Saturday, December 27, 2014

When In Doubt, Trust God. (Health Update)

To say that these past few weeks have been crazy, would be an understatement. 

Considering my history, this isn't the worst thing I have gone through.. but it's been a really physically and mentally exhausting week or so.

This "episode" started about a week and a half ago. I had been up the entire night with my usual abdominal pain and unbearable nausea.. but I just knew that something wasn't right. At around 7am, I decided to go to the ER. I was too sick to make it up to Newton (it's about an hour away and all of my doctors and specialists are up there).. so I just went to the local hospital.

They were able to get my pain and nausea under control, but my liver function tests were through the roof. I've had problems with high and abnormal liver function tests (since I had my gallbladder out) but they always went back to normal. Normal liver function tests should be under 50.. mine were in the 250's. They did an ultrasound of my bile duct and it came back normal... so they sent me home and had me follow up with my PCP and Dr. Levitzky (my gastroenterologist).

I was able to get in to see my PCP the next week (this past Monday) and he sent me right back to the ER, because I was still in so much pain and I needed more extensive tests done. Thankfully, I was already at the Newton-Wellesley hospital, so I didn't have to drive anymore or travel. They set me up with my pain/anti-nausea meds but nothing was touching my pain. My entire right side was stinging with pain and every time I moved, the pain skyrocketed. They took blood right away to check my liver function tests, but they came back normal. Part of me was relieved, but I was not surprised.. because they have fluctuated over the years. I was still in so much pain, but so tired and about to fall asleep when I was surprised by Dr. Levitzky. He out of nowhere showed up in the ER to see me. He was supposed to have the week off but came out of his way to see me in the ER. He wanted to check on me and told me that it was time to go through with the bile duct surgery that we have discussed for the past year or so. He was concerned about my liver tests in the past, but he's a pretty conservative doctor.. so he always wanted to wait on the surgery until we absolutely had to do it. He has the ER doctor give me a GI cocktail and another liquid medication that he prescribes me for abdominal pain just to try all of my options. Nothing worked. I was in agony. I was so blown away that Dr. Levitzky came to see me. Every time I have been in the hospital, he has gone out of his way to check on me.. he never fails to show what a great doctor and guy he is. I was so thankful and it made me feel better that he knew what was going on, when it was going on. He could see how sick I was and how I just couldn't take it anymore.

They finally decided to admit me and keep me for observation and pain control. It was about midnight before they got me up to a room. The care teams there are so amazing. I've never had a bad or rude doctor, nurse, or even CNA at that hospital. I always know that I am in good hands. 

I didn't sleep the first night I was in the hospital. At the crack of dawn, they came to draw blood. Bam. My liver function tests were in the 250's again. The hospitalist that admitted me came up to see me and let me know that one of Dr. Levitzky's colleagues from gastroenterology would be up to see me at some point in the day to evaluate me. 

Thank goodness it was Dr. Bailen who came to see me. Dr. Levitzky works with quite a few different gastroenterologists and Dr. Bailen has helped me before when he has been the doctor on call. He made the call to put me on a new medication that controls intestinal and abdominal muscle spasms and scheduled me for my surgery with Dr. Levitzky this next week. He also ordered an MRCP, which is an MRI.. but specifically for the digestive organs, bile duct and pancreas.

My pain level was finally coming down and they got me comfortable enough to go be transported downstairs for my MRI. I have a really tough time laying on my back.. my abdomen goes crazy when I am on my back, so it was tough getting through the MRI, but I did. It was kind of sad that I've had so many MRI's and the tech remembered who I was. But he was super sweet as always.

If there was one thing under control, it was my nausea. IV Zofran works WONDERS and that combined with my Reglan (for gastroparesis) almost always knocks the nausea. They kept me for another night, which upset me because I really didn't want to be in the hospital on Christmas Eve. I wanted to finish out the Christmas season at work and then spend the evening at church and then with my family.

I woke up on Christmas Eve and they came to draw more blood. The hospitalist that had been working on my case then came into see me. She shared my MRI results. The good news was that there were no visible stones in my bile duct, but it is completely narrowing and almost closed off at the bottom. It's likely a result of getting my gallbladder out almost two years ago. It's what was likely causing my liver function tests to be abnormal. So it was definitely a right call getting me set up for surgery.

At that point (late Christmas Eve evening) I was able to tolerate clear liquids and oral pain meds. It was time to go home until my surgery. (hopefully)

Surgery is scheduled for this Monday. I requested my pain management doctor (Dr. B) to be my anesthesiologist for the procedure. I'm praying that I get her. She is so sweet and has helped me a lot since I've been seeing her. It would make me feel so much more comfortable knowing that I have my actual pain doctor doing my anesthesia while my gastroenterologist does the surgery.

