Here. We. Go. Again.

This will be the year the surgeries outpace the age.  She’s been running a cool average of one a year for quite some time.  Now, at just about 10 and a half, she will get a jump start of her 11th surgery. February 13th. One week.

11-candles

That’s 11 surgeries.  Full on.  Operating room.  General anesthesia. Waiting for pathology.  Sometimes ICU.  Often staying overnight.  Real deal surgeries.

hospital

By my count we have been in 4 hospitals.  We have a system.  Felix goes into the OR.  I stay overnight.  It works for us.

system for surgery

Who has a “system” for surgery?

And that’s not the tests.  The MRIs that early on required general anesthesia, the three thyroid biopsies, the ultrasounds in countless places.  Nope.  Those have their own tally altogether.

My Grandma is 93.  She hasn’t had surgery yet.  Meghan thinks that’s weird.

That’s life with Cowden’s Syndrome.  Healing is “BEATINGCOWDENS.”

Surgery – the new normal.  Organ removal – the necessary means to avoid something worse.

I expected the surgical consult to be on the 6th.  Then my cell phone rang on the afternoon of the 4th.  It was confirming our appointment for the 5th.  The day it was going to snow, and ice and create horrendous road conditions.  And, if I couldn’t make it – it would be another month.

So, I spoke to my super understanding boss.  I rewrote my plans for a Weds. absence instead of Thursday, and after chopping anout 1/4 inch of ice off everything we left home at about 10:30 Weds. morning.

guardian angel

We have created quite an an army of guardian angels, and I called on every single one of them to guide our trip.  They were on point.  Not a hitch.  We were sitting in the waiting room hours before our appointment.

I got to develop the pit in my stomach as the young superheroes and their parents spent the afternoon on chemo pumps.  Pushing time.  The beautiful bald two year old in the blood room was a reminder to mind my blessings.

I had been under the impression I was coming to discuss IF surgery was a good option.  I had already decided I was unsure how I felt about whatever the poor pediatric surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center was going to be able to tell me.  But, I was a bit shocked when there really was no “if” in the room.

Her neck was examined.  Her notes reviewed.  I was reminded again of the failure rate of Fine Needle Aspirations for the thyroid.  (Close to 10% in case you wanted to know.)  I asked again what made her a good candidate for a complete thryoidectomy at 10.  The nodules. Consistent growth.  Vascular feed.  The tickle in the throat… It’s time they said.  It’s time.

nodule

I lost my thryoid at 20 in 1993 to a condition called “multinodular goiter” and “Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.”  They both stink.  But now I find myself wishing for such benign conditions to be the final result of the pathology we will receive 5 to 7 days post op.

Everything is moving faster here.  I don’t like it.  Not one bit.  I am a numbers person and these stats make me ill.

But, onward we go… because what choice do we have?

There will be work.  Follow ups.  Thyroid hormones to balance.  But we will figure it out.

She laughed today.  A lot.  Maybe she is relieved without the uncertainty.  She knew.  We all knew.

Saturday I will sign her up for her second year of CYO swimming.  The surgeon says only a week out of the pool.  And her scar should be half the size of mine.

never never give up

refuse to sink

Two days off of school   Then a vacation.  Kind of.  A “Stay-cation.”  Daddy will be home too.  Some movies, and maybe even some resting.  Maybe some healing for all of us.

She’ll be back in full effect.  Ready to rock “RARE DISEASE DAY 2014.”  Denim ribbons.  T-Shirts.  Movie night.

A denim cause ribbon, crafted after the Global Genes Project's slogan, "Hope it's in our Genes!"
A denim cause ribbon, crafted after the Global Genes Project’s slogan, “Hope it’s in our Genes!”

A girl has to have SOMETHING to focus on.

Reality – tough to swallow

I am a huge fan of online shopping, and normally I anticipate my orders my counting the days till their arrival.

Except this one – not so much.

wheelchair

It was a purchase made out of necessity, not desire.  It sat in my online shopping cart for 2 months before I hit send last night.  It will arrive some day next week.  It leaves me with mixed emotions.

