Nothing gets me more excited than having a date in the diary with David Harrison. In a medical sense one could say he is my perfect date.
But today, whilst exciting as always, had a melancholic undertone as I knew that this was destined to be my last date with the great man (wistful sigh).
You see November 28th was my back's first birthday. It was a year to the day when I allowed my body to be opened up by David and for him to give me an amazing gift that will hopefully last a lifetime, my wonderful artificial disc.
And a year down the line here I was striding confidently into his office flushed with pride at how well I had recovered, and then sitting down like a docile, old labrador waiting for a pat of approval. Woof woof.
I came armed with my latest X Rays and the good news was that my range of movement through the artificial disc was virtually at the level of the real disc, and in time David thought that there was no reason it wouldn't achieve the same. My flexibility was much improved and my abdominal strength was largely recovered. Tick, tick and tick.
I found myself beaming uncontrolably like a veritable Cheshire cat, but who wouldn't at this news? You go into this operation hoping above everything that it will be the cure, but I'm sure we all secretly harbour a fear that not only will it not be the cure, but that it could actually make things worse. I certainly did. So to be told by the big guy that in the nicest possible way he never wanted to see me again, because I was cured, was sweet, sweet music to my ears.
And I can honestly say I feel cured. And I knew when I walked in there that this was the end of the road. Because when I wake up in the morning now, my first thought is never about my back. A year ago it always was. Every day.
People probably think that being able to do the really active things again is what makes it so worthwhile, but for me it's actually the normal things that have made the real difference.
Going out to a restaurant without my trusty cushion!
Watching a 3 hour movie without having to nip to the loo halfway through to rub some freeze gel into my back.
Being able to stand all evening at a gig and dance without fear (although admittedly my dancing probably induces fear to those in the immediate vicinity...).
Getting on a plane without the aid of medication or alcohol and being able to help my family with the suitcases!
Having sex without worrying about doing myself an injury (not exactly helpful thoughts...) :-)
Being able to go on a long car journey without stopping in a lay-by to stretch.
Carrying shopping bags home from the supermarket...I could go on, but you get the idea.
Okay so I admit I haven't yet walked onto a tennis court. But theoretically there is no reason why I couldn't. The only thing that's stopping me is my mind. Because what they don't tell you when you have an operation like this is that your mental condition has to be cured too, not just your physical one.
You have to rebuild your confidence and its a fragile thing and in my case its actually taken longer than my body and I'm still not there yet. I had some back pain about 2 months ago and my immediate reaction was...shit! Its all gone wrong!! But of course it hadn't, it was just the normal aches and pains that anyone of my age gets. I know that I'm getting there and I'm sure that in 2013 I will hit a tennis ball again. I'm in the gym every week and my progress is good.
I often get people who are considering having the operation emailing me or calling me and asking me whether I can recommend it. Well of course I can!! For me it was an absolute, bloody miracle. And if I ever developed the same condition again (god forbid) I would be down to David's surgery rolling over and having my tummy tickled in a shot. No question.
But it's a real responsibility being asked for an opinion like that. I can't make your mind up for you, because I don't know what your circumstances are. Don't get me wrong I'm only too happy to try and help people in the same situation I was in, because I would have loved it if there had been someone there for me. So I can tell you about my hugely positive experience and what to expect in the days and weeks after the operation, and I hope that's useful. Because I know when I was trying to find some positive stories before my operation they were few and far between, and the negative ones outweighed them, and that made the decision harder. It's human nature I understand that, we like to moan, and moan loudly! But when things go well we just get on with life and move on, because life is about living. And that's what I'm doing because I have no excuse not to any more.
So here I am, a year older and a year wiser. And a year happier.
I wish everyone out there an outcome as good as mine, and one thing I can say with absolute confidence, David Harrison is the man. Don't even think about looking elsewhere.
Good luck and good backs!!