My husband and I started off 2009 by becoming proud parents of a healthy baby boy, born on January 20th. It was also inauguration day so our son Xavier was often referred to by others as the Obama baby. Although I prepared for the birthing clinic, I had to have an emergency C-section. I was a little disappointed not having the experience of a natural birth, but as I soon discovered in the months that followed the C-section saved my life.
I returned to work a few months after the birth of our son. As an Instructor and Mentor for at-risk/high-risk youth, I conducted workshops in music and leadership skills for several schools and organizations. Ironically I did not have back pain throughout my pregnancy; it was something I had to deal with as a former college athlete. Upon moving into our new apartment in May 2009 my back pain returned. I was still experiencing new mommy bliss and I was determined to just get through this back pain episode like Iv always done . Under the assumption that it was a very bad pinched nerve I managed the pain the best I could. After several days in this condition my right leg began to go numb and I lost the ability to walk. My husband had to carry me too and from the rest room. I had difficulty standing, sitting and laying down. I couldnt hold or lift my son.
After several days of being in severe pain and sleep deprived, I asked my husband to call the Ambulance. Upon taking a series of MRIs, the doctor (who would later be my head surgeon) explained to us that I had a four inch growth in my spine that hemorrhaged. The term he used was a Hemmoradic Ependamoma, which is a rare spinal cord tumor. When he asked me how I managed to stay in this condition for almost two weeks, my husband replied that I was stubborn, but I knew I was in no hurry to go back into the hospital after giving birth. He explained to the both of us that the numbness was paralysis, and that the tumor caused irreversible nerve damage. He continued to explain the multi-layered complexity of the situation, ranging from cancer, paralisis to a life time of being in chronic pain. He referred to terms such as: the quality of life, special needs, and long term care. These terms were never relevant before.
I listened patiently to what the Dr. was saying; relieved that it wasnt a pinched nerve I was dealing with- all this time. I was so sleep deprived -just wanting to go to sleep. Every attempt to process what he was telling me failed. I had this overwhelming sense come over me feeling as if I was going to lose my mind. I couldnt process the possibility of dying, or never seeing my baby and husband again. He was giving me this sentence that was way too heavy to bear.
That was when I decided to make a decision that changed the course of my life. I ask myself but what is possible? It immediately came into my mind because nothing else was working. I reflected on the movie The Secret which I watched several times before a year prior. I remembered the guy who survived the plane crash against tremendous odds. After asking myself that question, I no longer felt the need to struggle. I wanted my body to define its own possibility. I took a deep breath and focused all of my energy and intention on healing.
After enduring an eight hour surgery, my sister explained to me that I was face down and turned upside down for the procedure. Although I was incapacitated and very sick, I stayed mentally focused on my goal. I kept repeating to myself what is possible? I stayed focused on my mental state, not allowing my mind to create a story about the experience. I was also very sensitive to the people and energy around me. My only goal was to heal and to create new possibilities, I could not allow any doubt or fear to set in my mind which included the fear of my friends and loved ones. Since this was considered a multi-layered injury the odds of having a full recovery wasnt an option given to me. I just knew I had to fight like hell if I wanted to walk again, and I was prepared to do whatever it took.
Since I did not have good healthcare I was placed in a not so updated rehabilitation center, but I was not swayed a bit. I worked the old broken down equipment to the best of my ability and did whatever I could to enjoy the experience. Our new apartment had several flights of stairs so I focused on walking up and down the mock steps in rehab. Emotionally I had to deal with not having my baby with me as well. I gave myself permission to cry and to experience other emotions. I nurtured myself with compassion, love and patience. Something I did so freely for others, it was a part of my healing process.
I went home after a month in the rehabilitation center. I worked mostly from my bed for the first 6 months or so. Creating new ways to do things was a daily adventure for me, because not doing it was not an option. I had to rest very often. The smallest things seemed so exhausting. I would lie on the floor and play with my son or play from the bed. I was able to use my sons stroller to get around instead of the wheel chair and other devises. I joined the local YMCA where I took yoga classes and aqua aerobics.
My surgeon calls me his medical miracle, wanting me to continue to do the things that I am doing to improve my health and mobility. I speak to many people about my injury mostly about managing back pain and getting through adversities. A common complaint when speaking to people was the lack communication theyve experienced with their doctors, when dealing with back pain. Often praised for describing my pain symptoms well which was not common for patients to do especially when theyre in pain. I was inspired to create a tool that would increase the communication between the practitioner and patient when dealing with back pain. I commit to completing this invention very soon. To my surprise I discovered that I have been documenting my back pain symptoms in my personal journals for over fifteen years, so I have a lot to work with.
It has been two years this May since my surgery and I continue to work hard every day to improve my health and mobility. I was told that it would be about five years before I know the effects of my injury. Although my walking has improved alot, Im still working to improve my balance and ability to run. I am also practicing more natural alternative methods to managing my chronic physical pain-which has improved over the past year. I have to take several MRIs throughout the year to monitor the long term affects of the tumor, but I am eager to continue to teach, write and speak about my experience and hopefully assist others in discovering their own possibilities.