Saturday, February 27, 2016

2 Down, 1 To Go

I blame my love of all things medical on George Clooney and a little show called ER. For years, I've had a fascination with the medical field. But nothing could compare to what I experienced on February 23, 2016. What happened on that day was by far 100,000 times more fascinating then anything I've ever watched on TV. It was my own deep brain stimulation surgery.

I seriously had absolutely no idea what to expect and to be quite honest, I was terrified. But at the same time, I think my excitement out-weighed any of the negative stuff. It was 10 years in the making. God had lead me to this place. He put me on this path. Some may look at my story and think that deep brain stimulation is a drastic step and that's OK, but I know that for me, it is not. I have expended all other options.

God lead me to the coolest, most confident, and definitely the best neurosurgeon for me, Dr. K. His personality and mine meshed instantly. When I first started having problems walking and first started seeing doctors about it, I was 25 years old and had the mentality that doctors knew everything. They were the ultimate authority in their field and I was a dumb 25 year old who knew nothing but what I saw on TV. Fast forward 10 years and I'm not that same naïve 25 year old who thought that doctors knew everything and I knew nothing. I am now a 35 year old who knows why patients are called patients (because we need patience to survive!) and why it's called "practicing medicine" (because that's what doctors are doing - practicing!). Yes, of course, there are some things that are black and white: you have a bad appendix, it needs to come out and you'll be OK, but I've realized in matters of the brain, it's a whole different ball game. There are so many things doctors have yet to discover when it comes to the brain and yet, there are things that they have discovered and for those things, I'm eternally grateful! Dr. K. is one of those doctors who have discovered things and perfected treatments/surgeries. Under his hands, I felt as safe as I possibly could.

So, back to February 23, 2016. It started early. I had to be at Vanderbilt at 9:30am for an 11:30am surgery. Mom and I left at 8am because we gain an hour going to Nashville. It was a peaceful drive. I had Facebook as well as text messages coming in wishing me well and people telling me they were praying for me. About an hour or so out, I put a Amy Grant hymns CD in and that calmed me down considerably. I knew people all over were praying for me and I prayed for myself as well, but sometimes, it's best to just let others pray for you. So, I did. The one thing I did pray about for myself was that I wouldn't die. I know it sounds bad and selfish, but I didn't want to die. I knew everyone had me covered on all the other prayers, so that's what I prayed for myself. I'm only human!

Mom and I arrived right on time. I went to admitting and was told to fill out this one page form.
If filling out that form was to be an indication as to how the rest of the day was to go, then I was in some deep trouble! Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case. It was the simplest of forms, I just completely read it wrong. I was supposed to have filled out all of Mom's information so that she could be informed during my surgery of what was going on, but I had filled out my information, so I had to scribble through it all and put her info down. Mom and I both had a good laugh at that. Another good laugh we had was at what Moms eyes were instantly drawn to in the admitting waiting area:

We laughed because years earlier during my shunt surgery, she comes into my hospital room with all of these nativity sets that she had bought in the Vanderbilt gift shop. My mom can shop any and every where!

I was given a beeper to hold onto.
When it buzzed it was time to get the party started.

I was taken to a holding area and had to change into the lovely Bair Hugger gown and bright yellow "fall risk" socks.
I once again had to confirm that I was NOT pregnant. It was just a week out from the last time I had to confirm this and this time, I had a shaved and screwed up (literally!) head, so even if I wanted to get pregnant, I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have happened. :) I even joked with the nurse about that, but I did give her what she asked for and indeed it did come back confirming I was NOT pregnant. I got an IV.
Mom got to come back and stay with me. I had many visitors including the neurosurgery resident who marked me with his initials (CR).:
And yes, here's the first picture you get to see of me bald. I've been through so much these past few days, that I don't care anymore to show you bald pictures of me. It's all part of the journey. :)

I had other nurses and doctors come by and check on me. I told one of the nurses that one of my co-workers (yes, Austin, you!) suggested that I get a selfie in the OR. To which the nurse said, "Oh, Dr. K.'s cool like that. I bet if you ask him, he'll do it." I was NOT expecting that answer!! :)

A little while later, Dr. K. came by. I was actually stunned by that. I wasn't expecting him to as I thought he would just send his residents, but that wasn't the case. He brought by his right-hand nurse, Sheila, and introduced us. He asked if it would be OK to have a team of surgeons from Toledo, OH observe my surgery. I said that would be fine. He said my case was unique and he thought these surgeons could learn a lot. He once again apologized for my hair. He was telling everyone around that I had had this beautiful long curly hair. Sheila said she'd be shaving the hair that did manage to grow within the week, off again and asked if I wanted the bowl cut or the complete shave. I went with the complete shave. Dr. K. and his staff were surprised at how quickly my hair had grown in just a week and Dr. K. said I'd have no problem growing it back again.

