I feel no shame in sharing. 

“You look like you’re okay.”

“You’re probably just stressed out.”

“Wow. But you look totally normal.”

“I had a concussion once.”

“At least you’re not dead.”

“Why do you still talk about this so much?”

“You really shouldn’t be posting that on social media.”

“Are you sure you’re not bipolar?”

“I can help you lose weight.”

“You were so pretty.”

“Some things need to stay private.”

“No one wants to hear about it.”

“Why do you post pictures when you’re in the hospital?”

“You’re narcissistic.”

“Oh, it’s just a migraine…”

“You need to focus more on your work.”

“You need to focus more on your recovery.”

“You’re doing too much.”

“You really should get help finding a balance.”

“You don’t still have a TBI, do you?”

“I saw you walk without your cane… Sooo… Why don’t you just stop using it?”

“I really doubt it’s PTSD. You’ve never served in the military.”

“Get help.”

STOP. All of these things and more have been said in one form or another to me during the last two and a half years. Most have good intentions behind them — Some are fueled by frustration — Some are just completely off-base. 

Post-Accident – Diagnosed with:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Nerve Damage
  • Torn Rotator Cuff
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Sensory Processing Disorder 
  • Sequencing Disorder 
  • Migraines 
  • Left Lung Damage
  • Vertigo
  • PNES Seizures
  • Blurred Vision and Right Peripheral Vision Impairment
  • Wheelchair to Walker to Loftstrand Crutches to Cane
  • …Much more

Pre-Accident – Diagnosed with:

  • Stage IV Endometriosis 
  • Interstitial Cystitis 
  • Vaginismus
  • Infertility 
  • Ovarian Cysts 
  • Failed IUIs
  • Failed IVF

It was only a couple of months after our IVF when I was hit by a semi. Three embryos. We lost them all. A couple of months is not nearly enough time to process and grieve that loss. 

We were using donor sperm because of Allen’s condition and sterility. We also found out I have the egg quality of that of a woman going through menopause. We were 25 years old. We were newlyweds and eager to become mom and dad. 

We both celebrated our birthdays that July. 

26 years old — New age. New beginnings?

October. The accident. 

Now an instant layer of grief has been added. Another layer of pain – Emotional – Physical. 

I grieve the life and the opportunities and the hope I had before. I am a changed woman. I’m 29 now — My life halted and rerouted in ways I would have never imagined. Our hope of starting a family has been squandered. Between my health problems making infertility treatments risky and my TBI disqualifying us from adoption, we don’t think we will ever have children. Grief. 

“You’re young. You’ll bounce back.”

If only blanket statements were as bold and effective as they are easy to say. 

“Be happy you’re alive.”

I am happy I’m alive. I’m grateful. But I am also grieving the woman I was prior to the accident. Strong, witty, fit, fun, a dancer, a dance teacher, independent, intelligent, sassy, career driven, lover, friend… Two and a half years may seem like a long time to still be grieving, but believe me when I say it feels like all of this life changing trauma was yesterday. 

Y’all. I used to be fun!

My response to all that has been said is short and full of truth, “You will never understand.”

It’s true and I don’t expect anyone to ever fully understand what it is like to live with a TBI every day. It’s an incredibly lonely and crippling diagnosis. 

…Even being surrounded by a small but loving support system. It’s a deep and dark and scary feeling of loneliness. Your closest loved ones will never truly know. 

“Why don’t you go to a support group or something.”

Believe it or not, Traumatic Brain Injury support groups pop up and disappear just as fast as you’re given a referral… The resources just aren’t available. 

I’m grieving a lot of different things at this point in my life and in my recovery. I don’t expect that to wash away soon or with ease and I don’t expect anyone to understand any longer. 

Friends. It must be so hard being friends with someone who is chronically ill and always in need of something. There are givers and there are takers in this world. I am a taker and that is the most difficult type of person to maintain a friendship with. And I get it. But my situation is what it is and right now I have to live day by day and hour by hour. There is no timeline for my recovery. There is no timeline for processing my grief and depression. 

It’s interesting… There were a flood of new and exciting friendships post-accident. The companionship was beautiful and helped in my healing. I am so grateful for that. As time has passed, that flood of friendships has slowly washed away – Along with it, some important friendships I thought would never cease to exist also washed away. 

