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

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!

_dsc0071

 

It’s not a sprint… It’s a marathon

life-is-a-marathon

I’m not a runner.  At least not in the traditional way my sisters run.  I don’t really run unless I am being chased.  Tried it for a while but the knees and the back weren’t interested.  So the only running I do is from appointment to appointment.

I guess I run- in a metaphorical sense.

This has been a busy week at our house.  In addition to the host of emotions Friday, we spent the earlier part of the week addressing mandatory appointments – as it seems we do with every single vacation.  It’s old I tell you.  It’s old.

Monday was physical therapy, and then additional genetics for me.  THAT will be a follow-up in and of itself.

Tuesday was our Integrative Medicine doctor on Long Island.  The one who listens carefully and THINKS about my child before making a move.  He ordered a slew of tests.  He is concerned that ALL food seems to be bothering her stomach to some degree.  But, he didn’t rush us out to a GI.  He knew we’d get brushed off.  At 5 foot 2, and about 100 pounds, my tall, thin, beautiful girl is hardly the poster child for malabsorption.  But he knows me well enough to know that I am overloading her with nutrient rich foods to compensate.

We had a wonderful, long talk about nutritional cleansing, and how I would have given my eye teeth for products like the ones I use now to have been on the market 9 years ago when I began my journey with Meghan.  He will look, and sample.  We will talk.

But, he no longer blames one food for Meghan’s pain.  He thinks the balance of her gut, from years on edge – needs some help.  He has suggestions.  We will wait for the lab work.  Half done last Thursday – the rest tomorrow.  Then we will talk.  On the phone.  And we will make a plan.  Have I mentioned how nice it is when you have a doctor who is a fully compassionate human?

never give up

And Wednesday there was chaos.  A 9:00 for me at NYU with my oncologist.  She reviewed my MRI to tell me the spleen tumors are growing – slowly.  But, they can stay for a while.  Whew!  And the cysts on my kidney I forgot all about – stable as well.  WIN!

And then there was Sloan for Meghan.  Blood work first.  Then a follow up with the surgeon who cleared her from the thyroid with no need to return again.  Of course even after waiting almost 2 hours for that appointment – the blood wasn’t in.  And our endocrinologist was “otherwise engaged” and unable to see us on a Wednesday.  So rather than come up twice, we opted to have him just review the blood work.

Then we squeezed in a visit to the ENT who took her tonsils out- hoping he could shed some light on 6 months of throat clearing. We left with the assurance that he had no definitive diagnosis, and he doubled her reflux meds and prescribed a new nasal spray, for inflammation in the nose. That he wasn’t sure was allergy related… I have to call in 2 weeks. Anyone picking up a trend?

The call from the PA about the AM lab work came around 4:30 while Meghan was at swim.

“The thyroid numbers are essentially unchanged, so we are going to raise her medication.”

Me: “How could that be?  you raised her dose 6 weeks ago when the TSH was 10.69.” (reference range high is in the 4s)

“Obviously she needs a higher dose.”

“What was the TSH?”

“We are going to raise her dose to 125mcg” (Essentially my dose)

“WHAT WAS THE TSH?”

“The doctor feels this will help get her numbers in range.”

“WHAT WAS THE NUMBER OF THE TSH?!!?!?!?!??!”

Finally…. “10.54”

Me,” Down only .15 in 6 weeks?  What is the problem?  Did you test her T4 and T3?”

“Only the T4 and its normal.”

“Why not the T3?”

“It’s not relevant.”

“REALLY?  Why?…”  After no response I continued,”When you have a patient not responding traditionally I would think that you would run every test to get the greater picture.”

“We don’t believe in T3”  (To which I actually laughed.  It’s not like it’s Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny!)

“What do you mean you don’t believe in it?  Obviously Meghan is not absorbing the synthroid and there has to be a reason.  I think we need to start investigating before she is hypothyroid for too long.”

“Well, Mrs. Ortega I think you and I are saying the same thing.  She needs more medicine.”

“No, I am saying let’s figure out WHY the medicine is not working.  You are saying to continue to raise the dose of what is NOT working without looking at possible reasons why.”

“Well we will see in 6 weeks.”

Yep.  And for 6 more weeks she will drag her exhausted bottom around – so hypothyroid I know I would barely function.  Hopefully by then I will have found us an endocrinologist willing to accept that there is no “box” Meghan will fit it.  There is not rule her body will not defy.  I am appalled that I am supposedly with the best of the best.  Leaves a scary feeling in your heart.

