Friday, April 11, 2014

The Furies

Abused, disappointed,
Raging, I come--oh, shall come!---
And drip from my heart
A hurt on your soil, a contagion,
A culture, a canker:
Leafless and childless Revenge.

                                                                               -Aeschylus, from The Eumenides

Today was a rough day.  Well, it really was yesterday, but I was moving too fast to see it.  I started the morning at the endocrinologist, where I received great news. Based on my January lab results and my scan, I was now moving on to appointments every six months! I told him I was feeling a little better as far as thyroid symptoms, but things were still off.  He said my TSH was over-surpressed by my old doctor (to 0.03!!!).  He said there was good news in this. "Yeah?" I perked up and looked at him.

"Now you know what being on cocaine is like..."

I like that he sees the bright side in everything.  Honestly, he told me that pending my blood results, he's excited to see I'm coming along. He ordered more TSH levels to see that I moved appropriately to a level of 1-2.5 (should be to about 2 by now). He also rechecked my parathyroid hormone and my calcium levels. He was trying to figure out what was contributing to the pain in my leg and other bones throughout my body, as well as all of these odd things.

I stopped to get my blood drawn, made small talk with the phlebotomist, and headed back to Tullahoma for another appointment.  By then I was exhausted from the driving, waiting, and talking about important things, but I tried to perk up. This was my therapist, after all, and I knew that it could get ugly if I walked into the room in a bad mood.

I would say the appointment went well. I was still feeling good from being told that my appointments were being stretched out, and I felt that for the first time in a while, I was able to get a handle on things. For anyone that thinks it is a picnic to be home and recovering, I'd like to paint a different picture for you:

There are some days where I have to muster all of my energy just to get the kids to school and remember what they need. It will exhaust me to take a shower, and the bone pain of standing, walking around the house, or heaven-forbid taking a walk outside can be enough to bring me to tears. On the days/weeks when I have all of the energy in the world, I get things done at record speed. I have all of these exciting plans, and I am active in everything. The problem is I can't really feel pain during that time, so I tend to overdo or injure myself, and not even notice until I resume my normal level. It's confusing, but I'll sum it up as saying it can be hellish.  I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.

But I was excited that day, because as I left my therapist and headed home, I'd be picking up Carly and babysitting my niece and nephew! They were in town from Washington, and I'd be watching them while my sister-in-law got her hair done. I was admittedly tired at that point, but I knew seeing their smiling faces would make it all go away.

Right before they arrived at the house, I got a phone call. I knew it was from my doctor's office, but I wasn't too surprised. They are awesome, and tend to call me to fill me in as they get lab results.  This time, though, the nurse's voice seemed a little more concerned than usual.

"Hey, Michelle, how are you feeling?"

I told her I was fine, and getting ready to fill the house with tons of little ones.  She wasn't up for small-talk.

"Well, Dr. Kistka wanted me to call you because we got your TSH levels back. Your TSH is STILL under the reference level, which is pretty abnormal. You are taking 112mcg of Synthroid, and your TSH is still at 0.45,  It should have been at 2 by now."

I didn't really know what to tell her. I had seemed to get a crash-course education in thyroids over the past year, but I didn't know anything about the other glands and what they did.  So, I just waited for her to resume talking.

"Dr. Kistka is worried about pituitary dysfunction."

At that point, I did interject, asking her what that even meant. I knew where the pituitary gland was (in the brain), but didn't know what this had to do with a person with thyroid cancer.

"Well, your PTH levels have been abnormally high for months, and your calcium isn't regulating. We don't think this has to do with your surgery, but may have just revved it up a bit. Your pituitary is in charge of all of that, and when something throws it off, it can make your whole body a mess."

Another question from me, "well, what threw it off?" I didn't have a lot of time for small talk; I had company walking through the door in a few moments.

"A tumor."

GREAT.... I hadn't heard that word in a while. I don't think it's a word you get used to hearing.

Now, keep in mind that a tumor on the pituitary gland can be tiny and still wreak havoc. All it takes is a small growth producing hormones and pressing on important things. I suddenly thought of the visual problems, the tremors, the abnormal heartbeats, all of the calcium issues and those side effects. This all might make sense, but it still wasn't what I wanted to hear.

She told me I was lowering my med dose again, and I thought to myself "this was almost the dose I was on when I actually had a thyroid??? What's going on with me?"  I thanked her for her help, and she told me she'd call me when they got the other results back.

Shortly after that call, the company did arrive. They served as a pleasant distraction, and I was able to put everything out of my mind for the evening. When my head hit the pillow last night, I was OUT. No room for thinking about the past or future.

The Furies hit this morning. I got up to take the kids to school, and then drove to run and errand. My mind began thinking about this path over the past few years, and all that has happened. Did the brain injury cause the growth in the brain? Did the endocrinologist miss the parathyroid adenoma? That scan was only 50% successful in finding tumors? The old endocrinologist seemed quite incompetent, so it seemed my natural reaction to be doubtful.  Were the visual problems caused by all of these things? That doctor was audibly gossiping about each patient in the hallway, and he even cast his negative opinion on me.

I didn't want to dwell on the past, and I don't like to be negative. Still, I wanted to round up all these doctors and scream, "WHY COULDN'T YOU HELP ME? WHY HAVE I LIVED THESE PAST FEW YEARS WITH MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS? AND MORE PAIN THAN COMFORT???"

I imagine this to be a bit of serendipity, or divine intervention. I had thought about The Furies, from Greek tragedies. They were females with one thing in mind: revenge. They would find those that had wronged people (criminals in their minds), and drive them to their own suicides through extreme despair.

I would like to interject here that I am NOT advocating suicide or revenge of this sort, only that I had remembered The Furies, after I mentally lined up all of those health professionals that had wronged me.

So I sat at home this evening, lying on my heating pad and hoping to finish a book before tomorrow. It's called "The Body Broken," and it's an absolutely lovely book. For anyone that wants to know what my life is like, or what the life of a friend or family member might be like that lives with chronic disabling pain, then this is the book to read. It's fantastically written, and it's like I am reading into a mirror.

So, I chuckled aloud when I came across the passage on The Furies. She had that "break" too! She had a moment when anger took over, and when she realized just how much comfort and time these people had stolen from her.

