Wordless Wednesday – Thanksgiving

Today’s post is mostly wordless by me…following you will find another survivor’s story, this one by Heather Von St. James. We are all given so much, and sometimes we don’t realize the “village” we have, until we need it.

And please, don’t forget to click on the blue angel in the right-hand corner! We need more angels and more gift suggestions! Let’s make this a season of giving!

The Strength of My Village

When a mother announces her pregnancy, a village surrounds her. Family, friends, co-workers and even strangers offer support and advice. This happened to me in 2005. On August 5, my husband and I welcomed our daughter Lilly into our family. Our village surrounded us in the hospital with well wishes as they met our daughter. In the months and years to come, I would realize how much I needed their support.

As the partial owner of three successful salons, I supervised 20 employees at one location and worked behind the chair until the day Lily was born. After a few weeks at home with my baby, I regretfully returned to work. Unenthusiastically, I accepted a location switch and a lighter workload. I really only wanted to be home with my child!

Motherhood brings health changes such as weight fluctuation, lack of energy and tiredness, but I soon began to experience severe symptoms. After losing an average of six pounds a week, I consulted my doctor. Blood work and a chest x-ray revealed fluid build-up around my left lung. The doctor prescribed more tests. On November 21, 2005, my medical team discovered the source of my unusual symptoms. In the lining of my lung, I had cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma. Caused by asbestos exposure I had experienced as a child, the diagnosis came just three and a half months after precious Lily was born.

The doctors gave me 15 months to live, and my thoughts flew to my husband and child. I wanted to do whatever it took to save my life. My husband and I decided to pursue drastic treatment. On February 2, I underwent extrapleural pneumonectomy in Boston. Specialists removed cancer-laden organs and tissue and administered heated chemo to remove all the cancer. I spent 18 days in the hospital recovering from surgery. Two months of additional recovery prepared my body for chemotherapy then radiation. I survived the horrid medical treatments with help of my village.

My parents took Lily to live with them in South Dakota where my childhood friends and people from my church surrounded my parents who both worked full-time. They babysat Lily and made meals. Halfway across the country, my baby learned to roll over and eat solid food. So we could watch her grow, my mom emailed pictures of Lily that my husband printed out. In black and white, I watched my little girl grow and change. I fought for my life because of my daughter.

Five years later, I rejoice that I can stay home to care for my child. As we embrace life, Lily has learned to give to others in need. She befriends everyone she meets and really thrives because of the family, friends, and strangers who surround us. Because of the cancer diagnosis, I remain thankful for my many blessings. With the bad comes good, and my family appreciates every moment thanks to our village who so generously supported us then and continues to support us now.

 

Mesothelioma: www.mesothelioma.com
Diagnosis: http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/diagnosis/
Heather Von St. James: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather/

Heaven is for Real

I’m sure many of you have heard of the book, “Heaven is for Real.” I had…but I had never read it. Sometimes we avoid those things that we fear the most…and I didn’t want to think about death, or death and children specifically. But I’ve read it now. I’m pretty sure God wanted me to, so I did.

This weekend was our annual Farm Bureau meeting in Minot. George and I packed up Friday morning and headed north. I wanted to testify on one resolution specifically. It would support allowing North Dakota Children’s Special Health Services to open their doors to children with catastrophic illnesses. (Catastrophic illnesses are ones that are life-threatening. Currently, NDCSHS can only assist those children with illnesses specified by state statute…OTC is not one.)

On Saturday morning, I stood in front of the Farm Bureau delegates and tried to give a brief synopsis and explain why we needed to forward this resolution. It was, by far, one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Imagine explaining to a large body of people that your child’s life is at risk, and you would hate for other children and families to have to fight the same fights you’ve been battling. It was pretty emotional for me, and I wasn’t as strong as I would have like to have been. But I made it through, and I thank God that the resolution passed.

After that, we had our district caucus meetings. And I was sitting in the back of a room, along with my friend, Joannie. A lady came up to my table, handed me the book, “Heaven is for Real,” and told me that she thought I should have it. She gave me a hug, watched me wipe away my tears, and quietly slipped out of the room.

