June 3, 2016

Updates and Birthday Stuff


Happy birthday to me!!!

Actually, my birthday was yesterday. I think this is the first time in over a year that I haven't posted on time and it's not just because of my birthday. This week has been quite the roller coaster of crap. Lots of ups and downs. Since many people have been asking for updates, I'll indulge today.

I can do that. It's my birthday...or was...but close enough.

As you're probably aware, I've been dealing with back problems for about five years now. The original injury happened when I was six months pregnant with my youngest. I had been dealing with a sore back, as often happens while pregnant, and bent over to pick up my then toddler.

Sudden and excruciating pain. On the floor bawling kind of pain. Couldn't move, curled up, and helpless. Thankfully, my phone was within arm's reach and I was able to call my husband. Since he worked 30 minutes from home, I needed someone to help in the meantime and my wonderful neighbor, who was a nurse, happened to be home. She and her husband came and helped me until Handyman Husband arrived. I still bless my dear sweet friends for saving me and if I could, I would give them the biggest hug right now.

Handyman Husband rushed me to the emergency room, but they wouldn't do anything more than prescribe a mild muscle relaxant because I was pregnant. I was unable to move without help for weeks.It eventually got better. Not great, but better.

Over the next few years, I was diagnosed with a bulging disc and tried different treatments to manage the problem. Physical therapy helped to get me mobile again, but it wasn't enough. I had an epidural steroid injection - NOT a pleasant experience, especially since I ended up in the emergency room with head-to-toe hives and had to have an epinephrine shot to calm the allergic reaction. An allergist later couldn't pinpoint the exact cause of the allergic reaction, but the experience ruled out that treatment for any future flareups. However, I was able to function mostly pain-free for months.

It wasn't until I began chiropractic care that I was finally able to find more lasting relief. It got to the point where I had entire days and even weeks of nearly pain-free living. It was wonderful. I could be a mom again. I could live.

Then I did something stupid.

Of course.

For Christmas last year, we used the money my in-laws gave us to buy season passes to our local amusement park. The boys were thrilled. I was thrilled, even though I knew I couldn't go on the big rides. Opening day came and we went. It was cold, but my kids didn't care. We went on ride after ride - including a few I probably should have gone on.

Who am I kidding? I definitely shouldn't have gone on them. There's a reason the signs tell you not to ride if you have back problems, people. And yes, they DO apply to you.

I didn't feel it at first. It started as a pain shooting down my arm - one that increased in intensity until Easter. I had played the organ in church as well as accompanied our church choir in a musical performance. The pain was so bad, I left church in tears.

Turns out I had no cervical curve in my neck - a result of a car accident years ago. You know, one of those things I never really took care of, but it didn't really bother me so I didn't do anything about it. It was also the reason that I thought I had sprained my arm when I fell down the stairs a year and a half ago. The fall had jarred my neck and pinched a nerve. It took weeks to be able to use my arm again.

This time, however, it wasn't healing on its own. My chiropractor took some x-rays and diagnosed the problem. We began treatment - including cervical decompression - and I began feeling immediate relief.

However, during all of this, the muscles in my lower back began to seize up. We didn't recognize the problem for what it was, assuming it was merely a result of my neck problems and my body overcompensating. My chiropractor did put me on spinal decompression to ease the pain, but instead of helping, my back problems worsened. Ibuprofen dulled the pain, but didn't do much more than that.

Last Friday, it was so bad, I couldn't even climb my stairs. Pain shot down from my lower back to my ankles. I couldn't get comfortable in any position and was in constant pain. Handyman Husband took me to urgent care where the doctor - who is now my primary care physician because I like him that much - prescribed me four medications to get the pain under control: an anti-inflammatory, a serious pain killer, a muscle relaxant, and something to numb the nerve pain. The doctor also ordered an MRI and discussed talking with a surgeon once we got the results back from the MRI.

Drugged up and exhausted, I slept through much of Memorial Day weekend.

Tuesday, I was semi-functional. I refrained from taking the two medications that left me the loopiest so I could take my son to school. I walked, just like the doctor suggested. I rested as well. Things were okay. I even got some writing done. Woohoo!

Wednesday morning, I felt even better. I got up, got dressed, and was ready to go for my son's last day of school. It was supposed to be a fun day with photos and hugs and saying goodbye to teachers and other friends - both mine and my son's.

Then I sneezed.

When I sneeze, it isn't a petite, cute little thing. It's heartfelt and takes care of business. I can usually feel them coming and brace accordingly.

