On May 5th, 2010 our life was redefined when we discovered that I have a tumor
growing in the spinal cord of my neck.

The purpose of this blog to keep an updated record of our "Life Redefined" and give you the details you might be wondering about (surgery, recovery and other random daily stuff, etc...)

For our friends and our family members who want to be kept updated this is the easiest way for us to do it. It's also good therapy for me to write it down!

We still want you to call or visit if you feel like it - we find so much strength from you. All of your words and encouraging thoughts and prayers are a great blessing for us!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Addendum - A few random pictures of things I want to remember!...

There were still several pictures on my cell phone that I wanted to remember on the blog...so here they are!

Coping & Smiling for Andrew (the photographer) in the days before surgery!
My sweet sleepy baby!
The hour long WHOLE FAMILY reunion before splitting up to head our separate ways before surgery!  1 van to Boise with kids and 2 vehiciles to Salt Lake for surgery!
My Pre-Surgery Tattoo!  So glad I did that!
1st time sitting up  in a chair post surgery!
A note to my friends Saturday after surgery!
1st time outside!
Granny Hoops!
A visit from my girls!  Chelsea & Lindsey!
Recumbent Bike Ride!
Pictures sent to me from Boise!  They lifted my spirits every time!

My Life Has Been Redefined...Final Blog Post!

When I started this "Life Redefined" Blog I had no idea what was ahead, I only knew that it was something big and something we never would have expected for our Spring and Summer of 2010.  This Blog has been SO therapeutic for me and it has been helpful in so many other ways - thanks to everyone for reading and thanks for your continued prayers and help each day of this journey - thank you for caring enough to do so!

It's fair enough to say that this will be the final post on this blog.  There are two reasons why I am ending it here.

1)  A lot of my recovery now involves the goings on of my family life and it is not now so much of a day to day thing as it is a week to week/month to month thing.  Because of that this "Life Redefined" journey will continue to be told on my family blog - http://www.kearsleykorner.blogspot.com/

2)  I am also anxious to have this blog printed in a book format so that I can have another tangible "journal" to refer to often to remind us often of this experience and the many redefining moments we've had.


I looked at the time ticker on the blog that shows how long it's been since I came home!  I have now been home for longer than I was in the hospital - and that seemed like forever!  I have not updated the blog since then and I know many of you have chastised me for that!  I want to end it right.  I want to say the right things to summarize this great journey we've been on (up to this point).  I have had so many thoughts run through my head of what I would like to say and I have wanted time for my feelings to truly sink in. 

I truly believe that all of the experiences we have in life are designed especially for us to help us grow and become better human beings and therefore more like our loving Father in Heaven.  They are our lessons in life and we are the students.  Sometimes I am an "honor student" in my experiences and I come out more polished and shined.  Other times I "flunk" and take several steps back.  Most of the time, however, I think I just barely "pass."

When I first was diagnosed with the spinal chord tumor on May 6th, just over 3 months ago, I had to choose how I was going to react.  I knew I didn't want to "flunk" this test by being negative and complaining the whole way through.  I know enough to know that when we choose a pessimistic attitude in life we get no-where fast and we close any door that would have allowed growth or blessings to come into our lives.  I also knew that I didn't want to do what I always do and "just barely pass," because that's how my life has been for way too long.  Life is difficult and unfulfilled when I am just getting by, when I live my everyday life and feel like I am not improving my character or anything at all.  Time is on our side if we use it wisely to become more educated and to reach our true potential.  Time is our worst enemy when we decide to just stay "comfortable" to "just barely pass" and not stretch our characters.  It may as well be the same as "flunking."

So, it appeared obvious to me that a physical trial this huge, with such devastating potential, was reason for me to decide that I wanted to be an "honor student."  (HA!  I even dreamed that I would come out of the hospital being so "re-defined" that I would not lose my temper with my kids anymore and never think a single bad thought again!  LOL!)  I wanted to try to look at each moment as a learning experience and try to glean what I could from them.  I wanted to take good notes so that I can look back regularly at them to remember.

Soon after surgery there was an entry made in my blog where I detailed out what was going on in my body at that moment.  At that time I coined a motto for helping me get through this experience, it was,

"My reality today is my reality today and I take it day by day."

At that point I was in a wheelchair and we did not know if I would be there forever or just temporarily.  I knew, however, that I was going to work hard, try to be patient, prepare for the worst, expect the best and continually remember the prayers and good thoughts sent out on my behalf. 

