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In Blog, Cancer, Infertility, Mama on
April 18, 2018

Surgery, recovery, and anticipating life changing news (that time i had cancer pt. 2)

 

Hey friends. There’s been an awkwardly long gap in between posting about my health journey and cancer diagnosis. Life has been crazy and we’ve had a major unexpected thing happen that we are trying to sort out. I know that is so dang vague and I’m sorry but until it’s sorted out I don’t want to share about it. I will say that we are all healthy, no one is in trouble, and we are striving to find joy amidst a confusing and stressful time. ANYWAY all that to say, I already feel so far removed from my cancer journey because we have this new crazy thing we are dealing with. But I definitely want to sit down and share the rest of my cancer story, so here goes part two.

I left you off last with this “It felt like YEARS waiting for 8 am to roll around so that I could call my doctor’s office to get an appointment ASAP.”

I called and they didn’t have an appointment open until a week later.  I asked if they could get me in sooner and she shared they couldn’t but if they had a cancellation she would call me. God is so good and not but 10 minutes later I got a call back that someone cancelled and I could be seen in two days! My appointment day rolled around and my doctor was great. She sat and listened to me and my explanation of my odd symptoms and then did a physical exam. She touched my abdomen and immediately made a shocked face and asked if I had a family history of cancer. Wow that’s not a great question to be asked so quickly. That definitely freaked me out but as the appointment went on and she affirmed me more and more that it was so unlikely it was cancer. She sent me off to get some ultrasounds and bloodwork done and ordered STAT results so that we could find out immediately what we were dealing with. An odd thing while I was getting one of the ultrasounds is when the tech said “did you know you have a retroflexed (backwards) uterus?” I replied I didn’t because going through infertility I had a pretty good knowledge of what my uterus was like (lol) and it was not retroflexed (turns out my tumor was so big that it flipped my uterus backwards. What.).  Anyway, the next morning came around and I was headed to a play date with some of my mama friends and our babies. I was just about to get out of the car when my doctor called. She shared that I had a 21×21 centimeter ovarian cyst with some concerning dark features. It did not surprise me. Something was obviously going on down there. I had what looked and felt like a pregnant belly but definitely no baby inside. We made another appointment to talk about surgery and talk options and then I nonchalantly strolled into the play date and shared the news with my friends. They were shocked that I was so chill about it but after going through all of the crazy reproductive health issues I had this seemed super unideal of course but not shocking.

The next day I went to my appointment. My husband came too because we knew it would be a big appointment with some big decisions to be made. My doctor shared all about the tiny so small eensy weensy chance that my giant ovarian tumor could be cancerous. We talked about all of my options. Seeing an oncologist, getting my surgery with an oncologist, my doctor doing the surgery but making a 12 inch incision in my abdomen so as not to rupture the tumor, or just trusting that the crazy one in a million odds of this thing being cancerous were so low that we would just do a simple laparoscopic surgery with my doctor and she would drain the cyst and cut it up inside me to get it out so that I wouldn’t have an intense multiple month recovery. She talked with the oncologist too about this and he agreed I was probably fine, had me do tumor marker blood work which all came back normal, and then left us with the decision. Ultimately we chose to do laparoscopic with her because we have a busy life and a toddler and we felt so comfortable with the incredibly low odds of cancer that it seemed overkill to do any of the other options.

Surgery day rolled around. The surgery went well and I awoke to the news that my ovarian was in fact a dermoid cyst which is so weird and rare. Y’all.  It had hair, teeth, and rib cartilage in it. What. WHAT.? Fascinating but ew! Oh and we wouldn’t find this out for another week or so but it also had cancer all up in it too. I stayed in the hospital for most of the day and was finally released to go home that night.

The first 3 days of recovery were HORRIBLE. I was in so much pain and so dang nauseous. I guess when you have a 21 cm part of your body removed you don’t feel too cool for a bit. Anyway, we had amazing family and friends doing everything for us. I was on strict bed rest the first 2 weeks so I couldn’t do much of anything for myself or my family. The love we received in form of babysitting, food, gifts, and house cleaning was so beyond anything I could have ever dreamed up. People were SO kind to me and my family and I am forever grateful for that in our great time of need.

 

Where I spent my time recovering.

