Tuesday, November 29, 2011

'Tis the season

This is a very special time of year for me. Since I was a little kid, Christmas time was always a big deal. Many folks complain that Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year. It is rather off-setting to be wandering through the mall the day before Halloween (!!) and see that Santa's photobooth is all set up.

With that said, as far as I'm concerned, after Thanksgiving has passed (I repeat: AFTER), it is all about Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate! November is a traditionally challenging month for my family, most of our late family members passed away in a November (including my grandmother, who passed on Thanksgiving 10 years ago this year). If no one is dying, someone is in the hospital. My mother and my Uncle Tommy were both admitted to the hospital this month and are there as I type. My Uncle's condition is very serious and we are grateful for each day we have with him. My mom has been trying to get over a bout of pneumonia she contracted during a surgery on her foot.  If no one's in the hospital, some other Little-House-on-the-Prairie'esque tragedy is bound to be bouncing around the family, and it's not unusual for a few of these circumstances to pile up on top of each other.

So, perhaps the reason Christmas is so special to me is because most of the years of my life that I can remember, Christmas has followed a very tough time in our family and somehow instead of making me bitter and pitting me against the holiday, it has always been able to warm and heal my heart when it seemed like my heart was broken beyond repair. Somewhere between the soft glow of the tree lights, the chilly air, the feeling of closeness that exists between random strangers and the wandering all over creation to find the perfect gift for that special someone, my heart becomes filled to the absolute brim with joy, peace, and the comfort of true gratitude.

I've been feeling overwhelmed with some of life's challenges lately, and got to a point where I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. So tonight I decided to really clean my bedroom and sitting room and decorate for Christmas. I got done a little while ago, and now I am sipping some hot chocolate, listening to the Christmas station on Pandora radio, and enjoying the warm light of my mini Christmas tree while the traffic hums by outside. It's a wonderful, calming feeling that I've been desperately longing for. I'm so glad that I've finally found it. It might not last forever, but right now it's here and I am enjoying every minute of it.

I hope that you can also find peace and joy this holiday season. Try to look beyond the cheesy commercials, the scrooges, the stress of the finances and the gift giving, and search for the true reason for celebrating, whatever that means to you. It doesn't matter if you are a Christian, Jewish, an athiest or agnostic. If you are searching for peace this holiday season, you deserve to find it. No matter what, where or how you celebrate, celebrate it with your heart and soul and look for the good in every single day - I promise you, it is there.

My little tree

Monday, November 7, 2011

One of those crazy liberal rantings

Not really, actually, but if you disagree with me politically I thought you deserved a warning before you read this post, though I do hope you'll still read it.

This is about gay marriage/rights (because yes, there are rights other than marriage that are unequal). I said when I first started this blog that you should expect a post every now and then about this subject. I haven't done it yet, but now I feel like I have to. Whenever I feel like maybe society is actually starting to accept that we are people just like everyone else, something happens that reminds me that no, society does not believe that yet. Yet.

Here is one of my favorite questions that I get from people who oppose homosexuality, and even those who just don't understand it: "Why do you have to make it public? I don't want to know about that!" Okay. Here's a newsflash: I don't want you to know about it either. I would be ecstatic to go about my life being just like everyone else and never having to mention it except with my future wife. That is the dream. But I'll be damned if I'm going to see rights being stripped away and be treated as a second class citizen and not say something about it. If those who oppose it would mind their own business you wouldn't have to know a thing! So, here we are.

Me at a counter-protest for the Westboro Baptist Church last year
So until everyone else can mind their own business and let us live our lives, you will be seeing it out there. I just had an idea, if it really bothers you that much just stop with the inferior treatment, we'll go about our private business and it'll be a win-win for everyone!! Right.

Here is something I saw on facebook this morning:

Find the gay person: 

유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유
 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 
유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 
유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유 유
 유 유 유 유 유 유

Can't do it? That's because they're people too and we're all the same.

Now I'm not going to pretend I don't buy into the stereotypes sometimes. I was looking for one of those little "men" to have his hand on his hip or or a pocketbook on his arm. So even I was able to learn something from that.

