Five Years

This is a picture of me, five years ago.  Five years ago, I had a surgery on my arm that was supposed to stop the tingling from a pinched nerve and prevent nerve damage.  Five years ago, that surgery damaged my nerves and sent my autonomic nervous system into a tailspin.  Five years later, I’m still experiencing the pain and affects of that surgery, and they aren’t getting better, they are getting worse.

This is the first year that I actually didn’t think about the fact that it was the anniversary of my pain, the day passed just like another holiday.  But now, I think about it and see how far I’ve come since I first started this blog as things were beginning.

First, I look at my post, “I Can Niko” I was living with the use of one hand at the time, and posted some of the things I couldn’t do.

“I realized the other day that I had not used my left arm normally in more than six months. I have not folded my own clothes, zipped a Ziploc bag, or clapped my hands in half of a year.  
there are so many things I can’t do and may never be able to do. I think of the brand new pair of boots in my closet that I can’t tie, the half-finished scarf on my knitting loom, or the new material I can’t quilt. I pondered of all the frustrations I have faced and will face, including toilet paper out of reach, containers I can’t open, and meat I can’t cut.  I still feel a longing for certain things I can’t do with one hand.
The thing I long to do more than anything is curl up on my left side, how I used to sleep and sleep one, long peaceful night.”
I can do all of those things and for most, I don’t even think about them.  I tie my shoes daily, forgetting the months I wore elastic shoelaces because I couldn’t tie my own.  I cut my meat at meals without thinking of how I would cry because I had to have my meat cut like a toddler.  I fold my own clothes, zip Ziplocs, reach toilet paper, and open containers easily without remembering the hard times I had.  Most nights, I sleep on my left side, though my nights still aren’t quite as peaceful as I might wish.
Oh, and those Niko boots?  Yup, I can wear them, tie them, and they’ve been on many adventures!
Going back and reading my post “1,000 Little Steps = 1 Big Step” is more than a little ironic.  After writing a few more things that I’ve accomplished, I wrote:
“Am I cured? Am I perfect? No, but I’m taking little steps toward improvement. And that is all that I ask, that I continue to head toward the goal, a little step closer each day. I need to continue without getting frustrated because I’m not growing enough and be content to grow a little step each day.”
Looking back, I can finally see the big step I’ve made!  I’ve made it 1,000 little steps for my first big step – now for 1,000 more for the next. I can’t wait to see what awaits me!

 

When Good Plans Go Bad

It can be frustrating when you have ideas for your life that just don’t work out how you planned.  As part of academic advising, I had things all planned out, I knew what classes I was going to take when.  In spring of 2013, I would graduate with a Bachelor degree in Neuroscience.  Everything looked so nice and neat on paper.

The past few weeks have been a real struggle.  Between going to Cleveland Clinic to evaluate a possible genetic condition, the development of a seemingly invincible urinary tract infection, and some other health issues, class has taken a back seat to my health.  After talking with my professors, I had everything planned out how I was going to make up work and catch up this past week.  Everything again looked great on paper.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go quite so smoothly as it looks on paper.  A bit of bad timing of a stomach flu knocked me out this entire past week, destroying my plans for make-up work.  As a result, I now have to make-up the missed make-up work as well as the regular work from last week.  This combined with everything else was causing more stress and anxiety regarding trying to catch up and keep my grades up.  Unfortunately, stress causes more pain and a vicious cycle begins.

Last week, I was determined to stick it out throughout the semester, regardless of the circumstances.  Careful consideration and prayers brought me to the point that I was able to decide that it was time for me to take a medical leave of absence from college and go home in an attempt to break the cycle.

Someone mentioned to me that if they were in my situation, they would be asking God why He had “ruined” everything.  But the thing is, I have discovered that this does nothing.  There is nothing wrong with asking why and I certainly do my share of it, but at this point in my life, I’ve learned that trusting Him is easier than asking “why?!”

Looking back, the times I asked God why make more sense now than they did in the circumstance.  I suspect that the same will be true of this situation.  In the meantime, I’ve been making a list of things I can look forward to now.  This list includes getting a rabbit, spending some time in a friend’s horse barn, hanging out with friends, and doing some graphic design work.  I find that looking at the positive helps put the negative in a better light.

The New and the Old

This was posted a bit early so I could submit it to the Chronic Babe blog carnival, enjoy!

