Walk It Out

Let me start from the beginning.

On October 20, 2014, I had my first surgery. The doctor’s told me that I had a cyst on my butt cheek that had abscessed (so sexy), and I needed emergency surgery to correct the problem. What I thought would be 2-3 surgeries turned into 10 surgeries that stretched from October 2014 to May 2015. I was frustrated. I had to walk away from a volleyball league. I had to walk away from some aspects of my job. I had to recreate my life, my gym regimen, and a million other things. Plus, I was having butt surgery every 3 weeks. None of it was fun.

The most annoying part was that there was no physical cause for what I was dealing with, and no way to avoid it. I had just gotten it for no apparent reason it all. Many days it left me feeling mentally, physically and emotionally discouraged and frustrated.

Was I doing something wrong? I was praying for healing, so why am I not being healed? Do I not have enough faith? Am I not spiritual enough? Should I tithe more? From the outside in, it’s easy to look at someone who is asking these questions and assure them that God is looking out for them. But from the inside out, it’s really hard to reason with yourself and not come to the conclusion that you’re the problem. The “maybe if I were” this or that become an everyday topic of conversation, and honestly, it’s just plain lonely.

On May 4, 2015 I had my final surgery, and the thing that was so amazing is that it was 4 days before I was leaving to go to Alaska. I was pumped to celebrate the end of an awful era by going to a place on my bucket list. Normally after these surgeries, I went back to work the next day, but I took the day off because I needed to relax before I went trekking through the Alaskan wild. So I took a day. And because she knew that I would need help packing, my mom took a day off, too.

I remember it all very clearly. I was watching TV and wanted to get up to get something to eat. I had been sitting in the same position for about an hour, and so I lifted my arms over my head to stretch. At that moment, I heard a pop and instantly felt excruciating pain, and then momentarily lost the ability to move. I screamed for my mom and she tried to help me as I sat in the chair sobbing. Let me be clear- I’m a tough cookie. I mean I just had 10 surgeries. And there I was, balling my eyes out because it hurt so badly. My mom decided to post on Facebook about it to gather some prayers, and a friend of ours saw it that works in a neurosurgeon’s office. She told him the symptoms, and he recommended that I be seen immediately.

Because I don’t do anything the way that people think I should, we delayed a day to see if it would alleviate after I rested up. I suffered through multiple shoulder injuries with playing volleyball for 20 years, so I figured it would go away. The next day it was worse, and I found myself in the ER, getting an MRI, and waiting in a crowded emergency room for the results

It wasn’t good.

“You need surgery now. You have 3 discs that have ruptured and are pushing on your spinal cord. You are going to be admitted.”

“Can I go home and shower, change, and sleep in my own bed and then come back in the morning?”

“Ma’am, I don’t think you realize how serious this is. We don’t want you leaving your hospital bed. We don’t even want you walking.”

So, I stayed in bed. I wasn’t even permitted to be pushed around in a wheelchair, lest I bump into something. So I sat. For 3 days I did nothing but think about what was going on in my life. I had lots of visitors and lots of gifts of care and concern, but I didn’t have an understanding for why, after 8 months of surgeries, I was yet again starting another drawn out process.

My neurosurgeon came in on Friday to chat with me about what was going on. On Saturday, I had my surgery, and for the first time, I saw the images of my neck. I was less than 1 centimeter away from severing my spinal cord. ½ a centimeter more and I would never walk again. I would never use my hands again. I would never write again, paint again, or hold a baby again. Half a centimeter and I would never be able to fully embrace my nieces or nephews again. I would be learning how to write my name with a pencil sticking out of my mouth. I would have tubes permanently placed inside of me to help me use the bathroom. I would be under constant care. I would not be able to bathe myself, to brush my own teeth, or to comb my own hair. Half a centimeter and I would never feel the sand under my toes again. I would never feel someone that I loved touch my hand or the small of my back. I would never feel the warmth of the sun on my legs. Half a centimeter and my world would’ve changed. Forever.

About 45 seconds after I was shown this picture, I was taken into surgery. I woke up in the most intense pain of my life, but was quickly given medicine and felt nothing for about 3 days). I was told that the surgery went “better than textbook” and that I was expected to make a full recovery. The next month was a blur. I was not allowed to leave the house, so I sat at home, bored and confused, still, about why I was constantly enduring all of this.

I’m a good person. I do good things. I am kind. I volunteer. I give to charity. What the crap? There are plenty of awful people in the world. Why aren’t bad things happening to them?

It was halfway through my recovery that the breakdown happened. I was alone at home and was suddenly overwhelmed with a ton of emotion and a holy butt load of knowledge and insight. I began to think about how the events of the last 8 months had unfolded. I began to think about the timing, about the exact placement of the events, and how had they not lined up in the exact way that they did, that I would be paralyzed.

I began my butt surgeries in October. Because of these surgeries, I had to forfeit my place on a team for a volleyball league, and I could not work as hard at the gym as I wanted to. Without my knowledge, both of these circumstances protected my neck.

I was scheduled to go to Alaska on May 8. My final butt surgery was May 4. I never stayed home from work after these surgeries, but decided to that week because I needed a day break before I left for Alaska. I was not packed, so my mom decided to stay home as well and help me out. Without my knowledge, I was in the exact position for my neck to rupture in a safe environment.

My mom put the circumstances on Facebook. I didn’t know she did that. A friend saw it and got a referral. I had never even met my doctor up until that point. Without my knowledge, information was being passed back and forth and setting up a procedure that usually takes weeks to get.

If I had not been scheduled to go to Alaska, I would have never went in for the MRI. I would have written it off as a pinched nerve and not thought about it again. If I had not had a butt surgery, I would have never been home. If I hadn’t been home, I wouldn’t have stretched the way that I did in the moment that I did. If I had never stretched in that way, because of being home, because of my final butt surgery, because I was going to Alaska….

I would have gotten on a plane to go to a remote village in Alaska, and according to my neurosurgeon, would have “come home in a wheelchair.” 

Suddenly, it all made sense. The surgeries and the timing and the frustration all made sense. Through these senseless surgeries, and this tiny abscess that appeared out of thin air, I was protected from being forever paralyzed. Because my surgeries ended on that exact date, I was home…on and on and on…. insight and knowledge was flowing in.

God had my back. Literally. He wasn’t letting me fall or suffer. He was protecting me. What satan meant for evil, God turned around and made into something good. My butt surgeries literally saved my life.

I talked with someone the other day about patience in the process. About healing- in every sense of the word- and how we need to be patient with the scars and the pain and the frustration, but most importantly, be patient with ourselves. I learned that I don’t need to know every answer. I learned that I could be patient, thankful, and full of insight even in the darkest of moments.

My recovery process is still long. I won’t be “back to normal” until spring 2016. But I can walk. And in the act of walking, I can continue to love, continue to be inspired. I take walks at night now, sometimes just to look at the trees and clouds and moon and stars. I see them differently.

I see them differently, because I see them through eyes of thankfulness. Perhaps this is not what I would have chosen, but in hindsight, knowing what I know now, would I have chosen any different?

Be patient with the process. Walk when it hurts. Take steps when it’s hard. Don’t be afraid of setbacks and failures. Don’t be afraid of pain and suffering. Stop trying to figure it all out. Stop trying to wrap your finger around the card that has been “dealt to you.” It will pass. Joy comes at the dawn of realizing that we can choose to partake in the act of walking, no matter our circumstance.

And, that we never walk alone.

Hi! I'm Leah. I love writing. Honest, awkward, vulnerable writing. I want to connect with you, so I hope that my writing does just that. Reminder: You are enough. As is.

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