The First 10 Years of the 21st Century (2006-2009)

As a continuation from my previous post. Part two, years 2006 to 2009.


  • The calm after the storm.
  • I continued to suffer from unexplained back and leg pain. Then all-over body pain kicked in. I was given injections, had nerves partially cut and prescribed medications that ruined my brain. I was miserable and I couldn't get answers. Doctors kept ping-ponging me to other doctors.
  • I turned 30 in May. In an effort to make the birthday special, my parents bought me a piano. Music = happiness.
  • I went to Chicago and met up with Maurice, Chrissy & her husband Mike. It had been awhile since we spent a weekend there. It wasn't long after we left that Chrissy & Mike had their first child!
  • Brad started his MBA program that summer.
  • Our fish Norman died; he was a little over 2 years old. In August we got another fish, Eddie, who got this horrible disease from the store and only lived three weeks. We then bought Sammy ("The Knee") who was pretty hardy & healthy.
  • We went to another Formula 1 race, as we got two free tickets after the tire incident the year before. We gave the free ones to a friend of ours in California, who brought his girlfriend. Brad & I were there Thursday - Sunday. We got to do the pit walk-thru, which was amazing. It was sweltering hot (over 100 degrees and humid), but it was a lot of fun. At the first corner of the race there was a massive accident, so minimal cars actually raced. Again we were robbed of a normal race. It was the last race in the U.S. before it was pulled from the schedule.
  • My Grandma Balarin & her husband Roy moved to Akron from California in July. It was the first time in my lifetime that she didn't live over a thousand miles away; unfortunately the closer distance didn't improve the overall family relationship. I don't think she knows how to be a parent or grandmother, and I don't think she's too concerned with that. But we still love her, she's family.
  • For work, I participated in my first major webinar as an educator/instructor, on the topic of retail clinics, which was sponsored by a large healthcare association. The owner of our firm was the moderator, and the VP was the other educator. It was a huge success, and out of the three of us I had the highest rankings. It was another high point at a job I hated.
  • In October Brad & I went back to Minnesota for my cousin Tate's wedding, which also allowed us to see old friends/co-workers. We had a great time reconnecting, and made it for the standard Friday-afternoon-drinking at Concept Group where I (and Brad) had once worked. We also went to an art fair where a few old Grouper's had work on display. It was nice to be back, though we didn't get to stay long enough.
  • In November I saw an orthopedic surgeon with The Cleveland Clinic. After looking at 13-month old CT scans, he noticed I had vertebrae fractures (three of them) above the artificial disc, which is why they thought I was in so much pain. A surgery was scheduled for 2007.
  • I took Brad to our first football game in Ohio in December - Browns vs. Chiefs. Browns won at the end, we were disappointed. It was freezing cold and the Browns fans were drunk, rowdy, loud and rude. They really ruined the game more than the loss.
  • Immediately after Christmas Brad received a call from his mom. She was suffering from end stages of renal failure. We hopped in the car and drove the 12 hour drive to Iowa to visit her. The docs gave her 6 months; she definitely outlasted their predictions. Yet another fighter in the family, and another year ending with unhappy news.


  • The founder of the company I worked for left and sued the new owners for breach of contract. He also started a new business to compete with them. It was ugly. I knew I had to start looking for another job, because without the founder (who was the only sales person - and great at it), the company would fail. I was also miserable there. I tried to help the company by trying my best to market/sell our services (since I was the only one with a marketing background), but they just didn't get it and usually made decisions that were not in the best interest of the business.
  • The Bears went to the SuperBowl against the Colts. The Bears lost. On the way home from my parent's, a deer ran out in front of my car and did some damage. (must have been a celebrating Colts fan)
  • Had a partial fusion spine surgery on Tuesday, February 20. Got out in two days from the hospital, though it was only because the treatment I received was horrible & I wanted to go home. The pain levels were so bad I should have stayed another day. I was home for four weeks recovering. I could tell immediately that the partial fusion had done more harm than good. It greatly limited my mobility and I was in even more pain.
  • Brad & I celebrated our 5th anniversary at home. He worked,& I was still recovering at home from the back surgery. My parents were kind enough to bring us a meal from a local steakhouse, and they also picked up a cake I had ordered that was to represent the cake we had at our wedding. The cake was pretty horrible, but was still had a good evening. It had been an eventful five years.
  • In April, Brad's uncle died in Fairfax, VA. He was a great guy, and we had visited him many times. Truly a class act. I will remember him for our late night talks around the kitchen table while drinking and snacking.
