The Lady with The Purple Cane: Part Three of Joanie’s Patient Story

Click to read parts one and two of Joanie’s story.

Since 2012, when I left my job as an educator, I have tried many different modes of medical therapies. I’m on a long list of drugs that for quite a while was ever-changing. I got to know and love my doctors, developed rewarding friendships, and had to accept that my life is unpredictable from one day to the next. I never know when I will have a migraine, though I only get 1-2 per week now, thanks to Botox. My back and leg pains are worse because I did a dumb thing and herniated a disc during our move in.

I then found Sheltering Arms Rehabilitation Center. Their physical therapy began with aquatic walking and exercises in a 92-degree heated therapy pool. The physical therapists and medical psychologist there gave me their best care and taught me how to manage my pain by staying active in the therapy pool and learning to let go of things that I couldn’t do anymore. I am still exercising there on my own and working with their physical therapy department. Everyone I meet there has a story to tell and that has helped me to see that I am not alone. I think their staff is full of compassionate angels.

I have done most of my loving of self and growing through my move to Richmond. I’m near my adult children, and the pace of life is slower and friendlier than Northern Virginia. My psychologist has helped me to also help my family accept that this is their mom and wife. I asked my physical therapist how I could dance with my son at his wedding because I get dizzy if I turn my head too fast. She taught me how to lock our arms and we worked on moving to music without falling. I often can’t walk a straight line–sometimes I walk like I’ve had too much fun drinking, but it’s just me.

When I told my son before his wedding that I needed to teach him how to dance with me, he snickered. Then I showed him how to lock arms and he said, “What, are you handicapped?” Yes, I am! He came around because he loves me, and he could tell how important it was to me. We did have a beautiful dance at his wedding, probably about 60 seconds’ worth.

My husband and I walked along the James River last Sunday evening. We live just a mile up the hill, but I can’t walk there. Believe me, we’ve tried more than once. Dave said to me that we couldn’t make the loop because it would be dark soon, so I should just say when and we’d turn around. I kept wanting to go on, but he said we should stop before I started to hurt—oh yeah! Monday when I woke up I realized my pain was no worse than usual and I said, “See? I could have gone further.” He looked at me and said, “Joanie, your pain isn’t worse because we went just the right distance.” Oh yeah!

Anyway, I am a work in progress! I am trying to get it through my stubborn mind that I just can’t do things like I used to. I have slip ups and pay the price of needing downtime to recover and then start back slowly into my exercise routine. But I march on and am trying to find new things to enjoy that won’t aggravate my body. If only I could control the weather, I would have less pain and migraines. I have come a long way and so has my husband. I believe we are a stronger couple now. Take each moment, each day, one at a time, and be peaceful. Life is precious, and I don’t want to waste any of it. I accept that I will always have some degree of pain, but I am not going to let it define me.

About the Author: Joanie Evans was born and raised in Briarcliff, New York in the house her father built. She studied sociology and received her bachelor’s degree from the State College at Oswego, NY. She met her husband her first year in college and they married after her graduation in 1980. From there she lived and worked in Tucson, Arizona while her husband was in graduate school. They moved to Northern Virginia, as her husband got a job working for the federal government and Ms. Evans found out she was pregnant with their first child. She wanted nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mom. Over the next 15 years she managed a household with three kids, two dogs and a lot of activities. She returned to the work force when her youngest was 6, first as a preschool teacher and then several years later as a 6th grade teacher. She began fighting migraines more frequently after her third child was born until she had to leave work because of them. She has been working hard to regain her health ever since and has deepened her spiritual life considerably along the way. She recently moved with her husband and two dogs to Richmond Virginia, where both of her daughters live with their families, and just an hour + from her son and his wife in Charlottesville, VA. On her good days she is writing her memoir, enjoys quilting and antiquing, exploring Richmond, and staying active in a heated pool year round.


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