At some point in life, we all experience pain. But let’s be honest, pain is the one thing none of us want to experience. As great as life is it has painful moments. Healing from pain is a process and it cannot be rushed. Physical pain and emotional pain both need time.
Our natural tendency is to want to rush to the end of the process where life is good and everything feels better or is all healed. Healing is a process.
Healing after total knee replacement is a long, very long process. Within a few weeks of surgery, you start to feel better emotionally and physically. At this point it is natural to want to resume life as normal. The truth is although you feel better, your body is not healed internally and requires more time. Total knee replacement requires bone shaving and removal and nerves, muscle and skin are cut to implant the artificial knee. Once the skin heals, the body appears healed but it is not. The internal process of healing takes longer. (For most people the complete process takes 12 to 18 months). Functionality and mobility return sooner but the internal healing is still in process.
It is important at this stage of recovery not to rush the process. As with any recovery, you want to challenge and push yourself daily to grow stronger, but you do not want to push so hard that injury occurs. Allow the body the time it needs to heal by gradually increasing activity and setting reasonable goals and expectations. Rushing to resume life as normal has the potential to do more harm than good. There is the immediate response of more pain, inflammation and swelling and the potential long-term effect of not healing properly which could led to continued pain.
Healing from emotional pain is also a process. Emotional pain comes with questions that have no reasonable answer, and thoughts and emotions that range from one extreme to another. Emotional pain just like the pain after surgery requires time to heal.
Most us want the painful emotions to pass but we bottle them up on the inside. We hold everything inside and deny or resist actually feeling the emotion. As a result the unresolved feelings and emotions affect our behavior. Let’s be clear we are all entitled to our feelings and emotions however we are not entitled to make others an unwilling party to our feelings by acting on them.
To help emotional pain to pass give yourself permission to experience it. We feel a vast array of emotions (sad, happy, mad, angry, joyful, loneliness, grief, fear, love, affection). Identify the emotion you feel at that moment. Are you sad or are you mad? Are you lonely? Give the emotion legitimacy by naming what it is. Then breathe through it and release it. Doing so allows you to move forward with your day. Continued practice allows you to move forward in life.
Believe it or not both physical and emotional pain have a purpose.
1. Pain increases awareness of your body and self.
2. Pain makes you physically and emotionally stronger.
3. Pain makes you more resilient.
4. Pain makes you more resourceful.
5. Pain makes you more compassionate towards yourself and others.
1. How does this pain serve me? (What can you learn from it?)
2. How does this pain serve others?
None of want to experience pain but unfortunately we don’t get through life without experiencing some form of pain. The healing process is often times longer than we like. However, trust that the pain is part of your life journey. It is not meant to destroy you. It won’t destroy you and it won’t last forever. Be patient (don’t rush the process), learn from the experience and move forward.
Remember that although both need time it is not a process you have to do alone. Seek professional help if you need it. There are many professionals who help you work through the process of healing. Life coaches, psychologist, therapist and counselors are available to help with the process so you don’t become stuck in your painful state.
Kimberly is a life coach and author who specializes in working with people with chronic pain or chronic illness.
Want the support of a life coach that understands chronic pain visit. http://joyfullivingwithkimberlydixon.com/.
Ask about my post-TRK support calls!
Gobble, gobble, gobble and Ho, Ho, Ho the holidays are upon us. This season is a wonderful time of year.
There are lots of gatherings with family and friends, lots of joy and lots of good times. For many of us gatherings and good times equal two things, food and drinks. Let’s eat, drink and be merry, right?
Eating, drinking and being merry often equals unwanted pounds during the holiday season. All the hard work you put in during the spring and summer to lose 10, 15, 20 pounds or more disappears under your soft underbelly. You pick up the winter weight to keep you warm. Please know I am not writing this in judgement because this is not just your story but mine too.
Managing your weight during the winter is difficult. It’s cold outside so you are less likely to walk. There is snow, sleet and all sorts of winter weather that interfere with your drive to the gym. It is even more difficult during holidays with multiple holiday events and parties every week.
But don’t fret you can get through this holiday season with your waistline intact!
Holiday survival tips:
1. Continue your exercise routine – Make exercise a priority. Exercise is an important part of self-care. It burns calories, reduces stress and builds stamina and endurance. All of these are essential to surviving the holiday season.
Make a family walk a part of your family tradition. My family takes a walk together after every event from cook-outs in summer, to birthday parties to holidays. It is a great way to connect and bond and work off some of the calories.
2. Make food choices wisely – Opt for fruits and veggies appetizers instead decadent desserts. It is alright to splurge occasionally. Enjoy the holiday season. Attend parties and gatherings. However, you cannot splurge on food and drink from Thanksgiving until New Years and not suffer the consequences of unwanted pounds. Focus on enjoying your family and friends and put less attention on food and drinks.
