Sunday, May 8, 2011

Olivia: 1. Eye Tumors: 0.

It was an early Happy Mother's Day for me.
Thursday was Olivia's first eye scan and it was 100% tumor free. Glory Hallelujah, I tell you! Not only were her eyes tumor free, but she can apparently see better than most children her age. So take that, 13 q deletion including the RB1 gene!

We are decidedly already smitten with Seattle Children's. There was a tremendous amount of peace and relief walking in those doors the first time. The anticipation of the first appointment melted into an enveloping warmth around the part of my soul that is motherhood (and that is quite a considerable part) and I exhaled for what felt like the first time in three weeks. Every single person you meet is so kind and so united in the singular purpose of helping you and your child get answers. This place will do good things for us.

While I was ecstatic that Olivia has been tumor free up to this point, a quite voice whispered, "This is not the end." I know this, I do. There will never really be an end to this, we knew that. This is just the beginning of many, many appointments, scans, consultations, meetings, and plans she will have. But I don't feel as though those were my own words or thoughts. It felt not so much like a warning, but a reminder of something I already know.

No matter. For now, until her next appointment, we are happy and content with the news. It truly is good, good news and that is where I need to focus.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's very strange, this roller coaster I'm on.

It's been about two weeks now since we got Olivia's diagnosis. Our emotions don't seem to settle in one place for very long, pinging from sadness to acceptance to confusion to denial so fast that it's dizzying. And tears. Lots of tears. There has never been the question, "Can we do this?" Of course we can. We already are. Our abilities are not question. It is the unknown that is sheer torture.

Her first eye scan is next week with additional tests and scans to follow soon. As much as I'd like to believe that she is fine, she will be okay, I honestly don't know that. We are optimistic about things we have seen so far in her physical and cognitive development, absolutely. But as far as all this eye/bone tumor/health stuff is concerned? I'm considerably less reassured.

The Husband and I often talk about the future. Hers and ours. What will happen when she goes to school? Will kids be mean? Where will her physical symptoms be at that point? Will she be able to lead a a normal life? Will she get married? Will she have children? They are questions we almost don't dare ask, let alone try to honestly answer. For The Husband and I, our future is a little unknown, too. Dr. G wants us to be tested to see if all of this is genetic, to see if we were to have more children if they would also be affected. What if it is? What does that mean for the future of our family? Would it mean we would have no more children? We go back an forth over this, agonizing over the what-ifs, reaching no acceptable conclusion.

Maybe that's the problem with all of this: there is no acceptable conclusion to any given scenario.

I'm a straightforward kind of girl. I like rules and guidelines. I like to know exactly what is and isn't, what I can and can not, and what will and won't in all aspects of my life. I'm completely uncomfortable being thrown into consuming ocean of unknowns. It terrifies me in ways I had hoped never to experience. But I have been thrown, and I need to accept that and do everything in my power to keep treading water. There would be no excuse for not doing at least that

Friday, April 15, 2011

Olivia- 4/13/2011

**I apologize for such a mass update for so many friends, loved ones, and family members. I'm sorry to do it this way, but I can bring myself to tell this over and over. Up to this point it has been just a few family members have been informed. Again, I apologize for that.

When Olivia was born, her inability eat, rabid breathing, and her adorable, yet troublesome, squeaking were our first indicators that something wasn't quite right. Diagnosis: Laryngomalacia. It was manageable and would likely resolve on it's own. It posed some problems, but we managed.

She squeaked through the 11 months, RSV and hospitalization, numerous illness, and no less than 11 ear infections. When she was finally evaluated for tubes, her wonderful ENT did a scope to check things out before doing any procedure. Typically children with problems like hers needed to be intubated while under anesthesia and he wanted to be prepared. After he finished the scope, he sat silently for a long time before telling me "something isn't quite right." He was uncomfortable with what he was seeing and sent us to another specialist.

A few months later, another hospital stay, an MRI, an echocardiogram, swallow study, and gastric emptying study, we were sent home with Olivia tethered to an oxygen tank.

Over the last six months, we have adapted to her therapy schedules and goals, learned to balance our heavy load of supplies any time we go somewhere, and adjusted to the changes of her needs.

