Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pretty Pain-volume 2

Just a note before I begin this second part: I hesitated in sharing this story, because in NO WAY am I trying to illicit sympathy or say woe is me. I have felt like I needed to share what happened to me in the hopes that it might help someone as well as documenting a journey in which I did not walk alone. And I glory in that. I am not a victim nor am I a hero. Like all of us, I have been extremely blessed and have a story to tell. Thank you for your comments. They were beautiful.

One day I was the last patient in yet another doctor's office. Another promise of healing crumbled, though in this instance this benevolent man gave my money back to me. He had tried everything he knew. At the end of our session, he took out his business card. He wrote T.O.S (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome) on it and handed it to me. "I think this is what you have."

He was the first to give it a name. I researched the condition on the internet and felt like I was finally coming home. I read a girl's story who was younger than I was. Her journey was remarkable and she had traveled to Denver for treatment. I did more research and Colorado was home to a brilliant surgeon who primarily did vascular surgery, but took thoracic patients as well. I did extensive research on his training, his facility, his patient testimonials, and booked a flight.

Within two minutes he had diagnosed me. He gave me a 3D CAT scan that was powerful enough to show the extra ribs as well as the fact that my sternum was rotated forward 25 degrees. He said that he had not seen an injury like that except in football players at the bottom of a dog pile. I assured him that I didn't play football, but I began to realize how badly I had been hurt.

He did a series of tests and warned me that the surgery I would undergo would be arduous and that he could not recommend it unless I had undergone every other treatment option available. At the time, I had never had surgery, with the exception of getting my wisdom teeth out. I was an all natural gal fond of reflexology and the health food store. I had stopped taking any type of narcotic long before because it wasn't touching the pain and I wanted to be lucid and present in my own life.

I flew home and for the next few weeks with my official diagnosis in hand, I saw more doctors, the head of the Utah PT Association, another chiropractor where I went through a torturous procedure that I wouldn't wish on anyone. I was so frustrated. I didn't want to have surgery. I didn't want to have major surgery where they would go up under my arm and cut out not my little extra cervical rib, but the first thoracic rib and that the chance of nicking a nerve and giving me permanent nerve damage was great. It was a long, risky and delicate procedure and I didn't want to have to endure it. Even having been in pain that long and wishing for relief, I was afraid.

During all this time, I was praying to know if I needed this surgery. I had no idea that one of the symptoms of my condition was that my nerves would misfire and warmth would spread throughout my entire body. I would have pins and needles, my heart would also feel warm and fluttery and I would feel comforted. On the day I realized that part of my condition were these symptoms that mimicked how I always felt the Spirit, I.WAS.LOW. I can’t tell you how useless I felt. I questioned how I would ever know if I was receiving divine guidance again. If I would know the difference. I knew that I needed to receive my inspiration differently than I had been, or worse yet, thought I had been receiving.

It was a turning point for me. I knew I had to understand how I would receive future promptings. I knew I could not lean on old ways because those ways may or may not be working. It was a scary place for me to be and I learned something. No matter the intensity of physical pain, spiritual anguish is so much worse.

I prayed late into the night with Tony by my side. Finally, I was given my answer. I was able to feel the spirit in a way I had never experienced before and it eclipsed the former ways I had always felt it.

One could argue that my prayers were not answered because my pain was not taken away. However, at this point I was no longer praying that it would be taken away. I found this excerpt of a poem entitled "At Journey's End" by Elaine Christensen that sums up nicely how I was feeling:

"Now we kneel here...grateful for every unanswered plea that proved us

Faith is the mountain that does not flee,

The water that does not part,

The rock that won't turn into bread-

Instead, marks our dead."

I became a bit obsessed about looking into a mirror. I know it sounds prideful. I was checking my collarbones. I couldn’t see one of them anymore. I worried that the broken body I had witnessed in the 3D CAT scan was apparent when others viewed me. I tried not to think of myself as damaged, but I admit I struggled with loving my own body.

