I confess....I was terrified they'd say no.
On June 13th, I ventured down for the last round of tests to identify my back issues. The test was ordered by Dr. K, the neurosurgeon, and performed by his colleague, Dr. F. Like my spine guy in Boston, Dr. F is a physiatrist. They tend to be focused on rehab work and many hold a DO instead of an MD (Dr. F is an MD, Boston doc was a DO). They perform a number of procedures, including the spinal epidurals I had done in Boston. Dr. F did a discogram. If you are ever slated for one, just don't Google it....it is NOT fun and is painful, but it wasn't as awful as the internet had me fearing.
Anyway, I spoke with Dr. F after the discogram. His role was to perform the test and give the info to Dr. K, not make the ultimate decision about actions going forward. He did indicate that I had a reaction to the prodding of the disc we suspected was the culprit. He also noted the results were a bit different than typical but said that could be attributed to both my age and my size (neither fit the most common patient profile). He said he'd pass on the info to Dr. K and vaguely hinted that surgery might be warranted but it wasn't his call to make.
In one of the realities of modern medicine, it took a while to hear back. I did understand this...they had to send out Dr. F's notes, he had to review and approve them, and then they had to go to Dr. K for analysis. But waiting was still rough. I know there are rules but the docs are in the same office and see each other all the time. Falls into the world of things you know rationally but have trouble with in practice. Dr. K's assistant did help make sure the file was seen and the docs were able to chat since Dr. K wanted a quick conference.
When the phone finally rang, I was on edge. It felt like the single sentence took an eternity and like I had been waiting for months. The assistant (whom I swea I talk to weekly) said I was a good candidate for "anterior lumbar fusion L5/S1" and booked me for August 8. I'll admit, I would have jumped up and down, but that isn't exactly a back friendly reaction.
So, yeah, I'm psyched to get a somewhat major surgery. I've had more than my share already but this is definitely a more serious level of operation than the others. I appreciate that there is risk and I am NOT looking forward to the recovery period (I am NOT good at resting), but the possibility of relief trumps all of that. It's been two years altogether, though it is more like a year and a half at a serious level. I've tried the less invasive options with steroid injections and rounds of PT and they haven't fixed it. Pain medicine helps me get through the day, but it is a band-aid and one I've only been okay using because I knew I was looking for a true fix. I needed a light at the end of the tunnel. I needed a possibility of a "cure."
I think that's somewhat normal but I also think it is tied to my history. I have been through a number of doctors and tried treatments and even surgery, but the cold hard truth is that endometriosis is likely to be with me for a couple decades more. There are band-aids but no cure, other than hitting menopause and turning all those systems off. I get through and I know many women have it worse than I do, but it is still rough. I appreciate knowing the truth about outlook rather than having a false hope, but it is a hard one to swallow. In a really odd way, the back has been the closest I've gotten to a cure...the level 7-8 pain trumps the baseline endo pain (flares still hurt) and take my attention away. But that's not a real cure and I know it.
I'm relieved to have a surgery date. I'm happy the test didn't end with a "sorry, nothing we can do." I've heard that enough. I am scared of the IV. I'm not looking forward to recovery. But there's hope (and an end to the band-aid of meds). And I needed that.
P.S. Yes, I know people debate fusions. I am confident it is the right call for me.