Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Oh the Sweetness . . .

Mama's handsome little men!!
Check out our big boy shoes!

Watch out Colorado, here we come!!!

Switched places for this one because Adam is not as much bigger than Andrew as he appears in the top photos =-)

GOOD NEWS!! Andrew has been released from the Apnea Monitor!!! Just in time so now we don't have to lug it on the plane to CO with us. No more medical equipment in our house!!

Adam's spit ups have greatly improved on the Nutramigen. The only issue is he only will drink it when it's mixed with breastmilk. So what's the problem you might be wondering? Well my production has waned so much that now 50% of their milk has been coming from my freezer and I won't have that surplus in CO so they will have to be supplemented with straight formula. Whenever I offer him straight formula he throws a huge fit. What am I to do? Hopefully either my production will miraculously improve or he will aquire a taste for it. My doctor has already put me on Reglan to help increase it so I don't really have many other options on that end.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thanks!!

Thanks Aunt Dana and Uncle Shawn for watching the boys so Kenny & I could go on a date. We had a blast and really appreciate it!

Wild Thing

Adam from this:

To this:

In the blink of an eye.
He's sure wild, but boy do I love him!!

p.s. Despite the picture, he is having a better day today =-)

Dose of Reality

I'm probably going to regret writing this and delete it later but sometimes when I "dump out" what I'm struggling with it gets better and since it's my blog I can write and then delete whatever I want. Maybe I have a late arriving case of the baby blues, or maybe the stress and feelings I put away over the last 7 months are catching up with me, or maybe I'm just anxious over our upcoming trip. Or maybe it's just sin, selfishness thinking of easier days. Regardless I'm just not feeling like myself right now. Not so much sad as tired, exhausted, without any stamina/energy. There are times in the day when I think I can't possibly stand up or lift a baby even one more time. My arms feel weak and tired even when empty. I can hear my bed calling out to me all day saying "come lay down on this soft mattress and pull the covers over your head, the laundry and the babies will never know".

I'm generally in a good mood though and I know we're very fortunate and that things could certainly be much worse right now.

God has always given enough grace to sustain me in the past and this is no different. One foot in front of the other and we'll make it another hour at a time.

Monday, May 28, 2007

This and That

Hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. Is it just me or does it always rain on Memorial Day weekend in Texas? I also hope you remembered the reason for Memorial Day and all those that have given their lives in defense of our great nation and for all those that are away from their families serving us overseas today. Thanks to all the soldiers and their families!

The boys have continued to sleep pretty well but we somehow continue to be tired. I'm still having some trouble with sleeping although it's a little better knowing that there is not as much time pressure like before, when the babies woke up so often. This is a blessing worth counting.

I think God is trying to teach us greater patience through our son Adam. He really seems to know just how to push our buttons. When they first came home I really thought Adam was the more laid back twin, but he's since proven otherwise. I love him to death, he's the more flirty/smiley baby but boy does he have a temper. He's also started projectile vomiting again. So I thought I'd attempt to switch him to Andrew's formula and see if it improved but he was very disgruntled with this idea. So after many fits I offered him the other stuff again and he still screamed anytime the bottle came near his mouth. He pretty much went on a hunger strike this evening. If he weren't smiling and coo-ing in between all this I would think he was ill but he's not showing any other signs. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for him.

We've been given the green light by the pediatrician to take the boys on their first trip. I would be lying if I didn't say I'm terrified about this and I'm beginning to wonder what I was thinking when I set this up. Mom and I leave Thursday and fly just the two of us and the boys to Colorado. We will be gone for the first few weeks in June. Kenny and the rest of the family will be joining us later on. Going to CO is an annual thing for our family and I guess I was seeking some normalcy when I decided to take this leap. I've become such a germ-a-phobe that I'm sure I'll be a nervous wreck during our whole travel day in the airport and on the plane. Will the babies behave? How will I find time and place to pump? Packing is also daunting with clothes, bottles, medicine, car seat bases, etc. I'm trying to be as prepared as possible and have copies of medical records, and even a prescription for portable O2 in case the altitude effects the boys even though it's not expected to. I'm praying heavily that everything will go okay, the boys won't catch anything, and that mom and I won't lose our sanity traveling and caring for the boys without any backup.
Andrew & Reagan Just Chillin'