The surgery will consist of widening my bile duct, removing any stones that may be in there and cutting out a few muscles that are closing it up at the bottom and spazzing and causing severe pain. They may or may not keep me overnight, the doctor said that it depends on how the surgery goes. I was told that my surgery is risky in my case, because I have a lot of scarring from getting my gallbladder out and because I am young. They are also keeping a close eye on me, because I go into very high SVT (heart rate in the 150-200's) every time I am under anesthesia. The operation has about a 50/50 chance of giving me ultimate relief from pain and I have a 30% chance of developing pancreatitis. I am praying HARD that this is the answer to a problem that I've had for a while. I trust God. I trust my doctors. I trust this hospital and I am just staying positive about this.

I was discharged late Christmas Eve and was SO happy to be home for Christmas. I know how so many people ARE in the hospital for Christmas and it just breaks my heart. I wish that there was no sickness in this world and people could be pain-free and home with their families always.

It's been really tough to stay out of the hospital these past few days. While I have medications to manage my pain and nausea, they don't always work. I'm trying so hard to hang in there and be a trooper until Monday. I keep thinking "I can do this" and "God's got me" .. 

I just want to say that I feel SO blessed to have so many caring people around me. I had sweet friends who came to visit me at the hospital, sent me flowers, gifts and cards and who prayed for me and were there to encouraged me. I have been at one of my lowest points these past few weeks, but am beyond thankful for the people who have been there to lift me up.

I don't understand a lot of things and I don't understand why things like this happen.. but I do believe that God will use this for a greater good. I know He is watching over me. I refuse to give up on my faith, because it has gotten me through so much over the past few years.

I want to encourage everyone to keep their faith always. I want to encourage everyone to never give up. I want to encourage everyone to keep going.. even when you feel like you can't go on. One day this will all make sense, I truly believe that.

It's hard to be my upbeat, positive and silly self right now.. but I have to trust that God will get me through this. There's nothing else to it. 

Thank you everyone for the prayers, the thoughts, the love and the support. I feel so thankful not only for the sweet people in my life.. but for the AMAZING medicine that the city of Boston has to offer. I would be nowhere without my hard-working doctors. I must keep a thankful heart, even when I feel like giving up.

"In the middle of my little mess, I forget how big I'm blessed."

As far as my gastroparesis goes, that's a whole other ballgame. I'm sill struggling a lot, but my medications and diet (soft foods and liquids) have been helping me. The main focus right now is this surgery and getting my severe abdominal pain under control. It's tough, because I have so many GI issues going on, and it's tough to focus on them all at the same time. My IBS and gastritis have been under control (Thaaaaaaanks medications!).. so I am thankful for that.

Like I said, one day this will all make sense. It is my prayer that these trials help me become a better doctor one day. I can't wait until the day when I can take care of my patients the way that my doctors have been able to take care of me. I can't wait for the day when I can relate to my patients and give my ALL into being the best doctor that I can be.

Again, thank you everyone for the support. God bless each and every one of you.



Friday, December 12, 2014

Keep Moving Forward

"An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it will launch you into something great. So just focus, keep aiming, and hang in there."

We all experience difficulties and we all experience trying times. We can't let fear win though. We must hold onto faith. Fear looks back & stays stuck. Faith keeps moving forward, knowing that the path will eventually present itself. Don't be afraid. Trusting God brings life, and believing brings rest. Stop trying to figure everything out. It's not our job. God's got it covered. How relieving is that?! So just enjoy everything that today brings. 
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
- Joshua 1:9

I can tell you right now that there is NO way that I would be able to make it through this life without having strong faith. In the past, have been at rock bottom many times. In the past, have wondered if I could really go on. In the past, I have wondered why negative things have happened to me. 

There was always this little thing inside of me that kept telling me to hang in there and keep on keeping on. I knew that I just had to somehow trust God, even though I at the time didn't understand why I was going through difficulties. 

Looking back and realizing that I got through it inspires me to tell YOU that you can get through anything and everything. If you're going through a difficult time, you just have to keep hanging in there. It will get better. It always does.

Your best days are not behind you. They are in front of you. CS Lewis says it best: "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." .. Get rid of low expectations. Don't make little plans for your life, and don't have little dreams! You have everything you need to fulfill your God-given destiny. You're all full of potential and CAN change the world. Believe today that you have what it takes. If you're going through challenging times, you can and will overcome them :)

If you want to listen to a few REALLY encouraging songs (a few of my favorites) check out:

- "Hold On" By TobyMac
- "Get Back Up" By TobyMac
- "Overcomer" By Mandisa
- "Rise Above It" by Lock, Stock and Barrel

And now for the health update! It's been kind of a crazy week. I had quite a few doctors appointments.

