But back to the leg. The pain grew more and more intense and by the time I went to my uncle's funeral a week ago, I could not climb the shallowest stairs without pulling myself up by the railing. I laughed it off the best I could, trying to deflect people's concern. But I knew it was serious. And then at the repast back at my aunt's home, my cousin Helen took me aside. She led me by the hand into the garden and looked meaningfully in my eyes. I should note that Helen is a healer and an empath. She works as a physical therapist and her hands are pure magic but that is only the very beginning of her gifts. In the garden she looked me squarely in the face and said, "Something is telling me I am here for you this weekend. I feel it very strongly. So what is going on?"
But Helen wasn't finished with me. She was just getting warmed up. She asked me where the pain had come from, was it really my pain to carry, who did I think I was relieving by carrying it? Somehow all of this resonated deeply with me, and I began to cry. Because what I began to understand was that this pain in my leg made me feel more connected to my mother, and was a physical manifestation of guilt and sadness at not being able to make it so she can walk again under her own steam. Helen said, "You don't have to carry this pain. You are not helping your mom one bit by holding on to it. It just means now you're both in pain and she surely would not want that."
Of course, she wasn't suggesting that the pain didn't have a physical source, that the cure was only metaphysical. She counseled me to go see a doctor and deal with it at once. In fact, I had already made an appointment with a rehab doctor, a physiatrist. I had been referred by my wonderful new primary care physician, who is sending me all kinds of places for follow up and generally taking good care of me. There is nothing like building a relationship with a good and caring doctor to get one over one's fear of doctors. So last Friday, I went to the rehab doc, and he and his PA were both so affirming and compassionate, and neither had a whiff of treating my pain as if it were my own damn fault for being so fat. Yes, this is actually what has kept me from doctors for years, the feeling that I would be judged for my size.
The doctor thinks I have bursitis of the hip, which is an inflammation of the bursa, the pillowy sacs that cushion the muscles and soft tissues and bone and allow everything to slide around freely. When he said the word bursitis, I felt a rush of truth, because my mother suffered with bursitis when I was growing up. She would be incapacitated for days, unable to move her left shoulder or arm. I remember feeling so sad as a child to see her in such pain. But the memory brought some relief, too, as if now I understood something and could finally begin to heal. The doctor gave me a steroid injection in the hip to calm down the inflammation, and I'm to go back in two weeks to see if there has been significant relief. If there has been, then he will prescribe physical therapy to strengthen everything and restore mobility, and if there has been no improvement, then we will have to do further investigation.
But I feel some reduction in pain already. The sharp shooting pain is now a dull ache. I can actually bend and pick things up without getting stuck and it's no longer excruciating just to climb into the car. But I need to mind the metaphysical emotional body as well. Because after waking up this morning and announcing to my husband how much better the leg felt, I then got on the phone with my mom. I was cleaning the kitchen as we talked, and she mentioned how incapacitated she felt at not being able to get around, and how disheartening that was and I suddenly noticed that as she talked, I had begun to limp again, and the longer we talked the more I was limping. The threads that bind us are powerful indeed. Silently, I thanked Helen for the gift of consciousness. It was as if she had helped prepare the way for healing, both physically, by prodding me to get a mattress that would not undermine the doctor's treatments, and emotionally, by making me aware of my instinct to hold on to the pain. Now I shall concentrate on the healing.
That's my cousin Helen, back in the day.
She was daydreaming on the small patio
adjacent to my room at 37 Paddington Terrace
in Kingston, Jamaica. I left to go to college in
New York six months after I took this photo.
I remember I was photographing everyone
and everything that year, much as now.
Helen lives and heals in Maryland now.