Still Alive

One day, I’ll return to writing for my own sake.

In the meantime, this is what is going on right now:

Evan is thriving in middle school. The girls are swarming. It’s bad. Last Thursday, after some really strange symptoms that had been going on sporadically, we were told that they thought he had a brain tumor. More about that experience on another day. I just can’t right now. He is seeing a pediatric neurologist in a few days and we’ll hopefully get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, I am trying not to unravel in my worry by focusing my attention on the fact that the head CT was negative. I am instead focusing on other things: that–for the first time ever–this kid has friends; that girls love him and I actually have to worry about what goes on when he is not supervised with a girl, that he is now wearing small men’s clothes, that he has that goofy ‘stache coming in and his dad is going to have to teach him to shave.

Zach is…Zach. He refuses to have anything to do with a toilet. I am tired of having to buy Pull-Ups. Or worse yet, diapers. He still sleeps in a diaper because Pull-Ups leak too much at bedtime. I would let him feel that discomfort with the idea that it would motivate him, but he just sleeps through it, thus we sleep through it, and we wake in the morning to a child with a rash and blue lips from sleeping in soaked pajamas. I cannot deal with neither the grossness factor or the health risk of that. We encourage. His preschool teachers encourage. We have purchased every toilet-learning device known to man, looking for the magic one. Currently, that is this cushie Prince Lionheart insert that seems so comfy that I wish it would accommodate adults.He has no desire whatsoever. But what is he doing? He is speaking plainly, counting, saying his alphabet, (crudely) writing his name, singing songs. (Please do not mix up the order of he verses of “The Wheels on the Bus”!) In May, this was the child who could literally say nothing that a stranger could understand. So I am not sweating the potty stuff. We’ll get there. He always does, doesn’t he? He’s still my little wonder–smart, cute,  funny, sweet.  He’s just Zachy.

John is making me proud everyday, He has lost over 50 pounds since the fateful day over the summer when a doctor I respect came to me to tell me that he could have died at any second from the blockages in his heart. His BP is down. He is down to only one medication for diabetes, and that dosage even had to be cut in half. His cardiologist cleared him to run at home after he outgrew the mild exercises at cardiac rehab. His cholesterol was actually low at his last check, so his medication for that was cut in half. The beta-blacker was stopped after he exhibited no need for it. He was wearing a size 40 waist in the summer. He is down to a 34, and those are falling off, but we’re holding off on shopping for more, since he’s built up to 2-mile runs daily–any little bit of weight he has left will melt off as his endurance gets back up there. His doctor says he only needs to lose 9 more pounds to be ideal body weight. If he loses 18 more, he will be back down to his post-boot camp weight from his Marine Corps days.

And me? I’m hanging in there. I have–wait, let me count–8 more weeks left of school. I start my capstone next Saturday. My paperwork for graduation is submitted. I am off of work. Blame some little boys who cannot seem to get their dirty laundry in a hamper. I tripped on some dirty clothes and fell down the entire flight of basement stairs on my left leg, with it ricocheting off of each step on the way down. They thought stuff was torn. Instead, I found out that every piece of cartilage in there is inflamed from the trauma. So it has been injections, PT, crutches (for about 5 weeks). I am finally to the walking stage, but only for very short trips and in transit. I cannot stand or walk for long periods at all. (Read: I can limp to my class and sit in a chair, I can walk to the car and get in it, but I can’t do shopping trips, etc.) I’m just hanging in. Also, I remember lamenting on here how I hated undergrad corporate finance. It has nothing on the 600 level.

That’s all.

