Sucker Punch Part Deux

Over the course of the next two weeks it became apparent I had somehow (I still don’t know how) hurt myself. I have no clue how it happened. There was never any moment of lifting my overstuffed briefcase out of the back seat of my car and feeling anything strange, never any moment at the gym that gave me pause. But an MRI revealed bulging disks at the L3 and L4 positions in my lower spine. A visit to a pain doctor led to a diagnosis of pinched nerves. This amazing and talented healer could tell just from my description of the path of the pain and numbness down my leg exactly which nerves.

As I sat in his outer office waiting my turn to be seen a parade of damaged people limped and wobbled through; victims of car crashes and on-the-job injuries, some so dire mine paled by comparison. It made me acutely aware of the amount of physical pain many people must endure. I had hope that mine would abate at some point, but it became clear that for some, it would never go away. What must that be like? 

As a writer I am used to letting my mind wander down strange paths and into dark corners in the pursuit of a character’s inner life, but the thought of living with the kind of overwhelming pain I had recently experienced—on a chronic basis—was difficult to examine too closely.

During those first two weeks I was almost completely helpless. My husband had to take care of me, helping me to the bathroom, helping me dress myself, and making all our meals by himself. Our house is two-story and stairs were non-negotiable, so he made up the bed for me in our daughter’s old room downstairs, then slept with his phone beside him, in case he was needed during the night. I tried not to wake him. He was doing a lot to care for me, on top of his day job.

My daughter drove all the long way to my home from her home in Scottsdale, and met with clients for me when I was unable. She had worked as my assistant briefly when she was younger and now that experience proved to be a blessing. She filled in for me without question or complaint, even though she is enrolled at ASU, and is employed as the manager of two sports rehab clinics. She also drove me to a doctor appointment, as did my son. I have been pleasantly amazed at how giving and selfless the people around me have been. My friend Diana offered to pick me up for the monthly meeting of our workshop without me even having to ask. Near the end of the meeting she turned to me and asked if I would be able to stand after sitting so long, which stunned me, because I’d just been privately wondering the same thing. (I was able to stand, but this had been the longest I’d sat up in a chair since the ‘event’.) Am I suggesting she’s clairvoyant? Not at all; just empathic. She is obviously able to put herself in another’s place, and know what they are feeling.

And of course I will never forget my neighbor Laura sending over dinner the evening we got home from the emergency room. I know she doesn’t expect anything in return, but I’m going to think of something.

As of writing this I am nearly recovered. I have some numbness and slight paralysis in my right leg that diminishes with each day that passes. I will walk with a cane for a while longer, but eventually I know I will be able to put it aside and get on with my life as usual. But I hope I never forget this experience, because it has taught me a new, deeper level of compassion and appreciation for others. A gratefulness for those around me who selflessly gave me help when it was needed, and a thankfulness for the health I have. Those are the life lessons I will hold close and cherish.

Next week: My Lucky 7 Post. Stop by to get a sneak peek at 7 lines from Sword of Mordrey.

23 thoughts on “Sucker Punch Part Deux

  1. I’m glad to hear there weren’t any further complications and everything is getting better! You’re so right that intense physical pain teaches you lessons in a way that nothing else can. It’s a horrible way to achieve different perspectives but I suppose it is part of the human experience.

  2. So glad you’re on the mend, but so sorry you had to go through this. Only a writer would be able to look at it as the ‘gift’ of empathy that it proved to be. I can’t imagine, either, how some people live through constant, chronic pain. Unlike you, a non-wuss (which is what I am NOT), I’m not sure I could rise to the occasion. I stub my toe and cry like a baby.

    • As writers I think we learn to look at every experience like grist for the mill of our imaginations. That can be a saving grace, at times, Melissa.
      I’m sure you’re a lot tougher than you think. :-)

    • I’m with Melissa in my good thoughts and my compliments on your writing. I will withhold comment on what I do when stubbing my toe, other than to say it involves words my children shouldn’t hear.

  3. I’m pretty sure if I had waited for you to ask for help, I’d still be waiting. The trouble with being self-sufficient (which you are, in case you didn’t realize it) is that it’s so hard to allow yourself to depend on others. It’s great that your family pitched in–it shows that you’ve done a good job with your kids.
    Take care and don’t overdo!

