Sunday, April 17, 2016

Health journey: when the mirror still doesn't match reality

I still don't see myself in the mirror as Panda down 63 lbs. 🐼 It's only when I come across pics like the one on the left that I see the huge difference (someone had this screencap from a CNN appearance from my blogging days during the 2008 presidential cycle on their blog).

I was on 3 types of insulin/injectibles for diabetes 3x/day (now I'm off all of them)! Ironically, it was also before rheumatoid arthritis struck (2012) and my L5-S1 herniation, surgery, re-herniation, and last year the disabling disc collapse. I'm thankful that I was not carrying the extra weight during this last physical/health disability that led to my termination from a 22 - year career at Duke University Press after my FMLA ran out.

But I didn't give up. I am very slowly and carefully working on supporting my back after 3 months of inactivity, first using a walker and then a cane. On the bad days when that nerve gets pressed, it's like an electrical shock and acute pain beyond belief leaving me practically bedridden; other days I can walk unassisted. I can't sit or stand for hours at a time as I did when running/writing the Blend, but I'm doing my best to reboot my life, remake and better myself.

My dilemma is I really can't consider fusion surgery for a variety of reasons, but the real kicker is the discs above and below the collapsed one are also degenerating, so fusion to them for L5-S1 will hasten their collapse, leading to additional fusion surgery. So my spine is a time bomb, but I can't give up, just forge ahead to make the most of what lies ahead.

What I am grateful for is your amazing kindness and support of my GoFundMe campaign ( to get through this tough limbo period as bureaucracy leaves me twisting in the wind awaiting decisions from Duke and its disability carrier. The latest update is I should know by the first week in May what my options are to move on.

Chronic, disabling pain is an invisible disability that is life-altering, as many of you have shared in messages and emails to me. It can make life seem hopeless one day, and possible to rise above the next. Dealing with medical professionals to address pain management in a healthy way is its own challenge as well. But I'm here to say not to give up.

Panda 🐼 (Pam Spaulding)

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