Saturday, October 24, 2015

when the cup is half full

So, earlier this week I went back to see the neurologist and it turns out I've got two tumors.  One on the left and one on the right.  In case there was any question, being diagnosed with "multiples" in tumor language is not nearly as much fun as the diagnoses of "multiples" in children language ... although the sensation of surprise is comparable.

The doctor initially thought that I had a glomus jugulare tumor, but because they didn't "light up" with the contrast during my recent MRI, he's not quite sure what they are.  He's assured me that malignant tumors in this region of the skull are extremely rare ... in fact the only time he's ever seen one is when it metastasized from somewhere else.  That's good news for me. I think.

At this juncture, we know that the tumors are eroding the bone, and are very close - if not impeding on the temporal lobe - so I'll be going in for basal skull brain surgery on November 18th to get the pathological scoop.  (Literally.)

While I'm remaining very optimistic that everything is and will be fine - and this will soon become yet another blip on the radar of life - there is this small little voice that whispers, "What if..." 

My hearing is further damaged? 

There's a hemorrhage?

It's malignant?

What's really amazed me is that the little voice of worry, is being drowned out by an even louder voice of strength that is shouting, "WOW... WHAT A GIFT!"

The truly beautiful thing about having a health situation like the one I'm currently facing, is that it makes you abundantly aware of your fragility and mortality.   I'd suggest that the vast majority of people are so busy with their lives, they never really stop to think that this could be their last day.

Or year. 

We have plans! Schedules to keep! Goals to accomplish!  Rooms to paint, albums to organize, pounds to lose, trips to travel, children to raise!

At least for me, I've been far too busy to even think about the prospect of NOT being here.  The mere concept of that is simply inconceivable.  It's got to be an emotional defense mechanism because if we dwell on the not of being here - the possibility of departing our loved ones - we'd slump in to a state of perpetual depression.  That's surely part of the reason, seven years later, I still haven't finalized my Will.  Yep, totally flaked... can you believe I never had it notarized!?

So this blip on the radar, has been an excellent reminder that we're not in control.  While being organized and having a clean house and stocked refrigerator, might give the illusion of control, we don't completely hold the reins on our fate.  The only thing we can control is our attitude, so I'm trying to keep a positive one.

It's also been a gift to be reminded that we're part of something.


People from all over the world have been sending me emails (I'll respond to all of them soon, I promise!), and friends and family have been showering us with calls and offers to travel to Texas and stay for as long as necessary.  The kids asked me one night when I was tucking them in to bed, "Mom? Why were you crying earlier today? Is it because you are going to die?!" and I laughed, "No, I'm not worried at all about that .... we are blessed because we have so many people that love us.  That feeling of being lifted up, it makes me so grateful I weep!"

My sister called me last night to tell me about a sweet little girl that lives across the street from her, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was two. The doctors surgically removed most of it.  She's now seven, and recently lost sight in one eye because the tumor had regrown and damaged her optic nerve.  This past May, she had a massive stroke, while undergoing surgery.  Her recovery has been very long, and is now punctuated with chemotherapy, because the re-growth is malignant.

It's so difficult to see God's Fingerprints on that situation, but I'm sure they are there, just as they are on so many other incomprehensibly sad situations.  Perhaps these things happen - in part, to spark love and compassion?  And maybe remind us of the beauty in what we have in the here and now?


A favorite passage of mine is from the Buddhist teaching:
One day some people came to the master and asked, 'How can you be happy in a world of such impermanence?  The master held up a glass and said, 'Someone gave me this glass and I really like this glass. It holds my water admirably and it glistens in the sunlight.  I touch it and it rings! One day the wind may blow it off the shelf, or my elbow may knock it from the table. And I say, 'Of Course!' When I understand that the glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.' 
Another way of looking at it, is to consider the conversation I had with my mother earlier in the month. Her response upon first hearing all of this was to say, "Well, you know ... NONE of us are getting out of this world alive!" 

True that.  Treasure your cup ...


And all the awesomeness in it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

what are the odds?

It really seems like our move to Texas was meant to be.  Or at a minimum, we are supposed to be exactly HERE at this point in time.

