I always hurt somewhere. That’s just how it is in this body. Pain can be so loud. Sometimes the volume is down low, barely a whisper, but sometimes it goes to eleven. I don’t get to decide. My body does it for me.
Recently, for a few weeks, my body decided to crank up the noise for reasons unknown to me. It left me hobbling through the house, popping NSAIDS like Skittles, and trailing an Icy Hot scented cloud behind me.
I’m all better now. I don’t know what happened to get me here, but I’m glad I made it. Perhaps my body finally got tired of making all that noise. I don’t get to decide. My body does it for me.
Out of that haze of camphor, menthol, and aching bones came a newfound appreciation for what my leg can do when it can actually do things. Along with that itch to want to do so much. And the joy from all the little things I accomplish. It’s peaceful, even if it comes at a cost.
I still marvel at this disfigured body. Leg with no muscle at the hip, slowly growing a pair of tumors. If you were to look at it, you’d never know how it all works, but somehow it does. Sometimes.
And this week it took me places, some not very interesting. But that’s the beauty of having a body that doesn’t always work. When it does, you find a way to enjoy the benign and as much as you do the sublime.
On Monday my leg let me get some of things around the house done that had fallen to the wayside during my convalescence. I can’t say there’s joy at the bottom of a washing machine, but life is much easier when everyone in the house has clean underwear.
And we finally got into a better homeschool rhythm. I don’t want to jinx it, but me and this leg of mine just might survive the tenth grade. Again. This time as the teacher.
On Tuesday, my leg took me to a giant rock in the sky. One of the things my teenager asked for this homeschool year was to go on more challenging hikes. Thankfully, we happen to live in a place where those are readily available. I can’t say my leg was happy that day, but it did what it needed to do.
As I sat perched on that rock in the sky next to my equally terrified and awestruck teenager, time slowed down. A gift bestowed from the heavens that he wouldn’t even understand. He doesn’t yet know what it’s like to have decades pass in what feels like minutes. He can’t even fathom the finish line that I know will be upon me soon enough. Blink and it’s over, the blessing and curse of life as a mere mortal.
Wednesday bored my leg and I to tears, which is nice sometimes. It feels good to not have to give it a bother, to not even realize it did all it needed to do without complaint or even a second thought. That doesn’t happen very often.
My leg took me for a walk on Thursday, a slow suburban one. One where I listened to a podcast I didn’t even know I needed to hear. This particular Ten Percent Happier podcast began with the question, “How would you handle it if you got a terrible diagnosis?” I laughed. Not as gracefully as I would have thought, I answered in my head.
For the next hour I walked and listened to a brilliant young woman describe what her life was like after a diagnosis of leukemia just as her young adult years were blossoming. I don’t have leukemia and, while desmoid tumors can kill, it is unlikely mine will ever kill me. So I can’t imagine what it was like to be forced to contemplate mortality at such a young age.
I do, however, know the isolation, confusion, and loneliness of a devastating diagnosis. I know what it’s like to have an atom bomb thrown into your life. I’m familiar with the shock of being a perfectly healthy human one day, then sick and debilitated the next. Some experiences are so unique you find yourself a member of a club you never even knew existed with no directions on how to proceed. Listening to her words made me feel less alone and, as a person with a rare disease, that feeling doesn’t come around often.
By Friday my leg and I were back to normal life. My leg took me up the hill to the office where I get my blood drawn. This hill always surprises me because it doesn’t look so steep from the back of the parking lot, but once I’ve jogged the whole thing (as I’m usually running late) my leg is screaming and my lungs are begging for air. I had a panic attack once here, in my car after the hard stuff was over. I fear it will happen to me every time. It didn’t happen this time, but all I can think about is the next.
I rewarded myself with an everything bagel because small victories deserve carbs. Ace was very excited to see me when I got home. Well, let’s be real. He was mostly excited about the prospect of me dropping that bagel. But we all tell ourselves little white lies sometimes just to make the bitter pills of life go down easier.
He didn’t get any of my bagel, but he got to play ball with my leg and I. Then he got to take us on another stroll around the neighborhood. One where the sky was so many shades of blue and pink and sometimes orange. One where he barked at cars, so much so that a little boy riding his two wheeler beside us called him a mean dog. And I laughed because that boy is not entirely wrong.
That walk didn’t involve any emotional epiphanies like the last one. It didn’t make me feel any more or less alone. I wasn’t awestruck by any of the views. But it did remind me that my leg, for all its problems, can still do most of the things I need it to. And that, in and of itself, is pretty damn spectacular.
So if you were to ask me where my leg took me this week, I wouldn’t know how to answer. I suppose I could say it took me to do laundry, climb a great big rock, do the dishes, walk the dog. By looking at me, you wouldn’t think any of that is much of a big deal. So I guess my only answer would be, my leg took me where I needed to go. And for that, I’m grateful.