Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘degenerating disc

Mostly Healthy

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Other than choosing to regurgitate the entire undigested contents of her stomach on our bed the other day, Pequenita is leading our animals in staying healthy.

The good news about the others is that all are showing promising signs of improvement.

Delilah had a quick relapse to yelping in pain after her promising signs of normalcy a week or two ago. Happily, that regression was short-lived and she has re-emerged with more of her old vim and vigor once again. We remain cautious about encouraging too much rambunctiousness, lest she experience another similar setback.

She has a second visit to the doggie chiropractor scheduled for next week. We are trying to constrain her activity a reasonable amount until then.

Cayenne’s swollen eye has settled down nicely, but shows signs of still being irritated. Cyndie washed it out again yesterday. Since all the horses were due for a fall visit from the veterinarian, we will have a chance for her eye to be seen this morning when the Doc comes to give all of them some attention.

I’m doing my best to keep up with everybody else’s progress and enjoying increased mobility and reduced pain with every passing day. ‘Nita does her best to keep my legs stretched out and warm for me. I think my tight hamstrings do me no favors at avoiding problems with my lumbar discs.

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I have been grossly negligent about stretching and exercising for best back health, but as soon as the trouble showed up last week, I became a planking maniac again. The problem with that was that the muscles of my torso became incredibly stiff and didn’t want to take on the load my ailing back wished they would.

Stretching like a yoga master became the third option.

 

Written by johnwhays

November 10, 2017 at 7:00 am

Epic Normal

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Some days are just days. The simple steps of tending to basic maintenance and chores that happen every day can become so routine they fade to obscurity.

Yet, living it feels anything but obscure. Each simple accomplishment brings huge satisfaction.

This weekend, having our son, Julian, visit to pick up a package that Fed-Ex delivered here, and recruiting his help with some compost distribution and wood splitting, were particularly rewarding.

We used the Grizzly to pull trailer loads of wood, and with him driving, I gained a perspective of the squeaky brakes that helped to push me toward finally taking it in to professionals for service. Julian helped me get the ATV secured in the bed of our truck and I dropped it off in River Falls.

It could be several weeks until I see it again, so we are hoping there won’t be significant need for clearing the driveway of snow until well after that.

Maybe in a sympathetic response to Delilah’s painful condition, I experienced a return of degenerating disc symptoms as I leaned forward to pick up a piece of firewood, which brought a quick end to the delightful progress we were accomplishing. I’m on limited duty once again.

Luckily, that presented no disruption to a planned visit from a co-worker and her husband. She wanted to surprise him with the trip because he has a big appreciation for the majesty of horses, despite little access to them. Cyndie was wise enough to guide some time inside the fence for them, a step that is reserved for very few visitors.

As always, Legacy proved the consummate companion for the interaction with his herd-leading confident calmness. Dezirea couldn’t spare but a moment to accommodate us, as her attention was otherwise fixed on something in the distance that I couldn’t see.

Regardless the obscuring nature of the inherent normal-ness of the weekend, it all felt perfectly epic.

Given the right perspective, living in the moment can provide that result.

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Written by johnwhays

November 5, 2017 at 10:43 am

Sad Face

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We are still waiting for significant signs of improvement in Delilah, but whatever is causing her sharp pain –even though she is simply lying on the floor or in her crate overnight– it appears to be more intense than the drugs she is on.

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Since Cyndie is trained to administer Tellington TTouch, she is offering Delilah more than just the pain killers prescribed by the vet, but our poor dog still finds ways to move that triggers involuntary vocal response of acute discomfort.

That is so too familiar to me and my degenerating discs. We have inquired with the vet about a local dog chiropractor and I’ve been wondering if Delilah would tolerate accupuncture. It helped to ease my discomfort.

There have been a couple of encouraging glimpses of Delilah’s old self appearing, but thus far they are too few and far between to allow us much release from the ongoing stress of knowing an animal in our care is suffering.

I’m looking at this as a way to help me slow down my perception of the ever-faster passing of days. With October looming large and the standing order to keep Delilah completely inactive for two weeks, I’m hoping the days will drag for a while.

It’s not my preferred way to slow down the days, but already it feels like our sad dog has been hurting for far too long. The next two weeks are going to take forever if we can’t let her have her usual luxuriously long walks.

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Written by johnwhays

September 30, 2017 at 8:12 am

Behavior Modification

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I’ve been taking it slow and easy the last few days, as I’m feeling twinges in my back that tell me I’m on the verge of an episode. I’m trying not to forget that I shouldn’t bend over, or even, lean forward. That is easy to remember after I am in dire pain, but prior to that, it is something that doesn’t happen naturally for me. I’m always leaning forward, it seems.

