Monday, April 28, 2008

Turning The Page

As the year comes to an end I think about the past. I take a look at my class. My close friends. The girls who I never had anything to do with. Suddenly I feel like I have a connection to each and every one of them. I always told myself that once I graduate I would never look back. I would never miss anything that I went through. Can you tell I hate school?! Don't get me wrong, I like learning new things, and I'm not a slacker - I just hate high school. People beg to differ with me, claiming that one day I'll look back and say how much miss school. Me? Miss school? Ha! I have been counting the days until graduation since I was in Kindergarten!

I have my whole future planed, but why do I still feel so unsure of myself. I know what I want to do, and I know where I want to be, but why do I always second guess myself?

The moment you enter your senior year you are swamped with work. No, not school work. Personally, twelfth grade is a lot easier in comparison to the other years. So what kind of work am I swamped with? Seminary and college and applications and scholarships... OH HOW I HATE THOSE WORDS!

I am a pretty independent girl, and I'm not afraid of doing things myself. If so, why do I feel so alone through this whole process? I know girls going to the same seminary as me, and I hear really good things about that specific school, yet I have nightmares! I was never scared of new things, and accepted change pretty well. I was always that free-spirited girl in camp who was never home sick. I was known to gave a good shoulder to lean and cry on. If I'm so independent, then why am I so afraid to go to a school, of my choice, and in a great location? It's really strange. I didn't get nervous until now. I always dreamed of going to Seminary with my friends. I was always dying to go to Israel. So here's my chance. Ready... Set... NO! So what's holding me back?

Again, don't get me wrong, I'm still going to go. I think it's such an experience to go to Israel after high school, but then again, Seminary's not for everyone. I'm still excited for seminary, and I'm still excited for graduation. Ooh! Wish me luck people! I'm leaving September 2nd!

Okay, skip seminary for a moment, no one really likes to hear about sem. So... what happens when I come home? College. Too, hearing that word makes my heart thump. Oy, I dread about that great scholorship I missed out on.

From the time I was young, I always knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to pursue a career in special education. I was almost forced into this way of thinking by natural reflex. I am surrounded by children with special needs 24/7, and I always wanted to reach out for them. My siblings sort of ingrained in into me as well, due to the fact that many of them do work with children with special needs.

Out of the blue, one day my sister told me I should be a graphic artist. What? That idea never crossed my mind. When I asked her why she nodded her head towards the computer screen, in which I was playing around with Photoshop.
"That's why," she said.
Hmm, I never really thought about that. I had always experimented with computers, as a hobby, and I really enjoyed it, but I never thought about actually doing it as a job. Come to think about it, I would rather spend my years in college doing cool stuff on the computer than learning proper grammar.

Okay, so I got my future set. First, I'm going to Seminary. Second, I'm going to go to college and get a degree in graphic design. Third, um... then what? Get married? Is that how it works? (If my siblings are reading this - please don't freak out! I promise - I won't be a senior kallah!)

Despite my future planned I still feel really unsure about everything. Is this really what I'm supposed to be doing with my time? Is this really the life I am supposed to be living?
"Rabos Machsevos b'lev ish v'atzas Hashem he sakum"

Friday, April 25, 2008

Conquering Jimmy Bob

"Guys! You'll never guess what just happened!" I exclaimed, as tears of joy streamed down my cheeks."
"What!" my class replied. "Tell us Ellie, what exactly are you so excited about?"
"Well... here it goes... I'M HAVING SURGERY! Isn't that great people?! I'm having surgery!"
Thirty-five jaws dropped before my eyes. To tell you the truth I wasn't so surprised. Why should my friends be happy that I'm having surgery? Why should I even be happy that I'm having surgery?

It was the day before orientation. Sitting in the car for eight hours on my way home from New York. Boy, the summer was great... BUT SCHOOL! Ugh! I hate school! I had a lot to look forward though: there was Convention, and it was my senior year. Yup, this year should be a good one!

The year started out nicely. I was reunited with my old classmates, whom I haven't seen in two months, and I was acquainted with the new girls. Everything was going pretty well.

