Dem Bones

March 31, 2014 at 4:53 pm (Uncategorized)

“You really have bad luck.” This—or some version of it—is something I’ve heard quite a lot of since I fell down a flight of stairs and wound up with a broken right ankle to go with my broken left foot.

At first, I agreed wholeheartedly. I have rotten luck. Not only do I have sarcoidosis, but I have a particularly pernicious form of the disease that affects my lungs, heart, brain, liver, skin, and bones. As if it weren’t bad enough to have a lousy disease, the stupid sarcoidosis has hollowed out my bones. Hence the broken left foot.   What horrendous luck then—on top of all this other unluckiness—to crash down fourteen stairs and unceremoniously bust my right ankle so that I’m stuck in a wheelchair to get around my own house.

Focusing on my extraordinary unluckiness did wonderful things for my sense of self-pity. But not much else. If my goal in life is to feel sorry for myself, I was doing a great job.

There are two main problems with this approach. The first is that I have ambitions other than perfecting my “woe is me” outlook. I have a book to finish, an article to write, and a blog to maintain, not to mention a 10-year old to raise and a husband to love. Once a pernicious case self-pity sets in, I have trouble doing anything but feel sorry for myself. Self-pity is the Ebola virus of emotions: it reproduces rapidly and colonizes an entire personality—to an extremely bad end. The second problem is that it’s not even true that I have ungodly bad luck.  

What I do have is a bad case of connectivity. What do I mean by this? The run of troubles I have are all connected to each other. When you think about it like this, it actually kind of makes sense that I’m in a wheelchair right now. Here’s how it happened: I got stuck with a rare case of a rare disease. That’s definitely unlucky – I won’t argue that one. But what follows from that is a pretty natural case of cause and effect. The disease invaded my bones, which helped weaken them. To treat the disease, doctors put me on massive amounts of prednisone, which has the chief side effect of causing weight gain. I was on a lot of prednisone, so I gained a lot of weight. (Being bed-ridden because of the disease in my brain also didn’t help things on that front.) Carrying 60 extra pounds doesn’t advance the cause of hollowed bones. Nor does another side effect of prednisone, which is to decrease bone density and weaken ligaments and tendons. Given all this, it makes sense that I’d develop a significant stress fracture in my left foot.

But what of my fall down the stairs? Didn’t luck cause that? Maybe. Or maybe not. As she put my left leg in a cast, the doctor warned me not to put any weight on the broken foot. “Otherwise it won’t heal,” she said. This left me to toodle around on a knee scooter, if the surface was flat, or on crutches, if I needed to negotiate stairs. I should also mention that the sarcoidosis in my brain causes bouts of severe vertigo and occasional vision loss. I am not the most steady person on the best of days. Put me off-balance, on crutches, trying to get downstairs to make my kid happy, and it seems more like inevitability than lousy luck that sent me flying down the stairs and winding up with a broken ankle.

I’m not trying to play cute games with cause and effect here. This feels important to me. Rather than cast myself as a victim of dire fate, I’d like to see myself as part of a chain of connectivity. It’s less bleak, and I can live a little easier when I think of what happened in this light—that it’s all connected.

Maybe because I’ve been thinking too much about bones, I’ve had the old song, “Dry Bones” stuck in my head. It’s also a paean to the idea of connectivity: “Toe bone connected to the foot bone/Foot bone connected to the heel bone/Heel bone connected to the ankle bone/Ankle bone connected to the shin bone/Shin bone connected to the knee bone/Knee bone connected to the thigh bone…Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around…Now hear the word of the Lord.”

It should only be a few weeks until my dry—and connected—bones are gonna walk around too.

I hope.

What’s connected in your life? What sequence of cause and effect has brought you to where you now are physically or emotionally?

1 Comment

  1. Cheryl W said,

    Your blog has always been my saving grace, Rebecca. Back on the prednisone train myself before my left eye succumbs to the inflammation that has ravaged it. My right eye (which is the “good one” for now) has sky high pressure and the three hour eye doctor visits are getting old. I came home from having 14 tubes of blood drawn today and ate… and ate. Feeling the physical hunger from the massive amount of prednisone I’m on and the emotional hunger -the reality that I have to give into the toxic drugs I fought so hard to stay off of. The blissful denial was fun for a bit and then that damn reality had to set in. I should probably quit the emotional eating while I’m so early back in the the pred game- I’m told I will be in the game for a while and maybe a little chemo thrown in a couple weeks if they don’t see significant improvement with the pred/Humira combo. Fun times! Hang in there 🙂

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