Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tune- In Tuesday: Podiatrist Appointment March 28

Today was my appointment with the podiatrist. He happens to also go to my church. ;) Mom went with me to the appointment and I’m really glad she did because there was a second set of ears to hear what he had to say. It was a great appointment, although by my attitude afterwards, you wouldn’t have been able to tell. I was in some kind of funky mood! I texted Mom to tell her I was sorry. I was just sad, but I’m much better now!!

It turns out Dr. Rankin was right; I do have a hammer toe. Or probably more correctly, toes. He was also correct in saying that my hammer toes are a direct result of the dystonia. Dr. Gardner confirmed all of this, while also saying he could fix it. But that means surgery and unlike the day I saw Dr. Rankin and wanted surgery THAT DAY to take care of the problem, today I was a little bit more hesitant. A funny thing happened when Dr. Gardner explained what he would do if surgery was the path I decided to take. He said he would have to fuse my toes together. I literally said out-loud, “You’re going to fuse all of my toes together?!” He laughed and said, “No. Internally, I will fuse the parts that make up your toe together.” Whew!! I dodged a bullet there!! He left the room briefly to see another patient and I turned to Mom and said, “I really thought he meant he was going to fuse all my toes together!” She comforted me by acknowledging that she thought the same thing!! We got a good laugh out of it. :)

Dr. Gardner wanted to see me walk. I laughed and said that's the one thing I HATE doing in front of doctors. He said, "Just walk normally". I couldn't, because he was watching! It's a catch-22!! Agh!! One of these days, I'm going to gather every doctor who has ever asked me to walk for him in a room and I'm going to walk perfectly in front of them. At least that's my dream! Actually, if I'm being honest, I have dreamt in the past of all of them watching me win an Emmy or Oscar and walking up on stage to receive the award and having no issues. Don't judge. ;)

While at Dr. Gardner's, I got an X-ray of my foot and toes. The X-ray showed where I had broken my toe when I was a teen, which brought up the story that Mom and Dad didn’t believe me when I said I thought I broke it and made me walk on it a week (grant it, we were on vacation!) before taking me to get it checked out. It hasn't been straight since. Haha. Sorry, Mom and Dad, I had to tell it. ;)

Dr. Gardner explained the surgery he would do if that’s the route I’d take. He said he would put what’s called a smart toe (I think that’s the name…I know it was definitely “smart” something!) rod in my toes and it would cause them to lay straight. He said he would also lengthen the tendons in those toes. He started to describe the surgery and it sounded like I wasn’t going to be put to sleep, so I asked. He said normally he would have a patient under deep sedation, but in my case he would probably use general anesthesia. The reason being is that my leg may involuntarily jerk due to the dystonia and that would be bad. He also said the surgery would be about an hour, but in my case, an hour and half probably. When speaking about recovery, he said that he puts most of his patients in a straight shoe/boot, but with me, he’d likely give me a boot/brace that goes all the way up to my knee. This is because he wants my foot to stay at a 90-degree angle and with just a straight shoe, my foot probably would not cooperate. OK, I’m not going to lie, I like being special at times (doesn’t everyone?!), but not when it comes to surgeries and the like. Everything is having to be tweaked because of the dystonia. Oh well. It is what it is!

I was pondering all of the information Dr. Gardner was giving me and really debating if I wanted the surgery. My toe does kill me and I have callouses all over the bottom of my foot that hurt too. I want all of that to get better, but surgery?! Dr. Gardner said the only way for all of that to get better is to have my toes lie flat and they won’t do that without (more) assistance. The deep brain stimulation is only going to get them so straight. He said they would still be curled even if I was at my goal on the electricity. I was still hesitant until he said what would eventually happen if I didn’t do anything. Eventually, my Achilles tendon would just snap one day. Hearing that, snapped me back to reality. ;) I DON’T want that to happen. I really, really, really don’t want another surgery, but if it prevents something worse happening down the line AND it helps me walk better – then I’ve got to do it.

So, I’ve set a surgery date: April 18. It’s after my niece’s first birthday and after Easter (so I can still wear normal shoes to church!). Dr. Gardner said that I have to be off my feet/out of work for a week (I can, thankfully, work from home!!), but after a week, I can slowly get back into the routine of things. It’ll take about 4-6 weeks to completely recover.