About 2 months ago, I had noticed that Olivia was having a harder time recovering when she would get upset or cry hard enough that her O2 sats would drop. Her sleeping patterns were being more inconsistent than normal. I called her specialist, Dr. A, and we were able to see her a few days later.

During the appointment, Dr. A asked the normal barrage of questions and I filled her in on the changes, what the problems were, and what areas Liv was having progress in. Dr. A sat quietly for a moment and then asked me, "Does Olivia look like you or your husband?" I stumbled over my answer, trying not to give an validity to her question before finally saying, "No, she doesn't." I felt the anxiety seize my heart and take hold. I knew where this was going.

"I want Olivia to see a geneticist," She said with the careful measured calm of a good doctor.
"I want to see if there is any underlying reason behind all of these problems."

Geneticist. Geneticist. I have worked with enough special needs kids in my life to know the significance of what seeing a geneticist means: syndrome.

That word screamed over and over inside my head as we stumbled out of her office and made our way home. This could mean a thousand different things, not one of which were appealing or satisfactory answers. But still, a part of me felt that this was right.

Three weeks ago, we met our genetic counselor, Sarah. She took our detailed medical histories and drew Olivia's blood for a microarray blood test. She arranged for us to meet with a geneticist, Dr. Gm from Seattle Children's to discuss the findings or do further testing if the microarray proved inconclusive.

Wednesday morning, Olivia and I went to the hospital to meet Dr. G. The moment he waked into the room, I knew. A wave of peace washed over me and I heard in my mind, "Yes, this man will set us on the right path for Olivia." I can count the number of times on one hand that I have had such a distinct spiritual confirmation like that.

Sarah and one other genetic counselor joined us in the room. Sarah sat next to me while the other played with my sweet Livi so that Dr. G could have my full attention. We discussed the problems that she has had and what things are being addressed.

"Well," he said, "you're daughter has all these problems for a reason. I have received her blood work, and we have found something."

I felt the blood drain from my face. "Okay," was all I could say.

I won't try to go into the detail of the conversation. I'm not sure that I heard most of it anyway. But this is what we know. Olivia has a very, very rare chromosomal disorder called 13q Deletion. As I understand it, at her 13th chromosome, there are breakpoints. Within those breakpoints are about 102 genes. That missing material of those genes is what is causing many of her problems. There are learning disabilities and developmental delays in addition to the various health problems. We aren't sure to what degree this will affect her, although she has already been in various therapies for several months already addressing these issues. Most notable, Olivia is missing the RB1 gene. Because of this specific deletion, Olivia is at an incredibly hi risk of retinoblastoma (eye cancer) bone tumors, and other related tumors. While the 13q deletion syndrome is not fatal, complications from it can be. We are being sent to see special teams in Seattle at an urgent status to start doing these scans. She will have to have these scans every 3 months for several years.

As we spoke, Dr. G said that while he was "mystified" by the breathing problems she seems to have, he was "completely amazed" that she was walking and that she can speak any words. He informed me that many of the cases he reviewed about this, many of the children were barely sitting up by themselves as 19 months and not walking or talking until 3 or 4 years old. He then said in his soft British accent, "I am even further amazed that your daughter is so beautiful. Most children with 13q have facial deformities."

It was at that point that I finally began to weep. I looked over at Olivia toddling around the room, her beloved puppy in one arm, happily opening and closing every cupboard she came across. I instantly felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the sweet tender mercies of her beauty, of her good natured demeanor, and her accomplishments.

As we waited for the elevator, Olivia spotted the giant fish tank the have on the peds floor and began pointing and making her "fish face." She put one hand on my tear stained cheek and pointed for me to look. I looked at her eyes, her excitement, and couldn't help but smile. She is still our same sweet Olivia. Nothing has changed within her. She is as happy as she ever has been. There is an overwhelming comfort and peace in that knowledge. We have a long, difficult journey ahead of us that is just getting started. So I am going to remember that knowledge, I am clinging to it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Husband

This is The Husband, of course. And basically, I adore him. I mean, how could I not? The man knows and loves every little bit of me, and I sort of think he deserves some kind of award for that, you know? Cause I can be difficult and the tiniest bit melodramatic at times, even when I don't mean to be and think my reaction is totally validated when it's so not.

