As we think of “recovery”, I think there are different types of recovery. The definition of “recover” is to “get back to a normal state”; and “recovery” is “the act of recovery or duration of recovering”, and again, “a return to a normal state”. Is “recovery” being cured?
First, thinking of being sick with a cold. You have recovered when you no longer have the sniffles, or a fever, etc. With a cavity, you recover when it is filled. But do you recover from cancer? What do you think of “recovery” when you have surgery, for instance? Those types of illnesses differ from the cold or tooth ache. Let’s take cancer. Does the patient every truly recover? Are they cured? I’d say no.
The cancer is treated; it might be with surgery or chemo therapy drugs. But to say they have recovered is not the truth. They might have recovered from being sick from the strong drugs; they might go years without cancer cells showing up; but the body is not where it was before this trial started. Recovery such as this is not “a return to a normal state“.
Let’s say you broke your arm and had to have pins put in it. What is “recovery” for this? Are you fully recovered just because the cast is off? Take ‘back surgery’. You might have some bad disc in your neck and you opt to have a plate fusion to help keep those discs from rubbing together. Are you recovered when your stitches come out? Does your recovery end when you can finally drive, or lift that gallon of milk? To each of us, we think about recovery differently. Even your insurance thinks it is just 6 weeks after the date of the surgery.
Now, I will tell you that my opinion is that you may never have what the “ideal recovery” is. That “ideal recovery” is to not have any problems with whatever ailed you. No more stiffness, no more aches, and being able to do what you were doing prior to the onset or knowledge of your illness. Sorry, once you have had your first cold you will always get colds. Once you break your arm, that arm is always going to ache. Maybe it only aches, noticeably, when it rains; but it has been affected. Once your discs causes you problems, you will always be uncomfortable at some level. If you have Fibromyalgia, you will always have it. We never truly are healed from these illnesses, or the better word “diseases”.
As I approach my 18 months after surgery, people ask me how my recovery is going. So let me ask, “Are you wanting to know about recovering from the disease or from the surgery?”
Recovering from the surgery was accomplished easily. Start with the hospital stay. I “recovered” from having a catheter, incisions, stitches, wound drain, etc. All wounds healed in about 3 weeks. So the physical stress of the surgery is finished. Now is my “recovery” over with, from having the Tarlov Cysts opened, nerves fiddled with, cysts plugged up with my own fat, cysts sewn back up and re-drained, then finally having those cysts wrapped in bovine heart material? Yes and no. But, have I recovered from the disease? Absolutely not! I will always be blessed with these Tarlov Cysts, they are still there. So how does one judge recovery? Is it just as I said from the stress of the surgery on the body, or is it the readjustment I am going through learning to cope? Is it accepting what I call a “new normal”?
I know people mean well when they ask about the “recovery”, what other word is out there for us to use? They want you to reassure them you are feeling better, that you aren’t suffering. Most of us just say we are doing better; we don’t want to complicate our answers by asking them what do they mean. Do they mean are we healed? Each of us wants that answer to be yes, for ourselves. It is a two-way street. If we ask someone the same question, then we are also hoping that person is healed too. We only want to touch the surface of the questions. Digging deep into that question is scary; we might not like the results. We want everything to be good, for ourselves and for others. So we avoid thinking the question through.
I am going to post two more essays on my “recovery” later, but I wanted to help you understand how I look at “recovery”. The two posts will explain the last 18 months physically and emotionally. Then you can judge whether you think I have “recovered”.