Nick shaved his head and got rid of the rats nest on his chin. Oh Happy Day!
Lots of intense work at Project Walk today. His high knees were super high!
He did crouching side steps too.
Nick came with me to the 1st Annual Fraser-Showalter family reunion. I feel so blessed to be accompanied in life by such a wonderful man.
After such an awful day yesterday, I was surprised at how awesome he did today. He sat up for a long time, and trucked it around the party with only one hiking pole. He managed to stay upright and social for several hours before finally taking a nap. He fell asleep under a pool table during the showing of old family home videos from when my Dad was a baby. 75 year old footage! I didn’t know they had cameras back then.
The reason everyone is wearing red is because each branch of the family was assigned a different color to wear. My Dad’s branch (he’s on Nick’s left) was red, if you hadn’t noticed. His sister Pat’s branch was blue, and his brother Hollis’ branch was green. I really enjoyed being able to identify everyone based on the color they were wearing, especially because it’s been years since I’ve seen a lot of these family members, if ever at all. I thought it odd to be “meeting people” at my family reunion, but I think a lot of families are like that. Everyone’s got at least one cousin they don’t know. Right? Some of us just have more than others.
Nick’s as much a part of my family as I am, and everybody treats him as such. I’m very grateful to have that love and acceptance of my partner. But honestly, who doesn’t like Nick?
Nerve pain is a serious problem for people with spinal cord damage. Phantom pain is a serious problem for amputees. Nick’s got both.
Today is day 4 of a super gnarly phantom sensation onslaught. Constant, day and night, no letting up, his left foot has been giving him intense and often unbearable sensations of pins and needles. Constant. But this evening he had about an hour without them, for the first time in four days, so we are just hoping this is a move in the right direction. Finally.
It’s odd, most people with spinal cord injuries experience a lot of pain. This is the exact opposite of what most people would think. No feeling, no pain, right? Wrong! It’s a really fucked up situation because I think most people feel like they could deal with the aftermath of their injury so much better if they weren’t in so much pain all the time. I know that’s how Nick and several of his friends feel.
And I know most amputees get that way without receiving a nerve block 24 hours before losing their limb(s). Nick and I didn’t learn about that option that has been proven to prevent phantom pain until months later. How awesome is that? All this pointless suffering caused by the feet he no longer has could have been prevented!
Pain. That’s the life of an injured man, I guess. But it still fucking sucks.
I love seeing Nick drenched with sweat after a killer workout at Project Walk. This was their final exercise of the two hour session. Eric tried everything to get Nick’s obliques, and finally found something that worked.
Eric held down Nick legs, and leading with a weighted arm Nick pulled his upper body to the opposite knee. The crunch was small because his lower back doesn’t bend very well, but they finally achieved the resistance. Nick’s going to be sore tomorrow buddy.
It’s remarkable how certain stories catch our eye and we instantly develop an emotional attachment. The other day Nick’s Mom shared a link on her Facebook page titled A Love Story in 22 Pictures that touched mine and Nick’s life very deeply.
The link tells the story of Taylor Morris, a soldier severely injured overseas just 5 months ago, and his girlfriends undying support. To say the very least: we can relate.
That evening Nick spent a few hours reading through Taylor and Danielle’s story. They share the kind of love that Nick and I do, and when I look at their pictures I can see the familiar pain in their eyes that is impossible to hide, even with the most sincere feelings of gratitude and love.
Long after I fell asleep Nick was still reading. He sent Taylor an email, feeling compelled to reach out and let them know they’re not alone, how inspirational they are, and that he’s here to “relate” with if Taylor wants.
This simple gesture of kindness is not new to us. We were contacted by thousands of people after Nick’s accident. Many, many friends from our past came forward to offer support, and just as many strangers outstretched their compassion as well. We got so many emails and blog messages that I just couldn’t keep up. There were so many unanswered emails, I just couldn’t seem to keep everything in order.