As a matter of fact, when attending events forgo the drinks or have just one. Drinks add an enormous amount of empty calories. Instead of having drinks, allow yourself to have dessert. Or have a dessert but no drink.
If you are the host of a party, cut back on the food and add games or other forms of entertainment to engage guests instead of eating.
3. Don’t hover around the food area. You nibble more when you are in near to food.
4. Say “no”. Say “no” to gathering and events you don’t want to attend. Life is too short to spend time doing things that do not fulfill you. Instead of going to 10 events, go to 3-4 parties that you enjoy attending and pass on the others.
5. Don’t obsess over any perceived mistakes. If you eat too much at one event, let it go. Don’t beat yourself up or belittle yourself. Make adjustments to your plan and try again at the next event.
Enjoy the holiday season. Love yourself enough to say “no” and remember to always….
Kimberly is a life coach and author who specializes in working with people with chronic pain or chronic illness.
What is the Superwoman complex?
The Superwoman complex is when a woman believes she can handle everything in life without the help of other people.
Today I often hear women refer to themselves or other women as Superwoman. They are absolutely correct in that women wear a lot of different hats. They have many roles they balance and do every day. I applaud every woman who is a wife, mother, breadwinner, care-giver and the countless other roles women play. I don’t refute the fact that most women wear a multitude of hats. And wear them well.
My problem with the term Superwoman is that Superwoman is an imaginary character. She is not real. She handles everything perfectly because her life is a script. Real women are not reading lines they are living a life with actual problems and situations. Real women handle real problems. When the school calls in the middle of the day, they do not get in their invisible plane and fly to the school. They arrange to leave work early, walk, ride or drive to the school, attend the meeting, take the child home and if possible return to work for the rest of the day. During the course of handling life situations, mistakes happen, things are forgotten and stuff falls through the cracks.
The problem occurs when women buy into the persona of Superwoman. They put on the red cape and wear it proudly. But when they are not able to do things perfectly, they beat themselves up, feel inferior and believe they are not enough because they cannot handle everything alone.
News flash…. No one person can handle everything alone even Jesus had disciples. Ever notice that the disciples had different professions and characteristics? I don’t think this is a coincidence. In addition to helping Jesus spread the word, they helped each other when traveling by using their skills and natural talents for the group.
We need other people. When we try to do everything for everybody we become stressed-out, overwhelmed and burned out. In the movies superheroes often join together to defeat a common enemy. In the past multiple generations of family lived together. This helped split the work load. No one person did everything. Today mostly single families live together, but we can still help each other.
How to drop the superwoman complex
1. Develop your circle. Think about 2-3 people in your life that you can go to when you need support and that you can support in some way (carpool, childcare, appointments, tutoring, shopping, etc). This is a mutually beneficial relationship. Don’t include people who come to you for everything but don’t offer you anything back (that’s called a leech).
a. Tell the people you chose about the circle, what is and the purpose of it.
b. Ask them to be part of your circle and you be part of theirs.
c. Share tasks.
If you do not have anyone in your circle, find 2-3 other people in your community whether that is at school, work, church or neighbors and create a circle in your community.
Everybody needs somebody. You need people in your life that you can depend on. We can’t do this thing called life on our own.
2. Give yourself permission to be human. We all experience disappointment, sadness, grief, and we ALL make mistakes. Stop expecting perfection. No one is perfect. When you make a mistake take responsibility for it and move forward.
Most of us are careful about the message we give our children or other children in our lives. We want to give the right or correct message based on our personal values and morals. We teach them with the words we use and with our actions so that they get the message we try earnestly to convey. We are careful what we say because children are listening.
We are very clear in those instances to play the right message for our children. However few of us use the same care when delivering messages to ourselves. The messages I refer to are the internal messages we play to ourselves all day long, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Whether you are a chronic pain suffer or not, these internal messages affect your life.
What you think matters. The internal dialogue we play has a huge impact on us. Do you play messages that downgrade and belittle yourself or messages that empower and uplift you? Many of the things we say to ourselves, about ourselves we would never say out loud to another person because it is unacceptable, mean, cruel, unjustified and uncalled for. Yet we use harsh, mean and cruel words to ourselves every day, all day long.
Do you make statements to yourself such as?
I’m so stupid
I’m an idiot
I never do anything right
I’m too fat
I’m too skinny
I deserve whatever I get
I have to do everything myself
I will always be in pain
Nothing helps my pain
When you face a challenge, do you make statements such as?