Onward to the doctor search.

The mail arrived this morning, as we were headed to the orthodontist.  There was a script for Meghan’s next thyroid test.  There was no copy of the labs.  They HATE it when I ask for the labs.  So I called and insisted they be EMailed to me.  It was quickly clear why they didn’t send it, as another test was disconcertingly out of range.  A quick forward to my LI doctor… and we wait.

mc-alex-and-ani-its-not-a-sprint

As we headed out to the orthodontist the mood was light.  Meghan was ready to take impressions for the plan to remove the braces next month.  And when they called me o the back to tell me her bite had “over-corrected” and it would take some time to fix – I just about took the deep breath I needed to speak quietly.

Basically I was being told that because my daughter did EVERYTHING she was told to do religiously she had done TOO good of a job.  Now her overbite had been corrected into teeth that meet to closely.  She stared at me.  I attacked a bit.  I asked why they thought it was OK to month after month make promises that were not to be fulfilled.  Perhaps it was ok for her to get defensive.  Maybe I was attacking.  But, I don’t understand why you say so much to a child.  From the beginning she was flat-out promised her teeth would be ready before her 5th grade graduation.  Now she is getting a MAYBE for September?  Don’t misunderstand me.  I want them on until they are done.  But my issue is that SHE sees the doctor and his staff alone.  THEY say whatever without me being there.  It is NOT ok for you to INTEND to be ready for impressions, and then have things go so wrong in 5 weeks that we appear to be set back 3 months!

The doctor obviously got the message I had had enough.  I like him.  I really do.  And he came out to say to me he …wait for it… had NEVER seen anything like this.  How UNUSUAL it was.  And how 99% of the time things run according to plan.  He apologized.  I reminded him that I had already told him several times to be careful with my girl – she’s not a “typical” case of anything.  I asked them all to watch what they said moving forward.  But it was too late.

To Meghan the message was clear.  She was once again the “unusual” case, and once again.  And to make matters worse this time her GOOD behavior may have contributed.  What a tough message for any kid.

This is the part where I caution you – friends and family alike to withhold any comments about how it could be worse.  Or how its good the teeth are set right before the braces come off.  Or your friend/cousin/brother/kid had their braces on for 5 or 6 or 7 or 8  years and she should be happy it will only be 2.  Because really, at some point something should go her way.  At some point when the orthodontist (who mind you she has been working with on appliances since just after she turned 7 (4 years in August)) says 18 months for the braces, that it should just be 18 months.  Because that’s what happens to the “normal” kids.

We have not lost our grip on reality.  I promise.  We get it. But  some days… some days I have to wonder where the limit is.

Some days when she complains that she just wants to be “normal,” and I try to assure her she is.  I remember days like this at the orthodontist.  Or the 2 days it took her to recover from a 3 hour outdoor play date earlier this week.  Or the “fake spring break” that had more trips to doctors than anything else – again.  And the follow ups that will continue in the weeks ahead.

I cried when we left the orthodontist office.  I cried because I sometimes am just so frustrated at how much she is asked to endure.  And she sat.  Quietly.  Until we got home.  And she screamed a loud piercing scream.  And we hugged.  Because we know we are in this together.  And we know no matter how bad it gets, not matter how tough it is – we have to keep on keeping on.

Tonight I stopped at the mall and bought these.

alex-and-ani-its-not-a-sprint-its-a-marathon-expandable-wire-bangle-russian-gold

 

One for each of us.  A reminder about the meaning behind all that metaphorical running.

The car got towed today.  The old one.  I think its dead.  Permanently.  We have an appointment to get the oil changed on the new one at 8 am.  We’ll talk to the mechanic then.

Then there is that fasting blood test at 10:15.

The whole identity theft thing seems almost ages ago.

No wonder I don’t run for fun.  Too busy running as a way of life.

running-a-marathon-all-your

No worries – We are BEATINGCOWDENS!

