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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So there, pain!

I've had a rough 24 hours. Something caused my cervical (neck) spine pain to escalate beyond my threshold. This morning, the muscles between my neck and head still spasmed relentlessly, even after a full night's sleep. It's a sign that something's not right in the section of my neck where I had surgery a year ago.

As I tried to decide how to spend my day, I looked at the thermometer and it read -7°F. Snow whipped out of the gray sky. I was sorely tempted to give up the never-ending battle, take my pain meds, and go back to bed.

My rational side has learned over the years that the "go to bed" strategy makes me feel worse, both physically and psychologically. So, when the Runner and the Duo invited me to cross country ski with them early this morning, I accepted. I'm certain that I wasn't delightful company but the outing started shifting my attitude in a better direction.

The Duo didn't mind the extra load of snow that fell overnight, bringing us up to a deep snowpack, that varies from 6" to 3' depending on where you stand after yesterday's wind. The combination of fresh snow and the arctic temperature made it a 'white face day' for the canines.
I stopped to enjoy their goofy snow-decorated faces.
They worked hard, galloping like wild mustangs through almost bottomless snow.
K was ready to go home after a relatively short outing. At excruciating low temperatures, her paw bothers her.
Selfishly, I felt sad that she couldn't join me for more time in the forest. Her companionship cheers me immensely. I take care of her and she takes care of me. It's a two-way street.

So, I wrestled with how to do some biking - since cycling is always the best medicine for my spine. Given the unrideable trails, the extraordinary cold, and the snow still falling out of the sky, I debated whether to ride a stationary bike indoors or try to ride on the snow-packed dirt roads. After hemming and hawing for much too long, I decided to "go for it". I took out my snow bike and rode to a couple of narrow and quiet private roads. I did a short ride, to the end and back of each of them.

I'm so glad that I went out into the arctic world. One reason is that I met the elk herd, spread out over an endless meadow. Most of them lay in the snow, not bothering to munch on the tall dry grass still protruding from the deep layer of snow. A few elk were up and about, lazily chewing on their low calorie diet. I honestly don't know how such massive animals survive the winter with so little food available.
This guy is a calf, born last spring in the high meadows of our mountains. It's his first winter. I wonder what he thinks of it?

He turned to examine me - and I found that he had a white face just like the dogs!
I delighted in watching the herd who seemed very relaxed despite my presence. It brought home the lesson that it's almost always better to go out into the natural world rather than sitting on a stationary bike in my house. But, it's not always easy to overcome the "victim perspective" that chronic pain tends to produce and push myself out the door. The relentlessness of the pain wears me down, making it harder to get moving. By going out and doing something that I love, I feel like I defeat the pain in a small way. I actually think "So there, pain!". And, I feel happier, even if the pain doesn't go away.

I'm sorry to focus so much on pain in this post. Spine pain is with me every single day but usually I can overlook it. Not today.


  1. If it is any consolation, your pics taken through the pain made me smile -

    As for the pain, I know from brother Paul's experiences, it is hard to not feel yet something you just manage - and learn to live with - wrong though that may be -

    Even Shannon had her own battle with it - she had an epidural last week that seems to have helped the sciatica she had developed -

    I so count my good fortune in not having back issues -

    Once again, you are quite the inspiration!

  2. you have always been an inspiration to me...pushing yourself through such pain,takes a ton of determination and i can't is difficult enough to navigate through life's ups and downs, without chronic pain. you rock girl!
    love the snow dogs!!

  3. Your post is delightful and an encouragement to read. I am so sorry about your back and the pain in your neck and believe me, I know all too well how chronic pain can be. Getting out is the first step and it sure isn't easy! Your pictures are absolutely beautiful too! Many years ago I had a horse and was told by my doctor that I could not ride because of a head injury. He just hammered away at me about "if" I got thrown off and suffered another injury, it would kill me. My answer was always "at least I will die doing something I really love to do". He finally left it alone and I continued to ride until I lost my horse years later. Those days when I was in pain and got up on him for a ride in the country took the pain away for awile and I wouldn't have traded it for the world. Keep moving when you can....I tend to stay inside when it's cold now because of so many problems and that is just depressing! Lots of love and feel better! Debbie and Holly

  4. I don't think you need to offer any apologies for talking about pain. I always find your words on the subject to be motivational. I suspect that you could make a killing talking about overcoming pain if you decided to! The flip side, too, is that without some dark days we wouldn't enjoy the bright, carefree ones.

