The Proof Is In The Genes

I am forced to recall a very heated argument between my mother and me many years ago, one where she was so spot on neither of us knew how right she was.

“We argue so much because we are so alike, Denise.”

“I am nothing like you…” I shot back with anger and absolute belief in my words because I vowed to be nothing like her. I knew in my heart I would not grow old alone by living the solitary life she chose or pull away from family to the point where visiting becomes such a rare event it promotes resentment instead of the intended mother-daughter bonding.

And now I wonder if my current situation is a slight revelation to my mother’s state of mind as she approached her later years. The proof may be in the genes.

So here I am minding my own business when BOOM! out of (almost) nowhere I am diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis, a degenerative arthritic condition where the canals housing my spinal cord and nerves are gradually narrowing. This causes LOTS of pain as the nerves can become pinched and result in ridiculous and continual pain in the tissues and muscles those nerves serve. It is present no matter how hard I try to ignore it. Eventually nerve pain cannot, nor should be, ignored. We all have our breaking points and I’ve reached mine. I said this hit me out of nowhere, this is somewhat half truthful. I’ve had the ‘introductory’ symptoms for several years, the ‘hello, I’m here!’ symptoms for about a month and the actual diagnosis for only several days. Sorry, I’m meandering off track but I still am wallowing in my pity and not ready to leave the party just yet.

As I wrote above, thoughts of my mother flooded in when receiving this diagnosis. She also had neck and arthritis issues plaguing her at about this same time in her life. And I remember her telling me how her nights were long and painful, sometimes dragging on into the early dawn hours. She described her hands or arms feeling heavy and numb in addition to other arthritic complaints I recognize as my own. Her health issues crept upon her slowly and I wonder, did she become somewhat reclusive because of her chronic suffering and fatigue? And perhaps because my mother’s reclusive tendencies developed over that same long period of time she did not recognize it herself despite my attempts to talk to her? I was not seeing her seclusion as a side effect of her medical condition, she never indicated this to be the case either, and I eventually felt resentment because what I saw was a mother who wouldn’t spend time with her daughter or grandchildren. And that hurt…a lot.

Now many years later while walking along the genetic trail, this daughter is stepping in the footprints of her mother’s medical path and I see ‘how alike’ we are and understand from where her choices may have developed. Perhaps she was experiencing too much damn pain to visit me and my kids. I wonder now if it was in her own home where she felt most comfortable dealing with her discomfort? At the time my disbelief and resentment grew between us like a brick wall with no doors or windows left open for communication. Now I imagine this to be her personal back story for choosing to remain so close to home. I empathize for what may have been her silent struggle all those years ago and admit I may have judged her too harshly. I call it her silent struggle because I never knew her to have this diagnosis although our symptoms are identical. She was of that generation that didn’t like to take medicine unless there was an obvious condition at hand, as in medically diagnosed. I have the luxury of knowing there is medicinal and therapeutic intervention to help alleviate the symptoms when flare-ups occur. I’m already on the books for PT and the medicinal is already on board! Unfortunately, my mother was later diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and we all know how autoimmune diseases jump onboard the family bus. Well that bus will remain parked at the terminal for now, not riding IT anytime soon!!!

I’m driving a different bus and rerouting my energy away from the painful, emotional claws wanting to drag me down today. Chronic pain is crappy, I know all too well. I’ve given myself this week to wallow in Jelly Bellys to the point where I am (almost) sick of them. Ironically, skipping the gym to indulge in whatever else was pulling at me this week was not the right choice because working out gives me my greatest lift. Duh…gotta love those endorphins! Go to the gym if you can people, best medicine ever!!!

I know what I am dealing with is small potatoes compared to what others are dealt. Still, our personal disruptions are disruptions all the same. I do want to regain and maintain my positive mental attitude for there are many miles left in my heart and feet. I do not want to check out on my family because I’ve been on the see-saw when the other person jumps off. And it hurts… alot. You’ve heard the saying ‘Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!’ Well, I am prepared to do so but unfortunately they will be under my mom genes…

Image result for scientific quotes about family genetics


  1. Girlfriend, I feel your pain. No, really, I FEEL YOUR PAIN, though maybe not in the exact same spot(s). I could tell many stories, very different from yours, about how mom and her mom before her handle(d) their pains, but will save that for some future posts or something else.

    Suffice to say that I have recently gone through a process similar to yours, with results that were nearly as frightening. I have been feeling some odd pain in my right shin since the beginning of the year, as well as lack of flexibility in hips, which was diagnosed long before as related to arthritis, a condition from which both of my mom’s parents suffered greatly. Of course, I never thought the two conditions were related until a returned from a visit with Mom, during which I told her, more than once in a VERY loud voice, that my pain and limitations were way worse than hers at the moment.

    I tried PT and NSAIDS, which got me through till I could get back home and find a local doctor. Imagine my shock, and despair, then, when this new guy read my new x-rays in the exam room, and, after telling him my story of what I thought might have caused these new twinges I was feeling, turned to me and said very matter of factly “You need to have both hips replaced.” Took me at least the weekend to recover and now, after two months of anti-inflammatory meds plus now another couple of weeks on muscle relaxers, I have bit the bullet and decided to proceed ASAP with at least one, if not both.

    That’s right, like you, I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, or at least in pain! Now, since polling people in the know about who should cut me open (for the very FIRST time in my ENTIRE life!) and where that should happen, I have waited another week for a referral/release from one doctor to another within the very same LARGE and spread out over much of east TN ortho practice.

    I hope your experience has been and will continue to be better than mine, but that we both end up better able to walk the hills in and around UTK more comfortably, or at least less painfully, in the near future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Husband had hip replacrment last fall, frontal approach, and he soared through recovery. Went out of town for procedure, however. Hope the same success and quick recovery for you. And thank you for your well wishes! Today is a good day!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Had mine in Knoxville on Halloween. Recovery is progressing very slowly, mostly swelling and not much pain so overall not a horrid experience but…
        Clearly, arthritis is another of those things that pop up as we age i.e. later rather than sooner, if we’re lucky. That was the genetic cause of my hip problem, and I know other people of similar age who are also dealing with arthritis induced spinal stenosis.
        Unfortunately, our oldest daughter, the archaeologist, may also have “inherited” this condition from both sides. Boy, do Hubba and I feel guilty about that, even though it’s clearly something over which we have no control!


  2. As we age, we do tend to walk down that road that our parents and grandparents walked before us. I have spent more than my share of time thinking of do overs with my Mom. It’s a shame we don’t understand until it is too late. I hope your medical team comes up with a plan that works well for you. Prayers and positive thoughts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • May that cycle end here, and with you and yours, too! I’ll be fine, mine is not an unusual situation, just to darn young to be dealing with this! Or perhaps I’m no longer young and this is the real bummer! Hahaha…


  3. I’m going to say it for you – this SUCKS!

    How sad that you realized so late the challenges your mom faced … and even worse, you now have your own challenges ahead.

    I’m sending my thoughts, best wishes, and positive vibes your way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for all of this! I do wish I could somehow turn back the clock, but don’t we all wish for this at some time? Comnunication is so important in all of our relationships…if only she shared more maybe I would have understood better. If only this, if only that…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sadly, “if only” is the basis for a lot of regrets.
        Our parents were of a generation that didn’t want to talk about stuff because they didn’t want to worry or bother us. It provided the foundation for a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
        I remember many conversations with my mother trying to explain that in fact she was making our worry and bother even worse.

        Liked by 1 person

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