The world seems like it’s spinning out of control, the news can weigh heavy on my soul, and there seems to be a collective pain from all the recent world events. It’s easy to dip my toe in the pool of pain, but I had a second thought to remind myself that I’m a survivor.
I took a moment to remember that 15 years ago I had very serious back surgery. I was unable to get out of the hospital bed without an army of nurses and almost fainted from pain and weakness.
Each day my husband came to the hospital to help me stand up and take a step. Each day I took one more step than the day before. Each day I was scared and I hurt. I feared I’d never be normal again. I remember waking up in the recovery room and crying. I remember the cold metal table. A hand reached out to me to tell me everything would be OK. In my post surgery drugged state, I thought it was an angel. It was a patient on a nearby table, whom I later learned died from cancer not long after. That person saved me from fathomless depths of fear, and I never knew that person’s name, but I will never forget the compassion and selflessness that patient gave to me.
Eventually I was alone in my hospital room, on a drip of morphine, scared and lonely. The morphine was horrible, it played horrors in my head that made no sense and made me feel like I was trapped in that room. I wanted off the morphine; I hated it. As bad as the morphine was, the nurse was worse. She would try to help me stand up and then her cell phone would ring; she would let go of me and leave the room. A medical technician, who was legally not allowed to touch me, ran over and grabbed me as I turned white as a ghost and almost hit the floor unable to stand. My family doctor came by to check on me only to discover the nurse had not been giving me my prescribed medications that the neurosurgeon had ordered. I hated that nurse. I dubbed her Nurse Ratched from the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
My goal was to walk to the elevator, which was half way down the hospital hallway. I had neurosurgery on my spine and was placed on the floor for brain surgery. I would cautiously and deliberately put one foot in front of the other as I walked past hospital rooms occupied with patients suffering from brain injuries, not speaking, not moving. I would see lights blinking numbers and lines on an array of machines that encircled the motionless patients telling me someone was living inside those silent bodies.
One day I made it all the way to the elevator and was elated. I wanted to scream a joyful cheer, but I was careful not to bother anyone on the silent floor. Walking to the elevator was my Olympic medal, far exceeding a Gold Medal. Eventually, I was allowed to go home, but I was in a back brace for seven months, three months longer than anticipated. It was because I kept playing with my 3-year-old son, who didn’t understand his mother’s inability to stand without help or get out of bed without a towel to help roll me gingerly to the edge of the bed where my husband would gently help me stand.
I used to scuba dive and was an advanced level but never did another dive for fear of a scuba tank hitting my back. I used to dance and do gymnastics, but never would I do a back bend again. I was a good ice skater and did jumps, but even though my husband got me a beautiful pair of ice skates last year, I went out on the ice fearful of falling and breaking my spine again and skated right back off the ice. I walk fast, but I don’t run. I used to be thinner, and I struggle with finding exercise that can give me the workout I used to take for granted.
So when life is hard, I have to take a huge step back, yes, because I can step back, and stand, and walk, and dance (not tap dance like I used to) and celebrate that I’m whole and fortunate. I’m here, alive, and strong. When I’m sad or feeling like life is scary, I must always rejoice in the things that all too often I take for granted. I’m a strong woman who can walk.