    I wish I had caught Bunny in the middle of her head butting! I was laughing too hard and trying to keep from falling over in the snow, because I knew that if I went down I was never going to get back up. She had her head plastered right to the back of his butt, though. He just wasn't moving fast enough to suit her! I'm not sure I want her to get a tutorial from Rusty!

  5. I ache with you when I hear about such days. You have far more courage than I, but you are such an inspiration.

    You're really doing great with that new camera!

  6. I am sorry to hear your not feeling well. Any type of neck pain makes me cringe at the thought. Your right to get moving, I find I always make things worse wiht pain posturing, setting off whole load of other pain.

    Love your photos as always!! I can't beleive you got so close. I also can't believe you got out there!!!! *EEK* I am such a snow baby lol!

  7. Let me join the multitudes who love your photos! Especially the Elk herd. Wonderful stuff!

    Sorry about your pain, if it could be wished away by your friends, it would be long gone!

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  8. Hi Y'all,

    Wonderful heartwarming...did I say warming???

    The one nice thing about blogs is that we tend to be drawn to others who understand us...perhaps because we have similar problems...

    When I was growing up, people complaining to their doctor of chronic pain were looked on as doctors are trained to help you manage your pain.

    Hubby is in much worse shape than I, but we both follow your perscription...keep active and in action!

    You mentioned bed in the same thought with pain and feeling bad...we've both recognized that to be a fact. There are times hubby dreads going to bed.

    Waking up in the morning is always a painful experience as a cold nose on any piece of exposed skin says "please hurry, I gotta go!" But once I struggle up and out with my furry friend I find the pain receding, if only slightly.

    As difficult as it is to start moving, once going I always admit it was better than bed.

    Out in public it seems no one is in pain but you, yet we meet many in the blog world. In our real life persona, like our animals, we find it necessary to hide our pain. It's called survival.

    BrownDog's Momma

  9. As I have said many times before, you are such an inspiration. I was feeling bad for myself today with some neck pain I am having that I know is linked to my osteoporosis. But when I think about you, it just seems so minimal. Have to try saying "So there, pain!"

  10. Your words on getting over pain - truly inspirational. At 20, I have several internal injuries that are permanent and come back to visit every once in a while due to doing too much extreme sports when I was younger. I try to get pass the pain, but sometimes I just want to "pity" myself. You always show me how one can overcome it. :)

    Love the peekture of the white faced elk, too!


  11. I admire you for pushing through the pain--You're a great example for many of us to follow, and for me to remember when I complain...

    The elk are just amazing--Are those healed injuries on its side?

  12. You are an inspiration to us all! I am sending you my puppy prayers to helps you feel better too. :)

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  13. Cool elk photos!

    I hope you feel better soon!

  14. You're such a good example to so many of us. The way you push through your pain, to see the beauty that surrounds you amazes me. Your courage puts me in my place, when I start to whine about my petty aches and pains. I continue to be so glad that I found your blog.

  15. Wow what beautiful surroundings
    Benny & Lily

  16. I am sorry today was a painful day for you. You certainly don't let it hold you back - truly inspirational!

    You are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place! I can't believe you can leave your house and find beautiful animals like elk. This is just SO AMAZING!!!

    Your pal, Pip

  17. Don't ever apologize for who you are and what you've endured. I wish I had the guts like you do. I have become such a wimp with the weather in the last year and not doing what I love.

    Thank you for reminding me again. I'm glad you feel better.

  18. I hope your pain subsides soon.
    Your post today inspired me to suck it up and move on. That is just what I intend too.
    Take care:)

  19. I don't want to be redundant, so I won't call you an inspiration (but you are!) Like 24 Paws, I'm a total wimp when the weather gets this cold. How you find the will to get out in it every day amazes me.

    You definitely have the gift of seeing the glass half full... tomorrow when I take the dog out, I'll be thinking of R and his diarrhea and feel so blessed:) Thanks!