Gratitude, that it is not a full time arrangement.

Anger that it has to be part of our lives at all.

Frustration for my energetic girl who would rather run, than walk.  And would love to do both without pain and bone-crushing fatigue.

Anxiety, about all the ignorant folks who will pass judgment that I hope she doesn’t hear.

Guilt, that my child can walk and so many others can not.

energy to be normal

My beautiful girl, as you know by now, has suffered with health issues her whole life.  They have ranged in severity, but they have been consistently problematic.  The diagnosis of Cowden’s Syndrome in the fall of 2011 answered some of the questions, but by no means all of them.

Research is scarce.  The cancer risks associated with our PTEN mutation are real, and documented.  But, the rest of the symptoms are shared though anecdotal conversation in small internet groups, worlds apart.

I can not know if, or to what extent, Cowden’s Syndrome explains the other maladies that have plagued her virtually since birth.

There are food sensitivities, on the narrowest list we have ever had she is gluten, dairy, soy, dye, and preservative free.

There was the gall bladder removal at age 3.5, and the pancreatic insufficiency that requires digestive enzymes with every food.

And, despite the most serious precautions, as well as daily probiotics and nutritional supplements, there are still daily stomach aches.

There is the AVM in the knee – the one that needed 4 procedures to finally cut off the abnormal blood flow – for now.

There was the vascular malformation in her hand that the kind surgeon was able to correct last summer – after MUCH angst.

The lipoma on her back was almost certainly Cowden’s related.

And the biopsies.  The three thyroid biopsies – the most recent of which still wreaks havoc on my nerves- those are Cowden’s too.

But the chronic pain?  The joint issues that make 200 mg of celebrex a necessity – not a luxury…. who knows?

And the physical therapy that is a necessary part of her existence – just to function.

What about the migraines – now well controlled, but not gone?

And I sometimes wonder why she is a bit absent minded?  Shame on me.  It’s undoubtedly necessary for her to survive.  Imagine if she thought of all that every day, and all her daily activities?  She would lose that magical smile.  And I don’t want that.

happiness is

The frustration is as palpable as the largest nodule in her neck.  She WANTS to do EVERYTHING the other kids can do.  She wants to run, and play, and participate with them.  She is TIRED of being different.  She is TIRED.

Swimming is a good idea, but it takes so much out of her.  Last night’s practice got in the way of tonight’s. School was tough.  Clammy, hot flashes, uncomfortable.  Maybe she’s coming down with something, but more than likely she’s just wiped out.

Three practices a week was the plan.  Two became the goal.  This week it was one.  But somehow its worth it, for her to be able to say she is on a team.  To be able to say she swims competitively.  To feel somewhat “normal.”

When she was younger I could hide things from her.  Now she’s just too smart.

When she was younger I could convince her all the kids get tired.  I could deflect her attempts to play too hard.

When she was younger she might not have noticed that an hour in the snow on Friday knocked her out for the weekend.

When she was younger…

But she’s older now.  Wise beyond her years.  And I have been where she is, and I hated it.  She has it worse, and I know she hates it too.

She can swim – pretty fast.  Just not too often.

She can run- a few laps back and forth in the gym – as long as she has her Celebrex and PT.

She can play outside for a bit – but not too long.

She can walk too.  Until the pain in her legs, or her hip, or her knee wipes her out.  Or until she has to surrender to fatigue that will keep her in bed for 13 or 14 hours.

I am grateful.  You bet.  And sad too.  And I think it’s OK to be both.

She spent a few years in a MacLaren push chair when the walking was extra long.  Now SHE is extra long – adult sized at 10.  Time for adult sized reality.

swim overcome

SO if you happen to run into us when she needs that wheelchair, just smile and say hello.

We will remember to be grateful we don’t need the wheelchair full-time.

When you are tempted to pass judgement on my healthy looking daughter – be grateful you don’t need it at all.

It’s not malignant… BUT…

It was an interesting phone call this afternoon.

