A Series of Unfortunate Events


That is truly what my life feels like right now, a comedic tragedy. Most of you are reading this post because I linked it to FB for a more in depth explanation of why I am not going back to Cleveland this year. Others probably just miss my witty prose. Either way, here we go.

About 3 years ago I started experiencing a tingling and sometimes numb sensation in my left ring and pinky fingers. Initial tests didn’t find anything, but the conclusion was my Ulnar nerve was irritated or pinched. Some of you know I have been dealing with this off and on since then, some times feeling no symptoms, sometimes really bad, and everything in between. Sometimes I would go months without feeling anything.

That was what happened at CIM. I was practicing more than I ever had, was doing it smarter, and more consistently, and my first semester was one of those wonderful times. Shoot forward to February. Opera pit was the death of me and my symptoms shot back up to the horrible red zone again. I thought I had it under control, but then I was preparing for the Utah Symphony audition and wasn’t listening to my body at all. Like most people know, preparing for an audition is like getting ready for an Olympic event.

Essentially, I have an overuse injury, and have had one for some time. I always thought it was in my shoulder, but recent consults and tests have shown that it is in my elbow as well. The end of the semester came, and I took time off to try and see if it got better. It didn’t. After doctor’s appointments and many tears, I decided for my health that I needed to drop out of Chautauqua for my own good. I came back home to Reno to take more time off and hopefully heal and find more long term solutions.

What is ironic about this is I thought the hardest decision this summer was whether to go to Chautauqua or not. Wrong! The longer I was home, the more time passed without any improvement in my symptoms. Mind you, this was the WORST it had ever been. I had been doing everything I had done in the past that had kept it at bay the last couple years: chiropractic work, massage, stretching, etc. I was even adding new things: yoga, strength training, physical therapy, and I even tried acupuncture. I finally tried a heavy duty anti-inflammatory which helped some, but didn’t offer any kind of permanent solution.

I finally had to face the music and consider my options. I wasn’t able to play, and I had no idea when I would. CIM was a performing school, so I had no place there if I couldn’t practice. So again, after many tears and hard phone calls, I am officially taking a leave of absence for a year on medical grounds. My spot and scholarship will be held for a year, so I at least have that time to work on finding a treatment plan that works for me. What my doctors keep saying is I need time, and I definitely have that now.

What worries me the most is whether I will heal at all. I have the greatest hope that everything will work out, but I keep having this nagging feeling that I need to be prepared for other outcomes. I’m going to take some classes to start working on a public teachers license just as a safety net and to keep the loan sharks at bay. And for work, I’m going to be a substitute teacher for the year, which is going to be some pretty good money.

I started playing a bit of piano again to feel like I am still a musician. I’ve really struggled with the purpose of why I am experiencing this HUGE detour in my life, but I’m finally accepting that this is exactly where I need to be. I have been going through a grieving process of sorts for a couple weeks, and feel like I’m starting to get to real acceptance. This was not, no, it was NEVER part of the plan. But I have hope for and faith in there being a purpose for this and an outcome and plan better than I could have planned for myself.

I’m open to any advice, love, and support over the next while as I go through this process. My nerve damage is bad enough that one of the solutions on the table might be surgery. I absolutely don’t want to do that, but we’ll see. I’ve painted my fingernails for the first time the last few days and I’ve started wearing rings, because it always bothered me before, but now I can’t even play, so why the heck not, right? 🙂

I’m really doing okay, but I have good and bad days. I just hope I start having more good days.


7 responses »

  1. Noelle!

    I know that we didn’t get to to know each other that well before you left BYU, but know that my heart goes out to you. What you are experiencing was one of my greatest fears when I started my cello performance degree.

    Anyway, the point of this comment is that I wanted to tell you that I do have a testimony… a very, very strong testimony that Heavenly Father knows us, and knows exactly what will make us the happiest we can be. What you said, “But I have hope for and faith in there being a purpose for this and an outcome and plan better than I could have planned for myself,” is true. It is. Believe that with all your heart. Because it brings peace and comfort, and eventually happiness.

    I wanted to share a bit of my own life, in the hopes that maybe it will help you a bit. I love the cello. I really, really do. But, due to some rather hard experiences with my professor over my four years in the major at BYU, I reached out to other things: namely theatre. I did get the cello degree, and I still use and play the cello frequently, but it isn’t my sole focus anymore. I found something that makes me happier. I love theatre, almost more than I love the cello. In all truth and honesty, they are pretty close together when I try and figure out which one I love more. Right now, I am completing a theatre education degree, I just returned from an education internship at a Tony award winning theatre in Chicago, and while I am not sure exactly where I am headed when I finally graduate next year (because I love acting as well), I know that if I had just stayed with cello performance, I would have missed so many amazing opportunities, friends, and a path I was meant to take. And, the fun part is, my ability to play and compose on the cello has opened up countless opportunities in the theatre world for me, including playing and acting professionally in the Utah Shakespeare Festival. I can still play, and in my opinion, I still play beautifully. However, I don’t practice every day anymore, for the most part. My calluses aren’t what they used to be. And it is true, I have lost some technique. But my foundation and my ability are both still there, and I can hear that when I play. And I do still play… just not all the time.

    My life has turned out very differently than I excepted, hoped for, or could have planned for. And in all truth and honesty, I positive that I am much happier than I would would have been if cello stayed my only focus.

    Detours are hard. I know that. But in my experience, they aren’t really detours. They are part of who we are meant to become.

    I hope you don’t mind me sharing this, but know that to some extent, I too have experience a major shift in my life, and it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

    You will be in my thoughts and prayers, and if I can do anything for you, let me know, okay!

  2. Noelle- Dave Mastrangelo here. I’ll be praying for you going forward- there are always reasons for the detours in our lives. Get better and do the things you need to. Keep in touch.

  3. Noelle! You are such a trooper! I’m so proud of you and how you have handled this situation. I know that you’ll make the best out of any situation, no matter what it is. I’m so sorry that you have to go through this, but I appreciate you inspiring me and many others around you through your trial. My prayers are with you and I wish you the best. Love you!

  4. Noelle,
    I’m in a similar detour because of jaw problems and I know how frustrating it can be to have your love also cause you pain. I have had lots of bad days as well, largely because I tried not to talk about it at the beginning, so if you ever need to talk, please give me a call. I’ll message you my phone number and we can commiserate. Keep being strong and hopeful,

  5. Noelle! I will be keeping you in my prayers. I can relate kind of with my tension problems 😦 I still remember how you were so helpful in giving me advice about seeing Dr. Brady and I so appreciate you doing that! Also, you were so instrumental in helping me find a grad school! I just arrived at Florida State University this last weekend. So, if you ever need to talk to a friend I am here for you. My number is 801-494-7971. Good luck!

    – Jared

  6. Noelle–sitting here in Kansas with Chris, and we just heard. Want to let you know I love you and know you have been having difficulties. If you need someone to talk to or just someone who will listen, please call.


  7. Hey Noelle! I miss you so much! I can only wonder what discouragement you must have felt during all these crazy moments of your entire future hanging in suspense. I am praying for you. Your attitude is an inspiration to me.

    loving you lots,

    Dustin Grady

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