Sunday, January 26, 2014

Word for 2014: Wellness

Another blogger, Joys In My Life chooses a word to represent the year that lies ahead.  I love the idea, but have never gotten around to come up with one.  A few days ago, the word "Wellness" just popped into my head as the perfect word for me for 2014.  

Right now I am focusing on just healing and trying to feel good.  My surgical wounds are healing well, although I'm a bit impatient.  I'm almost five weeks out from my surgery, and feel like I SHOULD be healed, but I'm not quite.  I have been really, really good about not picking up the girls and not doing other things I'm not supposed to do.  However, today I did something I should not have.  We visited a park that has an awesome treehouse/slide thing, and it looked a bit too grown up for Miss M, so I went down it with her.  It was one of those all-enclosed tube kind of slides, and it went FAST.  I mean, really, really FAST, and it had corners.  My main incision site is super sore tonight, and there is a lump.  I'm hoping it's just a bit swollen, and I didn't actually tear anything. Stupid, stupid, STUPID of me!    

I also still have the pain in my side that caused me to go to the doctor in the first place.  My surgeon doesn't think it's related to the tumor they discovered; that was just an incidental finding (and thank goodness for that!).  He did exploratory surgery while removing the tumor, and found nothing, and recommended that I give myself two months to see if it resolves, before diving into more tests/treatment.  My primary care doctor is on board with that, because all of my blood tests and my CT scan were also otherwise normal.  But the pain is annoying, and worrying to me.  So, I'm throwing myself into trying to make it better.  I've been using the hot water bottle constantly, which seems to help.  I got a massage yesterday, which was a little weird.  The woman came to my house, and it was certainly affordable (about $27 for over an hour).  But it was very, very thorough--hands, feet, neck, head, face, butt--literally my entire body, and not quite what I was expecting (not much focus on my back/side, which I told her was the problem).  She was nice enough.  Maybe it was just weird because it was in my house, and not in some spa.  But anyway, it didn't really help.

I also got a manicure this week. . .in a truck.  Yes, you read that right.  A friend arranged a surprise for me.  A woman pulled up in a box truck in front of our house, and I got in, and the back was all set up like a spa, and I got a manicure in the back of the truck.  You truly can get ANYTHING delivered in this city.

For super relaxing sleep, I bought myself some freesia yesterday, and put it in a vase next to our bed. My entire bedroom smells heavenly.  Then I went to bed early.  It would have been an amazing, peaceful, restful night, but Miss M woke up with sore feet.  She got a bit of sunburn from sitting in the stroller eating ice cream.  We were only out for maybe 45 minutes or so, but the sun here is SO strong.  She'd been wearing socks and shoes, but got them wet and switched to Croc's. . .just that little bit of foot/leg showing above the shoes and below the pant line got burned.  Poor kid!  It's gone today, thankfully.  I felt so bad.  Of course, I slathered on the sunscreen today, and it turned out cloudy all day.  Such is the weather here. . .so unpredictable!

So, next up for physical WELLNESS improvement are:  restorative yoga and reiki.  And, probiotics (I've also developed some sort of intestinal distress that has me running for the bathroom. . .AWESOME, I tell ya!)  I would love to find an ayurvedic spa here, but so far I've had no luck.  There are some treatments I've wanted to try for years, and now seems like a good time.

Also up ahead?  I'm launching some new projects at work (professional WELLNESS).  My current job has very manageable hours, but I'm not challenging myself at all, so I've submitted some proposals that will push me, if I get approval to do them.  I had some financial wellness projects lurking, as well as some family wellness ideas.  And then, I have some creative projects that I want to work on personally, which ties back into my own wellness.  So yeah, WELLNESS is my word this year.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Back Home

It's been a busy week:  SB turned 22 months on Wednesday, I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon and he cleared me to return home, Miss M turned 4 on Thursday (!!), I made arrangements to return home, we threw a birthday party in the great frozen north, and then we flew back home on Friday, which was an epic 16 hour adventure.  It's only about 6 hours worth of flights, but between traveling to and from the airport and layovers and delays. . .yeah. . .it's been a busy week.

The surgeon believes that he removed all of the tumor, and he's "99.2% sure" that it won't come back.  Honestly, I would prefer 100%, but I know there are no guarantees.  I need to have a CT scan with IV and oral contrast annually for a couple of years, and then every other year after that, just to be sure.  The pathology wasn't as clear as I would have liked it to have been, because the appendix apparently was about to burst when they removed it.  Because it was so close to bursting, the pathologist couldn't guarantee that it hadn't leaked.  But then, there are never guarantees, because they can't look at every part of it.  But when examined grossly, there were no apparent leaks, and I'm just going to have to be good with that.  And at a microscopic level, everything looked good--the contents of the tumor lacked the type of cells that they worry about.  So, I am feeling lucky and relieved and emotionally exhausted.  More on that to come, I'm sure, as I figure out how to decompress and get back to normal.