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Great Grandparents

The boys got to meet their maternal great grandparents yesterday. It was sure nice to spend time with them since it's been a while since we've been able to go that far. This was the longest car ride the boys had ever been on and they did okay on the way up there but coming home they were pretty fussy so I sat between them and held their pacifiers in. But I can't complain too much, they wore themselves out and once we were home they slept from 8pm to 8am without waking!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mini-Me

The Wee Bundles make the boys look like enormous babies!!






Solids!!!

Andrew got to try rice cereal, his first solid off a spoon today during his OT (occupational therapy) session. The ot was a bit skeptical that he would be able to do it this early considering his gestational age is less than 2 1/2 months but he really impressed her! He wasn't quite sure about having the spoon and the thick substance shoved in his mouth at first but then he started playing around with it with his tongue and figured out he could swallow it. Soon he was opening his mouth wide for another bite as soon as he was finished with one. I think he enjoyed himself and was quite proud of how messy he got. I am suppossed to let him eat cereal twice a day in addition to his bottles and he also has a consultation set up with a nutritionist to come up with other ways to help him put on more weight.

What a funny look on his face!

My baby is growing up so fast!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Two Sons


So far, so good

I've already seen an improvement in Andrew's appetite from the switch to the Nutramigen. You can tell he doesn't like the taste but after a few seconds he gets over it and picks up the pace. He has already eaten more in the last 24 hours than he probably did all weekend!

Both boys are doing so much better today from their shots and are back to their happy self. It's so cute because every time their daddy comes by the house during the day to check his email and such (his office is here in the house) the boys get so excited and coo and smile at daddy. I guess mama is just not nearly as exciting ;-).

Too bad it's so rainy because I was really looking forward to getting out of the house and taking them on a walk today, maybe it will clear up enough later on.

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Wee Bundles" Have Arrived


Months ago I ordered these handmade preemie dolls that are made to your babies' exact weight/measurements. So maybe they are a little creepy but a very neat way to help remember how tiny they actually were. Plus they will make a great "show and tell" item someday. Since I never got to see the boys together until they were 50 days old, it is interesting to see how much "bigger" Adam was than Andrew, a few ounces and 1/2 inch makes a big difference. And he's always had a much larger head, he gets that from daddy ;-). The boys are already asleep so I'll have to take comparison photos some other time.

The disturbing thing is that they arrived together both in a box smaller than the size of a shoe box! The thought of my babies being able to share a box that size at birth and then living to tell about it is amazing beyond words. God is so GOOD!!

Can you tell that I need to stop playing around on the computer and go fold laundry??

Procrastination at its finest!

A Milestone for Mama

p.s. I forgot to mention the milestone that I reached today.

I was unable to recruit anyone to help me take the kids to the pediatrician this morning so I had to go it solo. Our appt was at 8am and I was quite impressed that we made it on time considering I'm about the furthest thing from a morning person that there ever was. I managed alright getting them in and out with the double snap n go stroller. It was hard undressing each one and holding them for the doctor to examine. But by far the worst part was that they each got three shots in their thighs and they were so upset and I couldn't comfort them both as much as I wanted. But all in all we survived our very first outing with just the three of us. We've come a long way considering it used to take three people to take them to the doctor to manage all the medical equipment that went with us!

It breaks my heart because this is the worst I've ever seen the babies react to their vaccinations before. They have hard red knots at the injection sites and they have pretty much cried all afternoon. Hopefully now that they have soaked in a nice warm bath and had some more tylenol they'll go to sleep and we will all get some much needed rest.

