A funny thing happened on the way to surgery…

This past Friday, I went through lumbar microdiscectomy for the second time in five months. Apparently I’m an overachiever because of the people who have the surgery, only 4-5% have a recurrence afterwards. Woohoo! That’s me, always trying to outdo the odds. I blame my uber-motivating parents who always pushed me to do my best…I just can’t imagine they had something like this in mind.

In any case, this story really isn’t about the fact that I had to have two almost identical surgeries only 163 days apart. It is interesting to explore the possible reasons for a recurrence happening so quickly, however. Of course, my first thought was “have I done something I shouldn’t have?” I would be shocked if it was because of what I did, because I don’t feel like I pushed myself at all. Hannah has almost completely taken over the responsibility of the laundry, as that chore was certainly one of the largest triggers of my back pain. The kids are on KP duty, so another one of my nemeses, the dishwasher, held no power over me. I even tried to get the kids to take over vacuuming and floor cleaning. Sometimes I feel like I’m pawning off all the housework on them, but then I consider what a valuable commodity these children will be as they grow up–for their own households and for their future spouses. Regardless of whether it’s to assuage my own guilt or I really am preparing them well for life, this is how we’ve been rolling around here.

So, no heavy housework, no lifting more than maybe two gallons of milk….Hmmm, gallons of milk. Could pushing a shopping cart have caused such a profound reinjury? I didn’t even go shopping alone until I was cleared by the surgeon the first time in late November to slowly return to normal activities. Perhaps it contributed, but surely didn’t cause it…?

No accidents, no trauma, no hauling heavy materials….. I honestly couldn’t think of anything, and yet, starting in early January, a pain started slowly creeping back into my life when I had so gloriously returned to a pain-free lifestyle. At first, although it was again on my left side, it was in a completely different place. My hip was giving me a nagging pain that kept getting worse and worse, but not constant. Finally, I gave in and went to see my doctor, half embarrassed. “Really, Deb?” I imagined her saying. “What could it possibly be this time??” (Even if she thought it to herself, she never once vocalized it to me. She’s much too sweet for that.) Nagging pain progressed to the kind of pain that makes a person cry in the doctor’s office two weeks later because walking around is getting tough. Crying led to different treatments and a prescription for a round of physical therapy. The physical therapist went along with the initial diagnosis of hip bursitis until I started reporting symptoms like shooting pain down my leg when I raised my hands over my head and unrelenting pain from my sciatica down to my foot that got so bad it would keep me from sleeping at night and made finding a comfortable position almost impossible.

One day after about a month of PT, my thoughtful therapist at Bauman Physical Therapy, mindful of how many visits my insurance would allow me, strongly suggested I stop coming to him and call my neurosurgeon for a follow up visit. He was convinced that something was going on in the same area as before. How disastrous.

After scheduling an appointment for the middle of March (in the middle of February; my neurosurgeon is sought after, apparently, and it didn’t help that he had a vacation in there as well), I thought I’d just wait it out. When that worked about as well as instructing a fish to climb a tree, I went back to a different doctor in my GP’s practice (since she was in Thailand; I have fantastic timing), feeling ridiculous to come back again yet helpless in regards to getting relief. He immediately assured me that I wasn’t imagining it and referred me for an MRI the next day. Once I had the CD of the MRI in hand, I proceeded to spend the weekend examining and re-examining the images of my spine. I’m not a trained professional and don’t even play one on tv, but it didn’t take a genius to compare the current MRI to the first one I had in July. It did not look good. In fact, it looked pretty obvious that that which was supposed to be on the inside of my disc was once again on the outside. Devastation magnified.

Then came the waiting. From the March 1 MRI to the March 14 appointment with my neurosurgeon seemed like an eternity to say the least. I was convinced that my disc had reherniated, but started to wonder if, when I finally saw him, my doctor would say, “Well….it’s really not what it looks like.” or some other such nonsense, such as “There’s nothing we can do for this. Stinks to be you.”