Sitting here, I still can’t believe it happened. It was one of those moments that (looking back on it), God was telling me not to worry about the future. No matter what happens, He’ll have George in His arms. I need to quit dwelling on the what-ifs and work on enjoying the now. I get that. And when I falter, and start to worry, I have a book to read to remind me.

I needed that.

And to the wonderful angel who delivered the message to me…thank you.

Sunday Sharing

I’m home from church today, sick. Yet, even on days like these, I count my blessings.

Tomorrow at noon, I will draw a winner for my Pink KitchenAid prize pack…I would like to thank EVERYONE who has participated, entered, shared their stories, whatever it may be.

So, for today, here are three more stories…blessings to you all:

On March 7, 2008, my husband’s younger brother got married. The next day we learned his oldest brother’s wife had lost her battle with breast cancer. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I think of her often. We talk about her, her husband (my husband’s brother), and their two little boys often.

Starting last year we run the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run in memory of Tanya. I’ve jokingly told my family that I’ll run it until all I can do is walk and then I’ll have someone push me in a wheelchair if I have to. One day we hope to run it with our entire family. I can’t think of a more fitting way to cherish the memory of someone who went home to God at such a young age.

And another:

My sister has some cancerous breast tissue removed a couple of years ago and now my other sister has to go back and have another mammogram because something showed up in the 1st one. I don’t know all the medical terms for what they have right now but as soon as you hear the word Cancer you get nervous. I haven’t had a mammogram in 4yrs. I didn’t even realize it was that long. I have been seeing the same doctor too and he never mentioned to me I should get one. So I have an appt. this October to have mine done. It is so important for us as women to take control and get this done. God bless all the cancer patients in this world.

And one last one for today…

I will never forget my Mom and Dad’s 28th wedding anniversary.  She came to see me at work and had an IV in her hand.  I asked her what
was going on, since she also works at the same hospital that I do, but it was her day off.  She took me into our nurses lounge with my Dad at
her side and said, “I had a colonoscopy today, and they found a mass.”  Then she started to cry.  She was only 49.

I immediately went into nurse mode and started to grill her with questions.  She had the colonoscopy done at a different facility, but came back to our hospital to get labs and other tests done, then was going home.  I was numb the rest of the day.

The next day, I went to Columbus for a Young Farmer conference, and Mom went back to work.  Dad called me that evening and said that Mom started to bleed at work, and it wasn’t stopping.  She left work(which NEVER happens!) and Dad took her straight to Fort Wayne.  They admitted her to the larger hospital, with a colorectal surgeon, and gave her blood transfusions.  (One of the biopsy spots failed to clot, which was the source of her bleeding).  She was in the hospital a few days, then was released to home.  She had a colon resection on September 6, and found out 5 days later they got it all.

She lucked out, had a great surgeon, and an even greater faith in God.  No chemo or radiation.  Just frequent checks with her surgeon.  So pay attention to your body.  It does talk to you.  All you have to do is listen, and have faith.

Yes…you are so right. All we have to do is listen, and have faith.

Tomorrow morning’s post will wrap this month up…and I’ll explain why I did all this. And then, at the stroke of 12 (or close there to), I will draw the name of a lucky winner of this sweet KitchenAid. Good luck to all who entered…and more importantly, good luck to all who shared their stories. May God bless every one of you.

Fighting the Good Fight

Yesterday, my fellow blogger and friend-across-the-miles started her second battle with cancer. I’ll be praying for her for the next few weeks/months as she boldly fights this beast called cancer. If you’d like to swing over and give her a shout, just letting her know that others are in her corner, you can leave a comment on my “Fight Like a Girl” post that you did, and be entered to win a pink KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer. I’ll be giving it away at the end of the month, so hurry and enter!

