One of the most common comments I get from people is that my story reminds them to be thankful for the little things—the things that are so easily taken for granted. I would love to say that I’ve learned that lesson for good and always remember to thank my lucky stars for the simple things I am able to do but, alas, I am human. I am eternally thankful that so many of the struggles I faced in the beginning have become ordinary once again. However, as things became easier to do, they also became easier to take for granted.
September is spinal cord injury awareness month and today, September 10, happens to mark two and half years since I suffered my injury and became all too aware of this condition. Seconds after I fell I can remember repeating to myself It’s just your legs. It’s just your legs. In that moment, I was comforted. Reminding myself that it was just my legs was reassuring me that I was going to be ok – I was going to survive and still be a mom and a wife and everything else that meant the most to me. I just would do it without walking. And frankly, I truly thought it was just my legs. It didn’t even cross my mind that there would be more to my injury than the obvious physical damage. As it turns out, the legs are just the beginning (and the easiest part).
While everyone’s injury is different, there is a long list of complications resulting from SCI that range from body temperature regulation to muscle spasticity to blood pressure issues and beyond. But the most difficult and devastating aspect of this injury for me (and for many) has been the loss of control over my bladder and bowels.
I like to be in control. I always have. It’s probably part of the reason why my mother-in-law and I took so long to forge a meaningful relationship. If there’s one thing you don’t want when you are a bit of a control freak mama, it’s a control freak daughter-in-law; a recipe for potential disaster. But somehow we make it work (love you Grammy). But beyond that, control has always grounded me and helped me to navigate through the fog of anxiety. Believing that I was consistently in control of my own situation allowed me to feel safer in a world that has continually left me trembling. I think it is part of the reason I hate flying so much – the lack of control. Then there were the aspects to control that I never took time to think about because they were – as I believed – non-negotiable; the control of my own body. To relinquish control of something can be challenging. But to have it taken from you is like having the ground disappear from underneath you – trust me, I know the feeling all too well.
After months of trying to find the perfect solution to my bladder issues, I have conclusively determined that…there isn’t one. I suppose that is probably obvious because I’d be rich and famous right now if I had discovered the solution to bladder control after a spinal cord injury. Alas, here I sit, not rich, not famous, and still possessing a bladder that endeavours to rule my life. But I promise you it’s not as dire as it sounds. My bladder may still hold power over me, however I trust it more than I once did and we are slowly becoming friends again. Well, actually, Botox is my true friend. I’m just kind to my bladder with hopes it will be kind to me. Maybe it understands reciprocity?
I have spent a large part of my life searching. We all search right? (I mean, I hope it’s not just me.) We search for happiness, love, friendship, knowledge, and wealth. If you’re like me you spend a lot of time searching for your car keys in the bottom of your purse and maybe your cell phone whilst talking on it. However while I’d rather be on a quest to find the true meaning of life or, more likely, figuring out how to convince my husband that four kids would be a fantastic idea, I have instead found myself otherwise occupied with the all important pursuit of bladder control.