 

 

Sometimes I forget

Sometimes-I-Forget

Sometimes I forget that Cowden’s Syndrome is not just Meghan’s – it’s mine. If I am to be precise, it is Meghan’s BECAUSE of me.  And I say that not out of guilt, but more as a point of fact. And I had plenty of time to think about THAT – and the rest of the week – in the MRI this morning. mri_machine Last summer when I saw the oncologist, and the surgeon about the 4 sizable vascular tumors on my spleen, they were unsettled.  I fought hard for my spleen.  I felt I owed in to my emptying insides, currently missing my uterus and ovaries.  I “won” a 9 month reprieve.  And not the sentence is up for review.

So as I arrived at the facility at 9AM, and by the stroke of those angels, found on street parking in NYC, I dutifully filled out the intake papers.  Papers that, well between Meghan I, I have lost count of the number of times I have completed.

Any chance you might be pregnant? Asks the male technician who brought me back.  Even though I had written the date of my hysterectomy on the intake papers, I dutifully replied, No.  Not that I ever WANTED to be pregnant again, but you know sometimes they could read…

Any implants in your body?  Metal, I asked?  No, ANY as he clutches the paper I spent 15 minutes completing – unread.  Yes, I have breast implants – a double mastectomy 2 years ago.  I gestured toward my purposely selected “NO, They’re not real – the real ones tried to kill me” shirt.  Not even a smile. no they aren't real Why are you having this exam?   By now I am ready to scream JUST READ!  But I know better.  I have played the game too often, and the man you yell at now could be the one inserting your IV in 10 minutes. Because there are 4 tumors on my spleen that are being monitored.

HOW DID YOU FIND THOSE?  asked the non- reader. Well, I have Cowden’s Syndrome – and we tend to grow tumors.  So they were found accidentally during another scan.

Oh.

That was the end of the medical talk.  Maybe the words “Cowden’s Syndrome” stumped him.  Just as well.  Directions on what to take off and what to leave on.  Locker key in hand, I was led up the stairs by the non-reader to the tiniest MRI machine I have ever seen.  (and I have seen quite a few.)  Meghan did some time in this machine during the 3 hour MRI debacle of her hand last summer.  I felt a wave of nausea and I am not typically too freaked by these.

“How did I end up in the tiny magnet?” The non-reader, still with me, grunted that I was the thinnest one in the waiting room.

 Not sure if that was a backwards compliment.  Thank you ISAGENIX – I think. isalean-bar-chocolate Grateful I had held my tongue it became apparent that the non-reader and I were in this together.  As he told me to lay down so he could start my IV.  I sat straight up.  My daughter gets a few things from me.  I sat up and had the IV placed so the toxic gadolinium could drip slowly though my body.  I laid down, closed my eyes and kept them closed the whole time.  I am pretty sure my nose would’ve been almost at the top.

And as I spent 30 minutes amid the noise and banging… “Breathe in… breathe out… stop breathing.  Breathe normal.” breathe stone My mind wandered.  I hadn’t given much thought to the MRI, or the reality that it COULD indicate growing tumors, and another surgery.  For so many reasons I have blocked the thought.  But, now its too late.  It’s like telling a secret.  The images have been shot.  The report will be read next week.  The reality that already is has been exposed, and I just get to wait and see.  Cowden’s Syndrome.  We grow things.  It’s what we do.

I am grateful maybe, for the insane pace of life.  For the full time job.  For the daughter who swims, and has PT and doctors galore.  For the car that won’t go into gear – the 1996 that has likely seen its last trip – but can’t be replaced right now.  For the paperwork that keeps me on my toes, and sometimes drowning a bit.  For the letters that need writing, and the never ending list of phone calls that need to be made. time struggle I am grateful even for the “calm” day, when we didn’t have much to do – until I noticed a bulge in the sidewall of the tire Thursday.  So I grumbled a bit, then thanked my angels and headed off to Costco, where they put on the donut and told me to come back Friday. I did, and the tire is new.  The car is safe.

So I logged onto my online bill pay to see what had cleared and got the shock of my life as the zero balance hopped off the page.  Phone in hand immediately calling my bank.  Apparently it only took someone a day to extract $2000 from my life, and start a cycle of more unending paperwork.

Two hours at the bank yesterday, an hour at the Police Station. My only wish for the dimwit who decided to pay his credit card bills with my money is that if he REALLY wants to be me – he takes the whole deal. The doctors, the tests, the tumors, the bills, the anxiety, the WHOLE thing. wind After all, its’s only fair… if you want to take someone’s identity – you should knwo what you are getting into. Sometimes I forget I have Cowden’s Syndrome.  I am always sure Cowden’s Syndrome doesn’t have me.  There are too many other things vying for my attention. breathe As the non-reader said, “Breathe in… Breathe out…. Stop Breathing.  Breathe Normal.  OK your test is finished.” HA!  If only he knew…

Happy 2nd “Boob Day!”

