Category Archives: Being real

Memories, A Medical Update and That Time I Talked About Health Insurance


So once again it has been awhile since I have had a chance to sit down and write. Lots has happened and I wanted to share a few of those updates! On Saturday we had our family pictures taken by a friend who has some crazy amazing talent. I have only seen some of the sneak peaks…but what she has shared so far has blown me away. Her name is Stephanie Werner and she can be found here on Facebook. Seriously, if you need pictures taken and live in or near Marshall, MN, call her. I can’t wait to see the final edited CD!!

We have had a few really crazy weeks with work, and we just had some of the carpet replaced in the office space that we lease so things have been in a bit of a disarray here. But as of yesterday, everything was moved back into its proper place and the carpet looks really nice.

I couldn’t help but think that my grandpa would have really loved to see the before and after pictures. He and my grandma really supported us when Dominic first started this business. They gave us the loan that made it possible to buy the furniture and supplies he needed to get going. When I was cleaning out my desk drawers before we had to move everything I came across the paid off promissory note that he sent back to us after we had paid off everything in full. A sweet memory.

Speaking of memories, yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of my best friend Karlena’s passing. Honestly, I couldn’t believe it had been 7 years. Sometimes that seems impossible. But then I look at my girl, her namesake, and realize that she will be 7 in 6 short weeks. I was organizing pictures on our shelves after the move in the office and many of them are of our family and you can see how we have all aged and changed. But the pictures I have with Karlena and I will forever be from 2010 and earlier. It is sad when you think about the fact that someone so crucial to your faith walk isn’t there for new steps. But her presence and memory are certainly felt and I will forever be grateful that I had the opportunity to love her and be her friend.

On October 19th I had a follow-up visit with my OB/GYN Dr after my surgery. The good news was that everything was healing well and the biopsy from both the cyst (which was the thing I was most concerned about) and the tubes was benign.

In addition to having those things removed, I also had an ablation procedure. I shared back in September that because of the way that my uterus is tipped they were unable to do a standard biopsy in the Dr’s office, so instead they had to do it in the operating room prior to doing the ablation. My Dr had talked to me that there was a small chance that if something showed up in the biospy of the uterine wall that was concerning, I may have to have a hysterectomy in the future.

At the time there wasn’t anything in my history that indicated that might be a concern so we went forward with the lesser invasive procedure. Unfortunately, when they did the biopsy of the lining there were some sections of concern. In medical terms, there was some focal glandular crowding, proliferative-type endometrium, and cystic dilatation….in layman’s terms I like to call this my angry uterus.

Right now my angry uterus is just that…angry. Ha ha!! It isn’t cancer but if left unchecked and untreated it could become more serious. She said that we could wait a few months and then if my cycles don’t quit completely (like they do for 85-90% of women that have the ablation procedure) she would recommend a hysterectomy. (For people without an angry uterus bi-annual biopsies done in office can be used to watch for any changes….mine would have to be done surgically)

I am 42, almost 43. I won’t be having children physically in the future and so from a medical perspective, I don’t need this darn angry, funny tipped uterus. The reason we didn’t just do a hyst right away is because it has a longer recovery time and more risks….we were both thinking that the biopsy would be normal and hoping that I wouldn’t have the need for any more surgeries.

Well then last week we got the wonderful news about our anticipated healthcare premium increases. And just so I am clear, this is our experience and I realize that there are many of you that have had different experiences. I don’t know what the answers are, I wish I did…but I want to share what we have gone through the last 6 years and what is happening now as a result.

Let me just be frank with you, Obamacare for our family was a nightmare. Our premiums have doubled, tripled, quadrupled in the course of 6 years. I was fortunate for many years to work in a corporate environment and so as a result up until 2011, had access to a large group plan that offered reasonable rates and low deductibles. We were involved in a health coaching group and kept accountable for our health needs. Except for some major unexpected things, our group was healthy because we as a whole exercised, ate healthy and went to the doctor when it was medically necessary.

When we moved to MN and I was no longer working with that larger corporation and Dominic started his own business, we were in the position to look for healthcare on our own. I was clueless to what it would cost and we were shocked at how much more expensive rates were than the rates I had paid through the bank. But in 2011, it was manageable.

Then came 2012, 2013…and so on and with it extreme increases in premiums and out of pocket deductible costs. In 2011 we were paying approximately $400-450 a month for our family of 6 with maybe a $2000 deductible. Today we are paying $1600 a month and we have a deductible of over $7000 out of pocket. If we stay with our current group plan for 2018, one that we were lucky to get because we work together at the business….one that we were grandfathered into last year, our premiums will be almost $2100 a month.

$2100 a month just to have insurance. Our plan used to have a $40 co-pay, so at least when the kids got sick we could justify the expense of going in and getting checked out. In 2018 our co-pay will be eliminated. In addition to the $2100 a month, we would have to pay 100% of all medical costs per person up to $2300 each before any “insurance” would kick in.

Dominic and I work very hard for a living. We are fortunate, we know that. We make just enough that we do not qualify for any subsidy programs. Our cost of healthcare is fully our own. I know that we are not alone in this. I am friends with other families, many of them also self-employed, who have found themselves in a similar situation.

How is this “affordable healthcare?”

Last year we researched the options available to us in regards to the various Christian Health Sharing ministries. Fear kept me stuck in the what-ifs. Dominic was more ready to make a switch than I was but with promises of “reform” all over the news last November….we decided to ride out one more year in hopes that change was really going to happen.

Clearly that change isn’t happening anytime soon. The insurance companies continue to increase rates, decrease benefits and lesson the available networks that the plans work in. When my health care premiums are more than my mortgage payment each month, something is wrong.