It is almost that time of year again; the time of year where people are looking forward to the new year and reflecting on the old one.  I have an even greater reason to do this.  December 31, 2008 was the day my surgery on my left arm that caused the start of my CRPS.  I was mostly drugged up and my arm was still numb from the regional anesthetic for that evening (I joke this is the only time I’ll ever be high on New Year’s), so I consider January 1, 2009 as my “CRPS anniversary.”

Three years.  Over the past years, I’ve survived ganglion blocks, epidurals, trigger point injections, medications, pain rehabilitation, hospitalizations, and countless doctors, nurses, x-ray techs, and other medical professionals.  Each procedure was an opportunity to learn new things.  I’ve learned so much through these experiences.

Looking back, I can’t believe I’ve come so far, and yet as I look ahead, I see so many more things that I have yet to face.  More appointments, diagnoses, developing symptoms all face me as I deal with my day to day life.  But I refuse to give in and let them take over my life.  I’m me first, being someone with chronic illness is just a small part of who I am, though I must admit, it has contributed to other areas more than I could have imagined.

So the blog has a new look, I’ve decided to change the title to Chronic Phoenix as my pain is not just limited to the CRPS anymore.  I’ll explain more of the problems I’m dealing with some other time, for now, just know that the title represents my desire to be positive and rise above the problems I face when the “fires” of chronic illness sweep through my life.

Today, I’m going to do what people all over are doing in celebration of the new year, make a resolution.  My resolution is to encourage others who struggle with pain and to maintain a positive attitude about the struggles I face.  For the next year, as I continue in my neuroscience program, I hope to continue my research about CRPS and to continue to provide information and support to others on my web site and my new Facebook page for people looking for a positive, encouraging look at life (click on the link to the right).  My final resolution is to get this blog back up and running and talk more about my day to day life with chronic illness in hopes to educate and encourage!

I’d love to hear if there are specific things you’d like to hear about, if you want to know something, please leave a comment!

An Unusual Anniversary

Exactly one year ago today, I was studying for my biology class, just like any other day. I stood up, and in doing so, my life changed. Isn’t it amazing that life can change in a split second? I had no idea that the numbness and tingling I felt would last so long, or become what it has today. Certainly I had no clue that the past year would have changed me so much.

Yet it has. Looking back, the change is interesting. Obviously, I’ve changed physically, but it is more than that. I’ve changed my area of study from graphic design to nursing (though I’m still passionate about missions, especially internationally). I would never had imagined that I’d be studying nursing this year. I had some open possibilities as to what I would be doing this year, but not one of them were nursing, or anything related. If you told me a year ago that I’d be studying nursing, I probably would have laughed, yet here I am.

My direction has changed, and so has my outlook on life. A year ago, I was a Christian, but my relationship with God has grown and deepened. I know some of this was the result of the influence of friends and professors at school last year, but the pain in my arm has drawn me closer to God as well. In a strange way, I’m almost glad for the pain because of this. I remember last summer telling God that He could do anything or take anything if it meant I would grow closer to Him. And while I’m not sure I would have prayed that so lightly if I knew what I know now, I can honestly say that it is all worth it.

I’ve made it through one year of living in pain – who knows what the next ones will hold for me. I just pray I have the strength to pull through each of them!

Hope

“He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…in this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
1 Peter 1:3 and 6

In our growth group, we are reading through 1 Peter and that stood out to me. We all have trials and grief, but even through all of our suffering, we can still hold hope because He has given us HOPE. It is that hope that gets us through the long days (and nights) and through the long trials. We can keep our hope because of our faith in what He has done for us. It doesn’t mean life is going to be easy, we are going to have to suffer grief, but He will give us the hope to press on through the tough times.

Comfort from a Storm

One thing that I’ve been questioning recently is how God could have allowed all this pain to happen to me when so many people were praying for my surgery to go well and cure the pain.  A few days ago, God revealed a comforting analogy to me through nature that helped me understand a little bit of why.
Some days, the sun is hidden by many clouds.  Sometimes the rain pounds the earth, while thunder shakes the earth and lightning streaks across the sky.  This is not what we expected, not what we wanted, yet God remains in control.  The rain that drenches the ground also softens the seed coats to allow growth.  Without it, the seeds could not grow.  My life has seemed like a thunderstorm the past few months.   I often struggle to see how it is the answer to my prayers, but sometimes we need the stormy times for growth.  I pray that my heart would continue to be softened to hear His words and to grow closer to Him.