Happy Mother’s Day

I’m so blessed to have the mother God gave me.

I certainly have been thankful for her for a long time, but going through this ordeal has reminded me what a remarkable and loving woman she is. There’s nothing like knowing your mom will support you before, during and after a tough decision.

Thank you for the big things… and the little things, mom.

Will and I love you very much!

Giving thanks for her today, as well as my grandmothers – who helped shape both of my parents into the people they are.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 This is my mother’s mother Grandma Vivi. (I’m not sure what we’re doing here, but it seems pretty silly!) She died of breast cancer when I was in 2nd grade. She was a wonderful grandmother and a great mom to my mom! I remember her today.

Below is my dad’s mother Grandma Arlene. This picture was taken when she and my Papa were visiting my family in Toledo, Ohio, where we lived at the time. She had a stroke in the car on the trip home. I don’t think I was quite two yet when she died. I don’t remember her and that saddens me. She’s the only grandparent I can’t remember, but I know she and my dad were close. He’s the best and has told me stories about her. I’m thankful she was a good mother to my dad and I’m thinking of her today.

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A Quick Update

Just a quick update since we went to Baltimore for a checkup with the surgeon on Monday.

The good news is Dr. H is happy with the flexibility of my knee. It can still bend more than 90 and sometimes 100 degrees. I’m also able to make it go completely straight. As I’ve said before, those are two really important things so that is great. Monday we also hit 3 centimeters of length. That’s about 1.1 inches. (It’s fun to measure using the metric system and the English system, because you can count more milestones!)

(Most recent x-ray taken Monday.)

The bad news is my bone still isn’t regenerating fast enough in the gap. So Dr. H told us to slow lengthening again. Two weeks ago, he slowed us from lengthening 1 mm a day to alternating .5 and .75 mm every other day. Now we’re down to .5 mm everyday which is half as fast as we were going several weeks ago. Five centimeters is 2 inches and that’s what I need total (if not a little more). So at this pace that would be 40 more days of lengthening. What can you do?

The news I should be more excited about is that Dr. H basically wants me to eat everything in sight. Medicine takes a toll on me. I tried to get off of oxycodone once before, but had to start taking it again. Although it helped with the pain, it made me horribly nauseous quite frequently and lowered my appetite to almost nothing. I lost some weight. But the Doc says (which I didn’t realize until Monday) that your body needs calories to heal. Healing is an activity and to regenerate bone it takes calories. Also, if I don’t eat enough then my body will start to eat my muscles (I think that’s how he explained it), and I need my muscles to be strong and stretch along with me. So I got off the oxy on Sunday and have been very successful on Tylenol and while my appetite is not up to snuff quite yet, I haven’t been nauseous so I figure we’re on the right track!

(After physical therapy today I ordered this from the pizza place next door. Huge Italian hoagie and bacon cheese fries. Granted – I only ate about five bites of each, but it’s a start!)

Also to help my bone regenerate, I have to use this ultrasound machine. I put it over where the gap is in my leg for an hour in the morning and an hour at night time.

(This is the ultrasound machine. If you’re wondering, the X on my leg marks where we have to set the magnet for lengthening. I have to keep redrawing it. It’s been there for five weeks now. My mom said, “Why don’t you get a tattoo of that so you can remember the experience?” I said, “Then I’d have two stupid tattoos.”)

I just received it on Saturday, so we’ll see if it does any good when I go back to the doctors in another two weeks.

This whole thing is not easy, but I’m hanging in there the best that I can. Now I just gotta try to stuff my face with food. Not the worst order you could get from your doctor!

(While my dad and I were driving to and from Baltimore in one day, my sweet mom went to the store and bought four pairs of tennis shoes for me to pick from, since she knew I needed them. These are the ones I chose to keep!)

Oh yeah, we are past the point where a 1 inch lift still works on my shoes. All of the shoes I own have a 1 inch lift and that’s now definitely too much. SO I HAVE TO BUY ALL NEW SHOES! I was pretty sure we’d make it to this point, but now it has really come! I already bought about four pairs of shoes… but of course I need more. Soooo many more! If you see a crazy lady in a wheelchair at Macy’s who’s foaming at the mouth in a shoe-induced Carrie Bradshaw-like stiletto coma… that’s just me.

Also, if you know a woman who wears a size 6 1/2 and happens to have a short right leg – I can hook her up! If she’s out there, she’s got about 30 pairs of shoes coming her way (gently used)!