So, as a result, two things are happening. One, we are looking into all of the options and companies out there that are considered Christian Health Sharing Ministries. I have spent hours reading and researching the differences, asking for input from friends that are using each plan, and honestly in prayer for wisdom and discernment over our decisions. I can’t live in fear of the unknown. When we get to that place where we have made some decisions I will share the whats and whys here for anyone that is interested.

I still have some questions and am hoping to get those answers soon. I am saddened that this is the state of our affairs and that we have to make these types of “between a rock and a hard place” decisions. But I am trusting that God will guide our choices and our steps.

And two….I have been back in contact with my doctor to discuss and schedule a hysterectomy (one that leaves my ovary intact!!) for the very end of December. While having another surgery in 2 months isn’t on my list of the best ways to end 2017 and ring in a new year, I can’t afford to risk waiting and having to do the surgery in early 2018. If there is a drastic change in my cycles in the next 6 weeks, the surgery could be canceled…but at this point, it looks like for many reasons, it is the best option for me.

I thought the week-long recovery of the last surgery was tough. This one will challenge me even more I am sure. But Dominic has been incredibly supportive and we will just have to schedule our workload very light in early January as a result. We have some pretty incredible clients and I know they will understand.

And sometime in the next 6 weeks I need to come up with about 10 freezer meals that I can make and freeze in advance so that I don’t have to worry about cooking. I won’t be able to lift anything over 20lbs for 6 weeks for sure, no laundry, no vacuuming….seriously what will I do?! Haha!

But joking aside, can I tell you that I have such a peace about all of this?! When my doctor said it might be something we would have to do it was like “ok…I can deal with that.” All the fear and anxiety I felt over the last surgery is just gone. Praise God! I know that having come to that place with Him, trusting that whatever the outcome, He would be there….that truth has carried me through today. It can only be explained by Him. He has given me a peace and I am so grateful for that.

So I do covet your prayers as we make final decisions about our health care situation and for December 28th and my surgery. It could be so much worse, I know that….so I just move forward seeking to get to the healthiest place that I can for myself and my family!

And if you are using a Christian Sharing Ministry and want to share your experience please do! What do you love, what works…what doesn’t, would you go back to traditional insurance? What questions should I be asking…give me all your knowledge!

On Grace and Why I Need it Every Day

I meant to stop and take a real life picture of my kitchen/dining room this morning but I ran out of time. Let me give you a little word picture instead. I had made a feeble attempt to dust mop the floors, but the pile of dirt, hair and leaves remained in a heap in front of our fireplace for at least two days along with the mop. The final step of actually sweeping it up alluded me.

Our dining room table is covered with papers from the kids, dried up, spilled food chunks and sticky juice glasses that hadn’t yet made it to the dishwasher. The kitchen island wasn’t any better, cluttered with books and toys and papers….it was all threatening to overtake me.

A few days ago I was voxing with my best friend about the work God had done in my life, the dramatic changes He had done in my spirit from the really awful year of 2015 into early 2016. It was ugly and if you thought things were ok then I did a good job of wearing my “I’ve got it all together mask on” well. The reality was I was holding on by a thread for months.

But God. There was some really hard heart work that took place during that time. Some letting go of the things that had held me in chains and I did find freedom because of it. But it doesn’t mean that I am perfect! By no means!

I still need grace, I am constantly learning how to give and receive grace every day.

Case in point. This week has been brutal and it is only Wednesday. We have more final delivery meetings at work this week than we normally schedule, and it has kept us at the office longer in the evenings than we would like. We are getting some new carpet in the office space that we lease next week but as an agreement to get this done, we committed to the removal of the old carpet ourselves. That is happening this weekend. Isaac is coming back home to help and since he will be home for the first time in a long time we are sneaking family pictures in there somewhere.

And it is going to snow and be cold and windy….but that is for another post.

I have been stressed. Overwhelmed really and feeling like we are just barely hanging on to keep everything in order so that we can accomplish all that we have on the calendar in the next few weeks.

I share all of that to give you some background to why I had a mini nervous breakdown a couple of times this week. Yes it IS only Wednesday. On Monday night I got home at 7:20pm. Our evening delivery went longer than we hoped and when I arrived home I discovered that the kids had not even eaten supper despite the fact that there was a crockpot full of warm soup ready and waiting for them.

Something about that set me off. I just was so mad. It was bedtime and they hadn’t eaten. Karlena had not read her book, we needed to practice spelling words and the house looked as I described above. I think at this point all sanity went out the window as I started to stomp around. I’m not kidding either. I really was throwing a fit, ask my kids, they will attest to it!

I opened up the recycling drawer and the two cans were overflowing….”I guess I will take these out myself”, I said. “And I will do all the dishes, and all the laundry…and I make dinner and you don’t eat it. And everyone leaves all their junk all over the place and no one cleans it up…”

Stomp, stomp, stomp…

It was pathetic really, the kids started to get food and Gabe hauled out the recycling. I went into the laundry room to fold something and calm down. While I do think that at times my kids struggle with a bit of selfishness and not recognizing how easy they have things…they really are great kids.

I knew that I was tired and stressed and I was taking it out on them. So I marched back into the kitchen to apologize. Moms make mistakes too. I told them how sorry I was, explained that it had been a rough day at work, but that wasn’t an excuse and I shouldn’t take it out on them.

We also set a new rule that in those times that I do have to work late, that they will all eat together at the same time, at dinner time, because I always make sure on nights like that there is something ready and easy for them to eat.

Here’s the reality though and something I need to remind myself again and again. While I can teach our kids about being responsible and taking care of their things and putting things away…they will not ever care about the tidiness of our home like I do. I never did as a child! I can place something on the stairs and expect that they carry it up…and then get angry each day that passes that they walk past it unbothered by it.

