Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Cauda Equina Syndrome and general suckage.

I was never going to write about any of this, but I guess my blog does say; 'Life, living and catching moments inbetween', so here we go.

This, I think, is one of those life/living moments (and it also explains my mammoth absence on the blog/facebook/twitter scene.)

First things first.  I am a very, very, VERY lucky ducker.  I had/have (not sure if once you have it, you always do?...) Cauda Equina Syndrome.  A lotto win in medical terms due to its rarity.  *yay, lucky me.  Because the actual lotto would just be too simple...* :)

A couple of months ago, I started to get back pain.  Nothing thrilling, just the 'presumed' normal, post pregnancy, double buggy pushing, Hell and Back training (& running), mammy of two lifting, backpain tweaks and soreness.  Time went on and it got progressively worse to the point where (lying on the floor making noises that can only be heard in the wild) I decided (loosely translated as 'husband ordered me to') to visit a Chiropractor. 

Now, those that know me, know that I take after my mammy and would literally have to have a severed limb before contemplating a doctor or other medical professional, so for me to agree was a big deal.
Luckily, by my husbands recommendation in the Crossfit world, I discovered an AMAZING chiropractor and ART therapist, who, while fixing my buggered pelvis and muscles, quickly picked up on bigger issues so referred me for an MRI to see what we were dealing with.

Still run of the mill stuff, I had the MRI which showed two bulging disks so I was referred to a Neurologist and got an appointment date.  You wanna see?  Here you go
                                   (please refrain from noticing the 'fatty' layers of white... LOL)

During my 'wait' for my Neurologist appointment, I had another Chiropractor visit at which point she loosely mentioned that if I notice any numbness, to go to A&E.  This nugget securely implanted in my brain, I continued on over the next few days until suddenly I got some serious pain. (Now, I mean- serious pain.  I'm comparing it to childbirth here, people, and at times, Id have chosen childbirth over it any day) so off we went to A&E. 

Ive heard some horror stories about A&E but in all fairness, we were checked in super fast and seen by a nurse.  Soon after, an A&E doctor examined me and, apologising (I was like, what the Hell??? Why is she apologising?) gave me some painkillers and told me unfortunately that was all they could do.  I wasn't sure what to expect anyway, but peace of mind and something to kill the pain was just awesome.  She too mentioned that, if I experienced any numbness, to come back in, so off we went home- me floating on a cloud of pain free smiles clutching my big bag of pain killing prescriptions. 

That night, I did notice some numbness but fobbed it off.  The following morning I went to stand up and I got a shooting pain in my back and it felt like gravity reversed. Pain flipped from upper to lower and over afew minutes numbness started kicking in.  Numb butt cheeks, calves, feet, butt cheeks, thighs... VERY weird sensation so off we went to A&E again.

Above: Nerves of a human body.  Cauda Equina Syndrome is when pressure is applied to the nerves running down the lower spine blocking feeling and control roughly from the waist down.  On a slightly different note- HOW much like plants are we???  Wow!  :)

As luck had it, the same doctor saw me so knew my situation.  She mentioned that she was concerned I may have a condition called 'Cauda equina syndrome' but that I wasn't presenting the 'red flag' signs. (basically, loss of bladder and bowel function... lucky me!) so the consultants were reluctant to follow up. 
(Now, this is where I have to shout from the hilltops "THANK YOU!!!"  to my A&E doctor because she followed her gut and pushed for an MRI which confirmed that I did have Cauda Equina so required immediate surgery avoiding permanent damage of nerves.)


Its been a LONG 8 weeks recovery so far.  I started off with 'typical Irish style' attitude of:
"Ah, shur ill be grand..." to "HHmmmm, this seems to be taking a while..." to "Oh for feck sake... come ON already".
From no feeling at all, to toe wiggling (very slow albeit!) to ankle wiggle to crutches to standing to walking 2 feet to 10 to 100, its all progress -but painstakingly slow progress.  I am an impatient person so 6 weeks waiting to get the OK from the doctor to just 'walk' in the pool was insane and SUCH an anticlimax in the end. 
I have to admit, that first length 'walk' in the pool drew the first self pity tear from my eye.
It was the realisation of how much further I still have to go.  I still have one crutch, one numb ass cheek, partial leg, ankle and foot, and have to wait up to two years for any/all feeling to come back, but whoa, am I lucky.  I have researched what could have been and, holy crap, I am SO thankful.  There are many people out there who weren't as lucky to get emergency surgery as fast as I did and have to deal with lifetime paralysis etc.

