The 5 BEST Things about Major Surgery

Today, a friend of mine is going in for surgery and it made me start to remember all of the things that I thought and worried about before each of my 5 major surgeries in the last couple of years (see A Brief Timeline of Crazy if you just went, “wait, WHAT?”)  I can go on and on about how scary and difficult and painful surgery is (wouldn’t that be a fun blog to read?!) but I realized that no one really talks about the good parts of having misbehaving organs ripped out.  So here it is…

The 5 BEST Things about having Major Surgery

  1. The Binge Watching- TV shows and movies on Netflix, Amazon On Demand, Hulu, etc. were practically designed for someone in the hospital or in recovery.  My suggestion is to pick a show that you have never seen before that is already 6 or 7 seasons in and then just marathon it.  Personal favs include Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl but I am really sophisticated and cultured like that, you may be more of a West Wing person and that’s cool too.  I wouldn’t recommend Lost though because with all the drugs in your system you will probably get really…well, I think you know where I’m going with that one! Which leads me to…
  2. The Drugs- I have a bizarrely high tolerance to pain meds, but even I got to a point when I started professing my love for the nursing staff giving me the drugs.  Apparently I kept telling my Dilaudid-wielding nurse, “I love you, do you know how wonderful you are?”  This got a little awkward for my husband who was standing there, especially since it was a male nurse!  If you are lucky you get a magic device- the pain pump (my favorite was filled with Dilaudid but Morphine is pretty good too.)  Don’t be a hero, you don’t get any points for not pushing that button, use this liberally and enjoy.
  3. The Love- Your friends and family will come out of the woodwork to shower you with cards, emails, texts, flowers, gifts, jewelry (ok, maybe not jewelry, but if you have a friend in surgery- please consider it.  Nothing says “Get Better Soon” like a pair of diamond studs!)
  4. The Help- Again, at no other time in your life will people be so ready and willing to help you.  Everyone says, “Let me know what I can do.”  Don’t make the mistake I did and just think that is an empty line.  Most people that say this truly do want to help (and if they don’t- too bad, they offered, if they didn’t mean it that’s on them!)  Seriously, let your loved ones know what they can do.  Here’s a list of possibilities- grocery shopping, dishes, pick up dry cleaning, make you food, buy you food, watch your kids, do your laundry, bring you magazines, get your prescriptions, or just come over and keep you company for awhile when you can’t leave the house and are going stir crazy.
  5. The Perspective- I think this is the biggest one.  If you survived a major surgery (or many surgeries) you will probably come out of it a little different.  You don’t know just how much you can live through until you go through it.  The worst of the pain, the hospital stay, and the recovery feel like forever.  But then one day, you wake up and realize that you are starting to get back to yourself again.  You think, how in the world did I get through that?!  And you start to understand that just maybe you are stronger than you ever gave yourself credit for.  Maybe you have a little more appreciation for the good things in your life.  Maybe you hold your loved ones a little tighter because you realize just how precious your life and health are.  Maybe you will one day be able to give support and compassion to someone going through a tough time in a whole different way because you get what it is like to be really down.  Maybe the whole process helps you realize just how many people love you and who your true friends are.  And maybe, just maybe, you have some killer new bling to go with your new look on life.

If you are about to go into a major surgery right now or know someone who is, remember that even the hardest things in life eventually pass.  Enjoy the downtime while you have it, I feel like I’m speaking in cliches here, but the world moves really fast most of the time.  I don’t really believe that everything happens for a reason.  But I do believe that things happen and you call on every bit of strength you have to deal with them, and that you can then choose to find something good that came out of it all.

I can’t say that I enjoyed any of my surgeries or sicknesses, but I can say that I truly appreciate all the love that people showered on me, the knowledge that I have more resilience than I ever dreamed of, and that I am overwhelmed in gratitude that I am alive, on the mend, and able to hold my husband and daughters every night.  Oh and Gossip Girl, I really enjoyed getting to watch that show in a continuous marathon- when you are on drugs and don’t take a break between episodes it is even more crazytown!

When recovering, you never have to get dressed!
When recovering, you never have to get dressed!

Maternity Jeans Manifesto

I believe in Maternity Jeans.  They are an underrated and underused miracle of modern fashion.

I jumped into the world of maternity pants early because with a twin pregnancy, I was unable to button my jeans at about 10 weeks.  The first time I went to Pea in the Pod and slipped into a pair of those pants that look like normal jeans but have an oh-so-comfortable stretchy waistband, I was in heaven.  Now, I need to confess that I have always been adverse to pants with buttons (the reason that yoga pants and maxi dresses are basically my uniform.)  Seriously, my husband can attest to this, every time I sat down I would subtly reach under the table and unbutton my jeans and then button them back up before I stood.

