I am closing in on the reason for the paresthesia in my left leg that was mistaken for a knee sprain over the summer. I had my appointment with an orthopedic doctor today, who concluded that my aggravation is likely due to spinal stenosis. I will have a MRI of my lumbar spine in early December to confirm this diagnosis.
As soon as the doctor offered this tentative diagnosis, I had an interstellar strength “duh!” moment. This condition is familiar to me because my sister has been contending with it for 15 years. Why oh why did I not consider that I could have the same problem?
Family history is crucial in assessing health risks, but I was not inclined to consider my closest relations, my brother and sister. Maybe this is a long term legacy of sibling rivalry. The three of us seem so different from one other, as if we all to some degree forged identities in opposition to each other. This striving to be different is much clearer between my sister and me.
She was the blue eyed blond who could apply an 80’s eye shadow trio with perfection while I was a clumsy brunette who could only wear clear mascara lest I leave dark mascara prints around my eyes. Once we were no longer so young, we found that we had more common ground than expected. Both of us struggled with depression, and both of us had awful postpartum hemorrhages that led us to have just one child each.
I didn’t bother to mention to my family doctor that my sister has also had orthopedic problems. In my mind, there was an implicit divide between us: her health had fallen apart while I was still whole. I wish I hadn’t cast us as being so different in this regard. Perhaps I wouldn’t have spent three months laboring in the darkness, at risk for a recurrence of major depression because of dwindling physical activity while doubting my perceptions of my symptoms.