Six Month Check Up

Believe it or not the boys had their 6 month well checkup today, albeit a little early since we will be out of town the first part of June. Weight check:
Adam 11 lbs 1 oz, 22 1/4 inches

Andrew 9 lbs 13 oz, 21 inches

Developmentally both boys look great for their adjusted age. Andrew had been showing signs of weak muscle tone but with the help of excercises from his occupational therapist he seems to be overcoming it pretty well. Adam is growing and gaining weight very nicely.

Please keep Andrew in your prayers. Lately he's developed a troublesome food aversion and along with his spit ups, he's not growing as well as we'd like. Based on the volume he's been eating lately the pediatrician was surprised that he grew as much as he did. He's basically eating less than half of what he should be and he's only measuring out to the size of a one month old even though he should be a little over two months old.

When we try to feed him, he first acts very hungry but will soon shove the bottle out of his mouth and scream every time you try to put it back in, then he starts gagging himself on the nipple. He may have developed a milk protein allergy or lactose intolerance so we are starting him on a Nutramigen, a special formula for babies with these sensitivities. Also the occupational therapist will evaluate him to see if he might be capable of eating solid foods, even though it's very early, as another way of putting weight on faster.

The doctor said this could be a rough transition because the Nutramigen tastes and smells so different than what he's used to that he may throw fits in resistance. He will still be getting about 50% breastmilk but it may become apparant that he can't tolerate it at all, which will be dissapointing. The other problem is that this formula has much less calories than what we are adding to the breast milk so he will have to eat much larger quantities but if he starts eating better then he should come out ahead.

I pray that Andrew is up for the challenge!! He needs to grow properly in order to stay healthy and to aid brain development.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Given over to the Lord"

"As surely as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord." 1st Samuel 1:26-28

Today Adam Russel and Andrew Stephen were given over to the Lord in holy baptism. It was a special service and we are so blessed to have all made it to this point, the Lord has been so gracious to us and to our children. We were honored to have them baptized by their buddy Pastor Wade, who has been such a faithful counsel and support to us (along with his wonderful wife Marian) through some very dark days. Today was not one of those dark days, today was a bright and joyful day of hope and promise. We were also happy to have our church elder Dan pray for us and the boys, he has been a good friend to our family for many many years.

Not only were we on time, we were there early enough to take pictures beforehand. Good thing because the boys didn't quite make it through the service and we had to head out early, just in time because the boys wailed all the way back to granny & pa's! The boys were able to keep their outfits nice and clean so that was a relief! Adam's outfit was Kenny's when he was a baby, so that was really special. The boys were a little fussy during the baptism, but they're little babies so I guess that's okay =-). We were so happy to have so many family and friends there for this special day including our entire church family that have taken our children into their hearts and prayed for them so faithfully all these many months.





Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff . . .

For me that's much easier said than done. Tomorrow is the boys' baptism and I so want to enjoy and cherish the moment but I'm already stressed out. The logistics of getting us dressed and to the church is quite a production. We are scheduled to arrive a little late anyway to avoid the large crowd. But timing that with the 45 minute drive from my parents' house to the church in time and all that must happen before hand is keeping me from sleeping tonight.

This all includes timing of feedings and my time pumping and getting ready and dressing us and them after eating and hoping they don't reflux or blow out on their white outfits or ours. Did I mention that one of their medicines is florescent orange? Sure hope I remember the video camera, digital camera (which are charging or they'd already be in the car) plus the diaper bag and some bottles in case they get hungry after the baptism. On top of this I'm worrying whether they'll behave during the service since they haven't been out in public before and hopefully not be in one of their fussy moods but their sweet happy moods. Then add to all of that getting the family back to my parents house afterwards to feed them lunch. And somewhere along the line getting some pictures taken of everyone.

I'm sure it will be a beautiful and special day, I just hope I can enjoy it to the fullest and not worry about all the minor issues.