Isn’t it easier if I just say please carry that up to your rooms?! They do, it’s done and I don’t have a reason to allow a resentment to fester. Sometimes I set myself up for problems by not communicating my expectations well!!

Monday night I needed grace. I am sure that tonight and tomorrow and into this busy weekend full of furniture moving and carpet ripping…I will need grace. I need to be willing to freely give it to others and grateful when they are gracious back to me.

And when I voxed my friend on Tuesday I laughed as I recounted the horrors of the night before. How funny it was that I had talked up all the ways I had changed and then how completely downhill the evening had gone just hours later.

But the difference I am starting to see is that I am not holding on to the anger for days on end. Yes I used to do that. It was awful and miserable and thankfully I am quick to recognize when I have failed and much quicker to apologize. God has done a work in me and while I am not perfected, I am a work in progress and that is a gift.

There I was sitting on my pity potty….


Oh friends, I hope you are all having a good weekend.  Yesterday I found myself in a bit of a rut. I reeeeeaaaaalllly don’t do this laying low and resting thing well. By Thursday I was boring myself. It is ridiculous I know. Friday it was cold and rainy, the perfect curl up on the couch in a cozy sweater kind of day. And while I was doing just that I found myself frustrated and angry that I couldn’t do more.

Apparently, I don’t do recovery well.

My pain level was still pretty high on Thursday so I was taking 1 pain pill as needed every four hours. The lovely side effect of said pain pill is that it pretty much dries everything up on the inside, so going to the bathroom is all but impossible.

Too much information? I know, it probably is but here’s the thing…I said I was going to be open about this process and so here I am being open. So while I haven’t had much of an appetite, I also have not gone the the bathroom since Monday. For me that is a long time and I think Dominic best described it when he said you start to feel like you are full of concrete.

On top of all that loveliness, I am still really swollen from the surgery. I feel I look about 3 months pregnant and basically none of my regular pants fit. So I was wearing leggings as pants, which for me is a strict no, but I really had no other choice.

Thursday night I decided that I would stop taking the pain pills to see if that would help get things moving again. Friday morning when I got up I spent about an hour walking laps around our home trying to help “wake up” my intestines. {It didn’t work} Neither has any of the other recommended over the counter “products” that are supposed to help alleviate said problem.

So I was bloated, uncomfortable, full of “concrete” and feeling a bit sorry for myself.

I called and voxed my best friend and cried “I’m bored and miserable and sitting on my pity potty.” Then I realized what I had said when I meant to say pity pot and we both laughed over that one!

I told Dominic that I just wanted to go to Walmart to get a few things, I couldn’t stand being in the house any longer. He said he only wished he could just sit and hang out in the house and relax. Why is it so hard to just be still?

I knew that I needed to remember this time, appreciate it because very soon everything would be back to normal and I would be crazy busy and probably stressed.

Then I got a message from my most favorite friends here in Marshall. They were headed to the church to set up for the ladies night event that is happening later today and asked if I wanted to come along and watch. I wasn’t allowed to help at all, but could sit and visit with them while they worked.

And it was just what I needed. We talked and laughed, and I was able to just relax in a different setting for a few hours. Nothing about my situation had really changed…I still was dealing with pain and being uncomfortable but by getting off of my “pity potty” I was able to change my perspective.

How quickly I forget.

Instead of continuing to celebrate the fact that the news after my surgery was better than I had hoped, I was caught up in how slow the recovery seemed to be going. I should be focused on the fact that there won’t be any additional treatments, surgeries etc. after this! I have so much to be grateful for!

It was a reminder to me again how quickly I can get sucked into the negative. It isn’t ever a good place for me to be. I am so grateful for the few hours away last night that helped me gain a better perspective. There is always beauty to be found. Goodness can happen when we allow ourselves rest, and joy comes from time with friends.

If you are stuck on your pity potty today, try something different for a few hours. Seek to change your perspective and count your blessings. I am sure there are many to be found!! Have a happy Saturday friends!!

 

Photo Credit: d’s2nd

How Your Prayers Made a Difference

Well I am home and recovering from my surgery on Tuesday. The night before the surgery I had a terrible night’s sleep. The dog’s collar kept jingling when she would move and we had heavy rain and storms come through as well. Maybe it was nerves too, but I tossed and turned that night.

We arrived at the surgical hospital about an hour before the procedure and they got me in their system, handed me some pretty fancy hospital wares  and then we waited. My Dr. is an OB/GYN and apparently there was a potential labor emergency during the time the surgery was supposed to start so we had to wait almost an hour longer than we expected.

Dominic and my sister Beth kept me company until they brought me back. We had some laughs so it made the time pass pretty quickly. Once in the operating room they hooked me up to a heart monitor and started the IV. They said the meds would kick in pretty quickly and in one moment the ceiling was moving above me and the next thing I remember was waking up and asking the nurse if they had to take the ovary or not.

She said I needed to talk to the Dr. about that and honestly if I did, I don’t remember that conversation! But eventually they brought me to a second recovery room and brought Dominic and Beth back in.

Everything went better than I had imagined it would. No cancer, the ovary remains, my tubes are gone and the ablation was successful. Praise God!!!

In the weeks leading up to this surgery I had steeled myself for a different answer. I really did have a peace about all of it and knew that if the news wasn’t great that God would be with me on whatever path I would walk next. I had even stopped praying for specific requests for myself and instead just thanked God for giving me peace and for being my strength.

But so so many of you did pray those specific prayers on my behalf. It was incredible really, people from my community and local church rallied around me. Women that my mom knew from another prayer group she is in emailed me and told me that they were praying. So many of my Facebook friends sent encouragement and positive thoughts my way. And my parents drove up to make sure that we had someone to be with the kids while we were gone!

