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The "Wu Word" Blog

July 2013

The Simple Things

I survived my first full week at work after over a three month abscence due to my hip replacement surgery and especially the post-op rough rehab! 
I must confess that I did not think I would survive this work week. 
I returned back to work when my right side had made the stubborn and untimely decision to rebel against my left side and leg and truly my entire body that has managed to recover after my surgery.  Long story short is that the pain had manifested into aches and soreness that were firmly and unwavering planted in my right shoulder and right side of my neck. 
I returned back to work with trepidation if my body could handle a full-time work schedule, which was a drastic change from relaxing when I could at home and the juggling of doctor and physical therapy appointments. 
Yet, I also returned back to work with a sense of great gratefulness that I had my golden and beautiful times of seeing and experiencing the kindness and sweetness of so many of my friends and family members rallying around me and helping me out as well as the beauty of discovering my body's capabilities to walk, move, and even swim  again after twenty years of over-compensation and incorrect body maneuvering and mechanics. 
Returning back to work was my CLEAN SLATE.  I saw this golden opportunity to change my own overzealous and turbo speed behaviors at work to pacing myself, asking for help, and going to my managers for matters that were simply above my pay scale.  I made the conscientious decision that I had to change my work habits in order to PRESERVE this precious gift of a new hip and my health.
It is very difficult to change.  It take a conscientious and forceful effort to change bad behaviors and trends that have become you.  It does not help that I am mentally and physically anti-change.  My body reacted in the worst of ways of an emergency room visit on the second day of work because I felt like I could no longer move my right arm. X-rays were done and a muscle relaxant and narcotic were prescribed, which led to a drug-induced sleep last weekend.  The drugged up and mask of pain feeling was even worse than the traveling pain that I was experiencing. 
My osteopath who has known my body since the beginning of time of me seeing her was away on vacation.  My general practitioner and I had a horrific run in that has forced a search for a new general practitioner.  I turned to my nephrologist who could only tell me what pain relieving and over the counter medications I could take that would not adversely affect my kidneys.  As the pain persisted, my exercise became limited and helplessness and lonesomeness began to settle in.  Was this a new health condition or was this related to my surgery, as my osteopath was convinced it was?  It took everything in me not to cry early this week at work and to soldier on with my head held as high as I could and to not give in to the right side of my body's achiness and soreness as I worked.  Suffice to say, I inadvertantly was in an unfamiliar hermit mode at work by not really talking to my co-workers and only focusing on my job at the pace I could handle for my first week.  Bless the people I work with and for who welcomed me with open arms, smiles, and warmth when I walked into the office to try to reignite routine and the life I had known in a better way going forward.
None of the doctors can figure out what is going on with my right side.  A lyme's disease test was conducted, which came out negative.  The x-rays in the emergency room came out negative, except for a nerve compression in the spine, but this is nothing new.  Some speculations are stress, body readjustment post-op as well as to work, and then there was the worst scenario of Morton's Neuroma and needing surgery.  In meantime, I was told to experiment with Tylenol, the Voltaren gel, and hot and cold packs.  I came up with my very own recipe:
-Moist heat packs on back and shoulder for 20 minutes before stretching in the morning to go to work
-Voltaren gel on the right side before going to work
-Three Tylenol in the afternoon 
-After work, operated leg, back, and right shoulder and neck for 10 minutes
-Break 20-30 minutes
-Before going to bed, moist heat packs on back and shoulder for 20 minutes
I am proud to say that my little pain relieving recipe has worked!  :-)
But, I am very aware of the fact that I am an enigma.  I am a complicated case.  I do not know what is worse- being diagnosed or NOT being diagnosed. I made the conscientious decision to let go along with trying to change my overzealous work habits in order to preserve my health that I had to hold on to.  Oh, yes, did I also mention that my left operated side that had been numb since surgery was now giving me electric shocks from the nerves coming back?  Decision and action was made: Be aware of my stubborn body, but not be my body and whatever it was deciding to do. 
And, then, something happened.
The right side of my body began to slightly heal.  There were still aches and soreness, but nothing as bad as my second day of work when I had to go to the emergency room.  Wary and cautious, I am easing back into my exercise of walking a bit and even some light swimming.  I am taking my time.  I am pacing mysef.  But, most of all, I am treasuring and savoring the simple things that I have missed out on these past three months and that I have taken for granted.
Simple things like driving my car with my overly expensive bright purple prescription Ray Bans on my face while I bop to music and the bright and bold sun warms my body.
Simple things like when I went to my favorite tea restaurant yesterday afternoon to nibble on a fresh and warm cranberry scone from the oven, drink tea, and write a long and much delayed letter to my penpal in Italy. 
Simple things like actually being able to go to the library and walk up and down the book aisles with the scent of book pages overpowering me with happy intoxication and without the intense and pressing pain of my previous left hip forcing me to sit down and catch my breath.
Simple things of a much delayed swim in the swimming pool, chopping colorful and delicious vegetables late at night to music, and just the feel of the pavement or ground beneath my feet that I can walk and move again in a new and better way. 
The simpliest and most special moments with my childhood buddy who I met with last night to eat frigid and delicious ice cream sundaes and chat until our mouths ran dry.  The simpliest and most special moments with my Dad and Stepmom who I had dinner with last night: fresh crab, fried tofu, and plump dumplings infused with tangy vinegar.  The prescence of the people I love most make me smile and savor the fleeting moments I have with them.
Now that I am feeling somewhat healthy again, though, I also feel a sense of loss.  All I've known is one unforeseen and bad health situation happening after another.  Time and time again, I remind myself that what I've known does not make me who I am.  But, sometimes, my health experiences are a tornado and whirlwind that wrap me up so tight that I lose sight of who I am and all these simple things and moments that I have to and need to truly enjoy and take in with every breath and morsal in me. 
The thing about simple things is that they are fleeting.  Just as fast as they happen, they are even faster to leave.  Like a shooting star.  Like a tight embrace from someone who truly cares.  Like a joke that makes you laugh until your stomach hurts.  The faster these simple things leave, the more you want to hold on to them.  But, I see now, that it is not a matter of holding on to simple things.  It is a matter of savoring and being with those simple things when they happen and the profound effect that they have on you and the rest of your life.
Here is my cheers to simple things and the beauty, love, hope, and joy they have provide in the midst of mayhem.  I know I could never do without these simple things.
Have you stopped for a moment to recognize and savor
the simple things in your life? 


