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From Using a Walker to Climbing a Bell Tower: An Experience That Changed My Entire Perspective
Some of you might not be aware, but early last year I had to undergo major surgery to alleviate some severe health issues that had been developing over several years. While talking about the details of my diagnosis, health,
and recovery might not be the easiest task, my work requires that my clients share some of their most personal details with me, so I decided that this month (a little over a year since my surgery) was the perfect time for me to share this with you. Since 2015, I felt like I was losing strength and stamina, and the way these losses manifested was through chronic pain in my lower back and pelvic area. I’ve always been an active person, so when the pain prevented me from running — and even caused me to fall on several occasions — I sought help from several healthcare providers. None of them could explain my symptoms or resolve them. After months without answers, I felt like my body was “slowing down,” and the stress of not knowing why was all-consuming. Everything I experienced during that time made me feel for my clients, many of whom are several decades older than I am. Just as so many of them come into the office and tell me about their unresolved serious health issues and associated distress, I too had to find a way to get on with my life, even when my mind was constantly filled with dread and uncertainty. My body was changing, and I couldn’t figure out why; I was still Geneva, but my body didn’t feel like it was my own anymore.
Thankfully, I found a team of persistent and curious doctors who discovered that I had metabolic issues that were causing my bones to weaken. In the three years that I struggled with the pain, the condition worsened: small cracks developed into full-blown fractures in both of my femurs. With the help of an endocrinologist, and with surgery to repair my damaged femurs, I began walking the path toward addressing my metabolic issues and getting my body back to what it had been like before the pain started. Just over a year ago this month, I underwent surgery to repair both femurs simultaneously. After leaving the hospital, my recovery period started with the use of a walker, but after hours of physical therapy I was able to graduate to crutches, then one crutch, then a cane, etc. I finished my last physical therapy session in December of 2018, and after over ten months of difficult and time-consuming rehabilitation, the most arduous part of my recovery period was officially over. Still, the impact the injury had on my approach to everyday life continues to play a role in my psyche. For example, I now notice whether a sidewalk has curb cuts because when I was using a walker and crutches, it was hard to get up and down from the curb without
a ramp. It’s a seemingly small change in my perspective, but it’s emblematic of the lack of accommodation that exists in our country for people with physical ailments or disabilities — I couldn’t have understood the depth of this frustration without experiencing it myself. To celebrate the end of my recovery period, my fiancé, Fred, and I traveled to Europe, a vacation filled with amazing plans I wouldn’t have been able to do pre-diagnosis. One of those plans included climbing the 500 stairs to the top of the bell tower in the Cathedral Church of St. Peter in Cologne, Germany, a real testament to my hours of physical therapy! All in all, while the emotional minefield that permeated my life for the last several years was certainly difficult to navigate, I’m thankful for the perspective it has given me. I can be more sensitive to the challenges my clients face because I’ve struggled through them myself, and I take solace in the small feats that make life worth living.
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