Xena makes an excellent stump rest.
What a beautiful slice of irony life can serve to those who prepare. A mere two months before Nick’s accident we each got Power of Attorneys and Living Wills. We got them just in the knick of time, yet had no idea just how soon we’d be using them.
The durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. A Living Will lets you specify your wishes for life-support, organ donation, and end-of-life care if you become incapacitated.
There is no Common Law to protect unmarried couples in the state of California, so even though Nick and I were together for six years and planning for a lifetime, there would be no legal protection if one of us died or got injured. The Power of Attorney and Living Will gave us the opportunity to precisely lay out our wishes and ensure they are carried out. With those two documents, I was immediately able to make decisions regarding Nick’s health and finances based on his specific desires. I met no resistance, other than providing proof, and felt comfortable taking the lead when it came to making tough decisions while Nick was in a coma for a week.
Because Nick expressly named me as his executor, his wonderful family allowed me to take control, alleviating potential stressors that disagreements about health care can cause. His Mom stuck by my side as counsel, rather than opposition, because she knew her son would have wanted it that way. The Power of Attorney makes sure there’s only one chef in the kitchen, so to speak.
Getting to the point of actually creating these documents together took a few years. It’s one of those things you talk about doing, but is always last on the to-do list. We had several friends pass away, and many of their spouses said the aftermath would have been much simpler had they been more prepared. Had we waited just two months longer, it would have been too late. Who knows how things would have unfolded in the ICU if I wasn’t respected by the doctors as more than “just a girlfriend.”
Protecting yourself is extremely simple. There are a few online services that will provide a quick and painless experience. We used Legal Zoom. You answer a list of questions, all the while (hopefully) discussing with your person-of-choice the decisions you are making that they may have to carry out for you one day. For less than $100, and less than an hour of your time, you can assure peace of mind for you and your family. Once you receive the documents in the mail, rush out to get them notarized and then store them in a safe place. We put ours in a fireproof safe. Just don’t do what I did, and forget the combination and have to pay a professional safe-cracker $250 to get the documents out.
We also ordered wallet-size cards for quick reference for an extra $10. This has come in handy for me twice now, but each time I was still required to produce the original documents at a later date.
Here’s our challenge to you: begin by having an honest, open discussion about this with someone you love, trust, and respect. It can be anyone you are close to in your life, preferably someone dependable and capable of being level-headed in stressful situations. Find out if they are willing to take this responsibility seriously for you, and start the process of creating these documents.
Don’t wait until it’s too late.
In memory of John C. Carpenter
(10/25/1918 – 08/20/2012)
We honored my Grandpa’s life yesterday at the beautiful new Miramar National Cemetery with an Air Force funeral service that left no details overlooked.
Six uniformed Air Force members marched in unison, meticulously carrying about the task of transporting Grand Dad’s casket from the traditional horse-drawn carriage to the landing where the service took place. In the highest honor possible, as a group, they ceremoniously folded the American flag in preparation to give to Grandma. One servicemen sounded the bugle by playing Taps, a familiar tune I had never been privy to hear in person or with such great reverence, while three other servicemen fired a gun salute in Grandpa’s honor.
The gentle breeze nudged me with a feeling of pride to be part of his legacy. A highly accomplished Lieutenant Colonel with the United States Air Force, he dedicated his career and life to serving his country. He lived 93 years, and as Grandma said, they had “a beautiful, beautiful life together.”
Throughout the brief service, I glanced around at the expanding family he created and nurtured. Four generations of Carpenters gathered to say goodbye and support one another. The youngest generation being young babies, I couldn’t help but contemplate the cycle of life and death. I visualized the funeral ceremony 93 years ago of the family patriarch when Grandpa himself was just a baby.
I’m sure it was incredibly difficult to sum up Grandpa’s magnificent life into a 20 minute celebration. How could you? Apparently he had his own obituary already written ahead of time, but I wonder if he ever thought about what would be said about him in front of his family on the day of his burial. I don’t think many people do. Would that influence you to live a kinder, more meaningful life? Now that I think about it that way, I believe it does.