This moment was interesting for me (on what I felt today, and also what I read). You see, I never wanted to be vengeful; I always insisted on keeping a positive attitude.  In the wake of a student attack, people marveled at my positive outlook. When I took 37 pills JUST TO EXIST after that attack, I just thanked God that I survived. When I looked back at the crap I endured with my marriage, I said "I am just thankful, I got out, and that I can move on!" And when I got cancer, I was quick to say "thank goodness it's just thyroid cancer!"  Seriously, was my head in the clouds?

The people around me cheered on my bright attitude, but they must have known that it doesn't last forever.  Or maybe I fooled them; I did a pretty good job of fooling myself for a while.

But there's something that happens when it's a struggle to move your body off a heating pad without tears. This same body that ran miles and carried babies and loved yoga. And for a person that people joked would "get more done before 9am than most people did all day!" I was having a problem with taking a shower without losing strength some days.

My physiatrist gave me a thoughtful look when I "almost" cracked one day. I told her how hard this has been, and how I'm tired of not having all of the answers.  She told me it seems I do have a lot of answers, they just aren't cures. Unfortunately some of this won't go away for the rest of my life. The key is learning to manage it.

Yes, that's very insightful, but she needs to follow me home and see how pathetic I can be. I suck it up and give a brave face for most people around me, but inside I am dying to survive some days. I am not trying to throw a pity party, but I guess this is the first day I've really felt that first spark of vengeance, and of the feeling that I've been wronged. I feel like they've stolen time from me, with all of these wrong assessments.

Part of the problem is that doctors have ego issues. I think they all do, when they get into a job of playing a God of sorts. When they don't see the answer quickly, they do this thing where they casually imply that the patient might be overly stressed and her mind is creating things. I wasn't dumb, so I picked up on these comments. Then the next appointment, they wanted to screen me for depression. How many times did this go awry?

I complained of swallowing problems, and people thought I was stressed. I had thyroid cancer instead.

I complained of having foot pain, and continued to wait tables for a few days. They said maybe overworked? After the x-rays, they saw I had broken several bones in the foot.

I went to the hospital with TIA's, and was told all of the things to look for next time. The neurologist questioned me on stress and depression, wanting to blame all of my symptoms on that. Instead, it was a clotting disorder and very abnormally-thick blood causing the TIAs. Go figure...

So I wasn't a fan of hearing that same stuff. I know that after pain and illness for this many years, there's no doubt some emotional help I could receive. I was already getting it, and the therapist was telling me to trust my instincts.

I guess instead of being one of the furies, I have become more of a woman that feels she has to scream to be heard. I don't want to hurt anyone else, or cause them despair.  I just want them to listen, and believe me to be a competent woman with a decent head on her shoulders.  Trust me, I WANT to be out there laughing and playing with my kids.  And on the many days that I do push myself way too far, I don't want to be miserable for days afterward.  I try to keep positive, but I guess these setbacks always make it hard for me to handle.

And when the word "tumor" pops up, that word can bring me to my knees.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Those Little Moments

It seems in the past few weeks, there have been some absolutely terrible things happening around me.  A local gal in town passed away of an illness, a former student I knew committed suicide, and another guy I knew from school just found out he has a brain tumor.  If I'm not careful, I'll catch the blues amidst all of this grief.  Ah, the woes of being an incredibly compassionate and empathetic person...

Through all of that news, another thought was lingering in my head: yesterday was my one year cancerversary.  I was incredibly excited to knock a year off my calendar, and say that I was indeed alive for one more calendar year. I remembered back to the day I was diagnosed, and my immediate thought was about the future.  I thought first about my children, and what would happen if something were to happen to my one day.  Beyond the idea of my untimely death, I then thought about what might happen if I spent years of my life ill before I passed.  I know it's natural to have those feelings when diagnosed with cancer, but it felt like mine were more intense because I knew I was the only reliable parent to raise these kids.  I really couldn't afford a chance of screwing up in my planning.

After I ushered those thoughts of death and being bed-ridden out of my head, I started thinking about how I wouldn't take things for granted.  I made a silent promise to myself that I was going to get out there and enjoy the world, and I was going to embrace all of the fantastic moments around me.  If you remember back that far, I had just finished the 15 Before 30 project, so I was comforted in the fact that I had already finished a ton of bucket list activities before the surgery and diagnosis.  I guess I did have some calm in knowing that I had already gone out and lived in the world.  But I did know that I wanted to really savor all of the regular moments.  Those moments that you really want to remember when you look back over your life.

Every mom can probably agree with me when she reads this: we often get caught up in following the rules, or maintaining a household, or maintaining our sanity, and we fail to really ENJOY the moments of life with our kids. If you are anything like me, you are thinking about 20 things that are happening next, and it's hard to shut off your brain and enjoy the now.  So, knowing this was a challenge for me, I made that my silent goal.  I wanted to really stop and enjoy the moments around me.  I know this would make me stop and think, and really enjoy and be appreciative of the life around me.

Of course, life happens, I went through drug withdrawal and radiation treatment, I lost my job through a rather tacky and unfortunate separation, I tried my best to maintain normalcy while recovering, and I threw myself into a new job (that was way too stressful, and the work of three people!).  Needless to say, I was throwing my goal to the side and charging ahead.

Sometimes I can use a gentle reminder, but sometimes the reminders aren't so gentle.  Mine came in the form of a loud "CRACK!" while I was putting away my grocery cart at Kroger.  I could feel the pain searing through my leg, but I was still able to walk. I hobbled back to the car, and thought "if I can walk, it can't be THAT bad!"

Well, I should have thought twice, since this is the fourth time I've broken a bone without really knowing it. This proves that I either have a problem with pain perception, or I'm too stubborn to go to the doctor. Either way, this became a rather painful reminder that maybe I needed to take time to slow down and focus on myself.

While lying in bed for a few months, I guess I finally had the chance to appreciate those little moments.  Life was terribly boring for a person that runs 100 miles an hour every day.  I found myself just waiting for my kids to get home, then grilling them for information about their day. Why couldn't they remember every little detail about what happened at school??? Why doesn't Alex remember all of the side items he chose for lunch?!?!?

This boredom really made me stop and appreciate the encounters I had with my children.  When you have a broken leg, your primary duties are: 1) take meds, 2) get to bathroom and back, 3) eat.  That's it; I wasn't cooking meals, or carrying loads of laundry upstairs. I wasn't cleaning bathrooms, or picking up toys and vacuuming rooms.  Instead, I was coloring holiday pictures, playing card games, and reading stories with the kids.

And that's exactly what needed to happen.