I’ll be a blogger again one day, I swear,


Obsessing Over…

To give just a glimpse into my ridiculously easy days right now, this is what I’m obsessing over at the moment:

The Naked Bee Orange Blossom Honey Hand & Body Lotion
The Naked BeeI would love to give you a link to this, well, because it is the bee’s knees, but it appears to only be sold by retailers and is not available or purchase directly from the company. I have eczema on my hand. Call it an occupational hazard that comes from years of harsh sanitizers, surgical scrubs for the NICU, and washing one’s hands a gazillion times a day. I have seen my family doctor and a dermatologist. I’ve tried prescriptions and over-the-counter lotions, creams, and cleansers. Some of these have been really expensive, too. Some have improved it a little, but none have really worked. So one day, having taken my lotion home from work (I usually buy a bottle to keep in my locker) to try on Zach, who also has bad eczema, I was kinda stuck. I had found this stuff the week before because a coworker was using it and it smelled so nice, prompting me to buy my own bottle in the hospital gift shop for $15.99 for an 8-ounce pump bottle.  So I tried it on my hand that one lotion-less night. Holy Cow! It worked. I’ve been using it ever since. All that is left of my eczema on my hand is a scar on my middle knuckle. If I don’t use this for a night of work, it comes back, So tonight, I couldn’t find Zach’s lotion (dye-free, unscented). If we do not slather him with lotion before putting his pajamas on, his whole body is red and itchy in the morning. So I took a chance and tried this on him. A couple of hours later, his skin is already looking better.

I googled the stuff and discovered they make a whole line of skincare products. Soaps, lotions, creams, hand sanitizers. Mind you, the stuff isn’t inexpensive, but if it works? Pshhh. So now I am going to desperately search for the body bar and hand sanitizer. I’m curious to see how it works.

Chipotle’s Adventurrito.
993926_10151685938204253_1600249411_nYep. I know, it’s cheesy. Well, here lately, with only enough cheese to taste. Ha! This is some clever marketing. I love Chipotle. And if I use a little restraint, John and I can eat here without feeling like we’ve wrecked our lives or clogged John’s newly-stented arteries. The beauty is that they give you enough food in one serving for 2 whole meals, so I either split my buttito bowl with Zach or save half for another meal. My bowl consists of chicken, fresh tomato salsa, corn salsa, romaine, brown rice, and just a teensy bit of cheese. If I’m feeling extra naughty, I’ll get a tortilla on the side and roll my own tiny burritos with it, as it is one huge tortilla. John, after the heart incident, gets a meatless bowl with 2 types of beans, brown rice, romaine, and all three of their salsas. No tortilla for him. So this meal, other than a veggie sub with no dressing at Subway, is the only quick-service meal he can eat.

So Chipotle is giving away free burritos? Hell, yes, I’m down with that. The grand prize is 20 years’ worth of free burritos (one per week, I am assuming). Other winners can win free burritos for one year. You are entered when you play the online game, whether you win or lose. To win the grand prize, you have to get all 20 of the puzzles correct. I think there might be a drawing or something for those people. These puzzles are little riddles posted online at 20:20. The 4 they have had so far have been kind of challenging. For example, the above picture is of their basket liner they are using for their anniversary, The answers to one of the riddles involved all of the integers on the liner. They didn’t tell you that, though. Instead, in the clue, they mentioned one should ponder it over a burrito or taco. Of course it was in the middle of the night and Chipotle was closed, but I happened to remember that they posted the above pic on their Facebook page, and Score! I got the puzzle correct. So now I am all geeked out over this little contest because, hey, Fatty loves her burritos!

Bailey’s Mudslide coffee creamer
0004410010766_500X500Because I realized the calorie content of my venti Mocha at the ‘Bucks. And I cannot give up on coffee. I tried the nonfat versions. I tried the soy. I tried every-damned-thing, including black coffee. I decided I am not grown up enough for black coffee. And so a splash of this. I can handle that. So long as I remember to log the calories in my little calorie counter app, I’m good. Thanks for keeping me sane, Bailey’s Creamer.

