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Dealing with Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain is a Mutha F**ker!

This isn’t a story about me, although I’m kind of in it. This is a story about my cane. We’ll have to talk about me for a second to explain why it’s here, but after that it’ll be just the cane. chronic pain

I’ve done many different things in the pool industry (retail, manufacturing, etc.) before going out on my own and opening a Swimming Pool Service Company. This I did for several years before I started having some difficulty walking. Then it progressed. Oddly, hard flat surfaces were a non-issue. Inclines, declines, and soft surfaces (like a pool owner’s lawn) became torturous, so I opted to sell my company with the end in sight. The onset of Chronic pain was a shame because I enjoyed what I did.

With my extensive background in the industry and not quite old enough to retire, I began consulting/teaching. The benefit was two-fold. It afforded me an income, which is good because I like to eat and created a means in which I could give back (even if only in a small way) to an industry that had been very good to me. Sadly, the difficulty in my mobility continued to progress and (at times) would be accompanied by pain. Thus, the Cane.

The Cane in class (seen here: discussion of Baylisascaris procyonis as a waterborne zoonosis) Chronic Pain

I decided if I were going to have a cane, it would need to be a badass cane. I searched a bit before I came across the one I would purchase—a walking stick made from blackthorn, the hard, durable wood grown wild along hedgerows in Ireland. I was so freaking cool that it came with a label of authenticity from the maker who had made sticks for Presidents Reagan, Kennedy, Clinton, and Obama as well. 

Irish Walking Stick Genuine Blackthorn Made in Ireland

Not quite ready to curl up in a ball in the corner, and fearing the inevitable, I decided to push through the pain and take my badass blackthorn cane to see what we could see before I one day reach a point where I can not walk at all. I will turn my roadblocks into speed bumps and make my weaknesses my strengths. No matter what obstacle gets in my way (physical or otherwise), I will not merely overcome it – I will find a way to kick the living? Out of it.

My Cane will not be my Crutch, it will be my Catalyst

Mount Woodson Trail. Poway, California. 6.6-mile trail, 2,000 ft rise in elevation. Difficulty rating: Challenging. Chronic Pain
El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico. La Mina Falls trail. Five-mile hike, 1500 feet rise in elevation. Yes, we made it to the falls! Difficulty rating of moderate to challenging,
Backpacking Sicily (Palermo to Racalmuto). The Cane traveled through the Ballarò street market, up the steps of Santuario Maria SS. Del Monte in Racalmuto (circa constructed in 1543), through the Capuchin Catacombs (which, to this day, continues to haunt me)

Crossing Frozen Chena River, Fairbanks Alaska, – 30° F. Yes, we went in February. Insane? Maybe, but we got to see the Aurora borealis, did some dog mushing, a night of ice fishing, and caught a ride with a bushmailer up to the Iñupiat village of Anaktuvuk Pass in the Arctic circle.

I was spelunking The Bat Caves of New Providence (Nassau). Sneakers may not have been the best choice for trudging through the puddles and guano (bat poop) covering the cave’s floor, but this one was kind of on a whim.
Havannah, Cuba. WB Yeats’s poem Easter comes to mind to describe something that was both alluring and sad; he used the phrase “a terrible beauty.” Such a beautiful place with such lovely people, in a country, so oppressed.
Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland. Created during a fight between two angry giants is the myth of the causeway, according to Eamon @ Number 31 Dublin.
Fleet Street, London, England. This barbershop is direct across the street from the location believed to have been Sweeney Todd’s actual Shoppe, and it’s now a book store of sorts.
Mount Fuji, Japan. Elevation 7,560 Ft. After a quick visit to Toho studios (Birthplace of Godzilla), the Cane opted for a 200 mph ride on SHINKANSEN, O Trem-Bala Japonês (The Japanese bullet train) from Tokyo to Mount Fuji.
Climbing to the top of La Pirámide de Sol (Pyramid of the Sun). Yes, I reached the summit. One of the tallest pyramids in the world. Teotihuacan, Mexico. 75 meters.
The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Feb 2020 Hike Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle), Transylvania

Doctors may never know what is affecting my ability to walk (I have stumped the best of the best), but with so much left to see, if I reach a point, I can no longer walk… I will crawl.

