Sunday, July 24, 2022

The tragic tale of the Hollywood Ribs

 "They" say that when a man enters his 40's, he will develop a keen interest in one of three things: world history, younger women, or smoked meats. Luckily for me, Ev has gone with the latter. 

As creatures of routine, every weekend, Ev purchases a plethora of random meats, seasons and marinates them, we head to the beach, and Ev cooks all the food for the week on his little charcoal grill.  I one hundred percent support this hobby, and happily drink wine and encourage the meat grilling while enjoying an island sunset. We usually sample a bit of everything from our beach chair and then pack up the rest of the meat, which typically feeds us until Wednesday. It's our weekend tradition and makes us pretty happy...and it's not lost on me that this statement supports the fact that we are getting oooooold.

On our last weekend on island before our trip back, Ev returned from the grocery story excited about his latest find. "Look! the Hollywood ribs are back!" he cried. Ev loves Hollywood ribs and immediately got to work marinating them in garlic, lemon, seasonings, and parmesan cheese. The smell of the marinade made my mouth water. We packed up the meats, grill, beer, and wine, and headed to the beach.

Barbequing on a charcoal grill is not for the faint of heart. A few years ago, when Ev began his charcoal adventures, he quickly learned that charcoal grilling is not as simple as just starting it up and throwing the meat on the grill. This thing takes time! After years of patience and practice, and evenings where we hungrily starved until 10pm, Ev has finally perfected the charcoal experience. 

Ev begins by surveying his space. He checks the wind direction and ensures that the grill won't be blowing smoke directly at us or at sunbathers in our vicinity. He throws his special hickory-scented charcoal on the grill, uses his fancy fire starter blocks, and adds bourbon-soaked wood chips for extra flavor. And...get this...he sets up 3 solar powered fans around the grill to ensure the most consistent burning of the coals. This is serious business, people. It's a process. It's a JOB. Ev receives a great amount of pleasure from  creating the perfect charcoal grill and frankly if I must choose between world history, younger women, and smoked meats, I will happily support this hobby. 

This particular weekend was the same as any other. Ev set up his grill, the fans, and the chairs, and began the grilling process. He cooked his famous prosciutto cheesy bites (like a grilled cheese appie), a porterhouse steak, and the grand finale -  the Hollywood ribs. By the time the ribs were fully smoked, the sun had set, the mosquitos were buzzing, and we were pretty full from consuming our meat sampler. "We should have enough food to feed us all week," he stated proudly as we packed the meat up in a giant Tupperware container. We disposed of the hot coals, gathered all our items off the beach, and headed towards the Jeep. 

Given the fact that I'm pretty useless on my crutches, Ev has to do most of the packing on his own, and as quickly as possible in order to escape the blood thirsty mosquitos. I waited patiently in the vehicle, listening to Bob Marley (Monty's CD - the ONLY music allowed in the jeep!). Ev hopped in the jeep, slapping the mozzies away, and we were off, wind blowing in our hair (well, my hair, anyway ;)

Just as our vehicle turned onto the main road, we heard a terrible noise. 

"What was that?" I said, turning around quickly in my seat. 

My heart sank as my eyes surveyed the carnage.

There, lying on the road behind us, was the giant Tupperware full of meat. Ev had forgot it on the roof of the Jeep!

I watched Ev quickly pull the vehicle over and cycle through the 5 stages of grief in about 15 seconds flat. 

Denial "That can't be our meat! I can still save it!" (he actually opened the door with intent to save).

Anger: "I can't believe I left it on the roof!"

Bargaining: "This jeep needs a roof rack. I need to get one! This shouldn't have happened. Next time we need stronger Tupperware!"

Depression: "Not the Hollywood ribs. Anything but the Hollywood ribs."

Acceptance: "I hope the chickens and stray dogs enjoy it for dinner."

It was sad. Very very sad. We sat in silence, listening to vehicle after vehicle pummel the already-destroyed Tupperware. Sprays of seasonings and lemon garlic ribs flew through the air. Not even Bob's "Every little thing's gonna be all right" could save this one. 

And just like that I got the giggles. I couldn't help myself. I just began laughing until tears were streaming down my face. This was so tragic. Yet so epic. It was TREPIC.

Ev stoically continued to drive while my body heaved with the laughter. He stopped the vehicle suddenly at Foster's grocery store. He returned a few minutes later with a tub of ice cream. Like a scorned lover, he drowned his sorrows in monster cookie ice cream. 

Once the shock wore off and the laughter tears subsided, Ev went through our Tupperware drawer and returned with an air tight container. Flinging it across the room, he cried, "See! This would have survived that crash!" (back to denial). I nodded, again, tears streaming down my face as I convulsed with giggles.  Would this ever stop?

Suddenly, Ev experienced a revelation and stopped throwing the Tupperware. 

"So...I just realized that your crutch was also on the roof of the Jeep."


Luckily I had backup crutches. You never know when you will need crutches, so multiples exist in my vehicle, closets, etc.

