Dear Stoma…..

You saved my life. Thank you. Thank you for doing your job and for making living possible without a colon. I wasn’t the person I am today until you came into my life. You brought me from the edge of death to a world full of hope and joy. As in all relationships, there are a few things that you could work on though.

Sometimes when we are in public, you start spouting out loud obscenities. I’d appreciate it if you’d stop that. I know I can’t control when you decide to speak, but I don’t think it’s very convincing to others when I chuckle and say my stomach is rumbling, I must be hungry. Trying to cover your mouth to stop you is like dealing with a five-year old child who refuses to quit. It’s really quite horrifying.

Also, please don’t fail me at my most vulnerable moments. If my supplies are about to let me down, if the seal hiding my secret is about to break free, let it happen at home. I thought I was done with those embarrassing and panic-filled moments of possible public humiliation when you came into my life. My prior relationship was full of them and I thought those times were long gone. I know you are not like the last one. The one I let go because of the havoc that toxic relationship caused in my life. You are a gift to me. Let’s keep the blips private.  It’s better for both of us.

Okay. I know this is a weird request, but here goes. I prefer if you don’t need a change of “clothes” for six days. It saves on “laundry time” and money, because your “clothing” isn’t cheap. Not to mention the antics you sometimes pull during changes. Going for DISTANCE, doesn’t make you cool. It makes you annoying. Just keep it mellow and act like an adult. Keep your  moutn shut for five minutes. it’s really not that much to ask. I’ll always love you, but sometimes you really get on my nerves.

That being said, you keep me on my toes.  You always smell like the last thing I ate. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes this is bad. On the bad days, you can drive the most tolerant of people out of a room. In a hurry. This creates the problem of trying to exit the room without being seen and identified as the offender. Occasionally, you smell like nothing I have ever eaten.  More than once  you have smelled like a Christmas tree, and I wonder where you’ve been without me. You can make the biggest, and most unique bubbles I have ever seen, and I am always in awe, but who do I  tell that to?!

Despite your flaws, I love you. You have changed my life for the better, and I will never forget that. I will always be grateful for what you have given me.   For the second chance you have provided, for the freedom you have allowed me, and for the joy I have felt since you came into my life.

Yours Forever,

Livy

Continue reading

Advertisements

Guilty Pleasure

I am a rule follower. I have not taken, sniffed, snorted, or smoked any illegal or dangerous substances. Ever. I have never even smoked a cigarette. I DID hold a lit cigarette once, but I didn’t inhale. I didn’t even hold it to my lips. I do drink alcoholic beverages, but not everyday, nor to the point of being all out drunk. The few times I have, I have hated it. I don’t like feeling that loss of control.  I could never be an addict.  I do, however, have one guilty pleasure.  I LOVE getting anesthesia.

In the last few years I have had a few surgeries and procedures that required sedation. While this makes many, maybe even MOST people apprehensive, it makes me giddy. I love the feeling of the medication when it starts running through my  blood. The seconds before I am out like a light. When I go from all the medical personnel and commotion in the room to waking up in  recovery. It’s like Christmas morning for a kid, and then the disappointment that it is over.

I have known about this strange attraction of mine for many years, but have not needed to have any procedures requiring it again until recently. I hope I don’t have any more soon because I’d rather have unquestionable health, but if I do there will be no fear from me.  Bring it on, but only if it’s legal. I am a rule follower, but with a very strange guilty pleasure.

Why Me? Why Us?

There have been times over the years when I have said “Why me?” “Why us?” Why did this happen to us and not somebody else. Sometimes it just seems that no one else has the same misfortune. I know that isn’t true, and our situation could be much worse, so I don’t dwell for long. I thank God that it isn’t, and for the blessings He has given us.

A majority, if not all, of these events have been medical in nature. My health, and the health of my family. Severe allergies as a child, Crohn’s at the age of 29, which progressed at an alarming rate, cataracts at the age of 32, removal of my colon at the age of 33. Most recently, the Essential Thrombocythemia diagnosis at 42.

The last few years have been no exception to this question. It has floated in and out of my brain, off and on, for months, but after a few moments of self pity, I remind myself of our blessings. This time, though, it was the health of our children.

