Well, I've taken my pain meds and I'm getting ready for bed so I thought I would post about my progress after 3 weeks from addressing a grade 3 spondy with PLIF from L4-S1, decompression, lami from L3-S2, plus some other stuff which overall gave me about a 10" scar on my back.
I want to say that this forum and all the posts I read before the surgery were REALLY helpful. Most especially, the "what you need to have at your house" was super useful, I wouldn't have made it nearly as well without my grabbers and toilet seat rails. I highly recommend to others that they read this info and prep for coming home before surgery, and I am deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed to making such a super list.
I think the thing most difficult to describe is the pain itself. It seems like everyone is different, and everyone experiences pain differently anyway. People seem to vary hugely in their pain and the amount they can do after surgery and the length of time it will take to heal. My advice to everyone is to not try to measure yourself at all by anyone else's experience with what they can or can't do after surgery ... you will have your own unique experience with what you can do, and you should above all else listen to your own body, give yourself tons of loving care, and get all the help you need from your doctors and PT's.
For me, walking the first two weeks was like running a marathon. God it was tiring. If I did too much, I would also get these awful stabbing pains in my back. If I did too little, I would get all knotted up. It seems like there is a constant balancing act between doing enough to keep your healing going, and doing too little so your muscles and bone don't heal like they should. It is somewhat maddening to figure out the right amount I must say.
These last couple days especially have been, well, better. I still breathe heavy when I walk, but I can walk easier than before. I'm also still in pain, but I'm taking about 1/2 the pain meds I was the week before and plan to slowly ramp that down over the next month. The best news I got yesterday was that the benefits from having the surgery are really showing up already this third week ... my foot drop is very noticeably better (my doctor was very impressed), my legs are stronger, and I can lie down and sleep for the first time in years! It is a miracle to be able to sleep again without waking in agony.
I'm really feeling very positive today about the surgery and my recovery path. I even was able to work for a couple hours today at home on the computer. The surgery has worked for me, just wonderfully so far, and I know the pain related to surgery will fade and get better and I will have a better life than I've had in many years.
I was SO SCARED to do this surgery. I was terrified about feeling like I had no options due to the nerve damage that was occurring. Plus my doctor, who is one of the top ones in my state, said "he only does two or three a year as complicated as mine", which sounds terrible although I think he meant it as a reassurance. I wish he did hundreds so he was super practiced at it (if you know what I mean).
Right now, at least, I feel like it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Thank you to everyone out there who gave me such great encouragement and comments, and I hope I can return the favor to those in need in the future.
p.s. I also want to say to everyone who has not had as positive of a result that I am routing for you, and hoping that it will get better for you soon. The pain of spinal issues is a deeply difficult issue that is not always understood by those who haven't had it