I refused to go full pajama jean (although I did consider it) but then I discovered maternity pants.   The magical thing about them (besides no buttons) is that they fit when you are at your skinny weight and also fit when your stomach is a huge beach ball.  At the end of my pregnancy, I was wearing XXL maternity tops and even those were too tight, but my amazing jeans still fit.

I had a c-section with the twins and then a hysterectomy 6 weeks later (see Brief Timeline of Crazy for reference) so I continued to wear the stretchy top jeans for months after pregnancy.  I was “lucky” to loose the baby weight fairly quickly due to the awesomely fun combo pack of breastfeeding twins and an increasingly worsening flare of ulcerative colitis.  But still I held onto my “magic pants.”  About 8 months after having the girls, my husband finally staged an intervention and I tearfully gave away my stacks of maternity clothes and started wearing my old jeans again. Sigh.

Flash forward to February 2014.  I had just had an operation to remove my colon and was fitted with an oh-so-stylish ileostomy bag.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, essentially I had a piece of my small intestine sticking out of my stomach and a sticky bag thing that I put around it to catch stool while I healed enough to go back into surgery and have my newly created j-pouch (kinda like a fake mini-colon made out of small intestine) reattached.  Now, please stop with the fawning over me here, yes my life is glamorous, I know you want to be me, but that is not the point of this particular post.

It was difficult to wear pants while I had the bag and then one day I had a stroke of brilliance (seriously I think a lightbulb went on over my head.)  So back I went to the maternity store.  I grabbed several pairs of jeans and began trying them on.  They were as comfy as I remembered and were perfect to stretch over the ostomy bag.  If you are woman with any type of ostomy, please consider getting some.  They don’t dig into the bag, they go all the way over it and provide an extra layer of protection, and they help keep it flat so it doesn’t show under clothes!

I gleefully made my way over to the buy the pants and this was my conversation with the lady at checkout:

Her:  Nice choices.  When are you due?

Me:  Oh, I’m not pregnant.

Her:  I’m sorry, will you be needing a gift reciept?

Me:  No thanks

At this point the woman gets an obviously puzzled look on her face, so I decide to have a little fun.  I lean in and say very mysteriously, “I need them for medical reasons.”  And then happily leave her stumped trying to figure out what kind of medical condition would cause a skinny, non-preggo girl to need maternity pants!

The pants served me well during the months that I had an ostomy bag and the months after surgery when my belly was still far too tender to wear anything else.  And then I got to a place where I could totally wear normal jeans again.  I started to think that maternity pants and I had a good run, but it was time to give them up.  But then I thought… F that!  I have been through so much in the past few years, if I want to wear maternity pants for the rest of my life I am going to.

If people think I’m weird, oh well, wouldn’t be the first time.  As women, we are so often putting fashion before comfort, but here’s a chance to wear something comfortable and cute!

Never been pregnant? So what!  There is no law saying you have to be a slave to the jeans button, pregnant women don’t have exclusive rights to maternity clothes.  I say we stop calling them maternity jeans and start calling them “Happy Pants.”  Hey, I know a lot of men who would probably love some stretchy topped jeans- no more unbuttoning at Thanksgiving, you can still eat as much as you want without wearing sweats.  Happy Pants for Everyone!!!

So if you see me out and about in jeans, you can give me a little wink, cause you know “Natalie’s Secret.”  Those sexy designer pants I’m wearing go all the way up to my boobs and I am proud of it!

You wish your pants were this awesome!
You wish your pants were this awesome!

Two Mommies or Why I Love My Church

Flopsy has been playing a game lately that I am not too fond of.  She likes to pretend that Curly is her mommy and she runs around the house saying “Mama, Mama, Mama!” and when I ask what she wants (thinking of course that she is speaking to me) she says, “No, other Mommy! Emma Mommy.”  This charade is very frustrating because she has started doing it in public and I look like I am ignoring my child’s cries for me.  I get judgey eyes and am like, “Oh, no Sir, she’s not calling for me, she’s talking to her sister…”

At one point I asked her who I am and she said “Mommy” and when I followed up with “then why do you call Emma Mommy?” she said she has two mommies.

