Friday, September 23, 2011

ACDF with plating (Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion)

Well I am going to do it!

I made the decision, with a little help, to have my lower neck fused in 2 places. They are going to put in a carbon fiber and titanium cage and put some material in there that will cause my 2 levels to fuse together. It will take about 6 months-1year for that to happen.

It's been a hell of a process. Agonizing to say the least.

I think my journey started when I was 18 and fell off a ski lift at Dodge Ridge. Not incredibly high off the ground, but enough to knock the wind out of my sails, I fell after the lift restarted 100 ft from the dismount area. I never went to the doctors but was unable to move my neck for 3 days after that.

Then 2 years later, traveling approx 40 mph as a passenger in a car, I used my arms to brace myself with the dash board when a car hit us head on. This was before the seat belt law. After that I was unable to use my arms for a couple of days. Not fun trying to pull up your pants after going to the bathroom.

Then last but not least, last year my dog took me for a walk basically. My arm was practically yanked out of my socket and I was thrown to the ground. This started 18 months of doctors, MRI, physical therapy and massage appts.

The conclusion: 2 herniated discs at C5-6 and C6-7, with the start of new herniation at C3-4 on last MRI. No Spinal fluid surrounding the space at C 6-7 (this means my spinal column is not protected here) and bone spurs at both levels also. Nerves are being pinched and trapped in the foramina causing my hands and fingers to have numbness and tingling. Over time I seem  to have more pain everywhere and can't help but wonder if it doesn't have something to do with my central nervous system being compromised.

In the beginning I resisted safe activities. I still skied, but very cautiously. If I could help it I didn't let anyone come up behind me. If I could hear them coming I would stop and wait for them to pass and then go on my way.  I mountain biked once, but a miscalculation with the front brake had me over the handle bars and back in the MRI machine. Road biking: challenging in the postion it put me in: Arms extended forward with head tilted back. Freestyle swimming out, too much neck turning. Hiking my only vice left, but after a foot surgery in June, that is limited also.

After 2 surgeries in May and June of this year, I am more accepting of my limited activity level. I could go on this way. Just hiking when I can and the recumbent bike at the gym.

However with increasing symptoms I went back to the neurosurgeon again. The VERDICT: I have to have a fusion eventually. It's just a matter of when. How long can I live with these symptoms? How long can I go on with my life this way?

My husband who just happened to remember I had an appt that day and was free to sit in said, "JUST DO IT".  Get on with your life! Do it!

I was stunned. I figured I would wait until next year, after Roanne. My son's gf has been living with us for a couple of months now. She is under the care of hospice for colon cancer. Recently, Greg had his first routine colonoscopy since he turned 50 last year and we couldn't even handle the stress of his colonoscopy! How were we going to handle a big surgery like this?

How could I do this? How could I take away this time from her and do something selfish for myself? How could I put this kind of stress on my already stressed out family?

I did what anyone would do in my position, I called Dr Laura (radio personality who has a strong moral compass) and then I called my mom and dad.

They all said "DO IT".  Even my best friend Sue who is the most giving person in the world said DO IT.

So I called his office and said LET'S DO IT! I asked for October 10th and am still waiting to hear back if that's the day.

Roanne is doing miraculously well. The steroids and laxatives are keeping her out of too much pain. She is not even here most days when I get home from work. She is either with her friends or family. And that is exactly as it should be. Her parents moved to a better neighborhood recently. Although still small, so Roanne doesn't have her own room, she is spending more time with her family.

So in the mean time I am stressed more ways to sunday. I never imagined that I would really have to do it. My brain knew on some level, but another part of it is still trying to comprehend that at 47 I need to get my neck fused. As a nurse, knowing and seeing all that I do, I am freaked out. I don't want to be a quadriplegic, I don't want to wear a neck brace for 6 weeks! How am I going to sleep? what if it doesn't fuse right, what if I am worse off? look at my foot it's worse than it was before. Oh my god I hope I know what I am doing!

And then I calm myself down and I think about all the things I will be able to do again. After I am fused, the first step will be to become a gym rat. To build muscles all over my core, arms, back and neck. Strong supportive muscles. This I will be able to do without my spinal column and nerves being pinched all  over the place. This I will be able to do with 2 strong vertebrae that won't give or sway when I do too much. This will work. I have a plan. I just hope it's God's plan too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


First off I have to say I am doing ok. My weight got down to 146 at my lowest. My confidence soared at that point! I was getting back to the best part of me. The confident, stand up straight, doubt free spirit of me. Now I am hovering between 147-149. I am struggling and I feel myself sliding. Especially now that I am back to work.

