Tasting The Canvas

In prior essays I suggested that you embrace failure as a means to an eventual success.  Also, that a byproduct of coping with failure is developing the wherewithal to handle difficult situations.  In this essay I will share a bit of my own story and how I put this philosophy into action.

Over the past three years I have faced multiple health issues, including severe back pain.  Since doctors were unable to diagnose the cause of my back pain from x-rays and MRIs, I tried numerous forms of treatment in an attempt to get well.  Below is a list of the modalities of treatment that I tried:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractor
  • Physical Therapy
  • Pool Therapy
  • PDTR (Proprioceptive Deep Tendon Reflex)
  • Trigger Point Injections
  • Facet Joint Injections
  • Platelet Rich Plasma Injections
  • Prolotherapy Injections
  • Massage Therapy
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Reiki
  • Essential Oils
  • Rolfing
  • Myofascial Release
  • Osteopathic Manipulation

One of my doctors told me he had never seen a patient willing to try so many different forms of treatment.  He once quipped, “I swear, if there was a witch doctor in the middle of the Amazon rainforest you thought could help, you’d be dropped by helicopter next to his hut.”

Some of the treatments were terrific failures in terms of results, pain, time and money spent.  It was the last one on the list that finally made a breakthrough after my DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) was able to make a diagnosis.  She determined the root cause of my back pain to be a strain of the fascial tissue, most likely caused by colorectal surgery I had in 2015.  My DO has been treating this condition in recent months, and this has finally allowed me to walk, exercise, and start to rebuild my physical self.

Not all of the treatments were failures and some I have resumed and are helping now.  Also, I truly believe the majority of my medical providers had the best of intentions.  Unfortunately, the efficacy of their treatment was hampered by chronic muscle spasms.  It was later discovered these spasms were caused by an insidious prescription drug (story for another day).  In some cases my providers (these I refer to as caretakers) kept me going under terrible circumstances and enabled me to live to fight another day.  I know tears were shed and some sleepless nights were had on my behalf.  To these caretakers I am sincerely thankful for your efforts under duress.

During my medical travails, someone told me, “Success is having been knocked down nine times, but getting up ten times.”  After hearing this comment, I wrote the following poem:

Tasting the Canvas

I have been knocked down and gotten up so many times, I know what the canvas tastes like.
It tastes hard. It tastes cold.
It tastes like dirt pressed inside your nose, as your head hits the ground completely unopposed.
So I spit it out, hateful of the taste.
And I press myself up with arms extended full.
I suck in the clean air and push myself up from the floor.
Quietly pleading to return no more.

Another one of my doctors once said to me, “You are one tough son of a bitch!”  I don’t know … maybe so.  I do believe my willingness to try … and fail, has (and continues to play) an important role in my road to recovery.  Also, in some measure, my prior life experiences with failure and responding to them gave me the strength to handle tougher times to come.  Maybe “taste testing” the canvas has its advantages.

By Neal Benoit

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Next Time: Dare To Have Your PPA Higher Than Your GPA.

5 thoughts on “Tasting The Canvas”

  1. Neal , I’m crying reading this. I haven’t seen you in a long time and in so much pain and somehow you still seemed to try and be positive. I’ve prayed for you many times and am so happy this road is taking a better turn for you . You are an awesome soul with a heart of gold. This test holds some sort of lesson you’ll share with others in the future .
    I’m happy to hear from you !!
    Your friend

    1. Betty … thanks for the prayers, thoughts, and kind words. It means so much to know there are people out there pulling for me. Hope to see you soon. Love, Neal

  2. I’ve tried more than 1/2 your list for chronic pain drs say is untreatable and thrilled to know you didn’t give up and found relief. Gonna try Osteopathic manipulation!

    1. Thanks for sharing Tom. I can recommend an excellent Doctor of Osteopathy in the Albany, NY area if you are interested.

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