Friday, November 16, 2018

My Experience with Costochondritis

It all started with an ever-so-slight pain in my chest.
I had just laid down to sleep in my parents basement after traveling over 20 hours,
through three different countries.
Naturally, I thought my body just needed some good rest.
The pain stayed the same for a month;
just the tiniest little discomfort in my chest.
It wasn’t until I was back in St Vincent, in September of last year,
that the pain worsened,
and worsened fast.
I had constant pain in my chest.
I couldn't take a deep breathe.

I saw a doctor at the clinic on Michael’s campus.
As I sat up, he held my back and pushed on my chest.
It felt as though my chest was simultaneously shattering and burning.
He diagnosed me with costochondritis, but ordered an x-ray and a EKG just to be sure.
Both of those came back clean.
He said that costochondritis is inflammation typically caused by injury, or overexertion.
He said a lot of new mothers get it temporarily from holding and lifting their babies so much.
He suggested I take ibuprofen and rest for a few weeks.
So I did.
And my pain only got worse.
It spread all throughout my chest, and back to my right shoulder blade.
It was constantly achy and felt like burning.
I went back to the clinic and the doctor thought it was strange that I wasn’t getting better.
He said most cases of costochondritis clear up within a few weeks, if not a few days.
At the time, Michael and I were moving back to the United States in just over a month.
So we made an appointment with our doctor in Utah for a couple days after we arrived.
So we went to the appointment.
I had hope that he would have answers.
The pain was now throughout my entire rib cage, and the right side of my upper back.
I was in
Sitting hurt.
Laying hurt.
Standing hurt.
Laughing hurt.
Coughing hurt.
And I don’t even want to think about how sneezing felt… it was awful.
Some nights I would cry because I was in too much pain to even fall asleep…
Any wrinkle in the sheets would cause me more discomfort.
I had to give up my workouts, which was a tough pill to swallow.
I had worked so hard in St Vincent and gained a lot of muscle mass,
and had to slowly watch it leave my body.
I went from being able to lift so much, to not being able to lift a gallon of milk.
I couldn’t play with my nephews how I wanted.
Even holding them on my lap as I read to them was painful.
I was cautious hugging people, feeling the need to constantly guard my ribs.
Even with Michael, because the softest touch could make me jerk away in pain,
which ended up hurting more than the initial pain…
My patience was thin.
I was easily irritated, and
became irritating…
I didn’t see how I could keep living with costochondritis.
It hurt to do everything.
And it hurt to do nothing.

There were no remedies that helped.
Rest didn’t help, although it was better than being active.
Medicine was useless.
Heat made no difference.
Cold packs did nothing.
And creams weren't much use.

After living in constant pain for months, I was beyond ready for a solution.
And then a sad thing happened.
When I met with my doctor, he said costochondritis can last between six and nine months.
So I cried.
I couldn’t do it for six more months.
My life was being dictated by my aching rib cage.
Picturing six more months of it was frustrating and disappointing.

By that point, Michael and I had researched so much online,
but hadn’t found much useful information.
Most websites said to wait it out.
After my doctor’s visit, we decided to try and find answers there again.
It was helpful, but also discouraging.
I read a lot of people’s experiences with costochondritis.
Some of them had had it for years. YEARS.
Several people had it for over twenty years, with no end in sight.
Some people had success with getting chiropractic work done.
So I decided to give that a go.
At my first appointment, my chiropractor said he had treated costo before,
but usually it was caused by an injury, so he knew how to best fix it.
I however, didn’t know what the cause was.
He told me he’d try his best, but couldn’t promise anything.
So I cried on the drive home.
Michael kept reassuring me we’d figure it out.
But there were times I had no hope.

After a couple months of weekly chiropractor visits,
my pain was lessening- and my spirits were lifting.
At the chiropractor’s office, I was known as ‘the rib girl’.
I’d get adjusted once a week, and recover from the pain of the adjustment
just in time to go back.
I didn’t even care.
It was kind of a relief to feel a different kind of pain.

During that time, Michael had continued to do online research.
He found a device called ‘the back pod’, and thought that would help me.
So he got it for me.
I tried it, but mostly half-heartedly.
I was having success with the chiropractor and for the time being that was enough.
I had also got a massage (shout out to my sister for hooking me up with a deal!)
and that also brought some relief.

After four months of seeing the chiropractor,
I was feeling 80% better, which was night and day!
I still couldn’t bowl or carry much,
but I could fall asleep at night, and sit for over an hour!
I was feeling good and so grateful.
By that time, my chiropractor said there wasn’t much else he could really do,
but I could keep coming in if I felt I needed it.
That timing worked out because it was right when Michael and I
were getting ready to move out East.

