Monday, August 31, 2009


Somehow I survived a very long summer with four kids, a herniated disc and either torrential downpours or overwhelming heat and humidity.

Somehow I managed to smile most days, read some books, do eleventy bazillion loads of laundry and weed my garden.

Somehow we survived a long trip to Pennsylvania and awesome visits with friends.

Somehow I woke up this morning and realized that my little girl was going to third grade today and I was both thrilled and terrified at the prospect.

Somehow knowing all this means it's all going to be ok.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I am not a huge fan of "winging it". That doesn't mean that I don't do it, but rather that given the choice, I'd like to be well prepared for just about anything. Some days I'll take just being slightly prepared, but you get what I mean. I like knowing where I am supposed to be, when I'm supposed to be there, and what I need to bring with me. I'm not a Type A personality for nothing!

I haven't really spoken about my health issues since I was diagnosed a couple of weeks ago. Along with one herniated disc and two other angry discs, the official diagnosis is arthritis in my neck. My cervical spine is straight instead of curved. I have spent almost the entire last month on some sort of medicine~muscle relaxants, seriously strong pain meds, and finally steroids~in hopes that I'll feel better. I do feel better. But here's the thing~today is the first day since July 27th that I haven't taken any sort of medicine. I took my last steroid yesterday. I have no idea how long the effects of it will last and how I'll feel when it wears off. I don't like the unknown. I don't know what the next step is going to be in my recovery. It makes me twitch to think about it.

I've started physical therapy. It's interesting. I have muscle loss in my arm. I've been put in traction once and am going to be having it again tomorrow. It will be the first session when I'm not under the influence of some sort of medicine. Part of me is extremely nervous as to how my body will react and part of me is hoping that not being on the meds will give me a better idea of whether it's working. But it was disconcerting that the first thing my therapist asked was why surgery wasn't an option for me. Was she implying that no matter what she does I'll end up having surgery? Or was she just surprised that I was willing to try other options?

I go back to the spine specialist next week. I have no idea what she's looking for during that appointment. Will I need another MRI or another some other scan to determine if my disc is still herniated? There are too many unknowns in all of this. I want to be able to plan and prepare and I just can't. Relinquishing control is not my forte but I guess I don't have a choice. I'll take it one day at a time; it's all I can do.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I get by with a little help from my friends

I often lament to Doug that I hate living so far away from my friends. I left Maine to get away and spent seven years making new friends in New York and Boston, only to return to Maine to settle down and raise a family. It was especially hard leaving my college friends; there are some I haven't seen in 15 years. But everyone makes their choices and friendships either thrive or fade away.

Writing this blog for the last year and half has changed how I view friendships. While I may not always throw out everything that is going on in my life onto my blog, I can email those people who I hold close to me and vent/chat/commiserate. I trust that I can tell them what's going on without judgment. They aren't just people who leave a note on my blog; they are true friends.

Today my phone rang and because it was loud and insane here, I let it go to the machine. I was surprised to hear Cass's voice on my machine. When things settled down I dropped her a note and my phone rang almost instantly. She made me promise not to hate her and asked if I had left an Anonymous comment on AndreAnna's blog today. I said no but that I had just read the latest post but none of the comments yet. So I read the anonymous comment. It was sad and scary and I could totally see why she could have thought it was me. She was concerned enough to track Doug down (you need to be a PI Cass!) to make sure that he didn't think it was me either. Then I emailed AndreAnna to let her know that I didn't leave the comment. I think I heard her sigh with relief all the way from the Jersey shore.

I am truly blessed with wonderful friends. Friends concerned enough with my health and well-being to make sure that I'm not putting up a front on my blog about how I'm doing. Friends who would be willing to get in their cars and drive for hours to help me if I needed help. Cass's phone call really showed me that friendship can span miles, years, even the internet. There is something truly comforting in knowing that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Open Letters

Here is my latest installment of open letters to my children. These will not make you all warm and fuzzy, but you may nod in agreement at times.

Dear Darling Eldest Daughter:

School starts soon. Please get a grip on your emotions. I cannot guarantee that you will like every child in your class. I know it's a new school with new kids. That is why we're going on the school tour and dragging the whole family to the insane event called the "ice cream social" next week. If you keep up with your crappy attitude toward me we'll never get your school supplies and you can damn well be sure that I'll not be getting you a Hannah Montana folder. You'll get boring old pink.