I saw my gastroenterologist this week. It was just a quick follow up since I saw him three weeks ago. The antibiotics ended up helping my gastroparesis a little bit, but it was only a 10 day treatment. We will see what happens now that I'm not taking the antibiotics anymore. I'm still keeping up with my Reglan, but my doctors are just keeping a close eye, because of the dangerous side effects. I will continue to take it until it becomes an issue. It's my best option for gastroparesis treatment right now. My nausea has been behaving with the lovely help of my good friend Zofran (thank you, thank you). He adjusted one of the medications that I take for GI nerve pain, so I am hoping that with lowering the dose, some of the negative side effects (extreme drowsiness) will go down. Just keeping my fingers crossed that my pain doesn't flare up and that I can tolerate the lower dose. It gets really confusing with being on so many medications, because the side effects overlap and they cause other issues. I just try to make the best of it and trust that my doctors are keeping them in line.

I saw my new PCP this week too and he is AWESOME. My grandfather was actually a very well known cardiologist in the Boston area, and he happened to share a practice with this doctor. When he was finishing his residency, my grandfather was his mentor. When I had my appointment with him this week, he was telling me ALL kinds of stories about my grandfather and how he practiced medicine. My grandfather passed away when I was 5, so the only memory I have is the stories that people tell me. It's a blessing to have a new primary care doctor that is such a close family friend. He did an EKG and was a concerned about my high resting heart rate, but he also knows that I have a history of SVT and rapid heart rates. He is going to keep an eye on it and wants me to get regular EKG's at his office.

Oh. He also looked at my knee (since Dr. Rockett released me in October) and was concerned about the amount of fluid still in my knee. Even though I'm 6 months post-op, I shouldn't have any swelling or fluid in the knee right now. I let him know about the soreness that I've been having over these past few weeks, so he wanted me to be seen by Dr. Rockett as soon as possible.

I walked to the other part of the hospital and Dr. Rockett was able to see me right away. He did all kinds of bending and twisting of my knee and said the ACL felt perfect which was GREAT news. (I'm telling you, the guy is a brilliant surgeon and I will never trust anyone else with my joints).. but he thinks the pain I'm having is likely tendinitis in my hamstring (they did a hamstring graft for my ACL reconstruction) and/or fraying/tearing in whats left of my meniscus. He also gave me a cortisone shot (I can't take oral anti-inflammatory medications)  which should help the pain/soreness from this issue and the fact that I'm still healing from my surgeries. I'm following up with him in a month, and we will go from there. I'm just hoping that the shot helps my soreness and pain and that I can just move on from this. 

While I had a few setbacks this week, I still plan on moving forward. That's seriously all we can do. I'm so thankful for my amazing doctors, the hospital that I go to, my family, my friends, my job, the opportunity to get an education and just the little things in life. My trials have only helped me find happiness in the simplest things. I have a lot of hope for my future. I may have more setbacks, but I will still keep moving forward.

God bless all of you. xo

Friday, November 28, 2014

In The Middle of My Little Mess, I Forget How Big I'm Blessed.

What a day! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with their family and friends and a safe Black Friday!

It's been an eventful few weeks for me. First off, my knee is doing AMAZING. I'll officially be 6 months post-op on Tuesday, and my recovery couldn't be going better. No pain whatsoever, even after I skated for the first time a few weeks ago. I have some soreness here and there, but it's nothing that a low-dose of pain meds and ice can't fix. I also purchased a TENS therapy machine for my home, so that has been very therapeutic as well. My goal (no pun intended) is to be back on the ice fully and playing hockey my April-May. I don't want to push myself too much, but I also am so eager to get back into playing again. March will mark one year since my injury took place. It's a little bit crazy how fast time actually flies.

I recently saw my gastroenterologist. I have been really sick since I was released from the hospital a few weeks ago. My gastroparesis has seemed to be getting worse over time, and I am running out of treatment options. I'm on the highest dose of Reglan, which can be very risky because of the side effects. I have tried altering my diet, which has helped, but I still haven't been able to eat much. My doctor understands that I'm getting worse and that there aren't many treatment options left, so he put me on an antibiotic that actually speeds up stomach motility. It's caused a lot of abdominal pain, but I have been able to eat a little bit more since I've been on it. It's only a 10 day, short-term treatment, but I am thankful that I have had a little bit of relief for this small amount of time. We will see what happens after I finish this course of antibiotics. My chronic gastritis, IBS and GI pain have been under control thanks to my usual medications. So while my gastroparesis and nausea have been a major problem lately, I am thankful that my other symptoms have been under control for the most part.

