My Family

It Could Be Worse

Trip to the ER

In April I had a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as a spinal tap. A lumbar puncture is where they insert a needle into your lower back to get a sample of fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. The goal in my case was to see if it showed any signs of Multiple Sclerosis. I shared about this experience in an earlier post, but I didn’t share too much about what followed the spinal tap. It is common for people to get spinal headaches following the spinal tap. Spinal headaches happen when you sit or stand and spinal fluid is still leaking through the punctured hole, so it essentially tugs on your brain since it can’t fully recover the fluid around your brain and cord. These headaches are debilitating to sit or stand, but as soon as you lay flat the headache goes away. Unfortunately, this happened to me. It was so excruciating I decided to the ER for a blood patch. At the time, I didn’t really understand what a blood patch was, just that the doctor had told me that I might need one if I did, in fact, get a terrible headache. At the ER they explained to me that I would essentially be doing the same procedure, except instead of taking fluid from my spine they would be inserting my own blood. They told me that there is usually a 90% chance of this fixing the problem, but 10% of people end up back in the ER and have to do an additional blood patch. I figured, may as well try it and hope it works. 

ER Visit Alone

The blood patch ended up being more painful than the spinal tap. I started getting incredibly nauseous and started regretting my decision. They quickly finished and had me lay flat for two hours. Unfortunately, I was in the ER alone. When I went in for the spinal tap a few days earlier I was in and out, the procedure itself lasted less than 30 minutes.  I assumed I would be in and out as quickly as they did the spinal tap. So, I wasn’t thinking that I should ask anyone to come with me or meet me there. Mitchell asked if he should come and I told him no since it was so close to Luke’s bedtime. I debated texting my parents, but it would be a 40-minute drive for them and I thought by the time I got there and had the procedure they would be there for about 5 minutes. Oops, I guess I won’t ever expect the ER to be a quick visit (oddly enough the wait time to get into the room was probably only 15 minutes, it was just the fact that they wanted to monitor me for 2 hours after the procedure). 

I think the nurse on staff felt bad for me. He came in a few times just to check-in and would chat for quite a while. He asked me why I needed the spinal tap, and I told him that I was recently diagnosed with MS and they were wanting to do the spinal for confirmation. He apologized, told me that his buddy’s mom has MS and that it will be okay. We continued to chat a bit about the disease and somehow in his attempt to “cheer me up” he said, “well, it could be worse”. I shot him a look and said, “really?”. I think he was surprised I responded this way and he started listing all these diseases and cancers and things that could have been my diagnosis.

Here is the thing, in those first few weeks following my diagnosis, nothing could be worse. I had just received a life-altering diagnosis. My long-term life plans are probably not going to be exactly as I imagined them. It didn’t seem fair and most people go through life healthy and care-free. I was mad that he said that to me. It felt insensitive and like he lacked any empathy.

But the truth is, he was right. It could have been a worse diagnosis. I could have been given some sort of diagnosis with months to live. I could have been diagnosed with a number of things that would not necessarily be worse, but not necessarily be better. Heck, something could have happened to alter Luke’s life instead of mine. That would be worse. 

Compassion and Empathy

Sometimes the moment people choose to say those real and raw statements feel hurtful. It can stir anger and irritation. We should be cautious and careful with our responses to people when they are going through trials and pain. Especially our friends and family. It can be so easy to jump to solutions to fix someone else’s problem, or always find the positive, that we forget to stop and feel and acknowledge the emotions that are causing pain and sadness. I know I haven’t been perfect at this myself. It is easy to see things clearly when we are on the other side of the pain, but we should be gentle, humble, and loving to others.

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

1 Peter 3:8

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2

While the nurse could have shown me a bit more empathy, he didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him. So maybe he was the best person for me to hear the truth from. It is of course still irritating to hear it from someone who is perfectly normal and healthy, but I needed to hear it. I needed to be reminded that I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that will impact my life, but not rob me of my life. 

Grass Isn’t Always Greener

Some days, I truly feel like I drew the short stick. Like I must have failed at watering my grass because everyone else has much greener grass. Everyone else has it so easy. But, I know that isn’t the truth. 

We all have times of pain and suffering, and we all have times of joy and excitement in our lives. Everyone has a unique life and situation with different joys and sufferings. Instead of envying that my friends don’t have MS, I should be joyful and thankful. First of all, I wouldn’t wish that pain on any of them, and secondly, I am going to need their strength and help in my times of need. Secondly, while it may seem like their life is easy, there will be times that they encounter pain and they may need my help and strength. Likewise, when something joyful happens in my life, I want those same friends to be there to celebrate with me and not be jealous. I too need to celebrate and be excited for the joy and success that fills their lives.

This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

1 Corinthians 12:25-26






2 responses to “It Could Be Worse”

  1. Debbie Avatar

    I love reading your blog. I have had to accept a wheelchair ramp after breaking my femur last year. I fought it as much as I could, so hard to accept being handicapped. Things could be so much worse, like they say. Belief in God has helped me so much. Chin up Warrior, we will keep on fighting this MonSter.

    1. Rachel Avatar

      Debbie, I am sorry that you broke your femur. Yes, I can only imagine how hard it is to accept being handicapped. I have a feeling when the day comes that my body gives out, I will try to fight it with all my might. However, it is probably safer and better in the long run if we accept help. Praying for you! <3