I can’t do this
I never do things right
I’m not smart enough to do this
I don’t have what it takes to get this done
We don’t use the same care we use with children when we speak to ourselves.
There is a proverb that says, “Be careful what you say because someone is listening. You are!”
We hear and internalize every word we say about ourselves. Over time repeatedly playing the same negative message about you has a negative impact. You believe the mean, hateful words you say about yourself. You believe it is gospel, the truth. The subconscious mind is very powerful. In many instances, it is the subconscious that leads us without our knowledge.
As such these belittling internal messages start to affect your behavior.
Your thoughts lead to actions. Individual acts over time become your behavior. Your behavior is simply a pattern you use in your day-to-day life and when interacting with others. Negative messages led to a self-fulfilling prophecy in which you lose every time.
Pay attention to what you say to yourself. Change your tune. In other words change your vocabulary. Use words and phrases that empower, inspire, motivate and lift you up.
Positive messages include:
I am smart
I am beautiful
I can do anything
I can accomplish all my goals
I can figure this out
I trust myself to make the right decision
I have the support I need from people in my life
Today is a good day
These messages impact your day and ultimately impact your life. Practice compassion and love for you. You are important! You matter!
Create a satisfying and fulfilling life by inspiring and motivating yourself with your internal messages.
How to Recover After a Hike
I took up a new hobby in 2016, hiking. I also had arthritis for 33 years and three surgeries in 2015. I had my right and left knee replaced along with an incision revision surgery. On average it takes 12-18 months for you to heal internally from total knee replacement. The first phase of recovery you have pain from the surgery itself but after that you enjoy a more active life. However, the internal healing process continues.
Kimberly Dixon on Sal’s Branch Trail. William B Umstead Park
Hiking is great for the body and spirit. It requires the use of many muscle groups to walk up and down naturally changes in the land. It also allow you to connect with God on a spiritual level. Beauty surrounds you in any season but it is especially beautiful in the fall. The vast array of colors is awe-inspiring. You can’t help but realize that none of this (life, nature, love, joy) is by accident.
Hiking is challenging, invigorating and wonderful! It is so challenging that in the middle of each hike always I think, “What were you thinking, why did you think hiking was a good idea!” I am working hard, sweating and smiling. I feel alive. I feel grateful that I can walk 2, 3 or 4 miles. Before getting my knees replaced walking a quarter-mile was challenging and painful so I walked a little as possible. Walking with no pain is a gift so I often catch myself smiling while walking just from pure joy. As challenging and as tiresome as the hike is at the end of each hike I always think, “When is the next hike?” I love hiking and I am not going to stop. I plan to hike for the rest of my life simply because I can!
However, there is a reaction from my body after each hike. My left knee (replaced in December 2015) is not fully healed internally. My right knee (replaced in March 2015) is completely healed. There is no pain from either knee during the hike but after each hike my left knee becomes inflamed. It isn’t painful. It just swells a little. I noticed as the months pass the reaction is less but there is still a slight one.
I have a routine after each hike to help me recover.
1. Have a light snack immediately after hike to replace nutrients lost during exercise along with water. (Drink water throughout hike to stay hydrated.) I typically have a piece of fruit and trail mix.
2. Take a hot bath with Epsom salt (or dead sea salt) and essential oils. Epsom salt and sea salt reduce swelling and essential oils reduce swelling, decrease any pain (if there is any) and relax tired, tight muscles. Essentials to use include peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, frankincense, marjoram, lavender, tea tree and many others. Experiment with different combination for a blend you enjoy. (See bath recipes below).
3. Have a complete meal with fresh fruits, vegetables and quality protein.
4. Take a nap. 15-30 minutes is a great boost. However, I need a much longer nap after a 3-4 mile hike. I generally go to sleep for 1-2 hours. I was inactive for years. Hiking takes a lot out of me. After my nap, I continue my day as normal and it doesn’t bother my sleep at night. I don’t nap on the sofa or in a chair. I get in the bed! I get up when I feel rested, refreshed and restored. Any shorter than an hour and I drag through the rest of the day. I would rather take 1-2 hours to nap and have a productive evening then to drag through the day accomplishing little because I am tired.
I listen to your body and give it what it needs. Everybody is different. Listen to your body.
This routine is great for any chronic pain suffer. Use it after any activity that you choose.
The typical hiker may not need this but while still in the recovery process, I do.
