I am embarrassed to say it but I've forgotten how to do all this. Seems one can drag and drop photos onto a page now instead of uploading. Wow. There's no telling what else has improved since my last post but I'm sure to discover some of it in time. I've forgotten many things and learned much since I last sat here and talked with you. This sad little thing is one of the last journal show-to-tells drawn before I tapped out. I absolutely felt like the lame duck, only I had two cats on the ottoman.
During my absence I've seen so many people who were worse off that in good conscience I could not pass up an opportunity to shame myself into throwing all of me into getting better. Yes, pain and degrees of suffering are relative but I still had a good leg and a good arm to work for the rest of me. My spine looks better outside than in, but my curve and short leg aren't as curved or as short as some. Family reminded me that grandmother spent over fifty years in a wheelchair, and lived to be ninety-five. And she never complained. All the aunts have arthritis, osteoporosis, and chronic pain. So I shut up. I shut up until I could not hold onto things, lift my arm over my head, could not write well, or drive much, cook, do any gardening . . . Life said, "Girl, you better do something! And be quick about it." Since I cannot--donot want to imagine me as Grandmother, I got busy. I'm not the strong silent type any more and martyrs die horrible deaths. Remember the movie about the nun in "The Song of Bernadette?" Well, nope, she and I don't have any character traits in common that resemble movie star piety, or virtuous long-suffering. We all come to the planet with commonsense genes. They develop. We use them. And so I did. So it was back to square one again.
My primary care physician referred me to an orthopedist, who referred me to a spine specialist, who referred me to a shoulder specialist, and that's why I had to shut down and walk away. Chronic pain causes depression. Forced activity only causes more damage, which causes more pain and depression, and everyone around me ended up suffering too. My hair grew. It went from a quarter inch to shoulder length in no time. Why? Because I could not ply a comb or brush, or drive to a salon. I lived on peanut butter sans jelly sandwiches, egg sandwiches, and take-out. JC took good care of things during his once a month visits. He's home for a spell.
I couldn't read since it required bending my neck. I couldn't draw or write because of my neck/arm/shoulder, and then there was the added surprise of a heel spur, tendonitis, worsening impingement . . . I haven't seen Alex in months. I've seen Fatima twice since November. After awhile I no longer cared that I couldn't write or type or hold a phone. "No pain, no gain" is one of the biggest lies kept alive by man. Pain means something is wrong. Listen to your body. It knows. Do not accept Band-Aids when you need serious care. After I'd said something about wanting to chew off my arm or my left foot, a charming practitioner laughed and told me, "You have no idea how many times I've heard that." I wanted to tell him, "Well, this is me saying it. And I've never said it before." I asked the last specialist to imagine how he'd feel if he couldn't do what he loved. He looked at me long and hard before he told me what he was going to do to make me well. Part of it began with a lacrosse ball. He did not say make me feel better. He said, "Make you well."
Doctors hear the same old same old every day. Most are specialists, that's why. But they need to learn to listen with new ears. Humans
Races have different physiologies and require different methods of healing. As a young girl learned in Sunday school how Jesus healed people according to their degree of faith. Some were healed simply because he told them they were. Others needed more. One man needed spittle and clay mixed and used as as a salve to cure his blindness. Another heard, "Take up your bed and walk." He ran to tell others of the miracle. Medicine is not one size fits all! One good doctor was impatient with me because I couldn't keep perfect records of my blood pressure and blood sugars for ten days. He couldn't see why it was impossible for me to do such simple things. Well, in my frustration over his inability to see why I couldn't, I simply said, "You know nothing of my life. You don't know how I live," and just as tears welled up, he looked at me and said, "Yes, you are right. I know nothing of your life." And his treatment of me changed. Doctors want us to do everything they say, even if what they say goes against everything we believe in or even need. I don't want twelve prescriptions that require timers to remind me to take four pills twice a day, five pills every twelve hours, another pill in the morning and the same pill before bedtime. I cannot stay hooked to a blood pressure cuff four times a day! Don't offer me a pill for everything that's wrong with me! Fix what's wrong!
No one told me the National Cancer Registry still has my thyroid tissue. They were kind enough to send me a questionnaire though. Their questions are simple and direct. My answers won't fit on the page because I have too many questions. Number one being, "Is this a Henrietta Lacks thing? And, "Why didn't y'all ask me if you could use my tissue for scientific study? And why are you asking how my health is after the removal of the cancer or benign tumor? There was no follow-up. And I saw the words "cancer" for the first time when medical records sent a form with the word on it.
Several doctors have referred me to a pain management specialist on two separate occasions. The smart man said the cause of my pain could be relieved, and sent me back. He deals with cancer patients, people who are dying, deteriorating, have MS and a host of maladies that require opiates, etc.. I agreed. I don't want to overdose someday. I want the broken bits repaired. I do. So I had to take time away from my "it'll do" life of pain and dysfunction in order to slowly get well. It meant getting up from this chair, turning off this monitor, putting away the very idea of writing too many letters, and being committed to healing. And I've kept my word. Until now.
Being inside this almost-artificial womb feels so good sometimes. It's the workout that whips you. And water is easier than the land exercises but the payoffs outweigh the pain and aches. I am grateful to the sports gods and rehab demigods for inventing PT.
See? I get started and it's really hard to stop. I know this isn't about letters, mail art or even postcards, but it's me trying to explain my absence. I love you for writing even when I cannot. I'm on a long road to recovery and none of you knew I was on it, without a map or stopovers. I have a great team of doctors this time. I work with a squad of some of the best physical therapists in Texas, I've even made a real life friend. We're pool partners in aquatic, and land therapy has made me stronger. She's about as different as I am and she cusses like a sailor, loves margaritas, and she's funnier than Red Skelton. We're as different as chalk and cheese and get along well enough. Misery loves company true enough, but empathy and competition are good medicines too.
I'll be gone at least until the end of May, but I had to break the neck rules and stop by to say hey. So, "Hey!"