How I survived the weekend...not very well, I fear

Peggy and I went for an easy (i.e. flat) six-mile hike last week, and my knees have been hurting so much ever since that I haven’t even been walking the dogs here in town. My left shoulder has also been giving me fits again, and I don’t even know what I did to bring the pain back. Yesterday, I was desperate to go to the woods for a walk, but I knew I shouldn’t go far, so I decided to use our outing to look for new places close to town (we hike abandoned logging roads, partly because they’re easier on my knees than trails, and partly because our blind dog, Bonnie, can navigate them without her leash).

I didn’t expect the area I chose to be so steep. I turned back after only 25 minutes, and Peggy and the dogs went on alone. While I waited for them, I sat in a lawn chair, and read from a geology book (geology and botany being two enduring interests of mine). I also fell into a funk over my physical problems.

Being in a funk makes everything hurt worse, so by the time we got home, I was miserable. I wanted to open a bottle of wine, but since I’m trying to lose weight so that my knee won’t bother me as much, I took a full dose of hydrocodone (a narcotic) plus two Benadryl (to alleviate the itching caused by the hydrocodone). A few hours later, I took a Neurontin for the fire in my shins that is caused by the cyst in my spinal cord (syringomyelia, it’s called), plus two more painkillers. After an hour spent lying awake in a murderous rage at the whole world but especially at my failing body, I also took a Dalmane (a strong sleeping pill). Even with all this, the pain still woke me up early, so I’m sleepy and in pain yet again, and thinking seriously of opening that bottle of wine.

I used to be wary of taking so many drugs, but I’m pretty much to the point that I don’t care anymore. If my liver or my kidneys fail, I will be extremely bummed, but death itself isn’t of much concern except for the fact that I would be leaving Peggy and the dogs.

Honestly, if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know how much more suffering and indignity I would endure. Sometimes, I feel myself slipping so deeply into depression that I wonder how I am able to bear it and still function. Sometimes, I really don’t know how much more I can take. Sometimes, my misery is so profound that I wonder how much deeper the bottom could be. That said, I know it could be a lot deeper—like if Peggy died—but I also know I probably wouldn’t survive if it were.

I try to think of thoughts with which to console myself, and there are many. I still have about 75% of my vision, most of my other senses, and 80% of my mental capacity. I’m ambulatory, financially comfortable, have a cozy home, a loving wife, adequate leisure, and two good dogs. What I don’t have is a body that will do what I want it to do, or freedom from significant pain, or friends whom I greatly value (well, maybe one or two), or the feeling that my life counts for anything, or the confidence that I’ve utilized my talents wisely. I’m 61, and the writing is on the wall that it might very well be downhill physically and mentally from here.

Peggy works 20 hours a week, and hopes to retire in five years. Then, we will travel. I used to like traveling. Whether I would still like traveling, I don’t know. When I ask myself where I would like to go, I can’t think of many places. I never tire of Oregon, and I wouldn’t mind an occasional trip to other parts of the American West, but I’ve no special interest in the rest of the world or even the rest of the country. The only person I would want to visit is my half sister. Peggy has her father and two sisters along with assorted nieces and nephews, but I’m not close enough to them to want to visit them—or to think they would consider me as anything but Peggy’s baggage.

The nearby woods, coast, and desert all bring me joy. Learning about nature brings me joy. Being with Peggy and the dogs brings me joy. Blogging brings me joy but also guilt because I never feel that I visit other people’s blogs enough. Hosting that atheist group last week brought me joy. But, clearly, I need more joy and less heartache. Even though the pain is better at times, it always comes screaming back really bad, and I’ll be damned if I know how to stay optimistic in the face of it. I have a cabinet full of liquor and a drawer full of narcotics and sleeping pills, yet I must go on living. It’s not easy, but I do have two great comforts. One is that I might get better after all. The second is that I don’t have that many years left anyway. I also have one great obligation—Peggy.


Simone said...

I am saddened by your plight. I sincerely hope you get better soon.

Christy said...

It sucks to get old. I know that I don't have the same recovery time I did even 5 years ago. Keep doing what you can.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Snow...this makes me sad. For you and for me... I'm 46 and have pain so bad, I fear for my future. Pain is all I think about. I am wary of drugs. It just makes me feel hopeless!

The Tusk said...

