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Pain and Surgery Recovery

After back surgery, pain is an unwelcome — and constant — part of recovery

But the real question remained: Was I having trouble recovering from the back surgery? Or was the situation more ominous, with my MS becoming increasingly difficult to control?  Could it be that the nerves in my back were misfiring and the large muscles that support my spinal column were failing to receive the proper signals?

“I’m having a relapse,” I told Meredith, having little factual basis for the claim. My worst fears were at work, and the wheelchair in my mind’s eye was inching closer. My surgeon argued that I was only recovering from the surgery. But then why had I been getting better, only to suddenly get so much worse? There was no way to know.

Have you ever found yourself having to start over, to go back to the starting line to begin again? That’s how I felt, only the starting line had been moved. Lately, it seems, that starting line is a moving target, slipping further and further behind where the other runners start the race.

Walking like an 85-year-old does not put a bounce in your step when you are just wandering into your 60s.  I have to find a new way to cope, at least in my head. I always try to remember that who we are resides north of the neck. The identity of a basketball player is in his soul, not his sneakers. This container of mine is flawed, but the contents remain sound.

In typical fashion, my questions came after the spinal surgery. Only then did I begin to appreciate how long the recovery takes.  The role of physical therapy became clear.  I learned that PT could take up to eight months for this type of operation. And I am not your average back patient. I am carrying multiple sclerosis into every therapy session.

Now, months post-surgery, I still have pain, and I still wonder: Am I having a relapse or a persistent problem healing? Will I mend or will I forever forward have to grasp solid, stable objects as I walk?  I will dwell on that during many sleepless nights.

Emmy-winning TV producer and author Richard Cohen has lived with multiple sclerosis for more than 30 years. He writes bi-weekly about living a full life with a chronic disease.

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