After Dr. K. came by, things started to move pretty fast. I met the anesthesiology team. Part of that team was the most awesome nurse anesthetist. But for the life of me, I can't remember his name. I think it was Jason, so I'll go with that for the purpose of this blog. Seriously though, he was the best. I learned on our ride to the OR that he was originally born in South Korea, but was adopted by a couple who lived in Denver, CO. He spent his first few months there before moving to Franklin, TN where his Mom's family is from. So, he's basically from Tennessee. :) He went to school in New Orleans, but eventually made his way back to TN and Vanderbilt for work. I love hearing people's stories! You'll find out more about Jason later.

Jason rolled me into the OR where I met a bunch of other people. I told Mom later that I thought I counted 10 people. I was off by half! Dr. K. told me the next day that there were actually 20 people in the OR. Jason and his team got me all set up on the OR table which was actually kind of comfortable. It was kind of like a recliner. I'm not making this up. To get my mind off of things, Jason started talking to me again. When he and the others found out I worked for HGTV and Food Network and all the other networks, well, they were kind of impressed, It turns out that Jason and his wife were oh-so-close to being on the HGTV show, Listed Sisters. They had the sisters and a producer out to their house, but it turns out their house was too nice to use. Jason said he and his wife have 3 boys and they need a lot more room then their current house provides. Anyway, as Jason and his team were getting me ready, he said that they were all there to serve me. That was kind of nice, I just wish it weren't for brain surgery!

After Jason and his team were done, Sheila came in. She told me later that her nickname was Sarg. She got my head all ready to be operated on. The first part, I have to admit was thoroughly enjoying, almost like getting a massage. I'm not kidding either. She first buzzed ALL the hair off my head and then she washed my head in betadine to where everyone in the room said my head was bright orange. I said at least I'm from Knoxville where orange (and white) are the accepted colors and everyone laughed. Next, Jason said he was going to give me some juice to take the edge off of what was happening next. I had to be awake for the whole surgery, but this would calm me down. What was next was the actual drilling into my skull. First they numbed my skull with lidocaine and then the drilling began. It actually wasn't all that bad. The only thing that bothered me was the noise. It was extremely loud, but it only lasted 30 seconds for each hole. It was after this, that I asked Dr. K. about the selfie. He was all for it and asked one of the visiting doctors to capture it on his phone and this is what I got:
I can't believe, I'm actually smiling, but I am. That's Dr. K. and his nurse, Sheila.

It somewhat amazes me that I'm able to write this blog post like I am and at the same time know that what I'm writing actually happened to me.

Anyway, back to the surgery. After all the drilling and making sure I was still OK (and I was - this is even amazing to me!), it was time for the electrodes. This stuff fascinates and enthralls me. It really, really does! I should also mention at this point that my Vandy neurologist (not to be confused with my Knoxville neurologist!) and his resident were there in surgery with me. They were asking me questions and telling me to repeat phrases like, "It's sunny outside." Once Dr. K. got the electrodes in they were listening to my brain. Literally listening. They could hear things! Dr. Chris (his first name, I can't remember his last name) was helping in this process. Dr. K. later told me that he and Dr. Chris have been working side-by-side for 14 years now. Dr. K. does the probing and Dr. Chris does the administering of the electricity. Not only could they hear things, they could read things. They did assure me that they couldn't read my brain like what I was thinking, but they could read it for their purposes. This made me laugh! All I could hear of my brain was like a swooshing sound, but apparently they got something out of that. I could hear Dr. K. say that he needed to go deeper in my brain or he needed to pull out or to go to this side or that. When my left hand went numb/weak, I told them that. Dr. Chris, Dr. K and Dr. T and Dr. T's resident sprang into action. It freaked me out that I couldn't feel my left hand. And actually, as I learned later, I can feel everything, it's just that I can't control the actions of my left hand. I heard the doctors talking about it in surgery - that they had to move to a different spot and things of that nature. Dr. K. had to reposition the probe and Dr. Chris would give it "juice". When he did that, my hand was not my own! It curled up or straightened out depending on what Dr. Chris told it to do. He also did the same thing with my fingers. It was funny, because the very first time it happened I exclaimed, "I'm not doing that!" to which Dr. Chris smiled and said, "I know." It was the coolest, freakiest, wildest thing ever. This was like the greatest movie ever and it was actually happening to me.

I do remember at one point saying that this surgery was so much more interesting than anything on TV and it gave everyone in the room a huge laugh. Then Dr. K. said that they don't gossip and don't do any of the other shenanigans that are portrayed on TV. Before Jason put me to sleep so Dr. K. could finish the surgery (the part he didn't need me awake for), Dr. K. asked me for my e-mail address to send the picture to. It amazed me that I could remember it. :) The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery room.

Dr. K. gave me a souvenir - the 3D printed helmet I wore during the surgery:
I think it's pretty cool!

During the time I was out, I had a CT scan and it showed that I had no bleeding in the brain. Dr. K. later would say it looked pristine. He did say that the cause for my left hand weakness is because of irritation/swelling at the initial site of entry for the probe. Once that irritation/swelling goes down, my hand should be fine. He said he couldn't tell if that would be a day, two weeks or longer. Also, he said I may need physical therapy for it. Dr. K. said he saw an air bubble in my brain, which is caused by opening the brain up. So now, I'm not only screwed up in the head, I'm an airhead. ;) All this to explain what happened next.