You see, ever since the kids were born, I was the primary provider for them.  I worked full-time as a teacher, and often had at least one part-time job on the side.  Even after my student attack, I was taking care of medical problems, taking care of the household (what I could do), and taking care of kids.  There simply wasn't time for those magical moments, and it made me sad.  I knew I had it in me to be a great mom, but I had a really hard time balancing all of my duties.

Guess what happened in the past few months? Amazing things!  I knew my kids loved me, and we tell each other "I love you" about ten times a day. It's common to get little hugs here and there through the day, and I still tuck them in with a kiss every night.  But on top of that, I was finally able to ENJOY my kids.  I was able to sit on the bed and give them my full attention.  I was able to hear their giggles while telling jokes, listen to them singing songs, dress paper dolls for every imagined occasion, and talk about bullies and girls while playing Yahtzee with Alex.  I felt like I finally had the chance to do all of those things I missed, and that was probably the greatest gift I received after the cancer ordeal.  It took a painful way of happening, but a gift nonetheless.

And my great reward was realized on Friday.  I got out of a hearing in the morning, and was feeling a bit down.  I had been in child support enforcement court, and had to listen to the attorney talk to Chris about why he can't pay child support.  I felt like I was listening to a broken record, with the same excuses and the same stories every time I get called back to court.  I left that day shaking my head-- some people step up to the plate and do what it takes to take care of their responsibilities, and some people make excuses.  Either way, I refused to let it ruin my day.  I decided to head over to Alex's school and eat lunch with him.  I replaced my blank expression with a big smile and walked in the door.

I waited for him, and thought about the last time I came to eat at his school.  It was always hard while teaching, because I was at a different school. When there were school events, I never got the opportunity to slip away and see everything.  I had to eat lunch with him when our school breaks were staggered, but Friday I had a free slot open up, and I couldn't think of a better lunch date.

When Alex saw me, you would have thought he saw a celebrity.  He was beyond excited I was there to eat with him, and was excited to choose a friend to bring to lunch.  We chatted about new movies, math tricks, and classroom happenings.  When it was time to head up to take our trays, he walked ahead of me and yelled bye over his shoulder.  I was conscious of the changes that happen with kids, and I was careful not to embarrass him.

Anyone that's followed Alex knows that he's an incredibly social kid, but he can be awkward in places. He doesn't like hugs, and sometimes gets confused about social cues.  Over the past few months, with our extra time spent together, I could see him warming up.  That day, in the lunch line, the most amazing thing happened:

He bolted out of the line of his peers, threw his arms around me waist, and gave me the biggest squeeze.  He stayed there for about ten seconds, then told me he loved me and got back in line.  I could feel myself tearing up.  People around me might have thought I was crazy, but they didn't know what a big deal this was!  I had been waiting for the moment of having a big hug from this boy; I knew I'd keep hugging him and wait for the rest of my life if I had to.  Something in him was always guarded, and it was almost like he was uncomfortable being that vulnerable.  Finally, it was time!

What seemed like a hug in a school cafeteria felt like so much more; over the past five months of being home with the kids, I was able to watch them grow.  I finally felt like I was also able to stop, breathe, and enjoy those little moments with them.

So, for today, I took them on a few day adventures.  We went to Chik Fil-A for lunch, then the Hands-On Science Center to play.  We finished the afternoon by having blizzards at Dairy Queen and selecting a movie for family movie night.  Yes, that seems like plain old stuff, but I was really enjoying the day of normal.  I listened to their backseat conversations, and didn't mind when Carly needed to belt out the words to "Let it Go" at the top of her lungs.  I giggled with them when we swapped blizzards, and munched popcorn while we guessed what would happen in The Pirate Fairy.  And I noticed every moment, and marveled and what cool kids I had been blessed with for this journey.

I don't know many people that are thankful for a broken leg, and all of the pain and grief it has brought along with it, but I will say that I am thankful for the clarity it has brought me, and the lesson that it's ok to be less than perfect, and to stop and enjoy my life.  It's sad that I had to have permission for such a thing.

On a side note, I do think an update might be helpful to those of you that follow the story:  there have been continued problems with my leg, which we knew might happen.  A lot was done during surgery, and there were a few different areas that needed to heal.  The doctor knows it is frustrating, but also knows that each patient heals at a different rate.  My muscle spasms that were occurring before the break aren't helping the recovery, so I'm sure that causes some extra trouble.

I try to keep active, and am still doing my physical therapy at home. I am trying to be patient, and know that things take time to get better.  We finally addressed a med change, which helped me get more comfortable at night!  Once I was able to sleep again, I felt a bit more sane! :-)

I know everything will work out, even when I have my downs.  Pain doesn't last forever, though it seems my body has been trying to prove that theory wrong! The best medicine for any of my ailments has been to pause and listen to the wise words of my little ones.

Carly's latest thoughts:

"Mom, I am sorry I was almost late to school.  I was picking these flowers, but I also saw that squirrel right over there.  I had to decide if I wanted to keep these flowers, or make that squirrel my pet.  I could catch him and name him Butch.  Or I can pick more flowers, but I can only do one!  Hey, could you pick these flowers, and I'll go get Butch?!?!"

She was sent to me because God knew I needed to loosen up...


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just Breathe

The past week has been incredibly stressful, and I'm not sure why.

Wait, I have an idea why...

You know how there are said to be five stages of dealing with grief or a loss? It's a fluid process, and people move through the stages at different rates, and sometimes in different orders. Well, I think I've been going through sort of a grieving process. It's been four months since I had my broken leg and surgery, and I ended up with a visit to the hospital for blood clotting issues and a mini-stroke, then sat in the neurologist's office while she confirmed my fears of Essential Tremor and/or Parkinson's Disease (by fears I mean that I am smart enough to know what that can do to an active and excited young person).

So, my automatic response to any news like that is to pretend everything is great, and picture the ten thousand things I will do to show the world that I will overcome. If there's one thing you can do to tick me off, it's telling me I can't do something.  Even though people didn't actually SAY I couldn't do things, as a special education teacher, my mind automatically went to all of the things that will happen and how my life will never be the same.

On top of that, my shaking has been pronounced enough to start causing some injuries if I'm not careful. On a completely related note, I am thinking of retiring from mascara...

