Long time no talk!
You know that thing where you’re following someone’s story online and one day they just sort of seem to vanish, and you never really know why? People “go dark” on the internet for a lot of reasons. But when you’re following someone who has a health issue, there’s probably always an extra element concern – are they still doing okay? Has their health taken a turn for the worse? Are they avoiding having to share some bad news?
Sadly, sometimes this is indeed the case. But not always. Sometimes it’s the opposite: the person’s “health journey” has stabilized to the point where there’s nothing more to share. Or, even better, the health issue isn’t really much of an issue anymore.
I’m happy to report that my absence from blogging (and my limited social media activity) is the latter. It’s been 4.5 years since my lumbar fusion, and I have blissfully little to share about the condition of my back. My back is good. And while I’m not naive enough to think that my back troubles are guaranteed to be gone forever, I’m making the most of it while I can!
However, life has taken some interesting turns lately, and since I’m currently in quarantine (more on that soon), it seems like a great time to catch you up on all the highlights.
My Back: Spinal Fusion Update
I’ll start with the subject that’s probably the least interesting, but also probably the reason most of you are reading here: my back.
Like I said, my back is good. My lumbar fusion (L4-S1) was in May 2016, about 4.5 years prior to the date of this post’s publication. While I do still get stiff and achy in my lower back, especially when I over-exert myself or sleep in an uncomfortable bed, I almost never have pain in excess of a 1 or 2 (on a 1-10 pain scale). I take Tylenol for back pain less than once a month.
I’ve written a lot about traveling and staying active in the years since my fusion, and while COVID has put a damper on both, my back hasn’t been a factor at all. We had lots of big, active plans on the docket at the start of 2020, and I’d like to think we would have accomplished them if not for the pandemic. Hopefully we’ll have another shot at them in 2021!
I receive comments and messages about my spinal fusion almost daily. I’m so glad that my story has inspired you or given you hope about your own situation, and I encourage each and every one of you to share your own story, too! It doesn’t have to be in a blog or a YouTube channel – write about it on social media, or share your experience in a comment here, or reach out privately to someone who has questions or seems to be struggling. It all helps! As I’ve said many times in the past, my online connections were my lifeline in the early weeks of my recovery. Those relationships – some of which continue today – got me through some really hard times. Just a few kind words from you could make all the difference for someone.
With that being said – I do realize that it’s terribly hypocritical on my part to say all of that, considering how poor I am at responding to messages. There are a lot of reasons why I struggle to correspond, but that’s not really important. What is important is that you know that I read every single one of your messages and comments, and that each one matters a great deal to me. I know it’s not the same as exchanging messages with a real, live person, but I just published a whole new section of the blog with answers to the most frequently asked questions about my own spinal fusion experience. My hope is that it will be a source of immediate information and/or comfort to you, instead of having to wait for my slowpoke response.
The new FAQ section is a work in progress, so please let me know if you think of other questions or topics that I should include. Also, I’m working on a lists of: a) spinal fusion resources, and b) people on Instagram or other social media platforms who are willing & able to support our fellow members of Team Titanium. If either applies to you, please comment below or contact me directly with your info!
Please note: I moderate comments from all first-time posters (it helps cut back on spam). If you post a comment and it doesn’t show up at first, that’s why. I usually get comments approved in < 24 hours, so just check back later.
A Whole New Hemisphere
Now for the really big news: we’ve moved. And not just any old move – we’ve moved to Japan! We’ve traded the East Coast for the Eastern Hemisphere. Talk about a plot twist, right?
Let me back up.
Vic and I have tossed around the idea of moving overseas for close to a decade. He’s always been all for it, but I was the hold out. Our kids were little, and it didn’t seem like the right time to leave our family, friends, and familiar surroundings. Besides, I moved several times as a kid with my family, and I wasn’t a big fan of the idea.
Early this year, before COVID, we asked the girls how they’d feel about moving to Japan. It was purely on a whim; I thought for sure at least one of them would protest. But to our great surprise, they were both totally on board. I remember looking at Vic and thinking, “okaaaaay…now what?”
We started considering our options: where, when, how…etc. We looked at various cities in mainland Japan and Okinawa, plus a couple of different states in the US as a plan b. By this time it was spring, and we were hopeful that we could make the move before school started in late August. Of course, like for the rest of the world, COVID had other plans. Long story short, after various delays, it was over four months from when Vic received a tentative job offer to when our plane finally landed in Tokyo.
After many months of planning, scheduling, rescheduling, and lots of “hurry up and wait,” we are finally living in Japan! For the next three years, we will be living (and Vic will be working) on Camp Zama, a US Army base about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Tokyo. By the time this post is published, we will be almost finished with our 14 day quarantine (complete isolation, absolutely no leaving the premises) in our new home. Our adventure hasn’t even begun! But when it does, I will be sure to tell you all about it.
By the way, for my spinal fusion friends, the 14 hour flight from Dallas to Tokyo was a piece of cake. I didn’t even need Tylenol afterwards.
My (Non-Back) Health
I’m not sure if this will interest any of you, but since I’ve shared a bit about my GI issues in the past, I figured I’d provide an update.
I’ve dealt with digestive issues for even longer than I have with back pain. I’ve literally had them my entire life – as an infant, I was allergic to my milk-based formula. But I’ll be honest – despite being fully aware of my GI issues, I pretty much ignored them and ate what I wanted, regardless of how it made me feel.