In June we made it to Maryland.
My pain was low for about a month…
And then it slowly started coming back.
At that time I had had costochondritis for ten months.
The chiropractor helped, which I was so grateful for,
but it didn’t cure it.
And I didn’t know how I could really live my life fully until it was cured.
I couldn’t even carry groceries in from the car,
how on earth was I going to carry a baby inside me for nine months,
or for years after it was born?
I couldn’t.

So I prayed.
And I asked God to help me.
I had researched all that I could.
I had seen multiple doctors and health professionals.
I had tried multiple drugs, stretches, and health remedies.
I had searched the internet.
There wasn’t much more I could do.
I prayed to help lead me to something I had perhaps overlooked…
And then it hit me.
My sweet sweet Michael had bought me The Back Pod,
and I basically brushed him off.
He had been asking me to give it another try for months and I hadn’t bothered.
So I googled The Back Pod.
I found it’s inventor, Steve from New Zealand
(he's the coolest by the way-responds to all the comments
left on his videos. He really cares about people.
I watched his videos and read about what it was designed and used for.
And it made perfect sense.
I got it out of its box and tried it wholeheartedly.
And within a couple days, the irritating, fire in my chest was gone.
I could breathe again.
I could sleep again.
It was like when i got my braces off… when they took out the wire, and I instantly felt relief.
I had become so used to the pain, that I didn’t realize how uncomfortable I
I felt like a new person.
I opened a jar of olives and felt like I had won an Olympic gold medal.
I couldn’t stop talking to Michael about everything that I could do.
I also couldn’t stop apologizing to Michael for not trying The Back Pod seriously sooner.
And after four years of marriage, he is still a dream.
He was just glad I wasn’t in pain anymore.
He was happy to have his happy wife back.
He told me to stop apologizing, and said that people don’t think clearly when they’re in pain.
He was so glad that I wasn’t anymore.

Recovery has been a process.
It started with watching this video.
Steve is a physiotherapist from New Zealand.
He suffered with Costochondritis for SEVEN years…
until he invented the cure.
He figured out the root of the problem.
The pain starts in the chest, so naturally that’s where one would think the issue lies.
But it’s not the root of the problem at all.
What happens is in the back, the muscles
(and things that are too medically advanced for me to understand) get tight and ‘jammed’.
Because of that, the back ribs cannot move like they are supposed to.
The front chest ribs try to compensate for that,
and become overworked.
So that causes inflammation in the chest,
and if not taken care of, eventually spreads throughout the rib cage.
So the longer one goes with tight, ‘jammed’ muscles,
the more damage is caused,
and the longer the recovery process.
Because I had Costochondritis for almost a year,
I’ve had to do a lot to get things back to normal.

I started with using The Back Pod three times a day, between 20-30 minutes each time.
I was so inflexible I needed 3 pillows under my head to start.
(Healthy people don’t need any pillows)

The Back Pod:
Image result for back pod

Image result for back pod
Look how happy she is to be using The Back Pod...

Along with that I did stretches multiple times a day to try and get my mobility back.
It still wasn’t enough to get my normal range of motion back.
The muscles throughout my back, sides, chest, abdomen,
shoulders and neck were all very tight.
I needed 5 massages in order to loosen them up.
Have you ever had your rib cage stretched?
It was the weirdest thing, but it helped so much!
(People in the Baltimore area, if you need a massage therapist, go to Kneading Shannon!
She’s the best.)
My massage therapist did A LOT of work to get things back to normal.
I had a lot of issues on the right side of my back and side.
In addition to all that, I found this little tool on sale at Walmart for $6,
so I thought I’d give it a go!

I can pinpoint exactly where I’m tight and work out the muscles by myself.

It took a few months to get my body back to normal.
And even still, I have to use The Back Pod, stretch, and use my little tool every day,
or I have flare ups.
But the more time goes by, the fewer the flare ups.

I am so stinking grateful for technology and the internet.
Without it, I could have forever been in pain.
How cool is it that a man in New Zealand finds the cure to my issue,
and can post it for the world to see, so anyone struggling with it can find it?
It's just so cool.

This experience taught me a lot of lessons…
Patience, which I can never be taught enough about because it is a struggle of mine.
And empathy for those who live in chronic pain… it's so so awful.
It's hard not to give up hope.
It's hard to feel like change will happen when doctors aren't able to do much.
I learned to not give up hope, even when it seems impossible to find,
To always appreciate a patient, loving, forgiving husband,

and that God answers prayers.

