Pain series: Part 4

I just looked out my window and saw four teenagers passing around the biggest blunt I’ve ever seen. It’s 420 which means everyone is high, planning to get high, or coming down off of a high. I’m never indulge but sometimes wish that I could simply for the medicinal pain relief that I would feel. Now the guys are singing, enjoying whatever high they’ve got left for the next few hours.

I watched a video on my surgery today. It was an animated educational film, but it still made me nervous and kind of freaked me out a little bit. I probably shouldn’t have watched it but I was curious about what it’s going to happen to me. I have an appointment on May 1 for a physical and a consultation with the nurse who will be helping me through everything. Her name is Jackie. I’ve talk to her a few times on the phone and she always makes me feel like everything is going to be OK.

I watched another video of a guy in his 60s who had the same surgery I’m going to have and he was about six weeks out. He said he wasn’t experiencing any pain at the moment but that the first few weeks were really rough, but he couldn’t do anything by himself, go to the bathroom by himself, and that he can’t lift his baby grandchild at all. That seem pretty rough but trading some really bad short-term pain for a lifetime of bad pain just seems worth it to me. 

Starting to get nervous, but trying to keep things in perspective. I’m going to have a lot of help and a lot of people who love me around, that’s going to be nice and keep my mind at ease.

Pain series: Part 3

Friday, I had a second consultation with a spine surgeon at Rush hospital. I’d taken all the recommended steps (physical therapy, core strengthening, medication, steroid injections) before he wanted to do surgery, and none of them had helped. I explained that I’m really at the end of my rope here. I can’t just keep going hoping the pain will go away. He said he’d like to do surgery, and I quickly agreed with him that that was the best option. So, I’m scheduled to have spinal fusion on May 8. I came out of that appointment so relieved that there was some step I could take to move forward, to find some relief. 

They’ll make a 3 in long incision in my back, and take the disc between L4 and L5 out. They’ll replace it with a titanium cage surrounded by bone. So basically, I’ll be one of those people who beeps every time I go through a metal detector. Oh well! I’m down. Let’s do it. 

One thing that was pretty sobering was seeing one of my neighbors yesterday. We were in the middle of moving, and she was carrying her groceries up her steps. She was clearly struggling, so I went over and asked if she needed any help. She immediately started berating me, asking how I could not have seen her struggling 10 min ago, and how all the young people are stupid and selfish and wouldn’t help her. She said “you have no idea what it’s like to live with back pain like this, unable to do anything. No one else stopped and asked if I need help, stupid young people”. I had literally just seen her and walked over, but in her I saw a possibility of my own future. Normally I may have been pissed off at her for berating me after I asked to help her, but I totally understood why she did. Constant pain can turn you into a nasty person who lashes out at anyone, for no reason. I’ve had a few times where I couldn’t bear the pain I was in and just took it out on Jeb, though he never deserved it. In this lady I only saw pain and sadness, not someone who was actually a raving bitch. That could’ve been me in ten years. Alone. Sad. Resentful. 

I’m doing something about it. I wish she could’ve or would’ve gotten help. I can, so I am. May 8, you can’t come quickly enough. 

Pain series: Part 2

It’s been hard to accept the way my body has changed over the last year, as a result of my injuries. I’ve always been fairly physically active, but my activity has taken a huge back seat due to the injuries and pain I’m in. I mean, I injured myself doing weightlifting, which I was sort of getting good at.

After lifting became too painful, I started doing yoga. I really liked that, but it was tough to get the same results as with crossfit, and I felt my body begin to change. It didn’t take long to feel like my body was never going to be strong again like it had been. I love the feeling of being sore from a hard workout, but I haven’t felt that in a long time.

Now I’m waiting to see if I have to have back surgery. If I do, my exercise routine will be walking back and forth across my apartment. I’m kind of in limbo right now, but I see the doctor tomorrow to consult for surgery. I’m in so much pain and just desperate to feel some relief. It’s been over a year of constant pain in my back and legs, and it’s wearing me out physically, mentally, and emotionally. I feel bad because I can’t do basic things like lift medium heavy boxes to move into our new apartment. I used to deadlift close to my body weight, so it’s hard to have regressed so far.

A woman in STEM

Being a woman in the technology field comes with its own set of complications. I am fortunate to work for a great company, where women are valued and innovation is important, no matter who comes up with the idea. However, even in such a supportive and positive environment, there are several challenges that I face as a woman. 

  1. Representation: In one of our department’s all-employee meetings, I looked around the room and noticed that out of about 250 attendees, there were about 20 women in the room. All the presenters were men, and many of them didn’t acknowledge that there were women in the room, only referring to the “network guys” or the “guys in security”. Yes, I know that “guys” is a term often used to include both men and women, but it still felt exclusive. The main presenter and head of this department did mention the “ladies and gentlemen” who make things great here, so that was nice. I IMed him after the meeting and thanked him for seeing the women in the room. No one else seemed to. 
  2. Salary: No matter what anyone says, the pay gap exists. White women are paid 77c on the dollar, Black women are paid 64c on the dollar, and Latinas are paid 56c on the dollar, all in relation to men (Feminist Fight Club). I recently did the math and found out that I was indeed being paid 30% less than my market value. That was disturbing and a hard day. Also, I was never encouraged to fight for a good starting salary. I was always told to take what I could get and not negotiate. This could also be a generational problem, as jobs were harder to come by for millenials. 
  3. The need to be exceptional: This may be a more personal and internal struggle (which probably indicates that many people struggle with this). I always feel that my actions at work are scrutinized more closely than my male counterparts. If I get invested in a project and get upset if something doesn’t go to plan, I’m deemed too “emotional”. This puts a lot of pressure on me and other women to be exceptional at all times. Let’s be honest, no one is exceptional at all times. No. One. 
  4. Having my skills questioned: My skills are occasionally questioned or given a surprised reaction, like, how could a woman know how to do that? I enjoy bursting people’s’ bubbles on those occasions. Women are capable and intelligent. Women can do everything men can do. I occasionally have to confront my own engrained stereotypes and remember this, even as I ask others to do. 

These are just a few of the unique challenges I face as a woman working in technology. I am lucky to know a lot of women who work in STEM, and it’s cool to see their accomplishments, even in the face of adversity. I hope to inspire other women to work in STEM, so we can all rise together. 

Pain series: Part 1

This series will be a record of the pain I’ve experienced since March 2016, in an effort both to remember the pain mostly “on paper” and to relieve some of the stress of experiencing it. Here’s the back story.

In March of 2016, I tore the meniscus in my left knee squatting, irritating it one day, and then tearing it completely catching a clean. Up until that point, I had only seriously injured myself once doing any weightlifting, and that was on a box, when I missed the jump and got a chunk of my leg taken out. This was worse than that, much worse. This injury led to months of knee pain, and eventually surgery.

Two weeks after that injury, I was lifting and was apparently off balance from my knee injury. I was deadlifting, and I popped a disc out between the L4 and L5 vertebrae. This has led to months and months of pain in my lower back, middle back, and all down my legs and feet. This brings me to present day.

It’s March 29, 2017 today. The pain I experience on a daily basis is occasionally forestalled by taking medicine. I take Tramadol and Meloxicam several times a week. That usually takes the pain away for about 12-18 hours. The pain travels down through my hips to the tip of my toes, occasionally numbing parts of my legs. The meds take the numbness away but then make other things numb.

This whole process has been really difficult mentally and emotionally. Fortunately I’ve had the best support system, with Jeb being wonderful at every turn, my parents being there for me, and my friends calling me and hanging out when I was sad.

End for now. Tired.