A REAL Love Story

love

I’m not one for Valentine’s Day.  Never was.  It didn’t matter to me if I was dating or single, it just never made sense.  The “Hallmark Holiday” seemed determined to bleed money out of people who shouldn’t have to work so hard to prove themselves one day a year.

If you love someone, prove it every day.  It’s not about the big things.  It’s about the things that matter.

Picking up someone else’s mess, doing someone’s laundry, a random hug, an “I love you” that’s real and spontaneous, treating each other respectfully all the time… and so on…

My husband and I decided years ago to exchange only cards on Valentine’s Day.  I already know how much he loves me.  We do what we can to get a little something for our girl, well, just because.  And we, we try to get organized and celebrate our anniversary.  The day we stood before God and our families and friends and pledged our “for better or for worse,” and “in sickness and in health.”  Because those vows – they matter so much.

Tomorrow I will head to Manhattan for three of my annual appointments, carefully timed to cost me exactly one day off of work.  I will see the oncologist, the breast surgeon, and the endocrine surgeon, with some blood work thrown in for good measure, and the results of a sonogram from Saturday checking on that bumpy spleen of mine.

I will return in time to have parent conferences at my daughter’s school.

Not a “romantic” day by any means.

I will wear a red shirt that says “Strong” and I will make it work with a smile.

Because, I will be thinking of this heart.

img_6210Last year in January, my Grandfather fell.  It was after a trip to the grocery store.  We later found there was stroke activity, and that January day began a slippery slope that ended with his passing on March 3rd.  If you know me personally at all, you know my grandparents were larger than life to me.  That’s it.  They were 70 years married, and even though Alzheimer’s had largely robbed Grandma of much of her memory, my Pop loved her with his whole heart.

Last year, coincidentally, my grandparents spent Valentine’s Day in the nursing home at the same time.  And, although I’m not totally sure either was aware of the date at the time, we were.

A few days after Pop passed, my uncle sent the picture above.  He was cleaning out the linen closet and tucked in between some things was this heart.  By every rational account it must have been purchased by Pop, for his love, on that day in January when he made his last shopping trip alone.

My Pop was a man that planned ahead.  He was a man who always thought of his wife, and lived every day loving her with his whole heart. And my Grandma, well, she’s pretty special herself, and she’s always been quite fond of chocolate.

Nothing flashy, nothing fancy.  But he saw the hearts early, and thought of her.  That’s how he rolled.  Always kissing her hello and goodbye, clipping roses from their rosebush, and doing what he could, even when there was nothing more he could do.

My newsfeed, and my heart have been full lately, of people struggling and suffering.  The prayer list is long.  There is pain and sadness and worry.  But within, there is also love, and gratitude and compassion.

Life is about balance.

I’d rather spread out the love to last all year.  I’ve got plenty to share.

For it is with love alone that we hold each other up.

Love for those around us, and those who’ve gone before, motivates us.

Grandma is still “here” but many of you understand when I say I miss my grandparents.  The love though, the love and the example they set is imprinted forever in my soul.

It is with Love and Gratitude that we find the strength to remain

#beatingcowdens!

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Justifying Our Existence

There was a post that showed up in my news feed this week from http://www.themighty.com.  Read The Secrets of People with Chronic Illness here

I can’t seem to shake some of the thoughts from my head.

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As I write, school ended for the summer 9 days ago.  In those 9 days we have seen 4 doctors between us.  There are 9 more SCHEDULED in the month of July, including a biopsy for Meghan on the 22nd.

And, while I did take some time over the weekend to reconnect with some dear friends, and I have accomplished a few mundane tasks like routine car maintenance, the vast majority of every moment of those 9 days has been spent justifying my existence.

Fortunately, I have enrolled Meghan in a theater camp where she is from 10-4, spending some time with kids her age.  Of course, the wear and tear on her body, even after only 3 days is evident.  She struggles with pain so badly.  On her feet, determined to fit in.  Determined for me not to say too much.  Sometimes I have to let her go.  I have to let her try.  I have to let her decide.  But, it hurts.  It hurts her, and it destroys me to watch her battle with her body.  I watch her put that game face on in the AM, and not take it off until after swim practice follows camp.  No one will ever tell me she is anything but driven.  But, no one would ever know to watch her…

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Usually by this point in the summer my work bag is unpacked, washed and tucked away.  Often my lesson plans for September are mostly framed out.  I am yet to take the list I frantically formed as I packed my room the last day of school out of the bag.

Instead, the yellow legal pad sits near my computer.  I write, and cross out, and rewrite, as I call, obtain records, set appointments, and clarify tests required by various doctors.  I rearrange schedules to allow for coverage for Meghan as I trek to my own appointments at the most inconvenient times.

