Thursday, May 31, 2012


As you know, I was in the hospital from May 9th until May 13th.  What you might not know is how or why I ended up there. So here goes:

For a while now ( a few months) I had been suffering from lower back pain radiating into my left leg.  I was still able to walk and function in my duties as "mommy" so I pretty much paid no mind to it, other than taking the occasional Aleve or Ibuprofen tablet to ease the discomfort.  I was still very active in my Yoga and Pilates classes and really just chalked it up to "I need to lose more weight" and "I'm officially old because this is sciatica".

After a few weeks, the pain wasn't getting any better and it certainly was getting worse.  Now, my left leg would spasm randomly sending shooting pains all the way up my body and my spine making it unbearable to put any pressure on it for a few minutes.  My balance at Yoga was completely off when dependent on my left side, sitting cross legged was virtually impossible, and sitting at all for any length of time would eventually start to hurt terribly, thus making it impossible for me to drive.

At the end of March, I was lying on the couch and in trying to get up, my left leg gave out and I cried out in pain for Randy to help me.  I couldn't move. My back and my leg were on fire and it was horrible.  My mom came and took me to the Emergency Room where I was given an I/V and Delaudin (?) which (didn't know at the time) I am allergic to and I proceeded to hallucinate and get sick all over the place.  And it did nothing to alleviate my pain or the spasms.  After hours of twilight sleep in an uncomfortable gurney, my mom putting cold cloths on my head, the doctor came, asked me questions, told me I had sciatica, prescribed pain meds and muscle relaxants, told me to take it easy, and sent me on my way.

Take it easy?  I'm a mom. I don't take it easy.

I followed the regiment I was given, took a pain med as needed as well as the muscle relaxant and decided that this was going to be a pain I was going to have to live with.  There were good days and bad and I was just going to have to deal.  I modified my poses at Yoga, took it slower in Pilates, and went on with my life.

One morning in late April, as I was hoisting Dorian, my 25 pound 22 month old into the car so we could take Dante to school, I felt "something" click in my back and I saw stars.  I saw moons, planets, nebulae, fuck it I saw the whole Universe in the pain and I knew something was wrong.  I managed to take Dante to school then hightailed it to my mom's house where it was decided that we'd make an appointment with a doctor at her primary care office to see me.

This doctor was very brusk and formal.  Told me that I should expect to have lower back pain and sciatica because of my weight (fuck you very much) and that he would prescribe me pain medication and Valium this time and recommend I see a nutritionist.  And he sent me on my way.

A couple of days later, the same thing again, my leg went into spasms and my back wouldn't move and I was taken to the E/R where again, I was told I had sciatica, given pain meds, and sent home.  This doctor, though, recommended I go get an MRI.  When asked why he couldn't just send me up to get one, he said "We don't do MRIs at the E/R, you'd have to be admitted".  Gee thanks Doc.

So that night, my mom took me to get an MRI at the Outpatient center nearby.  By this time, my leg and back pain were so intense that I was no longer able to function.  Lying on my side was the only way to alleviate the pain.  I could walk as far to the bathroom but even sitting down to "use" the toilet was excruciatingly painful.  When I heard that I would have to lie FLAT and STILL for this MRI I didn't know if I could do it.  I was shoved into the MRI machine and I instantly knew that I was in trouble.  The pain was so incredible that I was literally SCREAMING for them to get me out.  I lasted as long as I could but unfortunately, the tech was unable to get a scan.  She recommended I call an ambulance and be taken to the hospital.  Then, and only then, would they "admit" me to get an MRI.

I had had enough by then and just wanted to go home.  After a long night, my mom came over in the morning, called an ambulance and I was taken by three very handsome EMTs BACK TO THE HOSPITAL.  This was at 10:30am May 9th.  I was fed morphine through an I/V all day but nothing was helping.  At 10:30 PM, the doctor came in, told me that if he gave me any more morphine, I would die, and that I was going to have to do the MRI awake and just do my best.  So I was wheeled up to the hospital MRI.  Randy, having switched places with my mom after work, was at my side as I cried from the pain, assured me that I could do it and to be strong.  The MRI guys were kind and sensitive to my pain.  I explained to them how difficult it was for me to be on my back and they said they would do it as fast as they could.  I went into the machine.

I must have blacked out from the pain because I was awakened by the tech in my earphones telling me to stop moving.  I explained to him that I wasn't moving.  Turns out that my body, from the extreme pain, was spasming on its own.  I was pulled out and allowed to lie on my side and cry for a little bit.  The tech told me that he had enough for a flat view but desperately needed the cross section view so I had to go back in.  I knew it was going to be excruciating but I also knew that if I didn't get this MRI done, there was no way I was going to get better. So I went back in.

It turns out, that I was gone for over an hour.  When the MRI was finished, I was so out of it from both pain and medication that I think I just went to sleep.  By now, it must have been 11:30pm or so.  I vaguely remember a doctor coming into my room in the E/R to tell me I was going to be admitted, but after that it gets blurry.  At 3am I woke up because I was rolling into the hospital going to my room on the 7th floor, Neurosurgery.  I was given more pain meds.....and I was out.

