Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What a Pain in the Back!

Well, I set up this blog, so I might as well use it....

I've been feeling a bit frustrated and not entirely in control of my progress toward Death Valley right now. My bad back has flared up. It impacts everything.

Right now I am going through a course of steroids. This reduces the inflammation and gives me a fighting chance to get back to "normal." Normal for me is a continuous low level of pain. One I can function with, but one I know about all the time. One of these days, the steroids will not work, and I will have to get more spinal injections (a big deal because of where my herniated disk is located) or surgery (a much bigger deal for the same reason).

Chronic pain is, to put it mildly, awful. The constant level of pain I have right now impacts all aspects of my life. Sucking it up and moving on is not really an option. This is not a stubbed toe. It hurts a lot and it hurts all the time. It impacts work because it takes away from focus. It impacts relationships - it is hard to think about someone else when you are distracted by pain. Down time - no position is comfortable.  Training time - my escape, the thing I love to do, my time to fly -- it is hard to fly, or even consider a short run when every step brings more pain. Getting ready for a run, short or long, brings dread and fear, not excitement and expectation. Sometimes I put on all my clothes and shoes, walk around a little and end up saying the risk and pain are not worth it today. I cry inside when that happens. Another potentially fun and joyous adventure gone. Another important day of training lost.

I will not give up. I will persist. My  goal is too important to me, and to others. One day soon, the pain will subside and I will be able to get ready. If it does not, I will find a way to get ready anyway. Though I say I might be ready to throw in the towel, really I am not. It will take a lot for that to happen. A damn lot. My wife, Deborah, said to me the other day that I am not a quitter. That she has never seen me quit anything. I suppose she is correct. I don't think about it. I don't plan it that way. I just do. In life, as in running, I simply take one step, and then another. Sometimes I step too far, but I step again because it is what I do. I guess I only have to look back at what I did in Death Valley last year to know that stopping is just not an option. It might take me a while to get there, but I do get there - somehow, someway.

How can I stop, when others suffer so much and without choice? Cancer. Catastrophic injury. Addiction recovery. I just look to my family too see what cancer can do. My friend Dick Beardsley has been where no person ever wishes to go, has come back smiling and achieving and standing before us all as an example of true greatness. If I do not quit, if I can achieve some slight greatness because of that, it is only because I stand on the shoulders of Dick and all those who suffer and go on because they simply have no choice but to do so. Those are the heroes I lean on when I am down. They are the wind beneath my wings.

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." - Tennyson


"Badwater" Bill
Tujunga, CA


  1. I am really sorry to learn about this. As someone who suffered for a few months with severe back pain, I understand how you feel. Why do you think the prednisone will stop working, however. Vicki has taken it repeatedly for years, and it always clears up her asthma. It also helped to heal her lung after it was fried by radiation. (I could not get out of the oncologist what the electron voltage of the radiation was. Probably they use high power Xrays. I guess no one but him can understand that stuff.) I do hope that it never stops working for you. However, I have seen first hand and Vicki has experienced first hand) just how unpleasant prednisone can be to take when the problem is chronic.

  2. I don't think he meant that the drug will stop doing what it does to reduce inflammation, but that as the condition worsens it won't do enough to relieve the pain. He's having a tough time right now with the latest flare up.