And that’s when it hit me.  One of her best friends from school and church has two mommies, so maybe in addition to playing a game of house with her sister, she is also experimenting with the knowledge that there are different types of families.  The first time she and Curly met “Carter” and his two mommies, I explained that we have a family with a mommy and daddy but other kids may have two mommies or two daddies or just a single mommy or daddy.  They are 2 and 1/2 so this giant revelation was met with, “Oh, ok.”  Followed by an extremely loud and adorable game of “Ring Around the Rosie.”

At this age kids are just starting to notice differences in the world around them.  So if they innocently ask why a man is in a wheelchair, rather than hushing them and walking away, I explain that sometimes people can’t use their legs and have to sit in a chair.  To them, that is no more strange than discovering that some kids at school have never seen Doc McStuffins (that was a true shock to their little systems!)

So this is where I have to stand up and give props to our church.  We belong to a small, progressive Methodist Church,  Greenland Hills United Methodist if you live in Dallas and are interested.  And our church is the most truly welcoming to all that I have ever seen.  I really noticed this the other day in the parenting group when I looked around and realized that nearly half the people there were gay or lesbian and that one family had just adopted and brought home from the Congo two of the cutest little girls I have ever seen.  So when my kids see white parents with black children or vice versa, or two loving same sex parents with their children, they won’t give it a second thought.  That will seem totally normal to them since it is what they have grown up with.

And if one day one of my little girls realizes that she is gay, or has questions about her sexuality, she won’t be scared that no one will accept her.  Forced to hide who she is because her church, the place she should feel unconditionally loved and accepted, would shun her or try to change her.  I truly believe that bigotry and racism don’t have a chance to grow if you really spend time with people of all different abilities, colors, and sexual orientations.

Our pastor, who is one of the kindest and most welcoming women I have ever met, said in service one day that she believes that “Love is Love.”   I couldn’t agree more.  I am thrilled that we are raising our kids in a community that teaches that God is about love, not condemnation.  So if Flopsy needs to play out her interest in Carter’s family by pretending that she has two mommies, I guess I can live with it.  I’ll just have to ignore Mr. Judgey at Target with the raised eyebrow.  It’s much more important to me that in the long run, when my kids come face to face with people who are different from them, their response continues to be a simple shrug of the shoulders and a quick, “Oh, ok.”

Who are these babies to judge?  Those hats are ridiculous!
Who are these babies to judge? Those hats are ridiculous!

Poltergeist Panic Attack

The most terrifying tree in the world!!!
The most terrifying tree in the world!!!

Have you ever had a panic attack?  If not, then imagine being absolutely terrified- heart racing, palms sweating, breathing heavily, feeling certain that something terrible is going to happen and that you could die at any moment.  Then, imagine that there is nothing around you to be scared of, that you are just in your room on a regular day and that this feeling came out of nowhere.  Sounds fun, right?

Everyone I have talked to who suffers from extreme anxiety or panic attacks has different experiences, but the one thing that we all seem to have in common is that horrible feeling of dread, of …well, panic.  It’s something about adrenaline releasing into the body and producing a “fight or flight” response.  Basically, your body thinks that a bear or a dinosaur or something is chasing you, so every instinct you have is screaming at you to run away.  But when there’s nothing to run from it really screws with your head.

In the past few years I have been through a lot (this is kind of an understatement, see A Brief Timeline of Crazy if you need the CliffsNotes) but my first panic attack was one of the most frightening things I have ever experienced.

I was between surgeries and having a pretty good day, so my mom decided to take me out to lunch.  We were driving and I started feeling nauseous (which I now know can be a panic attack precursor for me.)  I thought I was just hungry and asked her to pull over to the first place she could find.  We stopped at a La Madeline, with it’s pseudo-French décor and soft music- not really the type of place you see in horror movies.  While we were waiting, I started to get this terrible sense of dread.  It’s hard to explain other than that all of the sudden I was sure that something horrible (like a terrorist attack, or earthquake, or Zombie apocalypse) would be going down soon at this Dallas strip mall and that we needed to get out NOW!

I communicated this to my mom and while she looked at me a bit funny, she humored me and we grabbed the food and hopped back in the car.  On the 5 minute ride home my heart was pounding, and I began thinking that I might be having a heart attack or stroke- cue the “stroke symptoms” Google.  I got in the house and ran to my room.  Then I looked out the window and saw a tree.  I looked again and it was moving (like probably because of the wind.)  I then realized that it looked like the tree that comes alive and grabs the kid in Poltergeist and I told my mom to quickly shut the curtains before it “got me.”

I think it was at this point that she started to realize there was something really strange going on and she encouraged me to take one of my Xanax and call my therapist.  No answer, so I left a message and continued to freak out.  I could still see the tree through the sheer curtain and it looked even more menacing. I soon came to the conclusion that there was a distinct possibility I was going to die, like in the next few minutes.

