Deep Thoughts,  Feeling Crotchety,  Scoliosis,  Spines & Livers & Bones, Oh My!

Problems With Pain

Today I wanted to write about our recent adventures in Costa Rica or post pictures of the anatomically correct chalk drawings Drew and Porter decorated our driveway with recently.

Instead I’m writing about pain– physical pain– as it’s had me in its jaws for the better part of three weeks.

Longtime readers know that I’ve had two spine surgeries, one for scoliosis and a second to address complications caused by the first.  My spine is fused with a combination of rods, hooks and screws.  Here’s a diagram of a spine.

The spine is divided into the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions, and each vertebra within a region is given a number.  The green line shows where I am fused, from the fourth thoracic to the fourth lumbar vertebra.  Those of us in the know call this T4 to L4.  The red area shows the vertebrae and discs that are not fused: L4-5 and L5-S1.  Because these two discs handle all the  movement of my upper torso, while the spine is designed to spread all the pressure evenly across the back, my bottom two vertebrae are in bad shape and are the source of most of my back pain.

Here’s an xray, not mine, that gives you an idea of the hardware inside my body.   I have a few more hooks at the top of my fusion and some big screws at the bottom as a result of the 2004 surgery.
xray of hook

During the last thirty years, back pain has been a fact of life for me. It’s been worse at times and better at times, but it always lurks nearby.  I’ve used back braces, pain patches, physical therapists, chiropractors, medications, a muscle stimulator and gin and tonics in my fight against pain. I visited my trusty brace man to fashion a brace to support my belly during my pregnancies and relieve the pressure on my spine, but I still had to take painkillers during pregnancy to make it through some days.

Generally I’m a rockstar at handling lower back pain.  If your lower back felt the way mine feels on a normal day, you’d be shooting tequila and hollering for your mama.

Sometimes, however,  there’s pain that no medicine can touch, and that’s what I’ve been fighting most recently.

It originated near the blue dot on the top diagram, which, coincidentally, is right by the top hook under my right shoulder.

This upper back pain is a new kind of pain for me, and I haven’t been managing it well.  It radiates up into my neck, down my shoulder, and makes my arm and fingers numb.  The muscles on the left side of my lower back are burning, perhaps because they are compensating for the fact that I’m trying to move my right side as little as possible.

I hurt when I stand and when I sit, but I hurt the most lying down.  I’m beginning to dread night time.

Pain affects me physically, but it also gets inside my head.  I’ve been yelling at the boys.  Around 5:30, when it’s really throbbing, I feel like I’m seeing my family through a haze, and I fear that I’m losing my grasp on reality.  I tell Porter to sweep up his cookie crumbs, but impatiently, because I think I’ve already told him once.

“Yes, ma’am,” Porter says, and he sweeps and then goes outside to write “Porter is cool” in Morse code on the driveway.

I ask Drew if he’s finished his homework.

“You already asked me that,” he says.  I don’t remember.

Dinner is agonizingly slow, but no one else seems to notice.

“Finn, eat or don’t eat, but let’s get this over with,” I hiss.

“Honey, I’ll deal with the kitchen.  You go lie down,” Bill says.

It’s a kind offer, and he means well, but it doesn’t help.  Alone in our room, I cry.  I’m frustrated.  I’ve had a shot in my back and I’m scheduled for an MRI.  My doctor has prescribed a different type of pain pill, but I still can’t sleep.  I wonder if my boys will remember me as a bedridden mom, alternately weeping and shouting orders.

As the hours stretch on and everyone sleeps but me, my pity party is in full swing.  I cry over the years I’ve spent recuperating from surgeries and liver disease.  I sob about the things I can’t do, like turning cartwheels and somersaults.  When I get good and worked up, I weep about my big feet, my small breasts and the paint peeling in the bathroom.

I know this season will pass.  Tonight I’ll try not to scream and be impatient with the boys; to keep my hurt hidden until they’re tucked in.

I’ll try to remember what my mom told me: “My feet might be big, but they sure do hold me up.”

To be honest, I never was that good at cartwheels, either.


Three years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: Get Me Out Of Here!


The theme for this week’s Flashback Friday is OOPS!  Feel free to join in– we’re having a marvelous time digging through old photos and blogging about the past.  Instructions are here.


  • Brandy Poole

    I feel for you and what you’re having to endure. I do not know personally what it’s like to endure this level of pain, but my mom suffered for years with back pain. Go ahead and cry. Sometimes it’s the only thing that helps. I pray the doctors can help to bring you some relief.

    Brandy Poole’s last blog post..Break over

  • Traci

    Lots of hugs! Just remember you can only do the best you can. At the end of the day, all of your boys still know that you love them.

  • Headless Mom

    Oh, Anne. I’ve been wondering why your posts were fewer lately. My husband has back pain and numbness, too, although from the looks of it not nearly as bad as yours. Maybe I should have him read this? Ha.

    Praying for the doctors to find some way to help!

    Headless Mom’s last blog post..Proposal 2.0-The Headless Meeting

  • jean

    Crying is sometimes the best thing for you. Of course, getting rid of the pain would be even better. I hope the doctors can figure out a way to help you. I know you went to NYC for the surgery, right? Maybe it’s time to come back and see them again?

