Day by Day – The Back Operation


In an effort to keep a short diary over the next week I will update this post each day with some news. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, jump over here for the background info.


Day One – Friday

So that happened. I feel like my whole back is a magnet and the bed is metal. I can move my arms and legs about but I can’t lift or turn any part of my back. You know like an upsidedown ladybird (lieveheersbeestje). I normally sleep on my side so that is a bit annoying. The
They told me that the first three or four days would be hell, but that it would quickly improve after that. We will see.


Day Two – Saturday

I’ll start with the good news, today I got to put my pyjamas on (handsewn by my mum), I was allowed to drink some water and tomorrow I may get a dry cracker if I really behave myself.
In other news, it’s really hard not to be able to move, annoying that if something is out of reach I need to ask someone to help me. It feels so ridiculous to push the big red emergency button to ask someone to take my socks off, or to pick up my phone that fell on the ground.
I still have a lot of pain, but they say that’s normal for the first 4 days.
Big kisses x


Day Three – Sunday

Today I got to eat something for the first time since Wednesday so that was nice. I practiced sitting on the edge of the bed for a few seconds, got really dizzy and lay down again. Will try again tomorrow.
Following the advice of wonderful Maaret, over the last few months I have bought every book I ever wanted to read. Today I started reading from that pile.
In other news, but of trouble with the blood pressure today, they tilted my bed so my feet are up in the air, not the most comfy position ever!


Day Four – Monday

Some good things happened today, but then one very bad thing outweighed them all.
Today I got a warm meal, sat on the edge of my bed, went for a little walk down the corridor (with a lot of help). The fourth day is here, I was feeling a lot better and that is what I told all my wonderful visitors. Apart from the niggling pain in my hip that I haven’t been able to shake since the operation. I have been mentioning it to anyone who would listen over the last four days and today after a CT scan we found out what was causing that annoying stupid random pain in my hip.
One of the screws attaching the springs to my spine is touching a nerve.
I need to have another operation this week to solve it.
Just when I was starting to feel better, it seems like I am being thrown back to day one.

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Day Five – Tuesday

I woke up at 5.30 this morning and the weight of yesterday’s news came crashing down and crushed me.
I called the nurse and asked her to take the needle out of my hand. If they want to put me back on a drip they will just have to put in a new needle. I was fed up of everything. I was tired of being polite and cooperative.

Laying there in the dark I thought how unfair this latest news was.

I had done everything expected of me. I had suffered the three days of hell to get to the forth ‘much better’ day. I held up my side of the deal. I should be going home now. It’s not fair.

Later in the morning the nurses encouraged me to eat my sandwich, offered to help me shower, asked which pajamas I would like to wear. I couldn’t bring myself to play the game anymore. I had jumped through all the hoops and now I was being told I had to start again. I tried to hide under the blankets and go back to sleep but I should have known those wonderful nurses wouldn’t take no for an answer. In their own nursely way they held my hand and made me do all the things I needed to do.

Then I hid under the blankets and went back to sleep.

It seems that during that sleep some processing happened. When I woke up I felt different. The second operation has to happen, and so it will. I don’t feel negative or positive about it. It just ‘is’. I went back to living in the moment. Not thinking about the past or future. I coloured in my Frida book with my son and asked my sister-in-law to wash some nightdresses for the extra nights I would be in hospital.

Here we go again.


Day Six – Wednesday

The info you’ve all been waiting for; my second operation is planned for tomorrow, Thursday afternoon. I am fifth on the list for surgery so they expect I will not be called before 15h. They advised me to stay up late tonight so I could shorten the day by sleeping in the morning. Perfect time to write a blog then!

Today was a kind of nothing day in my mind. If everything went according to plan I would have been at home today. For the operation tomorrow I would only need to be here late this evening. So actually I didn’t need to be here today, but nerve pain says otherwise. My day was brightened by a visit from one of my most lovely ladies. She braved the storm and public transport to bring me magazines, animal photos, company, hairdresser stories and a lavender shaky magic tin.


Realising I cannot eat from midnight tonight until after the operation, I suddenly felt very hungry. It is exactly one week since I crawled into this bed and it was time for an adventure. I spent 15 minutes pulling on my pajama bottoms (or lounge pants as they seem to be called these days). Got on my slipper booties and left my room. I left my room. You probably read that without thinking about it, but it was an amazing wonderful feeling to walk out the door I have been stuck behind for a week.

