For those who do not write, do know that I have been writing my thoughts and feelings out since I was around twelve years old. Often it has seemed that the pen and paper have been my most dependable, trustworthy and accessible confidantes.
I write because it helps me get past the jungle of confusion within me. The written words are able to form a pattern that my mind can use to make sense of what is chaos in my head.
I am at a place in my life whereby my very mettle has been put to the test, for the last six months of my life have been fraught with many challenges.
In May I learned that my only sister's breast cancer returned after a twelve-year dormancy. The cancer had metastasized. I sat in the oncologist's office with my sister when she received this news. I thought I might vomit.
On June 5 I was a passenger in a very bad car accident. My friend and I were going to see a movie, and a woman ran a stoplight. Our vehicle was pushed at high impact into a wall of concrete, and before this happened the vehicle in which I rode took down several street signs before crashing. I remember seeing the car coming at us. I remember the violent careening of the friend's van. What I remember most vividly is seeing the wall of concrete into which I knew we were heading.
A few broken ribs, cracked sternum, four cracked molars and a very sore leg later, I had survived. I must have been in shock, for despite the terrible pain in my left leg which the ER doctor had dismissed as a mere case of bad bruises, I set my sights on packing for the trip my sister and I had planned. Upon learning of my sister's health news, we had made plans to visit our family in Belgium.
Six days after the accident we were en route. My upper body hurt really badly, and my breathing was painful, but I figured all I had wrong were broken ribs, and that only time not medical treatment would solve that. I figured that since the trip was already planned, and my sister was feeling good that I should take the trip.
I was very wrong. Walking was what we did from morning until night. And that was fine by me. I love to walk, and every sight was new and totally lovely. My cousin lived in a neighborhood that looked like a fairy tale book illustration. I figured that my pain would continue to diminish with each passing day, and that the new sights would be wonderful distractions.
But the pain in my leg increased, and tensions were mounting between my sister and me. We were both in a great deal of physical and emotional pain. Although my sister and I are very close, we could not be there for one another, for we both were in severely weakened states.
When I was younger I heard that grief could ruin a relationship. I was naive then. I thought that having to face suffering together would strengthen a relationship, but sometimes that is not how things work out.
Sometimes a pain inside a person is so great that it takes all she has to rise above it, and the reservoir of compassion that normally exists within one has run dry. We must not chide ourselves for this. We are human beings. We all have our limits.
The tension with my sister and the ever-increasing pain in my leg, which was actually broken but still undiagnosed, was too much for me. I returned home after only five days of what was to be a twenty-one day trip.
Once home I sought help from my primary care physician. The office would not grant me an appointment. I was shocked. The person in charge me told me that the doctor was on vacation, and that the doctor would not allow the PA's to see me. She told me to go to the ER.
Later, I would learn that primary care physicians do not want to get involved with car accident injuries. Once involved they may have to deal with an extra load of paperwork including depositions which cut into their time thus lowering their bottom line profit.
I argued. I begged with the office. I reminded them that I have been a patient with them for thirty years. The nurse told me that they would not see me. She told me to go to a walk-in clinic or an emergency room.
I did go to an emergency room. X-rays were taken. The report came back that I had contusions and tissue damage. No fracture was reported. I told them I knew something was very wrong with my leg. I begged for an MRI. The technician told me they would not do that in the ER because MRI's are too costly.
With each passing day the pain increased. It got to where I could only be up for ten minutes without having to lie down and ice my leg. Then I could get up for another ten. By this time I was getting pretty desperate.
I called for an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The facility would not see me without a referral from my primary doctor, but of course, my primary doctor's office would not see me. I finally called my health insurance company. I was fortunate to get a compassionate woman on the phone. I warned her that my story would be long and convoluted. I asked if she would take the time to listen.
After hearing my story, the insurance woman told me that my primary doctor's office was in violation of contract with my insurance company. They are required by contract to furnish a physician for their patients when the doctor is on vacation. Within less than an hour, I not only had a referral to see the orthopedic, but I had an appointment at the primary doctor's office.
One MRI later I was diagnosed with a tibial plateau fracture of my leg. My kneecap and tibia were broken. No wonder I was in such hellish pain. I had been walking on a broken leg for over five weeks assuming that there was nothing more wrong than bruising.
