Botched Surgeries, BuJo & Big Decisions: What’s New

Hi all, remember me? I’m the other half of this blog that doesn’t really write much, haha. 

For those of you that know us, you know that we’ve had a helluva few weeks. We’ve been trying to be vigilant about keeping our Facebook friends up to date, but for those that don’t have the incredible privilege of being our friend IRL (*insert snorting laughter here*), consider this a super informal, we’re-meeting-over-coffee kind of catch up. Because a big part of my personal “mission statement” to running this blog was to be completely genuine and honest — so, honestly… It’s been a roller coaster.

In the last post I published here, I talked about getting a last minute call to go in for a long-awaited spinal surgery called a microdiscectomy, how it got to this point (getting hurt, closing a business, the aftermath) and my vague and convoluted thoughts about being a 25 year old with chronic pain. If you haven’t read it, it’s a pretty quick walkthrough of the events leading up to January 24th (the day I got the call), and will help what I’m about to write make more sense. 

Anyway, three weeks, not one, but two surgeries later and it would be an extreme understatement to say that things are a little bit different now. 

The day of surgery #1, Monday, January 28th, came — regardless of my preparedness. Getting ready for someone to cut bits off your spine is nerve-racking to say the very least, and I spent the evening before with Jo, watching Trevor Noah on Netflix (10/10 we recommend any and all of his stand up), eating junk food (until I had to start fasting at midnight), and trying to keep my mind off of how anxious I was about the next morning. The brotato chip stayed overnight with his grandmother as I was due to be at Hamilton General Hospital at 8:00am, and surgery was scheduled for 10:30. 

I got up early, showered, and we hit the road in good time. Arrival, parking, check-in — for the most part everything went smoothly. We hit a bump when we found out that my surgery had been moved to noon, and then again to 1:30pm. I was hungry, I was anxious, I may or may not have yelled at one of the Same-Day-Surgery nurses (sorry!) so Jo, being the saviour that they are, managed to find a nice nurse that gave me a sexy Lavender gown and an Ativan to calm me the f*ck down until they were ready to wheel me in.

This was probably post-Ativan, because I was actually smiling and laughing. Even wearing that awful gown, haha. January 2019.

My surgery took about two and a half hours. A lot of the disc that was bulging out and pushing on my nerves had calcified, so my surgeon had a bit of extra work to do, but, apparently, went into the waiting room and told Jo that I’d be feeling 70%-90% better by the time the anaesthetic wore off that evening. We were hopeful. I didn’t even care that I threw up three times waking up because anesthesia does something to my body that is alien to me. I was fixed! 

After about 30 minutes of waking up, they wheeled me into recovery, I was allowed to see Jo and we were sent home with a pamphlet for “after care” (this is a bold faced lie — after care for this type of surgery doesn’t really exist other than no bending, lifting or twisting [BLT] for six weeks) and instructions to come back if I had any pain — and that the loss of sensation in my three smallest toes (and outer half of my leg… and outside of my left foot… and butt… and crotch…) was  “normal”. So, I went to bed that night not being able to feel any of those parts of my body…

And I woke up the same way.

Now, Jo and I didn’t panic right away. Spinal surgery is a crazy, involved, complex endeavour and we knew that. But it did seem weird that I wasn’t feeling any better — if anything I was feeling less able than I did before surgery — so we decided to wait until the afternoon, and if nothing changed, we’d call Telehealth. 

[ For those that don’t know — in Ontario we have this awesome service called Telehealth, which is a phone-operated resource where anyone with a valid OHIP number / health card can call and speak to a registered nurse about a variety of different health concerns. This service is especially helpful if you’re trying to figure out whether or not your situation is an emergency, which is what we were doing. If you need emergency help, please just go to your nearest ER. ]

When nothing changed that afternoon we decided to do just that — Jo called and briefly spoke to the nurse about my surgery and what I was experiencing, and then handed me the phone so I could answer a few questions. The call took about 15 minutes, but by the end of it the nurse was so concerned that I practically had to swear on my first-born’s life that I’d be headed straight to an emergency room after I hung up the phone or she would be sending an ambulance to our house to get me. 