But I get it. Right now I can only focus on myself in my recovery and the very little amount of energy that is left is saved for my husband. 

It’s hard to be friends with someone who is always sick and always needs something. 

It’s another layer of grief and makes the loneliness a little more suffocating. 

I’ve been seeing a psychologist who specializes in trauma for the last year… Maybe 18 months? She’s an incredible woman who is passionate about her work and is compassionate in all definitions of the word. She’s part of the reason I’ve reopened this blog. 

“Write it all down. All of it.”

And I plan on it. I have always been an open book and have always utilized social media as a therapeutic outlet… Starting back in middle school on MySpace to later becoming a vlogger on YouTube in my early 20s to then meeting my husband on Twitter. I share. So here I am. Raw — I feel no shame in discussing my personal stories and struggles with the world. 

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” -Mahatma Ghandi

Good Morning

You wake up at 4:30am. 

You wince with such severity that you wake your partner up. 

“Are you okay?”

The physical pain that floods your body is there every single day. Some days you can hide it because your tolerance has gone up so much. Some days you can not move to get up out of bed when you wake up. 

You are eventually able to sit up in bed with the help of your partner. They help swing your legs to the side of the bed. 

You try to stand up. 

Your knees buckle and you fall back on to the bed. 

“It’s okay. I’ll help you get to the bathroom.”

You sigh. You sigh LOUD. You are frustrated. 

Your partner is supporting one side of your body while your cane is supporting the opposite. 

You make it to the bathroom. 

All you had to do was pee. 

You get back to bed and your partner helps to swing your legs back into a resting position. 

Your right side is tingly and numb. 

“Let me get you your medications and then I’ll massage that leg.”

You burst into tears. This is all wrong. 

It’s now 4:50am and your partner only got home from their job at 3:00am. They slept a total of 90 minutes. 

You and your partner are awake now. 

Good morning. 

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz

October 19, 2014

March 21, 2014 is the most recent post here on our blog. A lot has happened in the last three years. It’s going to take a lot more than one blog post to tell our story, so let’s start on October 19, 2014…


I was driving home from a dance teacher and studio owner convention in Chicago when I was struck by a Semi…


I had attended in preparation for opening my own dance studio the following summer. 

In order to tell you the story of my trauma and how it has affected our marriage, professional lives and emotions, I’ll be sharing snippets. Starting with this post that my husband wrote:

Hello, everyone. First of all, thank you for your kind words. Here’s the latest update:

Theresa is still in the ICU. She had additional testing today that revealed a slight setback and also met with a speech therapist. She will need to do both again tomorrow. We aren’t permitted to share the specifics of her condition at this time, but please know she is in very good hands here. 

When she woke up today she said, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a semi… Oh wait…” It’s nice to know she still has her humor. 

I’ve been reading all of your kind words to her throughout the day. It’s been very helpful in keeping her morale up. 

These are some pictures of her car. She is lucky to be alive. RIP Chevy Aveo. You saved my wife’s life. An additional photo can be seen here: https://secure.fox.com/proxy/www.fox19.com/story/26826247/multiple-car-accident-closes-turnpike-in-both-directions

Updates will continue to be given on our FB page. 

Mahal, Mr. Cruz

Neither of us had any idea how much this would impact our lives… Our plans and hopes of starting a family… We were clueless. 

It’s time to tell my story. The true story. The raw. The nitty gritty. The difficult to swallow. All of it. 

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz

Hurdle

Today’s word is HURDLE. Allen and I have dealt with many hurdles while on this journey. It’s par for the course. As soon as one situation is resolved, another appears.

This week has been the most difficult since beginning our infertility treatments. My body is tired. Emotionally. Physically. I’m absolutely exhausted. Four surgeries in a year? Good God. What kind of life am I living?

One part of me is too tired to go on. The other part of me says, “BRING IT ON, SUCKA!!” Luckily we have a strong enough support system that the latter is winning. We stay super positive. We try. This, however, does not mean that ANY of this is easy.

