Thursday, March 15, 2012


I can't imagine there is anyone who still reads this blog although I do think people stumble across it from time to time. My last post was on June 11th and I am guessing that on that day, on that walk, was when I missed the step that severely flared up a major herniation I have in one of the discs in my back. For a few weeks I was just in minor pain, but then in early July, my back seized up in my sleep...big time. Even my abs seized. I've been in pain and in physical therapy ever since.

I've also hardly been on a bike since. I tried in November, but the combination of lifting my leg over the bar and the sheer amount of inflammation I had at the time got my back so close to seizing while I was riding that I've been afraid to even ride. When the MRI results came back, both my PT and my doctor agreed that I need to see a surgeon. The appointment to see him is next week, but apparently the herniation is such that it wouldn't be a simple laminectomy to fix. As if back surgery is ever simple. I also know from working with clients who've had herniated discs repaired surgically that the surgery itself can cause new pain and problems. And you'll always be more vulnerable in that area.

Anyway, about a month ago I really started having trouble with walking and since it hurt to drive I've just been feeling trapped in my house. Riding the stationary bike is so boring but my PT said my best bet for being able to walk more without pain was to cycle.

So, today, I went and bought a new bike. It's a Specialized comfort bike and I'm sitting so upright that I look like Mary Poppins when I ride. It's got shocks and a comfort seat and a step through frame so I don't have to lift my leg up. The sales guy joked, "It's like riding a couch." I took it for a spin and my back felt so great. I said, "This feels even better than a couch." So, we decked it out with fenders and a light and grocery baskets and a lock and I rode it home. The great thing about it is that my legs never even extend far enough back to be in line with my torso. This relieves all the strain on the central protrusion in that disc.

When I got home I added the water bottle holder, pump and seat pack from Reilly and said to Peter, "I'm riding to Tabor." I was thinking that I would just ride to Tabor and come home without actually riding to the top, but my back was feeling so good I decided to give it a try.

My new bike has some pretty good gearage (if that's a word) so it handled the hill pretty well. Plus, I'm not miserably out of shape. But it was slow going as it's not a light bike and I think the forward angle of my legs probably reduced my power. My heart was pumping and I was getting soaking wet. The whole thing was actually ridiculous because I was wearing jeans and my Clark's shoes and a sweater and sweating my butt off.

But then I got to the top. And I was overwhelmed with emotion. This was the first time I had been up here on a bike since I hurt my back. Riding on Mt. Tabor is one of my favorite things to do in this whole world and I had missed it so much. I stopped at the place where you can see the view of the city and called my dad. When he answered the phone I started to cry. I said, "You'll never guess where I am," and told him all about my new bike.

When I was riding home I started thinking about what I wanted to name my bike. Peter teases me for naming my bikes and says I'm just like the Norse. Apparently they named everything like houses and chairs. I like to do it though. The feelings I've had over these last nine months have been of a loss of freedom. I'll never be able to do cardio dance again. I have to be careful about every step I take when I walk. Since it hurt to drive and I hate to drive anyway and the nerve root pain I was feeling made getting on my bikes hard I just felt trapped. Stay at home. Rest. Or go out into the world and hurt.

Riding this new bike I felt something new though. I was out in the world and I wasn't hurting. I felt better than when I rest. I felt freedom. Freedom from pain. Freedom from being trapped in my house. Freedom from having to ride that stupid stationary bike everyday in order to be able to eat anything. Freedom to climb and sweat and be surrounded by beautiful things. So, it seemed to me that there couldn't be a more appropriate name for this new bike, my shock absorbing couch on wheels, my new Mt. Tabor climbing steed, than FREEDOM!