Another year has come to a close and I’ve finally taken a moment to sit down and think about all the things that John and myself experienced the prior year. In my mind, 2019 was a great year, just like every year, but in reality there were definitely some huge speed bumps that, retrospectively, I think John and I handled together with a lot of grace. I can easily lump 2019 into 3 very different segments, so I think that’s how I’ll tell this story. Today is January 20th as I’m writing this, which means it’s exactly a year from the biggest medical issue I’ve ever had, which commenced “Phase 1” of 2019.
I had been experiencing pretty intense pain in my arm since mid-October 2018, to the point where some days I couldn’t shampoo my hair, turn my steering wheel with my right arm, or reach a high cabinet for spices. I just figured eventually the pain would pass and whatever was wrong would heal. I placed the pain in my shoulder and actually thought that maybe I had somehow tore my rotator cuff. Well, by the end of January I wasn’t any better and John convinced me to go see a doctor. They had me go get an Xray and a Cat scan, and I was supposed to go back for results four days after the Cat scan. John and I started to feel concerned when the office called us after receiving the cat scan results, and asked if we could come in the next morning. Obviously, we went. The doctor came into the room, showed us a photo of my arm, announced that I had a large tumor in my right humerus bone, and then left.
The next 5 days were obviously not great, we were terrified. Telling my family, especially my Mother and Sister, about the tumor was awful. I had a surgery scheduled to see if the tumor was benign or malignant, and then another surgery was scheduled to remove the tumor. Both of these happened in February, about 2 weeks apart. The tumor had started in the middle of my bone, where my bone marrow is, and it had grown larger and larger and eventually ate a dime-sized hole through part of my bone, which is why I was experiencing so much pain. The results of the first surgery (surgical biopsy) came back as benign. The relief that we felt from hearing that was really extreme. It still looked a little abnormal from whatever my specialist was expecting to see, so they sent it off for additional testing and to be an example for medical students. For the main surgery they had to cut into my humerus bone, remove/scrape out the tumor, and replace some of my bone with a mixture of bone cement and human cadaver, so now we call it my zombie arm (haha). The hospital that I went to was amazing, my specialist was incredible, I’m so grateful to him for so many reasons, and the surgeries were not traumatic for me at all. The additional testing came back as normal, so as far as we are aware, this was a one-and-done deal.
Recovery felt long and obviously painful, but I was so grateful that the situation wasn’t what everyone originally though, that it really just kept life in perspective and I wasn’t about to complain. I had to wear a plastic brace and a sling from January 20th to April 18’th, and that was the worst part for me, worse than the pain after the second surgery even. I wasn’t able to sleep well at all unless I was on medicine, which I didn’t need to deal with the pain for very long. Side note – the amount of medicine that all of the doctors prescribed me from my very first visit is genuinely insane. There’s no way that one person would need that many opioids for one arm, and they were happy to offer me refills at every appointment. They refilled me once, heavily, without even asking in the beginning of February, which really alarmed John and myself about the severity of the situation. So long story short I spent February through April nursing my arm, working from home a lot, and being forced to learn patience, which is a virtue that I’ve never had. John has always been amazing to me, but I really couldn’t do anything without him at this point. I’m severely right-handed and the pain was intense, so I relied on him heavily for a couple of months until the pain was less and I was able to adjust to being left-handed. He never complained about taking care of me, not once. He never got frustrated with me when I was crying about not being able to do normal things. He made me laugh every day and I felt so loved and well taken care of.
Before we found out about my arm, John and I had made plans to leave our jobs and move to Charlotte, NC. We also planned to travel to Amsterdam right before our move. My doctor had advised us to cancel or postpone those plans, but we were pretty defiant about the whole issue and I felt SUPER confident that I would be healed and ready to go within a few months, right on time. We switched our trip to Amsterdam for a more relaxing trip to Mexico, so that I could still go even if I was in a brace.
The month of April was really insane. John and I both gave our two-week notice early in the month. My job actually ended up asking me to work remotely until they could find a replacement, so that was a huge blessing for us. We were packing and preparing for a huge move with 3 good arms between the two of us. When we left for Mexico I was still wearing my arm brace, but I took it off the first day and I don’t think I put it on again many times after that. We got home on a Wednesday, went to a concert at Club XL in Harrisburg with all of our friends as a kind of goodbye event on Thursday, we packed up our stuff on Saturday and moved down to Charlotte on Sunday!
