8/26/2017

Conversation

Sometimes I feel so inconspicuous. 

I have so much to say. So much I want to hear about. But we're all so caught up in "go go go". The checklist. It's all about the checklist. To Do. Our phones, tablets and social media. I would literally give my left arm for a group of people who would regularly forgo their technology for a campfire and some conversation.

Conversation. Webster's Dictionary defines that as "the informal exchange of ideas by spoken word". 

Not, "let's have pizza", or "did you sleep?" Ideas. True thoughts. Today's kids have (with exceptions, always) no idea what it means to have an exchange of ideas. Or how to problem solve without Google and a tablet.

I'm not writing this to knock kids these days, or our generation. Rather to say, I miss conversation. It's so hard now to find someone who will look you deep in the eyes and CONVERSE. 

As kids in the Army we had such ideas. And a lot of goofing off, too. But man. We could talk. Now... it's people attached to their phones.

I pray that I am able to demonstrate the type of conversation for my kids that I'm talking about. Maybe without the constant blue light of technology lighting up those tiny faces. 

8/19/2017

Keeper of the Castle, Protector of the Progeny

Well.



It's been quite some time since I've posted. Currently I have an old month old son, Myles. I start back to school for the fall semester in a few days. He, obviously, is the light of my life. So. Where were we? I was getting a mastectomy and finishing up school.

Eventually the mastectomy will happen. I'm still adjusting in my new role as "Mom". I'm kinda rocking it, I'll be honest. Except currently I have this hardcore neck ache because The Boy is a Velcro baby. If you have kids- you know what that is. If you don't- hahahahahahahaha. Wait. Just wait. You'll hear that a lot from me now, but it's all in love and fun.

I don't have many blog followers, and because it's public there won't be photos of my son, but baby photos are okay, right?  









Okay.
That's my love, Mr. Myles. Now that I've shared him, it's doubtful you'll see more. This boy has started trying to stand without support at 7 months old.

What? They do that? And then someone said, "oh well you'll convert him to a toddler bed at 18 months." So in 8 more months you want me to put my BABY in a real bed? Why don't I just give him my keys and retire as the family driver? What is this nonsense?

Y'all. He's so damn smart. I mean. He was crawling at 4 1/2 months. Well. It's insane. Luckily he's not a genius, because he's still not cleaning house or doing my homework, but he HAS tried to clean my face with a washcloth, so either my face is super dirty and I need to fix that (when was my last shower again? or else he's just super fastidious. 

And on the topic of showers. No one tells you that 8 months after the baby is born you'll still have a hard time showering. They act like once he's not "new" anymore it will be fine. They are ugly liars. It will not be fine. I set a reminder on my phone last night to make sure I at least brush my teeth everyday. And he's 8 months old!!

Many of those same people will tell you let the baby cry. For now, I won't even go there except to say, if you were crying and upset because your world had ended, wouldn't you want to be comforted?

Anyways. So here's my welcome back to me post. I have the app on my phone so MAYBE there will be more posts. But I also can't remember to brush my teeth or shower so it's really up in the air at this point. Happy Saturday!!

K

6/16/2016

Cancer Sucks



Knowing that every person in my life has been touched SOMEHOW, by cancer, I am constantly amazed at how many people are so callous towards those suffering from cancer. Whether it's an employer, or someone who just either doesn't know or doesn't care, it's sad to see that type of indifference.

In this case, I have a very good friend of mine who's father is suffering from stage 4 oropharyngeal cancer. He's a great man who has worked hard his whole life, and is now unable to work due to the treatments that he is going through. His daughter is trying to take care of him and help with the bills, and as anyone who has tried to live and fight cancer knows, that is extremely difficult to do. So she doesn't know it, but I asked her for the fundraiser page she started for his treatment.

Anything that you can give, whether it's a dollar or a hundred, will be greatly appreciated by the family and I know it will help him be able to focus on fighting this horrible disease rather than worry about how he's going to pay for his treatment.



Please click this link to help my friend and her father.

6/13/2016

High Risk Appointments and Ligament Stretching




Because I am going to be 35 when the baby is born, as well as my Hughes Syndrome, my OB thought it best that we consult with a high risk doctor at Maternal Fetal Medicine from UAB.  I was 10 weeks for that appointment and everything went great. They did an ultrasound and Andrew got to see the baby for the first time. Apparently our little Turner hears the music because during the ultrasound he was bobbing his head, almost like it was in tune to music.




This is 10 weeks of baby. My ligament stretching and pain has started and today it's been pretty bad. I can tell I'm pregnant thanks to my belly and I'm pretty shocked that I'm this big this fast. That being said, somehow, somewhere, I'm going to have to find a bra that holds these babies in. Because that is the other place that I'm rapidly expanding. 

