Being a patient is a humbling experience, as I recently learned in choosing to undergo spinal fusion surgery to correct a condition called spondylolisthesis, in which one vertebra slides forward over the one below it. It is especially humbling if you’re like me — impatient and grouchy when feeling incapacitated in any way.

Surgery was the absolute last thing I wanted, so I drove myself and everyone else around me crazy. I didn’t want to give up a minute of summer, and the idea of having to wear a back brace conjured visions of being grossly unattractive. However, one week after the procedure, I was walking my dog, two weeks later I was driving, and I no longer have to wear the brace (which was actually not all that cumbersome, and easy to conceal under my clothing). Happily, I am pain-free.

An estimated 80 percent of Americans suffer from back pain at some point in their lives due to nerve and muscular problems, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis. While most back pain goes away on its own, when it doesn’t, treatment options can include rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, exercise, hot and cold packs, injections, complementary treatments, and surgery.

Despite horror stories of the past, minimally-invasive surgical procedures have changed everything, so next month I plan on writing about them. For now, I simply want to thank my neurosurgeon, Dr. John Fahrbach of UB Neurosurgery, his incredible PA Emily Grisante, and RN Shannon Milligan, who always came to the phone to answer my questions. I also appreciate Dr. Timothy Rasmusson of Surgical Associates of WNY, for his role in this procedure. Finally, I am in awe of the nurses at Kenmore Mercy Hospital. They have embraced a profession I could never imagine for myself, because it’s just too hard, and requires an endless amount of giving, without being grouchy. They are angels.

I am looking forward to a beautiful pain-free autumn. Enjoy September and stay healthy!