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My Spinal Cysts (Upon Learning More Than I Wanted To Know)


My dad served as a U.S. Marine at the tail-end of WWII. He was an MP, serving in Occupied China, Hawaii and Washington, D.C.

When the Korean "Police Action" broke out, he was called up. However, after a physical, he was told that he had spinal cysts, and could not serve. (He wasn't too broken up about that.)

I have inherited many things from Dad. I love military shows and movies (although, I confess, I do not share his love of Tora, Tora, Tora.) I love to read. I have bunions and hideous seasonal allergies.

I also have spinal cysts.

To be precise, I have Tarlov cysts. These are rare. Some people who have them are asymptomatic (like my dad) and others suffer a great deal. I seem to fall somewhere in the middle.

I spent most of last year trying to get relief from the incessant nerve pain. To that end, I had a spinal cord stimulator implanted, which seems to have done the trick.

Except, it does nothing for muscle pain. Which I have a lot of.

It's disheartening to realize that the spinal cord stimulator was not a magic elixir. I'm also afraid that, somehow, I'm going to let people down by admitting that I'm not pain-free, and probably never will be.

What causes Tarlov cysts? No one really knows, although traumas such as falls and auto accidents are suspected. There is also the hereditary thing. And nothing can really be done to "cure" them, although treatments are available.

When I was 15, I was able to go to Fatima. Whenever we girls on the trip had a complaint about anything ("Is this ... goat meat?"), the Sisters accompanying us said, "Offer it up." Of course, the young seers of Fatima became dedicated to the suffering of the world and of Our Lord, and went to great lengths to offer up their suffering.

This is not a club I ever wanted to belong to. But: God calls us and we can respond or turn away, despite our own will.

Writer Ann Voskamp:
[W]e don’t need hindsight to know God is good. We already have hindsight. On that cross. In that empty tomb.And whatever road we’re walking one now—then somehow, someway—that road is good. There’s not just breadcrumbs of good for you on it; It is for your benefit. My benefit.In this hard, He is doing something holy. He is doing something transformative. Even as our hearts rage. Even as they break.This upside down road, where His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), where troubles are an opportunity for great joy because troubles usher us into His presence, and in His presence, there is fullness of joy.This God is no stranger to the hard road. This God walked the hardest road for us.

Both of my parents died holy deaths. However, we do not presume that anyone is in Heaven, unless the Church declares it. So I pray for their souls. I do, though, believe I have two allies in Heaven, and I'm sure Dad is praying for me.

No one signs up for suffering. But if we do God's will, there is always hope. So: now I have hope. And cysts.

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