Monday, December 31, 2012

Ringing in the New Year

Best wishes to all of our family and friends for 2013!  xo

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve

We baked chocolate chip cookies, made ornaments, and Ryan helped to decorate the tree at church during the children's candlelight service.
Before going to bed, we left out milk & cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.

Christmas Morning

Barry cooked us a delicious breakfast and then Ryan opened all of his presents from Santa. Ryan was such a good boy this year! We spent the rest of the day putting together his toys and playing with them.

We were so happy to have my mom's sister, Aunt S, join us in celebrating today. Aunt S was very close with my mom, and has been a huge support for me throughout these past few years. I feel very blessed to have her in my life. Spending time with Aunt S makes me feel closer to my mom because we share so many wonderful memories and stories about her.

This was our first Christmas without my mom's beautiful smile, and she was so dearly missed. It still doesn't even seem real to me that she will never celebrate another holiday with us again. The pain is so deep right now and I am in a very dark and confusing place emotionally.

This picture was taken three years ago, Christmas of 2009, a few days before we found out that I was pregnant. My mom knew that we had been hoping and praying for a baby throughout that year, so she wanted to give Ryan some of his very first presents. (We knew that she was very sick and we didn't know how much longer she would have left with us.) My mom loved Ryan with all of her heart, before she even knew that he existed. Through God's grace, she stayed with us for two more years, long enough to make it to Ryan's first birthday party. I thank God every day for that extra time that we were given with my mom.  

We have some difficult anniversaries coming up. January 6 will mark two years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. January 13 will mark one year since my mom passed away. Please pray for me and my family as we enter into the new year. I truly hope that 2013 brings happier times than 2012 and 2011 did. I am excited for our little family to finally move forward, while remembering to appreciate every single moment. Life is too fragile!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

'Tis the Season

Since it is the most wonderful time of the year, we kicked off the season by getting our very first real Christmas tree!  We went to Butler's Orchard, where they provide the saw, rope, tree shaking, and netting.  It was super easy and fun to pick out the perfect one and chop it down ourselves.

I have wanted to get a real Christmas tree my whole life, but my parents always insisted on having an artificial one.  I'm so glad that Barry finally let me get a real one this year, and I love that we are starting all sorts of new traditions as a family.

Our decorated tree looks gorgeous in our living room and the ornaments from my childhood bring back so many wonderful memories.

There is one ornament in particular, a little house, that reminds me of my grandma's log house, where some of my happiest days took place.  I remember how my mom and my grandma made me feel like the most special and loved little girl in the world.  We played countless board games, swam in the lake, ran around the garden, and visited the lighthouse. It was nothing extravagant, but to me, the time that we spent there together was paradise.  I miss my mom more than ever this time of year, and I really appreciate all of the extra holiday cheer in my life right now.

My friend, R, recently hosted a holiday "jammy jamboree" for our little guys and gals.  They looked so cute and snuggly in their PJs that of course I had to take some pictures of them reveling in their festive fun.  (Let's be honest, when do I ever not have my camera attached to my arm?)

Ryan helped me bake sugar cookies and decorate them with icing and sprinkles.  I decorated this batch for a cookie exchange with our Wednesday playgroup, and then Ryan decorated more cookies with his friends at Friday playgroup.  From the sticky mess to the immense consumption of sugar, this activity was definitely a hit with most of the toddlers.

We visited the holiday lights display at Brookside Gardens with our friends, T, her hubby, and their little man.  Ryan was hesitant for literally one second before he quickly realized how much fun it is to run over, under, around, and through massive amounts of colored lights.  We also saw the holiday train display for about the billionth time, but this time was special because it was night time and daddy was with us.

Ryan has now fully grasped the concept of Santa Claus.  I try to encourage him to focus on the meanings behind Christmas and Hanukkah, rather than the presents, but Ryan has been constantly telling us about all of the toys that he "needs".  I neeeeed Lightning McQueen, mommy.  I feel like it is such a challenge at this age for him to appreciate the non-material things over the tangible ones, and I honestly hope that this will happen more naturally as he becomes more mature.

The other day, as soon as Ryan saw Santa at the mall, our (usually shy) boy walked over, crawled onto his lap, and rattled off his wish list.  Santa told him that his favorite cookies are chocolate chip and that his reindeer enjoy carrots.  Ryan has not stopped talking about Santa ever since, and regularly reminds me of what Santa and the reindeer like to eat.

I have always wanted to do a "discovery" box with Ryan, but this is the first time that I actually got a chance to put one together.  I found a bunch of holiday-themed trinkets that I thought might spark his interest, put them together in a little box, and gave Ryan the freedom to explore.

Ryan is very much into pretending right now, so he found many creative ways to play with the pieces.  He wanted nothing to do with the wreath with a bow on it, and placed it on top of my head saying, "bows for girls".  He had no problem wearing the necklaces though.  His favorite item was a wind-up Santa Claus.  I have never seen Ryan laugh as hard as he did when that little Santa wobbled across the floor.  The discovery box held Ryan's attention for an hour and cost me less than $6.  Totally worth it.