So, back to the process. After making the list of things I am going to do to show whatever is going on who's boss, I then fall into a funk. Man, I could write a manual on myself by now. I guess I need to give myself credit- a lot of people spend thousands on therapy to figure out what I already have. I have seen myself go through it before, and knew it was coming. I embraced the funk (NEVER thought I'd type that sentence in my life, so there's a first!).

It hit me when I had to resign from my job. Until then, I had been on medical leave, and I could pretend that everything was going to be great. This was just something simple, and I would bounce back in no time. Problem is that I spend 8-10 days a month at a medical facility, I have to put great care into most EVERYTHING that I do, and it's just getting worse. I think that bounceback is going to take a while...

As far as the job is concerned, it wasn't fair to the students for them to keep wondering if I was returning. I got into teaching because of the kids, and I know more than anything that they need consistency. They need it in behavior support, and they need it in teachers and staff. I couldn't lead them on when I honestly didn't know when I would be healthy to return. I also didn't want to return too soon, and risk having a MAJOR setback from stress (heart attack or stroke). I'd sucked up the stress for too long, and I knew it would eventually get to me.  So, I know I'll find something new that might balance everything out, and for right now I am going to focus on getting back to a balance. Find the new me. Some cool new age jargon like that...

So, during this funk, I was sitting in a chair and staring out the window. I had days when I honestly didn't want to move. It wasn't depression- it was just time where I could slow my body down. My body has caused so many symptoms, it's like I am always on high alert to notice things. I needed time to slow my body down so I could really think. It turns out those days were useful. I was able to prioritize some things, and make a plan for moving forward.

Today, I rejoined the yoga world. I had wanted to do it for some time, but I wasn't able to modify a lot of the positions to accommodate my leg. It turns out the knee is a pretty vital piece of the body, and every position change affects it (as I found out right after surgery!). This morning I went to run errands, then returned to stretch out and let my mind wander.

Actually, the video I used focused more on my breathing. I had to laugh at first, because it seems like such a simple task. Don't get me wrong- I love yoga, and I enjoy how relaxed I feel afterward. I have done various routines for many years, but I've never seen a video that spent the first twenty minutes leading me through various breathing exercises. The narrator told me to really feel my breath, and welcome it into every cell in my body.

I believe in traditional medicine, but I also believe a lot of alternative strategies work as well. Together, I think you can make a great treatment plan for a patient. No matter what I was wanting the meds to do, I wasn't focusing on a plan that would help me maintain and build some strength, work on my balance, and promote deep breathing and stress relief.  I think I finally found my missing piece!

After the yoga routine (4o minutes!), I decided to head outside for a walk. I had only walked short jaunts around the neighborhood, so this would be the first time I headed out any longer. I am going to my physiatrist on Friday, and I wanted to be able to give her an idea of what my body could do. I know it seems odd when people think "it's been four months, so why are you still hurting?" Well, the doctor looked at my wound and said the scar isn't even healed all the way, so everything under it is still working. He gave me an injection for all the inflammation in my actual knee, which is keeping healing from happening. Then, there's the broken bone, which does take a while (especially in a weight-bearing bone). He told me he wouldn't clear me for the football field for 9-12 months, and from what he hears, a special education classroom is a similar environment (insert laugh here).

I walked at a moderate pace for about 25 minutes, and took a path outside the neighborhood. I remember getting fairly far down the road and thinking "I sure hope I can walk all the way back!" and "maybe this is why I stay close to home?"  My leg was starting to bug me, and I knew it was going to be an interesting night. I know I have to push myself, but I also have to balance that with not causing more damage. So, I headed home and put it up for a while.

We headed over to my best friend Robin's house, and played with the kids and ate pizza for dinner. I was glad to be able to chat with a good friend, and enjoy some family time. This reminded me of another crucial component of my plan to feel better: I need to schedule more social time. In the past four months, I've had a habit of being a bit of a recluse. All of the medical appts have exhausted me, and that made me not want to get out and actually talk to people. Add to that the fact that I have felt yucky a few of the days, and I am surprised I didn't scream when I saw daylight today. I know I need to get out more, and today starts my plan in that respect.

In these stages that I'm going through, I guess I'd be Acceptance by now. I've made a plan, so I guess that comes after realizing life probably won't go back to the way it used to be.  That's ok; we just have to adjust. 

And breathe.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Embracing the Moment

Earlier in the week, I visited my friendly hematologist. He took 21 vials of blood two weeks ago, and told me he was sure he'd have some sort of answer for me on Tuesday.

Now I had been to the neurologist at the beginning of the month, and wasn't terribly thrilled when she confirmed my diagnosis, and told me it was most likely a combination of Essential Tremor and young-onset Parkinson's Disease.  Having the thoughts in your head and comments from doctors is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than hearing a neurologist say "you have a problem..."


So, I wasn't terribly thrilled to go see another specialist. To be honest, I wanted to get answers, and I have been feeling disheartened because it has taken five years to get the answers. But I also felt more comfortable with some things just being a "maybe." Sometimes getting results means I finally have to deal. I am a fairly well-adjusted person (in my opinion), but I also feel like I've dealt with more than my share lately.

So, I sat in the exam room and waited for him to arrive. It didn't help that the appointment took two hours, so I felt like I was waiting in Purgatory.  When he finally walked in, I could already tell he had some thoughts in his head. He had something to share, and he didn't wait too long before starting into his speech...

"We ran TONS of tests on your blood, because we needed answers. We did get a POSITIVE back on one of our tests for clotting disorders.  As you know, your blood clots WAY TOO EASILY, and that's a big problem. Now we know why.  You have Factor V Leiden Thrombophilia."

I just blinked at him. I remembered how they had taken all of those vials, and how it took FOREVER because my blood was clotting in the collection tubing. I remember looking at the tubing and wondering how on earth that could even happen.

He told me that it was with me since birth, but we probably didn't pay enough attention to it until now. He said this is what was causing my TIAs, and was the reason I had pregnancy complications and two miscarriages. He said that honestly he was surprised I was able to have two healthy children, even with the complications that came along with them.

I asked him what I needed to do, because I obviously didn't want my blood to keep clotting up, and causing major issues like strokes, pulmonary embolisms, etc.

He told me the problem was that he didn't feel comfortable putting me on potent blood thinners yet, because I have accumulated quite a few minor injuries from my clumsiness and shaking (remember last post?). He pointed to the cuts and scrapes I had, and told me I would be in big trouble if I had super-thin blood while slamming into everything and cutting body parts. BUT THEY WERE KIDS SCISSORS!!!

