Night Before My Surgery

It’s been really great looking back and watching these videos again as I post them. It reminds me of how much I have been through and how far I have come! I’m really happy I decided to record these, not only to be able to share them with others that may be questioning having spinal fusion surgery, but also for me just to reminisce… it was a part of my life after all 😉

I’m posting this 11 weeks after my surgery and the day after my second follow up with my doctor/surgeon, Dr. Errico. He’s such a great doctor and all-around nice person 🙂 and I’m so grateful for all of the help he has given me. My mother came with me to my appointment, and we were reminiscing about how I was in such bad shape last year… I had pounding headaches, constant sinus infections, chronic neck and shoulder pain, chronic fatigue, shooting and numbing pains down my left arm and sometimes down my leg and I was a depressed MESS! My first appointment ever with Dr. Errico had me in tears and I was really scared of having surgery, but I also knew that living the way I was living was no longer an option.

I remember when my scoliosis first started to get worse, I began googling my symptoms (side note, NEVER do that!! Your mind is the devil’s playground and can be extremely influenced by the internet- ESPECIALLY when you are in a vulnerable place. So stop Googling! Ask a doctor!) … Anyways, I found out that scoliosis, when in the 40 and 50 degree stages (mine was at 45 and eventually progressed to 51) increases a degree each year. I also discovered that people with scoliosis generally have shorter life-spans. This fact HORRIFIED me! (Not that I want to live until 96, 98, 100 years old or anything but still!) The doctors I saw, when evaluated, told me that I will probably need to have surgery at some point in my life but it was up to me when I wanted to have it. I figured, I was in pain and still young. Might as well do it when I’m still young enough to bounce back quickly! And I’m soon happy I did!

Yesterday, Dr. Errico told me that I was recovering so well that I didn’t even need physical therapy! Instead, since I’m an active person, I can start gradually working out on my own. Yay!!

In THIS video, I show you the wipes I was instructed to use the night before my surgery in order to act as an antiseptic to prevent infection. They obviously take every precaution they can to make sure you are in the best care possible and that your surgery runs as smoothly and successfully as possible. Although these wipes were terribly itchy for me, (they tell you not to shave the night before your surgery and “whoopsies!” I guess I wanted my legs freshly shaven for my surgeon haha! So word to the wise, read ALL the instructions so you’re not scratching your skin off after using these.) Any who, I was happy that they were asking me to do this because it showed how detailed they are… a soothing thing for a detail-oriented person such as myself 😉

Oddly enough, I was pretty calm the night before the surgery. Maybe because I wasn’t looking forward to getting up at 5AM for it?? Or maybe because I knew I was in good hands 🙂 I suggest keeping yourself distracted the few days before your surgery so your mind doesn’t wander and you don’t freak yourself out. And spend time with friends and family! I went to my best friends wedding the weekend before my surgery and had a blast! It was a great “hoorah!” (not last hoorah, because it wouldn’t be my last and it won’t be yours either 😉 ) before I was to make a big and fabulous change in my life.

So watch the video below and continue to follow my journey. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment and ask them below! Deep breaths everyone, and smile 🙂

Also, these photos were taken the same night as my surgery. Take a look at my crooked back! You’ll be amazed to see in my future posts to how straight it is now!!

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Life Goes On

Hello again! Welcome back to my “Journey with Scoliosis Surgery” series! I recorded this video blog less than a week before my surgery and thought it was important to post. The week before surgery was very traumatic for me because my nerves and anxiety were getting the best of me (as you saw from my last post/video blog). I was particularly overwhelmed with the “fear of the unknown” (how I was going to feel after surgery, what the recuperation was going to be like for me, would I even wake up, walk again,etc?!) Not very good thoughts, but I’m human and that is sometimes where my mind went. I wanted to curl up into a ball and just shut out the rest of the world until my surgery day. (I had this “major surgery” coming up, and therefore the best thing to do was to sit around tightly and patiently wait for it to come.) WRONG!! That just made things worse and my mind wander. It’s like what “The Untethered Soul” talks about in one of it’s chapters, where the person locks all the doors to his home and doesn’t go outside just in case something bad were to happen to him. So he didn’t live life and therefore drove himself crazy.

Well, I couldn’t allow myself to do that. So after I walked out of my Dad’s office and removed myself from a highly stressful environment, I was able to grab a hold of myself and breathe. The next day I was cool and collected and able to go on an interview where I brought my full, energetic, bright-eyed and talented self to a successful meeting with my now current managers!… so I obviously blew them out of the waters 😉 Haha! Well I’m not going to toot my own horn, but I will say we had a great connection that then furthered a working relationship… all because I wasn’t sitting at home anymore worrying about surgery. A person can die or experience trauma at any point in their life, so was I going to shut myself out from the rest of the world in case a car hit me while walking the street, a guy broke my heart or a meteor hit the earth exactly where I was standing??! Don’t think so. Then why do that when I was having surgery? What’s the difference, if you think about it really?

