growth spurt...

Back before I had the surgery, one of the side effects my surgeon told me about it was that I would gain a few of the 3 inches I had lost due to the large curves of my spine. So when I was preparing to get my new hardware installed, I knew it was going to affect my wardrobe. I was about 5 feet 8 1/2 inches, and I've never been on the short side. As I tried to imagine what my post-op body would be like, I thought I might have a few shirts to get rid of, and that a few dresses might be in the "if it was any shorter it would be a shirt" category. Well,  I grew over an inch and a half, and I now find that about half of my shirts, and also my pants did not grow with me. I haven't even started going through the dresses!                                                                                          
This past Saturday I went through my closet, and tried on all my tops and bottoms. You wouldn't think a measly inch and a half would really make your clothes fit differently, but it did for me. I did find that most of the clothes that didn't fit were ones I had bought back in college, and even a few from high school (gasp!) So it was probably time to ditch them anyway. Some of the outfits hadn't been worn in years, but sadly some were brand new, or worn only once. With all the surgeries I've had over the last 4 years, I have spent a lot of time recovering. That meant I couldn't work, drive, or leave the house for months at a time. During those long months of recovery. I wore exclusively anything loose, stretchy, and comfortable. Because of this, many outfits I've bought over the last four years haven't gotten much use. It was harder for me to part with the newer items, but I kept the What Not To Wear qualifying questions in mind with everything I put on: "Does it fit? Is it age appropriate? How often do/will I wear it?" Most of the shirts didn't even make it through the first question! On the bright side, the clothes are going to people who need them a lot more than I do. And it feels good to give things away that are in great condition, and will probably get a lot of use. Next project? Dresses and heels. I'll keep you posted on how that goes!
All Done and Ready for New Homes!

where I am today...

Can you believe it's been 3 months since I had my surgery? I can't! I had my 12 week post-op visit with my surgeon today, and I'm happy to say it was all good news. My bones are fusing nicely, no problem areas, and so it seems that the bone growth stimulator is doing its job. The only downside to that is they want me to keep wearing the odd fashion statement for another 3 months. Boo! I was hoping I could stop wearing it 4 hours every day, but if it's helping me, I am glad to have it.

My surgeon was very impressed that I wasn't taking any hydrocodone at all. Most people are still taking it at least some of the time this early out in the recovery, so he took it as a good sign I wasn't needing it. The nerve pain in my legs is still a concern, but for being only 3 months post-op, he wasn't surprised that it hasn't gone down yet. It IS a very good sign that the gabapentin is helping relieve my pain, as I've said before, nothing helped at all pre-op to reduce the horrible sciatic pain in my leg. We are very hopeful that over the next 3 to 6 months the irritated L2-3 nerve will start to relax and finally start healing. I would really appreciate your prayers for this, as there was and is no guarantee that it will. My life would be greatly improved without that constant pain.

A few of my restrictions were lifted at this visit. I am now allowed to take ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs if I need to. I wasn't allowed to have them for the last 3 months because they can interfere with the healing and fusing of the bone. Ibuprofen is a blood thinner, and can affect the platelet function in your blood and affect the ability of the blood to clot. But since my x-rays are showing no problems in the early stages of fusion, the risk of taking the NSAIDS has gone way down. I probably will still avoid them if I can, but it's a great alternative to Tylenol for muscle pain. Some surgeons insist on waiting 6 full months, but it seems to depend on each person, surgery, and age. 


Just a few of the muscles cut clean-through during my surgery!
Another restriction that was lifted was I'm now allowed to begin physical therapy to start building back up my core body strength. I still can't lift, bend, or twist. But doing exercises to build my muscles back up will give me more energy and help with the constant feeling of being stretched tightly over a metal construct. When my surgeon cut through my back, he cut through roughly 11 major muscles. The back is a large collection of muscles that extend from the neck and shoulders to the upper part of the legs. Many of these muscles criss cross and support one another or work in harmony with just about every other area of the body. So you can see how when these muscles are cut through, and then rearranged, how it affects my entire body. I will start with very gentle exercises, and slowly build up my energy and strength over the next few months.
So, all in all, it was a great post-op visit, and I'm really happy with where I am at only 3 months. I can drive, make dinner, fold laundry, sit in chairs for 2 hours or more, paint my toenails, and am working full time from home. Every day that goes by, the more I feel I made the right choice. And the better I get, the more thankful I am for everyone who has, and is, praying for me. Looking back at where I was three months ago, I feel very blessed to be able to do the things I can do, and to have had such a smooth recovery!  And here's hoping that in another 3 months, I'll be weaning off the nerve pain medicine, and getting back to an active, healthy life.

