My love

My love
Photo credit:Britt Lanicek Photography

Friday, December 24, 2010

CHRISTmas Miracle!!!

Monday, November 29th, 2010: I had gotten up early that day because Gabe was starting his first day of A.M. Kindergarten. It was the Monday after Thanksgiving break which meant Greg went back to work after having a week off and we would be adjusting to Gabe’s new schedule as well. I remember feeling a little overwhelmed that day because as most of you know, I don’t adjust easily to changes. I felt like we had just gotten used to things and now everything was changing again. I got Gabe up and ready for school and we saw him off around 7:40am. Greg got ready for work and headed out the door a little while after that. Alex and I lounged around for a bit and then it was time to get moving. I was eager to get the house back in order after the Christmas decorating frenzy that was my weekend. I had totes to put away and lots of other miscellaneous things to do around the house. I even decided to move the Christmas tree to the other corner of the dining room as I didn’t like where it was. Yep, I got down on my hands and knees and very carefully pushed the tree by myself, only knocking down a few bulbs along the way. I am always doing crazy things like that! If I get a vision or an idea for a project I usually jump right into it, regardless if Greg is home or not. I figured he would notice the moved tree later that evening and think “there she goes again.” I took a break before Gabe got home from school that morning and spent some time on Facebook and checked my email, paid some bills, etc. After I got up from the computer I started to notice a change in my vision. I wasn’t dizzy but I could tell that I wasn’t feeling quite right. I took some Ibuprofen and figured that I was probably getting a cold or something. Gabe got home from school and we ate lunch while he told me all about his first day in with his new class. After lunch it is usually nap time, which I was relieved because by this point I was really feeling crummy.  I told myself that I would take a nap while the boys were napping and I would wake up feeling much better. I woke up about an hour later, but instead of feeling better I woke up to the right side of my face drooping. I looked in the mirror and saw that my right eye and right side of my smile were noticeably different from my left. I even took pictures of myself to see if I was imaging this. The boys were awake by this point and they were watching cartoons, doing their normal after nap things. I had to pick up a few things at the store so I got the boys around and we headed down the road. I was determined to just keep going. When we were at the store I noticed that my peripheral vision on my right side was gone. I felt so clumsy as I bumped in to the shelves because I could not see that they were there. I found myself yelling for my boys because I thought they went around the corner, but they were standing beside me the whole time. When I got home I decided to get on and check my symptoms. Well to my surprise told me that I must have had a stroke. The anxiety in my started growing by the second and I looked desperately for a phone number to call “ask a nurse” through our insurance company but found that we didn’t have that option through our plan. After I wrestled with the idea for about 20 minutes, I finally decided that I needed to let Greg know what I was feeling. I texted him “call me as soon as you can” and he called shortly after. He was able to have his boss cover for him so he could come home and take me to Urgent Care. Now, I had to figure out what I was going to do with the boys. I called my grandma’s house and no one answered so I called my Aunts house. Usually if she isn’t home she is there so I thought I would take a chance. My grandma was there and I told her what was going on. She was “babysitting” my cousin at the time and my uncle wasn’t home from work yet so she was trying to figure out what time she could be to our house by, but then I heard my uncle’s voice in the background as he walked in the door. She headed to our house right then. She made it before Greg did and I got the boys situated with crafty things to keep them busy while we were gone. As soon as Greg got home we headed to Findlay Urgent Care. It was around 4:00pm. I had no idea what to expect. I was hoping that it was nothing serious but at the same time I knew I would feel stupid if the doctor told me it was nothing. Mom died of a brain tumor almost 7 yrs ago and I guess you could say I have been a little paranoid when I start to feel any weird symptoms. Even over the past year I went to several different doctors because I was feeling strange symptoms that they diagnosed as “Anxiety/depression” and “Sinus” making me feel like I was a hypochondriac. So let’s just say I was a little apprehensive about seeing another doctor. But this time was different. These symptoms were extreme, no one could deny that.  I was seen right away because of my symptoms. After the doctor examined me she handed me an information sheet reading “Bells Palsy” at the top. She explained that this type of condition can come and go for no reason, but it had to do with facial nerves. I was relieved to an extent because it wasn’t serious but at the same time I was concerned that there was no reason or explanation that could be given. She went on to say that she wanted to send me to the ER for tests just to rule out any other cause. So we got back into the car and headed down the road to Blanchard Valley ER. I figured I should call my sister just to let her know what was going on but tried to reassure her that it was just Bells Palsy. The doctor I saw there was, well, let’s just say he had his doubts, and made sure that we knew that he didn’t see a reason for the CT scan to be completed, BUT he would do it anyway. I really wasn’t nervous at all, I figured I had this crazy unexplainable facial nerve thing that made me feel weird but would go away at any time. They wheeled me off and I was back to my ER room in no time. Greg and talked about how hungry we were and where we were going to pick up supper at. I believe we had decided on Arby’s? Anyways, about an hour later the doctor walked in and I really have no idea how long he was there for as time stood still for a while. All I remember him saying was that there was something that showed up on the CT scan, he believed it was a mass, but he needed to do an MRI to tell for sure. WHAT? Excuse me? I just looked at Greg with my mouth wide open in shock. When ever I am concerned our anxious about something I usually look at my husband to see his reaction. We are total opposites when it comes to dealing with fearful situations. I crumble but he remains calm. But this time was different. I saw the look on his face and the tears welling up in his eyes. Fear doesn’t even seem to fit the emotion we were feeling. The doctor left as quickly as he came in and there we were, just staring at each other in disbelief. All I could muster was “Ok….Ok…..Ok”. I instantly began shivering.  