My Dumb Right Hand |

4 min read

Me, my purple sweater, and my water bottle now cleverly held in my left hand

Source: Self

I have not been writing lately because late this summer my dumb right hand started to feel weak. I have this ridiculously heavy metal water bottle, and when I went to pick it up I suddenly didn’t trust my hand to be able to hold it. This was maybe two weeks before my 50th birthday and I had a flash vision of Nana in her memory care ward trying and failing to clasp a paper cup. No, thank you.

So, I did what any normal, healthy person would do: I pretended it wasn’t happening. (If you didn’t catch it, that “normal, healthy” part was sarcasm.)

Don’t get me wrong, I kvetched a little here and there. When the pain started shooting down my arm, I complained about it to my mom. But I didn’t tell my pain doc even though I have to see her every 28 days. And I couldn’t write about it.

Oh, the Irony

This is particularly ironic because I am working on a memoir about what it was like a decade ago when my spine became unstable and nipped my spinal cord in such a way that my legs became temporarily paralyzed. That resulted in a visit to the surgeon, which resulted in about 10 hours of emergency surgery to fuse my spine at the top and the bottom before it “slipped off into my pelvis” (the surgeon actually said that phrase).

It was a hip surgery and another spine surgery later that I found my own diagnosis, a very special and insidious combination of the hypermobility-type Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and degenerative disc disease that means my sad little spine and I will continue to need work for as long as we both shall live.

Anyway, my book is about learning to accept this chronic illness in part by sharing openly about it so that I feel more visible to the rest of the world. It’s also about learning to ask for help when I need it so that I can do all the physical therapy and exercise and rest and everything else I need to do to manage my pain and work and parent and keep a “can-do” attitude (that last part was sarcasm too but I do try to stay as positive as possible because it really does help).

But here I was again pretending.

The Shift

I was wallowing in a little bit of shame and imposter syndrome about that until my friend pointed out that I had reduced the time from fessing up about my symptoms from “needing-emergency- surgery-never” to a mere couple of months. Go me! Progress!

But it has still taken a solid three months, during which I couldn’t write about any of this because the minute my hand couldn’t hold that water bottle I was pretty sure it was going to mean another spine surgery and all the medical trauma and fear got a hold of me and took my thinking brain off-line. What changed today? A revelatory visit with my therapist, thank you very much.

I still don’t know if it’s the case that I’ll need surgery. I got my MRI results last week with some pretty gnarly results and I’m meeting with my doctor next week to discuss it.

Looking Ahead

I’m still really sad and scared about the future, and that’s a reasonable way for me to feel.

And in writing this post, I will alert my loved ones to this situation and I’m sure many of them will reach out to me. I love that, and please know that while I am sad and scared, I also got great work news yesterday. I got my kid signed up for winter basketball without having to beg my way off the waitlist. I’m coping with my anxiety about the war and I’m enjoying another sunny fall day in Colorado that’s cold enough that I get to cuddle up in my favorite purple sweater. It’s all true at the same time.

And if you are a person who sees yourself in these words, take care of yourself. Ask for help. Let all those hard emotions out to get some fresh air, and remember, it’s OK to cry in the doctor’s office. I’m sure planning on it.

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