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I didn't start down this hippy path from birth. I have always been a hippy at heart, wanting to save the planet and the animals within it. I have always loved to hug trees and sit in a forest bathing in the energy that all the trees together, give off. I didn't, however, grow up with an understanding of health through what I ate, the pills I popped, or even the bath and beauty products that I slathered all over my body. I had no idea that I even needed to worry about these simple items that I bought from the grocery store. Like many people, I had assumed that these products had to be safe to be sold off the shelves. It wouldn't be until I was an adult and already dealing with constant illness, that I would learn just how closely related to one another health, diet, and living environment is.
It took having a baby and constant illness for me to start caring
Everyone that goes down the hippy path usually has a catalyst or reason for making the changes they decide to make in the direction towards health. For some, it can be a major illness or recovery, while for others it can take having a baby to really start asking “what is in this?” Once I started asking that one single question, I fell down the health nut “rabbit hole” and began to find that our health didn't come from plastic prescription bottles, it came from what we were putting in it and what we were putting on it. I wish that I had grown up learning these things. Wading through the health world, I may have had an easier time if I had known how to better take care of my body.
It all began with an ear infection
When I was 10 years old, while visiting the pediatrician's office for an ear infection, the attending nurse noticed how crooked my posture was. She told me to bend over and touch my toes while she performed the standard junior high locker room test for scoliosis. As she ran her fingers down my spine, her suspicions were confirmed. I was being diagnosed with a severe form of scoliosis. Normally, they don't look for scoliosis until around Jr. High age, because that is the normal age for puberty to start. Of course, I was different and puberty found me when I was 10 years old instead.
The back brace was not enough, surgery was needed
For most girls diagnosed with scoliosis, a back brace is prescribed (like the one worn by Michelle in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion), but it turned out that my scoliosis was too severe for the back brace. Instead, my Doctor's were suggesting that with the severity of my spine's curvature, a serious operation was needed. Not knowing what else to do, we chose to go ahead and have the operation.
During this surgery, they took a circular cut of bone out of my right hip bone, and mashed it up into a paste, using it to fuse several of my upper lumbar/lower thoracic vertebrae together. They then screwed a titanium bar on each side of my spine and sutured me back up. My spine, curved in the shape of the letter S, was so curved that I gained around 3 inches of height from this surgery. I was told that I would have a two-year recovery period, then I could return to all of my favorite outdoor adventuring activities (hiking, backpacking, wakeboarding, etc.). What this meant was 2 years of my poor parents having to wrangle a crazy, adrenaline junkie loving child. I can even remember a time when they told me I wasn't allowed to ride my bike at all, especially off of ramps, which I loved doing normally. When they got home from work, they found me riding the neighbor kid's bike off of a bike ramp that we had built. Like the smart child that I was, I innocently told my parents that they told me I couldn't ride MY bike. Like I said, my poor parents!
More surgeries on my horizon
Normally, they don't remove the metal bars from the patient's back. They usually expect to leave them in the patient for the rest of their life, but I, of course, became the exception. (This would be a reoccurring theme in my life. My body has always done the unexpected.) As I was starting to exercise again and play sports, the bars were a bit big and hitting the outside of my shoulder blades whenever I twisted my torso. At the age of 12, the summer before I entered 7th grade (Jr. High in Antelope, CA), they gave me the decision to remove the bars and recover quickly, or leave them in and not be able to do any kind of strenuous physical activity, ever again. I, being the tomboy that I am, chose to have them removed. I could not imagine a life where I was not allowed to play any kind of sports or do any of my favorite outdoor activities, ever again. This was to be the defining decision in my life. This surgery was the surgery that changed my life forever.
Nothing ever goes as planned with major surgeries
When I woke up from this second surgery, I could tell immediately that something was wrong. At first, I thought that I could not feel my legs, but it became quite clear that this was different than paralysis. As soon as the thin hospital bed sheet rubbed gently against one of my legs, I screamed out in pain, feeling as if someone had just poured kerosene on my legs and carelessly tossed a match onto them. I could not tell where I was being touched at all, but I sure as hell could tell that I was being touched. The Doctors weren't sure at first what really happened. This was a new kind of paralysis that they were seeing, and they didn't really know what to make of it. They began by giving me different types of anti-seizure meds, as these are the most commonly used meds in the business for nerve pains.The burning pain began to subside quite a bit once they found the combination of meds to put me on, but the nerve pains running from my knees to my toes would never again leave my body.
A 10-year-old made of steel
While it can be hard for a 10-year-old to go through such life changing surgeries, I always had a smile on my face, trying with all my might to be the strong one. My nurses and doctors loved being around me, and I found great joy interacting with and getting to know many of them. I believe I was more able to handle these trials and tribulations at such a young age because I had the mentality that was needed to get through all of these difficult times. Things would not get easier for me from here, but I wouldn't let anything get in the way of being myself and doing the things that make me happy.