On the 18th I will meet a new plastic surgeon, as the old one no longer accepts our insurance.  I never imagined needing a new plastic surgeon only 4and 1/2 years post op from the mastectomy, but it seems I do.  I’ll wait until I meet him to elaborate on that…  Sometimes, although not often, I do feel like this…

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I can often count on 4 hours minimum round trip for the 10 mile trek.  Never mind the cost.  We just don’t even add it up.  Instead, we thank God for our jobs and the insurance we do have.

I received a phone call yesterday from a lab that was running insurance information to obtain testing for Meghan requested by one of her doctors.  Except it’s not covered at all.  $16,000 they said.  I, who denies my child nothing politely said, “we’ll find another way”.  And we will.  Because that is just insane.

I’ve sent 3 emails to the office manager of the office doing her procedure on the 22nd.  I simply want to know what date to leave free for the follow-up.  I know there will be one, and I want to plan a few summer adventures in the time that my fish will have to be out of water.  I also asked for the pathology from her December procedure.  For about the 8th time.  Just keep adding checks and dates to the list.

When things get really bad, like with the bills I’m fighting in collections, they get a folder of their own.  The SUPER troubling places, like the mail-order pharmacy, have a notebook.

We do our best to stay upbeat.  We count our blessings regularly.  We know it could be worse.  We know the anguish others suffer far surpasses our daily struggles.  But, no matter how much we focus on a positive attitude, and believe me we do, it does not decrease the pain, both physical and emotional.  The struggle is real.  Whether we like to admit it or not.

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I reached out to our genetecist this week.  Darling man said he would always help, and didn’t want us to waste a trip on him.  I told him I was having trouble with my voice.  I’ve been getting very hoarse for 8 weeks or so.  No infection.  Three allergy meds on board.  But, I do have Cowden’s Syndrome, that tumor growing thing I sometimes forget belongs to me too.  And I have a history in the neck.  A 3.5 pound lipoma in 1988, and multinodular goiter on the thyroid in 1993.  Both removed.  Both benign. But…

He referred me to a head and neck surgeon.  I finally mustered up the courage to block out at least one more day of summer, and call for an appointment.  I was met with the inquisition on the phone.  I never got past the receptionist.

“This doctor is a head and neck SURGEON.”

“Yes, I know he’s a surgeon, I was referred for consulation.”

“Well, he doesn’t just SEE people, you need a diagnosis and a referring doctor.”

“I have both.  C-O-W-D-E-N Syndrome.  A mutation on the PTEN gene that causes benign and malignant tumor growth.  I was referred by my genetecist, also a doctor at your hospital.”

“Well, what tests do you have?  He will want a report, a CD, something…”

Sigh.  I just don’t have the fight in me today. “Ok, you win.   I’ll find someone else.”

“Come back to him when you have a diagnosis.”

 

Whatever.  Just whatever.  Sometimes I get a little tired.

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Thats when I shake it off with a quick walk.

I emailed the genetecist back.  I’ll wait.  Again.

I have this pool in my backyard.  And plenty of people I’d like to reconnect with.  And some lessons I’d like off my plate.  And a book I’d like to read.

I’ll get there.  In the mean time, I’ll be at my computer.  Emailing.  Arguing.  Advocating. Communicating.  Researching.  Justifying my existence, and

 

#Beatingcowdens with whatever it takes.

Invisible Illness – Stuck in the Middle with You

I don’t actually fit the “stereotype” of a middle child, as I was a younger sibling to my sister, (three years older) for 15 years, before my little sister and brother came along a few months apart.

I got the live the life of a “younger” and then later got to have some fun times, and responsibility as an “older.”

It worked.

On the other hand, this journey with this “invisible illness” we call “Cowden’s Syndrome” isn’t quite as smooth.  It has to work, but right now it’s the “typical” middle child.  It’s having a tough time fitting in where it belongs.  Actually it is definitively trying to take over, but either getting ignored, or getting too much attention for all the wrong things.

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In February of 2014 there was the complete removal of her thyroid.

In May of 2014 there was a week in the hospital from complications from the medicine that was controlling the AVM.

In November of 2014, almost on schedule, the AVM bled and required emergency surgery.

In February 2015 I addressed another vein gone awry in my leg.

In May 2015 there was the arthroscopy for the AVM knee to quartarize some bleeding.

In August, on the 25th, there will be her second-hand surgery in two years to try to stay ahead of the vascular malformations now forming in her palms.  That was an unintended result of Monday’s visit to the hand surgeon.

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There are a list of appointments to make, and bills to settle, and I seem to be doing nothing more than surviving.

