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Just Some Plane Drama

28 Apr

Kevin and I took off early last Sunday morning for a long-awaited return trip back to Jamaica. We just love it there; we love the people, we love our resort, we love our time there. We can truly get away from everything and take a deep breath and relax. I was taking a respite from breast cancer and didn’t want to hear about it, deal with it, or think about it for 9 days….but there are a few blogs coming about that later. Interesting stuff!

During the landing process in Jamaica I had really sharp pains inside my left ear – which I have had before, but not every time I fly. The difference for this trip is that I also had severe pain in my left armpit and the side of my left breast. Horrible pain. We landed, got settled at the resort, and the pain in my breast did not go away. That night I was very uncomfortable and the next day my breast was beginning to swell. By the next day my breast was very swollen, hot to the touch, and turning deep purple near my mastectomy scar. The purple part wasn’t so big but was very scary looking. As the day went on, the swelling and purple part worsened. What in the world do you do in a foreign country with all of that happening? I was getting very nervous and compared to the other breast – it was freakishly hot. I wasn’t sure what do to – but I knew I had to get word to Dr. Appel. He is my breast reconstruction surgeon.

Dr. Appel, hands down, is the best surgeon and doctor I have ever had….and I have had quite a few over the years. I have had a bazillion surgeries: jaw surgery (3 times), back surgery, heart surgery, cosmetic breast implant surgery, a C-section, a partial hysterectomy, 2 DNCs – and this was all before being diagnosed with breast cancer. I have met a lot of doctors along my rocky path of medical issues and I really cannot convey how fabulous and caring Dr. Appel is.

So I facebook messaged Dr. Appel’s nurse and told her to please let Dr. Appel know that we have sent him a text (just in case he changed his number or something). I was debating about going to the nurse at the resort but I kept thinking “what can they do here?” and then I kept thinking “what if the swelling continues and the purple part keeps spreading?”….so I began to think it was an infection but I didn’t have a fever….hmmm…..so I was on my way to the nurse in the resort to have her check for a fever again so I would have that answer when Dr Appel texted me back. I was sitting in the nurse’s office and he texted me. He actually apologized for not texting back earlier that morning because he was in the OR. I wasn’t even thinking like that – I was relieved to see his name come across the phone and actually knew we were in contact. Dr. Appel asks the questions you would assume (fever? chills? Any infections lately? Etc) and I sent him a picture of what was going on. He immediately texts back and tells me to ask the nurse for one of three different antibiotics he recommends. The nurse goes over all of my details and then she tells me they have to call the doctor in for this. So I go back at 5 pm and meet with a very pleasant and very caring doctor. I show her the info from Dr. Appel; she examines me and is very surprised at the heat coming off of that breast. She asks lots of questions and she gives me one of the scripts Dr. Appel recommended. Then she tells me to check back in the next day.

So I ended up checking back in to the nurse’s office each day as they watched the progress of this breast issue. Dr. Appel’s nurse sends me another facebook message and sets up an appointment for today since we got back from Jamaica last night. So, Dr. Appel thinks I have capsular tear in the area around my implant. Could this happen from the pressure on a plane? He isn’t sure. He has seen three capsular tears so far and they have usually been the result of strenuous activity – and we all know I don’t have that in my life. He thinks I might have torn it the day before or that morning and the plane aggravated it. I just am not sure about that, my gut still thinks it happened during the plane landing – that’s how much pain I was in. I do know this has been very uncomfortable and very scary to have happen in a foreign country. I am so very very thankful that my surgeon gives out his cell phone number to his patients and he actually responds back to calls and messages. He is extremely busy with breast cancer reconstruction surgeries and yet, he takes the time to take care of me while I am on vacation. His staff is super supportive and I love them all. The city of Charlotte is very blessed to have this doctor taking care of so many women with breast cancer. So very blessed.

When we landed last night in Charlotte I was nervous but I didn’t have pain in my breast, armpit, or ear. Last night my breast was warm again – not matching the other one which always feels like an ice-cube, but today they were back to normal, in body temperature anyway. I go back in two weeks and in the meantime I watch for progress each day. If it worsens or stalls in changing for the better, I am to go back and see him right away. He says that capsular tears usually heal – so now we just wait…and watch…and hope and pray this heals. The thought of having my implant removed and starting this process over (which was my concern while I was in Jamaica since my breast was turning the color of a purple grape) is just too much for my mind to even comprehend, so when he told me today that they heal, I was very thankful. Who is lucky enough to have a doctor that takes care of his patients no matter where they are? I am – and so are a lot of my friends in Charlotte. I cannot tell you what relief I felt knowing Dr. Appel was on the other end of those texts and he was reachable when I needed him.