Now, 3 Months Post Op, and Driving!

11 Weeks Post-Op

I feel like a whole new person! Well, a whole new person who gets tired easily, still needs to lay down a lot, and has trouble opening and closing car doors (they are so heavy right now!). But overall, I am feeling a lot better since starting the Gabapentin, and have been able to resume some normal day to day activities. It felt so great this week to drive, get my hair cut, and go to the grocery store all by myself!

1st Solo Grocery Shopping!
I'm learning how to do things with my fused spine, and without bending or twisting. It's also an adjustment, albeit temporary, dealing with my very weak muscles, especially my shoulders. I am not allowed to lift anything heavier than 5 pounds and so building up those muscles is not happening any time soon. It's strange to get a dish out of the cupboard that I've used a 1,000 times, and it feels like it weighs 30 pounds. I find opening doors to businesses can be very difficult, and have started to use my body weight to push or pull them open. I now appreciate and understand why a lot of places install automatic doors. When you're strong and healthy, you never really think about how heavy a door is, or how groceries placed low to the ground, or high on a shelf, are hard to reach. I also now appreciate using disabled parking spots, when I go grocery shopping or anywhere I need to be on my feet for an extended period of time. I actually could have qualified for a disabled parking decal years ago. I just couldn't accept that my pain was really that bad. It wasn't until this surgery, and talking with my surgeon (who basically insisted I get one), that I accepted that I need that extra help. I have to get in and out of the car in a whole new way. It goes something like this:

  1. Open car door. Try not to open it too wide, because it is very hard to reach the door handle once I'm seated inside.
  2. Back up to door
  3. Climb with back facing door opening into car, and try not to bang head.
  4. Turn entire body in one motion towards front of car, without twisting.
  5. Try to close door. If the door was opened too wide, I have to get out and start the whole process over again.
Having a disabled parking spot helps because I can't squeeze into the car like I used to if someone parked too close to me. I literally wouldn't be able to get in or out of the car if that happened now. It also gives me an easier turn radius when backing up, which is great seeing as how I can't twist to look over my shoulder to see what's behind me. I can see what's behind me by turning my head, but I can't look as far as I could before the surgery. I will eventually be able to twist a little bit further, once my restrictions are lifted at around 6 months post-op. So that part should get a little easier hopefully. I'm also thrilled with the new car we purchased a few days ago, because it has a back-up camera! I can see what's behind my car by looking at the screen on my dashboard, without having to turn around at all! It doesn't replace checking over the shoulder or the mirrors, but it is a great help to me with my limitations.

Going through this experience has really opened my eyes to how I took my health and strength for granted before my pain started. Not being able to reach a box of crackers on the bottom shelf at the grocery shelf may not seem like a big deal. But to the person who can't get it without asking for help, it is. And it's not just about not being able to reach things, it's about how the world around us is designed for strong, healthy people. According to the 2000 Census, there are at least 49.7 MILLION people in the United States age 5 and over who have a disability of some kind. That's a lot of people, and I'm sure in the last 11 years that number has only gotten bigger. And despite that staggering number, just in my outings today, I walked into three different business that had huge, heavy doors, and no disabled entrance. I wonder what people do when they're in a wheelchair and the office they need to go in has ridiculously heavy doors? It must get so frustrating to deal with those seemingly "little" things, over and over and over. As a society, there does seem to be some awareness of disability, in the form of a few parking spots, bathrooms, and ramps. I think those are all great things. But they aren't everywhere, and there is definitely room for improvement. 