In 2014 my daughter was bullied, as I wrote about in the post titled, “Until the Scars Fade” (https://superfiveshanghai.com/2015/09/20/until-the-scars-fade/.) At the time, a number of the parents who learned how she attempted to cope were scared of her. They didn’t want their children to be around her. Their ignorance on mental health astounded me. These were well-educated individuals, who must have known that depression isn’t contagious. This is a 10 year old child we’re talking about. She was literally shunned. She had left for the school year and was being tutored, while receiving therapy, and I was encouraged NOT to bring her back for any school functions, so as not to upset other parents, while the bully continued in school with no repercussions.

It has taken two years to be able to take a deep breath. To feel like she is back on track to health. From the outside, it is not apparent. No one else would know what she has been through, and the resulting depression she experiences. No one would know the struggle it has been. As a parent, it has been stressful and heartbreaking. Why my baby girl? Why does she have to deal with this?

Last spring, my oldest son, who suffers from ADD, had some serious anxiety issues. This had never appeared to be a problem before, but it escalated quickly. He was working his first job, taking a few too many college classes, and the pressure and responsibility overwhelmed him. He has always been very independent, and doesn’t like to ask for help. Up until recently, he preferred that we didn’t. We knew he was skipping some classes, and calling in to work, and we had decided that it was time for him to learn the hard way. We had no idea it was due to anxiety until the end of the semester, when he finally told us. After four months of keeping it to himself, he finally released himself from carrying the burden alone. The semester was a bust, and he left his job, but we could, and would, help him.

He spent seven months after the failed-semester ended, in twice-a-week therapy, having medication adjusted, and spending hours and hours in his room. It was, once again, heartbreaking to see one of our children suffering. We spent most of 2015 worried that he might never come back up for air, while his therapist told us it would just take time. She had enough faith for all  of us. She was right. In November, he got a new job, and he started classes in January. He comes home from work happy and talkative, something we have rarely seen from our quiet boy. He goes to class, and has been getting high A’s. Once again, I feel like I can take a breath.

After the events of the last few years, I look for ways to spread awareness about mental illness, and mood disorders. I need to do more. Obviously, I have written about some of it in the blog. I hope that readers will share my posts to spread the word. My Facebook page, Sunrise Strong-Mood Disorder Awareness and Acceptance, is a another step, but it is not enough. As stress at home continues to decrease (fingers-crossed and a bunch of prayers), I hope to have time to find other ways to spread awareness. Maybe that’s why……..why it’s me, why it’s us.

I Have a Secret

I have a secret. It’s something that I’m pretty sure I’ve only told one other person before. In the worst of times; at my lowest. I feel like a burden to the ones I love.

I have always been one to get the job done. If it is mine to do, I will do it, and do it well. I don’t like to let people down. I am a list-maker (even if it is only in my head). I like things organized. I like finishing what I start, and that feeling of accomplishment when it’s done. I don’t like giving up control. After I left the working world, my job was household management and care. I was no longer contributing to the bank account, so it was important to me to take care of things at home. If I wasn’t doing that, I felt worthless.

Before I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, I had signs of the illness, but I ignored them. I made up reasons in my mind for them, rationalized what they could be from.  No one could tell, but Bill. He was the one I turned to for help, to pick up the slack when I was under the weather. In my head, I was letting him down. Passing the ball. It was just the beginning of a feeling of helplessness that I despised.

During the years when my Crohn’s was active, I relied on Bill to do a majority of the care givng, and household chores, all while holding a full-time job. I was an extra child. I could do almost nothing at home, required many trips to the doctor’s office and emergency room, and even had to count on him to administer some of my medical treatments. Things I never imagined I would have to ask him to do. It was awkward, embarrassing, humiliating. He handled it like a champ. He never flinched. All in the name of love, I guess.

As a result of, and probably as well as, this feeling, I never liked to talk about my Crohn’s symptoms, side effects, test results, or any other health related issue. I did not want to live a life based around discussions of my disease. I had no control over Crohn’s itself, but I did have control over what I filled my head, and heart with. Unfortunately, it is hard to avoid those topics when your face is blowing up from steroids, but your body is withering away. When you are depending on the care of loved ones, whether you like it or not. Talking about it, just reminded me of the burden I felt I was.

In the 13 years I have been in remission, I have been blessedly healthy. An occasional virus, a broken foot, but far and few between. I still find, however, that I can’t help but return to those thoughts. I am still very sensitive to the fear of being helpless, and dependent on others, and I don’t like to think about the possibility of my Crohn’s returning. At the mere mention of illness, or when a sniffle comes around, I jump on the defensive. I am not sick. I am not defective. I am not.

