Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October = Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I don't have very many memories of my childhood. 

I've thought about this fact a few times before, but it really dawned on me the other day - I honestly do not remember very much of my childhood. The majority of memories that I am able to conjure up are most likely due to the vast amount of documentation in the form of photographs that occurred surrounding those events, as my mom was discovering her passion for photography and scrapbooking during that time. 

However, there are a few moments that I am able to look back on with clarity. For example, the time my older sister, Anne, and I were playing softball in the backyard and as I was running to first base, she full out threw the ball at the back of my head and nailed me square in the occiput. Or how in the 2nd grade I dressed up as a pirate for Halloween and some kid in my class came to school in a homemade port-o-potty costume. Or what about the time I sobbed as my pet guinea pig, Snickelfritz, died of constipation most likely secondary to some underlying disease involving the gastrointestinal tract? 

Those are great.

Anyway, I can also recall having mother's helpers in my life. Throughout my childhood, my mom hired various women to help her around the house. These were usually college students in the surrounding area, and their job duties consisted of light cleaning, driving me (and sometimes my sisters, before they were 16) to various extracurricular activities, grocery shopping, and babysitting me. Many came and went, but my favorite was definitely Jill. 

Jill was fun, beautiful, compassionate, and my friend. She would let me brush her long silky hair as we watched movies together. She would take me shopping and on errands with her. She would drive me to my figure skating lessons and other various athletic practices. We would talk, giggle, and play together. I always had so much fun with her. 

When Jill got married, she asked me to be her flower girl. She picked out a floor-length ivory, satin dress for me to wear that had puffed short sleeves with fabric rosettes on them, beading at the neckline,  and scalloping at the bottom much like Belle's yellow dress from Beauty & the Beast. I got to wear a little miniature tiara with tulle, like a veil, to match her. I'll never forget how as part of her message to me in her description of the wedding party, she included that she one day hoped to have a little girl just like me. 

Of course things faded as they do with getting older and moving on. Jill kept in touch with our family through Christmas cards, and we would see her every once in a while. I have since become friends with her through Facebook, and have stayed updated on her life in this way. I don't know how nor am able to begin to describe the hardship she has faced in this lifetime, between cancer and losing children. However, I wanted to share this most recent update she wrote in honor of October being breast cancer awareness month. To have gone through so much and still have an abundance of faith in God amazes me. This reminds me to take a step back and think about what is truly important in life. 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month.... 

I pass through the aisles of Meijer and I see the pink ribbon on the yogurt, the race for the cure fundraisers, even the bright pink trash barrels that line the streets. I try to raise my right arm above my head, attempt to do a regular push-up, or sit in one spot too long and begin to feel the constant aching reminder that all is not how it once was. All of these are just reminders of something always tucked in some corner of my mind… cancer.

I was 28 years old and in what most would call the "prime of my life." I was healthy and fit, living a full life with my husband and two young daughters. Lying in bed one night, a few days after running the 5/3rd 25k race I felt a mysterious lump under the bottom portion of a muscle I had pulled in my chest. Prompted by my husband to at least call and see what they said, I phoned my OB. She assured me that with my age, the fact that we had no family history of any sort of cancer, and the rest of my risk factures being literally zero that the chance it was cancer was extremely, extremely small. She said that she would be happy to take a look at it just to calm any worries we may have. I went in a few days later and had her carefully examine my breast and the lump I had discovered. She assured me it looked like a simple cyst but sent me downtown for an ultrasound... just to be sure. Apparently at 28 your breasts are too dense and mammograms wouldn’t be of much help to them. Somehow I correlated the word dense to the word perky and remember smiling to myself as I sat on that cold metal table in my paper gown. After giving birth and all the months of nursing someone still had perky, dense boobs….well, dense anyways. The tech would come and go and the then the doctor came in to suggest we just remove the mass. It was large enough that they felt it would be better to just remove it-- he assured me he was fairly confident that it would come back benign but would feel better, given my age, if we just had it removed. He didn't seem too concerned and so I took that as a cue and went home quite optimistic that everything was just fine. I returned a few days later, and in a simple procedure they removed that little mass.

That little mass would change my life. I was sitting in a restaurant- in a booth I will never forget-- when my phone rang. I explained to my friend that I was waiting for the call and quickly excused myself. I wasn't nervous or even concerned-- just remember feeling like it wasn't polite to not answer the phone for a doctor that was taking the time to actually call me. The words he started to speak where a complete shock to my entire body. The only words i remember him saying was invasive carcel ductinoma ... i remember asking invasive what? He asked me a few times where my husband was and if perhaps I wanted him to call him. I didn't want him to hear it from anyone but me... but how does a wife call her husband and give him that kind of news. The only other question I asked was if my hair would fall out... vain, but real. The details were far too complicated for my muddled brain to understand and the nausea in my stomach was just a shadowing of what was to come. My sweet husband raced over to be with me. We sat in the parking lot for what seemed like a long time- just crying, hugging, and wondering what cancer would look like when it was experienced first-hand.

