Tag Archives: Chronic pain

My Mystery Diagnosis, Faith and Forgiveness

There was no lightening or thunderbolt or exact period of time or date but it came on very gradually—so gradually that I actually did not even notice the change in my body.

I was still an avid runner living in Augusta in 2011. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we all have 20/20, but at the time, I couldn’t even fathom that something devastating was brewing. Looking back, I remember running my regular 6-10 mile route when I began to “trip.” At first I attributed this to just being clumsy, which I never was before. It is amazing how the human mind can deny and deny something that is so obviously wrong. Running, previously my most enjoyable past time, began to be fraught with anxiety about whether or not I would trip and fall. Each time I ventured out, I would lecture myself on “lifting my right foot up.” When I did trip, I would chide myself by saying, “What’s wrong with you—PICK UP YOUR FOOT, IDIOT?” But invariably no matter how much I tried, my right foot would not lift far enough off the ground, resulting in tripping. One day, after a very frustrating and anxiety-ridden run, I checked the tread of my sneakers and I saw that the toe of the right sneaker was almost completely worn down, while the left sneaker was fine. Yet I still thought I was merely clumsy. A few days before Thanksgiving, I went to Kroger to buy food for a dish and took a huge fall in the parking lot, spilling my grocery bag. I quickly got up and tried to figure out what had happened. Apparently while getting to my car, my right foot did not clear the curb—more like dragged—and down I went. Fortunately or unfortunately I seemed to be walking normally so this pattern continued until August 2012.

As an obsessive runner I had multiple knee surgeries over the years for a ripped meniscus. In August 2012, I underwent one more surgery on my damaged right knee. I had every confidence that I would recover as I had before, although I was told I should not run anymore. I accepted that and I was just grateful that finally I would be pain free. However, my knee never got better and continued to be so painful where I could walk only with a marked limp. I tried all kinds of shots in my knee but it would not heal properly.

In addition, for a while I had bad lumber pain, especially in the morning. I thought I just needed a new mattress and, no matter how many mattresses I tried (I drove the mattress store employees crazy) my low back pain persisted. But it was not only lumbar pain—my whole body hurt and my toes were numb. I went to my internist, and after doing a cursory exam he concluded that I didn’t have any disc involvement and put me on an anti-inflammatory medication. I asked him if I should at least get an MRI, and he rejected that idea due to the cost. I emphasized to him that MY WHOLE BODY ACHED, but nothing was ordered. I finally decided that I would “self-refer” to a neurosurgeon. I went to the Neuroscience facility on Steven’s Creek Road and saw Dr. B, an osteopath, the first person before referral to a surgeon. He ordered a lumber MRI and it revealed spinal stenosis, pretty common in someone my age. We decided on a course of epidural steroid injections, which proved to be mildly successful for about a week. Then after two courses of this treatment, the pain returned and he finally referred me to one of the neurosurgeons (Dr. S) in that practice. My surgery was scheduled for Election Day 2012 and I had high hopes of becoming pain free again. At that time I was a massage therapist, and it was very difficult to practice my occupation and bend over, trying to relieve others’ pain, when my back was killing me. I went home from the hospital the next day with a plan to do lots of walking and get myself back on track for a quick recovery. However that was not the way it played out. Within a week, I was having balance trouble and within two weeks I was reluctantly using a cane to get around. My right knee was just as painful as ever and I could not walk without a limp and cane. I began to have nerve pain that I almost could not identify because I had never experienced that before. I frantically searched the Internet for some type of explanation and came up with “failed back surgery” as the culprit because I read story after story of patients who never recovered from lumbar surgery.