1-2 cups Epsom salt or dead sea salt
5-10 drops lavender oil – relaxes and reduces anxiety, restful sleep, pain relief
5 drops tea tree oil – pain reliever, arthritis relief and muscle aches
1-2 cups Epsom salt or dead sea salt
5 drops peppermint oil – pain reliever that provides a cooling sensation and improves concentration
5 drops eucalyptus oil – pain reliever that helps congestion, headache and allergy symptoms
1-2 cups Epsom salt or dead sea salt
5-10 drops frankincense oil
5 drop rosemary oil
1 cup Epsom salt or sea salt
5 drops eucalyptus oil
5 drops rosemary oil
5 drops tea tree oil
10 drops lavender oil
Make your own combinations by combining oils that you enjoy.
**Add essential oils after water is off.
“Throw me to the wolves and I’ll return leading the pack.”
Throwing someone to the wolves, lions or dogs means to sacrifice someone, put them in a bad situation or send them to a terrible fate usually to save yourself. You may even hear people say throw someone under the bus. Regardless of the exact wording the meaning is basically the same.
Can you imagine being thrown into a pack of wolves or lions? That is an image most of do not want to see. It is a deadly situation. Under the best circumstances, the result is unimaginable.
A chronic illness or chronic pain from an illness (arthritis, fibromyalgia, MS, Lupus, etc.) often feels like being thrown to the wolves. The fear of being eaten alive is actually the fear of death, the fear of the pain getting worse or even worse is the fear that the pain never ends. Being in constant pain feels like you are being eaten alive from the inside out. It is even worse when there are no outward signs of illness. People look at your physical appearance and assume everything is ok. You look good so by all standards you must be good when that could not be further from the truth.
This situation intensifies the feelings of being thrown to the wolves. You have this unimaginable pain that is tearing you apart physically, emotionally and spiritually yet no one sees it. No one recognizes the agony you feel. Doctors and other medical professionals don’t recognize the agony you suffer. They treat your condition from a scientific perspective. Your family and friends don’t recognize the agony you feel either. They may support you as best they can but even that falls short.
I know this is because I felt like I was thrown to the wolves. I was 37 with chronic arthritis. I could barely walk from pain and every week it seemingly got worse. Chronic arthritis made my knees and body hurt and burn in ways in didn’t know was possible. I didn’t know my OWN body could hurt so intensely until I experienced it. The real pain was intensified by feelings of loneliness, shame and guilt.
Many chronic pain suffers experience these same feelings. They feel lonely because no one understands what they feel physically. They feel ashamed because they cannot do what other people do. They feel guilty because they are sick. They also feel guilty because they need the help of other people more than ever.
That physical and emotional pain is what being thrown to the wolves feels like to chronic pain suffers. You aren’t actually being eaten alive but you are consumed with pain and negative feelings and emotions that only intensify the pain.
However, when we are thrown to the wolves we have a choice. We can lay down and die or we can fight with all our might for our life.
Fighting for your life means:
1. Never give up. You remain hopeful.
2. Be open-minded. Being open-minded means, you are open to different medical treatment options as well complementary and alternative treatments such as acupuncture, acupressure, life coaching or Reiki, etc.
3. Make changes. Making changes means changing your life and lifestyle to increase your chances of success. This includes your diet, exercise regimen but most importantly how you think. You must take a positive and optimistic outlook. If you think you are doomed, then you are. It is as simple as that!
When you get thrown to the wolves, rewrite your game plan and come back leading the pack. Rarely is life what we imagined as children. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great life with all its ups and downs. Change your plans from what you imagined, to what is and create a great life in spite of the situation or circumstances.
People often ask me, “How do I know I have arthritis?” Today I want to discuss a few of the signs that are present with arthritis.
1. Joint Stiffness
Stiffness is difficulty moving the joint. Stiffness often occurs after sitting for extended periods of time. It also occurs after standing in the same place such as standing in line for extended periods. Anyone can experience stiffness after sitting or standing too but with people without arthritis the stiffness usually gets better after walking a few steps. With arthritis the stiffness lasts longer or is almost always present.
Locking is the inability to move the joint. Locked joints are unable to bend or straighten. Like stiffness, locking occurs after sitting for extended periods or standing as well. Locking also happens while sleeping. The joint seems to fuse in place and many times requires you to physically unlock it. Pain usually accompanies locking. Locking sometimes means there a foreign body in the space between the joint that prevents it from moving. Torn cartilage or bone fragments are two such items. Surgery (usually arthroscopic) is typically required to remove foreign bodies.
Swelling is another sign of arthritis. Swelling is the body’s reaction to injury. Swelling occurs after surgery as well. Swelling is also described as inflammation. An enlarged area or body part, redness and heat (hot to the touch) are signs of swelling. There are times when inflammation is present without the presence of an enlarged body part. For instance prior to bi-lateral knee replacement my right knee was hot to the touch always. It didn’t matter whether I was active or inactive. My knee was always hot to the touch. The hot feeling was due to internal inflammation. My knee was not visibly swollen.