This has been a HUGE eye opener.  My 'bucket list' has been scrapped and started again. Silly things that I could have done any time before but 'never had the time to' have gone to the top.  Silly stresses that I worried about, dissolved.  To be able to function and run with my kids.  To be able to bring them hillwalking or sailing (or do those things myself again!), these are the things that are important to me.
Bizarrely enough, the first few on my 'revised' list are:
-Pick up both my kids (individually and together)
-Be able to walk without crutch by February (when I'm going to visit my sister and her family in Seattle!!!  Yeah baby!!!)
-Acrobatic silks (I've always been amazed at how graceful they are however I would realistically resemble a hippo strangling itself on a silk sheet no doubt, but I will still try when I can!
- Climb Carrauntoohil again- The highest mountain in Ireland.  Ive done it the hardest way and the moderate way before this operation- if I could manage ANY way up in the next year I would be SO happy. :)
- Go windsurfing (anywhere, any time, I don't care, I would just love to see could I manage it again.  I do miss it so)
- Go sailing (lasers, Hobie's, and 'big boats)

and the list goes on...

In addition to all of that, I am aiming to get down to my ideal weight to take weight and strain off my spine so have been looking into much more healthy ways of living and eating the last while... I might even start a recipe section to this blog... LOL.  Anyway...

If you have read this far...(fair dues to you! :) )... take the time to review YOUR 'bucket list', because the most simplest of things that you 'dont have time to do' or are 'putting off until next week' might just be the things on the very top of your list some day, so do them now! :)

Ive been meaning to send a Thank you card to the doctor in the A&E in Cork University Hospital, but nothing seems quite enough, so, until I find a card sufficient enough, Dr Emer in CUH A&E, I cant thank you enough for your care or persistence to follow your gut and diagnosis. My family and I cant thank you enough.  I hope this message finds you so you know how much a difference you've made in my/our family's life. 

Sue, my chiropractor- thank you for sorting out my back and giving me the warning signs, of which, I may never have picked up on or reacted as fast. 

My Mum & Dad, thanks for looking after our boys while the madness set in- don't know what we'd have done without you.

Leigh (and your broken foot), Amanda, Kerri, Betty, Piluca, Joan, Ann, Daithi, Morgan, Clair, Córa:- chats, foodstuffs, wine, cards, flowers, positive vibes and general banter. xxx Lifesavers. x

And Dave, hubbie extraordinaire.  No words. xxx

And so I promise I will be back just as soon as I can.  Met Eireann are promising a white Christmas so fingers crossed I shall slap some crampons on this crutch and get some nice shots of Kinsale in all her winter glory. :) 

Look after yourselves. 

Toodles, Jen. xxx

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Top of the Rock, Pod Pairc & Walking Centre

Top of the Rock Pod Pairc and walking centre can only be described as a little piece of Heaven.  I think everyone (yes, I mean everyone) would benefit from a visit.

Based in Drimoleague, West Cork; Top of the Rock stands tall, overlooking the rolling hills and countryside.  Forests and fields, walkways and rivers, farm animals and wildlife, it is all right there.

 You can view more photos of Top of the Rock by clicking here.

We are are a family of four (myself, my husband and our two sons who are 2 & 3 years old) and afew weeks ago we were toying with the idea of going camping for a little summer holiday.  A nice break away from the electronic every day luxuries and their associated pressures and stress.  Our two main concerns were;

1) Rain.  Lets face it, this is Ireland.  Unless you are INCREDIBLY lucky, its going to rain at some stage over a planned weekend/weeks activity.  It could be a long, cold two nights camping in a damp tent with two soggy toddlers.  As a family, we are all on for getting out and about in whatever the weather, but its nice to be able to get warm and dry and have somewhere to put wet clothes, boots & raingear.