The next week was a blur of activity: first opinions, second opinions, more surgery, more bad results, charts, diagrams and lots of words with more than 3 syllables. The conclusion was that my cancer was a very fast growing, aggressive form that needed to be treated just as aggressively. The lumpectomy they had performed hadn't gotten clean margins and the lymph nodes they removed proved to be riddled with cancer. But there was no time to remove any more-- the chemo needed to be delivered and fast.

I took my place in the long line of recliners; flanked by older, more mature patients on either side... they looked at me with sympathetic glances of uncertainty. I remember fingering my long blond hair while looking at the stocking caps and scarves that surrounded me. The thoughts of vanity faded as the medicine pumped into my veins and I started listening to the conversations around me. Death seemed palpable in that room and when surrounded by so much sickness, it sure does make one think. By the young age of 28 i was well acquainted with death. I had buried one daughter and two sons-- I had held them in my arms and watched as they breathed their last breath. It wasn't necessarily death that scared me-- I saw the peace in their eyes-- it was this whole business of sickness. How could I be so sick, when I felt so good? The medicine continued to pump and the hours ticked by. The nausea came and went along with the nurses monitoring the endless bags of fluid hooked to my IV pole and connected to my body by a port sewn under my skin.

In the months to come I would become accustomed to this great room of lazy boys where we all gathered to be infused with what we hoped was life giving medication. I became a scarf wearing, bald headed, cancer patient who measured her weeks based on how many days until or since her last chemo. I became well acquainted with words like nuelasta; I became a pro at peeing while keeping my IV pole from tipping into the toilet, and knew the best pharmacies and their hours throughout the town. But I was also a wife and a mother. I had two little girls- just 4 years and 6 months who still counted on me to provide for their needs. Many days I didn't know how I was going to provide for my own needs... let alone theirs. It was a humbling time of accepting and appreciating the help of those who loved me.

The decision was made that because the margins of my lumpectomy's where never clear, the cancerous breast had to be removed... they called it a mastectomy. I called it unthinkable. They were going in and removing every little portion of my breast-- leaving me concave with angry scars screaming across my chest. I was given a few weeks to heal before they would begin the 40 rounds of radiation. Humbled. My hair was gone. My breast was gone. I was everything the world said that beauty was not... and yet I was loved. My husband never left-- he never said it wasn't what he signed up for or seemed to accurately see what the mirror proclaimed. Family stepped in and friends came close and somehow in my ugliness and pain I felt more loved than ever.

Cancer sucks.... it really does. Nothing about the entire experience would I ever wish on any one. I pray constantly that my girls will never have to experience losing their breasts, their hair, or their health. I pray that they won't battle the fear of reoccurrence or live with the awareness that each ache and pain could really be something else. But I do want them to be strong. To think about what happens when you die and to have hope that this is not all there really is. I want them to sit in rooms where everyone isn't able to cover up their pain and really look into the eyes of someone who is dying. I want them to have time for other people- to sit in a chair for hours and listen to a man named Harold tell them, with love in his eyes, how his son drove 2 hours just to come and pick him up to take him to his chemo appointment. I want them to really see people and to know that the exterior of a person is only just that- a shell. That true beauty cannot be measured by bust size or hair color and that people that treat you like it can are just plain wrong. I want my girls to love deeply and to realize that life is so brief. That what we do with our life really matters... because in an instant all can change. Cancer or maybe just suffering in general, brings a different layer to life. It allows you to see things differently and to feel more deeply. People become people-- each with a story. October is breast cancer awareness month-- the pink ribbons find their way on just about everything. Next time you see one take a minute to take a deep breath... to slow down for a minute and be reminded of those around you. Take time to invest in them- to listen to their story... or maybe just be willing to share yours.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Not-so-patiently waiting.

I just ordered three books in preparation for Husband's and my Christmas break vacation.

Current countdown:

It always makes me so sad how as soon as the school year arrives, any form of reading other than textbooks and research articles goes straight out the window. I'm so ready to plop my tush down on the beach, crack these nuggets of literary bliss open, and plow through the chapters. 

On the docket:

Time, you have my permission to hurry up and fast forward to December. 

Oh! Before I forget...
I went running this morning!
And it was glorious :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Run happy.