The night in the hospital started off well enough. I wasn't in too much pain.

I ate some dinner (my first meal all day!). Mom and I started to watch Chicago Med. Yes. even in the middle of my own medical drama, I still like to watch them on TV! About half way through Chicago Med, my headache went from barely there (about a 1 or 2) to I felt like I was going to die. I told the nurse it was at a 12 on a 10 point scale. Dr. K. later said that it was the air bubble that caused these massive headaches. The nurse said that she had orders to either give me this one pain medication (I can't remember what it was) or Morphine depending on my pain scale. I asked which was more potent. Morphine it was. Morphine, my friends, when used like it's supposed to be used, is Heaven sent!!!!! Oh my gosh. I never knew it could take pain away that quickly, but it did the trick. I could no longer watch the rest of Chicago Med though. I just was not feeling all that great. By the middle of the night, I literally wanted to die, I was in so much pain. I was being given morphine every two hours, but the pain just kept getting worse. It turns out having brain surgery does lead to EXCRUTIATING pain. Seriously, I've never experienced pain like that. Grant it, I've never given birth, but it did feel like my head was literally splitting in half. It gives new meaning to the phrase "splitting headache"! I got morphine, but it didn't even touch my pain. So the nurses got permission to give me a double dose. Still nothing. Finally, they got an order to also give me hydrocodone. That did the trick. But then I was nauseous. Saltine crackers, ginger-ale and banana flavored popsicles along with the meds, a wet wash rag on my head and Mom's hand to hold got me through the night. I seriously never, ever want to relive that night.

There were two moments from that night though that I would like to remember. The first was when my youngest brother, Steven called. There are 11 years between us, but he's the one that can always make me laugh. I had just gotten my first dose of morphine and I asked him to tell me something to make me laugh. He told me a story that had happened at work. As Steven went on with this story, I laughed so hard. I told him I couldn't tell if it was the morphine kicking in or his story, or both, but I was laughing and that was good! The second moment was when my nurse told me about her splitting her pants open. There was some serious laughter at that story too! Sometimes laughter is the best medicine as my friend, Kristen told me in a card.

Night turned into day and I was OK if I had morphine, but I was still very nauseous. I took Zofran and that worked, until I got out of bed. I guess being upright didn't suit me too well. I puked everything I had to eat the night before right out of my system. It was not a pretty sight. All that day I debated on whether I should go home or stay another night. I saw Dr. T. (the neurologist), whom mom and I joked was no help. He couldn't discharge me or give me meds. He was a good sport about it though and laughed along with us. It was actually Dr. K. who was the deciding factor. When he came and saw me, he did give me the option of staying another night, but in the end, I decided to go home. So, with a puke bucket between my knees, Mom and I headed home around 2:30pm. We made it back to Knoxville around 6pm EST. Although Knoxville and Nashville are only 2 and 1/2 hours apart, in Knoxville we are on eastern time and Nashville is on central time. I made it the car ride home and that night without puking! Thank the Lord for the little things in life!

I think that's enough for this post. But I can't close without giving a HUGE shout-out to my mom. She is incredible. She's the one you want with you when you are sick. No offense, Dad! Dad is awesome too, but Mom is the one I want to talk about now. She knows the right words to say, when to hold my hand, when to get the nurse, when to let me sleep. She's just the best and I'm forever in debt to her. She's been with me on this "adventure" since the very beginning, taking me place to place, staying with me in the hospital. Thank you doesn't seem to be enough to say, so I'll just say, I love you, Mom!

I'll update later about the convalescing - I know you're waiting with bated breath to hear about that! Or maybe I'll just skip over all of that and talk about the last surgery. Who knows! My next surgery is Monday, February 29. It's to insert the battery (pacemaker like device) under my collar bone and hook it up to the electrode wires in my brain. It's done under general anesthesia and is an out-patient procedure. Please pray that all goes well. Please also pray that I will get full function of my left hand back. It's highly annoying to not have it working! And, just in case you're wondering, yes, I wrote all of this with just my right hand. I know you're impressed. ;)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

1 Down, 2 To Go

I was going to start this post out saying, “Here’s a little update,” but if you know me or if you’ve been following along with this blog, you know I can’t just write a “little” update!

I’m one surgery down, 2 more to go. Here’s a recap of everything that’s happened this week.

Sunday – Valentine’s Day. It actually was a pretty good day. I went to church and out to eat after church. Dad gave me a copy of his “All In” sermon from the week before.

(And, yes, Dad, I can read your handwriting!)

Mom gave me Valentine’s Day gifts, including a Valentine’s Day picture of Little G (my niece). Carrie (a woman from church) gave me a buzz cut. I made chocolate chip cookies to bring into work the next day.