DSCN2311eAs a result, Delilah and I have been doing a lot of walking. With her confined to being on a leash, it is something convenient we can do together. I have been walking her in circuits around the perimeter of our property, in both directions, with repetition. Part of me feels like it might help convey the boundary of what is ours. It will help to have her familiar with our property-line if I end up needing to use a shock collar to train her not to cross that border.

I’ve read that training dogs with positive reinforcement works better than negative, but I have a hard time rewarding her for staying with us (how will she know that is what we are rewarding?) in a way that will inform her that it means she shouldn’t stray. It seems so much more immediate to address misbehavior as it happens.

I have taken to doing just that, indoors, the last couple of days. Delilah has moments of frenetic energy over spotting a critter out the window, in which she frantically claws at the window, ignoring any and all admonishment for her to stop. I’ve taken to immediately putting her on a leash and securing her to a spot away from any windows. Training against her negative behaviors. What is the other option? Give her a treat whenever she isn’t clawing the window?

Obviously, I haven’t gotten this dog training thing down yet.

With my repeated trekking of our trails, I kept seeing where branches and trees needed to be cut back. I finally gave in and brought a saw with me yesterday morning. I hooked Delilah’s leash to a tree and started sawing, doing my best to pay attention to my back. She immediately tried to help. If I threw a stick out of the way, she would go get it and bring it back.

She wandered around, through, and under branches to collect as many burrs as she could find, then barked at me when she couldn’t figure out how to get back out again. I did as much clearing as I could with the one little saw I brought with me, and then vowed to return after lunch with more weapons. I needed a shovel to dig root bundles and rocks; a pole saw to get high branches; an ax to chop out roots; and a tree felling wedge to keep my saw from getting pinched.

I spent the second half of the day lumberjacking. Imagine how well that went while trying to be cognizant of my fragile lumbar discs, at the same time I was also trying to convince Delilah I didn’t need the help she was offering.

It just occurred to me, maybe I need to start giving myself treats whenever I don’t do something ill-advised for a guy with degenerating discs. Positive reinforcement behavior modification. Think it would work?

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2014 at 6:00 am

Be Thankful

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I made it to Sunday morning. Later today I am expecting Cyndie to return from her travels. Things have gone well at the ranch during her absence, but I am growing weary of being the sole provider of care to our collection of animals. My efforts have been partially hampered by physical limitations resulting from a bulging disc in my lower back that has started getting worse again after a brief improvement last week. I’m getting the essential chores done, but little else. I have alternated between resting and practicing the regimen of walking and doing exercises to strengthen my core.

Oh, and I’ve been reading. I am into the book, “The Lost Men –The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton’s Ross Sea Party,” by Kelly Tyler-Lewis. I’m thrown back to polar travel in 1914-1915, and it is truly putting my petty complaints in perspective. Be forewarned, the following excerpt is pretty graphic:

Still, a long sojourn in the hut was a bleak prospect for men in their condition. The first sight of Mackintosh’s party shocked Hayward. “I cannot describe their ghastly appearance, the Skipper looks dazed,” he wrote in his diary. Wild’s condition seemed the worst, his feet “raw like steak” and his right ear tinged green and oozing viscous fluid. The frostbite damage had almost certainly progressed to gangrene. Joyce’s hand, nose, and feet were beyond feeling, and his fingers were bloated and misshapen. Mackintosh’s face was disfigured into a swollen mass of mottled, livid flesh. The socket of his missing eye was badly stricken. Cope tended their injuries, although his clinical practice had thus far been limited to performing a postmortem on a dog with a copy of Modern Surgery at hand. He amputated one of Wild’s toes and part of his ear.     The first night of their reunion was appalling. The group had only three sleeping bags between them, so sodden and worn that Hayward called them “indescribable unless Dante’s inferno would meet the case.” The six men shared the bags, sleeping and pacing by turns as the temperature fell to seventy below zero. “We are still alive this morning, so must be thankful,” wrote Hayward.

Page after page of this story describes trials and tribulations that boggle the mind with extremeness of hardship, yet they forge ahead with an ability to cope that exceeds my ability to comprehend. My life’s struggles more than pale in comparison, yet, the twinging pain in my lower back, which stabs like a knife unexpectedly at the slightest maneuver, still commands my attention with a vividness that rivals what I read.

