Cookielove didn’t have it’s normal abundant season of cookie production and gifting this year. There’s been no writing and very little baking. It was a long December - a rough month on so many fronts. I could write about the various heart wrenching, soul sucking, physically challenging events of the month, but I’d rather write about making it to the other side and coming up for air.
I didn’t come up for air on my own though, and that is really the topic of this post. Damn, we need each other. We need friends, family, neighbors, doctors, lawyers, spiritual gurus, random Uber drivers and complete strangers to help us breathe that fresh air. We also need art and music and poetry and books to remind us we are alive and not alone. We need silence and meditation to still our minds and soften our hearts to the cruelty that can be our world. We need each other.
I’ve watched my son’s friends rally around him during his tough times. I’ve seen what the support of good medical professionals can do to help all of us. I’ve felt the love and warmth and care from my support system when I needed it most. I don’t do well with helpless. I usually handle things on my own - multitask, hyper speed, efficient, marathon distance, GET IT DONE mentality. Control - December was my month of not being in control. This manifested itself in so many ways I couldn’t begin to list them. Let’s just say the universe conspired to teach me a big fat lesson in loss of control. Universe -“you think you’ve got shit figured out….I’ll show you!”.
The reality is, I’m a tiny bit of a control freak. I try NOT to be. I recognize the futility of it, but it is just how I am wired. We are all wired differently. I got extra “control” wires in the human being assembly line. I’m hoping maybe a few of those were removed (as a side effect) during my neck/spine surgery last month.
I took a great trip to Germany over the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a trip I had been thinking about taking for many years, and was so excited about it. Upon arrival into Munich, I realized my right hand and leg weren’t working with their normal capability. I couldn’t hold a pen, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t dry my hair, and each time I encountered stairs, my leg rebelled. My leg still moved, but just not with it’s usual strength and agility. I had recently seen a doctor for some neck pain I had been having - thinking it was a pinched nerve or that I slept wrong on a bad hotel pillow. I wondered if it was all related, but it seemed a stretch that a pain in my neck could impact my WALKING. So, out came google…”neuro muscular disorders”…”Multiple sclerosis”…”ALS”….Because I work in ultra rare disease, the mind goes to the strangest of places, and in my search I discovered MANY potential causes for my strange neuromuscular issues. I knew nerves were involved because there was weird tingling sensations in addition to the weakness. I refused to let it ruin my trip - it had been 30 years since I’d studied in Germany and 30 years since I’d been back to this place I love so much. I tried to live in the moment and ignore the pain and fear I was experiencing. Sometimes it worked, sometimes I was in tears. I realized I wasn’t in control of this, and I just had to ride the wave until I got some answers when I got hom
Upon my return to the US, my physician friends rallied around me - got me the tests I needed, got me quickly to the appropriate surgeon, and I was on my way to regaining my strength. I look at the years I have spent working with medical professionals, learning the ins and outs of the system, and I am grateful for these connections that helped me get quick and efficient care. I had two discs compressing my spinal cord - I awoke from surgery (ACDF…google it if you can stand it) and everything worked. I was so happy to be alive (it’s scary when someone is operating on your NECK…when you toss the word “neurosurgeon” in, it’s even scarier), not paralyzed, and 12 weeks away from (hopefully) complete recovery.
It’s taken me a couple of months to write this. I started in December, it’s now February and I’m 8 weeks post surgery. I feel relatively great. Modern medicine is incredible. I’m headed out for a nice long walk now, and I look forward to running again soon.
My takeaway from this whole experience is that I had so many people helping me…so many people bringing meals and checking on me and loving me and taking care of me. I am so thankful for all of the people in my life. Sometimes losing control and letting others take over is a wonderful thing. I’m trying to implement it more and more in my every day life. The universe has been so good to me on so many levels, but definitely on the "connection with people" level. As I sat in a bar last night with a good friend and fellow control freak having deep belly laughs over the absurdity of life, I was reminded again of the importance of people in our lives - lots of people, different people, bold and shy and sensitive and crazy and wonderful and unique people. I am so very thankful for my people.