Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I Wore Real Pants Today + Other Nonsense

This post is titled exactly what I want to tell you: 'I Wore Real Pants Today'. And by real pants I mean yoga pants. And by yoga pants I mean cotton maternity legging type pants that are really stretched out and soft and not like yoga pants at all. Either way, I'm counting them as real pants and boy did it feel nice. I've been in mostly loose pajama pants or MC Hammer type sweats (which actually happen to be in style thank goodness) for literally two months because of everything I had going on with my leg, but I got my drain out yesterday (WAHOO!) and thought I'd give my sweats a little break. It's got me all frazzled, because I would look down today and be like "ohmigosh I'm wearing real pants!" And therefore this entire post is 5 minutes inside my head .. and will likely make absolutely zero sense. So, there's that. Regardless, I wore real pants and Lainey was proud of me.
And poor Lainey. I realized I completely spaced and didn't take her 6 month pictures nor did I update the blog with all she did. I mean I realize I had a little going on, but let's be honest ... I've been on moderate bed rest and complaining about being bored ... In reality I have zero excuse. And for that Lainey Lou, I am very sorry. I'll be sure to update next month and do a long recap to make up for lost time. Although according to her wagon ride reaction, I don't think she seems to mind. Additionally, this outfit is now retired. Lainey has worn it twice and been called a boy both times (thanks red + black) ... so next time there will either be a bow on her head, or the leggings will be pink. Just FYI to anyone dressing her.
While I'm on the Lainey topic, I'm super excited for next month because the church called yesterday and confirmed her Baptism date! I was hoping she'd be able to wear her brother's Baptism garb, but I have a feeling she won't fit. And furthermore, it's a good reason for me to buy her a dress we can heirloom. I mean obviously :) I will most definitely be repeating the monogram moccasins however, because we still have B's and they make me smile. On a personal note, both of my children will be baptized Catholic. We will be bringing them up in both Catholic and Christian churches, as Shane and I are/were open to both and we too were exposed to both. It may appear a bit unconventional, but it works for us!

We're coupling the Baptism with a little BUB's birthday party, so family that is driving in from out of town only have to make one trip. Lainey will be baptized early on Sunday and then little mister will come home and we'll have all his buddies over and celebrate his THIRD birthday!! Holy, how is he already three?! I've been working on designing his invitations this week and ya'll I am SO excited with how they've turned out. I was graphic artist geeking out during naptime the last couple of days adding a little here, changing the font style there, and I'm pretty happy with the final design. If one doesn't show up in your inbox and you want to join the party (because you can always use a reason to celebrate or visit Music City ... shoot me a text or email and I'll let you know the details, seriously). The best Sunday Funday in all of June! Can't wait to recap the event, I'll share the invitation details once I drop them in the mail for a little sneak peak. I'm excited and I wore real pants today, okay? Deal with it.

Maggie will be at the party as well, and hopefully she'll have shed a few pounds by then. Poor Maggie. We took her to the vet today and they reminded us of the obvious ... Maggie is fat ya'll. This whole not living in a neighborhood and no sidewalks outside of our front door thing is really not boding well for poor Mag's waistline. They also gave us a tooth cleaning kit and said we needed to work on those. And cut back on her snacks. Poor Maggie. If you come to the party next month, give her a little love tap. She could use some encouragement.
My brother's love to make fun of Maggie, but we'll forgive them. Because they both came to visit to make me smile for a little bit, so I've got to give them that.
And the baby brother indulged with me by drinking wine, roasting marshmallows, chasing a toddler, and playing a fun game of music memories. And his sweet girlfriend came too! Literally one of my favorite nights so far this year. 
Family ya'll. The one thing that's remained normal throughout the anti-normalcy that's been taking place around these parts. They officially packed their bags and "moved out" last Saturday and we're running (or in my case limping) around like we have no idea how we are supposed to live our lives. I mean we used to do this every day. At least I think we did? All day every day. But then again I was wearing normal pants on the reg back then, so maybe that made life make a little more sense? Either way, for some reason now that GoGo isn't here to put Lainey to bed + feed the kids or talk to me about whatever ridiculous topic I've gone off tangent about ... Or PaPaw isn't around to make Bennett invisible, clean out our garage or force us to complete tasks ... Or Sissy isn't here to make us dinner, we've lost all sense of how things are supposed to go down! Geesh! We sure do miss them!


