The Third Third

Betrayed: The Year My Body Went to Pot (almost)

So many times. So many, many times, the voice in my head scolded me. “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” Initially, I heard it differently -- more like, “What’s a nice, *young* girl like you doing here?” I was 56, but still. . . . That particular day I told my orthopedic surgeon he should pay me to sit in his waiting room. “I’d be good for business,” I said, in my effort to be so amusing and winsome he would, certainly, have a fix for my aching back. “Everyone else out there looks decrepit!” He was not amused; he insisted those were the other doctors’ patients. Nevertheless, there was a comparison to be made, and I had made it. I wasn’t wearing sweat pants. I didn’t have grey hair (or blue, or none). I wasn’t tripping over a walker. I didn’t need a wheel chair. I had no crutches or canes. There were no casts running the length of my arms or legs. All the other patients had, I observed with more candor than kindness, a good 20 years on me, and at least 50 pounds. I was looking good; I made him look good. But there’s truth in the maxim “Looks are deceiving.” For, unfortunately, I was the one who couldn’t walk the length of my suburban block without feeling as though someone were trying to thread a very heavy-gauge, coarsely-filed screw into my high left buttocks. I was the one forced to stop power-walking through the neighborhood and to approach the supermarket not so much with a shopping list as with a map that promised the most groceries for the fewest steps (and to lean, heavily, on the cart). I became the bag lady (albeit a Neiman Marcus bag) on the bench in the mall, “just resting” until the pain subsided. I eschewed the cavernous warehouse emporia, circled parking lots in search of overlooked or just-emptied close-in spaces, and volunteered at every opportunity to “jump out and hold our place in line” (or get the tickets, or order the ice cream) so I could be dropped off at the door. More often than I care to admit, I was tempted to commandeer a handicapped parking space or, worse, to counterfeit one of those bright blue-and-white tags for my car. I was in pain. Not agony. Just plain, old, relentless pain. And I couldn’t make it stop. I realize that is the nature of pain: you can’t make it stop. It seems to insinuate itself in a place just outside of your control. You can’t ignore it or will it away. Neither ice nor heat, rubbing nor massage, exercise nor rest, medication nor a good stiff drink makes any difference. None of it taken altogether does much either. Yes, I have tried. Despairing, I remembered one of my mother’s more annoying catchphrases, one she would utter with a sigh that suggested she was reminding herself as much as telling me. It was, “This, too, shall pass.” After a year of letting my “discomfort” slowly erode most physical activity and begin to consume my every waking thought, I decided the time had come to apply her wisdom, such as it was. It had been cold comfort in an age of acne, nonexistent dates, butchered haircuts, catty friends, college rejections and the like. But maybe it would work now. Perhaps she was right. Maybe this, too, would pass, and I could get on with my normal healthy life. The doctor, however, was not deterred by my mother’s creed. My bravado and optimism failed to register. The pictures – an MRI, the mylegram, a standing CT scan, the xrays -- he said, showed signs of extensive deterioration. Immediately, I tuned him out. You can’t fix deterioration. It isn’t broken. It’s just worn out. I didn’t want to hear it. While gazing at this handsome young man’s face, I let my mind wander to escape the rest of his words. I wondered why he was divorced, how tall he was, where he got the scar on his chin, and when he had time to date with three young children and an orthopedic practice that has a three month wait for appointments. I may have caught the word “degenerative” -- but that sounded much too old to apply to me, and then I thought I heard “scoliosis,” but that sounded much too young. He couldn’t have been talking about my back. He was supposed to be one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the city; how could he be so careless as to confuse my pictures, my case, my back, for God’s sake, with someone else’s? The voice in my head returned: “What are you doing here?”, with emphasis, this time, on the here. The manners kicked in. They always do. “Gee, thanks for taking the time to explain this to me in such detail.” Then my blind faith in medicine took over. I swung my legs back and forth from my perch on the examining table, making a crinkling noise with the clean, white paper, and asked, “What can we do to fix this mess?” “Not much, Ann,” he confessed. “We can try physical therapy. And you might want to give the injections a shot.” (Was he trying to be clever? Did he think I’d miss the pun? Could this be a test to see if I’d retained my mental faculties in the face of his bad news?) No, he still looked brutally sincere, even a little bored. I tried cute and upbeat again. I smiled – not bravely -- I just smiled. “Well, let’s try it. Can we do both, or does one follow the