Monday, March 13, 2017

South Mountain

I love where we live. Not only because it's warm here, but because we live super close to South Mountain and there are tons of hiking trails literally MINUTES from our house!

Recently we explored South Mountain a bit (it's going to get H.O.T. soon, so we're taking advantage of the month of March weather.)

 We saw this cool rock tunnel.


On top of the rock tunnel and a little ways over was "Hidden Valley"

 Some ruins. I told Jonathan, "I found our dream home!"

Petroglyphs. We decided the one in the middle is the plan of salvation...just upside down. The three boxes are the 3 kingdoms. We decided that swirly thing is Outer Darkness.


The background was WAY prettier in real life! So green and spotted with pretty yellow and purple flowers.

 We saw so many of these lizards. They were HUGE!

 
Phoenix Valley

I didn't realize quite how high we hiked! Also, the sun was bright...

Friday, March 10, 2017

Insecurity.

Can I be honest about something? I've been feeling very insecure lately. Specifically in regards to my appearance. I can't be the only one that feels this way, right? I mean...when you're looking at yourself in the mirror and have grown accustomed to the face you see, it's easy to spot all the flaws. And it's harder to see the good things.

My husband is wonderful. He gives me compliments every day and I know he thinks I am beautiful. I am grateful that he tells me that often.

I didn't realize how insecure I've been feeling until I was editing some recordings I made for work. I made some video recordings over the summer and some over the last few months. And it is absolutely crazy to me the difference I see in myself.

In the summer, my makeup consisted of foundation, powder, blush, mascara. Sometimes eyeshadow and eyeliner, but probably only on Sundays or one other day of the week.

Now I use color correcting concealer, foundation, regular concealer, a contouring stick, a highlighter, powder, bronzer, blush, eyebrow gel, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara. And I use all those products every single day. (Unless I am doing a lot of outdoor activities - hiking, walking, etc. Then I don't wear as much.)

I don't know why I doubled the amount of makeup products I use. I still only see the flaws. I see the huge bags under my eyes. I see my crooked nose. I see one eye lower that the other. I see eyebrows that are too far apart. I see the mole on my cheek. I see the zit on my chin that has been coming back in the same spot for the last few months. I see a pointy chin when I smile.

I don't feel more confident. In fact, I worry that I look like I have too much makeup on. And then I start to only see the makeup and the flaws there. My eyebrows stand out too much. My face is all one color still. My foundation is too light. My eyeliner is uneven, etc. I don't feel prettier; I feel like I'm wearing a mask that's just clogging my pores and ruining my skin. A mask that is supposedly supposed to make me look better, but it makes me feel ashamed that I have this "need" to cover up so much. I don't really want to wear this mask; yet I dare not take it off.

Then I log into Instagram or Facebook and see pictures of my friends who look perfect! I don't see any flaws at all. They are beautiful and all of the comments on their photos say things like, "you are so gorgeous!" or "you look stunning!" etc. And while I agree with those comments, I can't help put feel a sinking feeling because I don't receive comments like that. I never have. Not to say I have never been complimented before; I just mean that it's not usually something people say to me.

When I am complimented, it is usually something along the lines of , "You are so thin; I'm jealous!" Is this actually a compliment though? I never know how to respond. But this twisted thinking process has consumed me -- tricking me into thinking that the only thing I have going for me is my size.

And that makes me extremely insecure.

I have gained 15 pounds since Christmas. Now, this isn't a bad thing. Being extremely underweight is not healthy. When I sit down and really think about it, I know my gaining weight isn't a big deal.

Deep inside me though, I feel sick. As awful as this is going to sound, I prided myself on my weight being in the double digits. As I mentioned earlier, I felt my weight/body was the only thing attractive about me by society's standards.

But even there, that wasn't entirely true. I'm flat chested. I am pale. I have boney shoulders and elbows. My arms are freakishly long. My head looks too small in proportion to the rest of me. More flaws.

