I'm now a little over three weeks out from my operation, and I am starting to feel a little better. I wouldn't say I'm quite back to normal - my back still feels really weird and I can't do a lot of simple daily tasks without help (like brushing my teeth or sitting at the dinner table to eat with my family) but I'm definitely making progress.
1. Medications & Overall Health
The big pain med I've been taking is Oxycodone. It's a nasty cherry-flavored liquid that ensures I feel no back pain but makes me dizzy and drowsy (I take liquid meds because I never learned how to swallow pills.) While in the hospital, I was taking between 10 and 15 mLs every four hours, and I really needed it. The tough thing about opioids though is that you have to slowly cut back on your dosage - you can't just go cold turkey or your body will flip out. It's a very delicate balance, so since coming home from the hospital, I've been working on spreading out the intervals between each dosage and reducing the amount of medicine I take. I'm now down to about 5 mLs every six hours while I'm awake, and I skip the dosage I would take in the middle of the night. My goal is to be off the meds completely by next week! I also take Tylenol in between as a supplement to reduce my pain if necessary. I'm also taking iron supplements because I'm anemic right now, and some other meds to help reduce different opioid side effects, as well as a daily injection of Lovenox, which is a blood thinner and ensures I won't get blood clots while I'm recovering.
I feel significantly better than I did just weeks ago, but I still feel pretty dizzy all the time, which means I spend a lot of time lying down and doing nothing. Mentally and emotionally, the recovery process has been more discouraging than I thought it would be. Honestly, I didn't know how intense & serious this operation was until it was over. I thought I'd be back to my normal self in a week or two, and that is totally not the case. But, I'm staying positive because I know how important it is to have a good attitude.
2. Physical Progress
When I first came home from the hospital, I was barely able to walk, and I used a walker to get around. Now, I'm able to walk with the assistance of a cane. I have a physical therapist who comes twice a week to help me get in some exercise, but my dizziness keeps me from being able to do a lot. Walking is hard because my body feels completely different. I'm two inches taller than I was a month ago, and I have a completely different posture, so when I walk I feel like a robot. But I guess that makes sense, considering I have titanium in my back.
I need help standing up and sitting down, and I can't walk up and down stairs without the assistance of my mom or dad. I also can't shower own my own, because I can't stand for that long, so we had to purchase a shower chair and my mom has to help me wash my hair. It's frustrating being a 22 year old and feeling as helpless as a toddler, and I often feel like I'm just a massive burden, but my family is amazing and supportive and has made my recovery super comfortable. Right now, I'm working on being able to sit upright in a chair and learning to walk without a cane. I sit in a recliner chair most of the time because it doesn't hurt my back, but I want to be able to push through the pain and sit normally so I can start eating meals with my family again!
Speaking of meals, I finally got my appetite back after about a week of being home. For the first week, I was eating very few things (matzah ball soup was pretty much the only thing I could stomach) but I've slowly added in pasta, rice, chicken, fruits, crackers, and other simple foods (although I am constantly craving sushi, I know my body would not appreciate that right now). My doctors think some of my exhaustion may be linked to my diet lacking things like protein and iron, so I've added in specific foods (ex: Fiber One Protein Bars) to make sure I am well-nourished.
3. What Do I Do All Day?
Basically nothing. I watch a lot of TV with my mom, and we've also been watching a movie every night (I just finally got around to watching The Greatest Showman when my cousin Bailey came to visit last week and it was so good! Nothing beats a Hugh Jackman musical movie). I read books (right now I'm reading Blockchain Revolution by Don and Alex Tapscott and You Negotiate Like a Girl by Amy Trask). I color in art therapy books which help me relax, I read a lot of NFL news to prepare for my fantasy drafts, and I nap. The other day, I left the house for the first time and went to Starbucks with my mom, which was MAJOR. Just sitting in a chair that wasn't in my house felt so good, and it was nice to sip on a cold Black Iced Tea Lemonade. I've been having lots of visitors, which is wonderful as well. I'm slowly working up to leaving the house more frequently. Once I'm totally off Oxycodone, I want to make it a goal to leave my house at least once a day!
Starbucks never tasted so good!
One thing I wanted to know before my surgery is when I could expect to feel "normal" again. Now that I'm on the other side, I realize that "normal" is just going to be different. My back feels like it was operated on, my posture feels forced, and I know that I'm never going to have the same flexibility I used to. So, instead of working to feel "back to normal," I'm working toward a "new normal." I want to be able to walk around outside of my house without feeling off balance, and I want to be able to drive my car. I'd like to not feel constantly dizzy, and I want to be able to use my computer without getting a headache after five minutes. These are examples of the little goals I'm trying to reach that together will help me achieve that "normalness" I'm looking for. I have a feeling things are going to get a lot better once I'm off the Oxycodone, so I'm excited for that milestone.