The day before my appointment, though, I heard from two different doctors who didn’t know me but had seen my MRI images. One of them called it “a catastrophic herniation.” The other was reported to have simply exclaimed, “Oh shit.” Neither, to be honest, sounded especially encouraging.

As we suspected, the next day the surgeon confirmed what I had “arm chair” diagnosed: my disc had reherniated in the same level, same side. He used terms such as “impressive,” which made me cringe. I’d rather be impressive in my speaking abilities or in my organizational skills–not in my injurious proclivities! Regardless, he suggested a redo procedure. Usually, the surgery is successful the first time around, but in the rare occurrences when it happens again, it was still more successful than not. It looked as though it was the option for me. I knew that for quality of life alone, surgery was a good option, but the likelihood of the disc healing itself (which can happen if caught earlier and if the injury is to a lesser degree), was almost negligible.

At quite possibly the worst time in our homeschool schedule–memory master testing, end of year testing, spring fever, and other events not even mentioned–we scheduled my redo procedure. I had eight days to get my ducks in a row to prepare myself for an identical surgery and recovery. I wasn’t excited about it, but felt it was the best option for my situation.

The surgery had a couple of complications. Beforehand, the doc went through worst case scenarios with us, one of which was a dural tear when removing the scar tissue from surgery #1. He did say that it was rare–only 1-2% incidents in these procedures. Yeah, that happened, resulting in a killer spinal headache and an overnight stay instead of an outpatient procedure. Maybe I should have played the lottery? In addition, I had a small incident in recovery called vocal chord paralysis that caused my blood pressure to drop and me to stop breathing. Thankfully with an ambu bag, a couple breathing treatments, and a shot of epinephrine, I was back to the land of the living. I was also glad to hear of this complication after coming around; I have no memory of the event.

Now that I’m home, I’ve had no additional surprises. My recovery has gone slowly, but well overall. My goal, as after the first time, is to “keep moving forward.” My prayer is that this time will be the last time. I’m hopeful that it will be a more permanent fix (at least longer than 163 days!) and I can move on from back issues for a long while.

On the day of my first surgery, other than getting an IV placed, the only other dread I had was getting weighed that morning. By October, after suffering through a summer of inactivity and pain, I had become quite the blob in my own eyes. I hadn’t really done anything to remedy the problem, though, either–other than moaning and complaining.

I had the brilliant plan to close my eyes when I stepped on the scale in pre-op. The nurse would write down the hideous number and I’d never have to know. I mean, I knew already, but I wasn’t interested in having the reality of the numbers attached to it.

My plan worked until a different male nurse came back to do yet another pre-op exam. He checked me out, left, and then returned in a bit to complete something in my chart. As he filled out whatever it was with a couple other nurses, he asked, “What do you weigh?” I admitted that I didn’t know and hadn’t looked. Clueless, he left to get that number and then when he learned it, he hollered down the hallway to the other nurses in my area. My plan was foiled by the man who announced that hideous number to anyone who had listened. Ugh! was all I could think. Worse than I’d feared! As my sister-in-law once astutely observed, “Everybody’s got a number.” She’s right, and THAT was not mine.

After surgery #1, I don’t think I could say that Clueless Male Nurse was my sole impetus for getting my ‘house’ in order, but he definitely played a leading role. That number seemed to follow me everywhere: from my bathroom scale to my mirror to my follow up appointment post surgery. I had to lose that number somehow!

At the same time, a friend on Facebook was beginning a challenge with her friend to commit to walk or run at least one mile every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in an attempt to keep holiday weight gain at bay. I had been dabbling in short walks by that time: not daily and not more than around the block, but at least something. I’d read that one of the best ways to recover from my kind of back surgery was by walking. So I did. The more I saw her accountability updates to her friend on Facebook, the more intrigued I was. On December 5, I started my own challenge. I committed to walk a mile every day until January 1. I was late to their party, but thought I could still start my own. In addition, I downloaded a food tracking app on my phone, set up my “No Longer That Number” goals, and jumped in (but not literally. Jumping is kind of still off limits).

