when the Pain sneaks out.

I got my blood drawn last week. It’s the proudest I have been of myself in a long time. No drugs and no one but the nurse next to me to talk me through it. Just me-frazzled and disheveled, walking into an itty bitty clinic in Key Largo, welcomed with a smack in the face of two-thousand tons of panic.

Sometimes, pain sneaks out of us as unexpectedly and freely as joy does. Sitting in the middle of a meeting, the way someone says something suddenly reminds you of that time you asked your nieces to be your bridesmaids, and you’re left fighting a swelling heart; hiding an unprofessionally beaming face behind your laptop screen. The sight of a passing toddler tugging at his mama’s dress hem with such strength and excitement it nearly knocks her over as they topple to the beach fills you with such pure joy you’re laughing out loud before even realizing it. I’ve realized: pain does this to us, too.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Luke and I were decorating our little 4 foot tree in our little 786 square foot island home. Luke walked out of the room for a quick moment to grab another box of ornaments. My favorite bulb started to roll off the low coffee table. It crashed right in front of me. Luke came out and I was already in tears-to both of our surprise. Pre-tumor, pre-surgery, pre-spinal fusion, I would have very easily been able to quickly squat down and catch the falling bulb before it burst into a million pieces. Watching it happen and knowing all of this, I was struck with instant pain. Crying for a good 10 minutes, the tears spilling out of me freely and uncontrolled, I thought about this. It was like something giving me the giggles out of the blue; only the dark opposite.

Around this same time, my tumor took the reigns, as it often tries its hardest to do, and forced me to swallow my pride and take a sick day. Not one that has mastered the art of stillness, I FaceTimed into each meeting and responded to all needed emails all throughout the day to ensure Hamilton wasn’t going to burden anyone else but me. The next day, when I returned to work, someone who is unaware of the tumor said to me, extremely condescendingly, “You certainly don’t look sick. Hope you had a good “sick day”.” Rolling their eyes, they walked out of my office. And just like that, pain snuck out of me; capturing everything like a jubilant belly laugh on the big drop of Splash Mountain.

I was never one to fear needles. I always made fun of my Luke for being so fearful of them. When I was in the hospital, all of that changed. My sister believes my body was clamping down in trauma and distress, causing my “good veins” to shut off their open flow. In the fuzziness of unexplainable pain and so much pain medication I still ponder how my body accepted, there are two instances that stick out as clear as the Key’s shallows. Ever since then, every scan needing CT contrast fluid injections and every blood draw I have needed, I’ve been given anxiety medication to get through it. I will spare the details…maybe for another day. Let’s just leave it at this: for now, needles and I are no longer friends. For now. I’m determined to get over it. I will get over it.

I was shaky all day leading up to the appointment. Flashbacks of the hospital moments kept intruding on my thoughts at work. When I walked into the clinic, greeted by the surgical white colors and fluorescent lighting of any medical building, panic gripped my chest and nearly took me down. I registered with the nurse, talking entirely too much in an attempt to distract myself (poor lady…I should send her a bottle of wine and a hug after listening to my ramblings. Looooordy.). In 5 minutes, I planned how I was going to excuse myself and reschedule the appointment a full 78 times. I sat down after finishing my registration. Crossing my legs. Uncrossing my legs. Breathing in. Breathing out. Shifting. Shuffling. Crossing my legs. Help me Jesus. Help me Jesus. Help me Jesus.

“Kelsey Pfleiderer? We are ready for ya.”

Hi. I’m so sorry. I’m sick and I was sicker a little while back and I’m having a hard time thinking about that needle in that drawer. I may cry. Please don’t mind it. How was your day and what’s your favorite color????”

I think the nurse planned her escape a full 78 times in that 5 minutes. To do: send 2 bottles of wine and 2 hugs to the Key Largo Urgent Care. Bless them, Lord. 🤦🏻‍♀️

I think it’s important to address and be OK with the moments when the pain sneaks out. Just like the times we address the moments the joy sneaks out. Tuesday night, I cried tears of joy during the opening credits of the new David Tutera wedding show. The opening. credits. y’all. Luke and I will laugh about that one for a while. Just like we find a way to laugh about and talk through the sneaky pain moments. The sneaky pain moments and the sneaky joy moments are exactly the same: always best when shared; judgement and shame free.

I wish you a weekend ahead of sneaky joy moments. And if you find yourself with a weekend of sneaky pain moments instead? I wish you the blessing of someone next to you to share it with; judgment and shame free.

Big Hugs. Always.



