After barely making it through a summer of teaching swim lessons, I needed to have my back looked at. Although my tolerance level is frighteningly high, even I couldn’t disguise the pain I was in. I was physically crawling up my basement stairs at the end of the day, I couldn’t stand up straight, and I couldn’t pick up my kids. Now that I am thinking about it, I could barely sit without being in agonizing pain. An MRI showed some bulging and herniated discs in my lower back and I was off to a spine center to see what I needed to do.
We had a three tiered plan about injections and then surgery. When she saw my eyeballs nearly fall out of their sockets when she said surgery, she reassured me that we probably wouldn’t get to that point because the injections should work. We started with cortisone injections for the first round. After signing my life away on a piece of paper, I nervously laid on the table face down and waited for the pokes. The doctor told me I would be sore but should feel everything kick in to help within 3 to 5 days. After 10 days of absolutely no change, we scheduled an epidural steroid injection a month later. When I arrived, the doctor told me all of the things that could go wrong and told me the slim chance to none that those would happen, most likely.
So, I anxiously laid on the table face down and held on to my wrist and took my heart rate about 18 times. Sitting at a cool 120bpm, I tried so hard to calm my body down but I couldn’t. I just kept going over all of the things that could go wrong. So, I tried a different strategy. I thought about all of things that could go right. What if I could walk with no pain again to at least get me to PT to rehab this issue? What if I could walk up a set of stairs again without crawling? How great will it be to pick up my kids again? I wish I could tell you that those coping strategies worked, but it didn’t. In the back of my head, I just knew this wasn’t going to work. After the initial injection and screaming out loud because this burning sensation followed by pain traveled down my leg, I was released into my little holding cell where I sat for 30 minutes by myself in a wheelchair. 10 days later, no change.
As I mentally started contemplating spinal fusion surgery at 38, I instantly panicked. I couldn’t do it. Mentally, physically, emotionally. I decided that my last ditch effort was to throw a post up on good ol’ facebook to see if my network had any ideas. My good friend Maria sent me the name of her physical therapist and I called immediately. Sadly, she was booked for months and I decided to tell the woman my story. I pleaded for her to look at Meg’s schedule again and that I would make ANY time work. I met Meg in August and it was a match made in heaven. She was funny, quirky and extremely knowledgeable. We began to repair my back in the smallest of baby steps. There would even be times I couldn’t get up on the table. When I say baby steps, man were they fucking baby steps. I was in PT 2-3x a week from August through December of 2021.
In that same post, another friend messaged me and asked if I had my pelvic floor looked at. Other than the time my OB told me my vagina was sad (yes, that happened), I haven’t had any other opinions. Why would I need to have my pelvic floor looked at or my stomach? It was my back that bothered me not my vagina or my stomach. Ha, boy was I wrong.
I met Melanie from CoreSet also in August of 2021. It turns out that I tore my linea alba (the section that runs down your midline of your abdomen) in three places. I had what is called a diastasis recti. The top, middle and bottom were all stretched far apart and I basically didn’t have an abdominal wall. Well, I did but they weren’t close by. The worst separation was 12 cm long! This all started to make sense once Melanie explained everything to me. I wasn’t seeing any results when I was working out because I had no abdomen muscles since they were stretched too far apart. My back was in so much pain and I could barely stand up on my own because I had no support from my abdomen whatsoever.
The program that I would be put on would not have overnight results. I had to work hard. I had to be consistent. I had to trust the process. I was put in splints that covered from just underneath my boobs and my entire torso for 22 hours a day. Now, we didn’t just slap those things on for 22 hours on the first go. I had to work up to that place. I felt nauseous at first. The splints were tight. It was hotter that Haiti in August of 2021. And you can’t really sit down without the splints flying up and bending everywhere. So I stood for almost every portion of the day. I bought myself a standing desk and rarely sat down unless it was to get in the car. I hated driving with them on because it bulged up something fierce.
In addition to wearing these splints, I did exercises every single day. Multiple times per day. Between my diastasis recti exercises and my back exercises, it took me about 2-3 hours total per day. Some days I had to give up and only do one set. Some weeks when I got my period, I would have to give in all together. And lucky me, I get my period 2x a month so some weeks I just felt like a failure. However, I continued to push myself. I was determined to do this for me and I wasn’t giving up.
So, here we are 9 months later. I feel stronger than ever. My diastasis recti is completely closed at the top and bottom. I have about 1 cm left in the middle section!! I have more work that needs to be done but my back and core are stable. I only have spasms in my back when I get my period. So yes, it does suck that it happens every 2 weeks but sometimes my back pain will last 1-2 days and other cycles my back won’t hurt at all. I am back at the gym and have been for 3 months with no limitations. I have my confidence back. So much so that I am putting up this next picture. I am ready to show my before and my work in progress pictures.
I do want to thank Scott, my sisters, my parents, my friends and my trainer for being so supportive during this journey. Thanks goodness for facebook posts and for friends reaching out to get me the recommendations I so desperately needed. Last and certainly not least, my tag team partners of Meg and Melanie who have never met one another but heard all about one another during my appointments. They gave me the tools I needed to be successful and I will be forever grateful.
Here is to a summer of teaching lessons and launching these kids so far into the air, stomach engaged, of course.