Blast From the Past,  Boys To The Rescue,  Deep Thoughts,  Flashback Friday,  Scoliosis,  Spines & Livers & Bones, Oh My!

Miss Dependent

I can’t manage my back problems by myself anymore.  My physical therapist stated the obvious as we were going through a pattern of exercises designed to stretch out my hip flexors and prevent them from over-rotating, which is one way my body compensates for its limited motion between my shoulders and my hips.

“You’ve done a fabulous job of staying fit and flexible,” he said, as he pushed his fingers around my hip bone and held the muscle in place while I slid my leg slowly up and down the table.

I turned on my left side and  relaxed my right shoulder so he could reach under my shoulder blade and pin down the muscle under my scapula.  I raised my arm from the elbow up and down, slowly, as if it were a new part of my anatomy I was testing.  I started sweating as the muscle throbbed through the rotation.

“I’ve seen a lot of patients in much more pain who’ve had considerably less surgery.  You’ve got a lot going on in that back, with all that hardware and the muscles that haven’t moved on their own for years.  I think you’d benefit from being stretched out this way several times a week,” he said, burrowing his fist deeper into my shoulder.  “You’re contracted across your upper back, and by having someone help you lengthen the muscles several times a week you can counteract that effect.”

I was silent, remembering the last time I had to rely on someone to help me with physical therapy.  Before my first spine surgery, my mom and I got up early every morning to do a series of exercises intended to stave off the need for surgery.  My mom handled it perfectly.  She’d wake me up and we’d head to the den, with my mom clapping and singing all the way, like the only thing she had to do or wanted to do all day long was hold my feet and arms in various awkward positions while I twisted and turned, trying to strengthen the muscles on either side of my stubborn spine.

I’ve known this time would come.  For the past several months I’ve had to lie down each afternoon to rest my burning muscles.  At night it’s difficult to sleep when the nerves in my arms and legs tingle and my fingers and toes get numb.  And I know it could be worse.  I remember thinking before that second surgery that I’d be in a wheelchair by the time I was 40 if I didn’t do something drastic.  The surgery was drastic, certainly, but since my recovery I’ve been able to resume most of my activities and Jazzercise without falling on my face or crying in agony.  I’m much better off physically than I have any right to be.

All the same, it was a humbling afternoon when Jon, Bill and I met at therapy so Bill could learn how to work my hips and upper back.  Jon stretched my left hip flexor, then showed Bill how to do it.  Bill’s hands felt familiar, of course, but less certain than Jon’s.

I had to close my eyes and concentrate on the muscles Bill was holding, telling him to pin deeper, or higher, and I reminded myself that while I felt helpless, he was feeling the pressure to get it right.  He had on his “Bucy face,” his look of greatest concentration.  I named this look after a favorite, challenging law professor of ours twenty years ago.  He wore that face every minute of her class, as if he thought that relaxing his jaw and eyebrows would make every bit of criminal law he’d retained magically disappear.

We’re embarking on a new era, one in which I’ll have to depend on him to help me manage this body, with all its frailties and kinks.  Our plan is to try the exercises at night, and to look around for a massage table so that we won’t have to get on the floor to work out.  I have a hard time getting up and down from the floor, and it’s easier for the therapist (or husband) to perform the maneuvers in a standing position.

I’ve talked with the boys and told them my back just isn’t as strong as it used to be.  I might lie down more often in the afternoons, or need a bit more help around the house, particularly with lifting laundry and groceries.  I explained to them that Daddy and I would be working on my back so I could stay strong, and that if they wanted to watch or to  learn how to help with the exercises,  I’d love it.  I grew teary when I talked to them.  I’m used to being the savior, not the saved.

Finn was sympathetic, hugging me, telling me it would be fine, pointing out all the activities I could do.  Drew listened and reminded me that he loves to chop ingredients for dinner as long as he has a good knife.  Porter assured me he’d still snuggle with me every morning while we listen to NPR.