I would like to pause here and note that there was still a small rational part of my brain that was thinking that perhaps the tree was not really going to come to life and strangle me with its branches, but it didn’t stop the panic.  I kept leaping up like I wanted to run, realizing I didn’t know where to go, and lying back down.  It was about this time that Sebastian came home and relieved my mother of crazy-person watching duty.

He suggested that I breathe into a paper bag.   So I did- I breathed into a Whole Foods brown paper wine bag for like 5 minutes.  I did not feel any better, but eventually I just felt stupid.  Like I was in some unimaginative rom-com and the girl gets so nervous before the big date that she starts hyperventilating and her sassy (but not as attractive because she wears glasses) BFF gives her a bag to breathe into!

Eventually we got my doctor on the phone and she helped me identify what was going on. With a combination of a licensed professional talking me down and a few more Xanax, the terror eventually faded.  Leaving me feeling exhausted and ridiculous.

See, that’s the thing, I remember the whole series of events and what I was thinking.  In hindsight it seems absurd and even a little funny, (I was scared of a tree!) but at the time the feelings I was having were real.  I can totally understand how a lot of people with panic attacks go to the emergency room.  And I think there is a sort of stigma to that, “Oh, it was just a panic attack.”  Like the person overreacted and the whole thing was no big deal.  But if it happens to you, believe me, it is a huge deal.

That’s why I wanted to share my story, so that if you have never had a panic attack, maybe you will be able to be a little more understanding to a friend or family member who is suffering from anxiety.  Also, if you are someone who has gone through this, you are not alone.  I’ll get it when you say that the crowds in a subway set you off, or a certain fabric stripe made you dizzy and fearful.  But don’t call me if a tree in your yard ever comes to life…that shit is freaky!

5 Reasons I Donated My Hair

Will I look like a creeper when I go to the post office and tell them I want to mail my hair?
Will I look like a creeper when I go to the post office and tell them I want to mail my hair?

My hair has always been long and thick.  I mean, I hear when I was a baby I was a baldie, but for as long as I can remember it has been a distinguishing feature of mine.  I would get angst about cutting off a few inches and the shortest I ever had it is just below my shoulders.

During my long recovery I have spent a lot of time alone in my room, and since there are only six seasons of Gossip Girl, that gave some good thinking time.  At some point I came to the realization that I had never really emotionally dealt with my thyroid cancer.  I had my thyroidectomy and a few weeks later was back in surgery for my colon so there wasn’t a whole lot of time to process (if you need a reference for my unusual medical history visit A Brief Timeline of Crazy.)

But I started feeling this need to somehow acknowledge what I had been through.  So I came up with a plan- I was going to cut off all my hair and donate it.  It was going to be a big dramatic gesture and I was going to feel all self-sacrificing and noble like Jo in Little Women.  I told some friends and family about this plan and they were all like, “okaay, maybe you should take a minute to think about this cause you are hanging onto your sanity by a thread at the moment and the other day when I asked if you could write an email you flung yourself on the bed, covered your head with a pillow and said it was just too much to deal with.  So I’m not saying don’t do this, but maybe wait until you aren’t so physically and emotionally fragile.”

Well, those might not have been their exact words but I got the point.  A dramatic hair change can bring up a lot of emotions.  So I thought about it for months.  And I came up with a list of reasons that I was sure I wanted to do it:

  1. I am extremely grateful, I survived cancer without having to loose my hair to chemo.
  2. I have a lot of hair and it grows quickly, but my donation could really make a difference to a woman who is going through treatment right now.
  3. Getting rid of my hair is symbolic for me of letting go of some of the pain, depression, and trauma that I have suffered in the past few years.
  4. It feels appropriate, like a new start.  By changing my look I am celebrating the stronger person I have become.
  5. I still get to feel like Jo, or that woman in the story we all had to read in ninth grade who cuts off her hair to buy her husband a watch or something… anyway, I love big dramatic gestures!

So yesterday I did it!  My friend Chad Cline at Cline Salon chopped off fourteen inches of my hair and I am now rocking a really cute bob!

Before
Before

After!After!

And I love it, I feel lighter and free and hopeful and ready to start a new chapter of my life!  I am sending in my ponytail to Pantene Beautiful Lengths (in partnership with the American Cancer Society) and it will be used to make a wig for a woman who has lost her hair to cancer.  How cool is that?  If you get a wig from the Cancer Society’s wig banks it could be made from my hair, just treat it well- it needs a lot of conditioner.

