The power of people (or more reflections from rehab)

Source: Clipartpanda

Source: Clipartpanda

Author’s Note: Don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t one of those uplifting posts that tells you how wonderful you can be. You can read that stuff on your own time.

Long-time readers know that I find most people annoying. People are nuts. Some of the things they do defy sanity and I’m not just talking about the guy who cuts me off at the Starbucks drive-through.

However…..

When you meet people who are in your same situation, there is an instant bonding that happens regardless of background, experiences or anything else.

Earlier this week I arrived at my occupational therapy session a little early. There was a departmental meeting going on so I was directed to sit in the waiting area which has exactly four chairs. There were three of us. All of us waiting for hand rehab.

I don’t remember how it started but within a nanosecond we were comparing hand problems, surgeries and recovery.

One guy stuck his hand in the exhaust chute of a snow blower (eyow!). The other woman fell cross-country skiing and fractured her wrist badly enough to require plates and screws (double eyow!).

There I sat with a simple cyst. Completely outdone but very happy about that.

As we shared stories I found that my recovery isn’t any different from theirs.

Hand stuff is more painful than some other surgeries. I recovered from breast cancer surgery much faster. There are less bones and nerves in soft tissue boobs.

Heat is kinder than cold. The woman with the plates talked about the discomfort when the weather was cold. The thin wrist is not much protection to keep her metal plates from chilling down. Even without metal plates, I could relate to that and so could the other guy.

The woman and I worked with the same therapist side by side. He would work with one of us while the other was in heat therapy or doing an exercise but the conversation was three-way. I learned a lot from her intelligent questions. (My office questions are never intelligent. My best questions come at 3 a.m. and always have a fatal answer – at least in my head. I know no one has ever died from a thumb cyst. Yet.)

I have made the circuit of all the therapists on the team to which I was assigned. It was very helpful because each one gave me new information or techniques. I think this is better than having the same person all the time.

As helpful as they were, my waiting session with my fellow sufferers went a long way to making me feel normal (which is not an easy challenge).

This happened to me once before. When I had breast cancer I received a new therapy. I was the 65th person to receive this type of treatment and yes, it was scary.

The best part (other than it was successful) was that there were two other woman going through it at the same time. We had surgery the same day so the recovery stage was identical.

We came in for treatment twice a day for five days. We compared our energy levels and our fears. The treatment did not make us sick but sapped our energy. Sapped it beyond belief! Like maple syrup running out of a tree.

We were told we could work through it. It didn’t make sense because we had to report to the hospital at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. every day for an hour and a half. How do you work around that?

I was too tired to attempt it. One of the other ladies tried. She worked in a library for a few hours in the evening. She had her husband pick her up the first night because she was so tired.

That was empowering. Knowing you are not alone is the most empowering feeling in the world. It doesn’t matter what the connection is. What matters is that there is someone else who feels and reacts the same way you do.

Perhaps people can be useful. Sometimes. Maybe but the jury is still out.

44 thoughts on “The power of people (or more reflections from rehab)

  1. A most enjoyable read. We do have uses and usefulness but being an introvert it is hard to open and accept others. Some people can seem to work along as they have their “TPN” chemo attached to their body. And most people in my experience are more than willing to share stories. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. I am sure that to face illness and treatment is a very vulnerable position to be in! What you have shared here about the role that others who provided support simply by going through the same experiences is really a testament to how we can be valuable to each other. You have a very powerful story, Kate. I’m so glad you shared from a very personal place.

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  3. Yesterday I had lunch with some old high school friends. One of the nice things about getting together with them is that we’re all the same age. So after we finish talking about all the nice things–trips and other old friends and grandchildren who won races or got a college acceptance, then we spare some time for the inevitable down side of life. P and I have developed an asthmatic cough. L’s sister died three months after being diagnosed with lung cancer. And K’s brother has gone off the deep end (some late-in-life mental illness). Most of us don’t like to spend too much time on all this unpleasant stuff, but it does make you feel that you’re not alone to talk about it for now and then.

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    • My girlfriends and I do the same thing. I have found that if I am going through something, chances are at least one of them has experienced something similar. Of course we try to keep that to after the good, fun stuff!

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    • It is. There are so many times you are not sure if something that’s happening is “normal” or if the healing went off course. Sometimes the health professionals don’t tell you what’s obvious to them but unknown to you.

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  4. Agreed…not about maybe people being useful; about the jury’s still out. That saying about the more men I meet, the more I like my dog is true, so long as “and women” comes right after “men”! That sounds worse than I meant. I just prefer a book to a lot of people, that’s all.