I’m sharing another reader’s cancer story today…I’m so glad I did this. I’ve learned so much about the strength of so many women. You guys are all amazing. It makes me feel silly for worrying about some of the things I worry about. Thank you for a lesson in humility, a lesson in strength and a lesson of how to keep going.
I wanted to share with you my story of my step dad that has passed away to cancer.  Five years ago in May my mom married Bill.  They were happy together in fact the happiest I have ever seen my mom in years.  In August Bill had a swollen gland in his neck so he went to the hospital.  For a couple of months the doctors told him it was allergies and put him on Zertec and antibiotics.  Sept 8, 2006, Bill got up during the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and he collapsed on the floor.  Blacked out and was unresponsive.  My mom had called 911 and the ambulance was on their way when she had called me.  They did get him to start breathing again on the way to the hospital.  Several hours later the transfered him to another hospital and mom and I were on our way there too.
Once there, they did a scope to look at his throat and found a cyst wrapped around his main artery and that is what caused him to black out and quit breathing.  After further tests we found out it was cancer, Yes cancer not allergies.
That’s when the battle began.  We stayed at a house that is just a block away from the hospital and the Cancer treatment center.  While Bill was in the hospital trying to get better we spent endless hours by his side (the treatments he was receiving and the lack of blood to the brain would make him hallucinate).  Four weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer, he woke up one morning and asked me if I thought he was going to die and I told him no.  That night mom and I went home to get clothes and so I could spend sometime with my family and we got a phone call that we needed to come back. Bill had taken a turn for the worst.
We drove back that night and he did make it three more nights before he passed away.  Cancer is a horrible disease to watch someone die because of it makes it even harder.  To see a strong man weak and needing help getting up, going to the bathroom, and not being able to eat because the radiation burnt his throat was very hard and then to find out that the treatments didn’t help was frustrating.  With cancer I think a person has every feeling possible at some point and time of treatment.
I pray for all people going through cancer, their family, and their cartakers every day.  It takes alot of courage and strength to get through such a horrible disease.
Thank you, everyone for sharing your lives with me. Let’s keep raising awareness, and supporting others that are fighting the good fight. We need more marks in the win column.

Why My Monday was Meatless

Normally on Monday, I would post a “Hunk of Meat Monday” recipe, to share with those that enjoy having protein in their diet and I would link up with Beyer Beware’s linky party…but not today.

Our household is a very unique situation. We farm. We ranch. And our son is a vegan. Actually, that doesn’t quite cover it, but it’s close. He is limited in the amount of protein that he can have. Right now his limit is 11-12 grams of protein. To put that into perspective, an 8 oz. glass of milk has about 8 grams of protein in it. So, in theory he could have a glass of milk, but then he could only have one slice of bread for the rest of the day.

What it means is that he doesn’t eat meat. And according to his dietician, he will probably never eat meat. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

George’s body can’t break down protein. When he consumes protein, it can cause a reaction in his body that can elevate his ammonia levels, cause his brain to swell, cause seizures, make him hyperactive, etc. In a nutshell, it can be life threatening.

Last week Monday, I had a package of beef jerky in the fridge. Now, normally I don’t keep those kind of snacks in the house. Many times I just leave them in the shop fridge, because my husband likes to snack on them during harvest. But for some reason, I brought some in the house.

Now, mind you, George has never really had meat before. Due to his medical issues and not knowing what was all going wrong, but knowing that he didn’t tolerate table food very well, George was on a special formula for much longer than you normally would have a child on a liquid-only diet. In fact, George had just started eating some table food just about a year ago. He was 18 months old. It was January when we learned that we would probably need to cut protein out of his diet, and finally had a plan.

Well, apparently George is curious. And he ate two sticks of beef jerky. I was working on folding clothes, and noticed that he was chewing on something. He showed me the tiny bite that was left in his mouth, promptly spit it out for me, and then I checked the fridge, realizing that not one, but two sticks were out of the package.

We’d never had this problem, so I wasn’t sure what to do. I called his neurologist, who was on vacation. Her back-up was paged…she was on vacation. So a third person was contacted, who told me that she was going to be no help. So another neurologist was paged. And while waiting for her to call back, I called our pediatrician, who was out of the office. His nurse was very supportive, and told me that when I heard back, to let them know what they needed to do.

Under normal circumstances, were George to have issues relating to his OTC, I know what to do. I take him to the ER and hand them my letters from the doctors that give step-by-step instructions on how to care for him. But that’s what I do AFTER he’s having an “episode.” I had never had to deal with a situation in which he MIGHT have an episode.

