On January 27, 2014, I did something stupid. It was one of those polar vortex days. My school called off class after I had already gone into work, so I was already up, dressed, and annoyed. Two weeks into a new semester is not a time to get behind.
I thought I would be a hero.
“I’ll be helpful, AND my workout will be done.”
I thought I would shovel the driveway.
We don’t have a long drive. Ours is a mid-1970’s sub with quarter to half acre lots. However, at 5,000 below zero with a wind chill of artic hell, it felt like it was a mile long.
I came inside about 45 minutes later and said to my husband, “I can’t feel these fingers”, referring to my pinky and ring finger on my left hand.
I assumed I’d just gotten cold (really cold) and it would come back.
I was wrong.
The next day, I couldn’t feel my entire left hand and part of my right.
“Do you think I should see a doctor?” I asked my husband.
“I think you just have freaky hands.” He said.
I went to the urgent care anyway. He proclaimed that “the capillaries in your hands are still cold.” I should have known then to question everything that would happen next.
The following day I got up and couldn’t feel my legs from my hips to knees on both sides.
I was scared. I didn’t know quite what to think but I’m a highly imaginative person. Dr. Google told me a host of horrible options. And I believed all of them even though I was fine three days prior.
I made another appointment. This time to see a “regular” doctor.
We went through the same smattering of questions. What was I there for? What did I do?
She couldn’t figure it out. She said she had no idea. But I had “hyper reflexes.” Fantastic. Was I Spider-Man now?
She looked at me after a fashion and said “I think you have M.S.”
I’d read that the day before. Dr. Google told me all about it. I have a cousin that I don’t know but I know he has M.S.
She sent me for a brain MRI. The waiting period was the worst. Tell a person like me, an empath, a sensitive, okay, an emo, with a highly imaginative streak, that she “might” have a life altering disease. Tell her. And watch her world implode.
The most exhausting part was pretending to be okay for the outside world. My students didn’t need to be affected by my crisis. My family, aside from my parents, didn’t need to know.
I told only my husband, my parents, and my best friends. Rally they did. Thank God. They aren’t rocks. No, they are planets. They’re too amazing just to be limited to minerals or parts of dead dinosaurs.
My MRI came back fine. I was fine and I could prove I had a brain! Science backed and everything! But, I did have a “cluster” and the neurologist scared the hell out of me again when she said “it looks like brain cancer”.
How? Does one go from being FINE to M.S. and brain cancer?!
It wasn’t. Further examination proved it to be a generic anomaly that I was born with. It’s harmless and, perfectly normal.
Another MRI showed what really happened to me. I pinched several nerves in my neck.
THAT WAS IT?!
I was furious.
Three doctors. Plenty of worry. Two MRIs later. And the nurse from my primary care doctor was right. At that visit, the follow up to the urgent care, she looked at me and said, “you have a pinched nerve.”
I could have surgery.
I could go to physical therapy.
I could just deal.
If I stuck to a specific exercise plan, I could get the feeling back. I would be fine.
So I did.
I bought an $80 exercise bike and began working on my legs. This seemed stupid at first. I’d been an avid walker, yogie, Pilates girl, and not-very-good-but-I-try runner. The bike whipped me. My legs felt like they weighed 60 pounds. Each.
For six months, I worked to get feeling back in my legs and hands. Until one day, I just had it. I was typing and realized I could feel the keys.
The feeling in my legs returned too. One day it didn’t feel like making every effort to walk.
I’ve kept up the workout. Every now and then I fall into an awful temptation to quit. When I can’t shake five pounds or I just don’t feel like it. I have complained about being fat when I’m not. And some days it feels like too much effort.
I hate it when I’m heckled for being anal about getting my workout in every day. Or when someone says “eat a cheeseburger.” Sit on a pin.
“You’re a skinny bitch. You can afford it.”
There is no such thing as a skinny bitch.
Everyone has a struggle.
I keep this routine up because I’ve been terrified. I worried that my (fortunately mis) diagnosis would alter my decision to have children among other fears.
I have had to work to get back to the woman that could easily walk 20 miles a day for breast cancer. I’ve had to work to walk up and down stairs with ease again.
I will eat a cheeseburger when I want to. Or noodles. Bread. Cake. Whatever. I. Want.
There is no such thing as a skinny bitch.
And I know that and yet sometimes, I still want to throat punch the smiley girl on my DVD telling me “you can do anything for 60 seconds.”
I have two choices. Hurt my hand and break the tv, or continue to be badass.
I humbly choose the latter.