Saturday, November 17, 2007

Much better!

About 30 minutes after my last post, I really began to see the sun shining through and now, I'm quite excited to be on my way to my grand adventure! Thanks y'all for your prayers.

By His Grace

5 PM Saturday night

And I'm feeling so sad. I'm really crying, just feeling so sad about leaving my husband and my home in less than 12 hours. We've had such a lovely 7 months or so here and now, this whole surgery thing seems to be interrupting that. I rely upon him for so many things and now, I'm leaving alone tomorrow on a journey that, well, yes, is scary.

I'm know I'm depositing into my health account, this surgery. That I will be healthier and able to enjoy our retirement later on. But right now, it feels like a huge, lonely step. I have to get ahold of myself.

This is where and when we lean upon the Lord the most, when we travel down that lonesome road devoid of our loved ones, the ones we depend upon.

I remember a little story my Dad used to tell about his being a young boy and walking home from town alone. It was night-time and dark, and as he climbed Barnard Hill, the moon created weird, mottled shadows on the road at his feet. He saw monsters in every shaded bush and looming birch. The prickles ran up and down his back and he kept looking over his shoulder to see if he was being followed. Suddenly, right above his head, an owl hooted very loud, and that little boy ran with all of his might toward the lamplight in the window of his home and safety.

His fear was so strong that it was remembered vividly when that boy was 80 years old.

I feel like that youngster walking that road tonight. But I'm not alone and I know that. Not only do I have many friends and many prayers being said for me, I have the Lord holding my Hand.

I probably won't be writing here for a couple of weeks, my gentle readers. When I do, I'll recount all about the surgery and all the blessings that befell me on this trip!

God bless you all.
With love.

Friday, November 16, 2007

SJP, final installment

In an ad for Garnier skin products, Sarah Jessica Parker says, "This is good, so you better pay attention.

In song and story-writing, that was what is known as a "hook." Sorry if I disappointed all of your SJP fans!

This IS a big, good thing I'm about to tell you, however. It was 1978, a time of poverty and struggle for me. Yet a time when there was much to be thankful for, even the closeness of nature and the absence of distractions.

I felt at that time that I always had some sort of faith. I remember one time working with my chainsaw in a pile of "slash," the branches left over when a tree is felled and which have been thrown into a pile. I was out alone cutting some firewood out of such a pile and the gas cap vibrated loose and fell off, down into the pile of branches.

I was so worried that I'd never find that proverbial needle in the haystack and after looking and looking for an hour, I finally prayed, "Dear God, show me the gas cap to the chainsaw, please." And I opened my eyes and looked right down at my feet, where the black cap was lying.

As I read that book that had been left in my mailbox, I not only learned more about Watergate and the actions of Chuck Colson, but I became aware of truths that had eluded me for my life up until that point. I don't swallow things hook, line and sinker, I'm something of a skeptic at heart,
so I would take the book (Born Again) and where chapters and verses were quoted, I would look them up in the only Bible I owned, a sort of teenage version called, "The Way."

I underlined scriptures and highlighted whole paragraphs. I found everything that Colson was saying to be sustained in the book which I considered special. And I remember that I felt surprised. For all of my church-going as a child, all those summers spent at Vacation Bible School, the songs sung in junior choir, I simply had no understanding of who Jesus was and why He died on a cross. I was 28 years old, and hearkened back to when I was 11 and aspired to become a minister one day. I read much of the Bible that year. But it was just a good story as far as I was concerned.

As I read Colson's Watergate accounts and I cross-referenced his writings with the simple version of the Bible I had, I came to understand that Jesus was the Son of Almighty God. That God cannot look upon sin and no sin can enter heaven. That we are all "sinners and come short of the glory of God."

Sitting at that rugged, picnic-style table in our hand-hewn cabin nestled in the midst of a lodgepole pine forest in northern Idaho, with no preachers altar lyrical music...I had nothing but the sounds of the night and my own heart and conscience to listen to. That and the pure word contained on the pages of annointed books. I don't know if I was searching, but God sure searched and found me.

With intellectual reasoning, I tried to scoff at what I'd read. I tried to find failings and contradictions. Yet every single part of the "plan" made perfect sense. And in the end, I could not refute it.

As Josh McDowell wrote in More than a Carpenter, what will we do with Jesus? We cannot say that He was a good man, or one of the prophets, or one of the ways to God. Because that is not what He said He was.

Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. "No man cometh to the Father but by me." So, Jesus was either exactly what and who He said He was...or He was lying...or He was a crazy. Lord, Liar or Lunatic. We can't have it any other way. We must decide. And all of my own intellectual ability and sensibility directed to me to a decision that was made almost 30 years ago and from which I have never wavered since.

I knew I needed to make a conscious pact with God about this, though. Throughout the Bible, it is written of our need to speak with God and to literally "choose" him. To choose the path we intend to take. We never would get very far down a road if we did not make choices on which way to turn, which fork in the road to take.

I knew what I needed to do, but, being a drama queen at heart, I decided it would be on my terms at a time of my choosing. I'd wait for a beautiful Fall day, when the tamarack were golden and the Aspen were glowing on the hills. I'd walk out on the ridge, sit on an outcropping and spill out my heart to the Lord. I'd make a sweeping epic, a huge memory, just like a woman planning her wedding day complete with tiered cake and organ music.

