A ‘GTL’ Memorial Day Weekend #MDW

Hi y’all! Hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend! I was actually thinking earlier about how, even though my weekend was more on the relaxing/ getting organized side, it actually still fit into my old-school “Guido Jersey”-themed Summer Kick-Off MDW’s… Ya know, back when I could more easily bounce back from a weekend of lush drinking and dancing on bar stools.

In case you didn’t know this about me, I’m from New Jersey. When I lived in California and someone asked me where I was from, they usually responded with, “But you don’t look like Snooki!?”, after I told them.” I, then, usually retaliated with: “You’re stereotyping.” And, also a: “Not everyone looks like they are DTF in New Jersey.” I always got a kick out of their faces after that one. 🤣

Anyways, I did go out Friday evening– Had a fun time catching up with a friend I met last year on a film set, (It was actually the first film I shot, just six months after my surgery) and then we met up with my coworkers at a Summer Kick-Off/ Birthday Party.

 

Saturday I hung out with my brother, sister and her family at her friends’ BBQ in Pennsylvania (not too many fist pumpers there), and then the rest of my weekend was more on the GTL scale (Gym, Tan, Laundry.) – which I’m completelyyyyy and utterly okay with. In fact, I’m proud of myself.

*Disclaimer, I do not go tanning anymore. I ruined my skin quite enough in college when I fried myself twice a week. The "T" for "Tan" nowadays represents some other form of grooming. In this case, mani/ped.

Any ways, I tell you all this because I know I spoke about patterns in my last post. Patterns and break downs/ panic attacks, etc. Well, earlier this week my “patterns” got the best of me and I finally cracked. Wasn’t exactly a good moment for me. However, it helped push me past the “awareness” period I was in, and into a “take action” zone. Enough was enough with all of this chaos. It was time to get organized. After weeks of living a chicken, running around with my head cut off lifestyle, I’m sure you can only imagine what my car and room looked like. (I’m a commuter, also remember that. Yeah… there’s the bigger picture.) So I spent the past few days “manicuring” my car and room- (don’t worry, my own nails and feet also got some necessary attention)- And now I feel like a whole new person!

It’s so true that if you are living in chaos and clutter, your mind will reflect chaos and clutter. So if you are feeling this way, don’t feel down on yourself for partying this weekend. That’s necessary too! All work and no play makes Jack/Jill a dull boy/girl. Just make a note, this week, to declutter and get organized. Which leads me to my next tip… Write. It. Downnnn!

A friend and I were talking a few months ago about how we have/ have had anxiety attacks (at that time I hadn’t had one in a while… Shot myself in the foot there, didn’t I?). We both live somewhat entrepreneurial lifestyles which can be great in many instances, but in others, it can be extremely complicated and stressful. The biggest and best thing I’ve learned lately is to write shiiiyyyat down. We saw each other again recently and talked about how writing our tasks down has made our lives so much easier and less complicated. Because even though you might have a great memory, you’re actually exhausting energy thinking about and grappling for the different tasks you have to accomplish. If it’s written right in front of you, you’re not exhausting any energy thinking about it, because it’s right there. It also feels sooooooo good to cross it off after you’ve accomplished it. Seriously, try it! And really strike it through. MUCH better than just placing a simple check next to it. Checkkkkkk! 😉👍🏻

Also along the lines of writing things down… Time Blocking. Now this is something people have been telling me to do for a couple of months now. And I know I need to do it. I even SAY I’m going to do it. And yet I still haven’t done it. Bottom line, I’m resisting and just need to tackle the damn task. So that’s my next goal “To Do”, after I’m done with this post. (See, I’m purposely writing this here to hold myself accountable. And I’m holding all of YOU accountable today, to help me with that. HA!).. And maybe it will inspire some of you to do the same thing, if this is something you need help with. I met a new friend at my sister’s friends’ BBQ (I looooove meeting new people BTW. It just fascinates me how there are so many people out there that are so interesting and have such wonderful stories to share 0:) Sorry, had to deter there to express that, for a moment.) Anywho, he’s ALL about time blocking- which was funny that the Universe/God introduced us. It’s like it was literally yelling at me, “TIME BLOCK ALREADY, CAROLINE! IT WORKS!!!” Okay, okay, okay alreadyyyyy…

Now, what does any of this have to do with Scoliosis? Also, like I said in my last post, Scoliosis takes place in the nerves. Your mind and nervous system is probably sending you in different directions, on a pretty continuous basis. That’s okay! You are most probably a very creative person. Which is AHHMAZINGGGG! Embrace it. But it is probably, also, your Achilles heel. Find the balance by writing things down. Just seeing your thoughts and “To Do” tasks down on paper can do wonders for your mind and assist you with staying on a more fluid and concise road. (Vs. the trepid, yet spastic and curvy road of your past.)

Listen, no one is perfect. And all of your flaws and past mistakes, are actually beautiful, imperfect and have made you who you are and are still bringing you to where you are going. Embrace them! And be kind to yourself… that’s another thing I think we all are working on. I know it can be tough to look in the mirror and see a body that is curved differently than others. It’s probably easier to pick yourself a part for a rib swaying in the wrong direction… or for that scar that you NEVER wear backless shirts to reveal… or for those rods you feel inside your muscles, that make you stiff or conscientious of the way you’re sitting or standing at a fitting, in a performance, at work or on a date. I know, I get it. But let it go. Those qualities are things about you that make you stronger, gentler and more intriguing. Do yoga, stop over-thinking everything and just breathe. You are imperfect. You are H U M A N. Breathe.

