The Email I Sent My Classmates That Helped Me Push Through Pain at the Reunion


I was one of those people who not only attended, but cherished, both my high school and college reunions. In fact, from 1980 until 2012 I attended every single one, making the trip from my home in first California and then Denver to Worcester, Massachusetts and New York. Since contracting atypical
trigeminal neuralgia, however, that stopped. As anyone living with a chronic
pain condition knows, travel is super difficult… negotiating the security lines
at the airport, increased pain while flying, etc. Plus, I am super uncomfortable
with my appearance. Like many with TN, it was first assumed my pain was dental-related, leading to the eventual extraction of both my incisors. I tried having crowns put on, but they proved too painful. Plus, I think I have a bit of a “sickly” look.

In my “pre-TN” life, I traveled all the time. For work I visited clients each quarter in Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and California. For pleasure, besides the reunion trips, I hiked Machu Picchu and went on an adventure trip to Costa Rica, most recently. But that all stopped. Besides visiting family, I am mostly home. (I tease that I am under “house arrest.”)

About a year ago, several high school friends emailed the gals from our Bronxville (New York) high school 1976 graduating class. It said that in celebration of all of us turning 60, let’s meet at a spa resort in southern Utah for a long weekend in April. I looked at the Red Mountain Resort website and thought, “This is beautiful.” Plus, there was a direct one-hour flight from my Denver home. I can do this! I emailed back “yes,” and made my reservations.

As the time approached, however, I felt anxious. Several of the 24 classmates attending knew about my health situation, but most did not. I dreaded having to “explain myself” over and over. With the encouragement of a couple of best friends, I sent out the following email.

Hi gal classmates!

I am so looking forward to our weekend together at Red Mountain Resort. When the Allisons and Joyce first started planning this, I thought, wow, half the fun is just looking forward to it. And now, the get-together is next week!

Red Mountain has tons of activities on the schedule. If anyone wants to join me in less rigorous endeavors, I will participate in the water aerobics classes and look forward to some strolls in the surrounding area. I’d love to have some company!

I know probably all of us are dealing with “something” health-wise. As some of you know, for me, for the past six years I’ve been living with atypical trigeminal neuralgia. It’s a rare and wacky chronic neurological condition that causes daily toothache-like pain and migraine headaches. It’s not life threatening, but it’s certainly life changing. I had to leave my career as a financial reporter, and I don’t travel much anymore (one reason I’m so looking forward to our get-away together!) I feel I’ve gotten the best possible care that includes medications, a nerve stimulator, etc. I’m always happy to hear suggestions, but I can pretty much guarantee I’ve tried every remedy possible in both traditional and non-traditional therapies.

If you’d like to learn more, I’ve written a couple of pieces for a website The Mighty (which focuses on chronic conditions). I am happy to talk about my condition. But, quite frankly, I’m more interested in remembering fun times from BHS Class of ’76. So, here is my submission to, “Do you remember when?”

French class with Dr. Szabo. Before class, some guy classmate taped a Playboy centerfold on the map and rolled it up. And then, in class, everyone peppered Dr. Szabo with questions like, “Where is France?” and “Well, where is France in relation to Spain,” etc. until he was compelled to pull down the map. Upon seeing the centerfold, mayhem ensued! Dr. Szabo tried to zip the map up again, and then pulled it down for another look. Then, he couldn’t get the map to roll up. We all roared with laughter and achieved very little that day. See ya next week… Hugs until then!

Mary

I received several encouraging emails back. Yet, it was nothing like the support and understanding I received over our wonderful long weekend. While most went off on rigorous hikes or bike rides at dawn every day, I enjoyed leisurely walks amidst breathtaking surroundings. Water aerobics classes were a hoot. I loved sharing the experience with high school pals. Every single woman was kind, and more importantly to me, not patronizing. And not one person asked me if I had tried acupuncture.  I’m very happy I pushed through my discomfort and enjoyed a long weekend with my classmates. As we left, we all decided that we’ll be back in five years, when we turn 65. Count me in!

Image credit: Mary Scott


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