Each prayer, comment, text message…they made a difference and I am just humbled that you would step in and support me in that way. At a time when in so many ways our country seems like a dark and sad place, you my friends brought me light. Oh and a few of my dear, best friends from church worked it out with Dominic to come to our house when I was gone to redecorate the built in shelves in my kitchen/dining room AND the tackle the chair recovering that I just had not been able to complete!! Seriously it is overwhelming to be loved on like that!!

Thank you doesn’t seem enough, but it is what I can offer right now. That and the promise that I will intercede on your behalf if and when the need arises.

The last time I had a surgery I was so very sick from the meds, that recovery and coming out of the surgery were the things I feared the most. But my Dr. was proactive and prescribed a little patch that I placed behind my ear 3 hours before the surgery. In addition they offered me a pill to take right before the surgery, that when paired with the patch usually resulted in very little nausea.

So thankfully when I woke up I wasn’t really sick. I am uncomfortable today and need to stay consistent with my pain meds, and I already over did it this morning when I got up to help the kids get ready for school. It proved to be too much and I have since spent the majority of the day in bed.

I don’t “rest” well. I don’t accept help well either. Ha! But we have friends from church scheduled to bring us a few meals, and our neighbor brought us over a meal this afternoon as well that we can have later this week. What a gift that will be for our whole family!

I don’t remember if it was my dad or someone else that said to me that when we deny  people the opportunity of helping us, we are denying them the use of their spiritual gifts. I like that way of looking at it and so instead of believing that I should be able to manage it all, I step back and am humbly accepting  the gifts of others.

The anesthesiologist said that they would make a list of everything the used to help control the nausea  so that next time we could do it again. I told him that I would prefer there not be a next time..but if there is I will remember this experience too. How so many people gave us support and encouragement.

Because we know that there will be trials, we often don’t know when they will come, but they will come in some shape or form. I know that next time I can hopefully be that gift to someone else.

This experience has reminded me that when I become ready and willing to turn all of it, whatever it is (fears, worries, doubts etc,) over to God, that I can walk through a situation confident that He is with me even if I can’t comprehend what will happen. I have this hope that is an anchor to my soul….

This experience has also reminded me about the value of community. Of having a church family, good neighborhood relationships, family and friends that you can confide in. So that if there is ever a time when you don’t have the words to pray, you can know someone else is interceding on your behalf.

Once again I have been a bit long-winded, thank you for sticking with me. And if some of this doesn’t flow well, I am blaming it on the meds I am taking. I feel a bit foggy with my thoughts and my words. But it was important to me to take a few minutes and post an update here.

Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus to me and my family. I am so very grateful for each and everyone of you!!

Photo Credit: ThienLong

The day before, the rock, the flowers, community and more…

So as I write this it is the day before the big day. It has been a long week of waiting. I have been ready but the time has passed slowly. It hasn’t helped that I haven’t felt great for several days. For multiple days I have said I feel like I am pregnant. Tired, nauseous and a little out of sorts. Of course there is no physical way I could be pregnant…so these week-long symptoms have been irritating. I am hopeful that after my recovery period I will be back to myself again.

I had good intentions of getting so much done this weekend before I am bed-ridden for a few days but the majority of it just didn’t happen. It’s ok though, overall we had a good weekend. On Sunday after church I had a chance to visit with several of my friends and a few of them prayed over me. It was such a beautiful gift. A few of my other friends were conspiring with Dominic about something behind me too while the praying was happening…I am pretty lucky to have such an amazing church family!

Then later that afternoon another friend from church texted me and asked if she could put me on the “meal train” list. I have to admit it is reaaaalllly hard for me to say yes to help. I am good at trying to manage it all on my own (even if I am not doing a great job as evidenced by something I will share later) but one of the girls that prayed over me specifically prayed that I would have a heart willing to rest and receive. So I thanked her for arranging the meal train and know that my family will be blessed by it.

Today I had BIG plans. Like get all the work done I possibly can in the office kind of plans. Except it didn’t quite turn out like I had expected. At about 12:30pm I got a call from our elementary school. It was the nurses office. They had Karlena there and somehow she had a rock stuck way down deep in her ear. She was crying and the nurse said that we needed to take her to the Dr. to get it out. {Of course}

So off to the school we go to pick her up. When she gets in the car she initially tries to tell us that a “mean boy” from her class put the rock in her ear. Why would you let someone do that we wonder out loud? And then through sobs she admits that she did it. So awesome, it was her fault and she was lying to us. Parenting win #1 for the day. Wait for it #2 is coming!!

The Dr. couldn’t see her for a few hours so we had lunch and went back to the office where I got the most beautiful flowers delivered. Ahhh, sweet blessings in a day that was going down the drain. My best friend wanted me to have something pretty to look at all week and had them sent to our office today. They are so perfect. I rarely get flowers and I have gotten them twice this week! What?!

While we were waiting for the Dr’s appointment my calendar alarm pops up. It is a reminder for Gabe’s ortho appointment in 10 minutes. The one I had COMPLETELY forgotten about. The one that was supposed to be extra long today so they could do a bunch of replacing of wires and things. The kind you don’t want to have to cancel, but I had no choice. I called the office and apologized profusely, telling the receptionist that I have a surgery tomorrow and I had completely forgotten the appointment and there was no way for me to get a hold of Gabe to get him there. Parenting win #2.

Thankfully they were so grace-filled with me and we were able to reschedule for a better time next week. This time I will NOT forget!

Besides all of this, I was impatiently waiting for a call from the pre-op nurse to give me the lowdown on what not to do and what to do before the surgery. {Finally they called!!} Like I get to shower tonight AND tomorrow morning. I will be clean! Ha! And I thought I might get to have food up to 8 hours before the surgery…so I was planning on having a protein shake at around 3:30am. But apparently I can’t eat after midnight. Boo. I am going to be one hungry mama come noon tomorrow.  Somehow I am sure I will survive.

