Warning: Dramatic Whining and Self-Commiseration Ahead

I have read somewhere before that writing down your frustrations or fears or problems can be a good way to release them, or at the very least put them into perspective.  While I’m pretty sure hardly anyone will read this, just venting may help me to feel a little better – at least that’s what I’m counting on.

I found out around mid-November 2013 that the left side of my upper body doesn’t work very well and even hurts during increased physical activity when the nerves in my neck are upset. After a couple of months of, “Yea, we don’t really know what’s up, but we’ll get you another appointment later.” I finally walked into a Neurosurgeon’s office on January 14, 2014 and it felt like I stepped on a landmine. The words he used were, “Sorry to deliver the brunt of bad news my friend, and I can’t explain why, but your spine looks like you’re 60 or 70 years old. I wouldn’t say it’s an emergency, but if you don’t get it taken care of in the next month or two it will become an emergency.”

He went on to show me the MRI pictures (have you ever looked at one? It’s like looking at 25 ultrasounds and trying to find Waldo in there) and explain that I have three ruptured discs and they need to do a procedure. The good news, he assured me, is that my left arm should start feeling completely normal in no time.

The procedure is called ACDF or Cervical Spinal Fusion. Basically he’s going to cut my throat in the front (yea like they do in Italian movies), push all the semi-important stuff I use for breathing and eating etc to the side, and start pulling out all of the cushiony stuff between my vertebrae. Once he’s done there, he’ll insert some small pieces of bone from the “bone bank” (hope it’s not one from East Amarillo Blvd) and attach a titanium plate with screws to the front of my spine, fusing together C4-C7 and making that portion of my neck one stiff pole.

Usually I don’t care much about surgery. When they took my gall bladder out, I just said, “I don’t care, just put me under and please don’t wake me till you’re done – do what you want in there.” I have a decent amount of confidence in the doctors that slice me up, but in this case…

I am scared.

It’s not the doctor – he’s well established and strikes me as very competent. It’s the procedure; that seems like an awful lot of stuff to be messing with in there. You know, vital stuff. Breathing, talking, swallowing and using your handy-dandy spinal cord to control your entire body all seem kind of important to me.

Today, I spoke to the “business office” at the surgery center who had great news. My insurance approved the procedure. (like anyone would do this voluntarily?) Then she told me what my portion of the cost would be. It was almost as if she looked into my bank account and said to me, “Ok, basically all of that green stuff you’ve been saving over the last couple years for a rainy day? It’s raining. Would you like to take care of payment today?”  I’m not the first person to lose everything to a health problem – hell, some people must declare bankruptcy and completely start their financial life over. I do apologize for losing perspective, but I’ve worked so hard toward so many things, and it hurts to watch it all go away and start over because of what the doctor called ‘some bad luck with your neck’.

I am frustrated.

Assuming the procedure goes off without a hitch, I’ll be down for about three weeks and unable to do much else for 3 months. There’s a good chance that I’ll never get to practice one of the things I love most about my life – Aikido – any longer. My neck won’t really curve or flex like it’s supposed to ever again, and swallowing will always be weird, if not painful because of the alien metal attached to the inside of my neck. Now, I can keep some perspective: I know I could be losing body parts or complete bodily functions, so I have a lot to be thankful for. In all theory, I should be basically back to normal, and this will all be a distant memory in a couple of years. The last thing I’m trying to do is compare my situation to that of anyone else. I have it, as always, pretty damn good.

And, I think this leads me to the biggest thing on my mind that’s bothering me.  If you haven’t read much on Project:Groovy, I’d invite you to do so to ensure I’m not making up what follows out of thin air: I’m usually a very positive guy. I take things in stride. I do my best to practice Equanimity. I have a lot of priorities straight. I see the best in people and in each situation I encounter. I love my life and I am happy. (how’s that for a resume lol) So, why am I having such a difficult time wrapping my mind around this?

I am angry.

But more importantly, I’m angry that I’m angry. I’m angry that I’m frustrated, and I’m angry that I’m scared. I have a few people in my life that I am so unbelievably thankful for that I can always count on for support and assistance should I only ask. But, I think that list dries up pretty damn fast, and perhaps that is what has me so unbalanced and melancholy. Hell, I don’t know… isn’t spitballing fun?

I’m the person who is supposed to keep an even keel, utilize my very favorite word – perspective – and look at things from the correct angle.  It’s been difficult.

Either way, I’m glad I got to vent a little, and perhaps I already feel a little better. =) If anything should happen to me, I hope that everyone who knows me understands there’s a special little place in my heart and a dedicated page or two for them in the book of my life. Hopefully, you’ll see me at an outing one day and ask me how this all went, and my answer will be, “How what went??”

Stay Groovy,

4 thoughts on “Warning: Dramatic Whining and Self-Commiseration Ahead

  1. Avatar
    February 1, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Your outlook on this and life is inspiring. I hope all goes well for you, you will be missed in game but you will be in my prayers….Butter

    1. Ryan
      February 1, 2014 at 11:45 am

      Thank you so much, Katherine. I really appreciate your support. <3

  2. Avatar
    Gina Pine
    January 1, 2015 at 3:31 am

    I agree with Katherine. Your outlook on life and this pretty scary surgical procedure is truly amazing. I apologize for not responding to this sooner and I don’t have any really important reasons or excuses for the delay. Just life. But here it is … the Christmas/New Year Season … and I wanted to contact you to let you know that I wish you a magnificent Christmas and a fantastic New Year. Hopefully, you will be spending a lot of it with your son, Chance, and other significant family members and friends.

    I chose this particular topic to respond to since I know all about life handing us a tray full of unexpected, frightening incidents with a chilling smile glazed over it. And, then it expecting us to accept this mass of unacceptable turn-of-events without a fight. We go through so many different types of emotions when we go through something like this and it can floor us. Somewhere, deep inside of us, is a survival code that has been embedded into the core of our beings that we come face to face with during those times and it offers us a choice. A choice to accept the tray of unacceptables …. OR …. not. If we choose NOT to accept what life has to offer, we find ourselves in a place of control and restoration. We can fight the negatives in our lives if we choose the path of hope and being positive and we become Overcomers over our circumstances.

    I have learned that adversities are not bad. They are opportunities to look beyond the facts of our realities and to change them into something better …. greater …. more blessed than we could even believe before. We Win. And we all like winning.

    I wish you, Ryan, a stupendous 2015!
    — Gina Pine

    1. Ryan
      January 10, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      Thanks Gina! I really appreciate the kind words. I had a fantastic Christmas and my New Year was spectacular as well. I’m ready to really kick ass in 2015 – I hope you are too!

      Some of the words you spoke remind me of a brilliant book I read recently by Ryan Holiday called, “The Object is the Way”. Check it out, I’m sure you would like it.

      Thanks for reaching out, and for always being a friend, Gina! Don’t be a stranger and have a great 2015!
      – Ryan

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