04 December 2012

Postscript: I can get back on

In December 2010, I suddenly became partially paralyzed and the prognosis was dire. My regular doctor was convinced I had a tumor growing in my spine, but it turned out one of my discs had exploded (her term), shooting its contents into my spinal canal and damaging two of the major nerves that fed my right leg. Four other discs were in various states of collapse. I was shuffled off to a surgeon who specialized in "complicated" cases but who also was conservative in treatment. He asked me my goal. I told him I wanted a fully functioning leg. He was blunt: that wasn't going to happen.

And it hasn't.

What followed was two years of pain and frustration and learning accommodation. Two years of refusing pain meds and injections, and doing physical therapy. The first two years of the rest of my life with permanent loss of function in my back, hip and right leg. I fought with myself daily: there would be no self pity, just the hard work of getting back as much ability as I could. But anger at losing another bit of myself, losing the things that I loved to do, was frequently overwhelming.

For someone who is complicated, my joys are pretty simple: travel and concerts. Time with friends and family. My life is a physically active one filled with running for planes and gardening, entertaining and exercise, hiking, biking, doing things.

Or it was.

Without really thinking much about it, I turned my back on a lot of what and who I loved. Rage is poisonous that way, even more than physical inability.

But the daughter wanted to go to a concert. Grudgingly, I bought tickets two weeks before the show, though I'd known about it for months. If I couldn't go whole, if I had to sit through the show and politely clap, I didn't want to be there.

But we went and it was magic. Sheer magic. And tentatively I stood. I moved, carefully at first and then with a little more abandon. Sure, it hurt some, and I had to sit down periodically, but it was good. And I was happy, really happy, for the first time in a long time.

So I got on a plane.

D. met me at the airport. We laughed like we hadn't laughed for a long time. Next night, we went over to the arena and bounced and sang and danced. It was my first concert out on the road in two years, my maiden flight with a very changed body.

It was magic. Sheer magic.

Leaving the arena, my right leg dragged like it hasn't for months. It embarrasses me when this happens, when I can't control it, but that night I didn't care because I was happy. And my back hurts and my leg hurts and my hip hurts which tells me that I need to learn to moderate the bouncing and dancing. But I'll pay the price for three hours of joy.

My body... My body sucks. But my body has sucked since I was 15, when the pediatrician told me I had crappy knees and bad ligaments and that I would need to strengthen all my muscle groups to keep my joints from popping out. And on and on it's gone. What happened two years ago is nothing new, strictly speaking, just more painful and debilitating. Given world enough and time, someday I will probably be carrying enough hardware in my spine to be the Bionic Woman. I've done what I can to keep this shell in good shape, but I've reached the point where it's all beyond my control. And no, I don't like it when I'm not in control.

But what I learned two weeks ago and again, two days ago, is that I'm also not in control of my heart. My heart--the emotional construct--is whole and fully functioning. It is very much alive and well, and uninterested in rage. It wants the good and the harmonious, the sun and the air, the bass, the drums and the guitar.

And if the love remains...

Go listen to some great music: "Far Cry" from the album Snakes and Arrows by Rush. Also "Bravado" from the album Roll the Bones by Rush. Mostly written in Houston Hobby airport while I waited for my flight home. This post is brought to you by the letter "L."

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