Back Story

“Joe – I’ve got a weak back.
Moe – How long have you had a weak back?
Joe – Oh, for about a week back.”

– old Bazooka Bubble Gum Joke

Dear Friends,

Many folks are aware that I’ve been dealing with some worsening back issues over the last couple of years, due to a combination of factors related to age, use/abuse, bad genes and the like. I’m writing now to bring you up to speed on some recent back issues (since May) and injury that have significantly limited my movement and what I can lift or do overall. I’m making slow improvements, but my new reality will have an impact on my physical abilities at YM Sessions and our retreats to follow beginning in September.


In a nutshell, recent MRI and x-rays show that I’m dealing with “lumbar disc herniation and nerve impingement,” basically in two areas of my spine (L-5, L-2-3). I’ve got arthritis sprinkled in there too. I’m now plugged in with the Pain Management Clinic at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, see a back specialist and have received epidural injections in May, with the next one scheduled for July 29. The first treatment in one area of my spine was very helpful, and I’m hoping that the next one, further down my back, will be as effective. My favorite take on all this is that gravity always wins in the end! When I was 50, the doc said I had a fifty year old back. Now that I’m 61, they’re saying the same thing.

I’ve got the usual variety of happy drugs, which I’m using less and less with time, which is good. I’m not able to lift anything heavy at all, and should avoid twisting and bending, etc. (When I rise out of a chair, think of the character that Tim Conway played on the old Carol Burnett Show….that’s me…until I get moving anyway!) Both my primary and back guy say these things oftentimes settle back down to manageable levels. However, I am not able to row with my team at all for now, with the real possibility that my rowing days could be over. I’m also not able to teach rowing and steering classes or coach (steer) for our youth rowing team (for another month anyway) at Whaling City Rowing. These pieces of the equation are especially disappointing to me, as I’ve been rowing with the same bunch of guys now for twelve years…

I hit the gym almost daily to do a gentle workout, keeping my back straight with no load-bearing whatsoever. About once a week I take a bow ride (Driving Miss Daisy) with fellow teammates which is good for heart and soul.

A few folks have mentioned missing my blog posts and related newsletter called Acorns Everywhere. I appreciate greatly “being missed,” but between dealing with the pain in the early weeks, the fact that sitting is difficult and the effects of the meds, it’s been really hard to write stuff anyone would want to read. But I’m poking along and hope to get back in the writer’s saddle (Ouch!) soon!

At Sessions at Bryant University in August (For those of you who will be there)

In order to help me function as the Pastoral Counselor at Sessions, and get around to the various children’s groups, etc., Jonathan has graciously agreed to supply me with a golf cart. So that will help tremendously. As long as I have help lugging stuff, I should be able to oversee Capture the Flag on Sunday, and share in the usual ways (but non-physical) when visiting groups during the six days at Sessions. That’s my hope and plan at least moving forward.

At JYM Retreats Beginning in September

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At this point it’s hard to predict how I’ll be in terms of recovery and/or increased movement, etc. come September. But for sure, I need to avoid lifting and lugging stuff myself, which will be challenging. My greatest concern with retreats (pre-retreat prep work and on site) is that my limitations will likely add to the work of our staff, and that concerns me greatly. So here’s my plan:

I’m planning to ask one of our high school-aged Junior Staffers, or adult JYM Retreats Staffers, to function as my assistant throughout the weekend. (I did this recently at my meetings annual book fair, and it worked great.) Basically, this staffer will be in addition to our usual staff roster, and if I go to do something that requires lifting anything at all, that wonderful person will do it for me and will be empowered to say to me, “Kevin, no!”

Thanks for hearing me out here. Generally, I’m not comfortable focusing this much on my own worldly cares, but Quakers are an inquisitive and wonderful caring bunch who seem to love details! So there you have it. Between the Quaker healers, practitioners and survivors of all sorts of medical woes out there, it’s amazing how much collective wisdom and life experience exists among Friends and others who know me. And for that, and having you in my life, makes me feel truly blessed.

Last week one of our grandchildren, Zachary at three and a half, walked up to my chair as I was getting up, rubbed my lower back and said looking up with his big warm saucer-eyes, “You back fee-in’ better now, Gampy?”

“Yes, Zach. It is, thanks to you!”

And thank you, Friend, as well.

With Spirit, Love, and Appreciation,



Joe – I’ve got a weak back.
Moe – How long have you had a weak back?
Joe – Oh, for about a week back.
Moe – Sounds like you’ve got a weak back joke.
Joe – Mayhap a Bad Joke Week?
Moe – There — have your weak joke back…
Joe – Yes, but you gave me my joke back weak!
Moe – This is a whole bag of weak jokes!
Joe – You mean you won’t back a weak joke? Aw, c’mon.


Author: Kevin Lee

In a nutshell, Kevin fesses up to the following: He's a retired youth advocate-counselor, a blogger, writer, photographer, rower, Friends Minister, grandpa of six and married to a terrific woman for 43 years and counting!