I am all for adjusting to the limitations that have been placed on me physically, and I don't expect the world to have to live by my restrictions. I have learned how to plie to reach the handle to flush the toilet, and I use my grabber to get my laundry out of the dryer. I'm learning to ask for help a lot, and that the person waiting behind me for my spot can wait a little longer, so I don't hurt myself trying to hurry. But I also think that how a society treats its disabled, vulnerable, different, defenseless, and even weakest members, reveals what that society values most. Our society seems to value the appearance of strong, healthy, intelligent, powerful and rich people. They are highlighted and applauded, while the term "needy" has a negative connotation, and to be poor is to be pitied and disdained. It comes to mind how celebrities are given free dinners, clothes and various other extravagant things, just because they're celebrities. It's never made sense to me why the richest people never seem to pay for anything. And while we are blinded by the celebrities' sparkle and shine, we forget that according to a recent US government study, more than a million children in America go to bed hungry. Every night. Here in the United States. That's heartbreaking to me! We are one of the richest, most educated, most free countries in the world. And yet we can't seem to find a way to feed our children, let alone enable a lame person to open a door.

As a Christian, I believe we are called to reach out to, help, and even put first those who can not do for themselves. Just look at Jesus, and how He continually sought out the company of those who were sick, lame, hated, blind, defenseless,and poor. Instead of pitying people who may not be as strong as ourselves, we are to value them and love them not only as we love and value ourselves, but even as we love Christ Himself. Matthew 25:34-46 lays it out pretty plainly. In verse 40 Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." That was pretty radical thinking then, and still to this day it seems to go against the grain. He is saying that His brothers and sisters are "the least of these." In other words, the poor, the sick, the naked, the prisoners, the needy, the defenseless, hungry and thirsty, are to be valued as brothers and sisters of Christ! If that is true, (and I stake my eternity on its veracity) we are to treat those that the world would despise as weak or broken, as princes and princesses. Jesus was the original proponent of loving people "just the way you are." He sees the value and beauty in those that don't have it all together, or have the perfect face, or body, or mind. Each life is important to Him, whether that life is spent in a wheelchair, or spent running marathons. And by His way of thinking, we are all important because I personally don't know anyone who is perfect. If we did the bare minimum, and treated those around us the way we would like to be treated, can you imagine how our society would change? 

My disability will not always be this restrictive. Yes, I will never be able to bend like the rest of you, or get in and out of a car the way I used to, and it has changed the direction of my life completely. But, Lord willing, my pain will continue to decrease until I don't need any medicine at all. And my muscles will heal and get stronger, so that opening a heavy door will probably not give me pause. But for those 50 million disabled persons, those heavy doors will still be heavy, and those shelves will still be too low. I hope that I will never again overlook someone who needs help, and that even as I grow stronger, I won't forget what it feels like to be weak. So that maybe I will put into better practice, treating the "least of these" like the princes and princesses they really are.

a friend loves...

"a friend loves at all times." Proverbs 17:17

I want to take some time to highlight how I've been blessed by some really special women in my life. I've mentioned before how my friends helped me through the process of deciding to go ahead and put myself through this surgery now (click here to read about it). But I wanted to really express how amazed I've been by my friends during this incredibly difficult time.

5 years ago I moved from Gainesville Florida, two hours south down to Orlando. I didn't know a soul here, and it was a hard transition to leave the hometown I had grown up in and all the friends and family I had there. It was pretty lonely at first, but as it turned out, that loneliness didn't last too long. I ran into my future husband a few weeks after I moved down here, and we started dating a few weeks after that. My first year in Orlando was full of dating, being engaged, and then planning a wedding. When I moved, I did not expect be engaged within 5 months! It was a wonderful time, and I am still amazed by the way my life changed so quickly. As wonderful as it was, it was very busy with wedding planning, finding a new job, and getting to know this new city. I didn't really connect with any new girlfriends, but I figured I would have ample time to do that after the wedding and all the general craziness slowed down.

We were married in May, 5 months after we got engaged. A month after our wedding, my first shots of horrible pain started shooting down my leg. And so began another whirlwind, but this time instead of being focused on flowers and cakes, I was dealing with doctors and procedures, x-rays and MRI's. My pain grew steadily worse over the next 8 months, to the point where I couldn't work, go out, or sit up. It was a scary time too because we didn't know what was causing the pain, or the weakness in my leg that would cause it to just randomly give out from underneath me. All that said, it was not an easy time to be going out and making friends!

Long story short, each year that we have been together, I have had a major spine surgery. It has been very hard for me to connect or participate in anything like small groups, Bible studies, or simply going shopping. It was only after my 3rd surgery and the 6 months of recovery that followed, that I finally had some relief. I wasn't completely pain free, but I was able to resume a lot of normal things. That was when I became friends with some amazing women. 