Anyways . . Off to bed!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Photos of the Day






Covenant Baptism

'The promise is unto you and unto your children." Acts 2:39

The boys are getting to come of out the house for the first time for other than a doctor's appointment or a trip to a grandparents house. They will be attending their first worship service as well as getting baptised this Sunday. We are so excited about this special moment in their lives and for us as parents. The sacrament of covenant baptism is a time for praising God and we feel so blessed and thankful for these boys. We continue to pray daily that they would come to know Christ as their Savior by faith as we continue to trust in the Lord's plan for their lives. What a gift they are and we praise God for entrusting them into our care and for His continued grace and mercies in their lives.

Even though they are much much stronger than when they first came home, we continue to be very mindful of their risk for infections so we hope everyone will allow them some healthy personal space as we venture out of the safety of our home. We are eager to introduce them to our wonderful church family that has loved and prayed for them so faithfully but they are still not ready to be handled by the masses. We really appreciate everyone for understanding and for helping make their health a priority.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

All Swaddled Up


New Family Portrait

I wanted to share our first ever family portrait with you:

Good News

Kenny & I went to Houston today for my bi-annual visit to MD Anderson. The x-ray of my lungs looked clear and since I've now gone 5 years without any signs of melanoma I've now graduated to just annual visits!!

Also the boys had another good night of sleep last night, YAY!!

If you get a chance please say a prayer for Randi, Todd, and their new twin boys Wyatt & Parks born earlier today.

Have a great evening!

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Good First Mother's Day

I had a really nice first Mother's Day weekend. On Saturday we drove to Houston and took the boys to their grandparent's house. They watched them for us so Kenny could take me out to dinner. We went to Pappasito's, one of my favorites, and had a great time. This was one of the first times we've eaten out together since the boys came home. The last time we ate at Pappasito's was the day Andrew came home from the NICU, right before we picked him up. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa Bolline for watching the boys!

I'm probably going to regret writing this as it always goes that when you blog something about your kids they seem to try their hardest to prove you wrong. But I'm excited to share the news that the boys have been sleeping in 8 hour stretches together at night all week long, what an amazing Mother's Day gift!! We've come a long way from having to wake them up every hour and a half for medicines and feeds through out the night. This has helped us tremendously and allows us to enjoy the boys so much more during the day when we've gotten a decent night's sleep.

"Boys, please keep it up!!"

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Kaylie is Here

Congrats to our good friends Rebecca & Nathaniel on the birth of their new baby girl, just in time for Mother's Day. Kaylie Elizabeth was born earlier this evening at a perfect 7lbs 4oz, 20 1/4".
We can't wait to meet her!

Friday, May 11, 2007

1st Mother's Day!



Mother's Day came early for me today when Kenny sent me a beautiful vase of flowers! How sweet! Sometimes I feel like I've been a mom forever although sometimes I can hardly believe I'm actually a mom at all but one thing's for sure, I've never been happier to have all these wonderful Bolline Boys in my life. I'm a blessed woman!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Good News

We finally got the results of Andrew's 24 hour holter monitor that was testing his heart and everything looks perfect! So we are now working to wean him off the diuretics in the coming days and he may finally come off his heart monitor in early June if everything goes according to plan.

To give you an idea of their progress, here was the medicine regimen they come home from the hosptial on:

Sodium Chloride 8 x's a day
Potassium Chloride 8 x's a day
Diurel 2 x's a day (diuretics)
Aldactone 1 x a day (diuretics)
Reglan 4 x's a day (reflux)
Bethanacol 4 x's a day (reflux)
Zantac 3 x's a day (reflux)
Caffiene 1 x a day (apnea)
Breathing Treatment (Adam) 2 x's a day

Now Adam is only on reflux meds! However that's still 9 doses a day!!

