Mike, though his situation was sad for him to face, is lucky to have a Mom who was able to help him, and that it was a time in his life where he didn’t have many responsibilities. Three months before the surgery Mike didn’t think he was ever going to have a full life—no more playing golf, no marriage, no kids. Mike thinks most of his success comes form learning he did not know what was best for him; his doctors did.
Without expectations, you can't be disappointed, right? And-and that's not necessarily something I knew at the time.
Looking back, these are the lessons that I've developed. You know, you just have to accept the situation that you're in. You have to have faith that everything's gonna work out. You have to find surgeons or doctors that you trust. And you have to do everything that they tell you to do because I feel like a lot of people also will go through surgery and do a couple weeks of physical therapy and then stop going and that's not what they tell you to do. You have to take it slow. It's just an overall acceptance of your condition and-and that things that you used to do may not be available to you in the future, which is tough. It's pretty demoralizing and, at my age, it was-it was not something that I was willing to accept at that point in time.
I'm very grateful and lucky and fortunate that I had a mother who could take care of me and didn't necessarily have other responsibilities that got in the way of taking care of me, but that's-that's just sad. Like, you know, you're not supposed to be 22-years old being taken care of by your mom, like being helped upstairs, having-having her help put my socks on, put my pants on and stuff like that. If she had to work or if she wasn't in the equation, I don't know how I would have done it. With the severity of the issue that I was dealing with and my lack of mobility, I definitely needed someone around to help me. I couldn't drive. I couldn't feel my left foot towards the end because of the-the nerve damage that I had. It was numb.
The guys that I worked with, the one thing they were good communicators. They really took something that's very complex and-and kept it very simple for, uh, for a guy like me to understand. I didn't really have a tough time wrapping my head around a lot of what they said. Obviously, the terminology and some of the medical, um, words that they were using were beyond my grasp. Essentially, I had to discs that were bulging and-and my nerves were being affected and the discs were disintegrating, so I was, you know, I could figure that out. The manner in which they described the surgery was also pretty easy for me to wrap my head around. The fusion scared me. The double fusion scared me, but fusing just S5 to L1 was easier for me to wrap my head around because that's essentially your tailbone and there's not that much flexibility down there.
They did explain and walk through the risks very thoroughly with respect to the artificial disc. I, obviously, have a huge fear of having to be operated on again and-and pain coming back, but I choose to not succumb to that. I mean-I mean, I have no pain right now.
Reflecting on everything I've been through leading up to surgery and post-surgery. Okay, so three months before I was doom and gloom and there's no way out of this, at this point in time, we had discussed surgery, but it wasn't on the table at that particular point in time because my surgeons were still puttin' me through all the tests. So, I was-in my mind, I was screwed, you know, I'm never gonna have a normal life and never gonna get married and never gonna have kids, like how am I gonna pick my kids up? I'm-I'm never gonna be able to play golf again. I'm never gonna do this, that and the other. When they finally agreed to do the surgery, it was hope. I was-I was given some hope, you know. I still didn't know what was gonna happen or what the outcome was gonna be. It's a very, very large risk to take and you're kinda rollin' the dice. There was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and post-surgery when I woke up and I didn't feel the burning sensation down my legs was when I knew that I could get back to being okay. I don't even think about my back these days. I don't. Now, I wake up pain free.
I do everything I'm supposed to do. You know, I stretch, I go to the gym, I'm moving around, I'm active. I mean, the only time I have pain these days is when I've been standing for anything over an hour, but I think that's common amongst most people. Like going to a wedding and standing and dancing all night, that's when it starts to hurt.
When I follow the doctor's orders and I did everything I was supposed to do, that's when I got the best results. You know, anytime I thought I knew what I was doing or I knew how to run the program the best way possible, I didn't get the maximum results. I didn't get the best outcome for myself. So, it's part of the acceptance and surrendering of your situation involves knowing that you don't know what's going on and you're not the specialist and you're not a spinal surgeon and you're not a neurosurgeon. So, you have some very smart people in the room, some very educated people in the room with a lot of tangible experience and they've treated hundreds, if not thousands, of patients. So, you just need to shut up and listen to the doctors and do what they tell you to do.
Now, I wake up in a foam roll and I stretch and I've worked with trainers who also have secondary educations with respect to actual, um, back issues, and so we've-we've kinda cultivated a program, if you will, over the last couple years. It's all directly related to doing what I've been told to do. It's the issue I wanna stress the most. Like I-I wake up, I foam roll and I stretch and that's probably like a little 20-minute routine that I do every morning and I-and it sticks with me throughout the day and I continue to stretch throughout the day and I stretch before I play golf, I stretch after I play golf. I've got a very firm, firm, firm bed that I sleep on. It's pretty much like sleeping on concrete. If I'm on a long flight, I get up and walk around and I try not to sit all day. I have no restrictions. It's pretty awesome.
I ran the L.A. Marathon in 2012 in under four hours, two and half, three years after surgery. I can play golf. I lift weights. I go to yoga. I go surfing. Life's good.