I got good care from the orthopedic doctor. I had to use crutches, a wheelchair and a walker for ten weeks because I could put no weight at all on the broken leg. This was hard, but I was glad to know I would get better.
The bone healed. I started walking, and I was so glad. Everything was delightful. Being able to get out of bed to use the bathroom without assistance of a walker was cause for happiness. Being able to open my front door and walk outside and pull weeds was a blessing. Being able to put two shoes on my feet and walk in my neighborhood was nirvana.
One day early in my freedom from the wheelchair I went to my dentist to deal with the cracked molars I sustained from the car accident. My one tooth was aching terribly.
I got settled in the dental chair, the chained paper bib attached to my front, and I started shaking. This is not me. Dentists have never scared me. Then I started crying. The thought of the drill and more body pain was too much.
The dentist is a sweet man. I was terrified of the Novacaine shot- I have had dozens during the course of my life, and they have never been an issue – but all of a sudden here I was a sixty year old person acting like a scared little girl.
I explained to the dentist about the accident and my sister’s cancer, and he heard. He told me just to look into his eyes while he gave me the shot and drilled on my tooth. My eyes welled up with tears. His eyes were blue and kind. His humanity made me cry.
Five weeks later my still delicate knee buckled out from under me as I was dancing. We were celebrating our twenty-fifth anniversary here at home with a few good friends. Blame it on the Dave Clark Five's "Do You Love Me?" and the fact that dance music has a way of sending paroxysms of joy up and down my spine, but I just had to move to that tune. I tried to save myself from falling but instead rolled on my ankle.
I lay on the floor with my friends standing over me. My leg was straight, but my ankle was turned out at a right angle. My husband later described it as looking like a flopping fish.
A few hours later, I was diagnosed with a fractured ankle. Two bones were involved, and they were broken into many pieces. I am now a few weeks past surgery, and I will not be walking until sometime in February.
As far as I saw it, I was back to square one with the broken extremity deal. My day consists of spending ninety per cent of my time in a recliner, for my leg must remain elevated.
Things like getting up to use the bathroom, brush my teeth are now at the top of the “To Do” list. They involve planning and careful maneuvering.
I went through a lot of rage for the first three weeks or so, but now after almost six weeks of not walking I am starting to piece together a new way of living, for this recliner life will last until sometime in February as long as my healing cooperates.
Yesterday we had to put our dog to sleep because she has cancer. We got Ginger along with her two kitty sisters in the spring of 1999.
At that time we decided to take on a whole new passel of pets to bring joy into our home. The 1990’s had been a decade in which I lost the majority of my family to death. Our beloved Rhonda cat had passed away only recently, and Dan and I decided just to go whole hog and get a puppy plus two five weeks old kittens. What immeasurable healing these animals brought!
I look at my life today and know that I must focus on all that is good. However, I am very shaky these days- gun shy.
I must be very careful to not let my mind go to the dark place in which I fear more bad stuff happening. Because I have lived long enough to know that there will indeed be more loss.
I just want to catch a break for a spell, you know.
Yes, yes, yes. I know I am more fortunate than not. And each day I make myself write down all of which I have to be grateful for.
But still I am human, see? And I am not perfect. And sometimes we have periods in our lives in which too many sad, bad and scary things occur within too small of a space of time. And our strong place gets put to a test. Oftentimes the coping mechanisms that have worked well in the past no longer do. Maybe the things that I have experienced recently would not get to some people, but they got to me. They got ahold of my spirit, and I struggle each day to overcome my negativity.
Maybe I am not strong enough because I have broken down, but then again maybe I am strong because I am allowing myself to feel my darkness and face it and put practices into place to make peace with it. Sometimes we have to break wide open to find ourselves.
And that is my story, and I am trying very hard to get strong again.
I know. I know. So many others have it worse. But sometimes that knowledge only serves to make me feel guilty for feeling down. It makes me feel that I have no right to feel sad.
I am a mere mortal, and I am not perfect. I have tried to be perfect all of my life, and it no longer works for me.
One of the most gorgeous songs ever. Take a listen.