We laugh a lot, he and I. The way we talk to each other sometimes is vomit inducing. We can push one another's buttons easily, and we get over it even more easily. He doesn't dwell on things, and that may just be one of my favorite attributes about him. I dwell enough for the both of us and then some, he tends to balance me out when I am too much of something. And thank goodness for that. I mean, seriously. He is the calm to my crazy.

He is my best friend. I cannot imagine life with out him. He is the love of my life.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Could Use Some Wonderful

Today has not been a particularly sad day. It has actually been relatively happy. Time with the Husband, scripture study, fresh laundry, church, Livi, Skype with my mom and sisters, a visit from my brother and sister-in-law...but all day long, little bits of failure have been creeping into my day; all the things I could be better at, the areas of marriage or motherhood I seem to be lacking in, a stubborn body, my sad attire, resentment of lessons that need{ed} learning, lack of creative flow, just general forgetfulness of so many things that need attending to...

And it makes my heart break just a little. And really, there is no solid reason that it should. But it is.

I've come to recognize the pattern in my life that when I get feeling this way, when I feel the adversary working so heavily when all else in life is basically good and fine, I'm being prepped.

I think perhaps this is one of those times. This has been going on a while now and it makes me nervous about what He has in store for me. I hope it hurry up and happens and that it is something wonderful. My soul could use a little wonderful.

Friday, February 11, 2011


My creativity is feeling stunted.

I opened a box today with all of my notes, writing exercises, finished pieces, book outlines for books I haven't written, my graphite, coal, and colored pencils and all my sketchbooks. I eagerly pulled them out, opened to a fresh sheet and .....nothin.

I haven't written anything worth reading in ages. I haven't drawn anything worth looking at in even longer. This is sad.

I've never had such a severe case of creativity block and I so desperately need to overcome it. And I haven't got the slightest idea how.

Just throwing that out there, cause it's frustrating. And I need an outlet. And all else is failing me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Truth About Lost Luggage

Those who frequently travel by airplane know that there isn't much that is more completely vexing than when an airline loses your luggage.

You planned your trip in detail, properly booked and confirmed your itinerary, carefully {over}packed your suitcase, showed up on time for your departure, safely flew to your destination, only to find that your luggage did not follow you. Whether you are coming or going, it's a completely infuriating experience and it leaves you feeling oddly exposed. It may take only a few hours or up to a few days before your luggage finally finds the correct arrival destination, into a delivery vehicle, and finally into your possession. The whole thing is a strange and discomforting experience and you may think to yourself how conveniently God could do away with these little nuisances in life, these inconvenient problems that really seem to do no good of any kind, anywhere.

Enter: Me.

This last year has been strange. Strange and difficult and overwhelming. The Husband and I have said thousands of prayers often praying for the same specific things, over and over. In December, He opened a door and we were thrilled. A week and a half ago, someone threatened to slam that door shut. I panicked, like most women do. I went from zero to worst case scenario in 2 seconds and cried for hours. What were we going to do? And the ever-calm Husband reassured me over and over, "It will be fine. I KNOW it will." He held me while I sobbed, never wavering in his conviction.

Enter: Lost Luggage.

We had set a little plan in motion a few weeks ago. We live 5 miles from the airport, we have and "in" in the travel industry, and we knew that a current delivery service for a specific airline was burning some major bridges. Several conversations, lots of paperwork, and a new insurance policy later and I am now a business owner.

Yesterday, I was delivering a bag two hours from home. I was thinking about our lives, the things that have happened, and which of our prayers have been answered, including this business. This could not have fallen into our laps at a more needed time. For a moment I thought, I can't believe this just happened to fall into our laps now, of all times. And it hit me. Sometimes God answers prayers in the form of lost luggage. Your inconvenience is the answer to someone elses prayers. The gratitude I felt was overwhelming.

I called the Husband and shared this with him through my tears. "I just can't believe it, we have so many things happening for us or going to be happening for us soon, I just can't believe it. This is such a huge answer to our prayers."

And again, the ever-calm husband said, "Of course it is. Did you expect anything less than an answer?"

So next time your luggage is lost, you get ink on your favorite shirt and must take to the dry cleaners, the doctor sends you to two separate places for blood work, you must speak with multiple customer service representatives, or are having the exterminator spray for spiders forcing you out of your home for a whole day, remember that yes, you are being inconvinced, but also that your inconvenience is the long awaited answer to another person's prayer.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just To Be Clear..