SB's language has really exploded in the last 3 weeks.  She has SO MANY words and uses language SO WELL.  It's really amazing.  She talks in complete sentences all of the time, and I am blown away by her ability to correctly conjugate verbs. More on that to come in her 22 month post.

And Miss M. . .she is just amazing.  We threw together a party at the local kid party place, because we needed to do it last minute (our travel plans were very up-in-the-air), and we needed a place where we could invite both sides of the family and wreak the least havoc.  She had a blast.  It wasn't the type of party I normally would have done, but it was easy and fun and the kids loved it, and it was the first time our families have been able to celebrate her birthday with her.  So, it was special nonetheless.  At the end, when it was time to cash in her points for playing the games and get prizes, she had a zillion points.  After she had the two things she wanted, I suggested she donate her points to her cousins.  She had a better idea, though, and bought them all the same toy she'd bought herself.  The woman behind the counter said in all the time she's worked there, she's never seen a kid buy things for other kids with their points.  It was really sweet, and made me so proud.  She is an awesome kid.

We got home from the party at about 8:30, and after we put the kids to bed, it was a mad scramble to get our bags packed for our morning flight.  And then yesterday, a long travel day.  But, we are home, and it is wonderful to be here.  It was in the 70's and sunny, and I just sat on my patio and relaxed in the sun while the girls rested after lunch.  It was lovely--and much better than the minus single digit temperatures it had been up north!  As we walked to the park and grocery store today, I just kept thinking how happy I was to be back, how much I like it here, and how good it feels to be home.  The kids were thrilled to be in their own space with all of their toys.  And tomorrow, we still have one more Christmas ahead of us.  We had to leave so last-minute that everyone had already mailed their gifts here, and we didn't have time to do it before we left.  So, I've told the girls that I've asked Santa to deliver their gifts tonight.  It is crazy and over-the-top, because everyone who mailed us gifts also went out and bought new ones when they found out we were coming home.  But, I am going to make a pot of coffee, turn on the Christmas music, and enjoy the peace and joy of the season for a bit longer.  It will sort of make up for being in pain and medicated on December 25.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Just in Case

I am vacillating between acceptance that what will be, will be, and worry.  As you may have noticed, it is my nature to worry.  I find that tears are not far below the surface, and mostly people seem not to understand why I am still so worried, even though the tumor wasn't, isn't cancer.  I worry, though, that there may still be a problem of SOME sort.  I worry about the weird tumor thingy that isn't cancer, but could still kill me (who knew such a thing even existed?!).  I worry that there is cancer, too, and they just haven't found it yet (I read some incredibly frightening medical journal articles, and one of them mentioned that people with this thing I had have an increased risk of concurrent colon cancer and should be screened).  I worry about the weird pain in my side which started this whole thing, the source of which is still very much unknown.  I worry.  I will hopefully worry less after talking with my doctor this weak at my post-op appointment.

But despite the worry, I am also okay.  I am hyperaware of time now, and thinking a lot about how I want to spend my time.  I know that I need to hope for the best, but also prepare, because tomorrow is promised to no one.  There are things that are really important to me that I want to do, which I've long had in my head as "some day" projects/tasks, but which now have taken on more urgency.  I will post soon about my goals list for 2014.  Clearly, I want to spend lots of time with my family.   But I also want to create a more thoughtful, cogent estate plan.  I want to create books for the girls of their lives to date, full of photos and the blog posts I try to periodically write about their progress.  I want to write them a book full of advice and wisdom, just in case I am not here to share it with them in person.  I want to be sure that I have prepared, just in case.  I hope to never, ever need it, but I want to have considered the possibilities and prepared for the less desirable alternatives that life could throw at us.  We've done it, to some extent, but not as thoroughly as I would like.  

This trip home has been such a reminder, too, of how quickly time passes.  Our friends and relatives are aging, and with all of the time we spend away, we feel it acutely.  It is so true that the days are long, but the years are short.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dealing with Hardship

A part of me is really freaked out by my diagnosis because it's the first time that I've had something really be wrong with me.  I've had other health problems, but they didn't have the type of potential ramifications of this diagnosis.  The idea of dying when my children are young is just devastating to me, and even the mere possibility of it. . .it's tough for me to even think about.

But I realized that I really need to focus on the positive.  They think they got all of the tumor.  There is no reason to think it will come back.  I will be monitored closely.  And if it does come back, we will treat it aggressively.  There is no reason to think the worst, and there is much to be thankful for.

