We’ve been back from our five day escape to Puerto Galera for a week as of today. Even while I was still there, swimming with the fishes, I was already thinking about when we would return. Man I LOVE that place.
For a while though I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to make the trip happen. About two months ago the pain in my lower and middle back began to wander down into the inside of my left hip eventually causing a dull grinding ache in my gut down into my groin. It got me to thinking that maybe I had a lot more wrong with me than just degenerative disc disease, . . . . perhaps even the “big C.” . . . Gulp!
Back pain has been a part of my life for years now but various types of analgesics and braces have allowed me to at least get up and move around, almost like "normal" people do. Starting in January and February though, on occasion I would have to have to call in to the VFW service office where I still volunteer on a casual basis to tell the secretary that I wouldn’t be in. This would happen on days when my hip would feel too "iffy" to the point that I lost all confidence in my ability to safely support myself. It was horrible. I never thought I could get like that before I had even reached 55.
I discussed my almost unbearably painful condition with my fiancé and she talked me into letting a masseur come over to work on me, my first reaction being that I would prefer a masseuse if at all possible. I made my playful request with cocked head, raised eyebrows and a grin hoping she’d “understand.” (chuckle) She laughed me off claiming that she ONLY knew of this one GUY, but not to worry, “HE'S very good!”
Turns out he’s a reflexoglogist who also incorporates full body massage techniques. Whatever he is, he IS good; and by the way, only charges about $9 per hour per house call. Twice a week for three weeks he came over and worked my back, my entire body actually, and it seemed to work pretty well. He pulled, pushed, kneaded, pressed, yanked, and rubbed; it was absolutely awesome. At least it allowed me to sleep without pain, something I hadn’t been able to do for months. Unfortunately, the soothing effects of the therapy did not last into the following day. Getting up the next morning, taking a shower was STILL a problem. . . . So now what?
As my new good friend Don from Texas likes to say, and I quote, “Bad news don’t get any better with time.” In other words, don’t put off doing what you need to do just because you fear you might not like the way it turns out, and sometimes, . . . Don is right.
Following my friend's suggestion I called Dr Quintos, my orthopedist. H he had me come in for x-rays the following day. The last time he’d looked at my spine on an x-ray was way back in ’02, just after I’d retired from the air force. Back then he noticed that my spine was straightened unnaturally at both the neck and lower back, probably from constant muscle spasms; and notably back then he noticed that my L4-L5 disc was desiccated. Oh what a difference 8 years makes! Now, I have a whole host of discs throughout my entire spine that are pretty much nonexistent, almost bone on bone, especially in the area where the “L’s” meet the “Ts.” I’m referring to lumbar and thoracic vertebrae.
Dr Q was very nonchalant as I described my symptoms, completely unsurprised that the pain was now deep down inside my hip and lower abdomen. He showed me where nerves and muscles from my damaged middle lower back go diagonally down my side attaching into a spot deep inside my hip. He told me reassuringly that the pain and its location were completely normal for my condition. So that was cool. “Normal” is always good, right?
He asked me what kind of pain meds I was on if any. I described the three or so that the VA is currently prescribing for my various aches and maladies. He nodded inquiring if I wanted to try something else. Without pause I shook my head vigorously and almost pleaded, “Yes! Please!”
Long story short, I took the new pain reliever designed for this kind of condition and within an hour I felt almost completely “normal.” (Ahhh, I ADORE that word!) It was like a miracle. I looked it up online and asked my pharmacist brother about it---it’s called Arcoxia. Turns out it’s in the same family as Vioxx, a pain med that I used to take with similar great success 8 years ago until all the negative furor took it out of American pharmacies. It also turns out that Arcoxia is not legal to be sold in the US, probably because of the class action lawsuits that cost Merck hundreds of millions for the similarly working Vioxx. All I can say about Arcoxia is “Works good; lasts long time!”
With my back pain under control I began to get excited again about going to Puerto Galera. The trip was on! We were out of here within the week, . . . or so I thought. Our travel plans went on hold once again when I went online to do a routine check of my bank and credit card accounts. My heart skipped and huge beads of sweat popped out all over my forehead when I noticed that my credit card was showing a brand new $7000 balance! What! No WAY!
There were three separate charges amounting to the 7 grand, all to some supposed public relations firm, each with an additional overseas processing fee. Immediately I refuted the charges and sent a strongly worded email to USAA, my stateside bank, telling them in a semi-hysterical manner that in no way shape or manner did I EVER make those charges. To its credit, USAA responded within an hour with a reassuring email that they would refer the charges to their fraud department. In two days all the money was returned to my credit card balance. But now I had no credit card! I needed it to go on my trip! Blast it!
I ordered a replacement card, paying an extra 8 dollars to have the card sent expedited; but living overseas that means the “expedited” mail gets here in a week or so instead of the usual two or three weeks or so. Usually I only check my mail once a week, but that week I went down to the mailroom every day until it arrived about 8 days after I had ordered it. That was on Friday; we left for PG on Sunday.
At last we were on our way. . .