If this has inspired you to donate your hair too, fantastic!  Let me know and we will be short hair buddies.  If you have ever gotten a wig from the banks, I would love to hear your story too.  If you don’t have enough hair and want to throw 5 or 10 or 1,000 bucks at your favorite cancer charity, great!  If you just read this and think I am amazing and want to be my friend, visit me on facebook and like My Super Crazy Life for more awesomeness (you can check out a video of the haircut) And if you just want to take a minute and think about someone you know who is struggling with cancer right now, or someone you lost, or a person who is just now getting their diagnosis and trying to figure out what to do, that’s cool too… although you should probably still like me on facebook!

Thyroid Cancer Sucks Too! (Part 2)

First of all, if you want to get caught up please read Thyroid Cancer Sucks Too (Part 1)  I’ll wait, if you want to grab a cocktail also,  go ahead, I’m sure it’s 5 o’clock somewhere… so picking up with my surgery to remove the tumor:

The surgery itself was a cakewalk, but I am probably a terrible judge because I have had 5 major surgeries in the past 2 and 1/2 years and this was the only one that did not include an overnight hospital stay.  My neck was really sore and I felt crappy for a few days, but my surgeon was wonderful and only a few months later I barely have any scar at all.

What no one was prepared for was my reaction afterwards.  See, my surgeon had never removed the thyroid of a patient whose colon was so recently yanked out (I’m special) and so did not realize that when my parathyroid (which processes calcium) went to sleep when it was separated from the thyroid (very common) I would go into severe calcium depletion.  The symptoms of this include sudden numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and face.  When this started happening, the Dr. said to take some calcium pills and I would get better.  But without a colon I was not absorbing enough of the calcium and it got worse.  And then I had a full on freak out.

I have had some minor anxiety issues my entire life, but basically since I found out I had to have my colon removed it has (understandably I think) been getting much worse.  When my hands and feet started tingling, I knew in the back of my head it was just the calcium but then my anxiety kicked in and I started panicking that I was actually having a stroke, ignoring it, and would be dead in minutes.   Then my whole face went completely numb, and the top of my head, and I couldn’t feel my legs.  I became absolutely certain that I was dying and that I needed to get up and run to safety, but was scared to stand up on my tingly legs.  Luckily I already had a therapist on board at this point and had a slight moment of lucidity in which I recognized the signs of a panic attack and called her.  One long phone call and an ass-ton of Xanax later, I was finally able to sleep and the next day my surgeon got me on some calcium that worked and I was feeling much better.  Basically, my mind took some very real symptoms I was having and expanded them to my whole body causing a full blown panic attack, which those of you who have experienced them know is pretty much the scariest thing ever.  (Pretty soon I’ll tell you all about the one when I thought the tree from Poltergeist was attacking me- good times!)

Once the calcium thing got sorted out, there was my medicine to deal with.  I no longer produce any thyroid hormone at all so I have to take Synthroid and it can be tricky to get the dosage just right.  Too little and you are exhausted and too much can cause major jitters, anxiety and sleeplessness (all of which are things I have just fine on my own.)  It took some trial and error but now I have my dose at a pretty good level and am doing ok.  Long term I just have to stay on my Synthroid forever and get checked once a year to make sure my levels are stable and no thyroid tissue has grown back.

The strange thing is that I went through all of this without knowing if I actually had cancer or not, we had to wait a few weeks for all the pathology to come back.  When I got the news that it was in fact Stage 2 cancer ( a follicular papillary variant, which is why it could not be diagnosed in biopsies) I had some really mixed feelings.  First of all I was grateful that it was encapsulated and my surgeon was reasonably certain that she got all the nasty cancer cells and that no radiation or chemo was needed.  I also had a weird feeling of relief that we didn’t take out a perfectly healthy organ for no reason.  But I didn’t really have time to process the Cancer part of the whole thing because my next colon surgery was scheduled in a few weeks and I had to focus on that.

It is only now that I am starting to get some of the deep realization that I did in fact have Cancer.  For a long time, I felt that I couldn’t really even identify myself as a cancer survivor because I didn’t have to do chemo or anything.  My cancer suffering was not as bad as it is for many people, so who was I to complain about it?  But then I realized that Thyroid Cancer is a real cancer and it is ok that I feel frightened that I had it and pissed off that my body betrayed me and let those cancer cells grow.  It is normal that now every time I feel a strange ache or a lump somewhere in my body I worry that it might be cancer.  Once that C word is attached to you, it changes your way of thinking.  Cancer is no longer something that only happens to other people, that you do a run/walk to support, or that you eat well to try and avoid, it is a real to you in a way it never was before.