I knew from the caller ID that it was going to be the hospital with the pathology report.  Home on a snow day, relaxing with the family – I took a deep breath.  It was the endocrinologist on the other end of the line.

“I have the results of the pathology…”

AND???

“The samples are not malignant, but…”

YAY, and UGH!

And there followed a conversation that lasted several minutes.  I tried multiple times to use the word “benign” to refer to the results.  Each time I was carefully deflected.  When he spoke he never said “benign’ once – only “not malignant.”  Synonyms – yet apparently not interchangeable.

Someone less in tune might have missed this conversational nuance.  I don’t miss much when it comes to my daughter.

So the doctor recounted how each off the 4 cell biopsies obtained through the Fine Needle Aspiration, showed cells that were “not malignant.”  When I asked about the cells, specifically remembering the “precancerous” title given to the cells that had brought us to this hospital to begin with, he told me again the report says they are, “not malignant.”

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

whatplan

I know I didn’t imagine the deep breath on the doctor’s end of the phone when he began, “Typically, we would follow the case in 6 months with an ultrasound, and I think you should make that appointment.” Then there was a deep breath and a pause.  “I also think you should take her to see a surgeon – just for another pair of eyes.”

Now I was thoroughly confused.  “Why? Do you think the throat clearing that has been going on could be related to the nodules?  What about the Fine Needle Aspiration?  How accurate is the test?”

He addressed one question at a time.  Almost as if he expected them.  He and I were not fast friends, and he often seemed annoyed by the countless questions I ask.  It never stopped me, but I couldn’t help but notice he was almost anticipating my questions today.  Maybe he was even welcoming then.  I flashed back to that visit on December 19th where he was visibly uneasy about the feel of that right thyroid.  “The FNA is accurate 90-95% of the time.  Usually that is not an issue because thyroid cancer tends to grow very slowly and if we follow every 6 months, we will typically catch anything we need.  That being said, in a situation like Meghan’s where there are so many nodules, and there is Cowden’s Syndrome, it sometimes is harder to manage. In regards to the throat clearing – I don’t THINK it’s caused by the nodules, but again I can’t be sure.  Why don’t you set up a consultation with the surgeon?”

confused-face

Deep breath.  It’s good news I kept reminding myself.  It’s not cancer. (Yet… nagged the little voice that never knows when to shut up.)  I reassured him that I would schedule the appointments with him and the surgeon.  Of course after I arranged to have the pathology and ultrasound reports Emailed to me so I could agonize over every detail…

I scheduled the appointment for the first week in June.  I tried for the first week in July – but he is on vacation that MONTH…  Then I sat down to Email Meghan’s hematologist/oncologist the reports and ask her opinion.  She concurred with the endocrinologist and approved of his choice of surgeon.

Within 45 minutes my phone rang.  The caller ID showed the hospital number again.  This time it was the surgeon’s office.  They were contacting ME, at the doctor’s request – to set up a consultation for Meghan.  Well I have to tell you that didn’t do a whole lot to ease my mind.  Obviously it was nagging at the doctor enough that he reached out to be sure I made the appointment.  Scheduled.  February 25th.  I couldn’t get a time because they call the day before with that.  So, I explained how much I really NEED to be at work.  They made me no promises.  The 25th it will be.  Regardless of the time.

The snow was so pretty today.  So nice to be home as a family, to shovel, to play, to take some pictures, to watch an old movie.

I sat down to type this almost three hours ago, but somehow as Meghan was getting ready for bed she developed severe pain in her back and a ruthless headache.  Reminders that even an hour or so in the snow is too much for her body to endure.  Frustration.  Fear.  Two hours at her side, her father and I alternating pressure on the most painful spots.  She’s asleep in my bed now.  Moaning.  The night will be long.

frying pan fire

Some time this afternoon I realized again, that this is just how its going to be.  We are going to walk out of one fire, while walking around another.  We aren’t going to know the hows and whys.  We aren’t going to be able to make many plans despite our best efforts.  This is life with Cowden’s.  This is our life.