I was at the temple during this time and in the session was a lovely young woman sitting in the row in front of me. She could have been a model and I found myself wishing I could look like her, be like her. Writing this now, I sound so ungrateful, but I was having such a hard time coming to terms with pain, with my present circumstances and I longed to think of myself as some lovely creature, not the wounded soul I felt I was.

After the session, I was in the foyer waiting for Tony to come out. I looked up to see the same woman I had taken notice of and she shyly approached me. She told me she had observed me in the session and wanted me to know how beautiful she thought I was.

I was stunned and could not do much more than thank her. But as we regarded each other, I began to weep. It was a miraculous moment and a tender mercy of the Lord. I have never forgotten it. And there have been numerous times I have needed to draw upon that reminder.

Finally, I knew it was enough. Tony and I called all our family and friends and they joined us in a fast.

And we flew back to Denver.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pretty Pain-volume 1

In 2002 I was reading the Book of Mormon on King Benjamin's dissertation to his people. When he was through "they all cried with on voice saying: Yea we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the spirit of the Lord omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually."

I wanted to feel the way they did.

I didn't yet understand what that 'mighty change' was and I wanted it more than anything. I got on my knees and I pled, I begged to feel as they did, to truly be converted. I didn't understand what this journey would entail, perhaps I thought a feeling would come over me or I could wake up the next day changed. I had no idea what was in store, but I have never regretted praying for this gift on that day.

Within 2 days I had fallen down a flight of stairs. I would unknowingly go to an unlicensed massage therapist who would hurt me terribly and set in motion a condition that lay dormant and that I didn't even realize I had.
I was born with two extra cervical ribs and because of that there is very limited space in my brachial plexus which causes my arteries and nerves to become impinged. It is called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

I will not attempt to describe in too much detail how it feels, but mine was severe enough that it felt as if someone was sticking icepicks into my shoulder, back ,arms, neck, head and face. And it never went away. I stopped sleeping, I began dropping things so had to stop holding my 18 month old son. He would take a stool and climb into my lap and I would silently weep, but never so he could see. I never wanted my baby to know how much I hurt. Everyone else would keep their distance because the slightest touch would be agony.

I went to neurologists, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists. No one knew what was wrong and several told me it was in my head and to go get 'help'. Xrays and MRIs showed nothing. I thought maybe I was crazy. I received so many blessings that my baby would lay his hands on my head and bless me and the experience gave him an empathy that I cannot regret that he carries.

I pled for the pain to go away. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for a year. That's how long it took to get a diagnosis. I would visualize myself literally taking the Lord's hand and holding it for comfort. He was the only source of relief. My nerves misfired all the time, I would have unbidden pins and needles, my extremities would go numb and I wondered who this creature was that my body had become. My spirit yearned for release from this physical prison.

During this time I was called to teach Relief Society to the women of our church. I couldn't understand this call. I could barely move. Other people cleaned my home and cared for my son and the Lord wanted me to stand in front of all these other women for forty minutes? What could I possibly teach them? What was I except the one others pitied?

I accepted the calling. I sat in my chair and I immersed myself in the scriptures, in great books of gospel doctrine and I learned. I continued to pray for deliverance and then my prayers began to change. I went through the classic stages of grief though I hadn't lost a loved one, I'd lost myself.
The first Sunday I would teach approached and I prayed that somehow by my diligence I could be healed of this phantom malady that racked my body. The day dawned and I stood in front of the sea of faces and the pain left me...I opened my mouth and was filled with sweet relief. I taught the lesson and testified and the words were not my own. I had a profound witness that God loved me and I had a powerful love for these women I would teach.

I said "Amen" and sat down and immediately I came to myself again and the pain chained itself back to my body. I would go through the same process every month I taught. You can imagine how I looked forward to that temporary respite. How I truly sought to obtain the word so in that moment I could truly declare what he would have me declare. How this 'weakness' became the catalyst for the opportunity to walk with HIM.

The scripture in Ephesians by the apostle Paul took on a poignant personal meaning for me:

"There was given to me a thorn in the flesh , the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

to be continued...