There’s this saying, “the calm before the storm,” that I heard others use right before the shit really hit the fan. A few momentous events happened in my life that exemplified this saying, but nothing like what happened last Wednesday.
Exactly a week ago, I was a “typical” 27-year-old mother, getting myself back into reality after transitioning into being a first-time mom. It was difficult settling into the mom role, but after some time, I finally understood the blessing and complete contentment of being a mother to my gorgeous 13-month-old daughter.
Along with feeling mentally and emotionally stable, I was on the path of getting into the best shape of my life, and loving how much energy I had to chase after my toddler. Also, my strides of building back my real estate business were in full gear, and I honestly could say I finally found happiness in my personal and professional life.
And then the storm came.
Last Wednesday, I started feeling excruciating pain down my right leg, like my leg was lit with 65 matches and left to burn. I was headed to Viviana’s room to get her up for the day, but found myself crippled in pain at the foot of her bed. Trying not to scare her, I held in my breath and tried to suck in the screams from my searing pain.
Once Viviana was out of her crib, I hobbled to get her breakfast ready, and continue our regular morning routine before dropping her off at daycare. The pain grew worse, feeling like a heated Charlie horse along the side of my leg, the worse in my knee to ankle. I finally called my husband and mom for help, and my mother promptly took me to the ER after Viviana went to school.
The ER physician diagnosed me with sciatic pain – something entirely new to me – and pumped me with painkillers. By Thursday, the pain traveled to my left leg. I went to my primary care doctor, who gave me a different prescription for painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication. On Friday, I still found no relief and noticed numbness from the waist down. I eventually lost control of my bladder at 12:30pm and knew I needed another trip to the ER.
After an MRI at Friday’s trip, I discovered I have Cauda Equina Syndrome, a rare disorder in which a bundle of nerve roots, the cauda equina, in the lower portion of the spinal cord are compressed and paralyzed. I had a huge ruptured disc between L4 and L5 of my spine, which required emergency surgery at midnight that evening.
I stayed in the hospital until Sunday night, and for all the whirlwind of this whole storm, I am on the road to recovery. Today, I did physical therapy at home for the first time. I used a walker to get from my bedroom to the front door. This felt like I ran a marathon — twice. But I keep reminding myself, “I must be strong. I must be strong.”
Do I have my moments of total breakdown? Of course. I had one right after the therapy session thinking what the hell I did to deserve this. I am so scared I will never be able to do the things I used to do with my daughter, and the “why” of this entire condition baffles the hell out of me. I didn’t experience a trauma; didn’t fall; didn’t get stabbed or have a gunshot wound. It just happened. And now I have to cope and manage the clean up after the storm.
It is the hardest state to be so dependent, and I am eternally grateful for those I have around me who are stopping their lives to help me get through this.
But no matter what — I WILL get through this. No matter how vulnerable it will make me, or how much my strength is tested. There is no way of not getting through this, even though it is easier to let the anger and sadness of it all suck me down.
I will walk alongside my daughter again, holding her hand and telling her the importance of strength in the hardest of times. And that no matter what storm is weathered, strength and belief in yourself will pull you through the toughest of tides.