Little Turner is growing quickly as well. Everything looked great. Heartbeat and all. And of course Daddy Andrew was just flabbergasted and excited.







So apparently even though I am high risk, they aren't very concerned at all about blood clots and are more concerned about the veins in my legs. I'm supposed to stay off of my legs as much as possible. And thank goodness I'll only be seen once a month, like normal women. Because I'm just fine. 

Currently, I still can't stomach Mexican food, although avocados are always a go. I'm having to substitute all my sweet cravings with fruit. All I want is cake and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. For now. I'm sure that will change. Also, I cannot get enough water. I am craving water all the time. Good, cold water. Our anatomy scan will be in about 6 weeks and then we'll know if we're having a boy or girl.

 The only other symptom I'm really experiencing lately is the stretching pain in my belly. I have finally figured out how to sleep without any pills. Maybe it took being pregnant to get past the insomnia I've suffered from for the past five years? 

The only other thing to report is that my sweet Mom and Aunt Paula took me to get some maternity pants and clothes because I literally CANNOT fit into my pants anymore. I would give anything to have normal legs and be able to wear a cute dress or skirt. But alas. We all deal with the hand we are dealt and I am blessed and loved by God. 

Oh and one more for the road....

This is the belly at 11 weeks! We'll be hitting the second trimester soon and couldn't be happier. 



6/04/2016

God's Got Jokes.... But It's a Good One



       As I was getting prepared for my LSAT and my mastectomy, my doctor decided it was a good idea to change my sleeping pill. As someone who has suffered from chronic insomnia for years this was a terrible time to do it. We went from Ambien (which worked fine) to another drug I can't recall the name of, to Lunesta. Lunesta is a disgusting tasting pill that stays with you all day. It's in your food when you eat, your milk when you drink, and for me, it made me extremely nauseous. I tried it for several weeks and finally thought to myself, no. This isn't working. Andrew and I discussed it and decided I needed to head to the doctor. But before that, I wanted to take a pregnancy test and get it out of the way, so they didn't ask. I hate that question.
       


 Needless to say, a positive pregnancy test after about 15 years of trying to have a child was NOT what I was expecting. Especially when Andrew and I had decided that we weren't going to have kids. So I hop, skipped and jumped my way to the doctor to make sure this wasn't wrong. After doing all the applicable testing and ultra sounding, the doctor said the test was positive! I am truly pregnant. The year before I graduate. And go to law school. But I digress. So here's the first ultrasound a few weeks ago at 7 weeks.


Because of my Hughes Syndrome and my wonky vein disease, we were concerned about me getting pregnant which was why we didn't try. So I was worried about how to tell Andrew. I knew he would be concerned. I decided to just have him come up to the doctors office so he would have a professional to talk to when he found out. When he walked into the patient room I just handed him the ultrasound. Here is his face, because you know I was snapping photos.


         Obviously a happy guy. So after talking to my doctor, she said many people with my disease have healthy pregnancies all the time. Provided they are being treated. Of course, I'm high risk due to the disease and the fact that I'll be 35 when the baby is born, but that just means I'll be monitored closely and so will the baby. That took Andrew's worry from about a 13 to a 7. After talking to my blood doctor, he believes the Hughes is less of an issue than my crazy veins in my lower extremities. He's more concerned about my uterus putting pressure on those crazy veins. So that took Andrew's worry from a 7 to about a 4. Which I can handle. 
  
           So we're having a baby! It took a few weeks for me to get past the (I'm sad to say) resentment of having to slow down my education plans, and to be excited about the baby. Now I'm thankful that God has decided to bless us with this baby. All I ever wanted was Andrew's baby. Now we're just praying for a healthy pregnancy and baby, and Andrew and I are both committed to me graduating law school. Period. 

          So. Today I'm 10 weeks. My belly basically looks like I'm fat. Everyone who sees me says, "Oh the baby belly!" I don't see it. Thankfully, my nausea stopped last week. Before that it was so bad that I couldn't eat anything. Now most everything sounds fine. Except Mexican food, which I used to be able to eat all the time. My feet and legs are already swollen, thanks to those wonky veins, and I can't wear my entire set of rings, just my wedding band. 

           Baby is the size of a prune. We're hoping for a boy, but honestly, I don't care. I just want a healthy baby. Because of my disease, not only do I get to take the prenatal vitamin every day. But I also get to have a shot of Lovenox in my belly every day. Andrew has been the one giving them to me, and he's gotten quite good. I really thought he'd be the guy who didn't really become "daddy" until he held his baby. I was wrong. It took about 12 hours for him to go from "I hate kids" to "awwww look at the baby!"