And tonight, as I held my husband’s hand, and we each had one hand helping soothe Meghan’s agony, I realized again that through the depth and power of our love for each other – all of us – this works for us.  It’s not what I would have chosen, but it’s what we have.

Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine a day without the two of them.  Somehow, that has to make us the luckiest family in the world.

think happy thoughts

And that is my happy thought tonight.

Happy New Year!

Hurry up… and WAIT!

Hurry up – and wait.  And wait.  And wait.

I don’t know many people whose lives are not a bit of a rat race these days. We race to school and work.  We race to take our children to the many places they need to be.  We race to shop, and cook, and clean, and wash clothes, and we sometimes even race to arrange our schedule so we can have some time off.

rat-rce

In our house we race.  Gratefully, we have added something fun in the form of Swim Team this year.  There are many weeks there is even time for two practices.  So she won’t be an Olympian.  But some fun is an improvement.

Because without that Swim Team – it was all medical – all the time.

i-love-swim-

Since birth really, as Meghan’s medical history really goes back to the beginning, but especially since our diagnosis of Cowden’s Syndrome in September 2011, we have developed a list of doctors all across the city of New York.  And they all require regular check ups…

top doctors nyc 2013

“Skip it…” whispers the voice inside your head.  “I don’t have time…” “We won’t make practice…”

But “skipping it” is not a luxury we can afford.  Cowden’s Syndrome has robbed us of the luxury of putting it off.  It is the clock that is always running.  It is the reality of my breast cancer – beaten.  It is the “reminder” in my iphone.  It is the spreadsheet necessary to sort out pediatric and adult specialists for just about every body part.

And before we even get to the routine screenings, there is the weekly Physical Therapy, necessary to combat the lax joints, and weak core that leave my girl prone to injury as she tries the most fundamental “kid” tasks.  Thankfully PT is a joy, and she truly loves to “PLAY” with Dr. Jill, but all that love not withstanding – it’s another day during the week scheduled.

There are hematology, genetics, interventional radiology, infectious disease, rheumatology, dermatolgy, neurology, and endocrinology to name a few.  Some are once a year.  Most are twice.  And that’s all well and good if everything checks out fine.  However, the need for testing arises regularly, which leads to MRI/MRA, lab work, repeat appointments….

Last year I tried to get them all done in July.  That was pure indescribable hell and it swallowed our whole summer.  Now, I schedule them a bit separated, carefully attentive to the time frames suggested as optimal to screen for any of the pesky cancers we are prone to.

And, while the cancer risks peak around 40, there are several cancers that regularly strike Cowden’s patients in and before their teens.

So, we schedule appointments after school, on holidays, in the evenings, and whenever we can fit them in.  We often find ourselves racing into an appointment after a long day – only to find ourselves waiting  to be seen.

wait card 1

“Hurry up – and wait.”

Meghan is an outstanding “wait-er.”  Partially because she’s used to it, and partially because she knows it’s necessary.  We know exactly what to pack, whether its homework, or an Ipad, or a book, to keep her occupied.  But she would rather be playing.  Or swimming.  Or resting.  Or crafting.  Or just being a kid.

We find ourselves facing the same problems many other families face – laboring to fit in time for fun.  But it is further complicated by fatigue and a lack of stamina.  She can not walk more that about 3/4 mile without wiping out.  She will, when time allows, sleep 13-14 hours a night.  So we have to always be careful not to push too hard, because the repercussions can be serious.  Sometimes I imagine friends think we make it up.

“Hurry up – and wait.”

And we raced into Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on December 19th after school.  I whisked Meghan out of her holiday party, braved the traffic and rushed into the office in time for our 3:30 appointment.

But some time before we got out of the car and walked into the building, Meghan told me about the “bump” in her neck.  The one she feels every time she goes to put her necklace on.  The one that she thinks is making her cough… that persistent tickle in her throat going back… oh… a few weeks.