Barefoot Moscato

barefootmuscatosparklingI’m not even gonna talk about a bouquet or that other crap. I know nothing about wine, but I wanted to start learning. I’m sure that, at the whopping $13.00 I paid for the bottle of this wine, it is most definitely not high-brow. Yeah, whatevs. I mentioned to some of my wine-drinking coworkers that I wanted to learn to appreciate wine, and this was what was recommended to start with. Because though I am all women-power/ fight the patriarchy, I enjoy some good frou-frou sweet booze. And I was told this would fit the bill. And they were correct. The plan is to start here and get a little more sophisticated over time. With different wine types and vineyards.  I would like to be able to have conversations about it eventually. Because I have been elected to the board of directors for the association of women MBA’s at my university, and our introductory meeting is at a wine tasting in a few weeks. I’ve also been told that I would probably like Beringer and rieslings.  If this is your area of expertise, please leave any suggestions you may have for me.

Laughing Cow Smooth Sensations Cream Cheese Spread

Ummmmm. I love this stuff. I love that there are only 45 calories in a wedge and a whole english muffin (whole wheat, thanks) only takes me about half a wedge. The same can be said for a whole wheat frozen waffle, toasted with this and a little organic strawberry preserves–tastes delicious and only 100 calories total. I love that it travels well, so I can easily pack it for lunches or snacks at work or for trips to the park with my offspring. I love that it comes in a gazillion flavors, though I haven’t tried them yet. Hey Laughing Cow people, if you would like more free marketing, feel free to send me some free stuff and I will be glad to offer up my opinion of your fabulous products. Wink, wink. Because I am a struggling grad student and I am currently slathering this stuff on everything.

“Whodunnit” on ABC

Whodunnit_ABCI cannot look away when this show is on. Part Survivor, part Big Brother, part Clue (yeah, the Milton Bradley board game–the old version, not the new-fangled stupid stuff). Because in my mind, I am playing along, trying to guess, getting aggravated when the contestants can’t get it right.

If you haven’t watched the show, it is like a murder mystery. They get clues. Each week, another guest gets the ax, and the remaining guests have to use clues to determine how it happened. The “killer” is among them. The more wrong/ less correct they are, the more at risk they are to be the next “victim”. Some of them have resorted to tears in fear, leaving me to wonder if they are really that dumb and think ABC is going to have them murdered on set on national network television. But still, it’s entertaining, and I am all about that these days when I have no class to worry about. Even soon-to-be MBA’s don’t want to think about marketing or finance or accounting all of the time.

Devou Park Backcountry Trails- Covington, KY

devouAbout a 2-song drive from my house (it’s that close that I have no idea how many miles or minutes–I can listen to two normal-length songs!). Pack a little cooler bag of water. Some yoga pants and good shoes. All-terrain stroller in the back of the SUV. Off we go. The way the trail is designed, we can hike/ speed-walk as much or as little as we want. It’s peaceful. It’s cleansing. You can pass anyone from the elderly out getting their exercise, to young families, to serious athletes out for a trail run or bike. When it is raining, or has recently rained, the trails are closed for their own preservation, but at the same park, there is a lovely paved trail as well. We’ve walked in a light rain before, on the paved trail, only turning back when it turned into a thunderstorm. We have had days where it was too hot and we had to stop halfway find a spot to relax in the shade. We also park next to one of the playgrounds so Zach can get some playtime in before we head home. I have pulled a muscle somehow and this have been resting this week, and so I miss this. We had been going everyday, walking briskly enough to work up a sweat. Love it.

So that’s my life right now. Or a little bit of it, anyway. Until next time.

So Long, My Toxic Friend

458980Yes, I know I’m a respiratory therapist. I had a reply for people who would point that out to me: “Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, ‘Do as I say, not as I do?'” Or I would tell them that, unlike my patients, my lungs were healthy and I was not in a hospital bed.

I’m not stupid. Perhaps one of my coworkers summed it up the best: “Andrea, you aren’t stupid. Far, far from it. You’re a very smart girl. You just aren’t being very wise by continuing to smoke.” So the part of me with a brain knew that I was being a hypocrite, knew that I could use the defense that I wasn’t laying in a hospital bed.

Not yet.