I changed up our Montessori work this week by including cranberries in the transferring activity.  Not long after starting his work,  Ryan decided to eat all of the cranberries.  I think that they taste extremely sour, but he loved them.  Of course, Lucky wanted some too.

Cousins and Second Generation Cousins

At our family's annual get-together at Aunt G's house yesterday, we took these pictures with my cousins and their families.  I love looking at all of the pictures that we have taken throughout the years and seeing the babies turn into big kids, and the new babies born.

I have remained close with my cousins C and N, who were also bridesmaids at my wedding. See the picture on the shelf behind our heads?  That is our late grandma, the one who lived in the log house.  I am so grateful for all of the members of our family, past and present, as they each hold a special place in my heart.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Right Heart Catheterization

About 6 weeks ago, I shared on here about how I had been experiencing shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pains, and some other odd sensations.  After the receiving the fantastic news of my clear PET scan, we decided to look into my symptoms further.  One of the chemo drugs that I had, Adriamycin, is known to cause heart problems, so we felt that it was important to get everything checked out.

Along with my oncologist, I have been seeing a pulmonologist and cardiologist throughout this past month.  My days have been filled with a plethora of medical tests, including: a CT scan, VQ scan, Pulmonary Function Test, 6 Minute Walk, Echocardiogram, Stress Echo, and extensive blood work.  The results were mostly “normal” except for the fact that I had low levels of oxygen with exertion.  These particular tests gave us the ability to rule out some conditions, but it was still unclear about whether or not I could have pulmonary hypertension.

Some of the equipment used for the pulmonary tests that I had.
Pulmonary hypertension occurs when there is high blood pressure in the arteries between the lungs and heart, ultimately enlarging the right side of heart and leading to heart failure.  It is treatable, but not curable.  You should not become pregnant if you have this disease, since pregnancy puts additional stress on the heart and there is a high risk of death.  The only way to completely diagnose or rule out pulmonary hypertension is by having a right heart catheterization.

The cardiologist told me that I did not necessarily need to have this procedure done, because “pulmonary hypertension is rare” and I “probably didn’t have it”.  These words brought me back to what my original breast surgeon told me before I demanded to have the lump in my breast removed: “you are too young for breast cancer” and “it really isn’t necessary for you to have this procedure.”

The most important life lesson that I have learned is to always err on the side of caution when it comes to your body.  I would much rather know than not know if I have a serious disease.  Being proactive saved my life the last time when it turned out to be breast cancer, so of course I told the doctor that I wanted to go ahead and schedule the right heart catheterization.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable getting pregnant if there was even a chance that I had pulmonary hypertension.  Plus, I would much rather catch it in the early stages.

So, this past Wednesday, I checked into the hospital for my procedure.  We brought a bag full of activities to do with Ryan for 7 hours in the waiting room, and he got compliments from all of the nurses for being so sweet and well-behaved. He sure knows how to make mommy and daddy proud!  I am so thankful to have these two amazingly supportive guys by my side.

Me after the heart catheterization.  Ryan in the waiting room.
I had to stay awake during the heart cath because they do not use anesthesia for that procedure.  They did give me xanax and another sedative (not sure which one) to make it more bearable.  I remember random bits and pieces of the procedure.  I kept my eyes closed the whole time, but I heard the doctors say things like “that looks good” and “no pulmonary hypertension there”.  I was happy and relieved about the news of having normal pressures in my heart and lungs.  But I was not prepared for what happened next.

After laying down flat for a while, they told me that I could go ahead and change back into my clothes to get ready to go home.  I was starving, so I eagerly grabbed my clothes and started walking in the direction that they told me to go.

All of a sudden, there was blood gushing out of my femoral artery, all over the floor, and I blacked out.

I was in and out of consciousness and while I was hemorrhaging the nurses tried to apply pressure to the site.  I could not remember why I was there in the hospital or what had just happened.  I woke up confused, to a blurry picture of doctors running around and hovering over me, and then within seconds, I would black out again.  This repeated about four times.  It was, by far, the scariest moment of my whole life.  (Yes, that includes chemo).

Thankfully, they got the bleeding under control and I regained full consciousness.  They told me that I needed to spend the night in the hospital to make sure that it didn’t happen again. The night turned out to be uneventful, and so I was allowed to go home the next day.  Since then, I have been taking it easy at home.  I am so happy with the fact that I do not have pulmonary hypertension and that we WILL have the opportunity to try to have more children.  Ruling this out was the most perfect present that I could ask for this holiday season!

I am considering altering my diet to make sure that I am getting enough nutrients in case a vitamin deficiency could be contributing to this.  I am also trying to get more rest than I was getting before.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend and enjoys their time spent with loved ones!

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