Recently, I had to undergo kidney stone surgery. It turns out, they are a side effect of my Crohn’s disease. The procedure was outpatient, so I thought that I would feel fine by the next day. Unfortunately, the recovery took longer than I expected, and after a week on the couch at home, I ended up in the hospital for a night. I had to rely heavily on Bill, and It all came flooding back. I constantly apologized. He did nothing to make me think I needed to, in fact, he told me to stop, but that burden feeling returned, if only for a short time.

Bill has always been there for me. He has taken care of every task that needed to be done, and has loved me through every bit of it. He has never questioned, complained, whined, or pouted. While I was worried about what I wasn’t doing, he was worried about whether I was going to survive. Whether I would live to see another day. When you think about it that way, it puts it all into perspective. We all have to rely on our loved ones, some more than others, but in the end they will do what they need to do, because they love us.

You are not a burden. You are not. You are LOVED.

 

What I learned from my Crohn’s Disease

Part III –  Repost for Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week. Spread the word.  Share to increase awareness. There is hope!

As I have said before, I have Crohn’s Disease. It has been in remission for 12 years, but from a year after my diagnosis in 1998 to August 2002, it was like a wildfire reeking havoc on my body.

I spent three years, from the summer of 1999 after Brennan was born, until my major surgery in 2002, fighting for my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. It snuck up on me in little increments, and before I knew it had overtaken my body. Specifically, my large intestine. I was on a severely restricted diet, and took handfuls of medication and vitamins. I was constantly in doctor’s offices, or emergency rooms. I had raging fevers, higher than you would think a person could survive. Higher than the kind that send parents into panics. I had a racing heart, even at rest, lost partial vision in my eyes, and fought a staph infection in my leg for a week in the hospital. I never had the stomach pains that many people with Crohn’s do, but I probably spent more time in the bathroom than the average person will spend in their lives. My weight went down to 88 pounds.

In the end of December 1999, after spending the holidays (which are crazy busy during NORMAL circumstances) at my grandmother’s and Bill’s grandfather’s viewings and funerals, I got what appeared to be the flu. It went on for a week or so, and didn’t seem to be getting better. As lay down for a nap one day, I said a prayer. I asked God to give me a sign. To let me know if I should go to the doctor after the New Year, or if it would go away on its own. When I woke up, I had little insect bite-like bumps all over my body. I will never forget that moment. We are a quietly religious family. I have always been a believer, but this was a pivotal moment in my life, my belief, and love of God. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital.

I remember, sometime in the second or third year of my Crohn’s, being exhausted. Tired of the constant battle. Laying on the bed, getting ready for another nap. I, again, said a prayer. I asked if I would be feeling better the next day, and begged that I would. Within a minute or two, and I kid you not, the phone rang a strange double ring. It reminded me of the way my phone at work rang when I was getting an interoffice call. When I picked it up, it was an operator recording. “I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time. Please hang up and try again later.” I ran downstairs and asked Bill, who was sitting on the couch, if he had heard the phone ring. He said yes, but didn’t notice the weird ring. Another moment I will never forget. I am still quietly religious, but much more so. I believe. No one could ever tell me otherwise.

I fought having the surgery to remove my colon for a long time. I was too young to have an Ostomy bag. I was only in my early 30’s. How could I deal with that for my entire life?! I finally gave in to myself, it was my choice. I wanted to be there for my boys, and I was just too ill to be the mom I wanted to be. When the surgeon went in for my pre-op colonoscopy, he couldn’t even complete it due to the swelling. I had put the procedure off, and if it had been done sooner I’m sure they would have told me how dire the circumstances were. I’m glad I made the decision myself prior to that. I’m glad that I did it for the love of my family. In the end, it would turn out to be so much more than that.

That surgery saved my life. Literally. It was that bad. I can now eat anything I want, I take no medication for Crohn’s, and am back to a more-than-healthy weight. And I am LIVING. Living a life I wouldn’t be, if not for said surgery. I am living a life I would not be, if not for Crohn’s Disease.

I have learned to appreciate the little things that so many take for granted. The blue sky, white clouds, green trees. The contrast between them, and the beauty of it. The breeze. The birds. The smell of fresh air.

I have learned not to take my family and friends for granted, and to catch myself when I think that I am. To take care of them, as they took care of me. To love them with everything I have. To look to them for strength when I need it, and to give strength and support to them when they do.

