Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do you shine on in a world of darkness??

Somewhere between the end and the point where we begin, there's a fire burning brightly, that's found it's way to dim,
when the feelings gone...
shine on! shine on!

~Shine On by: Needtobreathe

This song is one of my very favorites! It's at the top of my "Top 25 Songs Played" list on my ipod for a reason. Not only is the beat amazing and the hooks extremely catchy, the lyrics pretty much describe what I strive to do everyday. No I'm not a pyromaniac if that's what you're thinking. I do however, have a very special attachment to a certain kind of fire. :)

Somewhere between the end and the point where we begin,there's a fire burning brightly that's found it's way to dim...

So normally I'm a very positive person. I say normally for a reason. These past few years, it's been a bit of a struggle for me to keep a smile on my face all the time. Having to quit all of the sports and various activities I used to love has taken it's toll on me. Being known around school as "that poor girl who had to have both her legs realigned" hasn't helped much either. Through it all though, I've tried my best to keep a positive outlook. No I'm definitely not perfect. Lately I've been going through some days without giving hardly anyone a smile. So why is it then that going to the hospital, the one place I should feel the least happy to be, has become something that I enjoy??

When the feeling's gone... Shine on! Shine on!

Talking has never really been that big of an issue for me. I suppose I get that from my parents. both my mom and my dad love to talk. Whenever I go somewhere with either or both of them, one or the other 9 times out of 10 ends up running into someone they know. Even if they don't run into some acquaintance, they always end up having at least 1 long conversation with someone they meet. My mom knows all the guys that sell us our meat at the grocery store by name, she has weekly chats with the mailman, and she has a gift for getting complete strangers to tell almost anything about themselves to her. My dad's the same way. He knows the names of pretty much anyone he's ever talked to, he frequently makes conversation with the waiters or waitresses that serve us at restaurants, and he knows all the nurses in the cancer ward at the children's hospital near us (He's a pastor and he visits sick kids there all the time). I guess I shouldn't be surprised then that every time I've been to the hospital for an appointment with my surgeon, all 3 of us have ended up in conversations with some incredible people.

And let the others see you've got your victory...

If I'm wearing shorts or a skirt, it's pretty hard to miss the fact that I've had major leg surgeries. After all, I do have a bunch of long scars running up and down both my lower legs. It's only natural for people to ask me what happened I suppose. By now, I've gotten used to answering streams of questions from complete strangers. Most of them can't believe what I've been through simply because they've never experienced a major medical issue or something similar themselves. At the hospital however, that rule doesn't apply.

I will remember you...

I'll never forget the first time I was sitting in the x-ray waiting room at Froedtert hospital right after my first surgery. I was anxiously awaiting getting my leg x-rayed to make sure that everything was healing correctly. The doctor had just cut off my post-surgery splint, I was sitting in a wheelchair with my mom next to me, and my leg was still covered all over in dry blood from the surgery. Almost immediately after we arrived in the waiting room, a lady sitting in a wheel chair beside me asked me what happened. I reluctantly told her my story and then to my surprise, she told me her own. Before I knew it, everyone else in the packed waiting room was exchanging their own life stories too!!

Will you remember me??

Every time after that I've sat in that hospital waiting room, the same thing has happened just with different people. There's something so encouraging about hearing other people's own stories of conquering life's challenges. Last time I was there, I met a girl around my own age who was dealing with some of the same leg issues I have. She and I exchanged emails and I've been messaging her ever since. I can only hope that I've made as strong as an impact on her and those other people I've met in that waiting room as they have on me. You never know when you'll get the chance to brighten someone's day, so even when you don't feel like it, offer others a smile and shine on!!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A little bit longer and I'll be fine (hopefully!)

Waitin' on the cure
But none of them are sure
A little bit longer and I'll be fine!
But you don't know what you got till it's gone
and you don't know what it's like to feel so low...

~A Little Bit Longer by: The Jonas Brothers

First off, I can't believe I'm about to relate my life to a Jonas Brothers song! I'm definitely no fan of theirs, but when it comes to this song, the lyrics strike a deep chord within me. No I don't have diabetes like lead singer (and author of this song) Nick does, but I do have serious knee and leg issues. In fact 2 days from now, I'm going to have my whole left leg realigned. But before we get into that, I'd better start from the beginning...

