Nikki Flowers is a real member who’s given us permission to use her story.
An afternoon bike ride might not seem like a major accomplishment, but for Nikki Flowers, it’s life-changing. The mother of two describes her younger self as “an active, happy, bubbly person.” But after surgery failed to correct knee problems that had plagued her since childhood, Nikki battled severe chronic pain.
“I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t stand up to brush my teeth, fix my hair. I couldn’t play with my kids,” Nikki says. Long-term physical therapy and pain medication (including spinal injections) had no effect. Her mood took a dark turn. “The anxiety got so bad that I couldn’t even step out on my front porch to check my mail anymore,” she admits.
Nikki’s husband recognized her struggle and gave her the phone number for Aetna’s Resources for Living counseling program, offered through his employer. Hoping to find some relief by talking about the vicious cycle of pain and stress, Nikki connected with Summer Sage-Sorley, a licensed clinical social worker.
In regular video chats, Summer helped Nikki develop strategies for coping with her physical and emotional challenges, including relaxation exercises and journaling. “Summer encouraged me to write down my story. I’d never told it to anyone from beginning to end,” Nikki says.
“Even though she felt weak when we first started working together, Nikki had great courage,” Summer says. “She was willing to try anything to help her be an active mom and wife. It’s amazing how different she sounds now.”
Nikki and Summer continue to work together on Nikki’s health goals, and to celebrate small but significant successes. “The first time I walked through the grocery store, my kids and husband were cheering for me, like I’m winning a football game,” Nikki says, laughing. “As far as I’ve come, I hope a year from now I’m a million miles from where I am today. I want to see where I can go from here.”
Emily Leland is a writer and marketing professional living in Charleston, SC. Her goal is more exercise, less caffeine and finding balance as a working mom.
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