You Might Have Cowden’s Syndrome if…

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome (or insert your chronic/rare illness here) if…

I spent some time alone last night.

That sounded a great deal nicer than it actually was.  There was no manicure, no spa, and not even any wine.

Last night, after working, taking my daughter to her orthopedist on Long Island, and sitting in traffic home, I finally had to address the feeling that something large was sitting under the rib cage on my left side.

It was a process to arrive there- a mental game I played for about 12 hours.  But, I got there.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if…  you have ridiculously large “stable” lymphangiomas on your spleen that outsize the spleen itself.  Because, hey, we grow things.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… it occurs to you as you’re teaching that you are actually acutely aware of the previously mentioned spleen.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you then proceed to launch into a logical, rational series of scenarios, while completing your math lessons.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you know that the day may end with you in surgery, yet, you still make sure your daughter has the follow-up appointment she needs for the knee that has its own Cowden’s related issues.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you can carry on a conversation with your teenager through 90 minutes of traffic while simultaneously setting up your strategy… just in case you need your spleen removed.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you can get everyone settled at home and then sneak out to the “mall” (read Urgent Care) in hopes that a doctor will tell you your spleen is just fine.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… while you are waiting for the doctor, you access the sonogram report from your last spleen scan in February.  Scanning the spleen is a regular occurrence, so you have the “mychart” app open and ready.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you listen as the doctor tells you he’d like to get you to the Emergency Room “as soon as possible” to address the abdominal swelling and rule out a rupture.  You thank him for his time, shake his hand, decline his offer for an ambulance because your gut tells you it’s not THAT bad, drive yourself home and figure out how you’re going to travel to a hospital where you could possibly handle surgery if you needed it.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you’ve been through enough atrocious hospitals to know when to stay local, and when you must travel… just in case.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you contact your job to let them know you’ll be absent the next day.  Because, even if you don’t have surgery you’re sure it’ll be a late night.  And then, as you hang up you start to wonder if you did the right thing.  Because, sick days are hard to come by, and you can get by on little sleep, and maybe you should have waited till the morning.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you reassure your husband all is well, while helping your anxiety filled daughter get to sleep.  All before you mention the need to get to the ER.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you can calmly text your husband what you’ll need for your bag, just before you’re sure your daughter is asleep.  Then, explain to him that you’re driving yourself.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you can lovingly reassure, while starting to feel a little nervous inside, because, you do what you have to do.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you call a friend or two from the car, with your full on brave voice, just to pass the time.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you drive to the ER, park the car, tell the attendant in the garage you’re not quite sure when you’ll be back, call your husband to tell him where you put the parking receipt, and walk into the ER to check in.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you don’t even have to provide an insurance card because your information is so active in the computer.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… the triage nurse says “What?” three times as she takes your blood pressure and asks about your medical history.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you can watch the attending from your “bed” in the crowded hallway “Google” Cowden’s Syndrome before she comes over to you.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you have to catch yourself from acting like a know-it-all when that same attending speaks as if she studied Cowden’s extensively, and tells you “spleenic lymphangiomas are not a common presentation of Cowden’s Syndrome.” You just nod instead of asking “Exactly how many patients have you ever met with this syndrome?”

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you take a picture of your IV once it’s in.  Because that’s a thing in our family.  No, it’s an actual thing… really.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you check your “mychart” app so regularly, you know to the minute when they are coming to take you for the CT Scan because it is in as an “appointment.”

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if…you can wait better than most people.  You can settle into your “chairbed” in the hall, while people are ill and vomiting, and you’d rather be anywhere but there, and you can keep your blood pressure and heart rate calm.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if…you view the “registration” people as vipers traveling through the corridors with iPads, getting sick and out of sorts people to sign away.  It’s about the money and the bills that will follow you for months anyway.  And you can actually see snakes while you look at them, even if it’s not who they are because you are so furious that they regularly delay people’s requests for help until they sign “this last form.”