The next morning, Thursday May 10th, I was informed that I had herniated discs and that the "jelly" from my spine had burst through and was pressing on my back and nerves causing me this excruciating pain.  By this point, I was no longer able to walk at all and needed help going to the bathroom.  Nothing is more humbling than having a nurse younger than you wipe you.  Anyhow, I was told that surgery was necessary and that I'd be going under the knife tomorrow, May 11th.

So, I did.  I had a procedure known as a Laminectomy., plus my herniated discs were "shaved" down.(My incision is much lower that this diagram.  I believe my discs were 4 and 5).

I came home from the hospital on Mother's Day and have been recovering ever since.  I can walk again, but only short distances because I get very tired and my back starts to hurt.  I have a snazzy cane which makes me look pimp, and I cannot BLT (bend, lift, or turn).  I had my two week follow-up yesterday and I have been granted permission to drive short distances, but still am not allowed to swim until my incision is fully healed.  I am starting physical therapy 3 times a week for a month on June 5th and will follow up again after 6 weeks.  I still have lots of pain in my back and my doctor said that that is normal during the healing process, but if after our next followup, it is still present, I'm going to have to get X-rays done to see what's going on.

So there you have it.  My wonderful story about enduring horrible and copious amounts of pain.  Thanks to those of you who helped me with the kids, with my emotional state, and with just being there.  I couldn't have done it without you. 

My birthday is June 29th.  I hope to be dancing by then.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wedding Day Blues

My brother and his fiancee were married this past weekend and sadly, because of my stupid back surgery, I was unable to go despite being Maid (Matron?) of Honor and being fitted and refitted for my dress, having all of our travel plans arranged, and Randy taking time off of work, and so on and so forth.  Dante, on the other hand, entrusted in the very important job of being the Official Ring Bearer, went along with my parents on his first plane trip to NYC and his first "vacation" away from the rest of us for four days.

On a side note, Dante was under the impression that he was the "Ring Bear" and was going to wear a bear costume and growl and snarl while presenting my brother and Elena their rings.

I wrote a little something to be read in my absence and I heard it went over well.  It wasn't my "usual" type of writing because it was a classy joint but I did get a few zingers in there.

I don't have many regrets in life, but this is one of them.  I truly regret not having been there to see my "annoying baby brother" get married.

Without further ado. Here is the happy couple and the "Ring Bear". 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Like A Prayer

When I first met my husband, a native North Carolinian, he told me this joke about two little prim and proper Southern old ladies sitting on their front porch.
The first said to the other "My husband got me a Cadillac for my birthday this year!".
The other replied, "That's nice".
The first said, "And last year he bought me diamond earrings!"
"That's nice", replied the second.
"What did your husband get you for your birthday?" asked the first woman.
"Finishing lessons." replied the second.
"Finishing lessons?" asked the first woman, "Whatever for?"
"So I can say 'that's nice'", replied the second, "instead of 'Fuck you!'"

It's a cute joke and very fitting when I'm faced with the phrase "I'll pray for you".  This simple phrase uttered daily by millions of people has a very complex meaning, and it all depends on very specific circumstances.  Most people would assume, and wrongfully so, that because I am an Atheist, that the phrase, "I'll pray for you" would make me extremely angry and offend me to no end.  In fact, this past week while I was in the hospital having emergency back surgery (more on that in a future blog), my Facebook page was flooded with well wishes, thoughts, and yes, even prayers from friends who were thinking of me.  What upset me, though, were the posts from people offering prayers who felt they needed to "apologize" for using that terminology, thinking that because I don't pray, I would somehow find their need to do so as a way of wishing me well somewhat offensive.  So while lying in the hospital and watching horrible TV shows I would never dream of (admitting to) watching and having really cool painkillers pumped into my IV (seriously, the doctor said that if they gave me any more morphine I was going to stop breathing), I decided I would clarify certain things with my praying friends in hopes that they would understand my mind as an Atheist when it comes to things like that. Notice I didn't say "understand THE mind of an Atheist" as all of us are different and trust me, there are some fuckwad Atheists out there that I'd rather not be associated with.  Especially the ones that tell me I can't do Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy, but that's a whole other thing all together.  Anyhow, I digress.  Moving on.

The term "I'll pray for you" has, as I said earlier, different meanings.  Specifically, two.  The first comes from a place of love, caring, friendship, and the belief that your god (whoever or whatever he/she/it may be) will take time out of their omnipotent schedule (it's a pretty booked one) and nudge a little bit of goodwill by way of you to the person you're praying for.  That's awesome.  It's a nice sentiment.  There's no malice behind it and if anyone thinks there is, they're a dick for thinking it.  In most situations where the phrase "I'll pray for you" is being used or "You're in my prayers", someone like me who doesn't pray will say something like, "Thinking of you" or "Positive thoughts coming your way", or the ever intelligent "hugz".  There's no need to apologize for saying it.  You're wishing someone well.  You could be praying to Rangor, god of mute sheep who floods the fields with the blood of newborn lizards, and it still would be coming from a good place.  This meaning of "I'll pray for you" is not the one that is offensive.  So please, don't ever apologize for saying it.

