Monday, May 11, 2015

Well Hello There!

My friend recommed that I try one of those "we will send you everything you need for you to make a meal" services -- Hello Fresh. I have wanted to for a while and she made picking (which among many services) easy.

I have a free box this week to try the service. I have 3 meals (Argentine Spiced Steak, Pan Seared Chicken with tomato-barley hash and charred broccoli, and  Creamy Pear and Asparagus risotto with goat cheese, walnuts, and mint), but I got to choose from five. And yes, they have a vegetarian meal plan option.

I really liked how they showed calorie counts and ingredients before you ordered.

Got my first box today and couldn't wait to dig in. Not too complicated--it comes with photo recipe cards that lay out each step very well along with the timing. The portion sizes (I opted for 2 servings-- dinner and lunch the next day) are great and it gives you the breakdown of each pre-portioned ingredient (in case you want to omit it) (I love fresh asparagus; it does not love me).

I think this is great for people who are intimidated by cookbooks, grocery stores, and/or their kitchen (ahem...Dad), but want to learn how spices and flavors play with each other in a controlled environment.

I am on my balcony now, enjoying the evening breeze with my meal of Argentine Spiced Steak and couscous with a chimmichurri sauce and a glass of wine. All-in-all a pleasant and delicious experience!

If only Hello Fresh came with someone to wash the dishes.

PS: This was not a sponsored post. If you want to try your hand at some home-cooked meals with @HelloFresh, you can save $40 on your first order with my code FNJNPK at

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Come & Gone

I don't really believe in luck or fate.
But it doesn't mean I won't tip my hat to it in times where, if it existed, it wouldn't hurt to have it on my side.

I had my neck surgery on 12/12/12 at 12pm.
I scheduled my back surgery for May 4th (As in "May the Fourth be with you").

About three weeks ago I made the call to cancel it.  I left a voicemail.
The next day the surgeon's scheduler called to ask me if I could re-schedule it because the doctor had a conflict.

Basically, the fates didn't want me to have the surgery.

Today is May 5th and is a good day.
I'll take it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I get knocked down, but I get up again

All morning Saturday and part of the afternoon, I had been running around to prepare for that night's Ingress party to celebrate an awesome in-game operation that required world-wide cooperation.  I kinda went a little overboard on cupcakes (2 kinds -- Funfetti with blue icing and pineapple upside-down cupcakes -- around 70 cupcakes total). As I was baking, I simultaneously did 4 loads of laundry.

By the time I got to the bar, I was thirsty for a beer and a chair.  I drank my first beer while flitting around the room and introducing myself to the people who had come in from out of town to hang out and celebrate (DelaWHAT? Delaw[h]ere? Okay, I guess you had to be there.)  I had just purchased my second beer and saw a free seat at a table. Ah, sweet feet relief.

With my right hand on the table, and my left hand holding the beer, I approached the bar stool and shifted my weight over my left leg so I could get my right butt cheek on the chair and slide on in.


My left leg went numb and weak.  It gave out under me.
In my milliseconds of panic, I realized that I was still holding my beer and that if I didn't do something, it would get everywhere and on everyone.  I tilted it toward myself and made the sound of  what can only be called a dying egret. I landed on my ass with a thud and beer soaking my shirt and jeans.

My back injury always catches me at the most in opportune times (ahem, in the shower).  But this was the first time that I actually lost feeling in my leg and fell in around friends.  (Once in college the same happened, but it was during taekwondo while throwing a roundhouse kick)

I'm so very lucky that my friend E was nearby.  He and I have discussed my injury (and his injuries) quite a great deal. He knew to wave people off from trying to lift me up immediately (until I knew that everything was working and until I caught my breath).  He stood guard as I gathered myself and took stock of what happened, and when I finally got myself vertical.

The next day, E posted this on his G+ page:

It was a good reminder to me that although I may have had people in that room happy/amused to see me fall, that I always get up.  I've been dealing with this injury for 17 years (at varying degrees) and never once have I just laid on the ground and pitied myself.  I've never asked for special considerations (other than just patience) and I've never asked for people to do for me what I could do for myself (though, I'm always grateful for assistance when I can't do for myself).  

It reminded me of New Rule #8:  Even on your worst day, you can be someone's hero. 

And maybe there needs to be a corollary to New Rule #8:  Even on your worst day, a heroic friend will be there to either help you up or be there when you get yourself standing under your own power. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

A mile in her shoes, part 2

One of my most-read entries is "A Mile in Her Shoes" -- a post describing what it's like to have degenerative disc disease, bulging discs, herniated discs, etc.  It was my answer to Spoon Theory -- a story about what it's like having Lupus, and has been applied to other "invisible" diseases.

I thought I'd update that with the story of a mile that I recently walked.