I was so cold. The nurse piled warming blankets on me until I could stop shaking. Greg began making phone calls. I can’t even remember who all he called. I remember talking to my grandma as we needed to tell her that she would have to stay with the boys a little longer than expected. The sound of her voice broke my heart. A lot of things about those next hours crushed us. I tried to remember what my mom said about MRI’s as she had a lot of them done doing her battle with brain cancer. I remember her saying that they were noisy and she would make up a tune in her head to go along with the crazy loud beat. About an hour or so later someone came and wheeled me to the MRI. I was numb. So many thoughts raced around my head. The main thing I remember thinking was about my two beautiful boys who by this time were warm and safe in their beds fast asleep, so unaware of how their world might change so drastically. I couldn’t take my mind off of them. I just laid there as they wheeled my down halls, around corners, through doors. It was all a blur. My beautiful boys, the very beat of my heart, I just longed to hold them. Once I got to the MRI I was able to talk to a sweet lady that was the MRI technician. I enjoyed our conversation and it helped ease my mind for a while. The MRI lasted for 40 minutes and let me tell you… it was pure torture! I tried mom’s trick of making up tunes but I couldn’t get passed the obnoxiously loud banging from the machine. Not to mention to claustrophobia I started to feel about half way through. I was so relieved when I felt the bed moving out of the MRI tunnel. When I was wheeled back to the ER room I noticed someone standing in the room with Greg. It was Dave; a man we met through connections in PA who was originally from that area but lived here in Ohio whose wife was related to the Pastor of CFCOG in Chambersburg PA that we were members of. We had only spent time with him on one occasion but we could tell from our interaction, as well as the things others had told us about their family, that they were prayer warriors and mighty people of God. I was so relieved to see him standing there, knowing that he was being a support for Greg as he waited.. and waited for me to come back from the MRI. It ended up being around 6 hours total from the time that we found out about the mass until I was admitted to the Neurology floor. Dave was with us throughout most of that time. I enjoyed our visit so much. He prayed with us, we shared stories, we laughed, we cried. It was an interaction Greg and I will never forget. Hour after hour past and finally another doctor came in to our room and said that they wanted to admit me and observe my vitals through the night and that a neurosurgeon would be talking with us soon. He was able to tell me that it was a tumor on my left occipital lope but he did not have any other specifics. Dave prayed with us one last time before going home. Someone came and wheeled me up to the 6th floor which was the Neurology floor. The moments after I left the ER seemed to happen so fast. We went from a state of panic as we waited in the ER to a sense of peace and sheer gratitude. As soon as I got situated in my 6th floor room a man came into the room and introduced him self as one of the neurosurgeons. He wasted no time at all in telling me that the racket ball size tumor I had was not in any way related to my moms tumor and that this type of tumor can be easily removed and he was 99.9% sure it was benign. It’s almost as if he said all of that in one breath! It was so fast. Greg and I looked at each other, smiling and crying. But this time it was tears of joy! A miracle was given to me in that moment. I had never felt the arms of God as surely as I did in those hours of waiting, and especially in that moment when the fear was gone. It was such an amazing moment. My emotions were everywhere!
Greg left around 2:30am on Tuesday morning to go home to be with the boys and tell my grandma the good news! We knew that the battle was not over yet though. I had to talk with Dr. Schroeder to determine the next steps to removing the tumor and what that all entailed. I tried to get some sleep that night, but there was too much going on in my mind. I thought of my mom as I lie awake that night. I knew what she must have felt when she found out she had a tumor. The paralyzing fear, the questions, the anxiety. But she didn’t get the chance to feel the relief and joy I felt when I was told that I was going to be ok. I almost felt a sense of guilt as I talked with God. I praised God over and over and then I questioned “why me? Why didn’t my mom get to experience this feeling?” How she would have longed for the doctor to tell her she was cancer free and going to be OK. I still wrestle with those feelings. I know that God is in control and I am so grateful for this gift I have been given, and I have to trust that he knew what he was doing when he allowed her to go through her battle. And I know that she wouldn’t have wanted me to go through what she endured and she was rejoicing with us that night. The tests, the procedures, the medications..everything reminded me of what mom went through. I felt so close with her through everything. I got a chance to see a glimpse of what she went through and my heart broke, but I tried to focus on my reasons for living: My husband, my boys, my family, friends, chances to share Gods love with others. There is so much to live for! Our time on earth is so short; at any moment any of us could hear the news that turns our world upside down. I know there will be days when I forget, but I am going to strive to live everyday as if it were my last!
Well the days that followed were busy. Overall I stayed in the hospital from that Monday until Saturday December 4th. My surgery was Thursday, Dec. 2nd at 9:30. The doctor was able to remove the entire tumor with no complications. I was in ICU until I left the hospital but the surgeon and staff were amazing.. And the food was pretty good too! The neighbors, who just happen to be the Principle of the elementary and her family, kept the boys during the day on Tuesday and Wednesday while Greg was at the hospital with me. My sister Amy and mother in law were both able to find flights from Georgia and Texas, respectfully, and were in Findlay by Wednesday evening. Greg’s mom stayed with the boys so he could stay with me at the hospital for a few days. Wednesday my dad and his wife made it to Findlay after a 14 hour drive from South Carolina. They were there for my surgery and left for home on Saturday. Wednesday I finally got to see my boys whom I hadn’t seen since Monday and I missed them beyond belief! We had such a good time in my private hospital room. It was like a party that night! My new friend Margaret Ann came on Wednesday evening and gave me a fabulous haircut (I wasn’t sure how much they would have to shave for surgery so I played it safe and opted for a shorter hair do). I had amazing friends and family who visited and brought gifts. People from Gabe’s school who brought food to the house and gave money. As far as recovery: I have 21 staples which were removed December 21st and if you didn’t know it you couldn’t tell that I even had surgery. In the weeks following surgery I have dealt with air pockets in my head (don’t recommend it), vision issues off and on, and messed up hearing in my right ear. But I am NOT complaining. I am alive and well and will be better than before, soon!  