I was successful at walking every day–even on Christmas Day. I really began to enjoy my walks during the days. Some days I walked in the rain or snow, and a couple days I walked in the dark. But that 20-30 minutes were really important to me. I practiced the Timeline for memory master or listened to praise and worship music…or some cardio 80s. I also successfully avoided gaining weight throughout the holiday season, with all its sweets and goodies that I love so much. It wasn’t that hard, actually. I made the decision that I would fast from Christmas Crack entirely and kept my promise. (With that stuff, once you have one piece, it’s pretty much over. It’s called Crack for good reason!) For probably the first time ever, I lost weight during Christmas and didn’t feel deprived.

I had strung together around 60 days in a row of waking without a break when my hip and leg pain got so intense that I could hardly walk back to the bathroom, let alone walk my two miles. I was completely devastated the day I broke my chain. I say devastated only because I couldn’t think of a word stronger than that, but that’s how I felt.

Fast forward to the day of surgery #2, when I was not only able to keep my eyes open when limping on the scale back in pre-op (remember, jumping = colossal no no). I haven’t reached my end goal yet, but for once, I didn’t have to hang my head in my own personal shame. As I waded through the déjà vu of going through the exact same thing as I had just five short months before, imagine my surprise when Clueless Male Nurse popped his head around the curtain. (I guess I shouldn’t have been all that surprised, but he hadn’t been imprinted in my mind as my favorite person.)

“How much did you weigh today?” he asked. I couldn’t believe it, but this time I was able to answer him without delay.

“There seems to be a 17 pound discrepancy between your weight today and what’s in your chart,” he explained. Then he went on to tell the nurse who was taking my blood pressure what the chart said. It was as if I couldn’t escape him and that number!

But actually, I have been able to escape that number. It is now 17 lbs. away, to be exact. I’m a huge fan of irony, and believe I had a large dose of it that morning, right before my huge doses of anesthesia.

Maybe I should have taken the opportunity to thank Clueless Male Nurse for motivating me to finally get started on my goals! Hopefully my back will heal quickly enough that I can continue to outrun “that number.”


No time for cheesecake? Here’s a recipe to take away that tired excuse!

Tonight is the night the children in our family (and countless other families, I’d be willing to bet) have long been waiting to come…since the end of August, I believe:  the MUSICAL ANNOUNCEMENT NIGHT.  Our church has put on annual children’s musicals that just keep getting bigger and better every year, and this summer will be no exception.  There has been lots of buzz around here about what the title of the musical will be as well.  Will we finally tackle Noah and his big Ark? Can we pull off Jonah and somehow construct the innards of a stinky whale?  Should we try to do Jesus the Musical and have someone walk on water?  All these questions have run rampant for the past several months, but will be answered in a few short hours.

In addition to the hype and buildup of the announcement itself, after we finally learn what this year’s topic will be (most likely not Nimrod! The Musical and definitely not Adam and Eve! The Musical, though we could save a LOT on the costume budget that way…), we get to celebrate afterwards with a dessert potluck.  That’s where this post comes in.   Even though I love to cook (perhaps you noticed?), between schoolwork, life, and returning health issues, it’s been challenging to do the things I enjoy doing whenever I’d like.  So it didn’t take much thought to decide on the perfect quick-fix recipe that is sure to be a hit.  I found this idea last year when planning the food for my sister-in-law’s baby shower and have made them several times since.   I’m a big fan of traditional cheesecake, but this time around, there wasn’t time (or inclination, frankly) to start it last night.   These little gems are the next best thing and also allow for several different varieties of cheesecake at one time.  (Do I need to keep selling them, or are you convinced?)

The recipe is so very simple.   Place muffin papers in your muffin tins.  Place one Oreo cookie in the bottom of each.

*Note: these are off-brand Oreos, and I can really tell the difference here in size between the good ole’ Oreo and a knock-off brand.  Boo.  But since I was already crunched for time, I had to roll with it.  Next time, however, I will remember…

*Note #2: We have our annual stock of Girl Scout Cookies here too, and I toyed with using Thin Mints as the crust, but in the end, I selfishly decided that I’d rather keep those here with me.  The vultures of the Tighe tribe have already not just circled the boxes, but also have begun their attack.  There aren’t many left.