These women have been my biggest fans, my prayer warriors, and my encouragers. They have listened, given advice, or simply kept me company. They visited me in the hospital and brought me countless meals. They changed my sheets, fed my dog, and took me to post-op appointments. They cheered me up, and cheered me on. I have been overwhelmed by their love and compassion.

I had my first 3 surgeries before I had any close friends here. Drew and I had to struggle through those experiences mostly on our own. It was incredibly hard, going through each of those recoveries that way. We made it through, but when Drew was working, I would be alone all day and stuck at home. It became very lonely, and isolating. When I was preparing to go through this final surgery, I was honestly a little worried that my friends would grow weary of having to always come to me, or get tired of my inability to go out. I was afraid that by the time I got better, they would have moved on with their lives without me. I didn't worry about this because I had ever sensed that they would do that, I just knew how long and awful recovery is, and I can't expect people to wait for you, let alone help you through.

I am so glad that I was silly to have even thought those things! I couldn't have kept them away if I had tried. They were here, visiting, calling, bringing me dinner, day after day. I think the thing that amazes me the most is that they all have every reason not to be here for me. From having small children, to having physical challenges of their own, to living on the opposite side of town, or working full time jobs, they each have ample, legitimate reasons to check out. It meant so much to me knowing how busy their lives are, or how tight money is, or how far away they live, that they would still show up for me, week after week. 

My recovery has been completely different, and better because of these women. Their encouragement, love, and support has helped me through the tough, painful days. I know that having them by my side has helped me heal faster and better. They were here for me when it wasn't convenient, or especially fun. And I am so thankful for that. I'm blessed to have their friendship.


So, thank you , Melissa, Christine, Michele, Michelle and Diana.
 I will never forget your kindness. 

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller


the house inside me...

Good news! At 10 weeks post-op, I am officially off the hydrocodone! When I realized that the pain that I still have is 99% from my leg I called my doctor and asked them to prescribe Lyrica, to help with the nerve pain. I figured if my nerve pain was lessened, I could stop taking the hydrocodone altogether. I asked for Lyrica, as it was the only nerve pain medicine I was aware of, and my doctor had prescribed it for me in the past. It hadn't worked for me when I tried it 2 years ago, but I figured it was worth a try now that my nerve is no longer compressed. What a shock I got when I sent my husband over to CVS to pick up my pills! Since Lyrica has no generic (my insurance plan covers every prescription, as long as it's in the generic form), the 30 days worth of pills cost $200.00! I was nervous about shelling out that much money for a drug I wasn't even sure would help, especially since it hadn't in the past. So, I asked my trusty friends over on the National Scoliosis Foundation Forum, what their experience was with sciatica post-op, and whether Lyrica had helped them. Many people actually had the same kind of pain I have had, and recommended another nerve-pain drug called Neurontin, or its generic Gabapentin. I called my doctor again and they called in Gabapentin for me right away. I am so grateful to the people on that forum who take the time to answer questions, and make suggestions. As great as my surgeon and his staff are, they don't have the time to memorize everyone's insurance plans. They initially prescribed Lyrica because it is the newest, and for some, most effective drug for nerve pain. I was reminded by this experience that when it comes to your health, you have to be your number one advocate, and if I hadn't researched another option, I would have coughed up $200, and may have wasted it on a drug that didn't help. Fortunately, the Gabapentin IS helping me! I am so excited by this because like I said, nothing had ever helped relieve my nerve pain before this surgery. I won't bore you with the details, but Gabapentin works similarly to Lyrica, and changes the way the body feels pain. I've only been on it a week, but I could tell by the 2nd day that my sitting pain was greatly reduced, and it seems the longer I'm on it, the better it's working! I'm not completely pain free, but I am able to sit up much longer than before, and it's very encouraging. I think that now that everything in my body is in the place it was supposed to be before my scoliosis mucked it all up, my L2-3 nerve root will finally get a chance to heal properly. I believe the drugs didn't work before because the pain from the compressed nerve was just too strong. We'll see, it will be a long time before I expect to see significant reduction in my sitting pain, but even having taken down 3 or 4 notches really helps.

