Category Archives: Travel Journal

Being Thankful

img1470883807761Sometimes things in your life can change in an instant. For us, it all started 2 weeks ago and it seems like we’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster every since. Brian had been experiencing back pain for about a year. After seeing a couple of doctors and spending months in physical therapy without any results, we decided it was time to take things to the next level. So he went to a general doctor, explained the situation and asked for an MRI so that we could figure out which muscles were causing the problem.

So, fast forward to Friday, July 29th, we were shocked to find out that his problem wasn’t due to a tight muscle. Brian’s MRI showed that he had a tumor growing on the inside of his spinal cord. From there we both went through every possible emotion a person can experience. We learned that his tumor (myxopapillary ependymoma) was very rare, so rare that his primary care physician had never even heard of it. We learned that there is a 3 in 1 million chance of a person getting it and the few studies on the internet about it discussed treating about 20-some people since the 1970s. We also learned that it was not cancer (thankfully!), just “cancer-like” as the tumor can come back.

Brian was immediately set-up with his own personal health insurance advocate who got him in to see two of the top neurosurgeons in the area in the next week. After seeing the first neurosurgeon on the 2nd (exactly 1 month before we were supposed to leave for our trip), we realized that our honeymoon which we had looked forward to wasn’t going to happen. Luckily, we had trip insurance, but it was still a bummer. I had to contact every single company that we had reservations with in order to cancel our arrangements. It was a heartbreaking process for me since I had looked forward to this trip for so long.

Due to Brian’s tumor, the neurosurgeons recommended immediate surgery. In fact, we were told that surgery needed to be our number one priority. While his only symptom was pain, letting the tumor grow could lead to lots of other nerve related problems like paralysis and other things. Unfortunately, his surgery also posed the same risks. So it was a bit of a no-win situation. Letting things go could lead to issues, but having surgery had the potential to cause the same side effects. Our biggest concern was how the tumor and the surgery affected our future plans to start a family, which we also considered a high priority. So we went from thinking that we had plenty of time to start a family, to wondering if we might have already missed our chance.

In the end, we decided to go ahead with the surgery and it was this past Monday. My mom flew up here last Sunday to stay with us and Brian’s family is arriving in shifts starting this weekend. While it was a really long, nervewracking day for us in the waiting room (so thankful that my mom was here to wait with me), his surgery ended up going really well. Brian’s tumor was completely removed and the neurosurgeon expects him to make a full recovery without any nerve damage. He also went through 5.5 hours of MRI’s this week to make sure that the entire tumor was removed and there weren’t any others. All of those scans came back clear. We’re still waiting for the pathology report to figure out if he’ll have to undergo radiation, but we’re hopeful that he won’t.

As serious as everything was, Brian was discharged from the hospital yesterday, less than 72 hours after his surgery. Despite the surgeon having to remove 3 bones from his lumbar spine, he was up walking around the very next day. They even managed to put all the bones back without any metal plates or screws. At this point, he’s got a few weeks of PT, but they say that in 3-4 months he will be back to normal. He’ll have to have follow-up MRI’s in the future to make sure his tumor doesn’t return. And he’s got a pretty wicked looking 8″ scar right down his spine – but that’s just a reminder of of how fortunate we are.

We’ve been at home resting after our long, crazy week. I have learned all about PT for spinal patients and bought a fancy chair for the shower. We have even started to talk about options for rescheduling our honeymoon, with hopes to go on a similar European trip around our first anniversary in April. And we are back to our original plan regarding starting a family.  So in the end, our scary ordeal seems to have turned out okay. As our neurosurgeon told us, now that it is over with, we can “get on with our lives”.

Lots of things to be thankful for right now,


P.S. The picture is post-op taken on Wednesday morning. Doesn’t he look good, for a guy who had just had his spinal cord cut open?

Two Wild Nights at Assateague Island

10659383_10153122227356258_1475662881559389260_nOur trip to Assateague Island was an adventure to say the least. From the start, not very much went well. It’s a long drive from DC to Assateague Island. It’s at least 3 hours and that’s in the best case scenario with no traffic. So it was a long afternoon getting there. But once you get there, it’s a beautiful beach and quiet campground, which is a pretty awesome retreat from the busy city.

The first night started off well. We went camping with two of our close friends. After cooking an awesome campfire dinner we went to bed but found out pretty quickly that our air mattress was not ideal for sleeping. (Professional tip #1: Do not buy the extra tall air mattress. If they start to lose air, it’s very noticeable.) So after Brian and I spent hours tossing and turning, basically playing “teeter-totter” with our air mattress, we gave up. At 5am, we drove to the closest Walmart in search of a new one. And at that point, we decided we might as well stay up to watch the sunrise. So we talked the bakery into giving us donuts right out of the oven, bought a jug of milk, and took a blanket out to the beach. We spent the morning snoozing on the beach and watching the sunrise. My favorite memory of the weekend. 🙂

But the adventure wasn’t over. After blowing up our air mattress and taking a morning nap, we went kayaking and swimming on the bayside. The bayside is much calmer water than the ocean, perfect for just hanging out. When we came back from swimming, we found the horses has gotten into our friend’s trash and made quite a mess.(Professional tip #2: Take them seriously when they say to keep your trash locked up! )10622767_10153122228736258_68756958205338132_n

Later that night, we noticed that the sky started to get dark and the wind started to pick up. Campers started to pack their tents up and head out. Finally, about 10:30pm our friend’s tent blew over (Professional tip #3: Do not pitch your tent in the sand where the stakes pull out easily), they decided to pack their things and drive back to DC! But Brian and I decided to tough it out. We ran to the shower house for a quick bathroom break and the downpour started just as we were on our way home. All we could do was huddle together in our tent and listen to the chaos outside. We finally fell asleep snuggled together as the thunder boomed all around us. We woke up to find puddles of water all the way around our air mattress like a moat. But luckily, since we bought a new one, we managed to stay afloat!

And just like that, Assateague Island became one of our most memorable trips. In a good way. 🙂

Complete Guide to Assateague Island