Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Can't NO More!

Since when has the word “can’t” become such a popular word in our vocabulary? Why does “can’t” dominate our ability to pursue what we love, how to live our lives. And how will we respond when we continuously hear the word “cant’ over and over (and over again)?

The past two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, have been a mixed bag of emotions.

And, of course, filled with the word: Can’t.

The urology appointment on Tuesday was more positive than negative, although the lack of sensation and inability to void my bladder (ie fancy doctor’s speak for emptying the bladder) was slightly worrisome. Four weeks ago, I thought I had finished with the catheter; so much, so that the mini purse-sized versions that my California urologist gave me, were chucked into the rubbish bin.




Small as they were, I never thought I would have a need for them.

Evidentially, I was wrong.

After my appointment, my Florida urologist gave me a few more catheters to help void my bladder (glad that we’re all on the same terminology). These new catheters were not nearly as discreet, pleasant feeling, or as comfortable as the ones the CA doc handed out.

CA doc gave me catheters used for “a lady” (which I am).

FL doc gave me catheters appropriate for an elephant (which I am not).

I tried using the elephant catheter this morning, and once was enough. For now, the 10-20 ccs of ruminant fluid in my bladder will have to be voided on the next trip to the water closet. As I refuse to insert the elephant catheter into my body any more.

Florida urologist wasn’t about the “can’t”, although he was hesitant to give me the “go ahead” to sit on a saddle. Thank goodness I have my ISM Adamo saddle that will significantly help with this problem.

Today’s round of doctor’s appointments was slightly different.

While my California (brilliant) nuro-spinal-ortho-genius-fix-my-broken-back-and-nerve-damaged-body doctor lacked a bed-side manner (the man made me cry the first 2 times I had the pleasure of meeting him), he helped tremendously, fixed my body, and gave me the green light to carry on with a normal life as soon as I heal.

Today’s Florida orthopedic specialist was much different.

And all about “can’t”.

First – let me back up.

Three weeks ago when I returned to Florida, one of the first things I did was to set up my doctor’s appointments. Initially, I was referred out of the Naval Hospital to a neurosurgeon, as they (the Naval Hospital) have none on staff. However, none of the neurosurgeons that would accept our form of military health insurance would treat a patient with a broken back: their exact words were, “That’s an injury for an orthopedic specialist.”

End of story.

It didn’t matter how many phone calls I made, how many people I pled my case to, or even how many tears were shed in the privacy under my bed covers – no one was able or willing to help.

So I went back to my wonderful and very sympathetic primary care manager (PCM – again, the “military speak”), and he re-worded my referral. Meaning he replaced the word “neuro consult” with “ortho consult”.

Everything else remained the same: Nothing changed with regards to my broken sacrum. Nothing changed with the severity of my nerve damage. Believe me – I would know. Trust the patient. But my PCM was very understanding and has worked with me as much as he can to get the ball rolling on my treatment.

So imagine my surprise, when the Naval Hospital suddenly decided they could treat my case and had one of their orthopedic specialists consult my case.

After a series of x-rays, I finally met with the Florida ortho doc.

30 minutes later, I walked out of the office, tears welling up in my eyes. As I’m not a fan of crying in public (whenever I feel the need, I always think of Tom Hanks in “A League of their Own” yelling, “There’s NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” – and usually it makes me feel better).

Florida ortho doc was worse than scary California neuro doc. At least the California doc fixed me, and joked around after the procedure. CA doc did in fact have a sense of humor.

Florida ortho doc was all about the “can’t”.

In his words, “I’m not really comfortable working with the sacrum. It’s been 10 years since I worked with the sacrum, and that was back in medical school, Bones take 3-6 months to heal, so you’ll for sure be out of it until then. You can’t do anything with impact; you can’t do anything that could further damage your injury…”

“What about swimming?” I pressed. “There’s no impact involved, and quite honestly, I’m going crazy with my water walking. I can handle that, and I want more of a challenge. I know that my body is ready, I’ve been doing everything by the book, and I feel very confident in how I’m healing. Would it be okay? Please, can I swim?”