The crutch can be replaced. The Hollywood ribs, however, cannot. 

Luckily, Ev ordered a new charcoal grill (and very fancy fan that LIGHTS up!) for Candle Lake, so the meat-cooking can continue all summer long, no transfers required! In fact, our cabin at the lake constantly smells of hickory smoked barbeque, which brings all the 40-something men to our yard. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Sprinkle pudding, vaginas, and warm hugs: Saying goodbye to dear Grandma MacDonald

 When people question the downside of living on a tropical island, I always respond, "being so far away from friends and family." 

My sweet and loving Grandma MacDonald passed away on June 19, 2022. She had been ill for only about a week, so despite the fact that she was 91 years old, her passing was quite unexpected. When I envisioned my summer at home, I had pictured afternoon tea visits with my Grandma in her new home at Good Shepherd Villas. Once I had processed the news, I went to work trying to find a flight home. Panic immediately set in as flights were obviously sparse, with trips to Saskatoon taking 65 + hours or more. In the last eight years on island, we have missed so many functions and events, and I knew that I couldn't miss a proper goodbye to my very special Grandma. 

Luckily I was able to find a route that got me home in two days with an overnight in Houston. Other than the wheelchair assistance forgetting about me (oops!),  resulting in barely making a connection, the trip was quite smooth and I was hugging my dad at the Saskatoon airport within 48 hours of leaving Cayman. This is a huge "win" in today's day of horrific airline travel!

My Grandma's service was really lovely. It took place at the church my Grandma attended for years, by the Minister who was a close friend of Grandmas. The music, flowers, and words spoken were heartfelt and very personal. When it sunk in that I wouldn't be visiting with my Grandma again, I felt so incredibly sad and empty; however, as the service continued, my heart also felt full - it truly was a celebration of an incredible woman. When I hugged Nora, the Minister who delivered the eulogy, I said, "Grandma would have really loved this!" and I meant it. She would have been so touched to see all her family and friends together, celebrating her. I feel comforted knowing that she's been reunited with the love of her life, my Grandpa Ken. 

I was able to catch up with cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends whom I haven't seen for years - some I had only met on Facebook (shout out to Harriett!) It felt so good to be among everyone, sharing Grandma stories, and remembering the good times. We laughed, we cried - I know this sounds cheesy, but it was really good for my soul. I needed to be there. 

Many stories were told about Grandma that day, but one of most memorable is the story that the family refer to as the "vagina project." My cousin, Donovan, lived with my Grandma for a year while he attended grade 12. This was the year after my Grandpa had passed, and I'm sure having Donovan there with her during that difficult time was a game changer for Grandma. Donovan was assigned a biology project in which he had to create a model of a human body system. Donovan chose the female reproductive system, and Grandma got to work helping him with a system she was very much familiar with! 

They made play dough together to shape the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and formed the uterus and vagina. Donovan went to bed after working all evening, and Grandma decided to stay up and spice up the model. She collected her ceramic paints and decided to make the model more life-like by applying various shades of pink. The next morning Donovan looked at his new and improved anatomically correct model and thought, "I'm going to ace this project!" Grandma modestly covered the model with a tea towel and sent Donovan on his way to school. As the Minister retold this story during the service, she admitted, "This is the first time I've said the word, 'vagina' in church!" Haha. What a Grandma! Ironically, cousin Donovan is now Dr. Donovan. He's an ER Doc, however, not a Gynecologist, which would have made this story even more amusing! 

I was lucky enough to spend almost everyday of my childhood at my Grandma and Grandpa's house. They lived close to my elementary school, and they looked after me during my lunch and after-school time. I can still remember the feeling of walking into that warm, cozy house. Grandpa would enthusiastically shout, "Kirstie!" and Grandma would peek her head around the kitchen, and say, "Lunch is almost ready!" Grandma made me a grilled cheese sandwich and pudding with cream and sprinkles for dessert every day. I washed this all down with a big glass of whole milk. Needless to say, I turned into a little chunky monkey for a few years! To this day, when I feel sad or lonely, I crave grandma's pudding with cream and sprinkles. That house was the epitome of comfort and love. To me, that's what Grandma was - comfort and love - like a big warm hug! She made all of us feel so loved so special.  I hope she felt the same way. 

Evan and Biloxi arrived a week after I did, and we are settling in to our house at the lake. We purchased a cabin across the street from our house,  and Evan's mom and aunty will be spending a few weeks there this summer. I'm looking forward to a summer surrounded by friends and family, and some warm-ish weather would be an added bonus!

It feels so good to be home. I am a true believer that you can fool your brain and reduce your pain, and although my knees are not good, overall, I feel more comfortable and calm being at the lake right now. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery to alter your mindset. 

Happy Summer, Friends!

Friday, June 3, 2022

Don't Worry Be Happy?