Through all of this though I have been reflecting on this amazing community of people that I have surrounding me. In person, in prayer, with meals and flowers, encouragement and laughter. All of it is such a gift. I don’t take it for granted, I really don’t.

So thank you. I will do my best to provide an update when I am able. But know that your prayers and encouragement have been felt and are so very appreciated!

Even in the 30%

Yesterday was my pre-op appointment with my doctor and while I did share this information on Facebook, I want to share it here as well. I want to continue to keep a record of all of this and writing helps me process, so thank you for allowing me to be real and personal here.

So the doctor initially decided to try and see if she could feel the cyst because she said there was a possibility that it went away on its own, but it was definitely still there. She also attempted to do a biopsy of my endometrial lining for the ablation that they will be doing as well (a kind of buy one get one free part of my surgery – Ha!) but apparently my uterus is tipped and it made that quite difficult and pretty darn painful. And I thought I had a pretty high pain tolerance. Ouch!

So after that fun, we talked about the surgery and the risks etc. There are some things about the cyst that are “good” and not indicative of stage 2 or greater cancer. Like there isn’t fluid around it. But there is something abnormal with the cyst, there are 2 cysts or possibly one that is split, but they can’t tell for sure and it has thick walls. So they have to get in there to see it with the scope to know for sure.

She said that if she had to put a number on it she thinks there is a 70% chance that the cyst is just a normal cyst and then she might be able to just remove the cyst. A 30% chance it is not typical. If it looks abnormal at all she’s going to take the cyst and the ovary, call in the oncologist and they will take lymph nodes as well to check for cancer. This is apparently standard protocol.

They take it all if there is any chance at all it is abnormal so they avoid the risk of breaking the cyst open and possibly spreading cancer cells into the uterus.

Regardless of how the cyst looks, they will remove my tubes for sure to help decrease the chance of cancer. If the ovary has to be removed then I will have to look at some hormone replacement therapies. There are lots of options and we will discuss those if/when that time becomes necessary.

We talked about the side effects that I had from the meds I took for just 10 days (they weren’t pleasant) and reassured me that there were lots of options to try. When this all first started I was so panicked about the HRT’s, it bothered me so so much. Today I can say that I am confident that if it is needed, she will help me find the right balance of meds.

Oddly enough, I feel at peace about everything. She said she would treat me like she would her own daughter. I trust her and more importantly I trust God. She is a Christian and said she is doing Gods work, and so I know I am in good hands.

And no matter what happens, God will be my strength. I do so appreciate all your prayers and messages. Surgery is next Tuesday and I am ready. I almost wish I didn’t have to wait a few more days because I just want to get onto the healing part of this process!

I voxed my best friend all of the details later yesterday afternoon and she messaged me back that I sounded like a different person. She could hear the peace in my voice. Part of that does come from knowing all the details and options, yes. But more importantly I think, that peace has been poured over me because of the prayers of all of you.

So many of you have interceded on my behalf, praying against fear and for peace. I can’t tell you how grateful I am. The prayers are heard and they are felt.

I am the type of person that could easily get stuck in the “what-if” of that 30% number. And let’s just be gut-level honest here….I have a real vanity about my hair. The thought of the possibility of cancer and chemo and losing my hair. Oh my goodness, I can’t even fathom it. I know I shouldn’t joke about that but I have dreams nightmares about losing my teeth and my hair. It’s not pretty guys!!

So even a week ago I could have easily been stuck in that place. Spinning over all of the negative possibilities. Filled with fear and anxiety over what might happen if I was in that 30%.

But yesterday God met me in such a tangible way, such a take-my-breath away moment, that I realized it doesn’t matter what percentage I fall into. It really doesn’t. God IS with me. He so specifically made His presence known to me in a way that He knew would minister to my heart, I have no doubt that whatever happens next Tuesday, He will continue to be the God that ministers to me. (Hair or no hair!)

I shared that I was honored to be a part of the (in)courage A Moment to Breathe 365 devotional. It is no coincidence to me that the release date for that book was THE date of my surgery (October 3rd). A day that would be remembered by joy and not fear.

But yesterday when we got home from the doctor’s office I wanted to read the devotional for that day (I was sent a few advance copies to give away!!) and so I googled what day of the calendar year it was. Day 270.

I opened up the devotional to day 270 and saw this.

I instantly started to cry. Words I had written, words to bring encouragement and hope to another now speaking life into me. A reminder that I can trust the journey. That I don’t need to know the future, I don’t have to know the answers but instead I can trust God in the process.

There are 79 other authors in this devotional book. I had no input on where my posts would land, or on which days. I have 4 other posts in the book and this one specifically is JUST what I needed to be reminded of.

These are words He gave me a long time ago. He hasn’t changed and He won’t. It doesn’t matter if I wake up next Tuesday and discover I was in the 30%. God is still God and I trust Him fully.

Certainly, I am praying for the 70% results. But even in the 30%, there is hope. And whatever it is, the next steps I take will be with Him leading me. I have confidence in that. I have peace.

I told my kids this morning on the way to school that mom wasn’t scared. I trusted God and He was with me. And they could trust Him like that too. If nothing else I want them to see that they don’t have to walk through life filled with fears and what-ifs. They can put their faith in Him and He will guide them.

I don’t know what you are facing today. What unknown you might be struggling with. Can I encourage you to turn it over to God, ask some trusted friends to pray for you and with you and then allow His peace to flood your spirit. I would be honored to pray for you, so if you have any specific prayer needs, please leave them in the comments and know I will be lifting you up!

Filled With Peace

People have asked how I am doing recently, and honestly I am pretty good. I shared how the first few days were pretty anxiety-filled but for the most part now I have a sense of peace about everything.

