I Have A Lot Of Feelings

Those of you who have seen me recently probably have no idea, but this has been a tough couple of weeks.  Most of the time I hear that I look great (aw, thanks!) and seem so much better.  And that’s true, I am so much better… except when I’m not.  Unfortunately recovery is not a linear thing, physically it is very up and down, and emotionally…well, I’m sort of like- I don’t even go to this school, “I just have a lot of feelings.”

If you didn't get this reference, I'm not sure we can be friends anymore!
If you didn’t get this reference, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore!

I have been doing well lately- my energy is up, I feel motivated by all of the things I am doing with Mommies In Need and Best Buddies, and I actually physically feel better than I have in a very long time.  So I should be elated and grateful and happy all the time, and I am- a lot- but then I have days when the enormity of what I have been through kind of ties my shoelaces together and trips me up.

I went to my GI doctor last week.  I haven’t seen him since last December when he told me that we could continue trying a variety of treatments for my Ulcerative Colitis, but that he was not hopeful that we would be able to find one that worked and he wanted me to consider having my colon removed. So here I am, about 10 months after getting my colon removed and I can honestly say that without question I am better off without that organ that was making me sick.

Maybe because I was getting progressively worse around the holidays last year, right now, I am able to acutely remember the hours I missed on Thanksgiving and Christmas because I was in the bathroom or lying on my mom’s bed upstairs in so much pain that I could not go down and participate in the celebrations.  So it’s good to know I am better than that.  I am at a place now where, while I have not-so-great days digestively, at least I am not in that kind of pain.

But my visit with the GI was hard.  Because we discussed a bunch of things that made me realize that I actually don’t have a colon.  Which is a big deal.  It means that for the rest of my life, my body will function very differently than everyone else’s and that I will have ongoing worries that others don’t have.  For example, Curly got a stomach bug recently.  Thankfully, I did not get it, which is truly a miracle since she literally vomited in my hair.  For most people, getting a bug or food poisoning would be an unpleasant few days, but if I were to get one, there is a very real chance I would be hospitalized.  Because without a colon, I can easily become dangerously dehydrated in a matter of hours.

I knew all of the possible long-term effects when I went in for the surgery, but they are a lot more real to me now.  At that appointment, my doctor said to me that he was glad we had taken my colon out because if not I would be “extremely sick or dead right now.”

He said it casually but that statement knocked the wind out of me.  I couldn’t even repeat it to my husband when he called to check in after the appointment without crying.  I had to get off the phone suddenly so as to not have a panic attack while driving.  I guess because I am past the “might die” part, my doctor was sort of casual in saying that.  I just don’t think I understood how sick I was.  I spent so much time in the past few years pretending that I was fine when there was this devastating disease tearing up my colon, that I think a part of me actually believed that I was over-reacting and I could just live with it.

What scared me so much about my doctor’s statement was realizing just how much I had convinced myself of this delusion that my UC wasn’t really that bad.  He was worried that if we didn’t take my colon out I COULD DIE.  And yet, days before my colon surgery one of my biggest fears was that they would take it out and do a pathology report and find out there was nothing wrong with it.  That I had taken out a perfectly healthy organ and would have to live with the consequences.

I was clearly nuts- I have since become slightly less nuts.  I had been having horrible bleeding, pain, and pretty much constant diarrhea almost every day for close to 2 years and I worked myself into a frenzy thinking that maybe I was making it all up.  WTF, Natalie?

So now that I am not in immediate danger and my doctor just casually says something like that, I freak a little.  Maybe I had to be a little delusional to get through the last few years.  I know that my scale of “feeling good” is drastically warped.  And even now, I probably seem perfectly healthy to everyone because I am operating at about 80%.  I was operating at like 10-20% for most of the last year, so that jump is pretty significant.  But I am still so anemic that I have to get IV iron infusions once a week, and my digestive system is still healing and very fragile.  I can go out and have fun and feel great for short periods of time but then get so tired that I have to nap because too much activity is truly exhausting for me.  And my thyroid medication is still not balanced, so every time we adjust the dosage my system goes a little wacky.