But, that "director's" day just never came...and I always was busy and kept putting it off. Maybe it started raining for a spell. Whatever it was, that "picture perfect" day never cropped up.

During this time, I had a couple of horses in to train and one was a sorrel mare named Sandy.
She was tied up in a stall in the barn on the hill. And on that same day, I was down near where our trucks were parked, talking with my husband as he "mechanic-ed" on one of our rigs.

As all couples do at times, we began to argue over something. I don't remember what the argument was about (but I do remember I was right!) but, in some way, my feelings had been hurt. I ran up the path that led to the horse barn, braids flying out and down my back, and ran in to where Sandy was tied. I cried into her long, rust-colored mane and, sobbing, I said aloud, "Dear Lord. I've really screwed up my life. I've tried to run it, but look where it's gotten me? I can't do anything right. I'm giving it to you. I believe that You are God in the flesh and that You died for my sins. If I were the only person alive, You would have died for me. And so, I'm giving my life to you."

To paraphrase Sarah Jessica Parker in that mindless TV ad: "This was BIG." I had ZERO idea how big it was, that simple prayer I prayed. I only knew that when I had tried to control my life, I only messed things up, no matter how good my intentions. I knew I needed help. And I couldn't wait a minute longer because I was at the bottom of the pit. Right where God wanted me.

A few months later, my husband prayed the same prayer and experienced a change in his life, as well. This change is not an over-night process, it's an evolution that is still taking place almost 30 years later. But if I can convince you of one thing, it would be that this is something real...big...tangible...and very, very good.

And this same Lord, this same Faith will carry me through the next year as I journey through surgeries, a halo for several months, severe pain, loneliness of having surgeries 3000 miles away from my husband, long recoveries, reliance upon strangers, angels and friends. This God will guide and comfort me all of my days on this earth, through even the valley of the shadow of death. He will never leave nor forsake me, of that I can be sure. He hasn't done so in the last 30 years.

Jesus is, in very deed, The Way, The Truth and the Life. He is the Door only through which we may come to God, the Father and to Heaven. And all else pales next to His Glory. Our pains, our sufferings, our losses and our wins, our trophies, our hobbies, passions, even horses, our loves and broken hearts, our awards and recognitions and our broken bones are nothing compared to Almighty God. He is at the very core of who I am and who you are. He searched for me like the shepherd goes hunting through the cold night for the one lost sheep. And He will search for you.

postscript: Several years later, while visiting my 70 yr old father, he asked me to tell him what the song, "Amazing Grace" meant. I told him the Good News that Jesus was searching for him, that He'd died long ago on that Cross at Calvary to atone for his, my Dad's, sins. That he could have the promise of eternal life with God by asking for forgiveness of those sins and by giving his life to his Savior.

Then I point-blank asked my father, " Have you ever done this?"

He looked me in the eye and answered honestly, "No," even though I knew he went to church every Sunday.

I asked, "Do you want to do this now, with me?"

He said sincerely, "Yes. I'm ready for it."

We knelt together on the floor of the living room of the house my father had built in 1947. I had been brought home from the hospital to that house and I lived there until I left home at the age of 19, heading for my own life and future out West. I held his hands and we together we prayed, "Dear Lord Jesus. I believe You are the Son of God and that You died for my sins. Please forgive me of my wrongdoing. I give You my life. In Your precious Name, Amen."

I gave my Dad that copy of the Bible that God had used to bring me into the fold. "The Way." With all the verses I loved underlined in various shades of ink and highlighter marker pens. I prefer the good, old King James version of the Bible, but God can bless and use any version. My Dad read from that teenaged version...and after he died at the age of 80, my stepmother gave that Bible back to me and I have it still. And I know my beloved father is waiting for me "on the other side."

And finally, God gave me that dramatic memory I was seeking, of a father and his child kneeling together on a thread bare carpet in a little cottage of a house. Planning our future.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Countdown to the BIG day`

Well, I have two more days 'til I leave for NY and my tethered cord surgery. Don't look in my guest room! It's piled with things that I think I need to take but which will never fit into the smallish suitcase I intend to take. I want to bake some cookies for my surgeon, I promised him some chocolate chip cookies...where to fit those in? Tomorrow, I'll go to Wally World and see if I can find a good cookie tin.

Someone suggested taking hard candy to give to nurses, perhaps to entice them into your room more often? I have lots of root beer barrels. I'll let you know if it works!

Today, I went to my cancer doctor as it was my six-month checkup for the monoclonal gammopathy I have. I was first scheduled for Nov. 23, but when I got my surgery date in NY, I called and switched my appt to today. This caused all kinds of confusion and a blood test was done, but it was the usual CBC type test, and all was pretty normal. I asked my oncologist about the protein levels (the markers for multiple myeloma that we are watching), as they have been creeping up this year. He seemed confused, and stepped out the door.