More blood tomorrow.  An Abdominal ultrasound Friday.

The summer is not for carefree adventures.  The summer is for doctors.  I hate that.  But, its true.

And as we met with the oral surgeon today who perused her multiple page medical history, his cavalier remark, “She looks good,” should have pleased me.  But, if I may be frank, it pissed me off.

Not because she doesn’t look good.  She’s stunning, and tall and polite and well-mannered, and has a beautiful smile.  But that is NOT the point.

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The point is he never mentioned anything about the medical history, and in our world, being validated matters.  Someone needs to say its unusual (read unfair) for an (almost) 12-year-old to be discussing the removal of her wisdom teeth.  And while this may have nothing to do with Cowden’s (although I’ve come to know EVERYTHING unusual has SOMETHING to do with Cowden’s,) it is still just grossly unfair.  More unfair is that this is ALREADY her second stint in the chair of an oral surgeon, as a mass was removed from her gums some 5 years ago.

We remain “stuck in the middle.”

Again, I have the “healthiest looking sick kid.”

My kid who still ices her knee, and needs to walk a lap or two during swim practice, but still makes practice.  That kid will spend a week in a wheelchair at Disney, as she is not to walk more than about 1/2 mile consecutively.  The child who still hasn’t gotten clearance from her last knee surgery.  Clearly, she doesn’t “look” sick, but the stares and judgment are inevitable.  And to some extent I get it.  Invisible illness is hard to understand.

It is during this week I feel most “stuck in the middle.”  I am so grateful the accessibility issues are limited.  I do not fit in with the parents of wheelchair bound children.  Although, it is a necessary tool to allow us a much-needed vacation.  But, what is not limited are the “invisible” elements of her condition.  The chronic surgeries, the doctor visits, the traffic, the blood work, the scans, the inability to just “go”; to the museum, the beach, the park, or anywhere because it hurts to walk too long, the isolation from friends who have no limitations, the poking, the anxiety – well, they never ever go away.

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We’ve learned not to talk about them much.  But, they are always there.  Hers and mine.

She learns to appreciate what she can do, and acknowledge what she can’t.  Begrudgingly.

My kid who holds it together through all things, and has grit and determination I marvel at, will act in her summer production at school.

She learns to use the anxiety as a tool.

She masters her emotions.  She is the boss of her body.  She amazes me.

And on September 18th when she gets her bottom two wisdom teeth removed, the course of action will be no different.

They will never know the powerhouse of a young lady that just left their chair.  Until she comes back for the other two a few months later.

“Stuck In The Middle With You”
(originally by Stealers Wheel)

…Yes, I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, and I’m all over the place
Clowns to left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you…

To the Middle School Girls Who Doubt My Daughter…

July 20, 2015

To the Midle School Girls who doubt my daughter’s medical conditons:

I want to start by telling you, I know it’s not your fault.  You are generally healthy.  You were raised by people who are generally healthy.  You get sick.   It gets better.  You want your share of attention.  You resent that sometimes my daughter needs a little extra help in the halls.  It’s not fair that sometimes she needs to sit out of Physical Education.  You are tired too, right?  It doesn’t seem fair that she needs to leave early from the class right before lunch.  You’d like to stretch your legs too.  Why does she “get” to being her own food everywhere?  And is she really “allergic” to all those foods?  Because she doesn’t seem “allergic,” and why does her food wrapper say “milk” when she’s “allergic to milk?  She must be lying, right? Looking for attention again?  Why does she get to leave early so often?  You’d like to get out of last period too.  I get it.  I understand.  You look at people who look sick, and you are probably really compassionate.  Except now that you’re older, it’s time for me to let you in on a well kept secret.

Not everyone who IS sick, LOOKS sick.

Take a moment and process that.

Now I’d like to tell you a little about my daughter.  The real Meghan.  Not the one you always see, but the one I see.  The one who I have kissed before 13 surgeries, as she left me for the operating room.  The one I have slept beside for nights on end as she gets poked and prodded in hospital after hospital.  The one who has shed tears of pure frustration and anger over the things that have been restricted from her life.  The one who longs for you to understand, but will not talk about it in depth, for fear that she will isolate you, or worse, that you really won’t care at all.

Let me tell you about the Meghan who knows your problems.  The one who genuinely hopes you, and your head cold, stomach virus, sick grandmother, and hurt ankle are all ok.  The one who understands deeply your anxiety about getting a blood test.  The one who “gets it” on levels you’ll never understand.

Let’s talk about the paraprofessional.  While she has been blessed with the classiest, most professional women through the years, do you think for a moment she WANTS to need help?  Do you think she WANTS an adult escorting her through the halls?  Think about that for a minute.  She doesn’t WANT to be different.  Six knee surgeries, and a Rare Disease diagnosis have taken that option from her.