06/01/2020 UPDATE:

After ten years of declining walking ability, I have been knocked on my ass. This has been the most brutal year yet and recognized a more rapid decline. Whatever had been wreaking havoc on my legs has taken a toll on other muscles throughout my body. I do finally have a diagnosis. A few return visits to the Mayo Clinic have determined a neurological disorder that can expect symptoms similar to MS.

This by no means indicates that my fight is over. Just the opposite, for me, the fight has just begun. I get bummed; of course, I do. Who wouldn’t? But my spirits are good. I will enter into Mayo Clinics’ intense physical therapy program once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and plan on a short desert hike and the Pyramids of Giza shortly.

03/07/2022 UPDATE

Sadly, everybody was wrong. I am doing much better now but have been left with neurologic claudication. Still, a win compared to where I had been. I have to be honest – for as much as I soap boxed about not quitting above, it eventually caught up to me. Check out the final and correct diagnosis at this link here: Dr. Google Search.




Rudy Stankowitz is a 30-year veteran of the swimming pool industry and President/CEO of Aquatic Facility Training & Consultants

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. Susan Colmenares

    Noting that last paragraph convinces me. You have a bad ass cane because you are one bad ass man. I salute you.

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thank you for your kind words ?

  2. Meridith

    I, too, have a mobility issue that is progressive. I do not, alas, have a badass walking cane (yet); and I desperately wish that I had thought and been able to do what you’ve done and get my walking done while I could do the amazing things you’ve done. (Especially spelunking with the bats, always wanted to do that and still may!)

    In other areas (such as a head injury) I’ve done what you have – turned a weakness into a strength. You inspired me in class where I forgot you had a badass walking cane until you flung it down to make a point.

    I hope you and the badass walking cane continue to have awesome adventures together. And if some miracle happens and you don’t need to use it anymore, use it anyway because it really is a badass walking cane.

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thank you Meridith and thank you for your kind words. It is never too late to see what you can see.

  3. Jeff Dietz

    Wow that’s really awesome trips you have been on! What an experience

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thanks Jeff! Want to see what I can B4 I can’t ?

    2. Mare Prettyman

      “It’s never too late to see what you can see.”
      EPIC words right there. I’m seeing a convo with my 2 sons about that quote in the near future. Please be well sir.

  4. Wander Women Abroad

    That cane is super dope! Way to go for not letting your issues with mobility stop you from exploring the world!

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thank you! Yes, that can Rocks! I wish I had started trekking about the planet so much sooner ?

  5. D'ondra M Howard

    Great to see you still doing your thing in spite of what’s going on.

  6. Andrzej

    I never head about this place. Do you recommend to visit this place with family ?

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Which one? Depends upon how adventurous you and your family are.

  7. Nicole

    This is fantastic and inspirational!

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thank you Nicole! Hoping it encourages folks to challenge themselves ?

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thanks Samantha! Lucky enough to have a super amazing wife who is my inspiration in breaking boundaries and we break every one side-by-side ?

  8. Gareth F

    It’s awesome that you have never let this issue stop you from travelling the world.. very inspirarional.

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thank you Gareth! ✈ Still so much I hope to see

  9. Qarrey

    Honestly I do like your creativity.
    The idea of using the cane to counter attack mobility issue is dope

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thank you Qarrey & Thank you for reading! ❤ that Cane!!!

  10. Charlene

    I love this so much! You are an inspiration. Keep climbing and like you said, if you have to crawl then crawl.

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thank you Charlene! Your words are kind and definitely appreciated.?

  11. David moore

    I remember reading this months ago when it was first published and thought it very inspiring. I happened to come across it again when I looked up the individual who gave the amazing chemistry talk at the first pool show we have gone to in Sarasota today and it was yourself! I was as the front of the stage with my wife. We will have to look you up in a few years when our CPO expires.

    1. Rudy Stankowitz

      Thank you, David, both for reading and attending my chemistry presentation/demonstration at the ipssa Show last night. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a fun class to teach. Yes, definitely. It would be a pleasure to have you in our CPO Cert class!

  12. Jules Johnson

    You’re a pretty amazing human being, my friend!

  13. Jeff Spinks

    Hey Rudy, Chronic pain is truly terrible. Let me know when you’re in Tallahassee next and I’ll get you in the float tank!

    1. Rudy

      No matter how tiresome, I believe everyone who lives in pain 24/7 should keep searching for answers. It’s okay to take breaks, but don’t quit. If you give up the search, then the pain you have is the pain you own. We have you in our prayers 🙏 ; Godspeed, my friend!

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