I have traveled farther out of my comfort zone than I ever thought I would. If not for Crohn’s we would not have traveled abroad, adopted our daughter, or lived in China. Before Crohn’s my life was ruled by fear of the unknown. After Crohn’s, by the spirit of adventure, and a love of life.

I have walked on the Great Wall of China, and stood before the first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors. I have trekked through the rainforest in Langkawi, Malaysia, and floated through the mangroves. I have basked in the hope of longevity from the waterfall of the Pure Water Temple in Kyoto, Japan, and walked the Nightingale floors of Nijo’s Castle. I have explored the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and traveled through the Mekong Delta. I have walked the beautiful beaches of Vietnam. I have zip-lined through the trees in Thailand, and fed an elephant bananas. Right into that giant mouth. I have been to the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, and I have stood in North Korea, in the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building.

Through my Crohn’s Disease I learned how to live. How to love. How to learn. But I’m not done. I have so much more to see, so much more to experience, so much more to love, thanks to my Crohn’s Disease.

Second Chances

Part II……  Repost in honor of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week. Share the  post, raise awareness.

The first thoughts that crossed my mind, while I was recovering in the hospital, were very basic. How do I dress now? Can I wear the same clothes, or will I have to wear overalls, or baggy dresses, for the rest of my life? Will the bag show if I wear jeans? Will I ever wear a bathing suit again? Will people know by looking at me? Am I going to have a perpetual bump on my front, right side? How do I take care of this new “appliance?” All of these things were a little scary for a 33 year old woman. It felt like these were things I shouldn’t have to worry about at my age; like I was robbed of some of my younger years.

Once I returned home, however, I discovered all the positive results of the surgery. I required no more medication to control my disease. It was finally in remission. I didn’t have to know the  location of each public restroom before entering a store or restaurant. The innumerable foods that I hadn’t been able to eat for four years were ecstatically served to me by my mother who was such a blessing and a help during those years.  I could easily hide the Ostomy bag. I didn’t have to dress differently, and if I didn’t choose to tell someone, they had no idea that I was any different then them. Finally, my kids. I could be there for my kids. I could help at school, take them to the park,  and play with them, without having to do it while lying on the couch.

Over time, I realized how strong this experience had made me. If someone had asked me if I could go back in time and change things; if I had never had Crohn’s at all, would I do it?  The answer was “NO!” Crohn’s made me who I am today. If not for this disease, I would not love life, the little things and big, in the way that I do now. I would not notice God’s beauty in so many everyday ways, and appreciate them on a daily basis. I would not have stepped out of my box to do things that I was not comfortable with, but I did……..things I never thought I would be able to do.

The Unexpected

In honor of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week, I am reposting some of my Crohn’s related entries from earlier this year, for those of you who may have missed them. Feel free to share, and spread awareness, near and far!

When our first child was about two years old, I realized that my health had been slowly deteriorating. I was often out of breathe, with little action to cause it, tired, and I was having digestive issues. I made an appointment to see my doctor, not really expecting anything serious. I had no idea that this would be a pivotal point in my life moving forward.

In May of 1998, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. This can affect any part of the digestive tract, and although it can go into remission, it is a lifetime disease. My Crohn’s was basically limited to my large intestine. It became inflamed like a tire, both inside and out. It required medications to reduce the swelling, iron for anemia, due to the bleeding it caused, and a restricted diet. The diagnosis was very upsetting at first, but I soon felt that it was manageable, and went back to life as it was, with a few more pills and a few less tasty foods to eat. I was months away from getting pregnant with our second son.

The following summer, after our son was born, I started having increased symptoms from the Crohn’s. These things creep up on you. You feel like you have it under control. Change the diet a little more, change the medication. Tell yourself that things will get better. Only they don’t.

On January 2, 2000, while most of the world was taking a sigh of relief that their world didn’t fall apart as many predicted, mine did, as did my husband’s. Or at least it began to. I went to the doctor after feeling like I had been suffering from a flu bug for a week or so, and ended up hospitalized for 2 weeks. It would be the first of a number of stays. After the pregnancy, running around with two young children, the stress of two relatives passing away around Christmas, and my denial of the symptoms, I was so dehydrated, and my blood pressure was so low, they didn’t know how I was even standing up.