My math mind is full of numbers.  It is full of lots of things actually, and sometimes I wish I could get a few of them out… quite a few.

I am pretty good – although not perfect- with dates.

Today marks three months since my father died.  Flying free with the angels I am sure, yet I miss him.  A lot.  A blink of an eye, and an eternity.

Tomorrow is my nephew’s birthday.  He will be 6.

I remember his 4th birthday quite clearly, although I didn’t see him that day either.

On March 5th in 2012 I had the “prophylactic” bilateral mastectomy.  The one that ended up being stage 1 DCIS.  Quite the surprise party.

Happy Boob Day

And while I don’t even miss my old boobs, the new ones get scrutinized a lot more than the old ones.  Well meaning surgeons, they say things like “that kind of volume falling away is normal,”  or “we can even that out whenever you want.”  The thought of someone coming near me again with a scalpel right now makes me ill.  They will have their chance – years from now when these girls have to be replaced.  Maybe then I will have time to care more.

The last 2 years have been a whirlwind.  Well…maybe even before that.  The scope of the changes in our lives in recent years require more than I can muster in a 10 PM post.  But, being a numbers person…

2nd-birthday

Between Meghan and I we have had 5 surgeries in the last 2 years.  She has me beat 3 to 2.  But, I have lost more body parts.  I am down 2 breasts, a uterus and 2 ovaries.  She lost her thyroid, and a vascular cyst in her hand.

I am still crossing my fingers about my spleen.  That one’s up for MRI in April.  Hoping the 4 tumors there are behaving.

spleen

There comes a point where you have to laugh I guess.  People think “Oh no! A mastectomy!!”

I think – “Whatever it takes…”  But then again I had a pretty good teacher. (XO MOM)

I guess it’s all about perspective.

Meghan is really into identity, and figuring out where she belongs.  This week I bought her a “Previvor” T shirt.  She was thrilled to wear it to school today.  She takes the opportunity to explain genetic cancer risks whenever she can.  While I am happy she is confident I shudder at reality.

This is only stage 1 in her life as a previvor, staying one step ahead of genetic cancer risks looming large.  This is only the beginning.

We run from doctor to doctor.  We alternate surgeries.  We try to laugh in between as we deal with the rest of life.  Time is very difficult to balance.  The constant running to doctors and the anxiety of waiting for them to find “something” can literally make you insane.

time struggle

If you let them.

And I think that’s probably the key.  And the message.

I am overwhelmed this week.  Really fried.  Having a tough time keeping it all together.

Then I think…

I was ahead of thyroid cancer 20 years ago before I knew the depth of the risk.

I am 2 years beyond the threat of breast cancer.

My girl is weeks past the looming thyroid cancer that threatened her.

Two years.  New boobs.  No sagging on this 40 something gal.

Plus I am a HELL of a lot better off than I was two years ago at this time!

Ash Wednesday.  Never raised to “give up” for Lent.  Rather to use it as a time for focus.

Time to get out of this funk.  Forget November.  Time to be thankful is right now.

And today I am thankful for this little girl whose diagnosis saved my life.

My body may be 40, but my boobs are only 2!

Thankful to God and this little chick!

This kid is clearly a "FORCE" to be reckoned with!
This kid is clearly a “FORCE” to be reckoned with!

FORCE

My Wish

What would I do?
What would I do?

I have been quiet this week.  That in and of itself is unlike me.

I am tired – well bordering on downright wiped out.

There are a few more weeks of summer to go, and aside from a well planned Disney Trip, set in place in January – there seems to be precious little to look forward to.

Meghan has a short list of “have tos” which I plan to do EVERYTHING in my power to work out for her, but really every effort I made to keep this summer better – to “streamline the doctor visits” seems to have failed miserably.

Today she began her summer homework.  While it is reasonable, it is one more thing on a list of “have-tos” for a kid that just wants to be a kid.

There is no camp for Meghan.  It is all doctors appointments – all the time.  And when it is not her appointments it seems to be mine.  She is swimming three nights a week on a new team, at least she is LOVING that – but we have barely been inside our previously overused pool.