About one month into the school year I started feeling funny pains in my right ankle. It was almost as if something inside my foot was on fire. For a while I didn't tell anyone was going on. As most people know, I am pretty accident prone (unfortunately) and I know what a broken and sprained ankle feels like, and this was nothing of the sort. I thought that since I don't have much luck concerning my ankle, it wasn't a big deal, and the pain would subside... but it didn't. Every day was worst than the next. It was especially painful at night for some odd reason, and it was so excruciating that I wouldn't sleep at night anymore - literally. I would pull all - nighters at least three times a week. Because of all the commotion I was missing a lot of school, due to the fact that I was always in pain and always tired - and I mean always.

At this point my parents knew about my situation, so they took me to an orthopedist. From the start I knew this appointment was not going to be a good one. I tried to explain to him to the best of my ability the kind of pain I had. He claimed it was a simple sprain, and I should wear a brace, and the pain should subside in a week. I knew this couldn't be possible because my foot had been hurting for two months, and I already wear a brace. Something just didn't make sense. I argued with him that my pain was very peculiar and I was sure that it was not a sprained ankle. Despite my disagreement, he carefully wrapped my foot in an ace bandage and told me to have a nice day.

After many confrontations and arguments, my parents decided to take me to my rheumatologist. (I have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, so my family thought this may be connected). After many hmms, and twists of the ankle she suggested that it may be a hairline fracture, and despite an x-ray, it just wouldn't show up, and I would need an MRI. At this point I was willing to try anything, even though I suffer tremendously from claustrophobia. Yom tov was coming along, and there was no appointments open until after the holidays. Instead, I had a long and painful Succos.

The day of my long awaited MRI finally arrived. Luckily I was only in from the waist down. After an hour and a half they discovered.... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! The radiologist and the orthopedist didn't see anything, although there was a little inflammation around the bone and it looked as if my last break never healed properly.

This is not right, not right at all. Something smells in the state of Denmark.

Approximately two weeks later I had an appointment to get a cast on my leg. Only hours before my appointment I got a call from my rheumatologist.
"I know what it is! It's called an osteoid osteoma!"
A what? A who? An osteowhachamacallit???
"An osteoid osteoma is a benign tumor," my doctor explained. "It lives in the bone, and at night it secretes pain chemicals into the bloodstream. That is probably why you're in so much pain during the night - that's when it grows Although it's rare, especially in the ankle, it may be very possible that you have one. It's very hard to spot. You can't see it in an x-ray, and you can't see it in an MRI. The only way to tell is with a CT scan." And on that note my doctor she made me an appointment for a CT scan, literally fifteen minutes before my other appointment in the same hospital.

I lied down on the cool table as it slid in funny positions. I really didn't care what was wrong with my ankle anymore, I just wanted the pain to disappear! A few minutes later the radiologist and the orthopedist (the same orthopedist that was about to cast my leg) came to share the results and low and behold I had an osteoid osteoma that was about six millimeters long living in my foot. Strangely, I was really excited.

One week later I was scheduled for a radio ablation surgery, in which laparoscopecally, they would burn out the tumor. That week was the longest week of my life! The morning of my surgery I actually went to school to get some moral support from my friends, but instead they all just said how crazy I was.

For those of you who had surgery know how it feels to wake up from anesthesia. You're confused, and nauseous, and going through a lot of withdrawal. I felt as if I had been in the O.R. for seconds when in fact the surgery took three hours. According to my mother, they turned the C.T. scan into an operating table, and did the whole thing through the C.T. It was actually very intersting. There were eight doctors, and about a billion nurses observing the surgery. I made it to the books! Nothing like this has every really happened before, and everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of it.

I recovered pretty quick from the operation. The surgery was on Wednesday and I was back in school on Monday (on crutches). And since it was done laparoscopically, I only had two tiny scars the size of splinters. I guess I really didn't have much time to recover, or to even think about my ankle. With Convention coming along, and being motzei shabbos performance head... WHEW! I was crazy busy!