And so this Flashback Friday, I’m looking back at  our family as it was , and how we are now. And I’m wondering how the future will be.  But I suppose that’s true for all of us.


Family Portrait 2000


Me and the guys, 2009


Me and my new therapist

It’s your turn to join Flashback Friday.  Directions are here.


  • angie

    You have such a wonderful family, I’m praying my small ones will grow up to be as compassionate and responsible as your boys. If you have the time and can find a comfortable position for surfing the web, you should check out Stephanie Nielson’s blog. Read back through her archives – she was inspiring before her accident, but I am even more humbled by her posts following it.

    I hope her thoughts bring you some measure of comfort, I will be praying for you!


  • Rebecca

    It’s so hard to rely on others isn’t it – especially when you’re independent by nature. You will be in my thoughts and prayers as you begin this next phase.
    My Flashback Friday post will publish at 7:33 am – but I listed my link already b/c we’ll be heading out of town.

    Rebecca’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday, 4/8/09

  • Rachel

    Hang in there Anne! You are a tough, determined lady, which I’m sure has much to do with the fact that you are doing as well as you are. Thank heavens for all your handsome guys to lean on and help you out…!

    Rachel’s last blog post..Schwabisch Hall has it All

  • Amanda

    Sounds like quite an adjustment–but you write about it SO well. I won’t lie–I teared up a little and I wish I could give you a hug! Also, you’re obviously raising very good sons. 🙂

    Amanda’s last blog post..Slacker

  • Cute~Ella

    Anne, I’m so sorry to hear of this. It’s difficult to rely on others. So hard. But your boys love you and with all of their help, you’ll get through this too. You have a great attitude about it all too…and the new therapist (if I may be so bold) is quite the hottie. 🙂

    Cute~Ella’s last blog post..13 Mushroom Caps I Will Not Stuff

  • Catherine

    I know you to be a silver lining sort of gal. As I read this I thought how lucky Anne is to have a household of Glamore men that can help her. They have the strength she currently does not. While not the position you wanted to be in, still a fortunate one.

    Catherine’s last blog post..Christmas, 1974

  • Rachel

    Even though I don’t know you and your family, I feel like I do through your blog!

    Regardless of your back full of hardware, you have so much to offer your boys, more than a lot of parents do, or bother to. You’re awesome! I plan on being bad-ass, even after I’m confined to a jazzy-chair.

    Rachel’s last blog post..Who Is This Child?

  • rhonda

    I can empathize how its harder to be taken care of than to be the one taking care of everything. But I do know this- your family loves you, and WANTS to help you, because they love you.

    And I agree with your therapist- you have done an excellent job taking care of your back. Let the others help you however they can.

    Giving you a big ole virtual hug!

  • Holly

    Think of the silver lining: the therapy will bring you and Bill even closer, and teach your sons even more compassion.

    Take care of yourself, Anne. A little extra TLC won’t hurt you, other than your pride (that one always causes trouble, doesn’t it? It gets me every time).

  • Alice

    I want to find the right words, but there aren’t any that will take away your pain, which is what I really wish were possible.

    You have a group of really amazing people in your family – I wish that you were getting to enjoy that in a lighthearted, pain-free context, but you and they are simply wonderful.

  • Brandy

    Your backbone may not be as strong as you wish it were, but you will always be the backbone of this family. Whether you’re struggling to cope with this horrible pain and the havoc it’s causing or rocking out in the mini-van with your posse, Bill and the boys know you’re the glue that keeps this unit together. I know it’s hard to accept help because you’re used to doing it all, but helping you is their way of assuring you all stay stuck together.

    Brandy’s last blog post..Flashback Friday: Interesting utterances from Amelia

  • Marissa

    What a wonderful job you (and Bill) have done raising those boys to be so helpful and caring.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you right now. You are a very strong woman, and with your guys helping, you will be okay.

    Marissa’s last blog post..My Weekend. With Pictures.

