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!