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.


Kristina P. said...

What an amazing woman! I need to remember to speak up to strangers more.

rubberbandgirl said...

Note to self: Do not read Rachel's blog when I'm in the middle of cooking dinner.

A great second step in this journey you're describing. Thank you for showing these 'extra miles' of faith.

Christie Gardiner said...

Can't wait for more.

scrapsidaisy said...

Rachel I just wanted you to know how glad I am that you are writing this. I have so enjoyed having the glimpse into your life during this time.

Robin said...

Tender mercies, what would we do without them?

mindij said...

Such a physically and spiritually intense experience! I can't wait to hear more! You really are amazing!

Lara said...


That story in the temple really got me. How wonderful. I am so happy she listened to the Spirit, so you could know how much God loves you and how beautiful you are in His eyes (as well as many other eyes).

Donna said...

What an amazing and unique experience. We really are watched out for by our Heavenly Father, aren't we?

clan of the cave hair said...

beautiful Rachel. I have a thought about the warm feeling of comfort being a part of your symptoms and that being part of the blessing, but I can't quite formulate the thought right now. But what a beautiful moment for the Lord to make it so abundantly clear that you are not onlt loved, but beautiful, not just in His eyes, but to all those you encounter.

Leslie said...

Don't hesitate in sharing - this is YOUR life history. It needs to be written and will feel SO GOOD when it is down in print. I wish you great inner healing through this process and have no doubt through your unselfishness in sharing you'll help others as well.

I luv ya!

Jeana said...

I know this must be difficult to write, but I too am glad you're doing it.

R Max said...

Thanks for sharing! A friend of mine is suffering from terrible neck, shoulder and back pain and she has been walking around in a painkiller haze because she can't stand it! I need to tell her about you.

david cecil leach said...

Well whenever you want to take a break and rest your body there is a place for you on our couch with a nice cool glass of eggnog. PS Ceci is adorable. I want to take more pictures of her.

Finding Joy in the Moments said...

Beautifully written and expressed Rachel.
President Monson says it best when he states, "Our lives are all very much alike. The only differences lie in the details".
I know I have felt the hurt, frustration, lack of self confidence, fear, worry, lack of control overy my life as well as many more emotions. We are sisters in heart. We don't have the same details in our lives but we do experience much of the same emotions that go with our trials. I wish my story could be told but it is much better to keep mine confiedent. I know God understands me and I feel he sends Angels to me through my friends like you who put words to my journey. May peace continue to follow you in your life. May your confidence continue to grow as you feel Gods love. May you know of my gratitude for your open heart and your courage to share your deepest feelings in your life. God bless you always Rachel.

love mary

The Kooky Queen--Rachel said...

What an experience!! I love your journey and where it has brought you today, remarkable!