Sunday, September 7, 2008

Grateful to be Able to Shower!

Today when I took a shower, I thought back to what it was like for me one year ago to shower.

Between the middle of June 2007 (when I went to the ER with a back spasm that caused my legs to collapse under me) and the end of August 2007 (when my daughter got married) I took 2 showers -- one in the middle of the summer, and one just before the wedding. It was so hard for me to go up and down the stairs, and impossible for me to stand without support, that showering on my own was not an option. I wore my hair in braids all summer so that it would not get tangled, and my daughter would very patiently braid my hair.

So taking a shower became a family adventure. My daughter and partner would put on their bathing suits, I would sit on the stool in the shower, and they would wash me while I held on to the grab bar in one hand and my walker in the other. It would take the 2 of them to get me all set up, stable, washed and cared for without getting too much water all over the bathroom floor (since the shower curtain would be open so I could hold onto the walker with one hand). They were good at washing my hair, and luckily the shower nozzle is removable so rinsing my hair was easy. They just couldn't wrap my long hair in a towel turban-style the way I do, and since I couldn't lean forward at all I couldn't show them what to do, either. No matter.

Towel around head when done, and dried and all clean. Those 2 showers last summer felt WONDERFUL!!!

And by the beginning of autumn, as I was healing and gaining strength, I became able to shower on my own. The first time, my partner sat in the bathroom to be nearby and make sure I was OK. For me to shower took so much energy and focused attention, that it was my main activity of the day. By winter, I had graduated from showering by sitting on the shower stool to standing under the water. I gradually became able to raise my arms and put them behind my head, which I wasn't able to do when my spine collapsed. I still remember the first time I could stand in the shower and wash my own hair, to simply take care of myself. At the time, I wasn't able to bend my spine at all, but I could stand up with ease, and wash my hair with 2 hands.

Slowly my pattern of self-care shifted from showering 2 times during summer 2007 to one shower every 2 weeks in the autumn, to one shower per week in the winter. By spring of 2008, I stopped keeping track of showers, knowing I would be able to get clean if I needed, and that a shower could wait if I didn't have the energy or strength in my back.

Such a simple thing, a shower. And so grateful I am to be able to shower with ease these days. I really didn't know how sick I was last summer, and that is probably a good thing, since I never had any idea what would be involved in healing. So showers are one symbol for me of how much better I am now. I took one today, and even though it was just part of my day instead of the main event, I still remembered to be grateful that I am now able to do the simple things in life. I am healing, and THAT is wonderful.

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