But more than that, I've been thinking about people who have it worse off than me.  I have a distant relative who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion as a young child.  He's today one of the longest surviving AIDS patients in the world.  During his entire life, he's had to endure many painful tests and treatments, but he still carries on with his life every day.  And, he's still here.  He doesn't let his medical condition keep him from living his life.  The night before my surgery, I also picked up the book The Happiness Project, which happened to be lying around my aunt's house.  I started reading it that night, as a way to distract myself.  The author's husband is Hepatitis C positive.  Like my relative, he contracted it as a child before the blood supply was tested.  30 years after contracting Hepatitis C, most patients start to have problems with their liver.  Her husband is at that point, yet he, too, is out there living his life.  You can't live in fear of the unknown, really.  Well, you could, I could, but if they are not, it would sort of be silly for me to.  I need to be more brave.

One line in the book, from a comment on the author's blog, really resonated with me.  The commenter  wrote "I think a real life-shaking catastrophe can provide insights into happiness that you couldn't have any other way. . ."  My situation is far from a catastrohpe at this point, but it has really made me take a closer look at my life, and realize how really good I have it, and how much better I can even make it.

I think that's the best way to deal with hard times:  to look for what they teach you, and to look for the positive that you can take away from the situation, and to tackle a little bit every day to make those changes in your life from that point forward.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Trying to Face The New Year With Optimism and Hope

We had a lovely Christmas, and I hope you did, too.  My family really went all-out to make Christmas magical for our girls, and I so very much appreciate everything they did.  We spent the night at my mother-in-laws, and the girls woke Christmas morning to a tree full of presents.  My father and his wife had dropped off two boxes full of gifts, and I had ordered some art supplies from Amazon, and some friends had sent gifts, which was so very kind, and my brother flew in Christmas Eve and came with piles of presents for the girls, too, and spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with us.  It was a classic Christmas morning, thanks to the efforts of so many people.  We were just wrapped in kindness the entire holiday, and it was wonderful.

I had ordered matching Christmas jammies for all of us months ago, so we all woke wearing those, and we kept them on to travel to my aunt's house an hour away, where my mother and her husband were waiting for us.  They, too, had stockings and piles of presents for the girls, even though they had already mailed all of our gifts to our house.  We had a lovely day of present opening and hugs and love.  That evening, many of my aunts and uncles and cousins came to celebrate, bringing even more presents.  It was a bit over the top, actually.  But the girls got to experience their first Christmas at home with my family, in the over the top way that my family does celebrate Christmas and always has, and I am so thankful that they got to experience the magic of that along with the children of my cousins who are about their age.  They had a blast.

My mom and her husband were supposed to spend Christmas in South America with us, and had to cancel their plans because of everything, but they were able to meet us here and spend some time with us.  It's never enough, unfortunately, but they got a few good days with the girls.

I had surgery Christmas Eve day, and my mom and aunt took care of the girls while we were gone.  T and I went into Boston the night before, since I had to be there first thing in the morning.  The girls were having such a blast that they apparently didn't even notice we were gone, which I am so thankful for.  We just got the pathology back yesterday, which made for a long week of waiting and praying and worrying.  Thankfully, it wasn't cancer.  It's a, which can itself be incredibly dangerous.  They think they removed the tumor intact and got all of it.  Hopefully, I will be okay and will have no further health problems from it.  I will need to do some follow-up in the future to keep an eye on things--ie, monitoring scans.

Honestly, I am still incredibly anxious.  I am so, so glad that it was not cancer.  But the actual diagnosis is still really scary, and I'm freaked out that it could come back and kill me.   I am terrified that I might not live long enough to raise my children.  And yet, I know that I must find a way to move on, because I certainly cannot live in a state of constant anxiety.   I am hopeful that I can find a way to lock it away in a little box and get on with our lives.  I think it will help to talk some more with my surgeon face-to-face, and I have a follow-up appointment next week.

I think part of it, honestly, is that it's just been a tough year for us, between the awful stuff that happened this fall, and this.  I'm weary and worn-down and feel like I can't trust the universe.  I need to find my spark again.  I know that I will; it's just going to take some time.  I think this time, I might also need to talk to someone.   I might need some professional support to work through this.

We are in the U.S. for another week or so, giving me some time to heal.  Physically, I feel pretty good.  My surgical incisions are healing well, and I'm not in much pain.  I only had to take Tylenol for two days after surgery, and after that was comfortable enough to go without it.  I'm hoping to find a way to exhale, relax, and enjoy what's in front of me.  I have a family that I dearly love, and I'm here.  After all, none of us are promised tomorrow.

Happy New Year to you and yours.  May it be a peaceful and healthy year for all of us.