Let Me Introduce Myself
As many of you who have been following me know, I started a blog back in February and although I consider myself to be pretty tech savvy, Blogging was a huge learning experience and very frustrating. But with some help from my extremely talented nephew (who I will talk about in a separate post coming up because you need to be following him too!) I am back in business using a new platform. I am slowly growing my social media accounts so for my "first" post on the new and improved blog I thought i'd tell you a little bit about myself and how I got to where I am now. (I have also moved the handful of earlier posts over here so if you are just joining in, you might enjoy those too!)
Full disclosure here my friends, this has turned into a bit of a long story so curl up, pour yourself a fresh cuppa and enjoy the ride!
Many of you just know me as Michele from Our Uncluttered House or some of you may not even know my name! I started this new journey on social media in January because I was feeling a bit out of sorts, was sometimes bored and I always had a project on the go anyway so I thought hey, maybe people would be interested in what I am doing. And to my surprise, a lot of people were!
I wasn't always just Michele from Our Uncluttered House. I was Michele, mom of two, step-mom of one, wife, daughter, friend and working mom. I worked full-time in Toronto for one of the largest private section Unions in the country. I was an administrative assistant which basically entailed keeping the people I worked for organized and on schedule, booking travel, organizing conferences from start to finish, typing reports, fielding phone calls, etc. I was known for being meticulous and was a very hard worker. I can't even put into words how much I loved my job and the people I worked with. If anyone asked me to name one thing I didn't like about my job the only thing I could ever think of was the commute. But I also carpooled for many years which made that aspect easier and it deepened the friendships with those I worked and drove with. Some of those friendships I made are still going strong today with a handful of them being my closet friends and confidants.
I had been working in this job for 21 years when in 2008 my world kind of came crashing down around me. Since January of that year I had been having terrible shoulder and back pain, which wasn't out of the norm for me sitting at a desk on a computer and telephone all day. But this pain was different and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I went for regular massage therapy and chiropractic treatments and was also trying acupuncture. I was getting a lot of numbness in my legs and I was so very tired, not normal tired, but totally wiped out and in your bones tired.
Prior to this I was not one to run to my doctor, if anything I was there once a year for a check-up and that was it. From January-May 2008 I was at my doctors office weekly, telling her she had to find out what was wrong with me. I had a very good doctor but up until the end of March she was not taking me serious. These symptoms were getting progressively worse and one day in early April I was back in her office in tears and she finally ordered some tests. X-rays, ultra-sounds, CT scans and nothing was showing up. She FINALLY ordered an MRI of my C-spine. At that time, in 2008, my local hospital only had one MRI machine that they ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so my appointment was a Tuesday at the end of April 2008 at 3:00am!! Yes I had to go to bed the night before and set my alarm for 2am to get up and drive to the hospital. What can I say, I got a GREAT parking spot!
I received a call from my Doctor's office 3 days later that she wanted to see me in her office so back I went. The MRI report showed lesions on my C-spine that "COULD" be indicative of a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis. I laughed! No way was that possible, I thought maybe a pinched nerve or a degenerating disc and that the fatigue was from not sleeping, being in pain, having young kids, having a busy stressful job, etc. but I didn't have some disease, not possible!
And we all know what happens when we go home and Google our symptoms and diagnosis right? You create all the worst case scenarios in your head. In my case I thought I was going to be blind and in a wheelchair in a matter of months! I did this for another solid month while I was waiting to go for a second MRI, this time they were looking at my brain. Thankfully my next MRI was not in the middle of the night but on a Saturday evening at 9pm. I got a call from my doctor 3 days later. The brain scan had confirmed a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. I will never forget the day, I calmly said ok and got up and left her office. I went about life and pretended the past couple of months hadn't happened. My doctor called me back into her office in mid June and told me I had to face the facts.....so I did.
I started this journey at the MS Clinic at St Michael's Hospital in Toronto. If you aren't familiar with St Mike's it is a research hospital so in the beginning my husband and I thought great, this is the best place for me to be. This clinic is funded by research dollars so they must be on the cutting edge for treatments and for finding a cure. And in some ways they were but they were big prescribers of drugs, heavy hitting drugs. And they convinced us that these drugs were the answer and without them, the disease could progress rapidly. So I took their advice. I also took some time off work to deal with this diagnosis, to start the treatment and try to find a way to LIVE without letting MS define me.
