Every so often, I find myself getting impatient with someone ambling across the street with a cane. It’s so easy to forget that less than a year and a half ago, that was me. Sometimes when I quickly get up from a seat, and stride very briskly to the other side of the room for something, I find it amazing. Unlike most people who are not impaired, I am acutely aware of how well I simply “walk” and never take it for granted. I know that just plain “walking” without losing balance, fear of falling, or having to hang onto the walls is a gift. Sometimes I become aware that my feet, belly, legs, and back are no longer numb and tingling. I look at my right leg, which was withered as if I had polio, and see a nice, plump muscular leg again. I know that not having my crutch parked beside my bed for help in the middle of the night, is something I never thought I would experience again. Just like anything, it is human nature to not appreciate what you have until you lose it. Things that I thought I would never do again, such as running (a run/walk now) I am doing. I was a prisoner to my disability, never being able to just pick up and go, and I will be forever grateful for that miracle bestowed upon me. OK, if I had not persevered and kept insisting that something was wrong with me, and not just accepted a life of an invalid, I would not have had that “miracle.” So, it all went together and my tenacity was in itself, divine intervention, I believe. When I remember to practice gratitude and appreciation for how I was literally given my life back from the brink, I have a better day. When I focus on the same old petty, annoying, neurotic insecurities (which I will probably never totally lose) I am lost. I know that I have been given a daily reprieve and there are no guarantees in life, but for now, my life is infinitely better than it was, and I cannot forget that.
Miracles can come in all shapes and sizes; the trick is recognizing them. I don’t think that miracles have to be huge–sometimes they happen very quietly, and would go unnoticed by anyone else other than the recipient. An example of an amazing miracle for me was, after months of physical deterioration and suicidal hopelessness, the culprit of my symptoms was finally discovered. The ensuing surgery and recovery over the past year has been nothing short of miraculous. Just walking, having balance, working out vigorously, driving without fear, are activities that others take for granted, but I am in awe. Sometimes miracles come in baby steps. After being diagnosed with a potentially terminal illness, my wonderful friend Janet was at the point of giving up. She was having chemotherapy to hopefully prepare her for a possible stem cell transplant, but her blood counts were not good. But shortly afterward, she called me with great news–it seems her blast counts had dropped to the right level, clearing the way for her stem cell transplant. Now, about two months post transplant, she is doing amazingly well with her new immune system (acquired from her formally estranged brother). It has been a long haul but if that is not a miracle, then I don’t know what is. My friend Jane, who has MS, has been suffering from swollen feet for four months, which was a big mystery to her many doctors. She finally put the puzzle together and learned from the pharmacist that a drug she was taking (which she didn’t even need) was the cause. The swelling is abating gradually, which is a real miracle. If you look around you will see miracles in your every day life. But recognizing them when they are not the burning bush variety doesn’t always happen.
March 18, 2013
It is amazing how twelve days can make such a world of difference. I am no longer getting home care because I am so much better and driving too. So many people take just plain walking for granted, and so did I, until I couldn’t. This whole hellish 6 months has actually given me a new understanding of people with disabilities. It has taught me to not take anything—even something as simple as walking—for granted anymore. I know that there is a finite period of time on this earth and I MUST live it to the fullest. I have to just conclude that this is a miracle of God that was bestowed on me and that there is a lesson to be learned. I have started back to the gym just to walk on the track (because there are handrails, just in case; I still get nervous when walking) and have also started doing some of the P.T. exercises I was doing with the therapist after my last surgery. I am very, very, determined to get back as much function as I can. At this rate, I think I will be good in a few months and will continue to improve more and more as time goes on. I finally have HOPE, something I have not had in 4 months. Every day when I can easily maneuver around without losing my balance, I am amazed, and who would’ve thought that something so seemingly simple could give me such joy? When I see people that knew me before this latest surgery, they say I am different, almost glowing. I feel that I have a shot at a life now, but I will not forget the months I spent as disabled, hobbling around with a cane, ready to fall over at the drop of a hat, not being able to lift my own leg into the car, being a menace on the road because my leg was sometimes unresponsive. I drove my car again last Wednesday and at first I was not used to the sensation of actually having power in my leg. But, after a few minutes, I got the hang of it and reveled in the feeling that I could stop perfectly whenever I wanted to. Before this surgery, I drove with my heart in my throat because sometimes my car would lurch forward when I didn’t expect it, almost hitting the car in front of me. I had so many close calls that I was thinking of not driving anymore, but I just vowed to be extra, extra, careful, putting my foot on the brake way before I had to and pressing hard. But, even then, it was such an effort to just lift my leg from the gas to the brake and back again because of extreme weakness. It is a blessing to just be able to drive normally again. It is almost as if I have awoken from a coma and now have to learn to walk normally again. My right leg was so atrophied from lack of proper use of the muscle but it is already starting to get some of the tone back. I am so grateful that words cannot even describe it. I find myself smiling more at people now and that in itself is miraculous.
Feeling Better – Post surgery – 11/16/12 – Friday – It is 10 days after surgery and I don’t feel too bad. It is Friday so I am automatically feeling better. I go to a meeting with Ruth and spend the rest of the day at home, but doing chores. I come up with very creative ways to clean using a folding chair, my grabber with sponges attached, my mop in my bathtub, etc. I am thinking of writing a book about how to get around when you cannot bend or have disabilities. I am supposed to get together with my new renter, Cindy, but she comes home at about 10:30 pm and goes upstairs. I am annoyed because she does not seem to understand how to lock the front door or set the alarm, and I want to get that straight. I also want set up a direct deposit but that is not happening tonight.
11/17/12 – It is Saturday and I am feeling hopeful and good, just by virtue of the fact that it is just Saturday. My legs seem a little less numb, but that may be due to my better state of mind. There is truth to “mind over matter”. Ruth picks me up for a meeting and afterwards we go to Starbucks. I am actually almost “happy” or at least what will pass for happiness in my lexicon. I cannot remember when the last time I felt that elusive emotion, so I hang on to it. Rather than say I am HAPPY I would categorize it as simply content and not troubled. However, I realize that I have been totally forgetting to get the mail, so when I do I discover a non-certification letter from my insurance company for the second hospital day. Since it is Saturday, they are not in, although I find this out after 5 minutes of going through various menu options, only to be told, “We’re sorry, we are not open. Please call back during business hours.” I try to figure out how I can lodge a complaint about this but I cannot because I cannot leave a message because they hang up on you!