The Rain…

I walk past a sign in my hallway regularly. It has the familiar phrase, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

I think about other cliche phrases like, “Into every life, some rain must fall,” or, “You can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.”

And I picture a mom and a daughter in their rain boots, splashing and laughing with a rainbow peeking through the clouds.

Then I retreat further into my corner, chastising myself for even being a failure at that.

I am a rational person. I am numbers, data, and spreadsheets all day. I understand the gravity of world events. I comprehend and ache for epic loss, severe illness, and struggles right around the block. I have gratitude for abundant blessings. I adore my husband. I am watching my daughter flourish on her own at college. I believe in God, and have faith that we are in a resting place on the journey to eternal life.

Yet, I struggle.

And as I have mentioned so many times before, the reality of “parallel truths” sometimes aches in the depths of my soul.

The rain, right now, feels more like a neverending storm cloud. Some days I do not see the sun at all, even when I know it is shining brightly. And I mean that literally and metaphorically.

I have always been one to keep it real. Especially here. I want a mom who finds this page for the first time, soon after a diagnosis like ours to feel there is hope. There are kindred spirits along the road they are about to get on. Yet, I will not ever lie to them. They already know the truth in their hearts. This is not an easy journey.

It took a long while to rid my daily encounters of those who are prone to “toxic positivity.” As I said before, I am acutely aware the blessings of this disease come from the “warning flares” we get along the way. And as I watch others suffer from cancers they did not see coming, I give thanks.

But, I am tired. And I am allowed. This endless cycle of medical procedures, of surveillance, of surgey, of billing battles, and the like, is not for the faint of heart. And if I want to maintain the strength to continue this journey at the top of my game, I need to allow myself to find a bench and sit and rest. I need to acknowledge sometimes it is raining sideways, with hail, and lightning. Sometimes I have no jacket on. Sometimes my hair is matted and I am chilly from weathering the storm.

In the more than a decade that we have traveled this road, I have learned stamina is essential. I have learned it is often lonely. I have learned that there are no holidays. I have learned that “regular life” still comes for you, even on this Rare Disease pathway.

And if I am honest my biggest struggle currently is my search for a new “release.” I love to walk. Well, I loved to walk. Hours, miles, music in my ears, sunglasses on my face. Apple pay for a bottle of water now and again. It was how I kept myself together in the early years. A new pair of sneakers and a FitBit. My luxuries. Except, my foot. January 2019. Before the world shut down, everything changed. And honestly, the single thing that has been the hardest to overcome, far more than the loss of my breasts, my uterus, my thyroid or anything else this disease tries to take, is the loss of those free, endless, peaceful walks.

Because on those walks I would appreciate the birds, the flowers, and the smiling children. On those walks, I would sometimes sing at the top of my lungs without a care in the world. On those walks I let it all go, I detoured off the main road, and I always found my way back, better, and stronger.

I can’t walk far right now. Every step sends pain up my left leg from the foot that twisted on a child’s chair in my classroom over three years ago. I CAN walk, but it hurts. And instead of setting me free, it makes the weight of the world heavier. And when I try to push, I am reminded of the new pain in my opposite knee, and the muscle knot in the side of my leg, where the body tries to compensate for the limp I try to hide. On the days I work, I count each step. I ration the Advil. I take the stronger medication at night, so I can try to sleep. I wrap it, I brace the other knee that is failing, carefully under my jeans. I am never without the painful reminder of that injury.

I don’t know if it will ever get well. I have not given up trying, but I just don’t know.

And sometimes, like when the Cowden’s syndrome seems to be at play for a bizarre sudden overgrowth of the gums, and the fitting of a crown becomes oral surgery along the way, or when the girl falls miles away and breaks her wrist, or when the HVAC fails with an open-ended repair bill, or when the husband’s company closes, and the list keeps going, and everything changes, I get totally overwhelmed. And I fall behind on Cowden’s things and “regular” things. I kid my daughter that she is allergic to change. I am sure it is something she got from me, besides a faulty PTEN gene and wild curly hair.