One week and one day passed. It was a Friday morning and I was lying in bed reading when I got a phone call.  A phone call that changed everything and took away my naïve sense of being totally fine and healthy. It was my doctor’s nurse. She called and said “the doctor received the pathology results and she would like to see you today at 5 when her office closes.” Sucker punch to the gut. I simply said “ok” and said I would be there and hung up. I was so scared. I was too scared to ask or say or hear anything else. My doctor had assured me multiple times that I didn’t need to be seen or looked at until my two week  post op appointment but now all of a sudden she is in a rush to see me on a Friday at the end of a long workday for her with my pathology results. I knew exactly what it meant. I immediately felt like I was dying. Mentally I went to the worst case scenario thinking “my daughter has already lost one mom and now she is going to lose another.”

Friday March 2 was a curveball. One of those curveballs that will forever change your life. Friday March 2 was one of the most difficult, emotional, anxiety ridden days of my life. I was alone most of the day with the knowledge that I was probably not ok but I had no idea what exactly was wrong with me other than it was something big. It felt like a lifetime waiting from 9 am when I got the call to 5 pm when I got to my doctor’s office.

After many hours of the kind of anxiety that takes away your breath and stabs your stomach I told my husband that I just wanted to have an hour with our little family. It was a gorgeous perfect spring day outside so we went to a nearby park and this was also my first time outside in over a week. I chose to block the impending doom of some unexpected diagnosis that would radically change my life just for that hour. To exist, to be a mom, a wife, a person who loves soaking up the sun and gorgeous spring days. We took that hour together and it was perfect. We needed that before all of the crazy hit.

A treasured photo taken during this time at the park.

 

 

In Cancer, Infertility, Mama, Mi Familia on
March 25, 2018

When you get the best of the worst: that time I had cancer pt. 1

Hello dear friends. It’s that time, that time where I sit down and tell you all about my unexpected cancer diagnosis in the last month. That time where I sit down and tell you about my journey through hearing those three little words “you have cancer.” That time where I tell you why I chose joy through the whirlwind of shocking news. That time where I tell you about my God who answered prayers and performed miracles. Wow. Wow. Wow. I put off writing this post for a while because honestly I have been kind of at a loss for words for all that has happened in the past month. I sat down with the intention of this being all in one post but I quickly realized I have a lot of words on this to share, so I am going to break it up into three separate blog posts. Part one (which is this post here) will be about my symptoms and everything that happened before seeing a doctor. Part two will be from the time I saw a doctor, to getting surgery, up to before my cancer diagnosis. Part three will be from the time I was diagnosed with cancer to now. This series of posts might come across a little more dry than my typical writing style because I am sharing a lot of facts. My hope is to share my story for a multitude of reasons some being- I would like to share my signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, to encourage you to see a doctor if you are having obvious concerning issues, to share how and why I could choose joy in a crappy situation, and just because stories are powerful and maybe this will mean something to someone.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? I have PCOS and a history of developing less than ideal lady issues like painful ovarian cysts and uterine polyps and I have had surgery twice in the past for these things. Well, in November of 2017 I noticed every time I would pee I would have a super intense crampy feeling, it was always quick and momentary so I ignored it for a while but after a few weeks I told my husband about it and scheduled a doctor appointment. We prayed over it and guess what, it went away. Like immediately. For the next few weeks I didn’t get this crampy feeling anymore so I canceled my appointment in faith that God had healed me. I’ll explain in the next paragraph why I was so quick to cancel my doctor appointment. I didn’t continue to have this symptom but a couple of weeks later I started having intense cramping again off and on but not related to peeing, it would just randomly happen. I felt pretty discouraged because we had prayed and God had taken away the pee cramping, why was I experiencing this new pain? So yet again, we pray, I am fine the next day.

The most concerning symptom started becoming obvious around mid December. I work out a lot and like to stretch, and also like to lay on my stomach on the floor and I started to notice it felt like something hard was in there. I was also having a hard time bending over to put on my shoes without feeling out of breath and I noticed my pants weren’t fitting well. My first thought was could I possibly be pregnant…? Likely not knowing my infertility history but I needed to rule that out so off I went to buy a pregnancy test. Sure enough, it was negative. That was fine. I was not sad, I have processed, accepted, and come to peace with my infertility story. So now I knew I wasn’t pregnant so why in the actual heck did I have this weird hard feeling in my abdomen? This is not a normal thing. Well friends, we are in this stage of life where we are kinda pretty poor, (but we are rockin it and making it work) my husband is back in school and I am working part time to stay home with baby girl. Instead of doing the wise thing and scheduling a doctor appointment with this obviously concerning issue I decided I would wait until my annual appointment in March so that I wouldn’t have to pay for it. Well, in hindsight I would do that differently knowing what was really going on (yikes).