Today was the Grand Rapids Marathon

This race holds a special place in my heart. I ran that course as my first marathon last year on October 16, 2011 with a time of 4:07:39, finishing as #769 of the total 1608 marathoners (#251 of the 714 females) running that day. The year prior, on October 17, 2010, I also ran the GR half marathon with a time of 2:05:07 and finishing #874 of the 1682 half marathoners (#426 of the 1039 females) running . The course for both the half and full marathon through Grand Rapids is especially meaningful, as it closely follows the Fifth Third River Bank Run's 25K race that happens in early May, which I ran in both 2010 and 2011. I also participated in the 5K last year with two of my sisters, which was another great experience. 

Excited in the middle of the half marathon! 
Feeling good around mile 10 during last year's marathon!

Needless to say, I love distance running

However, lately I haven't had the chance to get out and run due to the chaos that is life as a nursing student with more than one part-time job and who lives apart from her husband and travels to see him every chance she gets. 

I'm busy.
I'm tired.
I'm overworked. 
I'm stressed.
I'm….probably making excuses.

I think I've forgotten that the beauty of running is that you can do it pretty much anywhere, for as long as you want. Any run, regardless of the time or quality, is better than no run, right? 

So even though a long distance race cannot hold a place in the near future for me, I think I'm going to try to get out and run at least two times a week. I'm not saying these runs are going to be spectacular, with any record-breaking mileage or distance goals to meet the weekly quota. Mostly they'll be for my sanity (since exercising is a stress reliever, after all) and to re-introduce this huge part of my life back into my weekly routine. 

Any and all encouragement is welcome!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Study Break

To all of you out there studying and in need of a short break….

Check these photos out. 

Favorites include #s 20, 28, and 30. 

Back to maternity nursing and pathophysiology…

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A good reminder

A fantastic weekend!

I think Husband I finally hit a wall this week with how little time we've had just the two of us alone. We decided that once I arrived in town on Friday the rest of the day would be spent completely school-free. COMPLETELY. SCHOOL. FREE. 

No studying.
No reviewing.
No homeworking.

a;dlna;vk ja;dfkahrnlej a;trlakgfpaonj fa;lwerjn;aerhja;odfiand;adfjn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We went out to this middle eastern restaurant I've been dying to go to for quite a while now. It's known for having a hugely long wait time (because it's just that good!), so we decided to go old-man style and dine in before 6pm. Even though we arrived about quarter until 6, the wait was still a half hour. Not too bad in comparison to what it was once we sat down (an hour to an hour and a half!). It was so nice to hold hands, sit on the bench together as we waited, and not talk about anything related to med school or nursing school. It was like we were a real, normal, everyday married couple who live together and go out to dinner on a Friday night together like it's no big deal again. We took our sweet time at our little table, catching up, munching, and laughing. Then we headed back to his place to snuggle up in comfy clothes on the couch, watch some Netflix, and play Boggle. Pretty crazy. I know, we're party animals. But no really, it was the best thing ever. 

Today we slept in (which was amazing since I still haven't completely gotten over the insomnia that struck me once Husband moved out in August) and had a slow morning enjoying a big breakfast and getting ready to head to the med school for some studying. We stopped at a brand spankin' new stand-alone Tim Horton's that literally opened its doors four days ago to grab coffees and is less than a mile from where Husband lives (new favorite coffee place, perhaps?) and THEN got the best (free) parking spot incredibly close to the med school (…we refuse to pay to park in the med school's ramp, okay?). We stayed for about six and a half hours or so, which actually seemed to fly by - that's what you get for being so engrossed in pathophysiology, I guess. Then we packed up and headed to the house of one of Justin's professors for dinner, which was also a nice break from studying and homeworking! After a few hours, we decided to forgo more time at the med school and instead headed back to Husband's place to finish up studying for the night. 

Tomorrow I'll stay in town through the afternoon sometime and then head back to the apartment. It's so (so!) difficult being away and separated, but this weekend was truly a rejuvenator of our spirits. Without even trying or acknowledging that it's happening, I think we frequently get so wrapped up in our studies and trying to shove all this knowledge in our brains that we lose sight of needing time for the two of us totally and completely removed from school. This weekend was a good reminder that much like we need breaks while we study, we also need breaks from school altogether to focus on ourselves and our relationship as a couple. 

A random, old photo that I love of the two of us while we were dating, when we had all the time in the world to be together and long before we knew we would be where we are today:

I love you, Husband! Thanks for a great weekend :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Boycotting American Eagle

So, remember when I said that one of my town's quirks is that we don't have a mall? Well, maybe that's not such a bad thing.