Andrew is still on everything except the caffiene and sodium/potassium chloride. So eliminating the diuretics will help simplify things around here and hopefully he'll start to gain weight better as he seems to be lagging quite a bit behind Adam ever since Adam came off the diuretics.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

No News

Don't worry, we're still here. Just nothing really to report on today. I'm just very tired. I'll try to post more tomorrow.

Monday, May 07, 2007

5 Month Comparison Photos

Here are pictures of the boys with their puppy dogs at two weeks of age and now at 5 months. Their adjusted age is now 8 weeks. Adam now weighs 10 lbs and Andrew weighs 8 lbs 10 oz.
ANDREW



ADAM



Friday, May 04, 2007

the a-team =-)

Check out our cool shirts and blankies that the Taylor Family sent to us. They fit perfect and are our favorite colors!! We love them!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

God's Perfect Timing

Sorry folks, this is going to be a long one ;-)

May is Melanoma Awareness Month

Usually every year I send out an email to my friends and family reminding them that summer is on its way, to be cautious in the sun, and to remember to see a dermatologist if they had any suspicious moles. Last year I posted something to that affect with lots of nifty stats about Melanoma.

This year there are more people reading this blog than just those that know me well (much to my continued surprise) so I thought I would share with you my personal story so you will know how spreading awareness for this disease is so dear to my heart and also how God used this experience to work in my life. Plus I figure it’s important to document this for my kids since I’m sure the details of the memory will continue to fade over time.

December 2001. I was on Christmas break before my very last semester at Texas A&M where I would graduate with my masters and bachelors degrees in accounting. I was 22 years old. My sister in law, Rachel, who is one of my dearest friends, was in medical school at the time and aspiring to become a dermatologist. She was doing a study rotation with one of the most respected dermatologists in this part of the country. I’ll just call her Dr. O since I haven’t asked for her permission to use her name in this account. Well Rachel had been continually bugging me for some time about a mole she didn’t like on my forehead, right at my hairline. I was in no hurry to do anything about it because being a fair-skinned freckly person, I’d had that done before and I was left with some pretty ugly scars. I just don’t scar well at all, never have. I’m always left with a painful hypertrophic and/or keloid type scars. Never once had anything too odd or worrisome come from those other biopsies and I was in NO rush to have a nice keloid on my face. Rachel wanted me to see the dermatologist she was working with and I assured her that the coming summer, after I was done with school and had time off that I’d go see Dr. O. She was in Houston, we don’t live in Houston. I had even called the doctor’s office myself and the first available appointment for a new patient was months off so I decided I didn’t really have a choice anyway but to put it off. I mean really, I was just a 22 year old college kid, what was the rush?

Well Rachel was, shall we say, persistent. She called me and said that she had spoken with Dr. O and that she would work me in to her busy schedule and would see me that week. But I was in Dallas visiting my aunt and while I was very appreciative I was still not sold on the whole thing and just said that was okay I’d just wait since I was out of town all week anyway. Well Rachel called back again the next day, Dr. O wanted to see me and she’d work me in as soon as I got back. Well at that point I figured I better go in or I was going to have one frustrated sister in law. Can you tell that I can be pretty stubborn sometimes??

So a few days before Christmas I drove to Houston and Dr. O took a small biopsy from my forehead, I was so impressed by how sensitive she was to my desire to not be scarred on my face. I also showed her a tiny red bump on my eyelid that I was ready to part with. There was nothing particularly impressive about this bump other than it was ugly to me and occasionally bled when I had my eye brows waxed. So Dr. O carefully shaved off that little bump and I was on my way. I really didn’t give much thought to the appointment and had no idea that I would become one of Dr. O’s regular patients.

Two days after Christmas my cell phone rang early in the morning. I knew something was up when it was Dr. O on the other end of the line. All I remember from that conversation was “something something melanoma something clarks level something both sites something something MD Anderson”. The familiar and terrifying words MD Anderson was about the only thing that really stuck out to me. Because like most Americans, at the time I was ignorant in that I really didn’t see melanoma/skin cancer as a very big deal, certainly not something warranting a trip to MD Anderson or something that could actually take your life.

