Nick helped me in the kitchen tonight.
He juiced kale, spinach, chard, cucumber, romaine, pear, green apple, green grapes… the ultimate green drink!
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!
I feel good!
Not great, but good. —Nick Fener
I haven’t heard him say anything like this in weeks! He had a chance to loosen up today and move his body more in one hour than in the last three weeks combined.
That’s right, he finally got to swim again! Swimming outside on a beautiful day made a huge positive impact on him physically and mentally. A little vitamin D, and a lot of gravity-free movement turned today into a fabulous today.
This morning I looked under the bandage on his back and decided it was healed enough to swim. Once in the pool, we swam lap after lap, in every which direction, dodging children left and right. He didn’t stop the whole time – making large, fluid kicks with his water legs, which is normally difficult for him.
I can’t help but wonder if he’ll be sore tomorrow.
Exactly ten years ago, in 2002, I had the incredible opportunity to experience India for over 5 weeks. I traveled by land westward from Calcutta across the northern part of the country. I made it all the way to the Pakistani border town of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, up to the northern town of Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama now lives, and visited Varanasi, Delhi, Agra, New Delhi, Jaipur, and the remote countryside on the way. I call it “experiential education” rather than tourism. I stayed with families, did lots of volunteer work, and ate my weight in Thali, lassi’s, and dates. That trip has forever changed the way I see the world, myself, and life.
Unfortunately my 4 &1/2 month trip through South East Asia was before Facebook, blogging, digital cameras (for me anyway), and iPhones. I kept a daily private journal, an emotion driven art book, and took over 40 rolls of film, but have yet to organize or share any of it.
For years I wanted Nick to experience India as well, and we finally had a trip planned for last December. Of course it never happened because he got hurt, and now I question whether he will ever be able to safely and comfortably travel in such intense conditions. This recurring thought has brought me great sadness over the last year, but deep down I know he will be capable of anything he puts his mind to. We might just have to modify it a little, that’s all.
I share all this, because today I found this killer blog post from a complete stranger who just spent a month in India. This persons words perfectly paint the picture of India and how it bombards your five senses. The descriptions are spot on and I felt like I was there again in the magical land of chaos and beauty.
Please enjoy! I know I did.
Nick is far from physically healed, but psychologically he is ready to move on. The last few days he’s been talking a lot about his next endeavor, or his next project; what he wants to do for a living.
Folks, you have no idea what this means! He hasn’t spoke much at all about this since his injury. We’ve both had a one track mind: get Nick healthy again. In fact, we hardly have any idea what our future is going to look like. I just know it’s going to be bad ass! That’s for sure.
So to have him thinking clearly and brainstorming and searching for his next project is thrilling to me. Maybe it’s time to move on from this painful phase of life. Maybe, just maybe.
“Today and everyday I find simple ways to give to everyone I meet.” – the Centering Thought for the day, source unknown.
I’m grateful Nick took the time to share part of his daily meditation with me today. He’s been incredibly diligent in keeping up with the program. I know it’s helping him get through this healing process. Meditating daily is keeping him calm, centered, and allowing him to relax deep to the core. I’m proud of him for seeking this mediation series, and for being a student of life, love, and soul for the last few years. He could have lost this connection after his accident, but I think it’s just increased his hunger.
I can remember a time when we were first dating that he would tell me he didn’t feel in touch with his spirituality, that he didn’t understand it or how he felt about it, or what it all meant. For the last three years or so he’s been seeking inner peace, and I know it’s made him a better person.
Here are a few amber hued words that resonated with me.
When I sit back and think about the magnitude of this crazy adventure we are on, it blows my mind that we’ve survived. I’ve always known that life is capable of throwing a mean curve ball, but I never expected it would be this mean, and come this early in life.
At the same time that I am proud beyond measure with how we’ve handled the aftermath of Nick’s injury, I also know that we’ve been very blessed, and have had oceans of help to get us through it. We’ve been well taken care of, still to this day. We’ve been lifted up, catered to, and loved on by friends and family everyday. In other words, we’ve had it relatively easy.
Two nights ago, one of my favorite shows, Taboo, shared the story of a man who lost his face in a work accident. His forehead accidentally hit power lines. When I say he lost his face, I mean every recognizable feature on his face was burned off, but somehow he survived. The doctors took skin and just stretched it across the bones on his face, and reshaped a mouth opening so he could breath, eat, and talk. He lost his sight, his identity, and the fundamental acceptance from society that we all take for granted as regular-looking people. He eventually got the first-ever full face transplant and now has a recognizable (but not quite normal-looking) human face again, but it’s the face of someone else. The most amazing thing about his story, is that he truly feels lucky to be alive, despite the cruel world he must now live in.
Both Nick and I agree that we’d rather lose our legs than our face, without a doubt. The more incredible stories we hear of people overcoming severe obstacles like that, the more we realize that Nick’s obstacles really aren’t that big. Well, that’s how I see it anyway. I’m not in Nick’s body, so I don’t know the pain, but what I DO know is that one day Nick will wake up and this healing process will be a faded memory with very little emotional suffering attached to it. As time passes, his new normal will begin to FEEL normal. He will adapt. He will not only have hope for physical and emotional prosperity, he will be LIVING it.
In the depths of my heart, I’m grateful for the challenges we’ve overcome these past 14 months. But don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to do it again, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone else in the world. But because I can see a bright future for us, and because I feel like we’ve grown into better people, and because we’ve experienced fierce love and pain, and because I’m an optimist to the core, I think we’re lucky. Evidence of our grand luck doesn’t always scream at us, it’s more a subtle tugging on my sleeve, a nagging pit in my stomach, that lets me know to be grateful for all we have.
Ahhhh, a good day.
Seeing the spine surgeon today made all the difference in Nicks attitude and mood. He’s been down for so many days now because of the pain and lack of expected improvement. But today his mind was put at ease.
They took the 40 staples out of his back so now he’s free to take a real shower. The X-rays looked good and the doctor is pleased.
At some point today, probably when Nick was stretching without a shirt on, about an inch of his newly closed wound opened up. You can see on the picture that the skin looks strange from the ninth staple down to the twelfth, and thats where it wasn’t quite healed. It’s not terrible, but it’s gross. I cleaned it and butterfly closed it so he can sleep with abandon.
He’s still having a lot of trouble walking and is doing very little of it. At two and a half weeks he is still mostly laying down. Standing is really painful and he only has so much stamina, but he’s working on it slowly. The doc said another four weeks and he’ll be feeling back to normal. Just as I had always expected.
His new attitude is the best part though. He’s so tired of being in pain and injured, but after getting the reassurance that he’s okay, he is reunited with his ultimate goal: to get strong and Get Bust Living!
What a terrible way to wake up this morning. To all those personally affected by last night’s shooting: I’m sorry and I’m mourning with you.
He didn’t just kill 14 people and victimize a theater full of Batman fans, he terrorized the good people of our nation. Though I’m riddled with anger for what he did to hundreds of thousands of people across America, I am cautious not to allow myself to feel fear.
Don’t be afraid to live your life. Go to the movies. Go to ball games, concerts, and the mall. Celebrate the life you still have, and love the people around you. Remember, people are inherently good. To be fearful, or to say his name and show his picture is a subtle way of letting him win.
If the media would stop showing his picture and broadcasting his name his power would be greatly diminished. The investigators and interrogators working with him should tell him there’s no news coverage of his sinister act. He wanted the attention and unfortunately he’s getting it. At least we could lead him to believe his plan to gain fame didn’t work, that he didn’t deeply affect the masses, that nobody cares about who he is. I’m sure he’ll go down in history much like McVeigh and the Columbine kids, but he doesn’t deserve such satisfaction to know that.
