Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Scars, Numbness and Luck

Five years ago I was stock.  And I expected to remain so. Then I got hit by a car and I got cancer. More than my body was injured – my sense of who I am was scrambled.  I had told people, “I’m lucky. I don’t get sick. I heal up when I’m injured.”  I hadn’t earned it. It was just luck. My parents are alive in their 90's.  They don’t have artificial joints. They didn’t get breast cancer.  I expected my luck continue. Thinking of myself without my luck is weird.

In an earlier era, without surgery, I’d have been in a wheelchair by now (thanks to my damaged hip), or dead (thanks to breast cancer).  So, I have a different kind of luck.

At my recent exam, I found myself in an odd conversation with my hip replacement surgeon who was curious about the numb area on my thigh.  He said, “It’s only been 3 years. Sensation might return.”

I told him, “I don’t think I do that.  My shoulder is still numb from the collar bone repair. My chest is still numb where my breast was removed.”

I saw him repress a micro-smile.   Then he said, “We used to cut muscles when we replaced the hip. Now we bruise the nerves.”

I’d say my muscles are more important than my skin sensation. I’m in much better shape than my grandmother was after she got her hip replaced.  Much of this is due to my amazing physical therapist.  But numbness is still a loss.

It’s still weird to think of myself as part machinery, to look at myself in the mirror and see all the scars. To know when my husband’s hand is on my shoulder but I can’t feel it. Not the warmth or the touch.

I’m also still riding my bike, taking my dog for long walks, enjoying my mobility.

Now, it looks like there may be a surgery free way to replace hips (using stem cells):

And stem cells are also being used to grow new breast tissue:

The world is changing. Our luck is improving.  In the future, people may be able to have the kinds of health problems I have had and remain stock.

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