I received a phone call today from our IVF nurse. My blood tests came back and there is a problem with my thyroid. A new prescription needs to be started immediately… The hope is that the problem will be resolved in time for us to continue with our IVF protocol.

Hurdles.

It has come to our attention recently that there are more infertile couples following along with our journey. They like how we stay positive. We like it too… But the last thing I want to do is paint this perfect picture of an infertility journey with no real emotional struggles. This is hard. And we are bitter. We have some major anger. We cry. We throw pity parties. We shut down. We are allowed. And for those reading that are on their own journey… You’re allowed too. Positivity helps so much. But it’s okay to know that sometimes you can just be angry.

This week is our week to be angry and today’s word is hurdle.

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz

Today is awesome because…

Today is awesome because:

1. I walked outside to get the mail. Without falling over or getting dizzy. Major progress, people!

2. I made myself lunch. A can of soup. But still…

3. One of Allen’s awesome music friends, Hannah — from the band Kodachrome Babies, mailed me a little care package with a very lovely note. Allen really does have some amazing music friends. And now I do too. This totally brightened my day. Thank you, Hannah!

20140103-140514.jpg
I had a dream today while I was napping that someone rang our doorbell. Then I woke up and saw fresh footprints in the snow outside our door. If that was you… Hi! Sorry I missed you. It’s terribly difficult to wake me up.

I’d also like to add that a girl can only spend so much time on Pinterest. I cannot stand not doing anything. I’ve been restricted to lifting no more than 5lbs. WHAT?! I know. Last time I only had a 20lb. restriction. So even though I’m feeling a bit better and can stand firmly on two feet without my legs buckling like a fawn I still can’t really do much. I’m feeling very useless in this house! I’m itching to be productive again. Get me out of here! Diagnosis: Mild Cabin Fever

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz

Surgery!

We found out yesterday that our second round of IUIs was unsuccessful. Obviously, we’re very upset. Very sad. Frustrated. Disappointed. But we’re handling the news this time around much better. But where do we go from here? Surgery!

I had a baseline ultrasound appointment this morning. I’m very in tune with my body and I knew something was not right. Long story short, they are going to schedule me for surgery (hopefully this month). It has been 9 months since my last laparoscopy.

Image(Post surgery with my handsome husband- March 2013)

My doctor originally anticipated me having a 3-6 month window of time after surgery without being heavily affected by the endometriosis. So I’m pretty happy with making it for 9 months. But it’s time. I can feel that something is not right. It’s time to clean out all of this “bad tissue” and painful endometriosis again.

You know your life is something strange when you are excited to get surgery.

It will be a clean slate (so to speak) for my reproductive system. My first cycle after the surgery we will dive back in head first with another IUI. We will be changing it up a bit. It will be a little more intense. I don’t have specifics yet but I really am still excited. I’m trying my best to stay hopeful!

This will be my third surgery in the last 12 months. It’s almost comical. I’m getting pretty good at it.

Image

(Post surgery – December 2012)

It’ll be nice to have a month or so off (emotionally) from trying to get pregnant. I’m excited to let my body heal and start fresh. There are many things still up in the air and I don’t have many details but I trust my doctor 100% and Allen and I have an INCREDIBLE support system. Our family, friends and co-workers have been truly wonderful.

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz

Round Two — Our Second Chance IUI

Image

Sunday 10:36am — Our first insemination for our second cycle trying IUI

As you can see from the photos above, I was pretty stoked to be trying again. Finding out that last month’s IUI failed was terrible. BUT… We were super thrilled to be able to try again. My doctor told me no jumping for two weeks sooo I had to get it out of my system PRE-IUI 🙂

Things did not go as smoothly as we had hoped they would. We have quickly learned that placing certain expectations on our situation is only set-up for heartbreak and pain. There are certain aspects of this infertility journey, however, that should and 99% of the time DO go as planned/expected. I’m referring to our donor sperm. Let me explain. The bank that we purchased out donor sperm is a very well respected bank. They comply with all of the FDAs regulations and rules. They heavily screen donors and only end up accepting 1% of all applicants. SO running into problems with our donor sperm was LAST on our list of things that could potentially go wrong. Dead last. Welcome to our luck, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome.