The first person I called when I got off the phone was Rachel. When I heard her response on the other end of the line I knew this was indeed a big deal because if I know one thing it’s that Rachel is very bright and she’s wasn’t one to cry often.

Not only did the mole on my forehead turn out to be melanoma, but worse, the little spot on my eyelid was also melanoma and it was invasive. Meaning that it had spread down through the various layers of my skin towards my blood vessels, therefore it was possible that it had already spread to my lymphatic system and my other vital organs. Melanoma is very treatable if caught while “in situ” or still on the surface of the skin, but once it has spread to major organs it is almost always fatal. The answers to those questions would not come for close to 6 more weeks.

On January 4th, 2002 I turned 23. Instead of celebrating I returned to Dr. O with both Rachel and my older brother along for support. My brother (because Rachel is very on top of his risk for melanoma as well) and I both had several more biopsies done that day. Afterwards they took me to PF Chang’s for a birthday lunch. I don’t believe in signs or fortunes but that day I opened my fortune cookie just for a good laugh and I received a not so funny message: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”. How creepy, right?

Fortunately all those biopsies came back fine. The next day our entire family went on a ski trip to Colorado for a week. It was very bittersweet, we had a blast and we enjoyed every second of one another’s company but I could tell that we were all a little uneasy. I couldn’t help but wonder if it would be our last time to enjoy this annual family tradition together. Once we returned I would be going for my first consult at MD Anderson. Dr. O was able to get me in with one of the best surgical oncologists for melanoma in the country. Often people have to wait a lengthy time and be very sick before they can become a patient there, but my circumstances were alarming so we were very blessed that I was going to be seen so soon on January 15th. By this time the spring semester had started, I worked with the head of my program to lighten my schedule and was told to put off graduating until August because I was going to have a major surgery and would be missing school.

I had to be at MD Anderson at 6am on the morning of January 15th. My parents and Rachel and I went down to Houston the night before and stayed in a hotel near the hospital. It was a very stressful night knowing we had to be up very early and things at the hotel did not go our way. Our rooms were given away and the only ones available were smoking rooms that were in an area partially under remodel. Needless to say, we were not in the best mood when we got to the clinic the next morning for what would end up being a very long day.

It took several hours to complete the registration process and was close to 10am by the time we reached the melanoma center where we waited to see the oncologist. First he looked me over, took a few more biopsies and then met with all of us to tell his game plan for me. Basically I would have blood work, chest x-rays, get a plastic surgery consult, and have lymphatic mapping done over the next several weeks in anticipation of my big surgery on February 2nd where I would have two wide local excisions, skin grafting, and a sentinel node biopsy. With melanoma, the safest thing to do is not only remove the bad tissue but at least another 2cm of good tissue all the way around just in case, or in other words, my entire right eyelid, the left corner of my forehead and then some. The sentinel node biopsy would see if the melanoma had spread by removing the first lymph node that the melanoma would drain to. If even so much as one melanoma cell turned up there I would have every lymph node removed from that area and would receive some sort of interferon or chemotherapy.

I’ll never forget my consult with the plastic surgeon that would be handling the grafting and reconstruction of my face. I liked him immediately and I trusted that he would do a good job, so it hit me like a ton of bricks when he told me to prepare myself for the fact that I would never look the same again. Large skin grafts, he said, were disfiguring. He said I would likely never have an eyebrow on my right side and that a large chunk of hair on my left forehead would probably never grow back. Being that I was a young single 23 year old girl living in a very cruel, very superficial world, this news was terrifying to me. Call me vain if you want but all I could think of was that no one was over going to marry me looking like that. I truly feared that I would never get married and have a family, who could possibly look past all the scars? This was not so much about beauty, I never considered myself to be anything more than a plain jane, anyway. This was about being normal. This was about my physical identity. The thought of looking in the mirror everyday for the rest of my life and seeing something other than me was quite upsetting.

