I’m Having a Scary Neck Surgery and Also Want to Quit Everything
“If someone offered me enough money to take a break from work and recover, would I stop working?”
I asked myself this the other day. My surgeon had just told me I’m having spine surgery again. I’ve known this for a while — over six months, really — but now it’s confirmed. The issue is only getting worse and needs intervention. And although it’s not as dramatic as it sounds (I’ve done this twice before), it is an interruption. And interruptions can be more painful than pushing through pain.
I just found out I’m having surgery, and yet, I am days away from the busiest season of my life. My dance company kicks off our intense fall schedule in a week, with longer hours and a two-ish-month time crunch for a full-length, completely original, linear performance premiere. In laymen’s terms, that’s like creating a feature-length film from scratch (where every millisecond is a perfectly timed movement) in only 10 Sundays. As you can imagine, every rehearsal counts.
I’m also beginning a new dance-teaching job at a studio where my company has residency, which is a tremendous privilege after “losing” a lot of my past gigs during the pandemic due to protocol and pause. Sometimes I guest teach and substitute at our other residency space, too. How can I disappoint before I’ve even begun? (That’s rhetorical. I won’t let it happen.)
And then there is this. This thing I do here (this column), which is often harder than both dancing trades combined, as sitting up and typing hurts my back most of all. For context, my “back” is actually my neck. But because I feel the pain down its center, and experience increased loss of coordination and feeling in my hands, fingers, and shoulders, I call it my back.
But would I take the money and the time off if it meant I could recover (neck, back, or otherwise) and not have to assume painful positions just to keep a position? The truth is no. Well, yes, I’d take the money, because inevitable stalls in productivity hinder my livelihood while healing. But would I quit completely? I don’t think I can. Slowing down? Not pushing myself to write on the days when it does harm? Yes. I would do that for sure, but we can’t have everything we want.
Although medical debt and living expenses are a cruel, looming monster, there is more than just survival-of-the-least-fit at play here, too. For example, if I removed what helps me focus on getting back on my feet quickly, would I get back on my feet at all? My daughters might read this and think, “Am I not enough motivation?!” and of course they are and always have been. But the cold and complicated truth is, it’s hard to thrive only for others.
Sure, I can live for anyone. And I would die for my girls, no questions asked. Every choice I’ve ever made in this lifetime, every word I’ve ever written (or refrained from saying), is and was because of them. But living for two children and thriving in your body are two totally different things.
So, here I am, daydreaming about having a day off (Note to my editor: This is not subliminal messaging.), and trying not to feel guilty for needing more than I’m told I should need to fight through pain. But I’m also scared. This surgery is new and different (they’re going in through my throat and replacing the disc entirely) and not easily squeezed between Tuesday column deadlines and Sunday rehearsal sessions. Who will I disappoint? How will I fail at what’s inevitably ahead?
Sometimes I wonder if the belief that the push and pull of pain versus purpose is “worthwhile and beautiful and better than all or nothing” is nothing more than a myth. Maybe it’s a lie I tell myself because I can’t afford to stop, anyway. Perhaps when we can’t heal with our head above water, we start to savor the swim.
I can’t tell you if this is right or wrong, because I don’t really know the difference anymore. But I can tell you that I cause myself more pain by wishing for the “right” time to recover than living (or maybe even thriving) in the wrong ones.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.