Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Fond Farewell

My handicap sticker expired today. Good thing. I don't want to be tempted to use privileged parking when I really don't deserve it.

Speaking of driving . . . last week I jumped into my car and took a 6oo mile road trip to see my new grandchild.

It went shockingly well. The SHOCK was the complete LACK of teeth-gritting pain. It was absolutely phenomenal!

More than other single thing, this car trip was a HUGE AFFIRMATION of why my life is 200% IMPROVED by electing to go on the operating table.

Friends, all good things have their time and place. Now that my handicap sticker has expired, it's time to say for me to say goodbye to this blog.

However, I am starting another blog with chalk-full of photos illuminating the happenings in my quirky little life . You can find me at http://gingersnapgems.blogspot.com/ OR, you can click HERE for the link. I'll be posting at that site after I return from yet another trip to the Utah Red Rock Country with gaggle of girlfriends.

Finally, I'd like to share a touching song entitled "This Scar" written and performed by Lisa Nicole Grace who traveled a similar road with her scoliosis surgery. Click HERE to listen.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Timing Is Everything

Major spinal surgery is

For most of us,
life is full of

In my case,
I had three (1,2,3) kids to raise alone.

I had child care programs to run, so I could provide for those kids.

I had a mother with Alzheimer's needing my help.

I knew my spine was getting worse,
but life seemed so complicated

While I was 'doing other things', my spine got CURVIER.
Fortunately for me,
a SPACE eventually opened up in my life:

I cashed in my chips at my child care business.
This is one of 12 classrooms in my child care facility.

I sold my three children off to the highest bidders.

In every photo, the child I birthed is on the right.

My dear mom passed away.
This is the last birthday my mom and I shared together.

With some heavy burdens lifted, it was easier to
face my scoliosis issues
(Of course, I was also getting prodded by my brother,
Mr. Bee in My Bonnet.

And, as they say . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
MESSAGE FOR THE 'SCOLI' CROWD: Some of you really NEED surgery, but you feel indispensable in your relationships OR you simply can't imagine getting the time off work OR a million other things.

It's okay to postpone this 'Biggie' if things are crazy at the present moment and you see clear skies down the road. But, debilitating pain, a severe curve, or a rapidly progressing curve may mean that you need to SHOVE ASIDE your life. After all, nobody is truly indispensable.
If you have any of the following situations, get to a doctor specializing in scoliosis as soon as possible :

1. Curvature over 45 degrees using the Cobb Angle measurement, done by an orthopedic dr. not a chiropractor.

2. Rapid progression of the curvature. (Mine didn't progress for 30 years. Often, menopause causes scoliosis in women to begin progressing after years of staying stabilized. I think that was true for me.)

3. Pain from the curvature. (For me, it was because some muscle groups had to carry more than their share of load. All that pain is gone, gone, gone.)

Personally, I was dealing with all three issues. When I finally got on the phone to set up my first appointment with a scoliosis specialist, I was hyperventilating. Really this stuff is HARD to face.

However, it's much harder to live with progressive scoliosis in the long run. As curves get worse and our bodies get older, there are more complications and, naturally, increasing pain. A competent scoliosis specialist (NOT your run-of-the-mill orthopedic or a chiropractor) can help you evaluate the urgency of your situation. (Click HERE to find one.)

This photo was taken a week after my surgery.
I'm standing next to Dr. Cunningham
who practices with my surgeon.
(There are MANY competent scoliosis specialists out there.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Have I ever mentioned that my three children were enormously supportive with this whole surgery thing . . .
before, during, and afterwards?

(These shots were taken of my kids while they were caring for me during my hospital stay in New York City.)

I was fortunate.
They were simply stellar
- each one of them!

A couple of months before my surgery date, my first-born child Arian (-who is pictured in BOTH photos above-) surprised me with an AMAZING pre-surgery gift . . . a trip to COSTA RICA.

Together, my son and I went . . .





My adventures in Costa Rica provided me with a way to feel fully ALIVE and IN THE PRESENT. When I returned, I was completely ready to face my scoliosis surgery. I knew that Dr. Boachie's skill with the scalpel would provide me the means to keep enjoying my NEW life WITHOUT a debilitating curve in my spine.

* * * * * *
The lead-up to surgery can be chock-full of tumultuous feelings. Some of my scoli friends needed anti-anxiety medication just to get themselves through this stage and avoid freaking out. The scoliosis forum helps people through this - click HERE.

Another way to cope = DO SOMETHING (anything!) that takes your mental energies AWAY from the surgery. Our minds can be our worst enemies!

* * * * * *
I will be forever grateful for Arian's AMAZING pre-surgery gift that took my mind (and body) in a whole different direction. AND, I appreciate 200% his wife Jill, who was sick with a difficult pregnancy and dealing with a toddler alone during our travels. None-the-less, she whole-heartedly supported the trip.

Now, they've given me another grandchild
and I love them all the more!

Next week, I will take the five-hour drive to their home in Nevada where I'll spend a few days
cuddling the new baby,
playing with the big brother,
and lending a helping hand
wherever possible.

It will be my first time to do solo traveling
since I was spinally reconstructed.

QUALIFIER ON COSTA RICA TRIP: In CASE you wonder how I did all that activity at age 55 and with a 65* curve in my spine, I took PAIN KILLERS. Lots of them. AND, my body was lean and mean from all that pre-surgery exercising. Scoliosis pain CAN be disabling. Mine was getting there. NOT ANYMORE! HA!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


There are
many kinds of

with various causes.

I am happy to report, this photo does NOT represent my particular problem.

HOWEVER, scoliosis is often accompanied by some interesting neck issues.

A lot of us 'scolis' get straight necks which protrude forward in addition to our twisted backs.