Wishes 1

And its funny, while she and I have both had appointments of almost equal number in the last few weeks, I feel so much less stress about mine.

The geneticist  the endocrine surgeon, the gyn oncologist, the abdominal MRI, the plastic surgeon, and the oncologist.  The spleen survived its next cut – and can live for another 9 months.  The 3.5 cm roundish lymphangiomas are stable.  That’s all we ask for now.  The thyroid lymph nodes – not suspicious enough to biopsy.

The plastic surgeon, well the LOVELY woman offered me a boob job to correct the “asymmetry” caused by me shoving the reconstruction all into one day.  Not this year, but thanks.  Good to know the offer stands indefinitely.  For now, I have other things to do.

So I have only one more of my appointments lingering, a late July follow up with the breast surgeon.  I thought of blowing it off and then realized how dumb that would be – for so many reasons.  So, I will go.

But Meghan’s appointments, those are the ones that keep me up at night.  Those are the ones that strike fear and anxiety in the core of my soul.  My heart beats outside my body in this little girl.  I can not sum up in any number of words the depth of my love for her.

So to say this summer, and especially this week has been sheer hell would be the understatement of the century.

worry 2

Her appointments began the day after school ended.  The lengthy thyroid sonogram bought us another 6 months.  The pituitary function test was a train wreck, but the call this week claims the results were OK.  I want to feel more relieved.  But its hard.  I am waiting to read the report myself.  “Doubting Thomas?”  Maybe.  Realist – probably.  Something is not quite right, but at least its not SO wrong it has to be addressed today.

The geneticist began to speak of carnitine issues, and I am waiting to hear of a possible muscle biopsy.  In the interim I bought carnitine.  Lets see if we can cut that one off.

The vascular surgeon examined the wrist, painful since early June, and the knee.  He wants an orthopedist on board, but wanted me to consult with the rheumatologist about the wrist, and then scan the knee that had the 4 surgeries, because its been over a year.  The rheumatologist concurred on the MRI studies, so we went forward with the wrist first.

Saturday, as I wrote about previously was hell on earth.  I have been through a lot of MRIs with this kid, and the behavior of the two techs scared me to my core.  I was assured upon exit, that the results would be available to my doctor Monday that passed.  Well multiple calls, over the course of Monday and Tuesday led to a promise the results were being released Tuesday.  “It’s a complicated read Mrs. Ortega.”

Wednesday morning  – still nothing at the vascular surgeon’s office, only to find the CD and report left by courier at 10 am.  They will make it by 3 I was told.

A return call to the surgeon’s office at 4:15.  “They just got here, but the doctor is gone – emergencies.  He should be able to look at them tomorrow.”

Some time around 4 AM my daughter climbed into bed between my husband and I.  She had been awake long enough to finish her book, but she just couldn’t settle over the pain in her wrist.  At about 6:15 this morning she nodded off.  I tried desperately to find my peace.

God's got this

And all day today, again, I held my phone.  We skipped the pool in between the “have tos” of getting the oil burner cleaned and our annual trip to the dentist (normal stuff.)  I refused to be far from my phone.  But as minutes became hours, my hope dwindled.

A call to the office at 4:30, “Sorry, he never made it in today, but Meghan’s chart is on top of his desk.  He has office hours tomorrow.”

Six days.

Unnecessary torture.

Six days.

Wondering, worrying.

Even if the report – by some freak of nature reads “normal” I can’t even be pleased, because the pain is not normal.  It is real, and it is consistent, and it has gone on too long.

I wish for a lot of things in the world.

I wish for children and their parents not to suffer with illnesses or adversity of any kind.

I wish for relief for those in physical, mental, and emotional anguish.

I wish for peace in the hearts and minds of the caretakers of those who struggle.

But today I also wish something else.

I wish that EVERY SINGLE medical professional who performs a test – from what is perceived as insignificant, to critical recognizes the power of their words, and their actions.  I wish that EACH of them understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of cryptic messages, grossly extended tests, and precious little reassurance.  I wish that EVERY doctor who receives a call from a patient panicked about their results be PROMPT in their response.  I wish that EVERY one of them, who goes to work each day and forgets that our child, parent, sibling, loved one exists will at some point in their life be on the waiting side.

I WISH for every one of them – from the techs, to the couriers, to the office staff, to the doctors- to have the opportunity to await the results of a test from someone they love dearly.