Two days after sending that email to Taylor, Nick got a personal reply back from Danielle thanking him for his support. Wow. Their story went viral, reaching hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom sent emails, and Danielle took her precious time to write Nick back. I’m floored. I know they have a friend weeding through emails, so only some get through to Taylor and Danielle, but still, I know she has a lot on her plate, and I’m really impressed that she took the time to connect.
Today marks 16 months since Nick’s accident and life is getting a lot easier. I wouldn’t want to go back in time to the 5 months mark where Taylor and Danielle are. No way. But what I do wish, is that I could push rewind and make a bigger priority of responding to and thanking our supporters who sent emails, cards, and donations.
I know I’ve said Thank You a hundred different ways on my blog, but that just can’t quite compare to the feeling of a heart felt, personal thank you like the one Nick received from them. Thank you friends, because without you, we wouldn’t have made it… and I hope you all know that. We love you!
Before hitting Submit on this blog post, I stumbled across this awesome story of Taylor’s homecoming as told by his best friend (make sure you have tissues handy). I’m just flooded with emotion right now. Their story is so beautiful.
I think this was Bri’s idea, although it screams of Fener’s ferocity. The chair is around 25 pounds. It’s not terribly heavy, but it’s cumbersome. The balance required for Nick to pull this off is impressive to me.
Technically (and legally, I suppose) they cannot market the CVAC as a therapy because they haven’t paid the bucks for the research and trials.At this point in time it’s considered a “work out.”
Well, whatever the hell it is, we think it’s working. It just so happens that Nick is making great physical progress lately, since regularly using the CVAC. His cardiovascular endurance and recovery time are both rapidly improving. That’s exactly what the CVAC claims to help with.
This morning we had a spinal cord injury sneak attack. That’s what I call it anyway, and I’m sure most people with SCI can relate. Just when you think things are going great, and you’re feeling good for a few days (or weeks!), some crazy, unexpected side effect pops up to fuck your morning (or day, or week) all up.
Nick woke me up at 6am by panting and groaning. His stomach was seizing, stabbing pains caused him to writhe uncontrollably back and forth on the bed. Last night he complained that his stomach didn’t feel right, wondering what I put in his salad, but his stomach “doesn’t feel right” a lot of the time so we didn’t think much of it.
This, however, was on a whole different level. This was almost identical to what happened last year when he landed in the hospital for a week because of a small-bowel obstruction. Knowing we were going to end up in the ER if it didn’t clear up soon, I jumped up and ran to his side of the bed and convinced Nick to let me push on his stomach. That was the only thing I knew to do at this point. He had several vomit false alarms, but I kept massaging him. It was painful, and a few times he asked me to hold on, but I kept massaging. If he had an obstruction or blockage, the only thing that would solve it would be to get it moving. So I kept massaging.
Thankfully it moved, whatever it was, before we resorted to a trip to county hospital. The painful episode lasted for two hours, in which time I called Project Walk to cancel his appointment for this afternoon. After a few more hours of sleep, he woke up ready to take on a killer therapy session and called to get his appointment back. He ended up having a CVAC session and then an intense two hour workout at Project Walk.
We even had enough energy for a yummy dinner with Josh Wood and his Mum Kay (check out his website). What an inspiring dude and super nice guy. He spoke openly about his life and bared bits of his soul that reminded me so much of Nick. His determination to always grow and “never say never” really shined, but it’s his acknowledgement of the power of our individual choice to be happy that resonated with me most. After spending two hours with him and Kay, it’s obvious that he can teach others a lot about living an amazing life. It’s no wonder he’s an accomplished public speaker in Australia.
Dinner was arranged by Mum, whom we’ve known for several months now, even though we had never met Josh before. She just knew they would get on amazingly… and she was right.
We spent this hot summer evening in the pool together, something we haven’t done in a couple of weeks. Appreciating the amber sunset, cheek to cheek, up to our necks in warm water may not be as exciting as making ten skydives in a day or traveling by land through Europe, but it was every bit as magical once we focused our attention on the fact that it was.
