Saturday, March 17, 2012

Touched by compassion

Daffodils outside McConnell Heart Health Center yesterday

The way things happen, this pain in my abdomen (near the old scar from a hernia repair six years ago) had slowly, slowly been emerging.  Then this week, it began quickly quickly getting worse.

But I went in for my physical therapy yesterday (for the frozen shoulder, result of a fall and broken arm last September - and oh my, how healing drags on).  This PT is very important to me; unless I keep at it, I will never have the strength and range of motion in this arm to play guitar again.  I had recently grasped the unpleasant truth that a frozen shoulder is loosened up only by enduring pain regularly.  Every day at home, too. That's it. I take a pain pill before I go, and it still hurts to the max.

PT is very intimate, someone working with your body and caring about it.  I get to liking these people a lot.  Back when I was first getting lymphedema massage (post-breast cancer in 1997), I used to talk talk to the therapist and then cry, though that kind of PT didn't hurt much. It was like crying in shavasana, after yoga; you relax, it's a safe situation, the tears and healing chemicals just leak out.

Afterward I went over to make an appointment with my doctor. When I told Katie what the problem was, she talked to someone, and said they'd take me right in.  I started to remember how awful it was when the last hernia burst through - this is really extraordinary pain, and demanded flight to the ER and emergency surgery. 

It was a new doctor - my usual Saint, Jason Dapore - was off.  This John Diehl was every bit as sharp and focused.  He poked my abdomen while I stood, then had me lie down, then had me tense the muscles.  Ouch! marked the exact spot, I can feel the little protrusion there now.  Just like last time. Then they wrapped me in nice wide elastic, gave me two extra elastics, and set up a CT scan for Monday morning. (I always get sick on Friday.)

But here's what made me want to write about this.  In the course of questioning me, the new doctor learned that I am still being treated for shingles, and the shoulder, and that we are exploring the question of surgery to remove my old kidneys, which may be harboring infection.  He said quietly, "You really have a lot going on."  Writing that, tears came to my eyes again.

That's what I wanted to write about.  It seems I'd been being brave and matter-of-fact about all this because that's how I was conditioned in my alcoholic family:  never show weakness. After the doctor left the room, to my surprise, I started to cry.  Yes, I really do have a lot going on, and my left ankle's been aching again, too. I felt my insides - my heart - soften, my whole being softened toward myself.  I thought, That's the power of compassion.  Someone noticing. Listening. Affirming your reality.  It felt like an important spiritual experience to soften where I didn't know I was hard. And to feel physically how much even a light touch of compassion can mean.


  1. I am sorry this is how life presents itself to you at this time. I can imagine that you think that everyone around you is fine, but we are all close to this happening when we least expect it. No one gets out of here alive!

  2. Perception is everything, eh Jeanne? Oh well, you absolutely deserve to wallow a LOT more than you do, but that would never work in the end. The most admirable people I know are the ones who are brave in the face of great adversity. My mother, who suffered terribly from rheumatoid arthritis, was one of those people. We all just have to keep on truckin'.

  3. I'm sorry you have so much going on. You are in my thoughts and are welcome to cry on my virtual shoulder anytime. _/\_

  4. I'd love to give you something
    But what would help?

    Don't worry please please how many times do I have to say it
    There is no way not to be who you are and where

    -- Ikkyu

  5. Wonderful Ikkyu quote above- is that really Ikkyu? How often do i feel like that!

    Dalai Grandma, I remember you being there when I felt mired and I have no idea how to come forth like you did- might not be possible, as I don't have your experience- but I thank you again for the words and gentle reassurance.

    I wonder, sitting here on my Zafu (no chairs in our room), if you can feel the loving kindness I send out to you! I agree, awareness from strangers or anyone of our suffering is very liberating. I hope it keeps coming your way.

    P.S your voice sounds improved, like you are feeling better. True?

    1. Yes, I find that very brief Ikkyu poem in Crow Without a Mouth.
      Thank you. You have a clear, strong voice that makes it natural to connect with you.
      Yes, I have come out of the long depression that went with shingles and more UTI's, and February. And I felt encouraged by being asked to post on the Tricycle blog, and do a Q&A, which just went up. It's helped me understand what I do here.