You’re probably judging me right now. And that is fine. I have been a smoker since I was 21 years old. I put down the cigarettes when it was required to grow healthy babies. I banished the habit to outside when juvenile lungs took up residence in my home. As a healthcare professional, I can tell you that I never bought the idea that the odor of smoke on clothes was as bad as breathing second-hand smoke any more than the mere odor of marijuana makes you high. If you are allergic to smoke, I can imagine that the residue can be an irritant, but for the average person? I just could not believe it.I was content to just go outside. If I was outside when the kids were outside playing, I would move far, far away. Both my kids and those of others. I never smoked in restaurants because I don’t like to taste smoke with my food. If I was outside smoking somewhere and someone came up to sit next to me, I would ask them if it bothered them and then I would move away if they said it did. I was a conscientious smoker. I made great strides to ensure that the only person I was hurting was myself.

The problem with this is that I lost my mother to smoking-related lung disease. She probably only thought she was hurting herself, too. Now there are two little boys who will never meet their mom’s mom.

I have tried to quit more times than I can count. I can feel the changes in my body. I am a respiratory therapist, for shit’s sake. I know. I know that I am most likely to the point of irreversible disease. I knew all along that, while I could not change that, I could halt the damage in its tracks. And so I tried. Patches. Gum. Lozenges, Tapes. Wellbutrin. I even tried those Nicotrol inhalers, thinking that would be the miracle since it also replaced the physical act of smoking. I’ve tried support groups and keeping journals, all the while feeling stupid that I was having this much trouble with giving up cigarettes. Not crack. Not crystal meth. Cigarettes. A few years ago, I did have some luck with quitting. I was one month into treatment with Chantix, and in the middle of pre-med. I thought it was the medicine that was making me so queasy, so I would skip it, waiting until I had a solid meal to take it. Problem was tat I never got solid meals. My meals consisted of grabbing a granola bar between classes and grilled cheese sandwiches from the hospital cafeteria in the middle of the night on my lunch break. I stopped the medicine and picked smoking back up. And then discovered I was pregnant with Zachary.

With the exception of pregnancy-related quitting, I would always have the same reaction to lack of nicotine. I wouldn’t just get irritable. I would literally go crazy. I could be sitting with you, having a benign conversation about the weather and just burst into tears. My tolerance for anything would be so low that I would become completely dysfunctional. Once time, I got so upset that I had found a speck of missed food on a supposedly clean plate that I threw said plate at John’s head, leaving a massive knot. His response, instead of having me arrested, was to recognize what the true problem was and go and buy me a pack of cigarettes. He returned to the house with the pack and a new lighter and ordered me to smoke. For this reason, quitting scares me. I have a successful education going. I am good at my job. I have two children I love more than anything. I cannot allow myself to fall apart.

On the other hand, John’s heart cannot take exposure to any second-hand smoke at all. I need to be around for him. For the kids. I have to give it another go.

They tell you that in order to be successful, you have to want to quit for yourself. Maybe I am sick in the head, but I am more likely to quit for John and the boys than I am to quit for myself. I love them so much that I will do anything to give them what they need in life.

So nine days ago, I started Chantix again. I smoked my last cigarette almost 72 hours ago.  I have not killed anyone. I am not suicidal. I have only cried a few times, and it was soft, subdued tears instead of violent, crazy-bitch sobbing that would have taken place during other quit attempts. For the first time ever, I really feel like I can do this.

I want to document the process. I am hoping this will add some accountability, but I don’t want to turn the blog into a smoking cessation website, either. I rather like talking about whatever the hell I want on here without a real theme. Instead, I’m going to create a new tab. If you want to follow along, feel free. Maybe someone will be helped. Who knows?

But wish me luck, because I am taking this on at the same time I am taking on major lifestyle changes for John’s heart. Wish me luck.

You’re Going to Put That WHERE?!?

Okay, okay. This is not my spine, but it is the closest photo I could find to what mine looks like.
The verdict after being off for months is that it was never my shoulder to begin with. I was not a hypochondriac. We know this.