Now my 4 month long nightmare began in earnest. I went back to the Neuroscience practice and spoke with the surgeon’s very unsympathetic physician’s assistant who said, “give it time” and that the “nerve root needed to heal.” So, I tried to do just that, but instead of seeing improvement, my symptoms became worse and worse. At this point, I had severe burning and tingling nerve pain from my waist to my toes. I had a mysterious pressure on my abdomen and back whenever I stood which was relieved only when I sat or lay down. My right leg was cold to the touch, beginning to atrophy, and I could not lift it properly, much less walk without a cane. What made this so nightmarish was that NOBODY BELIEVED ME. Each time I went in for a check up, I was told over and over, “Well, this is so unusual. We’ve never seen this before”, as if it must be psychosomatic in nature—that was the implication. In the meantime, I was so debilitated at this point that I had to keep crutches and a cane by my bed so I could get into the bathroom at night. I actually drove, but with my heart in my mouth because my right leg, which was partially paralyzed, didn’t function properly. I had so many close calls that I knew God had to be traveling with me each time I ventured out. I had to lift my leg up with my hands to get it in the car and my biggest fear was that I would kill a person or family while driving. When I went shopping I would try to park as close as I could to the store, sometimes abandoning my mission because it was too far to walk. Everything that we take for granted was an effort and it gave me a great appreciation for what disabled people deal with on a regular basis. I asked the physician’s assistant if she could take pity on me and write a note for me to get a disabled car tag, but she refused stating, “Those are only given to people who are totally paralyzed” which is untrue. I ended up getting one from my orthopedist instead.

I went in for another LUMBER MRI because they wanted to see if the surgical site gave them any clues, which it didn’t. I was suffering, both physically and psychologically and I began to lose hope. But I soldered on and each day I would wake up with HOPE that maybe the nerve root was finally healing and maybe, just maybe, I could at least walk a little better. Some days I would fool myself into believing that there was a tiny bit of improvement and my mood would be bolstered. But that positive mood was dashed the next day when, upon waking, it became apparent that I was not any better, and in fact, probably worse. We all know that HOPE is everything, and I had none. So, at this point, I began to consider suicide every morning, even planning the method. I believe that what kept me going was that I employed a 12 step program tool of thinking in terms of “one day at a time.” I would think, “OK, whatever you want to do, you can put this off until tomorrow” and that kept me going in the world for another day. On days that I was so depressed, I would force myself to go to the gym, and although I didn’t go into the regular gym because I was embarrassed by my debilitated state, I went to the disabled pool. It was there that I would find some gratitude because, although here I was, withered polio-like leg, ambling into the pool with the use of my cane, I saw people far worse than me—quadriplegics with happy expressions in the pool. I saw wheelchair-bound people and said, “Thank You God.”

I continued going to the Neuroscience practice for checkups, only to be shuffled back and forth to various departments. All the while, they were baffled by my deteriorated state. One day they decided to perform an EMG and I was so hopeful that finally they would find the reason for my crippling condition. It was New Years Eve of 2012 when, while sitting in my car, I received a call from the nurse stating that, “The EMG showed nothing but an old radiculopathy.” In English—nothing new and nothing that would account for my deterioration. That day was significant in that I just sat there, totally numb and disbelieving, my last hope dashed, and thought that I could not bring myself to go on in the world. A friend of mine happened to see me, and asked if I was OK and suggested we go to Starbucks, which saved me for another day.

