Eight years; another milestone. In the grand scheme of things, eight years is not a long period of time. In the course of recovery; 2,923 days is a BIG number!
Milestones are life’s markers to reflect on past achievements and lessons learned.
We’ll start with Miss Corey: she has been consistent with her ‘slow but steady’ progress since 2010. She’s come a long way over the last eight years but truthfully, her greatest stride has been since her fall from the chairlift in November of 2016.
Since her fall, Corey has worked hard to regain her stamina and strength to stand. She was accepted back to Bryn Mawr in Feb 2018 for out-patient PT. Shortly after starting her day treatment, she lost function of her left arm/hand partly from tone and partly from a pinched nerve. Fortunately, in April 2018, we could add OT to the day program. Corey worked with two of our favorite therapists that have known her since Day 1; Natalie and Anne. After 6months of PT and 4 months of OT, she graduated from her forearm cane and is now walking with a ‘regular’ cane. That is a huge improvement as it requires less dependence on a crutch. Discharged the end of July, we are re-creating our home program to try to maintain and advance the progress she made with her therapy team. Her hand and arm continue to be a challenge but we’re hopeful her cooking will continue to motivate her.
Corey started speech therapy in August at the University of Delaware; which is enhanced by her weekly home Music Therapy sessions. Her speech has not come back from the fall in 2016 and we are hoping to develop the tongue muscles to help her vocal clarity. We also continue to work with cognitive strategies and tools to help her with her short-term/long-term memory, as well.
Lesson’s learned? “Look back but don’t stare”…
Dear friends, I can tell you our days haven’t gotten easier. In 2010, Corey’s accident literally crashed us into this TBI world but the real emotional crash came in 2017. Some people teased me, “it only took you 7 years”. I assure you, I didn’t have blinders on during the early days; nor, did I have a false sense of reality with each year that passed. As Corey’s caregiver, it’s my job to learn, fight, advocate, create new strategies, stay focused on the positive, and keep pushing us towards the quality of life we both lost and yearn to regain.
After her fall, I knew too much. I remembered every struggle, every baby step, every set back, every fight and every ounce of the weight of my responsibility to Corey and my family. What I didn’t know, was how to take care of me. The thought of starting over leveled me. It was the hardest year since the initial injury.
2018, Corey was getting therapy and I realized it was more important than ever for me to start my self-care. It is my turn to recover; as a caregiver, as a mom, as a woman. As a full-time caregiver, it’s not always possible to take a day off or go on vacation. Weekends are just an extension of the long week we just completed. The airlines always tell you, put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help another…as a friend said, “It only took me 7years” to figure that out.
I had to create my moments. As hard as Corey works to relearn how to walk, I had to work equally as hard to take care of myself. First, I had to practice being conscious of my thoughts. Every time a negative came to mind, I deliberately (and sometimes sarcastically) change it to a positive. Our daily schedule is dictated by Corey’s personal and physical rehab but I slowly became dedicated to my own exercise…mindfulness. I started with 10 minutes a day reading something uplifting, or watching comedian’s videos on YouTube. I began to journal again; writing letters to myself. I took conscious moments to stand and stare at my Orchids. I took time to look out the window to appreciate the weather (rain or shine). True confession; I started my favorite secret pleasure: putting on a Cher song to dance and sing around the kitchen (Corey doesn’t judge).
When I could get out of the house alone, I’d go for walks through Longwood Gardens, go to the movies or go to a driving range to hit golf balls.
Important reality note: Time off isn’t always time “off”. Although I’m out and alone trying to relax, my mind continues to think of Corey, and my respite caregiver; Caitlin. Caitlin does an incredible job caring for Corey but she, too, balances her emotions every time she visits Corey. If Corey’s having a bad day, it hits Caitlin differently than me. She tries to give me time off while coping with her emotions as a sister and a daughter. PTSD is not just for the survivor…it’s for the family, too.
It’s ok to emotionally crash and feel the physical exhaustion. That’s the ‘looking back’ part. Mindfulness is the ‘don’t stare’ piece. Mindfulness redirects my stare away from what ‘we lost’ or the habit of comparing ourselves to others. Mindfulness helps heal, strengthen, and re-teaches balance. Daily mindfulness takes the same deliberate practice and is equally as hard as physical exercise. But in time, I’ve met Marie again (btw, she’s fun to be around).
Although we are not where we want to be, we are miles ahead of where we were. We had two major changes to our family in 2018: Caitlin and Cory James were married and we welcomed JohnPaul and Jackie’s son, Carson, two weeks later! I’m officially a Nana…talk about re-directing your stare…I can’t stop looking at this beautiful little man.
With big life changes, comes fear and doubt. Sometimes we still get pulled into big, answerless questions like “What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What would I be doing if the accident never happened?” While we may never know what we’re supposed to be doing, we know what we want to do next.
We will soon be introducing Chef Corey’s new personal chef service. To keep her cooking skills moving forward, Corey will plan a menu, grocery shop, and cook meals by request for families and occasions in our local community including Meals on Wheels! We’ll keep you posted as we are going through testing stages now, but we’ll soon be ready for reservations!
Corey and I are looking ‘forward’ to more cooking, more dancing in the kitchen, more long distance walking, more socializing with friends and family, more playdates with Carson and more contact with all of you via our blog posts.
Thank you for your friendship, support and keeping us in your continued prayers for the last 8 years. I am especially grateful for the mindfulness to NEVER GIVE UP AND NEVER GIVE IN, xoxo