So, right now he wants to try a "wait and see" approach. He'd like to wait for the signs of a clotting problem, then make that the beginning of treatment. I can understand where he's coming from, but I am also a bit nervous about that. He also wants me to get the tremor medication worked out, because he feels more confident with trying blood thinners once I am not a risk to myself... LOL

So, I came home from that appointment TIRED. Beyond all of that info, my blood pressure has been dipping dangerously low (114/40), and it has been making me feel dizzy and just miserable. It was my intention to rest and feel better for Wednesday.  I had heard a rumor that snow might be coming to the area, but I didn't believe that would happen anytime soon. It just doesn't happen here anymore.

Well, the kids were off on Wednesday (and my mom was home as well). I was excited, because we had the opportunity to play games, watch cartoons, play dolls, run around outside before the snow, make homemade pizza for lunch, and snuggle. I was excited we got a day together, and I really needed that after such a tiring day on Tuesday. I even got a pretty decent nap, so that made for a good rest of the evening.

In the evening hours, the snow started to fall. My dream was coming true!! I know it sounds cheezy, but there's NOTHING better to me than to watch snow fall. I like the peace and quiet that happens when I am watching the snow drift. I can sit and watch it at a window for hours, which is probably disturbing to most.  After all of our excitement from playing all day, both kids were asleep before 7pm. I tiptoed into Alex's room, and told him to put on his robe and boots. He popped his little head up and wondered what was going on. I told him I had a surprise for him.

Something I had been thinking about, as all of these issues have been happening; probably the scariest thing for me to deal with is the idea that I won't be able to do everything I want to do with the children.  I feel bad sometimes that they have never had a mother that's 100% healthy all the time, and really that's the only parent that is around. They have grown up to be compassionate creatures, and we still have fun, but I sometimes wish I had the ability to do so much more.

So, when the snow started falling, I decided we needed to embrace the moment. I took Alex outside, and we stood for ten minutes, feeling the snow fall on our faces, and catching flakes. There was such a peaceful stillness in the air, and we loved watching the snow falling under the security light on the street. I even turned on the flood lights so we could watch the snow fall inside the house, on the staircase.  Here's a picture of my snow buddy:

We headed to bed, and by the time I fell asleep we had about two inches on the ground. I will admit that I did sneak back outside by myself later, to absorb that feeling of quiet again. :-)

This morning, I heard my bedroom door FLY open as Alex burst in to announce that it had SNOWED BIG TIME. He was SOOOOOO excited at the winter wonderland outside, and he told me how it looked from his bedroom window, from the balcony window, and from a downstairs window. Apparently angle is everything when viewing the snow...

So, even though I hadn't been feeling too great, I decided we needed to embrace this moment.  Me and the kids were going to make snow angels! Yes, a person with recent ACL surgery and a broken leg, along with various pain and neuromuscular issues thinks it is a good idea to make snow angels.

Here we are (thanks Mom for taking the pic!):

I thought about the numerous reasons why the snow angels may not be a good idea, but then I thought of one really good reason why this needed to happen: It hasn't snowed in a while, and I don't know when this will happen again. The kids need to have a memory of me playing in the snow with them, in case I am not able to do things like this later.

So, we threw piles of snow "dust" (the snow wouldn't pack, so it looked like glitter glistening against the early morning sunlight).  They found big hunks of snow to eat, and took turns sliding down the slide into a pile of snow. I'm glad they had that opportunity to get out there with me, and they were grateful for the hot chocolate when we headed back inside! :-)

These past few weeks have been adjusting to a new reality. Where there have been suspicions and questions for some time about what my future might hold, now I am faced with a bit more certainty about the uncertainty, if that makes any sense. It was fun to be able to take some time to enjoy my little ones, and to make some memories that will serve us well as years go by.

None of us really knows what the future holds. I try to keep in perspective the fact that there have been so many rough things that have happened to me so far, and I've survived them all. But I also know that there's only so many battles one person can handle. So, I take comfort in my good friends that reach out to me, and my family that is there to catch me when I stumble.  And I thank God every day for a little voice that tells me in the morning "don't you know that you are the best mommy a girl could ever have?"  Some days I don't feel it, and I wonder what the future holds; in those little eyes though, it seems like everything is working out just fine. 


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dreams and Other Thoughts

I was warned that I might have some oddly-detailed dreams while taking my new anti-shake medicine (propanolol). I shrugged off the advice, because I figured it all came down to what you wanted your mind to do.  Some of those side effects I've heard of in the past were off-the-wall, and I always thought a bit of mind-power can make everything calm down.

Was. I. Wrong.

The first night I took the medicine, I will report that I haven't slept that well in a while! I am not sure if it just made me sleepy, or it calmed down my body. The internal tremor has been getting old, and that's bugged me in the nighttime. I will admit that I had never really woken up in the night and noted symptoms on a chart...

Well, I woke up the next morning and laughed about the idea that I could have strange dreams. I guess I finally gave my mind permission to relax, because the next night was a doozy. My home was being attacked by various arachnids, but they were always lined up in straight lines. They never moved while I was watching them, but their positions often changed. That was probably what scared me more than anything about the dream- I KNEW they were moving, but couldn't prove it. And no one believed me... I am sure the Freudians would probably read something into that detail.

The next night was another detailed dream, where Asian terrorists were attempting to hijack an airlines by smuggling in mangoes that carried explosives. Yes, you read that correctly. I got caught up in the whole deal because I was going to meet someone at Gate O, and someone handed me a mango. Always the wrong place at the wrong time...

There were more, but really until this morning I didn't think of writing them down. Now I think I am going to keep a dream diary, because I'll be sad I didn't record them if I ever go off this medicine. If anything, it provides a little comic relief.

This weekend I was a lot more tired than usual, and a bit shakier as well. I've found there's a strong correlation between the two, but it's funny considering I slept in both mornings.

We took the kids to The Lego Movie, and they were beyond excited. I would have much rather stayed in bed and rested for the day, but I often feel bad when the kids are punished by my illness. So, we headed to the theater, and everyone was enjoying themselves.

Stupid Injury #1 happened in the bathroom. I was trying to maneuver the lock on the handicapped stall, and my hand wasn't coordinated and cooperating. Long story short, Carly watched in horror as I ripped the skin off the top of my hand. It immediately swelled up with a big lump under the skin, turned purple, and started gushing blood. She let out an awesome scream, and the other lady in the bathroom was rather concerned. No sounds came out of my mouth; I just walked out of the stall with big eyes. The manager gave me a band-aid, and I headed back to the movie.