This begins what I call “Phase 2” of 2019. Whenever someone in real life asks me about my arm (Phase 1 of 2019), I tell them an even shorter version of what happened and say that I had a tumor but it wasn’t a big deal in the end. I actually wasn’t even going to include it in this story because I really don’t like to focus on negative things, but I think a decade from now I’ll be happy to remember, even generally, what happened. It was obviously a huge deal while it was happening, and gave all of us a refresher on the things that actually matter in life – your family, your health, and just choosing to be happy every day (even if life sucks at the moment), and laughing and enjoying the moments that we all get to experience with one another.
We drove down to Charlotte with my Inlaws about an hour behind us, pulling a trailer that my Father-in-Law had painstakingly packed our entire apartment into (it was an elite effort, I still don’t know how he did it, and he made it look easy). I remember getting off the exit for Charlotte and suddenly feeling nervous about the apartment complex that we were moving into. We were moving blind and hadn’t been able to visit any apartments in person, all we had were online reviews and a few phone calls with the office staff. We turned into the complex and we were OVERJOYED because it was beautiful. To this day I’m so grateful that we somehow chose this place that was in an amazing location, had amazing office and maintenance staff, great amenities and still allowed us to save money. I feel like that was just the universe giving us back some good energy for surviving Phase 1 of the year.
The next month I spent working from home while John went on a bunch of interviews. We mostly just hung out together, laid by the pool a lot, and explored our new city! It was great. John got a job right before I was informed that a replacement had been found for me, so after he started working, I started my job search. It was good timing because I was definitely getting cabin fever working from home. We also met a lot of amazing new friends during this time period, and everything really just fell into place so smoothly for us. Around the same time (within 3 months), my parents were able to relocate from PA and my sister and brother-in-law relocated from Florida to South Carolina, which is really close to Charlotte. Over the summer we hung out by the pool almost every day and just focused on adjusting to our new environment.
The rest of the year has been Phase 3, which consists mainly of John and I living in Charlotte, really enjoying our new jobs for the most part, and getting into a sort of normal routine. John finished his first full manuscript this year, and I wrote a small book over the summer and self-published it in September (83 Reasons I Don’t Want A Baby: Deal With It is available for purchase on Kindle or Amazon Prime). It has been far more successful than I ever envisioned, and I learned so much through self-publishing! I still blog about sustainable fashion, and have written a number of articles for the Childfree community since publishing my book. We only made it to one music festival this year – Breakaway in Charlotte, but we attended a lot of smaller concerts since there’s so many music venues really close to our apartment. I had to step down from my position as Chair for the United Way’s affinity group, LINC, when we left Harrisburg, but I plan on starting to volunteer my time somewhere locally as soon as life settles down a bit and I can explore some new things to get involved in.
In September we traveled to Ohio for my sister-in-laws wedding. I was a bridesmaid for the first time, and John did an amazing job as the officiant! That wedding was really special to us, since Johns sister was the officiant at our wedding. The whole weekend was a really fun and beautiful merge of two amazing families. It’s so rare to see, and it was very sweet and special. It’s been great living near my sister again and being able to spend time together like we always planned (although our husbands hang out more than we do – SO unfair! ) and watching my little nephew turn into a toddler and starting to navigate life is priceless. So many of our friends have already come down to visit us in our new City, it felt like almost back-to-back weekend visits over summer, and we loved every moment of that! I caught up with my girlfriends from high school before the Holidays during a girls trip to Savannah, Georgia. It’s SO good to have friends who are invested in staying in touch and making new memories, even when we all live in different states and it’s anything but convenient. That’s love!
John and I started looking for our first home in early December, and we’re now under contract to get the keys to our new place on February 14th of this year, which should be a whole new adventure for us to enjoy together! So much happened last year, but these are the things that stand out now that I’m a bit removed from everything. Again, we’re about to move into a new phase of life as homeowners. We plan to keep traveling as much as we can in the midst of new home expenses, and just try to stay grounded and focused on the things that matter, and keep making memories with the people that we love.
I feel like more than ever, these are the golden days that we’ll miss when we’re older, so I just want us to soak up every moment. Here’s to another year of love, health, success, adventures, lots of laughter, and new memories.