Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Because Sometimes we Fall

The day I learned to ride a bike I also learned a little about life. My sister is two years older than me and I always wanted her to think I was cool enough to hang out with. The day my parents agreed to take the training wheels off my bike I was ecstatic. I couldn't wait to be “cool enough” to keep up with Priscilla. My dad took the training wheels off and handed me my bike. Life isn't like the movies, he didn't put me on it and push me until I peddled on my own. There was no applaud as I peddled off into the sunset. It was a pretty straight forward transaction, he gave me my bike and told me to go ride it. I know it sounds harsh but I’m now thankful that my parents didn't coddle us; I feel it attributes to she and I being so independent. So I get on my bike and start to peddle, unsteadily but nonetheless peddling. I’m very cautious trying not to fall, going slowly and putting my feet on the ground more than the actual peddles. Finally I got the hang of it and I start to peddle on my own without having to stop. Priscilla’s standing there watching and I think to myself that I’m impressing her. She steps forward and pushes me off my bike. More startled than hurt my eyes start to tear up and she tells me “don’t start crying this is going to happen sometimes, sometimes you’re going to fall, get up and get over it and don’t cry.” She was right but not just about falling from the bike... sometimes we fall but there’s no point of staying down and crying…you've got to get up.

Last night I allowed self-doubt to get the best of me. I ended up in the guest room crying because I didn't want Alton to wake up to the sound of me crying. I’m not a crier, as a matter of fact no one in my family is. Crying has always been a sign of weakness in my beautiful dysfunctional family. I had my second appointment for rehab in the morning so before attempting to sleep I did my last at home exercise. I can only imagine how absolutely ridiculous I look while doing it. I have to put this post-it note with a letter B on it at eye-level and concentrate on it. For thirty seconds I move my head horizontally and then vertically all while concentrating on this damn letter. I was doing fine moving my head up and down but as soon as I moved from left to right my frustration grew. The letter disappeared from the paper, I could no longer see it. I stopped and concentrated on the post-it note and after what seemed like forever it re-appeared. That was enough for me to beat myself up over. My therapist said that after a few days my brain would get stronger and it would get easier but it was the contrary it was getting harder; to the point where this letter that’s written with permanent marker is disappearing on me. I keep telling myself to focus because it’s there and then all the negative self-talk floods in. I start to think to myself I’m not strong enough to control my brain or to rehabilitate it. My sister hears me start to cry and tries to say anything and everything to encourage me but her words are falling on deaf ears because I feel defeated by my circumstances. As quickly as I can, I go upstairs all while trying to keep my balance-I’m dizzy at this point. I didn't want to cry in front of her. I don’t cry in front of anyone.

I woke up this morning thinking about my sister and me as children and her staring down at me telling me to get back up. Today was a new day and I was determined to give it 110%.  We both got into the car and she drove me to my rehab appointment. My therapist hooked me into a harness and put me on this Balance Manager machine to asses my vestibular, somatosensory and visual systems. While on the machine if you lose your balance and step off the sensors or touch the walls it’s considered a “fall” on the assessment. The harness is there so that you don’t actually face plant on the floor. The test began and I struggled to keep my balance, the intensity increased and it got more difficult. My body is trembling as I'm trying to stand with my eyes closed, then the inevitable happened… I fell. Tears quickly streamed down my face out of frustration. I start to think to myself that this is ridiculous how hard can it be to stand still without falling? I lost control of my body, my balance, my coordination and not being in control is not something that sits well with me. I try not to sniffle so that the therapist and Priscilla don’t know that I’m crying. I ask to try it again and as soon as the machine is ready to defeat my balance again Priscilla says to me “Brianna don’t be afraid you've got this dude.” How she knew I was afraid without even seeing my face is beyond me so I concentrate and take her advice. The movement of the machine starts to intensify again and she tells me that I’m OK and reminds me not to be afraid. I fell twice more but with each fall it gave me more determination to rehabilitate my brain.