We spent almost 2 days at the St. Catharines General Hospital. I had MRI’s, exams of all kinds, an emotional breakdown or two, and was transferred to Hamilton and back again before finally being allowed to sign myself out. I won’t get into too many of the details but we were bullied, demeaned, and disrespected at St. Catharines General and I would never go back to their ER for another situation like what we were experiencing, but, they managed to get my MRI results to my surgeon in Hamilton, I was prescribed a steroid to help strengthen my muscles and regain sensation (we hoped) and told to go back and see my surgeon in a few days if nothing changed. Guess what?

Nothing did. (Surprise!)

Getting transferred from St. Catharines General to Hamilton General. It sure was warm in that patient transfer bus! January 2019.

Yadda, yadda, yadda, medical details, blah blah blah. In seeing my surgeon and looking at my MRI we found out that I’d somehow herniated more of my disc post-operation, and that that was what was causing my partial paralysis. There was a 10% chance that would happen — and I like to stand out (though not really stand, apparently), so why not? Best option was to do another surgery — the same surgery — as soon as possible to fix the new pressure and to get my leg back!!!

I went back in for surgery #2 on February 11th and woke up feeling no different. I told my surgeon, he told me not to worry, that there was a lot of debris on my spine and he moved things around a lot, so I’d be fine in a couple of days. He sat with Jo for 20 minutes and talked to them about how it went, what he did, and, again, that I’d be fine. If nothing changed, I was not to come and see him before the one week mark. So, we’re seeing him on Wednesday.

We had only been in the hospital for 6 or so hours at this point – hence why we’re both smiling. January 2019.

I realize I’m not paralyzed. I realize there are so many people in the world that have it so much worse than I do. I am grateful I can still stand, walk around my house, maybe make it through a grocery shopping trip if I’m feeling extra adventurous. I’m grateful it’s not “bad enough” that I’ve had to live the last three weeks of my life in a hospital, that I was able to get in for surgery #2 quickly and that I have a surgeon that I believe truly wants to make me feel better. But I don’t feel better, this was supposed to be easily fixed, and quickly, and my life has now become something completely different than what it was nearly guaranteed to look like. 

I’ve been looking at ways to pass the time, but stay productive and focused so I don’t end up spinning out into this floaty, unstable being that has no clue what’s going on — because I tend to do that. I came across the #bujo tag on instagram and the videos there have totally been getting me through pain flare ups, while inspiring me to get back into tickling my creativity. I’ve also felt the need to get more “organized” (though I’ve been looking for a different word for this because my vague definition and Jo’s more rigid one are very different) and have a better idea of what’s happening in my life now that I can’t measure my schedule based on cookie orders and / or dog walks. 

I also had a slip-up this week where I didn’t realize broseidon had a P.A. Day from school until the day before — having ADD and being someone whose entire life kind of just got flipped on its’ head means that I can’t keep track of anything. I’ve tried to get into Bullet Journaling in the past but thought my ADD brain was too scattered to even know where to start, until I found out that the creator of the BuJo system, Ryder Carroll, was diagnosed and struggled with ADD, which led to him creating the system in the first place. So it is something my brain can handle and, if anything, is a system that is designed with my brain in mind (get it?!).

We also have a bit of a countdown going now which is why I think I’m feeling the need to get my shit together — kind of like nesting when you’re pregnant. I remember, a month before Edgar Allen Bro was born, I ran around my entire room (which, at the time, looked like a hurricane had gone through it) and organized all my clothes, all of the diapers I’d gotten, all of his clothes, hung up pictures, etc. etc. etc. It’s like you’re preparing for this big thing to happen even though you really have no idea of when it’s happening. I can’t divulge too many details about our upcoming plans yet because there are some people close to us that need to hear them first, but, suffice to say the three of us are excited for a new chapter, and I hope that the changes affect this blog in a positive way.