One item we were capable of tackling ourselves however took place in Bennett's room. I plan to devote an entire post to it once it's all complete... but here's little hint ... Notice anything missing? I'm sure you can guess the rest. 
And if you can't ... He'd be happy to report about it. And has A LOT to say!
I on the other hand am happy to report that new house slippers are on their way and I couldn't be more excited. Ya'll blood thinners make me SO COLD. Like my feet are ALWAYS frigid and therefore I'm always rocking house slippers. But, because my right foot is a little swollen (rats!) my slippers are a little snug and so new ones are in order. A little mini man has been sensing that house slippers are cool and therefore requested a pair of his own (after stealing mine every chance he could get). So we hunkered down and scoured Amazon together. I let him choose. It was a long, adorable (annnd mildly painful) decision making process that took entirely too long. But, inevitably he landed on Lightening McQueen slippers and he seems pretty stoked with his choice. 

And the only other item I can think to continue to babble about is my new chair. Obviously with our health situation and healing limb, it's ideal I stay out of the sun this summer mostly to allow my scars time to heal. We've got a couple of trips coming up and events where being in the sun all day and sitting is close to our only option. So, I've taken to the interwebs to up my level of nerdiness in public. And it's all starting with my seriously serious soccer mom chair. Ya'll really though, Amazon dropped off this little diddy today and I squealed as I unpackaged it. First, the built-in fully adjustable, collapsible, removable side moving umbrella. Holla! Second, the three positions the back of the chair can move in, from straight up and down to nearly full recline. Third, the armrest cooler that holds four drinks + boasts an attached bottle opener. And last but not least, I need to keep my leg elevated (like an unreasonable amount of time and sitting is one of the worst things unless it's elevated right now) so the optional footrests ... hello perfect folding chair. Looking forward to hanging with you. 
And last but not least, I am starting to get really into SnapChat. Do ya'll like it as much as I do? It's so fun now that I've really grasped the whole concept. My only wish is that I could search people or follow people without knowing their snapcode or snap username. Is there a way around this that I haven't figured out yet? Or is the rest of the world wondering the same thing? Either way ... the grass is mowed and I documented it on Snapchat.
Actually I'm lying, it's not. But hey, I wore real pants today!

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Conquering Kings + Enjoying His Gifts

The weekend has arrived. I was drinking my coffee and received a text from my girlfriend "Good grief, you haven't blogged since Mother's Day!" I've had so many people reach out for updates and remind me that my online presence is lacking, and outside of the health stuff I've got so much family and life business to catch y'all up on.

To be honest, I've opened up this bloggy blog probably a grand total of nearly 100 times over the last two weeks. And, every time I start typing I've either got a massive case of writers block or the words I normally write have felt so insignificant relative to what is really on my heart. I was talking to Shane about it, and I think I've realized it's because it seems from the beginning, I've been talking so much that I haven't really taken a lot of time to listen. And simply put, I needed to take some time to listen. I needed some time to process. I needed some time to reaffirm what I had been saying. I needed some time to simply put it all on hold and really strategize with myself. I needed time to pray. And bottom line, I needed more time to take it all in and figure it out.
The last two nights I've slowly found my voice and it's brought me here today to share.  I've still got a lot of answers to uncover, and there is still a bumpy unknown road ahead. But, I'm ready to share a little bit and get back to cute pictures of my kiddos soon. The first strength my voice needed I found in the Old Testament Tuesday night, as I was reading Joshua I was reminded that Joshua drove out 31 kings and conquered nations just as God had promised he would. I was able to parallel that story and see that I too have conquered my own "kings" and super power nations. Ya'll after these surgeries, I have clean margins from the primary site on the back of my thigh, the positive sentinel node has been removed and during the second surgery 22 more lymph nodes were removed and they all were negative which means I also have clean margins in the local node basin, additionally my PET scan and Brain MRI are all normal … and ya'll that means doctors are able to look at me and say from what we are able to see,
I AM CANCER FREE!
There is no visible disease left in my body and I've got the scars to prove it <insert squinty eyed tongue sticking out emoji here>!
Shout out to Karlie, for this incredible insert in a thinking of you card. Makes me laugh hysterically.

