So, about a year ago, I got hit in derby. Normal right? Well, this hit included two girls, one hit the top half of my body, and the other hit the bottom. Basically like your regular everyday football tackle. Beautiful form (according to my dad). I got up and kept going, granted it was probably one of the most painful hits I have ever taken, which says a lot, based on the many times I’ve been abused by some of my closest friends that play with me. I woke up the next morning and felt a weird twinge in my back. I remember thinking to myself, its probably just a muscle, I’m sure it’s fine, and will relax after a soak and a light jog, my usual after game routine.
Well, it did. Which was great. However, there was still a lingering twinge of pain when I would turn or lean forward to pick up a ball to throw to Juke, my best buddy, a little Shetland sheepdog with more personality than most people. So I decided to go to the chiropractor. I had been a few times previous to help with random shoulder hurts and an occasional hit that would make my neck feel like it was made of concrete, but never really for my back. So I went, and we did the usual thing of “how did this happen, where does it hurt, blah blah”. I got cracked, and moved on with my day.
I did this for a year with no real change in my back.
During this year, I had a lot of derby centric events. I tried out for All Stars. I have played on the West Virginia All Stars for three years now, and have been a captain for 2. I have a lot of pride for this team, and I have always wanted to do my best, especially to represent the great state of West Virginia, because we often get looked at as underdogs. I gave my all in tryouts, but couldn’t help be a little cautious for my back. I was trying to make sure I’d be ok not only for this team, but for my home team, the Morgantown Roller Vixens, which I was also captaining at the time.
Morgantown’s season started and I felt pretty good, playing in every game my team had, as well as maintaining a rigorous All Stars practice, working towards my MBA at WVU, and maintaining a full time job. But there was always pain. I tried K-tape, Tiger Balm, essential oils, massages, the whole bit. Nothing was really helping. So I gritted my teeth and just played through the pain. That was my first mistake. Being an athlete my whole life I know the difference between being hurt, and being injured. I started to realize I was injured.
Then came a tournament my team competes in each year, River Valley Riot. I love this tourney, because the team that puts it on are all friends of mine, and it is so awesome to see them be so successful. I was injured. I knew it. So I focused more on blocking and jamming both, rather than my usual jamming only style of game play. I made it through the tournament, but started to notice things were getting worse.
And then it happened. I turned into an S. My body was starting to panic. It went into “protective scoliosis”, trying to pull the muscles and ligaments away from the injury. That injury was a severely herniated L4/L5 lumbar disc.
I played in one more scrimmage, the one our team hosts, called Jingle Brawl, then decided it was time to seek serious help.
I met with the WVU Spine Center, and met my fabulous spine surgeon, Dr. Shari Cui. She has been a Godsend. We discussed options. We made a plan. My All Star team was scheduled to play in a tournament in Philadelphia in February. We made the deal that I would rest until that tourney, then she would fix me.
Well, I rested. Things kept getting worse. I was heavily medicated, which I hated. I started a new job, and these medicines made it really hard for me to retain the information needed to be successful. I still struggle.
I went in to have an epidural done, in order to try to get me through the season. It was horrible.
The tournament came. I laced up my skates for the first warmup. West Virginia was going to play New York, a team that I respect greatly, because a lot of my very favorite players were rostered for our game (ie: Misty Maven, who hugged me #fangirlmoment). I went out to warm up. And I lost feeling in my right foot. It was gone. And it was terrifying. I told my coaches, and didn’t skate. The whole tournament. It was discouraging, and it hurt my heart, more than it really should have. Because I knew I was injured.
I went in to see Dr. Cui not long after this and we scheduled my surgery. I told my team what was happening, and with alligator tears, wrote my resignation as captain. I knew I couldn’t play this season. It was gut wrenching. A piece of me was now missing. The piece that keeps me sane, and calm, and level. Gone.
I had surgery on St. Patrick’s Day this year. It was a scary adventure, but right after I felt immediate relief from the pain, and the numbness was starting to subside. Miracles.
Dr. Cui removed 10 cm. of herniation from my back. She added a little piece of carbon fiber to maintain some of the springiness of my disc. And sent me to recover.
I laid in bed for a week. Not doing much except binge watching tv, sleeping and petting my dog. But I felt better. And I kept getting better. The S shape was gone. I was well on my way to becoming me again.
Then this weekend hit. I think I was feeling great, had a great follow up with Doc Cui, who I now want to be my friend, and was ready to get started with rehab. I had too much gusto. As I sit here now, on a heating pad, with tears rolling down my face, I am an S again. I have a small amount of pain in my lower back, nothing too major, but enough to be concerned. I see Dr. Cui in 2 days. I am crushed. The mental part of healing is something they don’t really warn you about. You may think you have a strong mind, and are tough as nails. I did. And I am seeing now that your mind can take you to dark places, and feelings of hopelessness and forced retirement from the one thing you love so much creep in. It’s inevitable. You are broken. The end. But I have an amazing group of friends that keep me from wallowing in those places. I am not broken, I’m just healing. I hope you’ll follow my journey.