In the year to come, I would have 105 degree fevers, tachycardia (racing heart), extreme weakness, handfuls of pills, a severely restricted diet, and I would go down to 88 pounds. The boys were now 4 years and 6 months. My husband had to travel quite a bit for work, and my mom would come help me. When she couldn’t be there, you would find me feeding the baby while I was wrapped in a blanket due to chills. I lived hour to hour.  Morning nap, afternoon nap, bedtime. Those were my goals to make it throughout the day.

In the summer of 2000, I was once again hospitalized. This time for a staph infection I developed after hitting my leg on the car. For most, this would be a two day stay. For me, it was seven, including my birthday. My immune system was just too compromised from the Crohn’s.

There would be no relief for two more years. In 2001, I developed cataracts from the steroids I had to take for the inflammation, and at the age of 32, I would need cataract surgery. In April 2002, I lost vision in my eyes due to swelling of the optic nerve. This would require a hospitalization as well. Though I did eventually regain most of my sight, I still have blind spots, and have to be checked every few years.

Finally, in the summer of 2002, when all medications had been tried and none were working, I  realized that I had to take more drastic measures. I could not be there for my boys as I wanted to be. I couldn’t help at the school, or take them to the park. This disease was taking me away from my kids. I couldn’t live with that. I chose surgery. My large intestine was completely removed. When they removed it, my heart rate immediately went back to normal, and I mean at that very moment in surgery. They said it was almost perforated in so many areas that if I hadn’t been on a strong antibiotic for so long, I would have had a massive blood infection. I had no idea how close I was to dying.

I will live with an Ostomy bag, for the rest of my life. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I have never regretted it. Not for a single second.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mama

I’m one lucky girl. My mom has always been there for me, through thick and thin, good times and bad. I don’t remember ever having to question whether I could count on her when I was in need. I just knew. Considering she didn’t have much of a role model (her alcoholic mother died when she was 13, and her dad, of a stroke, when she was 18), she has done a phenomenal job.

When I was a baby, I was allergic to almost every food, as well as mold, dust, pollen, and animal dander, and had severe asthma, as well. Although I eventually outgrew them, they were a daily obstacle throughout my infant, toddler, and young childhood years. My diet required that she co-ordinate my food not only at home, but also at school, friend’s houses, and even the occasional restaurant. She spent many weekends fishing with a family friend for blue gill, to add to my limited diet of lamb, rice and apples. She bought soy baby formula for me until I was 10, as regular soy milk was not on the market yet, and ordered special rice bread which was delivered to our local Sander’s freezer. She didn’t even have to ask for it, she went right into the “employees only” door and got it out herself. She has always been a friend to everyone, and they trusted her. That’s just the kind of person she is.

As the mother of a special needs child, she was ever vigilant of my food, and surroundings, and I was in a never-ending state of testing her skills. I was constantly finding ways to sneak the food I wasn’t suppose to have, and hiding under tables, or outside, to relish it. She was continuously in fear of me dropping dead of an allergic reaction or asthma attack. The poor woman could never let her guard down.

My mom and I had a rocky relationship in my latter childhood years. We fought frequently. We are very much alike, and we were constantly butting heads. We both felt we needed to win any given argument. When I was a teen, and young adult, our conversations were confrontational and loud. She worried about so many things, and I was constantly defensive. She had a difficult childhood, and between that and my stressful younger years, she spent her days in protection mode. She was always trying to help, and I  resisted. In my defense, if I had followed every bit of advise she’d given, there are many things I would have never done, a number of which helped me to become the outgoing, semi-adventurous, person that I am. I have always been headstrong, and prefer to do things my way. I have never really felt comfortable accepting others help, even when it was obvious I needed it.

In the worst of my Crohn’s years, when 105 degree fevers were a daily occurrence, and my husband had to travel often for work, I would tell her I was fine, and she didn’t need to come stay with me. She has had serious back problems since an injury when she was in her mid-thirties, and I knew it would be rough for her to take on my daily chores, and spend the night in a bed that was not adjusted for her back. I had a very active 1 year old, and a 4 year old, and thought that it would be better to do it on my own, than risk her further problems. I was feeding the kids wrapped in a blanket, shaking with fever-induced chills. I concentrated on tiny increments of time, just trying to make it from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner, to bedtime, but would not take her up on her offer for help.