The therapist prints out my assessment and reviews it with us. The results aren't great but she assures me that I will improve. She took me into the physical therapy room and teaches me my new at home exercises. I lost my balance a few times and started to get anxious because there is no harness to catch me this time and I don’t want to end up on the floor. I look up at Priscilla who is watching me with a subtle smile and again I remember being on the floor by my pink bike and looking up at her from the cold concrete as she tells me “don’t start crying this is going to happen sometimes, sometimes you’re going to fall, get up and get over it and don’t cry.”

Thank you Priscilla. I'm not sure if you meant to bully me or teach me to rise when I fall but either way I'll take it as tough love.

It’s not how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up.

L.A. Brain Tumor Walk 2013

Read my last blog post "You Can Call me Spinderella" about how how & why I'm going to rehab for my brain.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

You Can Call me Spinderella

When I woke up this morning I had the same feeling I did as a kid when I was going to Disneyland. Today was my first day of Vestibular Rehabilitation or as I like to call it "Brain Rehab!" Amy Winehouse had it all wrong. "They tried to make me go to rehab" and I went! Well in her defense her rehab was totally different but I think we can all agree that she really did have it all wrong and perhaps she should have went...too soon? So long-story-short I had a little bit too much action (surgery) in the back of my brain, on the left side which led to me getting Vertigo.

Vertigo is the devil. I can't count how many times I fell or threw up for a couple of months. Finally, exhausted from the room constantly spinning I YouTubed my relief. YES, "YouTubed" and I was told today by my Physical Therapist that she was impressed that I had cured myself of Vertigo. So the room is no longer viciously spinning but I'm still constantly dizzy. Today's assessment at Loma Linda was conclusive with USC's findings. I have some fancy diagnoses for "your balance is off" and "the left side of your brain needs to be rehabilitated so that it's as strong as the right side." I just politely smiled because I already knew that. I made sure that they didn't have access to my records at USC so that they didn't just concur with my doctors notes. So I'm excited to say that I was told that in 12 weeks or less my brain will be rehabilitated and I can return to normal things like driving, running, laughing and last but not least CrossFit.

Where the Wild Things Are...In My Head

Okay so let me start by being completely honest: I don't know the first thing about blogging, I have far too much time on my hands (I'll get into that in a bit), my posts will be filled with grammar and punctuation errors (I have this awful habit of writing how I speak) and most importantly don't take anything I write too seriously-I don't. I guess you're supposed to have a topic that you blog about but I'm not exactly sure yet so let's just see where it goes.

When I refer to "recovery" I'm speaking about my recent brain surgeries; four to be exact. More about that later. The blogging idea came from my Sister. She suggested that I blog to pass the time while I recover. I just quizzically stared at her and out came "WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO BLOG ABOUT?" She raised her eyebrows and responded "I don't know you always have something to say...you're always talking." Gees thanks for calling me a loud mouth. So why not...here goes nothing.

A little about me...I guess if you don't know me personally the only word that I've been called that fits me perfectly is "unconventional". My former boss described me that way once and I just shrugged my shoulders and agreed. I'm not like most people. I'm more of an assortment of contradictions-if that makes any sense. For example I can pretty much talk to anybody, all while secretly having a panic attack. Most people tell me that I'm funny but I'm not...I'm just ridiculously honest and quick witted. Another misconception is that I'm outgoing, but truth be told, that's also not true. I prefer to be at home, on the porch, with my four dogs and reading random articles on my ipad. Hmmm what else... let's see I'm twenty-five years old, married and for the first time in my adult life, I feel like I finally have a clear perspective on life. I may not be where I'd like to be but I'm grateful for my obstacles. I'm not a religious person. I was raised in a Non-Denominational Christian church so my faith is Christian based. You'll see that throughout my blog but in no way, shape or form am I ever trying to preach at you. I have my beliefs and my recent experiences have strengthened my faith. I think that pretty much sums me and my new blog up.