He came back and said that today, they had just done the usual test for pre surgery stuff and to see how the pamidronate treatments were doing. No proteins levels were taken. He said when I get back from surgery and feel up to it, to call and schedule those tests. Sigh....a patient has to work SO hard to just get things in order. If it was left to even the best doctors and nurses, things still seem to fall through the cracks. I'll have plenty of blood taken in's 70 mile trip was unnecessary.

Last Monday, I did have a pre-surgical ECHO done. I told the techician that I really need the report as soon as possible and needed the print out to fax to my surgical coordinator in NY. My medical asst. in my local PCP's office called today to tell me that the cardiologist was pissed off that I was making such demands, and that "I'd get the report when I got it." Period. But I guess he did tell my PCP that all was normal on the ECHO. Nice of him. What a butt head if you ask me. Once again, so much work on the part of the patient. It would be a great service and line of work to become a patient advocate, but I suppose the liability would just be too high. Something needs to be done.

After reading my last post and seeing the picture of me jumping Shadow, a good friend wrote to me that maybe when I'm better, I could get an old horse to brush and just "be with." She told me to "save that cookie." I do like that idea and at times I feel good, I do think about that. Maybe a large pony would be nice. Or, maybe I better go into mini horses so I'm not tempted to ride!

However, I did give the cookie to Quincy who relished it as much as he'd enjoyed so many others over the last few years in the horse stable.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This is a photo taken a couple of months before I broke my neck jumping another horse. This is my little cow-horse, Shadow, who really didn't like jumping (hence, the pin-backed ears) and liked to get it over with as quickly as possible (hence, I'm holding him back from rushing the fence). But he'd do it for me and he was very "handy."

My form is not perfect by any means. But Shadow's is kinda nifty, with those knees perfectly even in front and just a bit of rounding through the back, or "bascule." The horse barn in the background and the arenas are part of the horse complex we created on the last ranch where we worked. This area had been filled with garbage and trashed vehicles and pigpens. We cleaned it up and built a lovely equestrian center where I trained the horses and the riders. It was a lot of fun!

Today, it's starting to get colder. Heading out the door, I threw on a jacket and then looked for my gloves. Searching through coats in the closet, I found a single horse "cookie" in the pocket of my chore coat.

Grief comes at odd times, you know? Even when you think you are just looking for a pair of old gloves.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

SJP, part 3

I'm gettin' there, I promise...

Way up in the northwoods of Idaho, not much comes between you and the mirror.

You know what I mean? How sometimes, a cloud of smoke might blur that space so that who you are and who the world thinks you are seems to be the same thing? With fresh air and no reason to even comb your hair in the morning as your only influences, your mind either gets restless and bored or you start spending time with some pretty profound thoughts.

If I ever had a profound thought, I never felt I could lay claim to it. I knew myself too well for that. Even when I didn't know the word for it, inspiration was filling the air around me and when you are spoon-fed inspiring thoughts, how can you take credit for that?

I rode a lot of colts during that time, anything that someone would pay me to ride. I remember one Appaloosa stud, about 5 years old, never ridden. His name was Lucky and he had striking color patterns on his grey and white hide.

I brought him home in our truck and starting riding him down skid roads, occasionally spotting bear paw prints in the mud around the puddles from last night's rain. I didn't have fancy places to break a horse there, I didn't even have any flat ground. No round pen or arena. No barn. Just a hillside corral, ride him a little til he bends his head left or right when you pull on the reins of the bosal, then open the gate and don't come home til he's darn good and tired.

The owners wanted to come pick him up when I got done my 30 days on him, but I said, "If he ain't broke enough for me to ride him the 25 miles back to your ranch, then I'm cheatin' you." And so I have a faded color photo of me bundled up for cold weather on a big Appy stallion, ready to head out over the back roads and mountains to deliver him to his owners. I think that was the last ride he ever had. Sad when that happens. Lucky was a good boy.

One thing happened you'll never believe, but I swear it's true. I heard a Bigfoot one night, bellowing outside our cabin. I'll tell that story another time, but that night will stay with me forever and I've heard many other stories about Sasquatch encounters since then and they all have a commonality with my experience.

We had some folks we knew who lived a couple of miles away and they would leave books in my mailbox all winter long. When I got done reading them, I'd put them back into their mailbox with a note. Starved for entertainment, as Too Slim from Riders in the Sky would say, I'd read anything that was left in there.

One day, I rode the old draft mare out to the box. Astride her broad, bare back, it was like riding on a comforter. Her name was Belle and what an incredible logging horse she was. She'd skid a log down to the "deck" of logs without anyone driving her, just pull right up to the side of the deck like she knew just where those logs had to go and wait for someone to unhook her. Then she'd go back up that skid trail alone to the logger in the woods, ready to pull down another log, log after log, all day.

I leaned over and opened the box to find an interesting-looking book in there. "Born Again" by Chuck Colson. I sure wasn't interested in anything religious, but I knew that the whole Watergate thing had gone right over my head when it was in the news, and I was interested in learning about it. Besides, as I said, it was winter in the northwoods and I was hungry to read anything that I hadn't already read five times.

to be continued...

SJP, part two

I promise I will get to the Sarah Jessica Parker part soon!

To continue from part one, thirty years ago, we lived a sparse lifestyle in a log cabin way up in the northwoods. I mentioned that we became close friends with our few and far-between neighbors, and many of them were very religious. I liked them a lot in spite of the fact that they carried Bibles around with them while out logging or doing construction work. That sort of thinking was really foreign to me.