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you knew to pack two battery chargers for your phone, a t-shirt, and a bottle of water.  The bare necessities in a hall where there was no one to attend to you and no plugs.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you can resign yourself to drinking a full container of lethal tasting contrast dye while ordering yourself new sneakers on amazon, and a few gold bars for “Candy Crush Soda Saga,” because, hey…it’s the little things.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if…the attending who ‘googled’ you hours before, is fully perplexed at your visibly swollen and tender spleen and your negative lab results.  So she says, “That’s not what I expected.  It’s good, but unusual…”  And you laugh to yourself.  Hard. In your brain of course.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… when the CT results come back as “multiple stable hypodense spleenic lesions” and that same attending says, “you should follow-up with your primary doctor tomorrow,”  you smile in your head again.  You know this means the spleen is safe for now.  You know this means no emergency surgery.  You also know you already explained you DON’T HAVE a primary doctor, because seeing a million specialists means sometimes you lose track of what “routine” means.  Plus, no one is too interested in being your (or your daughter’s) case manager because “rare disease” is high risk.  But, you take your walking papers because tonight your spleen won’t rupture.  And, hey, it’s the little things.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if…before you sign your discharge they mention an “incidental finding” of some spinal deterioration that you should “probably point out to your primary doctor,” and you can’t quite stifle the laugh that time, as you are reminded about taking the used car to the mechanic… and the fact that no one is really listening to you anyway.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you can see the vipers slithering around as you gather yourself, stretch your side that feels exactly as it did when you walked in, and navigate your way out.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if…you wake the parking garage attendant at 2:30 AM and retrieve your car.  You head home relieved, grateful, and overwhelmed.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you actually contemplate heading to work in 4 hours to save the sick day, but think better of it.  You plan the morning with your husband, text your daughter her directions, remove all traces of the hospital from your body and slide into your bed.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… it takes you a few minutes to settle as you contemplate your “night out” and you wonder if a night out will ever again include fun, friends, and wine.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if…you think about the number of times you and your daughter have been to the hospital courtesy of this syndrome, and you wonder how many more there will be.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you want to get mad.  Really mad.  But, you can’t.  Because after all, you get a warning system.  You get to check it, scan it, and test it, BEFORE it ruptures, and BEFORE it spreads.  You know how tired you are, and how sick of it you are, but you also know how fortunate you are, and how SO MANY people would actually give anything for that warning system.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you miss your friends, but you know there will be time again.  Eventually.  And in your heart you know they are all there.  You miss socializing, ever.  You wish a night out wasn’t bridge and tunnel tolls and a parking garage at a hospital.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if…you are not quite sure you have the physical or emotional strength, or hours in a day, to get through the next few weeks.  Yet, you strengthen your resolve and readjust your mind into tiny, manageable chunks.

You might have Cowden’s Syndrome if… you spend way too many hours calculating and reforming your strategy to remain grateful and

#beatingcowdens

Type A, and Then Some…

Calm down.  Relax.  It’ll get done.  Take a breath.  Why do you get so worked up?

These words could be spoken in several alternate languages for all the good they do for me.  They make no sense.  I mean, on a cognitive level I understand the words.  And even the context.  But, they hold little practical application for my life.

I am Type A.  Yep.  For it’s highs and lows, positives and negatives, I am a Type A personality.  Although like everything in life, the transition between Type A and Type B is a spectrum, I’m still honest with myself.

16 Signs You’re a Little Type A

Go with the flow.

I have a dear friend who has promised to make a t-shirt that says,”I am Flo,” to guide me.  She has 4 boys.  (She used to be full on Type A.  Now she shoves that in a drawer for most of the year, but the chaos sometimes still makes her cringe.)

high-strung

I am high-strung.  I am focused.  I am task oriented.  I am all about getting it done and getting it done well.  I get pissed when other people fall behind on their jobs.  I want order, structure, and routine.  I make lists on top of my lists, while putting alerts in my phone to avoid missing anything.  I have a hard time forgiving myself when I do.

typeapersonality

I am a work in progress.

But to some extent, regardless of your personality type, I guess that’s true of all of us.

September is chaos.  True, unequivocable chaos.  Here, in this house.  Here, in my mind.  September is the toughest month of the year.

And apparently I’m not alone, because this article really cracked me up.  September Is The Worst

If I could jump from August to October, it would be smoother.  And I’m not a big fan of wishing my life away.  But, transitions are especially tough on the Type A among us.

37309-hello-october

And, when you’re a teacher – well.  That’s just a whole other story.  But, for the sake of brevity simply organizing class lists for 25 classes and 500+ students while they are going through new admits, discharges, and interclass transfers is a feat not to be taken lightly.  With the knowledge that 9/11 took place just a few days into the school year, I am always filled with a super sense of urgency to try to know who I have, and what their needs are as quickly as I can.  Figuring out who has allergies, and who has an IEP is another struggle.  Establishing rituals and routines for the classroom of a Type A teacher in one period a week is a bit taxing.  Not as tough for the bigger kids, but those tiny kindergarten faces are still in shock.  There’s no way they even remember my name, let alone where they should sit in my room.  Substitute plans must be prepared, because emergencies don’t have the courtesy of always waiting till October.  Copies of the schedule, printed, Emailed, and hung everywhere.  Supplies, traffic patterns, expectations, all need establishing and reminding.  That’s after the room is set up, and the bulletin boards are complete, and evening back to school night is squeezed into the agenda.

The agenda that is busting at the seams.  Because, I know all you moms of multiple children may laugh at me, and whisper about how easy I have it, but that’s ok.  Setting up the school and after school schedule for the child(ren) is a full-time job on its own.  August looks so nice.  The calendar lulls you into a false sense of security, as one by one the activities start-up again.  And then all of a sudden you are trying to figure out when you will shower, or fill up the car with gas, or eat, or grocery shop.  Never mind hair cuts!  There’s the one time deals, like back to school night, and “returning parents swim meeting,”  Every minute of every day seems to hold something.  I know I have only one kid, but that doesn’t mean she can take herself to swim practice.  Or pick herself up.  Or that most of the time I can even leave her there, as lingering fears about her health are always present.  And on the days she stays late at school for Drama, that’s a little easier, except when it crashes into a meeting at school.  And there’s morning study, set up for the intense schedule for the 8th graders, as well as Friday night Youth Group for stress release.  I think there’s a few minutes on Wednesday between 3 and 4 for sunshine.  Oh, wait… groceries…

is-this-real-life

And to the left of me sits the Open House Schedule for High School.  Still shaking my head as to how THAT happened, I am trying to figure out their days of the week.  Because, I think we can make the Staten Island Borough Fair AFTER the swim meet that morning in October.  There is the TACHS test, and the Specialized High School Test.  Although I’m not really sure when there would be time to prepare.  Unless, maybe there’s and app for that?