So to recap, I had protruding/ bulging discs of the C4-C5 and C5-C6 discs. And no curvature of my cervical spine. And bone spurs. And muscle spasms. The miracle treatment is supposed to be epidural steroid injections. Everyone said these were bad, but I went in with not-so-fond memories of my 17P injections during my pregnancy with Zach. If i got those bad boys in my hips every five days for months on end, and they were supposed to be excruciating, how bad could a cervical epidural steroid injection be? Plus, I had spinal anesthesia with both of my c-sections. No prob, so long as they give me a local first.

So I waited anxiously to get in with the doc, with the idea that, while a course of 3 injections 2 weeks apart is the prescribed therapy, I could very well feel better with as little as one. That was going to be me! I am going back to work next week, damn it!


A) I was wrong.

And B) I was even more wrong.

Did I mention I was wrong? P17 injections aren’t that unpleasant. They are a walk in the park on a breezy day under the cover of a fucking rainbow, while fairies hum a ditty in your ear.

Epidural steroid injections suck, and I am about to tell you all of the gory details.

The doc, though very nice, pulled me into his office and had a frank discussion about my neck MRI, explaining thoroughly why I had pain in my shoulder, that it was normal for my results. He then said he thought the injections would help, but that it is highly possible that I will still need surgery to fix it.


Excuse me? I thought I was out of the woods there. Then he opened the “informed consent” part of our little talk to say, “Well, Andrea, I have never paralyzed anyone, but it can happen.” What? No! You don’t say that right before I am about to let you stick very large needles into my spine! It’s like me walking in to stick the artery of a patient who has been a hard stick in the past. I don’t brag that I have only missed the artery about 5 times in my career (though true), because then I am sure to miss. So I immediately knocked on the wood of his desk. To which he laughed. Laugh away, pal, but you better be doing it too.

So I go in and lay face first on a table while they maneuver large equipment over me. The imaging part of it. I want them to see where they’re going. I like being able to use my limbs. And he starts. First the local. Stinging, but not bad. Then the big needle. Okay. Uncomfortable. Like spinal anesthesia, it’s a weird thing, and you feel pressure. And so I felt that and though the needle was where it needed to be. I heard him rustling around. I thought he was getting the drug. And then he said, “Okay, almost there.” What? Almost? So I can only assume he  advanced it a little more. This was a little more painful. And then came the gross part. I could fucking hear it. Like tearing through gristle of a steak. Creaks and tearing and grinding sounds. And I exclaimed, “Ewwww! GROSS! I can hear that!!!!!” To which the doc said, “Oh, that was just a ligament I passed the needle through,” as he chuckled. Dude, sooooo not funny. Then more grinding and popping. Keep in mind that my affected side is my right, so they were doing this on my the back of my neck, but right of midline, so it was right under my ear. More tearing. It was the most wicked thing ever. And gross because it was my body. Had it been another patient, it would have been cool. But it seems like he said “Almost there,” followed by more advancing of the needle a gazillion times. Until I felt IT. And by “IT” I mean excruciating pain. Excruciating, horrendous pain. The worst pain I have ever felt in my life. No 17P injections, no high risk pregnancies, no contractions I have ever felt could even come close to that pain. None of it. He could tell, because my legs kicked out involuntarily, and I stopped breathing for a few. All I could do was let out this little squeak. He gave me more anesthetic then, because he’s a fricken angel. And told me we were almost there.

Almost fucking there? Really? After that?  In an instant, I thought about stopping the whole thing right there. Of getting up and walking out immediately. I thought better of it, since there was, at that point, a massive needle inserting in my spine at or near my fucking spinal cord, And then more advancing. And I suddenly knew he had reached the right place. I knew, because I could not help but know, what with the huge jolt of what felt like an electric shock fire from my right shoulder to my right elbow. I couldn’t help it. I yelled out, “What the HELL was that?!?”  To which I got giggles. And “Okay, I’m in the right place if you felt that! Where did you feel it?” Dude, you are messing with my nerves. Literally, not figuratively. You know where I felt it!