We shared moments of pure happiness in that pool tonight, soaking under the stars. But we had to pay attention. I always look for those moments. The more we seek, the more we find.
Nick’s last back surgery has turned out to be a blessing for both of us. Nick is finally seeing some improvements from it. More flexibility! He told me he’s able to sleep on his stomach in his “favorite sleeping position” for the first time since his accident. It’s a stomach-down, half-twist, pillow-hugging position that allows Nick to sleep soundly. Many basic movements are getting easier for him, which he gives credit to having less hardware in his back.
Since Nick’s spine surgery two and a half months ago, I eagerly decided to reclaim my identity. For over a year I absorbed into Nick as an extension of him. His caregiver and partner, I embodied a role that profoundly nurtured my soul. He needed me, and I needed him. We lived the mantra “we’re going to get through this together.” We still are. A promise I made to his unconscious body the night of his accident, I took on his suffering and grief as my own and vowed to never give up on his healing, no matter what.
But several weeks after this surgery, his healing began taking a turn in a positive direction. His recovery was slowly transitioning into predominantly physical healing because he had done so much work on the emotional side of it already. I didn’t notice this until after week 5 or 6 though, as the physical pain of the surgery gave way to preliminary emotional backsliding. But Nick is resilient, and as soon as he began fighting back, gaining confidence again and physical strength, it became apparent that a space was opening up in our lives for me to begin exploring who I am again.
I had lost myself in our journey, and I’m okay with that. I call it steadfast commitment. A love-drenched soul in its ultimate expression.
With Nick on the mend now, more determined and happy than ever, I’ve been slowly shifting my focal point from him to me. As Nick needs my pep-talks and physical presence less and less, I’m taking my time back to pursue the creative endeavors that have been tugging at my heart for over a year now.
I’m slowly coming alive with passion, cultivating my evolving strengths, and investing my time into creating what my heart is screaming to take shape. I’ve been working on a book for months, and though it’s nowhere near ready to be published, I’m no longer embarrassed to call myself an author. The painstaking yet gratified experience of pushing through my insecurities and emotional blocks to craft a brutally honest memoir of my charmed but dramatic life is proof enough for me that I am indeed an author. At 31, I have shelves of dusty, conflict scarred stories in my memory that I’m not too self-conscious to share, particularly the behind-the-scenes struggles and triumphs of the last 16 months. We all have a story to tell, and I’ve decided that it’s time to tell mine. Not Nick’s story. My story. I’m working feverishly to get the words out, aware that the journey is still young and likely to awkwardly linger long past its welcome, just like the one I’m writing about.
It’s been 16 busy months, and I have yet to return to a “real job,” preferring to use my time to continue helping Nick. I highly doubt I’ll return to a “real job,” (think: traditional employment). I want to create something different for my future. I’ve been studying nutrition, and am taking a course to become a Certified Nutrition Coach. With that certification, I’ll be able to legally teach nutrition in any state in the U.S.. Now, I have no idea where this will lead, but I’m certain that if I pursue what I’m passionate about, the pieces will fall together as I go. I yearn to combine passion with purpose, and create a living through that. That’s what I did with skydiving and at the time I was fulfilled beyond measure. Though I still love skydiving, I find it lacks purpose for me now, other than serving as an outlet for fun and the occasional reminder that I’m still alive.
My shift of focus has ignited a fire within me. I hope to lead Nick by example now in his own pursuit of a meaningful life, seeking peace and happiness together.
Yesterday I stumbled upon a blog post on Positively Positive that resonated so deeply with me, I knew I couldn’t keep it to myself.
How To Die Without Regrets by Bethany Butzer, PH.D. is well worth the quick read, so go ahead, click on it and savor every word.
My favorite line?
Even if you’re suffering from a serious health condition or are recovering from a traumatic event, you are responsible for how you perceive and react to these situations. It’s up to you to make the best of everything that you encounter in life—even tragedy.
