Butterflies that bite

The symbol for thyroid problems is a butterfly…I’m guessing mostly because the thyroid is shaped like a butterfly, and not because it’s a beautiful and mystical creature that transforms from a caterpillar into a flying wonder. But maybe I’m wrong.

Anyway, I digress – I’ll blame my lack of a thyroid.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, I was going to give a quick update.

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After my vocal chord was injected…a day I’d love to forget. But so grateful for the advances that allows little things like this to be easily “fixed.”

I had my thyroid removed a little over a month ago. The surgery was a success and I found out that I was lucky enough to have cancer on not one, but BOTH sides of my thyroid. Oh, and my vocal chord was paralyzed during the whole ordeal, which led to seven days of sounding like a chipmunk on helium. Did you know that shouting all the time, just to make enough noise to sound like a whisper, is exhausting? It is.

When the pathology report came back, the surgeon was surprised to learn that he did not remove multiple lymph nodes during the surgery. In fact, he managed to only catch one. That one was a clear lymph node, but not exactly a statistical slam-dunk when it comes to declaring lymph nodes cancer-free.

At my one week follow-up, the doctor felt that there was no predicting when my voice may return – if ever – and so he scheduled a surgery the next day to artificially prop up my vocal chord so that I could talk. It was supposed to be an “easy” 15-minute procedure.

But life never goes as expected, does it?

Things went a little haywire. I ended up with a chipped tooth and some sort of air pocket in my healing incision. Which led to me feeling as if I couldn’t breathe – or a condition they call stridor – where I sounded like a woman taking her last breath. It was scary. And it led to an unexpected stay in the hospital.

And now I’m waiting for another procedure. This time, after much discussion and thought, my endocrinologist recommends that we continue treatment with radioactive iodine. I can’t quite claim victory over cancer – but I’m a step closer.

My levels are wonky. My doctor is stumped. My voice comes and goes. My energy is non-existent. I’m crabby. I’m tired, but can’t sleep. My hair is falling out…again. And I’m gaining imaginary weight even though I’m eating less and exercising more.

***DISCLAIMER*** Moment of weakness and absolute honesty coming up: Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not mention to me in the next few days how I lucky I am to have the “easy” cancer.

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The scar looks pretty good for a month out? A blessing for sure.

OK…I’m better now. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Not the answer you’re hoping for…

It’s been a bit. I’d give some grand excuse, but the truth is…I’ve been tired. Bone-weary exhausted, to be closer to the truth. And I have a little better reason as to why, which I’ll share in a minute.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my thoughts and ideas on a few things, but here’s my one and only request: listen. Take a moment to truly hear what I’m trying to say, and then let me know what you think.

This community has been built up over time, and I’m grateful for each and every one of you that checks in on George, the farm, the boys, me…all of us. George is now stronger than ever. His care is on-point and he’s blossoming. EJ is bound and determined to be the best young farmer he can be – and he takes his responsibilities seriously. He reminds his Dad of all the things that need to get done…hoping to be assigned a chore or two (preferably one that involves him sitting in a tractor). Scooter has sprouted up taller than either of his parents and all of his grandparents. He has one uncle left to surpass in height. And I don’t think that will be long in coming. And Big Bro and his gentle soul will be a freshman this fall – how did that ever happen?

Life – it moves so quickly. And sometimes we forget to take a second and take it all in. We forget to enjoy the moment.

As I said earlier, I haven’t been feeling the best for a while. I joke around a lot that my thyroid isn’t a “team player.” And it’s true. It’s not. It’s been a problem for quite a few years. And now it’s causing a bit of a bigger problem – and it seems to be getting bigger rather quickly.

On July 5, I found out from a specialist that my biopsy had come back positive for thyroid cancer. Not the answer I was hoping for – but an answer, nonetheless.