When I was around 10 years old, I recall rushing home from school to announce that I had achieved the highest mark in my class. This was nothing new for me, as I typically scored within the the top 3 throughout my elementary school "career." But, nevertheless, I was excited and pretty proud of my accomplishment. My dad made a comment that smacked me right in my chubby little 10 year old cheeks. He said, "You know, someday when you go to University, you won't be the smartest person in the class anymore. But it will be okay." To be fair, my dad is a realist, and I don't think that he was trying to rain on my parade, but merely preparing me for the real world. 

This startling revelation threw me for a loop! It kept me up at night. I studied harder, hoping that this surely would never transpire. It really upset me! I pictured myself at the University of Nova Scotia (that's where I intended to go, despite the fact that that particular University does not exist. I found out my later that it was called Dalhousie), sitting at my desk, defeated, as students all around me raised their hand, responding to questions that I could not answer. This worry consumed my little brain for years. 

You will not be shocked to learn that I developed an ulcer at age 12! 

Why are they dressing me like this? Have I been enrolled in the Navy?? 

I was, and still am, a worrier.  My worries have always been wound into a tight little ball, knotted, and frayed, sitting stagnant in the pit of my stomach. 

Last we spoke, I explained that my Osteochondritis Dessicans is no longer treatable. As incredible as my cartilage specialist has been over the past 8 years, I basically received a "Dear John" email, wishing me luck on my "journey." Although I've been fortunate enough to suffer through very few hurtful break-ups throughout my life, this one stung a could we at least say proper goodbyes over zoom and coffee? I then met with the Orthopaedic Team in Cayman to discuss the next step, and they shrugged their shoulders and immediately passed me on to the best knee replacement guy on island. Here's the plot twist...are you ready for it? The island's knee replacement extraordinaire is the same guy who referred to me as a "lost cause" eight years ago. Ugh. I'm currently on his very long waitlist, brainstorming ways to repair our relationship before he chops my knees apart. 

So, you know, I got some worries. Don't we all?

But I'm an overachieving proactive kind of person, so I decided to "science" the worries out of me. 

I follow a well-balanced diet, although I don't deprive myself. 

I continue to remain dedicated to physiotherapy and exercise. We are now calling therapy "prehab." Sure. Let's will go with that....sounds sporty, and Yes, I am STILL on the crutch. It's been 8 consecutive months for anyone who is counting. 

I meditate regularly. Often on a beach as waves gently lap on the shore. Like how much better can meditating get???

I am very conservative with the pain meds and follow a pain plan created by my Pain Specialist.

I attend every acupuncture, massage, and chiro appointment that I can possibly fit into my schedule.

I spend time laughing and joking with colleagues and friends, and continue to attend social events when the pain is under control. 

I religiously follow all of the recommendations from my pain psychologist. 

I spend hours watching cute puppy and kitten videos on You Tube. 

Dude. I get an "A" for effort in this "don't worry be happy" course that I've contrived! I'm the Valedictorian!

I may be able to hide the worry by pushing it down below the surface, but my body knows, and is seriously revolting against my efforts. 

In the last month, I developed an "immune response" in my eye that resulted in an angry pink eyeball. The Optometrist informed me that it could be a result of increased cortisol (stress hormones) in my body. My worries are literally seeping from my eyeballs. Yep, sounds about right. My blood pressure is equivalent to that of a 85 year old obese diabetic alcoholic smoker (note: telling an anxious patient to take deep breaths and calm down to lower blood pressure is not helpful!), and I've been experiencing terrible nightmares that awaken me in the throes of a panic attack. What the actual hell? 

All the books tell you to create a safe and comforting environment to sleep in. You guys!!!! I spray my luxurious satin pillow with a soothing lavender scent, turn on my sound machine to calming white noise, and gently cover myself with a fluffy white cover comprised of the softest bamboo leaves and baby hair (jokes)...I even have a freaking cooling system that maintains a comfortable 68 degree mattress to prevent overheating! I'm more invested in this safe and comforting sleep environment than you all were in the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp trial!!! I calmly drop my CBD oil under my tongue, curl up next to my purring cat, read a neutral novel without too much suspense or drama, and fall into a cozy slumber...only to awaken 4 hours later, dripping in sweat, struggling to breathe, and attempting to climb under my bed because, in my dream, an intruder has broken into my house with intent to kill me. 

So now I'm stressed out that I can't seem to prevent the stress in my subconscious during sleep, despite the fact that I've actioned every freaking stress-relieving activity on my list. Yes, I am 100% aware of how ridiculous this sounds. 

So...that's where I'm currently at. I've totally come to terms with the fact that I am most definitely NOT the smartest anymore. In fact, don't tell Ev, but I'm pretty sure that he has surpassed me in the "smarts" department. That's cool. Now if I could only convince my body that I do not need to be in fight or flight mode at 4am, that would be perfect. 

We are heading home July 3 and I am soooo ready. Perhaps a change of environment will do me good? I miss my family and friends so much that it hurts almost as bad as my shitty knees. I can't wait to get back to Candle Lake. 

Cheers friends!

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Pity party, party of one....

 You've been cordially invited to Kirstie's pity party. Party of one. 

