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September ...TIME FOR CHANGE!
For most Mom's, September is the month full of change. Our children return to school, start new schools, start new activities and a lot of new friends and routines. It can be liberating, enerrgizing, nervewarcking and hectic.
This September is full of BIG changes for me. My daughter returned to college early and couldn't wait to get back to her life there. Yes, her life is now centered around college not home any more, as it should be at this stage. My son began college full of enthusiasm! This left me, as a single mom, home alone. Coincidently. September is also when I begin Physical Therapy to wean off my neck brace. All of the above are extremely liberating and exhilarating but at the same time scary and challenging.
I am now officially an "empty-nester". (Doesn't that sound so old? The funny thing is I don't feel old...despite my two prosthetic hips and neck hardware literally holding my head on) I think being an empty-nester is harder for single moms. We don't start a thrilling second honeymoon with our husbands. We start our life alone. While I am THRILLED my children are in the colleges they chose and they are happy, I am sad for me. I am often asked "So, what are you going to do with your life now?" The truth is, I have no idea.
I had to take a break from the radio program because of my broken neck, surgery, while also managing two kids, college, a home along with family issues and illnesses. The question now is, do I go backwards and try to reboot the radio show? Or do I look to move in a new direction?
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SURGERY UPDATE June 21, 2014 - On April 10th of this year, I underwent a c1 c2 cervical spinal fusion with a bone graft from my hip. It was a difficult surgery with an even more difficult recovery. I spent several days in ICU and was sent home in a brace with instructions to do pretty NOTHING. I that is what I have been doing for the past 2.5 months. I am not allowed to bend, lift, stretch, reach, twist, etc. I can't use a treadmill, go for walks or even use a stationary bicycle. I have to wear a collar/brace 24 hrs a day. I have to wear a bone stimulator 4 hours a day. I think what has been the worst part of this process is that I can't not take my arthritis medication as it interferes with the bone graft "taking" so this leaves me in considerable pain, stiffness and swelling because I have arthritis in just about every joint in my body. I have resigned myself to the fact that this is a long recovery. I return to the surgeon next month at which time I pray he tells me there has been significant bone growth and I can begin physical therapy.
If you are reading this, you probably know I am having “issues” with my neck. If you know me, you know I have had issues with my neck since I was a kid. (I had an accident that resulted in a hairline fracture of my neck. I fell out of a wagon. lol) According to the doctors, this childhood fracture failed to heal properly.
Over the past 6 months my usual pain has increased substantially. After doctors,scans, more doctors, more scans, it was determined that I have a fracture of of C-2 vertebrae. This is the vertebrae with the piece that sticks up (dens). Your head sits atop the C-1 vertebrae. The C-1 vertebrae rotates around the dens. In my case, the dens has broken off and is now a separate piece making the neck very unstable. The technical term for this is "Os Odontoideum"
Because my neck is unstable, it makes me very vulnerable to catastrophic injury. A minor fender bender or a fall (which is more likely due to balance and dizziness I also have now), any minor injury could cause catastrophic injury to the spinal cord. Not a good way to go through life.
What does this mean? Two neurosurgeons agree the neck has to be stabilized. (If it were just a matter of pain relief, that would be one thing, but that is not the case.) How do they stabilize a neck? They put pins/screws into both sides of the C-1 and C-2 vertebrae attached to rods. They then add bone that would be harvested from my hip. The goal is for the bone to fuse the two vertebrae making them stable.
Because I also have osteoporosis, there is some concern about the bone graft being successful so I would also need a bone stimulator machine for a few months.
Once the surgery is complete, I would be in a neck brace/collar for several months. It is painful and takes months to heal. I will also permanently lose the ability to turn my head. My neck will no longer be able to rotate laterally. I am assured I will be able to drive again and that I will get used to turning my body instead of my head/neck.
As you can imagine this whole thing is overwhelming and scary as hell. It is coming at a horrible time. I am trying to sell my home and move. My kids are still dependant on me for some things and have a lot coming up. (My daughter needs to be driven back and forth to school, my son will be going to prom, graduation, etc…) I am not sure when I can best schedule this to accommodate our lives. (Mostly, I am scared as hell) In the meantime, the dr has suggested I wear a neck brace and gave me a RX for that. I suppose if it ever stops snowing, I will have to go get fitted for that. I know I am going to be embarrassed and self concious about it, but I guess I better get used to it.
I really thought when all this started I just needed some physical therapy.
Happy New Year!
We all seem to enjoy taking stock of our lives this time of year. I guess it helps us measure and weigh the good and bad against what went wrong and what went right! I guess we try to use this evaluation to help us move forward towards new goals. So….here I go!
If I had to use one sentence to describe 2013, it would be “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
The spring of 2013 brought good things. I was kicking ass in my fitness goals. I was on track with both my healthy eating and committed to an exercise routine without falter.
I stepped out of my comfort zone and signed up to campaign for Cory Booker. It was such a thrill to meet him several times and to work with the great people who also supported him. It was a wonderful experience to go campaigning with my daughter. My daughter and I also went to see President Obama speak at the shore, another great shared experience.
I was invited to participate in a new show called Tainted Dreams! It was such an honor and thrill to get to “play” with the pros. I loved every second of my time on the set. (To see official sneak peak of pilot episode, click here!)
My kids and I were able to build memories with a few mini vacations in the spring and early summer to Baltimore and Atlantic City. There is something so heartwarming about watching my children get along so well, behaving like young men and women! I think they call it maturity. It is lovely.