This time, there was no warning and it about killed me. I collapsed in agony, sobbing harder than I have in a very long time. The pain was as bad as when I first hurt myself, if not worse. I could not move. I could barely breathe. I have never felt so helpless and vulnerable in my life. I was terrified.

Thank goodness my husband was still home. If it had happened mere minutes later, that wouldn't have been the case. Thank heavens for small miracles. Each time I've needed help, it's been there. I can't express enough gratitude for that. I lay on the floor for an hour and a half, in too much pain to even change positions. My husband and oldest son took care of the younger boys, propped me up so I could take what pain meds I could without eating food (I hurt too much to even try to eat), and tried to make me as comfortable as possible.

It took both my husband and oldest son to carry me out to the car because I couldn't support my own weight. We dropped my 6yo off at school, dropped my 14yo off at his school, dropped my 4yo off with his grandparents, and went to the emergency room.

An emergency MRI, three shots, and three pills later, the ER doctor determined I didn't need emergency spinal surgery and sent me home. I was so drugged up, I couldn't keep my eyes open. Walking while excruciating, was possible with help. Handyman Husband helped me to bed and I slept most of the day away again.

The most heartbreaking part was missing my son's last day of school. It frustrates and infuriates me how this stupid back thing robs me of these important events in my children's lives. Not only that, but I had plans for my birthday. Plans I had been looking forward to for weeks. I was going to spend the day wandering stores by myself, enjoy a quiet lunch, indulge in a pedicure, and maybe squirrel myself away in a diner somewhere to write. The perfect day. I was also going to go to dinner with some dear friends to celebrate.

With that simple sneeze, those plans were completely and utterly destroyed. Devastated, I resigned myself to spending a day at home, interrupted only with a followup visit to my doctor.

Even then, I was determined to enjoy myself. I made a list of the foods I wanted to have and things I wanted to happen - including snuggles and having the laundry done. And a pie from Marie Callendars (I am NOT a cake person). If I was going to be stuck at home, I was going to make the most of it.

My birthday started off well enough. I woke up feeling good enough to get myself ready for the day before needing to rest. While I waited for my meds to kick in, someone climbed into bed with me and snuggled. I seriously needed that. Well, until he decided to start acting silly and got a bit too wiggly. Then he got kicked out so he could work off some of that excess energy.

This is his smile for every single photo I take right now. Dang child.

My husband spoiled with breakfast in bed, mostly because I wasn't able to make it down the stairs yet. Oh, my goodness, was it good! Cinnamon raisin french toast with cinnamon syrup topped with strawberries and powdered sugar. And bacon at the perfect crispiness. A birthday breakfast is never complete without bacon.

I could live on this stuff.
Then I took a nap, thanks to my oh, so lovely meds.

I HATE taking medicine and avoid it at all costs.
This is what's required to get me out of bed in the mornings now and it kind of ticks me off.
It leaves me loopy for hours and I end up dozing until the worst of the loopiness wears off.
At my doctor's appointment, we reviewed the MRI results. I have a minor bulge that isn't causing any issues and a moderate bulging disc that's pressing on my spinal cord, but not affecting any of my nerve roots. If it weren't for my allergic reaction to my last epidural steroid injection, I would be a prime candidate for that treatment.

Found this at the pharmacy at the doctor's office.
Completely appropriate. I so should have bought it.
I'll be starting physical therapy soon and will remain on pain medications for a time. I'm currently scheduled to see a surgeon July 26th, which is the earliest they can take me. At that time, we'll discuss more options. We may even have me go to an allergist to ensure I'm not allergic to anything used in the epidural steroid injection so I can get one. Right now, it's all a big mess to sort through and it gives me a headache just trying to wrap my head around it.

Despite all this, my birthday ended up pretty good. I was able to walk on my own with the help from a cane. As the day progressed, I was able to lose the cane altogether. My husband insisted I go to a salon and get a mani/pedi. (Oh, yes. It was HIS suggestion.) I even managed to sit long enough to make it through the session and now my toes are properly purple and my nails look quite lovely.

It took some serious maneuvering on my part to get this photo since I simply cannot bend right now.
But I was determined to show off my purple toes!
Purple toes and silver tipped nails. I love it!

My Facebook friends piled on the birthday greetings all day long, which made me smile each and every time. And, by the time dinner came around, I was feeling well enough to attempt dinner at Chili's. I didn't quite last long enough to enjoy the free birthday dessert, but it was so nice to be able to get out of the house.

