Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Joining the hand of Pain along the road

Sometimes I lose count as to how long Pain has been in my life. It feels like I have been "on a hard run" to just stay ahead of Pain, yet realizing that Pain doesn't let you gain much ground. On the bad days of Pain–today being one due to weather changes that are bringing us "blessed rains" for our parched area–my "Weather Reminder" has been barking at me all day, meaning extra Pain in my leg and neck that woke me very early this morning.

Days like this take my spirits down fast. So I try hard to "keep a positive outlook." It works for a while. Sometimes I can make it through most of the day. But gradually, exhaustion settles in, and all I want to do is "plop in my chair and moan!" Let's be honest. We are human, and there are times when we can't fight the battle with Pain as we would like to. What I did not realize is the "extra baggage" I have been carrying with me all these years since my fall from the tree–a ton of anger found a spot inside me and it has been Me versus Pain. Gee, let's take a wild guess as to who WON. Certainly not me!

But the Lord is amazing and sent me a "new outlook" from Betty, a wonderful woman who struggles daily with Pain. I was humbled to learn about her journey and how she made the decision to not deal with Pain as the enemy but instead as Friend! I  read those words over and over as the message kept hitting me. "Martha, you have always had a choice!" I thought about all the fruitless hours spent, being resentful toward Pain and blaming myself for climbing that tree! Finally, I have realized that it's time to say, "I had a really bad accident." And instantly, it felt like a large weight was being lifted from my heart!

For me, it's always been easier to reach out to others and offer encouraging words but much harder to turn that helping hand toward myself. Dealing with Chronic Pain is a full-time job, and the struggles we go through–going from being active in life to being someone who has to struggle just to make it to the chair–make us feel so helpless about all that Pain takes from us. It's a hard journey, make no mistake about it. But there is always HOPE! I believe we can be examples for each other by sharing "how we cope with Pain" because that's the best teaching tool! We live this Journey each day, and who knows better about Pain than we who face it each day?

Don't be afraid to reach out to someone else. I am profoundly grateful to Betty and her willingness to share with others. It's going to take me a bit to learn, but something tells me, "it's worth the effort!"

God bless you all. Be strong and keep looking for Joy each day.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Could we re-name our insurance company as GOD?

How do you blog when rage is waiting to be released from within and directed toward the almighty Insurance Company that seems to take a prominent role in your journey with Chronic Pain?

Well, first thing I must do is STOP THINK and FEEL.

So I Stopped as memories hit me of seeing two people today, walking into a grocery store, going about their daily lives and me seeing those familiar Signs of Pain. One man had a distinctive limp, his walk slow and deliberate, and Pain was written all over his face. It made me Think: Does this man have any health insurance? All I could say was a silent prayer, Please, God, give that man some help. I looked away because this visual reminder seemed to ache deeper in my heart than usual. As I tried to shake the image from my mind, a vehicle pulled up in front of us, and I watched as an older woman got out, waited for her daughter to bring a walker to her side. Then she slowly started walking toward the store, shopping list in hand. Her daughter slowed to a gentle pace, giving her mom time to catch up. That's when my heart ached as I could FEEL the pain of this woman, and wondered Is her health insurance limited because of her age? Then I thought, Are you trying to show me something God?

I got home and found a letter from my health insurance company, telling me they will not pay for any further Pain treatments. Period.  Oh, I did a ton of Feeling, and rage was rushing to the surface. It is mind-boggling as to how these insurance companies can sit behind a desk, read medical files about a person they do not know nor will ever see, and simply with the flip of a pen, turn a life upside down and not give it a second thought! My battle has been going on for quite a while now, and, sadly, I feared this was coming, all the while praying it would not happen.

My emotions were hitting me from all sides. I felt such guilt because of one stupid mistake on my part. Climbing a tree and falling out of it had changed my life so much and also deeply impacted my husband. I knew it was time to approach him for his view of this letter. God bless this amazing man! He looked at me and saw the grief and fear written all over me and said, "We will be okay, Martha! We will find a way, even if I had to go pick Coke cans up from the road side. I will not let you go without this needed treatment!"

My heart eased, and I knew he was right. God placed him in my life more than 36 years ago, and he has been with me on this journey with Chronic Pain. Yes, I do have a righteous anger toward the insurance company. But the picture is much bigger because there are thousands of people out there suffering and having the same thing happen to them. Then there are those with NO insurance.

So tonight I offer up a prayer – God, please open the hearts of these insurance companies and help them SEE the human face behind the paperwork. Help them imagine walking in the shoes of a person who suffers with Chronic Pain for just ONE simple day!"  