For years, I’ve been a big fan of Neil Donald Walsch’s book Conversations With God. I subscribe to his daily emails, and frankly, find myself deleting them more often than sharing or re-reading them. But today I received the greatest one of all. The following email eloquently sums up the simple process I’ve used to get us through the hardest months of our lives.
On this day of your life, Lindsay, I believe God wants you to know…
…that “Why is this happening?” is the most useless question in the Universe.
The only really profitable question is, “What?”
As in, “What do I choose now?” This question empowers.
The “why” question simply perplexes, and rarely satisfies even when it gets a good answer.
So don’t try to “figure it out.” Stop it. Just focus on what you now wish to create. Keep moving forward.
There’s nothing behind you that can possibly serve you better than your highest thoughts about tomorrow.
This year, football season means that every Sunday I get to do whatever the hell I please. I am officially claiming Sunday as MY day, as I leave the wildebeests to their pig skins. I love it though. I love the passion in these Fener men as they yell and cheer at the hunky spandex clad athletes who punish each other, vying for possession of an oblong, bumpy brown ball. Pure passion, vibrant life force, American Football fans!
Yesterday we hung out with our friend Ke and met his beautiful girlfriend Chalet (here is her heartfelt blog). I had the crazy idea of going to the beach and renting sand wheelchairs and going for a stroll along the waters edge. It was a perfect day. Wispy white clouds streaked the blue sky. A delicate cool breeze brushed away the suns intensity. There were swarms of people, the beach is just so inviting.
It’s an interesting public social experiment having two young, fit dudes in wheelchairs accompanied by two smiling red heads. After fifteen months of living like this, Nick and I are accustomed to the stares, the comments, and the colorful interactions with strangers. We expect it. We always have wonderful experiences. We expect that too.
The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me. I am truly grateful any time a stranger offers to help me load Nick’s wheelchair in the car, even though I always decline. I offer an emphatic Thank You to anyone who holds a door, or steps aside to let us pass by. Nick goes out of his way to turn potentially awkward intimate moments with strangers into light hearted encounters. He loves to say hello to everyone he can, and never misses an opportunity to blurt out a good foot joke.
So yesterday, when Nick flipped over backward in the sand wheelchair, and I was unable to get him back up because I was laughing too hard (and he was on a slope), it was only natural that men came running from several nearby families to help out. It took three guys to get Nick right-side-up again, and one even insisted on helping me push him the rest of the way to the car, which wasn’t too far. No Feners were hurt in the making of this story, but I know we caused one hell of a scene.
Between falling over backward and just the general visual oddity of the four of us cruising along the sand in those funny looking chairs, I’m sure many people on that crowded beach were in awe of us. One man was brave enough to approach but Nick answered his question before he could even ask it, “Skydiving. It happened skydiving.” You see, we were in Oceanside, a bustling military town. I’m pretty sure the common assumption was they are veterans. I’m surprised more people didn’t come to say Thank You to them. It’s happened to both of them many times before.
Tonight I asked Nick how he is feeling, how he’s coping, accepting, finding peace with his life now. I don’t expect him to be happy about his life right now, that would be unrealistic especially because he had surgery nine weeks ago that forced him back into intolerable pain and dependence. Compared to the life he used to live, I know his current life sucks. Instead of skydiving everyday, he is juggling doctors appointments, therapies, and chores. His life lacks the excitement and passion it once had, but we understand he’s on a mission and he’s investing in his future by doing what is necessary to have the greatest chance at a fulfilling life in the future. I hope that one day he can find intense happiness that he once had despite what has changed in his life.
But right now, he says he’s found quite a bit of peace with losing his legs, his mobility, and some of his most intimate functions. He’s accepted where he’s at, even though there are moments when he still hates it. These moments are fewer, shorter, and milder. At only fifteen months post-accident I think any level of acceptance is an impressive feat. Just dealing with and working through the anger and depression that naturally accommodates a permanent injury is outstanding. And he’s done it while maintaining a good attitude and laser focus on his goals.