I also was finally able to see my pain doctor this week. I always get nervous for these appointments, because I don't always know what exactly is going to happen. She was extremely helpful and got me squared away with some strong probiotics that should help me a lot. She was concerned about the health of my gut even more than usual because of the antibiotics that I have been on. The nerve pain on my side has been intense lately, so we discussed different treatment and management options. She prescribed a muscle relaxer that should help any spasms in my side, which I'm okay with. I was a little bit hesitant at first, because I'm on over a dozen medications already, but she thinks that this could help. I'm still being thrown between my neurologist and general surgeon about the cause of the pain on my side. It's extremely frustrating, because all I want is a definite answer. I have to remember to keep an open mind.. I refuse to quit and I refuse to give up. I won't stop until i find answers.

When I registered for college classes at the end of this summer, I was so excited to finally start college. I don't regret starting school this year, but it has been an extreme challenge with my health. I missed quite a few classes for obvious reasons. My doctors, academic counselors and I agreed that taking online classes would be my best option. Sometimes I'm just too sick to go to class, or I have to take medications that impair my ability to drive. I'm so so so thankful that online classes are an option, and this is truly the best option for me this semester. 

It's been a really rough past few weeks health-wise, I can't lie. Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel, but I know that I can't. This is all part of my testimony. This is all part of my story. This is all shaping me into the person that God created me to be. One day, all of this will make sense. Until then, I will take what is handed to me and make the best of it.

I truly am blessed. While it's a struggle to make it through some days, I can't help but be grateful for so much. 

I don't know where I would be without my family. We have our "off" days, but at the end of the day, they have been my biggest support system through this all. There wasn't one hospital visit where my parents weren't by my side the entire time. There wasn't one sick day I had where they didn't help take care of me. There wasn't one prescription where they didn't pick it up at the pharmacy for me. There wasn't one doctor's appointment where they weren't by my side. I truly wouldn't be able to make it through this without them. 

I am thankful for each and every friend that has been there for me. I've had a lot of people leave my life, but I have had a lot of people STAY. Even when I wasn't able to be a great friend, I've had amazing people who were still there for me. My friends here at home, my friends that I've met through social media, my "spoonie" friends and my church family have been there through it all. I love each and every one of you.

Although it's never easy, I try to take the good from situations. In a way, being sick has been a blessing. It has made my passion for medicine and the medical field so deep that I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life. It is an honor to have the opportunity to see medicine from a patient's point of view. When I become a physician, I will be able to relate to my patients in a way that will help me become the best doctor that I can be. I never knew that I could be this passionate about something and I truly cannot imagine doing anything else with my life. I can't thank God enough for the opportunity to pursue this.

I'm thankful for the little things in life. Sometimes we get so caught up in this world, in this life.. that we forget to breathe. We forget to enjoy the simple pleasures that truly make us happy. Whether it's getting lost in my favorite band's music, digging into a good book, drinking a perfectly made cup of coffee, smiling at a stranger, meditating, a good night's sleep or a walk with my dog... It's all precious. There's so much to be thankful for, even then times are tough.

I want to encourage anyone who may be going through a difficult situation. Don't give up, please. No matter what you're going through, it is only preparing you for an amazing comeback. I know it's easier said than done, but one day you will look back and realize how strong you really were through all of this. Keeping your faith will get you through EVERYTHING. Trust God. Life can be hard sometimes, I get it.. but we also need to remember that God will help us if we keep leaning on Him. Don't ever give up, because no matter what is going on in our lives.. the victory is in refusing to quit. When we are struggling the most is usually when God is really really working in us.. Building our faith... making us stronger... helping us learn so that we can help others. He's not just in our lives for good times only, but for the difficult times as well! Remember that. During good times.. He is there. During bad times.. He is even closer. Never think you're alone, because you're not!! When things seem to be going slowly, that's when God could be doing some of His greatest work. It's not about you or I.. it's about learning, growing, and persevering. Galatians 6:9 tells us to never give up. So why would you want to?

Be strong. Be encouraged. Never give up.

God bless <3

Monday, November 10, 2014

I choose Growth.

I ended up being too sick to go to class (again) this evening, so I thought it would be nice to do some writing.