  • Also in April I had my first work-related article published, on retail clinics. It had two other names listed as authors for "marketing" purposes, but in reality I wrote the whole thing. Another accomplishment. I ghost-wrote two other articles for the large health care association that year as well. Because my job was as a business analyst/project manager/marketer, the names of the owners/VPs were more important to showcase.
  • In May I spent five days in NYC. It was for work (the old founder was doing teaching engagements and I had to attend for hard-to-explain reasons), but I had a lot of play time, too. I walked/explored the streets alone, day & night. I saw lots of Midtown & Times Square. I also went to Battery Park, Wall Street, and the WTC site. Being at the WTC was something I'll never forget. Though it was almost six years later, there was still a giant hole in the earth where the towers once stood. It adds a different perspective to the events of that day.
  • Our original fish, Fish One, passed away. He was four years old, which is a miracle. I never thought I'd be able to keep something alive that long. He was such an interactive fish, I hated to see him go. I wrapped him in tissue paper and put him in this rectangular tin I had gotten when I was a kid; on the tin it had fishes swimming in clear blue water with colorful plants and shells. We buried him under a berry bush we planted in our front entryway of our home.
  • I continued my search for answers to my pain, because it just continued to get worse. I could also tell it was not just spine-related. Frustration continued to grow. Given the health situation and the events from 2005, I will say I started finding myself in a depression that lasted several years. I'm still not sure if I'm 100% out of it, but I am much better.
  • At the end of September my Grandma Grimm had a massive heart attack. Though over 90% of her heart was not functional, she bounced back against the odds. Another fighter who never gives up. I love her so much and I'm glad she's still with us.
  • While my mom was back in Iowa with her mom, our family cat Benny became very ill. Turns out he had what my brother nicknamed "kitty cancer." Poor long-haired cat had to have his entire body shaved with the exception of his face and the end of his tail; he looked like a little lion. He was prescribed meds and went through a few procedures, and my parents took the best care of him & spared no expense to extend his life & make him comfortable.
  • In November I received a job offer for a Controller position with the engineering firm I worked for in 2003-2004. I took it. I was miserable at the consulting firm, though I had made close friendships with several people. It was time to leave, though. I started my new position on December 10. It was a great way to end the year.


  • Started the year fighting with Cleveland Clinic doctors who at this point wanted nothing to do with me because they couldn't diagnose me. However, I got one test back that allowed me to put the pieces together - a high ANA level and low platelets. The docs didn't know what to do with this, but I did my research and discovered it could be an implant reaction from my 2005 spine surgery. All the symptoms fit, I just had to find someone to help me prove it. It took me until October to find that person, and he was in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • This was a year of "holding steady." Brad continued working towards his MBA, and frequently visited his mother. I dug in at my job and put in a ton of hours to start updating and improving how the accounting/HR department was functioning. However, with my health continuing to worsen, I began to fear how much longer I'd be able to work.
  • For our 6th anniversary we went to D.C. for a four-day weekend. I think this is when we really fell in love with the region and started thinking about moving there.
  • In the early Spring we decided to buy a couple more fish for the tank to keep Sammy company; Andy & Frankie. All redcap goldfish, and all very funny fish to interact with.
  • 2008 Presidential election; yet another election where I don't want to vote for any candidate. Not only was I depressed about my own condition, but now I was depressed about where our country was heading. The financial bubble burst and everything took a sharp downturn - housing, jobs, everything. We were lucky, our jobs were relatively safe and our finances were stable. It was hard to see a few friends have harder paths.
  • The week before election night I lost Sammy, our fish. On election day/night I also lost Andy & Frankie. Something definitely went through the tank, but I couldn't save them. We decided to put away the tank and to go fishless for awhile. I still miss having them.
  • Brad introduced me to Facebook. I was reluctant, but it's actually been a very cool way of connecting with people across the country that I left behind with my many moves.
  • I had blood tests done in August & in September had the results: I was having a reaction to the metals in the artificial disc. It was likely the cause of my pain and deterioration. My body was attacking itself, and was destroying necessary systems such as platelets, tissues and muscle. I was so happy to have a definitive test result, though most docs still don't believe in implant reactions. They are idiots. I was also a bit angry, as I had asked even before the first surgery if this was a possibility and was told no. I asked that question to every doc I saw from 2005-2008 and was told no; they were wrong. It was a good lesson to always trust your instincts; just because you don't have a medical degree doesn't mean your own knowledge is useless.