I won't bore you with ALL the dirty details but heres a brief synopsis of what I went through with the meds. I did a weeks worth of infusions of heavy doses steroids which did nothing but make me bloated and sick. Then I started on one of the Disease Modifying Drugs recommended by the neurologist assigned to me at St Mikes. These drugs were taken via injections that needed to go through the muscle in my forearm. My husband stepped up to the plate like never before and took care of me, he did these injections week after week and picked up the slack with the kids, our house, our life because in the beginning I would inject on a saturday night and be sick in bed for 4 days, then it was almost time to do it all over again. I was off work from July until the end of September at which time I was desperate to go back. I just wanted some normalcy back in my life. My doctor recommend 3 half days a week to start, I thought "piece of cake" and i'll work my way back to full-time in a month. HA! I had no idea.
First of all three half days meant I could no longer carpool so the commute alone was kicking my ass! And then me and my OCD tried do 5 full days of work in 3 half days. This went on until the end of January and I was literally making myself sicker, day by day. I had to stop and think about what the future would be like if I kept trying to work at this pace. And I had a demanding job, I couldn't just not be there and not work hard. I also had young children, I wanted to be able to raise them and be active with them and not be sick and tired all the time. I talked to all my doctors and the consensus was it would be better off for me in the long run, for my quality of life, if I were not commuting and working at the pace I had been. It took A LOT of thinking and talking and talking and thinking before I finally agreed with my doctors and went off on Long Term Disability (LTD). I am thankful every single day that my employer had an LTD program and great health care benefits because without them I don't know where I would be.
There have been many ups and downs with my health since then and although I still miss my job terribly, I have worked hard to make the most of the hand that was dealt me. From day one when I started my LTD I told myself to think of it as a blessing because it allowed me to be home with my kids instead of waking them at 5:30am everyday and dropping them at daycare or a babysitter at 6:15am to begin the commute to Toronto. Our oldest was almost 12 at the time so I feel now, looking back, it was so important that I was home during the teen years. Being home wasn't fun, it wasn't easy, and a lot of days I didn't like it one bit but I just kept adjusting and telling myself to be grateful and thankful that I had good doctors and was managing my MS and still living a good life. I am a glass half full kind of girl so I always said hey, things could always be worse, there are so many other things much worse than MS, at least it wasn't a death sentence.
Raising my kids as a stay at home mom since 2009 did occupy my days for which I am thankful.
Fast forward to 2013 which was a very bad year for me. I had some very serious health issues, which continued on into most of 2014. I was in a bad car accident, our oldest was going off to college, I started to battle depression and anxiety for the first time in my life and it was a hard fought battle. In the fall of 2014 we started "casually" looking at smaller houses, especially bungalows since we were in a large two story. One afternoon in September while scrolling through our local MLS listings I happened upon a cute little bungalow in our same neighbourhood. It was like fate, we made a cold call to the listing agent, went and looked at the bungalow and found out it had multiple offers going in that very night. And hey, we like to live on the edge and are all for doing things spur of the moment, but that was a little too quick even for us! The agent told us about another bungalow just up the street that had just been listed and had Open Houses scheduled for the coming weekend. We came and had a look and the rest they say, is history!
This house was a blank slate, in a bit of rough shape so we have been renovating one room at a time since we moved in back in December 2014. And we've been doing it on a budget. Despite a few roadblocks, we've learned a lot and have discovered we have quite a talent for DIY projects! Many have been trial and error but thats the only way to learn. And when I say "we" I mean my husband...I just come up with all the great ideas, he does most of the work!
So I guess the moral of my story is, in a way this little house saved me. I learned to do so many little DIY's. I was determined to do them as thrifty as possible. We are pretty proud of what we have accomplished in our bungalow so far and we have taken a bit of a break from the big jobs this year because we really needed it. I have had lots of little projects to keep me busy and we will probably get back to tackling some bigger ones in the fall, but we are also finally enjoying the fruits of our labour. .
If you aren't following me on Facebook and Instagram you can click on the links at the bottom of my website. And if you aren't sure you want to, check out this video, this is what our house looked like the day we viewed it with the realator. We've come a long way baby!