Just a normal Valentine’s Day! What, you don’t get buzz cuts on Valentine’s Day?! OK, so maybe it wasn’t a “normal” day, but it’s one I won’t soon forget. Carrie was (and is) awesome. I actually had a lot of fun losing my hair. She cut it so that I could see how it would look at different stages of the growing out process. Yes, this does mean I didn’t donate it to Locks of Love or any other organization. I’ve done that before and it’s been great, but this time around, I just didn’t feel like hassling with it. This way of cutting my hair was much more fun too. When it came time to buzz it all off, Carrie said I have a nicely shaped head. I kind of have to agree. I mean, I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s not all that bad looking! I can’t say enough how blessed I am to have Carrie and her family in my life. She and her husband, John lead worship at church. She’s now a part of my story and I am so incredibly grateful that she is. Here's the aftermath:

Not 30 seconds after Carrie left, my best friend, Julie called. Talk about perfect timing! It was totally a God-thing!! Julie and I have been best friends since college and she and her family live in Ohio. We don’t get to see each other all that much, but I love how we can just pick up where we left off the last time, like no time has gone by. God knew what He was doing when He made us best friends. We “get” each other. Everyone should have a best friend like Julie. I’ll admit though that Sunday didn’t come without tears and frustrations. I fell not once, but twice. I blame it on equilibrium – haha. I had already fallen once back on Thursday night. That, I blame on my proprioception (knowing where you are in time and space – like knowing where your foot’s going to land in regard to the sidewalk) being completely off. I was walking out of work and talking on the phone and I just lost my balance and fell. Sunday, I don’t know what happened, I just couldn’t get my balance. My equilibrium was off probably due to losing all my hair. Or not, but that’s what I'm telling people. :) Here's the damage done:

I had planned on cleaning my house Sunday night, but instead I just sat on the couch, looked at my filthy house and cried. But then, I got a text from a co-worker that pulled me out of my funk (thank you, Sarah!). It was sent at the exact right time – another God-thing!

By the time Downton Abbey came on, my tears were pretty much gone and by the time I went to bed, I was feeling really blessed. I like to think that God used my falls as another reminder of why I’m having deep brain stimulation.

Monday was an emotional roller coaster for me. It was a horrible day, weather wise and that didn’t make me feel any better. It was overcast, rainy, icy and gloomy. We had a two hour delayed opening at work, so I slept those two hours away! But going into work was the best thing for me. My co-workers made my day. Gift after gift, card after card, compliment after compliment, love just kept pouring in. My boss took me and two of my co-workers out to lunch. Going into work the day before surgery kept me occupied, my co-workers made me laugh and I didn’t feel alone. It was the best decision! I was kind of dreading going home because I’d be alone and I thought I’d start over-analyzing things and get scared of what was to come, but God kept that from happening! People were praying. I got home and got a huge burst of energy. I wasn’t off-balance or dizzy and I was in the mood to clean (this rarely happens, so it was definitely a God-thing!!). I dusted and vacuumed and cleaned the bathroom. I did laundry and cleaned the kitchen. I picked up all the clutter and it made me SO HAPPY!!! Cleaning really does make me happy; I just don’t know why I don’t do it more often! ;) I went to bed that night feeling yet again very blessed.

Tuesday morning started early. I thought I might exercise on the bike before leaving for the hospital. The alarm went off at 5am and I immediately knew, exercise was not happening! I did, however wake up WITHOUT an anxious heart!! Praise Jesus. I could feel the prayers of others. I was picking Mom up at her house at 6:30am to make the trip to Nashville. We took my car, but she drove. I know without a shadow of a doubt people were covering me in prayers. One of my biggest concerns was the weather. If it was icy then that would have been detrimental and I probably would have had to reschedule everything, but we only ran into one icy patch and thankfully got through it fine. We hit Nashville traffic though and were a few minutes late. But, as it turned out that was fine. I checked in to radiology and waited. When they came to get me, it felt like we were walking into the deepest, most distant part of the hospital, but in reality we were walking to the very front of the hospital. If you really know me, you know I’m horrible with directions. This is just another example of how horrible I am! Once Mom and I were back in the holding area, I got to get dressed into a lovely bear hugger gown and bright yellow socks. I got an IV.

Mom was quite jealous because they got the IV in me with one stick. Someone from MRI came by and spoke with me. Veronica, Dr. K.’s (the neurosurgeon) nurse practitioner came by. She would be the one inserting the bone markers (I like that phrase better than screws, even though that’s what they are.) into my skull that day. She showed me where they would go and answered questions I had. I guess this in the one time that people can LITERALLY say I'm screwed up in the head! :)