The next person to see me at that practice was the pain management doctor who gave me the news in an abrupt manner, that he could not help me. He prescribed Lyrica and Neurontin for nerve pain, but all it did was cause me to fall because it made my muscles weak, so I stopped that immediately. I was so angry at his lack of empathy and bad bedside manner but it turned out to be the best thing that happened because he referred me back to the original doctor, going full circle. Dr. B, the osteopath, sat and actually thought about what might be going on and what my options were. He treated me as a person and his kind, thoughtful manner was appreciated. The new plan was to embark on yet another course of epidural steroid injections, but suddenly a thought occurred to him—what if we order a thoracic MRI? After the MRI I went back to his office with no expectations, but maybe a little hope. As soon as he pulled up the MRI on the screen, his eyes lit up because the MRI revealed a small benign tumor (meningioma) pressing on T3 of the spinal cord. Boom—my world exploded in a good way. He excitedly said, “Here’s your problem. This meningioma is pressing on T3, causing all your symptoms.” It was as if God came down from the heavens and blessed me—I was so ecstatic that words cannot describe it. I am brought to tears when I think of that moment. He quickly referred me back to the original surgeon, Dr. S, who was shocked and humbled. I actually did not want to use the same surgeon, but I realized she knew my case, and I could get this done very soon. Just prior to surgery I discovered an article from a Japanese case study that said, “If a patient is not recovering from lumber surgery, the surgeon should consider the possibility of a thoracic meningioma.” I sure wish I had seen that article months before, but at least it was finally correctly diagnosed. The spinal surgery, scheduled for a week later, was rough but successful. Right out of the recovery room, I clearly remember me lifting my right leg, unaided, and being elated. After a hard 5 days in the hospital, in severe pain, I was released. A home care nurse was ordered for 2 weeks and I dismissed her after a week. My walker went into the garage along with my cane and crutches. I am athletic and I began to recover so quickly due to my previous good shape and I began going to the gym again. I had to be careful that nobody slapped me on my back for a while, which would send me to the moon but other than that, it was fine. My damaged knee began to heal, and my atrophied and cold right leg began to warm and plump out, looking normal again. Here’s the thing, I was bitter at first for all the doctors who I felt failed me starting initially with my internist and I even considered hiring a lawyer to sue. But, I then began to think about gratitude and forgiveness and by the grace of God, a solution to my suffering was found. I began to think that maybe my travails helped me be more empathetic to the disabled, an experience I never would have had otherwise. On March 1st it will be 4 years since I got my life back. But, each time I perform an otherwise unremarkable feat such as walking briskly across the room, or climbing stairs unaided, I am in awe. Sometimes I am merely in Walmart and I marvel at how fast I can walk, or in an airport, briskly passing people on the way to my connection. It is amazing and miraculous and I will never stop being grateful.

Surgery Log 2013 – Medications

February 12, 2013

I have stopped taking all the medications that the doctors prescribed because they make my legs even more wobbly than normal. There are some days when I suddenly find myself miraculously “walking” almost normally. It is shocking and I am filled with so much hope that maybe I am starting to turn the corner. But then, the next day, I am often back to the same old thing. Some days my balance is actually pretty good and then, suddenly the next day, I have Jello for legs. It is like a roller coaster and each day is a new experience. I just wish that when I make a small improvement, it would last so I would feel that I was getting better, even if it takes a year or more. If I could just see some definite progress, and if I have progress, it would be so wonderful if I did not regress again. Maybe these little snippets of progress, like getting decent balance, or actually almost walking normally, or my leg working well when I drive, mean that there is some kind of improvement. Maybe this means that the nerve is healing. I know I am supposed to do my PT exercises and I do them religiously. However, every so often I don’t do anything and I seem to feel less pain, with better walking. I just cannot find a common denominator that tells me what works and what does not. I do know that I have to keep my muscles exercised so they won’t atrophy—-although my right leg has already done that. I must also guard against falling into the pit of depression, which is so easy to do. I can feel OK early in the day and by the evening, the unrelenting pain just gets me down and I can feel myself drifting into that abyss of hopelessness.