For about a week I was very mad at God. I foolishly thought that I had tried so hard to honor him and live according to his purposes and that despite this he had chosen to fail me. I felt that he didn’t love me after all. Not only was it possible that I was dying but that my whole reality was changing forever. I also felt terribly guilty for mourning the loss of my bright future and the loss of my plain jane but normal face. Many many people prayed for me. My wonderful parents, siblings, closest friends and my church family rallied around me. Those that understood that God cares about even our smallest fears prayed that not only I would be healthy but that I would heal perfectly, that my face would not be damaged. I’m forever grateful to those that prayed this way and didn’t judge my fears. And while I certainly agree that what matters is one’s character, hearing over and over from people that meant well that the only thing that matters is what’s on the inside just didn’t bring me much comfort. I guarantee if you were faced with possible disfigurement you wouldn’t be a willing recipient either. Until you’ve been there, you just can’t judge a person’s reaction.

It seemed like forever had passed by before February 2nd finally arrived. The day before the surgery I was filled with an overwhelming peace, what a blessing. Whether I would receive the devastating news that the melanoma had metastasized or that I was going to shudder the next time I looked in a mirror, I was no longer angry. I knew that God was with me and had gone before me and that he truly did love me and would take care of me no matter what the outcome.

The surgery day was very long. For some reason I asked one of the surgeons right before they took me back, if my melanoma were to spread, how long would it take to reach the lymph nodes. I regret asking that, I’m not even sure if he heard my question correctly, he wasn’t my regular doctor and was just assisting on the surgery, but I remember vividly him saying rather indifferently “probably like 10 minutes”. I don’t know if that’s even slightly accurate but why did he have to tell me that? The only thing I could think of was that it had already been over a month since my diagnosis and that we better get up quick to the OR and deal with this.

I was not quite myself when I woke up, I remember grabbing for my eye to make sure it was still there. I remember calling out for my mom and knowing I was alone. I remember the nurse telling me to hush because I was not the only patient trying to recover. It seemed like forever before I saw my family. But once I did I was so relieved. My entire family and a few close friends were there. They encouraged me and said I didn’t look so bad even though I felt like a truck had run over my face.

They removed an entire 50 cent piece worth of flesh from both my eyelid and my forehead. I had a 4 inch cut from my forehead back into my scalp and rather than using a skin graft there they stuck balloons under the skin to stretch it to cover the area up, it was pulled tight and under so much pressure I thought it would burst open at any moment. A skin graft would have left a very large bald spot they said, so I’m very thankful the plastic surgeon was patient and took the time to go with the stretching route instead. But I didn’t escape a graft on my eyelid, although they somehow salvaged my eyebrow. My eyelid was now skin grafted from a 4 inch slice of my leg. I had a piece of sponge sewn on top of the graft to help give it pressure to prevent rejection. The graft was attached by almost 50 tiny stitches and it stung like bee stings. In addition to this they had shaved off a large section of hair above my right ear for no apparent reason. I was very irritated by this but thankful they hadn’t at least shaved my entire head by mistake.

It also turned out that I didn’t have just one sentinel node and so they had to remove more nodes leaving me with cuts on my neck from my ear to my collar bone. For some reason that was probably the most painful and irritated site of all. I stayed over night and had a terrible reaction to the pain medication. I remember throwing up in the bathroom and banging my sore forehead on the sink faucet. I remember my mom helping me and loving me although I was in great pain and in a very sour mood. When I finally went home I was on heavy narcotics for the pain but I remember my sister and my friend Rebecca waiting at my house to welcome me home, that meant a lot to me.

The next several days were a blur, I guess it was the drugs, but I remember being swollen and bruised but in spite of that I especially remember not actually hating what I looked like in the mirror. I almost found my reflection humorous to be quite honest, it must have been the pain meds! But it was really not as bad as I had prepared myself for but of course who knew at that point what the scars would look like. I also remember the waiting and dreading the coming news of the pathology report from the sentinel nodes and all that it would mean.

