In Motion and at Rest

medical image of human body


By Andrea Scarpino

Los Angeles




Zac and I went to Cirque du Soleil last week. Three women contortionists molded their bodies into impossible forms, stood on top of one another’s stomach and thighs, pulled their heads between their legs and flipped. Tumblers were thrown crazy high into the air, walked on stilts and still managed back flips and somersaults without even a wobble. Dancers swung each other around the stage, held each other upside down. Movement. Fluidity. The body can do amazing things, can demonstrate amazing strength and agility. And it can break.

For almost seven years, I couldn’t walk without pain because of a condition now called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. I like the word “complex”—that’s exactly how it felt. Pain in my foot wouldn’t go away even though I had no injury, no reason to wrap my foot in a cast or have surgery. Just aching pain. From the beginning of fifth grade, I couldn’t play sports or attend gym class. Home from school in the afternoons, I cried. My body was wrought. The doctors didn’t know what to do. My mother didn’t know what to do.

I had my last pain treatment my second year of college. I don’t know why the pain went away. I don’t know why it hasn’t come back. Even though I’ve been able to walk without pain for more than a decade, can do yoga and run and jump around, my body still often feels wrought. Feels like a place that could turn on me again without notice, without reason or provocation. Feels like a place of fear.

That fear is hard to imagine for people who have never lived with pain. The concessions and alterations of your plans, the negotiations of what can be accomplished given a particular day’s level of comfort. This week, I began training for my second LA Marathon. The route is new this year, starting at Dodger Stadium and ending at the Pacific Ocean. I want to be able to finish strong. I want to feel my body carry me, feel as confident as those Cirque du Soleil performers who trust every muscle to do what they want it to do. I like to imagine the strength of those acrobats, feeling that strength and confidence in my own body. I like to imagine being ready to throw myself into the air at a moment’s notice, imagine knowing my body won’t fail. Knowing I can catch myself if I start to waver.


Andrea Scarpino is the west coast Bureau Chief of POTB. You can visit her at:

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