In that same breath, MaKenzie called me last night and we talked for well over two hours, yes you read that right, two hours ... we're cousin sisters remember AND we live far away, we have lots to share. In speaking with her I continued to find my voice. She has a way to make me feel stronger than I really am. And whether it's real or just sister induced, she was hurting, because I'm hurting and I don't want that for anyone. So it reminded me - SHARE THE GOOD NEWS! Remind everyone there is a reason to celebrate, regardless of whatever is ahead. Life is happening right now, and it's moving on regardless of what is happening behind the closed doors at my house. So, it's time to come out from the curtain and get back to it. Here's an update on where we currently are ...

Recovery from surgery #2 took longer than we anticipated, and we've had some slight complications that's made "getting back to it" a bit of a struggle. But, we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm limping as fast as I can to get there!
  • Complication number one came the day before the second surgery. I was scheduled to have the stitches removed from the first surgery and the nurse was told to apply steri strips after the 25 (ouch) stitches were removed from the back of my thigh. Shane and I were jabbering and not paying attention when we realized the nurse applied mastisol to my leg (an adhesive often used in conjunction with steri strips). PANIC!!! We uncovered, the very hard way, that I am SO RIDICULOUSLY allergic to this stuff after my c-section with Bennett. The nurse tried to remove as much of the adhesive as she could, but unfortunately a few days later we encountered a similar reaction as we had faced a few years ago. The reaction was so severe that it began to infect the incision from the first surgery.  So I was put on some strong antibiotics and the ability to move my leg became a little more challenging. We battled the infection and the allergic reaction, and about 3 weeks later it's finally starting to look somewhat back to normal and we're feeling pretty good about that!
  • Complication number two, came after the last surgery when I mentioned a drain had been inserted in my thigh to help alleviate the post surgery fluid. We'd hoped it would get removed after two weeks, but my output has yet to drop below the desired number so I'm still rocking my fancy grenade. However, my doctor won't leave it in longer than 4 weeks due to risk of infection so I have an appointment Monday to have it removed. While I'm praying that the output will be down and it will be ready to come out, I couldn't be more happy to say adios to this little contraption.
  • Complication number three was diagnosed two weeks post-op, I was having some pain in my calf muscle when I would walk. I was attributing it to simply being on my feet more after surgery and strengthening my muscles. But, when I mentioned it to my doctor and she looked at the amount of swelling she sent me immediately to ultrasound. And I was quickly diagnosed with an Acute DVT blood clot in my femoral artery. Boo! Hiss! So, I was placed on blood thinner injections (I give to myself in the stomach) and will remain on these for roughly three months and we will re-scan to see if the clot has dissolved. This past weekend I was having some pain in my chest and we were concerned perhaps the clot had dislodged and moved to my lungs, so I was sent to have a CT scan to check for a pulmonary embolism. But, happy news - I DID NOT! So, we'll continue to take it easy and remain on the thinner.
I say all of this as a reminder to myself, that we continue to overcome obstacles placed in front of us! They are scary. They are bumps in the road we can't expect. But, we are keeping our eyes on Him and trusting that none of this is coming to Him as a surprise. We are in a tight spot, but He has either placed us here or allowed us to be here and we're trusting that although we may not understand why, there is a reason. And furthermore, did I mention doctors have said "I'm Cancer FREE?!" because that's a gift He has given us and we're not taking it lightly. These littles and their smiles are an every present reminder of His magical gift every day.
"God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God." Eph 2:8

Now, anyone who has ever been touched by the dirty C-word knows even though they can tell you "you're cancer free" you're technically not for five years. The recurrence is most likely to recur in the first two years, and after that the chance of it recurring goes down more every year and a lot more after five years. So, as I mentioned we still have a long road ahead.