This was NOT my plan. This is not necessarily where I wanted to be a year after deep brain stimulation surgery, but God likes throwing me curve balls. I like dodging them. ;) But, if this is God’s plan, then who am I to say no? I am so excited to see where God leads. None of this is cut and dry. I’m a planner, an organizer, a type-A, perfectionist who likes to have everything laid out before me and know where I’m going. But God has different plans. He wants me to be more spontaneous, go-with-flow, trusting and joyful. So, if this is path He’s leading me down; it’s the path I’m going to take!

My co-worker, Debbie, had the catchphrase of the day. She said, “You can now literally say you’ve had surgery from head to toe!” Haha. Yes, yes I can say that. I can also (still!) say that from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, “God’s Got This!”.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: March 21

A co-worker told me yesterday that he is still amazed when he sees me walking down the hallway without a walker a cane. I'M still amazed when I stop and take time to write on this blog and realize that I have just completed another week of walking cane and walker free and I haven't fallen. God is so, so good!! While, it (the walking) is not perfect and I still have "bad" days - I'm still walking without a walker or cane. For that, I continue to be in awe of what God has done and continues to do.

I find that when I am excited (either with a good excitement or not-so-good excitement), I tend to have more trouble walking. I want to get where I'm going fast and I just can't quite do that yet. I want to run. Seriously, there are times, I just want to run and I'm not there yet - but I do believe I will get there. For now, God just wants me to stop and smell the roses. ;)

I did turn the electricity in my deep brain stimulation device up today to 4.00 volts on level C. I had been at 3.90 volts on level C for the past 3 weeks. I think that's the longest I've ever been on a level since the surgery a year ago. Remember, patience is not my strong suite. ;) But, today I felt like I should go up. While my foot lays straight (for the most part), my toes have been curling up non-stop. I went up in the electricity to see if that will help my toes lay flat. I can obviously get around with them curled under because I've been doing that, but if they lay flat - how awesome would that be? I was a little less sure of myself today walking-wise, but I knew that would probably happen. Whether it's psychosomatic or real, I always seem to have "off" days when I mess with the electricity in my brain. But, I didn't slip, trip or fall today and I got everywhere I needed to go without using a walker or a cane, so I'm counting that as a huge WIN!

I've been battling with my toe this past week. It's aggravating the stew out of me, but only aggravating me, not causing me to fall or have any other issues - praise Jesus! I was somewhat grateful for the cooler weather this past week ONLY because the only shoes that I can wear comfortably are these boots that I have that have fabric on the top of them. But, I see a podiatrist next week, so hopefully there's a remedy for my toe in the near future.

This has nothing to do with dystonia or my health, but I can't end this post without acknowledging today's date: March 21. I was forever changed on March 21, 1990. That's when a dream came true and died all in the very same moment: I had a stillborn sister, Stacia Karen. Today she'd be 27. Her name means "resurrected one". How appropriate. I give myself the day to remember her and then rejoice that JOY comes in the morning. I've shed tears today, but I know God is sovereign. I don't have a sister, but God's given me three brothers whom I love with all my heart. The sibling rivalry for me is almost obsolete. It's there, but I'm positive it's not as strong as if I'd had a sister. My dad tells me that when I was little, I didn't want any brothers or sisters. I wanted Mom and Dad all to myself. But, now that I am older, I love, love, love having brothers. I wouldn't trade them for the world. They each hold a very special place in my heart. Two of my brothers have given me two nieces. When I look at my nieces, I see God's grace poured out on me. I am so incredibly blessed to be their aunt. They bring our whole family so much joy. I now get to play babies and dogs and princesses and have tea parties and have them say "Aunt Tepanie come play!" (OK that's Little G. Every time I ask Baby H to say my name, she looks at me like, "You've got to be kidding me!") and buy them gifts.

God is good. ALL THE TIME. I can truly say that. Even on a melancholy day like March 21 is for me, God is good. He's in control and His love overwhelms me. He's got me in the palm of His hand (as He's also got you!). In everything, I can say, God's Got This!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tune-In Tuesday: March 14

Oh, what a week! It was a good one though - yay!!

