Publisher - October 2020

Pub0920“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”
—Mahatma Ghandi—

This month’s theme—#WellBeing—has been a hot topic around my house lately. Why? Because I haven’t been well for the last four months. On May 14, I helped my mother do yard work. I planted tomato plants, dug holes under a dogwood tree to plant azaleas and moved a large cast iron pot, which is really more of a cauldron, across the yard to fill with colorful annuals. I commented on how heavy it was, and she told me her mother used to boil laundry in it. At dark we called it quits and went in for a light supper. By 10:00 p.m. I noticed my back hurt more than being a little sore from all the bending and lifting. By midnight, I was at level 10 pain. With virtually no sleep and in the worst pain I have ever been in, I rushed to an urgent care at 7:00 a.m. They didn’t open until 8:00.

After searching the Internet most of the night, I came to the conclusion I had sciatica. Of course, I told the doctor what was wrong with me, and he gave me prednisone, a muscle relaxer and three days of pain pills. I had no idea of the painful, debilitating and miserable journey I was about to embark on. Long story short, here I sit, almost five months later after x-rays, MRI, physical therapy, doctor appointments, an ER visit, a heart catheterization, a cancelled surgery, an epidural shot in my spine, numerous sleepless nights and a ton of tears from immense pain, with my leg still numb and some pain in my lower back. It’s unbelievable how a ruptured disc compressing a nerve root can truly wreck your life.

Here are a few things I have learned from all this:

Don’t take walking, sitting or lying down for granted. These are three things most of us never think about because they just come so natural. In fact, some will wait on a parking space two or three spaces closer to a store entrance just to minimize how far they have to walk. Well, when you lose your ability to walk without pain, suddenly the act of walking becomes valued and appreciated. I never was a “close parker” but now I don’t care how far I have to walk, I’m just thankful I can walk. Plus, to be able to lie down without pain is pure bliss.

Back pain is horrid. My father, who passed away in 2008, had back pain for the last 30 years of his life. He had several back surgeries, with the second to last requiring fusing and the last requiring taking out the hardware from the fusion because of the pain. One day, when my pain was excruciating, I thought of my father and how much he must have suffered. He never quit going to work daily, going to National Guard drill, or taking us to the lake house for boat rides and fun. In remembering this I sobbed in regret that I never acknowledged the pain he lived through. I understand now, Dad, and I am so sorry.

“Health is our greatest wealth.” I have chosen this quote for the magazine on many occasions because without health, life is far more difficult and way less enjoyable. When things we don’t even think about become daunting, overwhelm becomes a natural state. I believe this is why the Bible tells us to treat our bodies like a temple. So we can live life to the fullest, utilizing and operating with our whole body, mind and soul, which far outweighs any monetary wealth. In all of history, financial wealth has never been able to guarantee good health or stop death.

You get by with a little help from your friends. I’m not a big asker of help, most people aren’t. But I have learned that when your body won’t cooperate, asking for help is important. My friends checked on me, brought me meals and made sure to get me out, too. Most importantly, they asked how I was doing pretty regularly. My daughter, Jacie, was a tremendous help. She took over most of the household duties and made sure I was taking my medicine—I don’t like meds. Bless her heart, she also took me all by herself to the procedures that had to be done. I’m sure she was worried, but she showed no signs of it to me. She was my rock, and together we made it. However, not without being yelled at by my longtime friends, Stephanie and Kevin from Florence, SC, (inject heavy Southern accent here): “Elizabeth, why didn’t you call us? We would have been there immediately. Why did you make Jacie go through all that alone? Don’t you ever do that again! You hear us?” Let your friends help. They want to.

Be your own advocate: Most of the health professionals I saw absolutely did not comprehend the level of pain I was in. In fact, I felt a couple of them thought I was just seeking pain meds, which, if they knew me, they would know that is ludicrous. I will hardly take ibuprofen. I had to practically beg for an MRI. I also learned insurance is in charge of how one can be treated for back injury. It was definitely left to me to lead my road to recovery because no one but me understood my misery.

There are always silver linings. In all adversity there is something good, even if it is merely having more knowledge. From this injury, a few other health conditions were unearthed when I was preparing for surgery. These things, caught early, are fixable, as long as I treat my body like a temple. In working with Cardiologist Dr. Ravina Balchandani, I am now on a prevention program. With high cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and a shadow on my heart, a heart catheterization revealed I have a very good heart. I am so lucky to be able to start my prevention program with no damage to mend other than getting my bad numbers down and my good numbers up. I feel like I have a second chance, and I’m making the most of it.

I am grateful to be on the mend and almost back to normal. Though I will never go back to being the person I was before—hence, I am now a big proponent of using tools to help with heavy-duty work (like a dolly would have allowed me to avoid all of this)—I now truly understand that my health is my greatest wealth. I hope my journey has convinced you of that, as well.

Lastly, I promise to tell you about my MRI claustrophobic freak out—it’s hilarious! The technician was such a trooper as I mentally came undone. In this case, my severe pain saved the day, as it was too painful not to force myself into that tube to find out the true diagnosis. Sometimes, I am just a basket case, but I still love myself!” I’m trying. Boy, am I trying.

Think Pink,
Elizabeth Millen