Last month, I mentioned that Carolyn needed to have her tonsils taken out - and because she was (repeatedly) unable to have them removed in Virginia - we finally decided to make the move and find an ENT surgeon, here.  As luck would have it, there is an ENT office in our neighborhood. And, a well respected ENT surgeon lives less than a hundred feet away.  This ENT surgeon happens to be the same one who took out Carolyn, and William's tonsils and adenoids, just last month.

As I also mentioned, when we moved to Texas, I had a slight cold that led to the worst ear infection, I've ever had in my life.  After suffering through it for a few days, hoping that a spare Z-pack I had would do the trick, I went to the Emergency Room because I was new here, and didn't yet have a Primary Care Physician.  The ER doctor prescribed me a stronger antibiotic and told me that if I wasn't better in three days, to let them know.

Because I'd talked to my mother - and she was adamant that I get in to see the ENT - I called the ER three days later, and asked that they refer me. Which they did.

When I arrived at the ENT, two days later, they did a hearing test and told me I'd lost approximately 50% of the hearing in my right ear.  The ENT immediately scheduled me to have a CT-scan and an MRI ... and a few days later, I was back in the ENT's office and was told that I was being referred to The Medical Center in Houston, because there was something "suspicious" with my images.  I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I wasn't thinking it would be too big of a deal.  When I was in that MRI machine ... on the first day of our children's school ... I fell asleep and had a dream that I'd totally missed the bus.  Maybe I startled and it was blurry?

My appointment with the neurologist was last week and after he had me answer a number of different questions, and walk across the room, and touch my fingers to my nose, and bend down to touch my toes, he inquired on the headaches I've been having.  These pesky headaches that happen at least daily and sometimes persist for hours, started around the same time as our move to Texas.

They originate from behind my right ear and radiate across my entire head.  I've been chalking them up to the ear infection, dehydration, lack of sleep, stress, relocation, hormones, the vast quantities of barbecue we've been eating each week, and fifth grade homework.

The neurologist nods and says,  "I suspect you've got a cyst.  But let me go look at your MRI and I'll be right back...."

Almost 45 minutes later he comes back and says, "Well, it's definitely not a cyst."  I smile and am just about to say, "Phew, that's good news!" when he continues, "It's a tumor." 

Unfortunately, I only retained 27% of what he said from that point on.

There are a lot of questions, I don't yet know - including where exactly it is, or whether or not it's malignant.  We do know it's about the size of a small walnut.  Yesterday, I was back having another MRI - and within the next few days, I'll be meeting with the neurologist, again, to determine the course of action, which he assures me will likely include surgery and a lengthy recovery.

While I still have some slight loss (~5%) and it feels like I've got fluid sloshing around my ear, my hearing has largely returned.  And from what the neurologist can tell preliminarily, this tumor is likely NOT the cause of that hearing loss; although it is probably the cause for my persistent headaches.  

When I was leaving his office last week, he told me that this is what they call an "incidental finding." If they hadn't been in there, investigating my hearing loss - on this exact ear - they wouldn't have known about the tumor, until who knows when?   Of course that begs the question, how many of us are walking around with absolutely NO idea what's going on inside our bodies?

(Insert need for everyone to have full body MRIs!)

It could just be that it's all coincidental, but I think living where we are - in this location - with these ENT specialists literally in our yard, is no accident.  Moreover, the doctor told me, "If I didn't know better, I'd think you have someone upstairs looking out for you..."

YES, I'm sure I do.  (Thanks Dad!) (And Mom, who talked me in to going to the ENT!)

I'm sure that whatever happens, all will be good because no doubt, the universe is unfolding as it should and God's fingerprints are all over everything.  Meanwhile, on a more serious note ... I'm still trying to figure out how to work this situation in to to my annual rhyming Christmas letter.

There's been a rumor... ?

We must always try to keep our sense of humor... ?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

they fill up my senses, like a night in the forest

Tomorrow ... my once three-pound babies will turn eleven-years-old.  ELEVEN.  We're now solidly in the throes of tweendom and I'm in awe thinking about where the time has gone?

As these children become older and more independent, time doesn't seem to be slowing down ... in contrast - it just keeps moving faster.  Long gone are the days when I'd gaze at the clock dreaming of nap time.  Now, because of the lengthy school days - and after school activities (including but not limited to homework, soccer, dinner, and showers); my time with the children seems so fleeting and so, so precious.  Except when they're fighting with me over homework. Which is still almost every night.  But I'm trying to focus on the positive.