My friend Anthony returned to NYC with "My Big Gay Italian Wedding" and "My Big Gay Italian Funeral". I attended Mudderella with 5 of the most inspiring women I know. I had a birthday celebration to top all other birthday celebrations thanks to my amazing friends Brian, Keith and Kim with special guests Anthony and Scott. I watched my son go to Prom. The year definitely had some highlights. (Sometimes we have to make the effort to remember the good times)
My lil radio show was really picking up momentum! I enjoyed some wonderful guests including Nia Vardalos, Terri Ivens, Alicia Minshew, Kathy Wakile, Rosie Pierri, Jacqueline Laurita, etc… I was even named a Featured Host on Blog Talk Radio (one of the many platforms that broadcast my show). Producing, writing, promoting and hosting a weekly radio show is a lot of work for me, but my efforts were paying off. I was proud of the product I was creating.
Then, it all came to a miserable crashing halt. Please understand, I am not looking for pity, I know my struggles are no bigger than everyone else’s. We all have our struggles. Turns out my biggest problem was my own ability to deal with all of it. I became overwhelmed. I crashed and burned.
More than once, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and tried again. There was blow after blow this year. And paperwork. OMG the paperwork was endless. I sadly determined that in order to deal with the many issues facing my family, I had to step away from my fun projects and focus solely on my family situation. That meant my radio program had to be put on hold.
As I mentioned previously, I had to swallow my pride and seek public assistance for my son. I had to sign my son up for state's health insurance benefits after all of our health insurance was cancelled. It is a blessing and a curse. While I am grateful he is covered, the process was frustrating, humiliating and humbling not to mention lengthy. It took over 4 months of aggravation and paperwork to get him covered.
I also was forced to put my home up for sale. The truth of the matter is, I have never loved my home. But, it has always been my children’s home. It is the only home they have ever known. The idea of being forced from it left me and my children sad and feeling cheated.
I went through no less than three lawyers this year. And yes, three is a charm. I finally found a lawyer who understands my needs and has the expertise to meet them. She also has the compassion to understand the urgency of my situation. Navigating the legal system is an exercise in futility, frustration and basically not at all fair or just. It is extremely time consuming and emotional. Having legal representation not suited to your particular needs can further complicate the already unbearable process. And just being "right" means very little in the courts.
My children were also hurt by the events of this past year. That, obviously, was the hardest part for me. It was frustrating to feel so helpless. I couldn’t do much to change the situation and seeing them hurt, for no reason of their own, was excruciating to me.
Additionally, someone I care for deeply has become ill. It feels selfish to whine about how sad it makes me when they are the one who is suffering, but it does make me sad. I don’t want someone I love to suffer. The news was heartbreaking to me. It was like getting punched in the stomach and having the wind knocked out of you.
I also allowed certain people in my life some "space". I decided to stop being the one to always make the effort, I would instead wait to hear from them. I haven't heard from these people all year. Clearly, I now know where I fit in their life. Sad to come to the realization but liberating to move on.
Court dates, trying to sell a house, trying to find a house to buy, searching for colleges, finding health insurance, and having some health issues myself along the way, combined with all the usual challenges that we all face from time to time, made this year one of the worst years I can remember. I don’t think I have ever cried as much or as often as I did this past year.
To end the year, my Aunt Anne passed away the day after Christmas. I was not aware she had been ill which made coming to terms with the loss even more difficult for me. She will always have a very special place in my heart. I still can’t believe she is gone. I still can’t believe I didn’t get that one last visit with her. I still can't believe I will never see her again in this life. We lost a woman who definitely made this world a better place, a more beautiful place. Her beauty, dignity and grace will be missed by many.
I am ready for 2014.
I recently had some good news with my househunting. I still have to find a buyer for my home and make an offer on the new home, but I think I found a place that is right for all of us. That makes me happy. I still have come to terms with the idea of moving and figuring out how to downsize. I actually like the idea of a fresh start. While I wasn’t thrilled to have this change forced upon me, once I allowed myself to get comfortable with the idea, I have to say, I am sort of excited about it! (Well, living in a new place is growing on me, I am still dreading the idea of selling and emptying this home).
My son has had several acceptances to college along with offers of scholarships! My daughter is killing it at school and she is about to travel to the United Kingdom with her college - something she has always dreamed of doing! Nothing makes a Mom happier than knowing her children are happy and thriving despite life's circumstances.
I also recently enjoyed a small victory in terms of my legal issues! At this point, any and all progress is greatly appreciated. While I still have more work ahead….I finally feel a glimmer of hope.
I have been invited to collaborate on some interesting projects which is always such an honor and so much fun. I am hoping I have more time for the “good” stuff in 2014.
There is still a lot of work ahead of me, but knowing I am finally making progress inspires and excites me. Even the small victories along the way have helped to give me just enough traction to keep pushing forward. Life has a natural ebb and flow. Based on the scope of 2013’s ebb, I feel I am poised to see some major flow in 2014! The trajectory should be phenomenal.
So here’s a toast to all of us. Let’s toast to love and loss, to defeat and hope, to family and friends. Let’s promise to help each other more and worry less. Let’s move forward into 2014 with the best intentions to minimize harm and promote joy. Yes?
Share with me your reflections of 2013 and dreams for 2014?
Topic: MomsThoughts Blog
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