Tag Archives: back pain

Pain as a Gift?

Dare I think – even breathe in the quietest of voices that my back may be improving just the slightest bit?  I ask this as a question because the only thing I noticed that was different about this past week is that I was able to sit long enough to finish a painting:

It’s been over two months since I’ve been able to sit at length for anything, including meals, without being on medication every four hours. 

My last post was very raw, emotional and honest.  I wasn’t sure what kind of feedback I’d get.  When comments started coming in from you who mean the most to me here – my online family, I was touched by your words of encouragement and understanding.  Your comments allowed me to see that I sometimes tend to put way too much pressure on myself. Thank you for pressing the reset button on my thought process.  I think I’m slowly climbing out of my hole. 

I spoke with a good friend of mine on the phone this weekend who gave me a lot of food for thought.  She questioned whether or not I’d ever considered that my pain was a gift and that perhaps it was here for a reason.  Pain as a gift?  Hmm….

I’d mentioned in a previous post that my style of painting began to change markedly for the better when working on my recently finished crane.  I thought about it and indeed found it odd that my style of painting completely changed during my time with him which was incidentally the same week I was suffering from crippling back pain.  Comparing my earlier paintings to the ones I’ve finished since this bout of pain began looks as though two different artists were at work.  Maybe my lesson in all of this was to learn how to be the painter I’ve always wanted to be. 

Accepting pain as a gift is by no means easy.  Especially when it is chronic; never-ending.  But I have made the decision to look at it this way even if I don’t feel it, for three reasons:

1. It changes my sour attitude about it

2. It’s way better than feeling sorry for myself, and

3. It would be comforting to walk away feeling as though I’ve gained something from this experience.

Now, if I could just be given the chance to utilize what I’ve learned without distraction I’d be a much less grumpy individual.  Hopefully that’s something I can soon say with complete confidence.



Today’s post brought to you by the letter M


I’ve been scarce, lately.  No post since Monday, and I’ve not been reading any blogs, either.  In fact, I’ve barely been on the computer.  I haven’t exactly gone missing but it kind of feels like it.  So, here’s what’s going on….


…as in, Monday I have an MRI scheduled for my lower back.  It’s getting increasingly worse. Acupuncture has not helped; in fact, it seems to make my back feel even more angry.  I’ve been rotating between walking and laying down.  I can’t sit for more than 5 minutes at a time (unless I’m pretty medicated) and standing still is impossible.  So, I’m either walking on the treadmill at a slow but steady pace or I’m on the floor doing yoga stretches.  This has made my time in the studio very challenging.  I can’t paint and walk at the same time so I’m doing very short but furious bursts in between.  Not an easy task.  Still, I did manage to finish this little guy:

I went to the doctor yesterday and there may be a change in my diagnosis of degenerative disc disease.  He used words like bulging and/or ruptured disc. I asked him point-blank whether the excess weight in my younger days could have contributed to my condition.  Of course he couldn’t answer this with complete certainty but he assured me that if I were still carrying around those extra 100+ pounds I could likely be completely immobile right now.  This brings me to something I cannot stress enough: don’t abuse your body.  Respect every aspect of it, because It has to serve you the rest of your life.

Minus the Mister:

Tomorrow, my husband and I were supposed to be heading to Arizona to visit his sister.  I had to make the difficult decision to give up my ticket.  Sitting that long is an impossibility for me.  This was not an easy choice, but it’s the only answer for me if I want to protect my back from further irritation.  Besides, couldn’t you just see me in Arizona and then have my back go out?  I mean yes, there are worse things than being stuck in Arizona but what a nightmare that would be!  After a long discussion, I convinced my husband to go without me.  At least one ticket will be used and honestly, he really needs to get to a warmer climate for a few days.  Working outside in this single digit weather can be unbelievably draining.  So, it looks like I’m going to be a bachelorette for a few days.


As part of my decision to continue with my Gratitude Jar, it has become easier to find things to be grateful about even when I could feel sorry for myself for having another health crisis less than a year after major surgery.  Since walking eases my pain, it’s been a breeze maintaining my weight.  Chronic pain kind of takes away my appetite, anyway.   I can’t imagine what it would be like if I were completely unable to move.  I swear I’ll never again complain about my ‘dreadmill’.  It has literally saved my sanity.