At the end of the interview, I mentioned that I was having back surgery and I would be in touch with them when I’m ready to start being submitted for projects and going out on auditions again. (During my freak out, I confided in my friend, and now agent, that I was overwhelmed with my surgery and career aspects and wondered if I should cancel the meeting… I wasn’t going to be able to audition until I was well again, after all, and that could take weeks! “They’ll probably not want to work with me because of it!” my ego screamed at me. She told me that I needed to do what was best for me, but that at the end of the day, there was never going to be “the perfect time” to go on a meeting. If it wasn’t surgery, then the next time it would be something else. And the fact that I was having surgery shouldn’t be the focus of the meeting anyways. “That’s something you can mention at the end, if you feel comfortable… and if the relationship is supposed to be, that won’t matter,” she said. (I have very wise friends 😉 ) I took a deep breath and breathed out a sigh of relief. She was SO right and that was exactly what I needed to hear.

So if you are having surgery and are scared that you will need to put your life on hold, don’t be! And if you’re doing this already, THEN STOP! Yes, you will have to take time off of work or school to recuperate afterwards, but it won’t be forever. And if you are working with a doctor/surgeon that you trust, you will know that you have plenty of time to make plans and things to look forward to after your surgery and you are healed. This meeting was the best thing I could’ve done for myself before surgery, because it gave me something to look forward to when I was healed and made me even more eager to bounce back! That definitely helped with the healing process 0:) … That, and of course the TLC given from my family and friends <3 🙂

So go out and do something for yourself today that’ll make you as happy as I am in this video. Cheers and namaste!

 

My Pre-Surgical Appointment and Realizing It’s Okay to be Scared!

This is the first video of many, in my series “My Journey with Scoliosis Surgery”. I have documented my feelings and healing process before, during and after my surgery, and decided to share it with the world in order to help others with similar issues.

I was diagnosed with Juvenile scoliosis at age 15. I wore the “Charleston Bending Brace” every night while I slept, up until age 18. My scoliosis was originally at a 42 degree angle. After wearing the brace, and performing special stretches instructed of me every morning, my curve was reduced to 32 degrees. My doctor told me that I could stop wearing the brace at age 18, since by then, most teenagers were done growing and my x-rays showed that my growth plates were closed. My doctor did warn, however; that I would most likely have to have surgery at some point in my life, but that that was up to me. This thought TERRIFIED me, so I did not allow myself to think about it. I continued my stretches every morning (especially since I noticed on the days that I would NOT perform the stretches, my spine would be really achy and would make cracking sounds throughout the day).

My brace looked just like this but I got to pick a pale baby blue color!

I was an active teen, taking part in competitive cheerleading and continued to cheer in college. I remained active throughout my post-college years, but around my twenty-seventh birthday, I noticed my health was slowly starting to slip away from me.

I was living in Los Angeles, California and working as a cocktail waitress anywhere from 3 – 5 days a week and auditioning, as an actress, on the regular. I was not taking care of myself and wore my spine and body out. I started getting awful headaches, neck and back pain, chronic fatigue, and eventually had a lot of stomach issues. (I later found out that I was dealing with IBS [Irritable Bowel Syndrome] due to stress and popping too many Advil. I was also diagnosed with amenorrhea [an abnormal absence of a woman’s menstruation], which doctors also related to my stress levels.) Needless to say, I had a lot going on. Oh! And I had a water drinking problem. I was drinking so much water (a habit I had formed) that I was literally causing my body to flush itself of all good nutrients, causing chronic illnesses and occasional edema. (Look back in my other posts if you are interested in reading more about this.) So basically I was running from doctor to doctor begging them to figure out what was wrong with me.

Anyways, I finally saw a spine doctor that ordered an X-ray and MRI of my spine. The X-ray showed that my curvature had progressed back to 45 degrees and the MRI found herniated discs in my c-spine and a small 2mm searing in my spinal chord. I finally decided it was time for me to tackle scoliosis surgery. So, I moved back home to live with my parents so that I could receive the physical and emotional support that I needed and get myself back to the healthy person I used to be. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made, for I write this, and post the video below, post-operative surgery and feeling like my old self again. This makes me smile, now, watching this video because I see how scared I was and realize I didn’t need to be. If my new self could tell my old self one thing, it would be to TRUST! I was in good hands and was making the best decision of my life… I probably should’ve done it sooner but I try not to live with regrets.