For as long as I can remember, our most special time of the day is bedtime, when I'll sit with them, on the edge of their beds, in their dimly lit rooms and recount the events from the day.  Sometimes, I feel like I hurry along our conversations because it's late - and they need to sleep - or I'm zapped and I need to put my feet up.

But whether a brief two-minute conversation, or more lengthy twenty-two minute conversation ... we'll talk, and pray, and I'll run my fingers through their hair and tell them - every night I tell them - how much I love and adore them and how incredibly GRATEFUL I am that they blessed my world.

No truer words have ever been written on this blog:  I really am the luckiest person alive.

Tonight Charlie and I spent a few hours after they went to sleep, blowing up 48 balloons, which we strung around the house.  Ever since their seventh birthday in Virginia, we've made it a tradition to decorate the house on the eve of their birthday.  Because when 50% of your family celebrates the exact same birthday ... it deserves some festivity.

These lists have been hanging up on the fridge for the past few weeks, since perhaps early September, but I took a photo of them tonight, so I can memorialize their birthday gift wishes @ 11:


William's birthday list - he really wants an X-Box 360 and Marvel Superhero games.  Also, Jurassic World X-Box games.  Because if there is one thing that he and his little brother love to do - it's to talk / play / breathe / dream about anything and everything related to superheroes and dinosaurs.  Add a video game to that mix and you've got the recipe for 8- and 11-year old male euphoria.

William would also like Love, Hope, and Peace throughout the world.  Oh, and a Nerf Sword. So glad that was listed after his charitable desires.

(Ankit is our Indian friend, through Compassion International, that we've been sponsoring for the past six years. I'm happy to see that William is thinking of his pen pal, on his birthday. Although I suspect it has something to do with me repeatedly telling him, "It isn't always about what *we* want. It cannot be 'me, me, me!' We must think of others, and what we can do to make the world better."   This is evidence he's hearing at least a little of what I'm saying and for that, I rejoice.)


Elizabeth's birthday list - a phone, a baseball mitt, roller skates, colored pencils, get ears pierced, cowboy boots, new tennis shoes, visit her best friend from Virginia - Rosie - and get two new guinea pigs.   I haven't written about it yet, but in July, we made the very difficult decision to leave our two guinea pigs, Barack and Georgie (also known as James Brown and Einstein; Chocolate and Oreo), in Virginia.  The day before we pulled out of town, I came to my senses and realized that driving 1,500 miles with two guinea pigs AND the rambunctious dog in the middle of summer, was infinitesimally more than I could handle.

For as much as I loved our guinea pigs ... I didn't love them that much.  Nor did I love them so much that I'm in a hurry to replace them anytime soon.  If soon = 90 years.


Carolyn's birthday list - a real baseball bat, cowboy boots, a walkman, and then a lot of time spent together as a big happy family.  Going to the movies - fishing - and having my Mom and Jim visit.  My favorite birthday wish of hers is that we "Drive around Texas and give money to the poor people."

I think this wish stems from a situation last year, when we were on a road trip, and saw an elderly homeless man near a traffic light, in the pouring rain, holding out a cup.  We'd stopped at the red, and reached out the window to hand him some food and money. That gesture was a highlight of our children's trip.   I'm so glad to see that the memory of how good that small act felt in her heart, stuck with my sweet girl.   But pray tell, how do we find all the poor people in Texas?  And where does all the money come from?

In regards to distribution - do we just roll down our windows and throw it out?

Clearly, there's still some logistics we need to work out.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

so, around the same time they qualify for AARP

Despite pleas from the children to buy them their own phones ... we've held out because I see no reason for our 10-year olds to have that kind of technology.  I'm so mean, because apparently "Everyone else MOM, EVERYONE has one."  Our poor children, they're so deprived.  

A few months ago, Charlie replaced his iPhone with a new one, and the kids thought that meant they could have his old phone which he'd stashed away somewhere.  When they found the old phone, they probably felt like they'd just won the lottery - and thought they'd try to crack the security passcode.  

I only figured out what had happened when William asked if I could let him use a calculator.    


This was a fun little math project for us to work on together.   Although probably more fun for me and Charlie, than the children. 


We calculated that the phone will be unlocked in approximately 45 years ... or around the same time they may be planning to retire.  

Suffice to say, they're very, very upset with Siri.