Which leads me to the thyroid cancer.  For the last 7 or so months I have been operating under the assumption that my thyroid cancer was a thing of the past and I didn’t have to worry about it anymore, the thyroidectomy got it all and all I have to do is go in for a blood test once a year.  I could box that up and put those worries on a shelf and focus on other things.  Then I went to my endocrinologist (again a referring doctor I hadn’t seen since surgery) and she said, “I guess it was benign, huh?”  Um…what?  Turns out she never got the path report from my surgeon and had no idea I had cancer.  Lesson learned, doctors never talk to each other when they should, you need to be on top of that shit.  So I had to wait while she got the report, looked it over, and then told me that the margins were not as clear as she would like them to be and we needed to schedule some tests to see if there is any remaining thyroid tissue and if anything has grown back in the months since surgery.  If so, I will need to get a radioactive iodine treatment.

Now, if I had gotten this news right after I first found out about the cancer, I could have dealt with it and understood that it was a part of my cancer treatment.  But now, I find myself realizing that my cancer has a threat of coming back, so even if I don’t have to get radiation this year, I will have to continue getting an ultrasound every year forever and just praying that it always comes back negative.

Oh and did I mention that this type of radiation treatment has relatively few nasty side effects (which is great) but that if you take it (it comes in pill form) you are RADIOACTIVE for about 10 days.  Like legitimately radioactive, like you can’t be around any humans for the first 5 days and no where near children for the first 10.  Please remember at this point that I have twin 2 year olds.  And you have to throw away all towels and sheets used during that time, and wear plastic gloves when touching anything.  So I would basically have to go into a full quarantine for 10 days.  Again something that would have been good to know SEVEN MONTHS AGO!

I got my blood results back and found that I do have at least a small amount of thyroid tissue left and now have to wait for the results of a scan that I am getting done on Tuesday to find out if I need to turn into a walking Biohazard.  Just after that call, I went into CVS to pick up an RX and when the woman at the counter told me it wasn’t ready I had a full blown meltdown.  Tears streaming down my face, sobbing- oh btw I was getting my anti-depressant, so I guess CVS lady realized just how much I need it! Because sometmes it is those little things that prove to be just too much.  And as a friend recently said to me, “It’s ok, you don’t have to be strong all the time.”  Oh right, that is the whole reason, I started this blog in the first place.  To have a place where I could let it out, to share with the world that even when I seem to be doing great sometimes on the inside I am keeping it together with chewing gum and scotch tape. I have already dealt with too much.  It’s not fair and it’s not fun.  And at that moment I needed my stupid medicine so I could go home, pop a Xanax, and take to my bed for awhile.  I just have a lot of feelings!

On the plus side, Sebastian has said that if I have to get the Radioactive Iodine, he would like me to bite him to see if he gets superpowers.  I’m hoping for the superpower of getting our kids to finally sleep through the night on a regular basis- fingers crossed!

Hanging in The Hospital

I’m sitting in the hospital right now, but for once it’s not for me.  My grandmother, Gaga, is having some health issues and I am here with her.  We are waiting to see if a blockage passes, so I am hoping and praying that she does not need to have surgery, especially since I know just how difficult intestinal surgery can be.

But right now, I’m just sitting here.  She is sleeping and I am hanging out in her room so that there is someone here for her if she needs anything and to help communicate with the doctors when they come in.  I’m also giving my mom a break so she can shower and rest since she was up all night getting Gaga admitted.

And it’s weird, cause I have spent a LOT of time in this hospital, but most of it was in that motorized bed, not next to it.  So the beeps and whirs of the machines, the constant hum of chatter in the hallway, and the ticking of the clock (because for some ridiculous reason apparently the only clocks they can put in hospitals are stupidly loud,) are familiar to me.

Right now a lot of people close to me are going through health issues similar to ones I have dealt with and it’s strange to be seeing it from the other side.  It is also difficult, because even though I am so incredibly grateful that I am (hopefully) past the worst of my health struggles, the memory of that pain is still quite fresh.  So when I see Gaga with an NG tube sucking bile out of her stomach, I cringe for her, cause I hated that thing- like more than I hate Caillou. Which is a lot.

