Conscious Aging: Dealing with Pain

A college friend who lives on the east coast called to check in for the new year; we talk periodically, and see each other when we can. I enjoy her and her husband very much.

W. has had an untoward health event: excruciating pain from an extruded disc that has oozed out between two vertebrae and is pushing on some nerves. She’s had two rounds of physical therapy, which brought no relief, and she remains unable to walk more than five or six steps without being undone by the pain. She is an active woman, and she and her husband love to travel. Now, she is unable even to walk the dog. She has decided to opt for surgery, even though there are apparently roughly even odds that the procedure will help, make things worse, or have little effect at all. If the surgery brings no improvement, she may well have to get one of those electric scooters or a wheel chair to remain mobile.

We all know, at least theoretically, that life can change in an instant. The problem is coping when it does. W. is a person of deep religious faith and has a positive, cheerful outlook on life. But I could hear, in her voice, that their world has turned upside down.

Another friend and I say to each other on a regular basis that every day we wake up knowing who we are, and with everything more or less working, is a good day that we are blessed to have. I affirm that yet again, as I wish my friend fair winds with her medical treatment in the coming weeks.

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