Practicing a very glamorous move somewhere between a shuffle and a hop I made my way to the lift. The pressure on my nerve means that I can’t really put weight on my left leg but it seemed to be working out OK. My mission was to find food. I had heard that there was a vending machine somewhere and I was determined to find it. Half way down a very long corridor I realised that if I fell down I would not be able to get up again. *Ignore such thoughts, keep on shuffling*. At the end of the corridor I suddenly found myself in a rush of 20 or 30 staff with equipment trollies. I guess it was quitting time. A feeling swept over me that I recognised from during my pregnancy. I was afraid for my safety. I felt vulnerable. I could not protect myself. They came at me from all sides, like a sychronised swimming team rushing to clock out. One of the ladies must have seen the fear in my eyes and shouted several times “Watch out for that woman”. Phew!

I located the promised vending machine and picked out my favorites. Standing in the abandoned hall of the hospital I learned something new about my current condition. I cannot bend over. The chocolate and crisps that had dropped down into the drawer were so close and yet so far. Thankfully I found a helpful young man in scrubs who looked at me like I was crazy and then retrieved my unhealthy treasure.

I shuffled back to my room, put on TV and ate my crisps, chocolate and painkillers. Victory. I achieved something. I am standing and walking. Tomorrow the operation will turn the clock back a week but at least I know what is coming this time.


Day Seven – Thursday

Following the advice of the night nurse I stayed up until 1am watching TV, then lay awake for another few hours for good measure. In the morning I was taking it easy, having a snooze, when suddenly the tempo changed considerably. Instead of an operation in the late afternoon, it would now take place within 30 minutes. During a hurried wardrobe switch and antibacterial wash I asked about the calming medicine that would be given before the operation. Last week I got these meds as I left my room and was wheeled down to the operating theater. This meant that I was overwhelmed and crying when left alone in the ‘preparation room’. This time I checked with the anaesthetist and she said that I should get it an hour before I go down for it to have effect. Phew!

Unfortunately this info had not reached the nursing station “It’s not possible to give it an hour before because you have to leave in 20 minutes.” The relief from the reassurance of the anaesthetist slowly draining, I asked if they couldn’t maybe just give it to me right now. After a lot of running back and forward and checking with 500 different people the final answer was that I couldn’t have it because I needed to be awake and aware enough to tell the surgeon which part of my body he should operate on. They left the room and I broke down crying. Not an elegant tear-on-cheek kind of crying, but full-on hysterical sobbing. Just then my partner arrived from work after leaving in a hurry, and a lady doctor who was involved in the operation. She was shocked when I told her what happened and within 2 seconds instructed that I receive the medication. I had a suspicion it was a placebo but when I arrived in the empty, silent preparation room I realised it was working. I felt a sudden love feeling for my blanket and decided to take a little nap.


Day Eight and Nine – Friday and Saturday

(See also Day Two and Three…) This pretty much feels like starting all over again. Like I’ve been put in a time machine and sent back one week in time. This time however, I know what is coming. I know that by Sunday I will start to feel better and be able to sit up at the side of the bed. The second operation was a success, they were able to move the screw, change the angle and reattach the spacer in the right position.

Honestly, the worst thing about these two days is in those awful moments when I feel like turning around. That moment when my hip hurts from laying on one side for so long. When I realise I need to turn over to my other side. Those minutes when I lay there realising that I am too scared to try to move because it will hurt too much. Mostly I just give up any feeling of independence and ring the bell to ask for help. Then the nurse comes and with two swift pulls on the sheet under me they have my turned without too much drama. What an amazing magic trick! Then I feel silly for laying there for 20 minutes trying to will my body to move. It is OK to ask for help, but I am still learning that one.

Tomorrow is Day Four (again). Tomorrow I can start working on getting better. Tomorrow it will be easier. Hurrah for tomorrow.


 Day Eleven – Monday

I never thought I would write a blog about washing my hair. Not-that-kind-of-girl I would like to think. However, get ready, here it comes. Today I washed my hair for the first time in two weeks. It’s amazing what a difference it makes towards feeling human again. Then I put on a tracksuit bottom and a t-shirt. In terms of fabric and look, they are not much different to my pajamas but it feels like a big achievement to wear ‘day clothes’.