That experience made me curious about how much things like pain pills and office visits actually cost, compared to what I pay to my insurance company. I also wanted to know exactly how much my surgery cost. Here is a diagram that happily shows what I pay, and what was actually covered by my plan:

I am very pleased with that tiny blue sliver! We do have to meet a $2,910.62 out of pocket deductible, but we have met it every year due to all the different surgeries and procedures like epidural injectionsdiscograms, and myelograms for my back (you name a treatment or diagnosis procedure for back pain and I've had it done!). Once we meet that deductible, I don't pay a penny for office visits or anything besides prescriptions. That deductible is actually affordable when compared to what I'd be paying for each of those procedures myself. According to my statement from BCBS, just one epidural injection cost almost $700.00, and I had three of them in three weeks. And compare the $45.00 I pay till I meet my deductible, with the $400.00's office visits actually cost. And believe me, I go see the doctor a LOT.

...the house inside me...

Which leads me to another amazing/disturbing figure. Combining hospital and surgeon's fees, the total cost of my latest surgery is just a little over $300,00.00. To drive the point home, here in Orlando Florida, you can buy this lovely 5 bedroom, 4,000 square foot house!
Looking at that comparison, I do understand why people without insurance are in such a horrible state. I can't imagine needing the surgery like I did, and not being able to have it because I couldn't afford it. I mean, who has the money right now to buy another home in addition to the one they are probably living in?

I will say, after working in Medical Billing for over a year, that doctors and hospitals bill at a very high rate because they know they won't get close to what they ask for. For example check out this breakdown of my surgery costs (you can click on the image to make it bigger and easier to read):

As you can see, the hospital billed for the astronomical cost of $231,440.00 for a 7 hour surgery, and 4 day stay. What they actually got payed was less than half of what they asked for, "only" $108,374.14. I suppose if they asked for a hundred-grand, they would actually only get fifty-grand. Fifty-grand just doesn't seem to be enough to pay for a 7 hour surgery, 4 days worth of round the clock nurses, blood transfusions, high-tech blood pressure monitors, or food. I guess I can see why they ask for so much when you consider each thing that is needed to insure you have the best healthcare possible. It just seems like there should be a better solution than what happens right now. I understand why all the politicians are fighting about it. Not sure which side I'm on, the only thing I DO know is, I am going to do whatever I can to keep the insurance policy that I have now. If I went to another plan, my scoliosis would be a pre-existing condition, and I certainly could not afford $400.00 office visits, let alone (God forbid!) another surgery.

And another example of why I would fight for my private policy are all those happy $0.00's running down the side. Because I had my surgery on December 27th, 2010, and I had already met my deductible for the year, I didn't pay anything for my surgery. I got my 5 bedroom house for free!

I am very thankful for my insurance plan, and see it as a blessing from God. My previous 3 surgeries cost $80,000, $90,000 and $200,000 respectively. Add in my last one and you've got almost $700,000.00 worth of medical bills. Amazingly, we've only payed around $11,700 in four years. And out of that $11,700, we submitted it to another plan I have, called Samaritan Ministries, and was reimbursed for most of that. Samaritan is not an insurance plan, but a cost-sharing plan. I've been a part of it since I was at home with my parents, and it is a great help. I won't go into how it works here, you can check it out at http://www.samaritanministries.org/needprocess/.

My husband was actually the one who spurred me on into getting health insurance before we got married. I was hesitant, as I thought even then, that my scoliosis would not be covered. Amazingly, it was and has been ever since. I know now that my then fiancĂ©e's suggestion was a gift from God. We would be utterly penniless if we had to pay for even one of those surgeries ourselves, let alone all seven hundred GRAND of it. It's like it says in that famous Psalm: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing." (Psalm 23:1, NIV) I really do lack nothing! He provided the way for me to receive the treatment I needed before I even knew I would need it.

Well, if you ever can't find me, I'll be living in this 5 bedroom 3 and a half bath mansion I could buy with the $700,000.00 inside me...
According to the listing, this elegant lake-front custom home features granite counter-tops and a 3 car garage...
This home is being sold for $700,000.00 which equals the sum of the cost of all my surgeries.

when He says no...