Florida ortho doc peered down at me. I was wearing a white long sleeved top and gray camisole underneath, along with the ever-so-stylish Navy issued knickerbockers shorts, rather than the usual jeans and zoot shoes.

I’ve never worn shorts made from paper, but then again, life is full of firsts. The navy blue shorts made me feel slightly exposed, but Florida ortho doc was able to have full access to my pelvic region, hips, and sacrum – so I wasn’t complaining. Not exactly the type of garment I would sport in New York, Paris, or London – but for the Naval Hospital in Pensacola, Florida, it would do quite well.

After examining my scar, he gave me another probing look. “I don’t feel qualified to say that you can swim or that you can’t swim. It would probably be okay, but we need to get a specialist work with you on this one.”

A specialist? Then (pardon my French) who the hell are you? If you reviewed my case and turned down my consult with a specialist out of the Naval Hospital network, then WHY DID YOU WASTE MY TIME, MY RECOVERY TIME AND YOUR TIME with this bull shit? Because let’s face it: I had an appointment with the specialist that was recommended to me back on April 21, but you insisted that I see you first. But if this is how you operate, I give up. Why bother when I’m going up against a system that is more concerned with the bottom line, with saving money, with denying patients the best care NOW, only to have them treated years and years down the line from further complications that could have NOT been complications if they had just been treated properly in the first place.

Thank God I internalized my dialogue, although it was screaming in my head. I was surprised that Nathaniel and Florida ortho doc weren’t aware of my inner strife.

Florida ortho doc continued, “You probably could swim…. But I can’t…”

And pretty much after he began speaking the words “can’t”, I tuned him out. I knew that Nathaniel would catch what FL ortho doc was saying, as he was hanging onto every word.

To me, Florida ortho doc sounded (oddly enough) like the animated parent’s of Charlie Brown when they talk. “Whop wa wha waa whap whap whomp!” He could have been speaking about the capabilities of his car, for all I knew.

The session ended with Florida ortho doc decided that my case was “too complicated” for him to handle, and that I would have to see another specialist out in town.

But I left the office discouraged, upset, and more confused than ever.

Nathaniel and I headed over to radiology to pick up my x-rays that were taken earlier in the morning. It was then that Nathaniel asked what was wrong. And as I felt myself open up, I felt the floodgate of tears finally fall from my eyes, and onto my cheeks, lips, and shirt.

I quickly excused myself and headed for the nearest restroom. The good news: I was able to run pain-free before the water works really turned on full stop.

The bad news: sobbing in an empty stall at the Naval Hospital, frustrated, sad, scared, and angry that I keep running up against roadblocks with my recovery, with my treatment.

Because this past week has been too much about “can’t” for my liking.

I am sick and tired of hearing that I can’t do this, I can’t do that, this won’t work, there’s no way you can do this, we can’t make this happen, the won’t be available for you… etc etc etc.

Throughout this ordeal, I have been a model physical therapy patient. I have water walked, I have done my track walking, I have stuck to my plan – and while I’ve had my few moments of longing to swim, to break with what my physical therapist as recommended – I have remained tried and true to my process of recovery. I have encountered more support form friends, family, and complete strangers than I ever could have imagined. That part of my accident, that aspect of my recovery has been the part that has kept me grounded, has kept me sane.

But today was more difficult than I could have ever imagined. I am tired of doctors who don’t know ME, who are unaware of what I AM CAPABLE of – giving me a generic cookie-cutter response.

When my problem – in fact, I would dare to say – that most individuals who have broken a bone, pulled a muscle, torn a ligament, ALL of these problems cannot be resolved with a cookie cutter answer.

I have spent the past 6 weeks fighting for my life, fighting for the lifestyle that I love, fighting for what I believe. And for the most part, doctors, physical therapists, friends, family, and again – complete strangers – have been very supportive.

