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My *Second* Break for Healing

Posted on Tuesday, June 13, 2006 at 04:32PM by Registered CommenterMarshall Massey in | Comments4 Comments

I really hadn’t meant to wait this long before updating you on my medical situation.

But there was one distraction after another — the story of all our lives —

My wife kindly lined up an appointment with my doctor for me, even before I arrived home. I was glad to be checking with him. He’s a big-city internist at a teaching hospital, which means he holds a position sufficiently competitive to ensure that he has to stay very current on medical thinking in his field. He was also trained in his field by my own stepfather, which means something to me (though you may think it silly of me, friends!).

I was still a bit surprised, though, when my doctor rejected the Galesburg physician’s diagnosis. “What the Galesburg physician thought you had,” my doctor said, “is veinous insufficiency. That’s what happens when the one-way valves in the veins running up your legs start to give out, so that they can no longer prevent blood from pooling in your feet and causing your feet to swell. But if that were the problem, there’d be other signs — discolored skin on your lower legs, varicose veins — that I don’t see here. Your problem is bursitis — inflammation of the ligaments in your ankles — and a touch of tendonitis. Blood pressure isn’t a part of it at all.”

This was reassuring news for all sorts of reasons. It meant I didn’t have to worry about high blood pressure — which can be hard to control — setting off a fresh episode. It meant I didn’t need to bludgeon myself with anti-hypertension meds as a precaution. (You really don’t want to overdo those things if you can avoid it!) And it meant I didn’t need to strap myself to a bed with my feet thirty degrees above my heart for twenty-four hours to cure the swelling.

But there was a bad side, too. Bursitis takes longer to heal. The pain lasts longer. It too can recur.

Two days of rest showed that my doctor at home was right. As the swelling in my feet diminished, the pain — far from going away with the swelling as the Galesburg physician had predicted — got worse, as the swelling ceased to cushion the inflamed places in my ankles. After a night of sleep with my feet somewhat elevated to reduce the swelling, I could barely stand up in the morning. Far from getting steadily better, I first went into a trough where even walking around the block was inconceivably painful. And during that stage, the looks of pity I provoked from onlookers around the neighborhood and at stores where I ran errands downright embarrassed me.

But there came a turning point — and fortunately it was several days ago, well before I was scheduled to return to the road. I healed to the point where I could bring my backpack to a meeting of my oversight committee at my monthly meeting. (They were very loving to me!) And I was able to go to meeting for worship, too, the day before yesterday, and it was wonderful for all that the pain in my ankles kept distracting me.

Even today, as I drive to Normal, Illinois, to return to my journey and meet with Friends (I am posting these words from an Internet café in Peoria that I spotted along my route), I still shudder at the thought of a two-block walk. But the pain is now much reduced, and the flexibility in my ankles, much improved.

And where do I go from here?

It seems evident that if I were to try to resume the pace of walking that I originally set for myself, I would simply provoke a relapse. It’s probably possible to get to the point where I can once again carry a pack day after day for the kind of distance I could handle when I was young, but to get there will take a lot more time and conditioning than I thought.

So at least for now, I’m condemned to using my car to reduce the number of miles I walk each day to a level my body can handle. And what that means is: I’ll rise each day, shoulder my backpack and walk down my route to the point where my ankles say, “Don’t push it, Friend,” double back, jump in my car, and drive to my nightly destination — the campground, motel, or Friend’s home where I’ll spend the night. And then when I get to my destination I’ll park, shoulder my backpack a second time, walk a little back up my assigned route toward my starting point, double back to my car, and then set up the tent or register in the motel or greet the Friends I’m staying with for the night.

I’ll miss more than half the miles in the middle of each day’s journey that way, because I’ll be walking each mile I do walk, twice — once away from my car, and then a second time on the way back. But I’ll still be walking the route as best I can. And — who knows? — maybe I’ll improve to the point where, somewhere down the road, I can do the whole distance again.

When I offer this plan to the Voice in my heart, I do not feel or hear it objecting. And that’s what matters most to me.

I’ll also still have time to settle into the land as a walker every day, to feel it with the intimacy of a human being stripped of mechanical powers. And that feels right to the Voice within me, too.

jun 06-07.jpgThis day’s drive has been wonderful for my spirit and understanding, even though I’ve been driving not walking. Seeing the route I’d already walked from Omaha to Dahinda, Illinois a second time, this time from the vantage point of my car, has driven home some lessons I hadn’t really brought into focus the first time around. And the new turf I’ve been covering from Dahinda to here in Peoria where I am now has been teaching me new things, even though not at the depth or precision I’d have gained had I been walking.

So I have some new things to report here! But this post is already long enough. The new stuff will simply have to wait for a future opportunity.

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Reader Comments (4)

You suffer from mystical delusion.

-- comment posted by Anonymous
June 14th, 2006 at 1:21 a.m.
Sep 3, 2006 at 08:17AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
Hi Marshall, sorry to hear of the pains. Maybe there’s a lesson in all this, a gift of some sort in the humility of accepting compromise? It’s all about being faithful to the leading, not the specific visions we’ve drawn up. I trust your path is continuing to open up. Safe walking, brother.
Your Friend Martin

-- comment posted by Martin Kelley, http://www.nonviolence.org/martink
June 14th, 2006 at 7:22 p.m.
Sep 3, 2006 at 08:18AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
I think friend, that you have focused too much on the spiritual aspect your journey, not the physical.
Most of the physical problems you have described may have been avoided if you had done about a month’s worth of “trial walks” beforehand. This would have toughened up your feet, and you would have discovered that your pack wasn’t working correctly for you. Streching exercises can help you avoid the bursitis.

-- comment posted by Eagle Scout
June 14th, 2006 at 9:12 p.m.
Sep 3, 2006 at 08:19AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey
Thank you, friends, for your comments. “Anonymous”, I shall hold yours in the Light. Martin, I think you and I are seeing this matter the same way! And “Eagle Scout”, I appreciate your advice about stretching exercises.

-- comment posted by Marshall
June 15th, 2006 at 11:53 a.m.
Sep 3, 2006 at 08:19AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

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