Not the peace that everything is going to turn out exactly as I hope, because I just don’t know that. This is a peace that regardless of what happens, God will be with me and I will be ok.

I am ready for my pre-op appointment. It is this Wednesday and Dominic will be coming with me. My wise friend Sherry told me to make sure that I gave him permission to ask whatever questions he may have. Especially if I am not asking them myself. She shared that when she went through a recent medical scare she just blanked when the doctor started talking about the surgery she was facing….she couldn’t think of anything to ask. So Dominic knows that I appreciate his voice in this and I am just grateful that he can be there.

We have been talking about this on and off for a few weeks now and Dominic has been praying about my surgery in the morning so our kids know something is going on. A few nights ago we were headed out to get pumpkins and broom corn from a farmer friend and Gabe started asking some questions.

So we told them that there was  a cyst and it isn’t “normal” and it needs to come out. Gabe asked if it was cancer. I told him that I didn’t know for certain, but I was hopeful it wasn’t. But we couldn’t know anything for sure if I didn’t have it removed. Gabe said that he knew how he could be praying for me. What a gift it is to have my kids praying for me.

I assured them that I trusted my Doctor and that she saved my life once before, she would take care of me this time too. Elijah wasn’t sure that was true so he asked Dominic if it was. It was funny actually, once Dominic said yes it was true Elijah says “OK I believe you!” Oh he makes me laugh!

Yes there are some scary unknowns, I honestly am most worried about my recovery after the surgery. The last laparoscopic surgery I had should have been a 2 hour recovery time and then I would have gone home but I was there for HOURS. Poor Dominic was so hungry and I was so sick. I couldn’t keep anything down. The meds made me nauseous and the gas they pumped into my abdomen caused such terrible referred pain in my shoulder that I could hardly move.

So if you are the praying kind, prayers for a better recovery this round would be so appreciated.

Yesterday a couple of young men came by our home to talk to me about their faith and their church. I will be honest, when I saw them coming down the street I initially wondered how I might avoid the conversation. I guess I didn’t feel prepared to “defend” my beliefs.

I was outside in my garage canning salsa though so there was really no getting away. So I said a little prayer that God would give me the words to say. They asked if I had a faith in God and I shared that I did. They went further and wanted to talk to me about the other things that their church believes. We had some dialogue back and forth and they asked me if they left me their “book” if I would read it.

I was kind, but I said no. I didn’t need another book besides the Bible to tell me about Jesus. That was “proof” enough for me. I didn’t need another book or a profit to tell me what I already knew from the written word of God. I have a personal relationship with Him. I believe Jesus was the Son of God, He died for my sins and because of my faith and trust in Him, I would someday be in heaven with Him.

They respected my no, and told me that the number on the back of their card they gave me could be used if we ever needed help for any reason…that they were on mission for God for the next 2 years. I told them that while I didn’t agree with the teachings of their church, I respected that they were going out and sharing their faith. How many Christians do you know that would go door to door and share their faith in Jesus? I’ve never done it!

They left and I went over in my mind the things I had shared, wondering if I had honored God with my words…I hoped that they left knowing that I was kind and respectful towards them, but firm in my own faith. Oh and I invited them to my church…because it just seemed right!

Today in church the message was in part about the Great Commission. When Jesus commanded his disciples to go, baptize and teach in His name. Kent told us that each of us have been given gifts and that we can use those gifts to help fulfill the Great Commission. Maybe evangelism isn’t my gift, but writing is. So how can I use my God-give gifts and talents to bring Him glory?

Well, by sharing these moments in my life.

I won’t sugar coat it and wrap it up in a pretty little bow and pretend that because I have Jesus my life is perfect. No, my life is a mess almost 100% of the time and it is exactly why I need Jesus!

I struggle with fear and uncertainty, I question God and sometimes I even argue with Him. But He is my constant. He has always been there for me. He always will be. It doesn’t matter what happens at my surgery, if I have to take meds I don’t want to take for several years, or if it is something more….whatever happens God will be there.

I don’t know how people go through difficulty without a relationship with God. I was thinking about what I shared at my best friend Karlena’s funeral back in 2010. She had such an incredible faith and I wanted what she had. I wanted to be able to trust God even if I knew that my life would end up differently than I had hoped. She had that trust in spite of the incredible difficulties she faced every day, especially at the end.

But one of her biggest concerns was that all her family and friends might come to know God and have a relationship with Him like she did. She wanted to be reunited again in heaven. So at the end of my talk I shared that. I said that she would have wanted to see everyone in that room with her again some day and there was only one way to have that assurance, and that was a faith in God. My dad later commented that it was like I did an old fashioned altar call.

Friends, I feel just as strongly today as I did that day. Our time is short. we don’t know the day or the hour that we will be called away or that Christ will return. If you are reading this and don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, would you please reach out to me. I would love to talk with you and pray for you. There is a peace that passes all understanding that is available through God, believe me I know this first hand and I am so grateful for it. I’d love to introduce you to my Jesus.

Yes, But….

I know when it has been too long since I posted last when I have forgotten the password to log into my own site! Hello friends, thanks for being here with me today. It is funny how much changes in a year’s time. Last year at this time I was writing away, planning for my 31-day challenge on Fervent Prayer. And then somehow after that, the words just stopped. I am not one to force words out just to have a post, thus the long lengths of silence here. I can’t promise that things will be changing soon but I do want to share a little bit of what is going on with me and ask for some prayer in the coming weeks.

Part of my reason for sharing this more personal information is so that I can look back at it and remember, and also because as I have done some of my own research I am finding that first-hand accounts are rare and quite honestly, I get lost in the complexity of medical terminology. When I had my PRK surgery I blogged honestly about my experience and so I thought I might do a little of that here today.

Some back story for those that don’t know it…it will become important to the rest of the story in a minute.