other?” “Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll fax both orders out today. Start with the P.T. and see if you get any relief. Then whenever you feel like you need the cortisone, just call and make the appointment. I’d like to see you again in three months.” “That means . . .,” I started to say, but he was out the door. What I was going to suggest was that if he were going to see me again, it meant he had more arrows in his quiver, that there was something more he could offer me, should physical therapy and injections fail to relieve my pain. And that’s the script I wrote – and followed. I’d give P.T. a shot, and brave the injection if necessary. But I knew I could return, if need be, for a more dramatic rescue from my pain, and I believed said rescue in fact existed. A physical therapy clinic is a cross between a preschool playground with balls and blocks, and a military obstacle course. Its practitioners are uniformly strong, young, and confident they can help you. They tend to go by the book. That is, they see patients only with prescriptions from physicians, they all seem to have the same set of poorly copied illustrations for exercises related to back pain, and they’re remarkable in their ability to design a “plan” that complies exactly with your insurance company’s allowable number of visits. What they don’t have in common is any consistent intensity or precision with which they supervise a given stretch or contraction. I was still of the school of thought that said if I did whatever they asked of me, and I did it exactly right, for the prescribed number of times every day, it would make the pain go away. So I fretted. Was I lifting the leg high enough, too high? Were my toes supposed to be pointed or flexed? Where exactly should the small of my back be? What did it mean if I couldn’t do my bridges as well on one side as on the other? Why did that particular exercise, involving my arms, shoulders and trunk and an elastic band, exacerbate the pain in my butt? Why did I ask “Why?” in that last instance? Why didn’t I simply tell my therapist, “Hey, that hurts my butt!”? I know why. These folks were my ticket to Normal, and I didn’t want to get kicked off the train. The patients in a P.T. Clinic, on the other hand, fall into two distinct groups: the very young and very athletic who have suffered some kind of injury and need physical rehabilitation to get back on the playing fields; and the considerably more mature and less fit who’ve had back, knee or shoulder surgery. So what was a nice girl like me doing there? I was trying. I was just trying to strengthen whatever it was they deemed I needed to strengthen to get my life back to what I believed it should be. I wanted to play tennis and golf again. I wanted to hike mountain trails. I wanted to learn to cross-country ski. I wanted to work up a sweat working out. I wanted to stand in church without fidgeting from one foot to the other, and to kneel upright. I wanted to watch television, or read at the end of the day without using a heating pad. I wanted to cook dinner, moving around the kitchen on my feet without counting down the minutes until it was OK to open the wine and pour myself a glass. So I flailed my arms and legs in any number of different patterns designed, they said, to strengthen my core. After three years of three times a week 35-minute stints on a well-tuned elliptical trainer, sitting on the fat orange ball and lifting one foot off the ground for five seconds, putting it down and then lifting the other didn’t seem like much exercise. Nor did lying on my side, tightening an imaginary string connecting my knee to my butt. 10 times. In this environment of kitchen timers beeping and sometimes attentive trainers counting, however, you had to be a believer. So I believed. I desperately wanted it to work. Dressed in spandex – as if this were hard-core exercise -- I did the bug, the cat and the hunter dog. Though I looked like a fool, I did them better than most anyone else I saw in the clinic. I couldn’t see how they could ever get better. They cheated, even, not counting to the full set, not extending to the limit. I did them religiously at home. And I didn’t think they were doing a damn thing. I still couldn’t walk – not up the block, not through the store, not around the mall. I still hurt. “Acupuncture!” my friends and family insisted. “Acupuncture! I used to have [Insert any kind of pain, but mostly back pain, severe back pain] and now I’m pain-free.” Testimonials abounded. “You’ve gotta’ try it!” I shrugged. Doubting Thomas had nothing on me. With two physicians and a physical therapist in the family, I knew nontraditional medicine as heresy. But traditional medicine was getting me nowhere. What did I have to lose but my pain? Who said I had to tell anyone? All I had to do was pick from among the seven different practitioners whose cards I had been given by their devotees. I chose the acupuncturist recommended by a woman recently retired from a long, highly visible career with the Scottish Rite Hospital. If the well-respected fund-raising officer of a hospital that treats painful, crippling diseases chooses an acupuncturist, she must be good, I reasoned. She reassured