Dear Snow,
I'm so sorry I haven't been able to blog for you to visit me. I was gearing a story just for your apnea and pain management. I have been remiss, as you have been a good friend with Jokes and Blogs and entertaining Bloglines of interest. Heated debates with your non-belief in God and Atheism has caused much disconsternation (word formulated from consternation and disconcerting), much of which I have followed back and forth from Nolly Posh Dreaming. From Nolly Posh I have met with Renee and Barry, whom both have passed on. I have been introduced to SweetmangoLovedesigns and Blissful Bohemian. From these blogs of which I came across were probably from my orientation with a college friend known as AdventureGirl. I have learned to follow videos from You Tube and I have learned about, its not a Blog, but a technical Design and Entertainment Video site for very well educated people into the Technical Entertainment and Design fields. These videos are informative and very humorous the Archives run deep. I also personally have an interest in geology after having read a book from the 1800's about finding coal. It was big industry, but also the book covered aqua-sphere locations where one could spa, you could say. I think this sort of trip should be a remedy for you. Not that I'm looking for a remedy for you. My friend Life on the Highwire is where I stole my headline Life on the Surface. She is why I began to blog. She right now is in a quandry on whether to start a road trip for a year or not. I personally haven't given my opinion on whether she should or not. I don't think Quandry should be spelt Quandary and spelt should be spelt spelt not spelled.

Are you following me.

To say you don't have that many years left, your in your 60's from what I've read and should learn to gripe until your in your 90's. You think you could get away from us that easy. Come on be serious...

Stop your kidding. I'm going to get you the name of my spa book from the 1800's and I bet you'll want to make a go of discovering one or two of these wonders, and even try them out for yourself. Feel fortunate for as much pain as you have that is discomforture some of us wish we had the plenty of leisure that you have right now. I'm hoping the quality of your Chillax improves we need more additions to what I've learned from my dog about life. I'm certainly not praying for you, because we both know where that will end up, on the cutting room floor as they say in my business. US Open this coming weekend for me. Feel badly for me, 3 square meals a day paid for by CBS (Columbia Broadcast Systems, is it system or station, god knows, ooops, only the FCC knows for sure.) Tennis in Flushing Meadows New York at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Was he originally Australian? I'm actually working Louis Armstrong Stadium which is Court 2. Now he was American and what great blues.

I won't ever get the whole story right but I get close,,, that's Life on the Surface.

The Blog Fodder said...

Peggy sounds like a wonderful wonderful woman. Hang in there. You have articulated quite well the reasons to do so .

RNSANE said...

I am so sorry to hear that you continue to be in so much constant pain, Snowbrush. That, of course, has to be depressing. I did better when I was still working. At least, it took my mind of my back. In the 18 months since the budget cuts and the loss of my forensic nursing position of 21 years, I've been so discouraged. Retirement meant an income drops of $90,000 a year - even with social security and my half time pension - San Francisco screwed us by making our benefitted hours half time and paying us per diem for all hours over that! The four of us, in fact, covered the city 24/7 for child sexual abuse cases. With my total income now at $3668 after taxes and my rent at $2325, there isn't anything left over. I'm getting ready to move outside San Francisco but not far - my health benefits are here and, as I near 66, my spinal stenosis grows worse and I have a torn rotator cuff on the left shoulder. All my travel is over....good thing I did it when I had the chance. No money for it.

I am thinking to go to India for six months,using the last of my frequent flyer miles. I have so many friends there and I will never see them again unless I do it soon. My sons encourage me to go now, while I still can so I'm going to try for November.

It is horrible to be in constant pain. At least you have Peggy with whom to share your life and that has to be some help. It is nice to hear that you derive joy from your surroundings and still get out and walk and try to be outdoors, even if it does cause you pain.

My thoughts and good wishes are with you, Snow.

Natalie said...

Do whatever it is you need to do.

I won't hold it against you if you don't pop over to visit. I know you well enough to know, that you care about me, and that makes me very happy indeed.

Wish I could take all the pain away from all the people.


Gaston Studio said...

Peggy is/should be also a comfort not an obligation Snow. You need to focus on her, the dogs and the possibility that you may get better over time. I would also hope that you had many, many years left to enjoy and not so few as you imagine. I'm 68 and feel I've got at least 20 more and that's a lot to me; 61 is young!

All Consuming said...

The blackness really is very dark when it comes, I know that myself. People don't realise how much severe pain affects the mind. There are ups as well as downs, but the downs are shocking, though at least you aren't so depressed you can no longer see the good points. You're right, you have a loving wife, great dogs, an amazing mind and live somewhere astonishingly beautiful compared with city life. And you might indeed get better. Hold onto all that tightly and try not to beat yourself up about visiting other blogs. I wish I lived closer and could be a practical friend instead of a 'virtual' one, but at least we have that. Sending you a big old virtual hug and plenty of love xxx

rhymeswithplague said...