This weekend ended up being a huge struggle. I started to feel more sick than normal earlier in the week. I called Dr. L, because I really didn't know what to do. The side effects from all of the medications that I'm on are starting to take their toll on my body, but without the meds, I am severely sick. So he told me to keep taking the Zofran and we agreed on increasing my Reglan dosage. I still am not 100% comfortable taking the Reglan, because of the horror story side effects, but what is the alternative? For now, I will use it as a treatment option and go from there at another time. 

Come Thursday, I wasn't able to eat any of the usual soft/liquid foods that my body usually could tolerate. I ended up in the hospital on Friday with abdominal pain, vomiting and dehydration. I originally had an appointment in Newton with my pain doctor, but I was too sick to go up there. I had both my gastro and pain doctor telling me to get evaluated and relief at the hospital. Thankfully, they were able to hydrate me with a few liters of IV fluids, control my nausea with the beloved IV Zofran and got my pain under control without shredding my insides with narcotics. (Narcotic pain relievers have always skyrocketed my abdominal pain. Weird, I know)

I felt relief even after just getting IV fluids in me. Because of the gastroparesis, it's tough for my body to absorb even liquids in a timely manner. If I drink a glass of water, I get full after just a few sips and can't drink anymore. I remember the days when I was sitting on the lacrosse sidelines guzzling water with my teammates in between shifts. It's amazing how I took even being able to drink water for granted. 

Spending my Friday in the hospital and weekend in bed was not part of the plan. I learned a long time ago that things don't always go according to plan. And while I was "bummed out" about missing my work's holiday party, calling in sick to work, missing class and being out of touch with the world for a few days, I have to remember that things will get better one day. 

During trying times, it's so important not to lose hope. Even if 99% of your hope is lost, it still means that you're holding onto that 1%. That 1% that you held on to could be keeping you from hitting rock bottom. I truly believe that everything we go through is meant to be. As cliche as it sounds, it's true. How do I not know that this is preparing me for something bigger and greater? Sure, I'm ill and my illnesses are chronic.. but there's some sort of meaning behind it. We may not know all of the answers right now, but they will be revealed to us one day. You just have to keep hanging on. I promise, it will all mean something one day.

I just recently finished a book that was required to read for one of my classes. It's called "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success"... it was FANTASTIC.  It talks about people having one of two mindsets: The fixed mindset focuses on avoiding challenges and obstacles, giving up, feeling the need to prove themselves over and over again and believing that effort won't change anything. The growth mindset focuses on embracing challenges, thriving on challenging situations, finding inspiration in other's successes and persisting during setbacks.

I love to read and was so happy to read this book. I think it would change the way a lot of people view things and ultimately help people. (That's just my opinion)..  The author talked about not letting our experiences define us, but USING our experiences (both positive and negative) to help us become a stronger and better person. Give your challenges the chance to help you grow. Choose growth. 

A good "spoonie" friend of mine tweeted this the other day:  "I have been through hell and back and going through hell has made me the person I am today, and I wouldn't change that for anything."

What kind of people would we be if times were always "easy"? I honestly don't know how different I would be today if I didn't go through all of this madness over these past few years. If I didn't have these experiences to shape me into the person I am today. I have a LONG way to go in becoming the person that God made me to be, but I wouldn't change my past for anything.

I have really posting on this blog and feel like it has been a big blessing. It means a lot to me that people have made the time to read about my journey and it is my prayer that inspiration is found and awareness is spread. I appreciate every single prayer, word of encouragement and feedback (even negative) that has been given to me. I can't thank you all enough.

My door is always open to answer any questions. I also am always here for prayer requests, whether it's for you or for someone else.

I see my gastroenterologist next week (finally) and am hoping that we come up with some kind of plan since my gastroparesis, abdominal pain and nausea are getting worse. My gastritis/IBS symptoms have been under control (Thaaaaaaanks meds!) Someone told me that I should start blenderizing regular meals so that I would be able to drink them. (Yeah.. let me throw that chicken salad sandwich with potato chips in the blender really quick! #NotHappening) .. I hope to work in eating some soft food and more liquids this week. Like I said, all we can do is hold on to that 1% of hope sometimes.

If y'all could take a few more minutes (I know, I'm killing ya!) and shoot over to ...   It just gives a little more info on GP and helps raise awareness. It would mean so much to me.

Take care and God Bless <3

"Hey little fighter, soon it will be brighter."

Saturday, November 1, 2014

From Ligament Tears to Tearing Up The Ice: My ACL Journey and Recovery.

"The best way out is always through." - Robert Frost

I don't like to ask God to take me out of tough situations. What good is that going to do me in the long run? How will that help me grow as an individual? How will that help strengthen me as a whole? I truly believe that the whole "point" of trials are to strengthen us as people. If we constantly asked God to remove us from trying times, and he did, then how would we ever grow? 