I wish peace, healing, and eventual closure to the victims families and those who are left to make sense of the horrific sights and sounds of last nights tragedy. Love, forgiveness, and compassion will always be the victor over anger, hatred, and vengeance, even though it’s incredibly difficult to recognize that when you’re completely enveloped in the emotions of a tragedy such as this.
“Life is too short to carry the burden of a heavy heart. It does not serve you or anyone else. Free yourself through the power of forgiveness and compassion.” –David Simon
Just two (long) weeks after Nick’s surgery, he’s up, at ’em, and ready to take on the world (and maybe a nap too). This afternoon we went to the county hospital and did Nick’s volunteer orientation and training. It’s been months in the making, but today marked the official beginning of Nick’s journey to give back. A HUGE thank you to Robyn the volunteer services coordinator, Tommy the caring trauma nurse extraordinaire, and June from Amputee Empowerment Partners and Hanger Prosthetics. As a group, they’re blasting through red tape to bring support and encouragement to hospital patients… in a Nick Fener kind of way.
As an amazing surprise, Nick was able to do his first visit with a patient today. And it was by personal request. We met the sweetest, most inspiring woman I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in a very long time. She heard about Nick, heard he was going to be there today, and asked if she could meet him.
Her name is Velvet, and she gave me permission to share her story. Her health problems really kicked in about two years ago, and she was dropped from her insurance. With no other place to turn she began receiving care from the county hospital and has been in the hospital over ten times in the last two years. I just can’t imagine how difficult that has been for her. Yet, even with mounting health concerns, she’s a fun, quirky lady with a heart of gold and a personality that lights up a room. When we visited her, she wasn’t in a standard issue hospital gown, she brought her own brightly colored dress and had bright green nails to match. She greeted us all with big warm hugs and a genuine smile, despite being ill and stuck in a stale white hospital room. She doesn’t look like she feels too well, but her spirit sings a totally different song. She beams like the sun, is open and funny, likes to joke around with the nurses (just like Nick
used to still does) and she sees life through compassionate eyes that many of us may never have insight to.
She’s an artist. She colors beautiful felt posters and creates unique works of art straight from her heart. And she gives them away as Thank You’s to the staff of the hospital for her continued care. She spoke passionately of her desire to give back to those who have helped her and was keenly interested in how Nick planned to do the same. Her overflowing heart etched into our souls.
I don’t know about Velvet’s finances, but can only guess she has a very strained budget. She mentioned that each painting costs her about $18 including the frame. I immediately began thinking of ways to help her paint more, and pay less. Give more, live more, love more.
If you’re touched at all by her story, I ask that you visit your nearest Michael’s Craft store or Joann’s Fabrics (two stores I know she gets supplies from) and pick up a gift card for her. It doesn’t have to be much. Sign your name, or make it anonymous, it doesn’t matter, I know she will be overwhelmed with gratitude.
You can send them to the hospital at the following address:RCRMC Volunteer Services C/O Robyn Manning 26520 Cactus Ave Moreno Valley, CA 92555
I resonated deeply with her when she spoke about her husband. In 32 years they have spent very little time apart. They are soul mates. It makes him crazy when she’s in the hospital. They are just doing the best they can do. Sometimes he’ll come have lunch with her and they will go down into the hospital cafeteria where he will lay out a table cloth, light a candle and put a few flowers on the table to make their time together more special.
If that doesn’t melt your heart with the warmth of true love and a survivor’s spirit, I don’t know what will.
“Unless you loosen the hold your past has on you, your future will unfold in much the same way… It is time to begin writing a new script that accurately reflects the beautiful, powerful, and worthy being you are.” -David Simon
Nick is on day 2 of a 21 day meditation through the Deepak Chopra Center. They sent him this quote tonight. Fitting, as we had just spent an hour talking about this very topic.
Actively harnessing the peace, acceptance, and joy in our hearts.
Day 11 post-surgery and Nick is finally beginning to feel human again. I’m not saying he’s without pain, but he’s a little more like himself today. Not only did he go outside and feel sunshine on his skin for the first time in a week, but he left the house today too. And, in true Fener fashion, he pushed himself a little too hard. Costco is a huge place! Maybe that wasn’t the best choice for a first outing, but hey, we really needed 160 lbs of dog food, 54 rolls of toilet paper, and $10 worth of cherries.
On the way home I couldn’t drive fast enough for him – the pain suddenly overtook him when we were finishing in Costco – and he fell asleep within seconds of getting back in bed. Today was a turning point in his recovery though, and I have to acknowledge that. The evidence that he actually IS getting better is too strong to ignore, and with that, we have to keep pushing forward.
I’ve somehow found a deep sense of peace with where we are right now, and it’s enveloped in a thick cloud of knowing life will be much better soon (cue The Smith’s song How Soon Is Now). My optimism has narrowly kept us afloat the last eleven days, but I can now see Nick beginning to tread water on his own again. I know it won’t be long before he’s swimming, both metaphorically and literally. As soon as his wound is healed I’m throwing him in the pool for some exercise.
I’m calmly elated that the worst is behind us. Strangely though, I feel like I’ve said that before.
Apparently it’s been a week since Nicks surgery, but Black Holes know no time.
This is harder than we thought, but I’m grateful that we don’t have anything else going on and can focus 100% on his immediate recovery. Being back at square one is a challenge all on it’s own.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a call light to answer.
We’ve been in bed damn near all day. Blah. The last three weeks have officially caught up to me. And Nick, well, he just had back surgery.
We drank a lot of fresh green vegetable juice today that I made fresh yesterday, had a big green salad, and unfortunately, ate enough Nutella to make me want to puke. Nothing like canceling out all my good clean-eating efforts with chocolatey, hazelnutty goodness (that I happened to blend with bananas and freeze to make creamy fudgesicles). I’m blaming it on not feeling good. Yea, that’s it.
Tomorrow is going to look much different. I hope.
When we got home from the hospital today Nick asked for his tools and got busy re-assembling the bag of rods, bolts, and screws that came out of his back a few days ago.
These screws are no joke. Even the spiraled threading is sharp! And they were in his body, holding him together! Creepy. Now he only has four screws and two short rods. I hope he doesn’t feel like less of a man.
What should we do with this hardware?
Back to the basics, but he’s doing it!
He got up to walk twice today! And to think, this morning he didn’t believe he could get out of bed. But by noon he was making it happen. Slowly. Very slowly.
His right leg is extremely heavy because of his painful hip. He’s putting a lot of weight on his hands again and I had to remind him a few times to relax the tension in his shoulders.
During his second therapy session he walked almost twice as far as the first time.
Nick Fener is one determined dude.
Here’s a formal farewell to Nick’s fever: Good riddance!
We found out why Nick’s right hip is so painful and swollen. They took bone from his hip and used it in the spinal fusion. And I’m not so sure we were going to find out about it unless Nick complained of the pain. They re-fused his vertebrae from L3 to S1, installing two small rods and two screws. The surgeons took Nick’s active lifestyle into account when making this in-operative decision to add more hardware. They could have just used the bone from his hip and hoped for the best, but instead decided to give him every possible chance of fully healing with no complications or future weakness. Two screws are better than twelve.