I totally understand if you'd like to decline. It's not much of a party. You've been fully warned. 

If you're a little curious,  please proceed...but feel free to vacate the premises at any time. 

My 43rd birthday is next week. Birthdays are a good time for reflection - a marker to evaluate the past year, and if you want to get really deep - your entire life thus far. 

I did the math. In the last 12 months, I have been on a crutch/crutches for 9 months. That's 3/4 of the year for those of you who enjoy fractions. In the last 10 years I have had 13 surgeries. I can't even begin to count how may of those years I've spent on crutches, but I would imagine that I've spent more time on crutches than off of them. 

Despite my diligence to water walking, light weight lifting, stretching, stationary bike riding, and performing every single freaking exercise and stretch assigned to me, I was never able to fully recover from surgery #13 in December. A myriad of complications interfered with recovery including suspected bursitis, a back sprain (who the hell sprains their back?) and a nice little bout of Norovirus for good measure. My rehab team expanded to include a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, Massage Therapist, Acupuncturist, as well as my Doctor, Pain Specialist, Cartilage Specialist, and Pain Psychologist. My team is stacked! Like I have the Wayne Gretzky's and Bobby Orr's of teams!

Unfortunately, it looks as though my pain, catching, and immobility are due, yet again, to cartilage. Previously a scope and clean out of the knee provided me with about a year or so of pain relief, but it would appear as though this disease is taking over. My team, despite its awesomeness,  is no match for Osteochondritis Dissecans.

It's funny how certain words will stick with you. My friends and family rally around me, referring to me as "strong," "a warrior," "brave," and "resilient." Yet, about 7 years ago, as I begged a Doctor to sign off on documents that would allow me to see my cartilage specialist in Philly, five words were uttered to me that are currently playing on repeat in my brain. These words are so loud that they are drowning out all of the positive ones:


The Doctor was trying to warn me that these surgeries would likely not be effective, given the nature and presentation of my disease. In retrospect, maybe he was right. Maybe he was trying to be funny? (Orthos can be eccentric people!) But those words haunt me!

I've pulled out my thick book of notes from my Pain Psychologist and reminded myself that mindset is pivotal in managing this disease. I put my ear buds in and sing, "I've got to keep on moving," as I work through challenging physio exercises. When I am overwhelmed by a staircase looming, I tell myself, "One step at a time. You got this." I imagine my body thanking me when I stretch and gently keep moving after a long day of work. Yet, "You are a lost cause" wakes me up with panic in the middle of the night. "You are a lost cause" takes ahold of me when I can't see through the pain. Dammit, I can't meditate those words out of my brain. 

I am tired. I am so so exhausted. The pain is relentless and at times, all consuming. I carry on, heading to work each day, attending each therapy appointment, and I hear myself saying, "All good!" "Getting there!" and my personal favorite, "No worries!" Those are all lies. I actually have ALL the worries. So so many worries! 

Each and every Specialist has advised me to avoid a knee replacement until there are no other options left to consider. I always suspected it was looming in my future, but the goal was to get to  at least age 55 before venturing down that path. Language is powerful to me, and the last 10 years I've heard countless phrases such as "We're not throwing in the towel yet," or "We haven't reached the end of the road yet." These phrases suggest defeat. I have been conditioned to believe that choosing a knee replacement means that I've lost the battle or that I am a quitter. I know many of you are reading this and thinking, "My dad had a knee replacement and is doing great!" or "Knee replacements aren't a big deal, why doesn't she just get one of those?" I'm not about to get into it now, but I am far from an ideal candidate for this procedure. It's a permanent surgery and there is no reversing that decision if I'm left with regrets.  However, at this point, it's about quality of life, and despite having so many fantastic people on my side, my quality of life is currently poor. I have come to a crossroads where I am faced with deciding between my current quality of life and "future Kirstie's" challenges. 

So after conferring with my all-star team, I realize that I have, indeed, come to the end of the road (Can you all hear Boyz To Men right now?). Today a Specialist eloquently stated, "Your knees are really really lousy." Got it. I appreciate the directness. But I have an option. It's not lost on me that many people get shit news and have no options. 

I have armed myself with a stacked team with incredible knowledge who all reiterate that I am NOT a lost cause.'s hard. It's really hard, and I'm not afraid to admit that. So rather than post a picture of a beautiful island sunset,  I'm just going to be honest and admit that I do not feel #blessed right now and things kinda suck at the moment. I need some time to process and come to terms with the fact that I am not accepting defeat, but rather, accepting that I've taken my knees as far as I can possibly take them. And not for lack of freaking trying!

In the meantime, I've been pumped full of cortisone, and although I'm currently experiencing the "cortisone flare" side effect (not awesome),  I am hopeful that I will soon experience some temporary relief. I desperately need a break from pain and a clear mind to make some decisions. 

My mom arrives on Thursday. I had visions of us going for nice beach walks, which ain't gonna happen, but I know that just having her here with me will lift my spirits. I need my mom, and am so thankful that she can be here with me!

