Thursday, December 30, 2010

2 and a half

Dearest Piper,

Today, you are officially 2 and a half. This means that in exactly 6 months, you will be 3, the big girl that you proclaim yourself to be every single day.

You are right at 3 feet tall and 32 pounds, but you still are my pocket sized diva. You love all things girly, but are such an enigma, equally loving to play in the dirt and mud. You love to do anything that requires running, jumping, swinging, climbing and just being physical. We have caught you on top of various pieces of furniture without knowing how you go there. Your Daddy and I have to watch you like a hawk, lest you break your neck completing one of these daring adventures of yours.

You are still not potty trained yet, but you are working on it. You love to sit on said potty and have me read you books, but the actual act, on a regular basis, eludes you. I'm really in no hurry to get this task accomplished and you are pretty laid back about the whole thing too, so we'll just wait until you are possessed with the spirit of determination on this front.

Just a few months ago, we decided that you needed to give up your crib and move to a big girl bed. We set out to purchase a daybed that would grow with you, but you had other ideas. You, my dear, sweet, bold girl were afraid of the big beds, but managed to crawl into and cover yourself up in a toddler bed. You can probably guess what we left the store with and you sleep in now. You alternately love and hate that bed all at once and are still adjusting to the idea of not having your walls that they crib provided you. We're working on this.

You have the most fun, sweet and equally frustrating personality, all at the same time. You are most definitely a 2 year old, wanting to constantly do it yourself, but also wanting help and love when you try and fail. You love to run around in your high heels, princess dress and boa, while wielding your brother's Light Saber, trying to rid the universe of the bad guys.

Your most favorite color is pink and everything in your world has to be some version of this color. You know all your shapes, numbers up to 20 and then 10's, most of your letters and all your colors. You are well educated in all things girl and boy. I suppose that is the benefit of having a big brother to teach you.

Caleb and your Daddy are two of your most favorite people, but, truth be told, you are a Mama's girl. I cannot tell you the joy that that gives my heart. One of my dreams was to have a little girl and to have the same kind of relationship with her that I do with my Mama. We have that, little one.

I love you, my Pster! You are and always will be my most favorite girl in all the world!

Love,

Mama

Monday, December 20, 2010

Half Way Through

I've posted here many different times about our choice to homeschool, but it dawned on me this morning that I've not updated with Caleb's progress in the whole process.
One of the less academic, but needed things, that I was hoping for Caleb to learn during school, whether it was in a building or in my dining room, is that of self control. He is a very typical boy, busy, active, and yet super smart, but needed that ability to excel. During the past few months, we have watched our boy go from a kid who can't sit still for even a few moments or control his impulses to a boy who can sit through a whole church service quietly entertaining himself. I also just witnessed on Saturday Caleb holding a present in his lap upon my instructions to wait until we got all of them. He then opened one and waited me for my instructions to move on. This is a different, self-assured, controlled boy with an appropriate amount of confidence.
We are using My Father's World curriculum for K and supplementing with various other things based on his need and interest. The main curriculum provides 5 days worth of worksheets, with each week concentrating on a certain letter and topic. For example, last weeks letter was E and the study is over elephants, with the next few weeks contributing to this so that the whole month is study in non-farm animals (elephants, penguins, etc). It's really well organized and the work is very much on target for what it is written for (a kindergartner), so all in all we've been happy with it.
We only do school 3 (sometimes 4, at most) days a week and it only really takes us, at most, 2 hours to get through all the work that is assigned to him. At the beginning of the year I was pretty surprised at how fast we moved through his work, but we were able to ascertain that Caleb is quite ahead in some areas and we aren't dealing with 30 students here, so we can get done in a timely manner. I am firmly convinced that learning isn't all about sitting in the classroom at a desk, so we get out and make even ho-hum trips to Target a learning experience.
I usually combine Days 1 and 2 worksheets. Day 1 is introducing the letter and exploring the topic. The worksheet has the letters printed in both upper and lower case, prepping him for his handwriting lessons to come, as well as giving him some examples of other things that start with the letter of the week. These pictures are meant to be cut out, which gives him the practice he needs to master this task. When we first started, this was a big issue for us. Part of this was my fault because I wouldn't let him near scissors. Ever. Heh.
Day 2 worksheet is a handwriting practice on one side and a phonics practice on the other. Honestly, handwriting was one of the biggest things that I was worried about. Caleb wasn't even able to hold his pencil correctly before we started. After many frustrated mornings, many tears shed and me second guessing our choice, Caleb finally got it and is able to hold his pencil correctly and print well. Of all the things that he has accomplished thus far, this is the one that I'm the most happy about.
Phonics was a real issue, in my mind, as well when we started this whole process. Caleb started reading, by sight recognition, when he was 2 and would remember any word we told him from then on out. So, because of this, I was concerned that he would get a point where phonics would be lost on him. We've worked really hard just introducing the concepts of phonics that he needed to put it all together. It seems that he may have had a lot of the concepts needed for this all along, just needing someone to show him how to put it all together.
Day 3 and 5 worksheets are drawing, counting, and handwriting practice, while Day 4 is reading practice. All things he was doing well in (with the exception of handwriting) when we started this whole thing.
I have added some extra phonics and handwriting from Abeka that seems to be right up his alley. His most favorite, though, is math. I recently acquired a workbook from a friend of some 1st grade math concepts and we've been slowly working our way through that, ensuring that we don't get so far ahead that he's actually behind. As of now, we've made it all the way through addition and just started some simple subtraction.
This year, so I've been told, is more an exercise in learning what he needs and how he learns. I have to say that this is more true than I thought it would be. Caleb is doing really well and is enjoying the process, and I'm so happy and looking forward to the rest of the year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Conversations with Caleb- Disturbed Edition

For the past couple of days, I have been fighting off some sort of mutant allergy attack that hit in full force last night. This morning, I made it very clear to the kids that we needed to take it easy today because mama didn't feel well.
We did venture out to grab lunch at Sonic because, really, what is better when you are sick but a bit of Sonic... After we got home, Caleb and I were talking during lunch and had the following coversation:

Caleb: Mama? Are you still sick?
Me: Yes
Caleb: *crying*
Me: Caleb! What is wrong?
Caleb: *still crying* I'm sad because you're sick. Are you going to have surgery again and go to the hospital again?

Hm. Maybe the events of this past summer affected him more than I thought.
I'm thinking we may need a therapist here...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Boy Wonder (and his Mother) Needs Your Prayers **Updated**

UPDATED: So our visit with the doctor was this afternoon and he did a very (and I mean very) thorough exam on Caleb. With all our visits with medical practitioners through the years, Caleb has never had an exam where everything was looked at, all at once, with regard to his overall health, so this was refreshing and calming to a mama's nervous heart. It also gave the doctor the opportunity to evaluate Caleb in all aspects of his life, not just his basic health.
The overall result was that, yes, there seems to be some issues with the fact that Caleb's joints, most all of them, are overly flexible, but he has no other issues that would really form the diagnosis of anything super serious.
What we do have, for now, is a diagnosis of hyperflexibility. Basically, what this means is that his joints can dislocate much easier and he may have some real pain during growth. Frankly, I had significant pain during my formative years, especially those when I was growing large amounts at a time. One summer, I added 4-6 inches to my height and I remember that summer well because of the unrelenting pain that never seemed to end. I'm thinking that this was something, once again, that he got from me. Poor kid.
While I hate this for Caleb and I certainly don't want him to suffer at all, at least this way we will know what is going on. Since he has a diagnosis on the books too, we will have a fabulous doctor who will be evaluating him at every visit for problems and issues so that we can head them off at the pass.
Our doctor is going to consult with an orthopedist, just to make sure, but he was very confident that this was the issue.
I'll update if there is anything different that comes up in the coming days.
Thank you all for your well wishes and prayers.