Nick Fener represents Chuck Norris strength and Energizer endurance. He’s suffered and survived through misery that would cripple many of us, and somehow has never lost his sense of self or sense of humor. I’m so proud of my partner. Everyday he inspires me to be a better person, live with more love and gratitude, push through what scares and intimidates me, be authentic and honest, and appreciate and cultivate my health and happiness.
Thank you Nick.
I love you!
I want to express the gravity of what going back to therapy at Project Walk means. This won’t be easy because it means everything.
Nick’s therapy at Project Walk from January through June this year gave him his glute muscles back, his hamstrings, his core. Working with Bri and Eric three days a week for over five months infused Nick with hope and had him flirting with freedom. His time at Project Walk cultivated the strength to push forward and the tools to do it safely. He swiftly graduated from parallel bars to a walker, from a walker to forearm crutches, from forearm crutches to hiking poles, from hiking poles to taking wobbly unassisted steps. He summited the Mt Everest of recovery, but only because they’re bad ass sherpas! The extensive knowledge and experience they have working with people who have spinal cord injuries made the critical difference in Nick’s stunning progression.
Not being at Project Walk, not moving forward, not seeing his friends make progress, not being around the community of amazing people, was all really hard on Nick. But even though he spent nine weeks away, having surgery and starting from scratch, nine weeks away filled with emotional turmoil and physical agony, nine weeks away with no formal therapy and very little energy to do his own exercising, even with all of that, he returned to Project Walk today just as strong if not stronger in certain areas than when he left nine weeks ago. I’m not saying he didn’t get his ass kicked. He did. Bri took him to the brink, but no further. It was a tough workout and he’ll be GRATEFUL when he is sore tomorrow. He GOT to workout hard today, he didn’t HAVE to.
I guess what I’m saying is it was lip-smacking, gooey gourmet chocolate cake, scrumptiously delicious to be back.
The hugs, the smiles, the stories from friends. Pure awesomeness!
Round Two in the CVAC for Nick today. No problems with his ears during the entire one hour session. I didn’t go with him because I’m still not feeling good. Apparently I did a little too much running around yesterday because I feel worse then I did then.
Trying to embrace the downtime I’ve earned over the last week by reading, writing, brainstorming, dreaming, and trying new recipes. And that’s about all I’ve had the energy for too (other than yesterday, that is).
Nick starts Project Walk again tomorrow. Symbolic! We are moving forward.
Speaking of new recipes, check out what I crafted yesterday for breakfast. Nick had no idea it wasn’t scrambled eggs until he heard me talking about it later that day. I switched out his typical morning oatmeal for quinoa made with almond milk and he really liked it.
This beautifully creative expression of compassion and hope was crafted by my friend Blue.
Just now as Nick was rolling over in bed he brought my attention to the ease at which he could lay on his belly and not be totally strained. He’s feeling a little more flexible now than he did before the surgery. With shorter metal rods his spine can move more freely now, and he’s finally beginning to notice it.
For the first month after the surgery he was cursing ever having it done. And now he’s reaping some of the benefits. Finally! Dawn is breaking.
I’ve been sick for three days now. Boo hoo! I can’t help but feel like a total wuss when I complain about my “pain” to Nick (and you know I’m complaining!) or when I just need to lay down after making an exhausting pilgrimage to the kitchen for more water.
To top it off, while I’m laying around sniffling this afternoon, Nick’s in the other room on the treadmill completely shattering his personal-best of 1/4 mile by walking a 1/2 mile straight!
We got hooked up with a killer deal on a gently used treadmill from our friend Eric and now Nick is able to “go for a walk” any time of day and successfully measure and track his progress. It’s been an excellent motivator for him, especially since it’s so convenient!