Cheers. Thanks for coming to my pity party...and staying until the end!  

Saturday, January 29, 2022

I've got to keep on moving

 Hey Friends!

Have you watched the documentary about the olympic ski racer, Lindsey Vonn, called "The Climb"? It documents Lindsey's recovery and rehabilitation after 2 major knee injuries and her return to sport. It's really inspirational and provides a lot of insight about the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of rehabilitation after injury. 

Now I'm by no means an Olympic athlete - although I was Miss PA Highland Dancer in1985 and a silver medalist at the YBC National Bowling Championship in 1991 😜- but when I watched this documentary a few years ago, I was absolutely glued to the TV, captivated by Lindsey's experience.   Lindsey's rehab was so intense and grueling, and I could relate to how defeating and mentally exhausting recovery can be. 

I'm now 4 weeks post surgery #13 and doing pretty okay-ish. Every week since my surgery I've been able to step up my physiotherapy and can feel myself slowly gaining strength and confidence. I've managed to wean off of Gabapentin (the brain fogger med), so that's one huge goal accomplished! It occurred to me the other day during my pool water walking that my rehabilitation and the state of my mind during recovery has significantly shifted since my first few surgeries. 

The very first knee surgery (about 10 years ago) was meant to be a simple meniscus repair. Once my Ortho got a look inside my knee and realized that I had this disease, Osteochondritis Dissecans, he had to completely change gears mid-surgery and perform micro fracture surgery on my knee. The surgeons drilled holes into my bone to stimulate cartilage growth (I was wide awake for that one, by the way, but was drugged to the point of oblivion), and I was told post surgery that my 3 week recovery was now a 4-6 month recovery. 

I listened to my surgeon explain the severity of the situation. I had a rare cartilage disease. I would never be the same. I heard the words but didn't fully process them and I absolutely refused to accept them. I was provided with a physio protocol for recovery and vowed to "beat" every single goal in that booklet. 

I was insufferable. I cringe now when I think about how I threw myself head-first into that recovery. Although I followed all the rules (no weight bearing for 6 weeks), as soon as I was given the go ahead to begin therapy, I made it my mission to surpass every benchmark. I attempted to convince my surgeon that the recovery bar needed to be raised because I was a superior patient who overachieved in all areas. If anyone asked how recovery was going, I would boast about how awesome I was doing, and demonstrate party tricks on my crutches (no lie). When my surgeon suggested that I might not be strong enough to wakesurf, I sent him video of myself wakesurfing with my crutch, eventually tossing the crutch away. That video was a giant "eff you and eff this disease." (I'm still sorry about that).  Like I said...insufferable. In my mind I was an ideal patient - motivated and determined. But in reality, I was trying to win a game that was impossible to win. 

Haha! Remember that time I covered my knee brace in "motivational" sayings? No? Me neither. 🙈

In retrospect, I was completely in denial about my diagnosis. I was going to be normal, despite this stupid disease that I apparently had. That first surgery, by the way, failed. I'm not saying it was a "me" problem, but my stubborn, "I will be victorious" attitude did not promote success. 

Well...thank the Lord things have changed. The biggest thing that I have learned to accept over the years is that my body and I are on the same team. When I said things like, "I'm going to beat this!" I was implying that I was in a fight or a competition against my body. This was a terrible mindset and I spent so much of my time angry and resentful that my body dared to defy me in this manner. Like it or not, this body belongs to me and I've learned to be kinder and more patient with it. After all, we are literally in this together.

Secondly, I've learned that these physio benchmarks are simply guidelines. I don't focus so much on imposed timelines. If I'm not off the crutches in 3 weeks, I no longer lay in the dark listening to Linkin Park, sobbing, "In the end, it doesn't even matter." (True story 😞). Although I still require reminders, I do realize that the guidelines don't take into consideration the fact that my knees have endured 13 surgeries. They have been through a lot! So my squat might be more of a "dip" at the moment, but that's just where my knees are at this point in time. And I am perfectly okay-ish with that! 

Finally, my mindset about recovery has flipped a complete 180. Rehabilitation used to be a roller coaster of high highs and super low lows. I would play "Rage Against the Machine" and lunge until my knees would shake and then fall into a heap on the floor and cry for hours when I was still 10 degrees off my target. The pressures that I placed on myself were insane - and I'm not an Olympic athlete - it's not like I had a major competition looming! Yikes.  Today I ride the bike while listening to "Break my Stride" by Matthew Wilder, and focus on moving forward slowly and purposefully. I quietly celebrate my accomplishments and try...yes not get frustrated when recovery is not a neat linear path. 

I'm not going to pretend like it's all roses and butterflies. I'm relieved that I'm not that super intense, angry rehabilitation patient any more; however, I still feel frustrated and anxious with my recovery. 

