Chronic

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I decided to use a benign floral image for this post rather than recycle one of my x-rays. That photo reminds me that there is truth, beauty, and comfort to be found in places outside myself. Right now I find little solace on the inside.

I am still contending with orthopedic pain that is trending toward chronic pain. More of my problems have been revealed through recent doctor visits. All of these issues are just different facets of the same stone, but the substance of this stone resists identification.

My lumbar spine issues were partially resolved through the L4/L5 fusion surgery I had back in March. When I look at my orthopedic visit summaries, I don’t like that diagnoses like “lumbar spinal stenosis” and “radiculopathy” are marked as resolved, as if my surgery totally alleviated those issues. In truth, the surgery repaired my worst disc space, but I have three more problematic discs. My MRI from December of last year revealed that I had four bulging or ruptured discs in my lumbar spine. The degree of deterioration between L4/L5 was far advanced compared to the other discs, so it was chosen for surgical intervention.

My recovery was progressing better than expected until August when the pain I used to feel while standing in place came roaring back worse than I’d ever felt in the past. This is admittedly a strange problem: when I am resting or walking quickly, the pain I feel is minimal or nonexistent. Moving slowly or standing in place becomes very painful within a couple minutes. We’ve all known the mental agony of waiting. It’s like this pain is that torment made physically manifest.

This disappointing development is odd considering that the serial x-rays after my fusion show that the area is healing and fusing well. My spinal surgeon referred me to another doctor in the orthopedic practice, one who focuses on hip and knee problems. The hip/knee doctor diagnosed me with (and this is a mouthful, admittedly) iliotibial band syndrome with sartorial strain. He prescribed physical therapy for this problem.

The exercises I learned in my PT sessions have helped resolve much of the tension I was feeling in my left leg, but my pain I feel while standing in place or walking slowly has not diminished.

I had a follow-up appointment with the hip/knee doctor today. He considered my complaints and carefully reviewed my pelvic x-rays. He told me that I have arthritis in my left sacroiliac joint, where my spine joins my pelvis. I’ve started a prednisone dose pack to reduce the inflammation in the joint. If these pills do not substantially reduce my pain, it is likely that I will get getting a cortisone shot directly in that joint (guided by x-ray for proper placement).

It so happens that the hip/knee doctor has also had spinal fusion surgery, and he told me that he also has arthritis in that joint and has had such injections twice. When he revealed this information to me, I silently wondered why he didn’t mention this history during my visit last month. It would have stopped me from dreadfully speculating that my pain while standing was due to another ruptured disc. Really, I spent too much time considering that lumbar degeneration could follow a trajectory similar to that archaic domino theory of communism.

Apparently, there is something of a domino issue going on with my arthritis. I have extensive arthritis in my lumbar spine. That my spinal arthritis has been developing silently and painlessly for years seems proof of divine mercy in my life. Now that this arthritis has spread to an adjacent joint, the pain at that spot definitely has volume.

All of this static has occupied much of my mental space lately. I suppose there is a bizarre happy medium of suffering. A life free of adversity would be tasteless, its beauty as shallow as a polyester pantsuit, pleasing and wrinkle-free only from a distance. There must be a point of saturation for pain. Once this point is crossed, there is no eloquence, poetry, or melody. Life condenses to necessity, and the challenge is to keep from turning inward, for that is where pain reigns as long as it rages.

October Hibiscus

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Last night the temperature dipped into the low 40’s, yet my hibiscus plant is still making a valiant effort to rebloom. This year’s garden has been a welcome distraction from my ongoing orthopedic problems (and a depression whose volume is directly¬†proportional to¬†how much pain I’m feeling on a given day). I see inspiration in the partial blooms on that hibiscus plant. It keeps going, even when no pleasant outcome is guaranteed. It grows with an unspoken knowledge that it will persist over the years. All of this blooming is just a bonus, a nod to its kind that it too hopes for a little immortality.

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Yesterday’s Garden

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I’m happy I was able to get a few shots of my garden yesterday, for today has proved to be too blustery for good shots. The weather has remained warmer than average, and I don’t see that we have a threat of frost for the next 10 days. It is possible the garden could persist for the entire month of October. Last year it didn’t give up the ghost until the second week of November.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

We don’t have dramatic topography or structures in my area that are conducive to taking photos that tease our ordinary perceptions of scale. The land here in Lima, Ohio, is fairly flat. The few hills in this area are like sedentary folk in that they do most of their rolling while asleep. Our buildings are fairly short and squat as well. Short of renting a helicopter or buying a drone, I don’t have any vantage point I could use for a photo that says, “look how small we really are in the grand scheme of things.”

I suppose that some of our trees are tall enough to make us look small. I noticed this in a video I took of my husband and I walking through a local forest last weekend. The further we walk away, the more Lilliputian we look.

In reality, my husband, my daughter, and I are fairly short people. We ride together comfortably in a Honda Fit.

Last month, we attended a car show that had a few classic cars that are even smaller than our Honda Fit.

Here’s a photo of my husband walking by a 1957 BMW Isetta:

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Perhaps the Isetta was the Smart Car of its time (but of higher quality, I hope). In this photo, my husband looks small enough to fit himself into that car twice over. While he is on the short side, I don’t think he’d have quite enough leg room in that Isetta.

Scale

October Garden, 50 mm

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I don’t feel inspired to take many pictures on cloudy days, but I’ve been noticing lots of great photos taken in low light on Instagram. Early this evening, I did a quick photo walk through my garden with my Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8 D lens attached to my Nikon D5200.

I think this is my first reference to my photo equipment in a blog post. My stuff squarely resides in the “prosumer” segment of photography. I have two DSLR’s, the aforementioned Nikon and a Canon Rebel T6. The sole reason I have the Rebel is value. I was able to get the camera and two lenses (one of these was a 300 mm zoom lens, no less) for the regular price of the camera alone. I suppose the smarter choice would have been upgrading my Nikon camera body, but as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, sometimes instant gratification takes too long (as the late, great Carrie Fisher wrote in Postcards from the Edge).

I have six lenses as well. Two of these are the kit lens for each camera. For my Nikon I have the 50 mm and two zoom lenses, a 200 mm Nikkor VR lens (which I love) and a Tamron 300 mm that I haven’t used once since I bought the 200 mm. My Canon also has the 300 mm I mentioned above.

I don’t often think of using the 50 mm, but the quiet light of this evening was well suited to it. The day began with fog and ended with light rain; our small drought is over. The cold has not settled here yet. We haven’t yet had the unique autumn pleasure of surrendering to the chill by wearing a coat or nestling under a blanket.

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Another image from yesterday’s photo walk

This one is from my budget smart phone. Who still uses “budget” as an adjective? I think such usage is a symptom of impending middle age.