About a year ago, I noticed Caleb had a popping sound coming from, what I thought, was his hip area. When he was in the NICU, one of his more minor issues that we were watching was the fact that one of his hip joints was "loose". It wasn't a huge issue, completely overshadowed by the more serious things, and seemed to resolve on its own. That's why when I heard that, I intially didn't think much of it.
Back in August, I realized that the popping noise was actually coming from his knee, and seemed to be getting louder. Now, I have one knee that has been looked at by more than one orthopedist and they all said that my ligaments are loose, so I was thinking that the same thing would be said of his. I took him to the doctor last week, partially to get it looked at before the end of the year and also because my mommy gut kept telling me to do it.
Well, during the work up, our wonderful nurse practitioner noticed that Caleb is super flexible and wondered outloud if this could be something more. Needless to say, knowing what I know about the human body and what can go wrong, my mind has since jumped from bad to worse.
The NP told me that she would discuss with our normal doc and call me back and he wants to see him.
We are going today.
I'm a nervous wreck.
This could be nothing or something completely life changing and life threatening. I'm seriously praying for the former.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

I am well known in my family and close, close friends as being good at many things, but baking is something that I, historically, have been terrible at. Jes makes fun of me and calls me his cardboard queen. He also will just shake his head when the kids ask me to make cookies and run to the freezer to pull out the break apart cookie dough.
This Thanksgiving, however, I was aiming high and decided to try my hand at 2 different pie recipes and a batch of cake balls. Other than opening too many cans of pumpkin, it all went off without a hitch and each of my desserts was a huge hit! My mom even remarked that I should be in charge of desserts every year and my dad is already putting in orders for the next batch of cake balls.
Needless to say, I have had a huge confidence boost and decided to use up said opened cans of pumpkin and make pumpkin bread.
I'm recording this here, partially to share with all you guys, but more so to have to written in one place before I forget it. Please note that this recipe was taken from allrecipes.com, but altered to my liking. So, without further ado, pumpkin bread:

Ingredients:
1 cup butter (can use margarine, but I'm against the stuff)- which is 2 sticks, softened
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 (16 ounce) can pumpkin

Feel free to add in all types of things. I had chocolate chips, so I put a small amount of that in there (my kids will eat anything with chocolate in it). I also had part of a medium sized bag of pecans left from one of my pies, so I put those in there too!

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Combine dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture until moistened (I call this step my bicep workout!) Stir in can of pumpkin (I had a whole can and another 1/3 of one, so I just added it all). Pour in 2 greased 9 X 5 X 3 in loaf pans and bake at 350 for one hour. I wanted to have serving sizes for the kids and myself, so I baked mine in cupcake form, filling up the cupcake papers to almost full. If you are making the cupcake version, you will need to bake them for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through. I had a yield of just under 3 dozen, so we had plenty to freeze for a quick, healthy breakfast!
The kids tried these out as their sweet with lunch and they just loved them! Next time, I'll put in a bit of flax seed too to boost the omega-3s! I hope you all enjoy!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cancer and Competition

Have you guys ever noticed how competitive some folks are?
I'm pretty sure that everyone knows someone who when you engage in conversation with them they always have a come back about how they know someone or are better than your experiences.
I'm not naive and think that my experiences are far and away better than others or that they make me anywhere close to an expert on anything, but I do, however, feel like some of those competitive types of conversations should be taboo.
Obviously the title of my post being one of them.
A couple of weeks ago, I reached out to an acquaintance on a social networking website who had suffered from another type of cancer that, to look at her now, you would never know. Basically, she made me to feel, stopping short of actually saying, that my issue was far and away the most minor issue as compared to hers.
Here's the thing, how would she know when she's never walked the path that I have?
She bears no outward physical (we all have emotional) scars from her cancer. I have a huge one.
No, I didn't have to partake of months and months of chemo, but I did lose a large amount of my hair and eyelashes, much like her.
Do I even think that I can understand or empathize with her? Absolutely not.
I guess my whole point is that until we walk anothers path and know what the experience is to go through what they are going through, we should never assume that we know.
It doesn't matter who you are, you won't ever know.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Yearly Photos with The Boy Wonder and his Trusty Side Kick

Every summer, I try to schedule an outdoor photo shoot for the kids to not only capture their adorable faces and antics, but also to capture them in their natural state. While I think there is a time and place for posed, studio type photos, I much prefer my kids to be in their natural state, running, laughing, jumping and having a great time. Just a few weeks ago, a former student of mine, who is trying to build her portfolio, offered to take their pictures. For. F-R-E-E! Yes, please.
Anyway, I wanted to share a few of my favorites, although it was so hard to narrow them down to just these few!
My sweet 2 year old. I'm not sure how we ended up at this point where my sweet little baby is a big 2 year old girl, but we are. She is super fun and loves all things girly. Love, love, love her!
I have mentioned many times how much Caleb loves his sister. The above is just photographic evidence. He is her biggest cheerleader, favorite playmate, and often the one she runs to when she's sad/hurt/scared etc. If you were to split to the two of them up and take them separate places, they are lost. As an only child (with much step siblings, most of them MUCH older), I had no real idea what the idea of having a sibling to grow up with meant. Now that I have a pair of kids, I am so thankful that we were blessed with the two of them!



Can I just tell you how scary it is to have a walking, talking clone of yourself? We have compared photos of myself, my mom and Piper and it is very difficult to differentiate between all of us. She does have some of the more distinctive Mathis characteristics (her AMAZING eyelashes!), but she is mostly an exact replica of myself.


A bunch of people commented on this photo on facebook that is was so pretty and that it looked like a greeting card, but if you could read her mind you would hear that she was plotting taking a swim. What you can't see in this photo is me right behind her lunging toward her to catch her before she leapt into this pond! My girl is super sweet and so fun, but she has NO fear!



My boy! I love this boy more than words can say. We have gone to our highest highs and lowest lows with this little boy of ours and are so blessed that we have him for this short time.


I think that this is probably one of my most favorite photos of the kids. Ever. A good friend of our family once commented to me that Caleb always had a smile on his face, regardless of how gloomy the day was and I have to say that is so true! Piper always has hair in her face and is always laughing with her brother, while they move on to their next, newest adventure.

My sweet, curious baby (don't tell her) girl!


So, here's the thing about my kids, Caleb is 5 and can do SO much more than Piper, and Piper, being 2 and, in her mind, indestructible, will try to do everything her brother does. But, most of the time what you will see is Caleb coming down to a level where his sister can keep up and participate in his activities too. Yet another example of just how wondrous my boy wonder is and how blessed we are to have him!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

3 Month Post Op Visits

The past two weeks have included many fun activities, but listed among them was my 3 month post-op visits with both my surgeon and my endocrinologist.
First up, I saw my surgeon. Let me just reiterate how much my family and I love my surgeon. The morning of my visit, Caleb was full of questions and curiosity (more than normal) and Piper peed on me (she's potty training and in Pull-ups, but that's another story for another day). My doctor didn't even bat and eye and we were able to carry on a conversation and get a physical exam in during all the chaos.
During my exam, my doctor was checking my incision and also checking for other swollen lymph nodes or lumps. He found none and felt that my prognosis was very, very good.
The next week I visited my endocrinologist and this visit I had the opportunity to see the nurse practitioner, whom I just love. In fact, I have opted to see just her from now on, with the exception of my once yearly visit with the "head" doctor. The last time I saw this NP, I had made an emergency appointment for a racing heart rate and the inability to write or hold a scalpel due to a severe tremor. During that visit, she put me on a beta blocker, a potent heart and blood pressure medication. So, needless to say, this visit was vastly different from the last.
Basically, she went through a long laundry list of symptoms, asking severity and if I was experiencing any of them. Mostly, these symptoms are negative, indicative of disease.
I explained to her that I have felt so terribly bad for so, so long that I wasn't even aware of how bad I was feeling or how sick I was and that now I felt like a totally different, well, whole person. Seriously guys, I haven't felt this well and good since I was probably a young teenager. Anyway, she took a look at all my blood work from August, the day of my whole body scan after my in-patient radiation treatment, during my appointment. Based on that bloodwork, it appears that the cancer is gone. I will have the blood work again in January at approximately 6 months. The only other thing that we had to do was the monitoring of my hormone levels to ensure that I have the correct amount from the synthetic hormone that I will take for the rest of my life. Right now, I am in suppressive mode, meaning that I'm taking a bit more hormone than the average hypothyroid patient. This type of therapy, for at least one year, decreases, dramatically, the ability and chance of any more cancer cells to grown and multiply. From what I gather, after a year on this type of treatment I will be retested, maybe by scan, and my medication will gradually be decreased to normal levels. I just had to up my dosage by a half a pill on Sundays and that's it.
So, that is the long and short of it all. Essentially, I'm well and healthy and waiting for my appointment in January. All in all, I'm super happy and forever thankful that I'm as well as I am!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homecoming 2010

About a week and a half ago, the family and I packed up the car and headed out to East Texas for my college homecoming weekend. It also, just so happened to be the 10 year anniversary of our graduation from said college.
Friday night, we drove to Tyler, about 2 hours east of our place in McKinney. For some reason we thought that driving half way there on Friday night and staying in a hotel would be easier on us and the kids than just getting up super early and driving all the way out to Marshall, about 4 hours from our home. Let's just say that we won't be trying a visit to a hotel again for awhile. Caleb, being the kid that he is and super laid back about sleeping somewhere other than home, did just fine. Piper, on the other hand, was a holy terror both Friday night and most of the day on Saturday due to sleep deprivation. Eventually, around 11pm Friday night, 4 hours after her normal bedtime, Jes put Piper in the car and drove her around until she fell asleep. He then had to hold her most of the night and then she was up super early.
Just suffice it to say that she was a real joy the next day. Can we say tantrums 'r us?!?