  • Susan

    OUCH. I can’t believe you’re bearing this. Your boys can take one look at your x-rays and understand. You’re obviously a great mom and now that you’re in great pain, they’ll get it. Could something be going wrong with the hook? Please feel better. Wish I was there to help.

    Susan’s last blog post..Me. Yoga and Norman

  • Jen

    I’m so sorry. I’ve had two back surgeries myself, the last one after almost three weeks of literally sleeping (or not) on my elbows and knees with three or four pillows wadded up beneath my stomach. Even the first three days in the hospital, I was wheeled around on a stretcher face-down with my butt up in the air. The humor only came when several people re-introduced themselves to me after the surgery — “nice to finally see your face!”
    I hope you can find relief — I’ll be praying for you.

  • Kim

    Hi Anne – I am SO sorry! God, that just sucks…and I know what you mean about when Bill is trying to be helpful, don’t you just want to scream sometimes? It’s like you don’t even know what you want or what will make things better, but you know that’s not it!!! And don’t worry about the boys, they will be fine. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers – I hope the MRI gives your docs a new gameplan…


  • Peggy

    Have you tried Lyrica? It doesn’t work for everyone but was a life saver for a close friend who has degenerative disc problems.

  • Hillary


    I am sorry you are hurting! I will picture you pain free and romping around with all your boys! I have read your blog for a few years now, and really love your perspective on the world. Who else shares their REAL know-how on living with the opposite sex? My latent Southerner also loves hearing about your life in Alabama (where my step-sisters grew up).

    I wish you the best medicine has for getting you back to your joyous self. (But we even love you when you are hazy and in pain)

  • Karin

    This is not helpful, since I am in constant pain myself for my lower back and left hip. I used to do ballet and aerobics, and I guess that’ s how I messed myself up. Nothing helps the back pain for more than 30 minutes. I have prescription painkillers, but they mess up my mind. I am totally impatient with my husband and my teenager who can’t understand why I yell at a drop of a hat. The scientists can figure out everything else, but not what to do about pain. The only thing I have at all found helpful, is staying on a very low sodium diet. Any extra water retention makes me hurt more. Good luck!

  • Kristine

    Nothing to say that hasn’t been said, but hoping and praying you get some answers and relief soon… Your corner of the web is one of my very favorites, and not just because it’s the closest!

  • Charro

    Like all the others, I am so sorry you are going through all of this. This too shall pass. I will keep you in my thoughts ! Charro

  • Sara


    I’m so sorry. At Christmas time, my mom was in so much back pain (exactly as you described with pain starting in the shoulder and radiating up her neck) that I was very, very worried that she was losing her will to live.

    I tell you this because there’s a happy ending. In January, she went to a place called Spinal Institute of Tampa (or something like that). They made a tiny incision on the back of her neck, inserted laproscopic tools and cut off the offending nerve bundle that was outside of her spinal column and was being pinched every time she moved. Before surgery she was taking up to 3 lyrica a day and medicating herself with the big bottle. After surgery she is able to LIVE. There’s still some back pain, but not the debilitating kind that you describe.

    I don’t know if this information is helpful, or if those people can help you specifically, but great advances have been made in back surgery. I hope there is a solution for you because God certainly broke the mold when he made Anne Glamore. Like Kristine says, your corner of the web is also one of my favorites. You’re in my prayers.

  • Erin

    Nothing is worse than trying to function when you are in agony. Your children will remember the good times not the bad ones. The rough moments may seem all too prevalent right now but kids are very resilient and forgiving. I know you don’t feel like counting your blessings right now, but you are very lucky to have 3 strong independent sons to help you and themselves as well as a husband who adores you and will see you through this. You’ll be in my prayers.

  • Joy East of theKingdom

    I will certainly be praying for you. I can imagine it’s like being tortured.

    BTW…I wear a size 11. My grandmother (from whom I inherited them) says we “have a good under-standing.”

    and cartwheels are over-rated

  • Kate

    Long time lurker here. I just wanted to say that my thoughts and prayers are with you and I hope you feel much better very soon. Also, thank you so much for all of the laughs, you are one damn entertaining woman and your family seems wonderful.

  • Alice

    Oh, that just sucks balls, Anne. Really hoping that the new pain pills will do their thing, and that whatever’s temporarily wonky with your back works itself out. I (and my size 10 feet) will raise a glass in your honor, hoping that the analgesic effects can make their way to you, without interfering with the meds.

  • Quirky

    Bless your heart! I knew you had problems with your back, but I didn’t realize it was that bad. I’m so sorry to hear that. Hopefully the MRI will be able to tell your doctors how to help you and get some relief.

    And honey? We all cry about our big feet and small breasts and peeling paint. You’re in good company there. 🙂

    Quirky’s last blog post..3/25/09 Guy Brains: Why They Do What They Do

  • VHMom

    Poor Anne! I’ve missed you lately and have been wondering what was up, but I am so sorry to learn the reason. I hope you find some relief soon! It sounds as if you’ve raised your men right, and this will be more good training for their marriages! Get better soon!