  4. Like you, I often let my mind wander to dark places. Once dark place, for certain, is chronic pain. Sometime I will write a post about one of my heroes, Carol Winfield, an amazing lady who lived into her 90s and, in her last few years, lived with almost constant pain but managed nonetheless to live joyfully and to bring presence to every moment. If, god forbid, I should ever find myself suffering as she did, I will take inspiration from her.

  5. Looks like the worst is behind you, Cynthia! I can only imagine the crippling pain you went through. I once had a sciatica nerve pull on my leg and I thought I was going to die. I actually burst into tears and whimpered like a baby and believe me I have a high threshold for pain. Keep well, dear friend and welcome back to the sunny side!

    • Sorry to hear you had to experience that, Shona. I’ll never just nod my head agan, when someone tells me they are experiencing nerve pain. It’s in a class by itself.

      So glad to be back on the ‘sunny side’. :-)

  6. I’m glad you’re healing well, Cynthia. Your ability to be compassionate towards others who are suffering more, even while you are enduring your own pain and what certainly must have been some level of fear is inspiring.

    Crises bring out the best in people. It’s uplifting to experience.

  7. Thank goodness you’re almost 100 percent. Such great posts, really could sense the abject panic and pain. Terrifying, and I know what you mean, sometimes it’s too much to contemplate writing about it. It’s so wonderful that so many stepped forward to help — what wonderful family and friends you have!

  8. Having just experienced the highest level of pain through childbirth (and I gave in after 17 hours and had an epidural), I also cannot imagine how people live with pain that has no hope of one day ending. So incredibly glad that you’re feeling better, and what a blessing to be surrounded by such caring family!

    • I’m surprised (and impressed) you made it 17 hours before ‘giving in’. That’s impressive. Sorry to hear it took so long for your first, Jolina. I hope the epidural worked. (They don’t always.) Giving birth is definitely an eye opening sort of pain. You can tell yourself it’s all natural and normal and nothing is wrong, but it still hurts like hell. Giving birth is also an experience not to be missed. Well…there’s a paradox for you!

  9. Just returning from vacation to find the follow up to your post. I’m glad that you are feeling better, Cynthia. Last year my mom broke both of her ankles and she echoed a lot of the same sentiments. It’s a new feeling for many of us to be completely dependent on another person(s) and relinquish control. A good life lesson, that. And also lovely to see how people will come to your aid, if you let them.

    • Oh, thanks for stopping by, Jackie. I’m looking forward to hearing all about your lovely trip.
      Yes, I think I recall you writing about your mom breaking her ankles, what a terrible thing, to break both at once. It is miserable to not be able to get around by oneself. But the whole experience can be sort of ‘good’ for those of us who tend not to let others help. I think I will make it a regular practice to ask for help now and then when I don’t need it, just to keep from getting rusty at it.

  10. What an absolutely terrifying experience. I’m so glad to hear you are getting better every day.

    And thank you for the kind, supportive words on my blog today. It makes my heart happy that there is a writing community out there to help bolster you whether the pan in physical or a bruised ego.

    • My heart really went out to you as I read your account of what happened with that reviewer, Jocelyn. Sometimes I wonder at people who are so needlessly cruel. Even very successful writers who have been at this game a long time say reading reviews can be scary. Some have others read them first, and only pass along the good ones. There might be something to that!

      Thanks for your kind words :-)

  11. Wow–it is truly lucky in a way to have that close up experience with something serious that ends up being only temporary. My dad has advanced Parkinson’s and I always imagine how amazing it would be for someone to find a cure or a better medication that would make it go away. I bet an experience like yours would make me so much more empathetic to what he deals with all the time.

    So glad to hear you’re on the mend. What a crazy few weeks for you–quite an understatement, I know.

    • I’m so very sorry to hear about your fathe’s illness, Nina. How frustrating that must be for you. I know one of the things my husband experienced watching me deal with this is his inability to do anything to stop it. The feeling of powerlessness was overwhelming for him.

      Yes, being seriously ill for a while has been an eye-opener for me. We tend to take our health for granted, until we no longer have it. I’m very thankful to be getting well again.

      Prayers and hope for a cure for Parkinson’s coming your father’s way, Nina.

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