We made it to ice cream after the movie, and ran an errand. Everything was wrapped up for the weekend, and I was feeling prepared to start the week. Enter Stupid Injuries #2 and #3...

Stupid Injury #2 happened while attempting to clean up the bonus room. While picking up remotes, I managed to drop one on the exactly wrong spot on my foot. Now, I am not trying to whine, merely pointing out that the most ridiculous things have been happening. I let out a strange noise and sat down quickly. Carly was in there, and she gave me a puzzled look. 'you doing ok, mom???"

I told her my hands aren't cooperating today, so I was planning on taking it easy for the rest of the night. Alex commented that he was ready for his movie before bed, but wanted me to cut the tag off his new stuffed Chihuahua. Enter Stupid Injury #3...

Yep, you can probably already imagine what happened there. I am guessing that maybe using scissors (even kid ones) isn't a good plan when I am tired anymore, because tired = shaky. I sliced through part of my finger, and the blood started gushing. He looked at me and said "maybe you should just go to bed?"

I told him I give up, and tomorrow's another day... I tried to laugh and kissed him, but the thought occurred to me that maybe I should reevaluate some of the daily activities I've been doing. I really don't want to get another really serious injury from the shakiness and lack of balance. The bone is FINALLY healing from the fracture four months ago. I really don't need Round #2.

This week will be a busy one in my medical life. I go to physical therapy to work on my balance and range of motion, then head to the Hematologist on Tuesday to get the results of my clotting tests (and some advice on how to proceed with a lot of things). Friday (my favorite appt) I get to go to the orthopedic surgeon so he can inject medication directly INTO my knee. Because nothing says Valentine's Day like needles and medications...

I try to remain hopeful that life will work itself out, but sometimes it can be frustrating. I am glad I am moving in the right direction, but it can be disheartening to encounter activities in my daily life that are now a challenge. I am a person that likes the freedom of doing anything she pleases, and of holding her own. The last thing I want to admit is that I can't do everything I want to do anymore. I am happy to hear how many people have offered help, or have told me that we will deal with whatever happens as time goes on. But I guess this mental transition in my head of putting a lot more effort into looking normal- THAT'S what is bugging me more than anything. When you balance enough plates in the air, eventually they all come crashing down.

A goal for this week is looking into the voice-assisted technology program, like Dragon Naturally Speaking. I love writing, and I especially like documenting this journey. It makes me sad to fix these passages over and over again, and see that my once-lightning-speed typing is now at least half speed.  Still faster than those that have to hunt and peck, but not what I once was. I am hoping the idea of transcribing will keep the ideas flowing without the frustration of having to type. Expect much longer passages at that point... :-)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Step in the Right Direction

Last week I finally heard back from my new neurologist. I had already seen the hematologist about the blood clotting issues, but had been waiting on the referral to the new neurologist. I got the call, and nurse told me "right now, we are looking at 9:30am... on May 29th..."

My heart sank.

I knew that there are tons of people out there that have issues, but I also wanted to make a plan so I could get my life back on track. I told her that would be fine, but asked if I could be on a cancellation list. She told me that was fine, and I will hopefully hear something a lot sooner than May.

On Monday morning, I was home with Alex. I had cancelled my physical therapy appointment because he wasn't feeling good, and we were about to take a rest. I got a phone call from the nurse, asking me if I could make it to the neurologist on THAT DAY at 1:30, since she'd had some cancellations.


I told her I'd make it work, and would have to bring a kid with me. I was SOOOO excited, even if that didn't leave me time for a shower. I never like to go in public "undone," let alone meet a new doctor that I have to convince I am not crazy. I did my hair and slapped on some makeup, and we headed out the door.

I was having trouble over the past week, where even when I went to sleep at night I could watch my body spasm and twitch about. Sleep had gotten interesting, and I really just wanted some relief. While I surely didn't think I had a ticking time bomb sort of issue, I was about to lose my mind!

I arrived at the doctor, and filled out fifty seven pages of medical history. I pretty much told them everything that every happened in my life, which has been a challenge to write since my handwriting has gotten funky. I remember thinking to myself "I need to type all of this so I can just hand them a copy, and make multiple copies of that." I also remember thinking I would look really cool handing a booklet to my doctor. Hypochondriac anyone?

But once you've had cancer, they kinda expect you to give tons of info. And if you don't, they ask you TONS of questions anyway. So, I am thinking the booklet might be a good plan.

The nurse was incredibly friendly, and told me Alex was fine to sit with me. I could tell he was nervous, because he opened his water to drink it and spilled it all over the floor. Without missing a beat, she handed him a few paper towels, and told him it was only water. I appreciated that she did her best to make him feel at ease.

I was a bit nervous, meeting a new doctor and all. I was also nervous to talk to the doctor in front of Alex, because I don't want him worrying about me. The good thing about Alex, is he has the ability to hyperfocus. It can be really bad when you are trying to get his attention, but it was fantastic when I was conversing with the doctor. She even giggled when he made motor noises while playing his game, because he was completely oblivious to her in the room and our serious conversation.

The doctor: when she walked in, I was a little nervous. She looked nice, but she also looked extremely professional. I had thought back to all of my doctors I've seen, and I have had some doozies. Unfortunately, that makes me a bit skiddish when meeting new docs. I just didn't want her to think I was crazy, because I was tired of my issues being belittled. The truth I have learned is that if I am a male with the exact same issues, I would be taken seriously. Because I am female, sometimes they play the "hysteria" card, and blame it on hormones or mental illness. It's a sad world in health care when doctors play this game. They threw that crap on me the week before I found out I had cancer. One minute I am just crazy; the next minute they are telling me I have cancer, and apologizing. Nice...

So, I answered her questions, but I didn't want to divulge too much info yet. I didn't want to run her off. She seemed nice enough, and she was really thorough. She started with the hospital event in December, and went over that info with me. She made a plan for the stroke care, since she said it was probably a Transient Ischemic Attack. It sounds like the same thing that happened in 2009, and she was glad the hematologist was looking into the cause. With infertility issues that may have stemmed from this clotting problem, and the TIAs, she decided that I needed to remain on long-term aspirin therapy, and look at minimizing other stroke risk factors. Fair enough. We talked about those, and got a plan squared away.