I did have a type of faith, however. I felt a drawing toward God at a young age, when my father would drop my sister and me off at the local Congregational Church every Sunday morning for church and Sunday School. Later on, if he couldn't drive me the four miles to church, I'd walk.

It was a formidable, granite structure, this church, and I loved the little secret nooks and crannies that I grew to know intimately. I sang in the children's choir, songs like "This Little Light of Mine" and "Jesus Loves Me," and "Zaccheus Was a Wee Little Man." I attended Vacation Bible School for many years. That church was the center of our community, where rummage and bake sales were held and as children, we played "Red Rover" on the back lawn.

However, there was something missing from the message taught there. It turned out to be a good place to be while growing up as a child, but for a teenager to draw strength from, it was a severely lacking.

One of my memories of my church is from my teen years. I had an unpredictable horse named Buckshot, who was a green-broke, 3 yr. old gelding. I rode him everywhere and up and down highways, never wary that that was a dangerous practice. There wasn't an old "skid road" that I didn't explore on Buckshot in those halcyon years of owning and riding my first horse.

One day, I rode through the back woods to my school chum's house. Gretchen had a large pony, and on idyllic summer days, we would ride together often. On this morning, we decided that we wanted to ride bareback, so we stopped beside an old barn, stripped our saddles off, and clambered aboard the sweaty backs of our horses. I must have goosed Buckshot's sides as I climbed on, because once I was back on, he bogged his head and set into bucking, throwing me over his head, where I landed on the rocky ground of the old corral.

As if to add insult to injury, the big colt then trounced me with his front hooves as he continued bucking playfully. I felt the impact on my back (breaking a rib) and I heard his snort in my ear. Driven into the mud, I had dirt up on my nose, in my eyes and I was pretty disoriented.

I guess it doesn't take long in a situation like that for a teenager to understand that she had had a bad idea, so Gretchen and I saddled up and she took off for home, and I decided to ride the longer but less challenging way to my house, about ten miles away.

Halfway home, I realised I didn't have my glasses on, they must have come off during the wreck. When I got to the old Congregational Church, I stopped and went inside and called the people who lived across the street from the old barn where the rodeo had just occurred, asking them to look for my glasses and to hold onto them for me. Thanking the minister for holding my horse and avoiding his questions about why he hadn't seen me in church lately, I continued half-blind back to my little house where I had some explaining to do to my father.

next installment soon....

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sarah Jessica Parker...part 1

Guarded by a thick forest of lodgepole pine, our little cabin in the northwoods seemed like heaven on earth back in 1978. We'd built it ourselves and didn't have to skid the logs very far before my husband notched the ends with his chainsaw and together, we lifted them up into place.

Windows were carved out, just wherever we thought we might want one. An old but serviceable wood cookstove sat in the corner and not only kept us warm, but heated our food, as well. In the winters, when there was enough snow, I'd go out in the yard with large stewpots and fill them with the fresh manna from heaven. The pots would sit on the stove and simmer down into glorious water. If icicles formed on the eaves of the roof, we'd break those off and keep adding them to the liquid gold hissing on the back of the stove. These were times we blessedly didn't have to drive down to the creek, break the ice with a splitting maul and then scoop water out from the small hole with a cup and, with frost bitten fingers, fill bottles of the icy elixir to pack home to supply horses, goats, rabbits, chickens and, if we were lucky, we might have enough to fill the #2 washtub and take baths. I would go first, and then I'd heat up a bit more water, add it into what I'd just bathed in, and my husband would take the next bath.

Struggling to carve a home from our ten acres, we had very little money. Pete worked in town at the local chainsaw shop. I'd stay home and take care of the place. When we went grocery shopping every two weeks, I carried a list of the food I needed to buy, with the prices off to the side added up so that I wouldn't go over the total. $28.00 had to buy two weeks' worth of groceries. I had to adhere to my list with no splurges, temptations or flights of fancy.

When a chinook would blow in, the warm air would melt the clumps of snow on the pines towering above our cabin, where we would be nestled in our sleeping loft. The snow would bombard the roof and sleep would be hard to find that night.

One night in the summer, asleep in the loft with the window open to breezes and night-time sounds, I was startled awake by the scream of a mountain lion. It is true what they say, cougars do sound just like a woman screaming in terror.

We had several neighbors who were just as poor as we were. It was an old-fashioned life, where we'd walk through the woods on deer or logging trails to the neighbor's house. If someone was home, they'd make coffee and offer a slice of pie made in the oven of their stove. None of us had electricity, phones or running water. We had no TV. Life was blissfully simple.

We had CB radios and our friends had various "handles" like Cedar Rat, Wild Child, Circuit Rider.

I was 28 years old, my long, almost-black hair in braids hanging down both sides of my neck. I broke horses for folks around the county. I slaughtered the rabbits myself for our dinners. I ran a little chainsaw sometimes to cut corral poles or firewood. And I "choker-setted" for my husband.

