"You don't look like someone who's hurting" I heard recently. People who heard me speak in 2014 most likely will say the same. But one person observed different. She has seen me speak for a number of years, but this year she said, "What's wrong, something is different, where's the usual Venkat?"
Close friends and family know things are different. They saw me twist, turn, groan and gasp, and see my eyes well up due to pain.
On January 5, 2014 I woke up with sharp pain on my shoulders. The next few days I had excruciating pain in my right upper arms, that spread down to the fingers. The pain reduced relatively over the next few weeks, but it started getting bad again in March and became worse in April.
After several examinations it was determined that the pain was a result of damage to two of my cervical disks. Multiple MRIs confirmed that. I have been in consultation with doctors and neurosurgeons regarding this.
I have been on some strong medicines and painkillers since January. I have taken more medicines in 2014 than in the entire rest of my life so far. I have also had more pain during this time than rest of my life so far.
During this time I have travelled well over 120,000 miles, spoke in a number of conferences (http://agiledeveloper.com/conferences.html), offered courses for clients, and did some consulting work.
I swallowed pills right before getting on stage, to reduce the pain long enough to give a talk. I would rush back to my room between talks to take another set of pills or to rest my neck and arm, to relieve the pain.
Unfortunately the medicines have not helped. I have lost strength in my right arm and can't lift my backpack anymore. My fingers have gone numb and feels awkward and painful when I move.
It is time for me to devote my full attention to fix my neck and recover. I am trying a series of epidural injections around my neck. The one I took two weeks ago did not help. I have one more scheduled for the next week. If that does not work, I am preparing to go into surgery on July 8th. The doctors say that I would need at least six weeks to recover.
My last conference talks will be at Uberconf at the end of June and my last course, until I recover, will be a Groovy & Grails course for a client in Des Moines the first week of July.
I have cancelled all my conference speaking and courses from July 7th to August 31st. I am sorry to those to whom I confirmed and have to back out now. I am looking forward to taking care of this health issue and rebounding by September.
Update June 30th:
Thanks for all the well wishes, I appreciate your concerns, advices, and suggestions.
I took the second doze of the epidural injection on June 18th. The pain has come down considerably. I have regained strength in my arms. The intense numbness from the right wrist to the digits, however, continues.
In the mean time, I further consulted with doctors and am quite eager to avoid or at least postpone surgery. I came across an alternate treatment where using a specialized machine they perform non-surgical disc decompression. A computer system gently pulls the neck to create negative pressure so, in theory, the discs fall back in place. The doctor who recommended it has low confidence but suggested I try it as a stop gap measure.
This treatment requires being on the machine at least 30 minutes a day for at least 25 days within a six week period. I am starting that treatment on July 7th. I will be spending most days of July at the clinic for this and at least half of August. Really hoping this will fix the issue. Hope is such a nice