As my blog hit the milestone of a quarter million page views (see counter on my sidebar!) and around 200 followers, I wanted to share the following account of how I began writing and blogging. I know that in publishing the entire post in one LONG segment, I am committing to what amounts to blogging suicide and breaking all blogging etiquette but I don’t think the post has the same power and message chopped into shorter segments.
This tale breaks from my typified outdoor writing style and is a personalized story, filled with accounts of adversity and renewed faith. Please take a few minutes to read my tale and from it perhaps develop a new found understanding and respect for people who live with chronic pain and rejoice in your good fortune to be mentally and physically healthy.
The month was September and the year was 2007. I was lying on an operating table waiting for what I hoped would be a life altering surgery. After suffering with chronic pain for almost 7 years and recently presented with living the remainder of my life in a wheel chair, I was praying this surgery would forever change my life for the better.
In the fall of 2001, I was partridge hunting with my brother in rural Washington County. After a very long day of heater hunting over a collection of bumpy old logging roads, I noted my back was aching fiercely. Believing it was a muscle pull, I didn’t think much of the pain and decided to take a few ibuprofens and lie down.
About a month passed and my lower back pain had not improved. Understanding that this was likely NOT a muscle pull, I decided to pay a visit to the local ER. After a series of x-rays and MRIs, it was determined I had a sustained a back injury, likely while riding those bumpy roads and now had a severely bulging disc at spinal connector L4/L5. Due to a congenitally narrow spinal column the bulging disc was rubbing against my nerves and causing the shooting pain and sciatica I was experiencing.
When I inquired about surgical options, the doctor stated, he could only recommend physical therapy and continued medicinal treatments at this time. Given that to this point, any of my previous injuries were all curable with surgery, I was angered that this new “injury” wasn’t able to be “fixed”. With all our advances in medical services, I ignorantly exclaimed, why can't we fix a man’s damaged spine? Yes, sometimes I am an idiot.
Unfortunately, the 800 mg per day daily doses of ibuprofen did practically nothing for pain elimination, only making the discomfort “bearable”. Multiple visits to physical and massage therapists and a variety of other back and spinal specialists all ended with the same results, continued pain.
I was in constant physical discomfort, yet I refused to give in to my debilitating problem. Fighting it constantly, I invested in an arsenal of therapeutic equipment from back braces to portable heat packs, magnets and chair supports. In the end, however, none of these "gimmicks" seemed to provide anything beyond a glimmer of relief, though I prayed regularly they would.
January of 2006 found me climbing 22,843 foot Aconcagua in Argentina, completing for me what had been a life long "bucket list" dream to climb at least one of the worlds 7 summits (highest peaks on each continent). During that 3 week climbing expedition, at times carrying over 75 pound pack loads, I suffered a full rupture of my spinal disc at L4/L5.
If there was ever the proverbial straw that broke the camels back that was it. Some would think my choice to climb foolish and reckless but for those of us with an adventurous spirit these "rash" decision are crystal clear.
Returning back home to the states, my once if annoying but controllable pain was no longer anything but manageable. I began to research pain pumps, heavy narcotics and anything that would provide me with even a few brief hours of relief. As the months passed, I became continually more and more agitated and depressed and my ability to effectively walk became severely limited. Numbness and sciatica would spread into my legs making walking more than a hundred yards impossible. I would sit on a stump on the 200 yard walk to the mailbox, to allow the feeling to return to my legs so I could continue.
A comfortable night’s sleep eluded me. I was only able to sleep in one specific position and if I moved in the night, pain would awaken me immediately. I was feeling like I was slowly losing my mind. I wonder, if it had not been for a loving wife and new baby boy, if I would have eventually considered drastic measures to end my torment.
Knowing that my quality of life was rapidly failing, I again saw my doctor and begged to be reevaluated for surgery. I was granted a referral and sent to a back specialist. Upon review of updated photographs of my lower back, the specialist determined that my only option was surgery. Of course, even with surgery, there would be no absolute guarantee I would come out of the ordeal with any less pain or added mobility. It was all part of the dangers of spinal surgery and the reason my doctor had delayed for so long, surgery could in fact make the problem even worse.
While I do not classify myself as religious person, I do feel that I have a spiritual connection with a higher power. Perhaps that makes me “religious”, perhaps not. Regardless, it was at this time in my life, as the surgical date rapidly approached that I had one of those “enlightened” moments and “found Jesus”.
Awakening from the deep sleep of a medically induced coma, my eyes flicked open and I stared up at the bright glow of the fluorescents. It took me a few minutes to understand where I was and what had happened, as my mind refocused, I nearly broke into tears at the realization my back pain was completely gone! There was certainly the lingering burning feeling where I had been operated upon but the deep, dark, penetrating pain that had been my constant aggitator for years, had been completely eradicated. It was truly a moment in my life I will never forget and still thank God daily that I was cured.
The recovery from my surgery left me practically bed ridden for weeks and unable to complete all but the simplest of tasks for well over a month. Even picking up and holding my new baby boy was considered “off limits”. Days spent lying on the couch and watching TV quickly began to drive me to insanity and it was at this point, I decided to start writing.
Admittedly, my first few stories were rough to say the least but I quickly found that while my technical abilities were lacking, my passion for writing had words flowing freely across the screen of my laptop.
My first story “Bear Hunt Taken to the Extreme” was submitted to the Maine Sportsman and shockingly it was accepted. Vastly encouraged, that my first attempt would be received so readily, I was excited to continue in this new writing endeavor. More stories were extracted from my memories and converted to the written word. Before long, I began to amass quite a collection and started looking at ways to share my writing beyond my friends and family.
To write better, one must continually practice their craft and discover their particular writing style. This can only be accomplished by continuing to create. Some fortunate people accomplish this by writing professionally for magazines, newspapers and journals. Knowing it was unlikely I would score a job in publishing but still wanting to have an audience upon which to present my writing, I decided to start blogging.
Now with the blog near 250,000 page views and 200 followers, I look back and offer a hearty THANKS to all of the people who influenced me, helped to get my blog going and through their support build it to the point it is today. Without comments, suggestions and a dedicated readership, it is unlikely I would still be blogging. It is YOU the audience that makes my writing enjoyable and I receive great pleasure reading your comments, knowing that a post makes someone smile, remember an old outdoor memory or learn something new, perhaps even making them a better sportsman.
Looking back on the last 10 years, I see that there was good and there was bad. Though I would never want to return to those years of back pain and discomfort, it is highly likely I would not be where I am today as a writer, had I not been injured. The past experiences, have also taught me to be a little more cautious and careful with my physical being. Reckless behaviors tend to eventually lead to situations often difficult to correct and some tragedies can never be corrected, no matter how much therapy you undergo.