I worry that I will require a walking aide for the rest of my life. Prior to this surgery, I was using a crutch or both crutches for about 2 months. I'm still using 1 crutch for longer distances, but I have anxiety about walking independently again. Many years ago I used a cane for a few months. There was something about that cane that signaled "permanent handicap" to me, and although I would never judge anyone else for using a cane, that cane really messed with my mental and emotional state. I try not to contemplate the what ifs, but in all honesty, I worry that I might eventually enter "cane territory" again. 

I know that I'm not training for an Olympic event, but I now see the purpose of my rehabilitation as training for life. I want to work a full day of school without pain meds. I want to sit down with my students and not worry about standing back up. I want to take short walks on the beach. I want to go to a friend's house and not fret about climbing stairs. I want to feel confident that I can walk to a table in a restaurant and not fall down. This is why I faithfully participate in my physiotherapy every single day. 

Evan described something called "Game Theory" that he often discusses with his business clients. There are two types of games: a finite game and an infinite game. A finite game has a distinct beginning and end. Someone wins and someone loses. In an infinite game the purpose is to keep the game going. You only drop out of the game due to lack of will or resources. No one wins and no one loses. Your goal is to simply stay in the game - to keep the game going. After almost 10 years since my diagnosis, I have (thankfully) learned that I cannot "win" this game. My goal is to play the infinite game. And I'm doing a pretty okay-ish job at it right now ;) In the words of Matthew Wilder, "I've got to keep on moving." 

Cheers Friends!

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Surgery #13: Can you Die from Ingesting Essential Oils?

 Hey Friends,

Well, we managed to fit in a quick trip to Philly over the holidays for surgery #13, and successfully made it home to our Cayman condo last night. Let me tell you, travel is not for the faint of heart these days. Looking back, I still can't believe we managed to pull this trip off - one positive test would have derailed the entire plan, not to mention all the flight cancellations that were occurring over Christmas! We were very lucky that, logistically, our travel went off without a hitch. 

Free garment bag with your 13th surgery special!

When my insurance company sent me our travel itinerary, I saw that we had a 4 hour layover in Miami, and immediately thought of an agency in Cayman called One Dog At A Time (ODAAT). ODAAT is a non profit organization on island that helps to get forever homes for the unwanted dogs, many of who are awaiting euthanization at the Department of Agriculture. ODAAT has multiple partnering agencies in the US and Canada, and is often advertising the need for flight escorts. Although our shelters and foster homes in Cayman are busting at the seams (spay or neuter your pets, people!!!), the humane society in Miami, for example, has a shortage of pups, and dogs from Cayman are adopted very quickly in Miami (our pups are affectionately called "Cayman Coconuts," and I think it's a bit of a novelty to have a coconut in another country). So, I immediately reached out to the organization, and together with the Cayman Islands Humane Society, they were able to select 4 lucky dogs that we could accompany to Miami. 

Overall, the experience of escorting the dogs was excellent! ODAAT was very organized and had all the paperwork in order and ready to go. We were able to meet our travel buddies: Bunny, Duque, Montana, and Xander, and I assured each nervous pup that they were in good hands. The dogs were crated and put in the pet cargo area of the plane. The flight from Cayman to Miami is a nice quick 1 hour trip, and the dogs were all safely transferred to a humane society in the Miami area. On last check, 3 out of 4 dogs have gone to their furrever homes, and the last sweet pup, Bunny, will surely get swooped up soon. Typically a trip to Philly carries negative connotations with it for me, so it was nice to distract myself with helping these dogs, and put a positive spin to the trip! I highly recommend becoming a pet escort if you are able.

Philly was cold and dreary. We always stay downtown in the Rittenhouse area, and both Ev and I noticed that there are more police and security guards in shops and restaurants. There were a lot of homeless folks attempting to stay warm in doorways and alleys. We were told it's not safe to venture out at night alone, which has significantly changed since our first visit to Philly 7 years ago. It's sad to see. 

The Philly air was thick with Omicron and I began to fret about the possibility of contracting Covid and being stuck in Philly. We double-masked and avoided large groups as much as possible, but we were in and out of stores buying groceries and supplies. Every time Ev left the apartment, I yelled, "Don't catch Covid!" haha. Thanks tips!

For Covid reasons, my surgery was at the Penn Medicine surgery center this time, as opposed to the hospital. The surgery center is super efficient - like a production line swiftly moving patients in and out of surgery. I'm always in awe of their efficiency and organization. Because 2 patients ahead of me tested positive, my surgery was moved up earlier in the day and I nervously joked that I had been "called up." Now that Dr. Carey works with the Philadelphia Flyers, he appreciated my hockey reference and asked if Evan wanted a quick hip surgery, given the new surgery slot openings (Ev has arthritis in his hip from all those years of butterfly saves). 

My team is always trying to solve my nausea issue, and each Anesthesiologist adds a new and exciting element to my anesthetic concoction to prevent the puke that inevitably occurs about 6 hours post surgery. I admire their tenacity, and although the "magic formula" was a bust again, I appreciate that they always try. I asked my Anesthesiologist if she could slip something special into my IV, given that this was my 13th surgery, and she suggested a margarita. 