All right folks, I’m outta here for now.  Be good to yourself this weekend and I’ll see you back here sometime next week. 



Mail Call: Answering a question about weight loss

Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to have many people from all over the US contact me because of the article in Woman’s Day Magazine.  Most inquiries are from women who share their own struggles with weight loss; others offer encouraging words or have questions about how I’ve been able to maintain for so long. 

This weekend I received an email from a woman who asked this question:

What snapped you into action?  I read in the article that you decided to lose weight shortly after your dad’s death, but was wondering if there was a specific moment that made you say to yourself, ‘from today on, no matter what, I’m never going to be this heavy again.’ 

I think that maybe what she was asking was whether or not I had experienced one of Oprah’s ‘aha’ moments – an event or significant happening that started my path towards a healthier lifestyle .  Let me share with you this story:

When I started college I had no idea that I’d gain roughly 15 pounds every year for the next 6 or 7 years.  By the time I hit my all time high, the only medical problem I had was degenerative disc disease, aka: a bad back – though I wouldn’t be properly diagnosed until many years later. One thing I did know however – the more weight I carried, the worse my back became. 

One day, my mother called and asked if she could bring my oldest brother over for a visit.  My brother, who is mentally handicapped, had come home for a few days and wanted to come over.  I had some laundry to do so I let my mother know that I’d be leaving the front door unlocked in case they arrived  while I was still in the basement. 

I put a load of laundry into the washing machine and walked up the stairs.  There was some mail on the counter that I quickly perused;  when I turned to toss the junk mail into the trash, I felt a rippling sensation in my lower back that brought me to my knees, then flat on my back onto the kitchen floor.  Every time I tried to move, the spasms knocked the wind out of me.  I was literally paralyzed from pain. 

It’s okay.  It’s fine, I thought. Mom will be here any minute and she’ll help me up.  I heard the doorbell ring and yelled, ‘Come in!  I’m in the kitchen!’  Moments later, I could see two pairs of legs walk up towards me and heard my mother say, ‘Good lord, what happened to you?’  I tried to explain that my back went into severe spasms every time I attempted to move, but my brother, whom I’d already forgotten was standing behind my mom began singing in an amused voice, ‘My sister’s having a seizure!  Are you having a seizure Ellen?  Mom, Ellen’s having a seizure! Seizure, seizure!’  **Side note: if you’re wondering whether its appropriate to laugh at this part of the story, the answer is yes.  In fact to this day, my brother who never forgets anything, still asks me when I’m going to have another seizure because he wants to be there when the fire trucks come!**  Both Mom and I tried to explain to him that I was NOT having  seizure; I’d simply hurt my back but he liked his version better – way more exciting! 

My idea of being helped to my feet was a joke.  Any attempt to lift my legs from the ground sent my back into wild, debilitating spasms.  If I lifted my head the same thing would happen.  Finally, with my mother’s urging and brother’s observances, ‘Ellen’s going to swallow her tongue’ , yes she is.’ I relented and allowed Mom to call for an ambulance. 

Less than ten minutes later the front of my house looked like the scene of a recent crime.  There was a fire truck blocking the street, with lights flashing.  Two police cars pulled up behind it, and an ambulance was on it’s way.  The firemen arrived in the house first and one of them was carrying a backboard.  I panicked and my first thought was: how many of them is it going to take to move me from here out to an ambulance?   To make things even worse, I knew one of the firemen.  We hadn’t seen each other since high school. At first he didn’t recognize me.  The vulnerability and humiliation I felt dropped like a lead balloon when my mother told him my name. I watched as his shock quickly changed to composure. 


Have you ever been so overwhelmed by something that your mind makes the decision to shut itself down in order to refrain from having to deal with what’s happening?  Yeah well, I tried that and it didn’t work.  So, I made the decision that no matter what I was simply going to keep my eyes closed so I didn’t have to look at anyone or anything around me. 