Then Jennifer from anesthesiology came by. She started some other medication and said that the actual anesthesiologist would be by shortly. The anesthesiologist did come shortly after that and he explained everything that was going to happen. He said he was going to use Propofol. I immediately said, “That’s what Michael Jackson died from.” He said, “Yes, but he didn’t have an anesthesiologist with him!” Mom and Dad were both glad I was getting that medication because both said it wouldn’t leave me with a hung over feeling. The anesthesiologist asked if I had any questions. I told him and Jennifer just to make sure and wake me up after it was all over with. They agreed they would. And they kept their promise. :) I was asked like a thousand and one times if there was any possibility that I was pregnant. I answered a thousand and one times that I was not pregnant and there was no possibility that I was. They said that they believed me, but had to wait for the urine test to come back to make absolutely positive. The nurse said that in the past few years she’s had 3 patients be surprised. The urine test came back and in fact I was NOT pregnant. Praise Jesus we got that sorted out! Then Jennifer came back in and said she was giving me a margarita. I asked if she was actually giving me the medicine to put me to sleep and she said no, it was just to take the edge off so I wouldn’t be worried by her gurney steering abilities. The next thing I knew, I was waking up. Mom came in, I got my glasses back and could see again and then we were leaving. I don’t really remember a lot. I know I drank some water and ate some peanut butter Ritz crackers. A nurse took out my IV and cut off my hospital bracelet. Then we left. I told Mom on the way home that I don’t even remember getting out of the holding area before the surgery. After the surgery, it seemed to me like 5 minutes from the time I woke up until the time we left. I don't even remember checking out of the hospital and that was really bothering me! I was scared that we had left without permission. See, this is what drugs do to me! I hate not knowing what's going on. ;) But, at the same time, I am VERY grateful for drugs that put you to sleep during surgery. So I guess I'll take being a little confused when waking up, if it means I feel no pain during surgery.

We got back to Knoxville around 5:30pm. I got my mail and in it was a present from Julie. Again, perfect timing! Not only was it perfect timing, it was the perfect gift. I’ve been looking for the “perfect” cross necklace and haven’t found one I like yet. This one is perfect!

I got in the house and Mom helped me get situated. I ate dinner. I went back to sleep and woke up in time to watch both Chicago Med and Chicago Fire. For a brief second, I wondered if watching Chicago Med was a good thing, considering I have 2 more surgeries to go, but I watched it anyway and wasn’t freaked out by anything. Now had they had any storyline about brain surgery, I may have had to skip. Oh, who am I kidding...I would have watched any way! ;)

In all actuality, this surgery was the easiest one. The easiest one to do and the easiest one to recover from. The next two are a little more complicated.

February 23 is the “big” surgery - the actual deep brain stimulation. I’ll stay the night at Vanderbilt.

February 29 is the surgery to implant the battery and hook up the wires. It’s outpatient.

I am self-conscious about how I look. For the time being, I can’t wear a wig or hats, so I’m laying low and hanging out at the house. My brother, Steven, gets the award for the first in my family to see me bald. Carrie, of course, was the absolute first to see me. Steven lives out of town, so I sent him a picture in a text. His response was priceless:

Mom and Dad have seen me and a few others, but, I’m not so brave as to show everyone. But, I told Mom I had to document in pictures this whole process (whether I actually post the pictures or not, at least I'll have them for posterities sake!). So she took this one of me. No hair, no makeup, no contact lenses:

I’m kind of even nervous posting this, but you’ve come this far with me in the journey, so I feel like you have a right to see. I might get bolder and post an actual bald picture, but for right now this is as close as you get! And, there's nothing wrong with my eye, that's the reflection from the light.

Thank you so very, very much for all the love and all the prayers. I truly feel them. It’s amazing to me to see how many people actually care. I mean, we each have our own lives to live and our own problems to overcome, so when I see you take time out to check in on me, it’s truly humbling to me. I hope I can one day either give back to you or pass along to others the kindness, love, prayers and support that all of you are giving to me. Thank you!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fear, Faith and Everything in Between

I'm just going to be honest - I'm starting to get really anxious about deep brain stimulation. Not anxious in that I don't want to do it (I do want to do it!), just anxious of the unknown. It's getting really real. Over this past week though, I've seen God in many ways and although my anxiousness is still there, I think God is allowing it to keep me closer to Him. The more anxious I get, the more I pray. :) A couple of weeks ago in his sermon, my dad said that sometimes God whispers so that we'll have to get really close to Him to be able to hear what He's saying. I've been taking that analogy with me through the past couple of weeks. I must confess though that I have not been reading God's Word like I should be. I even had the thought and talked to God about when I'm too tired to read His word or pray, I am so thankful that there are others who step in on my behalf and pray for me. Not that I shouldn't be praying and reading His Word all the time, I'm just very thankful for those who pray for me. I like to think of it like a "Moses moment". When Moses got too tired to keep his arms risen (to allow the Israelites to defeat the Amalekites - Exodus 17:10-13), he had help from others who held his arms up for him. So, thank you to all of you who are "holding my arms up".

There is a ministry at my church called the Prayer Shawl Ministry. There are several ladies in my church who crochet these beautiful shawls and then my dad prays over them. Then they are given to those who are sick or having surgery. It's to remind them that they are being prayed for. My dad picked one out for me - one that he liked and thought I would like - prayed over it and gave it to me. I absolutely love it and am very blessed to have it.