And about the trips to the nurse.  Any idea how annoying it must be to have to detour to a nurse to hand you medication before you can eat anything at all?  Any idea what it is like to never be spontaneous about just grabbing a bite of something?  Because your body simply doesn’t make the enzymes it needs to digest food without help.

Please don’t even get me started on the cafeteria.  In our house her Dad is a masterful cook, who makes eating gluten, dairy and soy free taste fabulous.  But, out of the house?  Not so easy.  You want to know about her allergies?  About how she can be “allergic” to milk and eat a product that contains milk?  I get your confusion.  But, here’s a tip; when you are confused, ASK, don’t assume.  She’ll probably willingly share the reasons with you if you are actually interested.

She spent a large part of her very young years vomiting a lot.  Sometimes so much that she ended up in the hospital.  Her stomach hurt all the time, and she even had to have her gall bladder taken out when she was 3.  She had ear infections all the time and her head was full of fluid.  She didn’t talk much, (I know – hard to believe) because her head was clogged up.  She cried because she hurt so badly.  She was allergy tested for lots of things.   Nothing came up.  Nothing at all.  Then I used my brain.  And my instincts.  And we targeted some foods.

And do you know what we learned?  We learned that without milk, she doesn’t get ear infections.  And she learned how to talk right away.  And her head stopped being so full all the time.  And she could rest.

Then I kept looking.  And I learned that soy, in its purest form, caused a rash all over her body.

And when I took out gluten, slowly her joints began to ache less and less, and I was able to decrease the medication she needed just to walk up the steps onto the school bus.

Are they “allergies” in a technical sense?  No, I guess not. But, they are just as important.  I am forever grateful that she doesn’t carry the danger of anaphylactic shock, but she does have the ability to end up in the hospital from dehydration after vomiting for days when she eats certain foods.  Even strawberries.  Or anything with seeds.  Or anything too greasy.  Or cross contaminated.  (Like last year in DISNEYWORLD when we needed a doctor after a FULL day in the hotel vomiting.)

So the meal bars she eats at lunch, yes they say, “conatins milk.”  But, you know what?  They agree with her.  She doesn’t love them, but she eats them for NUTRITION, so she can function through the day.  The “milk” in there is primarily undenatured WHEY protein from NEW ZEALAND where the cows are GRASS FED and roam free.

Why would she be anything less than honest about not being allowed to have regular milk products?  Do you know she has never had ice cream from the ice cream man?  I have to send her own pizza and chips and cake to parties.  Do you think she doesn’t want the donuts and cookies, and hot pretzels in the cafeteria or at fairs?  Does that really make any sense?  Ask yourself of all the things to be less than truthful about, does that even enter into logic?

And about physical education.  Let’s talk about my daughter trapped in a body that likes to betray the athlete inside of her.  Let’s talk about the young lady who can run like the wind, but might trigger a bleed of the vascular malformation in her knee, and at the very least will pay in excrutiating pain.  The girl who wants to play longer and harder than any of you, but can’t.  The child who craves the idea of just coming in in a gym uniform and competing, for better or for worse, all the time.  But, she can’t.  Because the surgeon said not yet.  And even when she’s able to join in, it will likely be on a restricted basis.  Let’s talk about the girl who won’t run Main Street in Disney because she will have to navigate the parks confined to a wheelchair.  Walking more than about 1/2 mile consecutively is too stressful on the knee.

Oh, and the tired.  Yep, you are tired too.  I get it.  You were up late last night.  Probably watching a movie, or doing something fun.  So you are tired. But, she went to bed at a decent hour.  Hers is a different tired.  Hers is the tired that comes from a body that refuses to accept the synthetic thyroid hormones as normal.  Hers is from a body that makes a hobby out of defying her.  You’re both tired.  But, it’s not the same.  Trust me.

This is the girl who stays on stage during drama even if it kills her.  Even if the pain is at its greatest intesity, because no one has restricted her there, yet.

This is a girl who gets to swim practice as consistently as she can, so that she can feel, “normal,” while she pushes through the water.  This girl has to go to PT 2x a week just to get into the pool.  This is the girl who overcame emergency surgery in November of last year for a bleed in her knee to qualify for Silver Championships 2 months later on raw nerve.  This is the girl who took less than 2 weeks off from swimming after her knee surgery in May.  Because she WANTS to play.

