Patty's Journey

I'm Patty, originally from the Rocky Mountains of Montana, now living in the Seattle area. When I was 11, my mother asked me why I had a book under my sweater. She reached out to touch my back, and her face drained of all color when she realized it was my shoulder blade sticking out.

After a few months of exercises and rounds of doctor appointments, Mom and I left my sister, three brothers and my dad in Butte, and boarded a train to Spokane. I was put in traction where they teased me saying they were going to hang a Montana horse thief! I got along well with this doc. I loved that he could break through my fears with jokes. After I was stretched out, they put me in my first body cast, just to get me used to it before surgery. I wore it for a month. When I stepped off the train back in Butte, my dad burst into tears because I was 3 inches taller! 

On July 15,1964, I had a bone on bone fusion (no rods) in Spokane. I wore another body cast for 4 1/2 months. It came up behind my head, under my chin, and down to my hips. Somehow my parents, my siblings and my friends made sure I was included in everything. The nuns in my 7th grade class rigged up a desk for me because I couldn't look down. My engineer dad made me a desk for home with a drafting table top that I could lift up. I even learned to chuck small rocks with my feet! Won a few bets along the way. I got a new cast in November, and it had no head piece. It felt so good to really wash my hair. In April of '65 I had the cast removed. My friends threw me a surprise 13th birthday party. Before I got each cast removed, my brothers and sister would draw all over it, and write jokes and notes to the doctor. I think that year was the most fun of my childhood. Mother and I would dress up to ride the train. We stayed in a hotel in Spokane, and she taught me how to handle myself in a "big" city. I actually felt sorry for my Cinderella sister who stayed home with all the guys.

I'm not even sure which vertabrae were fused. There were 9 in all, some T, some L. After all, it was 52 years ago, and I never paid much attention. My mom always knew, but she's been gone 30 years. 

The State of Montana paid for my college tuition because of my back. I have a degree in writing and was a newspaper columnist for many years. I've been married 40 years, but never gave birth to a child. We do, however, have two sons we adopted as newborns. First grandchild is due in May! My husband and I are both cancer survivors. I have often wondered how much my infertility and colon cancer might have been exacerbated by being blasted with X-rays at say nothing of being raised in a toxic super-fund mining town!

I've had some big challenges with pain over the years. Although my posture is still good, I think my fusion is slipping a bit because I've lost a few inches of height and more recent x-rays show more curvature. The most important thing for me is keeping my weight down, and staying flexible where I can flex. Recently I started Yoga instructed by a close friend who is also an R.N. She's making it her mission to find out what will work for me. I'm going to teach her some cooking tricks in return, except that cooking is the thing that is the most painful at this time.

Finding clothes to fit is always a challenge, but I've learned that layering works. I had a dress made for me for my son's wedding, and I felt beautiful. 

Walking long distances is really difficult. I can do about one quarter of a suburban shopping center in one trip. My doctor signed off on a Disabled Parking Permit that I only use when I need it.

I often use my feet to pick up things from the floor, and I can still fling a rock about 40 feet. I have a husband who understands me and my limitations, and tells me I amaze him even when I doubt that it's true. Life is good. Painful, but good. 

Your twisted sister,