For anyone who has not had the pleasure of being acquainted with an NG tube, it is a long tube that goes through your nose, down the back of your throat and into your stomach and then it sucks up everything in your stomach and spits it into a container and every once in a while a nurse comes by and dumps out your sludge bucket.  It doesn’t hurt, but it is super annoying, irritating, and generally unpleasant and gross.  Wanna hear one of the most disgusting things ever to happen to me? If not stop reading now…. still here?  Ok, when they yanked the NG tube out, I got nauseous and started puking, as a tube was coming out of my nose and throat, it was unbelievably miserable.  And this was when I was in the hospital for having my colon removed, so my whole abdomen was sliced up.  I have experienced a lot of different types of pain over the past few years, but I can say without a doubt that intensely vomiting after abdominal surgery (which I did after each of the 4 I had) is the worst!

And that brings me to Annie, Annie who inspired me to start Mommies In Need.  She and I spoke the other day and on the bright side, the Mommies In Need nanny we have paired her with is working out beautifully and the whole family is really happy and relieved to have that very necessary help.  But ya’ll (sorry my Texas roots are showing) she is in the worst of it right now.  The nausea, the pain, feeling like everything hurts and you think something must be terribly wrong and then having a Dr say that what you are going through is just a normal part of the healing process.  And you are like, “NORMAL?!!  So having pain so bad you think an alien is about to burst out of your stomach and start tap dancing on the table and then rushing to the ER and needing a morphine drip only to find out it was gas pain is normal?”  Well that sucks.

Unfortunately, going through this stuff just sucks.  And I feel terrible for my friends and family who are suffering right now because I truly know how they feel and I hate that they have to go through it.  But all I can do is sit here and watch Gaga sleep and hold her hand when she needs it.  Or give Annie some words of encouragement and a safe place to express frustration with the healing process and keep working to grow Mommies In Need so that she doesn’t have to worry about her kids during treatment.  And I am happy to do those things because I know just how much it means to have someone by your side in a dreary hospital room, and how much of a blessing it is to have a friend willing to listen, and how vitally important having a nanny was to my recovery and my sanity.  So thank you to all the people that were there for me when I needed it, and thank you God for allowing me to be strong and healthy enough to be here for the ones I love.

Hey, at least when my friends and family get sick they have a hospital/surgery/general health issues pro on hand.  I’m like a one-woman Wikipedia of illness-related crap! With one call I can tell you what to bring for a long hospital stay, give you a reference for an excellent Internist, GI doc, Colon/Rectal Surgeon, General Surgeon, Endocrinologist, Osteoporosis Specialist, Urologist, Physical Therapist, Dermatologist, Hematologist, Oncologist, and Shrink and give you a run down of the pros and cons of just about every pain medicine on the planet!

Mommies In Need Update- Spoiler Alert It’s A Good One!

I just want to take a quick moment to say I am truly astounded by the outpouring of support I have gotten since my last blog post about starting Mommies In Need.  In a little over a week, we have more than doubled our original goal for helping Annie and her family!!!

I was not sure if I could really do this thing, or if I was just being an (even more) insane person.  But you guys are backing me up and giving me the courage to keep going.  The amount of people who have shared the link, donated, or offered to help in some other way is incredible.  I think it has spoken to a real need in society. I have heard over and over again when I explain the idea to people, “I never really thought about it, but I don’t know what my family would do if I got that sick.”  Mommies In Need is growing at the rate that it is because it offers a tangible and relatable service to people who are in an unthinkable situation.

So just to keep you in the loop here are just a few things that have actually happened in the last week:

We have the beginnings of the 501(c)(3) paperwork done.  This is an extremely tedious process but I am hoping to have at the very least the articles of incorporation submitted to the state by tomorrow.   Once that goes through, I can get the rest of the forms to the IRS in the next few weeks.

We have a Secretary and Treasurer for the Board.  We will be having board meetings and voting on measures and all sorts of official stuff!

We have a Mommies In Need bank account where all of your incredibly generous donations are going.  And by bank account, I mean real bank account, not a bag with a dollar sign on it under a loose floorboard.