Here is the boy wonder and his spit fire side kick in front of the sign at my alma mater, ETBU. I had forgotten how homey and comforting the campus was. When my parents and I were looking for a college, while I still in high school, we visited numerous schools, none of them feeling quite right. As soon as we pulled onto campus and got out of the car I knew that ETBU was where I was supposed to be. As it so happened, my future husband was a short 30 minutes down the road in Longview at LeTourneau, so it all worked out! :)



Here are the kids in front of the student center. This building holds the bookstore, the cafeteria and the mail room and boxes. I spent many a late night in this building studying, eating many and memorable (not necessarily in a good way) meals, and burning myself out on Chick fil A, our only on campus food choice that wasn't cafeteria food. The place smelled exactly the same and took me back!


We took the kids to the bookstore, thinking we would emerge with t-shirts for both, but both wanted some sort of stuffed animal. Caleb also got a cool camo ETBU hat and I got Piper a hooded sweatshirt that she'll be able to wear for a couple of years, so everyone was happy! Here they are with their new friends, Beary and Ribbet.

Caleb got to hang out with his friend Dallas,


and I got to see some college friends that I don't get to talk to near or see often enough.
Even with the sleep deprivation it was a super fun weekend.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Thinking

I know that I've not been updating this here blog as often as I should/have been, but, in the interest of full disclosure, there are some reasons for that.
First and foremost, this place that I started to post photos of my adorable children has kind of turned into my medical drama. However, I have come the conclusion that that is an issue that I can change and will.
Second, I have been inadvertently, on my part, been drug into some family business that really have no business being in. To top it all off, this family member has made me swear to secrecy all the while putting me in between a rock and a hard place and in between this person and another close family member, who happen to be warring on a regular basis on the topic of choice. It's hard for me to write here when one of these family members could potentially read about it and then I would be drug into the issue even more. So, I'm keeping my mouth shut and trying to censor myself, but the by product of that is I feel censored in my writing too.
Lastly, Jes and I have some pretty big decisions to make. He has an opportunity that would be huge and in some ways fabulous and in others potentially disastrous. So all in all, another thing that I can't really talk about. If you are inclined, just pray for us and for clarity of mind and peace about whatever decision we come to about this particular issue.
I'll be back soon with some uber cute photos of the kiddos soon! We are going to my 10 year college reunion Saturday, as well as a quaint little festival dubbed The Fireant Festival. It's a whole level of craziness that many of you have never experienced, but is deeply beloved by my college friends. I'll have lots of fun photos of all the fun and craziness for y'all when I get back here!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Birthday

Have y'all seen that American Cancer Society commercial? It's the one with Justin Bieber (did I spell that right?) singing happy birthday. The next screen is the statistic that 11 million cancer survivors will celebrate a birthday this year. Mine comes in 16 days. I can say that this year I will appreciate that day more than I think I ever have!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Catching Up - Health Edition

So, it seems that it's been nearly a month since I posted anything here. I guess I should back up and fill everyone in on what has been happening the past few weeks with my health mess.
I left all of you on the day before my radiation was to happen. The next morning, Jes and the kids too me to the hospital and dropped me off. I was then ushered to my plastic covered room
Yes, you read that right. Everything that I could possibly come into contact with was covered in plastic. There was even plastic sheeting underneath my sheet on my bed. Nice and homey, huh?
I was told to be at the hospital at 9am, but when I got there I was informed that I was not going to be given my treatment until 1pm. Fun times. So I waited around, ate a bit of lunch, ala Presbyterian Hospital (yum) and watched a bit of bad daytime tv.
Around 11, I was consulted by the head of radiology on what could potentially happen during the treatment. Basically, what we were hoping for was that the radioactive iodine would go to all the thyroid cells, wherever they may be, and kill them. In the body, the thyroid cells are the only ones who take up iodine, be it radioactive or not, so this type of iodine would just zap them and kill them.
After I took the radioactive iodine pills, everyone rushed (practically running) out of my room and that was the last contact that I had with an actual person for nearly 48 hours. I would see a nurse crack the door open and peek her head in to make sure that I was ok and they would bring me my meals. This process was somewhat comical with the nurse peeking her head in and me walking to the door to grab the tray from her as she ran off down the hall.
As for the symptoms that I had, let's just say that nothing that I was warned of was what I experienced. I was very sick to my stomach and could not eat most of what was sent to me (remember that I went from eating a diet of mainly fruits and vegetables to anything I wanted). It was all just too heavy. In fact, there was a very unfortunate evening in which a perfectly lovely lasagna was involved and I will probably never be able to eat it again. Let's just leave it at that.
I knew, from my personal research, that I would be exhausted, but boy was that an understatement! I am normally a go, go, go kind of girl, constantly going and doing things that need to be done, but this literally made me feel as if someone had hit me with a truck. I was so exhausted that I couldn't even sleep. I also was super swollen from the treatment, to the point that my eyes were just slits and my jaws had the appearance of having mumps. It was super attractive. Lastly, I did, and still do, experience pain where the remaining thyroid tissue remained. I experienced pain only where my incision is, so that told me that maybe, just maybe the cancer hadn't spread.
Monday, I was left alone all day and night. Tuesday afternoon the physicist at the hospital donned her protective gear and came into my room briefly to check my radiation level to determine if I was ready to go home. My levels had to be 4.9 or below before I could leave the hospital and Tuesday it was 6. So, I was to stay another day. By Wednesday I was just miserable and begged for them to call the physicist before lunch time to check me out again. She came around 10ish and we discovered that my levels dropped to 2.7, low enough to leave and go to my parent's house. I could not be in the house with the kids as the high radiation levels could destroy their bone marrow and their developing reproductive systems. So, my parents graciously let me me hang out at their house.
Meanwhile, Jes was home with the kids all day long and going a bit crazy, so I was ready to get the show on the road and get out of there so that I could rest up for the day I was able to go back to my home, Sunday.
I spent Wednesday afternoon and Thursday hanging out with my dad and resting up.
Friday morning, I went back to my endocrinologist's office for my body scan. This was the scan that would tell us for sure if the cancer had spread, along with a blood test to be drawn the same day. The nuclear medicine tech performed the scan and it was discovered that all the cancer had been contained within my neck area. She also mentioned that my surgeon must have been amazing because she could see the bony part of my jawline, something that she rarely sees because surgeons do not do a good enough job of removing all the thyroid tissue. I just smiled at her because I knew the truth, that I had the best surgeon around!
My blood test came back about a week after my scan and it revealed that the number that needed to be low was nearly undetectable. This is very good news because it reveals that there are no thyroid cells left, which means there is no more cancer left.
It seems, for now, this mess is done. I will go back every few months and have the same blood test done and the further out from my original treatment we get the longer between blood test it will be. Eventually, I will just go back once a year for the blood test as well as monitoring of the thyroid medication that I will be on for the rest of my life.
Whew! That was a lot to type. Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes and interest in my story! I just pray that it can be used to benefit others.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tomorrow Is The Day

I haven't written for a number of days, for a variety of reasons. Some of them include, but are not limited to, I'm just tired (10+days of no thyroid hormone will do that to you), we had finals last week, I've been grading like a mad woman, I've been on a horrible, horrendous, no good diet that takes all that I've got just to find something to eat, and lastly, I'm just in a bad mood.
Tomorrow I go into the hospital, provided that all goes well, and I'll take my radiation and hopefully this whole ordeal will be behind us. I'm not really nervous at all about the actual procedure, but am nervous about the full body scan that I'll have on Friday. Friday will be the day when we will know if this has gone anywhere else, however, provided that the dose is high enough, we can be pretty confident that the radioactive iodine will clear it from my body.
I've been following a low to no iodine diet for 11 days now that seriously limits what I can eat. Basically I can have no dairy, soy, iodized salt, commercially prepared meat, and limited pasta. This seems like it would be pretty easy, but there is salt in EVERYTHING! Just go look in your pantry at even your cereal boxes and salt will be listed, which means that I can't have it at all. So, I'm hungry and can't eat anything. That makes me an unhappy person to be around.
Anyway, tomorrow is the day, well I hope anyway. I had about 10 years shaved off my life on Friday afternoon after a very negative and upsetting encounter with my insurance company whereby I went back and forth between them and the hospital and the doctor, all claiming that the codes either didn't come from them or that they didn't have the right ones and the insurance co wasn't going to pay. Needless to say, I wouldn't be able to do this on Monday, but after calling, directly, my patient advocate, Yulanda, I was told that it was straightened out and I am expected to appear tomorrow. I'm hoping and praying that it all goes off without a hitch as the insurance company has/had no sympathy for me whatsoever and was not interested in helping me straighten this out. We shall see.
So, if you don't hear from me, then I'm in and doing what needs to be done. Let's just hope for that and no other setbacks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Plan, It Has Changed. Again.

Nearly 2 weeks ago, I received a phone call from the patient liaison at the hospital where I am set to do my radioactive iodine treatment. She proceeded to give me some basic guidelines. She asked me if I was going to go home and I innocently replied, "Oh, no. I'm just going to check into a hotel room."
At which point her head exploded.
Just in case you don't remember, a hotel room was one of the options that my doctor gave me, so I thought we had made a good decision.
I was told that, and I quote, "they absolutely forbade me from exposing others by checking into a hotel room".
Hm. Ok.
So, it's ok for me to go home and expose my home and pet to the radiation, but it's not ok to go to a hotel and be holed up in a room for 3 days?
This whole conversation led me to find out that I would have to take 3-4 days (that's a whole week in summer session, which equals out to a months worth of material in a regular semester, which we cover) off work. If you remember I had just backed out half way through the first half of the summer because of my surgery. While they had and continue to be super understanding and supportive of everything, I was pretty certain that this would not go over well.
So, I rescheduled everything. It will go like this now:
August 6th: I will take my last doses of the fast acting thyroid hormone that I've been on since right after my surgery. I will also start my special low iodine diet this day which includes me eliminating nearly everything that I love from my diet. I will post about that later, but just suffice it to say that all I can eat is veggies, fruit, and Matzo bread. Should be fun.
August 12th: This is the last day of summer 2 classes and I will have all my calculations done and entered before I leave the school that night.
August 13th: I will go into the office for some quick blood work
August 16th: I will check into the hospital as an in-patient to complete this treatment. I will be in complete and total isolation for at least a couple of days, so this solves the issue of where I'm going to live for those days.
August 20th: I will travel back to my doctor's office where I will have my total body scan and, hopefully, will be declared free and clear of this issue for awhile.
The only thing that I will be missing is our annual and mandatory associate faculty meeting that happens the Thursday after I do my radiation. As far as I know, I won't be able to attend, but my boss has been super kind about this an agrees when I thought it was the lesser of two evils.
While I'm in the hospital, I'm going to start a detox plan that I've done in the past, but also include an external detox, so that my radiation levels drop faster and I won't be such a risk to Caleb and Piper. That's really what I'm the most concerned about is exposing them to something that could affect them long term or in the future.
I'll also be investing in a Geiger counter to monitor my radiation levels. Words I never thought I would ever formulate into a sentence.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Big Girl

Some of you probably noticed that I did not update the blog on Piper's birthday, the 30th of June. Part of this was because I was just 6 days post op and was having trouble just getting through the day with the kids and because her 2 year appointment had been put of at least once, maybe twice, due to her normal nurse practitioner having some issues with her pregnancy. I wanted to be able to record her stats, for posterity, so here goes:
Weight: 29.6lb (81%)- I keep waiting for her to break that 30lb mark, but she just hasn't gotten there yet. I'm not sure why I consider this some benchmark, but I do...
Length: 34.75in (71%)- She's short compared to where her brother was at this point. Maybe that's where I'm getting the 30lb thing, but then again he was over 20lb at 3 months too.
Head Circ: 19.5 (92%)
All in all we were told that she is growing very well and is very proportionate.


Piper is much more daring and physical at this age than her brother ever was. Anytime we go somewhere, one can be certain that she will be trying to and probably succeeding at whatever her brother is doing. Speaking of her brother, she and he are inseparable still. They play and fight together all day long! They just have the funniest relationship in that they can beat the tar out of each other all day long but if someone else tries to hit/push/etc, the other will come to their aid immediately. I never have to worry about them as long as they are together!


Piper is now at that age and stage in life where she has some definite opinions and really has no qualms in expressing them! She is super verbal, speaking in full sentences, very clearly. Very often we get comments about how well she speaks, but she is getting more and more shy around strangers, that is until we leave. At that point she is yelling, "Bye! See ya later!"

Piper also really loves to play in the dirt and mud and just generally get dirty. We recently tore down and rebuilt, from scratch, the kids play structure in our backyard. During the process it rained a bit and Piper discovered the fun that playing in the mud could be! At one point she was covered from head to toe in mud and having a great time doing it! Piper also loves all things non-human, animals, insects, etc. She will chase a fly around the house for hours and is equally as happy to sit and pet a dog. Our poor cat, Gus, is the one who really bears the brunt of most of this fascination. If he even dares show his furry little face when she's awake, she will shriek and start running after him calling, "Get it! Get it! Kitty, kitty, kitty!" I can't help but laugh and watch the fun she's having!


Piper is super girly too, loving to wear pretty, frilly things, having her toenails painted and she certainly won't leave the house without her hair done and her bow in place. This has been such fun for me after 5 years of boy stuff I really am having a blast keeping her happy in this area! She especially loves having a mini-pedicure and will walk around for days saying, "Mama paint toes!" over and over again. So sweet!

Piper is just really the sweetest little girl! She is certainly more than we could have ever asked for in a daughter. Piper does have her moments, like all of us, but is generally a fun sweet 2 year old that we feel so blessed to share our life and moments with!



Monday, July 12, 2010

Perspective

I used to keep up with many, many blogs, but through the years I have whittled that down to very few. There are 3 blogs that I will visit everyday to gain updates on the little girls on them. One of them, http://ourturkey.blogspot.com, belongs to a dear friend of mine from college whose first born daughter is quickly losing her brave fight with neuroblastoma. Her daughter is just a bit younger than Caleb.
Another, http://ashleyadamsjournal.blogspot.com belongs to a mom of a little girl, just about 4, who is gravely ill and fighting severe rejection of a transplant that she had a few years ago.
The last, http://cotaforemersonw.com/node/46 belongs to another mom of a tiny precious girl who has been fighting after 2 multi-organ transplants over the past few years.
Here's the thing guys, I have cancer, I know that, but I'm going to be ok. I don't know that I would be able to live through one of these different scenarios. To have your child gravely ill, dying in my college friend's case, is so much more than my issues. I will be fine. I will, the Lord willing, be around to see my children grow up, get married, have babies, but my dear friends more than likely will not.
Please pray for these families and little girls now. While I don't know, in person Ashley or Emerson's mom, I feel as if I have known them for years (isn't the internet wonderful!). It just puts my situation all into perspective.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Endocrinologist Appointment and the Plan

Yesterday I went to my endocrinologist's office for my 2 week post op appointment in order for him to get updated on my condition and for us to lay out a plan as to where to go from here.
What he said was that he was pretty surprised that my condition turned out to be cancer because it was so atypical. I really had no symptoms from the cancer other than the lymph node issue and most of my symptoms were stemming from my thyroid being so hyperactive. However, he did tell me that there was a lesion (cancer) on half of my thyroid so I'm wondering if that may have been what started the hyperthyroid symptoms to begin. I'm in the process of researching that one. My doctor did seem a little miffed about the fact that there were 24 lymph nodes in all that were removed and only 1 tested positive for cancer. My response to this was what you would probably expect me to say. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I had a positive diagnosis of cancer and that I wanted to be sure that I didn't have to repeat this surgery and have all the cancer removed. He just looked at me and finally agreed that I was probably right. Hm.
Anyway, my endocrinologist said that he felt that I was probably "cured" (his word, not mine) but if I wanted to do the radiation treatment with the radioactive iodine then we would do it. I told him that I wanted to do it and do it as soon as possible. Since we are going to go ahead with this. The plan is as follows:
  • On the 23rd of July, I will take my last pill that is basically giving me the thyroid hormone that my body needs. This is the part that I am dreading the most because even if someone has a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, they still have some native tissue that is secreting the thyroid hormone that they need, but I have none. So, once I stop the medication I'm afraid that I will be a lump. The best part? I will be off this medication for nearly 3 weeks. Great.
  • The 30th of July, I will go back to the endocrinologist's office where I will have blood drawn (by the way the word endocrinologist must mean vampire in some long ago language) and have basic blood panels checked as well as a pregnancy test performed.
  • August 2nd, I will check in as an outpatient into Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas where I will be given a rather largish dose of radioactive iodine in pill form. I will simply swallow the pill, be evaluated for a little while and leave. The kicker with this part of the treatment is that I have to be in complete isolation from my children. My doctor told me that I could go home but I would have to be completely isolated from Caleb and Piper, meaning that they couldn't even be in the house with me. Seeing as it would be much more difficult to move them out than to move me, I'll be getting a hotel room where I will be staying for 48 hours, only leaving to get food and go to work.
  • On the 6th of August I will go back to my doctor's office to have my total body scan. This is where they will determine if the cancer has spread to any other part of my body. This would normally be a scary part of the test except for the fact that whatever cells take up the iodine will immediately die and I will excrete them in my urine. So, basically if the cancer has gone anywhere else the pill will take care of it. Once again, this leaves me wondering why they haven't come up with a treatment like this for other cancers...
  • The morning of the 7th, I will take my first Synthroid, the synthetic thyroid hormone that I will be on for the rest of my life.

So, that's the plan unless there is some snafu that happens, but we're hoping it doesn't. I was so hoping that we were going to be able to do this sooner, but the earliest that this treatment can be done after surgery is 5 weeks and the 2nd would be right at 5 weeks post op. We are just praying for correct timing on this and some other things that are happening in our lives that I can't really elaborate on here quite yet. If the timing is thrown off then we are looking at some expenses that we really don't need nor are we prepared for. I think that all of us are just ready for this to be done and over.

Monday, July 05, 2010

How Are You?

That's a question I get a lot these days.
I guess the answer to that is that I'm doing pretty well, considering the surgery that I've had. I'm doing everything now that I did before, changing diapers, doing dishes, doing laundry, etc, just a bit slower than I used to.
I do experience a bit of pain with my incision. Mostly, that is coming from the healing process. My doctor's nurse informed me that the twinges and itching that I am feeling is from the fibers that are repairing the area. The only thing is that when I get one of those "twinges" it stops me in my tracks and I usually jump from the feeling. It's almost as if a small electrical charge is being applied to my body. Such a strange feeling!
Something I didn't really anticipate happening was my reaction to having an incision that is so visible to the public. I am normally not a self conscious person, but I find myself not wanting to be alone in public because of the looks that I have received from some people.
My left arm is a bit of an issue as well, something that I wasn't expecting but is totally normal. Evidently my doctor needed to strip down the nerve that supplies my upper muscles (deltoid, sternocleidomastoid, etc) that allows me to lift my arm and it is one mad nerve. This presents itself as me not being able to lift my arm fully and experiencing a bit of pain from that. I have been told to make sure and use my arm in normal, everyday activities and I will see some improvement from just those movements. I have found that this is true. While in the hospital and early last week I could hardly lift my arm at all and now I can lift it just over half way. It still makes it difficult to do some everyday activities (brush my hair, flat iron my hair, shave, put on deodorant, etc), but I do those things anyway with the knowledge that it will come back.
I will go see my endocrinologist on Wednesday to get a plan laid out for when I need to complete my one radiation treatment and scan and will be pushing for that to happen sooner rather than later.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, is the first day that I'm going to be alone all day with the children and, frankly, I'm looking forward to it. The kids are so out of sorts after having people in and out of the house and not being on the strict schedule that they are so used to and crave. I am going to get them back to normal this week and then I start back to work next Monday. I guess more than anything I'm ready to get my life back and not think about having cancer anymore. It seems that's going to happen sooner rather than later and I'm so glad!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Surgery, Post op and Pathology Report

On the 24th of June, I walked into the Plano Diagnostic and Surgery Center not really knowing what I was going to come out with. I was soon to find out.
As soon as I walked in, I found out that the timing that had been set just 12 hours prior was pushed back even further than where we had started. My original surgery time was 11am, but that was moved up to 10 on Wednesday. When I arrived, I found out that I had been moved back to 12. I was a bit nervous, as to be expected, but this news made me a little more nervous.
I was taken back to the pre op area and was prepped for surgery, which involved answering the same questions that I had multiple days before, putting on some compression stockings (that was a sight, let me tell you!), and getting into a gown to hurry up and wait.
After some digging around (this would prove to be the norm for my stay) for IV access, I got some fluids, made a couple of trips to the bathroom and sat and talked with my mom, dad and Jes.
My fabulous doctor walked in right around 12 and we talked for a bit and I lost it. I had been very strong through all this and had hardly shed a tear, but knowing that I was about to be wheeled into an OR and that I had cancer, but not know what they would find when they opened me up, scared me to no end. Jes let me cry for a moment and then helped me pull it together for the entrance of the anesthesiologist who promptly took one look at me and gave me a nice dose of Versed to make me loopy. And we were off...
The last things I remembered were the nurses and anesthesiologist positioning me on the table and then she started giving me meds that put me under and we were on our way.
When I woke up, the first thing I did was locate a clock and quickly determined that it read 7:22. I then puked.
I guess I don't have to remind you that I just had my neck filet'd (as Jes would say) open and I was violently puking. Now, THAT was fun!
That continued on for the next couple of hours with every recovery room nurse giving me doses of every anti-nausea/vomiting drug they had at their disposal. After a phone call to my doctor, they all decided to give me Phenegra, Zofran AND Reglan (a drug that has recently been black boxed) to me all at the same time and THAT stopped it. It also made me high and I promptly passed out.
Forty minutes later I was moved to my room where I would spend the next few days. The vomiting was under control, only happening one more time when I literally ran (well as fast as one can run just a few hours out of the OR) from the toilet back to my bed.
The nursing staff did the best they could to leave us alone Thursday night, but since I didn't get back to my room until nearly 9:30, they did need to bother us a couple of times for vitals checks and antibiotic bag hangs. Around 5am the charge nurse decided to practice his blood draw skills on me and proceeded to poke me twice, blowing 2 veins before both my mom and I asked him to send the lab up when they got in. A few hours later a girl from the lab popped in, found a deeply hidden vein and got the blood they needed in just moments.
I spent Friday just trying to get out from under the fog that is all the meds that were pumped into my body the night before. There was alot of me going from bed to bathroom, walking the halls, and making laps around my tiny room with my mom. The other thing that I really couldn't do well was swallow. I tried to take my thyroid med Friday morning and ended up letting it dissolve on the back of my tongue because it got stuck. We also had to pulverize my pain meds and mix them with chocolate pudding. Let's just say that I don't think I'll ever be able to eat chocolate pudding without tasting that nasty bitter flavoring of Darvocet again!
By Friday night I was getting ready to get home. My IV was bothering me, I couldn't get comfortable, I was able to swallow most things, and I just ticked off at being contained. So, when my doctor pulled one drain tube and asked me if I wanted to leave on Saturday morning, I jumped at the chance. We decided that it probably wouldn't be a good idea for me to go straight home quite yet since the children would probably jump on me, so my mom took me back to her house for the night. This was the 3rd night after surgery and I was feeling pretty rotten, so it was really for the best.
Sunday morning my mom drove me home and I was never so happy to see my chaotic, messy, happy house than I was that day!
My mom hung out with us through Wednesday, yesterday, driving me to and fro and helping me get everything back in order after all the goings on of the last week.
Today, Thursday, I am exactly 1 week post op and am feeling really good. I am only taking the Darvocet at night when the pain seems to be worse, especially when I'm lying down, but I hope to wean off that this next week. During the day I just take Tylenol when I start feeling not so hot. I am also able to do a bit more everyday, so I think that I'll be ok when I'm finally left alone with the kiddos on Tuesday.
We have been so very blessed by all of my friends who have come over to either watch the kids or bring us food just about every other day. On Thursday, the day of my surgery, my friend Kim was here with both of her kids until around 3, when my friend Keri's husband came over with 2 of their 3 kids to watch Caleb and Piper. When it was apparent that I was not going to be out of surgery until late and then hung out in recovery even longer, Keri came over, after a full day's work, and put the kids to bed and sat until Jes got home around 10:30. We have had so many people bring us food, or who are going to bring us food, which has been such a blessing to not have to think about. Then there are all of the people who have been praying for us. I just can't thank everyone enough! We have been put on prayer lists all over the US and we have felt it. I don't think that we would have been able to get through this with such ease and confidence without knowing that we have so many people in our corner. We love all of you and just can't thank you enough!
Ok, so I should wrap up this super long post but I want to give my pathology report too. Again, my fabulous doctor called me himself, in the middle of his work day, to give me the report. It seems that all the lymph nodes that they removed on the left side of my neck all had papillary thyroid cancer in them but all of the margins were clear. He removed the nodes in the central (middle) portion of my neck when he took out my thyroid and those were all clear with no cancer. My thyroid was Hashimodo's hyperthyroid, so all those hyperthyroid symptoms I had been having were coming from that. Since he was in the area, he took a small piece of my thymus and had it analyzed as well. It came back clean too. He looked at the margin nodes on the right side, but those all were clear and he did not extend the incision up that side. My doctor, who has done hundreds of these in his 16 years, says that if he has to assign a number then I would have stage 1 and that since I'm so young and otherwise healthy then I will be completely clear of cancer after my 1 radiation treatment. This was the best news that I could have gotten, not only because it has such a good outcome but also because there is now no question what this was and we know that it can be cleared!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Pre Op

Today, I had my pre-op appointment with my fabulous ENT regarding my surgery on Thursday. I walked in the door with a list of questions, but true to form, my self-admitted OCD doctor began answering all of them right away.
Basically this is what I learned:
  • He is going to make an incision starting just below my left ear to remove the affected lymph nodes. At that point the pathologist who will be in attendance will prepare and confirm the cancer diagnosis.
  • Next, he will continue the incision to remove my thyroid, preserving as many of my parathyroids as possible so I don't have to spend my life living on calcium and vitamin D supplements.
  • While he is in the area of my thyroid, he is going to take a peek at the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck. If those look affected then he will continue the incision around to just under my right ear.
  • So, if you're keeping score I will literally be cut from ear to ear. Wonderful. The good thing is that my ENT is known for being the best in his field for this type of surgery and spends extra time at the end ensuring that his patients don't appear to be attacked by Hannibal Lector.
  • I will be not in the actual hospital, as we originally thought, but will be having the surgery and staying the night in the diagnostic center next door. I wasn't aware that they were able to accommodate this type of care, but apparently they are their very own hospital and even have an ER there. I will be in great care there.
  • The part I'm most worried about is that I will have not one, but two drains in my neck. They have to remove these and you can probably imagine how they do this. Basically, they just pull them out. Sounds like a party, huh?!?
  • I will be in the hospital around 2 or 3 nights, but made it very clear that I didn't want to leave with the drains. I would rather not come home with those, so I told him that I would rather stay a bit longer to have them removed there then have to come back to have it done.
  • The pathologist that examined the product from my biopsy is requesting that he be the pathologist on this case during the surgery. Even if it means he comes in on his day off.
  • All of my doctors know what is going on and my ENT took time out to call my PA at my regular doctor's office to tell her that she did a fabulous job in sending me right over and helping me to get this diagnosed. I felt the same way, but for a doctor of his caliber to call a PA at another practice and encourage her like that speaks to the amazing character that he has.
  • The anesthesiologist is the same one that my doctors has done all thyroid cases with for the past 16 years. She is supposed to be amazing and has more experience with this type of thing than most anyone in the field.
  • After the surgery, the only follow up treatment that I will have to have done is a radioactive iodine pill that I will swallow and then be scanned. Since your thyroid is the only organ to be significantly affected by iodine, this irradiated iodine will be taken up in those cells to the point at which they will die and I'll excrete them in my urine. If only all cancer treatments were that cut and dry.
  • My surgery is scheduled for 11am on Thursday and it will last around 5 hours.

I guess my general sentiment through this whole thing is that, for the most part, I have been put in the path of some pretty incredible medical personnel. All of them have listened to me and treated me like a person, not a case or disease, and have just been amazing.

Thank you all for the prayers, well wishes and offers of help for me and my family. Please, if you feel lead, to keep me and my family in your prayers on Thursday during my surgery. Love to all of you!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Low Down

Sorry about that cryptic post, but I just didn't know what or how to say anything else at that point. I am fully recognizing that I am quickly moving through the stages of grief and am firmly rooted, at the moment, in the stage of just being extremely ticked off at the whole thing.
I spoke, at length, with my doctor's nurse on Friday and my surgery is scheduled for the 24th, which is a week from this coming Thursday. I was initially hoping to do it this coming week but there is another, bigger case scheduled for that day that my doctor must take care of. After thinking about it and consulting my calendar, it just made sense to leave it on the 24th so that I can appropriately cancel/reschedule things and get everything settled for my students.
Oh, yes, that's a whole other issue. I just finished up the first of a 5 week semester and I'm going to have to bow out just over half way through. That should go over well with my students.
Anyway, the surgery is slated to take about 5 hours and I'll be in the hospital for around 3 to 4 days. So, it appears that I'll be there at least through Saturday, maybe Sunday. I really couldn't ask for better timing. My mom is going to be off and stay with me Thursday through Wednesday, then Jes is going to take the Thursday and Friday of that following week (as well as the proceeding one too) off so that I get a whole week of help before I am turned loose with both kids on my own.
All in all, this whole nightmare has had some definite points of light, the brightest ones being the doctors that I have had on this journey. My ENT, the one who will be doing the surgery is amazing. This is the same ENT who treated Caleb when he was in the NICU right after birth. The amazing thing is that he remembered us the moment he walked in the door at my first appointment back in February. This doctor has also called me on multiple occasions to discuss not only test results but to also make sure that I'm ok and just check up on me. I've always said that I didn't really care if a doctor had a great bedside manner, but to have one that is just amazing has totally changed my point of view. He, and all his staff and partners in his practice, have been fabulous and I know will be better than I could have ever hoped for to help us through this process.
I have a pre-op appointment with my ENT on Friday where I'm going to ask all the questions that I have about the present and future treatments that I may or may not need to have. I have 30 minutes scheduled with him and you better believe that I'll use every minute of that!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Why I REALLY Think Cancer Sucks.

So.
I got my biopsy results back on Wednesday.
I have papillary thyroid cancer.
Just lovely.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Zoo

This past Saturday, my mom and I decided to take the kids to the Dallas Zoo. Piper is fairly obsessed with all things animal and Caleb just down right loves the zoo, so we made the trip.


We decided to ride the train down to the zoo, partly because Caleb loves the train oh so much and also because we didn't want to pay for parking. Call us cheap. Here is Caleb having the best tme.


Piper, being my child* through and through, was not happy in the least to be on the train until the end. Here she is with my Mama, just having the best time.

*Little known fact about me, I cannot stand trains. I am not afraid of them, but I have a deep and abiding disdain for all things trains.




The zoo has a new exhibit where all the larger animals are now living. The elephants were just beautiful and majestic to look at, but the big draw was having the ability to feed the giraffes. Caleb wanted to do this, so I plunked down my $5 for the 5 pieces of Romaine lettuce that we were allowed and we went and fed the giraffes. It was an experience and Caleb loved it. Piper, in the mean time, had a visit from a giraffe, not far from us, when said giraffe decided to hit her up for food. She just calmly looked over and said, "Hi giraffe!"




We took the monorail, thinking that the kids would love to see the animals from on high, but really it was more of an exercise in trying to get the kids to sit down before they fell into the lions' den. Here are Piper and I riding the monorail. Did I mention that this was 10am, and it was 842 degrees?


Caleb and I also got to ride a camel. I can't really elaborate on that one as I came away from the experience telling myself that I could have lived without having done that. Maybe that was from the fact that I was directly on the hump. Um, ow. Caleb loved it, though and now we can both say we've ridden a camel!


At one point in our visit Caleb started complaining that he was tired, so my mom decided to rent one of these cute wagons. It seemed like a great idea until we realized that we had to pull/push this nearly 80 pounds of kid up and down fairly large hills. Next time the kid will just have to tough it out. We nearly killed ourselves!




Last on our journey was a ride on the merry go round. True to form, Piper was quite nervous about this, but I knew once it started she would love it, so I basically forced her to ride. As soon as her horse started rising and falling she couldn't help but giggle.
We had a great time and probably lost a few pounds from all the sweating. Win win!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

That's Not the News I was Hoping For...

This past week, I finally had that MRI that had not happened, despite my best efforts. I thought that I would hear much sooner, but I just now (literally minutes ago) got the phone call from my doctor himself.
It seems that the lymph node has not shrunk at all, but it hasn't grown any either.
My doctor feels that it is either still a swollen lymph node, a cyst, a fluid filled tumor, or lymphoma.
Well, then.
I will talk with the nurse tomorrow to schedule a needle biopsy sometime in the next week or so. If that doesn't show anything sufficient to put worry to rest, then I'll be scheduled for surgery to have whatever it is removed.
To say I'm nervous is a gross understatement.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Unexpected Victory

For some time now, I have had suspicions that there might be something going on with Caleb. After all, haven't I heard it enough from teachers and such?
In the past month, more than one person (non-professionals) has indicated that they thought he may be autistic, something that I don't believe. However, I have been wondering if maybe there are some ADD/ADHD tendencies present.
And then, I made a behavior chart.
Just this simple act of doing something visual that he can see and know what is expected of him has made him into a totally different child. I honestly did not think that it would work, but after a particularly difficult few days wherein I tearfully called his pediatrician and even a possible counselor for him, I sat down and constructed this chart. I came up with 5 behaviors that we were having a difficult time with, picked out some rewards and had him choose punishments. I'm not exactly sure why this worked, but it did. He's not perfect and still has some difficult moments, but what 5 year old boy doesn't.
Birthday parties have been an issue for us. Just the mere mention of them makes me break out in a cold sweat and we have even skipped out of some just to avoid the behavior that seems to come out during them. I would say, jokingly, but somewhat seriously, that I thought that the places of business were pumping in some sort of stimulant into the air and giving my son an extra dose, because he would just be cr-azy. This past Saturday, Caleb was invited to his friend's birthday party and I just made it very clear, ahead of time, that if he didn't act right and control himself that he would get all x's and no smiley faces (BIG time punishments!) on his chart. He was a different kid at this party, having loads of fun, but not acting like a crazed maniac.
I'm not conviced that this chart is the magic bullet for him, but I think it might make a huge difference. It has for the past week, so I'm thinking we maybe on the right track. I'm holding onto the psychologist's number though.

Friday, May 21, 2010

So, hm, I've got a blog, huh?!?
Someplace to post things other than the random ramblings of our 23 month old.
So, it bullet form I'll catch up on what's been going on:

  • We had Caleb's birthday party at the end of March and it was c-r-a-z-y. I am convinced that the places that cater to kids and the things kids love pump some type of stimulant into the air that only the kids are sensitive to because they all go nuts!
  • We have finally reached the point that we have some disposible income that we can start tackling all the big projects around the house that we have been wanting to do. The first thing we have done is completely rebuild the play structure that is in the backyard. We bought a pre-made one for Caleb's 2nd birthday and after the dog chewing on it and all the weather, it was literally crumbling. So, Jes decided to build it from scratch with plans that only existed in his head. Can you imagine how exciting (read: frustrating) this was for me but we're juuuuuuuust about done.
  • School is winding down here, which means that all of our normal school year activities are all but over. MOPS ended and all of Caleb's friends are graduating from preschool and signing up for kindergarten. You would think that this would have no impact on us at all, but in fact, we have more playdates and fun events to attend to fill in for the events that are over.
  • My mom and I went to the homeschool curriculum fair a couple of Saturdays ago, picked out and purchased the curriculum. I decided on My Father's World which is a fabulous Biblically based curriculum that I'm going to supplement with a little Abeka phonics and some handwriting practice. I'm both nervous, excited, looking forward to, and dreading (just being honest here) the whole homeschooling thing, but I think it will be good.
  • I finished up my school year with the college and am now on break for just a couple more weeks. It was a good year and I'm sad that my students won't be the ones that I see each class day, but that's the way it is. I'm teaching all summer, from June 7th through the middle of August from 6pm to 11pm. Yep, you read that right. So, I'm trying to get my rest in now.
  • There have been some changes and updates to my health issues that have been going on, but I'll have to update that later because I hear a certain little girl who needs me!

Until next time. Promise it won't be another month! :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Conversations with Piper - Age, again.

Caleb: Piper, how older are you?

Piper: 10

Caleb: You're not 10, how older are you?

Piper: 14

Caleb: (laughing hysterically) How older are you, Piper?

Piper: 20

Caleb: (still laughing) How older are you?

Piper: 40

geez...

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Conversations With Piper

Caleb: Piper, how old are you?
Piper: onnnnnnnnne (she over-enunciates those n's)
Caleb: Piper, how old are you?
Piper: two
Caleb:Piper, how old are you?
Piper: treeeeee
Caleb: Piper, how old are you?
Piper: fou

You see where this is going.
She scares me a bit sometimes...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some Days

Some days I just feel so overwhelmed with all this health mess going on for me. Today just happens to be one of those days. I'm sitting here writing this, covered in hives, even though I have taken every bit of medication, plus the extra stuff that is supposed to clear everything up, every time I'm supposed to.
Just to give you a brief idea of the level of medication I'm on, I'm taking 360mg of Allegra, 300mg of Tagamet, and 10mg of Singulair. I also have prednisone at the ready when I need it, and I've taken it in the last 24 hours.
All this medication just makes me feel pretty crummy, for the most part, all day. And most of the time keeps the hives under control, but I know that as they get worse the thyroid issue is getting worse. I've also had some other symptoms that have worsened, one of which being a tremor that I've had for some time. I was at work last night trying to dissect out some pretty small, delicate muscles for my students to see for their upcoming test and I could hardly hold the scalpel still enough to dissect at the right spot.
Anyway, I don't have my next endcrinologist appointment until the end of May, but I think I'll be calling and trying to bump up that appointment. I also have a lead on a doctor in town who is a little more attuned to some alternative therapies too that I'll probably check out as soon as I can get in to see him.
I have a hard time asking for prayer for myself, but right now that's what I'm shamelessly asking for.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Decision

We have agonized over what to do about Caleb's education.
Do we send him to public school?
Do we send him to private school?
Do we homeschool him?
Based on our experiences in school and some of the requirements in our state, we decided very quickly against public school. This is something that we are very passionate about. I do believe we have both said that our children will not attend public school, just to give you an idea.
As I've mentioned before, we did interview for a university model school in our town. If you are not familiar with this type of school, basically the kids would go to school MWF and are homeschooled on TTh. We were really drawn to this type of schooling because it would have given us the best of both worlds, homeschooling and still getting him out of the house for a bit.
Long story short, we left the interview with the private school feeling very negative about the whole experience and were sure that they would not want us there. That was January.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a phone call from the principal at the school saying that she wanted me to take Caleb to the school and leave him for a day. Throughout this time period, Jes and I have been discussing what would be best for Caleb and really came to the firm conclusion that he just was not emotionally ready for a classroom (however, the kid is reading, writing and doing math at a pretty high level), so leaving him in this school for even a day wasn't an option.
I had a very enlightening and honest discussion with the principal in which I told her of my misgivings about the whole idea of sending Caleb there. She was very supportive, listened and even told me that she wished that she had not forced her youngest to go to school when he wasn't ready because it set him up for some really difficult years.
So, the decision is that we are going to homeschool Caleb. I have a real peace knowing that we have made the right decision for our family and for our son.
Now, we just have to find the right curriculum for him, which seems like it will be a much more daunting decision!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Do you notice something awry here?



No? Well, let's just take a closer look.



Empty juice bottle. On a day when I was running out the door to make it to a meeting that I was already late to. So, frustrating.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Typical Conversation...

Me: Do you know where the remote is for the bedroom tv?
Jes: No, didn't you have it last night?
Me: At some point, yes. Was the tv on when you got home last night? (he worked reeeaaallllly late)
Jes: Yes
Me: Did you turn it off?
Jes: No, you did.
Me: With the remote?
Jes: I guess. I didn't see you get out of bed.
Me: Well, I've lost it.
Jes: (laughing) Yes, yes you have.

(Not that I have to mention this, but he wasn't referring to the remote, but to my mind.)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Health Update

I've been putting off this post for awhile now simply because I just didn't want to write it. Also, I really don't like talking about myself that much, but so many people have asked about what is going on with my health and this is really the best way to answer all those questions.
I'll just start from the beginning.
In October of last year, I came down with a really nasty upper respiratory infection. It was one of the worst viruses that I had encountered in some time and was really super sick for quite a while. At this time, I had a few lymph nodes that swelled up in my neck. When they didn't go away right away I made an appointment with the same set of physicians that Jes sees and made the trip there.
As a side story, Piper, at that time, was on some antibiotics for something, which all you moms know what that does to a little one's poop. Let's just suffice it to say that she decided to do her business just as we entered the exam room. Boy was it bad. Later on during the visit, a nurse came in and gagged. Nice. This was also the same visit where Caleb ran out of the exam room while they were drawing my blood. Luckily, a former student of mine who worked there walked by and caught him. I didn't think they would allow me back...
Ok, so Carol, my fab PA, examined me and determined that it must be the illness that I had just nearly gotten over that caused the lymph nodes to react as they did. I was to come back in a month.
At the next appointment, 2 of the 3 swollen nodes had gone down and the 3rd and shrunk some but not back to normal yet. I was to come back in 2 weeks.
When I returned the lymph node was still swollen and she thought I should go see a surgeon.
Surgeons are surgeons and they want to cut and that was the first thing he jumped to. I managed to hold him off for about 3 months before I saw Carol again where she was pretty outraged that he was going to just cut me right open and take it out.
During this same time, I developed a raging case of hives. I had never experienced this before and went in to see Carol. She gave me some allergy medicine and prednisone and told me to document everything that I came into contact with and I was to see her in a couple of weeks. We were both confident that I wouldn't have this again.
The course of prednisone that I was given was 6 days long. I woke up on the 6th day with hives worse than before and my lips so swollen I looked like a duck. I made a quick trip up to see Carol who upped my prednisone dramatically and gave me the number for an allergist.
As soon as I got home I called the allergist and was able, miraculously, to get in the very next day. Dr. B, as we'll call her, took one look at me and was instantly intrigued. We couldn't do any allergy testing because that requires one to be off all allergy medication and steroids for 7 straight days and I hadn't even made it 6 while on both meds. So, her best guess was that this might be a metabolic or autoimmune issue, since I do have significant family history for those.
After 9 (!) vials of blood I waited and waited and waited. About a week later as I pulled into Chipotle after a playdate I got the call I had been waiting for: I had autoimmune thyroid disease.
Fab-u-lous.
I returned to Carol and had some follow up blood work done and a sonogram done on my thyroid that week and waited to make an appointment with an endocrinologist.
When I got the name of who I was to go see, I called right away and was told I would have to wait over a month to get into the practice. After a stern talking to with the scheduler on the phone, an appointment just randomly opened up right before her eyes for the next week (can you hear the sarcasm?). Can you also tell why some health care professionals really don't like me? I just know how to work the system... It comes from working in it...
The endocrinologist took even more blood and we did what is called an uptake and scan over 2 days. Basically, I swallowed a low dose irradiated iodine pill and the next day my thyroid was scanned to determine how much iodine my thyroid took up. A high number would be diagnostic for Graves Disease and a low number would be diagnostic for thyroiditis. We were obviously hoping for a low number.
High normal for this test is 25. My number was 37. They don't diagnose Graves until you are around 80, 90, or 100. So, we decided to wait it out. This was my worst fear because now I have hives, every day, and all the other symptoms that are coming along with it as well. None of this is impairing my life, but it sure is bothersome.
The lymph node issue continues to persist and the ENT that I saw, after the debacle with the surgeon, felt that I needed to have an image taken of it to see what it looked like. The issue with this is that they want to use contrast, which for a person with documented allergies (check) and a heart condition (check) should not use it.
As a side note, throughout this whole time going from doctor to doctor I was told on more than one occasion that I probably had cancer. To be frank, I was terrified. Many hours of lost sleep came because of these flippant remarks by various doctors. This ENT was the first to tell me that he was confident that I did not, in fact, have cancer. He made this determination after a very thorough examination, so it was not, like the other comments, made after no exam.
I went to have the MRI last week, without contrast, and they wouldn't do it because they couldn't prove that I wasn't pregnant. Even though I took a pregnancy test right in front of them. And it was negative.
So, at this point, we are waiting on the thyroid stuff to get worse or my appointment to come up again (May) and to schedule a MRI for the lymph node issue.
That's about where it all stands now.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Caleb!



Happy birthday to my sweet, sweet boy!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Caleb's Story Part 4

As the nurse ran out of the room, I remember just seeing Caleb's little feet peaking out from underneath her arm and feeling terrified that I would not see my son again. And I lost it.


Just minutes later Jes walked back in the room and had no idea what was going on. I could only get single words out but managed to communicate to him that Caleb had been taken by a nurse somewhere because he was blue. I can't imagine what it was like for him to walk into a situation like that, but he ran out of the room faster than I've ever seen him go.


I'm not completely sure of the events of the next few hours but I do remember my mom and dad showing up again and the chaplain coming by my room. It was at this point that I thought that Caleb had died. I hadn't seen my husband or my son for hours and had no idea what was going on.


When Jes came back to my room he sat down and began to sob. Now I really had no idea what was going on. What I did find out was that Caleb was alive but under an oxygen tent with all kinds of tubes and such in the NICU. Jes forbade me from seeing Caleb at that point, I'm not really sure why even now, but something about his demeanor told me that I should do what he says.


I just waited and waited. My mom and dad waited with me and I'm so thankful that they were there because I can't imagine sitting through that time alone, even though I don't really remember a lot of it. Around 10:00pm on Sunday, I was given the go ahead to go see Caleb in the NICU and you have never seen a woman freshly from surgery move that fast. I practically ran down that hallway.


After getting all the rules and regulations, my mom and I were lead back to the area of the NICU where my son waited for me. Caleb, being a full term baby, was put in the area of the NICU where the sickest and smallest babies were, with the theory being that he wouldn't need as much care as they would. When I first laid eyes on Caleb, I knew that he would be ok, but I just didn't know what we would have to go through to see him through.


I was able to hold Caleb that night and it was all I could do to hold it all together. Thank goodness my mom was there because I would have lost my mind if she hadn't been with me. That night we were introduced to the wonderful nurse that would care for Caleb most of the time he was there and I felt confident enough to leave him and get some rest. The next morning I was the first mom in the NICU and did not leave his bed side except to pump breast milk or for shift change.

Throughout the following days we recieved very grave news from every doctor that saw Caleb in the NICU, telling us many different things but all resulting in some pretty serious surgeries that would need to be done to correct his airway issues, not to mention the issues that they thought were causing problems from his umbilical cord coming away from the placenta. At one point we were even told that he would have to undergo surgery to basically redo the whole skeletal structure of his face. Not something that you really want to hear from a doctor about your 2 day old.

On Tuesday night, I had had a particularly difficult day, getting a lot of really bad news all at once. That night as I was leaving the NICU I was really upset by the nurse on duty who I felt like was being too rough with Caleb (now I know that she wasn't, she was just doing her job), but it all just put me over the edge and I broke. That night I spent the whole night in my bed crying out to God to heal my baby and get us through this ordeal. I'm sure the nurses probably thought I had finally lost it because everytime they came to check on me that night I was weeping and or speaking out loud.

I finally just told God, as I passed out from exhaustion, that Caleb was His and that I had no hold on him or control over the situation. I distinctly remember saying, "I can't fix him, but you can. Please heal him."

The next morning, Wednesday, I awoke to sunlight streaming through my window and a sense of calm and peace in my room. This was the day that I was to be released from the hospital, without my baby. I dreaded this day but also felt in the depth of my soul that it was going to be a good day. That morning I got a visit from the neonatologist who gave us some news that we were not expecting to hear.

Just to give a little perspective, Caleb had had numerous x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and even a scope passed through his airway and sinus cavities throughout the proceeding days, all coming back with the same information, that the skeletal structure of his face, airways, and sinuses were not compatable with life.

Wednesday morning the neonatologist told us that, after one more scope, it was determined that it was soft tissue swelling. No one knew what had happened in the course of the night, but I did. My God healed my son.

Caleb was kept in the hospital for about 48 more hours in order to complete a round of steroids to lessen the swelling, have his feeding tube removed and to get everyone comfortable having him off the monitors. He came home with me on Friday morning.

Caleb's Story Part 3

I know that it's taken me longer than normal to write this part of the story, but to be completely honest, I just didn't want to do it and am forcing myself right now. This part of the story is not happy and a time in our lives that I would rather not relive, but again, I'm doing this for Caleb so that he knows later on what has transpired to get him (and us) to where we are today.

As soon as our doctor said that, Jes popped up and looked over the curtain. Truth be told, he had really just sat down after watching the incision and beginnings of the surgery. Jes was just fascinated with the process and loved watching what was going on.

As our doctor was pulling Caleb out, he discovered that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, not an uncommon or life threatening issue at the point. When this happens the delivering professional just pulls it from around the baby's neck so as to avoid future issues. As the doctor did that, the umbilical cord came off in his hand, thus his comment.

Caleb was quickly delivered, wrapped up, assessed and Jes left with him to go to the nursery. There was special care to remove the placenta in tact so that the pathologist could fully examine it to determine what had happened. We wouldn't know this for a few days.

As I was taken back to my room I met back up with Jes and Caleb, thinking that all was fine. We visited with friends and family and spent time with our new boy. With both of my c-sections, I was warned of all the possible side effects of the anesthesia, but for me I shake like none other. This particular time it was so bad that even during delivery I had to physically hold on to the table to get some control over it and, after, I refused to hold Caleb for fear that I would drop him. It took me about 2 hours before I felt even remotely stable enough to hold him but I'm glad I did because I wouldn't get much opportunity to do that before he was whisked off to another part of the hospital.

It was during this recovery time that Jes and I noticed that something wasn't quite right with Caleb and his breathing. We quickly unwrapped him to look at him and discovered that he was retracting and his nostrils were flaring, two signs that he was having difficulty breathing. Jes notified the nurse and he was taken to the nursery with reassuring words that he was probably just having a little trouble transitioning.

A couple of hours later, our little boy was returned to us and we kept him with us off and on for most of the night. The next day was Easter, my most favorite holiday of them all, so Caleb, Jes and I celebrated in our little hospital room taking turns feeding him and holding him and doing all the things that new parents do. Truth be told, Caleb slept through most of it, not caring to eat or open his eyes or anything else. We probably should have been worried, but we just didn't know better.

Jes left around noon to go home, get some things for us, shower and have lunch. During this time a few friends stopped by to see me and Caleb and we had a great time visiting. Shortly after my friends left, a nurse came by and we decided that she and I would try to nurse Caleb, who at this point had eaten nothing and was nearly 20 hours old. We got Caleb to latch and she was fussing with some things in the room and with me and as we both looked at Caleb we were just horrified by what we saw. Caleb was dusky, turning blue.

The nurse picked Caleb up, out of my arms, and ran down the hall with him. I was terrified.