I heard things like my mom talking on the phone trying to make arrangements for someone to drive my brother home while she accompanied me to the hospital.  I listened and answered questions as the paramedics took my medical history and blood pressure.  I heard the firemen discuss how many of them it would take in order to get me safely down two flights of steps and out into the ambulance (the answer was four).  I kept my eyes shut tight as I held a death grip onto one of the firemen’s arm as they tilted and angled me from side to side until we were safely on the sidewalk; my eyes remained closed as the kids from the neighborhood asked ‘Did that lady get shot?  Is she dead?’  I wished for that moment to end – not because of the excruciating pain I was in, but because I wondered if it were possible for someone to literally die from embarrassment.  On the street waiting for me was a gurney to which I was transferred. They lifted my body into the ambulance and closed the doors.  Slowly, I opened my eyes. 

It took over 10 days before I would recover enough to return to work.  From that period and for the next 5 years my back would go out 3 more times.  I have permanent damage as a result of these bad discs but luckily since meeting my goal weight, my back hasn’t gone out since. 

Not until that day had I ever been more conscious of how heavy I was.  I can still feel my cheeks get warm when think of the embarrassment I felt.  I’d like to be able to tell you that on that day I made the decision to change my life and begin a healthier lifestyle.  It would make for a great ‘aha’ moment, but it simply didn’t happen.  I continued to gain.  Then my father died.  It’s true that shortly after the funeral I awoke and knew that on that day I was ready for a change, but it wasn’t immediately after his death.  I remember using food to numb my grief long after the funeral was over.  

My thought is this:  maybe some people have an ‘aha’ moment.  Maybe a major event takes place and at precisely that time a wave of energy floods that person and he or she feels forever changed.  I do believe that for ever action there is a reaction, but sometimes our reaction to negative things comes in the form of a seed that’s planted.  For every embarrassing moment, every humiliating experience, I tried to carry on the way I always had because I thought it proved I was strong enough to rise above it.  Though I didn’t acknowledge it at that time, those seeds were there – and they were growing.   The day I decided to change my life was most likely a day like any other, except for the fact that I had outgrown the ability to ignore what was happening within me.  I couldn’t shut my eyes any longer so I opened them, took a deep breath, and started a new path. 


Perhaps some of you can help answer this woman’s question from your own point of view.  Did you have a moment that snapped you into action, or was it small changes along the way that brought you to a better place in your life?

1 quick note B 4 Wkd

Much to gripe about say.  Little time. 

Condensed version.

Still sick.   Yuck. 

Wednesday = blur.  Husband called. 

“Honey…help!  Come get me.  Back went out. Can’t walk.  Stuck on a lunch counter stool.”

No fever delirium.  I heard correctly. 

Wrapped up. Drove to restaurant. 

Message to two waitresses and one frequent diner: thank you for helping me get my husband into the car. 

Drove home.  Husband crawls on all fours to get into house.

Thrown-out back trumps a cold.  Time to buck-up. 

Him: doctor visit, steroids, muscle relaxer, pain medication. Me: zinc, Vitamin C, lots of tea, tissue with lotion (Ahhh…)

Him: off in dreamland.  Me:  winner of Wife of the Year award (I, I….I have so many people to thank!)

No writing; no reading.  No energy.  No time. 

Friday = Thank God it’s….

Back in full swing on Monday.  All will be well with the world again.

Let it be so.

C U then.




The Day of Baking that Never Was

Good morning everyone! 

I am sitting here drinking my morning tea (sweet potato pie flavored – YUM!) and thinking about all of you who were sick (Fat Mom, Tim, Lanie) or had sick kids (FAB) or on holiday visiting parents (Michele, Mary) or had some kind of mishap which left a body part aching (Girly Girl, Cammy, Kelly, Me). 

Yep, add me to the list.  I was walking merrily to my car and walked straight into some black ice, slipped, caught myself so that I wouldn’t look like a bigger clown and ended up pulling a muscle in my back. 

Needless to say, I did NOT end up making any pumpkin bread.  Instead, I came straight home after work and spent the rest of the day dreaming about sugar plums and candy canes while doped-out on muscle relaxers.  I do feel better this morning even though I’m super stiff, but family and friends will have to forgive me for not having anything to hand out this year :(

I’m going to spend the next few moments reading how everyone else’s day is going and then  work on getting out of this groggy stupor I’m in.  Fair warning: if I leave any of you comments that you don’t understand, blame it on the meds……I haven’t fallen off the deep end.