           The good news is that after trying to adopt and that not working, after two miscarriages, and fertility drugs, and everything, God allowed us to get pregnant when we least expected it, and when we have the best access to the most phenomenal doctors. So regardless of my plans, I know God has this and so does Andrew. 

          That sheepish grin is on the way out of the doctors office. Everyone kept calling him daddy. And this is ten weeks. Please Lord let it be only one child. 

      So if you read my blog, please pray for a healthy baby and Mom, and for Andrew not to go crazy trying to deal with my weepiness. 











4/20/2016

Plastic Surgeon Consultation

 Today was my first appointment with one of the plastic surgeons that was chosen for me by my breast surgeon based on my other medical issues. This surgeon was Dr. Michael Beckenstein in Birmingham, AL. First, and one of the most annoying things about this trip actually had nothing to do with the doctor, and everything to do with our recent move and insurance.
            
Unfortunately my Blue Cross insurance decided that it could just do whatever it wanted (as if its a living entity) and they didn't notify us that our policy was changed and we now needed to have a referral not from my breast surgeon but from a primary care doctor. For everything. So even if one specialist refers me to another, I STILL have to go back to a primary doctor in order to get that referral. That was stressful. 

Aside from the insurance headaches, when we first got to the office, it was very homey and comfortable. Andrew and I were taken in to watch a video on breast reconstruction. 

            


 

               
                    
             That's Andrew. He likes to smile.  And this is the room we watched the video in. So the video didn't really tell us anything that we hadn't found out during our research. Once we were done we were taken into the next room into a very cozy consultation room to meet Dr. Beckenstein. Side note: All through the office were awards that he has been given as well as albums FILLED to the brim with notes from hundreds and hundreds of women telling him how much they loved him and how thankful they were to have him work on them. It was very reassuring. I liked the doctor. He took the time to listen to me as a woman. He answered every question that I had without me having to ask it. 
This is the room. It was pretty dimly lit, so you can't see much, but I would say it's designed with the impression of letting you see just exactly how good he is at his job. He performed around 600 of these in 2015.


 We discussed my Hughes Syndrome as well as keeping my blood "good" after the surgery. For me, he wanted to think about limiting the amount of times I go under the knife and so he is going to try to do the mastectomy and the reconstruction at the same time. My first thought was "YAY!". It will depend of course on my body once he opens me up and the ability of my skin to stretch. I discussed with him my desire to go up a size to a C. I mean, if I'm going to get my boobs amputated, I'd like some cleavage to show for it. 

 Of course, if he gets into the surgery and decides my skin won't stretch then this will be a longer process than it would be if it would be one surgery. That means he would place tissue expanders and once I heal he would start to fill the expanders with saline every couple of weeks until we get to my optimal size. Once we are at the size I want, we'll wait four to six weeks to let my skin get used to it and then schedule a second surgery to switch it out. Here's hoping for one surgery. After the consultation they did my first exam. I got to see the implants he uses. 

   

 These are Natrelle implants. One is saline and the other is silicone. He said for me he would prefer the one on the right. They are round and would be placed under the muscle. I really liked the way the one on the right feels. The one on the left not so much. They have a lifetime warranty but they tend to crack after ten or twelve years so we may have to do some more stuff later in life. They took photos of my breasts and he discussed more about the complications and monitoring for breast cancer once everything is done and reconstructed. 

They gave me a few booklets to make sure Andrew and I have all of the information I need and we will go back once the insurance approves the procedure to talk some more and schedule the appointment.  When I checked out I also got a nifty Hershey's bar with my name on it and a letter as well as the booklets.



   
 Some people will be wondering why I didn't choose to consult with another surgeon. Honestly, first I went with my gut. I believe that your intuition will tell you what you need to know about a person. Second, I've spoken with a couple of patients of his that were very happy. Also, I forgot to mention that one his website the photos of patients with reconstruction looked AMAZING. Dr. Beckenstein said that those were "standard results". Not the best. So that's encouraging. Another reason that I didn't consult with someone else was because in previous years I've consulted with other doctors in town and honestly, they sent me running home to wait another 8 years before doing this. 

All in all it was a good appointment. I feel confident that we can handle my Hughes. Andrew is worried about blood clots (Of course, because that's our life). Doc thinks that we can handle the Hughes with close monitoring and only one surgery. So here's to hoping and praying that my skin will stretch and behave. I wonder if I should start lotioning... 