The doctor came in to the room and told Allen and I that the vial the lab had thawed and washed had only 3 million sperm. For those of you not in the infertility world, disregard the world “million” because it’s not as impressive an amount as you would think. My instant reaction was, “WHAT?!” Some perspective — 20+ million is ideal.

Super disappointing. The ONE variable that was supposed to be good within all of this sucky turned out to be sucky as well. We still went ahead with the insemination.

Oh and the cramping. Ohhh the cramping. I read about women who don’t cramp after their IUIs and I just scream at my computer, “WHAT IS IT LIKE?”

Monday 8:36am – Second insemination

The doctor called us on our way home from Sunday’s insemination to let us know he wanted to use two vials for our second insemination. So a total of three vials for one cycle. We bought six vials originally so that we could have two children from the same donor. SIX vials. Well… only on our second try and we’ve used up all but two.

The doctor comes in the room and tells us, again, that the counts are extremely low. They combined the two vials and still only had 8 million sperm. Goodness gracious. All of that hope and excitement flew out the door. He encouraged us to call the sperm bank and find out what our options were.

We are in the process of trying to get reimbursed. It’s unlikely that we will, but our lab is going to fill out all of the needed paperwork and help us as best as they can. It might be awhile before we find anything out. In the meantime we have all of these questions and uncertainties running through our minds. Will we have to find a new donor? Will we even be able to find another full Filipino donor? Will we be reimbursed for the subpar vials we purchased? How many more thousands of dollars will have to be spent? Will this cycle’s IUI work? Will the extremely low counts give us any chance at all to get pregnant? If I do get pregnant, will we ever be able to give our child a biological brother or sister?

The one question that we have answered right now… Will we have enough sperm to do a third round of IUIs? Will the two vials be enough? Our doctor told us no. No matter what, we will need to purchase more… Whether it’s to keep trying for our first child or to try for a brother or sister.

So much is up in the air right now. Today marked DAY 1 of the Two Week Wait (TWW). I spent the day on the phone with our sperm bank.

I have a goal for this TWW. I want to keep myself busy with projects. Small or large. So today I worked on a new set of hand-woven trivets for our kitchen. I finished one and plan on making a couple more. Maybe I’ll do a fun DIY post on how to do it. If anyone has suggestions for fun and non-physical things to do during a TWW, I’m all ears. The doctor I see for acupuncture made it very clear that I am not to jump/etc. I’m glad I got my fix in on Sunday morning before the first insemination.

Now I’m rambling. Goodnight!

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz

P.S. I still love and am grateful for our sperm donor but I’m not longer in a hugging mood.

Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots… Errybody!!

Well this morning was quite the surprise!

I got up, started to get ready for work, peed in a cup, took my ovulation test… the usual. And *blink blink blink* there was a smiley face! My ovulation predictor test was letting me know, “Hey! You’re having a surge and you’ll be releasing an egg soon!” Ahhh… It’s too early! I wasn’t supposed to go in to the doctor until tomorrow morning. Last month I didn’t even get a blinking smiley face until AFTER my trigger shot. I called my doctor’s office right at 8am asking what I should do!

They told me to come in right away so I could have an ultrasound done to see what was going on. They measured 5 follicles. Two on my right ovary and three on my left. Only ONE is the ripe enough for game day though. 21.9mm. The others were all 13mm or less. The doctor told me 18mm is a good size. Last cycle I had TWO good follicles. One measured 21mm and the other 23mm. So I guess I’m an underachiever this cycle. The doctor assured me that I have just as much of a chance getting pregnant with only one follicle as I do with two. He cited a new study that just came out but for the life of me I cannot remember what it was called! He also told me not to get my hopes up for twins this time. Uhm, hello… I will be ecstatic for ONE baby. TWO would just be icing on the cake! 

WHAT AN EXCITING MORNING

ImageTime for my trigger shot! Yippee! And while that ‘yippee’ is mostly sarcastic, it’s also kind of exciting. It’s such a relief knowing that we can move forward with the IUIs this cycle. There’s always a chance that the endometriosis will get in the way and ruin our plans. NO CYSTS. THANK GAWD. The nurse this time around was very nice and very patient with me. She gave me the shot and sent us on our way to the acupuncturist.