Let me make this clear: I'm not asking you to support homosexuality. Would I like you to? Of course I would. I would give anything to be able to open your eyes so you can see that I really am no different than you. I want the exact same things in this life as you do: beautiful, healthy children, a successful career and a loving partner. But I can't make you see how that is the same as you, so instead I will just ask you that even if you don't support it, just don't stop it. Why would you deny me of that core happiness? Most of you reading this blog have known me my entire life. I am a good person. You know that I am a good person. You think that I don't deserve the same things as you because of whom I love. How is that fair to me? How do you think it's okay to treat me - your friend - in that way?

I'm very grateful for having been blessed with supportive family and friends. But there are many, many people I have known my whole entire life - even longer than I've known most of my dearest friends - and I know how you feel about it. and I'm not asking you to change your opinion, I would never do that. I'm just asking you to let me have my own and to not think that your opinion is so much greater than mine that it is okay to use it to take away MY rights -yes, mine. If gay rights are allowed, you do not lose anything. If they are denied, I lose more than you can understand. How is that equal? How is that fair? Separate but Equal is NOT Equal. That is like telling Rosa Parks she shouldn't have refused to move to the back of the bus, because hey, at least she was still on the bus! No, it doesn't work like that. You are no different from me, we are the same. We deserve to be treated the same way, and we deserve equal opportunity.

Under our own Constitution of the United States of America, every person is entitled to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." My pursuit of happiness, my liberty, as a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen, is to marry the person that I fall in love with. And you have no right to take that away from me whether you agree with it or not. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day 1 of the Hostage Situation

Today was the first day that I made myself stay in bed as much as possible and not do anything. B-O-R-I-N-G.

I feel totally useless. Especially because my dad has this nasty cold and is hacking up a storm and my mom is having some major issues with her foot and is bed-bound for a few months. I'm really feeling like there are things I should be doing. However, I'm gonna have to just suck it up and let myself lay around ...Right.

The one exception to this is every hour I have to get up and walk for 5-10 minutes. Usually I just do laps through all the rooms upstairs. My cat sits on the couch and mocks me while I do it. When she's not doing that she sits next to my bed and gives me death glares for not doing everything she wants me to do. I wish I was joking. Here is what I had staring at me for at least 15 minutes straight today:

You can't really see her squinty, unsympathetic eyes but I assure you they are there.
I probably won't be blogging very much in the next little while because things are even more boring than they were before! I am definitely feeling some pain today. I hate taking medicine so I'm trying to avoid the percocet unless the pain is really unbearable. Today I've been okay without it. 

As a final note for today, I got such BEAUTIFUL flowers from my best friend Jess and also from her parents. Thank you so much guys...I love you. <3

Yes, those flowers are shaped like a dog. does my best friend know me or what!?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Honeymoon Period

I forget which doctor at the Laser Spine Institute referred to the first few days following the surgery as 'The Honeymoon Period' but whoever it was, they were most certainly correct. These have been an amazing few days. It's been my first time without terrible pain in months, and my first time feeling really free and comfortable in over a year. This has brought me a wonderful weekend! I went to dinner with some friends, got my nails done, saw Sweeney Todd at playhouse 22 (http://www.playhouse22.org/) and even drove my car around a bit, which is something I've really missed!

This is how I've been feeling this weekend!!

However, I can tell that the Honeymoon period has now passed, and we are into the full on recovery period. I was warned this would come as it happens to everyone and that it's going to last a few days to a week. It's the body's defense mechanism against the change of having such a big chunk of disc removed. The body is basically trying to 'repair itself' and fill up the spot where the disc was with fluid, which compresses the nerve the same way it was compressed before. Once the fluid dissipates, the pain will be gone. In the mean time, I am reminded why I needed this surgery done in the first place! It's funny how quickly I forgot how much pain I was in as soon as I stood up after surgery and was able to walk and stand without a problem ...I remember now!!