We now have a PO Box.  Send us something!  I recommend a check made out to Mommies In Need, but you could also send Annie a letter or card of encouragement, a sonnet you write about how generally awesome I am, or whatever else you feel inspired to pass along.  Our new address is:  Mommies In Need, PO Box 601562 Dallas, Tx 75360.

And most importantly, we have raised enough money to fund a Nannie for Annie (sounds like a Dr. Seuss book) for over 2 months!!!  I am amazed and overwhelmed by the generosity and enthusiasm that everyone has shown.

So please continue to donate or have people send checks to our new address.  You can also send me an email at supercrazymommy@gmail.com if there is some other way you want to get involved or just want to be on the mailing list for any and all Mommies In Need info.

I am so excited that we are able to help Annie and hopefully many more mommies like her in the future.  Thank you to all of you for listening, supporting, and sharing! And for jumping on board this crazy train with me!

Jumping for joy!  I'm not currently on the Great Wall of China but you get the idea!
Jumping for joy! I’m not currently on the Great Wall of China but you get the idea!

My Why

I have said on this blog before that I no longer believe that everything happens for a reason.  Some of you may have heard me articulate this as “I don’t believe that God gives us the bad stuff.”  I just can’t wrap my head around a world where the difficult path that I have been down was chosen for me, that I have suffered so much because I am uniquely strong enough to bear it.  I think we have a lot more choice than that, and sometimes shit just happens.  And it’s not fair, and it’s not because I deserved it, or because I needed it to grow as a person.  I am just someone who for a long time couldn’t catch a break.  And I went through a long string of crazy health problems and am just now coming out the other side of it.

What I do believe is that people who are dealt a rough hand have the option to bet on it anyway.  We don’t always have the ability to change the circumstances that come into our lives, but we can choose to keep going, to get out of bed every day (or most days) and hope for the best.  And if we are lucky, we can find a way to turn those things into something great.  And sometimes God, or The Universe, or Completely Random Chance (whatever you want to name it that makes sense to you) lets things line up in a way that all that crap makes sense and has a purpose and can be turned into something beautiful.

This is more philosophical than I usually get here, but I need to explain to everyone why all of the sudden I have become (even more of) a crazy person and decided to take on a huge project when I am not quite fully functional myself.  I started a charity.  Like yesterday.  With no real plan in place, just flying by the seat of my yoga pants and praying that it turns out ok.

I have actually been thinking about starting this since I first got sick.  Because I always knew how fortunate I was that with the help of our families we could afford to hire a nanny to get me through the worst of it.  And I found Wonder J– as I have written before she has been amazing for our family.  I always knew that I could focus on taking care of myself and be there for my girls as much as possible, but have confidence that if I hit a wall and had to go lay down, or got dizzy, or was about to poop my pants (sorry for the TMI but we are talking colon removal here!) my girls were in good hands.   I can’t even begin to describe how much I needed this help, I am not exaggerating when I say I am not sure I could have gotten through the last few years without a nanny.  Cause stay at home mommies don’t get sick days.  Ever.  Not if you have a cold and not if you have cancer.

I never thought I would get so sick I couldn't even lift ONE baby!
I never thought I would get so sick I couldn’t even lift ONE baby!

Stay at home mommies of young kids don’t have disability insurance and most of us don’t have any sort of childcare set up.  Maybe a MDO or a couple of hours of babysitting here and there.  Not enough to go to seven doctor’s appointments a week.  Or be in the hospital for 20 days in a year.  Or go through invasive treatments and surgeries that leave you feeling like warmed-up death.  And if you can’t afford to hire help than at best you have tons of different people volunteering a few hours here and there, having to explain your kids schedule to every person that helps you, feeling guilty that there is no consistency in the kids lives, and at worst have to miss vital appointments or treatments because you can’t find someone to watch your kid with strep.  Who, by the way, you shouldn’t even be near because you have a severely compromised immune system.  Not a great situation, huh?