Ok, fast forward to the end of January. The feeling in my abdomen is becoming more and more weird and obvious. I even felt like I was starting to actually look pregnant too and I worried I was just gaining weight and I was super frustrated about this. Well the straw that broke the camel’s back finally happened- I went to work out on a Friday morning at 5 am. At the end of the class we were cooling down and laying on our backs and the instructor told us to pull our knees into our chest and clasp our arms around them. Y’all, I used to be a dancer- this is something I have done thousands of times. Well, I could barely even touch my fingers together, I was so uncomfortable, and so out of breath. I came home confused and kind of worried. I laid down on the ground on my back and had my husband come look at my stomach and push around on it. He immediately felt something hard and from that moment on I went into panic mode. I felt like I was dying, I felt like I had a monster inside of me, I wanted it out right that very second. It felt like YEARS waiting for 8 am to roll around so that I could call my doctor’s office to get an appointment ASAP.

Not a pregnant belly..

To be continued.

In Adoption, Blog, Foster care, Infertility, Mama, Mi Familia on
February 4, 2018

Adoptive/foster mama, you are not a second rate mom

I’ve heard you talk about it, I’ve felt it myself. The feeling like you or others consider you “less of a mom” because you did not birth your children. I’ve heard you share the hurt of no one offering a baby shower for you when you have announced you are adopting/fostering, or no one starting a meal train for you when you finally get to bring your baby home or after a caseworker drops off your child at a random hour of the night. I see you being left out of the pregnant belly pictures all of your friends take together. The people who consider hand me downs a better option for your foster or adopted child instead of a nice new outfit like your friend who is about to give birth might receive for her child. It’s so frustrating. It hurts. Why can’t you be celebrated in the same way your pregnant friends are being celebrated if in fact you too are just as much of a mom as they are?

Well mama, you are not second rate. Some people might say things that make you feel as such and you might even tell yourself at times you aren’t as much of a mom because you didn’t give birth to your child  or because you didn’t get to nurse your child or maybe you missed months or even years of your child’s life. But guess what- you are just as much of a mom as anyone.

Adoptive mama, you fought hard to bring your child home. You might not have conceived your child, spent 9 or so months growing them, and birthed them but you spent months and possibly years preparing for your child. You prayed about it countless hours, you had difficult conversations with your spouse and family members. You sat through hours and hours and hours of classes. You went through piles of paperwork. You sat through meeting after meeting exposing every tiny and embarrassing part of your life and finances so that someone could judge if you were “good” enough to foster or adopt a child. You prayed fervently for the health and safety of your child and how they would come to you when you didn’t even have the slightest idea of who they were or where they were coming from. Everything about you worked so hard to become a mom and it was all a choice. You didn’t have to do it. But you chose this path and you did it because you are an amazing mom. You are a first rate mom.

Last May was my very first mother’s day. I was 6 or so months into this “momming” gig and I was so excited and grateful to finally get to be recognized as a mom on mother’s day. Six months I had spent keeping my tiny human alive. Feeding her, bathing her, changing her diaper, taking care of blowouts, taking 8,000 photos of her, scheduling dr. appointments, scheduling caseworker visits, cleaning my house from top to bottom for every one of those caseworker visits, buying clothes, going to play dates, YOU GET IT I “mommed” like every other mom out there. Well friends, can I tell you on my very first mother’s day I had someone ask me “so are you celebrating mother’s day today or no…since you aren’t technically a mom?” Wow. Major punch to the gut. For those reading this who aren’t adoptive/foster parents if anything, please take away from this post- don’t do that. Don’t you dare question how much of a mom someone is because their story looks different from yours or what you would expect.

Adoptive mama, you are an amazing mom. God chose such a beautiful path to motherhood for you. It was a hard path to motherhood but you deserve to be celebrated. You are doing the same job as every other mom on the planet. I hope you never doubt how much of a mom you are.

 

In Adoption, Foster care, Mama, Mi Familia on
January 4, 2018

To my daughter’s birth mom

You don’t know anything about me, not even my name. But I know a lot about you.

We are the same age but oh were we dealt different hands.

It’s easy for me to be angry at you.

It is easy for me to point a finger at you and say that you harmed your babies and put them in danger.