me: this woman had been an M.D. when she first came over from China, but had decided she could do more for her patients with acupuncture, so she knew everything a doctor would know. And Anna and her boyfriend, age 70, were both playing golf without pain these days. I called for an appointment. And I kept it. While I had some misgivings about the industrial-looking, low-rise cluster of buildings, and the vague nature of the receptionist’s reception, not to mention an hour-long wait, when I was called in I succumbed completely. Gamely, I stripped, lay on the table behind the screen separating the treatment room from a desk, and let the “doctor” examine my back. Quickly, lightly, she touched my butt, the spine, one side and the other. “Do you believe acupuncture?” she asked. I think that’s what she asked. I said I hoped it would work. I still had no idea – full disclosure here – what kind of needles we were talking about, but I heard myself giving her permission to start. “It won’t hurt,” she said. I’m sure that’s what she said. It didn’t hurt. I was very pleasantly surprised. And it seemed to me she was placing the “needles” (they actually looked like the plastic that holds dry cleaning or price tags onto your clothes) where I had the most pain. Because she wasn’t talking and I needed this to be a rational decision on my part, I filled in the blanks: my back was classic, common; she’d seen many like it, many far worse; she knew exactly where to put the needles to bring relief. She’d tell me what she was doing as soon as she got them all in. She didn’t though. Instead she wove a cord among the needles closest to my butt, and started a current running through them. I understood that I could tell her when it hurt too much. I allowed as how she could stop increasing the intensity about then. So she did, and then left the room. She’d be back. I took the occasion of this time alone to try to figure out what was being done to me. From my stomach, “wired” as I was, I couldn’t see much, and what I could see, I couldn’t identify. I decided to rest and ride out the current, which peaked in something a medical warning label might call “discomfort.” Tolerable, but not pleasant. I tried to feel relief in between the cycle, tried to ascertain if, once this was all over, the pain would be – magically – gone. (Yes, I admit it. I was hoping for magic.) I couldn’t tell. It was getting late, after 5. I heard conversations and laughter outside the room, and then the sounds of people leaving. I grew worried: What was a nice girl like me doing here in the middle of a random suburb in an anonymous-looking office having needles stuck into my back and wired into my body? What was I thinking? I felt worse than ever. Even my initial delight at being able to tell my kids I had tried something so new and “out there’ (to me) had dissipated. I was feeling scared, stupid and scared. The doctor returned and I thought I was done. With relief I realized I’d be safe, if not cured. I could go home. She was not, however, finished. And for some reason, I was not at all aggressive about what I wanted to do. I just lay there. “All done?” I asked. “Not yet,” I think she said, as she efficiently unhooked the machine making the circuit, and quickly pulled out all the needles. Then, with no explanation or warning, she “cupped” me, sticking small, hard plastic things that looked like falsies onto my lower back and butt. I’d read about cupping in the waiting room, but hadn’t contemplated it as an initial treatment; it had sounded more like a last resort. It was like she was throwing the whole book at me. My script needed revision. This wasn’t just an ordinary back with ordinary pain; I obviously needed some kind of deluxe treatment. I began to wonder what it was costing me, then how the cups were sticking. She’d created a vacuum somehow; I could feel the pull. As ready as I was to leave, I didn’t look forward to having the cups removed. She took them off, though, after about 15 minutes. It felt about as I’d expected – something between bandaids and adhesive tape. “You’ll feel better. Little bit. Come again.” “How many times?” I asked, still docile, as if only well-behaved patients get better. She shrugged. “Five, ten maybe. Make appointment.” She spoke as I dressed. “Don’t bend over,” she scolded, as I started to put my shoes on. “Sit.” Three more times I drove the 25 minutes to the nondescript parking lot and subjected myself to treatments identical to the first. Each time I left, the doctor sold me something – a eucalyptus cream to rub into my butt, a lift for my left shoe, melatonin to help me sleep at night, and health food store vitamins. Unwilling to give offense, though I resented such predatory practices (it was just plain cheesy!), I paid. I used the cream because I could identify all the ingredients and it actually felt pretty good, but I drew the line at all the pills, and I didn’t trust the lift. Body mechanics were not her specialty. I was only willing to stick with what I knew she knew. Even there, though, I was having my doubts; I had experienced no change whatsoever in my pain since starting acupuncture. I was briefly mollified when my insurance company – no