After the initial shock, I met with the doctor the next day and we developed a plan – one that I’m more than excited to implement. You see, I realize that as far as cancers go, I’m pretty darn lucky. Thyroid cancer is an “easy” one. We’ll remove my thyroid, and as long as my surrounding lymph nodes come back clear and the pathology doesn’t show anything alarming, I’m pretty much home free. A few years of scans and appointments, but no further treatment needed at this point.

research

I’ll be part of a thyroid-cancer research study. I’m excited for doctor’s to learn more about cases like mine…and maybe, just maybe, there’ll be more answers that we hope for in the future.

It could have been so much worse.

But it’s still the c-word. Cancer. Me. What???

I don’t have time for an illness, no matter how small. I’m busy. We had the county fair. I have things I need to do. I have games I want to watch. I have pool-dates to make up.

I have a chance to realize just how quickly it all can change.

And it’s all because it wasn’t the answer I was hoping for…but it was an answer that I could live with…and that’s the most important answer of all.

Finding Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was never a holiday that my family celebrated all that much. The timing was usually off, coming at the end of deer season, and we would have other things to do – like cutting up deer, butchering pigs, mixing, stuffing and smoking sausage – whatever was needed to be done in preparation for winter. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we would always stop for a meal – it just wasn’t necessarily a holiday that brought together all of the family from the four corners of the Earth. Just those of us lucky enough to still be home.

So I have to admit that I’m a little distracted by the hubbub that’s being caused by the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday hours. Now, don’t get me wrong…I understand the importance of time with family. And I know how important it can be to have a reason to get together. But let’s take a little closer look at it.

Future Farmer

Thanksgiving isn’t just for one day…it’s for every day.

I’m now going to read to you every scripture that talks about God’s commandment for Thanksgiving:

 

 

That’s right…not once in the Bible does God say anything specifically about Thanksgiving, and yet our society is up in arms about the unfairness of businesses being open on that day in particular.

And yet…Exodus 20:8-11. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Oh, and then there’s Deuteronomy 5:12-14. 12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.”

So why is it that we are so willing to stand up for a holiday that celebrates an event that should be done every single day – and yet we are so willing to go against what God has specifically commanded us to do?

Now, don’t get me wrong – as a farmer’s daughter, a farmer’s wife, and a mother of four, I completely understand that life throws you curve balls on occasion. Animals need to be fed, people need to eat, crops need to be brought in, and sometimes the only day in which the weather cooperates is Sunday. Truthfully, the only reason I mention it at all is because we need to be aware of the convictions that we have and the reasons that we have them.

Perhaps, instead of criticizing those that make decisions that are different then our own, we should focus on what Thursday is supposed to be all about. Let THAT be our message to share with the world – instead of commercializing the holiday even more.

First of all, why is it that we need one day out of the year to get our families together and give thanks for the gifts we’ve been blessed with? Is this not something we should be doing at a minimum of at least once a day? If not almost every minute of the day? I don’t believe that there is a single person in this church that doesn’t tell God how grateful we are on a regular basis.

We see these gifts every where we look – we just have to be willing to open our eyes. Like we read in Hebrews 12:28, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…”

I haven’t always been a thankful person. I didn’t grow up in the most prestigious manner. I didn’t have a church family that I felt I belonged to, and my upbringing was unconventional at best. Some may call it the school of hard knocks, I just call it a lesson in reality. You win some, you lose some – and most importantly, only you can decide what your future may bring.

But my outlook and heart had a pretty drastic change following the events that began in the spring of 2009. For those that may not know me that well, that was the year in which our youngest son, Eli, was born.

None of my pregnancies were easy – and I will openly admit that Eli was no different. I had problems with my kidney, as well as undergoing emergency surgery in my fourth month of pregnancy to have my gallbladder removed. I was grateful that there was a planned end in sight, with a c-section scheduled the day after my own birthday. Eli came into the world at 9 pounds, 10 ounces.

As with all of my boys, it was love at first sight. And even though I never once questioned my love for him – I did question his health. For weeks, and then months, I kept having a nagging suspicion that something wasn’t quite right. He developed jaundice late, and it hung on for weeks. He wasn’t gaining weight. I always joked that he looked like the saggy-baggy elephant.