And he delivered the medicine. I was able to move. He showed me the images from the fluoroscopy because I told him the medical geek in me had found it hard not to look up and see what he was doing, but my love for not being paralyzed kept my impulses at bay. So he was kind enough to show me, explaining all of the structures that I remember from A&P years ago, but have not used since. And I got to see images of the needle as it passed through muscle, tendons, ligaments. I was released and told to go home immediately and ice it and take it easy, which I heard as, “Go ahead and go with John and the kids and get groceries, eat at B-Dub’s, and type all three of your papers tonight”. Well, because I am me. And I had papers due. And I deserved fucking Spicy Garlic hot wings after that. And, well, the kids have to eat, too.

Sometime within the fifteen minutes in which we were en route to the restaurant, the anesthetic wore off and I turned into a lunatic. Bracing myself with my arm on the dashboard. Completely afraid of John applying the brakes or accelerating too harshly. Afraid of traffic, because if John hit someone or someone hit us, I could not take it at that point. And I started to whimper. Then cry. The all-out sob. Because I was terrified. I could feel the pain setting in. I felt so strange. My chest was hurting. My shoulder. My ears. It wasn’t terrible yet, but I knew the anesthetic was wearing off and it was coming. We hurried and ate. Hurried and got a few groceries. ($98.69–The only time I have ever spent less than $100 in a grocery store ever!) And I got home. And it was bad. So, so bad. I took a pain pill, Percocet and my muscle relaxer, Flexeril–which usually knock me completely out. it did nothing. I felt drugged and high as a kite, but the pain was there and I did not konk out. I even managed to write my papers. In order to do this, I had to put the laptop on a stack of eight textbooks, then prop my arms with pillows because I could not bend my neck at all to look at the screen.And I cannot guarantee that the writing does not read like a crackhead wrote it. Graduate level Business Strategy through the voice of a junkie is probably very entertaining. I cannot wait to see my grades. The only redeeming factor is that I did my research for the papers while I was completely sober and coherent. I’m just hoping I included punctuation at this point.

This morning? Well this morning, it kind of feels…awful. The pain spreads from my ears to my lower back. I cannot turn my head. I cannot move my right arm at all without pain. Before, only certain movements hurt. Sitting up hurts, laying down hurts. The kids are still kids, and John is still at work, which gives me eight whole hours before I can take something. John even drove my car to work because I couldn’t drive if I had to. I am now electively allowing them to destroy the fucking kitchen because I have no power to stop them and so long as they do not get hurt, I couldn’t care less about the mess. Zach’s speech therapist comes this afternoon, and I don’t even care how the house looks. I’ll make Evan vacuum a clean space on the floor, since this is where she sits with Zach anyway. We are going for Crackhouse Chic today. Fine by me. We will definitely reach that goal.



I have been off of work for going on 6 weeks. Asking a workaholic to do that is like asking a crackhead to just stop being a crackhead. My job is a part of who I am. I am the one which volunteers to work sixty or seventy hours a week. And right now, I am completely cut off. I feel like I currently have nothing to contribute to society. I am a sponge. A liability.

First of all, my earnings are cut in half. So we’re broke. So much of my family’s financial well-being is tied to me, and right now I am feeling the pressure. Last week, my damned water was shut off. Thankfully I had the resources to just go and get it turned back on, but it was still embarrassing.

And work. Once again, outta sight equals outta mind there. Noone checks on me. I want to scream at the top of my lungs,”Hey guys, remember me? The one who has worked your Christmases and Thansgivings so you could stay home with your families?!?” I’m also the one who works like a dog willingly so they won’t have to work so hard on short shifts. But it seems like nobody ever remembers that.

I feel completely alone and completely depressed. I don’t like this feeling at all. I need to go back now now now, but I know it will be a few weeks yet. I just hope I can make it.

Worrying at a Break-Neck Pace

Holy shit, that is sooo not funny. I am not funy at all.