Surgery Log – 2013 – New Year

February 9, 2013 – Saturday

Well, the new year is starting out like 2012. Already I have gotten a huge bill in the mail for the new round of epidural steroid injections, which may or may not work. Considering that I have almost no money coming into this household, it is very frightening. I did one massage yesterday and one today. I have been taking a new medication for the stiffness in my legs and it seems to work somewhat but as usual there is a side effect of weak, wobbly legs. I did the massage today with that kind of balance (or lack of balance) but I miraculously got through it. I kept watching the clock and hoping it was over because I am working in fear. It is amazing how many things I took for granted when I was a “normal” person. I went over to Starbucks for a treat and I wanted to sit in a nice comfortable cushioned seat but it would’ve entailed me maneuvering past multiple people with my cane, my drink, my purse, and my book—that was not happening. Then I wanted to go into Krogers to buy some mozzarella cheese but thought about how long and arduous a process that would have been requiring me to find a handicapped spot, park, drive through a crowded parking lot, get a shopping cart (even though I would normally not need one for just one item, but it helps me walk), etc. I then made the decision to just pass on going in, even though I really wanted that cheese for dinner. Who would’ve thought that I would get jealous of people just walking or driving without even putting any thought into this simple act? Everything is harder when you are disabled, and that is what I am at this point. I have to think twice before embarking on any activity, even simple things. I will continue to pray for God to help me find a solution or if not, to accept this because I cannot live in bitterness or anger; then the surgeon has won and I will have lost more than my ability to walk.

Surgery Log 2013 – Acupuncture

Tuesday – January 22, 2013

I had acupuncture yesterday and for some reason, I felt horrendous by the evening. My pain level was super, duper high and I cried. I took Gabapentin about 3 in the morning and woke up woozy, dizzy, and wobbly. It took me forever to get myself out of the house but when I did, I began to feel decent. I don’t know what it was, but maybe it was the acupuncture and it just takes time to see the results. I also sent a letter to my orthopedic doctor for him to possibly sign off on a parking decal for me. It shocks everyone that the NS would not do this for me. So far, no response at all. I also called a pain management doctor that Claudia (adapted aquatics director at the Y) told me about. She wants to hire me as a massage therapist but I told her I just cannot commit to this because of my physical status at this point. Laurie wants me to go back too and I am actually going to do a service this Saturday; hopefully I won’t have any problems at all. But, could I do this on a regular basis, NO. It is amazing how much better you feel when your pain level is not too bad. I say, “Not too bad” because it is never gone, but sometimes it is tolerable. Then I feel almost elated. I also sometimes can walk halfway decently but I am still nervous to go outside without the cane. Maybe I will get better. I have that appointment for a second opinion with Michael’s doctor she used for her back surgery (after someone in Augusta Back screwed up her original surgery). I am not holding any high hopes but I wish that he would at least run possibly a CT scan or something to find out if there is indeed a problem. I don’t know, but I hope that God doesn’t let me down. I want to get out from under this nightmare and live some sort of life again.

Surgery Log – Christmas Eve

12/24/12 – Monday – Christmas Eve – I woke up with the usual stiff and sore body. I decided I would go to the gym and to a meeting. I also did not feel like doing my usual chores in the house today so I went to Starbucks and just sat down with a Pumpkin Spice Latte. I came home and redesigned some of the earrings that Lisa gave me for my “birthday.” Janet’s family usually celebrates Christmas on the 25th but this year things were very different. Due to all her children having plans on Christmas day, they all decided to come over on Christmas Eve. That was fine but it left Christmas day empty, but this was not my call so I had to accept it. In the meantime, my legs for some reason were especially wobbly and my balance was way off. This was very upsetting and I almost fell while everybody was there. That just made me sick. I totally do not understand why some days my legs don’t feel that bad and even feel strong, and other days, I am so weak. When I came home I watched the tail end of It’s A Wonderful Life.

12/25/12 – Tuesday – Christmas Day – My walking was not too bad but a little wobbly again. I even walked outside with my cane for about 20 minutes or so. Then I got ready and went to a meeting. I was ranting a little before the meeting due to my wobbly legs but for some reason, after the meeting I felt a lot better. I wanted to go to Starbucks with my laptop but when I found one open, it was so packed to the gills that I just left, without even getting anything; very disappointing. I came home and put my leg brace on which helps me walk better—sort of (in a peg leg kind of way). Then more cleaning, something I seem to be obsessed with since I got crippled. Janet thinks this is because I at least have some control of this part of my life, and that seems like a good explanation. I am starting to feel depressed and hopeless even as I write this at 7:00 pm, so I will try to go to bed early tonight. I still think about ending everything each day but if I put it off long enough, I usually find something I can hang on to; some hope to keep me going for yet another day.