Anyway, so now that I can’t really move and am sort of dealing with a disability I’m thinking about starting to Bullet Journal. I had forgotten that a year or two ago I had bought Ryder Carroll’s book, The Bullet Journal Method. I started reading it today and I really like how he has laid out the system in a way that’s almost a “Learn First, Practice Later” approach, which I have always responded really well to. I think it will even help me keep track of my ideas on what to write about here and maybe help keep me on schedule so our posts will become more regular and hopefully more enjoyable to keep up with. I’d love if I could post some spreads eventually, because I absolutely love looking at the artists I’ve found on IG like @jannplansthings , @kirbycat.bujo and @bujoist . Check them out if you haven’t already, even just for super satisfying stationary photos, haha!

So that’s what’s new here. Surgery was kind of a bomb, both times, but I’m trying my hardest to stay positive and keep myself occupied until we can come up with a better plan. I’m excited to get into doing some things that inspire me and push me to be a little bit more creative. I’m sad that I will probably have to stop taking large cookie / cake orders, and even more sad that a lot of the dog friends I’ve made since last summer will probably have to find a new sitter. I’m excited to see what life has in store for us and our family if this is what my life is going to look like — but I suppose I’m still grieving the idea of what I thought it would be. Instead it feels like this is going to be a time of rebirth, reinvention and reevaluating where I want to focus my time, now that I have more of it to spare, and, if anything, I’m especially grateful for that.

The bad thing that happens today could be paving the way for the good things coming tomorrow. Trust the process.”

— Mandy Hale

This has been a long one, guys. Thanks for getting all the way to the end — I know I’m a bit of a rambler!

— Aisha

Spring, summer and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition.

Mignon McLaughlin

Winter has come. Winter has come in the way I enjoy most: rough and brilliant, the world shocked. Children are in awe and adults don’t act normally; driving along you notice neighbours are standing together. They are taking a break, having helped each other shovel driveways and sidewalks.

Winter has come and we were not prepared. Aisha and I laughed, we needed shovels and wiper-blades, windshield washer fluid, and a car brush. My mum chastised me because we were truly not prepared for winter. 

We had a hilarious, truly Canadian moment when we returned from our lovely stolen trip to Stratford (K/W march was unfortunately not attended for a variety of reasons. I am really bummed and trying to figure out a way to get there anyway. Anyway) because we arrived home to a foot, or more, of snow. So, we parked across the street, clambered into our house, changed, trudged back outside with our new shovels and got at it. I wasn’t happy because I didn’t want Aisha to hurt herself; she was great though, cause she’s a power house and tried not to push herself too far. Anyway, we were about an hour in when we heard it: the plow. I couldn’t believe it. It absolutely re-covered the front half of our driveway with heavier, more compact, dirtier snow and the drivers behind the plow just laughed at our plight. I may have too because I am sure we looked ridiculous.  

So, as you can see, winter has truly descended. Our brief joy turned to the feeling winter gives you with its -30° wind chill and heavy snow. Only winter has the ability to cause deep-cold thoughts. 

What are these thoughts? The usual, really, just deeper. Trying to figure out social things that don’t seem to be folding into my brain easily. The connection between my thoughts? One’s obligation to be socially responsible, and what that actually looks like. Context?

There is someone I respect and enjoy my minimal interactions with but have never met. I know them in the F-world. They approached Aisha half a year ago, innocently, unknowing she was *ahem* with me. But I told them no – that was unacceptable. We established a boundary. Their response was mature, and they have become dear to both mine and Aisha’s heart. So, what are my obligations on Social MEDIA to stand up for this person? Let’s call them Sharon. I like Sharon. I have really pleasant feelings towards them: because they backed off when I asked them to. Well, Sharon, unbeknownst to them, was the focus of repeated ‘annoyance’ or uh, judging frustration. There was a group of people who really didn’t think Sharon was whatever enough to be so involved in this group. In fact, I found out they were dismissively talking about Sharon often, putting them down as if they were talking about how annoying the mud was in spring. 