He has a dimpled indentation where the old screw was sticking out. The surgeon said, “the bolt was eating away at the skin from the inside.” No wonder it was constantly inflamed and swollen. Yuck! He also said that the original fusion only healed about half way, if that. Despite our best attempts to create a healing environment for Nick, his spine just wouldn’t cooperate. It could potentially take up to another year for the bones to fully fuse. But maybe not. I guess we’ll see.
While digging around in his back, the doc noticed some bone scraping against nerve fibers in his spinal column and cleaned it up. There’s a good chance that by releasing those nerves he will have less pain in his back and legs. I don’t want to jinx anything, but Nick told me he hasn’t had a single twinge of phantom pain since his surgery. Not once. But this is the only time we’re going to talk about it. Despite my glee, we’re not going to have a party over this; there’s no sense in putting any thought or energy into something gone, especially when we want to keep it that way.
We’re going home tomorrow. Now that’s something to celebrate!
My realization: Hospital chairs make your ass hurt.
Nick’s realization: Every minute is an hour.
He’s had a low grade fever all day. It’s really bummin’ me out man. Could be an infection, but his white blood cell count was normal early this morning. He got antibiotics immediately after the surgery yesterday, and began another treatment this evening as well. Waiting for more blood work in the morning.
Physical therapy came by twice today (the same awesome woman who worked with him last year after his anterior spinal fusion). On the first go, he tried to sit up but couldn’t move enough to even get propped up on an elbow. It was just too painful.
A few hours later PT returned and Nick found the strength to sit all the way up on the edge of the bed. He sat there for at least ten minutes before carefully laying down again.
It seemed he felt a little bit better as each hour passed. He napped over and over again and even ate solid food. We’re making progress.
I have a feeling he’ll be kicking major ass tomorrow.
5:30am is really stinking early to us. 5:30am is especially stinking early to us when we are reporting for surgery at a hospital that’s 30 minutes away. 5:30am is really, really, ridiculously stinking early when they make you wait for 5 hours before starting said surgery!
Last week Nick waited 2.5 hours in the waiting room for a pre-op appointment, and today he waited 5 hours for the same doc. Something is very wrong with this picture. We didn’t feel like patients or customers, we felt like puppets. Waking at 3:45am only to sit around on hard chairs under bright fluorescent lighting, suffering audible assault by incessant beeping in a cold and sterile room completely sucked the life out of us on a day that we needed every speck of strength and optimism.
Honestly, I have no idea how the surgery went because I still haven’t talked to the doctor. In his groggy, post-op sedation, Nick briefly spoke with him. The two rods and twelve screws are out, along with other miscellaneous parts, but apparently they had to put some hardware back in. We knew this was a possibility, I just want to know the extent of it all.
I met up with Nick at 3:30 this afternoon as he was being transported from Recovery up to his room. All afternoon and evening he’s been quiet and still, wearing a perma-grimmace. He shifted position twice tonight with the help of two nurses and myself. These minor adjustments shot his pain levels through the roof. And don’t even think about bumping the bed!
I brought his pain medicine with me, knowing that it would take forever for them to get his shit straight. I was right, and so grateful he took some. It was nearly 5 hours before he got oxycodone from the nurse, and still his pain is out of control.
There is a hemo-vac draining fluid and blood from his back, which leads me to believe he might not be going home tomorrow as we’ve been anticipating. I hope not, but I am mentally preparing for it. I know Nick’s going to be pissed if he has to stay another night though.
So ready for this to be over.
Sucking every ounce of fun out of life before his big surgery.
If you’re having trouble viewing this, you can watch it here.
Nick had the hardware removed from his back today, and we get to keep it!
Unfortunately they had to put some back in.
Poor dude is having a really rough time. The pain in his back is unbearable. He can barely even move his arms it hurts so bad.
Nick is going in for surgery at 5:30am on Thursday, so we kept our 4th of July very mellow. We went to Mom Fener’s for a yummy BBQ, and then watched the fireworks from our front porch. Last year I bought some fireworks from a stand in San Bernardo where they’re still legal, so we set a few of them off tonight. I can’t believe we didn’t set our front porch on fire! One was a huge crackling fountain that sprayed all over the place. That’s the extent of our holiday excitement this year.
We hung out at the Canyon Lake pool yesterday though, and soaked up the sun. Nick popped my beloved pink floatie that I brought home from Florida. He didn’t just pop it, he ripped the damn thing in half with his legs!
Wish us luck tomorrow. We’re hoping his surgeons had a mild 4th of July too.
We should be home by Saturday if everything goes well.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures from my “Girls Gone Mild” trip to Florida…
I loved my Florida vacation. We completely missed the tropical storm “Debby” and had unusually perfect weather. Only a few cat-fights, one pair of ruined glasses, a lost bathing suit, no hang-overs, a mere $60 worth of unused rented SCUBA gear, a new turtle named Sampson, one mild sunburn, a few karaoke duets, six days of poppin’ bottles, and an alligator head souvenir… I’d say it was a good trip!
I’m on a girls trip to Florida for a loooong weekend, and I’m proud to announce that Nick is doing extremely well without me. We miss the hell out of each other though. We are not accustomed to spending time apart, but this vacation is healthy for both of us.
Today MIA peed all over him and he got stranded at Project Walk for two hours after his appointment was over. But other than that, he’s doing great!
I went to a water park for my friend Kim’s birthday yesterday, frolicked in the surf at Daytona Beach this afternoon, and did what any self respecting woman would do on a girls trip: I saw Magic Mike on opening night.
Tomorrow we will scuba dive some fresh water springs in search of manatees. It is not manatee season, so I’ve been working on my manatee mating call to lure them in.
SCUBA diving is a pain in the ass, but the last dive trip was so successful we decided to try our hand at diving again – just the two of us. So yesterday we went down to San Diego’s Mission Bay and hopped on the Humboldt dive boat for a quick 2 tank dive of the sunken Yukon ship.
The Yukon was a Canadian Naval destroyer intentionally sunk as an artificial reef just over a mile off shore. The 366 foot battleship sits on her side in about 100 feet of water. She’s massive, and truthfully, kind of eerie.
As we descended, the visibility was so poor I couldn’t even see Nick a few feet below me. But at 60 feet or so, the water cleared up as we hit a cold sheer. California diving is cold water diving all year round, but yesterday could be technically classified as “colder than a witch’s tittie” diving.” We wear a 7 mil wet suit, a hood, gloves, and booties to protect us from the cold. All that’s exposed is a few square inches of our cheeks. Our poor cheeks man! My left hand went a little numb, and after 10 minutes I couldn’t stop shaking. The deepness of the dive combined with my desire to be warm again meant that it was a short dive – just about 25 minutes.
Swimming alongside this giant sunken battleship was surreal (either that, or I had a slight case of nitrogen narcosis). There were many cut outs so we could explore heaps of nooks and small spaces. The vessel was nearly covered in jumbo white, cauliflower-looking anemones, tons of pretty pink anemones, swaying kelp strands, and a few scattered star fish.
The water was surgy, and Nick didn’t feel very comfortable at times. His legs are weak and he wasn’t wearing fins. No fins means very little power to control himself in the surge. He decided he won’t be diving this spot again until his leg strength gets better. I think that’s a good idea.
Unfortunately we only did one of the two dives. Instead of exploring the magical underwater world with the rest of the divers, I spent the second half of our trip with my head hung over the side of the boat, feeding the fish. I made a costly mistake by not taking dramamine ahead of time. I know better than that, but just had a brain fart. I took some when we got to San Diego that afternoon but the seas were so rough that it didn’t help at all.
