President's Column - March 2023
You all know that I’ve been going through some pretty difficult times lately. After I had my surgery in December 2021, I knew it was not going to be an overnight fix to my situation. I knew I was going to have a long road to recovery. What I didn’t know was how difficult and how long. I still don’t really have any clue. I truly didn’t believe that over a year later I would still be struggling with the same things I do…
For starters, anything hand-related, from tying my shoes to brushing my hair, is still a challenge. I just started blow drying my hair again about three months ago! Blouse buttons, forget about it! Very little jewelry: I can handle a few pairs of hoop or dangle earrings, but nothing with a backing.
I cannot grab most anything with any weight to it with one hand. Two is safer; especially if it can spill! I cannot hold onto something with my left hand and reach my open right hand out to grab for something without my left hand opening and dropping whatever it was that I was holding. They mirror image one another (they always have) but now it’s very pronounced and incredibly frustrating! I used to type 80+ words per minute.
This past week I had a mini-meltdown due to these challenges, but that led to this break-through… this newfound need to share some of the details of this struggle. As is true with everything in life, communication is key. And for me, I hope this will be therapeutic.
The task: Run to the 7-11 to pick up drinks and snacks.
Get in the car, drive, go into the store, pick out items, make purchase and go back home. Sounds simple enough, right?
Truth is, I am simply not ready to do these tasks on my own yet. This task is a giant challenge for me. I am able to get myself ready and out of the door. I can drive myself around and operate a vehicle safely. It’s once I enter the parking lot that my challenge begins. As soon as I get out of the car to go into the store, there is a giant step/curb that is clearly out to get me. I don’t know what I ever did to this curb, but it tries to kill me most days… once I have bested the step yet again, I make my attempt to open the door. Most doors I can get. Just not always on my first try.
Inside the store I become more aware of how I feel I must appear to others right now and become self-conscious. Maybe a bit shy. I wonder if they think I am drunk or high. The convenience stores are extra tricky, with the narrow aisles and no carts. I often need to reach an arm or hand out, to help keep myself balanced and not constantly feel like I am going to fall.
If I am going to pick up more than I can carry in just one hand, I need a basket. The problem with the basket is trying to keep my balance while carrying it around, reaching for things and getting them into the basket. If I am going to retrieve something from the fridge, I have to put the basket down, put my purse in the basket and open the fridge to be able to have the proper balance/strength needed to reach up and grab for things.
I cannot even count the number of items I have dropped in stores over the past two years.
Some days this just drags me down and I cannot shake it. It seems there’s no escape. There is not a single thing that I do, that I cannot tell that something is wrong. That something is still very off in my body. I tell myself it will be a good day and to try my hardest.
I know I just told y’all a few articles back that I am focusing on the positive and I am. But I realize I need to communicate the struggles more too. Turn them into positives. I cannot expect you to know or understand how difficult this all has been/continues to be for me. I hope none of you ever have to understand this. Not to the level I experience it! But this lesson is much bigger than me. I realize that if I don’t communicate and share this; the assumption is I am doing much better or that I’m much stronger than I am on my own.
Unfortunately, I am not alone when it comes to struggles with what many would consider everyday simple tasks. And the reasons for such struggles are many. Mine happens to be a rare physical affliction. But the key to managing and overcoming is a combination of awareness, communication, understanding and support. Like myself, I hope others can say I get by with a little help from my friends!
As for me, I am getting stronger every day and I will not give up on that but in the meantime, let’s run to the store together for a little while longer. Or for as long as it takes.
Jennifer Thoroe is Director of Customer Service & Business Development for National Steel Rule, a steel rule manufacturer based in Linden, NJ, USA. She joined forces with National on November 1, 2018 after working in the industry and volunteering with the IADD for over 15 years. She moved up to NJ from GA in the summer of 2019. One pandemic and three moves later, Jennifer is finally settling into her home near the Jersey Shores with her awesome super-fantastic brother Tom and his even cooler dog, Kelowna.
She has consistently used her time and talents to bring greater value to IADD members, whether through chapter activities, managing volunteers, Board service or overseeing myriad membership recruitment and retention activities. For this, Jennifer received the 2017 IADD Cutting Edge Award, one of the Association’s highest honors. She is the first woman to serve as IADD president.
The President's Column appears in The Cutting Edge, the IADD's monthly magazine.