I barely knew my Grandpa. In fact, I was surprised to learn his middle name was Corbin, and that he had four sisters. Despite this, I am at peace with our relationship, or lack there of, and the many things that were left unsaid. Instead, I am grateful for the lesson he taught me in his death. The lesson to live a full life, a life of love and meaning, contribution and service, and to be proud of who you are and how you live.
At the closing of the ceremony when the decorated Air Force member presented Grandma with the flag, I choked up for the first time. I heard sniffles from the group, and could see Grandma, a frail old woman with a sharp memory and heart of gold, visibly shaken and trying to process the magnitude of what was happening at that moment. Even at almost 90 years old, after 67 years of marriage, a widow is still a widow. A painful loss we all know is possible, but worth the risk in order to share a lifetime of everlasting love with your soul mate.
(Written Saturday evening)
Seven weeks post-op and we can finally be (kind of) spontaneous again.
We’re getting pretty wild this weekend, boy! We are visiting a Buddhist Monastery tomorrow for a “day of mindfulness.” I’m not sure what we’re searching for, but it just feels right, so we’re going to check it out. The catch? Getting to Escondido by 8:30am. Ouch.
So when Ke texted Nick that he needed to get out of the house, we said, “So do we,” and an impromptu ultra-mini vacation was conceived.
Nick having a longer leash now is liberating in a way only new parents and injured people can appreciate. At noon we were tossing around the idea of meeting Ke at the beach and getting a hotel near the monastery, and by 2pm we were on the road.
This was Ke’s first trip to the beach since his accident, and Nick’s first time since his surgery. The dark skies made the temperature bearable for the boys, but the sun did peak out for a moment before falling off the edge of the Earth.
After Ke treated us to sushi and conversation, Nick and I used the hotels hot tub, a rare treat indeed. This was his third jacuzzi session since the accident, and only the first one in which he’s been able to comfortably sit on the cement seats.
Laying in bed now, Nick says he feels “really good” after soaking under the stars. (edit: He slept soundly too!)
I am so grateful for all the love in my life and my keen ability to create beautiful moments like the ones we’ve shared today.
I had a little “heart to heart” with Nick last night. Some might call it a pep talk, or maybe bitching. Whatever it was, it worked. Today Nick absolutely killed it and had a fantastic day.
LOTS of walking! Lots and lots of it. He had an extended stretching session as well before we went to the pool. He had the pool all to himself for a while and swam continuously for over an hour. He figured out that he can propel himself with just his legs if he’s swimming backward; unlike swimming forward where his legs get him nowhere.
Tonight Nick had his first real massage since his surgery. He has a girl named Kacey he really likes, but she wasn’t available. It always makes us nervous when he tries a new therapist, but thankfully this one was great! And to top it all off, when he got home from the massage his Dad and brother were here waiting for him.
A day with lots of activity and minimal pain, what a blessing to receive on the 15 month anniversary of his accident.
Since Nick’s accident we’ve made some critical changes to be more healthy. I truly believe that much of Nick’s healing can be attributed to these changes, as they’ve given his body a solid foundation for repair. Many people have asked what we’re doing differently, so I’ve decided to write about it.
Here are some of the principles we have been following:
We’ve drastically cut back, or all together removed certain foods from our diets. No beef or pork. These do not digest easily, especially with his damaged intestinal track.
No dairy (save for the occasional Ben & Jerry’s peanut butter cup ice cream he just HAS to have). There is just too much research linking dairy intake to chronic illness and fatigue.
No fast food, no soda, no artificial sweeteners, and extremely limited amounts of processed foods. These modern day conveniences can hardly be classified as real food. They wreck havoc on our bodies.
I’m in the process of minimizing wheat products as well, substituting a bed of greens for tortillas, and quinoa for grains.
We’ve severely limited our sweets, bread, pasta, and alcohol. These items are consumed on a very limited basis because we’re still human and have to enjoy life, right? Nick and I don’t drink much alcohol at all. Not only does it slow down healing, but it’s an emotional crutch and negative escape. We like to have fun, but have cut way back on our alcohol intake (since the accident) and it has made a huge impact on how we’ve dealt with life for the last year.