God bless all who suffer with Pain.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Meeting amazing people at the pain clinic

Today was my day for blessed relief. I went to have my neck injected to ease constant pain that seems to have gotten worse over the past month. I had the bad luck of being in a car wreck a few years ago and found out just how much the body does "move" around in the midst of an accident. Of course, my bad leg took a piece of the jolt and so did my neck.

My appointment was very early this morning. That's always better because as the day wears on, the room grows fuller with so many "faces" of people in varying stages of Pain. All it takes is one look at a person's face, and you know how bad they are feeling. At this clinic, you are given a number when you check in, and that's how they keep track of you as the process goes through. I don't particularly care for it because it feels as if you are less of a person. When you are suffering, a kind word or a gentle touch of true caring goes so much further than a number.

As I sat down to register, I was pleasantly greeted by a beautiful young woman, probably in her late twenties. She had a smile on her face that seemed to make everything around her glow. I knew my day at the clinic was off to a wonderful start as we made small talk about weather and road conditions as we traveled in. For whatever reason, I asked her how she "liked" this work, and that's when I truly met an amazing young woman.

"Well, this is just my part-time job," she replied. "I'm in the Navy and am waiting to be deployed!"

I was at a loss for words as my head was trying to form a mental image of this beautiful young woman, traveling overseas to defend our country. That's when the fear hit me as I worried about her having to pay the ultimate price. She could see I was stunned.

"I joined up the day after my high school graduation, and it's the best decision I ever made," she quickly explained.

I realized that there I sat, looking into the face of a member of our nation's all voluntary military forces, and I was so humbled to be in her presence. She explained about having been raised in a military family where her grandfather and father had both given their time to serve. Yet when she volunteered, they did not leap for joy as the reality of what could happen to their loved one. We talked about how families deal with this.

"They could see I was firm in my decision," she said, "and I just prayed and gave them time to understand it!

It's hard to explain all the emotions that ran through me. I shared with her my memory of the Vietnam War and having worn a bracelet of a POW for years. How I watched the newspaper faithfully and finally saw that he'd made it home. I had to tell her that I could not recall the young man's name and still feel bad about that, but she put my shame aside.

"You took the effort to wear the bracelet and care. That's wonderful!" she assured me.

Finally, I asked if she knew where the Navy might send her. She took a long look at me.

"Afghanistan," she replied. "It's the worst place now, and that's where we are needed."

Everything in my head about Pain and suffering just left me as I felt glued to my chair. I didn't want to lose a second of conversation with this amazing woman. She continued on and shared with me about how many of her high school friends had also enlisted the same day that she did. All of them have served at least one tour of duty and will probably be going again. I expressed my pride at her dedication and told her that she would be in my thoughts and prayers. Then she took a moment and showed me the "other face" of our young military.

"I have this friend who joined up and he stood well over six feet tall at one time." She paused, then continued. "He is a lot shorter now because both of his legs were blown off while serving."

I felt a deep pain inside my heart for the "price" that young man has paid for all of us. But she let me know more about him.

"You might think he would just give up," she said. "But he didn't! He's still working for the military. He's behind a desk, has married and has two young sons. He has NEVER quit!"

It seemed we were the only two people in that room as I listened to her story and instantly realized that this country we live in is blessed beyond measure to have young "heroes" step up, sign their name and give the promise to serve and protect our freedoms. As I heard my number being called, I turned around and smiled at her. I touched my hand to my heart.

"God bless you," I told her. "Please stay safe."

I had no clue my day would start like this but will be forever grateful to have been given this moment to meet such an amazing young woman and hear her story. Please pray for our young volunteer armed forces. They are young, just like so many others who have gone before us. These young people also will pay a heavy price as they serve and will be forever impacted by their time spent fighting for this country.

My day at the pain clinic held many special moments of Joy for me today. I shall never forget the time, especially when I look down and realize my legs might hurt a lot, but they are still attached to my body. Many of these young men and women who have served are now missing legs, arms, and so much more. It is the ultimate price to pay. Pray for the families of these young heroes.

God bless all those who serve and help them find their way home.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Whatever happened to The Tree?

In all these many years of suffering with Chronic Pain that came about because I climbed up a stupid tree, it's begun to dawn on me that people might ask how I got hurt. Of course, I tell them what happened. Without fail, people will always ask, "What the heck were you doing in a tree?"

Yes, I've asked that question of myself a million times. I still come up with the same answer that sounds so silly now. "I was cutting a limb down." Right away, I can watch while my listeners pause and process that lovely mental image of me, all the while shaking their heads in disbelief.

Yet in all these years, nobody's ever asked me about The Tree.