And all those times I pick her up early.  It’s not for a manicure/pedicure.  Turst me.  See, Meghan has a rare disease called Cowden’s Syndrome.  She’d be happy to tell you more about it.  She got it from me.  It causes non-cancerous, and cancerous growths to grow all over the body.  She’s been lucky so far, and even though it was a close call when they removed her whole thyroid last February, she is to date a “previvor,” (one who has surgery to remove genetic cancer risks.)  But, there is a doctor, and often a surgeon, for just about every body part.  There are MRIs and scans, and hours travleing to Manhattan.  No, not to museums, but to NYU, Sloan Kettering, Lenox Hill, and St. Luke’s Roosevelt.  We do the hospital tour.  The average round trip is 4 hours, usually after a long day of school.

This is a girl who has watched her mother undergo surgeries she shouldn’t have to think about yet.  This girl has had her mother diagnosed with cancer when she was in 3rd grade.  This girl has the same genetic condition as her mother, and the same cancer risks.  Some days she has a lot on her mind.

Meghan is not perfect.  I know this, and so does she.  And if you have a problem, talk it out.  Sometimes you’ll be right, and sometimes she will be.

Just don’t assume things.  There’s a saying about that… and it’s all true.

You see invisible illnesses, like Cowden’s Syndrome are very, very real.

Meghan is only one of MANY people you will meet in your life who “don’t LOOK sick.”  They would ALL benefit from your compassion.

Constant doctors appointments, scans, and blood tests, are not where we want to spend such a giant chunk of our lives.

Food allergies is a term we use to protect her from ignorant or uneducated people who think sensitivities and intolerances are not serious.  Forgive me the word adjustment.  It’s necessary to ensure her safety.

You see the hardest part about all this for me, is not being able to give you this speech in person.  For the last 12 years I have been her voice, her mouth, her protector.  Now, on top of everything else she has to handle, she has to find her own way of speaking about all of this.  She has to find her own comfort zone.

And I have to watch.

My confidence in with my daughter.  She will pick the right friends.  She will speak up at the right times.  She will learn all about herself.  She will become her own best advocate, to you and to the world.

And once she has figured all that out, you’ll realize she’s a pretty fun kid to have around.

Don’t worry, she’ll pack her own snacks.

Sincerely,

Meghan’s Mom

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Groundhog Day

“Groundhog Day” – who doesn’t remember the movie?  There have been plenty of days I have thought of it.  I may need to watch it again soon.

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Pediatric Endocrinology is a ridiculously small sub specialty.

There is this web of interconnections, and all sorts of people who have lost sight of the patient.

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Ultimately I may need to head out-of-state to try to get a clean opinion.  But, I have to take that and so many other things one step at a time.

But, after the travesty on Thursday, I was left with little choice but to keep me appointment with the surgeon at our current hospital.

You remember the surgeon?

He’s the one who did a great job on the surgery.  The one who said, when we went for the follow-up, that he only needed to see her ever again if she felt anything in her neck.  And when she did feel something in her neck I had to jump through 12 hoops to convince him he should see her.  And then when he saw her, he proclaimed the lump a salivary gland and told us to return “one more time” in a few weeks.

But then there was that horrendous week in the hospital.  And while she was being treated for gastritis, a hematologist felt her neck and said, “It’s a lymph node.”  So they sent her for a sonogram which said it was a lymph node.

So when we went back to see the surgeon and brought him the sonogram report he got annoyed and ordered his own ultrasound, which we got to wait 3 hours for.  And then he called me to tell me everything was fine, even after the 45 minute exam where the tech measured the lymph node in her neck.  So we were good to part ways until I asked for a copy of that report too.

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And 10 minutes later my cell phone rang telling me doctor “I am sure it’s fine, but just in case,” wanted to see her again.  So after some haggling we arranged for June 16th at 1.  Which was ok.  Until they called me Friday to tell me I could come in at 9:30 or 10:45.  “How about 1, like you said originally?”

So the appointment was set for 1, and I punched out of work at 12.  We got to the hospital at exactly 1 (a 20 mile drive) after some typical traffic, and a near miss of a three car accident in front of us on the highway (thank you angels) on line for the parking garage.  I called up to let them know we’d be a few minutes.  And we sat.  And we sat  And we sat.

Finally we began to inch forward just a bit.  Then there was just one car in front of me.

And he was not paying a bit of attention, as a large black SUV cut right into the front of the line.

Now at times like this I try to focus.  Maybe there was a medical emergency. Maybe… Maybe…

So as much as I wanted to get out of my car screaming, I held my composure and talked about all the reasons they might have done that.  Until a hospital employee, likely late for work, surfaced as the driver.  He left his car across the sidewalk, took the ticket from the attendant and raced into the hospital.

It was 1:35.

And then I noticed some scurrying.