The crew and other divers were very gracious to both me and Nick. We were quite the couple on that boat. I’d say we were “those” people – you know, the ones you don’t want to be on a dive boat with – but there was another couple that took that honor. Between me puking my guts out and Nick having no legs and needing special help from the deck-hands, we were quite the spectacle.
I’m insanely grateful for the experience though. Despite how terrible I felt, I really loved our little adventure. It was a last minute excursion that took very little preparation, and Nick wasn’t completely wrecked the next day. We even knew one of the other divers on the boat (of course), and made a great contact at the JetSki rental next door. The owner offered Nick and me a free ride on his wave runners the next time we’re down there. Sold!
Check out this short video from our dive. The video doesn’t do it justice, trust me! If you’re having trouble playing it, you can view it here on the YouTube page.
Nick is, by definition, a creature of habit. When he finds something he likes, or something that works, he sticks with it. Guess that’s why he has tolerated all my craziness all these years!
Since he has a lifetime of prosthetics, one of the most common bits of advice we’ve received from amputees is to find a prosthetist you work well with. And we did! We love Phil! Last appointment with Phil, Nick asked him how long he’s planning to be working there and he said 15-20 years. Perfect!
So today when we called for a last minute appointment with Phil we were all but devastated to learn that he isn’t working with clients anymore. He’s been promoted. Damn it!
We got a last minute appointment with another guy and had a really good experience. Thankfully, because now our concerns of frantically seeking out a new prosthetist are squashed… for now.
Nick is still having some real issues with one of his shins from that epic hike in Sedona. Last night the skin even opened up a little bit, but the main pain is a bruised feeling that isn’t even visible.
This situation was bound to happen one day, ya know, his stumps getting injured, making wearing his legs painful, and forcing him to take it easy for days on end.
Despite the sore stump, he’s been tearing it up at Project Walk all week.
we’re going SCUBA diving again!
To me, this video is a breath of fresh air. Most of my videos are about Nick’s recovery; this one is just us having fun! I think I laughed harder making it than I did living it. Enjoy!
The excitement is mounting for Nick’s new volunteer project at the county hospital. Tonight we met with Nick’s ER nurse Tommy and the hospital volunteer coordinator Robin (Tommy’s wife and Robin’s daughter joined us as well for a great dinner). We haven’t seen Tommy since this time last year. He made a huge impression on Nick and me during our stay at County by taking the time to follow up and visit with us several times. Nick really enjoyed catching up with him again. Nick, Robin, and Tommy are masterminding a program to help support newly injured people at the hospital. Nearly all of the ground work has been handled and it’s almost ready to launch.
I know Nick will be perfect for this opportunity. He wants to give back, he wants to connect, he wants to listen. We’re all so excited. Depending on how long it takes to get the program rolling, he will likely be starting after his surgery.
The surgery to remove Nick’s hardware is scheduled for two weeks from today, July 5th. I can’t believe how quickly it’s going to happen. They had a spot open so we jumped on it. We’re not stressed about it, but there’s definitely a thickness in the air about how busy our next two weeks are going to be. I’ll be spending half of it away on a girls trip. Good timing? I guess we’ll see.
I never finished writing about our trip to Sedona. And now that we’re home, I forget everything! Not really, but now that we’re home, Nick’s pain has returned. There’s something magical about Sedona. We believe it with all of our hearts. I’d consider living there if it could help Nick feel better (and that’s saying a lot, because it’s a tiny little town in the middle of hot ass Arizona).
On our last day in Sedona, Nootbaar and I bought flutes. We bought hand made traditional Native American flutes. They are so cool!
Our new purchases sparked an interest in flute players, so we went to a free flute concert that evening at our hotel. David Wolfs Robe gave an incredible presentation about the history of native American flutes, and played music from a number of beautiful flutes in his collection. In the middle of his performance he began playing a song with a gorgeous flute made by a prominent flute maker and musician. After a minute or so he abruptly stopped playing the song and said he was only going to play half of the song. He then walked toward Nick and handed him the flute and said that he should finish the song and that the flute was his gift to Nick.
We were absolutely shocked! His generosity was so unexpected, we were actually quite puzzled. Nick even asked him if he was serious. That unforgettable moment when he handed Nick the flute is my favorite moment from our entire trip. The look on Nick’s face was priceless. What a cool souvenir! I feel like that moment was the exclamation point of our four fun-drenched days in the Arizona desert.
Now that we’re home, we’ve both enjoyed playing our flutes. Sitting on the porch, in the afternoon breeze playing my flute is so peaceful and meditative. I follow what Wolfs Robe said and just close my eyes and imagine scenes from nature. The dreamy melodies float with the warm breezes and carry on for great distances. I may be annoying the shit out of my neighbors, but I just don’t care.
Another full day of bodacious awesomeness in Sedona has come to an close. Nevermind the hat here, check out Nick cruising alongside the majestic red rocks!
He didn’t do much trekking today though. His shins and stumps hurt. Despite that minor grievance, he was in very little pain today and carried on kicking ass like he did yesterday.
He parked the lounge chair in a shady spot while I went to see Indian ruins with Mike and Jenn. It was a quickie stop but we got a personal tour of the pictographs from a lovely old man who resembled the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. He volunteers his time daily to educate tourists about the site in exchange for living in a trailer on the property. Interesting gig.
We didn’t explore too much of the ruins because we were all antsy to take the Jeep on the “Cliffhanger” trail and get to the swimming hole.
Nick was at the helm all day today. He drove us through some very technical trails and gave us a good thrill, all with hand controls.
Being able to romp through the desert again was the highlight of his day. He spent many years riding quads and playing in the desert, so driving the Jeep today was like a slice of his old life.
At one point we pulled right into the creek giving Nick a 360 degree experience of the forest. The green leaves overhead waved hello in the breeze, the flowing stream created an amphitheater of watery sounds, the refreshing breeze soothed our sun-beaten skin, and those damn ciceda’s serenaded us with their creepy Blair Witch Project songs.
We all agree that renting this jeep for 24 hours was the best part of the trip. We explored the land on our terms, at our speed. Mike and Jen even buddied up with the lady who rented to us, and she told them about this super awesome spot which wasn’t highlighted on the map. This swimming hole and creek was so far off the radar that we didn’t see any other people the whole time we were there. During peak season in Tourist Town USA, we got to experience this heavenly oasis all by ourselves. You can’t put a price tag on that!
I climbed into this tree twice. When I first climbed it, I yelled out that there were dead crabs up there. Nick and the Nootbaar’s thought I was on drugs.
Mike came up to investigate, and confirmed that there were dead water-critters unusually positioned high in a tree. Turns out they’re craw-daddy’s and thus began the Nootbaar’s quest to catch one!
This is a beautiful red rock spire at the Boynton Canyon vortex site. That’s Nootbaar up there, halfway to the top.
The energy there was strong but peaceful. I felt content, calm, and present. I did some journaling, breathing, and exploring while soaking in the heat of the sun and vibrations of the earth.
A local man gave Jenn and me heart-shaped rocks to take the energy of Sedona with us on our journeys. Then he climbed to the top of a large rock formation and played his flute.
The whimsical melody drifted through the valley and even Nick could hear it from the trail below. The airy tunes lingered on my skin and allowed only peace and understanding to seep in. I was happy, despite the pangs of sadness I had felt on the climb up because Nick was left behind.
We rented an off-road jeep for 24 hours so we could REALLY explore Sedona.
Nootbaar took us to an old (haunted) house, driving carefully all the way there. Fener was doing quite well despite the jarring and bouncing.