Sometime in 2001 I believe I had a very scary experience when a large cyst, that I didn’t know was growing on the underside of my left ovary, burst and basically tore my ovary and fallopian tube to shreds. I remember feeling a funny “pop” in my gut and then feeling uncomfortable all day at work. I didn’t know what was going on but I was stubborn and ignored the symptoms.

It wasn’t until later in the day that I started to black out as I would stand up. Someone called a women from a neighboring department who was an EMT and she came and took my blood pressure and it was really low. I decided to drive myself (I know I am that stubborn) to the local acute care to be checked out.

At this point I was in terrible pain in my abdomen and could hardly stand up straight. They did an X-ray and couldn’t figure out what was going on. They wanted to send me to the ER and thankfully had me call my mom to come and get me because it was unsafe for me to drive. In the ER they did a CT scan and discovered I was filled with blood and figured it was some sort of “female” problem. My OB/GYN doctor was called in to do an emergency exploratory surgery.

I remember being on the table as they prepped me, being ready to be put to sleep and she came in. She has long red hair and it looked like fire to me next to her blue scrubs and the white walls and lights. I begged her to save my ovaries so that I could have more babies. We only had Isaac at that point and I knew I wanted more kids.

She told me that she would do her best but that if it was a decision between my life and my ability to have more kids, she would save me. I woke up and the first thing I asked was if I had lost everything. I hadn’t. She had been able to save the right ovary. They had removed blood clots the size of lemons from around the my lungs. I had bled internally from approximately 11am to 9pm. I was on the verge of needing a blood transfusion but they decided to wait and ultimately I didn’t need one.

I credit my doctor for saving my life. They said if I had ignored the woman at work and decided to drive home instead I likely would have died. After that surgery I was able to have 3 more children. It wasn’t necessarily easy, but we had Gabe in 2003, a miscarriage in 2007, Elijah in 2009 and Karlena in 2010.

After Karlena I went on birth control. I hadn’t used it for years because we stuggled so much to get pregnant it wasn’t necessary, but then our girl was a surprise to us so quickly after Elijah and we knew after 4 that we were done…so I decided to take something.

I didn’t love how the birth control made me feel. I know for most people there aren’t side effects, but I felt big emotional swings and developed dark melasma patches on my cheeks. A few years ago I started using essential oils more, started replacing many of our products with more “nautral” ones and tried to eliminate products that used parabens etc. from our cabinets. In 2014 I decided to have my tubes tied so that I could eliminate the need for the hormones all together.

10 months ago I started working out consistently with the Beachbody programs. I am consistently doing something at least 5 days a week if not more. I have lost and kept off 10lbs and also lost 10 inches from my hips and waist! I stopped drinking sugared juices in October and drink only water now. I don’t eat 100% “clean” but I know that I am healthier today and in better shape than I have been in years.

Since my tubal, my cycles have been a little funny. When you take a hormone to control them, they come on a specified day and typically end on a specified day. When you leave your body to naturally handle that on it’s own, it doesn’t always do it the same way. That has been the case with me. I have been tracking my cycles each month for over 2 years and while they have been somewhat consistent, recently I was noticing some changes. It was an extra extended cycle that brought me into my doctor last week for a check.

They ran some blood work and did an initial check of me and scheduled an ultrasound for this past Tuesday. I thought it was possible that my symptoms were a result of perimenopause. I had been told that women can go through some of the menopausal symptoms for up to 10 years before they are finally through it. (Great right?!) So I thought maybe this was my deal. Not ideal, but manageable.

The ultrasound on Tuesday revealed that there was a little more going on than just perimenopause symptoms. The doctor ran a CA125 blood screen to see if that was elevated. She explained that if it was it “may” be an indicator of cancer and the growth that was seen on the ultrasound would likely need to be removed. If not we could probably just watch it, but she wanted to get the radiologist’s full report to determine that as well.

They called yesterday and thankfully the CA125 was in a normal range, as was my thyroid and my FSH test. But the cyst on my only ovary has “focal thickening” and apparently that is concerning and it needs to come out.

The surgery itself is pretty simple. The doctor does it over her lunch hour. Bad for me because I am going to be STARVING since I won’t be able to eat after midnight the night before…but what do you do? Anyways, the biggest problem I am having right now is that depending on IF the cyst looks benign she may be able to remove it without taking the ovary. But IF any of that isn’t the case, it will all have to go and I will effectively be put into what is called “surgical menopause”.

Google that for some fun stories if you want to cry a little with me. Nevermind, don’t. Basically when the ovaries are removed the body immediately loses all estrogen production and so unlike a typical woman going through perimenopause who slowly loses estrogen, mine would immediately stop. From what I am reading it is very likely that ALL the symptoms of menopause could happen, like right away at any time. (Google was NOT my friend yesterday, I’m telling you!)

So the doctor mentioned that I would probably have to be on hormone replacement therapy. This is exactly what I wanted to avoid. When someone says “Oh those side effects only happen to 1 in 5 women”…well I am the 1.

But if I don’t take the HRT there are pretty huge and scary risks especially for women that are under the age of 45. Like being 7 times more likely to develop heart disease, increased risk of osteoporosis, and a doubled risk of Parkinson’s disease and dementia. All scary stuff.

Can I tell you that my heart starts beating fast and I get a little nauseous thinking about all of that! And there is so much info out there, how do you trust what is true and what is hype? I start to get in a panic and things spin quickly out of control.

Breathe, just breathe……

Dominic reminded me last night that we should be grateful that she didn’t call and say the CA125 was elevated. Yes, but…

And I realized that even though I had stopped to ask some close friends to pray about it for me, I hadn’t myself stopped to give it over to God.

Do you trust Me?

Lord, Yes, but….

I do, and I am grateful…but I didn’t want this.

