Today, I made quiche.
Today I fried bacon, shredded Jarlsberg cheese that I tossed with a little flour, and chopped green onions. I mixed those ingredients with eggs and milk and a dash of nutmeg, plus a little salt and pepper. Then I poured the mixture into two warm piecrusts and baked them for 45 minutes, until the quiche was firm and the crusts were just a little bit brown.
I made two quiches – one for dinner tonight and one for the freezer, for after I come home from the hospital. I’m going to the hospital soon to have surgery on my neck.
Making those two quiches was a big effort for me. What was, just a few years ago, simply a part of my day – making dinner – is now a task that takes effort, because I am always in pain. From the time I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night, my head hurts. It hurts from my neck up, because my cervical spine is a mess of arthritis, stenosis, degenerated discs and bone spurs. It hurts on the sides, in the front, in the back, over my ears and at the base of my skull. It hurts too much.
I’ve tried everything to stop the pain. I’ve tried yoga and walking, food restriction and vitamin supplements. I’ve tried painkillers and muscle relaxers, ice and heat. I’ve tried physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and nerve blocks. I’ve had two epidurals – which eliminated the radiating pain down my arms and in my hands – but when that pain went away, the headaches got worse. I’ve even tried Botox – 40 injections all over my head and neck – and for two weeks after each treatment, I felt better. Not all better, but better. But two weeks every 3 months isn’t really enough, is it?
Today, before I made quiche, I spent time scrolling through Instagram, looking at pictures of friends and acquaintances doing things that look like fun – going to concerts, painting their bathrooms, out to dinner with friends, riding bikes with their husbands – but that I know, if I tried to do, I couldn’t. Because there’s nothing that ruins your fun – and the fun of those around you – like being in pain.
Living in Los Angeles, battling traffic is a given. The idea of being stuck on the freeway with a painful headache makes me so nervous that I rarely drive anywhere past my neighborhood anymore. This has affected my quality of life more than just about anything else.
The thing about pain like mine is that people can’t see it. If your leg is broken or you have a bruise on your arm, it’s obvious that there’s something wrong. Sometimes I want to wear a sign around my neck that says, “I have a bad headache, that’s why I look so annoyed.” I try to be upbeat and friendly, but there are days when I cannot. There are days when it’s better to just stay home.
And there are moments when I think it’s (no pun intended) all in my head. I think, “If I could just have a more positive attitude/push through the discomfort/be stronger/stop whining, the pain would go away.” Those are the worst thoughts because that’s when I blame myself for the hurt I feel.
I know there are reasons why this happened to me. I know when I injured my neck, 23 years ago, that it started a degeneration of my spine. I know that years of working on a computer, reading with my head bent over a book, less-than-excellent posture, twisting to look behind me when I’m in my car, and a million other little micro-movements have led to this point, but what was I supposed to do?
My Neurosurgeon waited 3 years to say, “let’s do this surgery,” because there is no guarantee it will fix the headaches. He’s a very cautious doctor, so I know he’s reached the conclusion that there’s nothing else to try. He says it’s about a 50/50 chance. I’ll take those odds.
In a few days, I’ll have surgery, and I hope it works. I hope it will make my headaches go away – even if it’s only some of the time – so I can stop always thinking about pain and how to live with it, and instead, most of the time, think about living while occasionally having pain.