The pain associated with arthritis varies in many ways. Arthritis pain is sometimes mild but it can also be excruciating. A steady dull ache or a sharp shooting pain may also happen. The pain may come and go or be present all the time.
Pain is acute if it last for a short duration such as after a burn or surgery. A gout flare-up is acute pain because the pain subsides within a few days or weeks. Pain that last longer than three months is chronic pain. Fibromyalgia, low back pain and migraines are forms of chronic pain. Arthritis can be acute or chronic.
Please be aware that these are signs of arthritis but are not a conclusive diagnosis of arthritis. A visit with an orthopedic doctor is the only way to confirm a diagnosis of arthritis. A doctor confirms the diagnosis by taking a thorough patient history and x-rays. X-rays confirm an arthritis diagnosis in a third of people with the above signs. However there are instances when there is no evidence on an x-ray. In such cases an MRI or other testing is necessary. Damage such as torn cartilage or ligaments is not always visible on an x-ray.
Always visit a physician when you experience pain or any of the above signs. Pain is your body’s warning system. Pain is a signal that something is wrong. Medical intervention works best in the early stages of damage. Self-diagnosis is almost always a bad idea! Visit your family physician and use traditional medicine along with complementary and alternative medicine to have the most pain relief.
Pain comes in many forms. We experience pain because of an injury or accident. We experience pain when someone says something mean or hurtful. We experience pain when a loved one passes away. Although these examples are different forms of pain, they are still painful.
Pain because of an injury is either acute or chronic pain and is a physical pain. Acute pain is pain that is short-lived or temporary such as the pain one experiences after an injury. Chronic pain is pain that lasts for longer periods of time. Perhaps even years. Acute and chronic pain vary in degree of intensity. It is classified as mild or severe.
Emotional pain or mental pain often occurs as well. Psychological pain does not have a physical aspect but it is still pain nonetheless. Psychological pain occurs for many reasons such as the pain of a break-up, , job loss, divorce, or the death of a loved one or pet.
It seems that pain is senseless but that is actually not true. There are reasons why we experience pain.
2 Reasons We Experience Pain
1. We Experience Pain as a Warning
Physical pain is the body’s warning system. Physical pain is a sign that something is wrong. If you stump you toe, you experience pain. That pain is a sign that you bruised your toe or possibly broke it. As soon as you hit your toe, electrical impulses travel from the brain to your toe so that you instantly feel pain. A minor injury causes short-term pain.
We encounter problems when we experience persistent mild pain or sudden severe pain. Both of these are indications that something serious is wrong. Example of these include jaw pain, persistent back pain with no obvious cause, or chest pain. All of things are warning signs of a heart attack. We experience major problems when we ignore these danger signs
We also experience problems when we assume why we are in pain. People make assumptions about their health all the time. Often our health suffers because of the assumptions we make. For example you have a nagging, persistent cough. The cough lasts for several weeks. You know you have allergies so you assume your cough is due to allergies. You treat the cough with cough syrup and allergy medicine from the local pharmacy but the cough doesn’t get any better. It’s true the cough might be associated with your allergies but a persistent cough is also a sign of bronchitis, pneumonia, emphysema, or even lung cancer. Whether for a cough or pain, don’t make assumptions. If the issue doesn’t get better or completely resolve in a few days, consult a pharmacist or doctor. It is better to ask and decide that the issue is minor and of no real concern than to assume it is nothing and it really is something!
2. We Experience Pain as a Teacher
Pain as a teacher is sometimes difficult to grasp. It is hard to imagine learning anything when in the middle of a painful situation. However, pain really is a teacher. Pain in its physical form and physiological form teaches us. Pain teaches you about yourself and your body. Pain teaches you about life. Pain also teaches you about others.
If you get a stomach ache every time you eat dessert, you learn that too much sugar upsets your stomach. The pain of a stomach ache teaches you about your body.
Job loss, financial hardships and illness teach us about perseverance. We learn even in the most trying of situations how to keep going. We learn that even the things we thought would destroy us, don’t destroy us. As a result we get stronger and more resilient. We learn how to endure.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my own years of chronic pain was that you never know what others go through. I looked fine to the naked eye but I suffered daily. Once I was verbally assaulted for parking in a handicapped parking space because I didn’t look handicapped. I was young and I was walking. The man assumed there was nothing wrong but knew nothing about me, my story or my pain. He didn’t know that I had 7 surgeries (at that time) on my legs and knees. He didn’t know that I felt like crying with every step I took. He didn’t know anything about me. This experience taught me to stop making snap judgments about people based on appearances. My pain wasn’t obvious but it was real. I learned to teach people with respect and love even when I didn’t understand what I saw.