  • kate

    I am so sorry to hear of your pain. I have been through two scoliosis surgeries myself. I know the pain. I know the frustration. I know how hard it is to go from place to place looking for a cure. To have so many people tell you that they understand but in reality not have a clue what it feels like. I have been there too…and all I can say is I am sorry.

    I tried all the tricks and methods and in the end had the equipment taken out of my back. It is not a cure all by any means but it has left me with less pain. It may mean at some point the rods will have to go back in but for now I have less pain than I have had in years.

    Feel better. A supportive family is the best medicine and it appears you have a great one!

  • Susan

    For better or for worse, in sickness & in health. Your husband is doing for you what you would do for him if the situation were reversed. Raising your boys the way you have has taught them responsibility with compassion. You make an awesome team. blessings. Susa

  • Ladybird

    Sending you love and support. My husband had back surgery in April of last year. As the spouse of a back-surgery survivor, let me say that I don’t mind helping with the excercises at all. As a matter of fact, I think it brings us closer. I know that he would do the same for me in a heartbeat. Feel better.

    Ladybird’s last blog post..Happy Birthday Birddog!!!

  • Tanja

    Dear Anne, I have been reading your blog since your iVillage days as I like the way you write. I have been able to relate to your stories many times but today I especially appreciate your honesty. I have an aunt who is now in her sixties and who during childhood developed severe scoliosis which affected her growth and health in general. Unfortunately she grew up without her mother (the father was not much help)and so she learned to depend on herself. She is driven and determined to take care of herself to such extent that the rest of her family does not really know how awful this can be nor we appreciate how well she is doing by herself. Your blog has explained many things, thank you. I wish you all the best and feel better soon!

  • Erin

    You’re in my prayers. I’m glad you have such a great support system. Thank goodness you have such sweet, strong boys to help you. When you are down about the dependence on your family just remember they love you and want to help you. I’m sure they get a lot of satisfaction out of helping the woman who made them who they are.

    Erin’s last blog post..DSC05182

  • Barbara

    I am so sorry to read of your continuing health issues. The internet can be a wonderful place, where you “meet” people and come to care for them. I am wishing you all the best.

  • Lisa

    Anne, I am so glad that you have such a wonderful, caring, helpful family to help you through this. I got teary just reading about it. You are definitely strong to be able to deal with this; my back got weak just thinking about it!

    Lisa’s last blog post..The ever depressing news…

  • ChristheHoosiergirl

    I feel your pain. I broke my arm in December, at the elbow joint. After being in more pain than I thought I could be in during physical therapy, x-rays confirmed that I compressed a bone in my right elbow. It will impede movement for the rest of my life. While it could be worse, it’s been very, very hard for me. Things I never really thought about before, like putting on a necklace or tying my bathing suit behind my neck, are now impossible. I will never do those things on my own again. I have 3 wonderful men in my life, my husband and 2 sons. My husband works nights and gets home after midnight every night, yet he got up 3 mornings a week for 8 weeks to take me to physical therapy at 6 a.m. before I went to work and he never complained once. You don’t know love until your 15 year old son gets down on his knees in Target and ties your shoe because he knows you can’t do it for yourself. Or when you’re doing pushups as best you can and your 12 year old gets down there to do them with you, even though he doesn’t need the workout. While I’m sad that my arm will never be the same, I’m happy to know that my boys love and support me unconditionally. I guess I always knew that, but since I, like you and probably like 99% of the mothers out there, have always been the one who takes care of others instead of having them take care of you, I’ve never had the opportunity to truly know what that means. You’re lucky to have these men in your life and you should be proud (like I am) that you raised such compassionate wonderful boys. Good luck to you and when it hurts like hell, try to keep in mind that God sent you people to help you through your pain.

  • Lauren Waldron

    When I was in massage school, I had to buy a table on very little money. I managed to get one at Costco, or maybe Sams, for around $200. It’s not as fancy as the nice ones at salons, but it does the trick! I don’t know if they still have them, since this was 6 or 7 years ago, but it may be an option. Good luck! We love reading your blog, especially since my husband used to teach percussion at the elementary school and knows your son!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.