Would you tell Sharon? Like, f***. It is Facebook people. But at the same time, it is Facebook. I watched a couple of powerful videos on FB today; “#OutThem”‘s conception video, a child governor who is a young butch, a home-chef making a batch of mean tortilla soup. That is what I want from social media. I don’t want to start or end my day, or have my break inundated, with casual hate. Do you know casual hate? The kind where it is ok to choose to say something rude, negative, or careless even instead of just not saying anything at all.

I do not speak up enough. And, honestly, I am kind of bad at it; I don’t get my point across, and people don’t really seem to hear me, while Aisha is amazing at speaking up. She gets huge — her voice, presence, everything feels so big. I love it. But it can also make me uncomfortable when the situation is more like an out of control Newton’s cradle than a metronome. 

Which means we have spent a lot of time discussing the character trait of ‘mediator’ versus ‘champion’ and where we personally succeed and fail in our social interactions.

Before I continue, I would like to say that I told Sharon about all of this. I did not give names, I did not describe the situation at all. I just told them that there were enough people in the group that did not seem to just accept, let alone welcome their presence and that I would want to know if it were me. Simple, straight up, and then I left the group. Because this is not the first time this has happened in the group, where I find I feel conflicted about where the lines are drawn on any given issue. The last time was a conversation/debate about anatomy that got, in my mind, way out of hand for a group that is supposed to be a like-minded, community-focused space. I recognized that I too should probably reconsider my participation if I was starting to feel affected. 

It takes a lot for me to get really bent out of shape (I think people think I am offended more often than I am) and I am an opinionated person. I am also sensitive and totally get overwhelmed, which can come out as anger or two-day-debilitating-sadness before an intellectual thought appears. 

I’m also struggling with a multi-layered thought I keep trying to re-work to steer this next part but, suffice to say, while I may choose sides, I try and stay completely bipartisan. 

So, Mediator versus Champion. Casual hate. Social obligation. Social Media. What do you think?

What is your level for tolerance these days? Winter has come, and I am reminded of the human condition. We are cruel, guys. Each group keeps saying to the ‘better’ faction of who is hurting them (women appealing to good men, gays appealing to non-threatened straights), “aren’t you tired of those ______ ruining your reputation and image?” 

I don’t know where I fit so I’ll say to everyone else – aren’t you tired of people being any kind of a-hole?

I know that the drama ensuing from telling Sharon anything means I probably made a landmine out of an ant hill. But Sharon really appreciated it. And that is who was the person unable to stand up for themselves.   

But then: Real life. How do you interact with strangers? Especially when they are important to someone important to you, but they have stepped on one of your booby-traps? They have made quick social judgments in jest, and therefore seem to be casual haters, tripping your ‘uh-oh’ vibes? Their viewpoints come from valid, socio-economic complaints and from a privileged side of frustration. I completely understand. The problem is, sometimes, there is a person sitting at the same table as you who could be the person these crude jokes are about. And I didn’t say anything. My heart hurts because it was Aisha who I didn’t stand up for. She understands, and we’ve talked about it. But this joking came just after another instance where I had already made these truly lovely people uncomfortable with my polemic behavior, I didn’t have the brain-mouth coordination to stand up again.  

I’m listening to the Heart Beat playlist on Spotify as a I write this and The Greatest Speech by Moguai just came on. I appreciate music so much for these moments. 

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor.
That’s not my business.
I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone.
I should like to help everyone – if
possible” 

– The Greatest Speech

Am I asking too much? Am I asking that we ask too much of those around us because I am asking that when we feel tired, or insecure, or left out, we just say so? That we stop being ‘up in arms’ for our friends, soften our hearts and instead say, “I know you are hurting” instead of attacking whoever has slighted them? I know. I’m a terrible friend because you can’t call me to vent. I am learning to ask; do you need me to listen or talk. If you say talk, I say, talk like me, or talk like you want me to. It’s liberating but weird, I am sure. People are forced to assess their anger and indignation before I can appropriately get on board. It’s hilarious really. 

But what do we do?

— Jo