Monday, July 13, 2009

6 Month Anniversary with my Spinal Cord Stimulator

6 months already? So hard to believe. When chronic pain enters your life, time does not go by quickly. It drags on, minute by minute. Many days, all you can do while laying and holding back tears is to watch the clock tick by slowly. Just one more minute......I can do it..... Life revolves around the next medication and how soon can you take it? Muscle relaxants become your new best friend, in an attempt to keep your squawling nerves quieted and thereby gifting yourself a few minutes or hours of movement.

Walking through the house with the list of chores running through your head.......just what can I risk doing today? What wrong movement will it be this time that will put me in bed for days? Is there ANYthing I can do to help with the housework? Thankfully, the boys were older when this started and are now 20 and almost 17. If they had been little? I honestly don't know what I would have done.

This is a dermatome chart and shows where S1 nerve pain will be felt most often. If you have pain, check a dermatome chart to help you narrow down what nerve/disc level may be triggering the pain.

The sad reality became this - I was better off staying reclined fully, 23 hours a day, than to attempt to help with the laundry, cleaning, cooking. If I did any of that, I would end up in such a pain flair that I would have both Andy and I crying over what to do. There is just so much one man can take........watching his wife writhing in pain. Day after day after day.

Doctors try to help but they don't truly know the pain. They see that I'm not walking, I can't stand up, I can't stop crying, I've stopped breathing and have to be reminded to take a breath every now and then but each breath.....the pain.....I can't do it. The weirdest thing was I have a HUGE pain tolerance......which Andy and doctors could never believe. Honestly, an unbelievable pain tolerance, so when this pain took me down and out? Andy knew it had to be really really bad and he knew that wasn't good. Also, growing up I believed pain=weakness, so this was very hard for me emotionally as well.

So this was my life? This was OUR life? 22 years of wonderful marriage and now I will be living in a recliner for the rest of my life? It was very depressing.....but if I stayed reclined, when Andy came home, I could be smiling, my "fake" little smile that sometimes got past him, and he could have a wife who wasn't crying, who wasn't grimacing. Who could actually chat with him, watch shows with him, go to bed and cuddle with him. On days I did more than recline.......well, those were horrible days.

Just how many times could I see that look in his eyes, the look where he walked in, saw me writhing in pain knowing I did something I shouldn't have done, with good intentions he knew, but still. I might have just wiped down one counter, but if it made me lean, something my back could not do, that would be all it took. So that look from him, those tear-rimmed eyes, wishing he could take my pain even if just for a moment. That look that told me he loved me more than life itself and didn't need me trying to help with the house if this is what it caused to happen to me. The days he'd come to the bedroom on a quick trip to the bathroom but would find me bawling in bed, trying to hide it from everyone that I was past the point of coping. What had I done this time? Shifted in a chair? Who knew, I never knew. Pretty much anything I did could cause it to happen. I lived a life of fear, fearing every moment, every move of my body. But I was a go-getter, I never could this be? How could one woman be expected to endure this? Hyper was my middle name.....what was I to do with myself, lying down 23 hours a day?

Well, God had a plan. And that plan was to teach me patience. I truly believe this. I learned patience and more. I now have a different personality.....and I believe a better one. I'm calm, relaxed, I let things slide easily off my back. Sometimes Andy just looks at me ......smiling......trying to decide if he should poke me and make sure I'm really Cheri. He loved the hyper, crazy Cheri but I think he loves the calm Cheri more. I can still be hyper in my mind, with my words.....never at a loss for words.....but things don't get to me anymore. I've seen the other side and now I cherish what I do have. I know it can be gone in an instant. And I've gained an empathy for people who suffer with daily pain........something I never had a clue about.......and knowing there are people who have been given no hope of relief. I know how their days tick by, minute by minute.

After an EMG nerve test discovered what I already knew - massively permanently damaged S1 medical care took a new turn. Now I was a candidate for a Spinal Cord Stimulator. This medical device is implanted in your mid-back (for lumbar problems) and upper buttock. Leads in your mid back send electrical signals in your spinal canal, blocking the searing pain signals from getting to your brain. Kind of like "closing the gate" and not allowing signals through. Since there was nothing that could be done to heal the nerves and knowing this horrid pain was 24/7 burning, searing, never-ending, mind-numbing and NOW the doctors believed me.........this SCS was a bright light to move towards.