I was already beginning to love her, because she was actively making a plan. I had concerns, and she was validating them and making a plan! No finger-pointing or whining! Just matter-of-factly telling me what we had to do, then asking me if I thought that was a reasonable plan.  Then she moved on to the other issue...

I was really nervous to talk to her about the tremors, I guess because I get emotional about them. I really didn't want to cry in front of the doctor, but it happens when I have to tell her how embarrassing this has become, and how it has affected my personal and work life. I could already feel the tears well up as she started asking me one hundred questions. When I started telling her how I shake when I write, when I type, when I put on makeup, that's when I started to cry. I realized that everything I do to get ready, to be productive, to be a human being, is now affected. I told her how even when I sit and watch tv at night, I feel the twitching and spasms, and see parts flop about. 
She told me it sounded like I had rest tremors and tremors with activity. I agreed, and told her that has been what confused me. I seem to overlap with the Essential Tremor and Parkinson's Disease diagnoses, and that confused me. I explained all of the family members that had both ET and PD, and told her that essentially there was a "whole lotta shakin' goin' on." She really appreciated that comment, and her giggle lightened the mood quite a bit.

She asked me "why on earth has no one tried medicines for the tremors?" I told her how people observed them, but either shrugged them off as anxiety or told me I was crazy. I know I've had stress in the past, but this has gone on for too long, and it's gotten a lot worse! She told me that wasn't a very smart plan, and she wants to start me on meds right away. The only way to know if they will work is to try them, but she wants to start me on the most conservative (and cheapest!) drug first. She wants there to be benefit, but not at the expense of side effects, or building up a tolerance to meds early in the treatment phase. She told me that meds should help me function easier, and that I can work on exercises to build up my strength and balance, until those start giving me more trouble. Essentially, she let me know that all of this will progress, but a proactive approach will help me function independently for longer. I liked the sound of that. 

She also wanted ALL of my records from all the other doctors, because she wanted to sort through everything and see what they were searching for. With the swallowing issues that required esophageal stretching at the Mayo Clinic, she wants to make sure that wasn't related to the swallowing problems of PD.  The balance issues that have caused broken bones and injury sound like they've been linked to it as well. I had to wonder what would have happened if I had met her five years ago instead of the other twenty doctors. I guess we can't go back, and it's really worthless to think about all of that. I'm just glad I've found her now.

So, I started on propanolol, and I went ahead and started a more aggressive dose. This is used to lessen the tremors, and decrease the anxious reaction they are causing. It's actually a beta blocker used for people with heart issues. She said it was a good first choice because it didn't have a lot of side effects, and it was cheap. I just have to be careful of standing up too quickly- sometimes the blood pressure can take a dive, and people pass out. I think I can remember that if it means making a difference in my daily routine! She said I could feel results fairly quickly, but to give it a week or two to really gauge its effectiveness. She asked me if it was reasonable to meet back in two months to see how the treatment is working, and for me to promise I will get an opthalmology evaluation and talk to my sleep dr again. PD has sleep problems associated with it, and she wants to make sure we are all on the same page.  I hadn't been to the eye dr in a while, but have had some vision issues associated with both the TIA and my daily life. My left vision has been blurry off and on, and she said that very well could be creating that nausea feeling, and the headaches I sometimes get. She wants to make sure everything is intact from that perspective, and I am grateful that she's on the ball.

So, after getting back into Tullahoma, I stopped by and picked up my new meds. I was a bit leery that a drug costing $4.25 a month could be the answer to my worries, but I gave it a shot. I took a pill and went about my evening routine. I really didn't expect much of anything to happen.

I did feel a bit more relaxed about life. Honestly, I didn't give a flip what happened that evening, which was kinda nice. I didn't feel drugged or anything, but it seemed like things moved slower. It wasn't half bad. I couldn't tell if the tremors were less, or if I just didn't care... LOL

I headed to bed at a reasonable hour, and woke up at almost 7am!! WHAT??? I had slept almost 10 hours and didn't wake up! That NEVER happens. Ok, I did remember waking up briefly one time in the night, because I was having really odd dreams. On Tuesday morning, I did a little research and found out that was one of the commonly reported side effects (vivid and sometimes strange dreams). 

Day 2 was pretty decent, but I found myself sleeping quite a bit during the day. That was a little strange since I had slept so long the night before, but I was wondering if I was finally catching up on sleep.  Tuesday night, I was asleep by 9pm. What time did I wake up Wednesday? 7AM!!! ANOTHER 10 HOUR NIGHT!!!

Of course, I woke up once or twice from strange dreams again- nothing scary, just very realistic and odd. I can't remember them now, but they were worth waking up for.  Today I had to go meet someone for lunch, and I was a bit nervous. This was the first social opportunity since starting the medicine, and it gave me an opportunity to see the meds in action. I've been getting anxious because I don't want to look odd in public, which I am sure makes everything worse. Well, the thing that makes it worse is when people point it out (which happens EVERY DAY). I really didn't want to look out of place, and I practiced my hand-holding I do to make it look like I am thoughtful instead of shaky...

I took half a dose earlier in the day, and the other half an hour before lunch. I wondered if the dose was what made me sleepy the day before, and I didn't want to risk that with the driving to Murfreesboro. So, I figured the split would lessen the blow of the meds. 

I am happy to report that lunch went well! Either I didn't care about the shaking, or it really did help! Or, my lunch mate was just too polite to ask... LOL  It was nice to be out and be social, even if it did mean I had to sit and worry about this issue for two hours. At least I was getting out there and living life! And because I am like Garfield and love me some lasagna, that's what really pushed me to go... ;-)

We'll see what happens over the next few weeks. I meet with the hematologist next week to come up with a plan for my blood, and I go back to see my orthopedic surgeon to address my healing of my knee. I am supposed to start back to work the week after that, if I am about to get a handle on my health. I want to balance a medication that makes me safe and productive, with the ability to be productive at work and do what needs to be done. The reality is that teaching special education requires 150% alertness and physical function, and that's what is making me apprehensive right now. When I take a med to increase my physical ability, I am sacrificing alertness. At some point, I need to make a decision about what's best for me and my career. Unfortunately, I've always been the provider and never got to worry first about my health and comfort. Right now, as a single parent and provider, I am trying to be thoughtful in balancing my well-being with the well-being of my children. Pray for me on that aspect.