I haven’t even mentioned our health.  Isn’t that just funny?  It hasn’t rested one bit.  And the most ironic thing, is people don’t realize you shouldn’t mess with a chronically ill Type A.  Chances are good they like to excel at EVERYTHING.  And in my case, I am willing to throw it at them.  Hard.

Some time towards the end of August I had surgery to replace my implants.  Far earlier than the 10-15 year life expectancy they had been given, one had moved, and it was time.  That night as I lay recovering I picked up an Email from Meghan’s endocrinologist that we should raise her thyroid meds.  Her levels were off again.  Now raising the meds in and of itself every once in a while is not a huge deal I guess, but Meghan struggles with synthetic ANYTHING, and the fact that we were now 2.5 years post op from her thyroidectomy and she has had more dose changes than I have had in over 20 years can be unsettling.  More unsettling was when I read to the bottom of the letter that he would be on vacation for over 2 weeks.  So, here I was left to make a dose adjustment without clearing my list of “Type A mother of a chronically ill kid” questions, which, in case you wondered, are far more intense than the typical questions I ask.  I scraped together the new dose from the closet, because I think we have Synthroid in EVERY dose known to man, and started her on it the next morning.  My local pharmacy informed me that the insurance wouldn’t cover the new script even though it was a dose adjustment and we would have to mail order it.  But mail order takes 2 weeks.  And there was no telling whether she’d be on the dose for more than 6 weeks.  But, whatever.  I set my sights on getting a copy of the lab report to learn the magic thyroid numbers.

arm-wrestle

And then the real battle ensued.  I tried to get it from one doctor.  They couldn’t release it because they weren’t the “ordering” doctor, even though she had added labs to the order.  I called the office of the endocrinologist.  Twice that Monday.  And again on Tuesday.  I got a call back late Tuesday while I was on the phone complaining that I couldn’t see her labs through the “MyChart” system set up at the facility.  The ‘ office said they’d send them.  The MyChart people said they’d look into it.  I waited.

Exactly a week.  There were no labs in my mailbox.  I called the endocrinology office again.  I got someone who promised to send them and did.  I called the MyChart people again.  No answers, except that some one told me it was hospital policy not to allow parents access to records of their children ages 12-17.

REALLY???????????????????

Listen, while I may not like it, or even agree with it, I can almost understand that there are SOME situations where teens have the right to keep their records.  But, this, this is THYROID blood work.  She doesn’t want it.  TRUST ME.  She just wants me to give her what she needs to feel well.  That’s it.

I processed all I could about this at the same time that I got ANOTHER bill from this hospital.  The date of service looked familiar.  I keep copious records.  (Type A… :-)) And I was able to see that a bill for the DOCTOR, the PHYSICIAN Group, and the HOSPITAL FACILITY all billed, and were ALL paid to the tune of over $1000 for a 15 minute visit.  And NOW, they were asking me for 2 additional Co-Pays.  Notwithstanding the fact that we have 2 insurances, so our secondary picks up the co-pay at many of our visits.  I called the primary carrier.  They reversed the charges, but told me the billing practice was not illegal.  Ok, then its immoral.  And it preys on people who are sick, or who have sick kids.  The insurance company also told me it was ON ME to call them when this happens.  ONLY when I call them will they reverse the charges because as per my plan I am to pay one co-pay per visit.

bills-to-pay

Good, cause I needed something else to do.

By the first Friday in September I had had it.  I found the CEO and Head of Patient Relations.  I fired off a 14 page Email, 7 page letter, and 7 attachments about everything wrong at their facility.

I have since received 4 copies of the blood work by mail, and 2 phone calls asking it I needed it.  One mail even came second day express.  Of course it was addressed to my minor child, whose signature means nothing, and who is not legal to vote, or to drive, but who apparently in some alternate universe should be making health care decisions.

I received a letter from Patient Relations that they were reviewing my concerns.  I’m not holding my breath.

That same Friday I tripped and fell and did some number on the pinkie toe of my right foot.  A clear fracture, although there is some debate as to whether it is displaced, and it will warrant another opinion.  The 3 hours I spent visiting the last podiatrist was a waste of my time.  So, I am in a post op shoe for some infinite amount of time going forward.  Because there is little chance in heck the right foot is getting into a sneaker any time soon.  Good thing it’s the perfect month to “take it easy on the foot.”  (Insert sarcastic grin here.)

