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Lyn Hacker: Bell’s Palsy strikes again — and is a hard but potent lesson in respect and appreciation

It was about 15 days ago that we sat down to dinner. I put a straw to my lips and promptly dribbled a good swallow’s worth of Very Berry Tea down the front of my t-shirt.

I looked up in alarm at Bob and said “Something’s the matter with my lips!” He replied, “Something’s the matter with your face!”

A quick trip to the bathroom mirror verified my worst fears – my face was swollen and drooping on one side. I looked like I had had a major stroke. I quickly went through moving all my other body parts. It was not a stroke, but it was Bell’s Palsy, again.

I say that because I’ve had it before.

It was on the left side of my face the last time. No pain was associated with it, but there was a lot of problems with my eye, which couldn’t close, so it was constantly dry (unable to lubricate). I had to keep it taped down and under a patch. It was unbelievably embarrassing, as I had to keep working at my job as a receptionist for a museum. Pirate patch notwithstanding, I would try not to smile, but it was impossible cause I do that instantly.

Dr. Shweta Arora

Things were not made any better by my boss who insisted on cracking jokes and acting the idiot to make me laugh. I’m sure it was entertaining to him, and perhaps he thought was good therapy for me, but I didn’t appreciate it.

Bell’s, for those who don’t know, is caused by inflammation of the 7th cranial nerve that runs through your face. The nerve is encased in the bony structure, such that when it swells, it is constricted. It comes on suddenly.

It has a lovely collection of symptoms, like drooling from the side of your mouth, buccinator paralysis (food caught in the cheek of the paralyzed side), an altered sense of taste (something like a combo of blood and a copper penny). You can’t close your affected eye all the way, can’t talk very well, can’t swish water around your mouth and spit it out when you brush your teeth.

This time around I had significant pain with it. Turns out I also had a major inner ear infection, which might have triggered it. So besides eye pain, I had ear pain, jaw pain, neck and shoulder pain and I had it for two weeks exactly, non-stop.

I was fit to be tied. I was mightily restricted, due to the lack of depth of field in my vision. Couldn’t conduct an interview cause I couldn’t talk (almost literally, “Blah, blah, blah, blah”). Couldn’t see to read. ‘Bout busted my butt trying to get into bed one night, walking around in the dark with an eye patch on.

The awakening: An appreciation of appreciation

And I don’t do pain well. I get angry when I hurt, and when I get angry, I get snarky and am not very much fun to be around. So it was that I was reminded of one of life’s most interesting concepts – respect, when on one night Bob chose to smoke cigarettes on the porch in the pouring rain, rather than watch TV with me. I realized I was becoming a pain to him.

Respect is an interesting concept, and I may have spoken of this before. But when you are respectful to the earth and to the creatures who live here, you realize how wealthy you are in experience and in the senses. Sitting still, in a comfortable chair, feeling the warm breeze on your skin, enjoying the blue sky and puffy white clouds above, smelling new mown grass and hearing a million songs of birds, bugs and other critters around you – when you acknowledge that all life, that has been given life by virtue of our Creator, is important and necessary. Life, regardless of your circumstances, is worthwhile. When you are disrespectful to the earth and creatures who live here, or to yourself or others, you might come to realize how shallow and empty life can be. You fail to realize the worth of us all and you secretly fear you have no worth yourself. I believe I was starting to think thus of myself, huddled up in my misery with alternating ice and heat packs on my plagued parts.

Showing respect is showing appreciation, for all of life’s lessons, pleasant or not. One of the highest compliments you can give someone in the mountains is to tell them you “appreciate” them. When my father was dying, he didn’t tell me that he loved me. He had told me he loved me many times, but not that he appreciated me, not until the day he died. He was not slighting me. The giving of appreciation is a high honor where my folks came from. Appreciating implies you have opened yourself to exploring all aspects of a given person or situation, have seen the depth there, the green grass and the mud, and have acknowledged it and found it un-wanting. Well done, thy good and faithful servant. I understood it exactly and I was so grateful for hearing it.

I appreciate Bob and I tell him often because I never want him to be in doubt. Life is short. My session with Bell’s very well might have been a massive stroke. A friend of mine recently died unexpectedly. I don’t believe in thinking, “I wish I had,” or “I should have…”

Repeated, life is too short, and Bob is a good feller.

I appreciate my friends. I’ve found it is not about hearts and gooey sayings – conversely I have found it to be more about tough love, arguments, steadfastness and the art of enjoyment. If you call me friend, don’t expect me to agree with everything you say, don’t expect me to be your co-dependent. Don’t expect me to be your punching bag, don’t expect me to accept condescending behavior from you, and don’t expect me to suffer insults lightly. Don’t expect me to accept from you what I would never subject you to. Don’t expect me to pander for political favor. I have never been known to be politically correct. 

Lyn could appreciate this.

Lyn could appreciate this.

If I am your friend, do expect me to love and accept you for the way you are, good days and bad, warts and all. Expect me to question you sometimes, especially if I think you’re hurting yourself or cheating yourself. Do expect me to always be in your corner, whether you are right or wrong. 

Do expect me to entertain observations from you in my thinking, if presented in a reasonably nice way. Expect me to respect your right to believe what you believe, and that I expect you to return the favor. Agreeing to disagree is not copping out. It certainly does take all kinds in this world and to have a steady diet of any one thing is just sad, given all the bounty we have been given.

This is not a world of absolutes and there are rarely pure accidents. Bad things happen because people make bad choices and decisions, some of these accidental and others based on very shaky ground. Sometimes people don’t have very good “friends.” Anytime these choices are based on sweeping generalizations and mythological beliefs, there are bound to be disappointing and sometimes tragic results. Calling people names is a cop out and the ultimate in laziness. Entertaining all sides of arguments and issues, painful as it can be (could I have been wrong this time?), brings us to some semblance of understanding of a given situation. Making fun or punishing people because they don’t see a situation as you do makes you as guilty and implicit in that perceived wrong. And lazy.

Forgiveness is a gift to others and yourself. God has warned us not to hold grudges, to hate, and to fail to move on. He admonished Lot not to look back, should he turn into a pillar of salt. Boy, what a powerful lesson. His/her story does teach us – we are fools not to heed the lessons.

As such, I’ve endured yet another lesson in life – one, with the eye and the speech problems, that has severely infringed on the way I like to live my life. I’d like to add emphatically, “And I don’t appreciate it!” But in truth, I have to.

Once again I have been “sat down” and given a preaching to, reminded of what is important.

After going through one round of antivirals and two rounds of antibiotics, it seems the ear is healing, and the pain is mostly gone, and that the ear was probably the trigger for the Bell’s (although oddly, it didn’t hurt before the Bell’s). It’s just a matter of time now, to keep taking the antibiotics and start a little rehab to get my face somewhat back to where it used to be. So a big pain in the bottom, but nothing quite as serious as an actual stroke.

I appreciate it.


Lyn Hacker is a Lexington native raised by Appalachian parents to be not only educated but proficient in the living arts – working very hard, playing music, growing gardens, orchard management and beekeeping. The UK graduate has been a newspaper staff writer and production manager, a photography lab manager, a Thoroughbred statistics manager, a Bluegrass singer and songwriter, a registered respiratory therapist, a farmer, a Standardbred horsewoman, and a beekeeper. She lives on a farm in Sadieville.

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