I thought the car was stuck.

It turns out the self-important line cutter had taken his keys- blocking the entrance and causing the line of 20 cars behind me to continue to grow.

The car was booted and moved.

We got to the appointment around 2.

As usual...
As usual…

The doctor spoke to Meghan.  He asked her how she was doing.  She told him about her pain.  And about her throat clearing.  And about how tired she is.  She mentioned working hard to get so swim practice.

I don’t think he heard a word.

He felt her neck and proudly proclaimed he felt nothing.  By now I was so tired of this I just wanted to get out.  I figured we were done.  I was glad he could feel nothing.  If only I trusted him.  Truth be told, I haven’t put a hand on her neck in 4 weeks.  There is just no point.

“I want to see her at the end of the summer.”

WHAT?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

3 visits ago he never wanted to see her again.  Now he has ultrasound and 2 visits at which he told me she was fine.  Let it go.  Unless of course, he just doesn’t quite trust himself…

“I’m glad she’s feeling so well.”

EXCUSE ME??????????  Did you just see MY kid?  Because MY KID is incredibly polite, and often very positive.  She is articulate and bright, but she will NEVER tell you she feels WELL.  She doesn’t believe in lying.

Some days this is like a bad movie. Or a dream where your finger is stuck in the door and it keeps closing over, and over, and over again.

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August 18th.

Damn.

So much for a month without doctors.

When do you, as the Mom, put an end to it?  Knowing that any “miss” falls right on you, it’s so hard to defy their recommendations, even when their competence can be questioned.

Rheumatology on the 30th.  GI on July 2nd, and Pediatric Endocrinology AGAIN on July 3rd.  And that’s just the first week.

I guess I better plan something fun for the 1st.  Something worthy of a stepping stone for that bridge…

Her entire right side hurts to the touch tonight.  Every natural pain remedy I research has something her reflux doesn’t allow.

She fell asleep tonight reading her Bible.  Our Pastor sent her a long letter with some great verses of comfort.  She hasn’t stopped rereading it.

Sigh…

Two hours to get in.  Two hours to get home.  Less than 30 minutes on the floor of the hospital.

“This is getting old Mom.”  Wise kid.

“‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise” – Laura Story

“Dear whatever doesn’t kill me, I’m strong enough now. Thanks.”

I needed today.  For so many reasons.

Even thought Meghan had 2 appointments today – 11:15 and 12 – it was a good day.

We all slept.  Late.  All three of us.  I mean 10:00.  A good sign that we – all three- are shot.

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I mean, not a whole lot changed from yesterday, in that it took a full 10 minutes before Meghan’s pain subsided enough for her to walk.  And she was sensitive to the touch, so it was even hard to rub her.  But everything is a little better at 10 AM.

And there was the Isagenix shake – blessed by her GI doctor, back in the mix made with blueberry and coconut milk – that went down smoothly as she took the new regimen of pills.  I finally have a doctor who understands quality nutrition, and who “gets” that you can be sensitive to one type of milk protein and not another.

meghanleigh8903.isagenix.com
meghanleigh8903.isagenix.com

And after the appointments, even though I got the frustrating news that the “it’s broken, it’s fixed, it’s broken, it’s fixed” 1996 Saturn has likely advanced to “deal with it – it’s done” status, it was still OK.

Because we got home, and then Felix made lunch.  I stayed home with Meghan and her “better but not gone” stomach pain.

After that he took the working car to get the wood for the deck railing that has completely rotted out.

No one can really explain that – but we are kind of used to it.

The deck – pressure treated wood – was put together between 2000 and 2004.  By all accounts it is falling apart.  And its not from faulty construction.  The base is solid.  The center is stable.  But the galvanized screws are literally wasting away – and the wood, especially the rails, is rotting.  Maybe it’s too much sun.  Maybe it’s a stain product we used early in its life.  It really doesn’t matter.  It’s done and has to go on the budget list for a full replacement in the near future.  But for now we patch.

Triage.

triage

The bay window wins.  Installed in November of 2000 – on my birthday to be exact- the lower left corner of the center window has rotted out completely.  The entire window – hole in the house and all – needs to be replaced.

So while Felix was getting the wood, he priced the window  Tonight we have to do some comparison work.  Then the order has to go in.

But this afternoon I sat still.  For a few hours.  And I really, really, really liked it.

It’s easy to feel guilty.  That there are things that need doing.  There are people who could use our help.  And there are people who need to be visited.  And there are phone calls that need to be made.  But, last week my Mom told me if I didn’t take some time for myself I might lose my mind.  She’s right.  Although I could say the same to her, and most people I know.  It’s hard for any of us to just stop and sit still.

