Everyone has their favorite number. I’ve never had one up until now. But if I had to choose, mine would be 40.
See, this number has been thrown at me twice in the last 365 days. And with the anniversary of the most important surgery in my life coming up next week, and the birth of my beautiful daughter 11 weeks ago– I figured it was only appropriate to share my connection to this number.
In July of 2017, we were on our way home from our annual family vacation to Cannon Beach. I drove home (because I get car sick, so I am ALWAYS the driver!) and I noticed about half way home, my left leg started to ache. I chalked it up as too much sitting on the beach, and just figured I needed a hot bath once I got home and I’d be ok. Fast forward to September, when I was driving home from work and my leg went completely numb. I had still been experiencing pain, but it honestly felt like I had just pulled a muscle. And I didn’t learn much from that sports medicine class I took in high school, but I did learn that muscles can sometimes take forever to heal. That was until my leg went numb. I couldn’t feel it. I was convinced I was having a stroke, and luckily was able to pull over on the side of the road and wait until I could feel it again. That next day I decided it was finally time to go to the doctor.
Now let me back track a little bit. I’ve always had back issues. I was born with scoliosis, and when I was 10, I strained my spinal cord. So physical therapy, massages and chiropractic visits were nothing I was new to. When my doctor did an X-ray on my leg and saw nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary, he recommended PT three times a week, a massage twice a month, and prescribed me a narcotic pain killer, 800mg Tylenol and muscle relaxers.
End of October hit and I had been doing PT for about 6 weeks and my pain was getting worse. It was to the point where showering hurt, sitting and standing hurt, driving hurt. The “pain relievers” weren’t working, and the muscle relaxers were just “breath mints with flare” at that point. I was basically the Dr House of Salon Escape. No one knew it. Once I realized that narcotics were no longer working, I went back to my doctor. He did another X-ray and again declared nothing was wrong, but also diagnosed me as being in chronic pain. Literally, it hurts for me to even blink. I can’t function properly. My mind isn’t clear. Moving makes me nauseous. And sometimes I would consider that my life won’t ever be more, than the pain I’m in. And I’m only using my doctors descriptive words because it really is the only way I can actually get people to understand what chronic pain is. It’s like– your body goes into a depression. And that’s exactly what mine did. I couldn’t eat, or sleep. Or laugh. I was a clouded, drugged up, suffering psychopath. And I was honestly convinced it would never get better for me.
I remember the pain being so bad, we were next door at my neighbors house one night for dinner, and I couldn’t even get comfortable. I broke down in their living room and sobbed because my whole entire body was either numb, or felt like I was being stabbed by a thousand knives. Not even needles. FUCKING KNIVES.
I tried pot after I became immune to the Vicodin. Edibles actually, I have chronic asthma and my lungs will LITERALLY close if I inhale anything that isn’t air lol. They helped for a little bit. But I couldn’t be high at work! (Really though, how was pot any different than Vicodin)
About a month after my last doctors appointment, I got a call from my doctor. Saying he just couldn’t shake the fact that something was really wrong. He then ordered me an MRI at the local hospital, however I wasn’t considered “priority” because I didn’t ACTUALLY have a diagnosed medical problem. So I waited another month to get in. I will never forget that day. It was December 20th. The day my life changed forever. I went in at 6am for my MRI, not knowing what to expect. We were literally just thrown into the rotation that there wasn’t even a doctor available to meet with us before or after. It felt like flying on standby.
I got a call that afternoon. One of the scariest calls of my entire life. I spoke with a nurse, who’s name I can’t remember, and she was absolutely shaken. The only thing she could get our was “we have a call scheduled with a neurosurgeon at 12pm tomorrow. It’s critical. He will explain everything.”
WHAT. HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE. You’re telling me I have to wait ANOTHER 24 hours to hear what’s wrong with me? It was seriously (what felt like) the longest 24 hours of my life. My husband stayed home from work the next day, and I had switched my shift so I didn’t have to go in until later (big mistake, I should have just taken the day off. Lord knows I could not focus after that call!)