If you know anyone struggling with Costochondritis, they need a Back Pod!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Homeward Bound!

We are officially moving back to our homeland next week! 
It's a very strange feeling. 
Sometimes it seems as though we've been in the 'bean for sooo long,
but when I look back I can’t believe it’s been two years…
But I tend to feel that way about life all the time- it goes by too fast.
Living here has been such a roller coaster.
We’ve had highs and we’ve had lows.
We’ve had so many experiences that have permanently changed our

The initial move here was very difficult…
We were so far from everything we knew,
and starting the huge task of medical school on top of that was quite the 
I quickly realized how little I would see Michael...
An hour or two a day, and on the one day a week he'd take off from studying,
which we deemed ‘Sunday Funday’.
It was difficult for me not to be bored, lonely, and honestly, straight up sad.
But as tough as things here were at times,
they taught me so much and I'm so grateful for the time we spent here.

I’ve learned to treasure the moments I have with Michael and my family.
Not seeing them as often as I want, makes each moment I have with them so important.
I've learned to be present; to not be distracted by a phone, social media, 
or excessive picture taking.
I used to make sure I took pictures of everything on every occasion, 
so I wouldn't forget anything.
It's nice to have a picture or two to remember a moment, but I've found moments mean more to me when I've been present and completely soaked them in.
I haven't had a cellphone out here and although it was inconvenient at times,
it has been really nice to not be distracted by one.
When I'm with people, I'm with them. 
I'm not thinking about checking something on my phone that doesn’t matter much.
Honestly, technology is amazing
and I wouldn’t have made it out here without it,
but I’ve found myself happier and more present when I’m not on it everyday.
Having so much time to myself has really made me value the 
time I have with my loved ones.
I want to be present,
and in the words of Jack Dawson,
“Make each day count.”

I’ve learned that when we do our part, God takes care of the rest.
It may not seem like we have a lot.
We’ve got loads of debt, and will have it for many, many years.
I was unable to get a job here, so money has been very tight.
But we’ve always had enough.
I was able to sell food to the students, and even nannied for a little bit,
bringing in money that way.
Even when we’ve been able to get a little ahead and have a bit of savings,
something unexpected would happen or pop up, 
and down the savings would go.
But we’ve always had enough.
God has put people in our path to help us through our time here;
real true friends.
There was a stretch of time when there weren't many
other spouses here.
We had been here for about 10 months and I had gone out of my comfort zone
and tried to be friends with all of the spouses that were here.
I got to know a lot of great people, and they all left the island around the same time.
It was probably the hardest few months for me.
People say humans can't live without oxygen, water, food, and shelter..
I think a friend should be on that list as well.
But when I needed a friend most,
God sent me one.
The past year would have been so tough without her.
I came to appreciate real friendship.
I can get along with almost anyone,
but having a real friend in someone, is something I really cherish.
Moriah, you da best & saved me out here.

Being from the USA, I always heard how it’s the greatest country in the world.
And I knew why people would say that- it's a free country.
I never fully understood what that meant, until I lived in a different country.
The US has its problems,
but even with the conflict and differing opinions,
it is an incredible place it live.
‘Free’ is a loaded word.
Not only are we free to choose what we want to do, and be,
but we are allowed opportunities to do just that.
We are also free from corrupt government.
The US was established with the goal to make it impossible for the government to be corrupted,
to have unnecessary control, and to allow the people to flourish.
The people control the government, not the other way around.
It was one thing, 2 years ago, to know that corruption happened throughout the world,
but to see it for myself, to get to know the people who are affected by it,
it’s changed my perspective forever.
I love the USA.
I’m so grateful I was born there.
I’ve found myself feeling guilty for it.
Why of the billions of people on the planet, have I been given so much opportunity…
It's overwhelming.
I may never know why, but i want to be sure I honor it
by building a life for myself that will allow me to reach out and help improve the lives of others.

I'm a stress mess.
It seems I'm always stressed, nervous or anxious about something.
Even when everything is going smoothly,
my brain likes to pre-stress about things years down the road…
It's been a struggle to train myself not to do that.
But I’ve been able to get a decent grip on it (for the most part) being here.
I remember in January when Michael started his next term in school,
I was worrying so much, wanting him to pass his classes.
I worried so much I was making myself sick.
Not healthy, I know.
And there was no real reason to worry so much,
he was doing fine in his classes.
I just worried about all the silly ‘what ifs’ my brain has a knack for finding.
I stressed until he got his grades back in April and guess what?
He passed everything.
When his term started in May,
I made it a goal to not stress about it,
because I was sure Michael passing the term before had very little to do with my stressing about it.
So every morning I’d wake up committing myself not to worry about it,
to put my trust in God that whatever needed to happen would,
and we would be okay.
That term was much easier on me.
I was more relaxed and positive,
more joyful and grateful.
When he got his grades back in August, guess what?
He passed.
Worrying and not worrying let to the same result,
as it had no effect on the outcome of his grades.
It was a great experience for me.
I was able to put faith before fear and see how important it is to do so.
When fear rules my life, it’s exhausting.
When I allow faith to flourish, everything is better.