Pulling a cable from the reel of a PTO-driven winch over my bruised shoulder, I'd drag the end out to a log Pete had just fallen and with a "peavey," I'd roll the log over onto the cable hook, hook it back onto itself, and motion for Pete to start the PTO and drag the log back to the truck. Together, we found a way through manual power to get the logs onto the truck, and then drove wickedly treacherous dirt roads to the mill where we'd sell the small load and then take the money to the grocery store. Or the gas station.

We also cut bolts of large, standing-dead cedar, split them into wedges and loaded them onto the pickup and hauled those to the cedar shingle mill. Training horses, selling horses, logs, cedar shake bolts, whatever it took to make a few bucks to survive and make the land payment. Life was good. Hard, but good...

Part 2 to follow

Friday, November 9, 2007

A bit of a laugh

I keep giggling to myself because of something my husband said the other day.

Last month, I wrote here about a little gift pillow I have that I was going to send away to someone else because it made me sad when I looked at it. It said, "Life without horses? I don't think so!"

I decided to keep the pillow because it fits behind my neck nicely when I'm sitting on the recliner, so I covered it with a pretty mini-print, a pumpkin colored fabric just right for this time of year (can you tell I watch way too much HGTV? Next I'll be calling the pillow a "focal point!")

My husband asked, "Why are you covering it?"

I told him why.

And he said, "Well, just cross out the word "horses" and replace it with "compost."

Life without compost? I don't think so!

Oh, I love how that guy keeps me laughing!

Persistent Post Concussion Syndrome

The wonderful thing about blogging is connecting with others who can help you understand some of what you are going through. At the very least, if you can't understand, at least you do not feel alone. There is another little life boat bobbing on the waves out on a dark, vast sea which you cannot see, but you can sense because you are connected by the thread of a keyboard. The lifting of the waves causes your boat to tug at their skiff once in awhile and the valleys on the ocean brings about the same pulling at your bow, and you know that you are laced together with someone, somehow.

I wrote last month ( about the deep, dark hallway of sleep I often experience and my online friend Rozanne wrote this to me about her own experiences. She said it was okay for me to share her name and what she wrote with my readers.

I've never talked to anybody very much about this feeling I have about falling asleep, because nobody could do anything about it. It just IS. I suppose you would probably understand more than anybody else.

All my life, until this last head injury, I've always had insomnia. I even saw a specialist about it for over a year and he finally said my body functioned ok on 3-6 hrs sleep a night and to quit frustrating myself over it and just go with the flow. So post injury I suddenly started needing 12-16 hrs sleep minimum and I got a little freaked out about it.

I was continually falling asleep for at least a year afterwards. The pull to sleep was unbelievable...almost irresistable. I had vertigo as part of the concussion so when I closed my eyes it really looked and felt like I was being sucked into a black whirlpool and my sleep was deep and had no dreams. I don't get that all the time now. It seems like when I started getting my energy back that quit happening so often. B-complex really helped that a lot, and helped decrease my pain levels too.

When I woke up I usually felt like I'd totalled a car the day before. I would sleep until the pain was so bad I just couldn't lay down one more minute. I still wake up feeling like that almost every morning, very early. My neurosurgeon said that with my history of insomnia it was just that much more obvious that my body NEEDED the extra sleep to heal, and my brain needed it to make new connections. So he said to give in to that urge to sleep as often as I could.

I remember about 3 months post injury my husband asked me to pick up a xmas giftcard from the mall. I went mid-week so the chaos would be minimal. By the time I got to the end of one wing I had such a strong pull to sleep that I stood in the entryway of Sears and seriously considered whether or not I could sleep on the carpet under a rack of clothes. It looked so inviting (yes, that's desperation) Would security bother me? Mistake me for a vagrant? Would people kick me on accident? or on purpose? Perhaps I was better off laying on a bench in the center of the mall. Can I nap at the SleepNumber bed store? I did not wonder one bit that I could slide right to sleep, right there among all those strangers, right out in the open, on the floor if need be.

Maybe they had a nurse's station...I could stop by Cust. Service and ask...but would they understand how desperate I was for sleep? (at this point I knew I had mild chiari, but not syrinx or PPCS). Instead I walked back out to my car, and the further I walked exhausted, the worse the vertigo got. When I got to my car I laid down in the backseat, gave in to the black whirlpool, and slept for an hour or so. I would've wrecked the car if I'd tried to drive home and napped there, even though it was a mere 5 miles away. And when my husband got home he asks me if I got the giftcard. Oh...was that why I went to the d@mn mall? fudge!

When the Neurosurgeon told me I had what amounted to a concussion that doesn't go away...may never go away...suddenly everything made a lot more sense. Fortunately a lot if it has gone away. :)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury


My friend, Zipperhead, suggested I post a link or two here concerning MTBI and I think it's an excellent idea, but I also thought I'd like to discuss some of what I've learned about this topic.

When the first neurosurgeon to take charge of my care after I flew forward off my horse and landed on top of my head hard enough to break a bone in four places first saw me in the emergency room, he did not address brain injury. Months later, another neurologist told me (and reported) that this was most likely because of the severe and life-threatening nature of the Jefferson Fracture. I guess it's called Triage and my doctors had to deal first with what they felt was the most severe issue.