Good news: I got my appointment with the orthopedic doctor to look at my toe. Bad news: It's not until May 18. After hearing me whine and complain about my toe all day Sunday, Mom convinced me to call a podiatrist that goes to my church. She used scare tactics on me: "You could die from this toe before May 18." "You could have to have your toe amputated if you wait until May 18." Thanks, Mom! ;) Sometimes, I need a little push though! She knows me. The hypochondriac in me revved into full gear. Mom usually doesn't use that tactic with me, but I guess she'd heard enough whining about it that she wanted to make sure that I actually did something about it ASAP. She showed me her hammer toe and I literally said, "which toe is it?". I couldn't tell! Her toe looks NOTHING like my toe. That might be because my toe is all swollen and gross. It hurts all the time and there's only one pair of shoes I can wear that don't make it hurt worse. I'm not saying I don't have a hammer toe. What I am saying is something else is wrong with it. So, I called the podiatrist from my church. Unfortunately, it's Spring Break week here (although currently it feels like it should be Winter Break) and he's out of the office all week. The earliest appointment he had for a new patient was March 28. So March 28 is when I see him. It's a lot better than May 18. ;) I am keeping the May 18 appointment as well until I hear what the podiatrist says.

I got a letter in the mail from my Knoxville neurologist. At first I thought it was a bill and it laid on my kitchen table unopened for a couple of days. When I did finally open it, it wasn't a bill after all. It was letter from Dr. L. telling me that he was moving practices. I instantly thought, "Oh, no! Here we go again...", however, as I read on, he's moving to UT (The University of Tennessee) where my Nashville neurologist is also going. He's taking all my files with him and I don't have to find another local neurologist, unless I want to. What I don't know is if my Knoxville neurologist and my Nashville neurologist will be working together. If that's the case - how awesome would that be?! That would TOTALLY be a God thing!!

Speaking of mail and my Nashville neurologist - I got my portion of the bill from my two hour office appointment with him. No wonder he wasn't in a hurry to leave. Haha. Yes, it's steep, but I am so very, very thankful that I have an HSA (Health Savings Account). I am very, very thankful that I decided to put the maximum amount allowed into it and I'm very, very thankful that I had built it up a little!! Also, I have a very high deductible. I checked that today and I've almost met it for the year. It'll probably be met within a month or two. After it's met, I won't have to pay out of pocket. God provides. All the time.

I, again, am staying at the level of electricity that I've been on now for the past two weeks. Everything is not perfect, but I feel like I'm at a level I can live with. That's not to say seconds after posting this, that I'll change my mind and up it, but (I think!) I'm OK staying another week at this level. ;) I've had some problems with my hand this week, but I'm hoping it'll settle down. I'm also officially declaring that the weather does have an effect on my ability to move correctly. I was doing wonderfully and then cold weather struck and I struggled a little more. So, my stance is, weather effects me. I do poorly in cold and well in warm weather.

One quick story because I can't resist. It's too cute not to share. I have two nieces. One is 2 and 1/2 and the other will be one on April 11. The one who is 11 months old is just learning to walk. My parents bought her a walker to use at their house. She was testing it out a couple of Sundays ago and my 2 and 1/2 year old niece was watching. The next day, my mom showed my 2 and 1/2 year old niece the video she had taken of my 11 month old niece and my 2 and 1/2 year old niece, after watching the video says to my mom, "Like Aunt Tepanie!!" She remembers that I used to walk with a walker!! It was the cutest, sweetest thing to hear. Even at 2 and 1/2 she knows what's going on and what's happened in the past. Both of my nieces are my pride and joy. I could talk about them all day and all night. I am so very, very blessed to have them in my life and I love them with every fiber of my being.

It's been a good week. No falls. The toe is bothering me, but in the scheme of things, I'm still walking with no walker or cane, so all is well. I know that God's working in me and hopefully through me. My prayer every time I write a post on this blog is that my words are not my words, but God's. I pray that God works through this blog and through my life to guide people to Him. I don't have all the answers, but God does. So, if you get anything out of my posts, I hope you get that no matter what, GOD'S GOT THIS!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tune-In Tuesday: March 7

“There is no wrong way to walk. There’s just walking or not walking.” Oh, how I needed to hear that this past week. I was told that by a man at church, Jack, who, at first asked if I needed an arm as I walked out of church on Sunday. When I (politely!) declined, but said he could walk beside me, he did just that. We started talking and he just plain-as-day, matter-of-factly said what he said. God must have known that I needed that. It was just two sentences, but it’s opened my world (so to speak). It doesn’t matter how I walk; it matters that I walk. And I have been doing just that. Don't get me wrong. I want to walk correctly - one foot in front of the other without tripping, slipping or falling. I want my gait to be "normal". BUT - even though my gait is not normal yet - I start and stop, I don't walk "fluidly" all the time, people can probably tell that there is something wrong with me - I'm WALKING.