Not much else going on except that all of this is happening during finals so that's fun. I am scheduled to take my LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) on June 6th so hopefully we can be scheduled for  either really soon after school ends (like next week) or for right after June 6th. We'll see. He knows about my time frame and school and thought we could probably have most everything done by the time school starts again in the fall.

Happy spring everyone and I'll update when I have more information. 


4/07/2016

Let's Talk About Decisions

Today has been a super rough day for me. First, aside from Thursday turning out to be Monday's ridiculously ugly sister in terms of all the random crazy that happened,  I lost someone who has been a dear friend of mine for 20 years on Sunday. He died from cancer. Kind of funny in a "haha life is giving us the middle finger" kind of way, isn't it? He started out as a pen pal and became one of my closest and dearest loved ones.

On top of my super emotional week (please forgive my excessive use of the word "super". It's apparently made it's way without fail into my vocabulary lately.) I am now plagued with doubts about my 12 year in the making decision to have my prophylactic mastectomy. My doctors all agree that it's the best course. Even the doctors who aren't making money off of me agree. So all in all, being the logical "separate your emotions from your brain" person that I am, I should be fine. But I'm not.

You see, no one tells you about this decision making process. Of course, it's a no brainer. I'm one of the lucky ones. I still have my mother. But many of my fellow previvors (those are ladies who choose to take the route I am taking before they get a cancer diagnosis) have lost their mothers. Or loved ones. My mom is here. With me. To hold my hand and comfort me on this journey. Or yell at me. Whatever is her pleasure. What people don't tell you though, is that most of the time, by the time you make this decision, you've learned to love your body. And like everyone else, TRUST me when I tell you that my body and I have been through it. But despite the crap it's given me, it's mine, and I'll keep my parts, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, while that is an option, it's not a great one. The decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy for many is super easy and has no conflicting emotions. I thought I was one of those people until I realized that I now have boobs. This is a new development. Some of us ladies don't get our full boobs until we're in our mid-thirties. That would be me. And they're fantastic! And new! And how how I love to cuddle them. Which is great, because they are mine and I can. But now I'm faced with having to have them amputated and replaced with a device that will hold their place until I can have my reconstruction (which is NOT anything like getting your boobs done. We'll talk more about that later).

Honestly, while I know I am logical and I will do the logical thing, I don't want to. I want to grab my boobs and hide in a corner somewhere. I tell you all of this because I promised to document EVERYTHING in my journey. Tonight has been rough. This WEEK has been rough. I feel alone, unsure, a sense of doom and despair and that I'm on a roller coaster than won't stop, put in motion by yours truly.

If you are in the middle of this process - that is- making the decision -let me assure you that everything you are feeling is normal and just because most of us have gotten on with the business of choosing our happy and moving on (and in essence not talking about this indecision) doesn't mean we didn't feel it. Yes, you'll read the blogs where women knew right away and they did it and they were so happy! This is not that blog. Heck, it took me twelve years to see another surgeon after my first consult scared me silly. So this is a slow process and it's okay to take your time. I've decided instead of just posting on my blog to also be very vocal about it. I talk about boobs everywhere. And it makes many people uncomfortable. But I'm sorry. If a presidential candidate can discuss penis size, I can discuss my boobs. This is much more sedate, I assure you.

I don't want cancer. I don't want anyone I love to have to watch me deal with that and I don't want to either. But I also don't want to lose my boobs. I'm so damn conflicted. My appointment is the 20th of April. And I'll go. And in the morning I'll feel better. Whatever you are feeling as you read this is normal and we've all been there, at some point. Just know that.

Also, this is Luna and the husband. She posed perfect for a selfie. It's not the whole family, but it's still cute.



3/29/2016

A Plastic Surgeon Appointment- Finally!

Today I got the call from my breast surgeon with her recommendation on who would be best not only for my reconstruction but also for my particular set of medical issues. On April 20th I'll be going in to see Dr. Michael Beckenstein at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham to discuss my options for my reconstruction.


At this point I'm just trying not to completely obsess over what's going on soon. But it's hard to do because I really just want to get this over with and deal with it. 

I've started to compose some questions to ask my plastic surgeon. Maybe they could help you.

- How long will my surgery take?

- What are my best options/choices for reconstruction?

- Where will my scars be?

- Will there be sutures to remove after surgery?

- How long will my hospital stay be?

- How long until I can work, drive, have sex?

- What kind of anesthesia will be used?

- What is the percentage of infection?

- How many drains will I have?

- How long will I have the drains?

- How long will the implant last?

- How will aging affect my reconstructed breasts?

- What happens if I gain or lose weight?

- Who is the manufacturer of my implant?

- Do they have a product warranty?

- How will my reconstructed breasts feel?

- Will they feel natural?

