As many of you know, retirement isn’t all fun and games. I’ve blogged several times about the fact that while retirement is great, it’s still real life with real problems and real obstacles. One of those obstacles is often health. We all have “degenerative life disease” (you’ll see where that comes from in a minute). We are all breaking down, some faster than others, on an inevitable path to the grave. Fun, right? But we live in an amazing time when medical care can extend not only our life, but our active, productive life.
That’s where this post, and likely most of my posts for the next few months, comes in. As I alluded to in my last post and I’ve been discussing over on my other blog, Fly Fish Nevada, I have back issues and will be having surgery next month. I know surgery is one of the more “popular” activities in retirement. My mom had her knee replaced last year. A blogger I follow had both of his done earlier this year. Lots of retired folks, and therefore usually older too, have health issues that require surgery.
My intent is to write about mine, both prior and after, as a resource for others. My condition is very common. In fact, degenerative disk disease (DDD) affects just about every human on earth. The term is a bit of a misnomer. Degenerative refers to the fact that disks in the spinal cord degenerate over time naturally. Disease makes it sound like it is both acquired some how and curable. DDD is just the natural aging of your disks, which have no blood supply. They thin, compress, herniate, whatever. It’s called getting old.
That’s where I came up with degenerative life disease. We all break down over time and will eventually die. It’s natural and not a disease, though a disease might be what finally gets you. Most people have DDD but not all are symptomatic. Some people’s disks just break down in a way that doesn’t pinch nerves or cause vertebrae to become damaged. I am not one of those people.
I have two problems. One, I have a herniated disk between L-5 and S-1 (look it up) that is putting pressure on my sciatic nerve and sending pain down my leg, causing it to burn and tingle and sometimes makes my leg feel weak. Two, I have a slipped disk between L-4 and L-5 causing L-4 to nearly slide of the top of my L-5 vertebra. That’s doesn’t cause me pain…yet. But it does cause my spinal cord to compress and my spine might collapse. OK, not really, but it is highly unstable and could become much worse.
Next time, I’ll describe the procedures to fix all this and what I’m doing to prepare. They are pretty cool, but the recovery, full recovery, can take six months. However, if that means I can get out fishing, hiking and generally attempting to do further damage to my body (just kidding…sort of) it will all be worth it. Stay tuned.