This is the letter I send in my Christmas cards… shared for my “on line” friends.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.” Matthew 6:34
It is hard to imagine another year has passed, and here we are again – eagerly anticipating Christmas and the birth of the baby Jesus. This year the Christmas season is peppered with even more emotion, as we watch our friends and neighbors rebuild from the effects of “Super storm Sandy.” Those of us whose homes were unaffected live in a state of uneasy gratitude, as we do what we can to “Pay it Forward,” to those who have lost so much.
Life in the Ortega house continues to be one of adventure. We are blessed. Meghan excels in school, and loves to swim and dance. Medication allows her to move her body without pain. We are grateful each day for each other, as it is that bond that allows us to weather the storms of life. And there have been some this year! Some time in early spring, Felix joked that I should start on my Christmas letter. He wasn’t kidding.
We began the year, Meghan and I, addressing all the preliminary appointments connected to our new diagnosis of “Cowden’s Syndrome.”
We needed to be set up with oncologists, endocrinologists, the geneticist, and for me, a beast surgeon, an endocrine surgeon, and a GYN oncologist. We can’t use the same doctors, because she needs pediatrics, and in most cases we can not even use the same facilities because our insurance carriers differ. We have been scanned repeatedly – each MRI separate. Sonograms of every body part you can imagine. All of this to learn that this testing will take place in 6 month cycles pretty much indefinitely.
There is so much overlap as to how everything came together this year that it is even hard to summarize. I feel like sparsely a week went by without an appointment – many of them in NYC. I laugh now at the days I swore I would NEVER drive in the city. I don’t use the word “NEVER” much anymore.
In February, Meghan endured her 4th surgery for the arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in her knee. The recovery this time included crutches, and the realization that there was blood leaking behind her kneecap. We were sent to Boston Children’s Hospital where she had a consultation in April with “the doctor who will do the next surgery.” Again, not if, but when. So we wait. She will be scanned again in February to determine the status of the very stubborn AVM. Cowden’s Syndrome complicates any vascular anomalies.
In March I underwent a “prophylactic” bilateral mastectomy. After consultation with several doctors, it was determined that the 85% risk of breast cancer that Cowden’s carries with it, coupled with my personal and family history, made the surgery a necessary next step. Both the surgeon and the plastic surgeon were on site as I opted for immediate reconstruction. The surgery turned out not to be so prophylactic, as my pathology showed I already had cancer in the left breast. The best thing that came out of the surgery was having my mom hanging out in my house for a week – just chatting and giving me a much needed hand. Thankful to God, and for my surgeon, and my husband, for pushing me to get it done – we caught it in plenty of time, and no treatment was needed.
Continuing with all the initial appointments and scans, a suspicious polyp was found in my uterus a few weeks later. A trip to the GYN oncologist led to a conversation that left me with little other option than a complete hysterectomy. So, about 10 weeks after my breast surgery, I headed back to NYU for a complete hysterectomy.
A month later we took Meghan for her thyroid scan to Sloan Kettering. We were told that one of her many thyroid nodules was close to a centimeter and starting to dominate the area. So, our initial “return in a year,” changed to – “we will rescan her in 6 months.” December 27th we go.
Subsequent scans of my interior, (I keep telling them to leave well enough alone – but they believe in taking the used car to the mechanic,) have revealed 4 hamartomas on my spleen, and a small cyst on my kidney. Those are benign, and common in Cowden’s Syndrome, but need to be watched because the potential for other complications exists. I will also be rescanned the last week in December – but after losing so many organs this year, I warned them that I am rather attached to my spleen!
In the midst of our medical “stuff,” life continued around us. In June our hearts were broken by the loss of Ken’s dad, or GGPa, as he was known to Meghan. A man of such compassion, and love – a gentleman, and a GENTLE man – will be truly missed. Our hearts will never be quite the same.
Just to keep things interesting, as “Super storm Sandy” raged around us in October, Grandma Edith, Mom’s mom took a fall down the basement steps. No one is quite sure exactly what happened, but it is evident that the angels held her that day. She suffered a serious head wound, and severe bruising, but broke nothing! She spent days in ICU, and returned home the end of that week. With the help of a high quality staff of physical and occupational therapists, as well as the never-ending love and care she receives from Pop and my Mom, she is getting physically stronger every day. I admire my grandparents. As they approach their 67th wedding anniversary, they stand together as examples of marriage as God intended it. They are role models to us all.
Their marriage reminds me that God gave me a great gift when he sent me Felix. I can say that we share such love through God’s grace – that I can not imagine my life without him. He is my soul mate – and my sanity!
I guess I leave you with – to be continued. No words of wisdom this year. We are trying our best to take it one day at a time. The tree is up. We have our hearts and our heads focused on what matters. We certainly have had plenty of lessons!
We would love to hear all the things that are new in your home!
Warm Christmas Blessings,
Lori, Felix, Meghan, Allie & Lucky Ortega
“Sometimes your blessings come through raindrops, sometimes your healing comes through tears….Sometimes trials of this life; the rain the snow the darkest nights, are your mercies in disguise.” –Laura Story
See, and just when I thought it was safe…
The cards were in the mail Sunday night. I was getting it together.
Monday I was leaving work, ready to make one stop at a friend’d house before getting Meghan.
I stopped at the stop sign. I looked to my left down the one way street I have traveled so many times before.
I was clear… and I drove.
3/4 of the way through the intersection…
I didn’t see the SUV until it was in my rear driver side door. I spun like an unwanted ride on the teacups and ended up on the grass and curb facing the wrong way.
His car ended up a block away. There had been no braking. No horn. The impact shut his car down.
As I managed my way out of the passenger seat I was clearly stunned – full of so many thoughts.
The trip in the ambulance with an “angel” from Meghan’s school who happened to live in the neighborhood was surreal.
I have laughed and cried a lot over the last 24 hours. I am grateful that I am walking and moving. I am tolerating the muscle spasms and bruising.
As I spoke to the claims adjuster today and they explained that the claim would be backlogged due to the hurricane… I understood. What I didn’t understand is how the guy speeding through the school zone is right, and I am wrong… but I may never understand that.
The thought that gave me peace tonight… in a year that has been so tumultuous, was that maybe – since it was dismissal time so close to my school… maybe I had to take the hit so someone’s kid didn’t have to. Maybe… just maybe.
So I think of my little love.. and I am so happy she is safe. And maybe that thought is where I will draw my peace.
“Sometimes your blessings come through raindrops…”
Now, if you’ll excuse me – I need to head out for a sonogram of my spleen… seems they need to make sure those hamartomas weren’t impacted by the crash….
Anyone else looking forward to 2013?