It’s always something – this time just a little plane drama.

 

Walk With You

12 Apr

I cannot believe that 6 months ago yesterday, my granddaughter was born. 6 MONTHS. It is amazing how time flies and how busy everyone is every moment. My Mom told me that time goes faster as we age and boy was she right. Remember being a kid; the days would last forever, a summer seemed like a lifetime, and Christmas break without snow actually became boring (up North). Now 6 months has passed in the blink of an eye.

I am so in love with this precious baby who has learned to giggle, pull hair (not on purpose), she is getting up on all fours and rocking – trying to learn to crawl, and she looks into my eyes with great interest, searching out every detail in my soul. She lives and breathes every minute, of every day, marinated in love.

I will randomly get a text or an email or a phone call from Morgan (my daughter) that will say “I cannot believe how much I love this baby” or “I never thought I could love something so much – I had no idea” or “this baby has brought so much love into my life and I just didn’t know it would be like this”….my answer? “I totally understand because that is how I felt, and still feel, for you”…I think the first time I said that to Morgan she was caught off guard. I could hear her mind ticking away and putting the pieces together about the strong bond of motherhood, that I actually do understand it, and I continue to live with it and for it. It’s funny how we just don’t see our Moms like we see ourselves when we become Moms. I was the same way with my Mom when I had my children. Back then I viewed her link to me as a Grandma to my children – I always forgot that her love for me came first and was absolutely so big it could not be described or contained. Now that Morgan experiences this heart lift when Haley looks into her eyes and smiles or when she is learning something new and exciting – I can remind her that I understand. I will continue to remind her of this as we all enter the toddler stage, the terrible twos, the constant power struggles that come along with raising a toddler, kindergartener, and beyond. The list of raising children goes on and the love continues to grow and change with each phase.

Edwin McCain sings a song called “Walk With You” it’s about walking his daughter down the aisle and turning her over to the new man in her life. It’s lightly spans a life full of love for a daughter and what it was like loving her and the feeling he got when her Mom handed her to him when she was born. Amazing lyrics. The last verse says this:

I’ll take this slow sweet walk with you

You’ll let go of my hand to say I do

Picture a slow sweet walk yet to be

And you’ll take my hand, say daddy come see…

Then you’ll know what it feels like

You won’t believe what it feels like

Then you’ll know what it felt like

when she handed you to me….

Yup  – that sums it up doesn’t it? 6 months….here is the precious picture of my little granddaughter from yesterday.

Haley Grace 6 months

 

When writing about the birth of my granddaughter, and that special day that has crystallized what’s really important in life, I cannot help but mention the other highlight of that morning, 6 months ago yesterday. On my way to see Haley’s birth, I spoke to my friend Michelle on the phone during her “moments of rally and clarity” – which was 9 days before she passed away. During that phone call I had a very clear and very loving chat with Michelle. She was not slurring, she was not drugged, and she was her regular old self – the Michelle I hadn’t heard in a month. I hoped and prayed that Michelle was turning a corner and the miracle we had all prayed for had arrived, but when I heard that an hour later she had slipped back into the slurred words, the fuzzy thinking, labored breathing, and lots of sleeping, I knew that the miracle we had asked for wasn’t happening. I also knew that prayers I had been praying for were being answered. I prayed for mercy for Michelle, comfort, no pain, limited suffering (or none), and a calm and peaceful transition into Heaven.

I will always cherish that morning phone call with her…what a gift that was for me, especially on the way to see my granddaughter come into the world. At the time I didn’t know what a gift it was because now on every birthday that my granddaughter celebrates (even 6 months) – I will reflect back to that phone call along with the birth of the baby.  Life and death – there is such a precious line between the two and I am trying to continue to see the gift in every situation and every memory That I am lucky enough to have.

I hope the last six months you have spent have been full of memories, gratitude, love, laughter, and smiles. Being in the cancer community in Charlotte I am constantly aware that we are not promised tomorrow so do something great today. Do something for someone else, spend some time with an older relative or friend, call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, repair your relationships and celebrate the great relationships you have.

With saying that – I think tonight is the night I am going to start reading the thoughts in my memory box that my friends wrote for my 50th birthday. I am ready to see Michelle’s words and everyone else’s words.  Who is lucky enough to get words from a friend who has passed away? It is like a special thought from Heaven…..especially if Michelle tells me, like she always did, that I am a goof. I have had this box since Christmas Eve and I think I am finally ready to open it. Finally.