Convention was amazing, but all the fun was coming to a fade, and classes were returning back to normal. During this time my ankle was still very weak, and I was still in pain, but the pain was surgical pain. About one month later a funny feeling crept up into my foot, and not a good funny. I laid low because this was a really serious matter. I started missing a lot of school again, and when things started getting real suspicious I told my mother what was going on.

My mother called my doctor (the rheumatologist - not the orthopedist!) for some possible feedback. She suggested that either it grew back (the tumors can grow back, but usually not in that short span of time, and it's really rare) or the surgeon didn't get the whole tumor. The second choice seemed more of a possibility. Before I knew it, I had another MRI and another CT scan, and you know what showed up this time? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! All the radiologist saw was a lot of bone edema, which was normal in my case.

I was so mad! Why couldn't anyone figure out what was wrong with me? For crying out loud - I'M ONLY SEVENTEEN - NOT SEVENTY! I became very depressed and I was missing so much school that there was a question whether I would graduate or not. My reumatologist did everything she could to ease the pain. She prescribed me medication that was aspirin based. Aspirin will dissolve an osteoid osteoma, if there was any sign of one. The only problem is that I'm allergic to a lot of foods, and medications. It happened to be that my mother was allergic to aspirin, and with my luck, the odds just weren't so good. In the end, I was told to take the medicine with benadryl - which didn't work anyways. Now even if I was going to school, I was falling asleep in class. I literally tried every possible medication. From Advil to steroids - nothing worked.

My mother was so good and persistent, and she finally got an appointment with the top orthopedist in the hospital. I was so excited! I pranced into the doctor's office with complete faith.
"Well, the only way we can see what's going on in there is to take a peak." I almost gave the doctor a hug! I was just so happy that someone was going to do something. "The only problem is that I'm booked for a while, I have surgery's scheduled for the next couple of weeks, so your surgery wouldn't take place for at least another month." I burst into tears. I was ready to get down on my hands on knees and beg.
"Please, doctor!" My mother cried, she too felt my pain. "It's her senior year and she already missed so much school, you have to do the surgery NOW!" The doctor felt bad but there was nothing he could really do. He offered to check his schedule, to double check if there were any openings, but it didn't look so good. I tell you, G-d was watching over me because he came back saying that someone had just cancelled and there was an opening that week.

To put it in "short" words, he made an inch incision in my foot and found out that the radio ablation had burned the bone, and there was a chunk of dead bone in my foot without any circulation. Sorry if this grosses anyone out, but the only thing that made sense to do was remove that part of bone. But don't worry, it will grow back!

As I sit here writing this blog, I think back on the heck I went through. It has been three months since my last surgery, and Baruch Hashem I feel like a new person. I will B'Ezras Hashem attend my graduation in June (with an official diploma!) and attend Seminary in Israel next year. I thank all of you, my friends and family who helped me through the whole thing. In hard times it's really good to hear that you care. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to just be there and hold a hand without saying anything at all.

I can finally say after all this time... R.I.P. JIMMY BOB!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jimmy Bob

There was an old tumor who lived in my foot,
no matter what was done, he managed to stay put.
He lived there content in his small little house,
and soon enough, he invited in Eileen, his spouse.

His name was Jimmy Bob Irishman, from a hick town you see,
In his trailer apartment near Akron, or maybe another lovely city.
Soon they had a baby named Jonah who lived with the family,
all cozy and comfy and so happily.

Then one day they got zapped out with a probe,
dissolving the Irishman's and their car load.
And don't forget old Grandma Franny,
who landed with a big thud on her fanny.

With the Irishman's gone I got set on track,
until the day came that Jimmy Bob came back!

A couple of months ago, doctors discovered a benign tumor in my ankle that secreted pain chemicals into my blood stream. Baruch Hashem, it's nothing deathly, but extremely painful. I had the tumor surgically removed and lived pain-free for about five weeks. Recently, the pain has come back, and this time the doctors are not really sure what's wrong. One day, when I was down in the dumps, my friends wrote this poem for me. They're so wacky, but it sure gave me a good laugh! They say it's kind of like the poem "there was an old woman who lived in a shoe." Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Watch your language!