On the way out though, he stepped on the gas and took us for a more exhilarating ride.
The lady at the rental company told us about a really cool night ride to take, so at sunset we headed in that direction.
We threw the hand controls on the jeep and Nick hopped in the drivers seat. As the sky got darker and the trail got steeper and rockier, Nick really got us going. We caught a little air, saw some deer, and even managed to stay on the path.
During the drive he mentioned that he didn’t really believe in the hoo-haw of the vortex stuff prior to coming to Sedona, but since being here he’s had very little pain and been feeling good. Even the bumpy ride wasn’t bothering him.
The night sky is bright with stars here. Part of the city planning includes limiting light pollution. In the convertible jeep, with my head tilted way back, the starry sky moved like a planetarium as we navigated the winding dirt roads. What a sensational day and night!
The dude was hiking today. Really. I thought we were just going to set his lounge chair in some shade at the trailhead and leave him be, but he wanted to join us instead.
He made it about half way to our destination in Boynton Canyon, a neutral vortex with a beautiful view, which was more than a half mile hike. We took the lounger and set it in the shade in a great spot half way down the trail.
He hiked over some serious shit today. We were both surprised! He made it up a rocky hill without falling or having to side step.
He told me that ever since we’ve been in Sedona he’s had very little pain. It’s the magic here, I know it!
We’re officially on vacation, touring the red rocks, vortexes, and New Age-y shops of Sedona.
Day one includes such highlights as Nick being unusually comfortable on the seven hour drive here (he slept most of the way), a sunset Denali tour de’ Nootbaar off the beaten path and into the wild, delish Indian food, a trip to the local grocery store, and only three falls (two by Nick, one by me).
Sedona is breathtaking.
This move is hard for regular folks, let alone a dude with long metal rods in his back whose abdomen was sliced open twice!
He did a set of ten, and then a set of ten more to the sides for a little oblique action.
Being at Project Walk has made all the difference. Today I watched him do many basic exercises that he was completely incapable of doing a few short months ago, like this one, for example.
Nick has officially graduated from walking crutches to hiking poles! We bought them last night and it’s already obvious how much less stability he has with them, and that’s the point.
The poles don’t allow him to lean on them, so he’s forced to stand up straighter and be more conscious while walking. It’s a great stepping stone to actually ditch walking with aid all together.
I love this feeling of emerging from a black hole out onto the beautiful pastures of true acceptance. No, I’m not talking about Nick’s accident here, I’m referring to these upcoming surgeries he’s having.
I really struggled this week with the knowing that we’d be going back there again. Hospitals, intense pain, bed rest, wound care, waiting on Nick hand and foot. Call me selfish, but I was really embracing being done with all that. Making the choice to go back to that place again is hard for me. Last summer, we didn’t have the choice. Our lives were just ripped out from under us, and we were forced into survival mode. This summer, we are far beyond mere surviving. We are reshaping and retying the fragments of our former lives. We are learning what is possible now, and flowing with the ups and downs of pain and hope, carving our way through a life we are consciously creating everyday.
With a few surgeries on the horizon though, I’m feeling halted, stalled, and uneasy. What little control we were gaining of our lives, has now been thrust back into The Process. Have the surgery and wait. Have the next surgery and wait some more. Have the NEXT surgery and keep waiting. THEN, we can take the reigns again.
This is a hard pill for me to swallow, Little Miss Control Freak. Yes, three surgeries. One to remove his hardware, and two to get the spinal cord stimulator implanted. In a one hour period this week, we went from NO MORE SURGERIES to spending our summer (and fall) in recovery after recovery.
This is all for the best though. I KNOW this! I know this with every fiber of my being, but it still fucking sucks. I have struggled all week with these feelings to finally get to this place of acceptance. So…
Let’s get ‘er done!
We’re going to get the first surgery scheduled as soon as possible (they said mid to late July, maybe early August) and then just power through it. I’m hoping it’s all over by November and he’s back to working as hard as he is now.
In the meantime, the goal is for Nick to continue training and rehabilitating; to get as strong as possible before taking the blow of surgeries and down time.
Like I predicted, it’s been a crazy, twisty-turny kind of week.
Here is a brief list of some highlights and some lowlights of this last week in FenerLand… I’ll let you decide which ones are which!
We decided to go ahead with more surgeries for Nicks back.
I threw a bonafide temper tantrum over said decision.
Nicks brother Seth had shoulder surgery and stayed with us for the first 24 hours post-op.
I ate four doughnuts, in about two hours.
We got to hang out with Nicks cousin Brett, whom he hadn’t seen in over ten years.
I took a beautiful hike by myself and did some long overdue writing.
Nick and I met with his (our) new hypnotherapist/counselor for two hours!
We said farewell to a dear friend whom we probably won’t be seeing for a while.
I cleaned up a lot of puke and dog poop.
Nick had three acupuncture appointments.
He was phantom-pain-free for five whole days.
The phantom pains returned after the fifth day, but not as bad as before.
Target pharmacy failed yet again and caused Nick more unnecessary frustration and hassle.
I accepted that I’m terrible at playing poker.
We celebrated the Queen of England’s Jubilee with our lovely British (and Commonwealth) friends, and learned a bit of British history and gossip.
We saw his primary doctor after trying to get in with him for nearly a month.
We ate a therapeutic amount of frozen yogurt, despite our attempts to be dairy-free.
Nicks trainer at the gym suddenly quit, so we’re left to figure out what’s next and how he can keep it up and/or switch it up.
Nick peddled on the stationary bike for forty minutes, twice this week.
And… we’re pooped. Sunday is rest day, and lunch with my Dad. Last time to see him before his big surgery in a week.
Nicks happy place: a beautiful day, cool breeze, lounging in a shady spot on our porch listening to relaxing tunes and reading a good book. He’s currently reading The Brain that Changes Itself by Normal Doidge, MD.
You wouldn’t guess it by first glance, but Nick loves to read and can devour a good book in a matter of a few short days.
This afternoon he only got about 45 minutes on the porch, but he enjoyed every moment of it.
Nick walked in to see his spine surgeons today and was greeted with hugs, smiles, handshakes, and encouraging words. “You look great. You’re strong and the color is back in your face.” Actually, Nick has been hearing those words a lot lately. It’s just nice to hear them from the people who saved his life a year ago.
Remember last summer when Nick had his final back surgery? And how we’re through with surgeries and hospitals and all of that? Well… not anymore. Today we pulled the trigger for him to have another surgery this summer.
What a wild and crazy idea, considering that only a year ago his spine was disconnected from his pelvis. He is bothered by the bolts sticking out of his lower back, and he knows he will feel better without all that metal creaking and crunching around in his body. Both surgeons feel it’s a good idea, and Nick’s been thinking about it for a while. When we were discussing it, I could feel Nick’s excitement. He wants the metal gone, understandably so. The doc said he doesn’t expect any noticeable improvement in flexibility or pain levels, although we’re obviously hoping for the best.
Results of the latest X-rays show Nicks spine is doing great. Fener-1, Hardware-0. About two months ago while working out at the gym with his trainer, Nick heard a LOUD pop and thought something hit him in the back. His trainer, 15 feet away, heard it too. There was no pain, but it scared the hell out of him. He laid down for a few minutes just to be sure everything was okay before continuing the workout. We never thought much of it, and assumed it was the hardware moving around. Boy were we wrong. The hardware wasn’t moving around, one of the metal rods snapped! I know, we can’t believe it either. This is not a reason why he’s getting it removed, however. It’s just a “holy shit” factoid I couldn’t help but share. The doctor didn’t seem too worried about it and will have a closer look at that area during his upcoming surgery to be certain it is fully healed.