Below, I talk about how scared I was a week and-a-half out from surgery and talk about what they did that day, at my pre-surgical appointment. If you are thinking about having the surgery and are nervous about it, that is normal! If you weren’t scared then that WOULDN’T be normal. Just trust that you are in good hands with the surgeon you have chosen (it is a big surgery so I’m sure you have done your research). If you are only thinking about having the surgery, being scared and hesitant about it is, also, normal. I was too! (You can tell how nervous I am in the video below. And now I look back, while watching this, and think about how I should have done it sooner… I probably wouldn’t be dealing with all the degeneration and pinched nerves that I am now.) If you are in the Tri-State area, Dr. Thomas Errico is an AMAZING surgeon, very knowledgeable about scoliosis, spinal fusion and just an all-around nice guy. I HIGHLY recommend him- he practically invented the surgery, so you’d be in good hands 😉

Hope this helps! And keep an eye out for my next videos. I wish I had some more guidance while on my journey, which is why I’m posting these- to help people like YOU! So enjoy! And comment below if you have any questions. Peace and love! Namaste 0:)

My First Surgery Freak Out!!!

I recorded this video a week before I was scheduled to have my scoliosis surgery with Dr. Thomas Errico at NYU Langone Hospital in New York City, and I was FREAKING OUT!!! (To say the least.) I know I seem calm in the video below, but I definitely was experiencing a TON of anxiety during it. Looking back at this and seeing how “calm” I appear to be, just makes so much sense as to why I was having anxiety and panic attacks. The textbook definition of anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” But what it doesn’t say, is that anxiety typically appears when a person isn’t allowing his or herself to fully feel their feelings.

I just finished an amazing book called, “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer. (If you didn’t read my last post, I made it a goal to finally finish this book. If you did read it, then you’ll be very proud of me because I DID IN FACT FINISHED IT!! YAYYY!!! 😀 😀 😀 ) I found it to be a particularly hard read because I basically was/am the epitome of the type of person the book is talking about… plus it has a lot of repetition in order to get through to people, but I found that particularly annoying. Buuuuut, it made me sit back and ask, “why?” “Why do I find it so annoying?” What am I avoiding?” Aha!

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Prior to all of this, I was living in California up until March of this year, and facing rejection after rejection after rejection, running from audition to audition and working SO hard on my acting career. I rarely rewarded myself or allowed myself time to have fun and was constantly being mean to myself (ie. reprimanding myself when I put on a pound or two or went out drinking for a night, didn’t get the part, etc… it was awful. I was awful.) I was tired of feeling loneliness, rejection and pain so I just started shutting it off every time a feeling came up… thus causing several anxiety attacks and constant panic. Basically, my adrenal glands were shot through the roof, my stomach hated me and I was so stressed I lost my period… all of this and chronic back, neck and head pain (because of my scoliosis).

So when I made the decision to have the surgery, it was April of 2015. August 11th sounded so far away! “Great!” I thought. “I have plenty of time to mentally prepare!” Welp, the date crept up on me and a week before I was about to have surgery, the anxiety attacks set in. (Hence the documentation of me in this video.) And side note, I was also filling in for my Dad’s secretary that day, so I also seem calm in the video because I was trying to keep it down in case one of his employees walked in.

Anyways, I’m really happy I documented my journey. Not only because I want to be able to give back to other people and provide informative videos to help others make the best decisions for themselves and their case, (I wish I had something as informative as this when I was on my journey) but also to have something to look back on that enables me to see how much I’ve grown. It’s crazy to me how calm I look in this video because I vividly remember how scared I was. Hell, I was SOBBING right before I recorded this video! And after it, I got into a fight with my Dad and walked out of the office. Yep! I was just SO stressed and didn’t know how to handle my feelings. After going through what I’ve gone through with my health, and then finishing “The Untethered Soul”, I feel like I’ve grown more in the last couple of months then I ever have in years! Life, my career, my aspirations, desires, relationships with family, friends, loved ones and God suddenly have come together and make so much more sense and are easier than before. Cuz now I know what is important in life. I’ve figured out my values and really have gotten a chance to truly BE. And be ME! I’m so proud of that and who I am 0:) I’m human though, and still have my “moments”, but that’s what life’s about after all… being human.

So, I post these videos only two months after my surgery and I am doing AWESOME! I’m recovering quickly and I’m already writing articles and web series and going out on auditions. In addition, my stomach issues have subsided, headaches are nowhere near as bad as they used to be, fatigue is nearly gone and I have so much more energy! ANDDD I even had some signs of a period again last week! (Sorry if that’s TMI for all the guys reading this but I want to be as detailed and honest as possible in these posts, and that just goes to show how stress-free my body has become! No more physical, mental or emotional imbalances 🙂 )

I do still have a ways to go with my healing (as you will see in my videos), but I am SO happy I made the decision I made. Please follow me on my journey and see how great it has been for my health all around, in future videos and posts. And please don’t hesitate to ask any questions you have or comment below. I’ll be happy to answer anything 🙂 Cheers and namaste!