Three weeks ago, I managed to walk 1/2 a mile without the constant dependence on my cane.
Two weeks ago, I walked 1 mile.
A week ago, I was back to swimming about ten laps.
The last time I was able to be this active was in my early 20's or even my late teens. 
I had finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel of pain, sporadic muscle spasms that entwined me in invisible and electric waves, and questioning my quality of life over my quantity of life.  I finally wanted to kiss my hot hip replacement surgeon and hail and have the biggest blowout party to whomever invented the hip replacement surgery. 
Sure, I had a few more physical therapy sessions and doctor appointments to fine tune my body.  Nonetheless, I was unbeatable and unstoppable.   I was on top of the world and ready to take on the world.  I was ready to go back to work, feel normal and be better than ever, strut my new hip and body, and lose the weight that I had gained after being immobile and struggling with my rough rehab in the last two months and a half.
But, then, disaster struck. 
Approximately five days before I was about to start my life in the best of ways and finally return to the routine and comfort of work, the top of my right foot began to experience pain from a small cut that had developed.  By the time the weekend came to an end, the pain was traveling to the arch of my right foot and then up my calf.  In the middle of the night, I woke up with slight tingling and numbness.  I had always been accustomed to pain and struggles with the left side of my body, so this sudden right side mayhem befuddled and scared me. 
Then, came Monday (my last physical therapy session), and the pain in my calf was just worsening.  I was not sure if it was the nerves or muscles acting up, but I could barely walk.  My top notch physical therapist demanded to see my foot and then said that he thought it was infected by the looks of it.  He immediately told me to see my general practitioner, who I ended up seeing that afternoon.  Without bashing my GP too much, I have not known her too long.  I've known her for no more than a year.  She said the cut was healing nicely, but when she pressed on certain areas of my foot, the numbness, tingling, and pain started up all over again.  She immediately speculated a condition called "morton's neuroma" (a problem with the nerve endings) and said I may need surgery, but that she would determine based on an MRI.  I said that I was planning to return to work, and she said to leave the medical leave extension paperwork with her and would say that my return would be "To Be Determined" based on MRI results.
Meanwhile, my other two doctors completely disagree with my GP's suspected diagnosis and think I just pulled my muscles and tendons out of my intense craving to be normal and capture all the activities and moments that I could not do for so many years. 
The days fly by.  It is now Thursday.  I was supposed to be back at work yesterday.  I had conjured up images of seeing my co-workers, managers, nurses, and doctors again.  I was supposed to  embrace the beginning that I had worked so hard for these past couple of months of rehab and after years of pain.  I was supposed to be normal.
As my Dad pointed out to me, "Mary, you have to realize that you are always going to be a little bit slower and different from everyone else-- even after this surgery." 
I was silent on the phone line when my Dad just pointed out the obvious and he continued, "Just because you had hip replacement surgery does not mean that you are going to be like everyone else.  It means that you have to take care of yourself even more and preserve what you have.  You have many years ahead of you, and you need to be careful and wary of these years."
I pouted, "But, it isn't fair."
My Dad confirmed, "Life is not fair.  You know that better than anyone else." 
'Tis true.  I had always known that life was not fair.  I had somehow accepted and even cuddled with my differences once I left high school.  I loved and prided myself on being unique and standing out.  But, there was always a small part of me that always wanted to belong and always wanted to be normal.  I wanted to be like my closest friends who could rock and roll to spinning and run and walk for miles on end with their athletic legs and long and sculpted strides.  I wanted to travel and see the world with wide eyes and a strong body.  At the same time, I just wanted to the simple and most treasured things in life: Meet someone, get married, cook a simple meal, and just go to work and do my best every single day.
I await my MRI results about what this latest little health hiccup could be to then plot and focus on the preservation of what I have rather than limitations.  Life is never as planned.  Life is unfair.   Yet, in some strange way, the unfairness that we are all faced with and have to deal with balance out for each of us. 
I am different.  I am abnormal.  I am unique. 
But, then again, so is everyone else. 
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