Surgery Log 2012 – Weak Leg a bit stronger

12/22/12 – Saturday night – Today started out the usual way. Maybe, just maybe, my weak leg felt a wee bit stronger. It seems that lately when I drive, it is not so much of an effort to lift my leg up. At first I thought my response times were slow, but actually it is my leg that is simply hard to lift up to the petal. I feel a little bit less nervous when driving because of this. I got discouraged yesterday when my knee started giving out on me yet again, especially since I just had the cortisone shot. But, then I put a brace on and it felt a lot better. Even someone in the meeting at Midday told me I seemed to be walking better. Of course I still have the problem of losing my balance easily, which is very upsetting. After I’ve been sitting a while my balance is way off. Also, when I was sitting for an hour today, my legs were literally burning which was so uncomfortable. I spoke with Ruth after the meeting and she suggested that maybe that was a good sign that meant that the nerves were “coming back to life”. That gave me hope and it almost sounds plausible so I posted that question on line and we’ll see what others have to say. Apparently I’m not the only person who has had this type of trouble after getting a laminectomy. Who knows how long my spinal nerve was compressed before the pain became so bad that I finally sought help. So, if you figure the pain started almost a year ago, then the numbness started back in the summer, this has been going on for quite some time. There had to be damage that now needs to repair. Nerves take a long time to heal and I think that the longer the nerve root was compressed, the longer it will take to heal. Maybe the burning is a sign that the nerve root is starting to heal. Dear God I sure hope because I need hope; hope is everything! By the way, I watched Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, which I had not seen since I was a teenager. Apparently they fixed it up and it is now back on. I loved that!

12/23/12 – Sunday – Ruth invited me to a prayer service at her Church. She said it was a healing service and sure enough at some point, anybody needing healing was asked to come up and have the reverend lay his hands on us. It brought back visions I’ve seen in movies of people being miraculously healed who were in wheel chairs. It was very moving and I almost started to cry. Yet, it was a very peaceful feeling and that lasted the rest of the night. After the service, we drove around to look at the Christmas lights and I actually felt “happy” or as happy as I am capable lately. I came home and The Sound of Music was on and of course, even though I’ve seen the movie a gazillion times, I had to watch it again. What a movie!

Surgery Log 2012 – Pressure, Numbness

Pressure, Numbness – 12/19/12 – This morning I woke up feeling less stiff and off-balance, but with the same intense pressure on my belly. I am beginning to think that maybe I should just accept that this might be a permanent condition. Basically there is no answer as to when or if the numbness, burning and weakness will improve, so it is just a waiting game. I find that when I just ignore it—or about as much as I can—I feel better and can stop focusing on everything bad. Actually there are some improvements, most notably, I can bend over and turn sideways because the actual incision and the back itself are much better. But, internally—the nerve root—is the last thing to heal and it can take up to a year or more. My guess is that the EMG will basically show nothing. The PT made a very important point; if it were peripheral neuropathy, it would most probably be bilateral, but my weak leg is unilateral. I think the test will just prove that the whole problem is still the spinal nerve and it just has to heal on its own. I remember when I had a root canal about a year ago and for a long time I kept complaining that I still had pain, to the point where the dentist went back in to check. He said nothing appeared to be wrong with the tooth and sent me on my way. Boy, I was so aggravated that I thought for sure that he screwed up the procedure. So, since there was apparently nothing else that could be done and they could not find a reason why my tooth still hurt, I had to just live with it. Well, a few months ago when I was brushing my teeth, I suddenly realized that my tooth did not hurt anymore; the pain was gone. It had steadily been getting better, over time and so slowly that I didn’t even notice it. Then one day, it became apparent that it felt normal. I’m starting to think that this is what will happen with this; over time the symptoms will diminish to the point that it will be gone. The question is, can I wait until that happens. I am thinking of filing for disability because my doctor’s nurse seems to think that I will be able to return to work soon. I just don’t think that is reasonable with such a physical job as I have. I will literally fall out in the massage room because of this weak leg. This is not to mention that I can only stand for so long without the fatigue and burning setting in on my legs. She is being a bit of a hard ass about filling out the required forms. I’m still searching for a “reason” for this happening and I just don’t know for sure. As of now I am thinking of calling my primary care physician to put me on some antidepressants, just to get me over the hump. I went to a meeting today and I foolishly thought that I could walk without my cane so I held it up when I came into the room. That was not a good idea because I almost fell into my chair, totally losing my balance. Then for the first half of the meeting, I was on the pity-pot. By the end I felt a little better. It is true that for some reason, I am “walking” better today, but not well enough to do it without a cane for protection against losing my balance. But on a bad note, the burning sensation in both thighs is intense again and I dont not know why. The problem is that these brief periods of progress always seem to be followed with a regression the next day. Each day is a new beginning, as if the progress from the following day never even happened and is so discouraging. As of right now, at 4 pm, the burning in my thighs is very intense and uncomfortable. But if it comes down to being able to walk better and having burning nerve pain, I’ll take the walking better part.