I don't typically dream while I'm under, but the margarita comment was obviously in my subconscious because I spent my entire knee surgery saddled up at the Westin bar while my favorite server, Rev, provided me with one frosty margarita after another. At one point, Rev said, "Miss Kirstie, are you sure you want another?" and as I grabbed for another salty rim, I slipped backwards off my bar stool and woke up in recovery.

"Whoa!" I said as I woke up startled, "I drank too many margaritas!"

The nurse laughed and handed me a pair of seriously heavy crutches, "We have a crutch shortage today, so the only ones available are bariatric crutches." Yikes. Those suckers were sturdy (designed for patients up to 350 pounds), and surely to result in toned triceps. 

Once back in the apartment, I was struggling to control my pain and succumbed to the narcotics, which predictably led to severe nausea. 

I sat upright in bed for about 7 hours, frantically sniffing peppermint essential oils, willing myself not to puke. Finally at 3am, I shoved the bottle of peppermint oil up my nostril and fell asleep in an upright position.

At some point my head tilted back, tipping the bottle of peppermint oil into my nostril, flooding my nose with burn. Minty burn. 

I coughed and choked as peppermint burned my nose and filled my mouth and desperately put a cold cloth up my nostril to ease the fire inside my nasal passage. Poor Ev was sound asleep and didn't know what happened, awakening to my yelling, "It burns! It burns!"

To be fair, it distracted me from my painful post-surgery knee.

For the next 5 hours I spit and puked up peppermint while blowing fresh mint oil out of nose. My google history at 5am reveals the search, "Can you die from ingesting essential oils?" It was touch and go, but I did not die (although there were points I wanted to), and to be honest, it's kind of hilarious in retrospect, and makes for an interesting blog post. 

Once the fear of dying from essential oils subsided, I did something that I don't typically do. I try to avoid self-pity at all costs - in fact, I push all the self pity down and suppress it under humor. Perhaps the peppermint oil provoked an eruption, but what happened next was something else.

I bawled my head off. I felt so unbelievably sorry for myself that I just let myself go, sobbing uncontrollably for what felt like 10 solid minutes. I cried for all those days that I dragged my sad sorry ass to work in terrible pain. I cried for my shitty soft cartilage, and this stupid disease that I can do nothing about. I cried for my future, knowing that surgery #13 will not be my last. I cried for the fact that I don't deserve this. 

Evan sat quietly at my side and held my hand and just let me go. 

Eventually even my tears tasted of mint and Ev said, "Take a deep breath. That's done now."

Sometimes you just need a good minty cry.

Overall, my surgery was a success in a way - the surgeon identified all the areas where my cartilage is peeling off like an onion and smoothed the peeling cartilage. These areas cause the most pain, as the fraying cartilage catches in my joints. My actual cartilage implant from 4 years ago is doing well after another trim - however, the rest of my cartilage continues to degrade in quality and quantity. This surgery will provide me relief, but no one can predict for how long. I guess that's as good as it gets. I might cry about it again later??

I will say this...I am incredibly lucky to have such an amazing team at Penn Medicine. The level of care I experience each and every time is phenomenal. I received 5 check-in calls post surgery, one from my Surgeon on New Year's Day, who expressed his frustration with my continuing nausea. The staff often remember me and my shitty knees, and are always so compassionate, caring, and interested. They go above and beyond, and I appreciate them immensely. 

Recovery has been fine. I was just about to enter into pity-ville again on day 5 when I received a visit from a special friend. Kat, my island bestie from our first years in Cayman, who now lives in the DC area. We haven't seen each other in 2 years, and the fact that she drove post-snowstorm, in freezing cold temps (Well not Sasky cold, but Philly cold), really meant a lot to me. She's one of those best friends who you can pick up where you left off, talk about anything and everything, and just enjoy each other's company. Kat has a very distinct laugh - deep and hearty! That laugh lifted my spirits and her visit meant the world to me. 

We miraculously tested negative and made it back to Cayman without issue. The travel was painful, but I'm back in my island home, with views of the ocean rather than tall brick buildings. That feels good. 

I know that none of this is easy on Evan. When we repeated our wedding vows over 17 years ago, neither of us predicted that our marriage would entail this. But Ev never complains. He calmly holds my hand, delivers my crutches, brews my tea, comforts me, and makes me laugh when I'm sad. He knows the drill and accepts it as part of our life. Our incredible, yet complicated, life. I appreciate his encourage-mint and commit-mint. I know that we are mint to be (sorry - how could I resist??) 


We know Dr. Carey doctors the Flyers, but do the Flyers know he doctors Kirstie Lindsay?

Thank you, 90 day Fiance, for getting me through some dark days

New Year's Eve was LIT!

Found some good light reflecting off my satin pillow ;) 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

You've Goat To Be Kidding Me

 Hey Friends,

I promised you a hilarious tale about an event that goat out of hand. Now that I've had a solid week to process my experience, and appropriately embellish the details, this unbelievable, yet true story, is now fit for human consumption. 