Well, many of you know that my reality today is many times better that what it was that day and I am still taking it day by day. 

I would like to take a little bit of time now to detail again how I am doing physically.


- My Lower Body and Walking ability gets better and better!
- I am still numb from my ribs down to my toes (however, I notice a slight difference in the numbness in my abdomen - like it is starting to fade a bit)
- I am WALKING WITHOUT ANY HELP...no wheelchair, no walker, no crutches!  WOO HOO!
- There are times during everyday when I have pushed myself a little too much and I either start to lose my balance a lot, start limping more severely or get extremely dizzy and faint - my feet start to feel like I am trying to walk on balloons sometimes and my legs start to feel like I am walking on extremely stiff clubs.  My legs still don't feel real or like they belong on my body.
- The numbness can still be described the same way it was in my previous entries. 
- The nerve pain that was so terrible in my feet is being managed quite well by the nerve pain medication that I am on.  I have tried a couple of times to lower my dose of nerve pain meds and I within a couple of days the pain is back to constant and difficult to bare - I am so grateful for modern medicine


- My upper body strength gets better and better!
- I am now able to carry Levi around!  (Many of you know that was a HUGE concern for me in my therapy and wondering when I would be able to care for my baby and family again!)
- Since leaving the hospital I have discovered that my entire left arm and part of my left side of my upper body can feel no hot or cold.  (I discovered this when preparing a bottle for Levi soon after returning home and while holding my hand under the running water - waiting for it to heat up - I could see steam coming off the water and I wondered why it was not getting hot!  HA!  I was burning myself and didn't know it!)  Note to self: Don't check your children's bath water with your left hand!
- Similarly, I feel a lot of nerve pain in my left arm.  It is where I have the most constant nerve pain - even with the medication.
- My neck and shoulders are still recovering from the incision and surgery and I still experience a lot of limitations there.  Sometimes it is just hard to hold my head where it needs to be to accomplish a small task like doing the dishes, etc... 

So that's about it!  Things are pretty great considering!  Brian and I recently returned to Salt Lake for a follow-up with my surgeon, Dr. Dailey and his PA.  They called me a "super-star" and just reiterated what we already knew...I am doing remarkably well!  We were also happy to return the wheelchair to the vendor!

I often think back to my weeks in the hospital and remember the tiny details of the things I was experiencing and going through.  There were so many uncertainties then and no one could tell me when or if I would walk again, or when or if the numbness would go away.  When I picture myself laying in my bed completely unable to move myself, being hoisted around by sometimes 3 people at a time, I am baffled.  It is a miracle that I am here and doing so well.

This morning I was getting ready for church and I was thinking about the pioneers who have come before us in times when a tumor like mine would have never even been discovered.  Instead I would slowly and inexplicably have become paralyzed.  The tumor was only 1 vertebrae from my brain, I probably would have started to have complications due to a tumor growing on my brain as well.  Anyway, it made me think how excited I am to one day have a chance to tell those who lived in that time what their posterity was able to accomplish!  It is a miracle in and of itself!

I find it hard to take it easy around here with the kids and the house to tend.  I sometimes cry myself to sleep at night because I push too hard during the day that it becomes so painful.  It's okay though, I couldn't do it any other way, I want to get back into it as much as I can.  I also want to take it one step at a time and try to get back into the things I love the most.  I have started working a bit with the exchange student program again!  I am starting to exercising again and this week plan on trying to take a slow jog on a treadmill - I have my sights set on triathlons and 1/2 marathons again!  I want to clog again! Why not!  Physically that would be the ultimate for me - a true miracle!

Many miracles come in a physical form but when that happens I think the true miracle sometimes is what happens inside.  I continue to pray for the numbness to go away and for my abilities to be restored.   Scientifically I have up to 2 years for that to happen and I believe that it will happen.  More so, however, I pray that I will be able to look back on this lesson in a spiritual sense and say I was an "honor student."  I want to look back on it and say that my experiences during the Spring and Summer of 2010 forever changed me for the better and hopefully blessed a few other peoples lives along the way - a true miracle!

Finally...THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  I have felt an outpouring of love.  My cup of gratitude runneth over! I have gained so much strength from everyone I have encountered along the way.  I am not out of the woods yet, but the worst is behind me and the best is yet to come!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Home Again, Home Again! Jiggety Jig!"

As my mom always said when we arrived home after time away..."Home Again, Home Again!  Jiggety Jig!" 

