Medical Musings and Playing with Words

Mercifully, I’ve skated through more than seven decades of life with few aches and pains. Over the years, my sympathy for others has extended to sending get-well cards, making phone calls and hospital visits. Sympathy—that’s what I’ve felt. Sympathy toward ailing friends and kin.

But now a metamorphosis has occurred; sympathy has transformed into empathy. Yes, Empathy, identifying with the feeling of others—compassion. Especially for those with chronic pain.

For me, since October new experiences have included X-rays, MRI scans, physical therapy, and now, plan for an injection.


iStock credit: Panuwat Dangsungnoen


Audible Sounds during an MRI Spine Scan

The technician says, “You can leave on your shoes but take off your bra!

He also asks, “Do you want to slide in headfirst or feet-first?”

Then, he offers me a noise-cancellation muff. Nevertheless, I soon hear. . . .


Clank-clank-clank-clank-clank as I am gobbled up by the TUBE

Wind-shield wiper sound

Jack-hammer sound # 1

Jack-hammer sound #2, more intense


Wind-shield wiper sound, again

Jack-hammer sound # 1

Jack-hammer sound #2, more intense

Jack-hammer sound # 1

Jack-hammer sound #3, worse

Clarion bell + Clank (2)

Wind-shield wiper sound

Jack-hammer sound # 1

Jack-hammer sound #2, more intense, ugh!

And so, on it goes for 15 minutes!

I haven’t been barbecued or baked.

But surely I’m DONE!  And, I’m slid out of the metal tube feet-first!        ~ mlb



Physical Therapy, aka PT

Physical Therapy Demonstration, hip rotation


My spine is not fine.

In fact, it’s a royal pain–my backbone shaped

Like the letter S, compressed,

Squished on the X-Ray like a cartoon character

What to do? PT is prescribed. . . yes, physical therapy

Lower trunk rotations, letting lumbar and legs sway back and forth

Back and forth twenty times until it’s time for the piriformis stretch.

Stretch leg over other ankle—ankle on knee. Now press and

Twist leg up, up, up and over. That’s it!

Oh, my goodness! Augh!

Then clamshells, knees bent, feet touch as joined legs sway and hold,

Over and down; count them: twenty reps or more; remember to breathe, breathe

Feel the pain ease

Finish with lying hip abduction and seated hamstring stretch.

Then let go, let go, let goooo, my therapist says.

Remember to breathe, breathe, breathe

Will my spine ever be fine?       ~mlb


TV Host demonstrate a technique for relieving neck/shoulder pain



The Pleasures of Reading. . . An Antidote to Pain

When I pick up “books on hold” at the library, sometimes I have no idea what titles I was enamored with and decided to put on “hold” days ago.

On my trip to the library, I muse, “What will I slide off the library shelf today, I wonder?”           

For you, a bouquet of book titles

My library haul beckons me to a garden

Where I’ll learn The Secret Life of Sunflowers.

My harvest from the shelves also includes The Orchid Thief

Who stealthily creeps toward me

To sit at the Turquoise Table, by my side, unwelcome.

In late afternoon, I feel the urge again to pick at least one

Daisy a Day as raindrops begin to fall.

Day dissolves into evening and a remember that I

Could do with A Swim in the Pond in the Rain.

It’s too late for that though, so I’ll enjoy Signal Fires

Hoping such fires will mystically summon All the Light We Cannot See.

In the morning, my lover C. will whisper to me Hello Beautiful while I contemplate

Writing a letter to Dear Edward.

Such a traitor am I!       ~ mlb


Titles cited:

A Swim in the Pond in the Rain    Dr. George Saunders, analysis of Russian authors

Hello Beautiful                       Ann Napolitano, novel

Dear Edward                          Ann Napolitano, novel

Daisy a Day                           Indie author Harriet Hodgson, tips for managing grief

All the Light We Cannot See  Anthony Doerr, World War II novel made into movie

The Chancellor                      Kari Marton, life of German chancellor Angela Markel

The Orchid Thief                    Susan Orlean, true story of beauty and obsession

Signal Fires                            Dani Shapiro, novel

The Turquoise Table               Kristin Schell, inspiring way to encourage community

The Secret Life/Sunflowers    Marta Molnar, Van Gogh’s sister-in-law divulges secrets



Playing with Words: Another way to Divert Pain


The Rhythm of My Days

Days of the week for me have a cadence, a rhythm, a routine.

They also have flavor and hue.

Monday – a slightly bitter taste, flinging the week into motion

Tuesday – a day to regroup; the color blue comes to mind

Wednesday – “hump” day for some; weekend in view: Yellow?

Thursday – now I have a grip on this week, some jobs accomplished: Green?

Friday – smooth sailing into the week’s final days, honey-colored

Saturday – lavender, let loose

Sunday – a few drams of dread; Monday breathing down my neck; gray perhaps      ~ mlb


* * *

Words pressed themselves into her memory, like a shoe sole into soft mud, which would dry and solidify, the shoe print preserved forever.    ~ Maggie O’Farrell in The Marriage Portrait


Can you identify with medical tests and/or with pain?

How do you distract yourself from a hurting body?

Do days of the week have significance for you? What words have you valued lately?


Good Health to you in the New Year!