My bank account, which has drained very quickly over my last few days of freedom, appreciates the fact that I'm now doing as little as possible! Movies, computer, TV and music is where it's at for me until this stage is done!!!

this is my dad being my slave and waiting on me!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

So, about the surgery!

(Disclaimer before you read: I'm so sorry that the font changes color half way through this post. I have a custom color set, and while I was typing I messed it up and accidentally changed the color. I can't figure out how to set it back to the regular one, so I found the closest I could get on the "standard" color list they offer me. I'll fix it!!!)

I made a post this morning explaining that my surgery was rescheduled for today as opposed to tomorrow. I have yet to read over it again, but to be honest I was completely hopped up on pain medicine and some anesthesia that had yet to wear off. I'm going to assume it was coherent enough to understand where we're at now!

Before I start actually telling you about this whole process, I have to take a moment to complain about the stupidity of technology. I had a picture of myself that captured the pure sex appeal of that hospital gown and hair net thing. and my dumb phone didn't save the picture! WUT.

So, I believe I left off around us making the 75 mile trip home and the 75 mile trip back to Philadelphia after making the choice to spend in the night in the hotel instead of driving back at 3 in the morning!

When I woke up for the surgery this morning, I was in excruciating pain. I think my back was trying to rebel and have its one last "moment" before it got fixed! I got to LSI (Laser Spine Institute) at 6:30 in the morning, which was exactly when I was scheduled to arrive.

I was exhausted! Luckily, I got to go back to sleep for a few hours while they went to work on me. ;)

I walked into the surgicenter (I think that's what they call it!) and I was so impressed with how quickly they took care of me. I signed in and didn't even have a chance to sit down before they whisked me away to the back room to prepare. As soon as I got back I was greeted with a hug and some positive words from Kathy, one of the anesthesiologists I mentioned previously. Everyone working at this place is incredibly understanding and so, so nice. I've never been around so many warm, caring people in my life. I kept waiting for the freaky axe murderer to show up...never happened! :)

[Insert picture of me in hospital gear here!]
The gown and cap actually reminded me of my Beauty School Drop Out costume from my "Grease" days earlier this year:

Those were the days... O.o

After I got all suited up, they put me up in a bed and brought my Aunt Joan back to be with me. SIDE NOTE: The couple next to my little cube of space were from MILLTOWN!!! I mentioned to my nurse that I was from the "East Brunswick area" of New Jersey (because let's face it, no one knows where Spotswood is) and she told me that the man next to me was from New Brunswick. Then my aunt came back and said they were from Milltown (said New Brunswick because, again, no one knows what Milltown is). Talk about a small world, right?!

They asked me 2345678976545678 questions (rough estimate) and had me sign probably 10-15 consent forms, then the fun began! They took all my vitals and brought back the woman to start the IV. ...cue the panic. again, the medical assitants and nurses were phenomenal and held my hand, etc., through the whole thing. I was so grateful for them. LSI uses a beautiful numbing medication (applied through a tiny shot in the hand/wrist/wherever they find a vein) and I literally felt nothing with the IV. that didn't stop me from freaking out, but at least I couldn't feel it! Now I've got myself all freaked out and gross feeling because I'm thinking about the IV again. Time to change the topic!

My favorite part was the "anti-nervous" medicine they gave me. As Kathy said, "it'll make you a new woman in about 30 seconds." They gave me a bit more whenever it would start to wear off and I was really comfortable the whole time! My surgeon came over and spoke with me a bit to make sure I was feeling okay with the whole thing, and they carted me off to the back room.

In the operating room, they had me lay on my stomach on the table. The table had some pretty uncomfortable blocks that you have to position your hips on, but there is so much going on and you go out so fast it's not a huge issue. In addition to that, they stuff about 6 pillows under your chin to make sure you're comfortable up there. For me, this caused A LOT of pain in my teeth when I woke up, most likely because I was clenching my jaw the whole time. I have no memories of when I first woke up, but Kathy told me that I kept telling her me teeth were falling out. I'm happy to announce that they did not!

Can you tell that Kathy and I are now BFFLs, btw? She is seriously da bomb.