And just like that, the crust is done.  Does it feel like you’re cheating your way to cheesecake?  Perhaps. Maybe a little.


The next step is pretty much run-of-the-mill instructions for just about any cheesecake known to man.   Mix together softened cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and lemon juice.   Here’s a shot of Ben pouring the sugar in, just in case I went too fast through that list:


(My choices of fillings are photobombing in the background….)  It’s important to make sure the filling is completely blended, so pull out the rubber scraper of your choice and make sure you swipe the bottom of the bowl where unmixed cream cheese likes to hide.  This is the part where, if you have kids, they will most likely walk by and offer, “Wow, I know these cheesecakes will turn out great, but right now that smells GROSS!”   Why, thank you for the encouragement, my little ones.  You always know how to keep me going.

In any case, here’s a good shot of the well-blended filling:


This picture reminds me of Andrew’s question this morning, while it mixed:  “Mom, can we PLEASE turn it up to 10!??!”

Next, fill the cups a tad more than halfway (would that be 2/3?  5/8?  I don’t know.  I just eyeball and pray.)  The recipe I used said for 2 8oz bricks of cream cheese that I would get 16-18 cheesecakes, but I got closer to 24.  Maybe I’m chintzy on my amounts.


I don’t know; that doesn’t look stingy to me!  After that, it’s up to you what to add, if anything.  You could leave them just as they are and add sauce (either berry or chocolate) afterwards.  Today I had a few strawberries left, so I chopped them finely and sprinkled them on a few cakes.   I had literally about five raspberries still in the freezer, so we crushed them and sprinkled them over some more.   On the remaining tops, I scattered some mini chocolate chips.  While writing this, I had the thought to divide the filling into two, and add melted and cooled chocolate to one half for a marbled look.  That’s borderline too much work, however, for these easy cheesecakes, and probably should be left for the springform pan big brother cheesecake variety.

The strawberry looked like this:


And here are the raspberry and chocolate chip:


It just takes a quick 20-25 minute trip in a 325 oven and they’re done.  Refrigerate for at least three hours before serving and you’ll be so glad you spent the short amount of time to make these lovely little treats.  Unless you don’t care for cheesecake, in which case you should absolutely ignore this entire post.


I made a few extra over what I plan to bring with us to the musical announcement tonight so we can each enjoy one without fighting to get to the head of the line at church.  That wouldn’t be very Christian-like, now, would it?

Since dessert is ready, the only thing left to do is to consider what the musical will be….Hmmmmmm…….

Mini Oreo Cheesecakes

2 8 oz packages of cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 T lemon juice

Oreo cookies

Preheat oven to 325.  Place one cookie in the bottom of each paper-lined muffin tin.  Mix together cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice until well blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, scraping sides and bottom of bowl to ensure incorporation.  Spoon filling into muffin cups about 2/3 full.  Add toppings of chopped berries or mini chocolate chips, if desired.  Bake in 325 oven for 20 minutes, or until almost set. Cool.  refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.


The mystery of pack and play folding, and other fun parenting skills

We had the opportunity to help friends (who also happen to be our youth pastors) out this weekend and watch their young boys overnight while they participated in the Fine Arts competition with the youth of our church.  Considering over thirty students competed in some form or other, it was a busy two days without having small children in tow, but had their sons been with them, it would probably have been exceedingly exhausting for everyone involved.  It was a free weekend for us and really, we had no reason to say no.  Andrew and Josiah have been tight buddies since this family moved to Lexington, so it went without saying that the two of them were over the moon to have the chance to spend so much time together.