Then later, as I was complaining about still feeling lightheaded and just wanting to stay inside, Nick packed up and went to the pool for a few hours. He said it was a wonderful opportunity to practice mindfulness and soak in the beautiful day. He swam a little, peacefully floated some more, and socialized the most. Nicks buddy Lars was there with his parents and they got a chance to get to know each other. Nick really does make friends everywhere he goes, and by the sound of it, they’re like that too. Damn, I wish I could have been there.
Nick goes back to therapy at Project Walk in three short days. It feels like summer break is ending and school is back in session… well, kind of. The only difference is we’re actually excited to get back in the routine and get the momentum going again. Let the countdown begin!
Because it is my nature, I have to share a few positive things that have happened to us in the past two days before I share the shitty stuff.
Thursday was a busy, busy day. Nick is trying a new “therapy” called the CVAC process. Basically, he sits in a little pod for 20-60 minutes while the atmospheric pressure rapidly changes. During his initial session he was taken from a pressure equal to 10,000 feet above sea level, and dropped down to sea level, over and over again. The idea is to replicate the “pulsatile nature of breathing, muscle contraction, and blood flow that occur during exercise.” It’s for healing and conditioning, making it popular with professional athletes.
We got hooked up with this therapy through our friend Paul, and Nick is receiving a very hefty discount for his treatments. Thank you CVAC!
Our new car is having some issues with the passenger-door speaker so we took it in for repair. Turns out they couldn’t duplicate the problem we’ve been experiencing and therefore couldn’t fix it, so they ended up rotating the tires and washing the car for free. We even missed the torrential rains that hit that day and still have a shiny, clean car.
And lastly for the fun news, while waiting for the car, we had lunch in Old Town Temecula at The Public House. The food was so amazing, we just couldn’t stop raving about it. Nick had the special, a pan-seared Opah fish with some delicious fruit salsa compote on it. I had grilled Romaine (sounds unassuming, but was one of the most creative, satisfying dishes I’ve ever experienced), and we shared a vegan bruschetta to start. After the meal, the chef came to meet us because he heard we loved his creations. He was genuinely flattered by our appreciation and made us a special dessert for free: bread pudding with fruit, macadamia nuts, and a cream cheese topping. Unbelievable. We both left there uncomfortably full but glowing in our hearts and spirits. Thursday was a great day!
And then… Friday happened.
I was fighting a bit of a bug on Wednesday night and Thursday, but thought I had won. When I woke on Friday, it was a totally different story. I was sick. So sick, in fact, that I was almost completely useless. My whole body hurt, bringing me to tears several times throughout the day. Dull aches and shooting pains. Nausea, sore throat, and a headache. Light headed and heavy hearted.
Poor Nick, he really picked up the slack. It was hard on him, but he rose to the challenge and became my hero. He went to the grocery store for me, chopped veggies, and helped make fresh veggie soup (that I was unable to eat after all). He was constantly getting up and down for me, fetching water, cool rags, tea, and blankets. He had a full day of what I call “applied therapy.” He didn’t ride the bike, swim, or walk on the treadmill, but he trekked all over the house in the name of love and good Partnership! He was even walking around our kitchen without the walker or crutches for the first time since the surgery.
Of course, none of that came without dramatically increased pain. I’m just grateful he was able to assist me the way he did, and that I didn’t fall ill a few weeks ago when he would have been unable to keep up.
Thankfully I’m feeling better today. The feelings of a slow, painful death have abandoned my muscles and joints, but I’m still sore, exhausted, and lightheaded. I’m capable of tending to myself again, so I sent Nick out of the house to go have some fun. There’s no use having him sitting around watching me be miserable when there’s nothing he can do to help. So, he’s down at the dropzone hanging out with friends and watching the jumpers and enjoying the afternoon.
Despite not feeling well, I’m enjoying this quiet, contemplative Saturday afternoon alone. Looking forward to the return of my radiant health, but also appreciating the contrast from yesterdays bitter flavor.