Written by Liz Eisen
There are twin scars on my right arm. Small, purple and slightly crooked, they sit just where my silver bangles rest on my wrist. The two ugly blotches remind me of how I misjudged the remaining width of a two-lane bike path that was partially obscured by a truck. I tried to ride past on my ten-speed and instead fell hard. In the process, I scraped up my chin, nose, legs and arms. Road rash is not my best look.
Later in the day, when I vented about my injuries caused by a construction truck on the bike trail to my teenage son, he replied quite unsympathetically, “Why didn’t you just stop, get off your bike, walk it around the truck and then get back onto the path?”
From a hundred yards away, the small open area of the path looked more than wide enough for me to pass safely. From 50 yards, it had narrowed only slightly in my mind’s eye. From 10 yards out, just a few seconds later, I knew I could do it…until I fell and slid along the black asphalt.
I dusted myself off, up righted the ten-speed and rode slowly home cradling my injured right arm against my stomach and steering lamely with my left. Within a week or so, all my wounds had healed everywhere but the pair on my wrist that remain today. The scars seem to taunt me with their specific visibility, as if to say, “See, you should have been more careful. You should have taken better care of yourself.”
I want to say that the purple twins are my only scars, but there is another. A “c” shaped indentation encircles the back of my right ear. It is hidden now by my long auburn hair, which has grown back after being shaved away for surgery a few years ago. The groove behind my ear is a reminder, not of an accident, but of my chronic disease.
I can’t say that I ever took good health for granted, but more that I always expected my body to come through for me. If I had a cold, it went away after a week of chicken soup, Lipton tea and a box or two of tissues. Bruises healed, muscle aches stopped a few days after a ski trip and sunburns faded with aloe vera. I never anticipated being sidelined as a wife and mother in my early 40’s with Meniere’s Syndrome, a disease that causes horribly debilitating vertigo, screaming loud tinnitus and for me, permanent hearing loss.
Meniere’s was not to be dealt with like the flu; it was a tougher beast than I had ever battled. Not only did the disease hinder me with its’ unpredictable whim of long hours of spinning vertigo and roaring tinnitus, but I had to give up anything that was considered even remotely dangerous. If I got an attack of vertigo while swimming, skiing or bike riding, the outcome could have been serious or even deadly. Even yoga was off my list; a position like downward dog was impossible with whirling vertigo. So I learned to take pleasure in long slow walks in a nearby park and resting, a word that was previously missing from my personal dictionary.
After three years of vertigo that almost always controlled my life, I had surgery to alleviate this most awful of the Meniere’s symptoms I suffered. There is no cure for Meniere’s and the hope is that the active phases of the disease will burn out within 10 years, but a decade might as well be a lifetime when I constantly had to miss my daughter’s dance recitals, my son’s soccer games and my youngest child’s school band concerts. So the “c” shaped incision was created by my talented surgeon and he carefully placed a shunt into my inner ear. Not instantaneously, but close enough for me, the vertigo was gone and all I was left with was terrible memories, and a scar that is hidden except when I wear my hair in a ponytail.
It took a while after surgery for me to have enough faith in my body to go bicycle riding again. I started off slowly and then only for short distances. Eventually, I worked up the confidence to go miles at a time, gliding on the bike path for hours. Until that unpleasant day last Fall when a truck blocked my way and I didn’t consider going around the obstacle. My confidence was temporarily breached, but the lasting effects of three scars are only bad memories. So, the next time there’s something in my way…I will stop, walk around it and get right back on my path.