Friday, October 10, 2014

Jennifer

My ability to keep up with my blog has diminished the last few years as I got caught up in keeping up with every day life and just kind of taking a break from what was beginning to cause me more stress. In an effort to not miss writing about anything and everything that happened to Jimmer, I forgot to just enjoy the moment. I know that some things are just memories and are meant to be kept that way. That being said, I like this creative outlet. I like from time to time documenting some things so that I can go back and smile at the things we've done or been through. I am hoping to slowly ease my way into doing that again.

Today's blog is different. Today I want to tell you about someone very special to me who is fighting a great battle. I am choosing to blog about this in an effort to get as many prayer warriors as possible both that know us personally, and those who don't. I believe in the power of prayer. And if I can get just one more person praying for her in this journey, then this will be worth it. 

She goes by Jennifer... Jfer... JJ... Jen. She snorts when she laughs. She can dance with the best of them. She hates being called Jenny. She's my father's wife. My sister's Mother. My Step Mother. My Friend. 

Jen came into my life when I was 12 going on 13. I was about the same age as my youngest sister Olivia is now. Like most teenagers, I was leery of this young and beautiful new person in our lives. I was very protective of my Mother at that age and worried Dad would forget about Ashley and I (something now I know would never happen). Her and my Dad went on to marry when I was 15 or 16 and my snotty teenage attitude for the most part continued. They had my little sister Olivia when I was 17 and shortly after I was off to college. I loved JJ, but I wouldn't say we were super close. Over the next 5 years, her and my Dad and little Liv came to a lot of my basketball games and were always very supportive. Holidays were always my favorite time with all of us. 

Something changed when I graduated. It was probably my age. I'm not sure. But Jen and I started to become friends. And good ones. We didn't always agree on all things but what fun would that be!? My now husband and I, and her and my Dad, and often times little sisters started doing a lot of things together. Concerts, nights out, trips to Florida, bonfires. So many memories over the last 8 years with my sisters and Dad and Jen that I am forever thankful for. 

Summer 2013, Jen was complaining about feeling tired. She told me several times that summer she needed to get some blood work done because something felt out of balance. On August 5th, 2013 my Dad called saying that Jen had a horrific headache and they had come to the emergency room. With a trembling voice my Dad said, "I think Jen has cancer Manda." 

Cancer....Cancer....Cancer....Cancer.....Cancer.....that's all that replayed in my head. And worse, brain cancer. I remember falling to my knees and praying by my bed. Nick was trying to be so strong for me and he was. But it broke his heart too. I found him leaning over the kitchen counter with tears down his face. Him and I have been together nearly 8 years, so Jennifer is just as much his step Mom and friend too.

A few tests and a biopsy later....Doctors told us Jennifer, at 41 years old, had Grade 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive type of brain cancer typically found in men over 50. How could this be happening? Jen was in amazing shape? She ate healthy? She was young? 

I'll tell you this though. I was never angry. I know that makes no sense..because even I thought I would be. I was sad and confused and didn't understand it but I didn't feel anger. I trusted what God's plan was and after the initial shock I was ready to help Jen be the superwoman I knew she could be.

That was 14 months ago. Jen has endured steroids, radiation, chemotherapy, lost her hair, grew it back, and experienced the largest emotional roller coaster one can wrap their head around. Up until recently things seemed to be going really well. A few weeks ago she began to lose the ability to speak, and she was no longer able to walk alone. Yesterday an MRI revealed that the cancer has progressed. She is no longer treating.

But we have not been defeated. 

Dad and Jen leave for Houston on Monday to see the best doctors in the country who specialize in brain cancer. A little getaway for them too for both my Dad's birthday and their wedding anniversary both on October 16th. 

The POWER OF PRAYER is real. Please pray. Pray for strength. Pray for a safe trip to Houston. Pray that the doctors are able to help us. Pray that we trust this journey at every turn and do not become angry. Pray for my Dad and Olivia who have remained so strong for her through all of this. And for her Mother Vicki who hasn't left her side. Pray for her Dad Harve, and brother Scott. They are heroes. Pray. Pray. Pray. 