I want to take a walk.

But instead, I sit. In the middle of the storm. I sit cold and soaking wet and cranky and lost. And I long for a release.

But, inevitably someone sits beside me. Someone I dearly love. And they hold my hand and give me a hug, and they just sit. And slowly, out of the corner of the sky comes the tiniest ray of sun. And before I know it, there are birds and a rainbow. And being wet doesn’t feel so messy or lonely anymore. And as the sun starts to warm my body and dry my clothes, I find the strength to stand up and move forward. It’s not dancing, but it is moving. Even if it is ever so slowly.

I reach out and hug my husband, and my daughter. And I remember my second favorite release is to nurture my underattended blog.

#beatingcowdens

… some rain must fall.

Last summer we invested in a new roof for the house.  I’ve never regretted it.  Truth be told we had no choice.  There were leaks and dry rot.  All sorts of potentially serious places for significant damage.   Lots of horrendous storms have pounded down on this roof since the summer of 2013 – both literally and figuratively.  But we’ve stayed safe and dry.  I have to figure its some combination of strong plywood, and a well done roofing job, coupled with our strong family bond, deep faith, and our ability to keep laughing.

rain 4

The weather forecast this week is pretty awful.  And I started thinking about how, “into every life some rain must fall.”  And I started to wonder, whether maybe we’ve actually had enough rain.

Cowden’s Syndrome brings its own share of cloudy, overcast, generally awful days.  And life, well it can get dicey and complicated even without Cowden’s Syndrome.  This year has been wild.  Full of so much sadness, and hurt, and sorrow.  And in between there peeked in some fun, happy times.

rain 2

This month has been tricky.

These last 2 weeks….

I’m really starting to think it might be time to consider an ark.  I’m not wallowing.  Nor do I think we are the only ones buried enough to need that ark (we’ll share,) but wow.  Just, wow…

rain 5 ark

Two weeks ago tonight we rushed Meghan to Lenox Hill Hospital for emergency surgery on the AVM in her right knee.  The 50 ccs of blood were removed from the knee-joint, and by Wednesday we were sent on our way.  Thanksgiving weekend was spent home.  Low key.  Leg up.  Resting.

We had goals.  All geared towards December 8th.  Goals set by the medical team.  Swim practice was to begin again tonight.  And Mom, FYI – goals are different from plans… 🙂

We slowly weaned off the crutches, and the pain medicine.  We moved to an ace wrap as needed.  By last Monday the 1st she went to school still in pain, but unassisted.  The swelling was going down.  The healing had begun.

But by Friday she couldn’t do it.  Had to stay home because of the pain.  The swelling looked a little off too.  More rest.

rain 1

Sunday she woke up late and come down the stairs declaring the pain was worse – and “different.”  The knee looked horrendous.  And very similar to its pre-op state.  More resting.  Some pictures.  Some brainstorming.

ER 11/24
ER 11/24

Living room 12/7
Living room 12/7

All the while Allie, our oldest dog was having troubles of her own.  Allie, lethargic for a bit – collapsed on a walk.  Felix called me to pick him up carrying 70 pounds of dog.  Off to the vet for abdominal x-rays and a negative test for pancreatitis.  There was no discrete mass of the x-ray, just some shadowing.  They decided to try to treat for pancreatitis despite the negative test.  There aren’t too many other good options and I am worried.

And so we got medicine for Allie, and got her boiled chicken and rice for her bland diet.

And we took pictures of Meghan’s leg and elevated the knee.

Today we got up early to give Allie her medicine together.

Then Meghan dragged her painful, aching leg around school until I could get us an appointment.