Perhaps it's something they don't even think about or would rather not mention for fear of hurting me any further. Let me be real honest. It was not The Tree that hurt me. Instead, it was my own actions and stubborn ways that led me to this battle I suffer each day.

That said, I've decided to share with you exactly what happened to The Tree.

As my days of Pain turned into years, I grew to hate seeing the reminder of my stupid mistake because it was still standing, tall and proud, almost making me feel as if it were laughing at me each day as I went further downhill with the ravages of Chronic Pain. Finally, I simply quit looking at The Tree. In fact, I'd do anything to avoid getting near it, like walking a long distance around the house so as not to give it an ounce of me. Because I felt it had robbed me of too much!

One day, my husband came inside and told me in a very matter-of-fact voice, "Well, that tree is on its last leg. It's probably been dead for a long time now and looks like it might fall!" Oh, my gosh, I literally shouted with joy, beaming that The Tree would finally be GONE. 

The task of taking it to the ground would fell to my dear husband. But he was ready to see it go, too. So the appointed day of reckoning came. I stayed inside, not wanting to watch the process. But I could hear the steady roar of his chainsaw, and I knew he was working fast to get the wicked tree out of our lives. Little did I know that in his rush, he'd forgotten about the tree's big size. All he saw were chunks of wood that had to be taken away. Without thinking, he threw each log over a fence with all the gusto he had. Without a doubt he, too, was letting his own anger be vented against The Tree because he'd been right there with me, witnessing his wife go from a strong vital woman to somebody he didn't recognize anymore.  

The day ended with my husband rushing inside to let me know that"that dang tree is gone now, and you don't have to look at it anymore!" He was exhausted from a full day of man against The Tree. We both relaxed with a new feeling of peace. But just when I thought The Tree could do no further damage, another victim showed up. Late that evening, my husband came racing into our bedroom with a look of true fear on his face. 

"I think The Tree got me, too!" he exclaimed.

He was right! A large hernia had risen in his abdomen. We both knew–time to get to the hospital! My dear husband went straight to surgery to repair the hernia. Then he went through six weeks of rest and recovery. Now he, too, has his own "reminder" of The Tree.

There were other victims, too. Within just a day of The Tree cutting, our neighbor developed a severe allergic reaction to the dust and missed a week of work! "That was one strong Tree," I thought to myself. Yet I was thrilled it was gone. Now all that remains where it once stood is a lovely rock patio with chairs for sitting and simply taking in the beauty of each day I am still given by the Good Man Above!

We joke occasionally about that day and all that happened as a result of it. Our laughter helps me to reflect on just how far I really have traveled in this journey with Pain. Yes, if I had a chance at a do-over, oh, how I would run to erase my stupid mistake. But I choose not to live in the past. Instead, I wish to keep moving, coping with the ups and downs that Pain brings me. 

Yes, The Tree is gone (yippee!). But I am still here. By the grace of God, that is my Joy! As you walk your own journey, just keep looking up and draw from your inner courage, strength...and sense of humor. God bless! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The fun moments with Pain!

Yes, I know. Somebody's thinking, "Did she just say 'Fun moments with Pain?'"

There is NO FUN when each day is filled with Chronic Pain and your life seems to have evolved into just trying to fight your way to the next second of the day. And by deep determination, somehow we manage to get there. Each person shows their times of battle. I know mine shows when the dark circles under my eyes refuse to go away. Even before a weather change has begun to move its way toward my part of the country, my body is screaming at me and telling me "Weather is on the way, and somebody is catching it somewhere!"  

I never thought about Pain being funny until I recovered from my recent procedure of having all the nerves in my back "burned" or deadened so the pain would ease. That's when a moment of strange fun managed to show up one day. My husband wanted to attend a Midnight Christmas Eve Mass. Although the weather was cold, I pushed myself to go and figured with my trusty walking cane in hand, nothing could go wrong.

Usually, when we think nothing can go wrong, THAT'S when it happens! Right?

At church, we sat and listened to a beautiful choir sing. I watched as the sanctuary begin to fill. Then the service started. When no one was looking, I spotted a "holding spot" where my walking cane could rest. See, I have a habit of knocking it over during church service, which typically triggers looks from people around me who are probably want to tell me, "Don't you know how to put the cane away?" I felt like beaming because I'd discovered a hidden spot. However, in my haste to tuck the cane away, I didn't see there was a very different purpose for this spot....it's where people put their song booklets away. Uh oh. Before I even knew what had happened, my cane was hidden behind the books!