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  5. I’m a true introvert so being around people wears me out. Even when we’re going through the same things. That being said, I can understand how you are learning from the various perspectives provided by patients and therapists. And I can see how it could be uplifting, so I’m going to say “Good For You!”… in my cheeriest voice.

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  6. I tend to think there is strength in numbers (not to mention comfort), but encouragement from someone who knows where your coming from (has been there and knows your pain), I don’t believe there is a substitute for that kind of compassion.

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  7. I’m one of those people who like to find groups with others who are going through what I’m going through. I haven’t had any health related issues that I’ve needed this for but have been to Weight Watchers in my life (enjoyed the meetings while others I know hate them), classes at the gym (again, I know people who hate them), various support groups, etc. Helps me realize we are all in the same boat with our own insecurities. Hope that isn’t too uplifting! 🙂 Glad the new therapy worked, hope your thumb continues to heal.

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    • Many years ago I joined a support group for women in the process of divorce. I needed a safe place to talk. It was the most depressing and uplifting experience. We all had a chance to share each week and learned from each other. I carried tissues to those meetings and would join a support group if I felt I needed it. Most other things I tend to do on my own although I keep procrastinating about trying yoga. Now if I had a friend who was interested maybe that would get me going.

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  8. Just yesterday I had a conversation with my sister, in which I was speaking to the “how I wish I had a cabin in the woods and never had to interact with another person again” train of thought. In the same conversation, I spoke about how sometimes people can connect in a very honest and deep way, even when they barely know another, if they have just one thing in common. She told me that I was contradicting myself. That someone who hates people can’t also enjoy discovering those spontaneous deep connections that can form over a bonded experience.

    I had no choice but to admit that I was, in fact, contradicting myself. No surprise there. I do it all the time, but usually it’s only in the conversations I have with myself. I told her that she just proven my point. People can be annoying. Especially sisters. 🙂

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    • You weren’t contradicting yourself. People can be annoying but connecting about something is special. It doesn’t always end in life long relationships (I never saw my cancer buddies outside of the hospital) but it was there when it was needed. The woman I met at OT most likely would never be a close friend. Our connection is very limited. I can’t even imagine thinking about skiing. I’m pretty sure she was older than me and very sports minded. However for that period of time we were BFs (not BFFs).

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  9. A few years ago my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It is very small and thankfully benign. But it was still very scary. He decided that instead of keeping it a secret, he would tell everyone. It was amazing how many leads he got for people in like situations, and how much those people helped him. Both with advice and with just understanding.

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  10. Despite your initial disclaimer, I found this post uplifting. A little anyway. People do have their uses . . . this place would not be nearly as interesting without them. :mrgreen:

    Glad that you’ve been able to get ideas from all the different therapists ~ sounds like “too many cooks” do NOT spoil the broth when in therapy.

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  11. Kate – I’m so glad you are weakening about the intrinsic value of the human race. My own fatal flaw is believing everybody is good. Unfortunately there is a mass of people who continually prove otherwise. I didn’t know about your breast surgery but I am awfully glad the new therapy worked because I have decided you are among the “good” folks and try as you will you can’t prove otherwise. 🙂 And thankfully too, it seems that a thumb cyst is not fatal. 🙂

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    • Ms. nice guy will be gone in a few weeks so don’t get too attached to my soft side! OT has been a very positive experience. The people who work there are top notch and very nice. There wasn’t any “no pain no gain” attitude. They gave me a thumb tube that is the best thing since sliced bread. The inside is silicone gel and it protects the scar from getting bumped. It also gives me a good reason for this germ phobic to refuse to shake hands. I do like upbeat people like you. Perhaps it’s been my work in human resources that has made me so wary.

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  12. It is a comfort to know, you’re not alone. I go for two hour infusions every six weeks for my Crohn’s Disease…you really get to know people during that time. I always leave feeling grateful because there’s always someone whose circumstances are much worse than mine.
    Your comment to Victo cracked me up, Kate. 🙂

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  13. I believe Einstein was right when he said “There are only two things known to man that are infinite … the universe, and human stupidity, although I’m not so sure about the universe!” (quote from memory so not literal).
    I also believe that terms like ignorant, insensitive, stupid and moronic (etc) describe many people whose paths cross mine however, my response with by far the best track record of practical results is to stay calm and in total control. They tend to leave exasperated and/or embarrassed, while I leave calm, collected, and wondering how they became so ignorant, insensitive, stupid or moronic etc. 🙂

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