I will be going home on Wednesday morning, in an ambulance.



Saying goodbye to the whole world.


I feel like I’m saying goodbye to the whole world.
Sounds dramatic right?
Starting tomorrow I will have a different life.
In my new life I will not have to worry about the weather.
There will be no birthday parties, concerts, brunches, playgrounds and no Christmas dinner.
There will be no workdays, no supermarkets, no transport and no busy schedule.

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Thursday I will get four springs drilled into the bones in my back. There is 85% chance that this will cure the constant pain that I have been suffering every minute of every day for the last year. Back pain that I have known sporadically since my teenage years, has now become unbearable. The drain of never ending pain leaves me exhausted. I struggle to stay awake during the day. I have to concentrate really hard to remember what day it is and what my plans are for the coming days.

The operation will take 3 hours. I will stay in hospital for one week. I will be confined to bed for 6 weeks, not allowed to sit or stand while the screws set in my bones. You should see my new bookshelf, I bought an impressive stack of books to keep me occupied. Luckily I have been able to rent a snazzy electric hospital bed. This means I can position myself in front of the television in the living room. However the first few weeks I might have to stay on the same floor as the bathroom, I don’t know if I will be able to do stairs.


Searching the internet to try to figure out what the problem actually is I came across an image showing several possible back problems. I have all of them! The two lowest disks in my back are bulging, herniated, thinning and degenerated. Due to this the bones are showing damage usually only seen in patients older than 60. After consulting three top surgeons it seems that the only solution is to attach springs to the vertebrae to keep them apart and take the pressure off the disks. Believe me, I’ve tried every other option. I am not worried about the operation itself, the surgeon told me it is the most basic operation he does and he performs it twice daily. My scans are like thousands he has seen before. It’s just that he had never seen it in someone my age. I always knew I was special. 😉

So that is what is happening.

Last week in Prague I said goodbye to hundreds of colleagues who I will not see for at least six months. This week my son had holiday from school so we spent the week visiting friends, eating out, drinking tea, playing, building, hugging, exploring, laughing and making epic selfies.


In my heart I was saying goodbye. Goodbye to restaurants. Goodbye to the roof of the MAS museum. Goodbye to the indoor playground. Goodbye to pancake parties. Goodbye to my office. Goodbye to my car. Goodbye to walking, standing, sitting.

I don’t know when I’ll be back on my feet.

My mum told me that she know someone who had the same operation six months ago and was now getting ready to run her first marathon! I don’t see any marathons in my future but who knows.

And how do I feel? I trust the operation will go well. I am more worried about the months afterwards. About the loss of freedom. I feel like I’m talking about someone else if I explain the operation. I realised that it must be upsetting me on some level when I started crying in a clothes shop today. The whole store was full of beautiful dresses and sparkly things for the festive season, that didn’t make me feel very nice. Like the world doesn’t count for me anymore. Like I’m taking a step out of civilisation and it will continue without me. Trying to find a bra that would be comfortable to wear in bed is more difficult than you would imagine. Excluding underwire, padding, lace and shiny pretty things, the only bras left are breastfeeding ones. Apparently pure comfort is not a priority for the average bra designer.

Everyone says they wish they could do something to help me. It makes me feel a bit panicked that I know there is really nothing anyone can do to help. However, I can think of one thing you could do to make me happy. I know that in our society the gut reaction is to buy things for people we love. If someone is ill we buy flowers and teddy bears, grapes and chocolates. Well I have a suggestion for you. Instead of buying things that will die or be eaten, go to your nearest Standaard Boekhandel or Relay and pick up a copy of Charlie (€9.90). I am very proud that of those 144 fantastic pages, I created 3 of them.


If you already have it, buy one for a friend. Then let me know via facebook what your favorite article is and what it means to you. Doing this will make me happy for two reasons. Firstly I know you will love it, it is a thing of beauty. It gives me such joy to give someone the gift of peaceful me-time. Secondly you will be contributing to the survival of a wonderful group of writers who write honestly and from the heart.

So here I go.
It’ll be worth it right?
Catch you on the flip side.

Lovely people who have bought themselves a Charlie for me!



dodo chacha