Whether physical pain or emotional pain, there is something to learn.
Many times in life we reach a point where we are neither unhappy nor happy. We reach this state by accident. It starts as a routine life but before you know it you are stuck in place you never intended.
We wake up every morning, get families ready for their day and rush out the door to work. We work all day, chauffeur kids to rehearsals, sporting events, etc. in the evening, grab a bite to eat and fall into bed at night exhausted. The next day we repeat the cycle. We repeat the cycle over and over. Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year we repeat the same cycle. There isn’t anything wrong with this life if it is fulfilling and makes you happy.
The problem is all too often we are not unhappy and we are not happy, either. You are stuck in this place of blah. We are complacent with life. We are just going through the motions. We feel ok with our lives is and we do not want to change them. However, we can’t say that we are happy.
Life is not be an endless cycle of blah! Life is a great experience. Life is an adventure. It has joy and pain. It has sunshine and rain. It has its up and downs. However life is not just this routine we do every day without any real thought, happiness, joy or satisfaction.
Steps to break the cycle.
1. Take note of the current situation. What part of your day do you enjoy most? What part of your day do you enjoy least?
2. Share the load with your spouse or family.
3. Become self-aware. Learn to recognize when you tiredness, stress-out, over-whelmed or burned-out.
4. Carve out time to nurture you. This can be learning a new hobby or re-establishing an old one.
5. Practice self-care. Self-care involves prayer, mediation, eating healthy, exercises or reading. Self-care can be any activity that brings positive feeling, increases self-confidence, self-esteem or self-efficacy.
6. Learn to say no. Stop doing things that you flat-out have no want to do or the time to do them. No one ever died from being told, no. So stop running around being everything to everybody.
We are much happier in life when we an active participant. Stop going through the motions and become actively involved in your life. Happiness is yours to have if you want it.
33 years of arthritis pain taught me to appreciate the good moments in life. No matter how small that moment was. I learned to appreciate the days when there was a little pain and not the excruciating pain I often felt. I thought I had savoring the moment or appreciating the moment mastered. After all, I had 11 surgeries on my knees and legs, 1 back surgery and countless painful physical therapy sessions. These experiences taught me a lot about life and how to appreciate it.
Friends watching sunset at Huntington Beach State Park
Then something completely unexpected happened. One of my dearest friends was diagnosed with stage III cervical cancer. I was completely thrown for a loop. I remained calm, hopeful, caring and supportive as I could be. Then two weeks later her oncologist upgraded her to stage IVB cervical cancer. Her cervical cancer had metastasized. It spread to her lungs and lymph nodes. I was numb. I was afraid. But I had to support my friend so I pulled myself together and supported her in whatever way she needed, when she needed. This situation was truly eye-opening. Acts 9:18 speaks of the scales falling from Saul’s eyes. After which he could see the truth.
Acts 9:18 (NIV)
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized…
Spending this past weekend with my friend removed the scales from my eyes. I knew I didn’t fully understand the pain of cancer, chemotherapy (chemo) or chemotherapy induced menopause because I hadn’t personally experienced it but I had no idea the depths to which it ran!
To celebrate her last chemo and the size reduction of her tumor, we (my two best friends and myself) went to Myrtle Beach SC. We had a great time. We smiled, laughed and truly enjoyed ourselves. None of us had flown in a helicopter so we took a helicopter tour of the area. It was great. Over the course of the weekend she talked about her experiences and the aftermath. Chemo stopped six weeks ago but it takes around six months for some of the side effects to leave or stop. I didn’t know that.
Helicopter Tour Myrtle Beach SC
I watched and listened as she spoke. The evidence of her experience is obvious. Her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes are gone. Five weeks after chemo stopped her eye lashes continued to fall out. They are all gone now. She talked about how she never realized how important eye lashes were until she had none. Debris of all types constantly get in her eyes.
She even spoke briefly about being unattractive now. That is so far from the truth. She is as beautiful as ever. She is a truly beautiful woman. Her physical beauty is only enhanced by her beautiful and light-filled spirit. One might think am biased because I am her friend. But that is not the case. Everyone that meets her is drawn in by her presence. She is the kind of human being everyone wants to be near. People meet her once and never forget being in her presence. She is the kind of person that makes you feel special.
While we walked along the beach holding hands, taking pictures, playing in the surf and sand, singing, laughing and giggling as we always do, I realized just how great these moments are. We do things together every year. We always have a great time but somehow this weekend was different. My level of appreciation for life grew exponentially because of this experience.