We’ve added certain foods to our diets. More vegetables, more lean protein, more fruits, more nuts, more water. I try to incorporate at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal, but usually we eat more. We both carry a reusable water bottle with us everywhere we go, and drink clean water that is filtered through a reverse osmosis system under our sink. I add drops of a trace mineral supplement every time I fill it up (I’ve been doing this for years). We’ve added a glass or two of fresh green vegetable juice everyday. I juice kale, collard greens, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, green beans, apples, lemons, oranges. The juice is packed with nutrition and life energy. I make a big batch every 3 days.
We’ve added nutritional supplements like calcium, probiotics, multivitamin, Omega 3-6-9, and vitamin C in high dosages. He takes 9,000 mg a day of vitamin C on top of whatever he consumes at meals. With multiple hospital visits, and constantly going in and out of doctors offices, Nick hasn’t even had a slight hint of being sick. His immune system is strong and I know it’s from all the vitamins and minerals he’s taking and eating.
Along with what we eat, we’ve changed the way we eat too. We eat all day long now. Every 3 hours we have a balanced mini-meal that contains a certain ratio of protein, fats, and carbs. Since I struggle with my weight, and Nick’s bowels don’t function, it’s incredibly important for both of us to NOT over eat. We both have more energy, and our systems are functioning at a higher level because we’re constantly fueling all day long. We never let ourselves get too hungry, because then our blood sugar will plummet, making us cranky and making it harder to eat the right food and not over eat. This takes a lot of planning on my part to make sure we always have fresh food, whether we’re at home or on the road. A few times a week I will cook a large amount of salmon, chicken breast or lean turkey and vegetables and divide them into small grab-and-go containers. So if we’re going to be gone for 7 hours, I can grab my mini-cooler, some ice packs, and throw a few meals in there to eat in the car. If we’re home, I can turn the mini-meal into a hearty salad by throwing it over a bed of fresh spinach and adding avocado or nuts for healthy fats, beans, or whatever else I have handy. This tactic saves us money, saves me time, and makes us feel good.
When we eat at a restaurant or a friends house, we bend the rules a little bit, but not much. We still order something healthy, but will often split it, or make modifications to fit our diets. We’re not so strict that we won’t enjoy a good dessert or fancy cocktail once in a while, but that’s only when we’re out for a special occasion, and never at home.
Our health is always a work in progress for me. I’m inspired by it, and feel deeply connected to making sure Nick and I eat healthily and feel better and better every day.
Some of the resources I’ve used are listed below. I’ve included links, but I am not an affiliate or make any money from them at all. If you have any good reading or watching, please share. I’m always open to new healthy ideas.
Forks Over Knives, Documentary Film
Food Matters, Documentary Film
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Documentary Film (great motivation to start juicing)
Body Confidence, by Mark MacDonald (The science behind blood-sugar stabilization and eating small meals all day long)
Crazy Sexy Diet, by Kris Carr (Love her! Dazzling Wellness Warrior living with stage 4 cancer and kicking major ass.)
Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD (I am still reading this, but am already motivated to cut the wheat. He makes a strong case!)
Pure optimism is free of the past
and fully engaged in the now.
–Joseph Bernard PhD
This is Nick and his buddy Ke. I wrote a post about him a few months ago. Thank you to everyone who helped Ke out.
Nick and Ke have been friends for a few months and finally got to meet one another a couple of weeks ago. Ke moved to California to go to Project Walk. His first weekend here, he drove up to spend the weekend with us.
We watched a shit-ton (technical term) of Olympics, ate lots of food, and even took Ke swimming for the first time in months.
It’s funny how one innocent phone call can turn into a surprise, impromptu party with amazing friends!
We were in the area and decided to see some friends we haven’t seen in a while. They phoned some other friends and surprised us with a super fun get together and delicious home cooked meal.