I haven’t written since Monday.  The arrogance I encountered that day kept me stewing for most of the week.  And… I don’t think I’m over it yet.  But I wanted to pull my thoughts together and go at it with a clear head.  But if I keep waiting for a clear head I may have to stop writing forever.  Because the pain my child endures – regularly- is horrendous and worsening.

If the purpose of this blog is to create a chronology of our experience with Cowden’s Syndrome – then it all has to be shared.  The good, the bad, and the arrogant.

A friend who endures more than her share of struggles with her children placed this on my wall this week.  I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud.

what doesnt kill me

 

Tuesday I called the surgeon’s office after school to inquire about the sonogram.  He spoke to me – to tell me that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her neck.

Insert sigh of relief here, right?

So I said thank you, and requested a copy of the report.  It was to be emailed to me within 10 minutes.

And while I was processing the conversation I had with the surgeon, I was contemplating what I would see on the report.  You see, the local sonogram bothered the surgeon.  So when we went to have it done I watched the screen like the hawk I am.  I watched every measurement, every angle for 30 minutes.  I SAW the exact dimensions from the local sonogram recorded.  And yet the report was the most incomplete one I have ever seen.  It simply said “normal” several times.  It was contained on one sheet of paper, unlike the three I had become used to.

I wanted to be relieved so badly.  I wanted to take a breath and say “whew!”

But I feel the lump in her neck.  And she feels it.

What I needed was a doctor to say, “It’s there and it’s fine.”  THAT would have been OK.  THAT would have settled me down.  But, to say it’s NOT there….  THAT leaves me with a whole other set of unsettled nerves.

And then the phone rang.  Again.  And it was the surgeon’s office.  His secretary told me we needed to go back for a follow up.  I was stunned.  And perplexed.

Why a follow up?  He just told me everything was fine!

The doctor just wants to see her one more time before the summer.

This from the same surgeon who three visits ago NEVER wanted to see us again.

So I set the appointment for June 16th.  And I wondered really what I am supposed to think.

So I got the number for medical records and I got a CD of that exam placed on CD.

I’ll bring the CD with us for the endocrine consult at ANOTHER hospital on June 12th.

And this isn’t even the pressing problem right now.  Or at least we don’t think so.

The next set of thyroid labs are going to be next week.  We need to see if this new dose is making ANY difference in her thyroid hormone.  If it is, well great.  And if it isn’t… someone needs to start figuring out what’s going on.

There is pain.  All the time.  Terrible pain.  Worse when she wakes up.  And, when she tries to walk, up the stairs.  Or down.  Or if she tries to lift something.  Or bend to pet the dogs.  Or run.  She made it through 18 minutes of swim practice on Weds.  Then I had to help her get dressed.

The pain varies in intensity.  But it doesn’t leave.  And she is frustrated.  And frightened.

Holding my head in her hands, looking me right in the eye, I received the admonishment a few days ago, “I am telling you I can not do this forever.  I can handle this pain a bit longer, but you NEED to help me.  I CAN NOT do this forever.”

worried mom - FBI

No pressure.

I get it Meg.  I get it.  I don’t really get your pain.  But I get the urgency.  I am all over it.  Trust me.

But that kind of pressure will wipe you out.

The GI on Weds. was happy with her progress.   The pathology showed cellular changes all through the GI tract.  She told us of the spot in the stomach she chose not to biopsy because it bled as the scope passed over it.  She gave us the “reflux” diet.  She reviewed medication and supplements.  She made sure I have an ENT appointment – for June 3rd.  She things the upper esophageal damage is caused by a chronic post nasal drip.  And maybe “fingers crossed,” that will be the throat clearing too.  Because if not there is another diet – with more restrictions on the horizon.  But we can’t race.  We will see her in the beginning of July.  We are clear on the directions.  Especially the one that said, “no pain medicine by mouth.”  The damage done by 4 years of NSAIDs will take months to reverse.  If we are lucky.  Her Cowden’s Syndrome cellular overgrowth reacted to the insult by thickening the esophagus at spots, inflaming the stomach and causing a real mess.

That doesn’t leave a whole lot of options.

So from 200mg a day of a strong NSAID to nothing…

celebrex100mg

I ordered some herbs.  Some that have anti inflammatory properties.  I have read and researched them and have sold them to her as the best thing since Celebrex.  They will be here tomorrow.  Let’s all pray I am right.

Some people think she exaggerates, because there are glimmers of smiles.  There are times when she laughs.  There are people who want her to feel better just because time has passed.  Trust me no one wants this more than her parents.