The hardest thing is since I am more active, I am hungrier. I don't tolerate hunger well. Even the slightest bit. I tend to go for the high fat snacks and sugar. Those seems to satisfy the hunger and me, the best.

The next hardest thing is the stress of being back to work. I want to eat when I am stressed.

The key will be to keep healthy snacks and food in the house and eliminate the sugary and bad fat foods. I never begrudge myself fat, but it has to be the healthy kind. Avocados, nuts, good protein sources, olive oil, those kinds. The sugar in fruit is perfect, especially this time of year. Right now I have a big jar of gourmet jelly beans left over from a party. Those are going to have to go. And there is a big jar of peanut butter staring at me every time I open the refrigerator, I need to move that!

I have always loved transformations. Before and Afters. I've been watching Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Addition. I love to watch the process they go through. They soar in the beginning when they have one-on-one help for the first 90 days. Then the next 90 when they are on their own, they inevitably slide backwards. They start feeling bad & then they get back on the wagon and do better. In the end it seems as if they don't do as well as they could've, because of the falling off and getting back the wagon they do throughout the year. I see myself doing the same thing.

You could argue that people aren't perfect and they don't have to do things perfectly. Shit happens. Just do the best you can. Progress Not Perfection. I agree with all of that.

However, from what I see, it seems the EXCUSES are the mostly limiting factor. And this is my biggest downfall. I let everything get in my way and I become a victim to my own life.

I cancelled my pilates class monday night because I had a rash that was suspected to be shingles. It was not. Not only did I miss it, but I closed a door in my brain. It's like I was walking down a long hallway and I had 2 doors to chose from. Door #1 Cancel class, play it safe. Door #2 go and do your best. Maybe it's more like riding an elevator. Floor #1 takes you down, Floor #2 takes you up. Either way, one plays it very safe and keeps you stuck and the other lifts you up and out of the old way of being and thinking.

So I've decided to have a NO EXCUSES mentality. I am going to suck it up and follow through. Even if I am tired, even if I had a bad day, even if my foot hurts, even if, even if!


Wish me Luck!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Losing my way or just being the real me?

I haven't blogged because I have fallen off the wagon so to speak.

I am far from perfect and who wants to blog about their "failures" or weaknesses?

My 6 weeks no sugar, no wheat, no dairy, no alcohol, no processed foods has not completely fallen by the wayside, but I am not as diligent as I was in the beginning. I am cheating frequently, daily.

Not sure if it's because it's getting old or I am just getting lazy. Deep down I think it has something to do with not feeling worthy enough to succeed. And I think I could throw some fear of failure in there too.

If I stay out of my head and just go back to the task of reading my 3 x 5 cards and reading the book again (I stopped when it got to the part about being active. Not possible recovering from 2 surgeries in the last 4 weeks). I just might make it to the next milestone 145 #.

In my own defense I have not completely blown it. I do good 75% of the time. I am staying steady at 149 #. I am wearing my size 10's comfortably and the 12's are starting to swim on me.

There is a lot of talk lately about stories. The stories we tell ourselves about our past. These stories shape our attitudes and how we perceive ourselves.

I could tell myself I am a failure because I didn't to do it perfectly and I could just give up on the whole thing altogether, why bother............. oh poor me..........

Or I could write a new story. I am doing amazingly well considering I had 2 surgeries in 2 weeks. I can't exercise or even walk for any length of time. And I have lost 6 pounds!

Maybe my journey is not as perfect as I would like it to be, maybe I could be better. Maybe I am expecting too much from myself and my good is good enough, for now : ).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Whoo-hoo! I am officially in the 140's. I can't remember the last time I have been here. It's been at least a year probably two!

I feel so much lighter physically and emotionally! I still have a ways to go, 10-15 lbs,  but being in this direction vs the other one I have been in the last 2-3 years feels a 1,000 times better.

My "no sugar, wheat, dairy or processed foods" diet is working! (I have cheated a few times)

My 5+ pound weight loss in 2 weeks is without exercise too. I am really looking forward to when I can be active again.

And the best part is I am not really hungry. My body seems to do really well without all the allergen causing foods.

Surgery #2 is tomorrow. I am finally getting a very pesky neuroma removed. I figure I might as well since I am off work for 6 weeks and I can't be active. And then when I am all recovered I can really get back to doing the things I love!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Training my brain to THINK like a thin person.

I started reading Judith S Beck, Ph.D's NY Times bestseller, "The Beck Diet Solution: train your brain to think like a thin person."

As a big fan of psychology I like her approach of using Cognitive therapy to help you change your eating behaviors by training you brain to think like a thin person.