Side Note — I’ll be writing a post soon-ish about how much I love acupuncture. I found a new and amazing doctor. Last cycle I had a quack that didn’t know this from that. Anyways… I’ll save that story for a future post.

Poor Mr. Cruz. He has today off (a very rare thing). He was really looking forward to sleeping in. He stayed up late last night, played video games, chilled… And then at 7:30am this morning I come running into our bedroom yelling, “ALLEN YOU HAVE TO GET UP I THINK WE HAVE TO GO TO THE DOCTOR BUT I HAVE TO WAIT TO CALL THEM AT 8 BUT GET UP BECAUSE I THINK WE HAVE TO GO!” He was pretty grumpy at me. But I was excited!

You know what’s great? Allen gets to be with me for the first IUI. Since it got moved up to tomorrow morning, he has the entire day off. He still won’t be able to go with me for the second IUI (on Monday) but I am thrilled that he can come tomorrow! He recently got promoted at work and he starts his super intense training on Monday. When we found out that that would most likely be an IUI day we were both pretty bummed that he wouldn’t be able to call off.

I AM SO HAPPY NOW.

So here we go… round two. Lezz do this! #makinbabies

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz

 

DIY: “Hug A Sperm Donor” T-Shirt

Image

DIY: “Hug A Sperm Donor” T-Shirt

Sooo we have our second IUI coming up next week. We’re excited and nervous! I’ve been in a pretty crafty mood lately so I decided to make a shirt in honor of the occasion. HUG A SPERM DONOR. The idea was brought to me by a very close family member. Here’s how I did it!

Image

I grabbed my stack of coupons and headed to Jo-Ann Fabrics yesterday to get my supplies. I had NO IDEA what I was going to do or how I was going to do it. All I knew was that I wanted a shirt with some little swimmers on it. I picked up the following supplies:

  • size small 100% cotton jersey t-shirt — PINK! Gotta have bright cheery colors on game day!
  • large white iron-on letters — Selection was minimal. I’m kinda happy with the ones I found but I’d probably try out a different brand or style if I decide to do a similar project someday. They didn’t adhere as well as I would have liked. I had to get two packs since I needed two “O’s” #ilovecoupons
  • quick fuse fabric sheets — The pack I got has 10 4″x6″ sheets. They are made to be printed on BUT no need to print for this design. I actually only ended up using one of the ten sheets. I was able to fit 3 sperm outlines on one sheet. So unless you want an entire sperm army on your shirt, you’ll have plenty of sheets left over for future projects! More on that later…

Other supplies you will need:

  • iron — I have never used our iron before today. Allen is the iron man in this house.
  • scissors — Use nice ones. Sharp ones. I used retired kitchen scissors that were pretty dull. My sperm tails turned out alright but I think it would have been much easier with a sharper pair of scissors.
  • patience — You’ll be ironing for a lot longer than the packaging says.
  • music — …To help with the patience.

ImageLet’s get to it!

  1. Print your sperm! I found a cute sperm character from Graphics Factory. I did a Google Image search and found plenty of options but they were all pretty strange/creepy looking with bulging eyeballs and evil grins. NO THANKS. I just printed one sperm for this project.
  2. Cut your sperm out.
  3. Trace your sperm on the sticky side of the fabric sheet. I was able to fit three on one sheet. I debated tracing more but I decided the shirt would be a little nicer if I kept things simple. Image
  4. Cut your sperm out. I was careful not to let my fingers rest on the sticky part of the sperm. Hold on to the edges if possible. I didn’t want the oils in my skin to affect how well it would adhere to my shirt.

Image

Next up:

  1. Place your letters and sperm on the shirt! Make sure the sticky sides are down!
  2. Take an artsy picture to make your average looking project #EXTRACOOL Image
  3. Time to iron, baby! Set your iron to “cotton” or “medium/high” Get it good ‘n’ hot.
  4. The instructions for the letters said to keep the iron on each letter for 45 seconds. HA. Yeah right. Multiply that by about seven. Seriously. I had the iron on each one for about 2 minutes. And it still needed more time/heat. Be generous. Image
  5. GENTLY iron over the little spermies. The tails are delicate. The little guys only need about a minute of heat. Instructions say 15 seconds. IN WHAT WORLD? Anyways, be gentle.
  6. Leave the paper backings on the letters and turn the shirt inside out. Iron over the letters from the opposite side. Instructions say for 20 seconds… I laugh, again. Lay that heat on thick and lay it on long.
  7. Let the shirt cool COMPLETELY before you try to peel the paper off of the letters. The sperm are “as is.” Don’t mess with them. They are done.

