The Pain in My Left Elbow

My elbow hurts. It’s the left one. I’m right-handed so I don’t really use it much, but it’s surprising how much of a role you realize it plays when it hurts. It’s hurt for quite a long while. You know that nagging “sorta yes and sorta no” kind of pain where you figure it’s probably age so you just need to pull up your big girl pants and keep going? I have a fairly high pain threshold. I do have a very low hypochondriac threshold – like I’m always sure I have the latest disease when it’s blown up on TV. Therefore, I’ve had the monkey pox, the west nile, the hanta, the swine flu, and when those two people who may have been former spies in the U.K. were poisoned, I felt like I had some of those same symptoms – other than the need to be hospitalized because you’re near death part. And yet my pain threshold is pretty high. So when I did my annual visit to the doctor to help him realize how wonderfully easy his other patients are, I mentioned toward the very end of the visit that my elbow pain has been waking me up at night. I’m not certain what causes that human behavior – the one where you know you have an issue and you’ve been in the doctor’s office a fair amount of time, and you’re finishing up, and they’re writing up prescription renewals for another year, and then you suddenly realize you have a thing that you forgot to mention. Am I the only one?

So the good doctor says we probably should get an x-ray before I leave. And of course I decide that’s not really a good idea because that makes it suddenly seem more of a deal than I want it to be. I share that I believe it’s simply tendonitis, because of my advanced age and too many years of bad golf swings that may have ended up with the club having a sudden artificial stoppage (who put that tree there anyway?) which is not good for the arms and shoulders and elbows. I always think it’s helpful to offer a self-diagnosis to medical professionals, you know, since I have that whole Doctorate thing now – it must be good for something. My doctor thanks me graciously for my diagnosis but decides an x-ray is a good idea anyway. I remind him that my advice is free. The look on his face told me it’s probably worth about that much as well. All I know is it never makes me feel particularly comfortable when the tech puts an 800 lb. gray “blanket” over the rest of your body and then feels the need to step either out of the room or to some “safe” distance before they snap the shot.

So it appears that I fractured my elbow at some other time in my life and never went to see about it. And evidently when it happened, it didn’t particularly knit back together exactly right. It wasn’t a big break or anything, not even a major fracture, just a small thing that probably at the time didn’t slow me down a whole lot but over time has become irritated. Yeah, me too. I found out the same thing when I dislocated my ankle while I was serving out at Baldwin First. When I went to see about that, the x-ray showed I’d fractured my ankle sometime in my way-back ball playing days and never really took care of it. I don’t know how many times I hurt my ankle back then but I wore so much tape at times it was hard to get my shoe on and tied. I’m a living example of the old adage “just walk it off” . . . but then you get older and less flexible and less able to hop out of bed so easily and maybe a little less able to ignore or set aside that your body is slowing you down and walking it off is not exactly a resolution to the problem. Who knew?

I’m walking around now with a DVD of the pictures of my elbow that has an unnatural gap where there shouldn’t be one and an appointment in my calendar to see an orthopedic surgeon. I have an uncle who’s the best orthopedic surgeon in the world and called him to have him zap me over the phone and make all of this go away. Somehow, he thinks going to see the ortho in person is more promising than a loving uncle zapping me over the phone. We then talked a bit about how I might be a little like the rest of the Roberts clan where toughing it out and moving forward may work for a while… until it doesn’t. We are a rather stubborn and hard-headed bunch. You all need to stop chuckling at the thought that I’m telling you this as if it’s new information for you – I know who you are and where you live!

Given all of this and a lifetime of doing things a particular way, I’ve been thinking. Maybe changing isn’t only for everyone else. *snort* And maybe it isn’t only about economics and politics and gun violence and race and gender. Maybe it’s also about how we treat ourselves. I’ve always simply assumed my body would do what it needed to in order for me to get done what I need to get done. Regardless of exhaustion or injury or mental or emotional stress or pushing the envelope of exercise endurance, this body is simply supposed to keep going without me paying it any attention. I could blame it on growing up on a farm, or my DNA, or my focus on the intellect, or my very slight obsession with the work I love, but it turns out that finding something to blame doesn’t really help the situation. In the end, it’s my responsibility to be accountable for my whole self as God has invited me and each of us to do. What I need to hear and be reminded of is that God didn’t call part of us beloved – the brain, the hard-working spirit, the motivation to excellence (sliding a bit into perfectionism perhaps). God called the whole of us beloved, which includes our physical being – this sacred vessel that partners with us, and in many ways is the foundation of our being able to live fully into the blessing and vision God has for us.

I’m going to keep an appointment with an ortho doc whom I’ve never met but perhaps and most probably has a gift of insight around how to better care for this pain in the elbow that subtly nags at me. I will listen and respect his direction and thoughts – and maybe offer a little free medical advice from my perspective as well. *snort* And along this particular part of the journey, I can decide to take some responsibility in new ways for caring for this part of God’s gift of life and grace that is the wholeness of being. Seriously? All this from a pain in my left elbow? God does have a sense of humor. Let’s hope the ortho doc does as well!