"Normal" necks look like this:
Necks of the scoliosis crowd generally
(but not always)
look something like this:

Guess which neck is mine!

In other words,
us scoliosis folks have a curve where we shouldn't (in our backs)
and have NO curve where we ought to have one (in our necks).

I originally went into physical therapy for my afflicted neck, not my back, in the 1980s.

My P.T. would do a nice long session of cervical repair work and I would be functioning again!

A month later, I would return, often unable to move my head to the right or left.
More repair work.
Off I'd go.

This pattern continued until I developed issues in the lower spine which served to add variety in my P.T. sessions. Neck & back. Back & Neck.

Finally, my P.T. suggested the Saunders Cervical Hometrac Unit to help my problematic neck. This device provided gentle traction to my cervical spine. With ongoing use, the neck pain went WAY DOWN. It's expensive, but definitely worth it! (Check eBay!)

This is NOT me with a mustache,
but you can sse my Saunder's Hometrac Unit

Once I started doing Pilates workouts, my neck troubles dissolved completely. I figure that these exercises gave me enough muscle tone to hold up my skull + weighty brains, in spite of my weird neck.

Since surgery, that dastardly neck of mine has been blinking those old 'red light' pain signals.

On Friday, my physical therapist looked at my x-rays and reported that I have SERIOUS TROUBLE throughout my cervical spine (neck). He described the issues very scientifically and in great deal. I'll admit it was wee bit depressing!

I told him that I could GUESS my options . . .

OPTION #1: Fusion of the cervical discs.

OPTION #2: A life-long commitment to
hardcore exercises that stabilize the neck
Mr. P.T. Extraordinaire said "Bingo!"

Well, I choose
Option #2!!!
And I plan to keep choosing it,

day after day ...

year after year!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Big Steps!


What a

I've taken some
last week's blog.

It started on Monday when I was doing my daily hike in the canyon behind my home. My eyes were peeled for the Rocky Mt. Big Horn Sheep which like to congregate at mouth of the canyon.

Instead, I was greeted by a couple of fellow hikers and we made our way up the rocky trail. Yep! Lots of ROCKS with a steady incline.
To give you an idea of the trail, take a look at this shot taken of my daughter, her horse and Yours Truly back in the 1990s.

Okay, it's 12 years ago! But it's still MY canyon!

When we got to my This-Is-As-Far-As-I-Go Place, my friends invited me to share their picnic. How serendipitous!

The MEAL, the REST, the PLEASANT CHATTER put fuel back into my tank and I decided to accompany my friends for a few more steps.

Each bend we took, I wanted to go a little farther, because the FALL COLORS were filling my soul. (The shot on the left was taken of the hikers who shared their picnic.)

Before I knew it, we'd crossed over the river 5 times using the 5 bridges built by energetic boy scouts. The 5th bridge represents a climb of 2000 feet from the trailhead.

By the time I was back down to the 'Big Horn Sheep Hangout' at the base of the canyon, I'd hoofed it FOUR miles.

I felt like a kid with my hand in the cookie jar! I'd done something just a bit sinful, in light of my recent Spinal Surgery Maxima! My only consequence = a little nerve pain during the night.

I was ELATED!!!

The next day, I made plans to hike Mt. Timpanogos. Late September is the IDEAL TIME to hike this mountain. This shot was taken from the roof of my home in the early spring.

Notice how bare the peaks are during the fall . . .

I invited the same hiking buddies you saw in the photo with the autumn leaves. (They had fancy pedometers that could tell us our altitude as well as walking distance. Besides, I like them.)

These shots were taken at the Timpooneke trailhead.
NOTE: my dog wasn't thrilled
about doing a photo opt at that moment.

After a mile or two, the view opened up . . .

As we got farther along, the trail got steeper.

Sometimes, the rock formations formed a perfect stairway.

Notice ABOVE that I use my trekking poles.
I am NOT allowed to fall.
since those spinal fusions cost a
* * *
Higher up, we came across several
spectacular waterfalls packed with vibrant green moss.
No boy scouts had constructed bridges at THIS altitude,
so we picked our way across the streams coming down the cliffs.

Finally, we reached the glacier basin.
10.000 FT. ALTITUDE.
. . . and another 5.5 miles DOWN!

ELEVEN breathtaking miles in one day!
What a MILESTONE for this post-surgery patient!!!

(I solemnly SWORE to my physical therapist that I'd go no farther than the glacier basin and that promise I KEPT. Furthermore, it was ENOUGH. I was thrilled TO THE MAX.)

The last time I did this hike was 15 years ago, when my spine was about 30 degrees curved, not a whooping 65 degrees, as it was before my surgery. In 1993, I took this photo of my son from ALMOST the same location where I stood just two days ago.

With a large curvature, muscles fatigue quickly, working extra hard to hold up a crooked spine. Pain ensues. Movement is limited. By the mid 1990s, this hike was totally out of my reach.

Now, barely four months out from getting "reconstructed", I can do FAR MORE than I could possibly do for years and years.

Dear Scoliosis Friends: I realize my recovery is somewhat remarkable. All that PILATES and YOGA helped. However, the vast majority of "scolis" find that AFTER SURGERY they have a better crack at life, whether it's climbing mountains or washing a huge pile of dishes at the sink. For those of you with twisted spines, please look at these photos and consider the chance to do things you NEVER DREAMED were possible because of your crooked spine. (If you haven't noticed, I'm becoming a Spinal Surgery Evangelist.)

FINAL NOTE: After eleven miles of climbing Timp, I experienced NO nerve pain. Just tiredness. The next morning, I felt great. Maybe I should hike Timpanogos EVERY DAY!