  • In October I saw a top surgeon in Baltimore for removal of the artificial disc. He had removed over 100 of them; I knew I was in good hands. While I was in town I also saw the vascular surgeon, as part one of the operation would require a 7" inch cut across the front of me. I was told that the surgery was very dangerous, as it required them to be working next to a major artery. Because I had an implant reaction it had to be done, but I was told to get my affairs in order because the likelihood of me dying on the table was a real possibility. Dying of a blood clot was also a huge risk, so they made the decision to put in an IVC filter right before the surgery - which was made of nickel, a metal that I was already reacting negatively to with the artificial disc. But it's what needed to be done. I only told Brad of the risks, no one else. In the meantime I planned & prepared for the best and worst cases. The surgery was scheduled the week of Thanksgiving.
  • I had to get clearance from my Cleveland Clinic primary care physician for the surgery no more than 30 days prior. I tried to get in early as I was afraid my blood work might be an issue. The scheduler & nurse refused to get me in sooner than two days before I was to leave for Maryland despite my protests. I went in on a Monday; the nurse treated me horribly, I felt like I was in the movie "The Doctor." On Tuesday I got the call; my platelet count was dangerously low, only 31,000. It should have been a minimum of 150,000. I left work to get another blood test run, and this time the count was in the 20's. I was denied surgery and had to go to a hematologist. I lost my surgery time slot, and I also lost my mind for about an hour. All the built up stress of 3-1/2 years came pouring out in about a 90 minute complete & total breakdown.
  • I saw The Cleveland Clinic hematologist, who was another one who didn't believe in implant reactions and how it effects platelet counts. He ran a series of tests, which I had to wait several days on for results before he'd do anything. They came back negative, which I knew they would. He put me on an extremely high dose of steroids for four days, after which I was to just "go off" of. Thanksgiving weekend I had a fever, slept the whole time, felt like I had the flu and my throat starting getting sore.
  • After the treatment my platelets were up at 380,000; he cleared me for surgery for December 15, though by that time the platelets would be back down and I'd still need a transfusion. He had just wanted to "see if he could raise my platelet count." What he did was give me oral thrush, and it almost made me lose my second surgery slot because my throat almost swelled shut. Completely reckless medicine; it wouldn't be the last time I had to deal with him.
  • I left for Baltimore with Brad on December 9. I left work and home not knowing if I'd return. As I took one more look around the living room before we left, I thought to myself "Please don't let Brad return here alone."
  • On December 10 I had the IVC filter put in, which was an outpatient procedure. The next few days we spent sitting around the hotel room while I recovered and did a few last things for the Christmas holiday. I also spent time writing emails to family & friends, knowing it could be the last thing they receive from me.
  • On December 13 we were treated to a home cooked meal at cousin's house (Brad's side). It was great to spend the evening with such a wonderful family.
  • On December 14 I had a "last day" idea - to go to Philadelphia & see Independence Hall with Brad. I love D.C., but I really wanted to see Philly. It also allowed us to drive through Delaware & New Jersey, so I could cross two more states off my list. While we didn't get to eat at Morimoto's because it was closed, we ate across the street at Jone's, which was owned by the same restaurant group. I ate my last pre-surgery meal: a perfect bowl of chicken noodle soup. I had never tasted soup that simple yet flavorful. Around 9:30pm my parents & brother arrived at the hotel; they had flown in from Ohio to be there for the surgery. I didn't know it at the time, but my mom had done research and knew death was very possible. There was no way they were not going to be there. My brother gave me a mini bear with the Chicago Bears logo on it. That meant so much to me that they were there, and that bear went with me to the hospital.
  • On Monday, December 15, I had back surgeries 3 & 4. The surgery lasted a little over three hours, which was much shorter than anticipated. I needed a platelet transfusion. The surgical staff were wonderful. The surgeons were so skilled and they gave me my life back. I will forever be grateful to them. I came out of the operating room with two-seven inch incisions in the front & back of me. I was in post-op for several hours waiting for my room, but I was able to see Brad, my dad & brother briefly. I was brought to a beautiful, fairly new private room about 20 minutes before my dad & brother had to leave to go back to Ohio. I had a stomach tube and many other tubes & IV's in me. Thank goodness for pain meds. Brad & my mom stayed in town, and came every day to the hospital to sit with me and help me through the daily tasks that occurred.
  • On Friday, December 19 I was released from the hospital to a Residence Inn. That hotel became my home the next 2-1/2 weeks. My mom stayed a few more days and then went back to Ohio. Poor Brad was stuck with me, but he was so wonderful.