Finally, a moment in the service came when all the people rose from their pews. Of course, there's my husband, standing tall and proud, thinking I'm standing right beside him! Wrong! Because as I reached for my cane to help me stand up, I couldn't find it! Panic hit me fast when I noticed a lady beside me who was now looking down at me, wondering why I wasn't standing. Then...the fun arrived! I tried to stand up on my own but only plopped back into the church pew! I'd forgotten how weak the muscles in my back are. Being the stubborn person that I am, I took a deep breath and went at it again! Same thing happened. I plopped right back into my seat. Finally, my husband looked around, then down at me. He gave me a look that said, "What the heck are you doing down there?"

All I can say is within the next few seconds, while my husband was standing, I made silent hand gestures that said THERE IS NO CANE TO BE FOUND! I CAN'T GET UP! The lady next to me must have thought we were having a very silent argument or something. Finally, it dawns on my husband: the only way I can stand is if HE pulls me up! So up he pulls me to me feet, and we both are doing everything in our power not to laugh out loud because we were the only ones who knew there had been a Fun Moment of Martha versus Lost Cane and too many church booklets!

After the service ended, we both sat in the pew and laughed as we pulled out numerous song books so we finally locate my lonely cane. We didn't worry about how our situation looked to others because we knew what it meant to us...WE WERE LAUGHING! I'm always mentioning in my blogs about finding a moment of Joy in each day. Well, that was our moment! Believe me, it helped carry us through the ups and downs of the remainder of the holiday season.

I know there are plenty of days ahead for me that will have no fun or joy in them as I battle my Chronic Pain. But one thing's for sure. I will never lose my cane again! Keep smiling when you can, cry when you need to and never forget to laugh!

My prayers go out to all who battle with Chronic Pain.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The other "face" of Pain

My fingers haven't been at these keys for a while now because I've been recovering from a major procedure to ease the Chronic Pain in my back. And I can joyfully say the results are very good! Not perfect–I wasn't looking for that–just simple relief where I could lift my head above the pain and simply be relaxed. I am almost there. Is this the end to my Pain Journey? No. It's not because I still have Sciatica Pain going down my leg day and night–that's a "gift" from the tree fall that will stay with me forever. But I am able to cope with that pain better now and so it allows me to look beyond my physical Pain and see another "face" of Pain–emotional heartache, and in a time of holidays and all the expectations that go with the season, for whatever reason, old hurts, losses we try to keep tucked away. Well, they come rushing to the surface and will not be pushed out of sight. Instead, they take front and center of our lives.

At my local church this morning, I was upbeat, happy to be alive and looking forward to this new year laying in front of us. My attention was drawn suddenly to a dear older lady, sitting by my husband. One look told me everything–she was struggling to just "be there" as her frail body showed the signs of aging and a failing heart. I wanted so badly to take her pain away. Yet I knew that prayer was the only thing I could offer her. She began coughing, and people all around her were patting her shoulders, whispering sweet words of support. So I jumped up and ran to get her a small cup of water, praying it would somehow bring ease to her. What I didn't realize was that she had leaned on my husband's strong shoulder and gently whispered to him, "Please pray for me." And I saw the other "face" that left me with a sudden ache in my heart.  

Yet she did not leave the service, as one could see this determination written on her face that told us all, "I want to be here with the Lord." I believe every person near her was praying, praying, praying. I tried to get my focus back on the service and for whatever reason, my eyes fell upon another "face" as I recognized a young couple who lost their precious little girl to leukemia a few years ago. We had all grieved together as a church family, wanting to help them through their loss and knowing that all we could do was pray and love them. My eyes could not leave this young father as I watched him and thought about how pain-filled this holiday had been for him. It was written all over him, and his lovely wife showed the signs, too. But she was doing her best to be strong and was in deep prayer. I felt helpless, wanting to speak with him, try to offer words of support and hope. That was when it hit me. Just as with Chronic Physical Pain that refuses to go away, there are many heartbreaking events in life that will never leave our hearts. 

We all suffer in one way or another through our lives. Somehow it helps to know that we are never alone. My precious Dad taught me a lesson that has stayed with me since I was a young girl. One day I was complaining and feeling sorry for myself. He looked at me and said, "Sister, when you think life is treating you so bad, that it just can't get any worse, STOP.  Look around. That's when you will see somebody hurting a lot worse than you are! This is when you count your blessings!" He called me Sister a lot, and I can still hear that lesson in my heart, as if he were speaking it to me at this very moment. I am learning as I continue my journey with Chronic Pain that life is not always fair, and Pain has a face we don't like seeing or talking about.  

Life can be tough. But it's also filled with the simple joy of being alive and each of us finding our own strength, courage, faith. My prayer for all who are suffering: never give up. There is always a glimmer of joy out there for us to see. May this new year bring physical and emotional ease to all who suffer. God bless you.