My husband and I both got on the phone with the surgeon, as he’s going over my X-rays. The first thing he says to me is, “I honestly don’t know how you’ve been able to get out of bed every morning. The pain you have been in is unimaginable.” Turns out I had three slipped discs and one that was completely dislodged. The one that was completely dislodged was less than 10 millimeters away from puncturing my bladder and my bowels. It was declared an emergency, and surgery was scheduled for December 27th, 2017. I had what’s called a triple microdiscetomy. Basically, what that meant was my three discs that were slipped, were shaved down and carefully put back into place (L3-L5 for all you nerds out there!) and my S1 (bone in your tailbone) was completely removed. The MRI showed severe nerve damage in my spinal cord, specifically leading up to the neurons in my brain that detected pain throughout my body.
I had a 40 percent chance of waking up from the surgery completely pain free.
Worst case, depending on the damage, a year later I would have had to come in and had a tiny hole drilled at the base of my neck, to relieve the swelling on my brain. Worst-worst case, I would have to live the with pain my entire life. Worst-worst-worst case, I could amputate part of the muscle in the back of my thigh, which would result in the nerve tissue causing the pain also being removed, but would mean I would technically have a handicap for the rest of my life. Also, there still would be no guarantee that even after all of that, the pain would subside.
Luckily for me, I am almost 365 days completely pain free.
One of the side effects of having spine surgery, not to mention all your nerves tampered with and having some body parts removed, was the possibility of me missing 1-3 menstrual cycles.
Let me back pedal a bit. Coincidentally, that same month my leg started hurting, I had gone to a completely different doctor for a completely different reason. After almost 3 years of trying to get pregnant and not being successful, I found out that I seemingly just don’t ovulate. Which can totally be fixed my a daily hormone supplement, however being only 24 at the time, I didn’t feel like my biological clock was ticking, therefore I wanted to see if I could conceive naturally before I tried supplements.
SO SUPER FUN FACT. I WAS ABOUT A WEEK PREGNANT WHEN I HAD SURGERY. But because of everything else I had in my system, I got a super rare false positive test. Come to find out, that if I wouldn’t have had the surgery, my body wouldn’t have been able to carry a baby to full term. Call it what you what. Gods timing, coincidence, fate… but yep. I missed two periods, and didn’t think anything of it because I was told that was a side effect of the surgery. But something told me as I was buying my box of wine on February 12th 2018, that I juuusssttttt needed a twin pack of First Response tests to go with it! Coincidentally, a week prior, I had gone in for a 6 week follow up MRI and my UA came back with a high hormonal reading, but it was normally around the time I was supposed to get my period, so they chalked it up to that and moved on. They didn’t even test for pregnancy! Just simply asked if I could be pregnant! (And since they said no sex for 12 weeks after surgery I was sure that it wasn’t even an option!)
Ok, fast forward to my 20 week ultrasound. The most exciting one. The one where you find out if you’ll be bringing in a sweet baby girl or a handsome baby boy into your family. My scan was Memorial Day weekend, and we were one of the last ultrasounds of the day. We found out we were having a girl! The ultrasound tech has mentioned she looked a little on the smaller side– but didn’t seem concerned. We got our pictures, called our families, and went home! Monday morning at 7am we received a call from my OB’s office saying my husband and I needed to come in whenever we could today, that he would fit us in. There was something abnormal with our scan that needed to be discussed immediately.
We found out I had a condition called Velementous Cord Insertion. Basically, the umbilical cord implants itself into the cervical membranes instead of the placenta, making it shorter and more fragile. Think of it as an old rubber bad. You know the one you try to stretch, it turns white, and then breaks? Yeah, that’s basically what my cord was. The vessels actually sit right on top of the placenta, instead of tucked inside where they are well protected. What made it even worse is the fact that there are only 1 in every 5,000 pregnancies diagnosed. Which means it’s not something well known, or treatable. Babies are born a lot smaller, often having organs that don’t fully develop by birth, even if carried full term. We were then told the worst part of it all.
My daughter had a 40 percent chance of surviving until birth.
2 out of every 5 VCI babies are still borns. Cord compression is extremely common, and it’s not something that the mother can feel from the inside. This meant I had a doctors appointment every week until delivery.
40. That was the second time I was given this number as an outcome in less than a year.
Thankfully, the odds were in my favor again as my daughter was born right on her due date, at 5 pounds 15 ounces. Lungs checked out perfectly, stomach checked out perfectly, and her kidneys, liver and brain were fully functional. And to that, I truly couldn’t be more grateful.
I sit back and think that this is the reason why I have never been one to have a “favorite” number. That title was being saved for this. This beautiful, not-quite-halfway, number 40.
Until next time Divas,