So at 4:30 when we were called into the office for the routine endocrinology visit, the one the doctor had told em we did NOT need to have an ultrasound before because things were “stable” he almost immediately zeroed in on the spot Meghan mentioned.  He asked for a tape measure.  His eyes were serious.  He spoke of significant growth.  He said we needed a biopsy.

“So let’s do it.  I am off for 10 days.”

“Well, you know, with the holidays…”

“Let’s hurry up and get it done.  I will take whatever you have.”

And on Friday the 20th when my phone rang at work and I got the news that we were going to first need an ultrasound BEFORE the ultrasound guided Fine Needle Aspiration – I just about went through the roof.  The doctor explained that the radiologist doing the FNA needed a recent ultrasound.  (You mean like the one I had asked for with the December appointment all along?)  I explained I would stand for nothing less than scheduling the ultrasound and the FNA that very minute.  So we did.  Ultrasound December 23rd.  FNA under general anesthesia on December 31st.

“Hurry up – and wait.”

Apparently no one got the memo things have been a bit stressful around here this month.

So we did the ultrasound on the 23rd.  30 minutes with the tech.  Then 15 minutes for the doctor to review it, and another 20 minutes for the radiology doctor to rescan.  Nothing going on on the 23rd of December.  No worries.

“Hey, that’s a lot of nodules on a young lady…”  says the doctor.  ARGH!

So when do we squeeze in something fun?  Something she can say she DID on the vacation?

We made it up to see the New Year’s Eve Ball very early on that Saturday morning.   Meghan trying out the camera her Grandpa Tom left for her when he passed away earlier this month.  Trying to find the time to view her world through a camera lens.  We spent about an hour.  Then we went home.

Photo credit -Meghan 12/28/13
Grandpa Tom’s “smile”

NYE ball familyNYE ball 2013b

There were 2 play dates.  Lovely girls.  So I guess there was success.

And then today.

Arrive at 6:30 I was told.  So we were up by 5, and on the 9th floor by 6:30 – only to find it locked.

“Hurry up – and wait.”

please wait

We eventually found our way to the IV room, and then to Interventional Radiology on the 2nd floor.  The procedure was at 8:15 and lasted double the time it should have.

We left with discharge instructions and word that we SHOULD have pathology by Friday, but maybe Monday.

I may have a few cocktails myself as midnight approaches.  If I stay awake that long.  After all its been a long day, week….

And we know Daddy’s got the New Year’s Eve Ball well taken care of.

 

 

“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out…”

As I walked away from the pizza place, holding my girl’s hand, with tears streaming freely down my face the song “Magic and Loss” by Lou Reed crept out of my subconscious and began playing with frightening accuracy inside my head.  I have thought of the song from time to time over the last 20 or so years.  The album was first introduced to me by a dear friend soon after the passing of my beloved cousin “Angel Meghan” at the age of 6 in 1991.  As an elementary school teacher I have been known to “think” in books, but its more unusual for me to “think” in song.  It isn’t too often that a song “speaks” to me…

When you pass through the fire, you pass through humble
You pass through a maze of self doubt
When you pass through humble, the lights can blind you
Some people never figure that out

You pass through arrogance, you pass through hurt
You pass through an ever present past
And it’s best not to wait for luck to save you
Pass through the fire to the light

Pass through the fire to the light
Pass through the fire to the light
It’s best not to wait for luck to save you
Pass through the fire to the light

I have a brother.

Birth congratulations to my Dad and my brother’s Mom, Kelly would be overdue by about 24.5 years.  But I have a brother.  And I am damned glad I do.

I have always loved him.  Always known he was there.  Always followed the tales of his life from afar.  Always sent a card.  But, never really got to spend any quality time with him.  Knew he was well loved.  Knew he was tons of fun.  But never really got to KNOW him.  Not by anyone’s fault.  Life and circumstances have a way of getting in the way.

And then some time in November I had to make a phone call.  I had to call him in the middle of the life he established Texas, and tell him Dad was sick.  Quite sick.