I want to end by giving a big ol' shout out to Cancer. Not the good kind. But just something to get it's attention. And not just for Jen, but for people everywhere who fight this disease in any form. YOU CANNOT WIN. You may take the ability to speak, or walk. You can make our hair fall out. You can cause sadness and heartache and tears. You may even take the people we love. But you will never win. Our faith will beat you every time. We will still laugh in your midst. We will still make beautiful memories that you cannot take from us. We will continue to fight. 

Go get em this week in Houston JJ. I love you.

#FAASSTRONG







Tuesday, May 13, 2014

But I thought it would be easy...TTC #2.

I'm back. I miss this creative outlet and although I get my burdens out through prayer, I have always liked writing as a form of expression. I know God hears my words whether spoken or written.

Up to Speed

My last post was some time ago so it would be impossible to fill in all the joyous memories, hardships, victories, setbacks, celebrations, milestones etc. Here it is in a nutshell....

The Bad: My Step Mom was diagnosed with Brain Cancer in August, we lost my husbands great grandma in October, his Grandpa/best friend in November, and suffered a miscarriage in April.

The Good: (WHICH always outshines the bad): We have a beautiful, smart, sports loving, healthy 2 1/2 year old, my Step Mom continues to fight the crap out of that tumor, I turned 30 in style in Vegas,  Nick got a new amazing job, and God continues to bless us and surround was with the most incredible friends you could ask for.

So there you have it. A quick recap on what's happening in our lives. It's funny because when I type it all out, I'm reminded how difficult the last 9 months have been yet I still feel so fulfilled. There have been some very disappointing moments, moments where I'm angry or confused and even lost, but they are so short lived.

Jimmer at my cousins wedding April 26th,2014

Jimmer doing one of his favorite things - April 25, 2014

My Step Mama and I on Easter

My boys getting a jam session in:)

Jimmer shooting hoops

My Step Mom and little sister Olivia a few weeks ago

My little man at my cousins wedding April 26, 2014

Adding to our Family

I did another theatre show this past winter. Nick and I decided we would start trying after I turned 30 and the show was wrapping up...so February. Because Jimmer took us one month and one try, in my na├»ve mind I figured that's exactly how it would happen this time. We would get pregnant in February and have another November baby about a week and a half to two weeks before Jimmers 3rd birthday (of course we would have a C section so would get to choose the date)...I would have maternity leave for November, December and most of January and everything would work out just PERFECTLY. I knew when we would share the news with families, when we would tell the world, when we would be half way through the pregnancy although had decided not to find out the sex this time around, and I knew we needed to get started on potty training Jimmer before another one came along. Even as I type this I'm laughing. People who are close to me know I'm a planner. I more or less plan every hour of my day and almost always over schedule...which is why I am always 15 minutes late to everything. My schedule keeps me sane. And wouldn't you know...we DID become pregnant...for 2 days.

Here's the problem with those dang early tests. They are great. But often times they give you hope for something that you never would have known about otherwise. I'm talking about a Chemical Pregnancy. Two days before my missed period, we were elated to learn we had another one on the way. 2 days letter, that period came...right on schedule. This was difficult but because it happened so soon, I fortunately hadn't formed a strong bond with the life growing inside of me and therefore was able to move ahead quicker. We decided I clearly am able to get pregnant easily and that it would happen soon.

So now we're into March. I'm geared up to try again. And wouldn't you know, my planning went into turbo speed. I had every app you could think of, taking my temps, spending countless hours on the internet about success stories after a Chemical pregnancy etc. I was still trying to control everything and take it all into my own hands. Fast forward to early April as the two week wait is coming to an end. Countless pregnancy tests (no really, a stupid amount) flashed that taunting and aggravating ONE pink line back at me and when Friday, the day of my due period came, I had given up and decided we would need to try again next month. But Friday came and went, Saturday came and went and Sunday came and went with nothing. My body, like my life, is on a schedule too, and I am rarely if EVER late. I figured maybe it had something to do with the chemical pregnancy since the pregnancy tests were coming up negative. But if you haven't gathered this from me already, it was driving me nuts wondering what was going on and needing answers. Patience isn't my best trait. Nick and I talked about it and decided I would call the doctor just to make sure everything was ok and get blood drawn to rule out pregnancy. You want to know how insane I am? On the way to my blood work draw I bought a pregnancy test and took it before going! I was literally going to have a doctor do the same thing only with my blood and couldn't wait knowing I would have to call back later in the afternoon. That test, like so many before it...negative. I walked into that doctors appointment 99% confident I was not pregnant.