After moving, having to change doctors and being put through many more tests, injections and prodding........I was finally ready for the SCS trial in November, 2008. Skipping over the procedure which can be a post for another day, the pain relief I felt for that 5 days made me cry - this time, tears of joy!! Andy and I spent so much time together that week.......we went to the mall for the first time in years, I walked in the neighborhood with him, I could walk around the house and do little things. It was AMAZING!!! I had no idea!! I kept asking him if he could feel the buzzing.......if he touched my legs........but he could not. He had such a smile during that time - his dreams come true, a wife who could smile again, and move without wanting to fall into a heap of tears. When the day came to remove the trial leads, I was again in tears, but this time, I was sad. I did not want to lose that pain relief!! The thought of going back to my regular life, the 24/7 burning pain.......but I had to. It was tough.

But a month or so later, on January 5th, 2009, I went in for my permanent SCS - spinal cord stimulator. That procedure went much better, but I did learn I have an anomaly in my back and that my nerves are not wired correctly. Meaning, the doc couldn't go by the anatomy chart on where I would feel what. Didn't surprise me, but I was thrilled to be in the hands of a master neurosurgeon, a man who trains physicians internationally on the placement of SCS's. He knew what he was doing. And I felt blessed. In the photo above, that pulse generator is what was surgically implanted in my upper right buttock, and that is what I put the remote control over when I want to change programs. I also must "charge" myself several times a week, for 2 hours at a time, with a charging belt. It is portable and I can do anything I want, live my life, while I recharge the pulse generator. I am not plugged into the wall - one of the new innovations that has come around. This technology has actually been around since the 1960's!

And so, it's been 6 months, six glorious months!! I do housework now, I do all the laundry myself (with grippers all over the house because I still can't bend, lift or twist), but I can walk.......I can do almost whatever I want. I can clean the kitchen, the bathroom counters, toilet (just can't do things like the bathtub and shower)......I can vacuum non-carpeted areas. I can go on walks with my loving hubby, we can hang out in the pool together for HOURS. I can go on car trips, something we love to do together. I can go on business trips with him...just almost everything has returned to normal.

Here is a post I wrote, with photos of my remote control and other items regarding my SCS.

He Always Wanted a Wife with a Remote Control

I will be going in on Wednesday for another tweaking of the programs in my back because now with all my increased activity, I'm suffering some intense back pain (rather than nerve pain) and I'm hoping she can tweak the nodes on the leads to give me some lower back relief.

All those months of prayer.........watching the clock tick worked. A most wonderful gift came into my life and I try to tell anyone I can about it, because I think we all know someone who suffers severe pain. And not too many people have ever heard of this option. It doesn't work for everyone, and often requires a psychological evaluation (usually required by insurance or the doctors) to make sure you aren't depressed and are mentally ready for something to work (truthfully, some people ARE their pain, and don't want it healed). And the procedures aren't a piece of cake. But by this time? I had redefined what I considered pain and I just wanted even a tiny piece of my life back. And I got it. And I won't stop being thankful for it.

This is the photo we took just after the SCS trial, and I call it my "pain-free eyes" photo. After 3+ long years of daily pain, I finally had some relief and I love this photo. Those that know me missed these eyes that used to sparkle........and now they sparkle again.

The good news:

I've lost 25+ lbs since implantation.
Have my life back, minus bending, lifting and twisting

The bad news:

Numbness will be here to stay, causing serious balance issues. Found out my feet are 2/3 numb and that explains a lot about why I fall so easily. This is from the permanent nerve damage, as well.