Thanks Jeanne and F’ing Tim!! ( …and Whitney and Eric and Amanda and JP of course.)
…Peace can exist only in the present moment. It is ridiculous to say “Wait until I finish this, then I will be free to live in peace.” What is “this”? A diploma, a job, a house, the payment of a debt? If you think that way, peace will never come. There is always another “this” that will follow the present one. If you are not living in peace at this moment, you will never be able to. If you truly want to be at peace, you must be at peace right now. Otherwise, there is only “the hope of peace some day.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, ‘The Sun My Heart”
For the most part I feel I’ve made peace with the dramatic rearrangement of my life. Finally. Even though it waxes and wanes a bit everyday, I am more at peace than not, more often than not.
Nick is still actively seeking that peace. I can’t begin to pretend to know how strong someone must be to find peace in their heart after going through what Nick has gone through. He’s close. I can sense it in him, and he acknowledges it, but he still needs more time.
I have 100% knowing that life will be beautiful for us again one day, and that our misfortunes will allow us to see Life’s brilliant colors more vibrantly than ever before.
August 18: the date we’ve been looking forward to for an entire year is finally here, yet there’s absolutely nothing special about it.
One year ago Nick had his anterior spine surgery and was told he could skydive in one year. All year Nick used todays date as a motivator, a goal to look forward to. Up until six weeks ago he was pretty much on track to make a skydive this day, but then he had surgery and everything changed.
He won’t be jumping as planned and there will be no party. And thankfully, he’s okay with it. There will be no devastation about missing his mark, only the setting of a new goal and feverishly working toward it.
I’m sharing a video of a friend from Project Walk. Natalie is one of the prettiest and nicest girls I’ve ever met. She was injured in a skiing accident 5 years ago at only 15 years old. Like Nick she is blessed with die hard support from her family and friends.
We watched this short video of her progress yesterday and I think it single-handedly lit a blazing fire under Nick’s ass. He’s been really struggling since his surgery 6 weeks ago and is making slow, painful progress. Such is life with a spinal cord injury. Watching Nat’s determination and fight put Nick’s current situation into clear perspective.
Get up and do everything you can, everyday, because even just one small step in the right direction will eventually lead you toward your goal.
It’s been six weeks since his surgery. As an aside, I must say that neither of us can believe it’s been that long and that he is still in so much pain.
But on the bright side, he used his walking crutches for the first time today. It’s not an official graduation from the walker, but definitely forward progress.
Resistance creates suffering.
Stress happens when your mind resists what is.
The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds.
Nick had another excruciating phantom pain attack last night that lasted for a couple of hours, and then intermittently visited him in his dreams once he finally fell asleep.
Sometimes it’s obvious that life is improving, and sometimes it’s just too difficult to comprehend.
I’m pretty sure Nick over did it the other day. Yeah, I know, nobody is surprised. He rode the spin bike two days in a row, and swam too. He took yesterday off because he was in a lot of pain, but went for a good swim today. He’s still not ready to get back on the bike though, he’s really sore.
At the beginning of this week he decided to return to Project Walk in two weeks. After over-doing it though, he has decided to wait one additional week on top of that. Besides, he’ll be seeing the spine doc and getting more x-rays just to be sure everything is healing properly before returning to full throttle therapy.
It’s too bad he has so much pain and stiffness, because he’s ready to get on with life already. He’s really tired of not being healed yet. It sucks, and no amount of positive thinking, affirmations, coaching, meditating, or pain meds can change that. Only time, and hard work.
Nick Fener is damn near back in action folks. Trust me, I couldn’t believe my eyes either when he decided to challenge his Pa to a game of pool.
The constant bending and maneuvering tweaked his back a little and made him instantly sore when the game was over, but he was quick to say that moving around like that is exactly what his body needs.
Maybe next time he’ll win. PaFart whooped up on both Nick and Seth tonight. Very impressive!
Nearly five weeks post-op and Nick finally made it back to the gym for a 30 minute ride on the spin bike. I couldn’t be more proud. He’s already sore though, and I’m just hoping that he can sleep it off and ride again tomorrow.