Then MAYBE, just MAYBE they will understand our torture.

Hang on Meghan.  Summer is coming.  Hang on.

summer

 

Moving at our OWN pace

Two weeks ago today we left for the last day of school.  Seems like an eternity, although not a restful one.

Today was the first day I woke up with nowhere to be, and nothing to do.  Our first mandatory stop is swim practice at 5:30 PM.  So I sit, nursing a cup of green tea, and trying to convince myself, on my health quest, that it is just as good as the caffeinated hot cocoa I have been drinking for years.

snooze-and-lose

This morning I woke when my body told me it was time – somewhere around 8:15.  What a blessing to open your eyes because you are ready.

I tended to the garden.  I watered my tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and I even picked a ripe zucchini.  I watered the flowers on my deck and I marveled at the calm beauty of the neighborhood at 8:15 on a Wednesday morning.

Not my plant - but you get the idea!
Not my plant – but you get the idea!

Now, to all you teacher critics out there- I recognize ten weeks of unscheduled time is a gift.  I understand its not “the norm,” and I AM grateful.  But to all you who are realists, I try not to be much of a complainer, but this schedule we are keeping is far from a walk in the park.

Even as I reflect just on yesterday, and then the last week, I can easily find myself overwhelmed.

schedule

The rhuematologist confirmed that the Celebrex is necessary.  On the up side she said, at least the liver seems to be handling it well.  Yep, on the up side I need to worry about my almost 10 year-old’s liver?  So we have about a 50/50 split, and that’s just the doctors we like – touting the pros and cons of Celebrex.  Take her off.  Leave her on.

celebrex100mg

I love them all, but ultimately the pain decides for us.  This child is accustomed to pain so deep that the 20 laps of butterfly she swam Monday – when I expected her to be barely able to lift her arms Tuesday – caused her to need only “an extra stretch.” But the pain in her wrist right now – that can knock her to her knees.  Celebrex it is.

So I read articles from the oncologist last week about “angiogenesis” http://childrenshospital.org/newsroom/Site1339/mainpageS1339P356.html

I try to absorb medical jargon about why the Celebrex helps the pain – but doesn’t cure it.  And why it may even help prevent the Arteriovenous Malformations (AVM) from flourishing.

I read an article she gave me on “prophylactic thyroidectomy” and its benefits in Cowden’s Syndrome patients.

I read about “Long Chain Fatty Acid deficiency” and heard about the possible need for a muscle biopsy to assess carnitine levels.

worried mom - FBI

I am an educated woman, but I sometimes wonder why I seem to spend more time in medical journals than educational ones.  Did I miss my calling somewhere along the line?  Probably not, but “necessity is the mother of invention.”

And yesterday as she was examined by the rheumatologist there came the confirmation that the right wrist is “thicker” than the left.  A month and 3 days after what we thought was the “injury” to the wrist, it isn’t better.  Not really at all.  So she said, definitely get an MRI.

We are on it.  11AM Saturday.  We already cancelled the birthday party we were going to.

She wants a copy of the report – ASAP.  She expects they will find something.  I went to make my six month appointment, and she told me to hold off until after the test results.

I look at the piles on my desk.  Better since the shredding is over.  I glance at the order confirmation for my new driver’s license, and can’t help but wonder where the old one ended up.  I look at a beautiful collage Meghan sent to the printer last night as I was working – just to make me smile.  I look at the books for the “Teacher Effectiveness Training” I will be attending tomorrow, and the flyer with the itinerary for the Disney trip.  Its right alongside the Costco list, and the original copy of the Myriad genetics report that I don’t have BRCA 1 or2.  Obviously I still have a little more work to do down here.

Monday I went for my MRI.  The one that checks my spleen.  Next Tuesday I have the appointment to find out if I can keep it.  Already covered the endocrine surgeon, the gyn oncologist,  the I just need the breast surgeon and the plastic surgeon, and my oncologist to have their visits.  It’s easy to forget that I am even part of this Cowden’s Syndrome mess.

Lessons Learned from my daughter
Lessons Learned from my daughter

My focus is on the beautiful one with the curly hair, who gives the best hugs in the world.  It will be a long week – again.  So for today, I will try to slow it down.  The sun is shining.  It’s July.  And we don’t have to go to work OR the doctor today!