At Age 29, I Was Diagnosed With Two Spinal Conditions Which May Rob Me of My Ability to Walk

I can't help thinking that if I don't mark things off my bucket list right now, I probably won't be able to ever do them again.
Publish date:
May 12, 2014
disability, pain, degenerative disease, spondylosis

I kind of always knew there would be a big-deal-issue early on in my life.

When that moment finally came around, the doctor was sitting across from me and told me that not only did I have a serious spinal condition, I also had intestinal worms. WORMS. WHAT?

She said "Elly, I can't believe you're worried about worms when you might not be able to walk again without surgery." WORMS. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? The thought of those things crawling around inside me, ALIVE. It was about as traumatic as watching bot fly videos on YouTube. (If you have, you understand, if you haven’t, don’t.)

HOW DO I GET RID OF THEM? The doctor said I had to take seven chocolate-flavoured tablets all at once and they'd be gone in two days. I decided I would take 14.

After I was over the shock of having worms, my doctor said to me "You and I are going to sit and Google what Spondylosis is since I know that's exactly what you're going to do when you get home." Well actually, I was going to Google if 14 tablets was enough to get rid of worms, but I wasn't about to disagree with her. It turns out this Spondy-whatever-it-is is better known as arthritis of the spine. Basically it is "wear and tear" arthritis, which is hilarious because the most wear and tear my spine has been through is about 10 years of deciding whether gym twice a week is enough to reach my recommended exercise quota. For the record, my sofa skills had nothing to do with the onset of my condition.

Everyone agrees I am too young to have it but it's not something I can return to Target along with the receipt. Three weeks after my initial diagnosis, I was sent to a spinal specialist. He looked young, like really young. However, he took all my medical scans and put them up on his fancy light box like they do in movies and said many big words that a 12-year-old wouldn’t understand and confirmed that yes, I do have Spondylosis. Not only that, but I also have Degenerative Disc Disease.

The last three discs in my spine are goneskies. Kaput. Done and dusted, barely in existence. Where did they go? No one knows. I mourned their death for a few minutes and then asked what needs to happen next because I was unable to stand, walk or sit in any capacity for more than about 20 minutes before pain set in and I couldn't walk for the rest of the day.

He said that we'd start with some hardcore painkillers (apparently I was a lot of fun on those) and some Pilates and swimming to strengthen my back and core and aid in keeping everything in position. Thank god he didn't say CrossFit. Anyway, I gave that a go until I realised that after about a minute of downward dog, I couldn't walk anymore. So the doctor suggested a spinal injection which would shoot liquid medication right into the space in my spine where all the problems were coming from.

I am just thankful I couldn't see that bad bitch going in while it was happening. It cost $900 and wasn't guaranteed to work for any amount of time, OR AT ALL. It's lucky I am a millionaire and literally have 7 figures in the bank. And by 7 figures, I mean 0.000000.

Luckily, it worked, and I've now been relatively pain-free for about a month. It could last another month or it could all go away tomorrow and my pensioner spine could be back again harassing me, shaking whats left of its discs at me in disapproval. There's really no way of knowing.

Some days are mostly pain-free, other days I can last until about 6 pm and then have to lay down for the rest of the night. On a very bad day I can’t get out of bed. I'm also very lucky that I have a lovely boyfriend, whom I've been with for almost 3 years, who will get me coffee or food or my phone charger from an approximate distance of three feet away. I am using this as a test to see if he will stay by my side when I am old and decrepit, because that's probably going to be tomorrow. So far, so good. He also cooks.

Both our 30th birthdays are coming up and in celebration we are going on a tropical island getaway. Unfortunately, I have no choice but to pack my spine. If the drugs don't work, I am going to sell all my belongings so I can get another injection (or 5) because I have plans, BIG PLANS. I'm going to hang glide off a cliff. I also plan to snorkel, sail and generally pretend I have the spine of an 8-year-old rather than an 80-year-old.

When I tell people who know about my condition about my big birthday plans, they look at me like I am crazy. Which I possibly am, but I can't help thinking that if I don't do these things right now, I probably won't be able to ever again. Spinal surgery is a very real possibility; it's just a matter of time. This will involve fusing my spine in 2 or 3 places so that it doesn't move. The downside of that is that the degeneration of the discs will continue up my spine, and gradually I will have to fuse more and more of it, until my entire spine is fused together.

They want to pro-long this as much as possible, so I am willing to try anything and anything in the interim. However, when the time comes and my spine is all shiny and fused, the world will have to watch out because I plan on attending every dress up party as Wolverine from X-Men. I mean, it's no Adamantium, but I'm thinking a titanium spine will be pretty bad-ass.

So if you see any pictures of any "Elly" dressed as Wolverine surfacing the Internet, THAT'S ME and all I ask is that you remember my reason and not give me too much crap about it. Also remember, that at any given time you could be diagnosed with a life-altering condition, so go jump off that cliff (SAFELY) and ride those bikes until there’s no more thrill-seeking left on your bucket list. I don’t want you to miss out like I almost did.