Last Saturday the vocal therapist told me that I have one irregular shaped nodule on my left vocal fold.  It still gets to be called “benign appearing.”  I was also told I have “significant vocal fold atrophy secondary to premature aging.”  Well, that sucks.  Because I thought atrophy took place when you didn’t use something.  And oh, I use my voice.  And the premature aging, well, that’s likely thanks to the 2012 hysterectomy that was a necessary preventative move.  It all comes back to Cowden’s somehow.

Over the weekend I noticed that the knots from the implant exchange were getting irritated.  This doctor like all the others had been warned, I don’t dissolve stitches.  But, as wonderful as he was, he also needed to be shown.  I clipped one of the knots myself and there was immediate relief.  Then I second guessed myself.  By Monday the site I hadn’t touched was red and warm, while the other was healed.  I took a photo and sent it to the PA.  Come in tomorrow she said.  So Tuesday afternoon, my surgical shoe and I trekked into Manhattan.  She pulled the stitches, read a low-grade fever, and marked the redness.  She scripted me with 5 days of antibiotics but told me to wait 12 hours.  Wednesday morning I sent her a photo.  “Looks better, right?”  I said.  “Start the antibiotics,” was the reply.  So, I did.

Friday, Meghan made it to morning swim practice.  5:15-6:30AM.  I dropped her off, and headed home to shower.  I met her with breakfast.  We stopped off to drop her bag, and were at her school by 7:22.  I picked her up at 2:20 and she made afternoon practice.  I was tired.  She made it to youth group too.  I was in bed by 10.

Friday I spoke to the endocrinologist – finally.  I really do like him, but I think we’ve established now that I can’t wait 4 weeks for communication.  I don’t think it will happen again.  We talked it through.  Wednesday the 28th we’ll head to the hospital lab to repeat.  We are going there because then there is no chance for anyone to blame a variation on a different lab.  But, that’s ok cause there is that free hour on Wednesday…  He will call me on the 30th with the results.  I believe him.

I also believe that when I take his call on the 30th I will have a tall glass of wine celebrating the END of September.

white_wine_glas

This morning Meghan woke up with a sore throat.  She had to skip practice.  That’s always a tough call for her, but the right one.  She’s beating Cowdens like a champ, but part of winning is knowing when to slow it down.

Slow it down.

Hmmm.

I am so wrapped up in the have-tos, and the just getting by, that so much life is just on hold.  We have to gather enough spoons to save for something fun.  Anything.  But there are no spares.  Especially not in September.  (If that last paragraph confuses you – you can Google The Spoon Theory)

spoon

Sometimes, when I have a minute, I  think about calling some of the friends I miss a lot.  But, I don’t.  They have crazy wild lives of their own.  My fears and anxieties and worries exist, and so do theirs.  But for some reason right now, they largely exist separately.  I miss them.  And I am forever grateful for Social Media and the few minutes I can take, at swim practice or the doctor to catch up, at least on the surface.

I am super-blessed with a husband who not only tolerates my Type A, but works with me.  He cleans, and cooks, and remembers to make me laugh.  A lot.  Often at myself.

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I am three years deep into nutritional cleansing that I have no doubt is keeping me fueled for this crazy life.  One day soon I intend to find a way to shout from the rooftops and share this secret arsenal of nutritious fuel with the world.  Because without it, I’m not sure exactly where this Type A, broken toe, infected boob, woman, who needs a tour guide microphone to teach her classes would be hiding.

Instead of hiding, we remain,

#beatingcowdens

forever!

c-12

 

“I Am From” – Guest Blogger Meghan

I Am From

by Meghan

I am from Love

I am from mutts barking at night

I am from swims in the backyard pool

I am from hospitals and procedures

I am from suffering

I am from anticipation of how my life will survive

I am from anguish after surgery

I am from crying in the hospital at night

I am from fear of not being strong enough

 take pride in your pain

I am from doctors saying this cannot be

I am from hearing that I am unusual

I am from paralyzing fear of iv’s and needles

I am from being cast out for my pain

I am from fear of not surviving from the pain

 Just-Tired

I am from baby blue walls

I am from a home that cares for me

I am from a room of toys so big it’s like a store

I am from a home with clouds as chairs

I am from a home like a chocolate bakery

I am from the calming smell of Yankee candles

I am from the smell of brand new books

I am from the pool

I am from the thrill of swimming

I am from competition

I am from Wagner Aquatics and CSI

I am from the relief that comes with butterfly

keep-calm-and-swim-butterfly

I am Lori

And Felix

I am from Barbra

And Leon

I am from the Ortegas

And I am from the Thompsons

I am from many beliefs

I am from hurt and hatred

And I am from love and compassion

I am from different weather each day

I am from winter devouring sweet spring

IMG_3550

I am from Christmas trees going up after Thanksgiving

I am from a special Thanksgiving meal the day after

I am from August Disney trips

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 I am from spices

I am from cookies and cake

I am from avocado

I am from Isagenix

avocado

isagenix shake

I am from playing with my first dog Lucky

I am from meeting my second dog, Allie at pet smart

 allie14

I am from church at Zion and Castleton Hill

I am from the beliefs that Jesus will rise again

I am from running up to the pulpit with Lucky in tow

I am from Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world”

be the change

I am from adventure and fantasy filled books

I am from Rick Riordan and J.K Rowling

I am from action figures and comics

I am from DC universe

I am from Wonder Woman

I am from He-Man

I am from Batman and Superman

I am from the sidekicks

I am from X-Box 360 and video games

I am from mythology

 10500282_10203513492902731_2127906737052111753_n

I am from the LOVE of my family

BEATING COWDENS!