What I'm really hoping for is some time to make a plan. The whole reason I created this blog was as an extension of my project I did for turning 30. I still had goals that I wanted to complete by 40, and I guess I've been lax in making a plan about getting anything done. Maybe the best part about facing my new reality is knowing if I want to reach those goals, I need to plan on sooner rather than later. That's probably true for all of us, so I guess it's a good thing to realize now. :-)

Monday, January 27, 2014


When I hear the word "tremors," I think of that really bad Kevin Bacon Movie that had those strange reptile-like creatures that attack a town. I guess that was all the attention I gave to the word, until the past few years.

Back in 2009, when I had Carly, some strange things started happening. I had always noticed my hand had a sort of tremor to it--people always commented on how I didn't need to be nervous, and I was always confused because I had no idea what they were talking about.  By 2009, apparently they were noticed enough to be called something. I had some issues with tremors and with weakness, and was given the dx of essential tremor. I had never heard of the term, and when I googled it, I only really got a clear picture once I saw that Katharine Hepburn had it, and that wasn't a great picture.  Essential tremor is often familial, and I had a feeling it was a fairly accurate diagnosis once I noted to the doctor that both my mother and grandmother (her mom) have the same tremor that has gotten pretty bad. Awesome...

Flash forward a few years. I dealt with a pretty significant injury, recovery from injury and illness, and returned to work and got a divorce. Life had seemed to smooth out, but it wasn't without notice of the tremor. During the time of my injury and illness, some of the symptoms were not as noticeable because I was on so many medications (and probably I was so drugged I didn't take note of the symptoms!).  It was really in the past three years that everything really got worse.

I remember having students constantly commenting about my hands that shook when I tried to teach and write on the board, and how much work it took for me to write neatly and hide these issues. I remember going in to meetings and knowing my hand was going to shake violently, so I would position it under my notepad or between my legs. I remember all of these things because I had to pay attention to my symptoms just to get by. I didn't want to deal with ANOTHER setback, so I just ignored it and coped the best I could.

It was during the past couple of months that I really began to notice it again. I had low calcium levels after my thyroidectomy, so they had been blaming my floppy and shaky hands on those levels. The truth is, my hands are pretty consistent no matter what the levels are doing at the moment, we just gave the calcium all the credit for causing such grief.  We looked at medication side effects and any other reason that this might be happening. Never mind I had already been told what it was a few years ago.  Maybe I just wanted someone to explain it away; to give it a reason that could be solved by a simple exercise or a pill. Not that I wanted an easy answer, but I didn't want to get a diagnosis in which there wasn't much at all that could be done.

I have had the tremors and spasms for quite some time, and also some issues with my balance. I have to wonder if that's the whole reason I broke my leg and tore my ACL in the first place- my balance has been TERRIBLE.  After having a nerve block for my surgery, it seemed to awaken the spasms and tremors in my left leg, which has made dealing with recovery absolutely terrible. I told the orthopedic surgeon about my issue, and was assured that it happened to many people as their nerves learn how to wake up again. That didn't explain the years of issues in my hands, and the domino effect of spasms through my body.

I went to therapy last week, and have been progressing pretty well. I was given a fairly simple exercise in which I had to use my balance on one leg to bend over and touch a ball to the top of a cone. It wasn't a very complicated task, but I couldn't do it. I became so frustrated, that I spent about 20 minutes trying the task before I FINALLY made it to ten successful attempts (and that was the therapist calling number 10 "successful" because he was tired of waiting). I guess until that moment, when I was almost in tears because my brain wouldn't let my body complete a task: THAT was when it all hit me. My body doesn't do what I tell it, and it terrifies me. There are tears streaming down my cheeks as I type this paragraph.

The first thing I think of is writing, oddly enough. I have had a little bit of a hard time with typing already, and have just had to do it in small doses. But handwriting has been another issue. Since I've been out of work, I haven't had to write nearly as many notes or paperwork that I normally do, so I didn't really realize the issues until I was trying to fill out a form at a dr's office. NOT pretty. I also noticed that I used to write in journals OFTEN before bed, to get my thoughts out before sleep. There's dust on the journal, because the last time I tried to sit and write my thoughts, it took too much effort to make the words look right.  That's something I really like doing, and I stopped doing it.

I don't want to sit here and complain about my life. Really, I'm not. I read a book by a woman with ALS, and she typed the entire book using the Notes program on her iPhone. She used one finger to type an ENTIRE book, and I seem like I am complaining about not being able to journal about my day's events. It's not that--I guess I am coping with the realization that something's off, and my life's not going back to normal. If essential tremor is the only diagnosis at work here, it's progressive. There's things that can help, but it doesn't mysteriously disappear. It often gets much worse.

Just looking at how I feel today, and what I have attempted to do in a fairly stress-free setting, I am seriously concerned about returning to work and back to the pace I maintain there. I am supposed to be visiting a new neurologist in the next couple of weeks, and I hope she will give me some advice on how I can maintain my independence. The major tasks haven't become a chore, but some of the fine motor things have gotten hard. Sitting and punching out paper dolls for Carly isn't really something that HAS to be done, but it is something I want to be able to do, and it's something that I don't think should take an hour to do. I want to be able to open doors and jars, and unbutton my own pants. I like the fact that I can go to the store, get the items I need, and bring them hope and put them away. I don't want to give up my independence, and I guess these changes have made me realize how important that independence is to me.

The intention of this post, I guess, is to give you a glimpse into my world. As awesome of a life that I have, with cute kids and a great supportive family, it can suck at times. There are days when I am exhausted because my muscles spent the night before hopping about, leaving me feeling like I've run a marathon. There's so much I want to do with my kids and for my kids, and it hurts me when my intentions can't meet my actions. And yes, even though life is grand right now, I am scared about the future. I am already sad that my children have had to endure a divorce, an absent father, and a mother with cancer. I really don't think they need to carry any more for a while.  I think they'd like a period where everything is calm, and mommy feels good. I push through and participate in activities, and hope that my body will recover in the night. It just seems like my days of making up for things are running out, and I am now paying the price for overdoing it.

I do have hope though, and that can be a very powerful thing. I know that I am a smart and resourceful person, and I'll use my abilities and resources to get me where I need to be. I have an incredibly supportive family that tries really hard to make sure that we are taken care of, and I have friends that offer support in many different forms. I know that there are worse things that can happen in life, but honestly I also know there are better things too. I guess I just have to maintain that hope in my future, and the faith that everything will work out alright. I already have two of the coolest children that I've ever been blessed to know, so I guess I'm ahead of the game. :-)