Monday, October 1, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

In the wee hours of this morning, I turned 40 years old! I know not everyone gets excited about this, but I am thrilled. I believe there are a variety of reasons for this and I will list them below:

  1. I am happy with where I am in life. I am certainly not doing what I thought I would be doing, considering marriage and family were not high on my priority list and I certainly never thought I would be a SAHM. However, I love it and would not want to be doing anything else.
  2. I look decent. (Yes, I admit to being vain!) There are certainly areas that need improvement, but I have accepted the fact that this is the way I am and that's just life!
  3. I FEEL GREAT. This one is the most important to me. Not to discredit my marriage and family, but with what I have been through the last ten years of my life, I was afraid at times I would not be able to accomplish #1. Honestly, I was afraid I would have no decent quality of life at all. For my 30th birthday, Motorcycle Guy, Big E and I went to Florida. When I got home, I thought I had a sinus infection, but it turned out not to be. I started having almost unbearable symptoms of a neurological birth defect that I discovered I had while I was in high school. I had had symptoms on and off for my whole life, but at the age of 30, the symptoms were so bad I wasn't sure how much I could handle. I was having excruciating and debilitating headaches, I couldn't bend over without having vision blackouts, hearing loss and crushing headaches. I am not sure anyone around me ever really knew how bad it was for me. I'm not even sure I knew how bad I felt until I started feeling better many years later. My only option, according to my neurosurgeon was to have surgery, which in his words, "may or may not fix the problem." So who really elects brain surgery, it's not exactly a tonsillectomy! I decided to choose alternative healthcare which helped me keep my symptoms less intense, though never gone. While pregnant with Sous Chef in 1999, my symptoms improved significantly. Shortly after he was born, they were back. In April of 2001, I completely blacked out while at the Children's Museum and had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. While waiting for the ambulance, I could not remember things like my primary doctor's name, my neurosurgeon's name and I was not physically able to dial my cell phone to call Motorcycle Guy. I could see the numbers and I could move my hands, but I could not control them to do what I wanted. I had to have someone else dial the phone for me - thank God for programmed cell phones! Thankfully I was with friends who were able to drive my car and my children home. In the hospital I couldn't remember things and I kept asking Motorcycle Guy the same questions over and over again. The next day I had to reask them because I was more clear headed and knew I would remember finally. After tests and some good drugs (I think this may have been the beginning of my love affair with prescription pain killers and muscle relaxers!), I was told by the ER neurosurgeons that I would need surgery. After following up with a new neurosurgeon in the same practice as my previous surgeon, who had retired, I demanded a second opinion. As far as he was concerned, I had only had a dizzy spell and there was nothing wrong with me. It took some arguing, but I got into another surgeon in the office because I knew based on my symptoms and how I felt, it was a hell of a lot more than that. My new surgeon was wonderful and he had some very specific tests completed. I did these at our Children's Hospital because a colleague of my surgeon was the "guru" of Chiari Malformations. I actually asked if he could do the surgery, but he only took patients under the age of 18. Anyhow, five months after my incident at the Children's Museum and many tests later, I had my first brain surgery. It was not without complications, mainly meningitis four days after getting out of the hospital, so back I went. Also, my surgery was on September 10, 2001. When I woke up in ICU on September 11, 2001, I watched the terrorist attacks live on the Today Show. This was NOT a good way to begin my recovery. After eight total days in the hospital, I went home again and began my recovery, which included lots of rest, drugs and physical therapy. For about 8 weeks or so, I only saw my kids when my parents or my in-laws would bring them by to visit. They were traveling between the two. It took me over a year and lots of traditional and alternative medical care to get me feeling 100%. Fast forward to 2004, CJ has joined our family and is 11 months old and we have moved to KS. I end up in the ER and was admitted to the hospital only to be told I have to have brain surgery #2 to insert a shunt to drain the fluid build up being caused by a cyst. Yes, we knew it was there and a shunt had been talked about in the past, but it was decided at that time that my major symptoms were from the malformation. Apparently, now that that was cleared up, the cyst decided to rear it's ugly head. Though my symptoms were nothing like the ones from years before, surgery was a requirement or the fluid buildup would continue to cause more serious problems. This surgery was much easier, but the recovery was just as difficult because the doctor had a hard time getting the shunt flow set at the rate that was good for me. It was originally too fast, which drained too much fluid (opposite of what my problem was prior to surgery) and basically my brain was crashing around in my skull without any cushion. Talk about pain resulting in lots of drugs resulting in vomiting. Again, I was terrified this is what my life would be like.
  4. Fast forward to 2007, my 40th birthday. Today I celebrate not only my birthday, but the fact that I am headache free, minus the normal headaches that everyone gets. Years back, I never thought I would see the day. I survived and I am pain free! Hooray for me.
    So today, I am 40! I am eternally grateful and look forward to the next 50 (hopefully) healthy years of my life!


  1. I absolutely cannot believe there are NO comments for this story! You are an AMAZING, resilient woman, and I'm so glad you pointed me here.

  2. i don't know if i can comment on something so old, but i'll give it a shot. HOLY SMOKE! no wonder you were thrilled to turn 40. that is an AMAZING story. i can't imagine the strength you needed to get through so much. i am glad you hung in there. you're one heck of a woman!