...and other things that could be worse.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone asks, "How are you?" and, instead of the required, perfunctory, "Good", you launch into a detailed explanation of how you really are? I realize that "How are you?" is a rhetorical question. I have once or twice found myself standing idly by, thinking about how much laundry is probably waiting for me at home, while someone stands by my side telling me how they really are. But, in their defense, sometimes you just want to get it out; to tell someone how crappy you really feel.

This being said, have you ever really needed to unburden yourself of your terrible circumstance and then find yourself in the presence of someone who can always one-up you when it comes to your sucky lot in life? You say, "I have a terrible headache". They say, "My migraine is so bad, I think I might have a tumour". You say, "My back aches". They say, "Last year, I tweaked my back so badly that I had to see my chiropractor for at least 3 weeks". You say, "I've had both of my hips replaced in the last 8 months". They say, "A couple of years ago, I cut my foot and landed in the ER for 3 hours before anyone even called my name". Yes, things could always be worse. Of course, they could. We are reminded of this everyday; every hour. We are reminded of this every time we turn on the news or read the paper. Horrible things are happening to people all over the world, everyday.

When I first returned from the hospital after my second surgery, it was a very dark time for me. I felt helpless. I was paralyzed from the shin down on my right side. Would I get better? Could I get better? What if I didn't? What would happen then? I need information and support. My mother was staying with us and just happened to mention that a girl I knew from home had had a similar experience to mine and had recovered. I called her and was given some hope and guidance. I will always remember her kindness and willingness to share her experiences with me. In one of her later emails to me, she happened to mention that there will be people who will consistently let me know that "it could be worse". She reminded me that, although I knew that this was the worse thing that was happening to me right now, those people were just trying to make me feel better, in their own way. She was right, I knew that, but I was feeling very low and sorry for myself and, in my mind, this was pretty bad.

As the days went on, I began to do what I did best; read and research. I needed to find out as much as possible about nerve damage and recovery. I found many studies and articles. I learned all of the terms necessary to wade through the labyrinth of medical jargon and jumble.
Neurapraxia, Axonotemesis, Neurotemesis, Neuropathy, Wallerian Degeneration, and on, and on. In doing my research, I was surprised to realize how many people suffered from nerve damage. More so, I was surprised to realize how little could be found about nerve damage regeneration and healing. Even the many discussion groups I found were full of people who had similar experiences but had never healed and were tortured with chronic pain. I had to keep reminding myself that I was going to heal and that others who have healed, are not bothering to spend all day online writing about how wonderful they feel. Those people were too busy living their lives. It was disappointing, however, that, no matter how many times I googled "stages of nerve damage recovery", or something of the like, I could find nothing. After several weeks, I found one little paragraph in a Lingual and Inferior Alveolar Nerve Damage Discussion Site. My nerve damage was caused by hip surgery, not dental surgery, but I would take anything I could get and I vowed that, when I felt up to it, I would document my stages of recovery for those who, like me, were furiously scouring webpages for hope.

During my days of intense hunt for information treasure, I came across a discussion website called "Neurotalk". This is a site for those with any type of neurological problem, from A to Z. I went in hoping for some insight into my own nerve palsy and came out with a great respect and heartwarming affection for all of these strangers who were living with such horrors. My little problem was nothing in comparison; nothing at all. There were those with Peripheral Neuropathy (PN), who suffered that intense searing, burning pain that I had also experienced. However, where I had experienced such horrors for 12 long days, these people suffer every day, all day, for years and years. This is the same for the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) sufferers. I had nothing on these people. Yes, things could always be worse.

When you are homebound and have access to a computer, you tend to find yourself on that computer a lot. In my case, all the time. Most of the time, I found myself on the Neurotalk website just cruising around, more like a voyeur than a participant. I told myself that it was all a part of the research; I was gathering all of the information I could in order to take control of my situation and to be as learned about my condition as possible. I have since realized, however, that at some point, I was no longer just a researcher. I was now interested in the lives of these people. I wanted to know how they were doing, how they were surviving. A week or so after Christmas, I was on the Neurotalk site, in the RSD forum, reading new posts. The most recent post was from a young woman who always contributed to the site, whether through support for others or questions of her own. The title of her new post was "Our World has Fallen Apart". I thought, oh no, her disease had spread. I knew she was a young wife and mother. I opened the post and was shocked to learn that her 3 children had been in a car accident with her sister-in-law. Her 9 year old daughter had not survived the crash. Yes, things could always be worse. Always.


  1. Ness,

    It's amazing to learn after all these years how much we really are alike.

    When I'm confronted with something I don't know, I read and I research.

    When I get into a bad place, I try to remind myself that things could be worse.

    I'm so happy you've started this blog and I can get to better know the cousin I used to look like.

    Your strength - and the incredible love of your family - will carry you through this challenge.

    I, too, am confident you will make a full recovery.

    It may be a Smith thing.



  2. Really good to read all your experiences, Vanessa ... the whole "you'll be fine" thing resonates with me too, I find it very annoying at times, I can tell my nerve palsy isn't getting better, but well-meaning friends and family blithely say "You'll be fine, just be positive" - argh.

    And the "things could be worse" aspect too! Poor poor woman who lost her daughter - I don't think there's much worse than that.

    xxoo Jejune (Denise)