This post is dedicated to my sisters "Mindy" and "Sarah." Together, they taught me to have better understandings of language, and how to use it properly.

Do you know how many words there are in the dictionary? Because I don't. I mean, come on - what seventeen year old girl, or anyone for that matter, sits there and reads Webster's?!

Sometimes it's not about quantity, it's really about the quality.

Each word that comes out of our mouths has the potential to be so powerful and full of essence. Unfortunately, in today's society, the English language has become such a twist. People say things that they had no intention of saying. For example, (on a smaller note) you're sitting in class, staring at the clock anxiously waiting for class to be over. Then suddenly.... ACHOOOO!
As you quickly cover your nose you kindly ask your friend if you could borrow a tissue. And indeed, she gives you the tissue, you do your business, and you throw it out. Now, do you realize that you just asked if you could borrow a tissue. EWW! The last time I checked, the conditions of borrowing something only goes if you agree to give it back. Therefor, I will not, under and circumstances, lend you a TISSUE!

The point of my blog is not to teach you what not to do if your nose begins to run. The purpose of this was, well... you'll see.

Another commonly misused word is retarded. Boy do I hate that word, and I hate it even more when people think they're using it correctly - but they're not! According to Webster's Third New International Dictionary (yes, call me a nerd - I really did look it up) the word retarded means slow of limited in intellectual development, in emotionally development, or in academic process, or in other words: handicapped. Well that changes everything! Because so says my class that yesterday's math quiz was retarded. Really???? You could have fooled me! I did not know that my math quiz was handicapped!

The word retarded rolls off people's tongue as if they're saying hello. No, it does not mean crazy, and some take it very personally. I come from a family that has much involvement with children with special needs, so when I hear that word I feel it's as if someone is stabbing me in the back. I know this sounds crazy, but if you don't know what a word really means ask someone, or look it up! Trust me, you'll sound a lot smarter if you do.

Now do you get the point of my blog?!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Smashing Wake Up Call

Car accidents. Unfortunately, they happen pretty often. Did you ever wonder what goes through a person's mind as s/he is being hit?

Erev Pesach, a couple of years ago, my sister Mindy was rushing home from work, her fear of being late for Yom Tov mounting. Although in a rush, she carefully changed lands and switched on her left turn signal. She inched forward very slowly, preparing to make a left turn. It all happened very fast. A truck was obstructing her view and she took a risk that she shouldn't have taken.

Before Mindy knew it she was hanging upside-down from her seat belt. Her car had flipped over several times. Her windshield was completely shattered and the car resembled an accordion. An old man, driving at sixty-miles per hour had collided head on with Mindy's car.

Mindy was bleeding and bruised, but what was going through her mind? Maybe "Ahh! I was just hit" or "Oh my goodness, am I alive?" No, nothing of the sort was in Mindy's mind. One thought and one thought only crowded her thoughts. "Oh now," she whispered to herself, "my shaitel just flew off."

She was trapped in her car in the middle of a main street. With her eyes squeezed shut and tears streaming down her face, Mindy quickly threw her arms over her head to cover her hair as much as she could. How is it possible that a person who was just hit by a car was worried about her head being covered more that anything else?

"Can we help you?" Mindy's eyes fluttered open. Two Jews were standing near her car. Hashem had surely been watching. Before she could blink, Mindy heard the sirens of an ambulance. After she was helped out of her smashed vehicle, and EMT handed her a blanket. Mindy used it to cover her head.

Boruch Hashem, everything turned out fine, and the message is still fresh in all of our minds. This should serve as a major wake up call for everyone. Tznius is so important and sadly enough, not observed nearly enough. I'm amazed and inspired by my sister who even at the worst of times kept thoughts of tznius in her mind. May we all strive to be like this. Of course, we should not have to wait for bad situations, but be extra careful especially when things are good and are going our way. So remember everyone: drive safely and be tznius.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Journey

Did I know what I was getting myself into? What was I thinking? Going to a camp with severely handicapped children to care for them, be their protector. Parents handing over their child and placing her needs into our hands. Guardians having their complete trust in us and knowing that everything will be okay. Did I know that everything was going to be okay?

