My Last Nerve

It's been five weeks since my surgery. While I recover there's a story I've thought a lot about.  Six years ago my family went to our favorite beach in northern Michigan. It's a 4 mile hike back into Pictured Rock National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. We packed everything with us that we needed to have an entire day there. It's our favorite hiding spot that we visit yearly. The beach is a sand stone ledge that gradually declines into Lake Superior for 40 feet and then immediately stops creating a huge drop off into the deep dark blue water. Along the beach there are cliffs. Mighty Lake Superior has eroded the rock to create caves and tunnels along the shore. When you look at this place, you get excited… it's a natural jungle gym. You immediately want to scale and climb to get as high as you can to jump into the deep clear fresh water. This beach has been in Patagonia catalogs and a huge photo of it lives behind the cash wrap in our Chicago store.  I digress...anyway we spent time playing, climbing, and diving deep while enjoying the sunshine on a hot summers day.  Halfway through the day all the girls were over laying in the sun with legs in the water chatting. The guys were climbing on the rocks, going through the caves, and jumping  in the water. At one point, my dad's mental age of 21 took over and he decided to climb higher as the guys cheered him on. He scaled the wet sandstone cliff... clinging to it trying to get around a certain ledge. As his body was glued like a starfish to the side of the cliff, part of the wet, layered sandstone gave way causing his right foot to slip.  He let out a yell... the kind of sound that rings an alarm when you hear it and instinctually know something is wrong. He clung tight and caught himself but instantly we knew he was hurt.  He immediately let go of the rock and fell backwards into the water. He quickly swam over to the ledge and everyone was yelling "Are you okay?!!" He couldn't even talk he was in so much pain. He climbed up off the ledge and hobbled on one foot faster than he could run on two. He pointed and directly gave orders to everyone..."Grab my socks! Get my hiking boots! Give me that towel…!" We all stood at attention and started running and fetching anything he asked for.  He had torn off two toenails on his right foot. We didn't know if it was broken. He quickly dried himself off, put on his socks, boots, and shirt and headed solo for the trail yelling behind him "catch up with me!!".... four miles back to the car. We had towels, bags and food sprawled out all over the beach. Everyone quickly grabbed whatever they saw, and packed it up. Within moments we disappeared like we had never been there. We started running for the trail trying to keep up with my dad. He set the pace, and it was quick. We hiked back to the car in complete silence. We all just focused on getting there as quick as possible while witnessing the pain he was in.

A few days later I asked my dad how he walked so quickly with his injury. He said he knew he had to put his hiking boots on quick before his foot swelled up. Then he said something I will never forget. "I laced my right boot tight to decrease the swelling as much as I could.  Then I just focused on the rock."  "What rock?" I asked. "When I was hurrying to get out of there, I grabbed a rock and put it in my left boot to distract me from the pain in my right foot. I gave myself something else to focus on". 

Distraction. Perspective. Relativity. 

Before surgery I was so consumed with how I'd recover physically and emotionally. Little did I know there'd be an unexpected plot twist in my journey. I've had nerve issues since the surgery in my right arm and hand. It's been incredibly painful. My hand constantly feels numb, while being in a fire pit, with thousands of paper cuts on it, with a steady mist of lemon juice on it...all at the same time. I have moments of shooting electrical pain where I  jump out of my seat and yelp when this occurs. It's so overly sensitive it can't touch anything. It doesn't matter if it's something soft or hard. Simply touching air hurts. It's hard for me to hold a cup, brush my teeth, eat, write or type. I think about my arm and hand constantly because I can't turn off the pain. It's always there 24/7.  This has been far more difficult than my surgery.  I had no idea this could even happen. This week I went to a hand specialist and a neurologist. The neurology test was pretty excruciating. Just touching my hand is painful so shooting different electrical charges, and putting needles into the nerve was beyond words. It was a 45 minute test where I turned my head the opposite way, gritted my teeth and told Mark in a certain helpless tone to 'Just talk to me'. He knows when I say this to go to the reserve of talking material he's stored up. I can sense a slight panic in him with this great responsibility I've placed on him many times.  He talks about the girls...brings up something funny they've done. He talks about a trip we might take. He talks about the camper we plan to get.  He talks about our future. Tears rolled down my face as the doctor told me over and over to relax my arm for every shock.  Mark just talked and I didn't even care what he said. Just the sound of his voice was enough. 

After this appointment I couldn't hold it in anymore. We stood at the elevator bank and I just had to let it out. I was shocked into releasing stored up months of disbelief. It was surreal. I couldn't believe that I just left the neurologist office to get shocked after the surgery. I couldn't believe that we were on this journey.  I couldn't believe that it has been six months of doctors offices and adrenaline.  A tsunami of disbelief in my reality washed over me. Mark watched my face as I cried and tried to catch my breath while waiting for the elevator. Then he kicked it into fifth gear and went to his goldmine of material putting his hands on my shoulders and looked me right in the eyes. "This is temporary.  This is going to pass. You're not going to always feel like this. Life is going to move on. You're Okay.  It's going to be okay.... It's going to be okay."

The pain in my hand had become my main focus.  Mark's words were the rock my in other boot. 

I realized everything is relative. We negotiate with life constantly. We have a plan in our head and when it doesn't go our way, or something comes up, it unravels everything and we negotiate with life all over again. I've thought so much about the words perspective and relativity. This certain experience has given me an even deeper compassion for people who suffer from nerve issues. Just when I thought I knew the depths of my well of compassion, I'm shown it can easily go far deeper.  Everyone has their own burden and you never know what people are going through at any given time. I think about how someone at the grocery store or park may look at me and have no clue how hard I've been fighting the last six months. Appearances can be deceiving. In all of us are deep currents beneath the surface. This makes me realize how important it is to...cut people some slack. Everyone has their right foot laced up tight...while trying to focus on the rock in their left. 

Radiation starts next week. I now have three small dot tattoos that will help direct where the radiation goes. Mark said if you look closely with a magnifying glass at one of them, it says "Don't mess with this mama." 

Amen. Bring it on. One Way. Onward.

1 comment

  1. I remember that day all to well. Theirs more to the story though, around the corner were we would jump off, your father was helping me cause of how clumsy I was at the young age. I was the one who slipped it was your father that saw the potential danger of my slip in-witch he leaped to ketch my fall. in doing so he sacrificed his own well being and cut his foot on the shape ridged rocks while saving me. It wasn't untill he came down to visit that I final came around to ask him why he did so. He looked at me and said the most powerful thing we have in this world is love. Then he went on to say there are three things in life that you must do. One have a family, second build a house, and third plant a tree. Of course at this time in life I was intrigued with video cameras and recorded the whole conversation. I will cherish the time I got to spend with everyone in the U.P. even though I was kinda a brat at that young age. I hope you get better Michelle so we can all meet again in the U.P. :)


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