The Road to Thankfulness

I am a little over a week shy of the anniversary of my emergency back surgery. I know I don’t write as much anymore, and I know I should.

But there is something I needed to get out that I’ve held back on; that has been sort of a secret in a way. Yet here I don’t have any secrets; I don’t have to fear opinions or judgment. This is the one place for me to be raw and real; to describe my experience and maybe it reaches someone’s heart. Maybe not. But this is the place I need to talk about my new journey and a different walk toward thankfulness.

Before I get into that, let me recap: my body has gotten stronger and more stable the last six months. My gait and walk has improved dramatically, I do yoga a few times a week which helps me build so much inner and outer strength, and I feel my days are more good, than bad. I still have physical pain that floods into emotional; I still with nerve damage and spasms; and the back of my legs and my feet still feel like they are asleep.

However, I am eternally thankful. The reality is, I could have never walked again. I could have been in a wheelchair, permanently paralyzed. But today? I can chase after Viviana and try to give her the mother she deserves. I can do more around the house, alleviating Jim of taking on so much. I can go out with girlfriends and enjoy myself.

I can fully thank God and love the Lord for what has happened.

I can let go of my anger, anxiety and depression. I can trust in Him that things really will be okay.

I’ve never understood the meaning of prayer, and I would always pray selfishly. Recently, though, I am on a new journey to learn Christ and understand how prayer, praise, and His everlasting love can truly create miracles.

I used to scoff at these ideals, not believing that a prayer or God could do such a thing. What a doubter I was. Yet now I am learning the power of prayer, and the need to have faith and CLING to God, instead of push Him away.

Christ opened several doors for me this past year, and it took me up until very recently to see that. Until then, I looked at all the doors He shut. But now I see the opportunities for His love, to follow the course He mapped out and to just open my heart and ears to Him.

I will be the first to say I’ve never talked this way about faith, religion or really any of this before. I never got it when people would say how believing in something intangible could heal you. Yet when I finally let the cavernous hole in my heart – that was filled with so much darkness prior – overflow with the most perfect love, I finally got it.

And in light of the holiday tomorrow, I do reminisce the fact that last year I was still “normal.” But was I really? Sure, I could walk, run, etc. and didn’t know about unforeseen pain and recovery my body would go through a week later. Yet I wrestled with several inner demons that griped onto my hearts from years before, and it took the most trying of times for me to finally let down the walls and open my heart.

I am completely honest when I say I only have the Lord to thank.

My inner peace, forgiving myself and others, love for all of life’s blessings and thankfulness in both the highs and lows of my life is understood now, and I can finally let go. And just … Let God.

Thank you, Lord, for letting me come back to you after the shaky ground I stood on. Thank you for being my pillar of strength, and for continually whispering in my ear to keep going. Thank you for helping my body heal, and allowing me to cling to you when I’m in pain. Thank you for my husband and my daughter, even though at times I may not feel worthy of them, you blessed me with absolute perfection.

And most of all: thank you for showing me the light back to you, especially on my darkest day. There are so many things to be thankful for this year, and my praise goes to you.

Sweet Dreams, Little One

Tonight, for the first time in a month and a half, I stayed in Viviana’s room as she fell asleep.

Jim has been the one putting her to bed because I can’t lift her into her crib, or bend, and my mobility getting up and down was extremely difficult and near impossible. But I am building more strength.

Last night, I tried to soothe her from a coughing fit due to teething. She wouldn’t come to me, most likely because she was tired and cranky. Yet, as mothers, we take these things personally, and I felt like she started to “forget” that, like Daddy, I can soothe her at night, too.

I know this wasn’t what she was thinking, but I couldn’t help thinking it. I cried myself to sleep last night, sliently cursing this condition and how it brought on so many limitations, particularly in motherhood. I wanted to be the one to put her to bed, to hold her, to take any pain away. But because my body wouldn’t let me, I felt like Viviana wasn’t receiving the Mom she needs and deserves.

Tonight, though, as I got down on the floor and laid next to her crib, rubbing her back, I know I’m being the best Mom I can be right now. Viviana is forcing me to be strong, to pull myself together, to be patient and to realize that as long as I keep on my path to recovery for her, that is all she could ever ask.

It’s not easy, as a mother, watching those who care for her do the things I used to and yearn to do. However, tonight was a huge accomplishment, and if I cry tonight, it will only be tears of joy.

Sweet dreams, my Princess. Mama loves you so much.

Recovery Update

It’s been almost a week since I last posted so it’s time for an update …

I am walking on my own, which is very exciting and making me feel so hopeful. My cousin is getting married in June, and I am praying I walk “normally” by that time. The outlook is seeming pretty bright.

I still have pain — the majority of it in my legs and calves. It is a crampy, Charlie Horse feeling that can get excruciating at times. But when this pain hits, I need to listen to my body and rest.

Resting can get boring, though. Even though it’s extremely important with this recovery. Yet I remind myself that all of the things I aspire to do can wait, and when I have the energy to do them, I do. If not, I table them for the next day and get the rest my body needs.

Every day I get a bit stronger. Not every day is an easier one; in fact, last week had more bad than good. It takes a LOT of effort to do things, and as much as I try to suck it up, it does get hard. I am teaching myself to break things down so things do not seem as difficult. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but I have to in order to get better.

My energy levels are increasing, and I can play more with Viviana. The other night we played dress up with some of my old costume necklaces. I love watching her play and now that I can be a little more active with her, it makes me feel a little more normal again.

It just felt so good. Amazingly, amazingly good. I take it day-to-day, try my best to find my smile and realize there is light at the end of this tunnel, even when an occasional shadow may be cast.