Enjoying the beach
I learned that when I thought I knew something for sure, it was just the tip of the iceberg. I thought I knew how to truly appreciate life. I have a completely new level of consciousness or awareness because of this experience. Everything from a cloudy overcast day to holding my cat has new meaning. A new depth of appreciation.
I cannot image what the experience was like for her. And it is not over. Chemo is but she has 25 rounds of radiation next which is followed by immuno-therapy. However, be assured that I am here to do whatever she needs, when she needs for as long as she wants and needs.
What I learned and am still learning is that life is precious. Savor every single moment, in health and in sickness, richer or poorer. Life is beautiful. Life is sweet. Life is full of mountain highs and valley lows. Life in and of itself is the greatest gift no matter what it looks like. Savor every single moment!
A few days ago one of my YouTube subscribers sent me a comment about developing arthritis. An ankle injury resulted in surgery and now they were feeling down or sad at the future chances they may develop arthritis. The viewer asked how I handle moments when I feel down. I answered the question informing them to avoid playing out ‘what if’ scenarios in their head and to focus on the positive.
Today I want to elaborate just a bit on ‘what if’ scenarios. “What if” scenarios are situations where we ask ourselves “what if this happens then that happens”. An example would be “What if I lose my job then I won’t have any income.” You haven’t actually lost your job so you are worrying about a future event that you have no way of knowing if it will happen or not. Another example is when we are about to try a new activity or venture and we ask ourselves “what if I make a mistake” or “what if I fail”. Making such statements make us less likely to try new and different things based on the fear that we won’t succeed. The truth is everyone makes mistakes and we all fail sometimes. However the “what if” scenarios only terrorize us and create panic over situations that haven’t happened.
“What ifs” are based on fear and only cause more anxiety, worry and stress. Which is pointless in these situations because the event we are stressed-out about has not occurred. “What if” questions only make us fearful about the future and terrorize us.
The list of “what If’ questions is never-ending.
“What if this treatment doesn’t work?”
“What if I never get better?”
“What if the pain gets worse?”
“What if I can no longer work because of pain?”
“What if physical therapy hurts?”
The list goes on and on. One “what if” question leads to another “what if” question which leads to another. All of these questions only pull us further down into the depths of despair. The more we think about the “what ifs” in life the more worried, stressed-out and anxious we become. Stay in this state long enough and it can lead to feelings of sadness, depression or chronic stress.
When we have chronic pain, an injury or surgery (total knee replacement or any other surgery), it is easy to get caught in this cycle of questions. These questions do not benefit us in any way.
It’s important to focus on the positive when we find ourselves thinking about future events. Focus on the positive by paying attention to what is going well in your life currently. Sometimes we have to look for the rainbow but it is always there. Rainbows only appear after it rains. So when it rains in your life look for the rainbow. It’s there, you just have to pay attention.
Look at every situation as an opportunity to learn. We learn the most from painful situations whether it is physical pain or emotional pain. Then take what you learned and move forward. Don’t stay stuck in the same place of sadness or pain because a bad situation happened. Make a conscious decision to move forward, to grow, to become stronger and to prosper in every situation.
Every situation in life creates an opportunity to learn. I approached knee replacement with the same vigor I give everything. I asked questions from everyone involved, my surgeon, the physician assistant, nurses and the physical therapist. I took notes and I learned. Having knee replacement gave me a wealth of knowledge and experience. Having both knees replaced gave me more information. Every surgery is different. It was a great opportunity to compare my experiences knowing the history of both my knees. Because of these surgeries, I have a new audience I can relate to and more importantly, a new audience I can serve.
4. Renewed appreciation of life
I am not a fancy person. I always enjoyed the simple things in life, wildflowers, birds singing or a clear blue sky. Since knee replacement surgery, my appreciation of nature and life grew exponentially. I appreciated being alive every day when I had arthritis. And although it was really bad and I was in a lot of pain, I was aware that life could be worse. I appreciated my portion of good health even on my toughest days. Knee replacement gave me what the bible refers to as double portion. I got back everything I lost plus more. My relationship with God is on a firm foundation because of my journey. My trust and faith is unshakable and my love for God is unconditional. Simple pleasures are even more valuable today than ever. I don’t take anything for granted. I appreciate my life. I appreciate my new knees, I appreciate walking. I appreciate every new day that greets me because I realize I am truly blessed.
3. More active, socially and physically
Total knee replacement gave me my freedom back. Before surgery, pain held me hostage. Today I feel free. Today I am free. I enjoy social activities in a way that I haven’t in years. I look forward to meeting friends for game night, a movie or brunch that turns into an all-day affair.
