I've got to hand it to my doctor.... there's no sugar coating with him.
I told his resident what's been going on, then relayed it to my doctor. He looked over his notes from last time and my MRI from 3 years ago. He had me stand up and lean back (ouch!) lean to the side (ouch!) and then touch my toes (remarkably proficient!).
He then had me sit down and he said "Well, even if you got a new MRI, my advice would be the same."
"Keep on doing what you're doing."
"You don't think all this running is doing damage? Why am I unable to walk an hour without feeling pain in my back and in my leg? What if the degeneration is affecting other discs? Wouldn't an MRI show that?"
"So you just want peace of mind?"
"I guess, yeah."
"I'd still say to exercise when you can, rest when you need to, take some Aleve, strengthen your back. You're doing real well for most people who have degenerating discs. If there was a significant, operable change you'd know it. You're 29. Go and live your life. Come back when you're in a wheelchair."
"Look, you have a mulit-level situation. Operating now would cause just as much damage and no guaranteed result. But in terms of the progression of the disease you are in good shape. You have good range of motion. You're doing okay."
"Well more often than not I'm doing okay, but the nots really suck."
"I'm sorry about that, and I understand you're frustrated. You're still doing much better now than you were three years ago."
"Yeah I'm frustrated. It's hard to feel this much pain and be told that I'm doing well."
"Your back is going to seize up. You will feel pain in your leg. But you're walking." He then got up to leave the office.
"I hope it's another three years or more before I see you."
. . . So part of me wants to strangle him. The other part of me is trying to hear what he was trying to tell me -- that I'm going to have good days and bad, but that it could be much worse. I appreciate that he won't operate on me (as that's his bread and butter). I don't think he was being dismissive of the pain, but rather trying to put the pain in context. So I have a few bad days. I also have good ones.
A friend of mine said "We all have to pick ourselves up and press forward" -- that's what I intend to do.