“Lucky” Number 13

People count all sorts of things.  Among the things we count are surgeries.

Lucky13

 

Although the most recent ones have been predominantly knee related – 2011, 2012, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015… we don’t forget the others that fit in.  And we don’t even try to talk about them without the three page cheat sheet detailing the most pressing medical information.  We don’t talk to over zealous residents without the 32 gig flash drive pulling up PDFs of old blood work and reports.  (Saved her another stick today when I could produce a recent normal liver enzyme panel!)

So today, surgery number 13, was not a surprise.  It was anticipated and planned very deliberately for months on end.

The day started before 5, scheduled for a 6 AM arrival.  But, in reality it started last night.  Bags were packed to include clothes, toiletries, snacks, electronics, chargers, and our shakes too.

We got up and out quickly.  No fanfare.  No time for a “selfie” of the three of us in our “Never Give Up” T-shirts.  We checked in just past 6 and shortly after were performing all the typical surgery routines.

It is funny.  There are two groups of people in my life- those who have similar numbers of surgeries to us, and the larger group – those who have had next to no surgeries.  The first group understands surgery “routines.”  The second group raises some eyebrows.  They are horrified at our use of the camera in the hospital.  But this is our reality, and I can pack for surgery as well as I can pack a carry on for vacation.

arrow through head

We were greeted in pre-op by about a half dozen people all asking exactly the same questions (even though they and I had the cheat sheet, we still had to play the question/ answer game.)  Several consent slips were tossed at me.  The anesthesiologist and Meghan made a deal involving the timing of the IV and the mask.  Felix was given the necessary garb to walk into the OR.  I stole a few extra minutes to clarify the plan with the orthopedist.

And I must confess there was some major anxiety.  See, the plan as I saw it was for her to have the AVM embolized while the orthopedist cleaned out and searched for the elusive “leak” in the artery.  That’s why we coordinated surgery times.  Except, as it was presented to me today – the vascular guy wasn’t touching the AVM unless it was absolutely necessary.  This was a far cry from the report after the MRI in January when we were told another embolization was necessary.  But, it was now in the moment.  They had a plan and I had to play along.  The orthopedist promised me the vascular guy would be there while he poked around at the beginning in case he was necessary.  He also promised me he would do his best.  What more was there to ask, I guess.

In the waiting room I thought.  Too much.  But, when I was just about insane with my thoughts, I let them wander to Ashton and Suzannah, and the number of hours involved in EACH of those procedures, and I tried to feel better.

After about three hours we were greeted by the orthopedist.  His words were varied, but included “not as bad as I expected,” “quarterized several spots that were leaking blood,” and, “cleaned out a good deal of scar tissue and debris.”  He gave us some pictures to see his work, and left us to meet up with Meghan in recovery.

She woke up slowly, but well, and soon she was alert.  While she spoke to her dad I fielded detailed questions from several more people who held the cheat sheet. I took out my copy and obliged them with answers.  She woke in the most terrible kind of pain, curtailed by a dose of morphine and some ice.  Lots of ice.  For Meghan.  And for me- as I managed to bang my head on the table.  Insert exhaustion here.

exhausted

The pediatrician on call was relentless reviewing the three sheet medical history.  Eventually we got our room, and some time around 2 we were greeted by friendly nurses, a nice bed, and some more pain meds.

Things were settling a bit until the “Inquisition” took place in the form of that previously mentioned pediatrician.  I have to tell you she succeeded on really aggravating my last nerve.  She actually handed me her copy of the “sheet” which had been copied to just about every department so she could ask me the same questions.  By now the fatigue was starting to set in.  I resented the implications that it was somehow my fault no one was “running” my daughter’s medical care but me.  I explained carefully that I was jaded by years of dealing with sub par medical professionals.  She did not take the hint and proceeded to contact my pediatrician to tell him she disagreed with one of Meghan’s medications.  Whatever…  Truly.  Spend some time learning about Cowden’s or ANY Rare Disease.  Then we’ll talk.

'I'll give it to you straight - This disease is almost IMPOSSIBLE to pronounce.'

Arrogant self- importance.  Ugh.

We were called down to radiology at 2:30 so the feet could be X-rayed.  The orthopedist believes, acknowledges, and is searching for an answer on the foot size discrepancy.  Results tomorrow.  In the mean time his caring makes him my current favorite.

Pain medications in place.  Crutches safely in the corner.  Lights are off.  Movie is on.  And the day is just about over.

cartoon-dog-holding-crutches-4589354

Tomorrow we SHOULD be home.

For now, number 13 is in the books.

thirteen

And my happiest news of the day came when the anesthesiologist said

my girl was “stable and strong” during surgery.