Undeniable evidence of Gods hand:

- The mere fact that we are in Ohio is because of carefully orchestrated events (my longing to be home, Greg’s dream job, etc.)
-Medical insurance just started less than 30 days before I went in the hospital after waiting 3 months with no insurance
- That day: Greg being able to come home early even though his schedule was crazy due to finals.
- My uncle getting home just as I called my grandma for help.
- Dear friends Denny and Jean Koontz who prayed for us and who also had connections with Dave Draper who was our prayer warrior and support while we were in the ER
- Awesome relationships with other pastors who held us up in prayer (Neil Norheim, Paul Rutledge, Earl Mills and CFCOG crew)
-Love and prayers from friends we have met along the way
- My sister was able to get time off to stay with us until the 12th and was a big help!
- The time of year was a stress but a huge blessing! Due to the holiday Greg has 3 weeks off to be with me as I recover
- The fact that they found the tumor before any major damage was done
-The fact that the Urgent Care doctor requested the CT scan to be done in the first place!
 -The drastic change in relationships that I have been praying about for a while now. So excited for the future.

I’m sure I am overlooking many more. Just wanted to share the best gift I have been given with everyone else!!
Merry Christmas and blessings for a new year full of Peace and Love!

Thanksgiving 2010 (4 days before)

Margaret and me after my haircut at the hospital

My love

after surgery on 12/2/10

21 staples later.. the tumor is gone

Alex's birthday on 12/20/10 (so much gratitude)

Merry Christmas 2010!!!