My Husband’s Motto

My Husband’s Motto

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Back Pain!

My Husband’s Motto

Police Chief Eddie R. Defew found himself in numerous dangerous situations during his twenty-five years of public service. For instance, once he stopped a man for reckless driving when he swerved into a funeral possession, nearly hitting another vehicle. After finding out the man was intoxicated, he reached through the man’s driver side window to remove his keys from the ignition. That’s when the man took off, dragging Eddie for several yards down the street. Thinking fast, he kicked away from the moving truck to prevent being run over by a rear tire and was thrown loose.

When he got up and brushed himself off, he knew he was scraped and sore, but didn’t think he was seriously hurt. A few days later, he could barely turn his head without excruciating stabs of pain. His doctor could find nothing wrong, so Eddie chalked it up to normal hazardous duty like his job description read. Over the years, he had his share of near misses, but the neck pain from that one particular day never went away.

In the fall of 1988, while on vacation from his job, he went hunting with a friend. At sundown, the two hunters came back to the truck to pack up and start home. As his friend unloaded his rifle, it accidentally went off, hitting Eddie in the shoulder and chest. After twenty-eight days in the hospital, the doctor who saved his arm and his life said, “Ten out of ten men would have died. You shouldn’t have lived.” But, he warned him about the pain he would have in the future. “You’ll know when a weather change is coming long before the weather man does.”

The doctor was right. Along with the shoulder and neck pain, in 1994 he was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis of the spine, a pain that radiated up and down his spine. The cushioning between his vertebrae was disappearing, causing them to rub bone against bone, adding more pain to his collection of injuries.

In 1994, I met Eddie. He had retired and was looking forward to a simpler, more peaceful life. That sounded good to me. For ten years, I had fought rheumatoid arthritis and its crippling effects while trying to work a full-time job. We had a lot in common. Each of us had been divorced for several years and had experienced our fair share of pain, both physical and mental. As fate would have it, we hit it off, married two years later, and moved to his farm in the country. Even with our underlying health problems, we had never been happier.

Then, ten years later, while deer hunting, Eddie felt an excruciating pain run down his back. For days, he could hardly walk or drive. He tried to describe it to his doctor, “It feels like your hand feels when you’ve laid on it at night and, when it comes to life, it feels like a thousand needles prickling your skin.” Only, with him, the episodes went on non-stop for hours at a time. “It feels like I’m holding my foot in freezing cold water,” he explains. “But, it’s not cold to the touch. In fact, if the pain is really intense, my leg actually sweats.” A lifelong jogger, the weakening muscles in his left leg worried him a lot too.

After a series of CT scans, the doctor found the primary reason for his pain. It was coming from the L3/L4 section of his spine. One disc was bulging; one disc was herniated. As a result, his sciatic nerve was being pinched, causing the pain in his left leg and foot. “I can send you to a specialist,” he offered. “Surgery is an option, but there are no guarantees.” Eddie’s damage was so extensive, surgery could actually make it worse instead of better.

So, after careful consideration, Eddie decided to take the road that made more sense to him. “If worse comes to worse, I’ll see a surgeon. But, until that day, I’ll take it a day at a time and hope the days stretch into years.” From that point on, he began an exercise regime to strengthen his lower back muscles and he gradually got back to his normal routine of jogging. Instead of giving in to the pain, he would learn to live with it.

Our farm was the motivating factor. He loved it with all his heart. “When we moved to the country,” he said, “I felt like I’d finally come home.” I felt the same, but it did include lots of chores and responsibilities. Although I would do all I could to help, I was limited by my disease. I wondered if he would be able to keep it up.

I should have known better. My husband’s not one to give up on something he loves. When it comes to the pain, there’s never a day that he doesn’t fight back. I often ask him how he does it when I see him refuse to give in. “If I’m busy,” he says, “I don’t think so much about the pain. And, if I sit down, I might not ever get up.” So, instead of slowing down, he pushes himself even more, a mind-over-matter approach that works for him. When the job is done, he may be exhausted from fighting the pain, but he feels good about himself.

So, to make sure he keeps on moving forward, Eddie starts a new project every year, doing something he’s always wanted to do. So far, with the help of some very good friends, he has managed to build a cabin with a dock on our pond, a man-cave in the barn where all his buddies gather, a cookout shelter to house a barbecue pit, a chicken house for our eight chickens, dog kennels for our five kennel dogs, an authentic chuck wagon for Dutch oven cooking, and an old log cabin for a guest house. He has also planted gardens fit for a magazine cover and planted acres of food plots for the wildlife. His plate is always full.

And, his perseverance is contagious. Once people see him creating and constructing, they are inspired to jump in and be part of it. No matter what their own health obstacles may be, he pushes them to follow his lead. His tenacity inspires others to face life’s challenges, to become part of the solution rather than the problem. However, he is quick to say he expects no more of them than he does of himself.

It’s a busy life filled with many blessings in the form of family, friends, and our beloved dogs. For us, staying busy is a powerful remedy for ignoring pain. But, when there’s no one else around and pain shows its relentless head, we rely on one another to keep going. Just knowing we are there for each other makes all the difference. In the meanwhile, I’ve become a firm believer in my husband’s motto: “I’m going to keep on working the best I can, for as long as I can. The pain will just have to get used to it.”

~ Linda C. Defew ~

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