Noone brought up brain injury to me, and therefore, since I was in fact brain-injured, I didn't think about it at all. All I thought about was getting better in a month (I thought) and getting back to my job of training horses.

Yet, I knew that something wasn't right inside of my brain. But I wasn't thinking clearly enough to really "get" that it had been injured in the fall. In another post someday, I will write of how skewered my thinking was in those first months post injury.

A couple of months later, while at a follow-up appointment with my neurosurgeon, he said off-handedly, "I think you probably suffered a concussion." I said, "What IS a concussion exactly?" (I used to be a freelance reporter so I don't mind asking what might sound like elementary questions!)

He replied, "It's brain damage."
I was alarmed and cried, "Do you think I have brain damage?"
He reassured me. "No, no, the CT scan doesn't indicate that at all."

(Later on, I looked back at those CTs and found that they did not include the brain at all, only the Cspine, but that's another story)

I came home and ended up talking to my mother on the phone and told her what the neurosurgeon had said. She turned around in her office chair and pulled a volume down from a shelf holding an archaic set of encyclopedias and looked up "concussion." As she read the descriptions to me, for the first time, I knew that was what had happened to me. Those definitions and symptoms fit me to the proverbial "T!" I finally had a name for it.

You see, I had been alone when I was launched from the back of that big, Paint eventing horse. Noone was present to witness whether I'd been knocked out or not. After I'd come to and struggled to the house and called the EMTs, the paramedics asked me if I'd suffered "Loss of consciousness" (LOC). I told them I had not and they wrote in bold letters on their report, "NO LOC."

Again, later on, while researching MTBI, I learned that the victim is not the best witness of what occurred. If you are all alone, how do you know if you were knocked out? One of the signs of MTBI is loss of memory either before or after the injury!

So, in this round-about way, I came to realise that I had suffered an MTBI. Again, figuring things out for myself and assisted by a tattered page of a dusty volume from a set of out-dated Encyclopedia Brittanicas 3000 miles away.

Five months after my injury, I had an appointment with my first neurologist. He stated, after interviewing me, "I think you had a more severe brain injury than anyone has previously recognized." I felt vindicated, indeed. It's funny. You'd think a patient would never want to hear such words, but after fighting an inner battle for months, knowing something was askew inside my skull, but not having anything official stating such, well, those words gave me validation. "Yes," I thought. "I did hurt my brain and now someone is acknowledging that!"

A friend sent me via email an incredible link to something called, "A Letter From Your Brain." I have the link posted in the right-hand column under "Favorite Links." If you know of anyone who has suffered a brain injury, I encourage you to read this piece and to share it with your loved one.

And I want to explain that even though the word "Mild" is in the diagnosis "Mild Traumatic Brain Injury," no one is saying that there is anything "mild" about it. This word simply helps to distinguish this injury from one more severe that results in coma and much worse debilitation. MTBI is simply "mild" compared to "TBI" or traumatic brain injury.

I have read a couple of books about this condition and would like to recommend them here, as well.

Coping With Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Guide to Living with the Challenges Associated with Concussion/Brain Injury, by Diane Roberts Stler, Ed.D. and Barbara Albers Hill.

And the one I found the most helpful:
Head Injury: the facts, by D. Growall, P. Wrightson and P. Waddell.

I get a good deal on books like this at, buying used books. I've never had a bad experience doing this.

And finally, some links:

and a really good one here, in "tiny url" form, found at the Mayo Clinic site:

Thanks, Zippy, for a great idea. I will post these links under my favorites as well. It's important for us to understand that those with brain injuries will have changes in their behavioral patterns, in their sleep patterns, emotionally and cognitively and these changes may last a lifetime. I was told that maximum improvement is found about one year post injury. You are as good as you are going to get one year after you suffered your MTBI. After that, we must learn to deal with our new brains and rely upon the support of loving family and friends.

packing for tethered cord surgery

I'm starting to pack for my upcoming trip to NY for my TCS. Thankfully, my friend who will be having her fusion surgery at the same time has previously had the TCS surgery, so she is helpfully giving me lots of tips in what to pack.

Today, I bought a light robe, a bottle of no-rinse shampoo/body wash, cough drops, a couple of "hoodies" that button up in front (people who have had this surgery already have told me that you really hurt too much post-op to be putting on shirts over your head).

I'm packing sweats that are a size too big to wear home on the plane because I'm told the swelling from "gas" during surgery will still be present. Plus, this will be much more comfortable on the lower back where the incision will be. Not to mention just how plain fashionable I'll look in them!

Several pair of pajamas, some button front shirts, a good book to read, "wet wipes." Oh, and flexible straws for drinking while at the motel after being released from the hospital. My surgeon wants me to stick around town for a few days post-op to be sure everything is going well before boarding the plane for the long, 10.5 hour trip home. And that doesn't count the 2 hour car ride home from the last airport. It'll be a long day!

I'll pack my ice gel paks, too. With hopes my motel room has a refrigerator in it. Maybe I better call and make sure that is going to be a sure thing. 4 days stuck in a room would definitely be better if I could keep things cool and especially those gel paks!

The time is creeping up on me. I leave on the 18th, just 10 more days to go.

Retirement...I never knew how good it would be!

