Day 7: Picking My Poison

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Given the dearth of diversity in the NHL, I was surprised to turn on the Boston/Montreal game the other night and see two players of color skating side by side. Upon further inspection though, I realized I was not seeing two teammates; rather, I was seeing a single player twice due to double vision.

The days since my surgery have been a constant struggle of picking my poison between the direct effects of the surgery itself versus the side effects of the drugs designed to cover up the former. These side effects go well beyond just double vision. My constipation was so awful that the hospital staff felt compelled to pursue it aggressively, which resulted in overtreatment and approximately 30 bouts of diarrhea in a 24-hour span. The nausea was so stubborn that one of the most powerful oral medications they could give me did little more than to turn down the volume just a little bit. My sleep and concentration were both so disrupted that I had difficulty discerning actions that happened in real life from those that occurred in a dream state. Dizziness kept me in bed. A lack of appetite kept me from consuming the nutrition my body needs to heal.

Given these side effects, yesterday I made the decision to stop all of my pain medications except for over-the-counter Tylenol. My clarity and nausea have both improved somewhat (Although later I will likely realize that this entry is filled with typos and lines that make no sense.), but now I am dealing more directly with the aftermath of the surgery itself. The pain keeps me horizontal and unable to sit or stand for more than a few minutes at a time. As a result of a chronic low-grade fever, which the surgeon tells me is fairly typical after an operation like mine, I alternate between bouts of chills and sweats. When I’m really lucky, I simultaneously experience both.

Joanne is right when she tells me that my first experience with back surgery probably set me up for false expectations this time around. Although the aftermath of my first surgery was long and difficult from a psychological standpoint, physically my recovery was rapid. After just a couple of days in the hospital, I was discharged to my parents’ house. Just one week later, I was back on campus at Tufts and resuming classes.

This time around, my recovery seems to be on a much different trajectory. Then again, the procedures themselves, while on the same part of my back, were quite different. Last time, the surgery was little more than a resection of the tumor. This time, the surgeon used rods, screws, and bone grafts to reconstruct a portion of my spine.

I need to keep my expectations in check and remember to heed my own advice about patience, perseverance, and waking up each day with nothing more than the simple goal of getting one day better before going back to bed and doing it all over again.

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