Unfortunately, Cyndie is far from pain-free, complaining of her hip not liking the flying and driving, so having her home to help care for our animals and clear snow today will be just a partial relief, but of course that won’t stop her from trying. We make quite a pair.

I’m pretty sure Delilah will be happy to see Cyndie. Last night she seemed to hop up every few moments, as if she was hearing momma arriving home. She senses that Cyndie usually comes home each day and it’s now been several.

Delilah made me laugh on Friday night as the full moon had her barking at the sight of it. From her vantage point, there was the addition of glare off the truck parked in front of the shop garage, and I suppose it appeared that lights were on indicating someone was out there. Much later, she missed the real thing, as I spotted a few deer in our back yard around midnight, snacking on berries in a tree, and some lower pine branches, in the brilliant moon light while Delilah slept soundly.

We keep getting an inch or two of snow here and there, and I’ve been waiting for it to end before putting in a full effort to clear the driveway and the front of the barn. Today was going to be that day, but now they are forecasting accumulations of 4-7 inches tonight and tomorrow morning. I guess that is enough that I should clear things today to make room for tomorrow’s batch, or I’ll end up with too much at once. It is tough to know which is worse, doing the work twice in two days, or doing the larger job tomorrow.

With an ailing back, both options seem daunting. Anyway, as Hayward wrote in his diary, I am alive, so must be thankful.

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Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2014 at 8:42 am

Self Inflicted

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I’ve had a good, long span of time since one of my degenerating discs unleashed its contents to press against a nerve. I have not taken that for granted. Yesterday, pain made itself familiar to me once again. Today, my movements are reduced to wincing hesitations.

One thing after another seemed to fail for us yesterday, deflating our high hopes and dragging them in directions we didn’t intend. The universe laughs at our feeble plans. The truck failed to start again, despite the new battery and other work that Cyndie paid a local repair shop to do. She postponed her plan to drive into town and buy feed for the horses.

On our walk down to check on the truck, we were startled to find such a large amount of metal shrapnel left in the snow on the driveway from the recent gutter work. In their rushed attempt to complete this job by the end of their day on Friday (which they didn’t actually achieve, since there are still some finishing details that will require a return visit sometime in the future), I think they neglected to give a thorough enough effort toward cleaning the ground beneath where they worked.

It became my job to clear our walkway and upper driveway of dropped screws mixed with slivers and shards of cut metal. I had been hoping to have a warm day when I could use the new ice breaking tool I recently bought to scrape the compacted snow off the asphalt of the driveway by the house. Not only was yesterday lacking in warmth and sunshine, we were getting a gentle sprinkle of snowflakes that were just enough to camouflage the debris on the surface, such that my best option appeared to be scraping everything down to the pavement, regardless the conditions.

I think one thing that causes our efforts to bring pain to our bodies is when we are not happy to be doing the work. I was off to a bad start.

Cyndie walked past on her redirected plan to now clean some manure from the area beneath the overhang of the barn, checking on my progress. I reported my arms were complaining about the effort. In a short time, she returned from her project, pain evident in her whole body, angry over her inability to navigate the snow between the paddock and our manure pile.

I realized that I had neglected to clear that route adequately after the last big snowfall. I went from the unhappy struggle to scrape the driveway, to the necessary task of clearing snow for a path to the manure pile, now feeling some guilt over my negligence. Cyndie was not going to let me suffer alone, having readjusted her attitude, and showed up to work on it, too. She is better at “getting back to grazing,” a reference to how horses process things without dwelling on issues. Unfortunately, it was too much for our ailing bodies to shovel, so I needed to get our ATV, “Griz.”

I swiftly got it stuck. In frustration, I made sure to get it really stuck, forcing it forward and back until I was good and mad and the snow beneath it was packed tight. Then I went to get the shovel so I could angrily fight against the snow I had packed, working in contorted positions that eventually gave me the secondary result that I seemed to be after: back pain.

Regardless the physical discomfort we are both dealing with today, yesterday turned out to be a successful day. One major victory for us was that we avoided totally feeding off of each other’s angst. We eventually made good progress in teaming up to clean the area near the barn more thoroughly than it has been for a couple of months. Afterward, we settled in by the fire to enjoy a pleasant evening, eating a fun pizza dinner, with Cyndie’s fresh-baked ginger cookies to sweeten the deal.

We both recognize there were lessons for us in the difficulties we experienced yesterday.

Now, to figure out how to let my degenerating disc know that I recognize and understand my lesson, and it doesn’t need to continue hurting. I’m inviting it to go back to grazing.

It works for us.

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