A Fragile Body, A Tough Mind


I got great news today. The doctor seems to think that my right hip is actually improving. From my X-rays, he commented that there are signs of revascularization, meaning that the circulation has been restored and the bone is being revitalized. That was the hopeful outcome of having core decompression surgery in the early part of 2012.

This was very surprising to me, since before my appointment I felt confident that he'd be ready to schedule my next hip replacement. Instead, he offered me a cortisone injection into my joint to possibly relieve the pain. I'd had one in my bursa [a sac adjacent to a joint], but never in the joint.

I was taken to a room that I had never been in before. It was large and bright with a single table in the middle of the room. Everything was white or silver. It reminded me of a surgical room in a hospital. They monitored my heart rate and gave me a nerve block before injecting me.

The nurse told me that they don't usually do the injections "on the fly" like that, but the doctor insisted. When she was helping me to prep for the injection, she said "He [the doctor] said you'd be an easy patient. He said your 'tough.'"

"Tough," I thought, as my mind echoed her unexpected word. I must have let out at least a small smile, though I'm not sure if that was purely mental or if I actually wore it on my face. She asked me to list my past surgeries and medical history. As I recalled something new to add to her list every few seconds, I started to think about it again.


My doctor, who knows my fragile state better than anyone, called me 'Tough.'

Do me a favor and do a google image search for "tough." [click on the image, type in "tough," and then click the camera icon in the search bar].

What do you see? Mud obstacles, muscular men, professional fighters, people running races, toned women with 6-packs, Rambo, people lifting weights.

Are those results what you think of when you hear the word "tough?" For me, the results were expected. When I think of a "tough" person, I do not think of a skinny, frail, disabled person like myself.

The only thing that struck me as odd was that all of the tough people in the images look so angry. I don't think I saw a single person smiling. Are tough people not supposed to be happy? Are they not expected to smile? I smile. Again, I just don't fit the bill.

The definition of tough is just about everything my body is not.

1. strong and durable; not easily broken or cut.
2. not brittle or tender.
3. sturdy; hardy.
4. capable of great endurance.

My body is not strong. My body is not durable. My body is easily broken and cut. My bones are brittle and tender. My body is not sturdy or hardy.

But then I got to number 4. I'm not always capable of great endurance, but I have learned to endure. The unpleasantness associated with endurance comes in many forms and circumstances. And for that reason alone, I allowed the word to sink in and I decided to take ownership of it. I actually liked being called exactly what I thought I was not.

My body is weak. But I am not.

After my injection, I hopped down off the table so quickly that the nurse asked me to sit back down to make sure my leg was stable.

"It feels good," I said, as she lowered me back to sitting position.

I'm not sure if it was the steroid injection or being called "tough" that had me feeling like a Transformer. Perhaps it was both.

After learning that I wouldn't be able to drive home, I called my hubby to come and get me. By time I was finished, he was in the wait room with my crutches in hand.

"I don't need those," I said.

The nurse's eyes read like my mother's, telling me to 'be careful,' but from her smile I read, 'you go girl.' As I walked out of the building with my arm looped in with my husbands, I realized that in those moments, and many other moments that spanned more difficult circumstances, I was tough. When it counts, when my body is not tough, I am still tough.

I went back to work and soon it was time for my youngest two children to do their holiday performances. My almost-3-year-old [who is built like a linebacker at nearly 35 pounds] ran over to me, and for the first time in more than two years, I lifted him up, rested him on my hip and walked several steps over to my husband without a single limp. I didn't even realize I wasn't limping until my husband told me. I'm so used to walking straight to my husband after lifting my son, because I have to quickly pass him off due to the pain. He's still young enough to want to be held often. And he never seems to give up on me even though I'm sure that he's aware of my limitations by now. But this time, there was no pain. And I held my son until he was too antsy to be held any more. And when I lowered him back to the ground, still no pain. And when I sat on the floor with him in my lap, still no pain. For a long time, these types of interactions, especially with my youngest, have been limited by my pain.

Only time will tell if the injection will actually help. The numbness was still in effect at the holiday party, but those tiny moments still felt triumphant. And just maybe, being able to look forward to and celebrate the tiny triumphs is exactly what makes me "tough."

Maybe, it's what makes you tough, too.

Moments like those, though few and far between in recent years, help me to endure.

Sure, the numbness helped. But so did my mentality.

Maybe it's time the google image search for "tough" offered a new perspective. Because as of today, my definition of tough has less to do with the body and more to do with the mind, the soul and the spirit.

"Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." -- Hebrews 12:12-14

1 comment:

  1. Hi Denise, I was reading up on your blog just now and had a quick question. I was hoping that you could please email me back when you have a moment, thanks!




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