Though the pain was bearable, it diminished everything else in my life.
Ignoring the twinges, I decided to lift and twist at the same time. Now nothing over the counter was relieving the pain in my lower back. Of course, it was Saturday late afternoon with no chance of seeing a doctor except at the emergency ward, a place I consider the less of two evils, one being death.
Who did I know that recently had surgery, wisdom teeth removed, a hip replacement – anything that would warrant a prescription for Tylenol 3. Friends, neighbours, relatives; I called them all. Finally, I scored. Ten T-3 ’s would tide me over until I saw my doctor on Monday.
It was a hellish couple of days. Some things you actually have to experience to have empathy. Chronic pain is one of them.
When I finally got in to see my doctor, after standing in his waiting room for an hour and a half (too painful to sit), he wasn’t very sympathetic.
“How did you do this?”
“I don’t really know?”
“Do you exercise?”
“I run at least twice a week."
“How old are you?”
What are you doing running at that age?” He shook his head. “If you want your back to heal stop running.” He wrote me out a prescription for painkillers and muscle relaxants and a referral to a physiotherapist.
I left his office more hurt by his incredulity than by the pain in my lower lumbar.
Running is therapy for me, it takes me out of my head. When you run, it’s not only your legs and lungs that get a workout but all your senses. You have to be aware of the terrain and traffic, sounds and colours. It’s total exertion, and you experience it throughout your body - especially in my back, at least lately.
At the time I was working on my third Mattie Saunders novel. If you haven’t met her yet, she’s an independent young woman with a social conscience and a bad attitude, who loves birds, but not so much people.
Mattie is particularly down on addicts which is not difficult to understand considering her history, but if you want the specifics, you’ll have to read the two previous books.
To have a character address a particular issue in my fiction I undertake a lot of research. Discovering the cause of the opioid epidemic killing hundreds in Vancouver and thousands throughout North America was an epiphany. Many people have become addicted using legitimately prescribed opioid painkillers. When the doctor cuts them off, they turn to street drugs cut with deadly fentanyl. It’s a short journey from respectability to the morgue and death by overdose.
It’s not a stretch to say that could have been me.
They say if you want to know an author read their fiction, so not surprisingly, Mattie softens her stand on addicts in The Bird Whisper, the next in the series and soon to be released.
What about my back?
It slowly and reluctantly got better and without too many painkillers. I discovered I preferred the pain to the zombie-like feeling I got from the medication.
And I’m back running. Okay, not quite as far or as hard, but enough to get my runner’s high. That’s the other thing Mattie, and I have in common, we don’t take advice well.
Tagore said, “We are not trained to recognize the inevitable as normal, so cannot give up gracefully that which has to go.” He was right about that, but I find myself ascribing to the words of Dylan Thomas, when he wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”