It's been 10 weeks since my surgery, and it seems that I have come to a place that requires great endurance and patience. To be perfectly honest, even with all the smooth sailing of my recovery, I have had moments of great frustration, and several mini-pity parties. Last Saturday was one of those days where I was just exhausted from this experience, and from the 4 years preceding it. I can't remember what it's like not to be in some sort of pain or discomfort. I have been so limited physically for the last 4 years, and the pain has affected how I work, where I go, and has affected several relationships. It has been a difficult road to walk. I have either been having a surgery or recovering from one every year that I've been married to my husband, and that has had it's challenges as well. All this to say, last Saturday was one of the days where I look around at everything I've been through, and how long the road looks in front of me, and I just wanted to breakdown and cry. I get jealous of people who are able to walk around with never a thought about how long they'll be able to sit in a chair, or how they'll pick up a piece of paper off the floor. I am not saying my pain or limitations are the hardest or most painful by any means. I just get tired sometimes, and when you're tired it's harder to carry whatever load you're meant to hold.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Ash Wednesday is set aside to be a day of solemn contemplation of the fleetingness of our lives. The ashes are to remind us that "Man is dust, and unto dust you will return." I was thinking last night about this tradition, and was reminded how even though what I'm going through right now is so hard, and the things I have gone through have been so hard, ultimately my suffering is not without a purpose, and it will not last forever. Someday, when I am completely healed in every way, I will know all the reasons why God set me on this path of struggle. And I am comforted by that. Sometimes I want to know all those reasons clearly, right now. To be sure, I have seen many fruits from this experience, and the last 4 years. But if I am completely honest I don't understand why He chose not to heal me miraculously, or keep my curves from progressing, or even why I had to have so much pain. I can vividly remember laying in my bed with that horrible back-brace as a teenager praying fervently that God would make my spine straight. I would check every morning to see if He had healed me. And every morning, my curves were still there. Once my pain began seriously 4 years ago, I had friends and family praying for healing, and I have had hands laid on me, and of course I asked repeatedly that I would be healed in great faith. I believe my God can do anything He wants, and never doubted that He could make my crooked spine straight. You may have never noticed this verse at the top of my blog, but it has been my cry for many years: " Yahweh, heal me, for my bones are troubled!" (Psalm 6:2). Years went by and somewhere along the way I began to feel that God was not ignoring my pleas for a straight spine, or that He was refusing to answer my petitions. I believe that He answered my requests, but He answered with a No. After I got this sense, (I would say it was probably the Holy Spirit's whispers) I started to change my mindset from "I want to be free from this problem", to "how am I going to deal with this problem that is not going to go away overnight?"

I do believe God tells us no. As imperfect parents seek to do what's best for their children, so the Perfect Father knows what is best for us, even when we don't. Good parents discipline their children, and force them to endure some unpleasant things that are for the betterment of their children. For example, a loving parent allows her precious baby to have painful shots to prevent that baby from getting wasting diseases like diphtheria or tetanus. Only a foolish person would say "I can not endure seeing my child in any pain, so I will not allow them to have these preventative shots." Parents understand that the small amount of temporary suffering will prevent a greater, life-threatening suffering later on. Parents also force their children to wear braces, or glasses, or anything that is difficult and uncomfortable for a period of time, because it will make their children's lives better in the long run.

I have seen enough of this world and all the misery and suffering to know that pain and evil abound. I have to believe in a God that has the power to redeem all of that evil and pain and turn it into something good. Some say, "how could a loving God allow us to suffer?" I can't honestly say I can see the good in everything, or why God allows some things to be. However, my answer to that question is: because He loves us, our suffering is not without purpose. He alone can give meaning to even the most horrible and tragic events. I shudder to imagine a life where my pain and suffering is just random and serves no purpose. I would have become very depressed and may have decided my life was not worth living in my darker moments if I did not have hope. This passage comes to mind as a wonderful example of a request that is not wrong, being answered with a negative:

"Then Jesus went with His disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with Him, and He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me." Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will." (Mat. 26:36-39)

Jesus was about to face torture, death on a cross, and for the first time in history He would be covered with our sins and separated from His Father. He was troubled and sorrowful, asking if there was any other way for salvation to be brought to the world. We know that Jesus was hung on a cross, and so we know God answered this request with a no. When I see that God answered His perfect Son with a no, I am comforted in two ways. For one, even Jesus, in His perfect humanity, desired that His suffering would pass.  And two, we see that because God answered Jesus with a no, we have His salvation and forgiveness through Christ's death and resurrection.