I would not trade her – or a moment of the last almost 11 years, but this constant struggle is wearing on us all.  We are isolated.  Family and friends alike are often unaware of what to say, or do.  We are afraid to eat anywhere other than home, afraid to be too far away in case her stomach hurts, afraid to be away from home for too long because the pain is often too much to bear.  We are lucky, fortunate, blessed, to have each other.  We are acutely aware of the struggles of so many, and we know we are far from alone when we say we are exhausted.

I needed today.  I did random things like taking the 5 gigs of pictures and video off the iPhone.  I uploaded them to shutterfly.  I combined them with the family photos and I placed the first print order since August of 2012.  We are up to August of 2013 now.  You see I used to be all over this kind of thing.  But life… it gets in the way.

And the nicest part about today was looking at the memories.  The smiles.  The happy times in those photos.  You see today I needed to be reminded…

And that is what today was about.

Because next week there is Field Day, with prayers that there can be mobility by then.  And next week there is blood work.  And next week there is swim practice, and so many things that we want to go very, very well.

Today, I needed today.

 

 

The Arrogance Epidemic

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Truly. Under diagnosed, and under treated. Spreading wildly. Seems especially prevalent among experienced medical professionals.

Not all are affected. Some are immune. Some resist with all their might.

Some embrace the arrogance. They seem to enjoy spreading it to those around them.

Others hide the arrogance, carefully and efficiently. Until the moment they are challenged. Then they unleash the beast full force.

arrogance

We met again with the thyroid surgeon today. Two weeks ago we requested an appointment because Meghan felt something in her neck. I have learned from experience not to question Meghan. She has proven time and again to have an awareness if her body that defies explanation.

Two weeks ago he felt her neck and declared the lump she felt to be a salivary gland. He said some small lymph nodes surrounded it, but when we came back in two weeks it would all be gone. He said it with a good amount of authority- but not arrogance. He reminded us of her clean pathology report. He directed us not to worry.

And maybe we would have paid it no mind, except that’s not how life tends to go around here.

So, three days after the surgeon declared the “salivary gland” in her neck, we ended up inpatient at a local hospital with an attack of what ended up being severe gastritis.

While they were sorting themselves out, the pediatrician (who is as far from arrogant as they come,) remembered feeling the neck a few days prior. He had deemed it a lymph node, and figured while we were there he’d have a colleague, a hematologist/oncologist give it a feel. She deemed it a lymph node too and sent Meghan for ultrasound.

Just sitting around the hospital with tons of time as they tried to figure out the root cause of the GI pain, we were amenable to a neck ultrasound.

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Now I am not taking sides- I have experienced great sonograms and horrendous ones- and witnessed them- in the best and worst locations. So I take reports as point of information, and never shun clarification. But this one clearly said lymph node- almost 2cm. Subsequent blood test ruled out the salivary gland theory as well.

So Thursday, after we were discharged I contacted the surgeon’s office. We had an appointment today, Monday the 19th. I spoke to the staff. I sent the ultrasound report. I asked them to schedule a sonogram at their facility for us to compare the one we just received. I figured we’d see the doctor and then have the sonogram.

Except as we entered the exam room he was agitated. Looking at the ultrasound report clearly for the first time, he said,”this must have been taken before the surgery.” Seeing it was Meghan’s report I interjected- “No it was taken Thursday the 8th.”

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Enter arrogance. I swear his whole demeanor changed and it was like the arrogance bubbled up from his toes.

Now I will be honest- I don’t have a history of playing nice in the sandbox when I am pissed, and I don’t do arrogant well.

So, I may not have been the sweetest. But two weeks ago he was very concerned if she’d had fever, or vomiting. He made it a point to weigh her. Now- she spent 6 days in the hospital and no scale? Somehow I let that go.

What I couldn’t let go was his statement that there was nothing in her neck that was enlarged. See, you can tell me there is nothing to WORRY about. That I will take happily. But you can’t tell me nothing is there. Because 2 doctors an ultrasound my daughter and my own fingers tell me there is.

So we’ll get an ultrasound and then I’ll call you tomorrow to tell you nothing is wrong.

From your arrogant lips to God’s gentle ears…

So they had the girl, who just made her way back to school after a week in the hospital wait for three hours. We made it home around 7.

I know the treatment for arrogance when it overtakes common sense. Time to be done with it. A new consult has been established but we wait- so as not to cut off the nose to spite the face…

In the mean time I know we are not the only ones. There are so many good medical professionals. There are so many who take the time to think, and care, and treat. And then there are others.

The problem with Cowden’s Syndrome is the sheer numbers of doctors we see. The problem is hard to avoid.

Plus- as my grandfather once told me- I can be a little difficult to work with.

It’s all about my girl and whatever she needs….

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