2:00 pm....That's the time I was able to call to get my results. 1:59 pm I left my desk at work and walked downstairs to the hallway. What seemed like 20 minutes later, a nice woman came on the phone and said "We are going to need you to come back as we are unsure at this time and want to make sure your number goes up to confirm a pregnancy." UMMM WHAT!?!?! I knew what this meant...this meant my HCG levels were above a 5 but not yet a 25 which is what they consider a pregnancy. So in my mind..YUP I was. I was so excited and confused as all the tests that had come up negative. I knew I must have ovulated late. I asked her what my number was and she said 20 and laughed at how close it was. 20!!! Home pregnancy tests typically don't pick up the HCG hormone until 25 ml so that explained all the negatives. I knew I had to go back...but I also was confident I was pregnant this time. I called Nick and best friend and again went into planning. I knew our due date was December 10th but our scheduled C section would be on December 3rd (which was just perfect because that is Grandma Dolly's birthday), I knew we'd tell our families on Mothers Day and the rest of the world the week of June 8th. I proceeded to take 3-4 more at home pregnancy tests which as early as the night of my appointment started showing 2 lines and progressively getting darker over the next few days. My follow up appointment was the following Monday. I went, got my blood drawn, called back at 1:59 pm and heard the wonderful words "You are definitely pregnant." We were so excited.

2 days later there was blood. I knew something was wrong even though everyone tried to tell me otherwise or not to jump to conclusions. It started out light and got progressively worse. I was having a miscarriage at 5 1/2 weeks pregnant.  I cried, left work, called the doctor, called Nick and asked God why. This was one of my bad moments. I would rather not ever see those 2 pink lines, then see them and have them taken away. I was confused and angry. Over the next few days as it passed one thing kept coming to mind...

           BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD

I was trying to do his job. I thought I could control when I got pregnant by doing what "they say" you should do and when you should do it. I obsessed during the 2 week wait and put this attempt at pregnancy above almost everything else in my life. I wasn't trusting his plan for us.

I went to a follow up appointment and talked with the doctor who checked everything out and said it was a fluke thing and that I'm fine. The reality of it is...we've tried 3 times to get pregnant, and I've been pregnant 3 times (even if just for a few days). So I know I'm perfectly capable of it. I think I just need to relax, and stop overthinking it, and over testing, and checking all the dates before I even know if there's a heart beat in there!

This is still a work in progress. We tried again right away and although I'm not due for my period until Friday, I know that this month it didn't stick. I didn't over test this time. But I still overthought, spent too much time on the internet, obsessed about temps. I can't just switch it off. I obsess about the age different between Jimmer and the next one (if we get one). But you know what? Who cares. A baby is a blessing no matter when it's given to you.

I also had a moment of extreme guilt. I have been pregnant nearly every time we tried, the chemical I wouldn't have known about if not for early testing, and the miscarriage was before we heard a heart beat or had an appointment. I am lucky. I'm not saying that if you suffer an early loss you aren't allowed to grieve and be devastated. Not that at all. Because I was, and still am. I long to be pregnant again. I love being a Mother. But here's what I know. I have a healthy 2 year old boy who we were blessed with in ONE month of trying.....I am obviously perfectly capable of becoming pregnant as it happens often.....and I have read countless stories of stillbirths, 2nd or 3rd trimester losses, and years of TTC with no luck...and so many of them who have no children yet. There is always someone out there who has it worse than you.

I have learned a few things over the last few months.

1. I am not in control.
2. A schedule is a GUIDE to keeping your life in order. Sometimes schedules change.
3. There are always people suffering worse than I.
4. I am very very very blessed.
5. Trust his plan.


My beautiful family on Mother's Day.




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Out of Retirement

I am going to be back in the blog world here soon. I have missed it and it's kind of a creative outlet for me. I also love having a place to reflect on not just the big and small moments, but our day to day as well. Even since I stopped posting, I find myself coming back to the pages to see what we were doing this time last year.

There are some posts I made that I'm like "what was I thinking"... but I suppose that's the case with anything.

Can't wait :)