  • On December 22 I had my first physical therapy visit - and my last. I was able to walk the hallways without a walker and was able to do a flight of stairs on my own, at a good pace. I was also able to do most tasks for myself; I was ahead of the curve, but had also been through the surgery thing before!
  • Before my mom left, Brad got to see a friend at a local news station on a Sunday morning. She let him sit in their "news room" so you could see him during the broadcast. He was like a kid in a candy store, and he totally deserved that experience.
  • Brad & I spent Christmas Eve at the hotel. I started the day out with a great surprise - i was able to have my 50+ staples removed. I was thrilled! For dinner, since we had a kitchen in the room we made a traditional "Iowa" meal - ham, mashed potatoes, roles and dessert. We watched "Christmas Vacation." It still felt like the holidays though we missed being with family.
  • On Christmas Day Brad gave me a very special gift - a necklace from Jared. It had six stones, three clear and three emerald (which is my birthstone). Basically one stone for every year of marriage. It was a special gift because it was the first piece of jewelry I had gotten besides my engagement/wedding ring, and because of the timing of it all.
  • On Sunday, December 28, around 9pm, Brad got a call from a cousin in Iowa; his mom was in the hospital and not in good shape. All of a sudden he had to deal with a wife who was to hopefully be cleared to leave the state the next day, and a mother who was not well. It was horrible timing, and set the stage for 2009.
  • December 29 I was cleared to go home. We spent the afternoon packing, and Brad spent time on the phone caring remotely for his mom. The next day we did the trip back to Ohio in a day; I wanted to get home so Brad could continue on to Iowa, which he decided to do. I stayed home, as I wasn't good enough to make the trip. It broke my heart to not be there for him.


  • The first couple of months were tough. Brad went to Iowa a few times for his mom, who eventually went from the hospital to a nursing home. He was also trying to stay on track for his MBA, as this was to be his last year. So he was balancing a surgical-recovery patient of a wife, a sick mom, work and his MBA classes.
  • I started working from home at the first of the year. In fact, I had really been working the entire time, but now I was putting in full days. I was even emailing from my hospital bed...sad, I know. By late January I was splitting my time between home & the office, and by February I was back in the office full time. It was year-end close and very hectic; I wished my surgery would have occurred in November as it would have been better timing, but nothing I could do there!
  • In February I had to get clearance to get the IVC filter removed in Baltimore. I went to a new primary care physician who was not a Cleveland Clinic doc. My platelet count was 16,000; I'm guessing the nickel filter that was in a main artery was really sending my body into a sad state of affairs. The doc referred me back to the Cleveland Clinic hematologist, as I was a new patient and she thought that was the best route even though I tried to get her to change her mind. I went back to the loon, who talked me into scheduling an IV treatment that lasted 6 hours...and was also very "alternative" and needed special clearance from insurance. I scheduled it, but went home & did the research, and found it was to be used for lymphoma patients only. It was very dangerous and could cause strokes, blindness, etc., especially when the patient didn't have lymphoma. So basically the hematologist was trying to kill me for his own sick pleasure. Again, he just wanted to see if he could raise the count; he admitted I would still need a transfusion before the procedure. I managed to reach the vascular surgeon, who told me to cancel the procedure, ignore the crazy docs and Cleveland and just come up to Baltimore; they would take care of everything. The day of the procedure my platelets were at 9,000; I basically had none. They did the transfusion and then took out the filter by going in through my neck. I was awake the whole time, and still have the scar. I saw the filter after they pulled it out, and it was 5x's bigger than I had imagined.
  • In March, Brad & I went to see his mom, who continued to decline. On our way there we got a call; she was getting worse. We spent four days there; I had to leave to go back to work for a deposition that I couldn't get out of. It was a hassle getting back home (thanks, Delta), but when I did get back the deposition was canceled - go figure. The next day, March 20, at 12:30am CST, Brad's mom passed away. Brad was at the nursing home but was not in the room with her at the time. She was such an amazing woman and outlived the predictions. The visitation and funeral were so touching, and so many people came out to pay respects from both of our families. It was also the first time I got to meet my niece (Zoe) and nephew (Roman), and also Brad's brother Todd who is in the military and couldn't make it to our wedding.
  • In May I turned 33, and felt like I was having a mini-life crisis. All of a sudden I started wondering what I had done with my life. I wasn't satisfied with where I was at.
  • At the end of May we visited Cincinnati and my friend Maurice. While we were there Benny, the family cat, passed away.
  • In June I decided to replace the Corolla I bought in 2005, since it had 80,000 miles on it. I bought a 2010 Corolla, which had bluetooth, satellite radio, the ability to plug my iPod into the stereo and an awesome sound system. I practically live in my car because of my long commute, so those things were must haves.
