I’m sorry I can’t leave you with a happier, more exciting post for the weekend. I was originally just going to write a quick “have a good weekend” with some lovely photos and be on my way. But once I got typing (blogging from iPhone since I can’t sit at my computer) I couldn’t stop. And I figured, why should I? It’s important for me to get this out.
So here you have it, the story of a girl with spatulated transverse process (also known as Bertolotti’s Syndrome).
Ridiculous name isn’t it?
The pain started when I was 10. At first people had a hard time believing such a young girl was having any back pain that was not caused by a fall or accident. I still remember girls laughing and making fun of me as I sat in my desk crying from the pain I was in. Unfortunately it still haunts me a little, and that may be why I downplay how I’m actually feeling. But let me let you in on a little secret:
Most days I can ignore it. It’s just a little ant crawling around the base of my spine reminding me to take it easy. Other days, like today, it’s a swarm of angry wasps ready to sting me repeatedly if I dare move the wrong way.
So how did I get this way?
This fate unknowingly threatened me since birth, but it took a long time to find out.
After 12 years of bouncing from doctor to physio to chiropractor to massage therapist and around again, my new family doctor had the sense to get x-rays taken which showed I had scoliosis, a curved spine. Yet he was confused. Scoliosis is common and by itself rarely causes such pain. The puzzle deepened as I never had pain travel down my leg and, as an MRI taken years later would confirm, there was no nerve damage.
I went to a back specialist and spent thousands of dollars on treatments, only to have one small incident involving my spine being stretched and a big sneeze, undo it all. Replace that little ant with the largest swarm of wasps I had encountered to date.
I swore off all medical professionals.
I continued to do my back exercises at home and go about my days feeling fine. Then one day, 5 years after the sneezing incident and 17 years after that day I sat crying in my desk, I woke up to those wasps, only this time they wouldn’t let me move an inch.
Acupuncture. A new massage therapist. A new chiropractor.
This new chiropractor got a hold of my X-rays and noticed something the back specialists did not. At the base of my spine, where those “wings” that stick out of each spine are, the one on the right side didn’t stop where it was supposed to but continued to grow downward. It is either fused with or grinding against my right pelvic bone.
And it took 17 years to figure that out.
There’s no simple treatment. I could get surgery and cut that piece of bone, but it’s rarely performed now as it’s considered quite invasive. There’s steroid shots to relieve the pain but I’d rather take preventative measures than reactive. I just have to continue with my nightly back exercises (which I’ll admit I’ve slacked on), occasionally visit the RMT and try to prevent (or be ready for) episodes like this one, where I am confined to the couch with careful movement and slow, often hunched over walking around the house.
It’s easier now that I finally know why I have this pain. I’m able to attach a description and a reason to it. I feel people take it more seriously opposed to when all I could say was “I’ve had back problems since I was 10” and just hope people would believe me.
And it’s the years of going through this and not knowing what was going on that I doubted if people believed me. I doubted myself even. I would ignore the pain and push my body and back harder then I really should have. Now that I understand, I feel like I can talk about it and explain it, and I suppose that’s why I wanted to write this post. I wanted to tell everyone that this is what I’ve dealt with for 18 years now. It’s real and it’s been the most difficult part of my life. But I can deal.
I won’t stop dancing or running, but I will be smarter about how I move. Most of all, I will listen to my body. I will take the time off to let it recover even though I’d rather be dancing or teaching. My body knows best, and I have to stop fighting against it.
Yes. I am in pain every day. And some days the pain will win. But for all those other days, I will embrace that quiet little ant who reminds me to take it easy, stay strong, and enjoy life the way I can.
Skeletal picture credit: The Journal of Joint and Bone Surgery