Back at it again.

Back in June I realized that something wasn’t quite right with my back. I was having difficulty running for more than a mile without pain and tingling in my left leg, standing for long (normal) periods of time became difficult, and I wasn’t able to get comfortable to fall and stay asleep. Since I’ve had trouble with my back in the past, and had been able to remedy the situation through stretching and some rest, I decided that I would try these methods again. I’d also been seeing a chiropractor, and he agreed that perhaps I should give my back a rest from training.
None of this sat well with me, as I had set some lofty goals for early fall (Spartan BEAST and Vermont 50), and I really, really needed to start ADDING miles and weight to my routines, not subtracting them.
Such is the way things go, though. Right?
Fast forward to late July, when I scheduled a visit with an orthopedist. A few days later, and I was napping comfortably inside the MRI machine. I’m no expert, but when I saw the images on the screen in the exam room 2 days later, I knew that I was in trouble.

my lower back, Left Lateral View
Can you spot the difference?

My disc at L5-S1 is bulging on the left side and pressing on the nerves that go down into my left leg. This accounts for the tingling, numbness, and nearly constant burning sensations that I have been experiencing. You know when you whack your funny bone and it feels like your arm is going to melt off of your body? yea. That. 24/7, deep in my left butt cheek. No bueno.
The superior (top down) view of that area shows exactly where the disc is pressing on the nerve, making it nearly impossible to see the nerve on that side.
my L5-S1 disc (lower back)
ooooh. yea. good times.
The green arrow indicates the right side, and what it SHOULD look like on both sides. Hello, left side. WHY CAN’T YOU BE LIKE YOUR TWIN??? Croy-key.
So the day we reviewed the findings was the same day that I walked over to the lab for pre-op lab draw, then had an EKG. After the tech printed out the sheet, she said, “well, your tracing looks great! but since your rate is in the 50’s, we have to call you bradycardic, and have the doctor take a closer look.” BWAAAAHAHAHAHA…i’m not bradycardic. I’m HEALTHY. sheesh.
Surgery was booked for September the 10th. As it was only around the 15th of August, I knew that I still had about a month to try to weasel out of it ask around and see what other people thought about my diagnosis.

Therein lies Part Two.

Have you ever been faced with some news like this that you didn’t want to hear? How did you handle it? What helped you stay ‘grounded’?


  1. In June of 1993 I was a in a severe skydiving accident. Among many injuries I shattered my L1. I sought 4 opinions, all of them recommending fusion surgery. The 5th opinion provided me a non-surgical option. He was my guy.

    Long story less long: I was confined to bed for months, and to the house for another year. I barely moved at all, allowing the L1 to essentially calcify, and fuse itself.

    Fusion surgery would have gotten me on my feet much sooner, but my exercise life (physical life) would likely have been much more limited.

    Yesterday, 20+ years after my accident, and at the age of 53, I deadlifted 325 pounds for 5 very clean reps.

    I’m grateful I chose a non-surgical option. Each back surgery is different. Your circumstances are way different than mine.

    My mantra though, always: Surgery as the last possible option.

  2. In a way, I think we get accustomed to getting news we don’t want to hear…or aren’t ready to hear. How we handle every moment, prepares us for the ones that knock us on our butts (so to speak). Think of it like a wake up call. A challenge to examine how you think, feel, react, respond & why.

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