ACDF is not a four-letter word: The aftermath…

Less than two weeks ago, I had anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery to correct degenerative disc disease in my neck. I am happy to say that the surgery was a complete success. First of all, that simply means that I survived a major two-and-a-half hour surgery. The surgery required that I receive general anesthesia, have major parts such as my trachea and esophagus were forcibly relocated to repair my spine, have discs removed and replaced by artificial devices, and finally have four titanium screws inserted into my spinal column to complete the fusion. Sounds cool, doesn’t it?

Less than two weeks later, I have been cleared to return to resume “normal” activities. Normal activities include exercise, sleeping without a collar, and showering without a spotter. I was advised to not go surfing, which I can’t do anyway. Frankly, I am amazed by modern medicine. How in the world can a person have an invasive, major surgical procedure such as the one I described and be back to “normal” activities in 10 days time? Admittedly, I am not 100% at this point, but I’d estimate that I am about 80%. I’m still stiff, sore, and a little weaker than pre-surgery. I am still congested from moving my pipes around. Nevertheless, I went for a 45-minute walk yesterday. I coached a football game this morning. Those are pretty normal activities and I am doing them. All the gratitude and acknowledgement to my surgeon, Dr. Jason Cohen and health care professionals at Monmouth Medical Center in New Jersey who took care of me. I couldn’t have asked for better care. Thank you so much.

Now, let’s get down to the real stuff regarding the aftermath of my surgery. Having a major surgery has changed my perspective on life. I’m just grateful to made it out alive. The odds said that surgery would be safe and successful, but there is always a risk associated with such an invasive procedure in such a delicate area of the body. The odds don’t always make sense to someone who is putting his life in someone else’s hands. I was required to demonstrate a tremendous amount of trust and acceptance when the general anesthetic was shot into my veins, not knowing what was on the other side of my nap. My experience has helped me to work on my relationship to fear. Fear is something that has controlled my behavior at many junctures during my 42 years on this earth. My relationship to fear has historically been irrational and dysfunctional. This relationship to fear has become healthier over the last five years and this surgery has made it even healthier so. I am proud of my decision-making process. I collected information in a logical way. I made a decision based on facts, analysis, and basic instinct. I did not make a decision based on fear. This is relatively new territory for me.

Looking forward, I am so excited for what is next in my life. I was excited before because of my choice to move toward a new career in the field of sport psychology, but I have been preoccupied at points during the last nine months since making that decision. I have been preoccupied by various health maladies that have been resolved or are being effectively managed. However, after this surgery, I have this newfound zeal for the future. My enthusiasm level is through the roof. My physical energy level is slowly rising to meet my enthusiasm level. I have a clear vision for what I want my life to be, but I’m completely accepting of the fact that I cannot control future outcomes. In other words, I’m ready for the “journey” at the risk of sounding trite. I do believe it’s a journey, but the word has become so trendy and common that I am inclined to find a synonym. I guess I just like being a contrarian.

More practically, repairing my neck is going to allow me the opportunity to rebuild my physical health. I have done a pretty good job of taking care of myself over the last five years, which is why my recovery from surgery has been relatively speedy and comfortable. However, I had physical limitations as a result of my injury. My left triceps was weakened and created an imbalance in my strength. It limited my ability to perform certain movements. Now, I’m looking forward to building back from the bottom-up and being better than before. I love a good project and I love training, so this is going to be fun.

I am so grateful for the experience of going through this surgery. I am so grateful for the love and support that I received along the way. I am so grateful for the opportunity to keep building an optimal life for myself despite the predictable roadblocks that thrust themselves in the way without warning or regard for my sanity. So I guess the moral of this story is that I am grateful. Just for today.

Thanks for reading. To be continued…



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