pushover in my experience – paid for the treatments. But then I had a long, hard talk with myself and quit. It wasn’t working. There was no magic. By this time, I had run out of authorized (i.e. prescribed by the physician and paid for by the insurance company) “visits” with my physical therapist. I was on my own. I continued to exercise religiously, though, using the workout she prescribed, the one that felt sort of like thumb wrestling. I continued to dread walking anywhere, any distance. I grew increasingly depressed. The orthopedic specialist checked my back regularly. My best hope, he told me once, was that the structure would spontaneously “settle” or adjust itself in a way that relieved the pain. Spontaneously. There was nothing I could do to make it happen. But it might happen. Usually, he said, it happened within a year’s time. I clung to the possibility, even though it had been nine months already and my window of opportunity for a spontaneous cure was growing small. I had hoped the injections would “show” my vertebrae where to go to make me feel better, but they didn’t. The first one felt heaven-sent; I was pain-free for two whole days. But then I walked too far or too fast or something, and the screw was back at work. The second had no impact at all. No one recommended a third. I tried not to complain. Back pain, after all, was real small potatoes compared with life-threatening illness, and it seemed I was surrounded by the latter. I could adjust. I would adjust. I just wished the pain would go away. One day, I talked with our golf pro who had just returned to work following back surgery and six months of painful recovery and rehabilitation. She looked absolutely fabulous – younger, trimmer, more athletic and happier than before. She said she felt better than she had in ten years. She admitted it had been a long, hard haul, and then told me, that while the surgery had been successful and she’d done physical therapy to rebuild her strength, she gave most of the credit for the way she felt to a holistic healer. I’m sure I looked skeptical. She allowed that it was all a little weird, and not like her at all, and that she’d had her doubts, too, but that he was the only person who really listened to her, who understood physiologically what caused the pain and could explain it to her, and who gave her ways to respond and ultimately, relieve it. Most of my mind acknowledged that if I couldn’t do acupuncture, I wasn’t much of a candidate for holistic healing. But the rest of me couldn’t help but acknowledge that she looked so good! I took the name and number from her and, a few days later, called for an appointment. The drive-up this time was more disconcerting than the low-rise buildings housing my acupuncturist. This “office” was a house, and the receptionist was the practitioner’s wife, on her way out to buy groceries. The entry hall/waiting room featured large crystals, wind chimes, and gurgling waterfalls. I felt like bolting, but forced myself to read the printed materials spread across a side table – something about heat-sensitive full-body imaging, another brochure about water doubly purified by reverse osmosis, and yet another listing upcoming holistic retreats. My stomach was queasy. The practitioner was middle-aged, friendly and pleasant. He invited me into his exam room. And yes, it occurred to me I was alone in this house with this man in the middle of the afternoon, and no one knew I was there. I felt like I had taken leave of my senses. Still, I behaved. The good patient performs. I sat on his table, my legs hanging over the end, and answered a few questions. He was dismissive of my doctor’s diagnosis and treatments and impatient with my explanations about physical therapy, but conveyed a certainty that he could do more for me than they had. In spite of myself, I was hopeful, and I was grateful when he didn’t ask me to disrobe, but had me simply lie back on the table. I stared out the window at school children heading down the street toward their homes and, confronted by that simple slice of “Normal,” wondered what in the world I was doing there. His exam was peculiar. He stood at the end of the table and held my feet in his hands, as if weighing my legs, or balancing them on two fingers, at the ankle. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. I waited for an “ohm” or something, but he said nothing. I suppressed the urge to giggle. After 30 seconds or so, he put my feet down, looked out the window, drank from a bottle of water, and then picked them up as if weighing them again. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m listening to your body.” “What are you listening for?” (Yes, I always play along.) “Everything it can tell me.” “You didn’t ask me much.” “I didn’t need to. Your body will tell me all I need to know.” No longer scared, but deeply curious (What the hell is going on?!!), I silenced myself so he could hear. Mostly, still, I had this urge to giggle. Perhaps he’d hear a sense of humor. I don’t know how long this went on. It was a true out of body experience. I couldn’t be subjecting myself to voo-doo medicine, not me, well-educated, intelligent, highly rational, traditional, conservative, risk-averse me. No, not me. But the person I had become, the person with back pain – she was now willing to try anything. Even this. I breathed deeply myself and tried to relax. He asked me to sit up and lift my shirt so he could examine my spine. I complied. I felt exposed, but not violated. He checked something – I’m not sure what – and told me to put my shirt down. He finished his bottle of water, then stood at my feet again. “I think I can help you,” he said. Hope is a very powerful drug. “But not overnight. You’ve got years of abuse there that we’ll have to undo. We can do it, though. There are a few things you should start right away, too.” He held up his water bottle. “Drink this,” he said. “Lots of it.” “I do,” I said, holding up my Styrofoam cup. “That won’t do you any good. Think of the minerals and the chemicals. You need . . .” and he described the doubly filtered, reversed osmosis water once available only at Whole Foods, but now for sale in every grocery store. “Not spring water,” he insisted. “Who knows what in the spring?” Silly me. I’d never thought of that. “I think you’ve got a lot of minerals in your body. We need to flush them out. Metals you’ve absorbed – you have a lot of old fillings, right? – I nodded and opened my mouth – and others, from the earth, the air, everywhere.” “My body told you that?” He nodded. “You’re not sleeping very well, are you?” “It told you that, too?” Again, he nodded. I was getting spooked. “No, I don’t sleep well. I’m taking Sonata; I’ve tried Ambien.” “They won’t help. That’s not the problem.” “But –” “Have they helped?” “No.” “So they don’t work.” He paused, as if letting me grasp the import of this. Then, using a very reassuring tone he said, “We’ll take care of you Ann. You’re a good person. You take care of a lot of people. We need to take care of you. We can. And you deserve it.” “Thank you.” He lifted my feet again, as if starting all over again. The deep breaths, the closed eyes, the silence, the weighing of both legs. Then he stood up straight and looked directly at me. “You take hormones.” I didn’t know if it was a question or an accusation. I nodded. “Useless.” “Well, I’ve taken them because. . .” and I explained my risk factors as his attention wandered. “Not natural,” he pronounced. “You like the natural hormones?” I asked. “Not really. The body works this way. You need them to reproduce, then you don’t. No need to interfere. I wouldn’t take them anymore. You can ask your doctor if you want to, about getting off them gradually. But you don’t need them. They do no good. I suspect,” he continued, “you don’t have much in the way of orgasmic activity.” Whew. Where were we going now? How exactly was I going to respond to that one? While I was trying to figure it out, tears began to fall from my eyes. Somehow he had touched a raw emotional nerve, one I didn’t even know I had. What exactly had my body been telling him? “You’ve had some female troubles,” he postulated then. I hadn’t told him. I hadn’t told him anything. But I was having post-menopausal bleeding, and I was worried about it. He’d figured that out, too. I was feeling pretty spooked – and squirmy. I said yes. He said he’d want me to have one of those full-body, heat-sensitive imaging tests – better than mammograms and mylegrams and MRIs and CT scans and all that, he insisted – and available right down the road – blah, blah, blah. This time I wasn’t spending a cent extra until I had results. I’d learned *something*. No pills, no creams, no images. But I didn’t say so. I just nodded. “Now, your pain,” he said, returning, (Finally, I thought) to the issue at hand. “Does it travel down your leg?” “It’s not radiating pain,” I said, “though sometimes, at the end of the day, it hurts all along the outside of the leg.” “Here?” he asked, touching the outside of my left knee. “Only recently,” I admitted. “Well, we can start with that. I’ll need to see you eight to ten times, at least. As I said, we’ve got a lot of damage to undo. I’ll give you some appointments before you leave.” He pulled out his book, and flipped through the pages. He couldn’t see me the next week – he was booked – or the next – because it was Holy Week (and I had thought he was Jewish!) – and then he was going on a retreat, so it would be 3½ weeks before my next appointment. In the meantime, I should drink the water, get the new holistic scan, and try this: Wrap my knee in fresh cut onion secured with Saran wrap overnight. His demeanor was one of complete confidence. My knee hurt; the onion would help it; I had no right to be skeptical. But I was. I tried humor: “Hey, I thought you wanted me to have more orgasmic activity. I don’t think the onion is going to encourage that.” “I didn’t say to do them together.” I laughed. Nervously. I made six appointments for follow-up visits, wrote a check for $280, and got back in my car to drive home. Halfway there, I burst into tears. I was sobbing so hard, I had to pull off the road. I was an idiot. I was a fool. I was so desperate I would spend almost $300 on a person who didn’t even have an office or a license to practice anything displayed. I had let him examine me – after a fashion – and I had acted like