March 2014. I'm having the time of my life playing hockey in a pick-up league on Monday nights. Nothing fancy. Just a group of people hitting the ice for a one our practice followed by a one hour scrimmage. Two hours of ice time every week. Love it. 

There was a two-on-one coming towards my way down the ice. I remember it like it was yesterday. As a shot came at me, I extended my right leg out so quickly, I heard a pop. I felt a pop. I felt a tear. I knew exactly what it was. As one of the players came in quickly for the rebound, he fell over my leg and my leg drug under his body on the ice. At that moment in time, I knew I was done for a long time. 

I didn't know the extent of my injury, but I knew that there was something very wrong. The next day, I called my orthopedic surgeon (who did a meniscus repair on me 7 years ago. He is absolutely brilliant and was my grandfather's medical student.. and I'll never trust anyone else to hold a scalpel to any of my joints) to set up an appointment. He saw me right away. He suspected a meniscus tear.

How could Dr. Rockett ever be wrong? He ordered an MRI and sure enough, it was my second medial meniscus tear. (The first one was 7 years ago after a lacrosse injury.) When I picked up the MRI results from the hospital, I sat in the car and cried. I don't like to cry, because I'm all for the "I'M AN ATHLETE, A WARRIOR" mentality.. but it was emotional. I knew I couldn't play hockey for a while. Hockey is everything to me. My outlet, my passion. It's all I've ever known for 17 years. It's who I am. At that moment in time, I felt like it had been taken from me. How could the thing that I love the most actually hurt me? Crazy. 

Before I knew it, I blinked my eye and I was awake from my meniscus surgery. What we hoped would be a meniscus repair turned into a menisectomy (partial removal of the meniscus) because the tear didn't have a good enough blood supply to do the repair. More bad news. While Dr. Rockett was doing the arthroscopic meniscus surgery, he inspected the joint and saw that my ACL was completely torn. More bad news: I had to have a second surgery, because I only signed consent for the meniscus surgery. Yay!

Side note: When I got hurt: I saved the puck.. the other team didn't score. So I went through all of this for a good cause, right? ;)

June 2nd, 2014: It's the crack of dawn and I'm headed to the hospital for the surgery. I'm so nervous, because I have no idea what to expect. After I get checked in and brought up to pre-op, I asked who my anesthesiologist was going to be (yes, I know who the anesthesiologists at this hospital are) and they told me that it was Dr. B. I was SO excited, because Dr. B is my pain doctor that I see on a regular basis! I knew that God was looking out for me. She came in and was so glad to see that she would be taking care of me that morning. I'm telling ya... it's the little things in life. Just knowing that I had TWO doctors that knew me so well in the operating room with me gave me such comfort. I felt so thankful.

I woke up from surgery in agonizing pain. I don't remember much, except asking Dr. Rockett how long it would be until I could play hockey again.. HA!! (I actually asked him that while coming off of anesthesia... It takes a lot to get him to laugh. Mission accomplished).. They kept me in recovery all day because I went into SVT while under anesthesia. (I've had problems with 
Supraventricular Tachycardia for 6 years now and seem also always to go into it when I am under anesthesia) .. It was a long day. 

The first two nights were the worst. Pain like I have never felt before and like I could have never imagined. Every time I stood up, the pain would rush down my entire leg. It's hard for me to describe how I actually felt the first few weeks after surgery. Nothing like I've ever felt before. The most frustrating thing was not being able to do anything for myself. I'm an independent person and having other people do everything for me isn't easy. I was and am still extremely thankful that I had such great help from my family and friends. I couldn't have made it through this without them. I can't say it enough.

Physical therapy was great. I had worked with my physical therapist a few weeks before my surgeries, so we already had a little bit of a treatment plan going. After my ACL surgery, we worked on range of motion. I CRINGED every time she worked on bending my knee. Just by typing this and thinking about the pain, I am cringing. We don't have to get into that anymore.

I really just kept pushing myself and pushing myself through physical therapy. Whatever my physical therapist told me to do, I would strive to do just a little bit more. I knew that it would be painful. I knew that it would hurt. I knew that it would suck, but I knew that I HAD to do it. I knew that the pain wouldn't last forever. It's so cliche, but pain truly is temporary, and quitting truly does last forever.