I ended up needing to add extra heat when I thought I was done. The edges weren’t sticking to the shirt! Even after all that heat. I know. Here’s where the patience comes in handy.

Side Note: Don’t get eager with the iron. Make slow circles only and try not to get distracted by your favorite iPad game begging you to play. I got distracted and accidentally pushed a couple of the letters up off the shirt with the hot iron. Hence the slightly distressed look. It’s all good though.

Have fun and wear it PROUDLY! I know I will!

Mahal, Mrs. Cruz

Oh, Mr. Cruz and I are on Facebook. Come say “Hello!”

 

 

Commitment

So let me break it down for ya’ll.

Theresa and I met on twitter. You know, one of the big dogs in the social media game. A mutual friend tagged us in the same post and Boom-shakalaka – connection. Gotta love the internet! We both lived in Chicago at the time and we met up face to face one day to discuss a project we were working on together. We met at a hipster breakfast joint that had vegan omelettes, and delicious cheese fries. (Side note: I really miss Chicago when I think about food.) Talked and talked… that’s all we did. I think we hit up a Starbucks that night too. I pretended to have a British accent and some drunk couple believed me when I said that I was in the U.S. just to visit. It was a fun night for sure.

When I look back on it, it all happened so quick. But that’s just how our relationship has always been. We look for opportunity and we go for it! That night when we had dinner for the first time we both expressed how much we both wanted a family. How our end goal was to live happily with kids and a house. I think that’s when I realized that this girl might be the one to give me what I wanted. So here’s our moment, and we’re going for it! Well, we’re trying at least.

“And when you can see your unborn children in her eyes, you know you really love a woman.”
-Bryan Adams

Here’s some advice to those dudes out there looking for “The One.” Listen to those lyrics, sponge it in, and don’t settle for anything less. I would not be going through all these hurricanes and earth quakes if I didn’t think that it was all worth it. She is worth it. My wife is worth it. My baby girl or boy is worth it. Before Theresa hopped in a cab to go home that night, we hugged. If our lives that night were a scene from a film, Bryan Adams’ song would have been the song playing in the background. Cheesy for sure, but so delicious. Like those fries.

After our little meet-up we talked a lot online. I didn’t live in the city at the time so the best way we could really hang out with each other was through video chatting. Like seriously, technology is ridiculous and magical. Anyway, before we saw each other again I remember us talking about how we both didn’t want a relationship where we didn’t know where the path ended. We weren’t interested in heartbreaks and someone who just wanted a short term fling. Theresa and I were both serious, committed, and ready for the real deal.

I think that’s a life lesson all on it’s own. If you’re not committed to something… a project, your job, your marriage, your home… maybe it isn’t worth the energy. There’s no way that Lady Gaga could have gotten her superstar reputation for being strange and a little genius if she didn’t commit to those awesome costumes. I mean, she came in on a friggin’ egg to promote her song, “Born This Way.” Knowing how incredibly dangerous it was, I’m sure Neil Armstrong was struggling to muster up the courage to be the first to put his foot on the moon. But he committed head on. And now he’s a legend in the history books, and every time people talked about him they say, “Aw snap Neil? That badass that landed on the Moon? He. Is. A. Beast.” So in short, if you’re not committed to being a good husband and a good dad… Then don’t bother, man. As for me, I want people to say, “Aw shoot, Allen? His husband skills are at level 9,000 AND he’s a top tier dad. SUP.”

photo 3

I committed. From the first non-official date that we had, I committed. And now I’m committing to keep the love as tight as possible, and I’m committing to raising kids who will also commit to whatever their heart calls them to do.

Happy 3 years of loving each other Theresa.

Mahal
-Mr. Cruz