So I mentioned before about my royally effed up rotator cuff that was the result of my accident back in April.

My MRI, if you haven’t figured it out yet, came back negative. Nothing torn and a small victory dance for me, though no arm movements in said dance because, well…Because it still sucks. They said I had tendonitis and bursitis. I had bursittis once in the opposite shoulder when I was in the thick on my swimming years. It took a week to go away. I’ve had tendonitis before, only in a foot. It took about 2 weeks to go away.

I had my accident on April 4. This was June 2.  So not cool. But in everyone’s defense, I had been stubborn, assuming the mild pain was nothing and getting no treatment for it until it got so bad that I had no choice but to get treatment. So maybe if I did what they said and rested it, iced it, antiinflammatory-d it, I would heal. Though it sucked being off of work, I took it on the chin in the name of my future ability to work pain-free.

So fast-forward to June 27. I am still not better. I have had 4 different aniinflammatories of the non-steroidal variety, cortisone injections, and oral steroids. I still cannot lift my arm in certain ways. Writing still hurt badly. I could do a little more, but anything I did, no matter how small, would result in pain for the rest of the day and night. This could mean a lot of misery, depending on what ime of day it was. And when I say “anything I did”, it could mean stirring a cup of coffee, signing my name, picking up a toy car from the floor. It had not been long enough to undo years of conditioning, and since I am right-handed, I always start to do anything I do with that right arm. It is only after it starts hurting that I realize what I’ve done and have to switch to the left hand. The most pitiful was the day John and I went for burritos. I was trying to cut into it with a fork and knife, but the sawing motion of the knife with my right hand would hurt, so I would do the clumsy switching of the hands to cut, then switch back to put a bite of burrito to my mouth with the shaking and awkward left hand. The result was spilling a fork full of rice, salsa, chicken bits, and shredded cheese into my lap. So again with the awkward switching of the hands and utensils to try again, all while John watched me with the saddest eyes, wanting to help me but knowing that if he were to try to feed me in public, I wooud likely kill him. I mean, my arm isn’t bandaged or in a sling or anything for fear of it getting too stiff, so on the outside, I look completely too normal for my husband to be feeding me across the table in public. Bu anyway…

The moral of the story is that I wasn’t getting any better. It had been 4 weeks off of work, multiple treatments. Something had to give, so I went into my appointment prepared to let them have it. Either fix me or let me go back to work and try to deal with the pain my own way. That is when the doc said, “Andrea, have we ever looked at your neck?” She went on to explain that the neck can be the cause of shoulder pain, and we should at least rule it out. What could it hurt, right?


She comes back into the room and pulls the images up on the computer. Images of a beautifully straight neck. And she remarks that it is so straight. “Good!”, I say. “What’s plan B?”

Oops. It isn’t supposed to be straight. And mine was so straight that it could be used as a straight-edge in geometry class. And I guess there are bone spurs, too. Eight of them, she said. And the space between C4 and C5 vertebra is almost gone. According to my film, C4 is resting on C5 on the front side of my body (anteriorly). I guess it isn’t supposed to be like that, and there is a strong likelihood that I have a badly herniated disc. And that said disc is pressing on my spinal cord.

C4/C5 is what innervates the shoulders and upper arms. So I was sent for an MRI to determine if I will need to have surgery. Only on my neck this time. On my cervical spine,

Oh Shit.

On my spine. My c-spine? As in right next to my airway? And my major bood vessels that supply my brain with oxygen-rich blood? As in the shit I need to stay alive? And the surgery! It looks awful. And the recovery period means you may have to amend your activities post-surgery. As in change the way you do your job. But what if y education is for my job? What if I cannot do what I am trained/ skilled/ licensed to do? Then what? And the length of recovery! What about grad school? I have about 7 weeks before it starts. What about that?

The neck surgery that looks like so much fun. If by fun, you mean drilling holes in your neck bones.


I’ve worked too hard. It’s crazy. I’m not sure what I am going to do.