Random thoughts:

1. The point is that you did survive the weekend.
2. The phrase "an easy six-mile hike" does not compute.
3. I think you should open that bottle of wine.
4. Ever since you included that picture in your last post, what you say strikes me differently. For example, "I will be extremely bummed" and "I wonder how much deeper the bottom could be." 8)
5. Old age ain't for sissies!

rhymeswithplague said...

Seriously, my friend, if I had a magic wand (I don't, dagnab it), I would do my best to make all your pain and anxiety go away.

Marion said...

Damn, Snow, I hate that your knees are bothering you. I was worried that you might be doing too much, too soon. Take it a little slower, old man! (Speaking as one who was told 3 years ago that I need both knees replaced, I feel your pain...).

My doctor keeps pushing anti-depressant drugs on me, but I keep telling him the drugs kill my soul. (He does not get it. I can't write my poetry when I don't 'feel' anything!) I tried them years ago and it was a nightmare, literally.

Hang in there and take it easy for a spell. You'll be back on your feet in no time. Sending you love and blessings! xoxo

kylie said...

hang in there snow!!!!

Mim said...

I'm glad you have Peggy.

I sometimes feel that there is a secret about being happy - no matter what - that is just outside my reach. Like a truth that if I could grab it, all the other bullshit wouldn't matter. Physical pains aside, somehow there is something elusive - some elemental truth - the golden ring...and I just can't seem to grab it. And I want to! I want to enjoy everything and not get pissed off cause I can't hike (bum ankle) and I'm getting old and fat and slow. I don't want to care if the toilet paper isn't on the spool right...I want to find that perfect jewel of a moment where everything lines up, all the planets are in tune, as am I.

I could tease you and say "maybe it's religion or god" - but it's not that. something cosmic maybe, ah hell - I don't know.

But it sounds like you're looking for that golden ring also.

kj said...

snow, sometimes i don't know what you say because sometimes i think you whine too much and are not flexible enough. that you can even consider a six mile hike is alot further than many people, and 61 has a lot more living to do if that's what you want (i am 63 and frankly i feel like i'm headed backwards, which i don't mind).

i also understand how debilitating chronic pain can be. i don't mean to underestimate that. but there is something about you i don't quite understand. i know what mim means when she talks about reaching but not quite grasping. i feel that way too. but when i read what you have written here i sense this blanket of depression and i wonder if it makes it impossible for you to get out of your own way.

life is short and you only get the one you have. if your body can't keep up, i hope you find a way to travel lightly with the body you have. and if not, well, that's okay too, but i still hope you wring out the enjoyment of a spaghetti dinner, or a gesture of love from your dogs or peggy,

you bring out the optimist in me, snow.

Lorraina said...

Dear Snow, i hope you're feeling better today.
jfyi i think sometimes summer is the culprit. I have several issues and one is arthritis and while most suffer more in the rainy cold season i suffer more in the warmth of summer. So rejoice, fall is almost here and hopefully will give you some relief.

Also wanted to say i've done the route of all the meds you mentioned. The addition of just one more can make you so constipated you'll wish you were dead. And the addition of just one more with a drink could do ya in.

Read the side effects. Some pain killers have the side effect of - you guessed it - pain.

I think if i didn't already have a messed up liver i'd ditch the pills in favor of alcohol, even though i've never been much of a drinker.
It's just that i notice the people who drink seem to feel better and live longer than those on pills.

kj said...

snow, say something please! i;m going to feel bad until i hear from you. ♥

Snowbrush said...

Peggy and I have been out of town for a perinatal conference--hers, of course. It's late, and I wouldn't be writing now except for your note, KJ. When I got your initial response, I rather assumed that you weren't able to appreciate the severity of my problem because you yourself don't place a great deal of value on a physically active lifestyle and/or you haven't suffered from moderate to severe pain everyday for years.

After my knee debridement in 2006, the orthopedist told me that I had widespread Stage 4 arthritis (bone on bone with spurs everywhere), and that I should only take short walks on flat ground. Well, I had that surgery because I was an avid hiker in mountainous terrain, and the surgery was presumably going to allow me to hike farther (I sometimes did 12 miles up and down mountains) without pain. Since then, I have slowly worked my way up to doing somewhat longer hikes than he suggested, but the more I do, the more I'm reminded of how much I miss hiking, and the more I want to do. This leads me to push myself harder than I should, and I often end up discouraged.

Now, I have two bum shoulders to go with my two bum knees, and all four of these joints hurt to some extent all the time--much of the time, they hurt quite badly. Not only can I no longer hike, now, thanks to my shoulders, I can no longer work out with weights, or even do any but the lightest projects around the house. Given that my entire adult life has been built around extreme activity--extreme by most people's standards anyway--and given that there is little chance of much improvement in either my shoulders or my knees (artificial joints AREN'T for extremely active people unless they're willing to blow them out in a few years or even a few months), life as I've known and enjoyed it is over.