It is just frustrating when you run into a brick wall and hear the word: can’t.

But you know what?

I refuse.

I refuse to listen to what this self-proclaimed non-specialist had to say. Who the hell is HE to tell me what I can’t do?

6 weeks ago, I was told that I would never walk without a brace, would never be able to void my bladder, would probably never run or bike again.

And I proved them wrong.

I am walking without a brace.

I am voiding my bladder.

And in time, I will run.

For Pete’s sake – I biked for 10 minutes on Monday.

So for the doctor today who told me that I “can’t”: Well, I have news for you, my friend. I can.

I can.


And I will.

And I dare you to tell me that I won’t, that it won’t happen. That I can’t do it. Because you don’t know who I am, you don’t know what I’m made out of. You don’t know my story, or where I’ve been, or what I’ve gone through.

At first I was sad – but I left my tears in the bathroom floor at the Naval Hospital. I have cried enough over this, and no more. How dare you tell me that I can’t? My sadness is still there, still a part of me – and I will carry it with me. Denying that is being untrue to myself, to my feelings, to my heart.

But the drops of tears that fell on the cold tile floor are there to stay. I refuse to take them back – instead there they remain, sealed the deal that I made with myself in that bathroom stall. Resolutions I made when I walked out of the hospital – without a brace and after voiding my bladder.

I refuse to accept what that doctor said. I refuse to accept his “can’t”.

And now I’m mad, I’m angry. Who the hell are you to tell me that I can’t do it? You have not a clue about my heart, my soul. You don’t know a thing about my passion, drive, spirit, and the incredible mental strength that I have. And finally, you – Florida ortho doc - have not a clue about my body’s incredible ability to heal.

For every person who tells me that I can’t: I’m here to tell you that I can. And I will.

Because can’t isn’t in my vocabulary, isn’t something that I’m willing to accept. I refuse. Do you hear me? I refuse to listen to you, to your negative attitude, to your cookie-cutter approach to my recovery. Because I’m not like any other patient that you’ve treated, so don’t expect me to have the cookie-cutter recuperation.

Because I’m not like anyone else. Others may accept can’t – but I do not. Simply stated: I refuse.

I am myself, I am unique, and I refuse to let someone tell me that I can’t. Because I know that I can.

After all – a wise person gave me a pendant that I carry with me ever since the accident. It reads: Nothing is Impossible, If YOU Believe.

I believe.

Do you?


Colleen S said...

Marit- I am so sorry you are dealing with Dr's who don't have a clue what they are dealing with. IT is so frustrating, BE STRONG and BE PERSISTENT, your attitude is awesome and I BELIEVE you will do all you set your mind to.

Train-This said...

I am with you Marit, I am with you. Thursday morning at noon we will swim in that ocean and we will not be told we can't!


Danni said...

I love your attitude towards this, have always since day one. You are strong and persistent; and that is what it takes to move forward when everything else gets thrown in your way. Keep pushing Marit, I know you will get there.

Audrey said...

i just read this amazing New York Times article about self-sufficiency (i think it's on-line in the Health section). it's about why some people succeed after set-backs and some don't. i think you've got the gumption for success :)

Audrey said...

Acutally, it was the WSJ (i read a lot of news for work!):

Alili said...

I believe in you 100%. Leave the tears on the tiles. You will heal, you are healing.

Big hugs, my friend.

TriGirl Kate O said...

Oh, Marit. I'm amazed you stayed for the whole appointment--I would have walked out when the doc said he doesn't feel qualified to proscribe a course of action. It will be a struggle to find those docs who take a stake in your recovery, but I have faith that you will root them out!

kerri said...

You will and YOU CAN because you believe and will that you can. Don't listen to those schmucks, listen to your heart.

Anonymous said...

Hell, yeah! WOW! you rock


Terra said...