I had known for a few weeks.  I had seen him in the ICU.  I knew about the jaundice.  I knew in my gut things were not good.  But it took weeks to get Dad to let me tell my sister the full extent of the problems looming.  Then finally he let me call my brother.

And while the weight of the guilt of carrying that secret was coming off of my shoulders, I knew it was delivering a crushing blow miles and miles away.

A few days to digest, and then another call.  “I think you need to come.”

And that was all I needed to say.

He stepped off the plane a few days later at exactly the most perfect time.  He parked himself right in Dad’s apartment and stayed.  He was there for those overnights that were getting a bit tricky – to say the least.

As you pass through the fire, your right hand waving
There are things you have to throw out
That caustic dread inside your head
Will never help you out

You have to be very strong, ’cause you’ll start from zero
Over and over again
And as the smoke clears there’s an all consuming fire
Lyin’ straight ahead

Lyin’ straight ahead
Lyin’ straight ahead
As the smoke clears there’s an all consuming fire
Lyin’ straight ahead

Dad was getting sicker.  Quickly.  And despite our initial desires to deny the reality, we knew that we were walking uncharted territory.

I grew up with two sisters -one older, and one younger.  We grew up understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and working on love throughout.  Now I was in a different trio.  A different dynamic.  For a different purpose.  One none of us wanted to face – but we were there.  And the “All consuming fire” was “lyin’ straight ahead.”

We formed Dad’s “Team,” his three children, with whom he developed three distinctly different relationships through the years.  We took the best of what each of us had to offer.  We laughed at old stories.  We cried out of sadness and frustration, and anger and disappointment.  We held each other with gratitude for the man whose common link between us all had done wonders to bring us together.

Waiting for Dad’s procedure at Columbia Presbyterian – the one that was supposed to be 45 minutes, and was unsuccessful at 3 hours- we were all in quite a state.  My brother, aware of Meghan’s countless procedures at one point looked at me awestruck. “You do THIS all the time?”

Well – not quite THAT… but to some extent yes.

And there were times that we sat, each on our own personal hell.  Wondering, worrying, agonizing, reflecting, and above all desperately wanting to make it better.  We sought the magic wand… and realized it was already in place.

They say no one person can do it all
But you want to in your head
But you can’t be Shakespeare and you can’t be Joyce
So what is left instead

You’re stuck with yourself and a rage that can hurt you
You have to start at the beginning again
And just this moment this wonderful fire
Started up again

When you pass through humble, when you pass through sickly
When you pass through I’m better than you all
When you pass through anger and self deprecation
And have the strength to acknowledge it all

When the past makes you laugh and you can savor the magic
That let you survive your own war
You find that that fire is passion
And there’s a door up ahead not a wall

Dad’s struggles.  Dad’s worries.  Dad’s heartache.  His pain.  They were about to end.  He was going to be free from his broken body.  He was going to be free of his suffering and his pain.

But what about us?

I know all about the truth, and I believe deeply in Heaven.  But I am selfish.  I miss him.  I miss my sounding board.  My ally in all endeavors.  My confidant for the “blow by blow” struggles that were too tough for others to hear.

“There’s a door up ahead not a wall…”

We met at the cemetery today.  We stood for a while.  We cried a little.  We prayed a little.  We held each other a lot.  We know he’s not there.  He is in the crystal blue sky and the winds that blow, and in the hearts of all who love him.  But I admit to not shaking the selfishness.

We ate pizza as a family.  The conversation was easy and light.  Except when Meghan butted up real close to her uncle to talk about her biopsy Tuesday morning. Darned Cowden’s syndrome won’t cut her a rest.   She told him all about the arrival time, and the procedure.  She spoke like a pro – someone easily twice her age.

So much uncertainty.  So much loss.  So much worry.  So much… so soon.

She has taken an extra love to her Uncle Shane these last few weeks.  This whirlwind that took her Grandpa from her just as their relationship was budding, seems to have left her a pretty cool uncle to share some love with.