The little things are HUGE!

Thankful for the prayers and the guardian angels…

Tomorrow is a new day for BEATINGCOWDENS…

Now, we rest…

Grandma Gen

My friend in Australia reached out this week.  My “blogging buddy” sensed the silence meant things had gone awry.  Continents away; she knew.  She was right.
Writing is my release, my sanity, my way of keeping Cowden’s Syndrome and the fast paced, quick changing world around us in check.  Writing keeps me “honest” as they say.
And over the last two weeks there have been things to write about.  There have been CT scans and fears, and mishaps. and pain, and hunting down doctors and bickering over erroneous bills. But, for the last few weeks most of those things have taken place hastily, in transit.   I had some place else to be.

On Wednesday I got the call that Grandma Gen had died.

And as I sit here more than 48 hours later, I am sure it hasn’t sunken in.  Not really.

Even as I look out the windows at the changing leaves, and I am brought back to last October, as Dad was getting sicker, quickly, I can not really process.

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Gone too soon…

I sometimes feel like so much goes on so fast that sometimes the brain just has to protect the heart for a while.

I have an odd connection to numbers, so it struck me that Dad had died on a Wednesday too.  46 weeks ago.  And as we approach what was sure to be some challenging anniversaries, my family will gather this weekend to remember again, a life well-lived.

Wednesday was my cousin Christie’s birthday.  23 years old.  I so hope that she found her cake.  Because Grandma would have never let a party pass without some cake.

Mom Bday 04b

Wednesday was my cousin Kim’s birthday too.  30 years old.  One to be filled with joy.

I know girls.  I really do know.  A piece of my heart died forever on that November day, my 18th birthday when we lost Angel Meghan.  And last year, on my 40th, Dad and I went to the VA for a really tough appointment.  And then to get the legal papers signed.  And as he signed he said, “It’s your birthday!”  And I said, “There’s no one I’d rather spend it with Dad.” And there wasn’t.  And I don’t regret any of it one bit.  And in the end, that is what matters.  No regrets.

So to my cousins whose birthdays will never quite feel the same I can tell you to focus on the connection.  We all got a really strong angel in Grandma – but you girls… well you have something no one else has.  I’d love to tell you “Happy Birthday” doesn’t still flip my stomach a bit, but I don’t much like to lie.  What I can tell you is focus on the “happy” that was Grandma.  Eat your cake.  Always.

And Kim.  The wedding will be December 6th.  The shower is tomorrow.  So compassionate. Not just to Grandma, but to everyone.  Something unfair about the timing of it all.  But, I can tell you I have a good feeling heaven will be tossing SHOWERS OF BLESSINGS your way.

It’s almost impossible to sum up my Grandma Gen to someone who has never met her.

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Grandma was beautiful.  Not only in a physical sense, but inside as well.  One of the stories I never tired of hearing was the one of her and Pop’s first date.  And because there is no way I could do it justice here, I will simply tell you she told it often, and rarely did a detail change.  Decades after Pop’s passing, and 60 or so years since that date, her eyes showed the love in her heart.  And even in her last weeks whenever we talked about Pop she would say, “God gave me such a GIFT when He gave me your grandfather.”

They were parents.  Busy parents.  Grandma was the Mom to nine children – 8 boys, and a girl.  Most of us shudder at the thought of trying to raise 1, or 2, or 3 children.  For Grandma there were never enough babies.  Each one was a true gift from God.  So for 20 years she had her own, from my Dad to my Uncle Gerry, and everyone in between.  And then, just about three years after Gerry, my older sister Lisa was born.  There was never a break.  The house was always busy, and happy.

siblings

 

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All nine (1 of 1)
They took this shot as often as they could…

 

As a young child, the cousins just kept coming.  There was always a baby to play with, and Grandma ALWAYS had a smile on her face.  I believe between 1980 and 1990 – the core of the cousins, 13 if I have the numbers right- were born.  Some just a few weeks apart.  When all was said and done she boasted 27 grandchildren.  There were busy Christmas Eves on Kingsley Avenue for a long time.  There were swims in the pool, and dogs to guard the door instead of keys for the lock.  There were trips to “Bud’s” for milk, and always a sweet treat.  There were green mashed potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day that at the time just amazed me.  The little things.  So many, really, are the big things.

Older Grandkids (1 of 1)

 

When I got to call Grandma and tell her that she was going to be a Great Grandma, she let out tears of joy.  She was thrilled beyond words. 2003 was a good year – 2 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.  9 more great-grandchildren have followed Meghan and Luke.  And she never resisted an urge to tell friend and stranger alike about how proud she was, of all of us.

The first "great grandchild"
The first “great grandchild”

Maybe one of the most special things about Grandma was that everyone had their own “one of a kind” relationship with her.  When you spoke to her you were the most important person in the world.  And we were all perfect.  In case the rest of the world missed the memo, or noticed a few faults along the way, you must have been mistaken.  Each of her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren could do no wrong.  And while in reality, we know we are all far from perfect, there is no denying that that kind of unconditional love felt awfully good.