You Gotta Have Friends

I sat on the stool – heart pounding, palms sweating – waiting for a break in conversation. What would she say when I told her? I took another huge gulp of ice water and shoveled some scrambled eggs into my mouth. We talked about silly memories from college, my job and her upcoming wedding. The wedding I felt I was about to complicate.

“So… I have to tell you something,” I finally got out.

“Okay?” Kacey said.

Fighting back tears, then eventually just letting them pour out, I told my best friend I was contemplating another leg lengthening surgery. This was the beginning of December on one of my trips home to Pittsburgh. She and I were eating at a popular breakfast joint – sitting at the bar. I had recently scheduled a consultation with the surgeon for that upcoming February. I had only discussed my thoughts with my mom, dad and boss. I was so emotional about possibly taking on this endeavor and it became more real as I discussed it with more people.

My nervousness about this particular conversation was rooted in becoming a burden during a time that is so special – a wedding. Kacey’s would be held in September with me as a bridesmaid. Of course the planning, showers and the bachelorette party would happen during the months beforehand. But my leg lengthening was a now or never situation in the timing of my life. I felt horrible that my possible upcoming surgery would cripple me – likely through many rights of passage for my friend. I thought Kacey might be disappointed or angry with me for putting all of this on her during a time when she should be the focus.

“I just feel so bad that this could possibly interfere with stuff leading up to the wedding,” I pushed out through a terrible ugly cry. “I want to help and be able to do everything, but I’m not even sure when I’ll be able to walk. I don’t want you to think I don’t care about you, but if I’m going to do this I have to do it now.”

“SHUT-UP!” she said. “Don’t even talk like that. Out of anyone I know you would do anything to be there on my wedding day, even if you had to wheel down the aisle!”

We talked more and cried more, looking pretty silly in this casual diner! During that brunch, Kacey never once hinted that I had complicated things for her or expressed any disappointment in my timing. All she did was give me love and support – that day and ever since. She listened to me and knew what was in my heart. She understood that I had to have the surgery, but would move mountains to make sure I was involved in all I could be for one of the most important days in her life. That’s one of the perks of having a best friend – you get each other.

(Kacey and Nate came to visit me in Chattanooga back in April of 2011.)

After that consultation with the surgeon, I of course decided to have the surgery. Now I know that all of my anxiety about Kacey’s wedding went to waste, because I’ve been able to help plan her bridal shower and bachelorette party and I will get to attend both. It seems by September, I will be able to walk and maybe even dance at her wedding!

(Here we are at a recent shopping trip to Target!)

Through this experience Kacey has done more kind and caring things for me than I could list, but the most impactful to me – was listening and giving me her support at the moment I needed it most. I hope to return the favor anytime she or another friend needs it.

****To my other amazing friends who’ve made me feel so loved through this whole thing… I love you and appreciate you, too! I plan to write about all of you at some point!****

Halfway There… Livin’ on a Prayer

Today my right leg is one inch longer, which means we’re halfway through with the lengthening phase! At this point I can feel and see the length I’ve gained over the past 27 days – and that is pretty cool!

There are three main things I battle day to day: pain, being uncomfortable and feeling nauseous. Although I do experience some level of each of those every day, they seem to be diminishing slowly. As time goes by, it’s also been easier for me to keep a positive attitude. I don’t think I’ve moped around at all in the past week or so!

(This is a 1 inch celebration cupcake!)

Now to the second part of the title of this entry! (I hope you get the Bon Jovi reference.) I know there are possibly thousands of people out there praying for me. Between family and friends and their churches and prayer groups, to FOX61 viewers and their churches and prayer groups – I believe I’m literally Livin’ on a Prayer! I hadn’t mentioned it until now, but the week before my surgery, (after I had announced my plans to everyone through social media) a real calming feeling came over me. For weeks and months I was having some real anxiety about the operation. I cried a lot, sometimes on the phone to family, other times in person to a friend and many times alone in my apartment. I was scared and nervous. I imagined I’d be a wreck my last week at work, but somehow I had the strength to get through. I could talk with co-workers about the procedure without crying, I planned and packed my bags with ease, I even felt good enough to talk about it on LIVE TV!