Next thing I remember is when I started to wake up. Word of caution: don't try to force yourself to wake up. I was doing that and it was making me really frustrated and light headed. It's best to just let yourself wake up naturally. As soon as I was conscious (enough) they fed me some chipped ice and gave me some peanut butter crackers <3 and apple juice <333.

Allegedly (according Kathy, of course!) I woke up telling her that there were horses next to my bed. The horses were, in fact, wheel chairs.


The resemblence is uncanny.

Once I was awake-awake they took my vitals again, unhooked me from the machines and sent me off to the bathroom to put my clothes back on.

LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING. I have not been able to walk, stand, or move without pain for a little over 3 months. Even having just had surgery on my SPINE, I felt amazing when I stood up. I couldn't get over the complete lack of pain. I'm a little sore now that the localized anesthesia has worn off, but still - I can stand. I even went for a 10 minute walk around the hotel (required by the post-op care).

according to, well, every single person I talked to, the surgery was hugely successful because "he got a good chunk of disc!" The disc compressing my nerve so badly was the biggest issue. The surgeon's goal was to remove as much of the disc as he could, but there was a chance that it was already connected to the nerve and he wouldn't be able to remove any - a factor he wouldn't know until he opened me up and went in there. As it turns out, he was indeed able to remove a good amount of disc, and they showed me the pictures to prove it (GROSS, btw). He got a bit over 4 centimeters out! Huh...I guess there was a reason for the excruiating, unbearable, horrific, praying-for-death pain I've been experiencing for the last few months. Go figure!

After I met with the surgeon, I was free to go. They took out the IV which wasn't painful at all. What WAS painful were the patches of hair on my arm the tape took off. I now appear to be arm-balding. They fed me a bagle, slapped on a backbrace I'm confined to for 2 weeks and wheeled me out to our car and off I went to the hotel. (the back brace is highly recommended, btw. It gives me a lovely hourglass figure. ;)).

After arriving at the hotel I proceeded to sleep for hoursandhoursandhours. Then I got up and went to dinner downstairs with my aunt, and now I'm going to go back to sleep again! I'm very exhausted, it's been an insane two days. But just today I can already tell how much my life has changed from this surgery. My Aunt Joan, who saw first-hand how terrible my back was when she came to Chicago for parents' weekend a few weeks ago, keeps saying, "this is just crazy. I can't believe this." It's a beautiful thing!! Hopefully it keeps getting better from here. :)

Thank you for reading! Tomorrow is my "day of rest" where I will mostly just be laying in bed aside from a 5-10 minute walk every hour or so. This should be good!

What did I tell ya?

Happenings in my life often tend to come out of left field! This back surgery, of course, left no exceptions. The catch is that this time it was good stuff.

As mentioned, yesterday (Tuesday) was supposed to be my day of pre-op evaluation. The plan was for me to meet with the medical assistants about any tests that needed to be done, get my results checked out and then be free to go until Wednesday. On Wednesday, I would have met with the surgeon and anesthesiologists. However, about 10 minutes after I got back into the evaluation room, a sweet lady stuck her head the door and asked if I'd like to move my surgery to Wednesday, they had had an opening!!

After the initial shock, I exchanged glances with my aunt, we both said "Yes!" and then she left the room. I had about 2 seconds to process it in my mind when the anesthesiologists came in to meet with me. From that point on, it was a bit of a revolving door, as they now had to fit 2 days worth of meetings into a couple hours. I was so absolutely thrilled with every person I talked to there. They couldn't have been nicer and put me at ease. and if someone can put ME at ease when it comes to something like surgery and needles, you know they gotta be good at what they do!!

So they drew some blood as when I had the initial blood work done, one of the tests wasn't made. I wasn't thrilled about that, but the medical assitant was extremely accomodating and understanding and there were no problems.

Probably my favorite people were the anesthesiologists. I don't remember both of their names, but the woman was Kathy and I believe the guy was Mark. They were like a comedy team and SO nice. I wanted to put them in my pocket and take them home with me! I was concerned because the Laser Spine Institute doesn't use general anesthesia, they use sedation and localized anesthesia. In the patient book they mailed me, it described it as a "twilight" sleep which I was very unhappy about it. However, that information was outdated, and as Kathy said, "there was no 'light' in twilight!" I remember nothing!