Chicken and shrimp fajitas, southwestern egg rolls, cheddar bites, and fried pickles.
Not to mention Handyman Husband to enjoy it with. I'm amazed I lasted as long as I did.
Chili's booths are surprisingly back-friendly.
To top it all off, the lady who helped us at Marie Callendars insisted on giving me not one, but TWO birthday balloons to go with my double cream cheese strawberry pie. (Balloons pictured at the top of the post.) I love balloons. So do my boys. They tried to claim them as soon as I walked in the door, but I successfully fended them off. Those balloons are MINE, kiddos. HA!

My birthday presents are on their way. I got to order exactly what I wanted - two of the coolest garden gnome statues EVER (a godzilla munching garden gnomes and a ninja gnome - you can't get much cooler than that), some baby dragon statues for my garden (from my sister and her kids), and a leather notebook and fountain pen (from my awesome son).

While it wasn't the birthday I had planned, it was certainly memorable and it ended quite well.

Today, I'm taking it one moment at a time. My pain meds have kicked in, leaving me slightly loopy, but considerably more comfortable than I was an hour ago. My children are actually behaving themselves (I probably just jinxed it by saying that, though). And with all this free time I've had, I've come up with a few goals I want to achieve in the next ten years.

Writing goals

  • Write 2-3 hours a day. If not more. Even if that means a treadmill desk or getting creative with my writing arrangements.
  • Finish "Between Shadow and Light", book one of the Corners series and submit to agents and publishers by the end of the summer.
  • Finish outlining and writing books 2 and 3 of the Corners series.
  • Complete the True Dreamers series.
  • Work on "Bitsy Overbite: Tooth Fairy Detective" - it's an early chapter book series similar to "The Magic Treehouse" in reading level.
  • Write a bunch more books and short stories.
  • Possibly co-write something with a friend. Or two. Or three.
  • Write. A lot. There are a lot of stories waiting for me to write them and I fully intend on doing so.

Physical goals

  • Run a 5k. Not just complete one, but run the whole darn thing. Apparently running is really good for my back. Once I'm back up and able to do so, of course.
  • Ride my bike. A lot. It's a beautiful, wonderful bike. Definitely the best I've ever had and I love it to pieces.
  • Earn my black belt in Taekwondo. At least third degree so I can teach, if I so desire.
  • Get into archery. I loved it when I was a kid. I miss it.
  • Get back into fencing. Because it's just that cool and my instructor told me I had natural talent. I just didn't have the money to continue. And it involves swords. Do I have to say more?
  • Improve my pistol shooting skills. And get myself that sweet purple .380 I keep eyeballing each time we go to the shooting range. If you saw it, you would understand why. It's gorgeous!
  • Maybe learn how to spar with a staff. It totally appeals to me. And it would be so kick-butt awesome.

Miscellaneous goals

  • Play the piano every day. Once I can sit that long, of course. I miss feeling the music flow through my hands.
  • Be able to keep houseplants alive. Like an entire indoor herb garden. I love fresh herbs.
  • Work in my garden and flowerbeds outside. I'm going with a fairy garden/geek theme throughout. And berries. I love berries.
  • Build my fairy garden items. Houses and wells and bridges and the Emerald City and a miniature Stonehenge and fairy doors on the stairs and tiny windchimes and glass "toadstools" and a whole bunch more.
  • Finish crocheting all the things. I have projects lined up for years. And it's going to happen.
  • Become incredibly proficient with my Silhouette Cameo. Again, projects lined up for years.
  • Find the perfect eyeliner. It will happen, folks. I just know it will.
  • Try not to obsess over what I can't do and focus on what I can.

The biggest one of all

  • Be there for all the important days in my family's lives - graduations, celebrations, first day of school or work, milestones, etc. I refuse to let this keep me down. I have a life to live, gosh darn it!
I know this has been a long post and if you've made it this far, I totally love you for it. These dragons I'm facing are fierce and relentless. They're determined to win and have resorted to some underhanded tactics to do so. Some days, they take the upper hand. Other days, I rise above it all and stand triumphant. But I'm not going to lie. This entire situation sucks. Really and truly sucks. And I'm beyond frustrated and angry. But that only fuels my determination to slay these dragons once and for all. I'm stubborn enough to not give up, even when the odds are against me.

Not only that, but I have an entire army of friends and family standing beside me, helping me stand tall and holding me up when I no longer have strength to do so on my own.

As long as I can find the joy in every day, those darn dragons don't stand a chance.

Not now. Not ever.

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