Once at home, the numbing medication wore off and she felt pain creeping in. But she did as the nurses advised and took a pain pill every four hours. Julie says this was great advice because she stayed “on top of her pain.” As each day progressed, Julie felt better. She could walk more and more. She could go on small outings but she was then exhausted. She also had help with household chores. Julie didn’t feel ready for physical therapy after six weeks. Her doctor supported her decision, and when she did start physical therapy she had to be careful about how far apart she scheduled her appointments. After four months she felt stronger all over—especially her “core.”
After the numbness wore off, after the surgery, when I was still in the surgery center, the pain starts.
The nurses were there to give me a little bit of medicine so I could get home, and they prescribed a bunch of medicines beforehand that I filled, so I had those at home. And I remember them saying stay on top of your pain, and it really does help, 'cause if I did fall asleep and I-it had been a longer amount of time, I would be in more pain. The first couple of days, I could barely move, and walking was hard, and doing anything was hard. And then after about three or four days, I felt like every day I got better, and after about 10 days, I think my husband drove me, I went to my son's baseball game, so I was out for an hour. But I was exhausted too, just from that one little outing.
And I couldn't drive for two weeks, but even then all I did was take the kids to school and pick them up, and that was it. So I had to have help. Somebody came in and helped me do laundry and take care of the house, and I had friends bring over dinner every night for about two weeks, which was really nice.
After surgery, I remember the doctor said don't do physical therapy for six weeks. I can't remember what it was. But I didn't feel like I was ready at six weeks, and I just started walking about then. And I would walk on flat surfaces, and I was a runner for so long, so walking is so boring to me. But it was something that I felt like it helped me just sort of get my stamina back, and I felt better about just being outside and moving.
But also I just felt like that was the first step for me, and I remember talking to my doctor about it. He was like, listen to your body and make sure that you're ready. And so I started physical therapy just after-I think it was after about two and a half months, and my physical therapist was really great, and she didn't push too hard. I think she knew I was just really babying myself. And I always was, like, oh, my back is so sore. It was always the day after I do physical therapy. And so I tried to do my appointments that they were far enough apart that they weren't right next to each other, 'cause I felt like that would really be a double whammy. But I felt like I did physical therapy for about four months, I think, and every month I felt like there was a difference.
After you have surgery, you notice what your body is doing so much more than before, or even now that it's been a little while, 'cause I just didn't want to twist. That was part of it. So, you know, I couldn't do much at all, and with my three kids, they'd say, "Will you do this?" and I'd say, no, you guys have got to do it. You've got to pick it up. It was a lot of sitting down, and I read a lot of books. I was lucky, and m-my husband was great. He really stepped up with the kids, and he would talk to them about, like, be careful with Mommy, 'cause I have three boys, so they're really, I mean, loving and rough and tumble at the same time.
My good friend, Megan, was great, 'cause she said, you know, we're just gonna bring you dinner. So she organized a dinner on a loop for a week or two, and it was great, 'cause people would just show up at 5:00 with food. So it was great to have somebody do whatever was just needed to keep things going, and she could bring me water or help me whatever I needed too. It was just nice to have a person there for the first week, to just help run the house and take care of me. But going in knowing that I had to decrease my level of activity afterwards for awhile is hard, 'cause you think you're just gonna be able to go back to normal, but it's not that way.
JULIE: And it lasts for longer probably than you think it will. I mean, I will say every week I did feel more active, but it takes a long time to get back in the swing of it. But now that I'm almost a year in, I feel like I still am not back to normal, but I'm way closer than I was, you know, last month, the month before that, and especially closer the day of the surgery. I do feel stronger. It's just there's part of my back exactly where I had the surgery that just feels a little weaker than it used to, and that's why I still do the physical therapy exercises and stuff, to strengthen my core.