Pain and Rehab

Well, my days continue to be chock full of tasks and responsibilities as I continue to help my mother with her rehab, and take her to her radiation treatments (Only three of the latter left. Hooray!)  as well as tend to other responsibilities — as much as I can, anyway.

Rehab continues to be a struggle for my mother. Not only does she not understand why it’s necessary, she doesn’t believe the physical therapists and doctors know what they’re talking about. In fact, now that the exercises have started to make her sore and stiff, she’s REALLY not sure any of this is necessary, despite the fact I’ve explained it to her numerous times and so have the physical therapists.  But when I suggested we could simply stop today if she really didn’t want to do it any more, she decided that she would keep on with it.

Hopefully she’ll begin to get some solid validation for her efforts and suffering before too much longer.

On Thursday she met with her main PT. He got her started on an exercise bicycle then cornered me to ask how she was doing. Well, I thought she had progressed and was doing better, but I was wrong. He was shocked at how little progress she’d made, and “very concerned.” The next thing I knew both he and his assistant were confronting me, shaking their heads, saying they had expected much more improvement and that if she didn’t begin to show some significant changes, they would have to kick her out of the program. I stood there looking at them like  a deer caught in headlights.

They thought she was refusing to try hard because of her fear of the pain, which could well be the case. They describe her in their notes as cautious, fearful, reluctant and afraid of the pain. All of which are true. She didn’t want to go into the pool because she’s afraid of the water and told them so very plainly. She didn’t want to get on the exercise bike because it was scary and made her very uneasy, which she freely communicated (though she did get on it). She doesn’t want to use an electric heating pad because those are scary (but she used one). She doesn’t know if she wants ice on her knee or not, or heat or not, or electrical muscle stimulation or not (but she accepts whatever I suggest she do). She tells them she doesn’t want to use a cane because it feels weird and unstable and she’d rather walk without anything. She orders people not to touch her leg (though they do anyway), orders them not to manipulate it (and they do anyway), makes terrible faces as if she’s in great pain when they do, and gets plainly irritated when they ask her questions about how she feels and what is her level of pain. She tells them she doesn’t know and can’t answer.  

But then, she IS almost 82. I guess being crotchety about it all isn’t that out of the ordinary for someone who’s 82 and never really been ill or helpless or had to answer all these questions about how she feels and what’s the pain like, and where does it hurt…  In fact, today when I told her she could take some Tylenol for the pain, she got angry and asked why she should have to take drugs. I realized then that she’s probably angry about all of it. Angry that the whole thing is happening, angry that she’s been so debilitated, angry that she’s hurting worse now than last week and how can something that’s supposed to be good for you hurt like this?

And how can I explain that suffering can be a blessing? That the pain God sends into our lives, He intends to bless us, whether because it wakes us up and gets us back on the right track, or whether it’s there to prune us and train us, or to provide that eternal weight of glory stored up for us in heaven. Americans are so generally afraid of pain. Our culture seems in many ways all about eradicating pain. “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child,” reads one of Arizona’s license plates.  Really? What about “beat him with a switch, he shall not die?” What about, “he who spanks his son loves him, but the one who lets him go hates him?” How about Jesus learned obedience from the things that He suffered?

We spend too much time thinking pain is bad, wrong, ought not to be when in reality, we should embrace it for its refining power, its ability to mold us and make us stronger, more compassionate, more patient… so many things we can learn in it and from it. If we weren’t trying so hard to avoid it.

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4 Responses to “Pain and Rehab”


  1. 1 Gayle October 19, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    Physical pain is a part of physical life for many. The issue it seems to me, “Is how do we handle it”? Crisis evangelism? Turn to Him and rest in Him? Or turn from Him? This is not an easy time for you, Karen. My prayers continue for her and for you.

  2. 3 tabitha October 19, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Hi Karen,

    I’ve finished reading Arena, thanks again. Every time I put it down I could not stop thinking about it. I promise to pass it on to future readers.

    I’m continuing to keep your Mom and yourself in my prayers. One thing is for certain, God is faithfully calling her. I appreciate you sharing this, I am encouraged to see His faithfulness in every form.

    PS, I LOVE your photo of the Arizona sky, I can’t imagine seeing that up close!


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