  20. Hi KB, Spasms in cold weather sound terrible! But - glad you got outside because you and the camera saw some great sights. I think K looks like a reverse Hannibal Lector! We had wind here today and more snow.

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Oh KB
    sorry I had to delete my comment- when I read it back it did not make sense- i hope this one does.

    You are courageous. You look pain in the eye, and say "so there".
    Every time I visit you I remember that you do all that you do, with pain- everyday- you face it
    It is your way to cope- to enter out into mother earth and let the beauty touch you and help to get your mind off stuff.
    There may be days, I am sure that you may need to rest a little- and please do- if you feel you should.
    Your courageous to fight the pain.
    My other mom has back issues too, so I understand a whole lot about backs.
    Thank you for sharing more beauty of your world with us.
    The elk are spectacular

  23. Great photos. Out of pain comes beauty.

  24. Oh girl, we knows all too well bouts pain. My mum has degenerative disc disease dat has affected 3 discs along with a bulging disc and an off centered pelvis. Hers did da epidurals and dat was a joke...didn't help. ANyways, my point is dat her philosophy is you just has to grin and bear it and keep going on. Her goes to da gym despite da pain. Her can't run anymores though:(
    Da mental part is so very important and often overlooked. Sitting around is just gonna make da pain worse.
    You are one courageous and brave lady!


  25. Great pics as always KB. Sorry to hear your back is giving you so many problems. But you're an inspiration to all of us. Hope todays a better day.

  26. sorry i confused you! i thought if i said "Marge and i" i would really confuse people!!
    so yes, I call Brett...Marge! :)

    probably was a coyote....

  27. I agree that exercise can be the best medicine for pain. I had crippling sciatica for several years, than miraculously learned that cross-country skiing and riding a stationery bike made it disappear completely. Have no idea why, but the pain is 100% gone. Nothing else seemed to work. Good for you to brave the cold though. Your beautiful scenery can be a good distraction too. Hope you feel better.

    Teddy & mom

  28. I'm sorry for your awful pain but glad you're able to continue on with your normal day-to-day! My mom would be parked on the couch with me or dad waiting on her hand and foot BOL!
    ps. I sure do hope you feel better!

  29. I'm bummed to read about your bad day, but you definitely seem to have this chronic pain thing figured out -- far better than I do at least! I had a bad day on monday, a driver pulled out in front of me and I had to slam on the brakes pretty hard. 2 days later I'm still feeling pretty crappy, but I am trying to keep moving and reading your blog is always inspiring.


  30. Ooph. It's amazing how you can live with, work through, and get past the pain ... and the cold. A crotchety old neighbor likes to say there is no cold weather only cold clothes, so I suppose it's all about layering, but when it's below 0 ... we're pretty much inside all day.

    Have you ever said what your boot threshold is for the pups? With all the sub-zero temps this winter, Lilly cannot handle more than a few minutes outside without holding her feet up like they hurt.

  31. So sorry you had a rough day. I hope the pain has eased now. Good for you for getting out in the nature that you love so much!!

  32. Oh my dear. I'm so sorry. you should not feel bad about writing about pain. nobody is in your body. they can't know but you. i love reading about your conquests of it and K's and R's challenges. I meant to ask you if you are working now. I know you told me what you did, but i can't remember if you still worked or not. i ask only because i think about people who battle challenges like this and wonder about the other areas of their life... how does this affect every other aspect?

    you're so strong. i'm in awe. oh and your pups are "ok" too, I "suppose." . ;) (LOL... tongue in cheek... you know i think the're awesome!)

  33. You are a lesson in overcoming yourself! We hope the pain subsided and your soul was filled with what you would have missed had you chosen to indulge yourself and stay in bed.

  34. Mind over matter...there's a lot to be said of this adage....I don't know if you realize but your adventures and life experiences help us all so very much in many ways. Of course, K and R manage to get their 2cents worth in as well! Cheers!

  35. I agree with Sophie above...your blog helps us all ap into that part of us that needs and craves the wilderness. at least, it does for me. Seeing all that beauty heals. As you personally know. I hope that pain subsides quickly!!


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