As you pass through fire as you pass through fire
Tryin’ to remember it’s name
When you pass through fire lickin’ at your lips
You cannot remain the same

And if the building’s burning move towards that door
But don’t put the flames out
There’s a bit of magic in everything
And then some loss to even things out

Some loss to even things out
Some loss to even things out
There’s a bit of magic in everything
And then some loss to even things out – Lou Reed

I have a brother.  And now I have to let him go.  But not far.  And certainly not forever.  For no one can live through what we lived through these last few weeks and remain the same.  There are experiences once shared that can not be forgotten.  There is respect earned that can never be lost.  The lesson, the reminder that life is fragile and fleeting remains forever.  I always had 2 sisters.  And I always loved them so.

But now, with an ache in my heart, and tears on my face, I have a brother too.

“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out…”

Photo credit -Meghan 12/28/13
With a “Smile” from Grandpa Tom

JUNE!

It’s June.  It doesn’t feel like it.  At least the weather doesn’t.  It’s cool and rainy.  I guess that’s OK for now – while we are still wrapping up school.

It has been a long week.

I don’t usually leave my blog unattended for so long.  I am behind at writing.  I am behind even further at my reading.  It seems the days just blend together lately.

It is June, and when you are a school teacher, this is a month of eager anticipation, and volumes of paperwork to be settled. There are boxes to back and things to carefully put away in preparation for the fall.  There isn’t much time to be still.

schools out

Well – in another 2 weeks it is!

It’s June, and when you are an advocate – you do take a few minutes to celebrate the victory that put speed bumps on the street where you had the accident that damaged your back forever and ever.  You are grateful for the citizens, and politicians alike that fought relentlessly.  You are thrilled by speed bumps, but you still want that stop sign.  You celebrate with a glass of wine – or two.

crash

It’s June though, which means that damaged back has to ache longer in between trips to the chiropractor, and the PT you promised yourself seems like it may never happen.   You are the mother.  You will get by.

It’s June and when you are a Mom of a kid with Cowden’s Syndrome you spend 2 or three afternoons a week at physical therapy to make her chronic pain bearable.  Not totally sure the pain is related to the Cowden’s, but sure it’s related to SOMETHING, you scoff at the denial for school based PT and wonder what they would say if one of them could spend a morning in your house watching your 9 year old walk like she’s 90.  You balance those PT appointments with swimming lessons, all in preparation for the team she will join.  The team she is desperate to swim on successfully, and God willing – pain free.

competition_pools

It’s June, so you balance the breakthrough of the virus on that adorable immune compromised 9 year old’s face with increased doses of the antiviral medicine and extra trips to the pediatrician.  It’s June so when it’s not pouring – you make sure she has a hat to keep the sun off her face.  And when you look at the dose of antiviral medicine you start to feel a bit guilty, nervous maybe, about her liver – and all the prescription medicine.  So, you take a chance and toss the Celebrex to the side.  Hoping maybe, just maybe she can get by without it.

celebrex100mg

It’s June and its raining.  You feel a little guilty about “forgetting” to tell her you stopped the Celebrex, but each day you hear the complaint of another joint, another ache, another pain.  Ten days later you abandon your hopes of relieving the stress on that young liver, and you relent. Too many Tylenol – not cutting it.   Celebrex it is.

The war rages – all the months.  The battles are won and lost on a regular basis – but the war looms large.  I don my armor – a large binder of medical facts, bloodwork, and reports.  I gather my inner strength.

It’s June.  Summer vacation is coming, but there will be no camp in our house.  It doesn’t fit in with the schedule.

calendar

Every six months.  Every doctor.  Forever.  Mine, and hers.  Different doctors.  Different times.  Different facilities.

I am getting better at the scheduling.  I have learned to bunch them together.  So, we go in February and again in July.

For Meghan it’s the thyroid first.  That foreboding nemesis.  Ultrasound, appointment… and we will see what comes next. Then its the AVM follow up, and the genetecist.  That’s just the last week in June.