It doesn't matter what kind of clothes I wear, one of my flaws is inevitably being accentuated. And whenever I try shopping to find clothes that will flatter my figure, they are too see through. Or too low cut. Or the neckline is too wide. Or the arm holes are too big. Or the sleeve seams sag off my shoulders. Or they are too short. And I come out of the store feeling like some freak because apparently nothing is made for my body type.

It's frustrating to me that there are always plus size options and sections of stores, but never anything for the other end of the spectrum. (Have you looked through the petite section? Old lady clothes.) You can find and XL at just about any store. But trying to find an XS is hit or miss. Finding an XXL isn't usually too much of a challenge. But an XXS? They exist in like two stores. It is disappointing when I see these gorgeous modest dresses and adorable tunic tops and whatnot showing up in boutique shops, only to find out that the smallest size is a S (0-6). What does 0-6 even mean!? Does it really fit that wide of a range? I'm thinking NO. At least not fitting them well. Which means it most likely isn't going to fit me well either.

I digress.

My point is, I feel discouraged because I can't find anything good about my appearance. I feel completely flawed. I feel insecure. I feel embarrassed to be seen in public. I feel sickly and gross. I feel inadequate. I feel broken.

I know that a lot of this can be corrected with a shift in attitude or perspective, but is it wrong that I have a hard time shaking the voices in my head that criticize me and put me down? It is wrong that sometimes I break down and cry because I can't find a single stupid piece of clothing that fits me? Is it wrong that I avoid looking in the mirror because I can't handle the reality I am trying to hide behind makeup?

I am not seeking compliments nor pity. I am simply being honest. I can't always keep things together. Things aren't always going well. I'm not always confident in my own skin. I know I'm not alone in that. I just don't know how to overcome these feelings of insecurity right now.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

(2017) Anticipation of the CRAZIEST Year of Our Lives.

This year is going to be crazy. Who am I kidding; it already has been busy!

Obviously the past two months have been busy for me in regards to work and in regards to all of my health related appointments. But those were unanticipated.

We have a whole lot of crazy coming up that we are anticipating.

Third year of medical school is coming to a close (What the what? How did that happen!?) Jonathan only has three rotations left, including the one he's currently in. He's looking forward to the next two; they are both elective rotations. He's doing one rotation in Pathology (the specialty he wants to pursue) and the other in Ob/Gyn with his favorite doctor (he's worked with him before).

Here are the other things we have to look forward to:

  • Testing in Kirksville. The last week of March, all ATSU students have to fly back to Missouri for a few days and take a test there. I'm not sure why they are required to fly to Missouri to take it, but it is what it is. Goodbye $500 for a flight to MO. 
  • COMLEX, Step 2. This will be sometime in June (Jonathan gets to schedule when and where to take it). The COMLEX is the board exam required for D.O. medical students to graduate. This is going to cost about $615.
  • USMLE, Step 2. Also sometime in June (he schedules when and where). It's the board exam for M.D. students. D.O. students can take it as well, and depending on what specialty they want to go into, D.O.'s are sometimes required to take it. Jonathan likely won't be considered for any residency programs unless he does the USMLE, so alas he gets to take this as well. That's going to cost around $605.
  • Performance Evaluation (PE Exam). Another required test. We hear the test isn't very hard, it's mostly a waste of time, and it costs a ton of money. Students have the choice between taking the test in Philadelphia or Chicago, but you have to purchase a seat and they go FAST! Philadelphia was the only one that had spots open still, so Jonathan is going there in August. We already paid for this test (freaking $1250!!) Basically he is in a simulated medical setting, like a doctors office, and he's judged on how well he does with getting the "patients" history, diagnosing them, and documenting findings. The worst part is not only does the test cost an arm and a leg, but flights to Philadelphia are about $600, and there's still the cost of a hotel, renting a car, and food. 
  • Audition Rotations. 4th year students students have the opportunity to do audition rotations, which is basically doing a rotation in places other than where they were assigned for 3rd year. The idea is to do audition rotations at places you hope to do residency at. It gets your foot in the door and makes you stand out more/more likely to get an interview for residency in the fall. Sometimes the rotation itself costs money, but even if it doesn't you still have to find a place to stay for 2-4 weeks, pay for food, and pay to rent a vehicle. Sometimes students try to do audition rotations in places where they have family (free place to stay), but unfortunately there aren't very many Pathology residencies that are D.O. friendly west of Colorado. (And most of our family is west of Colorado).
  • 4th Year Rotations. Besides the 3 months worth of audition rotations, there are required rotations 4th years have to do. They can do them wherever, just as lot as they meet certain criteria (i.e a rotation of Emergency Med, a rotation of Internal Med, a Pediatrics rotation, etc.) If he schedules them in Arizona, the school covers the cost. Most rotations cost money if we go outside Arizona, but it really depends on the hospital or clinic. We've been toying with the idea of doing some of these rotations in Utah so we be close to family and stay with them, but it really depends on what we can find. In summary, who even knows how much time we'll be spending in Arizona in the next year.
  • Interviews for Residency programs! Come late summer/early fall is when we start applying for residency programs. On average, med students apply for about 20 different residencies for Pathology (that number goes up when depending on if you want to choose a more competitive specialty like dermatology or surgery) You can bet there's an application fee for each one. Then, if he gets accepted for interviews, he'll need to fly out for those ($$ for flights, hotel, food, vehicle). The average number of interviews attended is about 10, but we'll just have to wait and see what the numbers are like for Jonathan. 