March 4 marked 1 month of walking with no walker and no cane. One month!!! I realized that not only did I walk without a cane or a walker, but I didn’t fall either! Not once. I didn’t really even trip or slip either. God is so good!

Speaking of walking, re-learning to do so is no small feat and not for the faint of heart. I know why God made it so that we learn to walk when we are young. First, you’ve never walked before, so you don't know about falling and you're pretty much fearless. Second, if you fall, you’re closer to the ground and you have padding (a diaper). Re-learning to walk when you’re 36 is not so easy. I know how falling feels. In my case, relearning to walk correctly is trusting fully that God will keep me upright and safe. If I should fall, it's having faith that God will keep me safe from harm and embarrassment. It's all about trust and just like my lacking patience, I tend to lack trust. God's working in me on this though. Slowly, but surely, I'm trusting more. I'm trusting God, I'm trusting the doctors, I'm trusting the process. I'm trusting.

A new funny thing that I've noticed being cane and walker free is that I have no idea what to do with my arms and hands! I've been so used to either holding the cane or holding onto a walker, that my arms and hands feel awkward now - like they have nothing to keep them occupied. I have a tendency to want to grab a hold of everything I see. I call it "wall-walking". I used to do it all the time before deep brain stimulation. When I wasn't using the walker or cane at home, I'd walk from one wall to the other or from one chair to the other, always reaching out and grabbing whatever I thought would keep me from falling. Now, I don't need nor want to do this, but I find myself (I guess it's muscle memory?) instinctively and automatically doing it. One way I'm trying to train myself not to do this is by crossing my arms. By crossing my arms, I can't reach out for something to grab a hold of. So, if you see me doing this, I'm probably not mad, I'm just trying to train my arms and hands to not reach for a wall. ;) I never in a million years thought I'd have an issue of what to do with my hands and arms while walking. Just another thing to re-learn. ;)

Last Thursday, I was on the phone with my mom and I was complaining about this “cut” I have on my toe on my left foot (the dystonic one). She finally convinced me to go to the doctor about it. I went and saw Dr. Rankin (my internist) the next day. Turns out it’s not a “cut”, but a callous and it’s the area around the callous that’s giving me so much issue. I have a callous because Dr. Rankin diagnosed me with a “hammer toe”. I had heard of that (thanks to all my medical show TV watching), but didn’t really know what it was. He explained it to me (you can Google it if you’d like, but none of the pictures really look like my toe!) and he said that in my case, he thought it was a direct symptom of my dystonia. But I’m not totally convinced of that because I found out my mom has it and my grandfather also had it. However, the conclusion is that he is sending me to an orthopedic doctor to have it looked at. He said that they may say that I need a tendon cut in my toe. When I said, “That’s surgery, right?” he kind of backed down and said I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Maybe the orthopedic doctor will have another way to treat it. So, his office made the referral, now I have to wait on them to call me to set up an appointment. Friday, I was ready to meet the orthopedic doctor and have the surgery all in one day. You do remember that patience is not one of my finer qualities, right?! But I have to wait. I have to wait for them to call and I have to wait for an appointment. The reason I even went to the doctor in the first place over this is because I’m in a lot of pain with it. My toe rubs up against my shoe and sometimes I can barely walk because it hurts so bad. This is not good! I’m trying to re-learn to walk and now I have a toe issue. ;) As I told Dr. Rankin, if it’s not one thing, it’s another! Oh well!

Walking this past week has been slow, but I’m doing it and that’s all that matters. Tonight was somewhat hilarious. Earlier in the day, I had an appointment that I had to leave work for, so when I got back to work, I had to park in the furthest handicap parking space there was as all the others were taken. When I left work tonight, it was rainy and windy. I had my yellow umbrella up and not even half-way to my car, it blew inside out. So I had to deal with walking and trying to wrestle my umbrella right side out again. I was probably a site to see! Someone even got out of their car and asked if I needed help. By that time, the umbrella was down and I was feet from my car, so I told him no. God got me safely to my car without any other “incidents” – haha! I was actually laughing as I got in the car.

I decided not to turn up the electricity in my brain this week. I’m going to see what another week on this level does. It's been a good past week. There were definitely times of struggle, but I think another week on this level of electricity might help even things out. But, really, who knows?! Only God. So, I'll trust Him.

I am so very thankful and so very blessed that as I sit here tonight I can look back over the week that was and know that God protected me every step of the way. I'm growing deeper in my faith and trust in Him and yes, I'm even growing a little in the patience department too. ;) God’s Got This!!