I seem to have caused some confusion with my hair cutting/cutting negativity post.

It was a very specific incident prompted me to write it and I was referring to specific people.


If you read my blog, I was not referring to you. These people are not lurking around here. So rest assured, it's not any of you lovely people.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

If You Botch this...

... Mr. Edward Cullen/Cedric Diggory/Salvador Dali/Robert Pattinson, it's over.

This is quite possibly my favorite book ever and I will not be forgiving if you mess up Jacob Jankowski for me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cutting Hair, and Other Random Thoughts

About every other month I feel the almost uncontrollable urge to chop off all my hair. It's an all consuming thought for about 8 or 9 days. I want it gone, it's weight, it's drag, it's length, the maintenance, all of it. Gone. It always seems like a good idea in theory, but I know, for fact, that it's not. I know from all too painful experience that I will love it for about 6 hours before the realization of what I have done kicks in and the tears begin to pour. (I know, tears over hair? Yes. Big fat crocodile ones. It's sad and kind of pathetic.) I remember my hair is not agreeable in any length shorter than 4 inches below my shoulders, I remember the awkward stages in horror and I can talk myself out of such a wretched decision and I feel much better.

This month, I had the same urge, had the same thought process, and talked myself out of it. But I didn't really feel better. I finally figured out why. I need to do to my life what I wanted to do to my hair. (Hair as a life metaphor? Yes.)

I've said it before, this past year has been hard for me for a myriad of reasons. Bit by bit, things are looking better, things are moving forward, and I'm feeling more positive about many things in store for me and my little family. But I think in order for me to totally and completely move on from this period in my life, I need to cut things out. More specifically, all the negativity and all the dead weight.

I learned this past year just exactly how I respond to extremely unkind non-truths about the husband and I. Certain people formed certain ideas that could not have been more untrue about us. They proceeded to spread these ideas to those closest to us. Some (who know us best) ignored the comments or completely defended us. I defended us to the point of a raised voice and angry tears (if you know me, that's intense and impressive). I think I righted the wrongs against us, but I put up walls; thick, cold, gray, steel ones. They are a long way from coming down, they are truly acting as a protection for me, but I think in order for them to EVER come down, I need to start forgiving. And this is going to be incredibly hard, overwhelmingly so. But it's completely necessary. I will accept that there are those who will never really know who I am (even though I could not be a more open person) no matter how loudly I (figuratively) scream it in their face or how sincerely my actions portray just exactly who I am. This has hurt me so deeply. It has been one of the more brutal wounds I have ever suffered. But it's time. I need to cut this from my life, I need to heal from this.

Reflecting on this specific incident, or series of incidents as the case may be, I also realize it's time to cut the negative people from my life. I am a little disturbed to realize how many overly negative people there are milling around in my life, slowing it down, dragging it to the ground, and keeping me there. In times past, I would feel guilty admitting that out loud. I would have felt selfish or unkind. But here's the thing. I'm am not selfish. I am not unkind. I will always help the people in my life who need me. But I am not responsible for the happiness of those who are doing absolutely nothing to help themselves. I am carrying my own burdens, I am helping to lighten the loads of those around me who I love and am more than happy and willing to do so. But I do not have the strength to carry other's burdens by myself as they walk beside me screaming about how wronged they have been. That is not part of a healthy relationship, that is not a loving relationship. It is cruel to expect someone to carry your burdens and for you to do nothing in return. Cut. I no longer have the energy to keep up the maintenance required in the relationships.

So, here's to moving on, to cutting out all the negativity and the dead weight. You have officially been rendered completely unnecessary.

And you know what else is getting cut? The fat. No, really. The actually fat. It's going. Just thought I'd put that out there.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Look... for a little encouragement. Even if you don't think you need it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Speak, Sign, Shriek

This is my Olive. We've been working very hard in her therapy sessions on speaking and communication. Her speech therapist has been really wanting her to use sign language to help with the disconnect from mouth/ear to brain. She's making delightful progress. See.

Oh, and that shriek there at the end? That's all thanks to her paradoxical vocal cord dysfunction. Is it the cutest? Yes. Yes, it is.