When I first started dating my husband Luke, I covered my mouth anytime joy tried to sneak out of the corners of my mouth. This was something I didn’t realize I had learned to do over the years, but it is something Luke caught onto right away. A few weeks into knowing each other, I received the first ever coveted “Goodnight, beautiful.” text from him. My heartbeat quickened and, unknowingly, I covered my shy smile with my left hand. Seconds later, he sent a second text saying,

“Let me guess, you’re covering your gorgeous smile and your green eyes are twinkling. Right?”

What. The. What???

Puzzled as all heck, I glanced around my apartment wondering how in the world he would have known something about me I didn’t even know about myself (also wondering if this incredible, seemingly normal man I had already known would be my husband was somehow in my apartment creepily staring at me…). Nope, thankfully, the latter was false. The next time I saw him, I noticed he had put a green heart emoji alongside the monkey covering its mouth emoji next to my name in his phone. To this day, my name is still listed the same in his phone. The monkey and myself, however, are no longer as similar as we used to be.

Not even a month after my spinal tumor resection spinal fusion surgery in November of 2017, one of my family members offered to buy Mederma for my still bloodied and stitched scar, so I could use it as soon as the scar had closed up completely. God love them, they were really trying to be helpful. But to both of our shock, I instantly and abhorrently rejected the offer.

What?! NO. I don’t ever want to lose this. This is part of my story now. I want it with me. Forever. Wedding day and all.”

The scar that snatched me out of my “normal” life forever, the one that caused pains I still cannot begin to wrap my head around, the one that left a big question mark on what the future will look like for the rest of my life, I was suddenly very protective of. Hm.

Flash forward 6 months later and we are looking at Our Wedding Day. I have lost majority of my muscle mass since the surgery. The body I worked hard for (and, might I add, did not appreciate nearly as much as I wish I would have…) the body that tried my wedding gown on pre-tumor and looked womanly and bridal… was no longer there. Needless to say, things fit differently. My seamstress had to adjust everything quite a bit-so much so that the low back I adored so much had to be taken in, now covering my scar. I was heartbroken. After my final fitting, I called the family member who so lovingly offered to pick up some Mederma and expressed my sadness. What she said I carry with me every day.

“Kel. It’s still there. Forever. With you always. Wedding dress and all.”

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Sorry, monkey emoji, but I don’t cover my mouth when I laugh anymore. And y’all, sometimes, I really should. A cackle meets a goose meets a 5 year-old giggle, and you have my all consuming laugh. In our journey together, Luke slowly but surely healed that “scar”. I now laugh freely, always a bit too loud, but nonetheless unapologetic, and smile all the more freely. To me, the scar of someone from my past shaming me for my smile and laugh, teaching me to hide it from the world, has now evolved into my free-flowing laugh and grin. It’s not gone. It’s still here. Forever. With me always. But it has very much evolved.

The scar on my spine is just like all of our visible and invisible scars: it tells a story. But it is ever-evolving. People ask me when I will ever be OK again. But the truth is: now. I will never be who/what I was pre-tumor. I will never be who I was 10 years ago, or last year, or even yesterday. But I have decided to be OK. Aren’t we the boss of ourselves, anyways? The other day, my best friend who has known me since 1st grade, asked me if we forgot to get a permission slip signed for this craziness that is adulting, because CLEARLY we missed SOMETHING. Yupp. I’d have to agree with her on that one.

Our scars, physical, mental and emotional, are always with us. But if we allow them to evolve, they can begin to tell a far more hopeful story. And maybe, actually, certainly, that hope will be felt and heard by someone whose scar may still be tender to the touch, covered up and shamed away unknowingly. Maybe their scar has calloused over so much they don’t even believe it is there. Who knows. What I do know is, everyone you interact with, even the most difficult ones of all, are scar(r)ed. And when we try to hide it and shame ourselves/others around us about it, we are only causing more of them; to ourselves and those around us.

Now as I said earlier, I don’t know who qualified me to be an adult. I am very under-qualified, but hi, my name is Kelsey, and I am here anyways, trying my best, right alongside you. I don’t know much. But what I do know is, being scared of our scars is prohibiting their evolution into a really bad ass (sorry, Mom) story.

Rock. Your. Scars. You have been through some horrible physical, emotional and/or mental things to earn those scars, but you are here nonetheless. Whaaat? Work it. And think on it. And decide to be OK about it. And I promise, that scar will turn into something you strut, not something you are scared of. Forever. With you always. Ever-evolving story and all.

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Photo: Creative Imaginations Photography

Dress: Chic Nostalgia Bridal

Ring: Heidi Gibson Designs