Happy 6 months Haley Grace – I never knew I could love another baby as much as I love Morgan and Kyle and I cannot wait to Walk With You for many many years.

And Michelle – a day does not pass that I do not think of you or miss you. Not a single day…and it was my honor to Walk With You.

 

50 Memories

 

Side By Side – A Message

11 Apr

Everyone who knows us knows that we love our yard; we love working in it and we love watching it change from season to season, year to year. We have invested a lot of money, time, and love into our back yard especially and enjoy it as often as possible.

When I was going through chemotherapy, Kevin and I bought quite a few shrubs one Saturday and I was so tired at the nursery that I had to sit down several times on this lovely yard swing. I loved it so much, so we bought that too. In our purchase that day was a gorgeous pink dogwood tree and I remember telling Kevin over the years “if something happens to that tree, you know that means something will happen to me too”…he would just gruff off those words and not want to hear that. Who would I guess? Who understands moments like that unless you have been handed a life threatening medical diagnosis? No one “gets” the thoughts that run through minds like mine. But, it’s up to each one of us as to whether we let those thoughts ruminate and ruin our joy – or we kick them out to the curb as quickly as they came in.

Several years ago my daughter Morgan had a…let’s call it… a traumatic miscarriage. No one should have to endure what she did during a miscarriage – no one. But in the midst of all of that sadness, I wrote two short blogs about that time and here are the links. Please re-read them so you understand the rest of this blog post:

https://laurarenegar.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/changing-roles/

https://laurarenegar.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/morgan-i-knew-it/

 We have finally admitted to ourselves that our pink dogwood has died. I won’t let Kevin take it down until it is, without a doubt, without life. Yuk. All of those words I have said over the years now linger momentarily in my mind…..

Each year when Kevin and I are in the yard scoping out our plants, trees, and shrubs, we always smile when we look at, and talk about, the “volunteer dogwood” that we got from his parent’s yard. We also got this tree and brought it home during my chemo treatments. It was about three feet tall and was growing right up against a pink dogwood tree in their yard and it was adorable. We planted it 4 years ago and each year we inspect it, it is healthy, it is growing, and it is strong – but no blossoms. Nothing. Last weekend we looked at the tree again he told me he thought that there was a type of dogwood that never blossomed and that’s probably what we had. Is this true – I don’t know. But last night after work I glanced out our upstairs window and stopped dead in my tracks. I caught a glimpse of something, something new, I ran downstairs and through the screen porch to the dogwood tree and there they were. Two beautiful white blossoms. Not one, not three, but two. I honestly believe in these types of signs from Heaven. I really do. I believe this represents a message from Kevin’s Dad saying he is happy, healthy, able-bodied and enjoying Heaven, just like we got two blossoms on my Mom’s rose tree after Morgan lost her baby. As I look at the positioning of these blossoms compared to the rest of the green tree, it looks to me as if one is for Kevin’s Dad and one is for God – sitting side by side. There are lots of places for two blooms to pop open on this tree, but when they are like this….blooms; side by side, healthy, strong, and surrounded by beauty. I know we have been gifted a message.

 

Blooms from Heaven

Blooms from Heaven

Discount Tickets To Carowinds

7 Apr

Want to go to Carowinds (or Kings Dominion), get a discounted ticket, AND help Making Strides Against Breast Cancer for the American Cancer Society? Check this out! (Promo Code MSABC1)MSABC CHARLOTTE

Making Memories

3 Apr

I am sitting here at Mike and Morgan’s house, waiting patiently, for Haley to wake up. I am babysitting today and am so excited to have some alone time with my jellybean.

On my two and a half hour ride down here yesterday I had a lot of swirling emotions, which seems to be normal for me lately. I kept thinking about my ride to Anderson the morning Haley was being born, and the emotional pull I experienced, between life and death. Haley’s pending birth – Michelle’s pending transition into Heaven. I am so blessed to have had a clear and “normal” conversation with Michelle that morning as I was hauling butt to Anderson to see my jellybean be born and watch my daughter transition into a Mommy. When I got to the hospital Haley was still in Morgan’s belly but before we knew it, Haley was born, checked over, and was snuggled against Morgan’s skin and searching for her breast. A beautiful Mommy and Daddy were born that morning also, not just a perfect baby. One of the first pictures I took of the baby, and texted, was to Michelle. We were all also thankful  that Michelle lived for ten more days before she passed away. I couldn’t help but relive that on my ride down here yesterday because another friend of mine is in trouble with a battle with breast cancer. My heart was very heavy for her yesterday …I am frightened for her, her husband, and her small children. The battle wages on…and on…and on.