A retired pastor who is helping my dad and Pastor Mark out at church by preaching on Wednesday nights gave me this book and it's also been a huge blessing. Thank you, Pastor Steve.:

If you're on Facebook with me, you'll know that I got this beautiful drawing from a co-worker's 2-year-old little boy. It definitely brightened my day and brought a smile to my face:

I found it a little funny, when I got home from work on Friday and found my "Neurology Now" magazine in the mail. Perfect timing! I also got my "People" magazine. I like both of them the same. :)

I also got in the mail on Friday a letter from a friend with the most awesome magnetic bookmark. It's my life verse!! Thank you so very much for this, Kim. I love it!!!

Today in the mail I got another card from another friend. Thank you, Jacqueline for your sweet card and for this prayer:

Tomorrow is when I feel like it might get really, really real for me. I get my hair cut. I'm not sure if I'll be brave enough to post any bald pictures, but we'll see. I had to laugh tonight though because as I was eating dinner, I noticed a strand of hair in my salad (I know, GROSS). It was my hair though and I took it as God giving me another sign that everything will be alright. I won't have to worry about finding hair in my salad for awhile!! :) There have been little signs like that all along the way. I'm just thankful that God's opening my eyes to see them.

Something that is majorly stressing me out is the weather. There's supposed to be snow and ice on Tuesday when I'm supposed to be heading to Vanderbilt. I have to be at Vanderbilt at 8:30am. But - just today, God made me realize again that HE is in control. He brought to my mind this event in Joshua 10:12-14: "On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!"

If He can make the sun stand still and the moon stop, He most certainly can change the weather on Tuesday. So, my prayer is that there will not be ANY ice whatsoever between Knoxville and Nashville and I won't have to reschedule anything. Lord, I do believe You can do this - help me with my unbelief.

February 16 at 10am (Central time) is my first procedure. Under general anesthesia, I'll get an MRI and CT scan and get bone markers (screws) inserted into my skull. It sounds scary (the getting screws in part), but it's actually the least invasive, least taxing of the 3 surgeries. Is it weird that I'm more scared about going under general anesthesia than I am about being awake during the actual deep brain stimulation surgery on the 23rd?! I've always had two fears about general anesthesia. One is that I won't get enough and feel everything but not be able to tell anyone. The other is my biggest fear - that I'll just never wake up. I feel very vulnerable right now admitting those fears, but they are my fears, so no use in saying they aren't. I've heard many people say I'm so brave or I'm an inspiration or I'm so strong. While it's super flattering to hear that, I'm none of those things. I worry all the time. My faith wobbles. I'm insecure. I'm emotional. I'm stubborn. I have a temper. So, I should NOT be put on any pedestal. I'm just a girl who wants to be able to walk as normally as possible. I want to serve Jesus. I want to love unconditionally. I want to be who God wants me to be.

My dad had an awesome sermon last week that really spoke to me on several levels. The title of it was "All In". That's what I want to be - all in - in regards to my faith in God, my service to Him and even in this whole Deep Brain Stimulation process. All in!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Preparing for Next Week

1 Week!!! I can't believe it!!
This time next week, I'll begin the process of deep brain stimulation. So I've been preparing a little.
I've been reading up...

I've been trying to decide between this wig:

or this one:
I'm leaning more towards the orange since I live in Tennessee and we're all about the orange and white here (Go Vols!). And, for those that can't tell - I'm actually kidding about both wigs. I do have a wig, but when I have to wear it, I'll post a picture of it. :)

I've gotten a couple of supplies that I was told I needed (and this isn't a joke!).:

And I've been resting (or at least trying to!) on this promise from the Lord:

I really, really can't believe it's next week. Even though I've been going to all these appointments and preparing for this; it still seems like it's sneaking up. I think it's going to hit me when my hair's gone. But who knows, maybe it won't hit me until I'm actually at the hospital. I'm still praying for health, no bad weather and for the Lord to be in every intricate detail of this process.

Thank you for following along and for praying - both mean the world to me!

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Tuesday, February 2, my Dad called me and asked if I would like to be anointed. I’m pretty sure everyone who reads this blog knows my Dad is a pastor, but just in case you don’t know, he is. He and the elders of the church have been anointing those who are sick or having surgery for a few years now. It’s a wonderful ministry. They follow James 5:13-16: “Are any among you suffering? They should keep on praying about it. And those who have reason to be thankful should continually sing praises to the Lord. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.”

I’ll confess, while I did want to be anointed, I didn’t at the same time. I can’t believe I’m making that public, but it’s the truth. While I do like to be the center of attention sometimes (come on, admit it, you like to be the center of attention too, sometimes!), I didn’t want to be the center of attention in this area. I confessed this to a co-worker and what she said really opened my eyes. She said to look at this as having to humble myself before the Lord. She was spot on. The devil was trying to sneak back in. I was not going to let him. I knew my dad wanted me to be anointed and I knew deep down inside of me that I wanted to be anointed, so I said yes.