Mom has an MRI to schedule to look at that spleen, some more surgical follow ups…

There will be 15 appointments before the 2nd week in July.  That’s if every one goes well.

This is how it has to be.  We have to work, she has school.  We can’t have the appointments all throughout the year, so we must endure them all at once.

It’s June.  I am already tired.  Wrapping up one full time job to focus on another. I feel my anxiety rising.

Getting all my rest.  Gathering my inner strength.  Armed and ready.  Kicking Cowden’s to the curb…

We can… WE WILL!

keep swimming

What a Day!

I am getting a bit fatigued by all the positive stories I tell myself.  All the ones where everything works out just fine, and we get a bit of a break from doctors and surgery and chaos and worry.

I think I am getting tired of them, because I am starting to doubt if they are true.

The waiting room in the pediatrics department.
The waiting room in the pediatrics department.

We began the day at radiology at MSKCC in NYC.  The thyroid sonogram took longer than it should have.  I knew that.  I also knew when the doctor of radiology asked to speak to me alone that the news wasn’t great.

The nodule they were concerned about in June still has them worried.  Despite there being MANY other thyroid nodules, this is the one that is of concern.  I have every reason to believe it is the same nodule that caused concern when we had the horrendous biopsy at the other hospital a year ago.  The doctor told me right there it had to be biopsied.  She didn’t even wait for us to see Dr. S.  (See the appointments are set up so you go to radiology an hour and a half before you go to the doctor.  Then the doctor usually reports on the findings.)  I knew this was out of order, and it spoke to the seriousness of it all.

I explained that Meghan‘s biopsy last November was the most traumatizing experience of our medical lives together.  We have been through a lot, but watching that radiologist YELL at her to be quiet, and then BURN her neck with the numbing spray… well it was too much for any of us.  She will need to be sedated I said.

We went upstairs for our appointment with Dr. S.  Before that Meghan met with one of the Child Life Specialists, and gave over 2 shopping bags full of toys.  The woman was in awe, and I was just so proud.

We checked in for our visit with Dr. S. and we waited.  While we waited I spoke.  Candidly.  I had to be the one to tell her they were looking for cancer.  I had to tell her they were going to biopsy again.  I had to tell her I was TRYING to get her sedation, but I couldn’t promise.  She swallowed.  She stared at me.  She took it all in.  Then she reminded me I should try REALLY hard for sedation with the biopsy.

We saw Dr. S.  No new information, except that she grew a few inches and lost a few pounds since June.  HE said she is OK right now, but he doesn’t want to see her lose any more.  I chuckled at the school notices I always get home calling her obese.  Dr. S.  reexplained what I had heard in radiology.  He reassured us that  even if the nodule is malignant it is small, and not likely to need more than a thyroid removal.  Some comfort… but not a ton, for my girl still growing.  We were advised to take the first available biopsy appointment.  And we will.  I should know in a day or so when that will be.

american girl

Once we checked out it was on to the American Girl Store.  WHAT A CROWD!  Not being crowd people, either of us, we navigated the store and Meghan picked up some essentials – like a backpack and an allergy safe lunch for her new doll.  The doll got her ears pierced, and we were out the door.

Daddy at work.
Daddy at work.

We headed up to see Daddy at work.  We got a close look at the New Year’s Eve ball, and the view never gets old, no matter how many times we see it.  Meghan LOVES seeing Daddy at work!

Family shot in front of the New Year's Eve Ball.
Family shot in front of the New Year’s Eve Ball.

45 minuted to get the car out of a midtown lot.  We arrived home to 2 dogs that just weren’t able to wait until we got home.  Upstairs floor cleaned.  Two glasses of wine gone.  Some type of leftovers for dinner.  And tomorrow we get to wait by the phone again.

Good thing we are always ready for a fight!
Good thing we are always ready for a fight!

Maybe in January the Ortegas should resolve to lose a thyroid and a spleen?  One each?  Really???

Tonight Cowden’s Syndrome, I will thank you for my gray hair, loss of appetite and generalized anxiety.  Cut us a break… please?