Well, okay, I'm not retired, I'm disabled. My husband is the one who is retired, since he is 11 years older than I am. But, at any rate, neither of us is working.

Yes, we now have that feared "limited income" that my parents used to talk about. They'd say, "But WE'RE on a limited income, we can't afford to do that."

I always imagined that meant that they just got pensions and social security with no hope of anything additional and that we were young enough to add onto our monthly earnings in some manner.

With their fear-tinged words, I learned to dread retirement and for many years, I knew we'd not be ready for it financially (ranch work doesn't pay out pensions or 401 Ks) and I...well, yes, I feared it.

Again, "oh me of little faith!"

How I love this time of our lives. My husband and I are so in love, especially after our 34 years together. And we never have disagreements or misunderstandings. It's like we have gotten those all taken care of and now it's such smooth sailing.

There is no way to describe that feeling that you always have tomorrow to get something done if you don't achieve it today. That you don't have to be very many places at a certain time and you are no longer under someone else's "thumb."

We worked on ranches for years and years, and though that is a lifestyle full of cherished value, there are some challenges that come with living right where you work....working 24/7, or at least, being on call all the time. And being responsible for large properties and sizeable amounts of livestock that do not belong to you.

And, of course, being told what to do and how to do it by someone who often doesn't have the amount of experience that you do.

Therefore, we feel today such a blissful freedom from those things that came from managing ranches, and to think that we worried that we could not live without ranch life! God indeed always has a plan.

When we were considering where to retire, our hearts led us to the small town where we live today, and each and every day, we voice to each other, "We love it here." The people are perfect. And we fit in. God had that plan, you see.

Being together all the time, but not in the midst of the intensive labor we were used to being in while sharing each other's company, has really turned out to be a thing that feels like a reward earned at the end of a long, long road.

What an honest-to-goodness blessing to be with someone you love and respect so much, in a place that fills your heart, for as long as God has that plan going!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Not much happening, folks!

But I wanted to say hi to everyone anyway!

Today we went to another town where my husband got an epidural for his back pain. It went well. I rode in the truck with my Aspen on, as the CTO these days seems to cause such "painful brain sleep." I don't know what else to call it. I think this is one of my worst things to deal with, it's so all-inclusive, brain, body, even spirit seems to be going down that long, dark tunnel I wrote about last month.

Well, today, with the Aspen on, I had the same effect. And I figured out one way to describe it. I think it feels like a post-concussive brain. I had it all the time we were driving in the morning, and then all the way home. I felt SO bad when we finally got home that I went right to bed, just thinking I'd lay there and take the weight of my head off of my neck. I didn't intend to sleep, but I did fall into a 2 hour sleep where I woke up continually, it seemed, coming awake enough to feel the pain in the brain (yet, not a headache) and trying to make a decision on if I should get up or not. But getting up seems too hard, so I drift back to sleep, only to wake up moments later and have it all happen over again.

Oddly, however, tonight, I feel great. Once I shook off the whole brain thing after I'd awakened, I started organizing everything I'll need in terms of information for my trip to NY for surgery in a week and a half. A good friend who will be there at the same time getting her own surgery had sent to me via email all the hospital, motel, taxi, airport information and has sent to me a neat binder that has sleeves for index cards, something she uses for her trips there for surgery.

So, this evening, I went through all of those emails and others and wrote down all the information, plus my own contact numbers and feel really good for having a good start at finishing this project. Then, I took Quincy for a walk to the back of our property, which is uphill all the way. From up there, the view at twilight was incredible, with far-off ranch-lights twinkling and fresh evening air. It seems so odd to have felt so miserable all day, only to have it all turn around and feel so good now.

hello and hugs to all my readers! And Happy November!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sunday: Apnea, Hiking, pain and bullriding

I believe that I have sleep apnea back into my life.

A couple of years ago, I wrestled with this condition, to the extent that I'd wake up with a burning in my chest from having stopped breathing, and having to make a conscious effort to get my breathing going again, even though that was painful to do.

I talked with my main injury doctor and he referred me to a sleep clinic. I underwent both daytime and nighttime sleep studies. Unfortunately, the sleep expert was having personal problems and didn't know that I existed. Not long after my studies, he closed down shop. Good for him, but not for me.

I did get to have a good visit with one of his assistants who said he was not a sleep expert, but was in fact a spine surgeon who decided to change his focus. He was very honest and forthright. I learned things from him as he gave me clear answers to my questions.

He told me that I would never just stop breathing at night and never wake up. He said the will to breathe is just too strong in people. He also told me that if a person's sleep apnea were caused by central nerve damage, such as brainstem compression, their diagnostic machines would not register it.

My study just came back saying that I did not have apnea, but I had too many "unexplained arousals" at night. No one cared enough to pursue further on why I have this issue, but I've gotten used to doctors not caring, so this was nothing new.

This problem seemed to disappear for me. But lately, it has returned. And I recognize the signs right away.

My husband says that I snore a couple of times and then wake myself up. Then I repeat this over and over, all night. I notice that I seem to fall asleep, then come awake, but not fully awake, like not quite breaking the surface of the lake when swimming underneath the water. Then I go right back to sleep and right back into whatever I was dreaming, only to come almost fully awake again, enough that I'm aware of it. It's a very strange thing.