Did anyone else see the 400 meter race with the South African double amputee runner? I haven’t felt this alive in months! It’s difficult for me to put into words just how incredible I feel about him competing against the big boys at the Olympics (and I don’t even know the dude).
He was a gold medalist Paralympic runner who tried his hand against the able bodied runners. Whether you believe he is at an advantage or a disadvantage over the other athletes, you can NOT deny that his talent and ability is inspiring. It is my personal belief that no matter how “springy” those prostheses are, any person lacking biological feet and legs is at a disadvantage in a running race against able bodied dudes. Essentially, he’s running on stilts. And he’s running faster than most of us could ever imagine. It is also my personal belief that Oscar Pistorius’ Olympic debut this evening just broke a huge socio-political/emotional barrier for hundreds of other “disabled” athletes around the world. I’m sure we’ll see others competing in 2016. In fact, I’d put money on it.
Watching Oscar run against those other athletes gave me a glimpse into Nick’s future. Even though Nick has a spinal cord injury that limits him quite a bit more than the average double-amputee, I can see Nick running again. I can see him doing any activity that he truly wants to do, he just has to heal first.
Nick has talked about training for a triathlon in the future. There is a Challenged Athletes Foundation triathlon coming up in a few months that we will likely attend, and I’m sure at that point Nick will find all the inspiration he needs to begin the process of fulfilling that dream. What an honor that would be, to see the love of my life overcome this incredible obstacle in his life and cross the finish line of a grueling race like that. Just like tonight, when the race was over the fastest runner approached Oscar, who came in last in the semi-finals, and asked him to exchange bibs. That humble gesture of respect and admiration told me that guy will forever tell the story of his history-making Olympic experience of competing against the brave runner with no legs.
Swimming. Just call him Nick Phelps. Actually, we did an experiment today, where he kicked his legs and didn’t use his arms at all. He didn’t move. But even though the kicks aren’t propelling him forward, they are strengthening his lower body. So I guess it’s all good.
He didn’t walk today at all today though. Too busy, too tired, I don’t know, but you can’t learn how to walk by swimming!
It’s been non-stop Olympic fever at the Fener house this week. Nick digs the volleyball, but is especially flipping for the gymnastics! We’ve been oh’ing and ah’ing so much that we’re dizzy from all their jumps and twists.
When U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas won the gold medal tonight, we couldn’t help but feel proud for her tremendous accomplishment and her fortitude to tumble her way to true excellence. I got a little choked up thinking about how Nick’s own road to recovery parallels Gabby’s road to greatness in many ways. She not only fought hard tonight when it counted most, but she devoted herself tirelessly to achieve her greatest dream. I’m sure Gabby lived and breathed the bars, the vault, the beam, the floor, just as Nick is 100% living his quest to strength, health, mobility, and a meaningful life.
Watching all of the Olympic-level athletes at the pinnacle of their career reminds me that Nick will one day be at the top of his game again too.
We can barely wait.
“If you can push through the hard days you can get through anything.” –Gabby Douglas
Quickie 30 second video of Nick doing a handstand in the pool, showing off for the camera and a group of kids. *Disregard the last 15 seconds of the video, I uploaded the unedited version by accident. So, I guess that makes this a quickie 19 second video. Even better!
Day 3 of swimming therapy for Nick and he’s loving it. His mood is soaring, his mobility is increasing, and his pain is lessoning. Little by little, life is getting better.
He made friends with a group of 8 and 9 year old boys in the pool today. One hyper-inquisitive boy introduced himself as Lars. I overheard Nick ask him, “Lars, like Lars Ulrich? He’s the drummer of Metallica.” The boys, for once, were actually silent. “Have you guys ever heard of Metallica?”
I’m not sure what made me laugh more, the situation, or the way Nick described it afterward. He said, “Well, since they were asking me 7,000 fucking questions, I figured I could ask them one.”
And you stumped them, sweetheart! Next up: Nick Fener competes on the gameshow Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader!