Friday, November 26, 2010

The Road That Led Us Here

In 1974 my mom lived in Texas, celebrated her fourth wedding anniversary, turned 26, and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  It started when she discovered a lump in her neck, which led to a series of tests, a painful exploratory surgery and then the official verdict-- cancer.  I'm not sure what she felt or what she and my dad discussed during those early stages because I was not born yet.  I'm not sure what the word "cancer" meant 36 years ago.  I do know that my mom was scared about the future, but determined to not go down without a fight.  She fought hard through two years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She lost her hair.  She got really sick.  And the upper-mantel radiation she received five days a week for six weeks burned her throat and ruined her sense of taste.  I can't imagine going through something so horrible. 
But after two years of fighting, she won the battle and heard that wonderful word-- "remission".  And friends, thirty-six years later she is still in remission.  She kicked lymphoma's rear end to the curb and it has never returned. 

Fast forward to February of 1998.....I was a junior in college.  Mike and I were dating (and were soon to be engaged).  I had just returned from a fabulous trip to Spain when I got a phone call that I will never forget.  My mom had been rushed to the emergency room with shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat.  I immediately came home, and after a week in the hospital it was determined that my mom had dilated cardio-myopahty.  Her valves were not functioning properly and would only get worse with time.  There was no way to reverse the damage to her valves.  She could take medication to help treat the symptoms, but eventually those valves would have to be replaced.  Why?  We all wanted to know the answer.  Was it genetic?  What would cause this?  The answer came in time....radiation.  It was the high doses of radiation that my mom received back in the early 70's that ruined those valves.  So the thing that we praised for ridding her body of cancer actually did more damage than we ever realized.  Radiation turned out to be a double-edged sword. 

Over the next twelve years many things happened:  Mike and I got married, we welcomed three wonderful children, my mom retired from her job as an elementary school librarian, Mike advanced his career, while after eight years I quit my teaching job to stay home with my kids.  Vacations were taken, holidays celebrated, and time marched on.  But this year, as my parents celebrated 40 years of marriage, it became clear that my mom was going to need that valve replacement surgery soon.  She was tiring out easily and having difficulty breathing.  Her cardiologist put it this way, "She is basically walking around in congestive heart failure all the time."  So after much thought, family discussion, and prayer, my mom elected to have the surgery now before things got any worse. 

One hopes that when a major life decision is made that it is the right decision.  We are on day 25 of my mom's hospital stay, but we still feel we made the right decision.  Her recovery has been harder than we ever dreamed it would be.  We didn't foresee pneumonia sneaking in and causing such problems.  But looking back over the road that led us here, we don't regret our decision to have the surgery done.  It needed to happen.  And when my mom kicks this pneumonia to the curb like she did with cancer over thirty years ago, we will look back on this difficult season and know that we are stronger as a family for having gone through it. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shauna's Visit to the OKC National Memorial

Last week my dear friend Shauna came to visit me.  She is an amazing ER nurse at a hospital in Dallas, and I have known her longer than any other friend.  We met before we even remember meeting.  I was three and she was two the summer our moms met at the Women's Club Pool in Graham, Texas.  And it turned out that Shauna and her family lived right across the street from us!  Thus began a lifelong friendship between Shauna and me.  I cannot remember I time when I didn't know her.  And I could not even begin to add up the hours we spent playing together:  Barbies, dolls, dancing in the front yard (embarrassing, but true), vacations, swimming, riding bikes, being silly, loving New Kids On The Block, fourth of July at the lake.  The list could go on and on.  Even after I moved to Oklahoma we still saw each other two or three times a year. 

Since my mom has been so sick, Shauna and I devised a plan for her to come up to OKC to help my mom as she transitioned out of the hospital and back into her home. Since she is a nurse, we thought we could use her nursing expertise!  Our plan got derailed when mom my developed pneumonia and required a much longer stay (she is still in the hospital...we're on day 21).  Regardless, I still wanted her to come, and she still wanted to she did!  We visited my mom and she played with my kids.  But we also fit in a little bit of sightseeing at the Oklahoma National Memorial in downtown Oklahoma City. 

Entering the 9:02 gate

The beautiful Survivor Tree

Lucas and the Reflecting Pool
It was a beautiful, crisp fall day.

One of 168. 

Afterwards, we went to Bricktown to see the canal and eat lunch.  Fun was had by all! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Halloween Pics In November? Why Not!?

Me and Yoda on Halloween

Yes, I know we are halfway through November, but I am determined to get my Halloween pictures up here anyway!  My mom has been in the hospital for seventeen days.  She is still there and will likely be there through Thanksgiving week.  She had a very scary weekend last Friday/Saturday as she suffered a major setback.  But thankfully, she is slowly making progress toward a full recovery once again.  I will blog more in depth about that at another time, but for a while my life has been nothing but eat, sleep, home, and hospital.  It was survival mode and blogging was put to the side. 

Now that my mom has turned a corner and I don't have to be at the hospital quite as much, I thought I'd look back at some of what we've been up to over the past three weeks or so.  I thought my butterfly, fairy and Yoda all looked mighty cute.  We celebrated by going over to our friends' house for a little pre-trick-or-treat cookout/playtime.  The weather was gorgeous and the kids wasted no time running and playing in the mellow evening light.  Finally, at sunset, we set out to claim our loot. 

Some of the "big kids"

Leah Fairy


Swinging action

Yard View

Saturday, November 6, 2010

One More Update & A Few Bad Jokes

Lucas examining a pumpkin

I am so thankful for today.  For the crisp fall air, my family's beautiful faces, and for the fact that I got to visit my mom in the hospital today.  Would I rather have visited her at her home?  Well, sure.  But I am so thankful that she is still here, and doing so well after her risky surgery.  November 2nd used to be a big, black cloud looming out in my future.  My mind had a mental block when I would try to think past "surgery day."  I wanted it to never get here and yet I wanted it to be over and in my rear view mirror.  Now that the dreaded day is in fact over, I feel an immense amount of relief.  I can almost physically feel the weight of my weeks of worry lift off my shoulders and vanish into thin air.  My heart is incredibly grateful that her surgery went so well.  And my heart is just about near overflowing in thanks because her recovery is also going so well.  Today she is eating normally, walked around the loop on her hospital floor twice, and she is in good spirits.  She is still tired and sore, but she is definitely on the right path.  A path toward restored health!  Thank you, Lord!

Last night after visiting my mom, Mike and I took the kids out for pizza.  While waiting for our food to arrive we sat around, talking and laughing.  I noticed that Mike was still wearing his "I Voted" sticker from Tuesday.  We got a good chuckle out of that one.  The girls were busy drawing pictures of our family on the back of their kids' menus.  I love that they always draw me with blue eyes while everyone else has brown.  It has been such a draining week both physically and emotionally that it felt great just spending time with each other.  And we even told a couple of silly jokes. 

Why did the pretzel call the police?
Because it got a salted.

Why did the porcupine cross the road?
Because it was stuck to the chicken.

I hope you had a good week and thank you for keeping our family in your prayers. :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Surgery Update

Quick update:  Mom's surgery went as well as could be expected.  Praise God!!  They started at 7:30 this morning and were done by 10:30.  The surgeon replaced her aortic valve and was able to repair her mitral valve.  I was able to see her in the intensive care unit after surgery.  She was sedated and had a breathing tube in her mouth.  Her ICU nurse said she lost a lot of blood and her heart rate is still a little low, but overall she is stable and at the beginning of a long healing process. I am so thankful that she survived the surgery and is on that healing journey though! 

After seeing her, I came home for awhile.  I wanted to check on Lucas and try to rest a little.  I didn't sleep well last night and just felt emotionally exhausted.  I think I've had every emotion possible today:  I've cried, I've felt afraid, I've prayed, I've felt at peace...all at the same time if that is even possible.  I think I am going to try to take a short nap while Lucas is sleeping, then I will head back to the hospital later this evening. 

Thank you for your prayers.  We are over a big hurdle, but still have a long road ahead. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Mom's Surgery

My beautiful Mama
Dear Blogger Friends,

Tomorrow, November 2nd, my mom is having open heart surgery to replace her aortic and mitral valves.  It is a major, invasive surgery which will require 10 days in the hospital and weeks of recovery at home.  Tonight Mike, the kids and I met up with my parents, my aunt, two uncles, and cousin at a local restaurant to have dinner together.  Afterwards, we went to my aunt's house for dessert.  We spent the evening in good spirits, laughing, and telling stories.  But there was also a seriousness to our discussions and extra long hugs were given when it was time to leave.  I won't lie and say I'm not worried-- because I am.  If I let my mind linger on the "what ifs" I start to panic a little.  So I am spending a lot of time praying.  And praying some more.  I am choosing to trust God and lay this fear at His feet. 

Please join with me in praying for my family tomorrow.  I will post a brief update after her surgery to let you all know how she is doing.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

Isaiah 58:7-9