Remember my post a few days ago about my oncologist who had two tumors in his brain? Best news – his tumors are benign! No further treatment needed except follow-up. I know that everyone that knows and loves him, his patients included, are breathing a big sigh of relief and thankful for his wonderful news.

I am so excited that I have started my day (and paused with this blog once for a feeding and two diaper situations) – but now it’s play time with my jellybean…I will treasure these moments forever. Treasure every minute my friends, you never know when one phone call or test result will change your life and the lives of those who love you.

good friday

 

 

A BitterSweet Day Has Come…And Gone

28 Mar

Yesterday was a bittersweet day for me – it seems like a lot of my days, memories, and moments lately, are bittersweet.

I cleaned my office at Primax yesterday for the final time. I have been sorting, shredding, filing, packing up, and getting rid of 15 years worth of working papers, memories, and 8 years of Primax Pink Warrior “stuff”….it is amazing what a 10 x 10 office can hold. I found a cartoon a coworker had drawn, copies of jokes we played on co-workers, I even found a sketch of our owner, posed like John Travolta, dressed in a 70s “Saturday Night Fever” outfit. I have had a lot of laughter and good times with the people I work with. Since we don’t have a lot of turnover, these people and I raised our kids together, built the Primax Pink Warriors together, have gone through divorces together, weddings together, funerals of family members, and day-to-day life. Together; both good and bad. Bittersweet.

I made a decision back in January to find a better work/life balance and Primax worked to find a different position for me. I was afraid I would be handing stickers out at Walmart but thankfully they wanted to keep me with the company. January seems like a long time ago and it seemed like a great idea for all involved until it came time to pack up my final office belongings yesterday. I have worked really hard over the past 15 years to have a good working relationship with my co-workers (most of them anyway – you know you just cannot get along with everyone) – I love my relationships with our bankers, vendors, and everyone else that “touches” my job, and luckily I won’t have to give that all up. I will just be transitioning to a new position and I am able to take some of my job duties with me. I feel very blessed!

Beginning Monday I will be in a different space in the office, my space will not be decked out in PINK, breast cancer memorabilia covering the walls, cabinets, and desk, and that’s ok! I will still be working full-time until mid-May because as we all know, it is tax time. We are transitioning job duties and training people in the department and I have taken on some of my new duties already, while keeping my current position rolling along. It’s going to continue to be very busy for the next 6 weeks or so….but I can finally see it. I can see work/life balance in my near future. I can see weekends not FULL of chores I cannot get done during the week, I can see doodle time, fixing things in the house time, doctor appointments not chewing through my vacation time, I can see time sitting out on our screen porch and resting, and I see flexibility. I see balance. I see a new family budget with less income – but that’s ok too. That’s the price I am “paying” for more time. Time for myself. Time for my kids. Time for some relaxation. As bittersweet as yesterday was – and as part of me will be sad handing over my “title” and stepping back from being a manager – I see time. And I cannot put a price tag on that – not after the lessons I have learned in the past four years.  I love what I do but I had to get some balance and find a way to reduce the warp speed I was traveling and the 10 hours a week I was spending in the car driving to and from work. I have to slow it down a little. I have one day every month or so that I wake up and physically cannot get out of bed. Sometimes that hits on a work day and sometimes that hits on a weekend. I guess I have to finally admit that age, the leftover remnants of being sick, and medical menopause, have caught up with me and it’s just time to slow it down. Not a lot. Just a little. Maybe during this time I will find my gifts – maybe I am really a great singer, or artist, or ballerina. Maybe, just maybe I can find out.

So as bittersweet as this transition will be, I know that in the end this decision is what’s best for me and for my family and for Primax. I am so very very thankful that my company didn’t say “thanks but no thanks – see you at Walmart!”

 

 

One Degree

25 Mar

In case you didn’t know, it turns out Congress has been funding less and less cancer research over the last decade. So lots of people are sharing their “One Degree” (someone they know who’s had cancer — survivors and the less fortunate) on Facebook, and everyone’s names will be delivered to Congress as a big petition to restore this funding. Will you join me and add your name? I know this is an issue you care about and I know that you know someone who has, or had, cancer. We need more funding help finish the fight against cancer. HELP!

www.onedegreeproject.org

All it takes is a few seconds and I really appreciate your help!

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