On Friday night, I was playing Ingress (Go Resistance!) with friends (doing something pretty epic in terms of game play), when some people wanted to take a break and get something to eat/drink. There's very little to eat drink around the National Mall at night, so we decided to walk to a place with a few options.

On the walk, I lagged towards the end of the group, chatting up a teammate that was also moving a bit slowly. We compared injuries (military; had been shot in the leg).  I offered him my cane, he refused, saying I had it worse.  Halfway through the walk the compression started to get to me. I'm glad he didn't take it.  

We get to the bar and it's my idea of hell: crowded, loud, full of 20-year olds and a few out-of-place old people, and multi-level.  I took the elevator to get downstairs where my friends set up shop.  When I finally got a beer and was able to sit down, some guy behind me kept bumping into the back of my chair.  I was relieved when it was time to head back.  My friends took pity on me and we took a cab back to the Monument (where my other friend had parked).  

It took two days to recover from that one mile walk.  Saturday was spent in bed reading.  Every time I tried to move or get out of bed my eyes would well up with tears.  Sunday was a little better.  I was able to do a little cleaning.  My friend Tim was awesome and met me at the grocery store and carried my groceries home.  We then went out for burgers and drinks.  As I knew I'd be ending the night with pain meds, I stuck with the shot of amaretto and untold amounts of seltzer.

But that's what that 1 mile has been like for me for the past year or so.  
A far cry from the person that ran nearly 1000 miles in 2013. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mixed Decision; Mixed Feelings

The other day I received a lengthy letter in the mail from my insurance provider with the ID "Mixed Decision."  It began:
We have determined the following is medically necessary and eligible for benefits:
22558 -- Arthodesis, anterior interbody technique, including minimal discectomy to prepare interspace (other than for decompression); lumbar
22585 -- Athrodesis,  anterior interbody technique, including minimal discectomy to prepare interspace (other than for decompression); each additional interspace 
22851 -- Application of intervertebral biomechanical device(s) (e.g., synthetic cage(s), methylmethacrylate) to vertebral defect or interspace. 
But then, in the middle of the page was this:
Services NOT Eligible for Benefits 
20931 -- Allograft, structural, for spine surgery only
The clinical reason for our determination is:  Your doctor has asked to do surgery on the spine in your lower back.  You have had back and leg pain.  We asked your doctor for information about your back problem and the surgery.  We have reviewed that information.  We have also reviewed your health plans medical policy for spine surgery.  That policy says the material your doctor has asked to use to help the bones heal together is not proven to be equal to or better than other products available for your condition.  Therefore, the use of this material is not covered.  The rest of your lower back surgery is covered.  
Translation:  The ALIF fusion was approved, BUT they probably want me to use an autograph (i.e., a piece of my hip bone) as the spacer for my L5-S1 fusion versus using lab-created or cadaver bone.

If you read my blog entry, "Refuge but no relief," you know that this isn't an easy decision.  The minute they slice me open, my back will never be as strong as it once was.  Our bodies are amazing machines and science has yet to replicate the intricate beauty and strength of that machine.

There's also a chance of failed back surgery (i.e., the surgery isn't successful in relieving pain/other symptoms) OR that the fusion at L5-S1 creates problems for other discs (especially L3-L4, L4-L5 that are already bulging), as is common with fusions.

My gut says "wait as long as you can and try to get the hybrid surgery."

Why is this?  The L5-S1 fusion is going to happen no matter what; it's just a question of when.

The fusion will most likely put added pressure on the L3-L4 and L4-L5 discs, accelerating their degeneration/bulging/herniation.  If the Globus Triumph (the technology my doctor wants to use) isn't FDA approved by the time that happens, I'll most likely be looking at more fusions (decrease in range of motion/mobility).  Even if the Globus Triumph is FDA approved by then, (1) I may not be a good candidate (because of the progression of the degeneration) and could be disqualified immediately; (2) my insurance may not approve the use of the device because it is too new to them, thus disqualifying me financially (this isn't something I can pay for out-of-pocket).

Like I said, it's a matter of when.  The pain is restricting my life in new, fun, and unimaginable ways. My ODI Score has increased (from a 46 to a 52) mainly because I am unable to sit for periods longer than 20-30 minutes without pain (when sitting or when trying to stand up), I have trouble walking (and am ordering a cane for myself), transit is unbearable (car/taxi, bus, subway) for many reasons, and I'm having trouble cleaning my apartment (need to hire a maid).  Again, ODI doesn't account for many parts of my life where I'm restricted.

Basically, I prioritize my errands/chores for good days, but on all other days you can find me in bed. I'm in too much pain and too exhausted to do much else, and even if I do other things, I end up paying for it.

In all ways, this is not the life that I want to be living.  I want better for myself and right now I'm not sure what that is.