Love, your tired Mama

Dear Darling Son:

School starts soon, but not soon enough. You have to stop your 4 year old bullshit act of crying at EVERY.THING.I.SAY.TO.YOU. You cry if we ask your name, if we ask you to move, if we tell you to go eat. Cut the crap. It's annoying and doesn't get you very far now does it? Oh, and please stop telling me to "sshhh" with your finger up by your mouth. I am your Mama and you don't do that to me. You're lucky I haven't locked you in a trunk and sent you to Kazakhstan.

Love, your tired Mama

Dear Darling Twins:

Stop hitting/pinching/screaming/fighting over every single toy we own. Because there are two of you, we have two of just about every toy for you. Figure that out please. Izzie, that high pitched scream that you start with the minute you wake up annoys the ever loving crap out of me and it must be stopped. Otherwise you're ending up with your brother in the trunk. Annie, please stop with the gigantic crocodile tears every time someone looks at you/breathes near you/says hi to you. It's just plain tiring.

Love, your tired Mama


Dear Kristin:

Your body is crap right now. You are tired. You are irritable. Try so very hard not to yell at your children. You know that the medicine is making you irritable so try, try, try to keep it together. The children are worried about your health. Yes, you look smokin' hot in your hot pink Kiniseo tape on your neck and you know it. Don't flaunt it too much. Take deep breaths. School starts soon. The temps will drop below 90 here in a day or so. Life will get back into balance soon. Things will work themselves out.

Love, me

Friday, August 14, 2009

Eight year olds are the new 15 year olds

She throws a look of disdain in my direction more times a day than I can count.

When asked to help with laundry/put away shoes/grab the jug of milk/pick her nose, she huffs and puffs. When asked to clean, she throws herself on the floor, flailing and screaming, then runs to her room and slams her door, usually yelling how I've "ruined her life".

When one of her siblings is bothering her, she resorts to hitting instead of using her words. She reads at a 5th grade level for crying out loud; I think she knows a word or two.

She's beyond exhausted with summer and heat and rain and siblings and moms with bad necks who can't even drive her to pick out her school supplies. She wants order, structure, not the laid back chaos of no rules that envelopes my home like a cloud in the summer. I know this. She knows this. School is 2 weeks away and she can taste the freedom that comes with 7 hours away from twin two year olds who take her toys and a four year old who is struggling with his own need for structure and friends and preschool fun.

She is my first baby. I love her so much. Some days I loathe her so much that it hurts. It hurts to say that my child is so self centered that she can't see beyond the end of her nose at times. It hurts to think that she'll never grow out of it and we'll always be at odds. Sometimes, when she's not watching, I stare at her and look for where I went wrong. What did I do to her that makes her hate me so much? Then I see her freckles and beautiful brown eyes and know she's my baby girl and this too shall pass. I hope it will.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

No, no, not the knife! Oh, not yet? Ok.

So the verdict the other day was that I have a herniated disc in my neck. I was referred to the lovely people at the Neurosurgery and Spine office affiliated with Maine Medical Center. I went there this morning. This is what I found out.

I have "significant" cervical spondylosis. Cervical spondylosis is a general term for age-related wear and tear affecting the joints in your neck. Also known as cervical osteoarthritis, this condition usually appears in men and women older than 40 and progresses with age. Although cervical spondylosis affects both sexes equally, men usually develop it at an earlier age than women do (courtesy of The doctor's response after viewing my MRI (which is so kick-ass cool it's not even funny) was that I have a spine of a "much older person" (I'm not old, I'm 37). I have "black discs" and one herniated disc, with two other discs looking like they want to join the party. All in all, I'm a mess.

However, there is a bright side, for now. First off, I'm going off the Percocet tomorrow! I'm going on Prednisone for 10 days, and I get to reduce the muscle relaxant medicine to once a day. While I'm not thrilled with the side effects of Prednisone, I can DRIVE again!!!! With Meg starting school on the 31st and Drew the week after that, I NEED to be able to drive. I haven't driven since July 27th and that has sucked. I'm also starting physical therapy on Monday. We'll see how that all goes and I'll return to the neursurgeon's office in early September for a re-evaluation.