Well, I finally heard back, and the doctor gave me some wonderful words of wisdom…like, “Don’t give him any more protein today.” Thank you, Captain Obvious. I figured that one out on my own. And, “Watch for signs of distress.” Whew. So glad I called. That really put me at ease. (By the way, that’s dripping heavily with sarcasm.)

Needless to say, I quickly learned one of George’s reactions to too much protein. He becomes off-the-wall, crazy hyper. Similar to what I would imagine a 2-year-old would act like if they were given 3-4 Mountain Dews. Seriously. He had snuck the beef jerky at about 2 that afternoon. He finally went to sleep around 1…Tuesday morning. It was crazy. But he survived, and so did I.

The point of all this?

I get the need for some people to be vegetarians, vegans, not eat meat, however you want to word it. I completely understand. I know, because I’m living it.

Here’s what I don’t like:

  • Don’t tell me that not eating meat is healthier for you. I know what the body needs. I know what children need. I’ve been researching it for months. I work with dieticians at Mayo Clinic. Trust me. I know. I also know what it takes to replace the nutrients and protein that you automatically get from meat. I know how dangerous it can be to try to live without those proteins. I know what the formula that my son will be using for the rest of his life smells like, tastes like…I’d rather eat a steak. (There are more than 25 different cuts of meat that are lean and healthier options, if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for.)
  • Don’t tell me that livestock aren’t cared for properly. I know how they’re cared for, because I live it. We take care of our cattle, day-in, day-out, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Through blizzards, through hot streaks, in the spring, in the fall, you name it. If we need to be gone, we arrange for someone else to take care of them. It’s our responsibility and something we take very, very seriously.

This is our herd today.

  • Talk to me about your concerns. If you have heard something about animal care that concerns you, ask. Don’t just assume that whatever you see, hear is the truth. If you need to, come to my farm and look. (In fact, I’m connecting a video that our state Farm Bureau put together, showing you our farm, and telling others about why we do what we do…check it out. And remember, this was three years and one child ago!)
  • Don’t watch a movie and assume that what you see and hear is the truth. Movies are made to make money. Happy stories don’t sell as many copies as scary ones do…and don’t cause as much media hype. If you watch a movie, and it makes you think and have questions, then take those questions and ask a farmer. Don’t assume that the movie is going to give you the answers.

Sorry this became a little long-winded, but it’s a subject that hits close to my heart. As I said in the beginning, I completely understand the need for some people to limit their meat intake, or choose not to eat meat at all. I’m fine with that. Just please, please don’t tell me that I’m less of a person for enjoying my meat-eating lifestyle…and for being just a little sad that George can’t enjoy the same.

Steve Jobs is not alone

Cancer sucks. We all know that. But maybe someday we’ll have all the answers. This week we’ve lost a brilliant mind, one that didn’t give up when the answer wasn’t quick, one that thought about the unthinkable and achieved the amazing. Perhaps the next “Steve Jobs” of the world will be in cancer research?

Imagine all the goodies this bad boy (or should I say girl?) can whip up?

 

 

Here’s another story sent by a reader…and if you’d like to enter my KitchenAid giveaway for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, be sure to head to this post and leave a comment. Simple as that!

I was getting married August 28th, 2010, and was going to begin my first year of teaching August 22, 2010. So that summer I was very absorbed in my own little world thinking only of myself. The last week in June my mom had her annual appointment with her doctor and they had found a “small lump” and wanted to do surgery just to remove it.

My mom had told me not wanting to upset me (why do mothers do this?) that she was having a small surgery the first week in July to remove a small definitely benign lump in her breast and she wanted me to come stay with her in Bismarck and take her to the surgery ( I live in a small town in the south eastern corner of the state).

Honestly looking back it is ridiculous how uncaring I was at this point in time. I was thinking only of myself and my life and said sure I would come stay with her, but didnt really ask any further questions or offer much sympathy other than the minimal amount. I went to stay with her thinking that she was 100% sure that this was a non-cancerous lump and we went out to supper the evening before and probably talked about nothing other than me and my life.