After being sent down the road to have x-rays, for which a driver was provided, I met with the surgeon and the process of the surgery was explained to me again. Then we said our goodbyes, and the two other people scheduled for surgeries today and I discussed who would be getting the 6:00 AM spot. I lucked out and got 6:30, so one was before me and one was after me. It wasn't so bad!

our hotel!

I will make another blog post later on about the actual surgery and what happened today. For now I'm gonna go konk out for a little bit longer. Staying awake is impossible!! :) Thanking God that everything went well and I am feeling better than I have in a long, long, LONG time!!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

We have some catching up to do...

I completely and totally fell off the bandwagon with this whole blog thing.

The other day my mom was sitting on the computer and I was sitting on the couch moaning about my life and she said, "You know what I don't like? When someone starts a blog and then totally abandons it." Point taken. Thank you, Mother.

Now, if you haven't been following my life story, first of all, why haven't you been? I'm only the most fascinating person in the world. Right! But if you haven't, you might be wondering what I'm talking about how my mom and I were having a conversation face to face. Because I'm in Chicago and she's in Spotswood, right? RIGHT?? Wrong. :(

I believe my last blog was about the terrible back problems I've been having. and how my mom found a spine surgery place that might be able to do the surgery and what would I do, etc. well turns out YES, they can do the surgery. YES, they believe they can totally fix my back up. YES, I have to have it done ASAP. Unfortunately that meant I had to leave my precious Chicago behind for this semester and get myself all taken care of before hopefully going back in the spring. Yes, I said hopefully. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

(I took this. It's a bridge. ;)).

In the meantime, my surgery is scheduled for this Thursday, November 3, 2011. (side note: November 3 is a traditionally sucky day for me, so I'm not surprised that this is the date my surgery was scheduled for). It's happening at the Laser Spine Institute in Philadelphia. I am going to be using my Blog to keep track of my recovery, etc. I decided to do this because I am absolutely bugging out about this surgery. It seems that at this place everyone either has a brilliant experience and their lives are better than ever or they have a miserable experience and are back at square one. "Why would you risk that?" you might ask. Well, let me explain that to you.

The odds are very much in my favor. This is a very straight forward laser surgery that they're doing on my back. The objective is clear, what needs to be done is clear, etc. I am very young, one of their youngest patients, and I have only had back problems for about a year. Because of this, my ability to heal is much greater than that of the 90 year old who has been dealing with her back problems for 56 years. The surgery itself is very common. I have Spinal Stenosis, which is THEE surgery that they do at this place. They do other surgeries too, but this is their money maker, so to speak. So when you wrap all of this up, odds are that I will benefit greatly from this surgery.

On the off chance that it's not successful, here is how I'm justifying it to myself: They can't screw up. They can't make my back any worse than it already is. If it doesn't work, at least I'll know that I tried with the most minimally invasive option that was presented to me, and if it's not successful then I can go on to the next one. I see no reason to begin with drastic measures such as open back surgery when a thing like this is out there for this specific back problem.

So I'll be keeping track of this experience either to ease the minds of people who are nervous about having surgery done at LSI, or to tell people stay the HELL away from LSI. We'll see what the conclusion is as we go through this!!

Right now, I'm staying over my aunt's house. Tomorrow I head into Philadelphia for my pre-op evaluation. I have no idea what to expect, so we'll see what happens. I'm just praying to GOD (literally. I'm serious. Praying), that they won't have to tell me that I am for some reason ineligable for the surgery. I definitely shouldn't be. They've already reviewed the MRI, all blood work came back normal and I have no health problems. But I've been known to have balls come out of left field in my life so I'm putting it out there that that is a possibility. We'll see what happens!!!

I'd be lying if I said I'm not scared to death, but my life has been so drastically affected by this that it is well worth the risk and the fear. I'm just praying that it'll be worth it.