The overnight was fine–and fun.  The boys were well-behaved, or at least as well-behaved as our own kids, and having eight in the house really wasn’t that much of a change.  Anyone who knows our kids knows that they love babies.  Each week at CC,  Hannah, Brendan, and Ben take turns holding the newest additions to our CC families and would rather get their “baby fixes” sometimes than run around outside during recess time.  They are all kind and gentle with youngsters, and always take time to say hello to them or chat for a bit.  It was no different when the little Judah arrived at our home on Friday, either.  They all fawned over him and tried to get his attention and his laughs.  We were all entertained by his antics and the cute names he had for the kids (such as Patrick’s name of “Ick”).  It’s easy to take care of a toddler when there’s so much help around!

My only source of anxiety came when it neared bedtime.  We had planned to let Andrew and Josiah sleep out in the family room, since they considered this their sleepover, but that left Judah.   Todd thought he’d fare the best if we put his pack and play up in the boys’ bedroom,  so he wouldn’t feel alone.  Sounded like a good idea, no?

For one thing, we let everyone stay up probably later than they should have been, but it was party at the Tighe house, right? Friday night and nowhere to go the next morning?  Why not spend a little time watching a movie together and enjoying the evening?  Not a problem.  Everyone got ready for bed and changed into their jammies without complaint or incident, so we were chugging right along.  I anticipated that we’d have a bit of a problem with the littlest one when the moment of truth actually arrived and bedtime was nigh.  He did not disappoint.  Todd said goodnight and helped him settle into his bed while the other boys and Chloe made their way to the bedroom.  Judah was instantly upset and began calling for his Daddy. “I want to see my Daddy!” he repeated, getting more agitated.  The other kids, clearly out of practice for this sort of thing (because while our kids don’t immediately lay down and close their eyes and mouths when bedtime comes, as there hasn’t been a lot of crying for a while.  Believe me, there’s LOTS of protest here at bedtime; it just comes in the form of endless trips for glasses of water and lots of giggles.)

So he’s crying and getting louder and louder.  Our kids are troubled by this.  They turn on the light if Judah says it’s too dark.  They may have even picked him up for a short time if he complained about being in the pack and play.  I went in there and assured Judah that he was OK to sleep at our house, telling him that all the other kids were going to sleep, and talking about all the fun things we planned to do tomorrow.  I also spoke to my oblivious kids, who were so out of practice with putting a baby down for bed.  Don’t turn the light on, don’t talk a lot to him, blah blah blah.   “Listen,” I instructed, “before he settles down, he may C-R-Y for a few minutes.”  I spelled out ‘cry’ so Judah wouldn’t get any more ideas, because while I was in there, he was quieted.  I followed it with a stern,  “You may even have to I-G-N-O-R-E it for a few minutes while he figures it out.”

IMMEDIATELY, Brendan pops up and loudly exclaims, “WHAT!?!  We may have to IGNORE him, you say?  He might CRY!?!?!?!”

Aw, sheesh.  So much for subtle messages.  Leave it to Brendan to say what I was trying to hide.  We couldn’t do anything but laugh.  He’s funny like that.

I left after saying goodnight to the boys and Chloe again, and Judah started up as soon as I crossed out of the threshold of the room.   Todd and I passed in the hallway and he went in there to comfort him once more.  He was successful at getting Judah to finally understand that it was bedtime without being cruel.  He’s good like that.  It sounded like they were finally quieting down for the night when I walked by on the way to our bedroom.   I almost completely lost it when I heard Judah yell out, “BOYS!  ‘TOP IT! ‘TOP IT!  TIME FOR NIGHT-NIGHT!!”  to which Patrick, Brendan, and Ben dissolved into peals of laughter and he started correcting them again.  “‘TOP IT! ‘TOP IT! GO NIGHT NIGHT!”  I quickly ran to my room so I could laugh without getting caught.  My kids had finally been given the what-for by a two-year-old, and it was a stitch.

The rest of the visit was just fine and we were all properly exhausted when the boys returned home to their parents.  We had a taste of dirty diapers, sippy cups, and blankies.  Patrick had his first taste of trying to fold up a pack and play (without reading the SIMPLE instructions, like a good man would).  We all slept well that night.


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