But, for now we are faced with a very tough decision and we're trying as hard as we possibly can to make the right choice. We've met with medical oncology and I am classified as Stage 3A - which essentially means "it's pretty bad, but not bad enough". And therefore, my options for drugs are limited (because other drugs that are having success are still in clinical trial phases and only available to stage 4 patients). Therefore the two drugs available to me in the form of immunotherapy (a type of systemic chemo) are Interferon and Ipilimumab.  I would take whichever I choose for about 3 months intravenously and then maintenance treatments for the remainder of the year. The alternative option is observation. There is A LOT to say about both options, and we're getting a second and perhaps a third opinion before we decide.  For what it's worth, our Vandy oncologist's opinion was observation.

From a very surface level explanation here are some things we're studying up on: We need to ensure we have full understanding of the drugs, their side effects and possible complications. We want to be made aware of any drugs that are still in clinical trial that I may be available for. We want to understand our chances of recurrence of the disease, and the effectiveness of the drug options I am eligible for.  We want to talk a little more and understand more about any microscopic cells left in the leg, or those that could be in transit elsewhere in my body. We want to read about cancer killers in life and ways to starve cells if they do remain in the body. We want to meet with more than one doctor and hear varying opinions so we can educate ourselves and arm ourselves with the most knowledge. You have to make a decision of whether or not you are going to undergo treatment in a 12 week time frame from your last surgery; so we have about 9 weeks remaining to decide if we will take a drug or simply observe.

I'll be sure to update ya'll intermittently as new developments arise, but for now ... I'm going to get back to regularly scheduled programming on this little space...Because Shane celebrated his birthday and I took pictures of Bennett on his last day of Two Day Twos and I've yet to update you on that (GASP!). It's going to be a long process, and I love having my support team along for the ride. But I want us to enjoy the ride and and sing our favorite songs while we're in the car. Because a road trip with bad music is just the worst.
So, that's where we are today. We're dancing. We're singing. We're celebrating. We're working every day to learn how to walk again without a limp. We're meeting with more doctors to discuss and understand how to deal with lifelong issues like lymphedema. We're meeting with doctors again and continuing to do so nearly every three months to monitor, scan and observe for a few years. We're battling this blood clot and sending it dissolving vibes. We're scared some days and filled with comfort the very next. We're watching our little ones continue to thrive and grow. We're reminding one another what marriage really means, and looking forward to winning the generations dance at our grandchildren's weddings someday. We're doing our best to make each other laugh, even if that means sticking out our tongues when we really want to cry. And most of all we're simply working to enjoy this time and make the most of this recovery period. Meanwhile, we're continuing to look for guidance and direction to come to a decision we feel confident about. In a nut shell, we're living life. Not that we needed a reminder, but it's been a good one to take advantage of the time we have. And as we've said from the beginning we have every intention to continue to do this for a very long time.

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Friday, May 6, 2016

A Thank You Letter to My Mom

I've had a lot of names given to me in my almost 30 years. But nearly three years ago, God chose my life to bring our sweet baby boy, Bennett, into the world and blessed me with the name(s): Mom, Mama, Momma, Mommy, Mahey, Mooooooooooom. And this past year, I was blessed for the second time and was given my little girl, Lainey, who will soon call me those same names. They are names I had been blessed to call my own mom for nearly 30 years. But, it wasn't until I had kids of my own, I TRUTHFULLY grasped what that name meant. I had thanked my mom countless times over the years for all of the "things". And I had wished her Happy Mother's Day with handmade cards and pretty flowers. And two years ago I got to experience my very first Mother's Day and got my first handmade gift that meant more than any store bought item ever could. 