  • tractorgirl

    CRAP! I was signing in to leave belated, post-spring-break suggestions for the would-be visitor to Birmingham when I saw your latest post. I thought your blogless week was due to another fabulous family vacation… I HATE that you’re suffering so! That x-ray is something from The Bionic Woman. I cannot imagine what you must be feeling. Yeah, I’m with the other girls on this: you deserve as many “good cries” as you’re inclined to have, supplemented by cursing fits as needed. I’m sure you’ve researched the world centers for back pain before, but it wouldn’t hurt to check again. Surely your work buddies know guys who know where the top centers are. In the past, I’ve had friends who had “baby blocks” for temporary relief of serious back pain… can they do something similar, just farther up the back? Lord have mercy, girl; hang in there. We’re all pulling for you. Even we heathens will pray for your return to comfort.

  • E Bird

    Hello My Dear,
    I weep about my small (swollen) feet and my double DD boobs, my sky high blood pressure and my odd lower abdominal pains. Be good to yourself, rest when you need to and be glad the boys are going to be self sufficient due to your excellent training and mothering. I will keep you all in my prayers.

  • Jenna

    Well, I just about cried reading your discription of your pain so I can’t even imagine. Know that you are in our hearts and thoughts. Hopefully something will work and help you to at least get some rest. Being in pain is bad enough but adding sleeplessness to that just makes it worse. Sending you good healing vibes and warm hugs!

  • MamaD4

    Hi Anne–Another hang in there, this one from Germany. I suppose someone else mentioned this already, but when you’re considering your small boobs (and I say this as a fellow small boober), consider that they too would put strain on your poor back if they were bigger.

    I agree with the last comment: sleeplessness makes everything worse! Hope you get the help you need.

    MamaD4’s last blog post..Madison Brianna

  • Kate

    I don’t think those of us who have not experienced debilitating pain can really know what you’re going through. But, I hope you and the doctors can find some relief soon. In the meantime, I think gin and tonics are the way to go.
    And, don’t worry, your boys will understand about the snippiness. You have raised them up right.

    Kate’s last blog post..Wonderful Weekend

  • Jenni D.

    Anne- I’m sorry you have to live with the pain and the threat of the pain. I know a little what that’s like. But the point I want to make is that your boys will not let this time overshadow their memories of you because you are a good mom. You’re just going through a rough patch right now. My mom dealt with chronic pain and while, at the time, I wanted her to just be normal and act like Mom again, I now understand what she was going through and I appreciate her all the more for it. Your boys will be better men because of this. It’s good for our kids to see us as humans and hurting sometimes.
    And I have size 11 feet. Not that it matters, but there it is!

  • Janie

    Keep squeaking until you get some oil! No one should have to live with that level of pain, and the alternative of being in LaLa land isn’t acceptable either. Sleep is part of the key, but getting enough pain relief to sleep is essential to that process. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

    Janie’s last blog post..A Round Tuit

  • Alyce

    Like the others, I’ve been wondering about the less frequent blog posts. But I was hoping it was because you guys were doing something spectacular. I’m so sorry it’s because of the pain. I believe you that it’s excruciating.

    I hope you get answers with the doctors/visits and that relief is on its way to you soon.

  • Danielle

    I’m convinced people who go into PT must have been medieval torturers in a former life, lol. Thank God for them; sometimes they do miracles!

    I love your blog and I will pray for you!

  • Melissa

    I can’t imagine living with that kind of pain. You’re entitled to feel sorry for yourself and to cry and to be short with people. I’m sure your boys understand more than you realize. I so hope you get some relief soon. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack. Take care of yourself.

  • cassie

    I am so sorry you’ve been dealing with all this pain. I am finally getting mine under control, and I am behind. I’ll clink you that gin and tonic, and have one with you.

  • Jamie

    Anne, I an so sorry that you have to live and learn to live with this kind of pain. Heck I hate it when I have a bad headache so I cannot even imagine trying to function and work/be a mom while in pain. I hope that your physicians can come up with a long-term solution so that this is a thing of the past. I am thinking of you and hoping that this weekend has been a good one for you!

    Jamie’s last blog post..Proof God Is A Southern Gentleman, Or That I’m Just Not Meant To Clean The Toilet

  • Laura

    I am so, so sorry to read this. I just now have caught up on the past few weeks of your wonderful blog, and was stunned to see today’s where you state it will be your last. Now I understand. BLESS YOU for all that you have been enduring. Your precious family is what it is because of how you and your husband have raised them so far, and what truly awesome boys they are! Boys-they can do so much to help you, and will even enjoy it! I had lower back surgery earlier this year, and am still not back to my old self just yet-kind of doubting/wondering if I ever will be at age 42?, and had forgotten the many complications it put on my life until I read your post here–severe pain is so all-encompassing. However, having to rely on my own 2 boys (ages 11 and 14) and my husband was a learning experience, but an eye-opening and rewarding one!, as I did (looking back on it especially)..I pray you will find comfort from the therapy. You are too cute and too young to go thru this crap!! I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers, and miss reading your blog-such a gifted writer you are. Keep your chin up, many of us are rooting for you…and take care of your amazing self. God bless.

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