So when I heard that my friend Annie (who has two darling kids and not-so-cute colon cancer) was back in the hospital following surgical complications, and did not have and could not afford full time help to get her through the rest of her surgeries and chemo, I knew I HAD to do something.  See, a few years ago, I would have heard her story and thought, “Aww that sucks, she’s so nice, this is going to be really hard for her.”  But now I hear that story and say “NO!!! You can’t do this by yourself, if you can’t get help then I will get it for you.”  And then the real miracle happened.  Our previous nanny (who left only because she got a full time job, we loved her) texted me and said she was looking for a new family.  And I thought, “Hello, all I have to do is put these two together, raise a bunch of money, and I’m off.”  So Mommies In Need was born.

But can’t I just raise money for another charity that does this?  Nope.  If there is one, I couldn’t find it.  And my vision is very specific.  I want to not only fund the nannies for sick moms, but also provide them with someone who is vetted, background checked, and stamped with the SuperCrazy Mommy seal of approval (as in I have/would leave my own kids with them.)  Because when you are in pain is not the time to have to do interviews and reference checks and try to find the right person.  My long term goal is that if I get a call for a mommy who just got a diagnosis I can move fast and have a reliable nanny to her in a few days.

I know that there is a daunting amount of work ahead of me, I just opened the new bank account and am starting all the 501(c)(3) paperwork, and I actually do have “Grand Plans” for the future.  But already I am amazed at the people who have stepped forward and said they think this is important and want to be a part of it.   I am feeling grateful that everything came together at the right time for me to get off my ass and actually start this thing.  So is it crazy?  Yes.  Is it Super Crazy? Yes!  But I am doing this because I feel like I finally found the good that I can pull out of all the shit I have been through.  This non-profit is my silver lining, my reason for all my difficulties.  I actually have an answer now to the question that plagued me everytime I got hit with another diagnosis or huge crisis.

In Mommies In Need I found my “Why?”

 

*If this blog has ever spoken to you, or made you laugh, or given your day a little lift, please consider donating to MommiesInNeed.  If you can’t donate, please check out the fundraising page and share it on any media platform you can.  Plus as you will see on the campaign page, if you donate $100 or more I’ll Be Your Best Friend! You can also like me on Facebook for more updates on this project.

 

A Moment of Gratitude

I rant a little (or a lot) on this blog.  I talk about the crazy things that are going on in my life and how difficult it has been to deal with it all.  I have talked about my anxiety, my cancer, my miscarriage, my disordered eating, and my surgeries, in addition to the general insanity of raising twin toddlers.  If you want to get caught up quickly you can visit A Brief Timeline of Crazy.  And while I have just begun mining the things I want to vent about and get off my chest, I feel the need to pause for a minute and say that despite all of that I never forget that I have also been amazingly blessed.  I can’t say anymore that I believe that “everything happens for a reason,” but I do believe that if you try, you can take the bad that happens to you and make something beautiful out of it.  For me that something is a new appreciation of the good things in my life, as well as the ability to be there for others who are going through a difficult time.  So here is a list of 10 things for which I will be eternally grateful:

  1. Flopsy and Curly- more than anything else they have been my reason for getting out of bed and my motivation to keep going no matter how crappy I felt.  They are awesome and hilarious and they love tutus, purple, and sparkly things (just like mommy!)  They were the worst sleeping babies in the history of the world, but I am incredibly thankful that they are relatively even-tempered toddlers.  They play really well with each other about 75% of the time, which is pretty good for 2 1/2 and every single day they do something that stops me in my tracks because it is so cute, or sweet, or smart, or funny and I think, “I am the luckiest person in the world that I get to spend my days with these two amazing little people.”  Like when Curly put her hand on my cheek and looked into my eyes and said, “You’re my sweet girl.”  Or when Curly was getting frustrated with putting on her own shoes and Flopsy said, “I’ll help you” and then put Curly’s shoes on for her.  Or yesterday, when they were playing on the swings and taking turns sitting on each other’s lap and swinging together.  I seriously almost had a stroke from cuteness.
  2. Sebastian- My husband is incredible.  Truly, it makes me mad sometimes because I can’t even complain about him when I get together with a bunch of other moms.  He helps around the house, gets up in the middle of the night with the kids when I’m not feeling well, is a loving and devoted dad, encourages me to take “me” time or go out with friends when I can, and managed to pick up all the extra work I could not do this past year when I was really sick.    He also has to put up with much more of my crazy than anyone else and somehow still loves me.  The most annoying thing about him is that he is almost always right.  Please don’t tell him I said that!
  3. My Family- By this I mean my parents, siblings, grandparents, and also Sebastian’s family who have been wonderful through all of our turmoil.  I seriously don’t know how we would have survived the past few years without the family support we have had.  They have gathered around us like a giant protective hugging net that has kept us from falling- yes a hugging net, I don’t know what that is either but I’m sticking with it.
  4. My Friends- Even those who I have not talked to on a regular basis in the past years have come out of the woodwork to support me.  Especially since I started this blog and actually let people in to the realities of what was going on with my life, I have been showered with love from my friends.
  5. Wonder J (Our Nanny)- I have a whole post dedicated to her, but knowing that my kids are in such good hands has taken a ton of mommy guilt off my shoulders!
  6. Dr. Awesome (My Therapist)- she helps me keep the crazy at bay and gives me Xanax.  ‘Nuff Said.
  7. That I Had Twins- sure, having 2 babies at once was front loaded with difficulty, but when I got the scary news that my uterus had been removed to save my life, I was devastated, but not nearly as much as I would have been if I hadn’t had two darling babies to go home to.  I know that my family is perfect and complete.  Plus, I don’t get a period anymore- can’t say that I miss that!
  8. The Body Scan that Found my Cancer- it was horrible timing, but I do realize how lucky I am that a random scan before surgery found that lump and I was able to have it removed long before I ever showed symptoms.  Otherwise, that little ball of yuck could have kept growing for a long time and put me in a much worse situation.
  9. Our Financial Security- I am immensely grateful that we had good insurance and the ability to get through these years without the crippling debt that chronic illness and multiple surgeries can bring to a family.  Sure, I would much rather have taken an awesome vacation than spend 20 days in the hospital this year, but we didn’t have to choose between paying for my medicines and paying for food.  I do realize how very lucky I am for that.
  10. This Blog- I only go to therapy once a week, but I can write here whenever I want!  It has given me a sense of purpose, a way to express myself, and an outlet for the whirling dervish of thoughts that are constantly going in my head.  It has allowed me to be honest in a way I have never been before.  I am very good at putting up a front of being fine when I am actually far from it. It has been so helpful and freeing to me to have a place to let down my guard, to show the mess I have going on inside, and to advertise to the world how NOT perfect I am.

I started thinking that I needed to write this because I have several friends in crisis right now, and I constantly get people saying to me, “Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain.  It’s not as bad as what you’ve been through.”  I would like to state right now for the record- that is total BS.  If you are dealing with pain, difficulty, or trouble in your life, that is yours and you have every right to be upset about it.  A dear friend of mine who has been through cancer, the loss of her mom, and many other struggles said something to me that I will never forget.  I was saying essentially the same thing to her, that I shouldn’t complain because it could be much worse.  And she said, “If that helps you right now, then use it.  If it doesn’t, don’t!”  I love that thought.  Sometimes you need to wallow in your grief or pain or difficulty to get through it.  And sometimes you need to look at the big picture of the world and be amazed that in the scheme of things your life is actually pretty good.

Right now I feel the need to show my gratitude to the universe that let me get through this horrible time in my life with myself missing a few organs and a little bit of sanity, but mostly intact.  For the first time in a very long time I feel hope.  And that is so beautiful.  I want to say to those out there who are in the midst of a dip in your life when you feel like things will never get better… I have been there.  Like really there, in a pit, thinking that I would never be able to climb out.  And while I am not at the end of my journey of healing (so don’t be surprised when I have ranting posts later about Ulcerative Colitis, or surgeries, or other craziness) I can finally see that glimmer that things are going to be OK.  It is crazy how that snuck up on me.  I didn’t notice I was doing so much better until one day I realized that I could breathe a little easier, that I wasn’t in a constant state of tension waiting for the next of like 40,000 shoes to drop.  And for that spark of hope I am completely awash in gratitude.  Thank you to everyone reading, commenting on, and messaging me about this blog.  You have all helped me to find that spark, thanks for being part of my therapy.  But don’t worry Dr. Awesome, I still need to come to you for my Xanax!