I feel like almost everyday in Cayman, I hear or see something absolutely outrageously bizarre, think, "You can't make this shit up," and immediately search the the room for hidden cameras. Well friends, I've goat one for you and you literally cannot make this shit up. 

I was driving back to our home in West Bay mid-day, traveling down Mt. Pleasant Road, the "highway" of our district. In the distance, I could see something standing in the middle of the road, so I slowed to investigate. There, unmoving, stood a goat. The goat stubbornly refused to move after I honked, so I pulled over. There are many goat farmers here in Cayman, but a goat is not an animal that you would typically see on the side, or in the middle of the road in Cayman. If it was a blended family of chickens and iguanas, I wouldn't have even bat an eyelash.

I opened up my door and beckoned to the goat, "Hey! What are you doing out here? Are you lost?"

Like a friendly little puppy, the goat bounded over and nuzzled his little horns in my hand. Instantly, I felt responsible for this goat's well-being. I unloaded my crutch from the backseat and got out of the vehicle. My new friend, who I aptly named, "Billy," refused to leave my side. 

Meet Billy. He enjoys frolicking in the middle of traffic and harassing women on crutches

I noticed a clearing across the highway where I reasoned a small farm could exist, so I attempted to lure Billy across the highway. We were making some progress, when suddenly Billy began dancing on his hind legs back and forth across the highway (I swear on Allicia's Barbie collection). As Billy danced, I could hear vehicles approaching in the distance. And given that local buses barrel down this road at high speeds, I couldn't bear the thought of Billy becoming road kill (I mean, he's probably Christmas curry, but NOT road kill!).

So I did what any animal lover would do and I stood in the middle of the road, waving my crutch in the air while Billy danced like no one was watching back and forth across the highway. Thankfully, vehicles began stopping. One car attempted to help, offering to put Billy in their hatch, but Billy was busy living his best life on the highway to hell (Literally...the district of "Hell" was about 3 miles away). Oddly, other vehicles rolled down their window and yelled at me...AT ME! 

"Hey! Get your goat off the road!"

Dude. I'm on crutches, in my formal work clothes - do I look like a goat wrangler?

I was making little progress when suddenly a familiar voice beckoned from a vehicle, "Ms Kirstie, what are you doing?"

It was one my student's moms - a lovely woman, and a fellow West Bay-er. She immediately got out of her car to help me herd Billy.

"I think I know the farmer who owns this goat," she said, "I will make a few phone calls."

Together, we managed to lure the goat into the ditch, where he was safe from oncoming traffic. As she attempted to contact the suspected owner, I fed Billy leaves, but noticed that he was becoming more aggressive, pushing his horns into my legs.

"My students, now fully entertained by the situation, yelled from the vehicle, "Is that Ms Kirstie? Ms. Kirstie! Why do you have a goat?"

Suddenly, Billy ran out into the road again, and sat himself down in the middle of the highway. I looked on in horror to see that Billy was um....aroused...and sporting a...ahem...goat boner. Oblivious to the high speeding oncoming traffic, Billy tended to his male goat parts, while I, yet again, waved my crutch, desperately trying to save this damn horny goat. 

This time, drivers became quite angry, as Billy was now completely blocking both lanes of traffic. Cars began honking their horns, aggravating my friend, Billy, who was trying to have a private moment. 

Billy stood up, purposely walked toward the line of vehicles, and began bucking the cars with his horns!

Oh what a silly Billy. 

"Hey! Get your goat!" yelled the angry drivers. 

Luckily the mom came to my rescue, shaming the drivers for being so rude, ("This is NOT Caymankind!") and helping me lure Billy back to the side of the road. 

"What are we going to do?" I asked her. 

"It's okay, I have a friend coming with rope," she responded.

Ahhh...rope. Good thinking. 

Soon an iguana hunter approached us on his bike, and offered his goat expertise. 

"You got to make the goat noises," he suggested. 

At this point, I had been on the road, on my crutches, with my dear friend Billy for over an hour. I was not above making goat noises.

So the three of us nayed and brayed in various frequencies and intensities, and sure enough, Billy left his boner alone, and followed us into the clearing.

When we finally got Billy into the clearing, and we could see that there was, indeed, a goat pen in the distance, housing at least a dozen goats, our iguana hunter friend took Billy by the horns and corralled him into the pen. I have no idea if that is where Billy actually resides, but he was now locked away, safe from traffic, with a bevy of beautiful lady goats who he could impress with his um...Billy willy (CRINGE).

When I got home that day, sweaty and exasperated by the experience, I didn't even know where to begin the story. 

"You see, there was a goat with a boner and I didn't want him to get hit by a car..."

Looking at me incredulously, Ev replied, "Okay, I gotta hop on a call with a client, but maybe we could talk about this later?"

"Yup. No problem."

In the end, I feel like I goat owned. I obviously got goated into doing something that I was not qualified to do You herd it here first, it was a baaaaad situation. 

Ok. I'm done.