Finally, I took him in to see the on-call doctor – and the events that unfolded from that moment on became a roller coaster for the next 18 months. I shudder to think what may have happened if my family hadn’t pushed for answers. If Eli would have been the oldest instead of the youngest. Would I have been so willing to keep pushing? Would I have listened to my instincts?

But the fact is, none of that matters. And after Eli was diagnosed with his condition, and I saw him finally starting to grow, and develop, and become the child you see before you, I realized that the path we took to get here may not have been the easiest, but I’m grateful for the experience.

You see, we can’t always change the events that happen around us. The diagnoses we receive. The actions of others. The hours that a business sets. But we can change our response to it. We can change our attitude. And with that, we can change the world.

Thursday is Thanksgiving. But true thanksgiving doesn’t happen every year at the end of November. It’s not marred by a business trying to improve their bottom line. It’s not determined by whether or not a family is sitting down for a meal together.

Thanksgiving happens in our hearts – every day. It’s in the gratefulness we feel towards doctors and the advances we’ve been blessed with in science. It’s in the wonder we feel when we watch our families gather. It’s in the strength of a person who faces adversity with tenacity and determination. It’s in the eyes of a 6-year-old who defies the odds that science has set.

Thanksgiving doesn’t happen once a year. And it doesn’t take place at Walmart at 6 p.m. on November 26.

And for that – I am thankful.

What keeps me away?

Yikes…a little more than two months. I’ve missed you all. Really and truly. And I know you have a ton of questions, so ask away, and I promise I’ll answer them…all of them.

But before you start rambling them off, let me give you a quick run down of what’s been going on, so you can get a brief picture of what’s been happening, and what’s been keeping me busy…here’s my top 10 list:

  1. I finished my paralegal education. Finished. Done. Complete. That’s right, 18 months of education, finished with honors. My advice? Do it when younger. Yes, I was more focused, but my energy levels were lacking. And staying up until 3 finishing projects is not for someone on this side of 35.
  2. I was bit by a spider…or some sort of bug…at the end of November, which led to an infection and a whole mess of doctor’s appointments. And medicines. And not feeling so hot. Yep, I was a hot mess.
    The "tattooed" marker line showed the doctor if my infection spread at all. They should have used Z-tag marker.

    The “tattooed” marker line showed the doctor if my infection spread at all. They should have used Z-tag marker.

    The doc sliced an "X" in the wound to get it to drain...and although I have a scar still, I'm grateful for how well it healed now.

    The doc sliced an “X” in the wound to get it to drain…and although I have a scar still, I’m grateful for how well it healed now.

  3. My oldest son tackled his first set of semester tests as a seventh-grade student. And neither one of us required therapy. I’m making no comments about the number of glasses of wine I may have consumed.
  4. We all own a calendar and realize there were approximately three holidays in there, right?
  5. Since I was already seeing the doctor so often, I decided to do something drastic about this extra weight I’ve been carrying. It’s a work in progress, but it’s been a pretty successful one so far. I consider that a win. (And see #4 for the difficulty factor in this.)
  6. Science fair finished last night. I don’t think I need to explain any more.

    Big brother tested the staining effects of different non-dairy "milk" on egg shells. Lesson learned? Brush your teeth.

    Big brother tested the staining effects of different non-dairy “milk” on egg shells. Lesson learned? Brush your teeth.

  7. We lost a very close neighbor and had a close friend have two children involved in a tragic bus/train accident. One child did not survive. It’s hard enough understanding these events as an adult – trying to work through them with a pre-teen takes skills that I did not possess as a mother. But I have some amazing friends that can pull some amazing resources from out of thin air. And provide support for me as well. I owe them more than I could ever repay.
  8. Meetings. Winter is meeting season. And it’s not slowing down through February. But I’m going to do a better job of writing and scheduling.
  9. I took a time-out to spend some needed time with my kiddos. We spent Christmas break doing a whole lot of nothing – and it was the best schedule ever.
  10. Leaning in. I’ve been working on leaning in. Leaning in to my church. Leaning in to my boys’ schedules. Leaning in to my health. Leaning in to my hobbies. Everything has its season and time. And the last few weeks have been my time to reconnect – to real life.