1:30 arrival at Lenox Hill.  Sonogram initially showed no blood.  Then, wait for it…. there it is.  But no obvious spot its coming from.  Shocking really.  Could it be residual from the procedure two weeks ago?  It looked to be about 5ccs.  Nothing compared to the 50, but I remember a time less than 5ccs of blood in the knee-joint freaked them all out.  Now all of a sudden – we’ll just wait and see.

They used words like “discomfort,” and “irritating.”  She used words like, “excruciating.”

rain 3

Not the first time we haven’t seen eye to eye.  But he’s all we’ve got.  One of very few doctors in the north-east to operate on these in kids.

I get not racing back in.  I do.  But validate the kid for the love…. I know she’s super sensitive, but that just means she feels EVERYTHING, INCLUDING the stray blood in her knee.

Wrap it.  Elevate it.  Put swim off another week.  (Tough talk from the guy who initially said she wouldn’t even need crutches.)

In the car Meghan told me to get my Christmas shopping done.  Just in case.  She hopes she’d wrong – but it doesn’t feel right.

My money’s on her- and it’s a bet I hope to lose.

Allie, she’s super mushy.  Who knows?

photo 1 (5)

Online shopping here I come.

I’m done with the rain.  Really over it.  Rainbow anyone?

rainbow real

Finding the Rainbow

My mom has always loved rainbows.  I mean she REALLY loves them.  She would take us all outside when we were younger to look at them after a storm.  She would sometimes pull the car over so we could see them.  I remember always knowing they were special.  But, like so many things in life I think I am only starting to “get it” now.

Rainbow

What a June this has been!

There has been rain and more rain.  It only started to feel like summer a few days ago.  And while I am sure we will all be complaining of the heat soon – it is nice to see some sunshine.

As I walked out of my house to make a quick run to the store tonight there was rain.  Lots of it.  I went back in for my rain coat.  I had to be ready to pack lunch for Meghan as we head to her appointments tomorrow.  So, I had little choice.

As I was listening to the all familiar sound of the wipers on the windshield, I found myself looking for the rainbow in the sky.  There was sun, there were clouds.  There was rain.  I knew I would find it if I looked.

I thought about these last – almost 2 years since the Cowden’s diagnosis.  I thought about the twists and turns and sleepless nights.  The days when I was sure the sun would never shine again.  Yet – somehow it did.

I thought of my husband.  My strength in tumultuous times.  I thought of how he began school 2 years ago this week, setting out for his electrical licensing exam, never knowing three short months later life would be forever altered with mine and Meghan’s diagnoses.

I thought about how the course that was only supposed to take a few months, and the test that should have been in early 2012 ended up being in January of 2013.  I thought of him trekking to school two nights a week, and studying every spare moment.  I thought of how flat out proud we were as he passed the written exam with ease.

Through tests, surgeries, scans, cancer, agonizing waiting – he persevered.I am not sure I could have kept my focus.  But he took it a step further.

Perhaps it was out imminent family health crisis, or maybe his own internal motivation, in June of 2012 he began his journey towards better health on Isagenix.

While continuing in school  and under extreme stress, he has managed to lose, and maintain the loss of about 45 pounds.

meghanleigh8903.isagenix.com
meghanleigh8903.isagenix.com

He took the second and final part of the exam on June 4th.  The passing score came in the mail Monday.  Now all that stands between him and his Mater Electrician License is some tedious NYC paperwork, and undoubtedly some more fees…

As I looked for the rainbow I couldn’t help but think, that even though they are sometimes hard to see, and even thought the days are sometimes dark and cloudy –  they are there.  They wonder, the beauty – all perfectly placed to be appreciated.  If we look…

Tonight's rainbow 6/26/13
Tonight’s rainbow 6/26/13

I am so proud of my husband.  I am so grateful that he is so often the rainbow on that cloudy day.

My mother taught me to look for rainbows.  I get it now Mom.  I get it.

My husband helps me find them.

I am a lucky girl.

Thyroid sonogram tomorrow – 10 AM.

We’ll be looking to make our own rainbows along the way.