What’s Wrong With Me? –Part 4: Disc Herniations and Discectomies

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Over the years, I had gotten into the habit of pushing myself constantly…no matter how tired or weak I felt, I wouldn’t allow myself rest when I knew work had to be done. No amount of sleep was leaving me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Kids have to be fed, laundry has to be done, and I felt I wouldn’t lose weight without putting in my time with high-impact cardio and weight-lifting. By the summer of 2014, I was well into my 5th year of working out–and working out HARD. “Go heavy or go home!!” became a motto I adopted. When my back felt sore, I would ice it before a workout and then lift as heavy as I could. I regret this so much now. What I didn’t know at the time is that I have “degenerative disc disease” or “DDD” for short. In essence, if you have DDD, the LAST thing you should be doing is lifting heavy weights without a belt. After 4 pregnancies and lifting heavy weights multiple times a week for years, my back finally gave out. I herniated multiple discs and one of the herniations pushed against my spinal cord. By June of 2014, I couldn’t stand, move, sleep, or be alive without debilitating pain. Several x-rays and an MRI later, I saw the proof of what I had done: ignoring my body’s pain messages afforded me a discectomy in November of 2014. The debilitating pain is gone, but the arthritis and chronic pain is not. This was my first lesson that I know I will never forget: we must listen to our bodies. 

Now I felt hopeless about my weight. The tool I used to control it was off the table. Healing from back surgery was some of the worst pain I’ve had in my life…and I’ve had four kids so that ought to tell you something. Still, the body heals. It hurt to see that not being able to workout resulted in a thirty-pound weight gain. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it may as well have been 100.

On top of it all, the overwhelming fatigue was my constant partner. In the spring of 2015, and for the third time, I went to the base insisting they test me. This time, I made it clear that iron was not the issue. I had been taking an iron supplement to ensure that anemia would not once again be blamed. And sure enough, my tests revealed that my iron levels were fine. They also revealed what I knew they would: my blood panel was frustratingly normal, with absolutely nothing to flag the doctor that something was wrong.

What do you do when the doctor you trust says that you’re fine? I told myself that maybe I was depressed and totally stressed out. Maybe that was the reason that I couldn’t get out of bed or feel rested no matter how much I slept. My quality of life had flushed down the toilet and I didn’t know what to do. And then I met Holly…

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CJ Heath hopes that any reader who can identify with these articles will find hope that things can get better. Keep reading and don’t give up on yourself!!


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