When asked about his journey with neuropathy, Bobby began: “Well, I was born in a log cabin that I built with my own two hands,” explaining that no matter the details of his symptoms and diagnosis, his sense of humor has been crucial for him while accepting his new life with neuropathy. Bobby had been an avid runner for 30 years, and he remembers the day well– Texas Independence Day– March 2, 2011– that he developed back pain unlike any he had experienced before. The next day, his toes were tingling.
Guessing this numbness might be due to an electrolyte imbalance, Bobby consulted his urologist. Being advised that was unlikely, he sought his PCP who immediately diagnosed him with spinal stenosis. After being referred to a physiatrist, a chiropractor, and a neurologist who diagnosed his neuropathy with an EMG, Bobby opted for lumbar decompression surgery. Before the surgery, however, his doctor found a benign sheath tumor around a nerve in his vertebrae from an MRI scan. In removing the tumor, Bobby suffered some damage to his L5 nerve root which lost the signal from his vertebrae to his left foot. His neuropathy symptoms worsened, and although his foot was numb, he was still able to feel burning pain. Throughout all the back-and-forth with all his various healthcare providers, Bobby made sure to always keep his PCP, the “quarterback” of his healthcare team, informed.
While it was a struggle to adjust to his new, slower pace of life, Bobby was particularly grateful to his physical therapists for helping him confront his new limitations and develop a strategy to cope. Also in one of his sessions, Bobby experienced the undoubtable connection between his mind and his physical symptoms and has since committed to practicing gratefulness and a positive spirit. He notes that it’s important to “know who your cheerleaders are and to let them know that you are thankful for them. To stay positive is to be grateful– they reinforce each other. All this ties into being self-aware, and as humans, we all want to understand, and to be understood.”
Bobby commits to staying active and being very involved in his community, explaining, “We have to come to grips with our neuropathy in a practical way, and the most practical way is to get engaged with a group that understands.” He has a near perfect attendance at the Austin-West support group meetings and regularly participates in NATX’s Tai Chi classes, which have significantly helped his proprioception (position sense) and overall health. Quoting Woody Allen, Bobby stresses that “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” He shares, “You really have got to have a community for support, and for me, I try to come to every Neuropathy Alliance meeting that I can. It’s just something that I need to do for myself– I get more out of it than I can give back. It’s a social support, it’s a technical support, and it’s just plain community and fellowship. I support Neuropathy Alliance because it supports me and my health. It helps me learn to live the way I want to become.”