How I Got Here:
To be honest, I have no clue how I got here. I am not a photographer, and although I have always enjoyed writing, I’ve never aspired to blog. Despite being a friendly and open soul, when it comes to my “yuck” I guess I’m a pretty private person. I arrive here, and begin this blog after a long and complex journey…a journey I continue to travel.
It’s now been 18 years of chronic pain and debilitating illness for me. I was caught way off guard by all of this, as I had a “big life” planned, and the world was cooperating quite nicely up till age 30. I was in perfect health, married to my high school sweetheart — the love of my life, and living in a magnificent beach community. I was on a welcomed break from career, enjoying the wonders of motherhood with my precious new baby and my, then, 4 year old wise little daughter. Life was fun, and I loved it! The plan was to devote myself to full-time motherhood for a few years and then to finish my Masters in Counseling, and ultimately enter the profession.
My body’s navigation system must have been a lemon:
All was well back during that summer of 1994. Carefree days were spent on the beach collecting sand-glass with my girls, and floating in the warm salty sea of Meschutt’s Peconic Bay. When I least expected it, though, I looked up and suddenly realized there was a huge detour ahead on my neatly paved path. Remember that old saying, “your life can change on a dime”? Mine did.
The challenges began with over 7 years of severe spinal pain. After trying numerous procedures and every treatment both modern medicine and ancient healing wisdom could offer me, I wanted my life back. I was 37 at the time. I consulted with 10 top spine specialists, and agreed to have a risky spinal fusion surgery. It was a major operation, but I could do it, I thought, and life would be back to normal…I was certain.
Everything was set for the spine surgery, so I diligently scheduled my routine annual mammogram knowing I’d be laid up for a long while during recovery. It was the right thing to do.
Yes, breast cancer. But “no problem”–I told my husband and kids,”this was a blessing ” (and I meant it). I insisted we celebrate. So many women in my family (mom, grandma, aunts, and cousins) have been afflicted by this disease. I just knew with this early diagnosis, and aggressive treatment I could beat it…and I did.
That was in 2001.
All the while the spine disease progressed, and 3 years later with urging from my top-notch spine surgeon, I finally underwent the fusion surgery. It was a huge ordeal, incisions in belly and back leaving large scars, titanium rods and lots of big screws installed…but, hey–I’m strong.
That was in 2004.
Unfortunately, the locking back pain persisted, and additional problems set in. My organs began to decompensate, abnormal blood work alarmed us, and defective pancreas ducts were discovered. More surgery followed and several organs were extracted–my medical diagnoses multiplied. I was a good compliant patient, but nothing seemed to resolve.
Not My Hips:
This last year my healthy (I believed) hips announced they too had issues. Again, there was a defect found on MRI in my hip joints that we never knew existed. The head of my femurs and sockets were oddly angled and the ball and socket were colliding. We now knew why I was excessively flexible in my hips, and the envy of all my yoga classmates. But this defect tore my labrum away from the cartilage, and caused more pain–leading me to California for another technically difficult orthopedic surgery on New Year’s Eve 2010 (my birthday). I was hopeful this would be the final fix, but once again I was in for disappointment.
So here I am – still living with chronic daily pain, 11 major surgeries later…still struggling to function and sleep, eat and live a happy life–which is all I ever really wanted.
No worries though…I’m still trying to find my way back, and making the best of each and every moment this life has to show me.
I must be truthful. This road has not been easy, and chronic pain is a beast nobody should ever have to face. Nonetheless, I focus on my blessings, the love of my supportive family, dear friends who have stood by my side, and new precious relationships that have been born of this hardship. I focus on my own hopes and dreams–the good stuff…and know one day, I will get there.
I have learned through my experience that here on planet earth, we only get one body. It is precious, and I believe we need to nurture it. We also only get one life, and every minute counts. Blaming and making excuses seems a waste of important energy to me.
The life of my dreams is waiting for me, and through this ordeal I vowed that I will do my best to meet it halfway. I am working hard on keeping that promise every way I can!
Which brings me to this blog-site:
After my bilateral hip surgeries in December of 2010, things looked very bleak. A year went by and walking was nearly impossible–pain was intense and unrelenting. Things were especially rough since I cannot take any narcotic pain meds due to the condition of my biliary and pancreatic ducts. I found myself housebound, and acutely disillusioned. More so than I had ever been.
Following a rough summer which included a viral illness, 10 weeks of fever, and a diagnosis of Lyme Disease, I persuaded myself to play a game. I committed to taking daily walks in the woods. I knew instinctually fresh air and exercise was important, and although I might be limping and hurting like hell, nature would be good for me. I began my nature walking ritual last fall.
We are fortunate to live 5 minutes down the road from a beautiful wildlife refuge…a safe haven and sanctuary for injured animals…and people like me. Each animal protected and cared for by the refuge, has a ‘story’ posted explaining the nature of his/her injury, and why that creature is unable to function out in the world any longer.
At the wild life refuge there are also over 7 miles of nature preserve and dirt trails, set on a breathtaking land of ponds, lakes and wooded forests. Benches are strategically placed throughout the park, and the shortest trail is just under a mile long. I decided this would be my trail, and each step would count.
I set out on my mission to walk almost daily. Most days it was all I did–and this was the 1 hour I spent outside of my house. I took care to dress appropriately, and take all the necessary gear, which included my iPod, with downloads of meditative and uplifting music I could listen to during walks.
At the beginning, I would find myself in the middle of the woods in pain, and often wondered if this was just a crazy idea. I considered calling off the project and going home, back to the security of my ice machine and heating pad, but I persevered.
Pleasantly surprised by how my mood changed when I was out there and moving, I continued with my daily outings, despite the ongoing pain and restriction in my joints.
Two for One…healing therapy and accidental hobby:
One day, as I enjoyed the scenery while slowly making my way through the woods, I remembered my iPod had a low-end built-in camera. I’d never used it, and frankly, did not know how. Taking in the stunning lake view, I quickly pulled the iPod out of my pocket and pressed on the camera app.
I focused on the scene and captured my first picture.
It was not long before I had an accidental hobby. Taking photos during my nature walks has helped me get in touch with many unconscious emotions. A born optimist and pleaser, I tend to put on a happy face in an attempt to rise above my challenges. In some ways this has served me as an effective defense mechanism. I needed to believe I was more than my physical pain in order to survive. Still, there is so much emotional fall-out, byproducts of enduring a type of physical torture on a constant and daily basis. Those who have not lived this cannot truly understand…but it’s a heavy load to bear.
One of the hardest parts about this is that pain prevents me from distracting myself. It is difficult to simply read a great book, or even concentrate on a television show or movie. Yet, for some reason, the nature photography, combined with the physical activity of gentle nature walks provide a tremendous lift for me. My spirit is lighter after my outings, and my pain more manageable. Even from that first day, looking through the camera lens provided a soothing escape I haven’t been able to find anywhere else throughout my 18 years of challenge. For this I am so grateful, and thus, inspired to share my story and my photos with those who visit this blog.
So welcome, and thank you for joining me. Have fun, and enjoy your look through my healing lens!
Love and Light~