You see, when I purchased some jeans last week at American Eagle, I thought it would be no big deal. Go in the store. Head straight to the skinny jean wall area. Find size. Get in line. Pay. Leave. Bing. Bang. Boom. Done. 

Not so much.

I'm not even a fan of the store in the first place. I'll admit it was a staple during high school when I was really channeling my inner-prepster and had a love for all things trendy. However, once I got to college and beyond I began straying away from the obvious teenager style and started investing in a more classic and grown-up wardrobe that did not include American Eagle. The only thing that kept me coming back was the jeans. They actually carry and stock in store jeans with short enough inseams for me to wear immediately and not have to hem and hack off an inch or two. Most recently this past summer I bought a pair of dark skinnies that fit well in the waist and had a comfortable amount of stretch. Once the weather got cooler and shorts were no longer an option for wearing on bottom, I began putting on the skinnies nearly every day so I figured I could use another pair. When I was in town with a mall only five minutes away, I decided to head on over and pick some up. Since I already knew the correct size and color, I assumed I could duck in and out of the store in 5 minutes flat. 

Again, not so much. 

First, a sales guy gave me a spiel as soon as I walked in. Um, no I wouldn't like to try on the newest _____, but thank you. Yes, I am finding what I'm looking for, thank you. Yes, I will let you know if I need anything, thank you. Found the size. Headed over to the register where there is a line stretching almost all the way to the dressing room. Okay, no problem. Stood in line for what seemed like forever but probably was only ten minutes. Got to the cash register. Yes, I found what I was looking for, thank you. No, I do not have an access pass. Oh, please don't sign me up for one because I don't really come here often. No, I swear, I only buy jeans here about once a year. Yes, I'm sure, thank you. Swipe my card. Enter my PIN. Girl says that the computer is frozen and that they've been experiencing problems all day because they lost power last night. Okay, no problem. I then wait another ten minutes as the girl tries to unfreeze the computer, contacts her manager, waits for the manager, and the manager tries repeatedly to unfreeze the computer with no luck. Then I'm just sent to the next register to wait for the next available person. By this point I'm really tempted to just leave. BUT I remember how infrequently I find myself in a mall and how much I refuse to ever pay for shipping online so I wait. Five minutes later I get helped. AGAIN yes, I found what I was looking for, thank you. No, I do not have an access pass. Oh, please don't sign me up for one because I don't really come here often. No, I swear, I only buy jeans here about once a year. Yes, I'm sure, thank you. Swipe my card. Enter my PIN. This time it goes through and I'm merrily on my way.

Fast forward three days to Husband calling me wondering why there are two separate transactions on the online banking to American Eagle. I'm confused, so I jump online and check it out and sure enough, that first transaction with the frozen computer went through after all so I got charged twice. 

I call the 1-800 number found online and am on hold for ten minutes only to find out that they only deal with online transactions and can't help me. 
I call the store and am bounced between three employees, all of whom tell me that I have to physically come into the store to do the refund with my credit card statement to prove that I am not lying.
No way
I gather my thoughts.
In a nutshell, I politely argue that I am nearly an hour away and cannot just come in at the drop of a hat to resolve an issue that their system caused. 
At that, I am put on hold for five minutes as the manager calls her district manager. 
She tells me she will call me back in a little bit after they've chatted.
She calls back and says they are "willing to do something that they really are not authorized to do" and refund me over the phone. 
The catch is that they have to go through their accounting and auditing department, which will take at least two or three days (last week Friday at the latest, to be exact), at which point they will call me to confirm the refund.
Sigh. Okay, fine.

Fast forward to today. Still no call.
I just called them and the manager says that she's "been away all weekend and is not sure what happened but will call me tomorrow after the morning meeting to see if someone has heard anything."
Are you kidding
She apologizes but says that's the best she can do and promises to call by noon and "can leave a voicemail" (what does that mean?). 

So now I wait. 
And I may never shop at American Eagle ever again. 
A little dramatic?
But still...

My Husband the Furnace

Fall is officially here. 

I love living in a place where we get to experience all four seasons!

However, there is one thing that I don't look forward to each year - freezing cold temperatures of winter. 

Don't get me wrong. I really like snow, bundling up in cozy sweaters, sipping coffee on the couch with a big blanket…for the first month or so of winter. Maybe into the second month I can still handle it, but that's pushing it. By the time February and March come around, I'm dying to get back into sundresses, shorts, and sandals. 

I'm a naturally cold person. Husband could tell any of you the frequency with which I will bring an extra layer with me almost everywhere I go just in case I get cold, even in the dead of summer. At any given point in the winter time you will find my hands, feet, and nose resembling the temperature of an ice cube. 