My mama is not one to take “no” for an answer, so she came anyway.  She took over the household, and caring for the boys, so I could rest. She drove me to doctor’s appointments, did the grocery shopping, made meals, and doled out medication. She may have even tucked me into bed. Following my abdominal surgery, she came again, and even though Bill was no longer traveling as much, she stayed for several weeks to help him with the kids and me. We spent more time together during those years, than we had since I was very young, and I started to realize she was not only a loving and attentive mother, but fun, and I actually enjoyed being with her.

When Bill, the kids, and I packed up and moved to Shanghai, we only saw my parents when we returned in the summer, and not many times at that. We’ve all heard the old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and it proved to be true. It was while in China, that my mom and I had some of our best telephone conversations. At least up until the line went staticky and we realized we had said something that the Chinese monitors didn’t like, and we had to end it for the day.

My mother was never comfortable with us moving to China, as I’ve said, she has always been a worrier. She would much rather have her children tucked safely under her wing . It was while living abroad, that I started trying to calm some of her fears and worries, instead of taking offense or fighting them. It was then, that I started being an adult on the phone with my mom, when I finally stopped arguing and started listening, and discussing, that my mom and I finally fell into step together.

In 2013, and again in 2014, I went down to my parents’ winter home to help care for my mom after back and neck surgery. It felt good to return the favor, and spend some time with my parents by myself.  We had the best time together, especially our 5 AM mother/daughter coffee talks….. and it takes something pretty special for me to enjoy anything at that time of morning. She shared stories from her childhood, and her young adult life, and we reminisced about our early family memories. Of course, one of my favorite things to talk about with her as an adult, has always been the things my siblings and I did that she never knew about. And, hey! We lived to talk about it! There was never any time of day better than those crack-of-dawn mornings, in the rocking recliner chairs, in their tiny TV room.  I will always cherish those moments.

My mama is a giving and compassionate woman. She will go out of her way to help a friend or family member. If you are good to her, you are a friend for life. She doesn’t take friends or family lightly, and she will not let you down. She is as good as it gets, and more than you could ever hope for in a friend or relative. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I am forever grateful for the gift from Heaven that is, my mom.

 

Crazy Lucky

I am crazy lucky.

I have three beautiful, smart, kind, loving, funny, and sometimes difficult,  children. They talk back, whine, fight, and complain. They give, share, hug, snuggle, teach, laugh, and smile. I wouldn’t change a bit of it. God has blessed me with, and trusted me to raise, three of His creations. I am crazy lucky.

I have a handsome, loving, intelligent, thoughtful, goofy, gentlemanly,  and sometimes frustrating, husband. There are times I think he must have ear plugs in. He is moderately forgetful, and definitely procrastinates. He opens my car door, holds my hand, including when we go to sleep at night, and spoils me rotten on my birthday. I’ll take it all. God has blessed me with the most amazing man. I am crazy lucky.

Thirteen years ago, I was severely ill, but I cheated death.  I never even thought death was possible, until the threat was over. Crohn’s disease, as I discussed in a post earlier this year, tried to kill me. It failed miserably. It may have taken a few physical parts of me, but it GAVE me lessons that were far more important. Appreciation. Love. Insight, to live happy, and grateful. In fact, it gave me life. Although I will always have it, I have been in remission ever since. God blessed me with the opportunity to make the most of my life, and I do. I have a love of life that I never would have had, if not for Crohn’s disease.  I am crazy lucky.

My family and I have been given opportunities that many are not. Adventures that I would have never taken advantage of, before my illness. We lived in, and travelled all over, China for four years. We’ve had family vacations in Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Macau. My children took week-long school trips. Camped on, and hiked, unrestored sections of the Great Wall to see the sunrise. Excavated archaeological sites in Gansu province for dinosaur, and dinosaur-aged, fossils, and brought them home in handfuls, wrapped in paper towels.  Swim meets in Taiwan, and drama workshops in Manila. Finally, a girls’ weekend in South Korea. The DMZ, palaces, Korean BBQ, shopping, and a show. Thirty-six hours for a friend and I, before we moved back to the U.S. I have friends all over the world, literally. God blessed us with experiences, relationships, and memories that we could have never imagined. I am crazy lucky.

The kids and I returned from China six months before Bill, as I had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. It is a myeloproliferarive disorder, called Essential Thrombocythemia. It causes high platelets,  and requires that I take a chemo pill every day. It will always require treatment. It does not go away. It is fairly controllable though, and it is only a pill or two, along with frequent blood tests. The chances I will live a normal life span are fairly high. So, once again, God has blessed me. I am crazy lucky.

