Your health is Yours. Own it.
By Florence C. (Spain)
I lost the use of my left arm progressively between 1989 and 2001. At the beginning there were tremors and loss of strength in certain positions. Then I started losing muscle in my back, having dreadful migraines. I had to stop working, stop participating in fun activities people my age were doing – I was in my twenties and early thirties throughout the ordeal. By the end I couldn’t get dressed by myself, my arm was a dead weight. I couldn´t drive, couldn’t even lift a piece of paper.
I went to countless doctors in the Netherlands where I lived at the time, in Belgium where I thought doctors offered better quality, and in Spain. It was a marathon. Nobody could help, nobody knew what I had or why I was in so much pain. I took painkillers galore, almost in vain. I underwent neuroreflextherapy, which is basically the strategic placing of surgical staples on pain nerves to stop them from producing P substance. That helped with the migraines. I had staples all over my back for a year and a half which left lovely scars afterwards. Surgeons had strange suggestions (let’s remove a whole rib!!) without guaranteeing the results. It was nuts, surreal. I was in disbelief the whole time.
Why was it so difficult to help me? I was told I was truly annoying for demanding an MRI. I was insulted by the doctors. I spent most of my days in the dark due to the migraines. I had no future, and having children was out of the question because with one arm and this much pain, I mean, how was that going to work out? But hey, I was annoying! My (ex) husband was totally fed up. My family was far away in another country and couldn´t understand why doctors were not finding anything, and my in-laws were convinced I was a lazy liar making it up. The loneliness felt like a soul-destroying black hole.
But I overcame all of this, and it has made me soooo strong. I feel indestructible at times. It taught me patience and absolute resilience. It taught me to rely on myself and not be dependent. It taught me to choose better the people in my life. It taught me that there is light at the end of the tunnel but you need to do something about it. One day I decided to take matters into my own hands. One day, I hated so much my pain and my life, I decided I was going to recuperate my arm, my body, my health, my independence, and my life. I hadn’t been fighting, I had been enduring, and I was letting others decide for me. So I researched every single ailment relative to shoulder and back, where were the best doctors and surgeons. I learned it all. I made a plan and I made it happen. Once I turned that switch on in my head I was unstoppable. I had regained control.
I got the money I needed and I left for NYC. I found a fantastic surgeon who fixed me. He chose the physical therapist, also an amazing professional. After a year and half of exercising every day for 3 to 4 hours, I got my arm back with almost no pain. And after that, I became a top-notch therapist myself because people in pain don’t deserve less. I love helping others. I needed to help others to channel the anger. I needed to put some love where there had been so much indifference. And when patients tell me sometimes their heartbreaking ordeals which remind me of my own, I do everything in my power to convince them they need to take control.
Your health is yours. Own it.