Thanks to genetics, I inherited two bad discs in my back, the neurologist told me. (Sorry kids, you’re next.)
For no particular reason, the first one broke six years ago. It laid me up for six straight weeks, forcing me to work lying down for a month and a half. After surgery, I could thankfully sit, run, and walk again with a normal gait.
I was also given a clean bill of health. “Blake, I’ve had patients scale Mount Everest and play two hours of basketball every morning for the rest of their lives after similar surgery,” the doctor told me. “Except for moving refrigerators and pianos, you have my blessing to do whatever physically adventurous things you want.”
I took his counsel to heart, got fit, ate more plants, and experienced a renaissance of outdoor exploits and saw a lot of wonderful things since then. In a way, breaking my back was the best thing to happen to me since marrying Lindsey, fathering children, and being awesome.
Now I get to do it all over. Last week, I broke my back again. For whatever reason, the same bad disc failed a second time it appears (pictured). After my first discectomy, my doctor predicted this might happen, giving me a 30% chance of seeing him again within 10 years. I was four years short of beating the odds.
What now? I’ll work lying down while waiting to see the doctor for a proper prognosis — the line to his office runs from Madrid to Provo, I’m told, he’s in such demand. But since my MRIs look eerily alike, I expect another surgery. And even if that only grants me another six years, I’ll be happy.
You see, I was grateful then and am grateful now I don’t work in manual labor. With a bad back, that would be excruciatingly discouraging, if not impossible. I’m lucky to be able to work sitting down or lounging on my sofa from my air conditioned home doing mostly as I please — writing and advising clients — even with a bum back.
Although painful, I don’t consider this a trial or even an ordeal. Being wrongly convicted is a trail. Contracting Ebola or life-threatening cancer is a trial. Being permanently disabled, terminally ill, infertile, homeless, abused, unlucky in love, impoverished, or suffering long-term job loss is a trial.
This is a temporary, albeit acute, reminder of what a blessed and pleasant life I lead. The Mormon in me is quick to remember Lehi’s yin and yang teaching: Without pain, there is no pleasure. Without sickness, there is no health. Without misery, there is no joy.
Admittedly, it sucks to endure the back of 90-year old man, especially with my boy-like energy and 35 year-old heart. He was so young. But I can’t complain. I’m grateful for my lot in life, even my imperfect body. And I plan on singing, if not dancing, through this setback as best I can.
Shall we dance?