I consider Wednesday, February 3, as the start of my pre-op appointments. That’s the night I was anointed. While I was nervous, it turned out to be the biggest blessing. I WAS humbled before the Lord. The 7 elders who could be there each had a different Bible verse for me that fit me perfectly. Each elder prayed over me. My dad anointed me with oil (straight from Jerusalem!) and he also had a Bible verse for me and prayed over me. It was very, very special.
Thank you, Laurie for writing down all the verses spoken so I can read them again!

Thursday, February 4, I went to work as usual. My department has a meeting with another department at 10am on Thursdays. I have worked closely with the people in the other department for 10 years now – we actually used to be a part of the same department. As the meeting was winding down, I was given a HUGE gift basket by this department. I was floored. I was speechless (which really doesn’t ever happen at work!). It contained everything from a yo-yo and a slinky, to crossword puzzles, to an HGTV blanket, to lotions, to eye masks, to the softest bear decked out in an HGTV shirt. What an amazing, unexpected, lift-my-spirits gesture this was. I want to publicly thank everyone in that department who contributed to it. It certainly brightened my day. Thank you!

Friday, February 5, I traveled to Vanderbilt for pre-op testing. As usual, things never really go as planned. :) My mom was going to take me, but then she caught a cold and was not feeling well at all, so my dad stepped in. Fridays are his day off. I felt really bad that he had to rearrange his whole day to take me (as he had already planned to do several things on his day off), but I am forever grateful that he did. We listened to Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift and Adele CD’s as well as Rush Limbaugh on the way there. There has to be a balance, you know! I introduced Dad to Provence Café, the café that Mom and I really like. He liked it too!

My first appointment was with my neurosurgeon’s nurse. But, before she came in, I spoke with Beverly who is a part of the research department. I’m going to be a part of a few research studies. I don’t have to do anything special or extra. They are going to take data from my surgeries and use it to advance the whole deep brain stimulation process. Tiffany, Dr. K.’s nurse came in after Beverly and she went over everything that was going to happen before, during and after each surgery. Most of it, I knew already from speaking with Dr. K. and from reading the materiel that was given to me. But there were a few new things. She said that I probably shouldn’t wear the wig right away, because it’ll probably be tight and they don’t want anything tight on my head right after the surgeries. They don’t want any infections. So, I may be purchasing more hats/caps. I do have one monogrammed baseball cap thanks to my friends LaTina, Rheagan and Will!
I have a feeling I'll be wearing this a lot!! Every southern girl needs a monogrammed hat!

I also asked Tiffany about exercise. I told her I ride a stationary bike. She said that was fine to do. Yay - that made me so happy!! She confirmed that I would be awake when rolled into the operating room for the February 23 surgery (the actual deep brain stimulation) and that I would be awake almost the entire time. I have to do “work” during the surgery. I have to follow commands and answer questions from the neurologist. I have to tell them if I feel numbness or tingling and other things like that. They’ll put me to sleep at the very end after I’ve done my work and they’ve done all the testing and placing of the electrodes, so that they can finish up. She said that the most painful part will probably be when they numb my scalp for the surgery. Tiffany also went over when I could drive or return to work. She first said not until 4-6 weeks after the last surgery (on February 29). I protested that a little bit. Then she said, “Well, you’re not our typical patient. Our typical patients are MUCH older and have Parkinson’s and are already kind of cloudy (with their minds) and the anesthesia just makes that worse , so I automatically say no driving until 6 weeks after. I’d say you could probably go back to work two weeks after the last surgery.” Perfect, as I’m officially on FMLA until March 16 – two weeks after the last surgery! This is a rolling FMLA though, if I need more time, I can have it. We’ll just have to see how everything goes. I also found out that the DBS device will be turned on 4-6 weeks after the February 23 surgery. This is fantastic, because I thought it was 4-6 weeks after the last surgery on February 29. Hopefully it'll be turned on by mid-March instead of mid-April.

The second part of my pre-op visit was to meet with a nurse practitioner and get paperwork done and labs taken. This was pretty non-descript. There’s really nothing to report. I filled out paperwork and paid a chunk of change (again, thank you, Lord for an HSA that I have been contributing to). I'm all checked in for surgery and I cut down on a LOT of paperwork that I would have normally had to do the day of surgery. I love efficiency!
These are like free movie passes, but not! :) I don't need a surgical pass for February 16th because that's being done in radiology.

I met with the nurse practitioner and she asked questions and listened to my heart. My blood pressure was taken and it was a lot lower then my previous appointment - 128/85. I was weighed, but the amount was in kilograms, so I have no idea what it actually was (and didn’t ask!). Then, I went downstairs to the lab and got blood taken. That took all of 2 minutes! Then Dad and I were on our way home.

Dad and I had some good conversation in the car on the way home. I am extremely thankful and blessed to have the mom and dad that I do!

The next step is to lose my hair. That’ll happen either February 13 or 14. Then, February 16 is the first “surgery”. I’m put under general anesthesia, screws are inserted into my skull (don’t worry, I won’t look like Frankenstein. The screws will not be visible.) and I’ll be given an MRI and CT scan. Please pray that I don’t get sick before this surgery and have to postpone, the weather will be good (no ice or snow) and that there won’t be any complications.