Ideally, the best route would to have been medically evaluated BEFORE nerve damage set in, but for me, that was only 5 months. During my first surgery, which was a laminectomy/discectomy (a very common surgery where they go in and remove the herniated disc by snipping it away - considered a minor procedure), the surgeon came out and told my husband he did not know how I was even walking!!!!!!!!(Remember, huge pain tolerance????) He has NEVER seen a herniation that bad. He told him my nerve was massively damaged from that herniation. Had I been "normal" with regular pain tolerance, I would have been to the doctor much sooner and not ended up with this result, most likely. But every time I went to the chiropractor, I felt better for a few days and thought it would heal, whatever it was. (The pain was in my buttock, not my back, so I had NO idea I had a back problem. Thought it was tight muscles, such as the piriformis muscle.)

Signed, a very enthusiastically thankful and blessed,


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Show Us Where You Live Friday - Foyers & Entrances

I'm a little late, but this week is Foyers and Entrances over at Kelly's Korner Blog. I wanted to show you what "staging" and "neutralizing" looks like when you have a very custom home. When we purchased this house, we LOVED the colors. Some people call us crazy, and the house was actually priced DOWN because of all the color and the fact that most buyers would never have the furniture to match such color.

But this house was the builder's house of the neighborhood, and had all kinds of custom features. He put a lot of extra money in to this home, and as a real estate agent, I knew what a deal we had gotten. In fact, during negotiations, the sellers (builders) realized they might have priced the home too low and tried to get rid of us by extending the deadline, yada yada, but we wouldn't budge. We had to wait months to get in, but it was worth it. I've never loved a house more than this one. Too bad all the bedrooms were upstairs because if we lived there now, I'd be sleeping on the couch in the living room since I can't do any stairs with my nerve damage/numb legs and feet situation with balance issues.

So here are the original colors: (I negotiated that rug into the purchase price, because I knew it was from Pottery Barn, expensive AND tied all the colors together.)

The builder's mother was an interior designer and you can see the wall color matching the custom carpet edging, and if you've seen the kitchen photos from previous tours, you will see the dark green repeated in the counter tops.

Here is a better photo of the rug.

When we knew we were moving to another state, we had to get rid of that navy carpet and dark paint to maximize price, as the market had started to slow. If I had to do it over again, I would probably have picked a buttery gold for the walls, but this light green was really popular and in all the builder's models. I HIGHLY recommend you go visit the model homes to get an idea what is popular in your area when making these decisions.

We left color in the office and the sunroom, but had all other rooms painted. The only room in this house that did not have deep, dark gorgeous color was the hall bathroom upstairs. It was crazy!
And if you've noticed that the office to the right keeps changing colors (it actually went from navy, the color it was when we moved in, to beige to a deep gorgeous plum), click here - Paint Party - for the explanation and photos of that adventure!

If you would like to see all the colorful photos from the entire tour, click HERE. As I've discussed, I HAVE to have color in my life. You can always paint over it if you don't like it, get tired of it, change decorating styles, etc. Studies show color affects mood, and mood affects everyone, right?

Thanks for visiting!


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

One of my favorite photos

This is Ryan, our now 20 year, when he was 6 months old. So cute!

MckLinky Blog Hop


Andrew is in town

Always the planner (not) lol, Holt asked us Sunday night if we could go get Andrew in Jonesboro Monday evening. It worked out, and I went with Andy for the 4 hour round trip. We meet Andrew and his father in Jonesboro - about half way between the two of us. He will be here most of the week, probably going home Saturday. Andrew and Holt were best buds when we lived in Arkansas.

Tonight, they requested a run to the movie store and I snapped this photo (being the irritating mom I can be. lol).

And finally, as Holt got ready to drive us home - this photo was before he noticed the camera, which is why he is smiling. The next photo is his "usual" smirk. lol

Holt has still been working most days, but does have off Thursday and Friday so they can have more time to do things. I'm guessing they will have some major pool time the next few days.

Tomorrow morning early, Holt has an orthodontist appointment AND he is begging for a haircut. Yay!!

Have a great day!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Window Mistreatment - Instructions


For all who know me, I have always been a perfectionist. I have been known to throw out completely brand new, just finished custom curtains made from my efforts because they weren't perfect. Well, those days are no more. A lot of stress accompanies the striving for perfection and it just isn't my goal anymore.