All that said, I do realize how lucky I am.  I have no idea how long that cancer was growing but it was big enough to be felt by a Dr.’s touch to my neck.  I had no identifiable symptoms and would never have known it was there if not for that body scan and a really smart doctor who looked twice at a little blip.  That could have kept growing until it became a much bigger problem.  Of course, the timing was not ideal (being sandwiched in between two other major surgeries,) but I was happy to get that thing out of me as soon as possible so that I could move forward.

I have often felt that I need to do something to acknowledge that I survived, to celebrate that I am doing so well and to mourn the loss of my thyroid who treated me well for 33 years.  So today at 3pm Central time I am getting my hair chopped off and donating it to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths which makes wigs for women who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment.  So keep an eye out for tomorrow’s post with before and after pics!

Thyroid Cancer Sucks Too! (Part 1)

Did you know that September is Thyroid Cancer awareness month?  No?  Well neither did I and I am a survivor of it!  It is not one of the more “popular” cancers to talk about but it affects a startling number of people.

So I want to do my little part to raise awareness about thyroid cancer by sharing my story.  If you are interested in learning more about the types of thyroid cancer, signs and symptoms, treatment, support groups, etc, you can visit http://www.thyca.org/.

I have an unusual cancer story because I only found out that I actually had cancer after it was already gone.  I realize just how lucky I am that I had a type of cancer that is usually pretty curable and we caught it relatively early, but the truth is- it still sucks.

When I was getting ready to have my colon removal surgery they did a body scan as part of my pre-op.  Nobody mentioned anything strange to me but then I went to see my endocrinologist (for my osteoporosis- yes, I am 34 and have old people bones) and she said, “Hey, did anyone talk to you about this nodule on your thyroid?”

Um, nope.  I’m just here discuss my bone density because of all the prednisone I was on for my Ulcerative Colitis.  (By the way, if at any point you get confused about my host of bizarre medical problems, see A Brief Timeline of Crazy)  So she felt my neck and said there was definitely a lump there and decided to do an ultrasound.  The ultrasound was “suspicious” (was my thyroid nodule wearing a dark hoodie or something?) so she said it was potentially cancer and we needed to do a biopsy.

This is the point where I should tell you that this happened on a Friday and on Monday I was scheduled to go in to have my entire colon removed, knowing that I would be in the hospital for at least a week and would have to go back in to get a second surgery 3 months later!  She said I could wait until after I was recovered from the surgery for the biopsy, and not to worry too much because even if it was cancer, thyroid cancer is one of the “best” kinds you can have.

I’m sorry what?  There is a good kind of cancer? Look I understand that if you know you have cancer and are spinning a wheel to find out what kind it is you are probably hoping for something like thyroid that has a high cure rate rather than say pancreatic or ovarian.  But cancer is still cancer and it is really f-ing scary, there is no best kind.  I was lucky that my Wheel of Cancer landed on thyroid and it was caught in Stage 2 (before it spread), but I would much rather have been on a different game show all together… like American Super Ninja, I wish I were that cool!

But I digress, I managed to keep it together in her office and make it to my car before I had a complete mental breakdown.  I was crying and shaking so much that I could not drive.  I mean WTF, wasn’t I going through enough right now?  No, the universe decided to go ahead and pile on some more to worry about.

This is what I felt like when I heard the news, see bottle of wine!
This is what I felt like when I heard the news, see bottle of wine!

So I let myself freak out for a few hours but then I had to put on my big girl yoga pants and suck it up, I was going into the hospital in a few days for major surgery and had to make sure everything was set up and ready for my kids and myself during my hospital stay and intense first few weeks of recovery.

When I was recovered enough I went in for that biopsy, waited an excrutiating 10 days for my results only to find out that they were “indeterminate.” So basically there was a 50/50 chance it was cancer but no more tests that could help narrow that down.  Awesome!  All the doctors agreed that it was too risky not to operate and remove the lump but I got to make the choice of removing my entire thyroid (which if it turned out not to be cancer would be taking out a perfectly good organ that I really kind of need) or just removing the half with the lump in it (but if it was cancer, I would have to have a second surgery to take out the rest.)  Knowing that I would be having a minimum of 3 surgeries in 4 months at this point I made the choice to take the damn thing out and be done with it.  I could not face the prospect of a fourth surgery.

