This week's Brave Story is tender to me, because I see this woman everyday. Angela Cox is my mom, friend, and editor of all my school assignments and writing projects. She is amazing in more ways than one, but it is her daily perseverance in the face of daily pain that has me and everyone that knows her in awe. Her faith is beautiful. Her example is one I follow. I am honored to introduce you to the woman that has championed my life. This is my Mom. This is her Brave. - Hannah
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." Psalms 139:13-14
My story begins on my birthday, May 22, 1963, I was born with several musculoskeletal problems. I
was diagnosed with Scoliosis, curvature of the spine, at the age of four. I honestly don’t know if I have ever lived a day without pain. I don’t remember being in a lot of pain as a child but when I look at pictures from my childhood, I see the face of a child in pain. I do remember complaining to my parents about my back hurting while standing at the sink washing dishes. My dad though I was trying to get out of doing my chores; he told me to stop complaining and get the job done. I think somewhere along the way I just accepted that pain was just a part of my life, blocked it out, and just kept on moving.
There were just certain things I couldn’t do, I was never an athlete. I wore a Milwaukee back brace for twenty-three hours a day from the fourth grade until my Junior year in high school when the doctors began weaning me out of it, that brace kept me from having back surgery. During that one hour of freedom, I was to shower and do back exercises the doctors had prescribed for me. I wasn’t a cooperative patient when it came to the exercises. I fought my parents about doing them and they would bribe me to do them. Somewhere along the way, they gave up fighting me and I stopped doing them. I saw doctors frequently throughout my childhood and teen years but once I was free of the brace and the doctors dismissed me, I stopped seeing anyone on a regular basis.
I was tired of all the doctor visits and just wanted to live life. I graduated from college, went to work for a major oil company, got married, and had a child all while dealing with back pain to some degree on a daily basis. On occasion I would have very painful back spasms. My remedy was Advil and laying flat on the floor with my feet propped up. The pain would resolve and I would get back up and keep on going. If the pain got to be more than the Advil could handle, I would go to my primary care doctor and get a prescription for muscle relaxers. A couple of days later all would be good and I would get back up and keep on going.
In the summer of 2010, my family had an opportunity to travel with our Senior Pastor to Greece and Turkey. I really wanted to go on that trip. I had lived in Turkey for two years as a young child, the trip included sites I had visited as a child and the city I had lived in. However, my husband pointed out that I couldn’t go on the trip because of my back issues. I realized that I had been letting my back pain determine how I lived life. Once that realization hit, I got mad. I decided that it was time to follow-up with a specialist.
Over the next seven years, I saw five orthopedic specialists and a pain management doctor. I walked away from each visit frustrated and angry. There is no good medical solution for my pain problem. The only thing the medical world has to offer me at this point is pain pills, muscle relaxers, and steroid injections. The problem is I am super-sensitive to pain medication. One Advil knocks me out. If the label says, “medication might cause drowsiness,” I’m going to sleep. My primary care doctor shakes his head at me because I refuse to take a muscle relaxer every night. Yes, the muscle relaxer helps but I’m useless until after noon the day after I take one. I don’t want to live my life as a zombie who can’t function. The steroid injections would weaken my bones over time. The last doctor I saw recommended that I avoid them. He felt that I would need back surgery within the next ten years and I need my bones to be as strong as possible.
There have been times throughout my life that I’ve been angry at God. I’ve questioned why he made me this way?
Why can I not live a life free of pain? I have over time come to see my back pain as my thorn in the flesh. It is there to keep me humble and remind me that I can do nothing in my own strength. It is there to slow me down and keep me focused.
It also reminds me that this world is a fallen place full of pain and sorrow. This world is not my home, there will come a time when I will be free of this broken body and the pain.
I live life at a slower pace than most, but I also live a full life. At this time in my life, I volunteer in the front office at the church; during the school year, I volunteer at a Good News Club; I’m helping launch a non-profit organization that will serve youth aging out of foster care; and I’m taking an online course to become a proofreader. For now, I take Advil or a muscle relaxer if the pain gets to be too much, sit in my zero gravity recliner, use my acupuncture pad, and periodically I do my stretches. Yes, after all these years, I’m still not the best patient when it comes to doing my exercises daily. I pray the last doctor I saw was wrong and I will never “need” back surgery. However, I’ve noticed over the last couple of years that my spine is shifting and twisting.
This one thing I do know, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Angela volunteers in different capacities in her church and community. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Accounting from East Texas State University. Angela is a licensed CPA—and believe it or not, she actually likes doing income taxes! Angela devoted years of her life to raising and homeschooling her daughter who is now an adult. She is passionate about encouraging youth to make their own path and select the career that's right for them. In her free time Angela enjoys reading, genealogy, quilting, and learning new things. She is on the board of WAY Alliance a non-profit in North Texas, helping young adults who are aging out of the foster care system step into the bright future before them.