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From Grief to Gratitude \

had just recovered from a spinal fusion, when I heard the doctor say

these words, “You have an incurable, progressive, neuromuscular disease!” I tried to absorb his words, but little did I know then, it would take me years to fully accept his diagnosis. After I left the office, I remember

walking to my car and feeling angry at the doctor. I ranted and raved aboutwhy it took so long to figure this out. It seems this was a disease I'd had most of my life, but was undiagnosed until now. And it was only diagnosed now because I'd a c c i d e n t a l l y stepped on a sewing needle and was not aware that it was embedded in my foot because of so much numbness.Of course, it was not the doctor's fault, but

I was

experiencing anger, one of the stages of grief. And I didn't know it then, but that was only the beginning. Keep in mind that at the time I was 50

years old and working two jobs. A strong, independent woman at that. It was not long until I had to letmy jobs go because I began having a lot ofmuscle pain.Alongwith that came ankle fusions that required months of recovery and later braces. It seemed I could not stay out of the hospital or doctor's office. In the meantime, because of the stress taking its toll on the neuromuscular disease, my pain escalated and that was even more conducive to anger. I remember the first time I went out in

public with my new ankle brace. I felt as if all eyes were upon me. I was attempting to get out of the car and couldn't because another car had parked too close besideme. My frustration level had reached its limit, and I felt as if I'd scream at the top of my lungs, when I looked over into the car beside me. In the driver's seat, an elderly

gentleman was attempting to put on an oxygen mask. A bit humbled, I bowed my head and said tomyself, “I'll keep the brace, Lord.” I had another dilemma as I adjusted to

the scooter. My doctor at Emory helped me with that by saying, “These are handicapped devices, simply there to help you. Use them and save your energy for something more important like bathing.” I really heard his words, yet I didn't realize

by Glenda Barrett

shopping done in record time, when I rounded a corner going too fast. To my surprise, a nice-looking gentleman jumped out of my way. After apologizing to him, I drove away smiling to myself, proud of how far I'd come in acceptingmy situation. You knowthe kind of anger that seethes

just below the surface that can lash out when you least expect it? I am sorry to say that I displayed that more than one time to family members. Unsure of how to live my new life, I felt a need to do things on my own.

In attempts to

help me, friends and family often would go ahead with what they thought I needed without asking me. More than once I said, “You don't know what I need unless you ask me.” And they didn't know what to make of this new, rude person in their

lives. I

remember one day saying to a family member, “My mind is still good,” letting

how hard it would be. Never one to let anyone do anything for me, I felt like I was giving up in some way. It took me several tries before I could get the nerve up to ride through the store. Finally, the pain got the best of me as I tried to walk so I eventually gave in. As I rode through the store, I tried to appear positive, but inside I felt as if I was a hundred years old. On days when I felt the most vulnerable I'd invariably run into someone that I knew especially since I live in a small town. And it sounded to me as if they shouted for everyone to hear, “What in the world are you doing in that scooter?” One day my anger flared with one lady, and I said, “Oh, I'm just taking it easy.” She walked off saying, “Oh, so you're lazy today!” It took awhile, but I realized one day I'd

come to terms with the scooter. Full of confidence, Iwas in a hurry and gettingmy

30 • Bread ‘ n Molasses September/October 2010

them know I was still quite capable of handling most situations. I also soon learned to ask for what I needed and to say, “I'm sorry I hurt you.” I remember the first time Iwas fitted for

an ankle brace.As the jovial, youngman sat on the floor and wrapped Plaster of Paris around my leg, splashing small puddles of water, I felt anger welling up within me. I was a bit shocked at its intensity. I wanted to lash out at him. Instead, I sat quietly and let him do his work. As I looked inside myself, I realized that grief had ambushed me again over the loss of my ankle. I learned it was necessary for me to

speak up and set boundaries instead of getting upset because I thought people should know what I needed. More than once, folks have said to me, “Well, you look good!” Because I looked good, they thought I felt good and could do whatever

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