You can use any diet you want and she has you pick a back up diet in case the first one doesn't work.

I am an RN, with years and years of dieting experience and along with my medical back ground,  I am pretty sure I know what I need to eat and not eat to be thin and healthy. The "diet" I chose is my own and I call it the Whole Foods Diet. No not the grocery store, but I am sure you could shop there, but just like it sounds, Whole Foods. Nothing processed. No wheat, no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol (except on special occasions). Only Whole or Natural foods. Fruits, vegetables, lean protein from grass fed, free range sources, couscous, quinoa and whatever else I can find.

My goal is to follow this strictly for 6 weeks while I am off work recovering from my surgery. I am currently on DAY 6 and I have to say it's going surprisingly well. It's not nearly as painful as I thought it would be. Of course I don't have my normal stressors of living and I am sure that is helping immensely. Which is precisely why I wanted to do it now.

With having this time off I have the luxury to plan my meals, sit undistracted at meal times, focus on my food in front of me and to eat as slowly as I can. It's amazing to me how much effort it takes for me to be conscious of my food. Eating unconsciously was one of my favorite past times.

On 3 x 5 cards I have 29 reasons why I want to lose weight and I read these cards at least 2 x day to reinforce why I am doing this. I work constantly at giving my self credit for staying the course and doing the best I can.

Each Day of the 6 week Cognitive course that Dr Beck has created you have a new chapter to read, short 3-4 pages and she has objectives for you to follow for the day. Simple easy to achieve steps.

Today, Day 6, I am to find a Diet Coach. Someone to keep me motivated, build my self-confidence, help me solve problems and keep me accountable. My sabotaging thought is that I don't want to impose on anyone. It's a lot to ask and I know people are busy. I didn't even ask my first pick, I made the decision for her, and decided she is too busy. My next choice was my husband Greg who jumped at the chance to help me. He is the most physically fit 50 yr old I know. He probably weighs less now than when he did when he graduated from college. He has a logically engineering mind and is an excellent problem solver. He should be a great choice.

So far I have to say, I feel great physically and emotionally. My body is not hurting nearly as much as it usually does (could be the rest also). Emotionally, I feel like I am starting to climb out of this hole I have put myself in. Like a deep dark well. And right now I am finding little hand and foot steps carved into the sides the well and I am slowly climbing my way out. We saw this show once, "I shouldn't be alive", and these 2 climbers got stuck in a crevice. One of them survived and they showed his painstakingly slow efforts to climb his way out with a pick ice and crampons. His will and determination saved his life. I would have to say it's going much easier for me. And for that I am thankful. My hope is my will and determination with save my life also. With a big family history of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis, I need to take the steps now to save me a life. One little foothold at a time.

Friday, May 20, 2011

6 Week Post Op Hiatus.

After years and years of dealing with stress urinary incontinence I am ready to take a risk and fix the problem once and for all.

Let me start by giving a "little" back ground information: I had my first bladder infection at the age of 3. It was very traumatic and I remember it well. I remember telling my mother over and over that I had to pee even though I had just went. I remember being distraught over having to be in the car on the way to the Dr's office. How could I be away from the bathroom that long?  To this day I have a mild sort of PTSD every time it starts to feel like I am going to have a bladder infection.

In my 20's, after years and years of bladder infections, I trusted a  urologist who "dilated" my urethra in his office. He said I had strictures which were causing the infections. After that I had to go home and sit in a bathtub with warm water to ease the pain and wondered if I would ever be comfortable enough to get out of that tub again. I sat in there for hours. The good news was the procedure dramatically reduced my infections.  What also helped, for those of you that might have this problem, was ALWAYS voiding before and after sex (no matter what) and wiping front to back. Such a simple thing to not introduce E. Coli into the urethra.

When I was 30, I was told I had an incurable condition called adenomyosis. The only way to cure my 2 weeks of back pain I had every month would be to have a hysterectomy. Not a nurse at the time and naive to what this would really to do me, I was ready to be pain free. I opted for the hysterectomy. Afterwards I discovered that without a cervix, my orgasms would never be the same and that without a uterus my bladder and urethra would drop over time. The pathology on my uterus ended up coming back as endometriosis, maybe not curable but at least treatable. They don't do hysterectomies now like they did back then.

In my 40's the incontinence was rapidly becoming out of control. I could not jump, run, laugh, sneeze, or cough without peeing on myself. As a nurse you hear and see all the horror stories of good surgeries gone bad. I was scared to death to have anything artificial put in my body. Erosion of my bladder or my urethra would lead to a life of constant and continual urinary leakage, not to mention infection, and smell! As a young vibrant woman, not an option for me.