Scratch that. Yes, I do. I’m going to wait and see. While biting my nails.  And fretting. And icing my neck. While taking even more antiinflammatories.

The Hurts We Cannot Fix

Yesterday was crazy.

It started with Zach awaking like he always does: leaky diaper. So I go into his room, like always when I hear him awake first thing in the morning, and notice a few things right off the bat. First off all, the smell. Not really baby urine and not poop, but some odd, pungent old urine smell. And he is really crying. Not at all the happy, bubbly little guy who usually greets me in the morning. And he is laying flat on his belly, looking up at me through his tear, completely still as if he is afraid to move. I get him out of the bed, and see that the matress is soaked with some sort of tan liquid, and he is drenched with whatever it is. Straight to the changing table we go, where I peel off his soaked pajamas and strip his diaper. He pooped in his sleep. Watery diarrhea poop. And the poop and pee mixture is all over him, so we just head straight to the bathtub. Zach loves a bath, so whatever is upsetting him will soon be a distant memory.

Except he won’t even sit in the warm water. Okay, I think. Better to wash him this way, anyway. So I douse the soft baby washcloth with Baby Phisoderm and start to work on his butt. Screams. So I look. A little red. I blindly reach the front to wash his….junk….and I should’ve looked first. My poor baby doubled over, screaming bloody murder. I tried to look, and he wouldn’t really let me. Turns out that where they left a little too much skin at his circuscision as a newborn, there is this ring of tissue on his penis. And it is red. And swollen and firm. And very painful looking. I cannot dscribe it except to say that it looked like a red donut around his little toddler manhood. And he was screaming. SCREAMING.

All I could do was cry as I wrapped him in the soft terry comfort of a warm hooded towel. And I held him against me while the screams turned to sobs turned to whimpers. Snot on my shoulder, the front of my tee wet with the mixture of tears, bathwater, and I can only assume urine, since I could not put a diaper on him. I held him like that for over an hour. It took that long. I was able to reach my phone and call John, who had taken my car, and we got Zach in for emergency treatment.

Balanitis. And he may have to have his circumcision redone after all of this, as this is not an experience we are ever going to repeat. We spent the day with “Diaper Free Time”–doctor’s orders. In other words, watching Zachy like a hawk so we may be able to intercept the stream of urine before it hit the carpet/ furniture/ us. He looked adorable in one of Bubby’s tees, hanging to his little knees. Except he was pitiful, because anytime he shifted the wrong way, walked the wrong way, sat, he would scream in pain. He was walking bow-legged. Every hour, on the hour, one of us would hold him down while the other slathered one cream or another on his penis. There were four creams. Antifungal three times a day. Steroid twice a day. Antibiotic four times a day, and A&D Ointment on the hours when one of those wasn’t due. On four different occassions, we had to fill the tub with cool water and try to convince him to sit and play in the cold water for twenty minutes to help some swelling go down. The pee that was going everywhere had to be monitored to ensure that his urethra was not blocked from the swelling, meaning he would need a catheter. Naptime was pitiful. Normally, his crib is sparse. I’m a safety girl and always have horrific visions of him suffocating on something. Yesterday, we made an exception. Teddy bears and his pillow pet. Extra blankets. All arranged strategically to keep his little legs apart to avoid pain so he could rest while the pain medicine took effect.

Zach has not been sick. He has been on an antibiotic once in his life, and that was not until he had an ear infection at 14 months. I have dealt whith those hurts with Evan. The hurts you want to make go away and cannot. The ones that hurt you, as their mother, almost as much as it hurts them. I thought I would be used to it. I thought it would be easier with a second child. But yesterday, my sweet, rambunctious, happy, bubbly, adorable, angelic Zachy had a real hurt. And though I got him treatment and took extra special care of him all day, I could not wave a wand and make it go away. All I could do was cry with him and hold him and love him while he hurt. And it all but killed me.

Zachy, propped on pillows and after pain medication, just so he could take a nap.