When you're an athlete, you see SO many people get hurt and you never think it's going to happen to you. When it does, it changes your mentality completely. It changes YOU. As an athlete and as a person. You not only become stronger physically, but you become stronger mentally. To me, that mental strength is everything. You learn to overcome challenges. Challenges in your game AND life challenges. As much physical and emotional pain that tearing my ACL brought me, I'm glad happened. Why? Because it helped me grow. It made me stronger. It taught me how to overcome. It taught me how to help others overcome injury. It's a blessing to be able to talk others through injury and other challenges that they go through. I had the honor of helping a really sweet friend through an ACL tear and surgery this summer. We both had the hamstring graft done, so I knew exactly what pain she was going through, and I was able to talk her through it. We were able to be there for each other and help each other. 

Looking back at my injuries, my surgeries, my pain, my tears, my struggles, my ups, my downs and my recovery.. I truly can't believe I made it.. it doesn't feel real. I skated last night. For the first time since my injury and surgeries. Tomorrow marks exactly 5 months post-op, and I skated. I can't believe it. As I type this, I'm shaking my head, because it just doesn't feel real to me. 

Getting back on the ice was like nothing I could have ever imagined. For 7 months I tried to picture what that moment would be like. What the cold, crisp wind in my face would feel like again as I skate. What my lungs would feel like breathing the thin, cold air in again. What the scraping sound of my skates digging into the ice would sound like again. The second that my skates touched the ice, I smiled so big. At that moment in time, I knew that I had made it. That I was okay and that God got me through it. Everything in the world seemed to be okay again. I felt so thankful. Last night was a night that I will remember for the rest of my life. One step closer to playing hockey again!
Two days post-op vs. Last night :)

I just want to encourage anyone who is going through a rough time right now. Always remember that you are so much stronger than you are think. One day you will look back and realize how strong you really are. Even if you feel like you're hanging on by a thread, just keep hanging on. There were times where I truly didn't think that I was going to get through my injury and I did. You can do it too.

Other health updates: I see Dr. Rockett on Monday to hopefully officially get cleared to skate! I am going to be helping out with coaching a hockey team this winter and I'll be on the ice 4 days a week, so I really am hoping that he clears me. 

I also see the surgeon who took out my gallbladder a year ago. I'm still having severe pain on my right side, and I've seen several different doctors who are all colliding with each other about it. I'm hoping that he gives me an answer on Monday as to why I'm still having this pain and I'm hoping that I don't need more surgery. He's a great surgeon, but he's been difficult to deal with in the past, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Much love to y'all. Thanks for taking the time to read about my journey!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Little Bit Of History

Remember that time that I was going to blog throughout my whole ACL/meniscus surgery recovery? Me too. Those were good times.

It's not New Year's yet, but it's my resolution to keep up with this blog more. (I know I said this before.) Not only do I want to inspire, but I want to update people with my health, spread awareness about chronic and invisible illness, and just share my story with the world. You're welcome to join me in my crazy journey of life.

My ACL recovery has gone AMAZING! 4 1/2 months ago, I would have probably cried my eyes out to you saying that I wouldn't be able to get through it. I will tell you that it hasn't been easy, but it's been so worth it. With the help of my amazing orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Rockett, my physical therapist, my caring family, my loyal friends, patient co-workers and everyone else in my life.. I made it through one of the toughest situations that was handed to me. I can't wait for that moment where my skates touch the ice again. In that moment, I will realize that every tear and every ounce of pain will have been worth it. That first puck that I stop again, I will flash back to the setbacks of this injury, and realize in that moment that I bounced back from them all. I can't wait for those moments. I still can't thank everyone enough for their continued love, support, cheering, prayers and good vibes. It means the world to me. 

Now that the worst is over with my knee, I can focus on my other health issues. It was a heavy burden when I got hurt, because it did take the focus away from what I have been trying to work on for almost two years. It's funny, actually... because Friday will mark exactly two years since the madness began. I've come a long way, and I still have a long way to go.

It all started with that ER visit. I thought I had the "stomach bug".. all I needed was a doctor's note so that I wouldn't get fired from Panera Bread. In a nutshell, I didn't have the stomach bug. I had a rare, multi-septated gallbladder. Only about 60 or so cases ever diagnosed. Great. So what next? Follow up with a gastroenterologist.  That's when Dr. Levitzky came into the picture.

He's a pretty conservative doctor and I was 19 years old at the time. He didn't want a surgeon to cut into me right away, so he ruled out everything he could before he considered surgery for this "crazy" gallbladder. I went through all kinds of tests, scans, medication trials and scopes.. was treated for different conditions.. I had relief in some ways, but was still sick with a lot of pain. Fast forward to the spring of 2013.. I was in the hospital for 4 days and a surgeon finally took out my gallbladder. 

Wow! I felt instant relief. Not only was it multi-septated, but it was chronically inflamed for who knows how long. Never showed up on any of the tests. Weird.