Ever since The Nester started writing about window mistreatments, I have been interested. With my nerve damage and resultant physical limitations, I can no longer sew for hours and do things like squat on the floor, etc. In the "old" day pre-injury, I proudly made all the curtains and shower curtains for our homes. I loved having custom creations. For now, we are living in a rent house and I have been dying to make some curtains for the main room/breakfast area, but didn't want to purchase rods and the whole bit. Here is what we did this weekend in under 1.5 hours for 2 windows.

Here is the finished product on one window:

To start, you will need:

54" Decorator Fabric, give or take 3 yards per side of window
Mug/cup hooks - 3 per side of window
Clip Rings - 3 per side of window
Stitch Witchery - (regular or heavy weight, depending on your fabric - photo below.)

For fabric, I am really frugal and just won't spend full-price for any fabric. I went to the local Hancock Fabric and back behind the regular fabric are some bolts that stand up on end. They are usually $5 to $10 a yard, and I wait until a sale, usually 40 to 50% off of that price. I was able to get 6 yards for around $30. That is an excellent price. I picked this particular one because the walls are gold, our couch is red and our breakfast table is black. This floral pattern picked up on all those colors. I prefer the decorator 54" fabric because it will have a nice weight to it and won't be flimsy like regular 45" fabric usually is. Although I have seen some 45" decorator weight fabric at JoAnn's Fabric, so do look around.

Decide how high up you want your curtains to go. We have a vaulted 9 foot ceiling and I wanted the curtain to reach almost to the top. This was what my window looked like "Before".

We did 3 cup hooks, 5 inches apart. The first one to the right is 2.5 inches in from the edge of the window. I did this because my curtains won't be lined, and I didn't want too much fabric covering the window, or it would be obvious there was no lining. The beauty in this is when you move or change your mind, you only have 3 little holes in the wall instead of the big mess curtain brackets make.

Get your 54" wide decorator fabric and get ready to cut it in half. Fold the fabric, selvages together and iron down the middle seam.

Taking your sewing scissors, cut along ironed line you just made. Special modeling credit goes to my wonderful husband, who helped me with this project. Thanks honey!

Trim the white selvages off your fabric.

Take each long side and iron down a small portion, about 5/8" to 1" or so. This is so a raw edge will not show.

Once both edges are ironed, hold up fabric and decide how much you want to turn down for the top. We decided on 7 inches. You can iron that or not.

Get your clip rings and put one on each end. Then fold the fabric in half to find the middle for the 3rd clip ring.

Get your Stitch Witchery Fusible Bonding Web ready - this will be what will seal your hem. No sewing machine or thread needed. This stuff is amazing.

Hang curtain on your cup hooks. Decide at the bottom if you want a regular hem or do you want to leave it bunched at the bottom. My husband prefers a regular hem as we have shedding dogs and he did not want the fabric to be such a dust collector.

Fold down your fabric to make the hem. Iron. Hang the curtain back up to double check the measurement for the hem. If you are happy with the length, put the Stitch Witchery under the edge of the fabric and iron down. You will want to hold the hot iron over the hem a little extra to melt the fusible web and bond the fabric.

Hang your curtains and voila'!! You did it! This photo is of the breakfast area window we also did.

And here is a photo showing both windows from the living room. Adding these simple and quick window treatments really enhanced the room!

So now, when we move, I have 6 yards of fabric that can be used again, not necessarily for these curtains......leaves my options open. And hubby will only have 12 small holes to fill and it will be as if these window mistreatments never existed!

If you have any additional questions or if I could add some more instructions for clarity, please let me know!

Thanks for visiting!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Show Us Where You Live Friday - Yards & Garages

Kelly over at Kelly's Korner Blog is having her Show Us Where You Live Friday, Yard and Garages addition. Well, I'll show you the yard!!

We are renting this house, if you can believe it. This pool is awesome - gunite, salt-water filtration, mood lighting including the waterfalls with their own mood lighting. Just fabulous!! We've never had a pool before and after this, I don't think we'll ever go without one again! But we are spoiled to this top notch version.

Here is an example of the mood lighting at night - this is my favorite color. It also goes green, red, and another shade of lighter blue.

Thanks for visiting!