In 2005, I felt this pain in my left buttock. It was sharp, but I could “calm it down” by making adjustments like leaning on a wall while propping my foot on it. The pain happened as I walked or stood. Often, I would do different things to bring relief like lay on the floor in Walmart so Lucia could stretch my leg back to bring relief. It was an odd rigamarole in Walmart, but necessary.
When the pain happens, it’s acute. When it’s not, I can function normally. I have learned a few things that I can’t do like carry my children (back then when they were tiny) or walk extended periods. I got a few walking sticks, which I used more to lean on to relieve the pressure on my back. I bought a trifold camping chair from REI, which was a godsend. I never leave home without it. (Unless I leave home without it: I do forget stuff.)
I began various “cure” approaches like the chiropractor, wearing a “tens unit,” physical therapy, lotions of all sorts, traction, dry needling, yoga, acupuncture, exercise, dieting, X-rays, MRI’s, and tons of ibuprofen. None of these things worked ultimately. The pain level has always been the same, but the length of the pain has grown and the amount of “painless time” has decreased.
In the beginning, I could stand or walk for 10 to 15 minutes. Today, I cannot stand or walk for more than 60 seconds before the pain comes and stays. I can’t sit, stand, walk, or lay down without pain. When I do stand, I contort my body in different ways to move the pain around. Nobody would know what I’m doing because it does not look abnormal. Only recently has it become more evident to people.
Historically, there would always be a counter or chair or rail that I could sit or prop on while talking to someone. If anything, I looked lazy but not debilitated.
During our conference in Alaska, I told the folks about my problem because I could not hide it during eight straight hours of teaching. I sat on stools or propped up by using the backs of chairs. At our Peru conference, I could prop in a similar way (or just sit). While traversing Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, I got to speed around with all the “blue hair” (elderly) people in one of those motorized scooters. That was both embarrassing and exhilarating.
I don’t like to talk about it because, quite frankly, people are compassionate: they give you endless cure ideas. I also don’t talk about it because it becomes your identity; I’d rather talk about Christ and His work on earth.
I’ve never hidden my problem for any other reason, with the exception that talking about it so much is tiring. Plus, when people ask, it’s hard to reduce my answer to the thirty-second sound bite they want. Truthfully, I need ten minutes with you to tell you how I’m doing. Rarely does the person asking me how I’m doing expect me to talk ten minutes about my problems and it’s nearly impossible to tell them how I’m doing in thirty-second sound bites. It’s a relational dilemma. So I don’t talk about it a lot.
After the last MRI, it showed a bulging disc that is pushing against my spine. The sciatica has no other place to go and is being squeezed. The symptoms are excruciating pain in my left buttock, pain down my hamstring on my left leg, pain in the calf muscle, numbness, tingling, and my middle toe involuntarily twitches. My hips are also aching. Those are the main things.
The surgeon recommended, (a) do nothing, (b) injection to relieve the pain, (c) surgery. We’re looking at surgery. Soon.
I have speaking engagements in August and October; two in Colorado and one in Oregon, so we’re waiting, at this point, to see how soon I can get the surgery and recover, or wait until the fall.
Currently, my days consist of getting out of bed, writhing on the floor for 15 minutes until the pain subsides, crawling into my zero-gravity chair to work all day, and then go back to bed at night. I do sit up to do my podcasts, walk around the house a few minutes at a time, sit at the dinner table on occasion, and go random places around town. A few weeks ago, I got my handicap placard, which I do use as it saves me a few steps since my walk/stand time is down to seconds. I can go mostly anywhere anyone else can go; it just takes me longer.
I’m not discouraged or struggling spiritually. I don’t live in an illusion that my health should be perfect or that God has failed in some way because my health is spiraling. Though it takes longer to do everything, I still get to help people daily, and that is my reason for living–to bring fame to God by teaching others about Him. The kind of vessel I have to accomplish this good work is a lesser concern.
No, I’m not flippant about it, but I’m a sovereigntist: I do what I know to do and trust God with the results. Right now the physical “results” are painful, but our redemptive work is flourishing. The point is that I have nothing to complain about because of the goodness and mercy of God on my life. I would love your prayers. If Sovereign Father wants to change this thing, I’m open for the possibility.