2) Sleeping & bathroom requirements.  Our youngest is still in a cot, so we were going to have to bring our travel cot with us regardless, and our other son hasn't quite go the hang of night time potty training, so nocturnal potty trips would be on the cards. 

With our concerns in mind, we took to the google machine and discovered 'Top of the Rock Pod Pairc and walking centre'.  It looked so idyllic and the idea of the Pods were fantastic.  They solved all of our camping concerns!  So, off to Twitter I went, had a little tweet with David, the owner of the Pod Pairc, and, without much convincing, we were all booked up for our first 'glamping' experience.

Hugh unpacks... LOL.
To be honest, we couldnt have picked a more perfect little adventure for our two little boys.  As the date neared, we explained to them where we were going and what we would be doing.  For anyone reading this that has kids, lets just say that 'Tractor Ted' was top of the watch list and their little backpacks were being packed and repacked with their little tractors and animals. 

We arrived on a Sunday afternoon (and as predicted- a full weather warning in effect.  LOL) but it didn't matter to us as we had a gazillion changes of clothes and wet gear for the lads so were prepared for anything.  We were warmly welcomed by Samuel and shown around the facilities before being left at our pod to get settled.  First things first. 

The place is SO safe.  The whole site is fully fenced in and field areas have chickenwire/net fencing along the fences so the little ones cant do a runner.  The gate is kept closed so there is no way out on to the road.  With two speedy toddlers, this was a HUGE bonus and load off. 

The pods really are LOVELY. 

There are 7 pods in the Pod Pairc.  2 Luxury pods (Orchard & Celtic), 2 Family pods (Sheepfold & Wildfruits) and 3 Standard pods (Droimeann, Fuschia & Moscovy).

The Luxury pods look amazing.  They have double beds, a toilet & wash hand basin, mini kitchen, dining table and pull out sofa bed.  I'm not sure that you would even need to use the facilities on site if you stayed in one of these to be honest.  LOL.

The inside of our family pod, 'Wildfruits after we moved in. :)
The family pods (We were in the one called Wildfruits) are larger than the standard pod and are equipped with three fold up beds (you can get additional mattresses if you need)  We pushed the two beds together (worked fantastically and VERY comfortable) and swapped the third bed for a childs mattress so that we could have more room for our travel cot.  Perfect amount of space for us all.  :)

The Standard pods are the basic pod and equipped with two single fold up beds (You could fit kids in also and can get additional mattresses if you need)

Pod Pairc owner, David giving the sheep
snack with our son, Hugh.
All pods are heated and have lighting.  Now, I cant be 100%, but from what I remember, each pod has its own decking area at the front, a grassy area & bench table.  The facilities are conveniently close to all Pods and there is a lovely grazing area for sheep & calves spacing out the Pairc beautifully.

The lads enjoing looking at the Zwarble sheep.

The facilities are AMAZING. 
The Pod Pairc building.
 Showers are huge, piping hot and run on a timer system (€1=5mins).  Bathrooms large, very clean and well stocked. 

Rónan on his way into the kitchen. 

The Kitchen is VERY well equipped.  You get your own cupboard filled with ware and cutlery for your stay.  It has a little lock so that you can store your foodstuffs securely if you wish.  Two cookers (one gas, one electric) ovens, sinks, kettles, Pots& pans, fridge & freezer and table & chairs.  Upstairs there is a huge dining area so if someone else is cooking you can eat up there.  Our lads had us up at the crack of dawn every day wanting to go see the animals so we never had company in the kitchen.  LOL.

There is a Gamesroom off the kitchen with a pool table and table tennis table and off that is a laundry and drying room.  (we didn't need to use any of these during our stay)

Outside? (where to begin...);

Looking down towards the campfire area
from one of the luxury pods.

There is a lovely fenced in section where the chickens and ducks wander or swim in their pond if they aren't snoozing in their 5 star stone luxury coop.  Our lads loved watching them all while they played in the swing or slid down the slide in the lovely play area. 

There is a large grazing area and lovely stone house where the sheep live just across from the pond.  The sheep are 'zwartbles' and very friendly indeed.  Our lads were up at the crack of dawn- I kid you not- they had donned their wellies and backpacks and were scratching at the door to get out at around 6am both mornings.  Im sure David was surprised to see us all up so early, but he was fantastic and involved them on his morning jobs of feeding the animals and collecting eggs.  We even had the pleasure of a freshly laid, still warm egg on our first morning. 