I am home!  I have been home now for 4 days and it has been, well let's just say...wonderful and "all of the above!"

Maria and I!

We left the hospital at about 12:15 p.m. on Saturday.  I was, believe it or not, sad to say goodbye to some of the people I had grown to love while there.  My therapists, my new friends and some of the nurses and staff.  After 5 weeks with these people I feel like they are my friends and I care about them and it's hard to say goodbye. 

We headed 1st to have lunch with one of my best friends from high school, Erin, and her family.  They had just driven in from Arizona for a family vacation!  It was perfect timing because Erin and I rarely get to see each other!  After eating we headed outside for a picture of all of us, I was only using my crutches. Sure enough, within 3 minutes of me being on my feet I started to feel extremely ill, it was very scary.  I knew that I was within 60 seconds of fainting and Brian looked at me and told me that I was "as white as a ghost."  I barely made it through pictures and hugs goodbye and got in the car.   I am certain that my blood pressure dropped and that something was WAY off.  After that the 1st hour of our drive home was me recovering from that scary experience.  Isn't that typical?  2 hours out of the hospital and "where's my nurse?"!  I guess that was just my friendly reminder that while I am out, I am still recovering and I still need to be very cautious and take it easy.

Hope you had a great vacation at Aspen Grove Erin and Ryan! It was so good to see you!
(Do I look pale to anyone?)

When I arrived home it was just Brian, Levi and I.  Emily and Andrew were in Victor with Brian's parent's.  I walked into a completely clean house and filled refrigerator and freezer...thank you to the mystery cleaners and those who brought us food! 

For the 1st two days this house felt like a new house, like we had just moved!  It felt so wonderful!

Emily and Andrew arrived Sunday evening and it was a very sweet reunion!  They were darling and showered me with pictures and projects they had made for me while I was gone.

My mom showed up a few hours after them and we were well on our way to what I think I'll call "grateful chaos."  I am so grateful to be home and I am continually grateful for the amazing progress I make each day and the service from our neighbors, friends and family, but it is chaotic around here. 

Doing my therapy stretches with the kids! 
Even Levi was into it, pretty impressive for a 6 month old huh?!

I won't lie and say it's been nothing but wonderful since I arrived.  I am even now more aware of my new limitations and I continually ask myself, "when will I be an independent mother again?"  Like I said, I help out when I can, but it's limited.  For all of those other moments I just watch my mom and Brian count the millions of steps it requires to be a mom.  I don't even know how I did what I did before.  It baffles me.  Because of this it has caused some stress and I have had two emotional breakdowns since.  They come and they go. 

Physically, I continue to improve with each day!  I am able to walk around my house, very carefully, without any kind of aid,  for short periods of time.  We met with my new Physical Therapist today and he seems to have a good plan to maximize our time together and my physical progress!  I am in a lot of muscular pain in my neck and upper body and then the nerve pain sometimes takes it's toll.  I am hoping that my upper body pain heals quickly because that is one of the hardest parts of my day.

I am so happy to be home and I love all of the extra spontaneous hugs that I get from my kids!  It is not easy, we are having to adjust in so many ways and there is a fair amount of stress involved.  So, like I said it is "grateful chaos!"  We will be fine and in time we will all be adjusted to our "new normal" and hopefully, our "old normal" will be in our sights...only that we will be better, more humble, loving and serving people!  I am trying...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Last Post from the HOSPITAL! WOO HOO!

HOW FUN!  It's my last night here in Salt Lake and I will be going home with Levi and Brian tomorrow!  I am so excited that I feel kind of giddy!  I am excited to have nice carpet under my bed and to look up and see a normal ceiling (not a business office-like ceiling)!  I am a little bit nervous about the adjustment but I'm ready for it!  It's just time to move on to our "new normal" and continue to get Mommy better!

Here's a picture of us Video Skyping!  You can see Emily and I giving each other our goodnight hugs!
A visit from our friends and neighbors Matt & Carol!
Occupational Therapy!  Practicing getting in and out of the bathtub.  It really was very challenging and once I was in I wanted to just relax!
A visit from Uncle Rick from St. George!  Yeay!
My baby's are back!  Brian and Levi came into town to pick me up!  Levi has grown SO MUCH!  Since I have been in the hospital he has grown is 1st 2 teeth (today I found is 3rd had broke through!), he's learned to sit up, roll over and he just looks so much bigger!  It was SO FUN to see him today!
My last therapy session with Stephanie (OT) and Rob (PT!)
You guys have been wonderful and made all of the difference in the world!  As much as I don't want to stay another minute in the hospital...I will still miss many of you!
A Visit from my cousin Alisha and her family!  So glad you stopped by!  Happy camping!
(Yes!  They're all hers and they are all adorable!)