Check it out:

http://www.myfoxchattanooga.com/story/17241620/carly-flynn-morgan-on-leave-from-fox61-first-at-ten

I really feel in my heart that once I made the announcement about my plans, people started praying for me and their prayers were answered! I felt at peace in my mind and in my soul about my decision and that made the final days leading up to surgery much more pleasant. Of course, I know the prayers continue to this day and I can still feel them coming in! I could never begin to express how much that means to me, especially all of the sweet notes of support I’ve received from viewers who’ve never even met me in person.

While I am 50 percent through with the stretching part, I’m not quite halfway yet to healing and walking normally. (I anticipate walking without support to begin in August.) With that being said, I can already tell you that this procedure was absolutely worth it. In my very first blog entry, I wrote that I thought my 43-year-old self would be happy to my 27-year-old self for sacrificing and having this surgery now. I can already see the results and the bright future ahead. I don’t need 16 more years to be thankful. I can already tell the pain is worth the gain!

BONUS ENTRY:

Part of what keeps my spirits up is getting out of the house for a little. Of course, I need to be careful, but I’m capable of going out to eat or to a friend’s house on crutches. I can take a shopping trip in my wheelchair. On Sunday, I went to a very special dinner. My mother’s work, North Hills Community Outreach, was celebrating its 25th anniversary. My mom has been the Executive Director at the non-profit for 19 years. More than 300 people gathered at one of the nicest restaurants in Pittsburgh, The LeMont, to raise money and celebrate NHCO’s success.

(This is the view from the LeMont. I took this picture myself – from the dining room window.)

The organization has grown year after year to become one of the most successful non-profits in the city. It helps thousands of people in need in the North Hills of Pittsburgh, every year. So many people had such wonderful things to say about my mother and her leadership. It was special to be there and see how respected she is in our community and how much good she does for others.

(This is us at the end of the event. I like how the reflection of the chandeliers looks like fireworks.)

Surgeon Knows Best

My last post was kind of a downer. I certainly don’t want to put negative energy out there, but this whole thing has been a rollercoaster and it helps me to write about the ups and downs. Although my first week at home was somewhat of a struggle, I’m happy to tell you my second week was much better. I think possibly five days passed where I didn’t cry! (This is a huge victory.) When I first got home, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself all day. Both of my parents work and I wasn’t even really “allowed” to go up or down stairs while home alone. This made for a very lonely and boring week. But after the first several days, I began making lists. I’m a pretty organized person and two of my favorite things are A.) making lists and B.) crossing things off of lists. I found ways to fill my day. I’ve been keeping up with my bills from Chattanooga, making sure my rent, cable, electric and car bills are all in order. (Remember how I said I’m organized? I wasn’t kidding. Paying bills is somewhat fun for me. Lame-o.) I’ve tried to keep up with e-mails from friends, family and viewers. I finally did pick up a book and am three quarters through with it. I am watching some TV. I’m on season four of 30 Rock which has kept me laughing. I’m whitening my teeth a lot. They should be blinding by the time I’m back on TV! One night, my mom and I did our nails while watching The Biggest Loser. I got a do-over with my friend who invited me over last weekend – when I was too depressed to go. She and I, her fiancee and another friend made dinner, caught up and watched Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It felt like a really normal, fun night and made me very happy. I have also learned how to go up and down stairs by myself, which means I can raid the fridge whenever I want!

Monday through Friday I go to physical therapy for a little over an hour. My therapist stretches my leg every which way and I do exercises to keep it strong and flexible. I don’t dread it. Everyone there is nice and it gets me out of the house. A woman from our old church has organized volunteers to pick me up and take me to and from PT. It’s such a gift and I am grateful for the sweet people who are willing to help our family in that way.

I am still lengthening my leg several times a day with the magnet, as well.

As I am feeling better and getting used to all this, the near future still looms over me. If you haven’t already realized, this leg lengthening process is different than other types of surgery. With many surgeries, you have the procedure and then heal for six to eight weeks. I did have surgery to implant the lengthening equipment into my leg, and that’s definitely the hardest part. But as I’m healing from that initial surgery, I’m pretty much still having a little bit of surgery every day as we lengthen little by little. Your body has some give and you can go about a half inch or an inch without straining your nerves, muscles and skin too badly. (I have just under an inch right now.) But there comes a time down the road, where things actually get harder, because your muscles and nerves don’t want to be stretched two inches or more. This more painful part could come at any time now.