You don't even know!! (No, no)

It all started during the winter of '08. I was halfway through my freshman year of high school and I was loving it! I had it all; friends, family, and lots of joy! Life was great except for one thing. Gym class. My worst nightmare. Why? Well, though apparently I look like a natural athlete to others, I'm about the farthest thing that there ever was from someone athletically gifted. People seem to think that because I'm 5'10 I can instantly slam-dunk a basketball or spike a volleyball at every given moment. In truth, I'm the girl that got a broken nose and a concussion during warm ups for a volleyball tournament. And that was before I even touched a volleyball that day! Enough said. Anyways, second semester had just started so I had a whole new schedule. Gym was my 2nd hour and I was pretty nervous. I hadn't done anything really athletic since tennis season had ended a few moths ago, so who knew how out of shape I was going to be! Well with my luck, the first unit we were forced into doing was running. Obviously God didn't have in mind for me to be a pro runner when He created me, because no matter what I do I can't run a mile in under 10 minutes. I was determined to try though. The first two laps went great. I was tired, sweaty, and loathing every second of this torture, but I was keeping up with my friends and the rest of the class. The only problem was that the small ache in my right kneecap that I had felt when I first started running was growing by the second. Halfway through the third lap I was walking. By the end, I was limping considerably. I thought that maybe since I hadn't run in awhile that I had just pulled something. Later that week however, I would find out differently...

Got the news today...
Plies were nothing new to me. After all I'd been doing them since I was four. Yet for some reason, in dance class that night my knees were refusing to bend the correct way. Seeing my frustrations, the new ballet instructor walked over to me and attempted to give me a lecture about focus and proper ballet technique. Plies are one of the first things you learn as a dancer and I was in the most advanced ballet and pointe classes Dance Tracks had to offer, she reminded me. When she looked at my legs though, she spotted something I had failed to see. She looked up at me with a bewildered expression on her face and simply said, "Do you know your right knee turns inward??"

Doctor said I'd have to stay
A little bit longer and I'll be fine!
Those words essentially changed my life. My right knee did turn inward a little. Though my parents were skeptical at first, it soon became apparent that this was a bigger problem then any of us realized. Within the next month, it was visibly apparent that the knee was turning farther and farther inward and with every day it was giving me more and more pain. When it got to the point where my gym teacher made me sit out of classes because I couldn't do anything without pain, my parents agreed that I needed to see an expert. Going to the knee-surgeon's wasn't the experience my parents and I expected. In fact, it was a big fat waste of time. He looked at my right knee and abruptly told me that that was simply the way that I was made and that there was nothing he could do about it. He told me that knee-caps rotating inward was an extremely common problem for teenage girls and that physical therapy would take care of it all no problem. That was it. Case closed. Well, though we were a bit frustrated after that 5 minute appointment, we decided to trust his diagnosis and follow his instructions regarding physical therapy. Turns out that we shouldn't have. A month after that appointment, my left knee was completely inward too. By the end of the school year and after months of therapy, I couldn't even stand for 3 minutes without excruciating pain...

Waiting on a cure,
but none of them are sure,
a little bit longer and I'll be fine!!

It was at the point when my knees started popping and locking on a daily basis that even my therapist decided that I needed a second opinion from a different surgeon. So right before I started my sophomore year of high school, we went to see surgeon #2. The difference between this surgeon and the first being that this time we went to a surgeon who specialized in teenage girls. She took a long had look at my legs and I waited. Waited to hear that she knew exactly what was wrong. Waited to hear that she could fix it. Waited to hear that I could begin to be a normal teenager again. When she finally spoke, it wasn't exactly what I'd hoped to hear. She told me that I had extreme tibial torsion in both legs. (Aka the bones in my lower legs, my tibias and fibulas, rotate outward at a hugely abnormal angle.) That was what gave the appearance of my kneecaps going inward. Normally when girls kneecaps appear to go inward it's because their femurs (upper bones in the upper half of your legs) rotate inwards. (After a girl hits puberty, her hips widen. If her hip muscles aren't strong enough, her femurs will rotate inward) Normally, physical therapy can be used to strengthen the muscles and solve the problem. In my case, because my tibias and fibulas were rotated outward, the surgeon said she didn't think PT would help. However, she couldn't tell if I actually needed surgery or not because my hips weren't as strong as she thought they needed to be to accurately judge the problem. It was back to therapy for me. I was devastated.