But I must admit, I miss blogging. And I have no intentions of staying away. It’s a great tool, and one that I use as much for my benefit as anyone else’s.

So here’s to a great 2015. One more engaged.

You are who you are

I’m almost in tears sitting at my computer. It’s been almost three months since I’ve wrote on this blog. Three months. Wow. I cannot tell you how hard it was to not sit here and type. You have all become my friends…my family…my confidants…my support. For some reason, sitting here, typing, I feel free. I feel relief. I feel myself.

But I quit for awhile.

Never again. At least not intentionally.

It’s not like I was sitting around, twiddling my thumbs. School let out. My boys played ball, I played ball, my family had a few medical crises. You know, summer stuff.

Big Bro even tried his hand at pitching.

Big Bro even tried his hand at pitching.

Oh, the medical thing? Eh, no biggie. Just an aneurysm or two or three in my mom’s head. Oh, and my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer again…and possibly spots in his lymph nodes and his colon. All is pretty well now. Six weeks of radiation in three days will help matters immensely…if you can handle it.

And did I mention that my oldest nephew got married? And I’m still going to school full time? (16 credits for summer quarter)

And the most important activity of all…I took my boys on our first ever real-life, trip-away-from-home-not-family-event related. And they loved every minute.

A trip to the zoo..."camels" that looked an awful lot like goats and breeding season. Stories and memories galore...did I mention Scooter opened up the window in the car wash? Yeah.

A trip to the zoo…”camels” that looked an awful lot like goats and breeding season. Stories and memories galore…did I mention Scooter opened up the window in the car wash? Yeah.

George and I...proof that you can live with your heart outside of your body.

George and I…proof that you can live with your heart outside of your body.

Yes, I had a busy summer. Like most parents and people that enjoy their community. I got involved in our local Bountiful Baskets co-op. We had our county fair. I started going to a boot camp workout class.

A boy and his pigs. EJ is our true-blue farmer.

A boy and his pigs. EJ is our true-blue farmer.

But not writing was hard. I love to write. It’s as natural to me as breathing. And when I hit publish on a post, it’s hard to explain the feeling, but it’s like hitting an RBI in a tie game.

There’s a real reason why I quit writing for awhile. And it had little to do with my schedule. I am one of those people that thrive on pressure and crunch time. But what I do not deal with well is criticism and critiques. Especially from those that are supposed to be the most supportive.

I would have to say that over the course of the last two summers, I have learned a lot about myself. And I am grateful for every lesson I have learned. There are many that I need to thank for teaching me those lessons, some that have done so with encouragement and opportunities, and some that have done so through other means. Whatever the case may be, I have become a better person. And for that, I’m grateful.

I am back – blog world. I hope you are ready for me.

The years go by

Time flies when you you’re having fun…right?

It’s hard to believe that just a few short weeks ago my little George turned 5. How is that even possible?
It seems like just yesterday I was spending countless hours at various physicians, trying to nail down what was going on…wondering where his road would lead.

Yet, here we are. Five.

For those that don’t know, or maybe haven’t been following along, or are new to this blog, 5 is a magic number for my George. It’s an age that science said he more than likely wouldn’t reach. It’s an age that should have brought more issues and concerns and perhaps a little more doom and gloom.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

George broke down the door of 5 and is rarin’ to go. He’s excelled at preschool and may need some advanced work when he hits kindergarten in the fall. Kindergarten. A dream I dared to dream.

It seemed like eons ago that I wrote about finally realizing I needed to give George a life. Not just health…a real life. One filled with friends and experiences and ups and downs. And since then, I started living too.