Now, though, I will deal with the phrase as it is taken as a negative connotation.  I'm going to have to use examples since I've never experienced this with an actual friend, so most of my stories will be those of me and random strangers who are dicks.  No, I'm not judging. You'll see why.

Example 1 of "I'll pray for you" used as a negative:  I am shopping at a grocery store.  I am walking to my car with full cart of bags and children singing a random Yo Gabba Gabba song.  Woman is near my car. I think she's getting into hers next to me, but in fact she's just staring at my car.  I get my keys out to open the trunk.  Conversation is as follows:
Her: "Is that your car"
Me: "Yes, I'm sorry did I park too close?"
Her: "You're an Atheist" (My bumper sticker says "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist")
Me: "Yep."
Her: "So you don't believe in Jesus"
Me: "Nope"
Her: "I'll pray for you"

Did you spot the difference? She wasn't sending well wishes.  She was using the phrase as a mask instead of saying "Fuck you!"  And you can't convince me otherwise because 99% of the time when this happens (and yes, it happens quite often) the person saying "I'll pray for you" isn't merely speaking the words, rather they are spitting them in anger with a face on them that could stop a clock.  Seriously, if looks could kill, I'd be dead a hundred times over.  I even once had a guy actually spit on my car after saying "I'll pray for you".  Are you getting the gist of the different contexts?

Another example of the negativity aspect of "I'll pray for you" can also come in the written form.  In this case, when random strangers, leave "love notes" on my car.  I call them "love notes" because, as we all know, "god is love" and since these people believe they are speaking for god and followers of god, their notes are in fact, full of "his love".  Sorry, I told myself I wasn't going to be snarky, but blame the Percocet because it's kicking in.  Anyhow, the most common "love note" I get goes something like "Jesus Christ is Lord. You will burn in hell. I will pray for you".  Again, that's not a "get well soon" kind of sentiment.  They just don't have the guts to write "Fuck You" and would much rather condescend into some sort of weird passive/aggressive mumbo jumbo that makes them feel better about themselves. "Sure, I left a nasty note on someone's car whose views I disagreed with, but I am praying for them!" Not quite.  Sometimes I get some really clever notes, which have the standard text above, but thrown in they will add commentary about my other bumper stickers like "You are a ni**er loving socialist nazi" (must be the Obama sticker), "I feel sorry for your children" (must have seen the car seats in the car), "I hope your children burn for eternity" (see previous), or some that just don't understand the Carl Sagan quote about the Universe and call me a "fucking bitch", "cunt" or tell me to "go kill yourself, then see that you're wrong". But you know what brings all these notes together?  They all end with that simple phrase of guessed it...."I'll pray for you".

But it doesn't end there. No no no!  It's not "I'll pray for you" that suffers from double meaning, but the phrase like "god bless you", rather anything with "bless" in it falls into the same trap. And again, I have to remind my friends not to apologize if you want to use it in a sentence while talking with me.  A while back I went to dinner with a wonderful woman from my book club.  She is an Episcopalian Minister, married to her partner for a long long time, and really someone that you come across once in a lifetime.  Amazing.  While we were eating and talking about our families, life, loves, etc. I noticed that she kept apologizing every time she said "god bless you" or "god bless them" when I was talking about my children or parts of my life.  And every time she apologized for saying it, I had to remind her not to because it wasn't offensive to me.  I think many religious people think all Atheists are cranky old men like Richard Dawkins who are always looking to pick a fight with theists.  You have to understand that we're not.  Sure, as I said earlier, there are fuckwads on all sides of the camp, but saying "god bless them" when I tell you a story about my kids isn't going to make me offended or go on a tirade.  You're wishing them love as you perceive it.  You're sending them positivity from a place that means a great deal to you.  Why ever would anyone need to apologize for that?

On the flip side, if you're handing out pamphlets at the park inviting me to your church and I politely say, "No thank you, we are Atheists", and you chuckle, scoff, roll your eyes and say "Well, god bless you then", please don't be surprised if I reply with some snarky comment like, "Well Santa bless you as well". 

So you see, there are many ways words and phrases can be used that take on a different meaning when used in different contexts.  I wanted to clear this up because I don't ever want anyone to hide or apologize for who they are when they want to wish me or my family well.  Goodness knows, I am not one to ever apologize or hide who I am or what I believe and neither should you.  No, this is not an open invitation to start throwing bible quotes on my FB timeline or send me "Jesus loves you" pictures or anything of the sort.  Just know that if you want to wish me well or luck or whatever and if the way you want to do it is to "pray for me", know that you do not have to apologize for saying it.  A perfect example came in an email from another one of my book club members who is a Pastor at a local Presbyterian Church near Dante's school. In his email he wrote " I'll be keeping u in my prayers (u can think of them as nice thoughts if u prefer :))".