I opted for a BURCH procedure done by a highly recommended surgeon in 2007. 5 days into my recovery with a foley catheter attached to my leg, I had to pull a drowning 70 pound dog out of our pool. I was home alone and dog sitting. I couldn't let my niece's dog drown. I just couldn't. The other mistake I made after that surgery was to start exercising right after my 6 weeks post-op period ended which included boot camp (jumping) and running. In hindsight I should've gave myself more time to heal completely. Afterwards I never was completely incontinent free but it was better than it had been in years.

Over the last 4 years I am pretty close to where I was at my worst. Tired of years and years of having this problem I sought advice from multiple experts. The answer is a TOT surgery. Transorbital Tape. From what I understand he is going to go through the top of my inner thighs and insert a piece of tape that my urethra with rest on. The tape will give it the support it needs to keep from dropping down and leaking. It's a fast 20 minute procedure. The recovery: lifting nothing heavier than 10 pounds for 6 weeks. As a nurse this mean no work for 6 weeks.

I didn't arrive at the decision lightly but I can honestly say I don't know what I am more excited about, getting my urinary incontinence fixed once and for all or having 6 weeks off work.

I have been under a lot of stress lately. I severely injured my neck last year which lead to a long year of uncertainty and limited exercise. My 4 kids have their own issues (good and bad) and as their mom, I get involved and try to help them as much as I can. My long time co-worker retired in January which left her position to me. I gladly took her position but it came with a price of more stress and responsibility.

So for me 6 weeks off work means having 6 weeks where I can focus my time & attention on me. I can read, meditate, get more than 6 hours of sleep, prepare healthy meals, do activities that don't require lifting, like scrap-booking and knitting. I will visit my grandma & my parents, water my garden, basically be more emotionally present in my life and my loved ones lives.

I love my job as a nurse but I won't lie, it does drain me, physically and emotionally. I am looking forward to this time of healing to allow my body to recover and my mind to recharge.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Getting out of my own way.

I am finding the less I listen to my own mind the happier I am.

They say that what you focus on expands. So if my focus is on my injuries, my cellulite, my fatigue, my lack of sleep, my tired and sore feet, my loneliness.....then that's what I will get more of.

Who can love,  grow, bloom, enjoy the beauty in nature and discover life's secret to happiness  with all of that as the focus?

I know certain things about myself.

 I need to stay active. It's as simple as a body in motions stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest. At 47 I am not ready to rest. I got a lot more years a head of me. If I start resting now, I will be immobile by the time I am ready to retire! And then what!? What kind of retirement will that be? Not the one I imagine I can have.

I need strong social bonds with people I connect with on some common plane.

I need my family. I need a weekly connections with my children and grandchildren.

I need time to connect with my husband. We do this in Arnold mostly and we're getting better about doing this at home too.

I need to make a difference in the world.  Helping people on their journeys feel safe and comfortable in the hospital as they get ready for surgery. Being their for my family and friends is another way I make a difference.

I need to feel good about myself. Amazingly enough up until this point, I've been going about this all  wrong. What I wanted and what I gave myself were 2 separate things.  I wanted to feel good about myself, but I focused on all the negative things in my life. And these things kept expanding. No wonder I was still struggling at 47.

I made a decision to stop weighing myself about 2-3 months ago. The more I focused on my weight the more I hated myself. By not getting on the scale I have discovered I am not nearly as hard on myself and this in turn stops some of the self sabotage. It went like this: I stand on the scale, I make a judgement, I hate myself, then I eat to soothe myself and then I hate myself more. Now it goes like this: I choose to be as healthy as I can at the time. I find clothes that fit in my closet. I feel better about myself. I make healthier choices. The next time I go to the closet something else fits. So little by little this is improving. This upward trend makes all the difference in the world to me.

I need to be creative: this is the newest thing I have discovered about myself. I put this aside to raise kids, get through nursing school and work. But now I have time I can focus on this again.

So my HOPE is: by focusing on what I need to do,  I will stay out of my own negative mind and get out of my own way.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

I am struggling. Trying to find my way. Greg has started his Ironman training and it always leaves me feeling so alone.

I try to tell myself to pretend I am single, what would I do then? Not from the perspective of going out and finding a new man to frustrate the hell out of me some more, but from the perspective of what if I didn't have someone else to put my expectations on?

My genetic line has always been boy crazy. I don't know what age it started for my mom. But pregnant at 17 married and married soon after, I would say she matured early as far as boys go. For me I clearly remember chasing the boys at recess during Kindergarten. I was fascinated, excited and wanted one for my own.