A visit from my long lost Darci!  We were "floormates" our 1st year of college!  Love you Darc and it was SO GREAT to see you!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Today's Joke and a visitor!

Today's Joke!

Q:  "Why would Snow White make a great judge?"
A: "Because she's the fairest of them all!"

Today's "Robism" from therapy!

When talking about my ability to walk without feeling Rob said...
"yea...Sensation is overrated!"
Love it! Very deep!

A visit from one of my sweet girls from the mission!  Love you Katie!

from my Journal

Aside from my blogging about this experience I keep a more personal journal.  This is where I have been recording my thoughts that to me seem like things I would rather keep private - good and bad.  Today, however, I was writing and felt like I would like to share this journal entry on my blog. 

So here it is:

"I was talking on the phone with Teresa yesterday.  She told me a very sweet story.  She told me that she was substituting in Primary on Sunday and Reese, a little girl Emily's ages, was giving the closing prayer in Primary and in her prayer she said, "and please bless Emily's mommy that she will get better.

It is no wonder I am improving the way I am ... homes all over the country and even in the world are praying for me.  Why?  Do I deserve it?  I don't suppose it matters whether I deserve it or not.  It just means that there is SO MUCH GOODNESS in this world and it goes so easily unnoticed with everything going on around us.  There are sweet little 5 year old girls praying daily for someone she barely knows because her parents have taught her that is it's better to "love one another" than to be selfish and unkind.  It is so humbling to me.  I am so grateful and in awe over how blessed we have been.

Only 4 days until I get to get into my van and go home.  There is NO place I would rather be right now.  I don't want to be on an exotic trip or vacation, I don't want to be anywhere but in my home...(for now anyway!).  Inside those walls where although not always "peaceful," it is where i feel so much love and joy.

This experience has really changed my perspective on how I view my life.  The only thing I care about right now are relationships.  My relationship with my sweet husband, which I have taken for granted so much.  My relationship with my children which I have abused and neglected...I was always too concerned with what I needed instead of what their little hearts needed from me.  My relationship with all of my extended family... do they really know how much I love them and how I would do anything for hem?  My relationship with my neighbors.  I do not serve enough, I do not get out of my comfort zone enough.  Relationships are the most important thing we have in our lives.  (I believe that they are ONE of the few things we get to take with us in the next life...not our material things, but our relationships!)  The most important relationship that I need to improve in is that with my Savior, Jesus Christ.  (This experience has been such a blessing in that way...I have felt His love in so many personal and amazing experiences, an answer to my prayers.)  I KNOW  that when that relationship is good then all other things come into place and life, even though it is full of trials and difficulties, becomes manageable, happy and worth the ride!

D&C 59:7
"Thou shalt thank the Lord they God in all things."

"We pay our debt of gratitude by living in such a way as to bring credit to our parents and the name we bear, by doing good to others, by being of service, by being willing to share the light and knowledge we have received so that others will also have joy and happiness, by living the principles of the gospel in their fulness.  Paul told us we should be filled with the Spirit, "giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20)." - Howard W. Hunter

Monday, June 21, 2010

Getting through my last week with Family and Friends!

A visit from some of my "other parents" from Spokane, Glen and Linnea!  So great to see them!

More visitors!  I got 3 of the McGrath siblings!  We missed the rest of you!  Can't wait to hear your news Ben and Brittany! Wink, Wink!

Kerrie and baby Montgomery stopped by while in the area!  Loved playing with Montgomery, he and Levi were just 1 day apart!

These next pictures are the new trick we found on Skype!  We took pictures of us Video Skyping our Family Home Evening tonight!

This is me teaching the lesson via the webcam!  We talked about how Heavenly Father's creations from the plants and flowers to us, his children.  We talked about how He sent Jesus Christ (I'm holding the picture of Jesus and the flowers!) to help us through all of our problems and how prayer is such a powerful tool!

Brian and Emily making funny faces to make Mommy smile while webcaming!

They turned the camera to the floor to show me how  Levi is sitting up!  He was so proud of himself and very excited!  We caught the picture with a smile on his face!  How fun!