  • In July we took our first trip to the northeast. My brother was in Cape Cod over the summer with a theatre group (through his university in Ohio), so the main reason was to see him. We spent time in Quincy, Mass., and saw the homes & burial sites of John & John Quincy Adams. Saw my brother for only a few hours, but it was still a great time. We spent the 4th of July day in Boston, and the evening in Providence, RI where we saw WaterFire. We started heading back and stopped at Foxwoods in Connecticut, the coolest casino ever - I wish we could have stayed longer than a few hours! Our final stop was in Auburn, NY, where we visited William Seward's home. It was honestly the best historical house I have ever been to in my life. The family did an amazing job preserving the house, and he was a fascinating person.
  • On July 15 I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand; it was successful. But the best news came when they did the pre-surgery blood work - my platelet count was back to normal at 191,000. Yeah!
  • Also in July, I started "Troy McClure Wednesday's" on Facebook. Every Wednesday I do a new Troy McClure quote; it's a highlight of my week.
  • In August, Brad started his last MBA class - economics.
  • In October, Brad got a much deserved promotion. After which he decided to also get a new car, a 2010 Camry.
  • Also in October, I had another series of blood tests run; my platelet count was 331,000. Unbelievably normal/strong count! I also found that the weird all-body pains I had were finally gone. However, I was still left with nerve, muscle & tissue damage from the 3-1/2 years I struggled with the auto-immune reaction to the artificial disc.
  • In November, after Thanksgiving, we went to Chicago for the weekend. I saw my friend Chrissy & her husband, and finally met her (now) two kids. We also ate at a Weber Grill restaurant and picked up some special Gibson's Steakhouse seasoning. It was a great weekend!
  • December was a hectic mess. Long hours at work. Not enough time to get Christmas stuff done. And to top it off, I got a horrible sinus infection followed by a bad cold.
  • December 7 - Brad takes his last final (which he passes); he is now done with his MBA!
  • On December 17 Brad & I took off for a Midwest trip. I was still sick, but we weren't canceling! It was mostly a gift to Brad for his MBA, and also a chance for us to see our Iowa family. We spent time in Springfield, Illinois, where we saw Lincoln's home & the museum; we also drove through the mobile home park I lived at when I was three. We went to Kansas City where I took him to Ruth's Chris for a good steak; the next morning we ate at a local diner gem where I met two of his college friends. One of them I was excited to meet - Traci. If we lived in Kansas City I could picture us being close friends, she is absolutely fantastic. We went to Arrowhead and saw a Chiefs vs. Browns game, and once again the Browns won. However, the experience was awesome; I've never been to a football game where the fans weren't drunk and rude. The energy was amazing. We went to Maryville, MO, where Brad went to college. Classes were out, but faculty were there. We ran into several who remembered Brad, and we got a tour of the broadcasting facility where he spent most of his time. We also got to meet with the new President of the University for about 15-20 minutes, unannounced; he had been one of Brad's teachers. What a great guy, honestly, it was an honor to meet him. We then went to Iowa where we spent time with family & friends from both of our families, though we didn't have time to see them all. It was a really special time, and we outran the snow storm that was following us. What we didn't outrun was the constant downpour of rain, which continued for 3-1/2 days during our travels.
  • Christmas Eve was spent at the Grimm farm. It was great seeing my family, who I hadn't seen since 2007. One of my cousin's gave me a "Mr. Plow" (Simpson's) ornament, which is awesome, in honor of my Troy McClure Wednesday's. She also asked me to be a reader in her wedding in October 2010; I was surprised and very honored.
  • Christmas Eve night was also the standard "drive to Chicago and spend the night at a hotel; get a few hours of sleep and then head to wherever home is the next day." On Christmas Day we arrived at about 3pm in Akron, where we spent Christmas with my parents, brother, and Grandma Balarin (husband Roy is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's as of a few months ago).
  • The last week of 2009 I decided that I need a drastic life change. I work too much, take care of myself too little, and I'm not happy with how my life is allocated. So I'm taking steps to change it. Step 1: Get back into the Franklin Planner system. I was introduced to it in 1997 and it changed my life for the better. I got away from it a few years ago, and I need that system back. I'm a better person when I utilize the system. I have a very busy 2010 ahead of me and I don't want to lose focus on what is most important in life. Step 2: Write a big, long recap of the past decade. Get it all out on the table, and then put it to bed. It is, after all, a new year and a new decade.

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