Surgery Log – 2012 – Morning

12/16/12 – Sunday – I woke up this morning feeling just as bad as usual, as if yesterday’s “progress” never even took place. Every morning is like a new beginning, and back to square one. Each night I go to bed and pray that I will have at least some indication that I am getting better, but that is never the case. Today, I am super unsteady on my feet. My renter left the house and forgot to deactivate the alarm system this morning. I was sitting in my office and suddenly realized that the alarm was about to go off so I had to literally “jump up”, without my cane, and “run” over to the closet to press the deactivate button. I almost fell and was so off balance but I did it. However, it depressed me to no end because a simple movement like that almost resulted in me falling. I do not know why I am so unsteady today and it is very discouraging. My knee is painful and does not support me properly, probably due to the weak leg. Last night my right leg and especially my foot were freezing cold to the touch. No matter how many socks I put on, my foot is just plain COLD. I had a measure of peace yesterday when I went over to Serenity and picked up some paperwork, then on to Starbucks. That seems to be the only place that I somehow can relax and feel like it all will work out. I am desperately trying to maintain some measure of peace today, because that seems to help, but it is hard when you are walking all crooked and wobbly. I am seeing the neurosurgeon tomorrow who will review the MRI with contrast. I am not sure if I want something terribly wrong to show or not. If there is something amiss, then maybe they can fix it. But if nothing shows up, then what the hell am I going to do at this point? I am so tired of being consumed with my physical condition and I am beginning to isolate. I’ve missed two Christmas parties recently because I just didn’t want to be walking with a plate of food and my stupid cane, not being sure if I would fall and make a complete fool out of myself. I am starting to avoid social situations and staying home more. My world has become increasingly more and more narrow. I am so sad, words cannot describe it. I pray to God that there is some hope tomorrow because I am coming to the end of my rope.

