Is HOPE a Four Letter Word?

“Forgiveness comes when you can give up the hope that you can change the past.” I heard this quote the other day and it stuck with me. Those who know me or have been reading the blog know that I pay close attention to quotes, lyrics, poems –those written by others and those attempted by me.

Growing up I learned many expressions from both my grandmother and mother. A few that come to mind are “Birds of a feather flock together. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. A watched pot never boils. You have to crawl before you can walk. No good deed goes unpunished.” And, the one I heard the most and remember almost every day of my life is “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” In fact, I have so many running through my mind as I dictate this that the computer can hardly keep up. My daughter has heard me repeat all of these her entire life, and, in fact, just the other day reminded me that “that pen is mightier than the sword” when I was talking about the blog and my continued disappointment in the outcome of my surgery.

While I know that none of us are able to change the past or alter it in any way, how do you put the past in the past? How do you move on? You can’t change the past, but how do you make sure that you make the right decisions for the future? How do you move on when you head is telling you one thing and your heart is telling you another? It isn’t easy.

My wise uncle who is a pastor suggested that I focus on forgiving Dr. Liar on a daily basis instead of trying to forgive all at once. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, I knew that this was the answer to my prayers. Why did I feel the need to forgive him all at once when he lied to us about the spinal cord injury for almost two years? While it has taken me longer than two years to work on forgiveness, my uncle’s comment has helped me move a bit closer. In fact, I have a forgiveness journal and each day and write how I am feeling about Dr. Liar and I end each entry with one of three sentences: Today I really hate Dr. Liar; today I hate Dr. Liar; or, today I don’t hate Dr. Liar.  I haven’t had the nerve to do a tally of each of the entries, but when I do…I will probably be surprised. And, by the way, another comment my mother use to tell us was that we should never hate another so I have that comment swirling around in my mind as well. I shouldn’t hate…I should extremely dislike him.

You can probably guess that on the days when I am in a lot of pain that there aren’t many friendly feelings towards him. Other days when the pain isn’t quite as bad and when I try really hard I am able to actually not have strong feelings of dislike. At this point in my life as close as I can get to forgiving him is to simply not hate him. I’m not at the point to spin my negative feelings into positive ones. After all, as I have stated before, I am a work in progress and so are my feelings.

When we were considering moving to Virginia, I had moments when I had second thoughts about leaving Pennsylvania. I was confident that my doctors there were doing all that they could to help me manage my pain and assist with my many other problems. I was worried that finding doctors in Virginia would be difficult and that starting over would be a nightmare. After all my doctors had been through the entire Dr. Liar ordeal with me
and a lot of hand-holding had taken place. I practically had anxiety attacks when I thought about having to rehash the surgery, the lies and explain the years of treatments to a new group of doctors. I also dreaded having to provide thousands of pages of medical, hospital and physical therapy records, MRI/CT scans/X-ray reports, doctor’s notes, EMG tests and a multitude of other reports, tests and as much medical history as I  could gather for my 40+ (hum) years. However, often what we fear the most ends up being what we need the most.

What I thought was going to be one of my biggest obstacles managed to be one of the best ‘moves’ I have made. My doctor’s in Pennsylvania were mostly men; in Virginia they are women. Not that it makes a difference. To them I am a new medical case and since they are under one health organization, the doctors consult and work together on my behalf. If the doctor or therapist isn’t in the local area, they find the correct person and set up the appointments. I am currently working with a new therapist who specializes in Cervical Dystonia and I like to say that he has the magic touch to make pain go away. I  just wish he would move in with us and be my full-time physical therapist!  Other doctors look for alternative ways to help, new medications and have supported and many have even taken the time to read the blog. One stated that I had “been to Hell and that I am still fighting my way back.”

One very important lesson that this incident taught me is that making a change is sometimes for the best. While I thought I was getting the best care possible, I realized that shaking things up was a good thing. While I had a great relationship with my Pennsylvania doctors and they will always hold a special place in my heart for all they did medically and in the court room…I needed a change. Instead of moving forward to where I wanted to be, I almost managed not to move because I was afraid of the unknown. I can honestly say that the doctors in Virginia seem to be thinking out of the box and are working harder to help me. Why…I am not sure, I can only guess that after a while our long-term doctors get complacent and the normal routine becomes the only routine.