The next morning at the surgery check-in everything was as normal (uncomfortable) as routine pre-surgery things can go. During surgery I sat in the waiting room reading my book thinking nothing would go wrong. After the surgery my mothers doctor came into speak with me and took me into a “private” room. She told me that it was as she and my mother had feared that the mass looked to be cancer. She said the lump was about the size of an apricot and they could not get it all so they would have to do more surgery and also do a surgery to test her lymph nodes.

I was shocked. Since my mom had not led me to believe anything could possibly go wrong, I was blindsided and felt instantly terrible.

SO began our journey with cancer. There were two more surgeries in the month of July.  She began radiation the week before my wedding and chemo after the wedding.  She finished treatment and was dubbed cancer free in the winter of last year. She is still cancer free. I cant even believe this happened to my family.

It really is true that you think that will never happen to me until it does. I still can’t believe it has happened. Just 2 weeks ago I was at a doctor appointment and they were updating my file and asked if there was any family history of illness they should have and i said “NO” then all the sudden it dawned on me “UHH, My mom had breast cancer”. The nurse looked at me like this girl is crazy how does someone forget that. I havent forgotten I think I am still in shock. I am amazed that my family even went through it.

While my mom was going through treatments her best friend from high school was also going through treatments so they found alot of comfort in each other. It truly is amazing how many people this disease affects.

Thank you so much for sharing. I think sometimes as parents we try to protect our children, even at our own discomfort. I’m sure your mom thought she was saving you worry, when in the end, it was harder to find out in such an abrupt way. As frustrating as it is, it’s all out of love. I know, my mom does the same thing!

Enjoy your weekend everyone…schedule a mammogram, screenings, whatever it is your doctor suggests. I have yet to hear a doctor that says, “Hmmm…it seems we’ve found this cancer too early.”

A Mother’s Love

I saw this on Facebook tonight…and couldn’t get it out of my head.

A Mother's Love

This was the caption under the photo:

This is a true story of Mother’s Sacrifice during the Japan Earthquake.
After the Earthquake had subsided, when the rescuers reached the ruins of a young woman’s house, they saw her dead body through the cracks. But her pose was somehow strange that she knelt on her knees like a person was worshiping; her body was leaning forward, and her two hands were supporting by an object. The collapsed house had crashed her back and her head.

With so many difficulties, the leader of the rescuer team put his hand through a narrow gap on the wall to reach the woman’s body. He was hoping that this woman could be still alive. However, the cold and stiff body told him that she had passed away for sure.
He and the rest of the team left this house and were going to search the next collapsed building. For some reasons, the team leader was driven by a compelling force to go back to the ruin house of the dead woman. Again, he knelt down and used his had through the narrow cracks to search the little space under the dead body. Suddenly, he screamed with excitement,” A child! There is a child! “
The whole team worked together; carefully they removed the piles of ruined objects around the dead woman. There was a 3 months old little boy wrapped in a flowery blanket under his mother’s dead body. Obviously, the woman had made an ultimate sacrifice for saving her son. When her house was falling, she used her body to make a cover to protect her son. The little boy was still sleeping peacefully when the team leader picked him up.
The medical doctor came quickly to exam the little boy. After he opened the blanket, he saw a cell phone inside the blanket. There was a text message on the screen. It said,” If you can survive, you must remember that I love you.” This cell phone was passing around from one hand to another. Every body that read the message wept. ” If you can survive, you must remember that I love you.” Such is the mother’s love for her child!!

Why did this strike a chord? Aside from just being a mother? (By the way, snopes clarifies that the picture and the story don’t go together…I’m fine with that, but whether or not the two go together, they both hit my heart.)

Well, to put it simply, I’m somewhat in the same position.

After researching and researching and researching some more…I’ve learned quite a bit about George’s OTC. And if he truly has OTC (which has been pretty well proven through testing and improvement with the diet), then we’re dealing with a disease that does a lot of taking.

For example…in OTC, males are hit harder than females. In fact, 50% of males born with OTC do not live 72 hours. And of the 50% surviving, another 50% will die by the age of 5.

Those are the facts.

So, on Sunday we head back to Rochester. And this time, the questions will be a little more pointed and a little more clear. I need to know exactly what the doctor is thinking, and what we need to do. I’ve read on some new research showing hopeful uses of gene therapy…something we may look into.