The Unknown

I think the hardest part of this recovery and having Cauda Equina Syndrome is the unknown of exactly how long it will take me to heal, to have full sensation again (if it does come back fully), what this means for things I did before, and what the road looks like ahead of me in terms of walking, physical activities, full range of motion, pain management, etc.

In perspective, I know it could be a lot worse, but the thought of that still doesn’t lessen the blow. My positive mentality toward all of this is challenged when my body hurts and I feel like crap, but I do my best to remind myself of the progress I am making and how far I’ve come.

And yet — I don’t know what to expect. Unlike other medical issues/surgeries I had before, I had some idea of what the recovery looked like, and what I could do after “X” days/weeks. This is totally different. I take it day by day, but I am a wife, mother and working professional — on top of all that a “planner” — and it would be nice to have some type of idea what I can expect.

Unfortunately, with L4/L5 surgery and CES, it is a case-by-case basis. The doctor tells me it could take up to two years to gain full sensation back and all numbness to resolve, which sheds some light on things. But ultimately, it is venturing into the unknown and a hopeful wait-and-see with intensive physical therapy and a lot of walking.

It gets easy to give up, especially when I don’t know what I’m looking at. But as soon as I feel that way, I think of everything I worked toward and accomplished already, and even though the road may be a long and uncharted, I need to keep going.

Maybe this condition taught me the value of slowing down, and taking it step-by-step, literally and figuratively, I don’t know. And although this may be in the unknown, with patience, time and hope I will get there — wherever “there” may be.

Family Time

Yesterday we went to the aquarium for a little family day trip. Watching Viviana light up as she looked at the fish and sea creatures warmed my heart. I was hesitant about walking, so we took the wheel chair instead.

I half-wish we didn’t and I walked, only because it was such a hassle with it, and there were more places I could have sat down than I remember. But we purchased an annual membership so now I know for next time.

Regardless of that, it was wonderful to do something as a family. Before my surgery and everything else, we didn’t get to share the time together due to work and other commitments. Getting the chance to spend some family time, even though I am not at my best, is so important, and the time with Viviana is particularly precious. Plus, it gives me hope and anticipation to go with her in the future — maybe just mother and daughter — and explore the aquarium together.

We wrapped up the day yesterday with a family walk around the block. This was a huge feat for me. My walks only consisted of going down the street a few houses, but last night I wanted to see how far I could go. No doubt: it was challenging and became slightly painful toward the end, but it was nice to be able to join Jim and Viviana again on this evening tradition. I am taking it easy this morning and listening to my body, but as the doctor says, the more I walk, the better I will be.

I know I can become frustrated and angry at times — mostly at myself more than anyone or anything else. Sometimes I think, “Why can’t I wake up normal and do things the way I used to?” These feelings will flood in when I am out doing family things, but as soon as I look at my husband and daughter, they begin to retreat. I might need to modify, but I can still enjoy these special moments.

And one day I will think, “It was shitty and hard for a while, but I made it through, with the help of my family. I wasn’t ‘normal’ and maybe never will be again, but I had — and still have — happiness in myself and my family. That’s all that matters.”

Love, Gratitude & Patience

Things are progressing pretty well. Since Christmas, the majority of my walking has been assisted by use of a cane, only needing the walker here and there. I hit a few road bumps, and had a couple of bad days, but I am doing my best to listen to my body and not push myself.

Today I spent the majority of the day outside with Jim and Viviana. The weather is absolutely beautiful right now, and I can’t help but breathe in the fresh air and soak up the sun. It is these little things of life that I overlooked before but take in so much now.

On the flip side, though, my heart yearns to chase after my daughter, and to walk with her hand in mine — be it down the road, at the park or simply around the backyard.

When I see my sweet husband chase after her or pick her up, even in her fussiest of moments, pain and guilt fills my heart even more. I cannot pick her up, cuddle her on my chest, and walk her around to shush her like I did before. I cannot take a little bit of the burden off my husband. It is probably the most difficult part of all of this, and my anxiously wanting to be fully recovered now.

Yet even though I cannot do certain things at present, it does not mean I cannot be present. Watching Viviana explore the grass and leaves, and seeing Jim’s face light up, helps push the pain and guilt away. My heart then fills with love, gratitude and patience.

And that is all I need.

A Special Gift

Today was my follow up appointment with the neurosurgeon. It went very well. He still says I had the largest herniated disc he’s ever seen, but the progress I am making is remarkable. Between the location of the disc and the Cauda Equina, it is sometimes difficult to make much of a recovery, he noted. But I am making an exception for this rule.

I still cannot lift beyond 5 pounds, bend, twist, etc. The numbness might take up to a year to leave and the nerves to fully heal. However, I have so much hope that I can get back on track in the future — hopefully very near future, but I do not want to push it.

Also, the doctor recommended I start walking with a cane if I am comfortable. This will help with my balance, getting used to walking unassisted at some point, and rid me the bulk of carting around a walker. 

So how do I feel? Overall, pretty good. I am able to do a little more for myself every day, and finding ways to modify without feeling embarrassed by it. I noticed massages help the numbness and assist me in balancing as I walk, so that’s a nice perk — who doesn’t love a good massage? With work, I am hoping to return to the office for a few days a week after the New Year. I am cleared for that, as long as I don’t overexert. And honestly, doing things now that I did before make me feel so much more normal and capable of managing my CES.

In light of Christmas being a couple of days away, I couldn’t ask for a better gift than the doctor’s positive words that I will make it through this, and how well I am already doing. It will take time and patience, but I will get there one step at a time.