I do, but I am scared and I don’t want to make the wrong decision.

I do, but I would have been happier if the answer was even simpler.

I don’t know yet (today) what is going to happen. My surgery is tentatively scheduled for October 3rd. I will meet with my doctor on the 27th to discuss all the options and risks etc. I am praying for wisdom and discernment, and for peace that whatever happens will be right for me medically speaking.

I am grateful that the blood test was normal. I do not want a repeat of what happened in 2001, even if it means surgical menopause.

Last week two of my closest friends whom I vox with every day were in Houston facing the terror of Hurricane Harvey. I have never in my life been so invested in fervent prayer for someone. I prayed over and over that God would spare their homes. I prayed crazy, bold prayers, that His army of angels would surround their homes and that not a drop of water would be allowed to enter their door frames.

At one point last week it seemed that all hope was lost, one friend was being evacuated by FEMA and the waters were rising fast. They were told that all the homes in the neighborhood would be covered. And yet by some miracle, the water stopped rising, and held and didn’t enter their homes.

God hears prayer. I was a first-hand witness to it. I also know that there are times those prayers don’t get answered in the way we would hope. I can’t explain why so many people did lose their homes, and others were spared. I can’t explain why my blood test would be negative but I know that there was likely a woman receiving different news yesterday.

I believe that the God that held back the waters, is the same God that will be there for me. But I have to be willing to let go of the outcome. I don’t want to have a “Yes, but…” kind of faith. In any of life’s storms I want to be able to say “Yes, Lord I trust You.” Regardless of the outcome. I won’t always get the answer I am hoping for. But I can look for the many reasons to be grateful along the way.

This has gotten incredibly long, and kuddos to anyone of you that has stuck with me. I will probably try and share more as I go through this. I know my experience will be unique to me, but being able to read someone else’s real life experience is so much more helpful (in my opinion) than 10-year-old forum chat boards that become quickly overwhelming.

So as I have more to share, I will do that and thank you in advance for anyone who is praying for me, I appreciate it so much!!

Remembering the Gift – A Deeper Waters Guest Post

Recently my friend Denise Hughes reached out to me and asked if I wanted to participate in her study of the book of James over at her Deeper Waters site. It is always an honor to be asked by fellow writers that I esteem to join in their ministry and so I happily said yes.

We each had to choose a set of verses in James to study further and write on. I knew immediately which verses I wanted or should I say needed to write on.

James 1: 19-25 specifically addresses anger. This has long been a struggle for me. My temper has caused hurt and pain and I continue to have the opportunity to practice a different response.

It just so happened that I learned from one of those opportunities recently and I am sharing my heart over at the Deeper Waters site this morning. I would love if you would join me over there and I encourage you to sign up for the daily emails and keep walking through the book of James with us!

Happy Monday!

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Deeper Waters website

A Lesson in Forgiveness

I was in the bathroom getting ready when I heard the screaming.

Dominic had been invited to attend a seminar tonight as one of their featured guests and we were 30 minutes from the time we had to leave. When we heard the screams we both went running to see what was going on.

Karlena came into the kitchen holding her mouth, blood covering her chin and teeth. It looked awful to me and I was pretty sure she needed stitches…but the clinics were all closed for the day and our only option was the ER.

I called my dad, he is a PA, and asked if we could send him some pictures. He confirmed that it needed to be treated. He said they may be able to glue it together but we needed to go in. A few calls were made to the group that was putting on the seminar to notify them we wouldn’t be attending, and we got ready to leave.

I sent a quick vox to some close friends asking for prayer. Prayer for Karlena and prayer for me. I have struggled to parent well in a few situations recently, and this was testing me in a big way. You see our son had pushed his sister and caused the accident.

I knew it wasn’t his intent to hurt her…but I was angry nonetheless. I wanted to handle this appropriately…it was important that he understand how serious this was. But on the other hand, despite his rough and tumble exterior, he is a boy with a tender spirit.

And if I am being completely honest with you, it is my nature to lay blame and also to create an environment filled with anger. And that is a dangerous combination!!

So we went to the ER and our brave girl was glued back together. Her lip continues to swell and because of the position of the steri-strip she is having a hard time opening her mouth very wide. Dominic told Elijah to come with so he could see what Karlena had to go through.

It is important that our kids understand that there are consequences to their actions….and sometimes they are painful ones.

Before we left the ER, Karlena was given this little bag with a coloring book, markers and a matching game for being so brave. We got home and one of the first things Karlena did was look at her brother and tell him that she forgave him. And then she asked if he wanted to play with the new things in her bag.

I was taken aback at how quickly she not only offered forgiveness but also took a step towards restoring the relationship. There was no blame or shame and guilt. Just love. Oh the lessons that I can learn from my 6yr old.

I went over to our E and hugged him and reminded him that we loved him. We talked about how our actions can hurt someone else, even if we didn’t mean to and we reminded him that he needs to learn from this lesson. But ultimately I want him to know that he is loved, especially when he has done something wrong.

I so desperately want to make sure that we are a home filled with love even when things aren’t “perfect.” I don’t ever want my kids to grow up thinking that our love was conditional based on their behavior. I was reminded tonight that I can teach consequences and model love simultaneously. 

Karlena taught me that forgiveness can be swift and without conditions and relationships can be restored without guilt, even when the pain still remains. What a gift she gave me tonight.

I know that I too must remain teachable. I can learn from my mistakes and seek to make better choices, and I can love well in the difficult and the easy.

Not what I had planned or expected for my Saturday night! And if you think about it would you say a prayer for our girl tonight? She is starting to notice the pain more now and everything feels swollen and “weird.” Hopefully if all goes well it will heal with little scarring but she is going to feel a little uncomfortable for the next several days. Thank you friends!!

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