When I thought it all been done,
when I thought it all been said,
a little bit longer and I'll be fine!
As I expected 2 months came and went and there was no difference. My hip strength had increased quite a bit but, if anything, my knee pain was worse. So it was back to the surgeon's office. but instead of seeing the surgeon I had seen last time, I saw her partner. The first thing surgeon #3 said to me after she took a brief look at my legs was, "How have you been living like this??" She told me that I most definitely needed surgery if I ever wanted to get back to the things I was used to doing before, but she could only do the knee portion of it. I'd have to find another surgeon to do the work on my tibias and fibulas. So not only did I have to schedule an appointment with another surgeon, I'd have to undergo multiple scans and MRIs before we could put a date on the calender for my first surgery. I knew that it would take at least another couple months to get all that done, but it didn't matter to me. I was finally getting somewhere!!
But you don't know what it's like to feel so low,
and you don't know what you got 'till it's gone...
Before I knew it, I was walking into the hospital on March 4 ready to undergo a major surgery on my right leg. While I was off in la-la land, one surgeon cut my tibia and fibula in half and rotated them to where they needed to be. Then he screwed a metal plate and 7 screws into my tibia for support. He also cut my heel-chord a bit to lengthen it. The other surgeon cut the triangular shaped bone of the top of my tibia, moved it over, and screwed it down with 2 more screws. Then she cut a few tendons underneath my kneecap so it would slide over. Finally, she repaired a tear in my MCL. The surgery went off perfectly except for one thing. When I woke up we realized that I don't react very well to general anesthesia or pain medication very well. Once I got over the nausea and was home for a couple weeks, everything really started to sink in. I couldn't really use my right leg at all, and my left wasn't much support either because that one still needed to be corrected. I was a mess. Getting up to get myself a drink of water or go to the bathroom felt like running a marathon. I was forced to miss school for over a month and when I was finally able to come back, I needed to use a wheelchair. It was the most humbling/ humiliating experience of my life. I hated all the long stares I got from people in the hallways and the fact that I couldn't do anything by myself anymore. I had lost almost all the muscles in my right leg, so rehab was slow. After about a month, I ditched the wheelchair and opted to use crutches much to everyone's surprise. I began to heal much faster than the doctor's thought I would. By the end of the school year I was walking without a limp, 3 months before they estimated I'd be able to.
All this time goes by,
Still no reason why,
a little bit longer and I'll be fine!!
Before all this happened to me, I never realized how much I took walking for granted. I never thought that I would long for a chance to be able to run a mile. That I would actually miss gym class! This knee thing completely changed my life in many more ways than I could ever imagine and still no one knows why it happened to me. There's no explanation for it. I can see now though that there were some hidden blessings within all this. I realized what an amazing family I have and what an awesome group of friends I've surrounded myself with. I appreciate physical activity so much more than I used to. And I've learned to count my blessings everyday for everything. There's not much I take for granted anymore when it comes to using my legs.
My right leg is doing great. It's almost completely healed now. Yeah I have scars running up and down my lower leg (The pic above is my leg. There are a few small scars on my kneecap, and a couple on the side and back of my leg that you can't see) So what! At first when I saw them, I thought I would never wear shorts again, now I see them as "badges". They represent a big part of my life so why not show them? And besides, they'll fade over time anyways.
I still can't believe that I only have 48 hours before I have to do this all over again. I'm terrified. It's going to be a lot of therapy and a few months before I'll be able to walk unaided again. I keep telling myself though that this is the last thing I have to undergo before I'm completely better. A little bit longer and I'll be fine!! And when I can run again, I will run the mile in under 10 minutes! :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hello. My name is Marissa and I'm a beautiful disaster.

...She swears there's no difference between the lies and compliments,
it's all the same if everybody leaves her,
And every magazine tells her she's no good enough,
the pictures that she sees make her cry.

She would change everything, everything just ask her!
Stuck in the in between of beautiful disaster.
She just needs someone to take her home...

~Beautiful Disaster by: Jon McLaughlin

The first time I heard this song, I think my jaw dropped so far down it just about fell off my face. I had come home from school that day feeling especially unpretty (inside and out) and when I turned on JCTV to watch the latest music videos, that was about the last thing I thought I would hear. It was as if someone had taken the thoughts directly out of my head and penned them down as song lyrics. The entire song was a complete reflection of myself, and I wasn't sure I liked it. When had I started hating myself this much?

"She would change everything, everything just ask her!"

For the first time, I realized that if given the opportunity, I really would change everything about myself. (Well almost everything.) What about me was I totally happy and confident in anymore? My eyes, my nose, my weight, my smile, my height, even some of my personality, I was satisfied with none of it and that's a pretty scary thought. What had made my confidence in myself drop so much? I had never had the greatest self-esteem before but I was never one to be completely unconfident in myself. I never loved looking at pictures of me, but I had never hated seeing them as much as I did now. And never ever before did I look in the mirror and see absolutely nothing that I liked.

"And every magazine tells her she's no good enough,
the pictures that she sees make her cry."

Thinking about it, lately I had begun to compare myself to others an awful lot. I was at the point were I was flat out envious of certain girls I knew just because they were drop-dead gorgeous and had guys falling at their feet. I couldn't even look at several of the magazines I subscribed to anymore. The girls in Teen Vogue and Seventeen all looked and seemed so perfect compared to me. My friends even looked perfect compared to me. I couldn't take a facebook profile picture that looked half as good as my theirs. I began to cover up the school photos of me my mom had plastered all over the fridge. Walking the halls in school was pure torture because looking at some gorgeous girl I saw always made me feel like crap. In fact, I could see something beautiful in everyone around me except for myself.

"She never stays the same for long,
assuming that she'll get it wrong."

Listening to the song for a second time around, this line hit me with the most impact. It dawned on me that aside from unrealistically comparing myself to others, my biggest problem is that I set my self up for failure. Lately I had been telling myself not to imagine finally meeting and falling in love with that guy who would end up being "The One." After all, 'if guys aren't looking at me now in high school, why would they ever look at me?,' I attempted to reason with myself. I couldn't read novels or watch movies that contained even a hint of romance in them without reminding myself that I would probably never be as lucky in love as those girls. I was beginning to mentally fail myself at everything in life without even trying.

"Perfect only in her imperfection"

Wow. It struck a chord within me instantly, yet this is the line that took me the longest to decipher. The one thing that I had begun to forget lately was that nobody on earth is perfect. Everyone has something that they dislike about themselves. No matter how perfect they seem to make their lives appear from the outside, every person on earth has had some sort of personal disaster no matter how big or small occur within their lifetime. Reading the comments under the video on youtube I saw that I'm not alone!! I'm not the only one who has ever felt this low about herself. In fact, it almost seemed as if everyone has.
I wish I could say that I instantly changed my views and thoughts about myself after this revelation. I can't. It took time. A lot of time actually. I would stand in front of the mirror every morning and point out one thing about myself that I thought was beautiful. Slowly but surely, I found more and more things about myself that I was happy with. I also wish I could say that today I can honestly say that I love every picture that's ever been taken of me. That I'm always 100% confident in everything I do. That I never ever feel like I'm unattractive or ugly. I can't. I have my off days and moments where I forget that I cannot possibly be perfect no matter how hard I try. I think everyone has these moments. It's times like those where I have to sit down and tell myself that nobody is perfect. All of us have had our self-conscious moments where we feel as though we're the worst of the worst. Everybody has made mistakes in life. We've all been disasters inside at one point or another. And yet, even though we can't always see it, we're all both inside and out beautiful in some way, shape, or form. It's all a matter of the way we're looking at it. And when it really comes down to it, we're all beautiful disasters.