But as the waters rise, and I become more than knee deep into this beautiful thing we call motherhood ... I learn it's time to say thank you for the less noticeable “mom” stuff, the stuff I don’t remember or couldn’t understand until I experienced it firsthand. And now, for a few years, I have. I have a lot learn. I have a lot more to realize. I have a lot more to add to this list in the years to come. But for now, I can relate to these items. And mom, I want to say thanks.
Thank you, Mom, for carrying me for nine long months. Pregnancy is one of the greatest joys and the ending brings the utmost happiness. But it is a long and sometimes lonely span of anxiety ridden uncomfortable months. And the labor (and c-sections as we're more versed in) are something you truly can't explain until you've walked in those shoes. The months of sleepless nights while your body needed to heal; you chose to put me first instead of yourself to keep me happy and safe. The fear you endured in your own mind of something happening to me, your baby, and carrying the weight of that on your own chest because you loved me so much. Thank you mom for caring for me, before you even knew me. And continuing to care for me, when you needed to care for yourself.
Thank you for all the times you stopped doing everything you 'needed' to do to instead make funny faces and play silly games like 'what's your favorite color' to make me giggle. Thank you for dressing me up in adorable outfits even though we wouldn't leave the house that day, because you wanted to marvel at God's work and the blessing he had given you. Thank you for drinking an extra cup of coffee when all you really wanted was a nap, because you knew I needed extra snuggles and you wanted to soothe me. Thank you for putting me first.

Thank you for constantly being in your own head and at times struggling to answer, “Am I doing this right? Am I completely failing her? Is this OK? Should I do something different? Was that the right way to handle that situation? Should I do what that mom did instead? Would that be better for her?”, about a thousand times as you drive in silence to the grocery store that you are calling a vacation.
Thank you for staying calm and continuing to show me love when all you wanted to do was scream. Thank you for realizing I was just tired and taking time to help me calm down when you too were tired. Thanks for changing my diaper, the second time, when you had just gotten everything buttoned up and were ready to head out the door. Thank you for making airplane noises and funny sounds to make sure I would eat all of my food. And THANK YOU for rocking spit up like a champ, because I made sure to ruin every outfit you had been wearing for a total of five minutes.

Thank you for attending the party in my crib at 2 am vs. the party you probably would have rather been attending. And settling for cold leftovers rather than dinner at the new restaurant you'd been wanting to try. Also for attending the concert I was putting on while I was learning to find my voice vs seeing your favorite band in concert that had finally come to town.
Thank you for being the keeper of the never ending checklist of items you had to have in your bag before you left the house to ensure I was happy anywhere. Thank you for making sure I had the extra pair of pants for when I waited too long to tell you I had to go potty. And while on the potty note, thank you. We don't need to get into details here, but just thank you.

Thank you for watching my favorite episode of animation for the 100th time when you really wanted to watch reality TV. Thank you for giggling at the silly cartoon that wasn't even remotely close to funny, but you loved to see me laugh. Thank you for watching me be silly and do the same thing 400 times and giving me just as much attention on time 299 as you did the first time. Thank you for climbing the slide at the playground because I insisted you ride down with me, even though it was hard on you and you were carrying my baby brother. Thank you for being fun, even when you didn't want to be.
Thank you for visiting all of the schools in the area to ensure I was in the best place possible. Thank you for choosing an education that allowed me to learn about God, for praying with me and for me. Thank you for going to church with me, and knowing the words to all of the songs we would sing at Sunday school.

Thanks for knowing the perfect compromise of vegetable bites to dessert ratio. And for having the perfect response to my debate for why I should be allowed to go outside in the rain. Thank you for sometimes letting me go anyways, because you knew I was only going to be little for so long.
Thanks for knowing what I needed when I didn't know how to say the words. You could look at me and know if I was tired, hungry or simply needed a Popsicle. Thank you for taking me to the doctor to ensure I was growing the way I should be, and wanting more than anything to take my pain and put it on yourself. Thank you for not settling for anything but what you truly believed was best for me.

Thank you for taking the time to plan a fun day for me even though it meant I wouldn't appreciate the amount of time and planning you put forth. Thank you for giving in sometimes and buying me the cookie even though you knew it meant I wouldn't eat lunch that day.
And finally, Thank you for being proud of me. I didn't know by you encouraging me I was learning to be proud of myself, and how far that would take me. But you planted that seed with every high-five, every time you took the extra minute to explain 'why' instead of getting upset with me, every time you encouraged me to try again, every time you hugged me with so much pride as I was growing and learning, yet you wept because your heart hurt as these days were so fleeting. You are my biggest cheerleader. You watered that seed to help me grow. And I am forever thankful.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I love you.