July 12, 2023
“There is an optical illusion about every person we meet.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Surprise! This week’s message isn’t from Pastor Steve. I decided to give him the week
off from writing and provide you all with an update now that I’m a couple weeks shy of
being 3 months post-hip reconstruction. First and foremost, it has been good to be back
with you in worship on Sunday mornings and in the office during the week. I am mostly
back to my normal routine but still have times where I need to make adjustments due to
physical therapy appointments or pain levels.
Over the last 6 weeks, you have watched me progress from non-weight bearing to full-
weight bearing; wheelchair and crutches to cane to no assistive device. It is true - I have
progressed. I have been in physical therapy consistently for about a month and have
regained the ability to stand, walk, and go up and down stairs – all of which bring me joy
and gratitude after 8 long weeks of zero activity.
This progress, while worth celebrating, is responsible for creating an illusion. We live in
a world where it is easy to make assumptions about what we observe. We are often
quick to judge someone’s circumstance by what we perceive without knowing the full-
story. Keeping with this pattern, it would be easy to assume that since I am in a different
phase of recovery, that my pain levels would be different (less) too. I wish that were
While some of the initial surgical pain that I experienced in the first two months
following my hip reconstruction has resolved, I am still in an immense amount of pain
thanks to a rare pain disorder known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). If
you were around for the days of my numerous arm surgeries, perhaps you’ll recall me
talking about this disorder. In short, CRPS is an acute/chronic pain condition in which
the body’s central and peripheral nervous systems respond to injuries or traumas (i.e.
surgery) in excessive and disproportionate ways. In even simpler terms, the nervous
system goes bonkers and forgets how to operate properly. If you want to know more,
Google is your friend.
My CRPS, which began and progressed after my third and fourth arm/wrist surgeries,
has been in remission for the last two years thanks to special infusions and a
significant occupational therapy journey. After my right hip reconstruction, I experienced
temporary nerve pain, which was taken care of with a nerve block, but no CRPS
symptoms. This time around, I began showing symptoms of CRPS in my left hip and leg
at about 2 weeks post-op. (For context, that’s insanely early.) After spending the last
several weeks waiting, hoping, and praying that it was just a “flare up,” it is looking like
that is not the case. I see my CRPS doctor next week but I know my body and I know
what I’m feeling.
My hip and leg (from waist level to just above my knee) are “on fire” 100% of the time
and I get “zapped” (an electrifying jolt) every 3-4 minutes. I get random muscle spasms
and contractions that turn my leg a lovely shade of reddish purple. If something touches
or brushes up against this part of my body, the pain is amplified in a way that words fail
to describe. I can only wear shorts or dresses (thank goodness it’s summer!) because
the friction from pants is too much of an irritant to tolerate. Austin and I are investing in
umbrellas (which apparently neither of us have) because getting caught in the rain feels
like someone is ripping off my skin. It’s a gruesomely dramatic picture, I know, but it’s
the best way I can describe what my body is feeling despite the illusion it has created
now that I am more able-bodied than I was at this time last month.
I share this with you for two main reasons. The first, is to give you an update on where I
am at in my recovery and how I’m doing. Many of you, out of the kindness of your
hearts, ask how I’m feeling when our paths cross. It’s a question that is difficult to
answer. You are hopeful that I’ll say I’m feeling better; I find myself wishing I could say
that I was feeling better, and then I respond with something that is somewhere in the
middle of truthful but not pessimistic.
The second reason is to invite and encourage you to be mindful and on the lookout for
illusions in your day to day life and interactions with others. You never know what
someone’s day or story may include, despite what you see or believe to be true. So, be
kind, be patient, be gentle - with yourself and with others - and look for ways to give a
little extra grace when you can. You never know the potential impact it may have for a
troubled body, mind or spirit that is in need of a little extra love or care.
Peace be with you,