How can I not be grateful for getting to see this?!
How can I not be grateful for getting to see this?!

Brave October

Today, I faced a huge fear, conquered it, and feel like a superhero!  What did I do? I gave myself a B12 shot (the B12 might also be part of the reason I feel so good!)

If you have been reading this blog at all, you probably already know that I have been through a lot of medical stuff, some of which was extremely painful.  If this is your first time here, you can visit A Brief Timeline of Crazy to catch up. I get IV iron infusions and bloodwork every week and have had 5 major surgeries and several minor ones in the past few years, so rationally I shouldn’t have a problem with giving myself one little shot.  But, as my husband can attest, I am not confined by the bounds of rationality.

When other people give me shots or take my blood or cut me open, I don’t have to look!  My fear is of the sight of a needle going into skin, not the feel of it.  But today I needed to get my B12 shot (I have severe anemia and a combo of weekly B12 and IV iron is the only thing that keeps me upright) and no one was around to give it to me.  I really didn’t want yet another doctor visit for something so small and I have all the supplies at home.  So I put on my big girl yoga pants (well actually pulled them down, the shot went in my upper thigh) and gave myself the shot.  And I didn’t even take a Xanax before doing it.  And guess what?  I was ok!  I didn’t faint, or cry, or stab an artery or anything.  I gave myself the shot and then went about my day.

But I had a little extra pep in my step.  I faced that fear and I totally owned it!  So I started thinking… being brave and facing something that really frightened me gave me a burst of energy and confidence… maybe it could do the same thing for other people… Halloween is supposed to be scary… Halloween is in October…wouldn’t it be cool if I could get people to challenge themselves and do something that scares them in October, to be brave…I’ve been hearing that word everywhere lately…I could call it Brave October or Bravetober…Bravetober sounds ridiculous, Brave October is probably better…I can be all #BraveOctober everywhere…Wow, those people already have a huge blowup spider in their yard…Oh crap, tomorrow is the first day of October, how did that happen?…I should probably get started with this thing if I’m gonna do it…It’s awesome that my kids don’t like chocolate, I get to eat all their candy… I could really use a Milky Way right now…

That went on for quite awhile until got myself some candy and decided that I was going to take those random thoughts and use them to create #BraveOctober.

Here are the rules of the Brave October challenge.  This month, do something that scares you and then let the world know about it by posting about it on Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter- you can simply write about it or include pictures/video if you want!  Then challenge your friends to do the same and use the # BraveOctober. If you want to use this as a platform to raise money for your favorite charity, awesome! But the real point of Brave October is to get people to step out of their comfort zone and do something they have been holding back on because of fear.

Maybe it’s something like riding a roller coaster or petting a snake at the Zoo. Maybe it’s submitting a piece of poetry to a publisher or signing up for that open mike night you have always wanted to do. Maybe it’s sharing a personal story that you have kept to yourself and finally getting to talk about it so that weight doesn’t feel quite so heavy.  Maybe it is standing up for somebody when your first instinct is to walk away.  And sometimes, maybe being brave is just getting out of bed in the morning and facing the day.

Whatever it means to you, let’s start being brave. There is a lot to be afraid of in this world- I live in Dallas, we had our the nation’s first confirmed case of Ebola reported today at the hospital I go to 1-2 times a week!  While I can’t do anything about that, I can stop being afraid of doing some things that would be positive in my life.  Like deciding that I can take an exercise class even though without a doubt I would be the most out of shape person there. Or finally having the courage to leave the house with my kids in their big girl underwear and trust that even if it is a disaster I will live through it.

Let’s do this people.  Help me make #BraveOctober a thing!

It's almost Halloween, let's all be brave! #BraveOctober
It’s almost Halloween, let’s all be brave! #BraveOctober

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!

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!