Again, thanks for following along and may God bless each and every one of you.

Monday, February 1, 2016

It's February!!!

It’s February and the best way I can describe how I’m feeling is, I’m excited!

The shortest month of the year, may turn out to be one of the busiest months of the year for me. I’m extremely excited to be given this opportunity of deep brain stimulation and to have hope again that I may (10 years after it began) be able to walk cane and walker free.

I have to share a cute story from a couple of weeks ago. It was just my mom and me and my niece Genevieve sitting in the family room at my Mom and Dad’s house. Genevieve, who will be 19 months old tomorrow, was sitting on my lap and I was talking to her like she understood everything I was telling her. I asked her, “Genevieve are you going to know who I am even without my hair? Will it scare you?” To which she instantly reached up and grabbed my hair. She started playing with it, twirling it, and then putting it on her own head. It was like she really did understand what was going to happen!! It was the sweetest moment and I’ll never forget it. Oh, how I love that girl!!

I’ve come to terms with losing my hair and I'm OK with it. I know it will grow back and I had a blast going wig shopping with Mom. I’ve got a wig (which will make its debut a few days before February 16) and hats. It’ll be much quicker to get ready in the morning – that’s for sure! I’ve been relishing every bad hair day :) I really feel terrible for even having reservations about having to shave all my hair off because I know so many people have no choice but to lose their hair due to chemotherapy and other medical conditions and they’re truly fighting for their lives. So, please forgive me if I came or come across as being vain or stuck-up or not caring about anything else. I can’t imagine what cancer patients go through, nor do I ever want to be in their place. They are the brave ones.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I was born a worrier (if that’s even possible). I know God’s in control and He’s got this, and yet, I still worry. I also know that worry is Satan’s tactic to get in and try to sway me to his side, but, it’s not going to work!! I WILL trust in the Lord. My life verse is Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition present your requests to God.” So, while I’ll still probably twirl my hair between my fingers until it falls out, I’m OK with that because it’s going to be cut off anyway! In any and every way, I’m trying to find humor through all of this because if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry (or worry more!). God has blessed me with funny situations all around, keeping me laughing throughout. He knows what I need to make it through each day. But while I try to find humor in every situation, worry still creeps in. So, I’ve decided to list some specific prayer requests below that I’m worrying about. I figure if others pray about these requests too, the worry will fall away. While some are big requests, some also may seem silly, but to God they are one and the same. These are just a few – I’m sure as soon as I post this, I’ll have come up with 10 more :) but here’s what I’ve got so far:

1. That there will not be any bad weather (snow, ice, blizzards, tornadoes…) on February 5, 16, 23 (and coming home on the 24th) or 29th as I’ll be traveling to and from Nashville on those days. For those that don’t know, Nashville is a 2 and ½ hour drive from Knoxville.
2. That I wouldn’t get sick before any surgery and that Mom and Dad won’t get sick either.
3. That I won’t get any scrapes, cuts or wounds before the surgery as they could be a source of infection
4. That I’ll be calm and not anxious or worried about anything.
5. That the doctors, surgeons, nurses and other medical professionals will stay healthy, get a good night’s sleep before each surgery, have steady hands and be confident in the surgeries/procedures they will be performing.
6. That I won’t get any infections between surgeries (which is (unfortunately) a possibility, I’ve been told).
7. That God will have His hand in every intricate detail whether big or small.
8. That I’ll be able to pay for my part of everything (insurance is awesome, but paying the deductible all at once is a little daunting! Thank the Lord for an HSA (health savings account) that I’ve been building up by putting the maximum amount allowed into.
9. That I won’t feel self-conscious about anything.
10. That humor will prevail over stressing out or worrying about things.
11. That my blood pressure and other pre-op tests will come back with flying colors. It rattled me the last time I saw the neurosurgeon that my blood pressure was as high as it was because it’s never been like that in the past. I just need to take slow, deep breaths!!
12. That there won’t be any complications (which could include infection, bleeding, stroke, death)
13. That this will work and I will not have to use a walker or cane to walk!!!
14. That God will be glorified in everything.

This coming Friday, February 5 stuff starts to happen. I’ll be traveling to Vanderbilt for pre-op evaluations. I’ll meet with my neurosurgeon’s nurse and she’ll give me specific instructions on preparing for all the procedures/surgeries and follow-up care. Then I’ll have a pre-operative evaluation where I’ll meet with the anesthesiologist to go over what will be happening during all the surgeries, plus I’m sure they’ll run all the pre-operative tests.

I’m excited about what’s to come. I’m nervous too, but excited more. I hope to keep everyone up-to-date through this blog after every step, but it may be delayed depending on how I feel. Thank you so much for following along, but more than that for praying and for loving me with or without a walker, with or without hair. You make my life so much fuller. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Love to you all. February’s here – let’s get this party started!!