Waiting in line for a roller coaster is always nerve racking. Anxiety building up as the minutes pass, and butterflies fluttering around in your abdominal area. Stepping into the ride as safety bars fall over your shoulders. Do you really want to do this? Fasten your seatbelts everyone, the ride’s about to begin.

When I know that I help these kids it makes me feel accomplished. It gives me a rush that I don’t normally feel. When I look deep into their innocent eyes I see their troubles and I want to reach out for them. And although many of them can’t speak, you still know deep down that they are crying and singing thank you.

Higher and higher the roller coaster soars. Checking every so often to see if we are due to reach the peak soon. Such a thrill you get, because it feels like you’re flying, on top of the world, and nothing can stop you.

Working with children with special needs is not an easy job, and many people question why one would even accept the challenge. Kids pulling your hair and screaming in your face is only on an average day. Running away and words of hate are also commonalities. Yet through all these struggles, you still feel like reaching out to them.

As you go faster and faster downhill, you close your eyes in fear. Why did you do this to yourself? Your stomach forms a big knot as the nauseous feeling rises. When is this nightmare going to end? Get me off of this coaster – fast!

When night falls what goes through your mind? Not much, actually. You’re probably just tired and exhausted. As you close your eyes you think to yourself what tomorrow will bring. Will you have a good day or a bad day? What is to be destined?

Okay, so the hill is over, but what about the rest of the ride? What kind of weird twists and turns will you be lead into? To where will it take you?

As the summer comes to an end you have a sigh of relief; a tough summer gone well. The experience and the memories sadden you slightly, even though you know you’ll carry them with you. Yes you’re happy that you don’t have to work so hard any more, but at the same time, it feels like a part of you is missing; like you’re leaving something behind. This journey is now part
of your past.

The ride slowly comes to a halt as you think about the wild experience. Was it good, was it bad? None of that sort – it was amazing! Though it was scary, and frightening, you still got a crazy thrill out of the journey, life’s journey, life’s lesson. Unfasten your seatbelts and please exit the vehicle and we hoped you enjoyed your ride.

Life is like a roller coaster ride.

The Bridge

Slightly chilly, yet warm; scary, yet comforting; confusing, yet clear. The place I am describing has little or no significance to most people. Nevertheless, I hold for it a special place in my heart.

A bridge. A simple ramp-like bridge, made of wood and cement, located in a place that I can call “a home away from home.” Through the eyes of an average person, it may look ugly and dirty. Through my eyes, I see a place in which I can express my thoughts, and dream. I see a place in which I can be calm and peaceful. I see a place that I used to hate.

What could be so scary about a bridge? Walking across it, feeling the humid breeze pass by, and feeling it creaking slightly under your feet. The trees around brush your face lightly, and the tall grass gently sweeps your ankles. What seems simple enough to cross was torture for me.

Fainting by the edge… hitting my head… waking up from compressions… choking on water… smothered in a gas mask… lifted onto a stretcher… hearing the sirens of an ambulance… stabbed with an I.V needle…

Weeks passed by, and I always managed to find an alternative route, rather than walking on the bridge. Trampling through mud and dirt, getting bitten up by mosquitoes, and feeling the strong, sticky heat rush into my head always seemed like a better option than crossing the bridge.

One day, realizing that enough was enough, I decided to cross it. Step, by step and inch by inch, I made my way across. Sweat was dripping down my face and tears were streaming down my cheeks. My legs were shaking violently and my friends were cheering me on. And you know what? I did it.

As time went on, the bridge became my comfort zone. I shared many conversations there, I shared laughter and tears there, and I said goodbye to my camp there. It was the place where I would contemplate, looking at the beautiful trees, admiring the tall grass, and staring into my bunkhouse through the window. I now realize how lucky I am that I found my place. And it was all because I crossed the bridge.