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Uncle Paul and Aunt Rita’s 25th Anniversary

Grandma had a firm, strong belief in God, Jesus, and she adored The Blessed Mother.  She would often tell me, if you REALLY needed to get a prayer answered to pray to The Blessed Mother.  She’s get word to Jesus, and He’d never deny His Mother.

Motherhood was her core.  From her days playing with her baby dolls she prayed to be a mother.  And boy were those prayers answered.

And through the years as the family grew, and changed, Grandma could be found smiling somewhere.

Mom & Gerry O Johnny & Barbara (1 of 1)
Grandma with Poppy Hollywood and Barbara and Gerry O
Grandma and Aunt Shirley
Grandma and Aunt Shirley

I can say with confidence, that for all the years I knew my Grandma she never acted with malice in her heart, and always had the best of all intentions in all she said and did.  Somewhere along the line I became a middle aged grown up, and I’ve picked up a few things.  That pure heart, that is what defines people.  At the end of the day it is the knowledge that they did the best they could with what they had where they were at all times that really separates the pure in heart.

And as sure as Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God…”  I have no doubt my Grandma was welcomed into Heaven-warmly.

Because even after the stroke that was to be the beginning of the end, she was the most polite, well-mannered patient you ever could have imagined.  In the hospital, in the nursing home, to anyone who did anything for her, “Thank you.”  “They’re so good to me.”

Even as she waited for visitors, she stared at the picture of her children on the steps at Dave and Margie’s wedding, and she spoke with pride about each of them, and how their hugs warmed her soul.

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Sometimes when I was visiting her alone she would tell me about the places she had been.  Of course these were voyages of the mind, but I listened, as we all did, with intent excitement. These last few weeks were interesting, because you truly never knew who had been in before you, or who came after you, but we all had our times to listen and chat.

She and my brother used “FaceTime” so he could chat with her from Texas, and she sure knew it was him, somehow coming through my phone.  Shane may very well be the first Thompson male to have his facial hair approved of by Grandma.  He booked the first dance with Grandma at Kim’s wedding.  And without fail as the call would disconnect, she’d say, “Shane, I love that kid!”

And there were days my Dad must have visited with her when she was lonely, and her brothers, and some others who gave her comfort, because we heard all about them too.

Even as her mind took her farther from reality, she smiled.  She regaled us with tales of how we were all going to gather for family dinner.  She told me one day she was buying 2 houses to there would be enough space for all of us.  She would talk about the family being close, and how my cousins from Washington were coming with their families too! (We can dream!)

So this weekend we will gather together again.  This time for the first gathering without our matriarch.

And we will spend Saturday showering Kim and Nando with blessings for their upcoming wedding.  Because Grandma, who believed so much in weddings, and marriage, and love would have had it no other way.

Then Sunday we will get together in Harmon Funeral Home again.  And in Irish fashion we will have a loud celebratory wake for a woman who lived a full, happy life.  And we will look at pictures and tell stories, and we will laugh and smile.  Together.

On Monday we will travel, and bring her back to Pop.  21 years later they will be reunited again, a love story never ended, simply interrupted.

Together again - together forever
Together again – together forever

 

Then the real work begins. It’s our job now.  We need to stay focused.  We need to stay connected.  We need to stay together.

For so many of my cousins Grandma Gen was their last grandparent.  I have a guilty amount of good-fortune, and celebrate three grandparents still.  But. the significance and the importance is not lost on me.

In the end it is really only about one thing.

In our loss, we must remember their freedom.  In our loss, we must remember the gifts they left behind.  In our loss, we must remember they are never truly gone if we keep them alive in our words, thoughts and actions.

I miss my Dad.  I miss my Grandma.

Their physical bodies are gone.  Their energy, their spirit, their love remain.

Grandma Gen we’ll do our best to stay “on the right path,” as you so often said.  And at every dessert table there will be an extra piece of cake or a “dollie” shared for you.

Enjoy Pop, and Daddy, and Angel Meghan, and Bo, and all the rest of those you love so much.  No worries.  When the time is right we’ll all be together again.

Until then, it’s remembering – the Irish way.

Rest in Peace Grandma Gen!

May-the-Road-Rise-to-Meet-You

 

 

Passing time….