Of course, there are those who read this blog who are scarcely able to grocery shop much less walk six miles, and, to them, my position might very well sound enviable. So, you're right in the sense that it's not the loss of mobility itself that is the problem--or at least the biggest part of the problem--but rather how I think about the loss and, of course, the pain. About the pain, I will just say that pain which wakes a person up time and again, night after night for years with the intensity of a deep stab wound is not something to be taken lightly.

Diana said...

Hi Snow, thanks for your visit today and for cheering me on about the knee replacement. I have many fears about it but one by one they are fading with each day that I am stuck sitting on my ass which I totally despise!
I am so sorry for all of the pain that you suffer. I guess some of us are just meant to bear it all. I would completely understand opening that bottle of wine! I am having some right now myself!
I am amazed that you can still walk sometimes with all that you go through.
Geology, does that mean you may know something about rocks?
Love Di ♥

kj said...

hi snow, i'm sorry i'm just back here now. i'm moving slow in vacation mode.

i don't know what to say. thank you for helping me understand better. i can't disagree, and wouldn't, with anything you say. i am a physically active wimp for sure, and pain, well, i have a couple of chronic areas but clearly not with your level of chronic pain.

i do however think i am somewhat knowledgable about physical disability, rehab, chronic pain. i have worked with probably hundreds of people who have had to modify their lives because of physical illness or injury. some modify better than others. some have to reinvent themselves, some do, some don't. basically, i just wish a good amount of contentment for you, snow. you have tools to work with, i know that.

that's all i really meant to say.


Snowbrush said...

Diana said: "...thanks for your visit today and for cheering me on about the knee replacement."

I have no doubt but what you need it. I have stage four arthritis (did I write this recently?) in one knee for sure and probably--given how it hurts--in the other. Scans of my knee bones look like photos of the Grand Tetons due to all the spurs. Yet, if I don't overdo it, and if I keep my weight down, the pain is tolerable.

Aside from the surgery itself, what scares me about joint replacements are that they're not for people who do the kinds of extreme activities that I like to do because you can blow them out within months if you don't take care of them. Also, even with care, they eventually have to be replaced, and each successive replacement is less likely to work well. All that said, my sister had a knee replacement in December after literally decades of suffering, and if I were in her shape--or yours--I would have one too. When ANY amount of walking is too much, the writing is on the wall, and I'm just glad you have surgery as an option.

KJ said: "i'm sorry i'm just back here now."

It's okay, KJ. I wouldn't have hassled you about it had I not been in a pissy mood. After all, I did know you had been on vacation. That was a very sweet story you told about the two ladies from Minnesota, by the way.

Strayer said...

Snow, do you and Peggy like to swim? Do you guys want to go, to a hot springs or river or lake, before the winter closes in? I would love to go. If you're up for it, let me know. What about star gazing on a black night with a campfire? That would make me happy, but I don't if you would enjoy it or have the time.

Snowbrush said...

Diana said: "Geology, does that mean you may know something about rocks?"

I neglected to answer your question, Diana. I like rocks, and I like studying how they form, but telling, for example, granite from a rock that looks similar to granite sometimes involves far more knowledge and equipment than I possess. By way of illustration, imagine that true granite contains 40% plagioclastic feldspar whereas a similar rock contains 45%. See what I mean? Not even a geologist can necessarily tell one from the other simply by looking at them. What's more, granite has the same composition as rhyolite, an explosive form of lava, yet granite itself is slowly formed far beneath the ground. The difference between the two is in the fact that the crystals in granite have plenty of time to grow before the rock hardens, whereas the crystals in rhyolite don't. Pretty interesting, huh?

babbler said...

Mr. Snowbrush,
Thank you for coming over to Slugs Rest to take a stab at the math question. I hope you have found your slide rule, I have posted another tantalizing question that you can use it for. I promise that solving it, or making a hearty attempt, will take your mind off of pain, and perhaps even lend some healing dendrites to the brain which will mask the inflamed pain sensors. Consider a return trip to slugs rest for your next break from reality! See you there, Love and comfort, Mrs. Slug :)

Snowbrush said...

Mrs. Slug, I almost never allow comments that have nothing whatsoever to do with my post, but I'm apparently weak of head today. Of course, this pretty much makes the use of a slide rule impossible even if I hadn't lied when I said I had one. In fact, I've never had one.

Zuzana said...