What this doesn't rule out is surgery. A couple of you asked what happens if they remove the herniated disc and I HAVE NO IDEA (maybe I'll become the Bionic Woman!)! For now I'm avoiding Googling, partially because with the degeneration, I don't know how much other work they'd want to do. I'll be asking those questions at my next appointment. So, no knife yet, but it's still a possibility.

What really blows about all of this is I'M NOT OLD! I'm 37! I shouldn't be in such sad shape. I already had a broken bone spur in my lower back a few years ago, and now this mess. What a wake up call this is becoming for me. Of course I don't know how much of this is hereditary as I know my mom has back/neck issues. But, I'm going to get well. I have to get well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm not a doctor, I just play one on tv

My doctor called me yesterday afternoon. I do indeed have a herniated disc in my neck. My next step is to go see the spine specialists. He is working to finagle an appointment because he said "they only want to take patients who are almost dead". IF they take me, they'll evaluate my situation and try therapy. If therapy doesn't work, I get to meet with a neurosurgeon about having the herniated disc removed. In the meantime, I have to stay on my pain meds/muscle relaxants.

Here is the thing about the drugs that I think I've mentioned before~they make me light headed and dizzy. That is not conducive to driving. The drugs also don't work 100% of the time so I still end up suffering. Every day is different so I'm learning to manage my pain, but I'd rather be pain free. I've got kids starting school in 3 weeks, one of whom has to be driven to school and picked up. I can't be on drugs and not be able to take care of him.

So, for now I wait. No appointment scheduled yet. No idea how and when this will resolve itself. No alcohol allowed to make it all better (curse you Percocet!).

Monday, August 10, 2009


Doug and I went on a date Friday night. Well, he was more like my driver since I can't drive whilst taking the Percocet. I got my MRI! From what he and I can tell, and this is not at all confirmed by my doctor, it looks like I have two or three herniated discs in my neck. I don't know where things go from here, although I do hope my doctor calls me today to confirm and give me some direction.

On Saturday though we did go on a real date. We split the kids up and left them with their grandparents and headed to New Hampshire for the day. If you're from around these parts, you know that North Conway has some great shopping, not to mention gorgeous scenery. We went here to buy school clothes for the kids. It's just about an hour drive from our home, so after delivering the kids to our parents, we headed out and arrived just at 12. We had a lovely lunch at Applebee's. It was so nice to eat HOT food and just chat. I got all confused and took a second dose of my Percocet when I was supposed to take the muscle relaxant so that made for some good laughs. We held hands, we picked out clothes for the kids, we laughed.

After a few hours of shopping, we left the shopping area and headed to our favorite restaurant, Flatbread Pizza. We always go to the one here in Portland, so we thought since we had a gift card we'd try out the one in North Conway. We got the WORST waitress in the world. Actually, she was quite pleasant but was definitely having a bad night. We were sitting close enough to the brick oven to watch the pizzas being made and could tell that ours wasn't cooking (it was a chicken BLT pizza with a small amount of ranch dressing). After awhile she came over and told us that she'd forgotten to put our order in, but that they were making it and we'd have it shortly. The pizza they delivered was NOT the pizza we ordered. They let us have it while they worked on making our correct pizza, and when they delivered the correct pizza, we got the wrong SIZE! Lucky for us, we weren't incredibly hungry, we didn't have kids to complain and we just had a good time laughing at the bumbling mess. We got our pizza for free! We saved our gift card and will use it another time.

Even though we spent our entire Saturday doing things for the kids, it was just so lovely to do it all without them. We get so hung up in being Mama and Dad that being Kristin and Doug gets shoved into the background more often than it should. It was so nice to reconnect and enjoy each other's company, when so often we're too tired to say more than "boo" to each other at night. A bonus for me was that I felt pretty decent most of the day so I was good company (I hope). I hope we can go on another date sooner rather than later. I really like his company.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I just want the MRI dammit! (now updated with more rant!)

I am fond of health insurance. It's covered the birth of my kids, their visits for broken bones, well-child check-ups and the like. Usually, it works in my favor. Right now though, my health insurance company is on my shit list and I'm going to vent about it.

I'm still on Percocet every three hours and a muscle relaxant four times a day for the pain in my neck and arm. I am still in pain. My doctor (who is a DO and can do all that fun stuff a chiropractor does) cannot get my back or neck to snap-crackle-pop into place. He fears hurting me even more by trying and wants the MRI to confirm his thoughts that I have a herniated disc. Last week he approached Harvard Pilgrim, my then-health insurance company, who denied the coverage essentially because we were changing insurance companies on Friday. Ok, I get that denial. Granted, it sucked, but I figured that once I got my new health insurance in place we'd be set. I couldn't be more wrong.