Due to the unexpected turn of events today, there is a high probability that Nick’s skydive won’t be happening on August 18th as planned. But, in true Fener fashion, we haven’t completely written it off, and will be continuing to work toward that goal until it becomes overwhelmingly apparent that he won’t be ready on that date. Getting his spine sorted out is far more important that skydiving, but a dude’s got to have goals!
One last bit of good news is that Nick’s phantom pains have been virtually nonexistent today. We’ll take this WIN… and build on it, one day at a time.
We’re developing a pattern here: one good day, one bad day, lather, rinse, repeat.
Yesterday was awesome, so naturally today had to suck.
We were at Skydive San Diego all day yesterday while I took a course to learn how to fly my parachute more effectively. It was a massive success and I made a huge breakthrough. I even walked away with improved ways of teaching the basics to my own students. I got to soak up knowledge from one of the top dudes in the sport. Such a win! Well worth the money, time and considerable effort to get down there. I highly recommend the Flight-1 course to any skydiver! I just wish I didn’t wait 8 years to finally take it.
Our friend Whitney came over tonight and performed a killer massage on Nick and taught me some manual lymphatic drainage techniques to use on his stumps. She also brought some special stump compression socks that are made with silver. He loves the way they feel!
It felt really good when Whitney told us how healthy we look. She said we are “practically the picture of health.” I work so hard everyday to keep us in good food, clean water, healthful movement and peaceful energy. It’s nice to be noticed for it, even though we are truly doing it for ourselves.
Our health is my number one priority right now, and I can see it remaining that way from now on. I learned at an early age that if you don’t have your health, you don’t have much. In my youth I didn’t always seek to live a healthy lifestyle, but I’ve always recognized the benefits of doing so. It’s a lot of effort to be healthy, maybe that’s why more people don’t do it.
We have a hellacious busy week ahead of us. Hope we can keep our shit together long enough to power through it…and maybe even enjoy the process.
We took a huge leap of faith yesterday and got Nick on a different medication in hopes of helping his phantom and nerve pain. Nick wants off all the medication, and has even weened himself off of one in the last two months, so to want to try a new pill for his pain is a big step. He took the first dose last night and is already noticing some changes. His phantom pain has dramatically decreased, but he’s groggy, foggy, and irritable. Hmmm… that’s quite a trade-off isn’t it? He has decided to give it a run for a week or two to see how it affects him.
But just because he’s taking a fancy new pill that doesn’t’ mean we’re giving up on all the alternative therapies. He had his second acupuncture appointment yesterday and he’s seeing a new hypnotherapist on Tuesday.
These past few weeks have been rough, and I wish I could say otherwise. His pain is a constant reminder of how drastically our lives have changed. I’m doing everything I can to support and encourage him, comfort and console him. I’m also doing everything I can to keep a positive head about myself. It’s hard, but I know I’m kicking ass and making the absolute best out of every moment. That’s all I can do, right? Be my best self.
I realize that I still haven’t completely healed or put the trauma behind me. It’s obvious by how much it still rules my daily life. I’d like to make quicker progress, but because Nick and I are so intertwined, we are moving at a mutually effective pace. And I’m okay with that.
Yesterday we went to lunch with my two cousins Cheryl and Kim. I’ve never hung out with them like that and it felt so good to make that important family connection. And Nick was completely transformed after spending a few hours with those lively, loving women. He was absolutely miserable on the way there, and left two hours later feeling happy and alive. How awesome is that?
EDIT: I spoke too soon. Just moments after hitting “publish” on this blog post Nick told me that the phantom pains have been kicking his ass for the past hour. I feel so bad for him when he’s hurting like this, I just can’t stand it.
Last night a friend brought over a piece of cloth called Farabloc that was specifically designed to treat phantom limb pain. He’s been wrapping his left stump with it as much as possible all day.
This morning we spent 45 minutes using touch therapy on his stumps. I brushed them with a bristle brush, iced them, poked them, and rubbed them with a towel. We used to do this last summer, but stopped. An email yesterday reminded me that this is a good method to retrain his brain that his legs stop at the stumps; that his feet aren’t there.
Prior to his Project Walk session today, we booked Nick a last-minute Acupuncture appointment with a traditional Chinese doctor. He’s seeing her again tomorrow too.
He did a 30 minute guided meditation specifically for phantom pain on the way down to Carlsbad in the car. He’s been doing this twice a day for the last week, along with specific affirmations throughout the day.
Oh, and he’s been wearing his electrical pulse thingy (TENS unit) on his leg almost all day long for the last few weeks.
After Project Walk, our 90 minute drive home was painfully silent. Nothing is working.
Tonight we have already spent four hours separately researching various options to try next. I’ve made an appointment request to see a therapist who specializes in coping with trauma and chronic pain, and uses hypnotherapy as one of the tools to help her clients. I’ve also requested an appointment with a therapist who specializes in a technique called Biofeedback. This procedure helps to reassociate brainwaves… or something like that.
I’m pooped. Emotionally exhausted. Tired of what this phantom pain is doing to our lives.
To those who have reached out to help us: Thank You!!
These phantom pains are infuriating.
Hey, do us a favor. If you know someone facing an amputation, have them do research on getting a nerve block prior to the operation. We’ve read that having a nerve block for 72 hours before the amputation can greatly improve that persons chances of not having severe phantom pains. Please share this info if the situation ever arises in your life.
…because phantom pain fucking sucks!
Nick and I had the opportunity to hang out with some horses on Saturday. I did a fun ride while Nick meditated in the shade.
There is something so beautifully powerful about being around these massive creatures. It really is therapeutic!
This old man is 22 years old and was so easy to ride (good thing because I’d only been on a horse once before).
Not sure if Nicks back and tailbone will ever tolerate riding a horse again, but petting them is good enough for now.
We went to the dropzone today so I could skydive, and next thing I know Nick is getting on the same plane I am. Something as simple as climbing the loading stairs, ducking through the fuselage, and squeezing into the tiny cockpit, would have been impossible just two months ago. It was a breeze for him today. He climbed the stairs like a champ and made his way to the front of the plane easily, even before I could get onboard.
He took control and flew the plane for a bit, and when it was time for the jumpers to gear up, he turned and told me how hard it was to not be getting ready to follow us out. Only a few short months young grasshopper, and you’ll be in the air again.
This whole year has made a mess of time-reality for Nick. Time feels long to him. His old life feels so far away. But being in that plane today, was the first time he has felt that it hadn’t been forever since he was there. He said it just felt like yesterday that he was in the plane getting ready to jump. It felt really good for him to get up there again, even if only as an observer, even if only for one load.
On the quest to crush Nicks phantom pains. They’ve been so bad lately that Nick has expressed he can’t live this way much longer. It doesn’t help that most of the research he’s done says the pains never go away, especially if they are still present six months post-op.
So, we will sit still no longer. There must be a solution, and it most likely lies within Nick. Phantom pains are basically a perception of the brain. If Nick can change his brain and the way it perceives the signals it’s receiving from his stumps, then we believe he can beat this.
Having that belief is half the battle.
Wednesday morning he saw a world renowned psychotherapist in La Jolla who specializes in hypnotherapy techniques and energy healing. I won’t mention how much that cost.
Nick had a strange experience and left with a recording of the session, a book, two audio guided meditations, and a host of daily homework assignments to release the pain. I believe he has been armed with some powerful tools to begin the process of rewiring the way his brain works after the trauma. For few hours after his session he said he felt like he was floating.