Surgery Log 2012 – Pain and numbness

12/13/12 – Thursday – I seem to feel OK this morning as far as side effects, but of course the pain and numbness it still present. I don’t know what I was expecting—-maybe a miraculous recovery, but I feel really sore this morning. I will take the other pills today and see what develops. Later in the morning my resolve breaks and I just feel like enough is enough regarding the intense pressure and numbness in the abdomen and back. I start out by saying that this is ridiculous, and it builds up to a full-blown meltdown, complete with ranting, raving, vows of suicide and calling the doctor’s office yet again. Of course they have to take a message because there is no way to actually get someone on the phone immediately. The nurse finally calls and says she spoke with the surgeon who said I need to get another MRI (hopefully the insurance company will pay for this) before my Monday follow-up visit to see if there is anything wrong. At least she is on the same page as I am because that is what I was going to suggest. No MRIs are done in their facility on Fridays so I have to get it done somewhere else. In the meantime, I have to get blood work done downtown at University Hospital, which makes me nervous to drive there. But, I finally make it after getting a little lost and I am proud of myself for keeping calm. The MRI is scheduled for tomorrow on N. Belair Road, which is easy to find, right in Evans. I’m not sure if I want it to show something drastically wrong (sponge left in, or bone out of place, or more narrowing) to explain why I have made basically no progress. If everything is as it should be then it is even more discouraging because there is no explanation as to why I still feel these horrible symptoms. On the other hand, if there is something drastically out of the norm, then it would at least give me hope that this can be corrected. There it is again, that word HOPE. If they keep telling me that I just have to be patient, then I will lose all hope. I need HOPE at this point to continue on. I simply cannot or will not continue to live my life as half a person. An old friend once told me that his wife had back surgery years ago and she just would not get better. They did an MRI and discovered to their horror that a sponge had been left in. She then collected a huge sum of money in a settlement. That has stuck with me and who knows? I am not looking to collect money (although that would not be so bad)—-I am just looking to feel better. Nobody knows how terrible it is to wake up every morning and have pressure and numbness in your belly, back, and legs with no end in sight. Nobody knows how devastating and frustrating it is when there are no answers in sight and your whole world is rapidly going down the toilet. I pray to God for help but God helps in his time, not mine. Please Lord please get on the same page as me. Thanks.

Surgery Log 2012 – Disability

Disability – 12/9/12 – Sunday – Basically I am feeling the same as yesterday, physically. I actually thought that my toes on my right numb foot curled better, but maybe that was my imagination or wishful thinking. It gave me a little hope. You know if I just had even small improvements each week that would give me something to hold onto. But as I usually do, I do too much I guess. I cleaned my bathroom (which took forever because I have to move so slowly), did my exercise, went to the gym with more exercises, and went to Walmart. By then my right leg was feeling so exhausted that I could barely walk. This is what always happens; I feel a little better so I overdo it and pay the consequences later in the day. This is what caused me to have my meltdown the other day—having to do chores by myself and paying for it. I started to get on the pity-pot again because I am really scared that I will have to go on permanent disability and believe it or not, I don’t want to. I just don’t think that I can continue to feel so physically sore and unbalanced each day and go on with this. I can now empathize with Aunt Gladys who had severe pain each and every day, but lived with it. She had numerous unsuccessful spinal surgeries, yet she always maintained hope that helped her go on. She was such a trooper and I always admired her, but now even more for her courage. A number of months ago I was in a funk regarding my job because I was burnt out. I kept saying out loud that I didn’t want to keep doing this job. I kept trying to think of a way that I could go on disability—maybe mental, maybe back, who knows! But the mental disability would stigmatize me and my physical problems were not that bad. But, be careful what you wish for, it just might come true. Remember when I wanted to leave my job in Manhattan and somehow, in a horrible twist of fate, I got laid off a year after the 9/11 attacks. Now, in another ironic twist, I am facing disability. I kept saying, “OK God, this is not how I wanted it to be.” But then I thought that I never really specified how I wanted this achieved so, God has in some ways given me a way out, but not how I wanted it. Disability (if you’re not faking it) means just that YOU ARE DISABLED and unable to work. It does not mean that you get paid for staying home and then can go gallivanting around town, feeling great. No, I am paying for this and I wish to God I never had this. I thought I’d be one of those 60 year olds in great physical shape, exercising and running forever. I never, in a million years fathomed that this would be my life. I am trying to maintain hope that this will get better, but I am finding it hard to accept that maybe it won’t. There is not one day when hope lasts. It ebbs and flows and I never know when a feeling of hopelessness will overtake me or when I can see some light at the end of all this. It is a roller coaster world each day. I must continue to pray for some type of miracle.