Posted by Christa Azbell on Monday, December 14, 2009
“Tender Strength in Pain” by Jessica Cantrell
I turned over for the hundredth time that night, screaming on the inside from the pain I was forced to endure. When you walk through hell there’s no one there to hold your hand, and this was most certainly hell. I was on fire, a fire that can’t be put out.
They say that it is like dousing your hand in gasoline and then lighting it. Imagine that the flame never goes out and there is no hope that it ever will. As if things couldn’t get worse, rub the raw flesh with sandpaper mixed with salt. I was surprised that no one could see the flames jumping off of my arm. In an interesting twist I lay in my bunk on the tour bus trying to keeping warm. It was a requirement to keep the temperature in the bus below thirty. I lay there hoping to die, hoping to keep my dream alive for I knew that as soon as I left that bunk I would never come back.
What began as an amazing opportunity of a lifetime spiraled downward into the days and nights of endless pain. I was on the Ministry Team, a feat that few attained especially after the week long “try out” called Josiah’s Road. This was what I had dreamed of; touring the country and putting on Christian conferences for teenagers. I wanted this more than anything and I had worked hard for it.
Climbing aboard the bus is what did it. It wasn’t until I climbed aboard that bus that the nightmare began. The bus rocked back and forth as it rattled down the road. Every bump in the road caused more and more pain. I didn’t realize it then, but that pain was nothing compared to the fire that was to come.
My sprained wrist seemed to be hurting me more as time wore on. The doctor said that it wasn’t broken and would be better in a few days. It had been a few weeks by the time we arrived at our first event. It had only taken a couple of days on the bus to create the monster that still devours my arm almost five years later.
I was taken to a urgent care clinic and, after hardly looking at my wrist, the doctor diagnosed a sprained wrist. I felt like pulling out my hair. How dare he tell me that it was just a sprained wrist when it had been weeks! I was angry and hurt but I had to pull myself together and take the medicine he prescribed. I couldn’t let my team see me crying or blubbering. I had to; no wanted to, stay strong for them. They had an event to put on, they didn’t need to be worrying about me.
At the event the sound from the band was painful and so they put me in the cab of one of the trucks so I could rest where it was quiet. The Vicodin kept me sedate, but the pain never went away. I lay there in the dark with tears streaming down my face and no motivation to wipe them away.
Continuing on tour I would stop at two more clinics before winding up in a hospital in Georgia. “You have RSD”, the doctor told me. I was sitting on a cold metal table but the chill I felt didn’t come from that. I froze. My breath caught in my chest and my heart skipped a beat as I waited for her to continue. “That’s reflex sympathetic dystrophy; it is a problem with your nerves. We don’t know what causes it, and there’s no cure. A nerve block might help the pain.”
I sat there dazed. I had what? No cure? A what block? I had too many questions floating through my mind and my mouth had suddenly stopped working. I just stared back at her, where to begin?
Soon I was flying to Colorado to get a second opinion. I would go through a string of doctors, none of which had even heard of RSD. I finally gave up. What else was there to do? Not one doctor would give a diagnosis. Life at home became unbearable.
While the pain was still sucking the life out of me my family began criticizing me.
I was finally diagnosed; four and a half years later, with the very same diagnosis I had received in that night in Alabama. The years of pain have made me strong, and the years of suffering have made me tender; Strong enough to keep pressing on in spite of the pain, and tender enough to help others through theirs.