But if I sit and think about it, it is also easy for me to lower my finger and want to hug you because the world was not kind to you.

I know I don’t know everything about you but I do know you have had a hard life.

My heart hurts for you because you are doing the only thing you know how to when it comes to coping.

I wish I could tell you that your daughter is safe, that she is healthy, thriving, and incredibly opinionated even only at 15 months old, that she loves being outside, eating , hugging her stuffed animals, seeing dogs and kitty cats, and dancing to music.

There are many times I think about reaching out to you anonymously but I just don’t know if that is a good idea or not.

I want you to know that I think of you often.

I want you to know that when Evy asks about you one day, she will know as much as she wants to and as much as is age appropriate.

I printed off a picture I found of you. It is tucked away and if Evy ever asks for it, I will give it to her.

You are not a secret.

As hard as all of this is, the fact that you got pregnant, endangered your child, and had her taken away, I am grateful. It seems twisted and unfair but the fact that despite every negative choice you made, you chose to bring a beautiful life into this world. That life is my daughter. She is going to make a difference in this world in the best way possible.

I’m sure it might anger you that your greatest heartbreak is my greatest joy.

I care about you. I want you to start making better decisions. I pray for you often. In a weird way I feel close to you.

As a foster and adoptive mom I am not in the business of taking away someone’s precious treasure. After much prayer I signed up to be a safe place, a parent to a child in need. Your child was in need, you were in need, you and I both know you were not in a place to take care of your child. So there I was. Not because I am any better than you. Life is hard and doesn’t always make sense.

You are capable of finding healing. You are worthy of love from your Creator, from your family, from those around you.

It starts with surrendering your hurts, apologizing to those you have hurt because you were hurt first, and with accepting love from others. Much easier said, than done but you can do it. I bet you are stronger than you think.

Your daughter is safe. She is healthy. She is happy.

I pray these things for you as well.

In Infertility, Mama on
December 11, 2017

Never an Afterthought

When I was a kid I always wanted to be a mom and once I got married I had this naive thought that I would get to have my big close knit family the way I had always pictured it. As a kid, not only did I dream of being a mama through having biological kids but I also dreamed of adopting. You see, I thought we would first get pregnant and have a kid or two and then we would start adopting/fostering. Literally as a 10 year old child I wanted this; I even did my 5th grade project on adoption. I remember checking out multiple books and autobiographies from the library on adoption and being so intrigued that I would stay up reading with a flashlight under my covers for hours beyond my bedtime. Adoption was never an afterthought; it was never a plan B whenever we weren’t getting pregnant. I wanted to be a mom through pregnancy just as bad as I wanted to be a mom through adoption. It is really cool how unique and diverse we all are, what we want, what we hope for, what we desire, and I truly believe my heart was always woven in a way to be passionate about loving children that I did not birth.

Even though adoption was just as big of a desire as pregnancy for us, we still had to grieve the hard and unexpected situation of infertility and infertility is HARD let me tell you. That will be another post for another time. In the deepest, darkest throws of infertility I cried out to the Lord one night “if you aren’t going to let me have biological children, you are going to have to take that desire away.” It wasn’t an immediate change of heart but over months of praying this I can tell you he completely changed my heart. We began the foster licensing process and through these months of anticipating a child through this way, the Lord took away my desire for pregnancy. How could it be? Even to this day I am still dumbfounded that thinking about my infertility is not that hard for me anymore. I had always longed for pregnancy, I begged the Lord over and over and over and over. I had some of my hardest moments crying out for healing for my messed up body and fulfillment of my biggest dream, becoming a mom. I noticed as we were wrapping up the licensing process and especially in those first days of having Evy placed with us that I was 100% fulfilled with being a mama in this way. Over time I noticed even more so that I was rarely thinking about pregnancy and even better I was starting to have little to no sorrow whenever I would consider the likelihood that our family would be built through foster care and adoption alone. That reality even became exciting to me.

Y’all, can I just tell you that the Lord is faithful? In my loudest cries to him he heard me and he knew his plan was better. He knew he would mold me and change my heart in a way I couldn’t have expected. The suffering I experienced waiting to become a mom was absolutely worth every single second because it meant I would become mama to my sweet Evy girl. It is so freeing to entrust your life to a God that knows better even when you are pleading and tugging in the other direction. I think many people unfortunately feel quite the opposite, that it is constricting to be a Christian, that it is stuffy and just a book of rules to follow. But there is freedom in Christ. Freedom to throw your hands in the air and just say “Lord, I don’t get you, but I do trust that your plan is better and that I can become closer to you through this and I can become a better and stronger person because of it.” Every now and then I’ll have a little moment of sadness over my infertility. I absolutely believe that it is normal and good to grieve through hard things, but we have to accept them and make the best of them. My infertility has made me a better version of myself. It has opened up so many doors, allowed me to meet so many people and bond with them in an intimate way that I couldn’t have in any other circumstance. It allowed me to become a mama in the exact way God intended for me.