I was taking his advice. I’d let him impugn my love life. I was even wondering if I had an onion and Saran wrap on hand, and if I should stop at the grocery store for purer water. I had a bad back. But I didn’t have a bad brain. What was wrong with me? How did a nice girl like me end up *there*? I cried all the way home. I took a long nap. And that night at dinner, I told my husband all about it – except for the orgasm part. I cried again because I thought I was losing my mind, becoming someone I didn’t want to be, someone controlled and changed by my pain, someone so desperate she’d do almost anything to get rid of it. He was not so concerned, and he said all the right things about how strong and brave I had been, how few my complaints. Then he stunned me by suggesting I try the onion thing anyway. What was there to lose? Well, besides my pride, and that was gone already. So -- with considerable laughter (Bless my husband!!) and great difficulty (those chopped onions are slippery little suckers), we wrapped my left knee in a bandage of Saran-wrapped raw onion. All night long, the odor hovered over the room and every time I moved, it intensified. It stank! It stank, in fact, for five full days. I was to try this “cure” for three nights – but I quit after the first. It was just too much of a mess and too much stink. I took three baths that first day – my knee still smelled. I laundered the sheets and the mattress pad three days running, and I turned the mattress – the bed still carried the scent. But there was something else, too – the pain around my knee was gone. The back still hurt. And sometimes the whole leg. But the knee was better. I didn’t know what to make of that. I did know, however, that I was not going back to play in the holistic neighborhood. After Easter, I called and canceled all my appointments. Friends suggested neurologists and neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, a masseuse, different acupuncturists, green tea, white tea, herbs and supplements, prayer. My window on a spontaneous cure closed. The doctor discharged me; there was nothing more he could do. Advil took on status as a food group, and Lortab was my ace in the hole – not because it cured the pain, but because it gave me a way to care less about it. Wine did the same thing. But alcoholism runs deep – and wide – in my family, and I didn’t want to be addicted to pain pills, so I was very, very careful. I hurt. The pain was impinging on my quality of life. I thought of myself as older, more frail, less able. I hated it. I also hated the well-meaning inquiries: “How’s your back?” I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want it to define me. I wanted it to go away. I needed to get back in control. But how? I concluded, finally, that the control had to come from within me. I had been warned that I could find a doctor somewhere who would promise me a cure with his particular surgical skill or strategy, and I had heard already, from physicians and para-physicians alike, a full array of treatments they were confident would make me feel better. I was beginning to understand this certainty as part of their professional modus operandi, but as the “cures” failed, I grew more and more certain that they couldn’t – that no one could, really, make me feel better. I’d have to do it myself. I went cold turkey. No more physical therapy. No acupuncture. No holistic anything. No massages. No pills stronger than Advil. No wine, except on weekends, socially. Then I went back to the gym. I hired a trainer, gave him my history, and asked for a workout that would build my strength and stamina, develop my core muscles, and not stress my back. We worked together twice a week – and I exercised one additional day – for a year. My routine included a five-minute warm-up on the elliptical trainer (which, for reasons I don’t understand completely, does not cause pain the way the treadmill does), followed by a rotation of exercises with weights for both my arms and legs, with emphasis on balance. As the weeks passed, imperceptibly at first and then more obviously, things changed. I firmed, I toned, I shrank a size. One day I realized I had shopped the entire grocery store without looking for a place to rest. I was jubilant! I kept up the discipline. That Christmas, I tried cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. I was exhausted at the end of a trail, and intensely sore throughout the evening – but I could do it! I was stronger. I was healing. I was thrilled! I wouldn’t miss my workout for. . . anything. (I do, of course, but I try not to.) I’m as addicted to it as I might have been to pills or booze. But so what? It takes time, and a few more items made of spandex in my wardrobe. In exchange, though, I got my life back, my active life. I’m not pain-free. But I can live – really live – with what I’ve got, and for that, I am extremely grateful. So what’s a nice older woman like me doing in the gym? Just keeping control of my body, taking charge of my life. For additional perspectives: **** **** *The New York Times Magazine*, Sunday, May 14, 2006 “My Pain, My Brain” by Melanie Thurstrom (
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