In part 2 (soon to be blogged) I will talk about my recovery from the surgery, the discovery that I did in fact have cancer, and the complications I came across.  But I just want to pause a moment and say here that thyroid cancer is a real cancer, that it can be serious and even deadly (the girl from The Fault in Our Stars had thyroid cancer) and that if you are having any issues that could be thyroid related (one of the biggest of which is fatigue,) please get them checked out.

I am praying for each of you that you never have to spin the Wheel of Cancer, but if you do, please know that it is ok to be angry and freaked, but that there is a ton of support out there for you.  I hope this blog becomes just that.  A place for inspiration, laughter, and comfort when things get rough.  Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty more crazy where this comes from!

One Hundred and Thirty Pounds

In 2003 I was living in New York and trying to make a go of it as an actress.  I wasn’t having much luck getting paying gigs and at 5’11” I was always being told that I should model, so I got myself an agent and added aspiring model to my resume.  I got a few modeling jobs but quickly felt the need to drop some weight to be more competitive.  I was about 145 lbs, which is pretty thin for 5’11” but that agent told me that I would do a lot better if I lost 15-20 pounds.

Ok, I thought, I can do that.  Stop drinking so much, eat healthy, exercise more and the weight would fall off, right?  I dropped a few numbers on the scale but was nowhere near my “goal weight” of 130.  So I started throwing up.

Now, I didn’t think of myself as bulimic or having an eating disorder or anything, because I didn’t do it every day and most of the time I didn’t even have to stick my finger down my throat.  See I had a system… I would go all day, running around to castings, exercising, walking everywhere, and only eat 1 or 2 “Zone” bars a day just to keep myself from fainting.  But then sometimes at night my discipline would waver and I would be so starving that I would eat whatever I could find, which would make me so nauseous that I would be clutching the toilet in no time.

And still that magical number eluded me.  I got to 135 and broke down in tears one day when I went into a casting and while measuring me the casting director said, “Oh, you’re a big girl huh?  Might want to lay off the chips for awhile.”

I realized at that moment that I was never going to be what they wanted me to be, that I was not meant to be one hundred and thirty pounds, or at least that I couldn’t get to that weight without doing serious damage to my body.  So I quit.

If a modeling job came my way and they liked the way I looked then fine, but I was done making myself sick for it.  I am not going to lie and say it was easy.  Over the course of a few months I figured out how to get my eating back into better habits and I started keeping track of and celebrating the days I went without throwing up.  I figured out that it was more important to be a happy, healthy me than to be 130lbs.

Flash forward to 2014.  I am 34 and way past my modeling days with twin two-year olds.  I step onto the scale and start to cry when I see the numbers flash until they reach 130.0.

See for once in my life I am trying to gain weight.  I am recovering from my third major surgery in four months and no matter what I do I keep loosing weight.  I had to have my entire colon removed because of an auto-immune disease called ulcerative colitis and now it is difficult for my body to process nutrients.  In addition to being super skinny, I am also deficient in several vitamins, severely anemic and weak and get out of breath when going up half a flight of stairs.

And yet… everyone is telling me how good I look.  Joking that colon-removal is the new fad diet.  Making me wonder if when I am better and start gaining weight again I will miss that little number on the scale.

This was supposed to be a pic of me shaking my fist in Righteous Fury but it really just shows how skinny my arm is!
This was supposed to be a pic of me shaking my fist in Righteous Fury but it really just shows how skinny my arm is!

No matter how crappy I feel, there is still a tiny voice in the back of my head that is pleased that all my clothes are too big and that for the very first time I can remember in my adult life I can look in the mirror and have no criticisms about my weight.  Old habits die hard and old dreams even harder.

I try to remember that now I have different dreams and the ones I have actually make me feel good about myself and my life.  I want to get strong and healthy again so that I can play with my adorable girls without running out of breath.  I want to get back my energy so I can spend time with my amazing husband who has supported me through a really tough period of time.  I want to learn to feel good about my body so that I can teach my children as they grow up that their bodies are beautiful whatever size they are.

I realize that I am crying because 130 is a number I never thought I would reach and because a part of me is doing a little victory dance but also because I realize what a toll it took on my body to reach that goal from so many years ago and hope that I can finally let it go.

Wonder J – The Super Nanny

With all the drama surrounding the Corner Market incident I would like to take a moment to give a written standing ovation to my own personal superhero, Wonder J, the Super Nanny!

We have had quite a few sitters, and since I got really sick last fall, I have needed pretty much full time help with the kids.  We went through a few nannies (some great, some not-so-great) until we found Wonder J.  My process for interviewing a new person is to hire them for an afternoon and then have them play upstairs in the kids room while I spy on the monitor (Yes, I’m sneaky like that.)