Keep believing. Don't let anyone set your limits on YOUR LIFE. Only we know our own boundaries. I am praying for you. KEEP FIGHTING. Contact Carole Sharpless, a pro triathlete on Team Timex in Atlanta (see her blog). She is going through back stuff from a crash as well. She saw a specialist/PT guy in Florida, in Clermont that also worked with j.Zeiger's back stuff. Maybe he knows someone that can help. Let me know if you need her contact info- try her blog or I have her email.

Jen said...

Before you achieve, you have to believe...if you believe - you can do anything (and everything!) Stay positive...military docs are all the same (yuck!)

Damie said...

I believe in you! The only can't in this scenerio is the doctor that can't get his stuff together to help you. He is the one with the barrier and the can't. I hope you get to move on to someone that matches your attitude and CAN- and will do whatever it takes to get you healthy again. said...

It is about faith.
Your faith.
Not the kind that comes from anywhere other than your heart.
You can do it.
I went down hard two months before you did. It has been an incredible journey.
Sunday, 13 weeks after spinal fusion, I raced again. Haven't written about it just yet, but here's the preamble.
Hang tough,believe in yourself.

Beth said...

There's not much more that I can say that you haven't already said yourself! But you will find the right doctor Marit - just keep at it, no matter the frustration and tears. For every clueless MD out there there are ones that know what they are doing and are willing to help. Hang tough. After all this Ironman will be easy as pie!!

Pedergraham said...

Molly is putting her virtual chin in your virtual lap--and I am wishing Florida was a lot closer so that I could take you out for a cup of coffee and a "stitch and bitch" session without the stitching part. Find a book that you love, read it and lick your wounds, and then come right back at 'em with renewed vigor.

CAMI said...

As always you are an insiration! I know how tough it can be to deal with people (supposed experts in their field) who tell you what you are capable of. Only you know that and your attitude and your will are a big piece of that. YOU can do anything. We all believe in you. Can't wait until you can race again so we can all come cheer you on!

Wes said...

Hang in there Marit! With the weather changing and racing getting under way, it's tough, mentally tough, and that's what this is all about. We know you can. We know you have your BEST YEARS ahead of you. Right now, you gotta be tough and get back to 100%, and that means being patient, and careful.

Be strong...

Sarah said...


I'm not going to be able to say anything better than anybody else has here. As most might put it, "What they said!"

But I do want to recommend something at this point: reach out.

Our healthcare system is a load of BULLSHIT as you have found out. It made me sick to my stomach with anger as I read your post (and of course, inspiration at the end because you're one of the strongest women I've ever 'met' and I know you'll get through this and you WILL race again, not to mention kick everybody's ass while you're at it).

This is where, if we had a system that worked, you would be seeing a doctor who knew his ass from his face and you could actually focus on RECOVERY instead of how to see someone to receive the care you need.

Now that I'm done ranting...

I really recommend you reach out to this amazing community you have, as well as people you know outside the blog world, and use those connections. Find out who can help you; who you need to see in the medical world; who can pull some strings to get you in there; use that amazing energy and positive strength you have and direct it to getting yourself the care you absolutely, critically need.

Look online; message boards; support organizations for ortho patients (they've got to have something out there). There are people who have gone through this before; find them and use their knowledge of the system and the process.

Keep your focus on you, but use some of the energy to get yourself to where you need to go. It's frustrating as hell but keep pressing on.

I believe. :)

RR said...

Marit, your other blogger friends have already said it better than I can, but if there's one thing I'm sure of is that your attitude will get you through this! You will heal, because you know you will. End of story.

This will someday be a distant memory.

I hope you find a good Dr. soon, one who knows what they're talking about.

Good call on staying away from the elephant cath :)

Also, I will stop bitching about my stupid little injury now. Umm, sorry about that.

Trigirlpink said...

Just a minor glitch in the valley here.. Time is marching on and so is your healing. You are getting there but just with some drama to keep it all in perspective.
SMILE Sista!

tricurley said...

Marit, Thank you for your heart, your fire and your passion. Your belief and refusal to let in the cant's is what sets you apart.

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