In my family, digestive issues are pretty much a given. And they run the gamut: we have intolerance to lactose and gluten and everything in between. As my grandma got older, her diet became increasingly restrictive, to the extent that there were far more foods she couldn’t eat than those she could. I always suspected that this type of diet would be in my future, so I made a conscious (and probably dumb) decision to eat whatever I wanted for as long as I could tolerate it.
Well, “as long as I could tolerate it” happened about two years ago. On top of the nearly constant stomachaches, I had headaches and no energy and a whole bunch of other unpleasant symptoms. I finally went to my doctor to get to the bottom of it. After an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, lots of blood work, and plenty of trial and error, we were able to rule out anything serious and to peg the culprit as a combination of gastritis, some fairly significant vitamin deficiencies, and various food intolerances.
I made some lifestyle changes, began taking B12 and iron supplements, and (most importantly, I think) started cutting out my trigger foods. I eliminated dairy (RIP cheese) and a whole bunch of other foods – most notably the allium family, which includes garlic and onions in any form (raw, cooked, powdered, etc). Much like my grandma, there are now way more foods that I can’t eat than those I can. However, I feel a MILLION times better, which makes it totally worth it! Sometimes I’ll accidentally eat a trigger food, and I’ll feel so terrible afterwards that it’s hard to fathom how I lived like that for years. (I get it now, Grandma. I really do.)
As far as this blog, my online presence, and my writing goes – I’m not sure. This blog has evolved a LOT since I started it in 2013. It began as a space for me to write about running, family, health & fitness, and life in general. Obviously a lot has changed since then, starting with the fact that I more or less had to give up running. And while I love sharing my spinal fusion story with you, like I said at the start of this post, I (thankfully) don’t have much to share right now.
I’m definitely not going anywhere (and neither is this blog), but I haven’t decided how or where to share my story (specifically about life in Japan) going forward. I’ve started posting about Japan on Instagram at @thezamamama, and I still post fairly regularly (although not as often as I used to) at @mommyrunsit. Regardless of where, I hope you’ll continue to follow our adventures. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life and for being a part of mine!
Awesome post! Thanks for putting all these great sites together in this list.
I started blogging about running to some months ago. So here’s my URL:
I appreciate every visit
Karen Quealy says
Hi Sharon, I’m so happy to stumble upon this site. I had C5/6 fusion with an L4/5 looming. I am 1 week in yay me. I’m just wondering when the bouts of complete exhaustion go away. I’m a very upbeat person. Always on the go a gym warrior. Outdoor enthusiasts, gardener an all of that is on hold. I can’t even drive for 4 weeks. I’d love to know more about a diet an what I should be eating. There’s times I feel famished. I’m a vegetarian an my throat is very sore from the surgery.. I’ve been living on soups..I wish you the best in Japan an look forward to more on your journey.
Best , titanium Karen
So happy to find your blog. I had L2, L3, L4, L5 and S1 fused 5 weeks ago. I have had so many questions and just needed to hear from others who have had this done. I have been a runner, hiker, kayaker etc for most of my life. In the last few years I have become a walker as my back could not take anything more aggressive.
In week 5 I am able to walk a mile or so per day, but I am still struggling with a certain amount of pain and lots of discomfort. And I struggle with being comfortable enough to sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. Only taking a bit of pain medication at night. The good days, bad days, exhaustion, ups and downs are getting fewer and I continue to get stronger. I also have pins and plates in my left ankle and left wrist.
Your blog and all the hints help me to realize that most of this is normal and gives me hope that things will improve in the weeks to come. I feel much more confident thanks to everyone and if I can help in some way let me know! Thank you all!
Go Team Titanium!
Amy Bauch amytrigirl says
Great to read your new blog, Sharon, and I’m really glad you are doing so well with your back and adjustments to Japan and your new food plan. I want to thank you again for doing such a great job documenting your fusion journey. It was truly a godsend to me as I prepped for my TFIL L4/5 fusion. I’m now 10 weeks out and mostly good. Nerve pain all but gone, but still have a very tight glute on my left side and some hip pain. (My biggest fear is that my hip is deteriorating and a replacement looms….) But, for the most part I’m happy — I can walk distances without pain — and I’m slowly getting back to normal. Enjoy your day. And enjoy the SUSHI!
Shawn Roussin says
Earlier today I stumbled upon one of your videos on YouTube as I was between walks as I am now exactly eight weeks out from my L5/S1 anterior lumbar interbody fusion. I have spent most of today reading your blog and watching your videos and can’t understand why I hadn’t stumbled upon them until today. They have provided me an immense sense of hope and I thank you for all of your effort into your outstanding writing.
Since I have never vlogged until two weeks before my surgery (10 weeks ago), I don’t have a lot of experience on the platform, nor do I know what is good “etiquette”. I was wondering if I might be able to provide you with a link to my channel for two reasons, one being for your own curiosity, and the other so others might benefit from my experiences with a lumbar fusion? I have no advertisers or anything to gain financially from my vlog.
Silvia Flores says
Im one of a lot of people that reading your blog during my post- fusion was my only way to not give up and see my future with hope , in my worse dark moments reading your experience gave me hope that everything will improve with time something that I was so anxious will never happened again . I’m so happy you are doing great ! and willing for a new adventure as familyI . I think you are great with words and have a gift as writer I think if you now share your experience in Japan can be a great success if you use youtube can be more visible and also can be a financial source . I’ll be always thankful for what your words and patience did in my life hugs and blessings for you and your family
BTW I had also a lumbar fusion L4-S1 in 2017 , and I’m great ! no more back pain and almost get my normal life with some exceptions of course ( no running ) Life is good