- How many surgeries have you done like this?

- How many successful surgeries?

- How many unsuccessful?

- How long until my reconstruction is fully complete?



This is all I have for now. I will leave you with a picture of my sweet Beau to get you by until my next update. She's a lover.




 

3/26/2016

Hurry Up and Wait


               That's what Andrew and I are doing. Hurry up and waiting. Dr. Winchester (my breast surgeon) told me that they would find a good plastic surgeon to work with both my Hughes Syndrome and make sure that everyone was comfortable with my "special" set of medical circumstances and considerations.  So we are waiting. She did tell me before the end of March, so that's next week.

              In other news, Andrew and I are just working hard, enjoying the break in the weather, and we got to spend some time with each other during spring break even though I worked the entire week.
We DID get to go see Mary Poppins with CharACTers Entertainment in Gadsden, AL. If you haven't seen these folks, they are amazing. You can check them out here.

Here we are at Mary Poppins, waiting for the show to begin. 

Also, bonus! It's spring time! So my roses have started to bloom! 

This is just one. They are full bloom now and I'm too lazy to get up and take another photo.



And HERE we have Andrew and Luna communicating telepathically while laying on me. Good times and I'm thankful he got to take a few days off to spend with me.


Other than that, not much is going on. It's about another month of school left and finals are coming up, so there may not be another post until AFTER finals, and then we'll be getting into the meat of this surgery journey. I'm super nervous and super excited about meeting a plastic surgeon that I LIKE. Also I keep randomly bursting into inappropriate conversation about my boobs which is probably not okay, but what can I say? I'm also randomly thinking of questions I need to ask the plastic surgeon (Hereafter known as PS) so I guess I should get a notebook and start writing everything down.

Anyways. Most of my family has been supportive of my decision. A couple were not at all. And my boss is great. When he asked what my schedule for the summer was (I was going to wait to tell him about the surgery until I had a date) I went ahead and told him I could work full time or whatever he needed, but then I told him about this and that I wanted to do it before I start law school. He was so awesome. Said he completely agreed with that and thought it was a good idea, and to let him know if he could do anything. Great to have such an awesome attorney/boss.

Until I hear more, tata for now. 

(Get it? Haha.)


3/09/2016

Breast Cancer Surgeons and Italian Food

Yesterday was my very first, successful breast surgeon appointment. By successful, I mean I didn't run screaming into the parking lot. So there's that.

Dr. Winchester at St. Vincent's in Birmingham (Yes, I'm totally plugging her) is amazing. We got there at 4:30 pm. The appointment was at 5. We walked out at around 7:45 after being called back in around 7:00. When we first arrived, even at that late hour, the waiting room was full. Which was surprising, but not THAT surprising.

Because I have no cancer and no cells that may be cancer, my appointment consisted mainly of meeting, taking a measure of each other, and then getting my vitals and history. She made sure to give me all my choices to prevent cancer, aside from the mastectomy that I was there to talk about. She examined me and said I was perfect for what's called a "nipple sparing prophylactic mastectomy". We'll call that NSPM for short from now on. So she explained that she does the best NSPM ever and that my boobs are perfect for this procedure.

After the examine we discussed my history in depth more, because it was important that I tell her about my Hughes Syndrome (for more on that you can go here), as well as my other surgeries and to talk about a plastic surgeon. Originally I was going to go to Nashville for a consult, but after meeting Dr. Winchester, no. No ma'am. Staying right here in Birmingham. She said she would have a couple of names of people who would be able to work with my Hughes and still be able to do pretty work by the end of the month, so now we wait.

The really awesome part about this lady was that when I thanked her for being open and continuing to take patients into the late hour (after telling us "God Bless") she said, "Well, this is my calling." Then she smiled and walked out the door.

Andrew and I had been talking about how we weren't going to see anyone that didn't see this as helping women. Neither I nor he wants to pay someone who only wants to do what they want, the job, get the money, don't get sued, and go home. And I sincerely believe that this woman is an angel sent by God to do His work. So....

I turned to Andrew when the door shut and set, "We're not going to Nashville. We're staying right here with her."


It was a pretty encouraging meeting and I'm super excited to go ahead and get started on this. I have several school things planned for the summer and was going to take classes (which my dad thinks I can still do) so we'll see how it goes.

And then my sweet husband Andrew took me out for Italian food because we were STARVIIINNGGG and it was time to eat. So I got appetizers, food, salad, wine. And it was amazing. He makes me laugh. He's such a good guy. And he's staring at me waiting for me to finish this sooooo....

For now I'm going to sleep, because I have to leave for ORCS tomorrow.

Choose the happy!