So here we sit.  Again.  For the second time post thyroidectomy, we are in the hospital. meg hospital May   The girl doesn’t feel well.  She just doesn’t.  End of story.  But, not too many people seem ready to listen until she’s in a full on physical crisis.  Even then sometimes the numbers are frighteningly low. Yesterday she knew.  She NEVER tells me to stay home from work.  She KNEW.  And my pediatrician heard it in my voice.  She was admitted soon after he saw her.  He wanted it to be the flu.  In some ways I did too.  A little Tamiflu and some rest.  Buts she’s negative for flu.  No real surprise.  Too simple a diagnosis for my girl. Since her surgery in February,  her TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) which is supposed to rest somewhere between 4. and 4.0 has been lingering well over 10, despite numerous medication adjustments. The TSH is supposed to be down regulated when the synthetic thyroid hormone takes the place of the T4 and T3.  Enough thyroid hormone and the TSH decreases.  Not enough and it increases causing hypo (under active) thyroid symptoms which can range from bone crushing fatigue, to generally feeling unwell and a whole host of issues in between. He medication has been adjusted upward with no effect – several times. I know it takes time.  I barely remember my own battle with thyroid hormones over 20 years ago.  The veterans of this surgery tell me 6 months, a year…  I get it.  I do. But then there is the reality of watching your kid feel crappy every day.  The reality of watching her FIGHT with all her might to do the normal things others take so easily for granted.  And then I get impatient. impatient smiley To complicate things it may not just be the thyroid hormones keeping us hopping. That “lymph node” turned “salivary gland” is now back to a lymph node in the neck.  We are awaiting the ultrasound that I feel should have been done with her appointment last Monday. And there is a fever.  She never gets fever.  Not really.  And yesterday it was 102.  Today around 100.  No answer why.  Not even the White Blood Cell Count gave a clear indicator. And the reflux.  Painful.  Like fire. Lack of desire to eat much of anything leads to weakness. fire And the throat clearing.  Reflux? or lymph node? or something totally different? So we temporarily stopped the celebrex to try to solve the GI issues.  The medical equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul.  The joint pain – managed for now – is rearing its head. And why does a 10-year-old, with no gall bladder and a week of the worst reflux of her life – with no dietary changes – begin vomiting bile? Maybe just maybe we will meet up with a decent GI.  Girls can hope. So I sit.  We sit.  Waiting for answers to questions.  Waiting for answers to more questions than we will ever get.  But we are hopeful.  Anxious. At least right this minute the worst part of being here is passing the time with the stupid IV.

They got it the second time!
They got it the second time!

And the body says… SLOW DOWN!

So it’s  almost 2 AM on Sunday.  And I have to say, I didn’t see this one coming.

didnt see it coming

This is the part where I remind people over and over that just because you CAN live without a body part, doesn’t mean your body doesn’t miss it when its gone.  I mean we were made in one piece…

So the recovery was going pretty well, but that’s mostly due to her feisty determination.

But there is a point where you look back over the last 9 days and consider a few major things.  That point came at about 4, and 5 , and 6 this afternoon as she was violently and quickly vomiting herself into dehydration.

If you consider that there was the stress and worry of HOW we were going to get to the surgery, then the brief pleasant stay at Ronald McDonald House, followed by a 4 hour surgical delay, coupled with a less than smooth hospital stay that had its share of communication issues… you start to get a sense of the stress that has been this February “vacation.”

Sorry we didn't send a post card, but it was a blast ...
Sorry we didn’t send a post card, but it was a blast …

Really it extends way farther back than that… but rather than bore you again with all the back story I’ll stay current.

So on the 13th the thyroid came out.  It was a three hour procedure with lots of general anesthesia junk for my pretty organic girl.  Then there was the whole removing an actual PART of her body.  And then there was the introduction of the synthetic replacement hormone.  And there was lots of fidgeting with calcium levels.  And there were narcotic pain meds for a few days too to keep the edge off.

And at some point around 4 today her body had had enough.

I love when Meghan vomits and people say, “Is she sick?”  And I say “nope.”  Rarely, (knock on wood – NOW please) does Meghan get a “stomach virus,” but she’s not a stranger to vomiting.  She vomits when her body has had enough.

And today, her stomach hurt.  Her knees hurt.  Her hips hurt.  Today I couldn’t keep the pedialyte in cause it all happened so fast.  And, since there’s a first time for everything – we actually had to go to the ER for fluids.  Except she’s Meghan.  And she’s only a bit over a week post op.  And they just wanted to be careful… so she’s asleep in the bed.  I am typing away as I won’t even attempt to sleep until after the 3 AM meds.

without sleep

And after the ER was over and we came up to the floor for a bed – in a place we have spent some time before- we passed by the NICU where she started her life in 2003.  While I was reflecting I looked at our nurse and thought she looked a little familiar.  Once she told me her name I was incredibly grateful I had been kind to her son when he was in my 5th grade class some (AHEM 13 – or more) years ago.  You never know when you’ll need Karma on your side…

And now this poor, lovely nurse was left to contend with my daughter, reading package inserts and discussing medications before they were given.  Meghan talks a lot.  But I didn’t feel guilty about that part (GRIN.)

So the fluids kicked in and she began to perk up.  She had time to share with the doctors and the nurse her denim ribbons, her Cowden’s card, AND her movie for RARE Disease Day.  They want us to bring them some ribbons for the floor.

wear that you care photo

Me, I got my nutrients in my – thank goodness I always stuff a meal bar and an EShot into my bag… ALWAYS.  That knocked that pounding headache right out.

isalean-bar-chocolate Eshot

She bounces back.  Quickly.  But sometimes a little too well.  I have to watch her.  Determination can’t do it all.  The body has to help too.  And as strong and tough as she is, we all need to be reminded that, well she has this RARE Genetic Disorder called PTEN Hamartoma Tumor Syndrome… or Cowden’s Syndrome… and well, even though we may not always want to admit it – that darned syndrome can make life a little extra tricky.