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The Soldier and the Squirrel introduces children to the Purple Heart

through a loving story of a friendship between a newly wounded soldier

and Rocky the squirrel with his backyard friends. This story began as a

blog during my first year in bed after my incident. With much

encouragement, it is now a book and has been placed in the

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. Please watch the video

on the About page to learn for the Soldier & Rocky are changing children's

lives.

 

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Entries in Arachnoiditis (1)

Saturday
Feb022019

What I Have Learned through the Challenge of Pain

 

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED THROUGH THE CHALLENGE OF PAIN

Well, I at last have a new, functioning and looks-like-I'm-legit laptop making it simpler to update here! No, not really. It's been the wildest ride since I last posted a year ago, one I should have been posting about, stem cell recoveries are a funny thing. First, you have to tell everyone how AMAZING they are, because they are. Then you go through the 9-12 month recovery period and all of a sudden, life is SO much more doable! I used to say, if they could just take the pain away, I can deal with being in a wheelchair. Just get me out of this much pain. If you've followed at all, you've surely read the part about my spinal contractions equalling labor contractions, every ten to fifteen minutes around the clock for weeks or months, while every contraction brought with it butcher knives that seem to shovel the muscles off my femur bones followed by the shooting of boiling icycles down the legs to the toes, that stayed at a cool 42 degrees F. F-f-fUN stuff! That's jsut when I was in a "flare". Otherwise, it was just a brewing cesspool of fire and daggers circling the vertrebrae dancing up and down the spine until I did someting stupid, like sit for more than five minutes, and it would start all over again.

That said. No small violins, only electric guitars, people!
But, once I reached what they called my new baseline of pain levels, after a year of the rollercoaster after effects of feeling like Wonder Woman on the upswing and Frankenstein's daughter on the down, as well as physical therapy (a MUST), I sat back and looked at what was, compared to what was now.

It became a confusing thing to see.

I felt absolutely selfish.

I wanted more.

It was like offering a child a Vanilla cone, only for them to complain it wasn't Vanilla Bean.

I've already given you guys a taste of what was. What was "now" was EONS from where I was. I could now sit for almost two hours at a time, which meant going to a movie with my hubby AND a drink (medications doesn't allow for much more than one, so that was good, fit into my time frame). This was a miracle! But what was even more of a miracle, was that the spinal contractions which took six years of my life from me, my children, my husband and family, had completely stopped. Not one contraction since my first stem cell transplant on June 28, 2017. Not one. That alone should have had me kneeling at the feet of my physician. Which I actually did, on my second round of stem cells.

That's right. I did it again. Nonetheless, this time, on Halloween. Made sense to me, seeing's that I was Frankenstein's Daughter and all.

My second stransplant was exactly like the first, but this time, it involved a second phase, and this is why:

No matter what improvements I experienced, there was still one issue which was not addressed during my first transplant, a situation of increasing pain levels L4-5 to Sacrum discs, which had begun derailing all of the progress we had achieved so far. My lower lumbar levels were now screaming after 45 minutes of sitting. Yes, my contractions were gone, so I should have been thrilled! But pain is pain. Anyone who lives in chronic pain, no matter the levels, understands that pain is like a magnet to the brain and becomes all you can think about. How you wish it wasn’t there. So, I used my tools of distraction, learning new things, writing, not overdoing things, but still nothing could grant me the serenity of knowing the things I cannot change. The decision was made. I would go for number two.

The original protocol involves the actual stem cell transfusion (this particular protol uses hundreds of millions of cells at one time, rather than tens, multiple times) then, intramuscular injections of stem cells made into a "paste" injected along the spine. However, during my second transplant, the doctor used a live flouroscpoy (an in real time video x-ray) to watch exactly where the phase two of stem cell paste injections will this time, enter INTO, the vetrebral spaces.In particular, one with an artificial disc! The space which housed my artificial disc at L4-5 had caused what happens to many patients over time, it adds so much pressure to the levels below it, that not only is the artificial disc level compromised by blinding pain, the levels below it grow increasingly painful as well.

