’d best leave things be for now.

It’s nearly two weeks since the surgery. My forearms are still bruised from the iv lines. It took most of a week to detect all the electrodes taped to my body and longer still to erase all the sticky left by surgical tape. I have to say though, I’m making progress! I’m awake most of the day and able to negotiate the house and basic tasks. Still no reaching, bending or lifting allowed; it’s surprising how much of daily life is curtailed with those simple restrictions. I’m strapped into a cervical collar 24/7; the more elaborate of the two inspires Darth Vadar sound effects when people first see it. My movements are circumscribed by these contraptions and the discomfort that arises from moving outside the prescribed ‘zone’. Life would seem very small if it weren’t for the array of friends and family looking in on me – in both real and virtual space.

Although I confess that I thought I might skip ahead, I’m exactly where i should be on the predicted path of a six week recovery. Fatigue is my main complaint; who knew how hard it would be for the this stalk of bone and muscle – my neck – to hold up the mass of bone and brain above it? I’ve never fully appreciated just how heavy my head was. Now I get half-way through a day and struggle to sink into my collar or re-arrange multitudinous pillows to achieve relief from carrying the weight. I’d been expecting to get some drawing done – but it’s not as easy as I imagined to work from a reclining position. Meanwhile I’m bingeing on novels, naps and Netflix – throwing in a TED talk whenever I feel that this isn’t enough to justify my existence. Now that my laptop has been rehabilitated, I’ll be re-adding blogging to my activities – there are tales to tell!

The good news – actually, the great news – is that I experienced the results of surgery almost from awakening! The fingertips that had been numb for months now have nuanced sensation – I can actually pinpoint the margins of the numbness to a relatively small area on the sides of my thumbs. The strength of my grip is restored – I can twist the top off a water bottle again! And open those annoying plastic packages with separate layers!  Peel back the seal on a tetra pack! The doors of modern life have re-opened. I’m still not sure about the large motor things – my gait and balance – because the cervical collar constrains my vision (of my feet, mostly) but I’m feeling solidly connected to the ground again. It seems that I go where I’m headed now, instead of drifting off in unintended directions.

So – all good for now and each day a little better.


The best laid plans…

Yes, I know. It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything.

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. I know that better than most. You never know when the bus is headed your way. When lightening will strike. Or the rogue cell has started replicating. I’m holding out for this being a mere bump in the road.

Here was my plan about three months back: I was enjoying a busy time at my seasonal job at the garden centre, in the glass house, spending sunny, warm days planting green things while a  bitterly cold and overlong winter raged out of doors. Evenings and days off, I was happily honing the sketches for the next children’s book – an alphabet of the West Coast – which fostered a daily mental stroll through the Pacific rainforest and along coastal beaches. Once the gardening season wound down, I  planned to ramp up to full-time studio hours to finish the illustrations, ending up just in time to jet out to Kelowna for a wedding and then off to Turkey for dig season. And then – who knew? – perhaps on to Europe this year? That was the plan.

Instead? The Zincirli dig season was cancelled due to the current Syrian situation. Disappointing, but that opened up an opportunity to join girlfriends for a week on Prince Edward Island in July. It also meant that I could stay longer in Kelowna once the book was done. I would be home to keep a vegetable garden for the first time in years and finally plant the new perennial bed that I had begun preparing two years ago, repaint the front of the house and stain the back deck…the revised plan kept expanding.

The latest plan, though, has me not going anywhere – not Turkey, not Kelowna, not Europe –  not for a while and that will be after a trip to hospital. I’m scheduled for neurosurgery.

Neurosurgery. I kind of like the sound of it, if not the reality. No, a surgeon is not going to root around in my skull a là Dr. McDreamy in Grey’s Anatomy; he’s going to give my spinal cord a little more room. If you want all the technical details, it’s a posterior cervical decompression with instrumented fusion. Look it up! It’s quite an amazing procedure, really –  if it’s not your spine, that is.

How did all this come about? I started noticing some bothersome symptoms last spring – numbness and tingling in my fingers and a feeling that I might faint when I tipped my head back to look up or reach above my head. It wasn’t constant, so I mostly ignored it. I concluded that I probably needed physiotherapy, that it might be related to previous issues with carpal tunnel syndrome and so I shelved it until I had more time – which was never, of course. The tingling got worse, affecting my arms and, sometimes, legs. My daughter remarked that I was walking funny and truthfully, I was feeling unusually clumsy. So I stopped procrastinating and saw a doctor – who immediately sent me on to a neurologist who then sent me on to a neurosurgeon. Arthritic bone and herniated disks in my neck are pinching my spinal cord – due in part to aging, in part to genetics and in part to some mythical injury that both neurologists are convinced I must have experienced somewhere along the line. The surgery will relieve the pressure and reverse most of the symptoms; I may be left with a bit of numbness in my fingertips.

The current plan? I’ve left the garden centre, the book is on hold and I will have surgery next week and settle in for some recovery time. Kelowna was inside the recovery window, so I had to give that up. Prince Edward Island will be comfortably outside the projected recovery and still on the agenda. The garden hasn’t been planted. The perennials will have to wait and so will the front porch repainting. The back deck hasn’t been stained, but has been fitted up with new patio furniture to create a cosy recovery nest. I’ve loaded up my e-reader and there is still time to round up some interesting plant material to sketch while I laze in healing comfort. Perhaps those of you nearby will drop in during the month of June to laze with me? I may even manage a blog entry or two with all that time for rest and reflection.

That’s the plan.