One thing I’ve been so touched by the past two years is people’s generosity and kindness.
So many people have helped us through, it’s overwhelming.
Our parents, family members, and friends old and new.
I’ve learned how important it is to look outside ourselves.
So many people saw our situation and put so much thought into helping us.
Not only did their kindness and generosity help us financially and emotionally,
but it was inspiring and a good reminder to always look outside ourselves
for those we can help out.

So many Vincentians have been so good to us the past two years.
I can recall a couple times I’ve been out by myself, using public transportation.
The public transportation here is 16 passenger vans, that drive down the main highway.
It’s a bit tricky to figure out at first, because vans drive different routes.
The vans aren’t marked, so the only way to know where they’re headed is to ask,
but often they’re in such hurries, it’s hard to communicate.
It’s a bit stressful, being out by myself.
I stick out way more than a sore thumb with my white skin and blonde hair.
But for that reason, Vincentians take care of me when I’m out alone.
One time I was out visiting a friend from church on a holiday
(vans are harder to catch on holidays).
I was headed home and caught a van with ease
and was so relieved!
We drove for a few minutes and the driver saw a large group of people waiting for a van to take them the opposite way we were headed.
So he stopped and had us get out so he could make more money by picking up the group
and went back they way we had just came from.
He stopped right in front of a festival where so many people were gathered for the holiday.
It was loud and crowded, and not many vans were driving past.
It was going to be dark soon and I was getting a bit nervous.
A van finally pulled over, and it was extremely full. 
The conductor asked where I was going.
His route was on the way to my apartment, and continued about an hour past it.
He could have made more money by picking up someone headed farther than I was,
but he told me to get in, and basically pulled me into the van.
There really wasn’t a place to sit, but he somehow managed to squish me in,
and I have never been more squished and grateful in my life.
There have been multiple times while we’ve been out and Vincentians stopped
to ask if we needed help with directions,
and we absolutely did.
One time we were in town and coming back from a funeral.
It was dark as we walked to the main bus stop.
A young man asked us if we were catching a van and where we were headed.
We told him and he walked with us, and stayed with us 
and made sure we got on the right van home.
I am so thankful for those people who saw us and thought we could use some help,
and jumped right in. 
It’s taught be to be aware of those around me, 
and keep my eyes open to those who need help in whatever
circumstance it may be.

I've always known since the day I met him,
that Michael and I were meant to be together.
Living far away from what we know has only solidified it even more.
I remember when Michael and I were in the Salt Lake City airport, two years ago,
waiting for our flight to board to start this journey…
I had been crying on and off all day.
I cried as we packed, and as my parents drove us the 30 minutes to the airport.
I was attempting to pull myself together as we waited for our flight to board.
Michael went to the ''bathroom''
and came back with the most thoughtful gift;
 a Utah magnet, with beehives and snowflakes on it.
It was the sweetest thing of my life.
We collect magnets.
It's something my family always did with vacations and trips.
Whenever we'd visit a new place, we'd get a magnet.
It's something I have continued to do with Michael.
We had magnets from Zion, Arches, Bryce, and now Utah as a whole.
It was such a thoughtful gesture,
that even though we were leaving my favorite place,
we'd always keep it with us.
I'm so thankful for him, and how thoughtful he's been in taking care of me since we've met,
and especially the two years we've spent here.
He's a dream.

Ultimately, I’ve learned to be grateful;
to always be grateful.
No matter how hard things can get,
there is always something to be grateful for.
A warm shower, a true friend, a full stomach.
It's so easy to take things for granted, especially in the United States,
where we're used to having so much and don't know differently.
I'm grateful for the experience I’ve had here.
It has opened my eyes to so much.
I'm so grateful for all of you who have helped us through our time here.
We have such incredible family and friends
and are so fortunate to have the love and support of so many.
I am thrilled to be going back to my homeland, 
but I will always be thankful for what we got to experience here
and what we've learned.
We'll take it with us into the next chapter.