In 2nd grade I remember being completely in-love with Scott Garner. We were seated in groups of 4. We rotated every few weeks or something. I was never happier than when I was seated with Scott and 2 other boys. I was the only girl at a table for 4. Those were my happiest school days. I was miserable when it was time to change. I was never lucky enough to have a rotation like that again. Do you think my teacher was trying to do me a favor?

It continued on with crush after crush until at age 17 (see mom) when I met my first husband during my last year of high school. Married 2 months after graduating and 4 months pregnant I would continue my families legacy.

For me the biggest issue has always been that I place too much on the other person. They are the ones who are going to make me feel good, complete me, and tell me who I am. And I will do whatever it takes so that they will do that for me. It's so messed up on so many levels I don't even know where to begin. The most alarming part is all that energy spent on getting the other person to give me what I want. Logically it makes sense that I should just put all that energy into myself, right?

I have to say watching my 3 year old granddaughter follow in her grandmother's foot steps is an eye opening experience. Her aunt Brittany gave her Justin Bieber doll for her birthday and she is in love. My daughter says she won't play with her barbies but she's loving him. There is a photo of her sleeping with him and I see the look that comes with putting all your hopes into another. And it scares the hell out of me. I want her in playing some sort of sport, yesterday.

I think young girls playing sports is their saving grace and I wish I had played more. I cheerleaded and played softball but that was it. A divine intervention was granted when Denise Hernandez took me under her wing and showed how easy running could be. She was patient and kind when she took me to Robertson Jr High's track one day. She showed me how I could run. She showed me I could do something amazing with my body and that it could give me the same kind of high I got from being boy crazy.

Running sustained me when my life was it's craziest. I could solve all my problems on a long run. I would come home in peace ready to tackle life's stressors. When I was a single parent for 2 years, it literally saved me. I handled a full time job outside the home and then came home to my 2nd full time job of raising 2 kids by myself. And it's the running that I credit with allowing me do that.

When I met Greg who was also a runner and a triathlete we seemed like we were a good fit. But after injury after injury it fell away for me. Besides I had him to give me my high. Ha! That's has to be THE biggest mistake I have made. It's not his job to make me happy and he told me that from almost Day 1.

So now I lost my high from running and I am tired of being disappointed from expectations I should never have placed on my man.

The closest thing I have to running now is hiking. And for now that is what I will do. I will take my loyal companion Jessie and head out on the trails. I am always looking company if you want to join me and I promise not too put any expectations on you!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Growing up at 47.

I won't go in to the details of how, why or when. What's the point?

What matters is now. And what I do with it.

Amazingly enough at 47 I am just figuring out who I am, what I like, what I want, who I want to be. What mark do I want to leave here? What is my legacy?

After raising 4 kids and being a grandmother to 2, soon to be 3, I sincerely hope I haven't done too much damage to them not knowing who I really am...... And if I am to be truly honest, I hope I have done a good job despite my limitations.

I am done looking back: I choose to go forward and do the best I can now.

Where to start? What a daunting task at 47. But better 47 than 87!

I have some physical limitations, old injuries rearing their ugly heads, but all this does is create a more challenging environment. Instead of being able to escape into some physical realm of doing too much, it is forcing me to slow down and look at all the possibilities that lay before me. For that I am grateful. For me it has always been too easy to follow along on the next great adventure. This is forcing me to find my own way at a different pace.

So I am a "grandma". That is too old of a connotation for me. I am not ready for that. So instead my beautiful grandchildren call me Lola. Which is Tagalog means a very old grandma, but grandma none the less. And I think it is really cool!

I also let my dark brown hair go gray or I should say white. My first gray hairs showed up before graduating from High School. Well the white hair, the grandma status, the injuries, the weight gain, I am really starting aging quickly. And with a freakishly fit husband, I was really starting to feel old and over the hill.

Freaked out by all that, I had my wonderful hairdresser start adding a little color back in. Nothing that required more than a touch up every 8 weeks. She added a little blonde, a little light brown and over night I felt a little younger.

Besides my job where I am on my feet all day,  I am SLOWLY working my way back to some physical activity. It's such a slow process and exercise in patience. It's 1 step forward 2 steps back every single time.

So where to start? With all the options out there for me it was a daunting task. I am questioning my sanity on this one but I am doing it anyway. I signed up a knitting class! Yes I know that's what old grandma's do! I am struggling to accept that it is ok to learn how to knit. This will not make me even older than my time. Lots of young, hip people knit! Right?

So far that's all I got. But I am excited and ready to find my way! Between a great local community college and a fantastic parks department, I have tons of options ahead of me. And I am open to suggestions!