The first time that J came over and I heard the way she played with the girls it was like the skies parted and I heard the Vienna Boys Choir singing Halleluiah!  She was engaging, entertaining, and was teaching them things, all while being firm but gentle and keeping the toddlers in line.  My own personal Mary Poppins! Although, if I am being honest she could really work on her singing, she sounds nothing like Julie Andrews…

Throughout my surgeries I knew that if Flopsy and Curly were with Wonder J, I didn’t have to worry about them at all.  It took so much pressure off of me to know they were truly being loved and cared for when I could barely get out of bed.  When I got a little stronger but still couldn’t manage them on my own I would go with them on outings and to playgroups.

Before my first surgery I thought I would really miss all the alone time I was used to with my girls, but Wonder J became like family.  She knows just when to back off and let me have time with them and when to step in and take them off my hands because I am exhausted.  And I truly enjoy her company.

Recently she had to go out of town for a month and when she got back the girls were so happy to see her that Flopsy just sat in her lap and pet her hair for an hour.  I have to admit that if it were not super creepy and inappropriate I probably would have done the same thing!

That is part of the reason I was so angry that the owner of the Corner Market immediately turned the blame on her by saying that she is just a “bad nanny” who was on her phone the whole time and let the kids run wild.  I think he was just taking the chance that we didn’t really know what she is like with our kids but he picked the wrong nanny to accuse of being irresponsible!

I have first hand knowledge of how great she is, but I have also heard countless reports from friends and even play center staff about how she is one of the best nannies they have ever seen.  Last week I hosted a playgroup in my house that ended with 5 toddlers sitting around our table having a lunch that she made with all of the moms in the other room talking.  At one point we stopped and realized just how good all the kids were being and were amazed.  I couldn’t do that, I have a hard time keeping my two calm by myself.  But Wonder J is a master nanny and I bow down to her skills.

I just want her to know just how very appreciated she is, and if you have a Wonder J in your life (be it someone you pay, a family member, or friend) make sure they know how special they are to you.

Oh and NO! You can’t have her number, she’s mine…my preciousssss

Righteous Fury!

I have been wanting to start this blog for a long time, but with how incredibly crazy life has been, I have been delaying it over and over again for one reason/surgery/medical crisis/poopy diaper or another.  But then something happened that made me so angry that my chronic fatigue has been momentarily lifted by an epi-pen of righteous fury! (BTW every time you see the phrase “righteous fury” imagine me shaking my fist in indignation!)

My fists of fury are legendary!
My fists of fury are legendary!

Apparently we live in a world where it is now acceptable for an employee working at a supposedly child friendly establishment to scream obscenities at toddlers!

If you want to know the full gory details about exactly what happened, take a look at my post called “Cussing Out Toddlers- Not a Good Business Plan,” but if you haven’t read that, the basics you need to know are that my children went to a small local café, The Corner Market on Greenville in Dallas, were singing a song, probably being a little loud and were told to “Shut the F Up” by an employee, who continued to curse and frighten them.  The owner was made aware of the situation and only suspended the employee for ONE DAY.

I am not normally an angry person, in fact I can probably count on one hand the amount of times that I have been truly steaming mad.  But right now there are flames on the side of my face, breathing, heaving breaths…

So when Sebastian (the hubs) met with the owner, he told him that we felt that his response was unacceptable and that we would be taking to social media so that others would know that this- in my opinion- potentially dangerous man was still working there.  S gave Owner his phone number and said if you would like to resolve this differently please let me know.  In the past few days we have not heard from him.

But he has responded… in the crappiest way possible.  As we spread the word, especially to my mom friends, a lot of people started inundating the CM’s facebook page with negative comments and bad reviews.  In one day their facebook rating went down 1 and 1/2 stars because so many people were upset by finding this out.  So rather than telling his side of the story or offering an apology, Owner deleted all of the comments and disabled the reviews feature on FB.  Seriously go look up The Corner Market on FB- you can’t leave any sort of review.

So we took to Yelp.  I posted a detailed review about what happened, and many of our friends, family, and even a few people we don’t know wrote and gave the Corner Market 1 star.  Almost all of these got taken down (something about the yelp algorithm and too many one star posts in a day being considered spam) But, despite the fact that I am sure he saw them since they were up for several days, still no appropriate response from Owner. The more Owner ignores our attempts to get him to at least acknowledge that cursing at toddlers is generally not a good business practice, the more it fans the flames of my righteous fury (insert fist shake.)   I would have to say that at this point my level of anger and indignation has reached Spinal Tap’s proverbial “11.”