Tests & More Tests

Over the past several days, I’ve had a variety of medical tests done, mostly to get a baseline for the newly selected primary physician and to see how certain issues compare to tests performed a couple of years ago. The tests have been mostly standard ones for a mature woman (mammogram, bone density, etc.), but one in particular was new… to determine if my hands require surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. The short answer is “yes.”

The right hand tested severe for carpal tunnel, which would explain the constant electrifying twinges that shoot up to several fingers and the debilitating pain that waves through the base of my thumb when it moves into certain positions. These sensations increased in intensity this year, so I knew it was time for testing. The left hand tested normal, indicating there was no carpal tunnel, although similar bone-depth pain in my left-hand fingers and thumb is likely from arthritis. Two issues with similar symptoms and different treatments.

Based on the type of work I’ve done throughout my life, I knew to expect some type of consequence for my hands. And now the time for treatment is here… although I’ve held it off as long as I could.

I started feeling the above tingling symptoms as I finished up painting walls in our home, three houses ago; then again as we painted and prepped the previous house to move back to Colorado from Oregon; and, finally, to this house, our last-time-we’re-going-to-move “forever” home. I’ve only painted two rooms so far since we bought the place four months ago and am not too anxious to start another. Not quite yet.

Making two interstate moves in less than two years hasn’t been the smartest thing we’ve ever done. It was certainly hard on our bodies. The painting, the packing and unpacking, the lifting and moving items and boxes from house to house and room to room. I could sense my strength was not what it used to be. I learned to compensate for my weak, tingling hands and shaky knees. I still do. However, I can no longer ignore treatments, or more damage will occur. So I start with my hands.

I like my hands. I’m also keenly aware of the value of thumbs. It’s been interesting to discover how much I use my thumbs. Squeezing the toothpaste tube, writing with a pen, holding toilet paper to wipe the butt after using a toilet, putting on clothes, carrying a plate from counter to table (or the dog dishes to the floor), holding a paint brush or embroidery needle, touching the space bar on the keyboard, gripping the steering wheel of a car, and so much more.

I guess the message I want to share, especially for younger folks (my children and grandchildren), is this: Take care of yourself. Enjoy your activities, your work, your creative endeavors, AND be aware of how it impacts your body.

  • Take long hot baths with soothing salts and minerals.
  • Get massages.
  • Develop an exercise program that works for you and do it regularly.
  • Stay strong and flexible.
  • Be sure to sleep, rest, and enjoy your downtime.
  • Schedule medical tests along the way (as you age or when you have questions) so you can monitor your body’s progress or deterioration and make adjustments.
  • Eat healthy foods (the best quality you can afford) so your body can heal itself.
  • Learn moderation in all things.

And if you’re older, like me, it’s never too late to make corrections to bad habits. One thing I’m learning to do is to pace myself in all activities, to moderate what I do. This is especially difficult as I tend to be obsessive about projects I really like; I’ve been known to push myself too hard and too long in order to get something finished. Now, I do shorter sessions and circle around to a variety of activities in any given day. I think it’s called “balance.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been referred to a well-respected hand surgeon and await scheduling options. Once that procedure is behind me, then I’ll see if it’s time to help my knees before they get beyond the point of no return.

While I slowly increase gentle hand and arm stretches, I have decreased my embroidery and beading and sewing projects, although I have several Christmas ideas in mind. I’m getting estimates for someone else to do the front yard landscaping project. I continue to collect paint chip samples for the rooms and cabinets still needing work. I’m creating a list of house repairs to be done by professionals. I’ve acquiesced to having my husband drive the car when we need to go somewhere together. I take breaks from chores more often, too.

My overall pace in life has slowed. Also, I clearly recognize (as does my husband) the value of my physical contributions to our life, both now and what they’ve been in the past. It’s a big transition from full-on human-doing to mostly human-being, but I’m willing to give it a try. I’m sure my body will appreciate it.