One of the new calves arriving to the farm.

For most people in todays day and age, forking out for holidays is a rare (if not impossible) thing.  It's easily forgotten that we live in such a beautiful country and all of it within reasonable driving distance.  Places like the Pod Pairc make holidays possible for everyone and anyone to have an amazing trip.

Hugh and Rónan 'helping' David feed
the Chickens and ducks.:)


Whether you are a walking group, a couple, a family or even a stressed out writer looking to get a bit of peace and quiet and inspiration to write, Top of the Rock has something for you. 

Until next time,
Toodles! :)

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Today I met Afew very inspiring people.  Two in particular stood out.  

The first was a lovely lady whom, while casually chatting, mentioned that today was the first time in two years that she had worn shoes.  It turns out that this amazing woman was coming to the end of a two year journey of sailing around the world.  
I listened in awe as she spoke of her travels and experiences.  Of tiny villages where families had nothing but were the happiest and most content people she has ever met.  
Where the local 'shop' sold bic razors individually rather than in the pack of 5 as they were such a luxury item, and shampoo and shower gel was sold only in teeny bottles, much like the complimentary ones most people usually ignore in hotels.  
She had packed up her life for two years to go on her adventure.  Now, I am in awe of anyone who can do that.  I mean, forgetting careers and managing to get a 2 year job break- but your house, family, friends, pets, stuff...all of it?  To sell/store/give away your life's gathered trinkets and leave your home like that?  Well, I have to admit- it got my adventure juices flowing!  I spent the next hour or two pining for the open ocean and reminiscing of sailing seasons and friends  missed and others sadly no longer with us. 

My daydreaming was interupted by a lovely cheery couple from Michigan in the USA.  There was something so very happy about each of them that I couldn't BUT start to chat and it was then I noticed a lens.  Gosh, she had a beautiful lens on a Canon, I did my best to hold back the drool.  Turns out she used to be a wedding photographer and was now travelling the globe and blogging of her travels. 
Check out her blog:  http://cathyflewthecoop.com


So.  Hats off to all you folks out there following your dreams and taking the scary big steps to do so. I salute you and hope that one day, when my fledglings have left the nest, that I too will have the opportunity to go on many more adventures. 

I apologise for my lack of photographs and posts of late- my harddrive keeled over a while back and *sobs* it's not looking good... I *sobs again* didn't  have anything backed up. *flails*

So, with that- I give you a fairly mingy shot from my phone... 

Keep it real my lovelies.  Until next time!



Monday, January 13, 2014

My 7 day juice detox extravaganza

Hi there!

Standing at my breakfast bar a little over a week ago, I was shoveling the last of a packet of curry super noodles into my gob and washing it down with a glass of wine as I mentioned on Facebook that I had decided to start a detox the following  morning.  
Lots of luck wished and encouragement messages later- I was asked would I blog about it.  *hhhmmmmm* no pressure, like!  

7 days later, I can say with much pride and sense of achievement, that, not only do I feel super healthy, cleansed and detoxed, but also lost 8.9lbs in the process. 

I was still undecided about posting this until the recipe and 7 day plan requests started coming in... sheesh- take a ticket and Stand in line, people. ;) 

I had google, a juicing book and my tastebuds as my juice recipe guide .  After a bit of experimenting, I came up with some tasty juices that worked for me. 

So, less talk, more action.   Below are the recipes for the juices that I used and the full shopping list of ingredients you will need should you decide to give it a lash. 