Every two weeks, I have to go back to Baltimore for a checkup with my surgeon. He looks at x-rays, plays around with my leg and tells me how it’s going. Yesterday was our first meeting since I’ve been at home. I was pretty much ready for Dr. H to tell me how awesome I’m doing. I’ve been working very hard at keeping my leg flexible. I can bend my knee to 100 degrees (this is more than is expected) and my leg can still go completely straight. Those are two big things they look at. My pain has been moderate, but manageable.

  The picture on the right is from two weeks ago and the x-ray on the left was taken Monday. Can you see the difference?! The size of the gap is how much my leg has grown.

To my surprise, after looking at my x-rays, Dr. H said, “I think we should slow down your lengthening. Your bone isn’t filling in quite as fast as I’d like.”

“But I thought I was doing so good?” I whimpered.

“You are, but I would like to see some more bone growth in your gap and it’s just not there,” said the doctor. (Your bone is supposed to start regenerating a little bit in the gap. It will look gray or hazy if that’s happening. Mine has a little bit of that, but apparently not enough.)

My heart sunk. I’ve been eating Tums like candy to get my calcium. I add vitamin D to everything I drink. I’m working really hard at PT. This is MY life and I need to get back to normal as soon as possible which means going full speed ahead! I wanted to bargain with him, or beg him, or bat my eyelashes. “Please can’t I just keep going at the same rate, Doctor? (wink wink)” But I didn’t do any of that. Turns out, discussing the progress of a major life-changing operation with your surgeon… is not like asking your dad for $20. It’s actually pretty serious stuff.

So now I am lengthening on a slower scale. Instead of getting 1 millimeter a day, I will alternate growing .75 mm one day and .50 mm the next. This is just for two weeks, until I go back for another checkup. Then Dr. H will look at my x-rays again and determine the best rate for the following weeks. As many things are, going slower could really be a blessing in disguise, because that means my bone may start to heal as we go… and that means faster healing once we’re done lengthening. So it may not set back the process as a whole.

I guess I just need to realize I’m not in control. Besides doing my part at PT and getting all my vitamins, it’s out of my hands.

  (This is not a subliminal message for you to shop at Best Buy… just the only ruler I could find.)

With this new lengthening schedule, I will hit 1 inch of growth on April 30th. I think I will feel pretty accomplished on that day. Yet, if I look at an inch on a ruler – it seems so silly. I’m disrupting my life for that?! All of this discomfort, pain and strain on my family for a small fraction of my index finger?! (And I have tiny fingers!) But 1 inch is halfway to my goal – and my goal is not silly. My life will be better for decades if I can just get through this. And with nearly one inch and one month down… I’m pretty sure I can make it through to the other side.

Psalm 46 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

 

PS, I am getting around on crutches just fine, but it’s too tiring during long distances. Here is a pic from my first motorized cart experience at Trader Joe’s. Not gonna lie – it was pretty fun! I didn’t hit anyone or knock over anything. SUCCESS!

GUEST BLOGGER: Mom

Aren’t moms great? Mine sure is. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve already realized how much she is by my side – many times literally – through this ordeal. She’s also taught me many life lessons along the way, including: people are more important than things, the only person you can control is yourself, things almost always look brighter in the morning, and well, how to share.

Sharing is what I’ll do now. She has asked to grab a little piece of my blogosphere and that’s just fine with me. Here is what she wanted to share with you:

Hi Everyone, this is guest blogger Mom! Thanks to all of you for your prayers and good thoughts for a very wonderful daughter and your well wishes for me too.

 The day Carly was born.

Taking care of Carly after surgery is a 24/7 responsibility, but I’m happy to do it. It’s the price you pay for the wonderful privilege of being a parent. I remember when she was a newborn with colic; I made up this song to the tune of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain” as I carried her around and around the dining room table for hours to comfort her:

There’s seven days in a week,

There’s seven days in a week,

There’s seven days in a week,

To love Baby Flynn.

Verse Two!  There’s 24 hours in a day…

Verse Three! There’s 12 months in a year…

Repeat!

 This is Carly at the age when she had colic.

Eventually she outgrew her colic, although it took several months, and this current challenge will resolve itself too. Until it does I’m so glad that I can be here to help. Conception takes a moment, gestation nine months, but parenting lasts a lifetime.

As I am fond of telling her, there has never been one day that I haven’t been proud to be Carly’s mother. I’m glad you think she’s special too!

Let’s Party!!!