My new insurer (that would be Anthem Blue Cross Blue shield folks) has denied the MRI as well. Apparently they would rather I stay hopped up on drugs all day, not fully able to care for my kids, until maybe the pain just disappears, intead of finding out what is truly wrong with my body. I can't drive, as each of the drugs alone make me dizzy and tired and when taken together make me a woozy mess, so I haven't been out of the house unless accompanied by another adult, for over a week. My doctor isn't 100% certain that I have a herniated disc; it's just a suspicion that he needs the MRI to CONFIRM. I don't want to stay hopped up on drugs. I want to feel better. I want to do what needs to be done to feel better, but if we aren't exactly sure what is wrong, I can't do that. I want to sleep through the night without being awakened by pain and the need for more drugs. I want to be able to put my twins into their cribs without shooting pains in my shoulder. I just want to be whole again.

I know that my situation isn't different from many other people in the US who are continually denied coverage by their insurance companies. It just makes absolutely no sense to me why this needs to happen, why doctors aren't able to get requested services for their patients. Insurance companies need to rely on the expertise of the doctors, not on their bottom line. We pay for this insurance every month out of our paycheck and we deserve the coverage we're entitled to. Get it together insurance companies (that means YOU Anthem) and get people the care they need. I just want the MRI dammit!

Update: Not long after I hit "publish" my doctor himself called me to say that I got the approval from Anthem. He said that they told him that of course they couldn't deny the request (so WTF why did they?) and then proceeded to give him the runaround about giving him the authorization number. The MRI got scheduled for tomorrow night. The MRI place called me to ask a zillion questions and confirm my insurance, whereupon we determined that my doctor somehow got the approval from Harvard Pilgrim, not Anthem. I called the doctor's office back to say um, WTF I don't have Harvard Pilgrim anymore, that was the whole problem last week, how is it possible that they would approve a cervical spine MRI if I don't have COVERAGE with them anymore? So here is what it boils down to: Harvard Pilgrim DENIED me coverage last week because my insurance was going to expire with them, then APPROVED me coverage after I was with another company. My head is spinning, and not from the drugs. Holy crap what a country.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lions, and Tigers and Pain Pills, Oh My!

My poor blog has been neglected for the last week or so. I've been meaning to write a post or twelve, but that hasn't been in the cards. I've spent the better part of the last week at my doctor's office trying to figure out what the hell I did to my neck and how to make it better.

I woke up about 10 days ago with a stiff neck, which isn't unusual for me. I carried on with my daily routines but after several days I was in more pain and having some horrible pains in my shoulder and all the way down my left arm. The pain was enough to send me to my doctor last Monday for what I thought would be an easy snap-crackle-pop and I would be feeling better. Alas, no snap, no crackle, no pop; my poor doctor couldn't get anything to happen with my neck or back. He prescribed some pain pills and a muscle relaxant and scheduled me to go back at the end of the week. Those meds did NOTHING at all to help, so I called him back on Tuesday and he schedule me to come in late Wednesday for a cortisone type shot. After no sleep on Tuesday night (and none Sunday or Monday either) I was back in Wednesday morning for the pain shot. It helped for about an hour, which was not what we were hoping for. My doctor's concern was that I had a herniated disc in my neck and that was the reason for all the throbbing nerve pain in my arm. He ordered a MRI and switched me to Percocet for the pain.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you know I haven't had the MRI yet. Wanna know why? My insurance company denied it. Wanna know the reason why? Because Doug's company changed insurance companies and my coverage with them expired at midnight on Friday night. So, they jerked us around sufficiently to avoid having to cover the MRI and now my doctor has to negotiate with my new insurance company. Love it.

So here I sit on Monday morning, thankful that today the Percocet is working a bit (it didn't even touch the pain yesterday), wondering if I'm going to get better anytime soon. I can tolerate some pain; after all I birthed 3 of the 4 kids without any drugs. But I cannot tolerate constant, throbbing pain that impairs my ability to care for my family. I have to call my doctor again today and maybe he'll get that MRI scheduled so I know what I'm up against.