I just lost a week of my life.
Well. Not REALLY a week of my life. I did, though, had strict limitations to what I could do, physically, for the last week and, hence, couldn't work out. So, to ME, I lost a week of my life. It was particularly irritating because I've been doing so well at making it to the gym and to my bootcamp classes and on my diet and all the rest of the stuff that I do to remain youthful, in bodily operation and in appearance.
It wasn't my fault, though.
I lost this week of my life because I have a back injury. This is neither the first nor will it be the last time that my bad back injury will come up in one of my stories. It is a fact of my life, like having brown eyes or being right handed. It is like being part Asian and it is like being gay. It is a part of who I am; but it does not define me.
I don't know when, exactly, my back broke. When I was young, I used my body hard and I felt the pain of being an athlete... sore muscles, that kind of thing. When I was in my 30s and really overweight, my spine began to hurt so much that it sort of crippled me. Eventually, a doctor told me I had arthritis in my spine. Boo hoo. Poor me. I just thought I was in pain from the pressure of carrying around 60 extra pounds of weight. So I lost the weight. My current doctor, whom I trust and always believe, tells me that I have no arthritis in my spine. Groovy. In the meantime, I have a relationship with Dr Piken at Innate Chiropractic and when my bones need adjusting he takes care of me. So one would think my back issues would not be that frequent.
Not so, friends.
The back is a tricky thing. It is where I hold all my tension - particularly in my neck and shoulder -- particularly on the right side. I also have Tendonitis in my shoulders. I also have TMJ and am a teeth gritter. I also spend a lot of time hunched over a computer. So my poor little back (affectionately nicknamed Hillary Swank) suffers a lot throughout the year. I try to not make a big deal of it because, as I said, it's just an incidental part of who I am; but I also don't hide it because I think people need to know things about you. If people know that I am an alcoholic who hasn't had a drink in over a decade, they won't offer me a drink. If people know I am a struggling artist with limited finances, they won't ask me to go do expensive things with them. If people know I have a bad back, they will not be surprised or offended if I say to them "I have to cancel on you; I have thrown my back out."
Two weeks ago, my back went out. It wasn't one of those things where you turn this way and CLICK, you're back is out. It started to ache one day; then there was a twinge of restriction one day - then there was a moment where I was paralyzed one day. I knew what was coming. So I went to Doctor Piken. Danger, Will Robinson! quoth I! He manipulated my bones and the put an elbow in my butt. (Now, don't get dirty - this isn't a fisting story). He told me "sometimes, you just need an elbow in your butt" and he took his elbow and massaged, with every fiber of his being and all his strength, my right upper glute. He did this for awhile; and I left his office with aligned bones and a loosened up right buttcheek. I was alright. But not really. My back has a mind of its' own and it needs more care than that. As my lower back continued to grow tighter and tighter, my ability to function became tougher and tougher. I had to stop working out, missing several bootcamps. I had trouble at work -- being unable to bend at the waist, I had to pick things up like a Playboy bunny: back erect, using my knees to squat and pick up. Sometimes, I would spend the day in bed with a pillow under my back. Each day, twice, I would soak in a hot bath. I did all I could to deal with it because it is the only choice we have in this life.
I booked a massage through a Groupon that I bought, with a spa called Spa Ja. I was very excited to go; but it was cancelled. They called me the day before to tell me that my massage therapist had been booked for jury duty and would be out until the next week. That was last Wednesday and the appointment was on Thursday and I had been incapacitated for what was going on 10 days. During those 10 days, I had called Dr Lee's office several times but he and Mrs. Lee were on vacation. That Wednesday, after Spa Ja called, I tried Dr Lee one more time. Thank heaven. He was back.
My first massage therapist, ever, was a man named Bill Reese. He was recommended by my friend, Mark Irish, and that was one of the nicest things anyone ever did for me. Over the years, I have had many massage therapists. Some have been very high falutin people who did absolutely no good for me at all; some have been one-shot visits that amounted to no more than a waste of my money; some have been those Asian ladies at the Rub-a-dub salons around the city; some have been adequate, albeit forgettable, massages. Some have done more harm than good. For the better part of the last decade, my massage therapists have been Mike Babel and Jason Zimmerman. Mike came first and I was a devoted client for many years, until he moved away; and when he moved away, he recommended Jason. Jason became a great massage therapist for me, until he broke his wrist in a driving accident and had to take time off from his work. That's when I began picking up massages where I could. His wrist healed; and Mike a regular visitor to New York, I am blessed to have many opportunities to have both of them work on me. I love them as people - they are my friends and my family - and I love them as massage therapists.
Bill Reese, though, has been the greatest healer of my life.
When I went to Bill, I was a chubby guy in his 30s with bad back issues. Bill always treated me with respect and dignity and I didn't feel uncomfortable or ashamed being naked in front of him. He did great work on me and I always left feeling better. After working with Bill for awhile, I developed tendonitis in my shoulder. It was terrible. I could not pick up a gallon of milk. I could not raise my arm over my head. I was lost. Bill told me that I should try some acupuncture. As it turned out, he did acupuncture. In my childhood, I had been afraid of needles. Even as an adult, I didn't like injections. Therefore, I wasn't hot to hop up on a table and get pincushioned. I simply had no choice.
Bill's acupuncture technique was spot on and perfect. He found the points where the needles were needed and he attacked the disease inside of my body. I could actually feel the illness pulsing out of my tendon. I was extremely happy and grateful. I won't say that it didn't weird me out a little, lying on a table, thinking about all the little needles in my body. You just have to grow up and get on with it and keep going. It's called life, darling.
Bill Reese moved away. He left New York and moved to another state. And Pat and I have missed him ever since. In the years that have followed my time with Bill Reese, Jason and Mike have become my massage guys of choice and they know how to keep me moving and how to keep me happy. I wouldn't trade my work with them for anything in this world.
But I had to find a new acupuncturist. That was tougher battle to win. I tried five or six acupuncturists - and when the sixth one hurt me so badly that I couldn't walk home, I gave up. Then one day a couple of years ago, our beloved trainer, Ray Scalvino, gave me a business card with the instructions "go". I trust Ray the way Luke trusted Ben. So I went.
In Gil Lee practices acupuncture in a hole in wall shop on 30th street. When you go in, the smell of all the herbs permeates your nostrils. His wife is a charming little Asian lady with an enormous smile who always makes me happy, just by being there to greet me. Dr Lee doesn't speak very much. He says hello and he asks what's up and he listens. Then he works on you for an hour. He has been working on me for a few years now. Sometimes he can get it in one visit; sometimes it takes three or five or ten or twelve.. it doesn't matter. Eventually, I leave there in full working order. I trust him. He has done great service to both Pat and myself.
Last week, thank heaven, Dr Lee was home from vacation. I was on his table before the day was out.
My back is getting better. It isn't better yet; but it is getting better. I will be on Dr Lee's table on Monday at 9 am and on Wednesday, once more. Together, we are gonna work on those mothaf*cking kinks in my back and loosen up my lumbar and my glutes and get me back in my bootcamp class and back on the road to fierce physical fitness.
Please don't be afraid to try acupuncture. If you think you need it, research it; ask around, get names from friends, hear stories, and seek out the right acupuncturist for yourself.
If you are in New York city and seek acupuncture, you can find Dr Lee at 124 W 30th street between 6th and 7th Avenues. 212-244-0030
In future stories, I will write more about massage and Jason Zimmerman and Mike Babel. Stay tuned.