Don’t get too excited. It wasn’t THAT kind of party. It was a pity party and I held one for myself all day this past Saturday. I woke up in a funk and just couldn’t or wouldn’t kick it. Part of the reason I’m sure is that I began trying to wean myself off of oxycodone. The combination of oxy, valium, vitamins and calcium I’m supposed to take really messes with me. After I got off of my IV in the hospital, I was taking up to two oxycodone every three hours – which is crazy to me now. I only weigh 100 pounds. Those kinds of drugs make me text things like this:

… and also make me super nauseous. I have felt vomitous everyday since I had my surgery. Hard drugs also make me very emotional and more likely to cry. So now that the pain’s getting more manageable, I’m trying to reduce my meds. Saturday, instead of waking up and downing my usual oxy, I slurped two good ol’ Tylenol with my Cheerios.

It pretty much was all downhill from there. Before I even got out of bed I had this overwhelming feeling of sorryness. (I realize vomitous and sorryness aren’t actual words, but I like them and I’m going to use them in my blog.) Tears welled up in my eyes before 9 a.m. Poor Carly Flynn. What do I have to look forward to today? Nothing. Maybe I could go downstairs and sit on the couch. Wow! That would certainly be a change of scenery. Or if I’m feeling really crazy, I could like start to read one of those books I bought preparing for this surgery. No, that’s all too hard. I think I’ll sit here and cry. And cry I did for a few hours. I eventually did put in a movie. A horrible movie. Cube Zero. And by horrible I mean horribly awesome. (Although still not enough to cheer me up.)

I watched some of Cube Zero in my bed and then fell asleep – for three or four hours. When I woke up in the late afternoon… still sad. My dad helped me downstairs to eat something and lengthen my leg. Once again, I had to hold back the tears. What a worthless day, what a worthless life. My old world and future world full of walks, dates, dinners, ease, shopping and trips just seemed too far away. Today my biggest accomplishment might be putting on my own socks… oh, and bonus points for getting my underwear up with no help. More tears.

I had moped so much of the day away that it became too late to do something I was looking forward to. One of my best friends had recently bought a house and a few people were going over to see it and have dinner. These were people who cared about me and invited me out of my everyday routine to do something different and get my mind off of things. I just couldn’t perk up in time, not to mention the fact that I had slept away my opportunity to shower and get ready. Back to bed, back to short leg land where everything’s a struggle and everyday’s the same.

By the time nearly 12 hours of the day had passed, I felt a twinge of change inside. What the heck is the matter with you? We prepared for this. We promised ourself we wouldn’t get like this. Tomorrow can not be like this.

I got up the strength to ask my mother to help me shower.  I figured if tomorrow was to be better, I would need to start fresh and clean. I took a bath and went to bed and prayed for the strength to have a better day.

Sunday came. I woke up and got ready for church. I curled my hair and put on some makeup. I looked nice. We went to church and I interacted with people and I felt better. I wanted to go out to lunch afterward, but getting ready for church really took a lot out of me. Everything takes at least twice as long when you have a bum leg. So instead we ate lunch at home and I took a nap. But it was a restoring nap. I then did some leg exercises and after dinner my mom took me over to my friend Kacey’s to tour her new house. It looked great and I was happy to see her and to get up and around.

This weekend reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from the Narnia books:

“Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.”
― C.S. Lewis

Maybe it was me coming off high doses of serious drugs, maybe it was my first full weekend at home after surgery, maybe it was just a bad day. I’m going through some stuff and I suppose it’s okay to have a long cry. But is that really how I want to spend my hours? The answer is no. Sometimes you just have to cry, but I really don’t want to waste whole days of my life – not even in this state. I’m going to try to do better and hopefully all my parties from here on out will have no pity, but hopefully friends, cake and maybe some ice cream!

RANDOM NOTES:

Today is a milestone, because I believe we’ve reached a half inch of length today! That’s 12.5 millimeters and means we are almost 1/4 of the way there since I need a little more than 2 inches.

I feel like I’ve talked a lot about my mom in this blog, so I just wanted to make sure my dad gets his fair share of love, too. This is us in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor just a few days before we came back to Pittsburgh. He has been just wonderful. Before he leaves for work everyday, he brings me cereal and coffee in bed. He puts my dog out every morning and cleans up her messes when she goes in the house. Both my parents have been such a blessing and this life change would not be possible without them!