Today he saw a shaman, and I got the chance to sit in on his session. We didn’t know what to expect, so we weren’t technically “let down,” but it isn’t something he’s likely to run out and do again. She had some important messages for him, but nothing new or earth shattering.
The most important thing she told Nick was to give thanks for each pain-free moment he is consciously aware of. He says he’s been doing this, but a friendly reminder sure doesn’t hurt.
Next step will be to continue the homework and daily affirmations, and seek a skilled acupuncturist who has experience with phantom pains. Apparently there is research about needling specific points on the ear to produce results.
We’ve also got a reiki master in our arsenal who comes highly recommended. Will be seeing her as soon as she gets back from vacation.
Everything is going so great right now except for the excruciating pain. We must find relief for him. He just can’t take it anymore!
I can’t remember the last time I went to a live comedy show. And after going to The Comedy Store in La Jolla on Tuesday night for Micah’s fundraiser, I don’t understand why we don’t do it more often.
I laughed so hard, so often, that my sides were sore the next day. The dozen or so amateur comedians were cracking jokes about the pitfalls of marriage, about farting, about being fat, about any and everything. It was raw and riotous… just my sense of humor!
The turn-out was pretty great for a random Tuesday night. Many of Micah’s friends were there, and everyone was buying raffle tickets and bidding on the cool donated auction items. Tandem skydives, beautiful paintings, skateboards, jewelry, stones… there were so many beautiful (or thrilling!) items to win. I didn’t win anything, but I bought a bottle of Micah’s home-grown, homemade Peach Habinero Crippled Hot Sauce. Wow. It’s absurdly delicious!
I have no idea how much money was raised for Micah on Tuesday evening, but I have a feeling that it’s enough to at least repair his vehicle. If you weren’t able to make it on Tuesday, but would like to help Micah get a new van, you can donate through our Paypal account, and we will get it to him. Thank you everyone for your support.
Phew! We made it. One year down… a lifetime of adventure to go.
The week surrounding Nick’s one-year anniversary has been extremely challenging. There are two overwhelming elements making it feel like we are swimming upstream: his phantom pain is out of control and reality of the permanence of his injuries is setting in.
I am so grateful that we decided to charter a boat and celebrate with our friends and family for the one-year anniversary. Being in good company and living a familiar life of adventure is surely the only thing that kept Nick semi-sane. He wasn’t himself this weekend. He was emotionally tattered and hanging on by a thread. I give him a gold star and A+ for effort. He’s stronger than I imagined.
Don’t get me wrong, he had a blast! With 23 friends on board how could he NOT? We had a celebration dinner the night before, a below-deck-bunk-bed slumber party, delicious meals GALORE, and several peaceful, pain-free SCUBA dives. It was ridiculous – in a good way! So many laughs, lots of sunshine, and at least 3 epic naps for Nick.
Despite a month of preparation and planning for the dives, there were a few technicalities we didn’t think of. The gear-up was not pre-planned. In fact, if it wasn’t for our friend Kate, I don’t know what Nick would have done. She took great care to make sure Nick made it in the water safely, because, well, I was already in the water! Ooops. Next dive trip we will definitely be discussing our needs with the deck hands ahead of time and creating a plan of action to make the gear-up go more smoothly.
Nick’s entrance was easy, he just fell backward off the side of the boat. And once underwater, his pain was nonexistent! We dove for 50 minutes on the first go, followed by our friend John with a Go-Pro. Nick opted to go without fins for the first dive and immediately realized that his weak legs were making it much more difficult to maneuver underwater than ever before. We zigzagged through the towering kelp forest, saw an abundance of beautiful sea life, got a little lost, and started feeling the chill of 60 degree water toward the end of the dive. The visibility was decent and the overcast skies cleared to make it a beautiful day.
It was so incredible to see Nick underwater again. I was briefly reminded of that same day exactly one year before. Never in a million years did I think we would be SCUBA diving so soon. And never mind the diving part, Nick walked around on the boat the whole day. The wheelchair was on board but rarely used – there was nowhere to wheel around, it was too cramped. He walked up and down many stairs, and even climbed up to the top deck for a nap with the girls. The boat had a wench that could lift him out of the water, but do you think he used it? Not a chance. He climbed out of the boat on his own both times. He really is my hero.
He gave every ounce of himself to having a good experience on Sunday. When we got home, he slept for 11 hours, and then took a 2 hour nap, not actually getting out of bed until 4pm (and that was only to have a meal). He was sore and exhausted. We joked that Monday never even happened. He woke on Tuesday feeling like a champion though!
With the success of our trip, we are beginning to think ahead to the next dives. We want to dive the wrecks in San Diego, the Coronado Islands off the coast of Northern Baja, and the Santa Barbara Islands where the sea lions gather. Who’s in?
Totally awesome video of our whole boat experience! Thank you Cassie Hero for the great edit! You can read more of her adventures at Camp-Hero
The beautiful underwater world – this video was taken over the course of 3 dives off of Catalina Island, all from my point of view.
We went SCUBA diving for the 1-year anniversary of Nick’s accident. What an amazing experience!
If you’re having trouble viewing the video, you can watch it on the YouTube page.
You are officially invited to a super cool comedy show. We’ll be there! C’mon, it’ll be fun, and it’s for a great cause.
All $$$ goes to our friend Micah Retz to repair his wheelchair accessible van. Micah has raised thousands of dollars for spinal cord research, so now let’s raise some money for him!
There will be raffles and silent auctions with lots of cool prizes, including skin care treatments, skateboards, art, skydiving passes, and more!!
Micah and Nick have been friends for years. They used to skydive and rock climb together until Micah got hurt in 2008. He broke his neck jumping into a shallow body of water and is now a quadriplegic. He has three beautiful children and is very active in raising funds and awareness for spinal cord injury research.
Below is the video Micah helped produce that details the significant advances made toward finding a cure for spinal cord injuries.
And here is the video of Nick and Micah’s jump. Skip the intro, and go right to the 2 minute mark to see Micah talking.
I couldn’t believe my eyes today. Nick pulled up to the house after going to the gym, and as I went for the door to go outside and help him, the door swings open and in he walks, no crutches, no spotter. He made a beeline to the bed and safely plopped down. While not the safest thing for him to do, it was certainly exciting to see. It helped me remember what Nick used to be like. I love that, because those images are difficult for me to recall.
“I love you honey, no matter what I’m saying when I’m not saying I love you.” –Nick’s sweet, sleepy sentiments this evening
Nothin’ like a spontaneous trip to the beach. What’s better is meeting up with friends at said spontaneous beach trip. Our Project Walk appointment was changed today, leaving us with a critical decision: drive home at rush hour, or burn time in Carlsbad. And that’s how it happened. Next thing you know, Benji and his daughter Iman are sitting with us. It was beautiful!
Nick lost his balance a lot while walking during therapy today. This means he’s found his limits, and is flirting with them. He’s pushing hard, and his poor lower back is really paying for it. He’s using every bit of strength he has to keep his upper body from falling forward and folding in half. But sometimes it does, and that’s okay. I’ve decided to make a compilation video of all his catches and saves. Stay tuned, Summer 2012.
What a beautiful Mothers Day with Mom Fener and the Soggy Bottom Boys. Nick and Mom took off for a surprise full body massage (she was so excited!), and I stayed home and made a Moms Day feast of seared ahi salad and ginger-glazed mahi mahi. It was so nice to finally treat Mom to a home cooked meal and no dish-duty!