And as I've posted within the last couple of weeks, my breathing has been having lots of problems. Yesterday, my husband was down the hall and asked me a question. I was just sitting in the chair in the living room, I wasn't out of breath, but I didn't have any breath to immediately give him an answer. I had to force myself first to take in a breath before I could speak.

Now, I'm once again experiencing this during sleep. Becoming aware that my body has just stopped breathing and I come awake in order to cognitively make the muscles and diaphragm work in order to take in a breath and get the process going.

I "napped" for about an hour this afternoon, but it felt like I woke up 20 times, immediately falling back to sleep and into whatever dream was going on. Obviously, this leads to no deep or REM sleep, and a lot of fatigue during the day.

The woods across the road finally got their call through to my heart's ears today, and I leashed up the little dog and off we went. Once well away from the road, I unhooked his leash and let him enjoy the excursion. What a wonderful hike. I admit it, I walked further than I have in a long time (I was perhaps gone 45 minutes which included several rest stops where I would linger on a nice, moss covered, square rock whenever I found one!), but I also was the MOST painful coming home than I have ever been. My legs and my feet were hurting SO badly, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept hoping I'd make it. Once back at home, pain meds and a soft chair helped the situation immensely.

I walked so far because I wonder if it will be six months or more before I can once again be immersed in the beauty of these woods that seem to be mine alone. I can't imagine not being able to visit the trees and deer trails and boulders; I had to remind myself that I am blessed that these myriad acres are here for me at all and that they will wait, just like they have been, for years.

Tonight, Justin McBride was crowned world champion of the Professional Bull Riders Assn. It was thrilling to watch, I've caught every one of the 7 rounds of the National finals held in Las Vegas (on TV).

Friday, November 2, 2007

Oh, me of little faith!

The 35 mile road through the spectacular scenery that holds our attention as we drive to our nearest "shopping town" today led us back to the cancer center where I had my 4th pamidronate IV infusion. It took 3 hours. The time went by so quickly as I visited with a nurse who was new to me (a sister in the Lord) and with an elderly woman who was receiving chemo in the recliner across from me.

After the treatment, I next went to the nearby hospital to have the suspicious bump on my chest wall ultrasounded ... again. As past posts revealed, the first time it was done, the man only took about 30 seconds and hurried through it and it did not feel like he was imaging the area where the bump actually is...and I was laying on the table on my back.

My oncologist wanted me to have it done again only this time, standing. I had a wonderful technician this time and she listened to me, made me feel comfortable, and took a lot of time doing the ultrasound in the supine position, upright and also sitting. She could "see" the bump and she also turned the monitor my way and explained what we were looking at. The bump IS there (it is not just a fold of fat like the first radiologist said) but it looks like it is consistent with the rest of the tissue under the skin in the area.

I was told that the radiologist, after looking at today's scans, wanted me to know that I really should not worry about what her report would say.

PHEW! I almost didn't go, I didn't want to see that first tech-guy again, and I felt foolish having something scanned again that everyone felt was not there. This woman honored me, she said the bump was unusual, and she really gave it a good going-over.

NOW, I am happy and can readily accept the word that it is nothing to worry about, just tissue (tho why it's there, I have no idea. It is still about the size of a walnut)....

SO< oh me of little faith! Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. Thank You Lord for the good report expected.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

In Memoriam

Our neighbor came over today and broke down crying with some bad news.

You see, a couple of months ago, their grown son came out on his front porch while I was working with the flowers in the lower part of our yard. He called out to me, "Hey! I have a girlfriend! Her name is Mary!"

Our neighbor's son has MS and though he is very smart in many things, he has his challenges. He was so elated about having a girlfriend that he had to call it out to me as soon as he saw me. I was overjoyed for him.

Later, I learned that the new girlfriend had been subjected to such a tragic life. As a child, she was abused by her parents. When she was removed from that home and placed into foster care, she was sexually abused by the foster parents. She was also molested by the small town sheriff where she grew up.

I didn't know her at all...but I'd met her once or twice. The poor girl was very overweight and cuddled close to her breast a miniature Yorkshire terrier named Scribbles. She held hands with our neighbor's son.

More background, but not a lot, drifted toward me over time. Mary was homeless, with no family at all. Our neighbors took her in, gave her her own room in their home, and provided her a sense of family. She slept perhaps only 100 feet from where I sleep in my own home.

Yesterday, she went and got a flu shot. And she told someone that she hated Halloween, that it is the "devil's day."

At 10:30 am this morning, Mary was found dead in her bed.

She was 27.

Was it the flu shot? Or did her broken heart decide to stop fighting the good fight? She was happily looking forward to getting into her own apartment in a week, moving in with the neighbor's son.

She has nothing and she has no family. If they have a memorial service, who would go? Who would they ask to go? All she had was the family next door.

As our neighbors walked out our door, I gave the wife a hard hug around the neck and I told them that if they have a service, we will attend.

I am so honored to know our sweet neighbors, to know that the home they offered Mary was the safe harbor, perhaps the only one she ever knew, for her to spend her last days. They are my heroes.