I am not alone. We all have ups and downs in life. Illness. Death. Job loss. Weddings, new babies, or an unexpected promotion. We have good days, and bad. It is how we choose to deal with those times, and what we take away from them, that matters. I choose to live my life with gratitude and happiness. I try to be the best I can be, and enjoy my time on Earth with every part of my being. I love my life. God has blessed me in many ways. I am crazy lucky!

 

The Best Day of My Life- A Letter to my Husband

Marrying you was the best decision I have ever made. That day changed my life forever. I would not be the person I am today, if it weren’t for you. I wish you believed me when I say…… it was the best day of my life.

Did I ever tell you that you are everything I ever wanted in a husband? That as a little girl, when I thought of my future husband, it was you. A gentleman. Smart, loving, kind, giving, thoughtful. And funny. I still laugh when I think about the “hats” you used to make out of towels, when you finished your shower, in our younger years. Those silly games you made up, that were meant to drive me batty, like “I Got Your Pinky Toe.”  I would be sitting there, minding my own business, and all of a sudden you would be holding my feet up by my pinkie toes. Or when I was reading on the bed, or watching a show, and you’d flop on to me like a fallen tree. You called it, “I’m a Bull Seal.”  Where did that stuff come from?! I love that now and then, you remember, and I find myself trying to figure out how to escape your game. I can’t help but smile and laugh, even though I am stuck, at least until I can convince you to free me. I love you for that. Thank you for teaching me to be lighthearted.

You’ve spent our entire marriage making big plans for us. You started talking about adoption from the day after our wedding, until the day we did. I never thought it would happen. I didn’t think we could ever afford it. You talked about living abroad, long before I had the nerve to do it. You make me believe in things I never imagined. You make the impossible, possible. You fantasize about what we will do in our retirement years. I hope they come true. Thank you for teaching me to dream.

Thank you for taking care of me during my Crohn’s years. For seeing me through those miserable days. For staying by my side. For doing things I’m sure you didn’t want to do, during my recovery from surgery. Thank you for not looking at me differently once I had my Ostomy bag. For loving me just as much. Or more.

You’ve taught me to live a life where fear does not control me, or my decisions. A life where I don’t worry about what others think. That it is okay to do something spur-of-the-moment. That prior planning is not always necessary, or preferred. Thank you for suggesting we take an unplanned trip to Seattle, just for fun, to see my brother, with 12 hours notice, a three-year old, and a newborn. You showed me how to feel carefree. You’re the one I want to spend my wild and crazy days with. Thank you for teaching me to be spontaneous.

Thank you for holding my hand, when we go to sleep. Or snuggling up behind me. For always being close to me at night, no matter how far to the side of our king-sized bed I lay, so I can keep my feet out of the covers. Thank you for holding my hand when we are at the mall, or walking down the street. For opening my car door. For pulling the car up so I don’t have to step in a snow drift, or through the mud. For always making sure the street is safe to cross, even know I’m completely capable of doing it myself.  I love how you protect me. Thank you for showing me how much you care.

Thank you for all the little things you do. For taking the kids to their activities on those days that I can’t stand to get in the car again, even know you’ve had a full day at work. For bringing me coffee in bed. For spending hours making homemade bread. For making that amazing Thomas the Tank Engine cake for Ethan’s 2nd birthday, when I was too sick. Thank you for taking care of the kids by yourself for two weeks, so I could help my parents in Arizona after that medical emergency. And for doing it again, for five weeks, the next year, without hesitation. Thank you for the big things, too.

Thank you for your love of music. For walking into a room blaring a happy song, on a dreary day. For smiling and dancing. For wanting me to sing for you. Or dance with you. For listening to the same song, over and over again. Thank you for “theme songs.”  For almost 30 years you have burst out in song, based on a current situation, whatever it may be.  This skill is now ingrained in my brain. I can pull an appropriate, and timely, “theme” song out of my head at the drop of a hat. Thank you for reminding me to sing and dance.

Thank you for every minute of our life together. The good, and the bad. They have made me who I am today. I don’t regret a single second. Thank you for giving me every bit of you. You are amazing. Inside and out. You are God’s gift to me. You are my everything. Thank you for loving me. Thank you…….for the best days of my life.