As I write this blog, I sit on a bench in Durant Nature Preserve in Raleigh NC. I went for a hike around Gresham Lake and then found a nice spot to write. Hiking is a dream come true for me. Total knee replacement allowed me to break down the walls of imprisonment that arthritis built.
Gresham Lake, Raleigh NC
Gresham Lake Trail Raleigh, NC
2. Less day to day fatigue
What many people don’t realize is that chronic pain saps your energy. Every day is a struggle. People with chronic pain and other chronic illness must practice energy conservation regularly just to get through the day. Simple activities take a tremendous amount of energy. On more than one occasion, I spent half the day preparing for an evening out.
The routine was:
a. Take 800 mg of ibuprofen
b. Shower, elevate and ice my knees
c. Get dressed then elevate and ice again
d. Do make-up and hair and elevate and ice again.
I followed this routine to prevent the flaming, burning pain that accompanied standing for more than a few minutes.
Knee replacement stopped the burning, flaming pain I had as a result of chronic arthritis. I have much more energy. Simple activities such as getting dressed or doing house-hold chores are no longer a burden. The fatigue that comes with chronic pain sometimes lasts for days. Now a night of restful sleep is enough to replenish me after an active day. With chronic pain, a full night sleep is seldom achieved. I truly love sleeping through the night.
1. No More Arthritis
At The top of this list all day, every day is no more arthritis. No more arthritis, means no more arthritis pain. Arthritis in its chronic state is a constant nagging pain. On every occasion, the pain is there. On the best day, the pain is still there in some form. People with arthritis try to take advantage of days with mild pain but they are always careful not to overdo it. Do too much on a mild day and the result is several days of excruciating pain. Knee replacement made arthritis pain an obsolete issue. It’s still hard to believe. I don’t have knee arthritis anymore. After 33 years of it, I don’t have knee arthritis anymore! Wow, I’m in awe. I wake up with a smile on my face every day because the first thing I feel is not pain.
I made the video on March 27, 2015, three days after my right total knee replacement. It was an emotional moment. That was the first time I woke up with arthritis pain in many years.
Total knee replacement truly changed my life. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Recently I began to wonder why people use these expressions. I thought about this all day. In the middle of the night the realization hit me like a ton of bricks! People use these expressions to minimize their suffering. That realization led to another question. The big question! Why do people minimize their own suffering?
The answer to that question is simple yet complex. People minimize their own suffering for two reasons.
– People minimize their suffering for the sake of their family and others in their immediate circle. People are more concerned with their children and/or spouses well-being than their own well-being. This concern often manifests as protection. Parents and spouses feel they must protect those around them from pain (physical pain and emotional pain). To protect others, people hide the extent to which they are suffering personally.
– People minimize their suffering when they are in denial. A painful or life threatening illness or condition creates anxiety and fear. Minimizing pain and suffering is a self-protection mechanism people use. We think if I ignore this pain or illness, then it will go away. Unfortunately, that is wishful thinking. In many cases people know something is wrong long before they visit a doctor. This denial sometimes leads to the condition worsening. Ignoring your body’s warning signals can have harmful effects.
The next time you make or hear such statements, imagine someone telling you they are a touch of pregnant. After you stop laughing, your immediate thought is either you are pregnant or you are not pregnant. You cannot be a little pregnant.
The same is true of a cold, asthma and arthritis. If you have a touch of a cold, you have a cold. It might be minor but it is still a cold. A touch of asthma is still asthma and a touch of arthritis is still arthritis. Ignoring these do not make the magically disappear.
I used to do it. I didn’t want my family and friends to worry about me so I didn’t tell the complete truth. I left out important details, very important details. They knew I had arthritis, they knew I experienced pain but very few knew about the excruciating pain I experienced daily. In the beginning, I only went to the orthopedic when I could not stand the pain any longer.
Trying to protect others was a tremendous burden. That burden increased my suffering because I was in pain and I felt alone. Over the last 10 years my approach changed but in the beginning I spent a lot of time suffering.
Don’t spend your time and your life suffering unnecessarily. You are not protecting anyone when you sacrifice your physical or mental well-being. Taking care yourself is vital.
You take the best care of yourself when:
1. You are honest with yourself and others. Secrets are a burden.
2. You are proactive with your health and well-being instead of reactive.
3. You seek support when you need it whether through a medical professional, a counselor or life coach.
Become an active participate in your life. Determine your destiny by making decisions and choices that support your overall well-being.
For more information on arthritis, preparing for total knee replacement and what to expect after TKR check out my books. Available http://goo.gl/QaqFF6
Want the support of a life coach that understands chronic pain. Visit: http://joyfullivingwithkimberlydixon.com
Ask about my post-TRK support!
I Have Arthritis, Now What? (Ways to Manage Arthritis Pain)