This is the first post of a 2 part series describing the less than straightforward health issues I have faced in 2018, my search for answers & the obstacles I have encountered.
“There are years that ask questions and there are years that answer.” Zora Neale Hurston
This year is definitely a questioning year for me. 2018 started off with an injury to my shoulder that put my aerial practice on hold. Aerial gave me confidence, strength, and a community. I felt lost without it. It took 3 months, multiple doctors’ appointments, 2 different physical therapists, an MRI and nerve testing before I was diagnosed with a nerve injury to my right deltoid. I was informed that nerve damage takes an extremely long time to heal and to be patient. Patience, unfortunately for my children and husband, is not a virtue that I possess. I was quite depressed about this. Somehow, time went by and my shoulder began to slowly heal. However, I still didn’t feel right.
In April, my right hand started going numb. I thought this had something to do with the nerve injury in my shoulder- maybe it was some sort of referred pain. A few days after that, my left hand went numb, which was followed by numbness in my feet. My neck and lower back wanted in on the action and began to hurt as well. I really hadn’t done anything physical besides running around the block and PT exercises. None of this made any sense to me! I informed my very patient physical therapist, who up to this point I annoyed with endless questions & emails, about what I was experiencing. He suggested I see a doctor who supposedly had an expertise with these issues.
I went to this medical practice and met with Dr. W. He tells me that problems with the discs in my neck may be the root of all of this numbness. He orders an upright MRI of my neck, which lands up being scheduled close to a month later, in addition to more nerve testing. So basically, this guy was going to shove needles into my hands & feet and electrocute me in order to evaluate how my nerves were functioning. I went through this before on one limb to evaluate the nerves in my shoulder and now I would have the pleasure of going through this times four. This appointment just happens to be scheduled on the day that I was planning to perform in the aerial studio’s student showcase. The timing of all of this really brought me down. I should have literally been on top of the world…
I was also feeling anxious about getting the MRI of my neck. Apparently, there is only one upright MRI machine in North Carolina, which leads to long waits for appointments. I wanted to know what was wrong with me ASAP! How could I wait weeks? I didn’t want this to ruin my summer!
The week goes on and I try my best to function normally, despite being preoccupied with all of this new pain. I begin to feel slow & sluggish. I start having difficulty moving my legs- almost like I have to think about it, as opposed to it being automatic. I attempt to go to the gym before work as I typically do. I try to run on the treadmill and my feet feel like they are on fire afterwards.
Later on in the day, I talk to my PT about my feet burning and he tells me to hold off on running until this is figured out. I agree and we plan to touch base the following week. At first, I think no big deal- I won’t run for a few weeks while this is sorted out. Then I think about it- I can’t run now too! Aerial was my passion, but running has also been a love of mine. I was getting pretty fast and was getting closer to the times that I ran in high school. At this point, I wonder what I have left for myself as an outlet.
As the week goes on, the numbness and pain intensifies. I am having a hard time concentrating and am having difficulty focusing on what people are saying. I start losing my balance and continue having difficulty getting my legs to move. By the end of the week, I can barely get the words out of my mouth. I develop a slight stutter and feel disoriented. I get lost driving to places I have been to many times before. It becomes too painful to walk more than a few steps at a time. I begin to think I’m dying and worry that this will be how I will live out the remainder of my life. I consider going to the ER. Instead, I stupidly self medicate with red wine and Aleve. The weekend of me unraveling just happens to be the same time we bring our new puppy home. Perfect timing!
Several days go by and I barely participate in life. Well meaning friends suggest that I may be depressed or tired. I have always been fit and healthy, so no one suspects that anything else could be wrong with me. I call up Dr W’s office and explain my current symptoms. He orders an MRI of my brain that is scheduled 2 weeks out. The nurse that I speak to suggests going to the ER if I want one faster. I am too scared and stubborn to follow through with this.
I touch base with my PT and he tells me to hold off on coming to see him until this is figured out. He isn’t sure how he can help me with all of these symptoms going on. I think to myself I must be in such bad shape, if I can’t even go to physical therapy. This oddly feels like another loss to me, as I have been going there for months. The people working there have always been so kind and I truly believed my shoulder was improving because of it.
A few days later, the scarier symptoms of stuttering and difficulty walking subside. The perpetual fog that I was in slowly clears. All that’s left is numb hands, feet, and an occasional weird headache on the back of my head. I begin to believe that this was all a bizarre, psychosomatic response to stress. I have endured depression on and off throughout most of my life. However, it had never manifested itself in such a physical manner. My outlets of exercise to deal with depression are gone though, so I can’t combat it the way I normally do.
In early May, I go for the MRI of my brain. If anyone could have an amusing experience going for a brain scan, it’s me. The MRI happens to be scheduled for the last appointment of the day- 8:30 pm on a Friday night. What else does a gal have to do on a Friday night? My close friend (shown in the 5k picture) drives me to the appointment so I can take a Valium, as I’m extremely claustrophobic. The technician, who takes me back for my appointment appears tired & a bit slap happy. He reads through my referral sheet and questions my response regarding whether there is anything implanted within your body. I messily wrote, “built in retainer.” He reads this as “butt implant.” I assure him what I have is “all natural.” He talks at length about how butt implants look bad and don’t withstand time. I guess he’s some sort of expert on this. We have a good laugh before getting started. The scan itself is fairly quick and painless. I sing to myself the whole time one of my favorite Pink songs, “I am here. I am here. I have already seen the bottom, so there is nothing to fear.” Afterwards, my friend and I go out for treats at Amelie’s, my favorite French bakery. Valium gives me the munchies apparently.
Click here for part 2.