Dispatch from the Trenches

First, the good news . . .

Here’s what I discovered about my strained back over the past week: it’s really important to assess all factors that may have contributed to the injury in April. I originally thought that I had somehow hurt my back during a weeklong respiratory virus that involved too much coughing and sneezing. This was logical enough, because the coughing and sneezing—particularly the sneezing—immediately preceded the night when I stepped out of the car and struggled to walk.

What didn’t make sense was the amount of time it was taking to heal—going on 10 weeks, now, including a lot of rest, heat packs and physical therapy. Then I began to question something very basic: my desk chair.

I have had this chair for years. It’s a good office chair, but it doesn’t fit me quite right. I had bought a mesh lumbar back support a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t helping. So I decided it was time to try out some alternatives. Lo and behold, a very affordable mesh office chair with good lumbar support felt just right. I bought it, Al and I put it together, and I have been using it for more than a week. My back is almost back to normal. Eureka!

I’m still doing my back exercises, and I’m starting to take walks again to build up my stamina. All of this is a tremendous relief.

I wish I could say the same thing about my hands. It’s been one of those weeks when I wish I could unscrew my hands and set them aside to heal while I used a spare pair. There is no easy solution to the five very deep ulcers on my fingers, two on the left hand and three on the right. They are healing at a glacial pace, despite the arrival of summer. This past weekend, things began to deteriorate. Although, so far (knock on wood) I’ve avoided infections, I have developed nerve pain that feels like occasional, random electrical shocks in various fingers. No warning. Extremely upsetting.

In addition, it seems that I have also developed a reaction to the lidocaine gel that was so helpful over the past few weeks in minimizing pain. My skin began burning and looked very irritated. So I’ve been punting with steroid cream and antihistamines, awaiting upcoming doctor’s appointments.

Fortunately, I was able to schedule a last-minute appointment with my neurologist this Wednesday, whom I’ve had no reason to see for the past five years, to discuss pain management. I also discovered a promising ointment for healing skin ulcers that is backed by encouraging research; it’s supposed to arrive later today, and if it works, I will report back.

The bottom line is this: these ulcers will simply take months to heal. There is no getting around it, no magic Eureka moment when I realize I can change one element in my environment and make it all go away. I’ve consulted with an excellent wound care specialist and know that my care routine is solid. Now I need a good pain management regimen that doesn’t knock me out or cause other negative side effects, in order to go the distance, however long that may be.

I’m trying to be patient. I’m trying to be creative. I’m trying.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

Image Credit: Breno Machado

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