Boom. May 2013. Two months later, I'm in the hospital again. This time with severe pain on my right side (again) and my liver function tests were through the roof. I was in the hospital for 4 days and followed up right away with Dr. Levitzky. He suspected Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction, which is usually a result of a gallbladder removal. He wanted to follow up with liver function tests next time I was in pain. So we did, and they were normal. Yay.

July of 2013. Another endoscopy. Stomach is filled with bile and chronically inflamed. The diagnosis is chronic bile gastritis. Which could or could not be a result of the gallbladder removal. Meds will help treat it. It mostly causes me a lot of pain and nausea. Sometimes it makes me really sick.. it usually just depends on the day. Usually a raw, gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach. After that diagnosis, I was diagnosed with IBS... that's a whole other ball game. We won't get into that.

This past year has just been a cluster of craziness with my stomach. I was recently diagnosed with gastroparesis. Gastroparesis translates to a partially paralyzed stomach. When I eat, food stays in my stomach for hours or days. It just sits there. My stomach just doesn't digest it. When I eat, I either get sick, am really nauseous or am in a lot of pain.. it causes a lot of bloating too.. just not a good feeling. So I don't eat meals anymore. Mostly just liquids, applesauce, broth, yogurt, Ensure shakes (half at a time), baby food puffs (because they dissolve really easily) jello, pudding, white rice, instant oat meal, cream of wheat and freeze pops. I live off of nausea medicine. It really helps though. Anyways, this disease effects a LOT of people and I just want to spread awareness about it. There currently isn't a cure and there are very little treatment options. There are very few medications that help relieve gastroparesis and one of them isn't even FDA approved in the United States. I'm currently prescribed Reglan for it, but it's a very risky medication as it can cause tardive dyskinesia. 

Along with the gastroparesis, I've still had problems with the site of my gallbladder surgery. I recently saw a neurologist again, because I'm still having severe pain on my right side.. similar to the pain before I had my gallbladder out. I see Dr. Kahan (my general surgeon) next week to hopefully get some answers as to why I might still be having this pain. He's a great doctor, so I am hopeful that I will get some answers.

I also have been working with a nurse practitioner at the Benson-Henry Institute of Mind-Body Medicine at Mass General Hospital. They focus on mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques. Sometimes all of this is too much for me to handle, and focusing on my relaxation has been really beneficial for me. I have a lot of work to do.. but hey, that's why I'm going :)

I just wanted to give everyone my "story".. sometimes I am unclear with what I am going through, so it may not make sense to anyone. Clarity is a very helpful thing, and I wanted to be clear :) 

As difficult as all of this is sometimes.. I truly feel blessed. My gastroenterologist, my pain doctor, my neurologist, my orthopedic surgeon, my general surgeon and the NP at the Benson-Henry have all inspired me in so many ways. They have gone above and beyond to give me the best care around and I truly feel lucky. I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for them. 

If you know someone who has a chronic illness, the best thing you can do is to just be there for them! You don't have to understand it.. it's okay.. because the truth is.. is that you probably won't.. and that's okay. Someone who is battling an illness (whether physical or mental) just needs love, support, a shoulder to lean on and someone to listen to them.. to believe them. It will mean the world.

I hope everyone has a wonderful night. I enjoyed writing tonight and I hope that everything I said made sense! I will update y'all with my upcoming appointments. (I see Dr. Rockett on Monday too.. I'm hoping to get cleared for skating!) Have a great night! :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Giving This A Try

First off, I'll be completely honest. I've probably had this blog set up for about a year or so.. and am just getting around to writing my first post. I never really knew what to write about, where to start or what to say. Is there supposed to be a theme? Am I supposed to write about the same thing in every post? 

Today, I feel inspired. I feel inspired to inspire others. I was talking to a good friend, and he suggested that I use a blog to tell my story and use my story to help and encourage others. It finally hit me. I now feel like I have a lot to say and I'm not drawing a mind blank anymore. I am genuinely excited to share my story. If it only encourages one person, well then that's one more encouraged person than there was yesterday. 

It's been a long, crazy and even exhausting few years for me. Looking back, I wouldn't have changed a thing. We go through different situations and trials just wishing that they never happened. Would you be the person you are today if life was just easy and perfect? Would you be the person you are today if you never went through a tough time? Would you be the person you are today if you never experienced hurt, loss, grief or upset? Whether we realize it or not, bad situations are means for growth. They help us develop strength. It took a long, long time for me to realize that.

Join me in my road to physical recovery, my road to accomplishing my dreams and my road to hopefully help other people. 

I hope everyone has the most amazing evening!