On February 16th, I got the most wonderful telephone call. The nodes were clear! The melanoma had been caught in time and it was very unlikely that it was in any of my other organs. Praise God, I was going to live after all.

Slowly but surely my face began to heal. I was very self conscious for quite a while, especially on campus where I felt like people were always staring. It was an eye opening experience to be stared at. For weeks I had a large bright purple marker stain on my new eye lid where they had drawn their pattern to cut out the graft. The graft was very fragile and we constantly worried that it would not take. It took a while for the hair to grow back on my forehead and I was left with a pooch of extra skin at each end of the incision. I had to wear a stretchy colored band across my whole forehead to reshape this knot of skin. Head bands were not in style in 2002 and I’m not sure it was ever in style to wear one covering your entire forehead. I felt like a true goof ball, like I was attempting to look like the karate kid when he wore that band across his head during his competitions. But hey, I was alive and I was beginning to see the old me again when I looked in the mirror.

Since that time I’ve had three more minor reconstructions on my face and neck but never once on my eyelid. Shocking to all my doctors is that my skin graft healed completely and is almost entirely unnoticeable. Unless you know it’s there, you would probably never guess it. I had terrible keloids develop on my neck that required what the doctor referred to as a mini-facelift. Following that I also had shots and a few laser therapies to break down the scar tissue. Another thing that is amazing and can only be explained by the power of prayer is that I have an ugly scar everywhere on my body that’s been biopsied or operated on except for on my face. My forehead, while not perfect, couldn’t look any better considering how much skin was removed and just about all my hair grew back there. Most people are surprised when I tell them all this and point out the scars on my face, that is indeed a miracle.

I’ve had so many biopsies since then that I lost count around #30. I see my oncologist at MD Anderson every 6 months and also have my lungs x-rayed. My next appointment is actually coming up May 15th. I also see my wonderful Dr. O about 3-4 times a year and of course Rachel, my life-saver and now a practicing dermatologist, is always willing to give her insight on any suspicious places that turn up. I’ve been blessed with exceptional care.

I’ll probably never know why, but God was certainly good to me and answered even what many might consider to be unimportant or superficial prayers. I’m ever grateful to Him for searching and knowing my heart and meeting me where I was. I’ve learned that even if I had ended up terribly disfigured or even gravely ill, it wouldn’t have meant that God was any less good or less loving. But rather it was simply His will to show mercy to me and show his mighty powers to heal. In the midst of it, I couldn’t see how God could possibly be in control of things but looking back I can see his hand prints all over the place and I have learned to trust in His perfect timing. Had I not gone through all of this and seen his faithfulness at work, I guarantee I would have struggled so much more during the trials that were yet to come in my life.

Remember at the beginning of this story I told you that my original plan was to put off seeing the doctor by about 6 months about my suspicious little mole. Now remember what that surgeon said to me about the 10 minutes? Now I can’t say for certain that I would’ve died had my angels, Rachel and Dr. O, not intervened by God’s gracious hand, but I can definitely say things would probably not have turned out the way they did and it’s very possible that I would not be here writing this now for you to read. By God’s unfailing love and great mercy to me, here I am 5 years later, alive, healthy, married, mother, happy, blessed. . . .

Don’t put off for tomorrow, the things that can be done today, it just might save your life. Listen to the loving wisdom offered by others who truly care. And remember that no matter what, the Lord will never leave you nor forsake you.

Oh, and wear sunscreen!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Catching up on Posting Photos

Just Working Out in the Gym
Adam Lounges

Can you see where Andrew scratched himself? Ouch!

Adam is ready for the Bumbo Seat!

Aunt Dana lends a hand, make that two hands!

Can you tell Adam has had a growth spurt?
Check out the Jowls! Andrew is impressed =-).