I believe that if God answers my request with a no, it is because the thing I must go through will provide me with a greater blessing than what I would have had if He said yes. In other words, I have to trust that He really does "work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) It is a tough pill to swallow when the road before us is paved with pain, hurt, and uncertainty. But, and this is what gets me through, He promises to be here with us, and support us through our trials. That's the beauty of it. We don't have to carry our suffering all by ourselves. We have the strongest Father to carry us and our pain when we can't take another step. I love this verse, as it captures my heart when I'm hurting:"When I said, "My foot is slipping," Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me." Psalm 94:18


I believe God is healing me. It is just not in the way I would have chosen for myself. It is another example of His grace in telling me "No, I will not heal you miraculously overnight. Instead, I will give you the straight spine you need and desire with rods and screws and through a surgeon's hand. And I will strengthen you and give you peace as you endure these pains. You will know pain, and be able to see other's pain and know what they go through. You will be able to help others because you have gone through this, and you will be a blessing to them in their pain."

I feel that is what He has spoken to me, and I hope that I will grow up into the challenge of being a blessing to others in their suffering. And ultimately, I must remember when my pain is strong, that my body and my pain are temporary. One day they will be dust again, and I will be whole and painless, dancing with my Savior...

easy does it...

Well, I've come to a strange part of my recovery. I am no longer in tons of pain, which is wonderful. I have been weaning myself off the hydrocodone, and think I should be only taking it at night by the end of next week. I am still taking a muscle relaxer every 8 hours, and will probably continue to for a few more months. I am so grateful to have had such a smooth recovery, and to be doing so well overall.

The strange part is that I am not in a ton of pain, but I am still unable to do a lot. I found that out the hard way last week. My cabin fever got the best of me, and I did waaaay too much 3 days in a row and wound up really irritating my bad nerve.(I have a nerve that is still not completely healed from a herniated disc over 3 years ago, which causes painful sciatica down my left leg.) How I "overdid it" was walk for 45 minutes outside, go look at a new car (we're in the process of buying a new car for me), and go out to dinner all in one day. Not actually a whole lot compared to what most people do every day. But then I did basically the same thing 2 more days in a row. I could tell my leg was hurting, but I didn't want to slow down. I am still paying for it over a week later. My doctor says nerves are the slowest healing parts of our bodies. They heal at about a rate of a millimeter a MONTH. ugh. I could use your prayers for that nerve. It's very frustrating to have that pain, especially because my back pain is so minimal, if my nerve wasn't hurting I would hardly be in pain at all! I did call my doctor just to make sure I didn't mess anything up, but he reassured me that I had just overdone it, and reminded me that my body is still adjusting and that nerve in particular is very sensitive. It mostly hurts when I'm sitting up, it doesn't bother me much when I'm walking or laying down. I really hope it calms down soon!
Charlie and I during some "down" time
I have been able to go back to work (I work from home) part time, and that has been wonderful. Being able to occupy my mind and feel like I'm accomplishing something has been very encouraging. My days right now consist of alternating between wearing my bone growth stimulator, doing walking laps around the house, and laying down resting for an hour or two at a time. When I have the stimulator on, I try to do things that require being up, like folding laundry, eating meals, or taking short walks. I am now able to very carefully unload the dishwasher (if the dishes aren't too heavy) and I managed to cook my first meal since my surgery last night! And by cook I mean use my crockpot. I made a yummy chicken dish that is super easy. I don't think I'll be using the oven for a while, it's too hard for me to get things in and out and I think it would be dangerous. The crockpot is perfect because it sits on the counter, and I don't have to bend to reach it. I did discover it's too heavy for me to move or clean, so Drew will have to help me with that. But at least I can make dinner!

Here's what I made last night, I call it "Crockpot Spicy Chicken"

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 1/3 Table spoons Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast
  • 2 cups water
Mix ingredients and pour over chicken in the crockpot. Cook on Low for 4 hours. And that's it! Super easy. If I can do it on drugs, you can do it no problem =)

I usually serve it with brown rice mixed with vegetables, but I didn't have any rice so I made whole wheat noodles instead, and it was pretty good. I do like the rice better though.

It's hard finding the right balance between doing as much as I can, and overdoing it. But I am happy to be able to do simple things more and more. Not being able to take care of yourself is challenging, and I am reminded every day what a blessing it is that I will not always be where I am right now.