In the Palm of My Hand

All my life, I’ve worked with my hands. Aside from my brain, they’re the best tools that I have in this meat and bone packaging called a body. Back when I was an administrator, there were work-arounds to my not having the use of my hands. However, it’s different now that I am a professional seamstress and designer: unfortunately, there aren’t any obvious band-aid solutions for a seamstress who can’t use her hands.

When my hands started tingling, I didn’t think too much of it. When they started hurting and waking me up in the wee hours of the morning with a pain I like to call “fire needles” (it feels like my hands are on fire and 1,000 wasps are stinging them), I knew something was very wrong.

As I iced my hands repeatedly night after night, I often wondered what I could do if my hands failed me. Many people have gone through the discomfort of retooling for a different career. Some have been forced into it, and some went gladly.

While worrying, I consulted with several friends. One of them suggested a unique brand of physical therapy called the Rossiter System, a method of relieving pain that reminds me of a combination of Rolfing (“a form of bodywork that reorganizes the connective tissues, called fascia, that permeate the entire body,” according to the Rolf Institute) and acupressure. I am eternally grateful to that friend because that physical therapist bought me three more months of use with my hands mostly pain free, but that plateaued out as well. I eventually had to bite the bullet and go see the person I had been dreading . . . the orthopedic surgeon.

I both hated as well as anticipated that doctor’s appointment.

I just wanted to get to the bottom of it. I wanted to hear that there was a solution. I wanted to know that I wouldn’t lose the use of my hands.

I gritted my teeth and smiled as he examined me and told me that I had classic carpal tunnel syndrome. The repetitive motion, plus my small wrists, plus the arthritis in my family, PLUS the general swelling of the joints that comes with menopause made my case very cut-and-dried to him. Apparently, the nerve damage had already started, so he recommended surgery sooner rather than later.

To my credit, I shed no tears until I got to the privacy of my car.

In full panic mode, I called another friend, who, very sensibly, suggested that I talk to other folks who had had the surgery. I’m very good at homework, so that’s exactly what I did over the next few days. Except for one anomaly, everyone had positive things to tell me. The most encouraging of them had his hands done a year ago. They all told me that it behooved me to stop procrastinating and just get it done, that I would be much happier afterwards.

As of this writing, the surgery date has been scheduled. I am currently in the process of cleaning out my inbox, as it were, to make sure everyone is taken care of while I’m recovering. I am cautiously optimistic. I am no longer terrified. I am no longer afraid of losing my livelihood . . . and, let’s be honest, I’m no longer afraid of losing my identity because my tools don’t work.

While I won’t be the bionic woman after surgery, my hand will be better than new. It will be strong again–strong enough to hold the world . . . in the palm of my hand again.

Until next time, dear readers. May your bobbins be full and your seams straight!


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