Ann Kuehn - Contributing columnist



A pinched nerve has sent me into a temporary hiatus, after the obligatory back x-ray — necessary before the obligatory MRI — showed cervical disc degeneration.

I could have told them that. For three painful weeks I have had numbness in my right arm with decreased finger movements … more or less trying to button buttons wearing mittens.

I do not handle pain well. Actually, not at all. This despite bringing five children into the world. That was muscle pain, and immediately forgotten after their blessed entry. (Although I do remember with number 5, thinking, “Why in the world am I going through this AGAIN?”)

This is nerve pain which is not only sharper, but debilitating, and refuses to go away.

It started innocuously, pruning some wayward bushes.

“Mom!” barked my oldest son. “You are 84 — to old to be gardening!”

Taking a deep breath I bestowed “the look” all mothers assume when annoyed — one eyebrow slightly raised over furrowed brow from under which angry eyes spark, nostrils slightly fanned, lips curled, all the while reaching blindly for the fly swatter.

Somehow “the look” does not generate the level of alarm in a 60-year-old as it did when he was 10. And honestly, forget the fly swatter. I did point out that if I was too old at 84 to garden, perhaps at 60 he was too old to play golf.

No need to mention that reaction.

His brother was no less sympathetic. “You need to be stretching, Mom. You can’t just pick up a hoe and walk outside.”

I don’t disagree. Stretching is good, and could I do it in the context of group exercise, there would be no problem. Due to the virus, our weekly group exercises came to a halt two years ago.

That leaves self motivation. Doesn’t work. However, pain being the great motivator, I have signed up for physical therapy and will bite the stretching bullet to show me exactly what to do in those early dawn hours before almost any other distraction catches my fancy.

In the meantime, I have been regaled by horror stories from well-meaning friends: “Multiple epidurals that didn’t work; fusions; laminectomies …”

Having for years observed patients hospitalized with chronic back problems who stated, “I should never have had the first surgery”, I am leery. Temporarily a muscle relaxant and ibuprofen are keeping the pain to the level of a dull ache, but that is at best a temporary solution.

As to gardening … One might as well ask me to stop breathing. The world seems to fall into two categories — those who garden and those who do not.

For gardeners, digging in the dirt is a religious experience. I have cut back considerably, particularly considering I tackled 19 acres on Greenfield for decades.

I no longer wield an asparagus fork at Point Park, or cast an aspiring eye on Cape May public areas. I stick to my small front yard bed and plant a few vegetables in an adjacent area. In fact, I now plan to sow wild flowers in part of that bed. Personal gardening may eventually be limited to potting geraniums.

But back to my back. The most non-compliant patient is a retired physician, seconded by a retired nurse. Perhaps a “go me” fund should be set up for my provider. He definitely is going to need a hiatus.

Ann Kuehn resides at Ohio Living Cape May in Wilmington. She says, “I gravitated to Ohio at age 18 and never left” and moved to Sabina in 1987.

Ann Kuehn

Contributing columnist