So here I am, it is the beginning of February, three months out, and my perspective has changed. Instead of expecting to be who I was. I am now learning that it is ok to be who I am now, or whatever the next year should bring. The second transplant dramatically improved these levels, L4-5 is but a distant memory, but the lower levels are proving to be more of a beast that we expected. I learned to walk again a year after my first transplant, yet limitations only allow for this within our home, short spurts with sofa at arms length. I've tried going out without my chair, but dont' get too far, and have realized I'm more of a snail that a mom who needs to "get sh*t done!". I have learned that even the most magical of sciences, has its limitation when there has been a level of mechanical damage that has been done. Finally, I can truly say, I am ok with this. This is not giving in, it is opening up to whatever will be and all the possibilities that could be, good or “bad”. This has taken a long time to get to.

Life may never be what it was, or what at first I so desperately hoped it would be again. It is ok for some things to be what they are, and to find the beauty in what is. I have learned to live a life with more blessings than I could have ever experienced had I not been hurt. For the last seven years I have been able to be home to watch my children grow rather than constantly traveling to shoot destination weddings and portraits of those wealthier than God (not that that's a bad thing, it just wasn't being with my kids), and being too busy editing all week to help them with homework, or problems, or simply lay on the bed while all four of them circling as a band around me, singing and playing our favorite songs - mine being, whatever my children played and the songs they sang. My husband has unearthed within him a patience and an empathy not just for myself ,but for others facing challenges, as have our children. Our children understand that a' life challenge' can be an opportunity to reframe what it means to live one's life. They have garnered,over time, an unyeilding urge to create change in our world by witnessing how misunderstood their mother could be by others. They understand the challenges a life challenge can create and that we never truly know what is going on behind closed doors. Also, whatever upturns one’s live is a life challenge, and that the processing of it is pretty much universally the same. That everyone has a story no one else has lived, and yet it's everyone's story at once. I have learned how many fragile, diminutive moments of joy I bypassed for so many years becasue I was moving too quickly to notice them. I have realized the joy in taking out the trash and stopping because a ray of sunlight has turned a simple leaf into an xray version of itself, and having it be the highlight of one's day. I have gotten to know a squirrel in our backyard and named it Rocky. It has many names, as we have many neighbors, to me, he's mine. I have learned of the devotional love and bond which can grow between a service dog and her handler. How one animal can make a very scary world, once agian, make sense. I have learned that not everyone will understand what I have been through, but in the end, I don't need nor expect them to. I only offer hope that one day all will experience the empathy we have so humbly received. I have realized that not everyone needs to be your friend, and most have not truly been one at all. That when your world crashes, it is those who carry you through the flames that define friendship as though it were etched in stone by God. I have realised that if every parent could spend every moment of their time with their children, you would see them as people, not kids. That there is no place you would rather be than exactly where you are, even though others may wish they never saw where you are, at all. I have seen colors on raindrops and am convinced there are many more than we have been told. I learned to love football because of a story I saw about what it can take to face a challenge and rise above. Go Seahawks! But most of all, I have realized that the meaning of life can be so simple. For me, it has come down to loving and connecting with others, and meaning every word I say. If I cannot answer the phone, I will wait until I call you back with my world aside and at your feet. I have learned that the worst thing I can do another is to place expectations, it's like making them take a test they couldn't study for if they tried. That no one should ever be expected to truly know every thought or feeling you have, or be expected to respond to something they have never lived. I have learned that everything that I have become after my accident, good or bad, has happened because something shattered. A life exploded, everything I knew, every way I knew how to live went up in a puff of smoke. And yet, here I am. Rising from ashes does an incredible thing, turning into somehing akin to tempered steel, the only thing on earth that endures fire only to come out stonger than before; that just because life is now different,doesn’t mean it isn’t the life you are supposed to lead.

So, as I meter my sitting time, and wheel with Blue from A to B, as I do homework with my children or breathe in love of a man who has risen through his own shattered house, and as I continue to meet others who's pain is lifted for even a minute just because someone else has been there, too, I etch this life in stone, as my own.