As long as I’m talking about me, which I’ll try not to do that often down the road in this blog-
Because it’s really all about the bike–
let me take a minute and tell you the good news and the bad news about my back.
Yes, that back. The only one I have, unfortunately. And no, that is not a 12 inch/30 cm northwards extension of my butt crack. It is the scar from the 2012 laminectomy surgery I had, where they essentially took a Dremel tool to my spinal column between lumbar vertebrae 1 through 6 and the first sacral vertebrae.
Yeah, ouch. But waitaminnit, you say, suspiciously. The human body only has five lumbar vertebrae.
Are we getting fed a story here or what?
Well, no. Apparently the reason I’m six foot four inches/193 centimeters
of awesome… well, tall, is because I was blessed with an extra lumbar vertebrae. Apparently that was supposed to balance out also receiving the family curse- degenerative osteoarthritis. I got that full bore from both sides- mom’s and dad’s.
And that brings us back to the good news-bad news part. Six months after my back surgery I had an even more extensive laminectomy on my lumbar spine, and the docs, after finding that arthritic changes had already fused C-3, C-4 and C-5 as neatly as if done on the operating table, decided to fuse C-6 and C-7 onto them for good measure.
So, finally, the good news. After all that surgery I proved to be the poster child for full recovery. I mean, you don’t see folks who have continuing issues following surgery riding a bicycle 12,500 miles/20,000 kilometers five or so years later, do you? Or planning to ride across the continental United States. The only real limitation is that, because I am, in fact, a Bobblehead, I need to ride with flat, versus drop, handlebars.
But that’s OK- I really like being able to have my bar end mirrors stuck way out there. The only drawback, actually, is that because I have to ride with my head up and back pretty straight, I have all the aerodynamics of a big sail, and it can make a stiff headwind pretty tough.
Again, though, all good news as far as I’m concerned. If I was unhappy about this stuff, I wouldn’t be doing it, right?
But there is bad news, and I hate to end this post on a sad note, but here goes. I went back a little over a month ago to the surgeon who did my previous spinal work because I have increasing neuropathy- loss of acute sensation, mainly- in both my feet. He took x-rays and did an MRI and came back telling me that the arthritis is still at it. Lumbar vertebrae two through four are now fused, and not in a positive way, as the bony overgrowth in that area is forcing my spine to bend forward. He’s fairly certain that the neuropathy is caused by further changes to the facet joints of L-5 and L-6, which is where the relevant nerve roots at the spinal cord are located. When I get back from Side2Side I face another laminectomy, but this time because the doc thinks I will have “stability issues” after the surgery, he says that he will likely want to fuse those two vertebrae onto the ones already fused at L-2 through L-4. He hinted that this surgery would significantly impact my ability to ride long distances on my bike in the future.
…cue sad trombone…
So I’m not thinking about that right now, as I spend the last few days getting ready for Side2Side. I’m thinking instead about the great experience that this trip is going to be and how lucky I am to be cycling it in the first place. All of you are part of that- thanks once again for following along.