President's Column - January 2023
Happy New Year!
There is something exciting about a fresh start to a new year. But it is just a mindset, yes? There is nothing stating that a fresh start has to happen or can only happen at the new year. It can be whenever you set your mind to it. Still, there is some peace and excitement that the new year brings that other starts just don’t. Perhaps it’s because you can officially lay a year down to rest. End the chapter.
2021 and 2022 have both brought me chapters I cannot wait to be done with! 2021 proved to be a challenging, confusing and very scary year for me. 2022 was not all too different, tbh (to be honest).
Usually, I don’t remember New Year’s Day in such detail. But I will never forget New Year’s Day 2021. I got up relatively early, got dressed and was ready to go play a round of disc golf with my brother, Tom and our friend, Aaron. It was a gorgeous day outside but a little chilly! Any time the temp is below mid-70s Fahrenheit (21 Celsisus), I must be in direct sunlight or I will slowly shiver away. I remember we didn’t have a chance to throw any warm up drives. This got me slightly more anxious than normal, but I felt I had properly warned Aaron of my lack of skill here. As I went up for my first drive, I got myself situated, attempted my best to mimic Tom’s approach and successfully drove my frisbee…. maybe 10ft (3m) away right into the ground!
My bro (Tom): “You held on too long.”
Me: “Whatever. You don’t know me.”
Tom: “Try again.”
It was less than 10ft (3m) away. If memory serves, I only had to reach to pick up my disc and not actually take any steps to retrieve it. Anyways, not important! I did a few dry runs before the second attempt, and then tried again!
Tom: “You held on too long.”
I heard this time and time again for 18 holes. It was so weird! I enjoyed my day outside walking and attempting to toss a frisbee here and there, but I had never thrown a frisbee so terribly! I remember having the thought at the end of the round and stated aloud “It’s like my fingers aren’t doing what my brain is telling them to do. I know I’m bad, but I’m never that bad!”
Aaron and I called it a day for disc golf and Tom hung around for round two. When we parted ways, I attempted to jog back to my car, I noticed it was like I couldn’t find my footing quite right, but it wasn’t that. It was what I now understand to be the gait of my walk. I remember feeling officially unsettled as I started my Jeep and drove back home.
2021 was a year of doctor visits and disabilities for me. My main symptoms: numb/stiff fingers and hands, difficulty reaching arms above head, improper gait, lower back and hip stiffness, overall muscle weakness, muscle spasms and major balance struggles. Basically, I operated as if living in a drunken toddler’s body.
By March I had been diagnosed with Anky-losing Spondylitis (AS). All I can really say is that it sounds more fun than it is. What I had to do for this was IV treatments with a rheumatologist. In September I felt like I was losing my mind just waiting and hoping this treatment will work while it seemed my conditions worsened or plateaued with no hints of improvement. I decided to go to another rheumatologist for a second opinion. What bothered me most about being diagnosed with AS was it didn’t really speak to my finger/hand immobility. The second rheumatologist was immediately taken aback watching me operate and sent me to a neurologist. After some simple strength and reaction tests, I was sent for an MRI.
It was late November that I was finally in front of the neurologist reviewing my MRI. I was being told I had a severely pinched spinal chord at my C3/C4 discs in my neck that would require surgery. It is a fairly common condition that does not always require surgery, but I had an arthritic build up on these discs so severe that it was not allowing for my spinal fluid to flow.
In early December I was in front of a surgeon who stated he couldn’t get me in right away and scheduled me for early January. What could I do? I had to wait.
As fate would have it, I heard back from Dr. Alexander Hughes from HSS, Hospital for Special Surgery. I had submitted my MRI to the hospital, hoping to catch someone’s attention, and it paid off! My brother took me into the city to Dr. Hughes’ office on Thursday, December 16, 2021 (Happy Birthday Tom!). We were back on Monday December 20 for my surgery!
I am still recovering. It’s been just over a year since surgery, by the time you read this. I am healed from that. But that doesn’t mean I’m 100%. Not even close. There are multiple things to recover from. Nerves heal slowly. Approx 1mm/day (.034") from what I can gather. I have a long road ahead of me yet. I will keep my focus on the positive, but will not shy away from sharing with you my challenges. If you have questions for me, please ask me.
It’s like I’m learning to walk again. I believe I’ve waited long enough. Learning to talk again. Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough?
I am certain I will refer back to this journey and challenge many times throughout my term. I have learned more lessons in this journey than in most others I’ve endeavored. Hands down, the most powerful lesson of them all was I learned how to ask for help when I need it. That may seem little but I promise you, it’s HUGE.
I can’t do this without you, loves. So, I will ask you for your help, and I hope that you will.
Jennifer Thoroe is Director of Customer Service & Business Development for National Steel Rule, a steel rule manufacturer based in Linden, NJ, USA. She joined forces with National on November 1, 2018 after working in the industry and volunteering with the IADD for over 15 years. She moved up to NJ from GA in the summer of 2019. One pandemic and three moves later, Jennifer is finally settling into her home near the Jersey Shores with her awesome super-fantastic brother Tom and his even cooler dog, Kelowna.
She has consistently used her time and talents to bring greater value to IADD members, whether through chapter activities, managing volunteers, Board service or overseeing myriad membership recruitment and retention activities. For this, Jennifer received the 2017 IADD Cutting Edge Award, one of the Association’s highest honors. She is the first woman to serve as IADD president.
The President's Column appears in The Cutting Edge, the IADD's monthly magazine.