I stumbled across this card a very dear friend to me gave me, right around the time that I had just moved back from California and was about to have my spine fused. I was depressed and down on myself. I didn't TRULY value it's message, then. I mean, I got it, but when I saw it again, while cleaning my room this weekend, it made me genuinely happy. And that was when I knew I was TRULY on a road to the beauty in imperfections. I KNOW I would be a different person today if I hadn't made the mistakes I made or gone on the journeys I have been on. For all of them, and for all the people I have met along the way, or left behind in the past- I am so INCREDIBLY grateful. You have made me who I am, today. A fierce Woman Warrior, that I am truly proud of. Be proud of your journeys, as well... Life is beautiful and we only get one ✨💫🌟

I hope everyone has a wonderful week and thinks positive thoughts. It’s a short one, so if you have nothing positive to think about, remind yourself of that. Or go for a long walk, exercise, eat some Dark Chocolate (there’s healthy ones!)… get those endorphins going. Or better yet, go get yourself a manicure 💅💋😉

‘Til next post. XOXO,

Your Little Fighter 💫

All Dressed and Ready to Go Under (Anesthesia that is)

I recorded this video an hour before my surgery, and as I look back at these videos I just can’t get over how suppressed my emotions were! My voice is so small and kind of even keeled and just sort “Wha Wha!” BORING! Granted I was trying to be quiet so none of the nurses are patients next to me thought I was a crazy girl talking to herself… but I also think it’s because of how nervous I was and I was trying to not freak the F—- OUT! Haha! But watching these videos has also made me so aware of how far I have come! This has been a great exercise for me through posting these videos to see exactly how depressed of a mess I was, and how far I have come with my energy levels, muscle aches and pains and MOOD (now that I am healing)!

I’m writing this post 3 months to the day (yup!) from my surgery and I feel GREAT! I still have little tugs on my muscles, neck and shoulder blades and occasional soreness, but overall, I feel great! I’m even starting to work out again! So if I could’ve seen into the future and seen myself now, I don’t think I would be feeling so scared that morning anymore. That’s why I’m posting these videos. So that others can see that it really isn’t as scary as you might think 😉

After this video, my Mom came to see me one last time before she took my phone and I waited for the nurse to come get me. The nurse was the CUTEST guy, P.S.! Like seriously, the cutest! But I was too nervous to even think about his looks… instead I left the oogling to my Mother (haha)! His name was Andrew and he finally came back for me to walk me into the surgery room. (Oh yeah, that’s how laid back they were about everything… I literally WALKED into the surgery room and laid down on the surgery table. But that wasn’t until an HOUR from my scheduled time slot. (Talk about impatient paranoia! I was secretly screaming inside and praying to God that I didn’t wake up paralyzed. No joke! Ironically, I said an entire Rosary Bead and Andrew finally came to get me after I finished saying it. WEIRD! Or you could say God was looking out for me 0;) ) The first time he brought me to the room, the other prep-nurses motioned to Andrew that they weren’t ready. He explained to me by comparing it to Thanksgiving. He said, “It’s like at Thanksgiving when everything else is ready but they still have to finish the cranberry sauce.” I chuckled but was thinking “great analogy, Andrew”! (Sarcasm.) Although I do have corny humor as well, so maybe I just didn’t find it that hysterical because I wanted to get this done and over with.

When I finally walked into the room, everyone was really nice and introduced themselves. I remember looking around and thinking how weird it was to be in an actual, real surgery room and not one on set. They had me lay down and started hooking me up to things. The other nurse, or whoever he was, told me that he was putting an oxygen mask on me to help me breathe, and I thought they would have me count backwards or something when they were ready for the anesthesia! Nope! The next thing I know, I’m waking up from surgery and trying to take a deep breath. “I can’t breathe!” I cried. I could half see my Mom standing next to me and starting to panic. The other guy, Jason, told us that it was because my rib cages were rearranged a little bit by the rods in my back so my lungs were getting used to their new position. It may have also been because I went to sleep being told I was being given oxygen to breathe and I woke up without the mask on. (Apparently with anesthesia, you wake up the same way you went to sleep. So if you were crying when you went to sleep, you would wake up crying, etc.) But it doesn’t matter what the reason was. They put the oxygen mask back on my for a few moments and then I was fine. Oh! And then I started flirting with Jason. When he told me it was time for him to go, I said, “Nooooo!!” He smiled and said “Maybe we’ll meet again outside of here.” I asked my Mom later if he was as cute as I thought or if I had “anesthesia goggles” on. She said, “He was very nice.” (Mom code for “you had goggles on”. I guess I was subconsciously beating myself up for not flirting with Andrew when I had the chance. Ha!)

The rest of my experience in the hospital wasn’t the easiest, (I’m going to be honest with you and say it was by no means a walk in the park) but I will say the pain meds definitely make it bearable. You’ll see and read all about the rest of my journey in my next post. In the mean time, try to relax and distract yourself before your surgery. If your religious, pray. If you’re spiritual, meditate. If you’re creative, write or draw. There are so many outlets and things you can do to help you calm your nerves. And just trust your instincts and trust your doctor. You wouldn’t have made the decision to have surgery if you didn’t think it was right! 😉 So deep breaths in and out and smile! You’ll be okay 🙂

Exes and oh’s!

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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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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:)