Hallelujah Highway

Celebrating the Journey

You are such a Pain in the Neck ~ Rae

on November 27, 2013

pain in neck

I wish I had a good story to tell. Maybe something like- I was bunging jumping or how about-I leapt out of a burning building’s second story window with a kitten in my arms. But no, there is no interesting anecdote; about 4 months ago my neck just started hurting.

I have tried not to be a wimp about the pain, but what really started bothering me was my shoulder blade. I had my husband repeatedly massage there but the ache would never go away. I kept thinking it’s simply a pulled muscle and it would take some time to heal. My neck and shoulder were tight all the time and sleep at night was nearly impossible. I was constantly shaky and snappy (my poor family!). Then my bicep began throbbing like it was on fire.  Yet it wasn’t until the nerve from my neck to my right thumb felt like millions of ants constantly marching down my arm that I finally went to urgent care.

 The first doctor spent a whole 5 minutes with me and merely prescribed pain pills and muscle relaxers.  When those offered no relief after a few weeks I went back to urgent care where a second doctor, who spent 10 minutes with me, added physical therapy, because he believed I had a pinched nerve. The physical therapist actually spent a fair amount of time measuring my range of motion and noticed the locked up muscle on the right side of my neck. This was causing me to look like the Hunch Back of Norte Dame (OK- OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration but it was visibly obvious that one side of my neck was swollen). The Physical Therapist gave me a medieval torture device (furthermore confirming in my mind that I was in danger of becoming the hunch back) to hang over the door at home to put me in traction for 15 minutes a day.

Did it work? Let’s just say that while my family quite enjoyed the show I still didn’t receive any reprieve.

So it was after months and various trips to urgent care that I finally made an appointment with my primary care physician. My doctor berated me for waiting so long, claiming it was usually men who were that stubborn. I retorted that I hadn’t wanted to be a baby that ran to the hospital every time I pulled muscle.

He ordered an MRI.

Father you were there for me when my back was against the wall

You held me up above my troubles when all I did was call

You answered every prayer

No matter what request it was

And when I asked you why you did it

You replied- because of love

The day the doctor called me to give me the results of my MRI was the 25th anniversary of my Aunt Donna’s death from a brain tumor.  I was 14 years old when she died. To be totally accurate, according to the family tree she was my second cousin, but in life she was always my Aunt. I practically lived at her house every summer and she would arrange a week long beach trip for her daughters and me
every spring break. Many of my fondest childhood memories include her in them. Her fight with cancer was my first real exposure and experience with death. I remember walking around her house after she died in a daze fully expecting her to come around the corner with her wide and ever present smile. But she was gone. I wrote the poem above while sitting in her bedroom after her funeral.

25 years later I still remember this poem word for word in my head. In my time of sorrow I wrote a poem of praise. I wish I could be like that now. Apparently 14 year old me was better balanced than 39 year old me. I think 14 year old Rae might be a little disappointed at how I have been handling life recently. She would tell me that my current sour disposition was a waste of the wonderful life God has given me even if I am in pain. She would wonder why I had stopped dancing and she would be heartbroken to know I haven’t yet written that book I always dreamed about. She might even tell me that the cause of the pain in my neck was ME and how I am handling stress.

And she might be right.

As the doctor told me the results of my MRI I found myself reflecting on Donna. If she could smile and love through a brain tumor I can surely handle the 3 deteriorating cervical discs that the MRI revealed.

So as I look forward to (probably wrong choice of words) a visit with a neurosurgeon next week, I try to keep 14 year old positive me and brave beautiful Donna in the forefront of my mind. Even if I do have surgery, I am still living a seriously blessed life. I have a fantastic family, wonderful friends, I work for the best school district and I am confident of my Savior’s love for me.

So this Thanksgiving I am going to attempt to be thankful for the pain in my neck, 14 year old me, my Aunt Donna and all the lessons that I can learn from them.


Happy Thanksgiving Friends


The Hunch Back of Riverside




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