I’ve been meaning to write about a couple of things for a while. These things are quite personal, but I’ve felt moved to share, as my experiences may be of help to someone reading.
One day in July 2008, our car was hit by another car. Chadwick and I were taking our mothers to see a Cirque show. Everyone else was fine aside from headaches and shock, but I positioned myself oddly as the impact occurred and paid dearly for it. For two and a half years, I experienced pain and intense difficulty with my neck and shoulder. Sitting in front of the computer was the worst. I gained weight and used my pain as an excuse to not work out. Thankfully during shooting, there is so much adrenaline running through my body all day that I wouldn’t mind the pain until the shoot was over. This isn’t something I shared with many people, including clients as it’s just not sexy to have a whiny, headachey, maimed photographer in charge of one’s images, you know?
Suck it up, sister.
Chadwick, as always, was my rock and stuck by me during years of treatments of this, that and the other thing. Our clients have always been so patient and sweet that they never made me feel pressured. I’d take a long time to do my best on every project, and our dear clients always waited- without my explanation- how would I have made it through in this business without these awesome people in my life? I was kneaded, pulled, pricked, heated up, tested and ‘imaged’ by many different people. Did my best to smile through it as so many people have such real pain to deal with, who am I to wear this like it’s anything?
I was told by many a professional that it didn’t look like this was going to get better, I’d have to manage the pain for the rest of my life. Those who know me know that I don’t like being told what to do nor how I should feel. I maintained my faith that I would get better one day. Or so I had thought.
After a prolonged week of trying to get back on the saddle by working out- I developed crazy foot pain. Pain in my heel that meant I had to stay off my feet for up to 6 weeks for the area to heal. We had a wedding in Jamaica in one week- how the heck was that going to go with this heel thing? I had to find someone to treat this issue asap.
A year before this time, Chadwick’s cousin Jeremy, a physiotherapist in Abbotsford, told me about one of his mentors, Erl Pettman, who specialized in orthopaedic manual therapy techniques involving the neck- and he worked out of three clinics in the Valley. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of manipulation, as I’d heard too many stories that left me questioning the practice (particularly involving the head/spine), but surely it wouldn’t hurt to go and see him now about my foot, right? What could he do that would further mess up my foot? Manipulate away, my friend! I made an appointment with Erl, and I brought my “book” of professional notes about my neck in case he’d have a moment to give an opinion.
Erl has being doing this for over 40 years, he’s literally written the book on special neck manipulation techniques, and he teaches in universities across the States. Before he looked at my foot, he asked me about my neck, and examined it gently and confidently. He didn’t review the literature others had created for me about my neck. I’m telling you, the man has a Gift. He told me exactly what was wrong, said I could have been dealing with this for another 10+ years if we didn’t get things back where they should be, and that he would fix it. He wasn’t surprised I was told I wouldn’t get better.
Um, OK. Carry on then.
Calm came over me and I trusted I was meant to be there. I felt scared and at peace at the same time- I was completely present in the moment. After he heated up the area for quite a while, he performed a very complicated technique that I wish every physiotherapist was confident and knowledgeable enough to do. It was insane and fast and loud. I remember thinking- either I am completely fixed or completely hooped- there would be no in between with this move. Can you believe I felt immediate relief? I said, is it possible Erl that I feel relief right now, or am I just hoping for it… he said it was possible and he sure hoped that’s how I was feeling. Along with the relief came a flood of tears and a healthy dose of anger. Why did it take this long? Why could the other people not help me? Why would people say that I won’t get better? Erl said that this is a complicated technique, and also, there are many people ot there who are simply “not very good”. It occured to me that perhaps there are folks that exist to NOT help, whether they believe so or not. There are people that profit from injuries like mine as well as many others.
I was elated and slightly skeptical when Erl said he was done with that neck issue, that I now must be diligent with the exercises he’d given me and watch the area…. In one session, the source of my pain was gone and the rest of the body just had to catch up to that revelation, and heal. I cried the whole day and periodically for the next week. Weird stuff.
Once the main problem was fixed, and literally “off my shoulders”, it became clear that I had been feeling a lot worse than even I knew for the last two and a half years. I had started an exit strategy from photography- what else could I do with my life? How could Chadwick and I keep working together- I needed a plan that would include less pain. When Erl fixed me, I literally felt the cloud move away, and an energy I hadn’t felt in years. Oh yes, my heel’s better too now- but I won’t go on further.
Yesterday, I had what will be my last appointment with Erl. If I stay on top of my exercises, and stay away from car accidents of course, I’ll be fine.
I’m sharing this story with you because I want you to never give up hope, always get a second, third or fourth opinion, and recognize when you’re feeling down that its a good idea to talk about it with your loved one’s, and with yourself. You don’t have to appear strong all the time. Challenges also bring a new perspective on life. I’m feeling grateful today and every day.
For me, Erl is an angel. He could have been a total jerk and I wouldn’t care because he fixed me, but he happens to be one of the most lovely, humble men you’ll have the pleasure of meeting. Can’t you see it in his eyes? He’ll retire soon, and I’ve been assured he’s passing on his skills to a number of good people willing to take it on. One of these brave people was shadowing Erl yesterday and he spoke so highly of Erl’s particular finesse. Erl, thank you. (And don’t judge my “relaxed” Mission look, people! ha!)
During those years, I planned to finally tackle a long-term goal of mine, to start JONETSU HOME. I’d been slowly pecking away at designing 4 complete lines, and one day (post-Erl visit), I decide to press send on my very first fabric design. My facebook status confirmed it, couldn’t take it back now! I was so happy to receive it, and my dog NiNi likes it, so everything will be fine! Sometime this year, you’ll see the new JONETSU HOME website. Still full time photography lovin’ – just expanding to include this other passion of mine. And clients, you’ll be our JHome guinea pigs 🙂 Here are a few panels hanging over the railing – you’ll see more detail of the design at another time:
Yesterday, we decided to add cedar strips to the existing balcony at the house for additional privacy. When Chadwick decides it’s time to get it done- he just gets it done. Pouring rain, oh well!? Now two panels are finished. Planted succulents in the containers this year- my favorite! Next day, we wake up to SNOW on the ground. What the what? It’s April 14th! I’m glad we kept the succulents under the overhang last night!
ok, that’s it for now, here are some photos: