Monday, March 31, 2014

Living Life to the Fullest in March

I thought I was busy last month, coming back to a bunch of snow and having fun, exciting birthday adventures, but things have gotten even CRAZIER!  I would not have thought it possible!

So I will take this post to give a big update with how things are going now that I am 3 months and 19 days post op! (WOOT WOOT!)

My energy level has continued to shoot up.  I've noticed a considerable increase in my abilities, even since my last post.  Even on 6 hours of sleep I am able to go through my day considerably functional (something that was not possible without a cup of coffee last semester). With the increase in my energy level I have been able to do more tasks.  Biking around campus is continually easier.  In my P.E. class I have been able to improve the number of push-ups and sit ups I can do! I am getting my body back in shape!

There is still a bit of "pain" in my chest. Its more like soreness and I think most of it comes from my morning fitness class.  Some of the activities require me to stretch my arms straight behind my back with weight. While push-ups do not bother me, these exercises do and cause a bit of soreness the next day. (No worries, I have discontinued the exercise, but thought important to share here).

In regards to campus activities I have begun to get more involved physically as well. With my fellow classmates I cheered my Wofford Terrier Basketball team on in Asheville as they beat WCU in the SoCon Championship (jumping up and down so much I got out of breath and lost my voice!) I then joined in the cheers as we put up a great fight against Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  Then, a few weeks ago I competed with my sorority in a Panhellenic "Lip Sync competition" (We won of course! :D)  While I was not on stage very long, I spent the entire rest of the 6 minute routine jumping and screaming on the sidelines with my sisters (quite the cardio if you ask me) and was completely able to keep up.  I also participated in the "fountain challenge."  This is a challenge going around college campuses which requires those tagged in the viral Facebook post to jump into a freezing cold fountain within 24 hours of being tagged. Of course I had to get in on the fun and jumped in when I got the chance!  No hypothermia or infection, but such a blast!

Academically and extra curricular wise I have gotten back in my old groove.  Continuing off of my work last semester, I have continued to evolve a professional development program for collegiate women on my campus. Last semester I created a society, the Purple Scarf Society, and much of this semester has been devoted to pushing it through to success.  Last week I got the chance to compete against five contestants before a panel of highly successful business women and men in their perspective fields as well as 150 members of an audience and pitch my organization to the entire room. In addition to making great connections and spreading the word about this project, I got second place in the competition which included $1,000 for my project and an office in downtown Spartanburg!

Emotionally things are ten times better than last semester as well.
I took time this weekend to look over my old posts and get a feel for how things have changed.  Before the surgery the daunting fear of what could go wrong, of the pain, of the closeness with mortality, of you name it, drove me into a really tough place. That is part of the surgery preparation for most people with CHD on their way to having OHS.  It is tough to anticipate something so big and so life altering without feeling incredibly stressed and hopeless. Add to that the feeling of being handicapped and bound to nap time and you begin to feel as if you are trapped in a pit of unrelenting hopelessness.  Feelings of desperation, abandonment and utter sadness defined much of my last semester. While I tried to mask them and put on a happy face, they came out in the quiet of my room or in my conversations with family.  I was very excited to be treated for my condition, but the nerves and anxiety often tried to cloud that optimism.  In case you didn't notice when you looked through my blog, these feelings changed immediately.  As soon as I woke up from surgery a new excitement took over (quieted a bit by the grogginess caused by all those drugs, but still there).  Some days of recovery were still tough as I was still pretty weak compared to my friends and also bound to a couch, but for the most part I could see the opportunities the future held and no longer worried about impending doom with my surgery. It was DONE! Now, with even more distance this sadness has completely disappeared.  Sure, some days I may be grumpy, mad or sad about a test, an argument with a friend, etc. but these are ordinary, not life altering bumps in the road.  The huge weight has gone and in its place a multitude of new experiences and opportunities!

The difference between last semester and this semester is HUGE.  I am so thankful to the wonderful friends in my life who were there for me throughout the entire process and who continue to celebrate this new lease on life with me this year.  Next week is Spring Break (praise the LORD!) and I will be going to the beach with friends to tan (Adding a bit of Zinc Oxide to my scar so there will be no burning that new skin!).  Its going to be a great time to be a normal, ordinary college student enjoying showing off her brand new scar! I look forward to making great new memories and adding adventurous tales to the larger one of my surgery! Look out world!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Waking up after it's all over

On one of many late night drives back to Wofford last year my dad and I turned on the radio and were greeted by the song "Wake me Up" by Avicii and Aloe Blacc.  It was after a long doctors appointment at Emory and the upcoming Open Heart Surgery was heavily weighing on both of our minds. Stuck deep in the pit of depressive and anxious thoughts I listened to the lyrics and began thinking out loud, "I just wish I could wake up when this is all over."  I realized, like the character in the song, I was desperately longing to skip the anxiety, skip the pain, skip the worries, the fears, the depression,  the growth, the growing emotional strength, all of it. I wanted to skip the long, arduous journey and just get to the end where I was happy and healthy again. My dad, hearing this about to be major breakdown, quickly jumped in to remind me to listen to the parts of the song I had tuned out "...I tried carrying the weight of the world, but I only have two hands, hope I get the chance to travel the world, but I don't have any plans... life's a game made for everyone and love is the prize."  Stopping me before the hysterics ensued, he continued to remind me that after I woke up I DID have plans to see the world. We, as a family, were going to go to Greece and Italy and then later, I was going to be living in the South of France.  He went on to remind me that love is the prize and I had that prize, and that prize was given to me everyday in the form of the love and support from friends, family, neighbors, and supporters. Yes, times were hard, but I was not without love, I would not be without plans and in the end, I was going to wake up from that surgery and I was going to get up and I was going to walk again and I was going to get better and go live my life enriched by the love, friends and travel that would accompany me along the way. While his talk did hold the hysteria at bay, the fog of worry blocked this true vision from my sight. I knew his words were true, but I could not feel it in my soul, it was too deeply clouded by fear.
Since that night, the long journey, the surgery and the recovery, that cloud in my soul has evaporated. I have been caught up in the glory and beauty of life around me.  With a new sense of purpose and a clearer view of the road ahead, not to mention a much better functioning body, I have been gifted with the chance to run with this new lease on life and take advantage of so many new blessings and opportunities that surround me.