However, for the past 3.5 years I've become accustomed to my own private furnace, aka Husband. The man's metabolism is so lightening fast that I swear his basal body temperature just naturally hovers around 100 degrees Fahrenheit without any ill effects. Whenever I've found myself uncomfortably chilly, all I've had to do was get in close proximity and snuggle up to dear Husband and I'd be all warmed up. In fact, I'd wear shorts to bed because that furnace of a man was essentially a heated electric blanket. 

So what am I going to do this winter without him? 
Not to be too dramatic, but I might die of hypothermia.

I mean, look at me:

I am pathetic.
It's not even close to being winter yet, but here I am bundled up in the apartment.
To be noted, the thermostat says it's 67 degrees Fahrenheit. That's pretty chilly for inside, right? 
Does that warrant a tank top, a crew neck sweatshirt, a long hooded sweatshirt, a thick scarf, leggings, a pair of wool ski socks, another shorter pair of socks, and my trusty tent slippers? Probably not. 

I'm still cold.
Aaaaand I'm a wimp.
Let's hope I can survive this winter without my radiator / furnace Husband. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Break + Silver Linings

It's fall break!

Very excited, obviously. 
However, the majority of the four-day weekend will most likely look a lot like this:

…because THIS is my (anticipated) schedule:

Although it's a whole heck of a lot of school stuff and hardly any personal time (See the "make breakfast burritos" for Monday? Yeah, that's it.) it is made better by being with…

Where are you? 

Just kidding. 
He's just in the anatomy lab reviewing for two exams next week. 

Last night we "went on a date" (med-school-style) by taking a whole spankin' 20 minutes to eat some pizza and watch a tv show together. 

Silver linings. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Best. Present. EVER.

Husband surprised me with this fun contraption

As Husband said, "You are the tiny wife, after all."

No more hunching over to read my textbooks! 
Goodbye neck pain! 
Though this does sort of ruin my excuse of "needing" a massage…
Oh well, it's totally worth it. 

Thank you, Husband! 
What a wonderful way to start the weekend :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When we're together again...

Husband, I know a year from now and beyond when we're back under the same roof we will remember these days of weirdly living apart and be incredibly grateful over and over to be together once again. However, I also know that we will get to the point where we no longer are amazed to just be in each other's presence on a regular basis but instead we'll take our situation for granted and just wish we could have some alone time because the other person is just so darn annoying. We'll drive each other crazy. We'll have arguments…and probably over the stupidest things imaginable - remember the fight over the jeans? Dumb. So dumb. 

So I want us to recall days like today, where the both of us were so crunched for time yet so desperate to see each other even for just a few hours that we did what we did. 

Here's my side of the past 24ish hours:


8am-12pm Ran errands, caught up on emails, got ready for clinical
12-1pm Drove to clinical, parked, got to the hospital via shuttle
1-7pm Clinical (on the floor)
7-7:30pm Drove to observe a class in the community for clinical
7:30-9:30pm Observed the class
9:30-9:35pm The shortest drive ever from the class to where Husband lives
9:35-10:15pm Caught up with Husband, got ready for bed


5:15-6am Woke up, showered, got ready for another day of clinical
6-6:35 Got coffee (aka sanity), drove to clinical, parked, got to the hospital via shuttle
6:45-10:00am Clinical (on the floor)
10:02am Am informed that I have to drive to another city 40 minutes away to observe a procedure scheduled at 1pm at a different hospital 
10:03am-12pm Clinical (on the floor)
12-12:45pm Took shuttle back to the parking lot, drove to the other hospital, arrived early to be prepared
12:45-1:45pm Waited for the procedure to take place (they were running behind)
1:45-2:00pm Observed the procedure
2:00-3:15pm Drove home (another 20 minutes away), unpacked, got changed
3:15-3:45pm Drove to pick up dinner to bring to the med school
3:45-4:25pm Drove back to the med school, parked, paid my weight in change for the parking meter (seriously - a quarter just for 15 minutes??), walked to the med school entrance
4:30pm FINALLY got to see Husband! Gave him dinner, which was apparently a very pleasant surprise for him
4:30-7:00pm Munched on dinner as I read my textbook and Husband caught up on lectures, as evidenced by the below photo:

7:00-7:55pm Fell asleep while in the middle of reading and napped for nearly an hour - about 10 minutes into my slumber, Husband repositioned me and gave me his noise-canceling headphones that filled my ears with flutey, classical, most-definitely-sleep-inducing music 
7:55-8:00pm Husband walked me back to my car, where we said our goodbyes
8:45pm Arrived back at the apartment

I miss you, Husband. 
I can't wait to have you drive me nuts while I drive you bonkers as we live together once again.