Most. Ridiculous. Instrument. ever.

I can see right through people. Three years ago at Cleveland Clinic when a doctor at the Spine Institute looked at my MRI and looked at me and told me I was fine…I knew he was full of shit. This was the beginning of my uphill battle with my health insurance and health care.

“Surgery bad.” He said in an accent.

His way of being suggested to me that he was a believer of holistic medicine, and so was I.

But I had tried everything.

This is Part one of a post about listening to our bodies, going with our gut feeling and not giving up.

Several months ago I laid down on the narrow, cold, hard table of the MRI machine at Hamot hospital. For all the Moms out there– I know that you know what it is like to be unable to lay on your back. during pregnancy. I was about 7 months postpartum and still unable to lie down on my back because of a damaged lumbar spine. As I learned to adapt my life more and more to my state of chronic pain, I simply stopped trying to fight battles that I knew I could not win. One of those battles was attempting to sleep horizontal, on my back. Yet, here I was at a hospital for a lengthy diagnostic test that would require me to be in this position for over an hour.

So here’s how my (SECOND MANDATED by my insurance) MRI went:

The tech. came into the room and asked the usual questions.

“Are you claustrophobic?

Are you feeling okay?

Would you like to listen to music?”

To which I responded,



Just put on some classic rock.”

After I slid into the clamorous capsule known as the MRI machine, I tried my best to practice meditating.

Okay Clarissa, this will work best if you can quiet your mind which will in turn quiet your muscles and ligaments. Where are you holding tension? Release it, release, release...I wonder when that banging noise will start?!

***Insert first loud banging sound of the machine and cue Clarissa’s relaxed body levitating off of the table***

You okay in there? the tech chimed in through my headphones.

Yea, I’m fine (the number one biggest lie I’ve told people).

Okay, where were we? Back to relaxing....relaxing...

This is painful. Ya know, I thought I could out think this pain for one day, for one hour, for a few moments. But this truly is a position I can not remain in. How will I ever last in here for this procedure? How will I last 4 more minutes? Breathe....breathe...breathe.

While I lie in one of the most painful positions my pre-surgery body could be placed in I reached several rationalizations. In that moment I knew I was severely broken. At times when people questioned my condition and if I had anything wrong with me I would actually start to ask myself,

"Is there ANYTHING wrong with me? Are these pains normal? Or, have I gotten better over time but tricked my body into believing I'm still in a chronically pained state? Maybe I need to re-train my neural networks?"

On this day I was kind to myself. I heard my husbands words from a year ago,

“Hunny, you need to get surgery. I know several men that have had surgery and they are doing so much better now. You aren’t going to get better.”

Just as I began to mentally drift out of my pain signals, my table started sliding and I heard the tech speaking to me from behind me and not through the speakers.

Are you okay?”

Stunned…I answered, “Yes, why?”

“Well you are doing a whole lot of moving in there.”

“I’m sorry ma’am. You see this is incredibly painful for me.”

“Well the sooner you cooperate the sooner we can get you of here.”

Right...because my goal is to be a rebel and stay on this fucking table all morning in pain.

“Okay, I’m doing my best. I think I got it.”

I crossed my arms over my chest, and one ankle over the other and got into my best “water slide” position so not to get caught on the capsule in the way in. I don’t fail at much. If I’m not good at something I either:

a) get good at it.

b) just don’t do it.

Okay, back to me on a table pretending to be going down a speed slide…

There was no way my body was going to allow me to sit still long enough for this MRI. I was going to fail.

You see, I like to think that my self-awareness is pretty high. For example, If I’m sipping an IPA and notice a fluttery feeling, I exclaim, “Whew, think I’m catching a buzz!” Whereas, someone else I know (that might live under the same roof as me) will stumble around exclaiming, “I’m not even buzzed.” Sorry lover. I knew from the moment we re-started my MRI that it wasn’t going to work. It was a torture.

I was failing being good at MRI’s.

**Laughs to self.**

This time the tech spoke to me through my headphones–

“You’re moving quite a bit.”

“My back, it’s uh just having a lot of muscle spasms…they are pretty involuntary.”

This went on for about another 40 minutes. FINALLY, this woman called it quits and aborted me out of the capsule. I went to log roll off of the table and could barely move. I was in excruciating pain.

“Well, we will see if these work. I think they are going to be pretty blurry.”


I walked out of the MRI room down the hall and immediately into a bathroom/changing area. I set my belongings down on a shelf, and allowed myself to whole-heatedly feel all of my frustration.

Just once, just one time I wanted the health care system to seem like it was on my side and not against me. My hope for seeing this new doctor, re-submitting my MRI (because my last one expired due to being pregnant) once was again being challenged. I walked out of Hamot to my routine parking spot on the top floor of the garage (because, yes, I have an intense fear of someone scratching my truck) and I drove home.

This was the day I knew I needed surgery.

I processed my thoughts and feelings on my 1+ hour plus commute home from Hamot. I felt liberated. After entertaining the thought of surgery, and thinking there were more cons than pros, I realized I no longer had a choice. Something was REALLY wrong with me and I could feel it deep down in my bones…literally. And even more importantly, my very skeptical husband also knew something was really wrong. When I arrived home I told him I was ready.

My doctor, Brian Dalton, M.D. at Tristate Neurology in Erie, PA followed up with me. He explained that I had a central disc herniation at my L5-S1, and in just two years there was significant degeneration in my Lumbar Spine. His PA explained to me my options saying,

“I’d hate to see a young woman like yourself go through such a surgery. But there is a good chance you would get your quality of life and mobility back.”

I want to do it. I have no reservations anymore. Now I know why people get surgery. This is the only option I have. I can’t be a good wife, a good mother, a good employee or a good human anymore. I’m struggling to be happy and to look forward to the future anymore. This isn’t fair to my family.”

“Well let’s get you scheduled.”


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