Beautiful and candid post. Although I am younger then you, and so far my body still works, I too recognize some of the sentiments of pain. Maybe mine is not physical as it is emotional and psychological. But everything is relative and that pain can be as unbearable as any other we feel in our body.
I hope you get to travel and see things that will reinforce your belief in the magic of life; however painful it is at times.

The Bipolar Diva said...

You have something that many of us, including myself, don't have. That's a strong and happy marriage. I envy you.

Snowbrush said...

Zuzana said: "Maybe mine is not physical as it is emotional and psychological."

I have been chronically depressed for decades, yet I prefer even that to physical pain if only because I can have the former without the latter, but I'll be damned if I know how to have the latter without the former.

Diva said: "You have...a strong and happy marriage."

If that's your way of breaking our date, I don't much like it.

Peggy and I have been married for 38 years, and have survived many of the things that lead to divorces, so I feel anchored in my relationship, you might say. If I only had myself to think of, I wouldn't do so well.

I heard on the radio today (NPR, of course) that 70% of divorces are initiated by women, and if Peggy and I had divorced, that's the way it would have been. I've often wanted to have my cake and eat it to, so to speak, but I never wanted to end the relationship.

I also heard recently (again on NPR--ha) that when women are asked to put a monetary value on the emotional suffering caused by divorce, they present an average figure of $15,000. For men, it's well over $100,000 (I don't remember exactly). And when husbands die, women tend to do pretty well for the most part. When wives die, men's mortality rates soar. Men need women more than women need men.

The Bipolar Diva said...


I'd never break a date with you!

Interesting information you left. I know that my dad died because my mom did. She would have handled things much better had it been reversed.

Marion said...

I've felt this way at times, Snow. This pain feels like such a long sentence...I keep thinking I'll get better, yet I know that's unlikely.

It's just the way it is, I guess. Hope you're feeling a bit better today!

Anonymous said...

When Joe and I returned from our year in Florida (the constant warmth and sunshine had done wonders for me) I still felt well and we decided to throw money into our home to get it ready for our old age. Just as quickly as it was finished (including a full house air purification system because I'm allergic to this area, I took ill).

Typically "good timing" as usual.

The pain, the knowledge that we had pretty well boxed ourselves in, and the accompanying depression of this situation, has kept me locked in the dark recesses of my mind and I have recently failed to visit your blog.

A home that we were familiar with in Florida became available a few days ago (naturally), and my hopes rose a bit, but the realtor said we'd never be able to sell our home DUE TO the expensive renovation.

(small home, HUGE financial input for the renovation = death in the down turned home selling market)

So the depression deepened.

My doctor prescribed the addition of simple type of pain pill, GABAPENTIN, which has an odd side effect: peace, and a sense of wellbeing.

It's the only thing holding me together right now, but at least I'm holding on. The strengths of the milligrams can be increased to an unbelievable amount and it coexists well with my other meds.

But, it's not enough at this stage....

Joe and I had our Wills drawn up last week, as well as a DNR in our Living Wills.

Like you, I hang in there for him (although I feel he would be better off without the terrible burden I bring) and if something were to happen to him, I certainly wouldn't want to be alone whether in Florida, or here.

Just not having an answer to our dilemma, leaves us with despair too deep to express. but I think that between you and I, we've done a fairly good job of telling it like it is.

Anonymous said...

It just occurred to me: SIX MILES? I assume that's three miles out, then three back?

Too many times to count, Joe and I have gone to Krogers and I couldn't make it from the car to the store! On several occasions I tried to walk with him down the block and I ended up sitting on the curb while he returned to the house to get the car and come to pick me up.

Now I feel worse than I did when I first started reading your post!

If you ever make it to eight miles,(four out and four back) please, for my sake, don't mention it.

nollyposh said...

Life's a bitch at times i agree but then (in my view) it's all about the way we choose to cope... i admire that you don't give up, i think often myself about giving up and then the sun comes up and i decide to step into another day just to see what little bit of magic it might have for me... i also look at my children, like you look at Penny... and decide that i can't let go of them just yet!
So i read ...and my latest book talks about the nature of reality and about how essentially i create my own worlde and (because i believe in 'the soul concept') that i will go on beyond a physical death/focus and continue to create... i started reading this book for a little inspiration, but right now it's just making me feel very tired... Perhaps it's not about finding meaning in our lives at all (as i supposed) but about each of us simply finding our own personal ~Joy~ whatever that is? Like camping... What would you be doing differently my friend if you had no pain? More adventurous camping? More bum smiles at the sky (Lol by the way!) Or just an extra lick of paint on the house? Perhaps our pain tries to teach something? (i'm just saying!) x