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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Changes from the inside out

Originally published July 23, 2005, in Our Town for the Tracy Press.

Before having gastric-bypass surgery, I felt aged beyond my years.When I decided on the option of surgical weight loss, I did it to improve my health, not because of vanity.Sure, the improvement in my appearance has been a welcome side effect. But I measure my success each day by how I feel.For most of the last five months, I’ve felt great. I feel as youthful as the calendar tells me I should.But for the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a couple of nagging pains. At first, it was just when driving. It took me a while to realize it. But when driving for more than a few minutes, I would get a strange numbness low in my back.I figured that it was time to adjust the car seat. I had been driving with it in the same position I did before surgery. I spent a week altering the seat position with no relief. Then I started waking up with my upper back hurting.“Now this is ridiculous,” I remember thinking when getting out of bed one morning.I remember telling myself before surgery that I was too young to feel as old as I did at the time. But it seemed like it was happening all over again. The aches and pains really started to annoy me, so much so that I considered seeing a doctor.Before scheduling an appointment, however, I decided to whine to my husband one day after work.It had been a long day, and I was beat. My lower back was numb from sitting at my desk without moving for so long.My upper back was hurting to the point that touching the flesh behind my shoulder would make me wince.My husband offered to rub my back in the hopes of relieving my discomfort. As he started on my lower back, the numbness began to dissipate.“Not so bad,” I thought. And I let him try the same thing to my shoulders.“Ow, not so hard, please,” I begged when he began. “Can you feel that knot?”My husband did not feel the knot. He decided to explore this pain of mine a bit further. His exploration consisted of pressing hard in certain areas while asking, “Does this hurt? How ’bout this?”My answers fluctuated between “no, not at all” and “If you do that one more time … .”Perplexed, my husband asked me to show him where I had the most pain. Feeling over my shoulder, I quickly pointed out the hard knot behind my right shoulder that had me so cranky.“Do you feel knots anywhere else”? he asked.Gingerly moving my fingers around the general area, I found that this knot of mine was much larger than I realized, and it seemed more inthe shape of a ridge.“Weird. Do you think it’s a growth of some sort”? the hypochondriac in me asked.My husband lightly ran his fingers over the same area.“This is the knot you’ve been complaining about”? he calmly asked. “Um, honey, that’s your shoulder blade. It’s supposedto be there.”I don’t know what my expression looked like, but I have to give the guy credit for not bursting into laughter. He then showed me how I had a similar ridge on the other side, and he assured me that many people share the same anatomical phenomenon without writhing in pain.Feeling like super-doc, my husband went in search of the source of my lower back pain.His diagnosis?“It’s a thing we like to call a ‘tail bone,’” he slowly explained, with all the sarcasm he could muster.At this point, I was incredulous. My husband is about 6- foot-5 and weighs all of 160 pounds soaking wet. Obviously, he has bones that jut out all over the place, and I’ve never heard him complain about them.He admits that he can’t figure out why sleeping on my back makes my shoulder blades hurt, but he knows exactly why my tail bone has been giving me trouble.“Why do you think I stop the car to walk around so much when we travel?” he asks.“Sitting for a long time really puts pressure there, and it doesn’t feel good.”His advice?“Don’t worry, babe. You’ll get used to it. Everyone does.”Thanks a lot.

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