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Pain means more than hurting

Published August 24. 2013 09:04AM

Back in the spring, just a few short months ago, if someone would have asked me how old I felt, I would have said, "Oh, about 32."

Life was grand and I was like a kid who was happy going out to play every day.

"Play" back then meant biking, kayaking and dancing, along with going to the beach.

My husband, who is a much better and more experienced biker than I am, kept telling me I needed to push a little more each time I went out if I ever wanted to reach the next level.

So I pushed.

Each time I biked I pushed to go a little longer. Turns out David was right. By doing that I surprised myself at how my fitness level soared. Exercise that would have left me breathless months ago was suddenly easy.

I could literally race the wind and feel good about it.

I'm telling you all this to set the stage, of course.

I'll also tell you that every single time I rode my bike I said "thank you" to God. I also said a prayer that I would never have to stop riding "someday" because I couldn't imagine a life without the fun of biking with Dave.

Fast forward to now. This week, if you ask me how old I feel, I would have to say 107.

What a difference pain makes in a life.

Pain does more than hurt. It defines us and can take over a life, dictating what we can and cannot do.

In addition to having a serious gluteus medius tendon tear, (from doing stretching exercises the wrong way,) I've always had a congenital problem with two malformed bones in my lower back. Usually, two or three sessions with a chiropractor would have me feeling great for another six months.

The "easy fix" isn't working anymore.

After months of "trying everything," including steroid shots, trigger point injections, physical therapy, deep tissue laser therapy and nerve blocks, I still refuse to accept that living with pain is part of life.

My cherished friend, the late Jean Stoneback, used to say people should never talk about their aches and pains.

"Everyone has them and it's boring to listen to," she would advise.

Of course, she was right. Whining bores your listeners and doesn't help you in the least.

I must say, though, my active friends are getting impatient with my lack of activity. "Why are you STILL sidelined?" they ask. Certainly not because I want to be.

I never understood how much pain changes one's personality until I had a brief reprieve from pain. With no pain, I was skipping around the house last week, had boundless energy and a smile never left my face.

"My wife is back!" my husband pronounced.

I've always been a positive person and refuse to be otherwise. I keep saying, around the next corner I will find something that works.

Meanwhile, persistent pain has made me a much more appreciative person.

When I get up in the morning and can walk a few steps without pain, I am so thankful I say a prayer of thanksgiving.

When we don't have physical problems, we don't say thank you for being able to walk a few steps. We take walking for granted.

Today, I've had an entire day without pain and I'm singing the "Hallelujah Chorus." My husband and I are even making plans to try dancing for an hour tonight.

At the insistence of my physical therapist we haven't danced, biked or kayaked for two months, giving the tendon time to heal. But the more I rest, the more pain I have.

When my regular pain doctor was off and I had to see his partner, he couldn't believe I went from an active lifestyle to doing nothing. He called that "ridiculous," advising I get back to gentle exercise. While he cautioned that strenuous activity could tear the tendon more and would require surgery, he saw no harm in trying a little activity.

I've never been good at doing "a little" but I will try.

Yesterday, we kayaked for one hour in open water. At one point, we were in the boat channel with a lot of boat traffic buzzing by. "Paddle like your boat is on fire," my husband advised as we had to cross the channel in between big boats.

Much to my shock and absolute delight, I had no bad repercussions from kayaking. Both during and after kayaking, I had no pain.

Either prayers are being answered or activity helps, not hurts. Probably both.

Time will tell. But in the meantime, I am one happy, thankful person.

When I can walk through a supermarket without pain, I say thank you.

When I can sleep without pain, I swear I smile in my sleep. I keep waking up, just so I can feel the blessed sensation of being pain free.

I have no idea what will happen tomorrow. Heck, I have no idea what will happen five minutes from now. Just when I think I'm getting better, pain seems to attack me suddenly for little or no reason.

But for now, I'm saying thank you, thank you, thank you.

On Thursday, the pain doctor is doing radio frequency ablation, a procedure where he will burn the nerve endings. It's my last chance for something that will help.

It's also scary. But a life of limited activity is scarier.

If you have a spare prayer, say it for me.

I need the help of the Greatest Healer of all.

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