In just a few weeks it will be the six-year ‘anniversary’ of my surgery and the spinal cord injury. My husband and I usually plan to do something special to distract ourselves during that dreadful day. We wish that the day would come and go and it wouldn’t enter our  minds; however, I imagine that day in June will forever be a difficult day. However, we are lucky to have each other to go through it together.

While I continue to work hard on my positive attitude and being grateful for the life God has planned for me, I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t admit that there are still difficult days. Even with a positive attitude I still don’t sleep a normal schedule, which makes getting to appointments difficult. I never know until I wake up how I am going to feel and what I am capable of doing. It’s a bit of a gamble knowing what to schedule, when and how much I will be able to push myself without causing more problems. It makes it hard to maintain friendships since many people don’t understand medical problems that they can’t see. Remember the potential jury member who stated that I didn’t look sick? People I know understand that I have changed, but they have a hard time understanding why I am unable to push myself for their benefit.

I have learned that I need to slow down and understand that I can’t do everything. I have come to the realization that I must ask others for help, which is extremely difficult for me. I have good and bad days. If I don’t sleep well during the night, I know that I can’t expect much during the day. When I am tired, my balance is off and I rely on the cane.  I hate missing events, feeling left out or not being able to do things that I once enjoyed. I miss the freedom that my old life offered and hate all the planning that now has to take place. Leaving home for an appointment or just to visit my parents is like planning for an overnight trip…a change of clothes, medication, various shoes, pain patches, etc. I just can’t get up and go.

However, at the same time, I am learning to look at my unplanned life as one that now offers different things. I was able to ‘retire’ 20 years prior than planned and now live closer to family members and friends who I haven’t been around since moving to Pennsylvania 18 years ago. Yes, along with this is the pain, Restless Legs, Cervical Dystonia, neuropathy (which worsens daily), continuing balancing problems, essential tremor and a medication list that made my most recent doctor say “Holy S***, you are on a lot of medicine!” Even so, I still don’t sleep. But in the end, tomorrow  morning, I will still swing my legs off the bed and hopefully be able to take my first steps of the day. To me…that’s a good day and a true blessing!

Maybe forgiveness isn’t so difficult after all…I can’t change the past…that I know for sure. But if Dr. Liar had hit my spinal cord any harder, further, or closer to another area — I might not be able to dictate this post or even get in or out of bed, or be able to feed myself. Something that plays over in my mind hundreds of times a day was the comment made by the one of the doctors at Johns Hopkins: “you have to think of yourself as if you were Christopher Reeve.” Thank goodness my injury was in a different location and not as severe. For that, I am truly grateful.

And while I am realistic about that I can’t change the past…I haven’t given up the hope that science and medical advances will continue that may offer hope for those of us who suffer on a daily basis.  After all, “once you choose hope, anything’s possible,” stated a true extraordinary man and a hero to me and many others — Christopher Reeve. And my personal favorite: “When the world says, give up, hope whispers, try it one more time.”

©My Unplanned Life and 2011.


About mswd

I am an individual living with a spinal cord injury. How the injury occurred, how I found out how severe my injury was and how my planned life suddenly became 'unplanned' is included in this blog. Also included is how the injury has tested my family and me. I believe you will discover it has been both a mentally and physically challenging ordeal and I learned a few lessons along the way. While I am still defining my life’s purpose since the injury, I have uncovered those who are injured, live with pain or have other obstacles to navigate are never able to escape. However, come with me as I explore ways to improve my life, learn to live with multiple neurological conditions, educate others and look for the silver lining. I believe with a little willpower, my caring family and God's guidance I will learn to forgive, hopefully forget how I was treated and dismissed by a doctor and uncover life's new purpose. I pray for painfree days and answers to questions that keep swirling through my mind. I also pray for a cure for neurological conditions and for the doctors to treat their patients with respect. Welcome to my journey. I would love to hear about yours!
This entry was posted in Christopher Reeve, Depression, Disability, Don't Give Up, Dr. Liar, Faith, God, Medical Malpractice, Pain, Pain Management, Self Discovery, Spinal Cord Injury, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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