It is totally not impossible for me to become pregnant one day- that would be super cool and miraculous, but I can tell you this- my heart is so full right now. Can I encourage you to bring your hard things to God? He listens, he answers, whenever we seek him and ask for things that align with him, he gives them to us. He gave me the gift of motherhood through foster care and adoption. It was never a plan B for us, never an afterthought, it just happened a little (or a lot) differently than expected, but our story is playing out exactly as it should for our little family.

Today I was at the grocery store and a woman about my mom’s age came up to me. I had noticed she had been eyeing me and my daughter for a few seconds but I figured she thought Evy was just cute. Anyway, she said “can I ask you a fun question?” I thought in my head…fun question..? But out loud said “sure, of course.” The woman asked “is your daughter adopted?” I told her yes and she shared “How wonderful, I have 5 children of my own, all adopted and it has been the biggest blessing of my life.” We talked there in the freezer section for 5 or so more minutes. It was so sweet and encouraging to hear this woman’s story about her thriving family, all adults now, all adopted, but all very much her and her husband’s children. It gave me hope that maybe I’ll be sharing my story one day talking about my big family, all of my children, born from my heart and the desire that God gave us to foster and adopt. I can’t wait to meet all of my children as they come to our family over the years. They are already in my heart. They are so wanted, never an afterthought.

 

Photographs by First Delight Photography. 

In DIY, Mama, Mi Familia on
December 5, 2017

Evy’s First Birthday

I’ve been waiting to do this post until after the adoption was final so that I could show our sweet girl’s face. So here it is! Evy’s first birthday party! It was such a lovely day. This is the kind of day I dreamed about for so long- planning my baby’s first birthday party. When you go through infertility you wonder if you will ever get the chance to put all of your dreams and cute little ideas for milestones together one day or if it will only be something you have to file away in your head as something you won’t ever get to do. God’s goodness to us in giving us our daughter still blows me away daily. What did I do to deserve this gift? Well, I didn’t do anything, it is all God’s grace in my life that I would get to be this girl’s mama.

If you know me at all, you know that I love flowers and nothing too over the top so I wanted that to come through in how I planned Evy’s party. My absolute favorite was making her flower crown. She looked like such a little angel.

We had cheese and crackers, mini spinach and veggie quiches, bruschetta, rice crispy treats, and of course, cake.

My mom and I made the big cake for everyone- it was a spice cake with cinnamon buttercream frosting and I made Evy’s smash cake. In an effort to keep her away from refined sugar as much as possible I made a cake that was sweetened with apple sauce and banana. For her frosting I made whipped coconut milk.

I think we can all agree that the best part of a one year old’s birthday party is watching them tear into the cake and oh did she do just that! This girl loved the cake and as you can see she just ended up picking up the whole thing and going to town.

I made these little rice crispy treats with This cookie cutter from Amazon and coated the bottoms with soft pink dyed white chocolate.

I had so much fun planning this sweet day and I know our girl felt loved! Thank you to everyone who came and made Evy feel special. It’s fun (and sassy) to be one!

In Mama on
October 12, 2017

I’m doing it!

Should I really do this? What if it is a total flop? What if people think I am uninteresting or don’t like my recipes? What if I invest all this time for nothing? Well, after a few weeks of having this on my brain all the time the answer is YES, I should do this! Starting a blog has been on my mind for a few years now. I even started a free blog a couple of years ago after many urges from far too kind friends. I think I posted 3 times and then life just got busy, I didn’t have a baby, I had an office job, and yeah- it just didn’t work out. Well, I’m back! And this time I’m back in full force! I am devoted to giving this blogging thing a try. I’m passionate about food, family, creativity, and living life so why not share that with the world!? Even if it only ever benefits one other person, I’m doing it. I think I would always look back and wonder if I could have been a blogger if I never tried. So yes, I should do this and hey look-I’m doing it! I hope you will follow along the journey with me!