Just got an email from a friend. His medical problem is at the “just suck it up” stage. It's not fatal but a relentless discomfort that he can't ignore, like (but not) shingles. He has been told of a treatment that might work. I can't be more specific because it's not fair to parade his misfortune, but believe me, his day to day life has been made pretty hellish. He sees a specialist this week.
So we wait for news – maybe it will work. If not, the burden will feel heavier, like climbing out of a pool in a sodden bathing suit. I remember so well when it was me. I read of a possible surgery that might help/cure(?) my back problem. I clipped it and carried the hope in my purse. At lunch I showed it to a friend.
His face grew somber, not the encouragement I had expected: “It may not work. Don't bank on it and set yourself up for disappointment.”
“No!” I cried passionately. “Let me have this moment. Let me have hope – if only for half a day!” The hope was like sunlight on my heart. For a few hours I let go the battle with despair – my spirit danced with joy. The cure didn't work for me and I picked up my load again, but years later I remember that brief holiday from the treadmill of pain. It was like the break between labour pains – an interlude of joy.
Oddly enough, although that surgery was wrong for me, it opened a possibility. Here, I had seen 3 surgeons: one said my back was too complicated; the second, he could fuse three disks but I would still have constant pain; the third, at my age, just suck it up. When I asked him if he would have surgery in my position, he said yes he would. Why? “Because I have a life worth living…you…”
But I was fuelled by hope. When we went to see our daughter in South Africa that winter, I took my MRIs with me. My daughter's GP referred me to a top surgeon. The night before I saw him, getting up to pee in the night, my leg gave way suddenly. I fell head first into a bathtub – yes you do see stars, fluorescent green ones!
The next day, the surgeon ordered emergency surgery. He did a single fusion with a cage, which was not available here in Canada, although used a lot in Europe. He gave me a 95% chance of discarding my wheelchair and walking again. It worked, I walk, I run upstairs – and yes, I have chronic pain, but nowhere like as bad.
Perhaps, just the act of hoping precipitated a solution. Don't dismiss hope as vain. It can galvanize. Or simply give a breathing space, like gas and air in labour.
I wait and hope for my friend, in the storm's calm – for a possible, different life ahead.