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A step at a time!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I was thinking back the other day to when I was in grade school. I remembered that I walked to and from school and by time a got home I would hurt. I did not have the five mile uphill both ways to school like we tell tale of our adventure. My school was about 10 blocks away and it was a challenge for me. I did not realize it at the time so much. Kids do not sit around talking about aches and pains like adults do. I had a tuff time keeping up with the other kids. It always seemed like I was a few steps behind always trying to walk faster to keep up. I had a pretty good childhood. I did the tap dancing which was really popular at the time and my mom had my hair curled and everyone back then thought they could mold their children into Shirley Temple. We played outside until the street lights came on and then spent time after dark chasing fireflies. I was in middle school when things really began to take a swing physically for me. I never put it together at the time but there was signs I wish I had spoke up about. It might have made a difference in my life but I just did not know. We all had to take gym class wearing those awful one piece gym suits with the elastic waist. I remember doing well in the sprints but just could not make it running around the track. It was just tuff to run that far and then there was a large hill that lead back up to the school and I dreaded having to climb that hill. No one else seemed to mind it and ran up it as if it was nothing. I would stand at the bottom and trudge up it. On those track days I would go home and take some aspirin and go to bed many nights without eating. I just remember hurting all over my body. Basketball would give me terrible headaches and although I loved the idea of gymnastics it did not like me. I also remember riding my bike and I loved it but my ankles and feet would hurt so bad I would fill the tub with cold water and sit on the edge of the tub soaking them. When I grew up people did not go to the doctors like they do now. There was no insurance and it was an out of pocket expense for a family with 6 kids. I only remember going one time and that is when I got an intestinal flu that came close to killing me. I do not think I ever mentioned the pain I felt because when you always have pain you think it is normal. As life continued I found it was not normal but it did not stop me from working at the National Park building and maintaining the trails and running heavy equipment but when the day was over so was I. I would not be able to stand up after I drove home from work because the pain radiated up my legs. I would find myself hobbling to my patio and there I would stay until dark and then climb those steps to bed. Every couple steps I would be telling myself that I could do this - just a few more steps. Some days my friend Jack Daniels would help relieve the pain when my Tylenol failed me. It was not until I finally retired early from the park and found a property management job that the final days of employment was upon me. My body finally said it had had enough and I was no longer able to climb steps and then lost my ability to walk and ended up in a wheel chair. I was 52 and my life was over. So, I did like so many other people do - I became homebound and I ate - no more than I had ever ate but way to many calories than a person who could not walk should eat. Two long years waiting for someone to rescue me and it came with a sudden trip to the Cleveland Clinic. I spent a week in the heart ward as they tried to stabilize my failing body. I had gained 80 pounds in that 2 years but it would be a gain of another 45 pounds more over the following 7 years. I was sent to see a surgeon and he was my ray of hope. He told me that he could get me back on my feet again and that I was not to even think about losing weight until I was able to walk. My joint problems turned out to be incomplete DNA. My body did not make good cartilage. I was missing it completely in my toes and places in my feet and what was there was soft and damaged. The news was hard to take but so was facing life in a wheel chair and going to a nursing home at 54 years of age. I was told I had a wild fire in my body and all that could be done was to take one fire at a time and wait for the next to flair up. I am looking at having every joint in my body replaced or fused before this is done. I have spent the last 6 years having my hips, knees and back fused along with some other surgeries. I will be going in for more fusing, a shoulder, an elbow replacement and more surgery on my hands. I am putting them off as long as I can so that now that I am walking I can finally work on losing the weight I gained during all of this. I always liked to mow grass so I started it as my physical therapy. I use my mower as if it is a walker and I would go to Lowes and other large stores so I could push a cart around to get my walking in after surgeries. The more I could walk the more I mowed grass and several of my neighbors loved it to. I have given up my walker and my canes for the most part. I am walking now. Not bad for a lady that could no longer standup. It is a step at a time. Each and every step making me stronger than the one before. Every day I wake up not knowing to what degree of pain I will have. Pain pills was not the answer for me. The pills made me sleep all the time and felt like a zombie. I said farewell to my friend Jack years ago too. It is just me now, clear minded and willing to face every day with whatever life throws at me. I will just get up every day and walk as if my life depends on it. One step at a time!
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