But first, some pictures. (This is supposed to be a photography blog after all... Kind of... Ish.  LOL) 

(They all pretty much look the same with the exception of being a different colour, but you get the idea. :). I will suggest that you get a nice glass that you find a bit fancy.  The juice is going to be your meal, after all. :) )

Recipes for Juices that I used:

1:  4 carrots, 1 apple, 1 kiwi, handful parsley. 
2:  3 carrots, 1 apple, handful spinach
3:  big handful of grapes (about 12), 4 pears, 2 apples, 1/4 pineapple. 
4:  2 grapefruits, 2 oranges, 1 lemon.
5:  3 peeled mandarins, 1/2 pineapple, handful raspberries.  Blend with 1 banana & some live yoghurt (NOT low fat) 
6:  1/4 pineapple, 1/2 celery stick, 1/5 cucumber, handful spinach, little bit of peeled lime, 2 apples.  Blend with 1/4 avacado & ice. (This is straight from the Jason vale book)
7:  1/2 melon, 1 apple, 4 oz broccoli. 
8:  1 mango, 1/2 pineapple, 1 peeled lime, blend with some live yoghurt. 
9:  2 carrots, 2 apples, 1/4 peeled lemon, 1/4 inch ginger. 
10:  3 apples, pinch of cinnamon & heat (a lovely nighttime treat- also Jason vale)
11:  big handful red grapes (about 12), 10 strawberries, 2 passion fruit (just the flesh & pips), 2 kiwis, blend with some yoghurt. 
12:  2 carrots, 2 apples, 2 pears, 1 fennel bulb. 
13:  2 apples, 4 carrots, I chicory (I didn't like this one much though) 
14:  1/2 pineapple, 1 orange, blend with 1 banana. 

Tips & hints: 
-always peel lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges & passionfruit before juicing. 
-leave skin on pineapples, mangos, melon, kiwis etc for lots of extra vitimans and goodies. 
-juice 4 peeled mandarins alone for the most beautiful creamy mandarin juice you have EVER tasted. Seriously- the more pith the better.  It makes it taste like cream has been added to the juice- SO yummy. 
-experiment! Play around with fruits and veg that you like.  Replace/add/substitute  anything to tailor the juice as you like it. :) 

My 7 day plan: (by recipe number above)

Day 1:  
Breakfast:  1
Lunch: 5
Dinner: 6
Additional for shots/snack:  9 & 10

Day 2:  
Breakfast:  2
Lunch:  5
Dinner:  6
Additional for shots/snack:  4 & 10

Day 3:   
Breakfast:  1 
Lunch:  5
Dinner:  6
Additional for shots/snack:  14

Day 4:  
Breakfast:  3
Lunch:  5
Dinner:  5
Additional for shots/snack:  1

Day 5: 
Breakfast:  7 
Lunch:  5
Dinner:  8

Day 6:
Breakfast:  1
Lunch:  6
Dinner:  14
Additional for shots/snack:  11 & 12

Day 7:
Breakfast:  1
Lunch:  5
Dinner:  8
Additional for shots/snack:  8

I drank camomile and peppermint tea throughout the day when I felt like a cuppa.

The worst day for me was day 2. At aroud midday the headache kicked in and got progressively worse throughout the day to the extent that I felt physically ill (I mean, pukey-dainty-I want to die, kind of feeling). Luckily it was after my kids were in bed so I just went to bed early and all was well the following morning.  If it had happened during the day I can honestly say that I probably would have thrown in the towel and had a big slice of buttery toast and tea. 

Power on through the ikky day 2/3 bit- honestly, it doesn't feel like it at the time, but you will feel really great after.  

The ingredients shopping list for the 7 days (I'd say plan out which juices you want roughly and shop in two or three batches, otherwise your kitchen will look like a fruit shop and much will be gone off by the end of the week)

32 apples (NOT Granny Smiths) 
30 carrots
7 pineapples
8 kiwis
6 handfuls parsley
21 mandarins/clementines/satsuma
4 handfuls raspberries
8 bananas 
1 chicory
4 celery sticks
1 cucumber
5 handfuls spinach
5 limes
2 avacados
1 lemon
1 ginger root
2 grapefruits 
3 oranges
1 box of red grapes
6 pears
1 melon
1 broccoli
2 mangoes
10 strawberries
2 passion fruits 
1 fennel
1 big tub of live yoghurt
Make Afew bags of ice. 

I'd love to hear how you get on if you choose to give it a bash so please do get in touch. :). And remember- get out and about.  The more you move, the better you will feel and faster all the nasty toxins will leave your body.  

Best of luck with it and please feel free to share. :) 

Toodles for now. :) 

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