Do I still worry about tomorrow? Certainly. I don’t know of a single parent that wouldn’t. But why borrow the trouble of tomorrow against the miracle of today?

My guard is still up. I read about the measles outbreaks across the country and the hair on the back of my neck stands on end. I do what I can to protect George from the known issues that he may face. But I could never fully protect him. There are too many unknowns. Too many variables. So I must use a little common sense and balance.

Five whole years. It seriously feels like a lot longer than that. But if we truly lived by the adage that “it’s not the years, it’s the miles,” George would be older than most.

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. My greatest blessing just so happens to come in a dynamite little package that keeps thumbing his nose at what the experts say. Just goes to show that the greatest Expert of all doesn’t follow a scientific journal.

And I am grateful for that.

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The anatomy of a farmer

I was told recently, point blank, that “agriculture is a man’s world.” And I will freely admit that my first reaction was not a very pleasant one. Yes, it made me angry. Very angry.

Are there certain situations that being a man is helpful? Sure. I must admit that there are many men stronger than I am, but then again, I’m also stronger than a lot of guys I know, too. It all boils down to the situation. But I also am quite certain that politics is not one of those situations. Your gender does not…and should not…EVER make an impact on your ability to be elected to serve in office.

Yet, it became painfully obvious last weekend that we have so much work to do on this front.

So let me start by explaining to you what a farmer looks like…from head to toe:

A farmer is required to be a person capable of wearing many hats – from accountant to nurse to scientist to engineer. A farmer’s head is full of so much information, and also full of contacts, for those questions that they can’t answer. A farmer knows how to make the best out of a sticky situation, and knows when to call in reinforcements. Facial hair has never been a requirement…although, I must admit, it would come in handy come winter.

Fashion has little to do with farming...warmth, on the other hand...

Fashion has little to do with farming…warmth, on the other hand…

A farmer has a mouth that can communicate the needs of the farm, to a variety of audiences. From legislators to neighbors to school kids to friends and family – a farmer knows that in order to preserve our work for future generations, we need to start engaging people more. It does not matter if those lips are covered in lip stick, lip gloss, chapstick or whiskers…the message is the same.

A farmer has broad shoulders – more in a figurative sense than anything. A farmer is able to carry the weight of the current growing season, worrying about changes in the weather, all while enjoying the miracle of each season. Whether it be watching a new calf learn to walk, watching a new crop erupt from the ground, watching baby chicks develop their first feathers, or watching a sick animal slowly recover – a farmer takes responsibility for what happens on the farm, good and bad.

A farmer has strong hands. They are able to be involved in almost every aspect of the farm. From gently handling an injured animal, to convincing a rusty bolt to budge, to writing out checks to pay for inputs to folding them in prayer at the end of the day…a farmer’s hands hold more strength than many would guess. Whether or not your nails are polished doesn’t matter.

teamwork, farmwork

Two different sets of hands working for a common goal…does it matter which were replaced with a woman’s hand?

A farmer has a caring heart. A farmer strives to do what is best for the land…and the job…that she loves. This includes protecting the land for the generations to come. A farmer also knows that they are not in this fight alone, and that there are so many involved in the process of being successful.

A farmer has a pair of feet that can walk miles in other’s shoes, and never skip a beat. A farmer can wear a pair of work boots all day, slip on a pair of dress shoes for church, a pair of tennis shoes for playing catch and a pair of flip flops for a day of fishing. The size of the heel doesn’t matter.

These feet work hard...

These feet work hard…

...and so do these.

…and so do these.

Whatever the role of the farm may be, each person has an integral part in the success of the farm. And the only thing that determines the extent of involvement is the willingness to work hard, the flexibility to adapt to unexpected events and the passion to see something through to the end…and gender does not determine any one of those things.

Agriculture a man’s world? I certainly hope not. Our industry would be missing a whole lot of talent if that were true.

What makes a farmer? It has a whole lot more to do with who is on the inside, not the outside.