Nick has been practicing his walking for everyone. He showed Jamon at the gym, he showed Erez and Melody after breakfast this morning, and practiced again for Mom and Seth after dinner tonight.
It’s so damn cool to see Nick up on his feet again. There are no words to describe the feeling. This was such an excrutiating unknown for so long, and now we finally know. Of course, we had hopes and goals of him walking again, but never knew for sure if his glutes, hamstrings, and lower back could support him.
We never spent much time talking about the unknowns. Sure, the fears of never walking without some form of assistance would show their ugly faces at times, but never for long. I can’t say that I believed with all certainty he would walk without a crutch. I just didn’t know.
We are now experiencing the lightness of relief. A comfort in knowing his hard work is paying off, his body is repairing itself, and his life is being pieced back together. A few critical unknowns have been exposed, leaving only a few remaining stragglers. Fortunately, the personal unknowns that linger are aspects of Nicks life that he has already made peace with. He hadn’t yet made peace with the unknown of ever walking again. Thankfully he will never have to.
My life is therapy, that’s all I do. –Nick answering a question from an old friend he hasn’t talked to in years
I appreciate this attitude from Nick. In fact, I know that’s the only reason he’s come so far, so fast.
The quality of his walking at Project Walk yesterday was much improved from Wednesday. He looked much more relaxed, swung his arms with each step, and even did backward walking and side steps.
This haiku was a beautiful collaboration between me and Nick.
You know how I felt today? I felt like the luckiest guy in the world again. I felt pretty normal. –Nick, as I was kissing him goodnight
I felt like I was chauffeur to the President today. Nick received so many amazing phone calls, texts, and emails from so many people all day long. People were laughing, crying, screaming, cussing. It’s amazing. He was on the phone almost all day catching up with friends who had just seen his walking video and couldn’t NOT call to congratulate him. Nick’s spirit was soaring.
This morning we had an appointment in Moreno Valley at the hospital where Nick was first at. He’s going to volunteer there and needed to fill out some paperwork, do a fingerprint background check, and get a TB test. We can’t believe what they require just to volunteer there; just short of an arm and a leg. It’s a good thing they didn’t ask for that… he’d be a bit short. More on the volunteer stuff later.
After we got back from the wetsuit place, Nick had to try out his new swim shorts, so we went to the gym for a swim. He loves them!
You can tell from this action shot that he is really hauling ass. I don’t recall ever seeing him swim that fast. For the first time, he simply looked like some dude swimming laps in the pool, instead of a guy with no legs trying to move about.
Nick is getting ready for the big day. We spent the afternoon with a special wetsuit seamstress in Fullerton.
She cut the legs off his old wetsuit, installed 22 inch zips all the way up the side of each leg, and built him a special pair of shorts that are connected to his prosthetic socks to wear under the wetsuit. Now there is no possible way his legs could fall off while diving unless he got eaten by a shark (and that would just be bad luck, dude).
She brainstormed, fitted, customized, and built everything while we waited. The whole process was about three hours.
If you know someone with special needs who would like a wetsuit to get going with water sports, we highly recommend them. New Wave Wetsuits 714-744-1365. They are extremely reasonable… and good!
I can’t get enough of these videos. If you have trouble viewing them on this page, click the links below and you’ll be taken straight to their YouTube pages.
Unbelievable day! Still in shock.
Nick ditched the crutches today and walked unassisted for the first time in almost a year! He didn’t just take a few steps, he walked laps! Laps and laps, back and forth.
Bri wanted to celebrate, but Nick was quietly, and humbly, excited. He told me on the way home that he was fighting back tears and just focusing on her shoes as he made each step.
Bri and Ryan only had to catch Nick 5 times, in about an hours time. The most impressive sight for me was watching him catch his own balance. He was truly owning every step.
We’re both in a complete state of shock. He just recently learned how to walk with one crutch, and never got confident enough with only one to permanently ditch the other. Truthfully, he still isn’t; he needs a spotter.
At the same moment that we’re shocked this milestone came so soon, we’re also not the least bit surprised. He works his ass off, and he deserves this success. His rehabilitation is moving at light speed right now. Can’t wait to see what he throws at us next.
“It’s been almost a year. I know, crazy huh? Honestly, it feels more like 10 years.” –Mr. Fener
Approaching the 1-year milestone, we’ve been talking a lot about how we’re dealing with, and how we’ve dealt with, this whole mess. There are still tears, still questions, still emotions, still disbelief, still pain. On the flip side, there are still smiles, love, friendship, progress, and hope.
People get hurt, they get sick, and die everyday and people barely notice. When Nick was injured last year, the love and support flooded in from around the world. Friends were moving mountains to help us. I’ve often wondered why.
I never had a clue until this afternoon. A friend posted on Facebook “fuck my life”, followed by a paragraph about how terrible his life is. I felt hideous just reading it, and in that moment, I understood why we’ve felt so special this last year.
From the beginning, Nick and I both adopted acceptance into our hearts. We accepted what is as a starting ground for building a new life. Life was painful and overwhelming, but I never felt or presented anything that resembled the ugly “F my life” mentality. As hard as life was (and still is, sometimes), there was always hope for something better, and the knowing that time will fade the scars.
Time has faded the scars for us.
I feel like we are different people then we were last summer. And I can’t wait to meet the new Nick a year from now. He’ll be stronger, more adjusted, hopefully in less pain, and spending more time living and less time healing.
If there is one thing that is holding us back in life right now, it’s his pain. He deals with it well, but some days it’s more than he can stand. Those are the days when life feels a little more desperate, a little more sad. When his pain is under control, life is full of hope and forward movement.
In the spinal cord injury world, we’ve heard some good things about using lithium for nerve pain. We’ve done a little research, and will be pressing his doctors to try it. If anyone has experience with lithium, we’d love to hear about it.
Basically, something has to change, and that something is going to be his pain. The first year of Nick’s accident has been marked by shattering expectations, and caring deeply for one another, and adjusting to our new life. The second year will be full of passion, adventure, feeling good, giving back, and moving forward.
Epic SCUBA Adventure – Sunday May 20, 2012
We’re chartering a SCUBA boat for the 1-year anniversary of Nick’s accident. There’s no use sitting around and sulking, let’s celebrate!
So far we have 15 friends going (10 divers, 5 non-divers). We have room for roughly 10 more people, they can be divers or non-divers. Cost will be about $120 per person, depending on how many people go. This includes meals all day and air fills for the 3 dives. Divers must bring all their own equipment, same for snorkelers.
We’ll be on The Bottom Scratcher boat. It’s leaving Long Beach harbor at 7am Sunday morning, which means you have to be boarding the boat by 6:30am. We’ll be diving at three separate dive spots at Catalina Island, and then arriving back at Long Beach harbor around 5 or 6pm.
If you’re not into driving to Long Beach at the butt crack of dawn, you can board the boat the night before and sleep on one of the 23 bunks on board.
Nick and I will be going to Long Beach on Saturday night, and staying in a nearby hotel and having a group dinner the night before. We would love to stay on the boat, but it’s just not feasible for us at this time. I highly encourage people to take advantage of it though, to avoid being exhausted in the morning and possibly missing the boat. It leaves at 7am sharp.
Since Nick will be paying the boat owner in full this week, we need solid commitments by this Thursday May 10th. Please call one of us, or email, or Facebook with any questions or to reserve your spot. Click here for directions to the boat.
All are welcome, the more the merrier. Let’s do this!