Whatever it is, we will do…I will stand over my son and let the roof crash on me, so that some day he can stand tall and read, “If you can survive, you must remember that I love you.”

Just another Manic Monday

School starts here tomorrow. And as bad as I feel for saying it…I can’t wait. I need some routine, some down time, some “regular” stuff. You know?

Just when I thought a week of plane crashes, hospital stays and sick little boys was looking up, fate stepped in. Big Bro was bit by a dog at the local park. Said dog had no vaccinations. It all adds up to Big Bro having to be on a round of antibiotics for the sore, and the dog being quarantined for 10 days to watch for signs of rabies. Even indoor pets need vaccinations. (Let’s not even get to why an “indoor” pet was at the park.)

For those that don’t know…let me explain to you what rabies all entails.

  • Rabies attacks the brain and spinal cord. If it is not prevented, it WILL cause death.
  • This year, more than 55,000 people will die from rabies. That’s one person every 10 minutes.
  • Rabies is 100% preventable. There are vaccinations for animals and treatment for humans that are in contact with infected animals.
  • It can only be passed through saliva, not blood.
  • More than 40% of the people bitten and affected are children under the age of 15.
  • Dogs are the source of 99% of human rabies death.
  • There are no tests available to diagnose rabies infection in human prior to the onset of clinical disease.

Well, enough of that, I think you get the point. Rabies is serious, rabies is deadly, and it’s simple to prevent. This is all a situation that didn’t need to occur. So please, have your pets properly vaccinated and cared for by veterinarians. If you can’t afford to do that, then do your animal a favor, and find them a new home.

I will know within 10 days if we have to go through the rabies series with Big Bro. Sooner if the animal dies between now and then. Is it likely that the dog has rabies? No, but even “indoor” pets can have contact with disease-carrying animals. Is it likely that the animal will get sick? No, but with a 100% fatality record, it’s not worth the risk.

What a way to start the week…and the school year!

Special Request

We are home…and George’s stubborn streak has ended. He is finally drinking on his own, without being forced.

One nurse thought that if she just stayed by his side and constantly forced him to drink, he would eventually give in once he realized she wasn’t going anywhere. She had me leave for a bit. When I came back, she said, “North Dakota stubborn is different from South Dakota stubborn. I gave in before he did.” Yeah, I’m gonna have my hands full…but that’s a good thing.

Remember the little boy I asked you to pray for? Today is a very important day. He NEEDS to breathe on his own. Please, please say a prayer for him and his family.

That’s all for now.

Oh, and the pilot from the crash? He’s gonna be OK. You see…prayers do get answered!

Bringing in the Big Dogs

Dr. T told me to try every trick in the book to get George to drink…and I truly believe I have. We have:

  • bought wall stickers, placing one Buzz Lightyear for every drink he takes (sorry hospital decorating committee…George is taking over!)
  • bought new books
  • bought four new sippy cups
  • brought in our Pastor, Grandma W., Uncle J. and other visitors
  • bribed with food
  • bribed with rewards
  • offered free college tuition
  • freezees, sherbet, every frozen concoction available in low-protein
  • etc., etc.

Where did it get us? A maximum of 2 ounces in one whole day. (And that was yesterday, thanks to Grandma W!)

So today, my mom and dad returned from a trip to see family in Wisconsin. They came down after loading up a cooler full of George’s favorites from their house. Which included: Hug fruit barrel juices, his sippy cup from their house, freezees from their house, pudding, etc. They brought a cooler with straws, spoons, you name it. (Apparently a hospital may not have such utensils??? Ha!) 🙂

Well, it worked pretty well, because George drank two ounces while they were here…he had only had one ounce all day! So, they doubled his drinking total! Woohoo! (I know, I’m easily pleased, eh?)

As I type, he is laying in the chair…with his sippy cup!

It all starts with baby steps!

 

We might get out of here before he turns 18! I was afraid they were going to make us switch units soon! 🙂

Thank you so very much for the continued prayers and support. I make light of it now, but we were in a pretty serious situation. I’m so grateful to have friends and neighbors like you to share with our joys and tribulations! We are so blessed!

P.S. And little Brayton has had some promising reports himself! How exciting! The power of God is so amazing!