In summary, this year is going to be BUSY, STRESSFUL, and EXPENSIVE. Between tests, setting up/completing rotations, and interviews, I'm anticipating this to be the craziest year yet. We've known 4th year is going to be expensive, so we've been saving up for it, but that money is going to go fast. *sigh*. But after December things will slow down. The interviews and tests will all be over and we get to wait around till March when we find out where we matched for residency. Then we'll probably move in April, and babe graduates in May!

I really wish I could just fast forward through 2017, but since we can't we're just taking things one day at a time.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Colonoscopy: My Experience

We've been trying to rule out what might be causing my abdominal pain, and so recently I had to get a colonoscopy done to see if anything was going on in there.

My Experience:

I went to pick up a packet that had consent forms for me to sign, as well as instructions for how to prep for a colonoscopy. I knew the prepping part wasn't going to be fun, but I wasn't sure exactly what it entailed.

I wasn't allowed to eat anything the day before the procedure (okay, technically I was allowed to eat, but it could only be clear liquids. Options are pretty limited there.) Anything I consumed had to 1) be clear, 2) only be the colors yellow or green, 3) could not be a solid food. And then the day of the procedure I had to fast 6 hours before.

In addition to these instructions, I was given a schedule. At noon the day before the procedure, I had to take 4 tablets of Dulcolax. At 1:00 I had to drink a 10oz bottle of Magnesium Citrate. At 5:00 I had to mix 7 caps of MiraLax with a 32oz bottle of Gatorade and drink at my own pace. Then, at 5:00 in the morning, I had to mix another 7 caps of MiraLax with another 32oz bottle of Gatorade.

The morning of my prep day, I was allowed a light breakfast. I think the instructions said my options were a banana and a bagel, or two pieces of toast. I ate my light breakfast, talked with my mom on the phone for a little bit, and then prepped the bathroom. I really wasn't sure what to expect, so I put an extra roll of toilet paper in there, a candle, some wipes, some Vaseline, and then I set up a chair next to the bathroom door so I could put my laptop there and watch shows. I also had some Sudoku and logic puzzles on hand.

My understanding was that you basically spend the whole day in the bathroom. "Prepping" for a colonoscopy means clearing out your intestines ENTIRELY. During the colonoscopy they go in with a camera and in order to see any growths or abnormalities or whatever, they need to have a clear view of things.

Noon came and I took my Dulcolax tablets. I wasn't sure how fast acting they were, so I went in our room (the bathroom is connecting to our room) and watched an episode of Property Brothers. Then I got a call from a nurse at the Endoscopy place. She talked to me for about a half hour. She needed to verify my medical history, ask about medications I take, ask if I'm allergic to any drugs, etc. She asked me if I had any questions and I said, "Yes. Will I be asleep for the procedure?" I was scared that even if I couldn't feel anything, I'd still be aware of what was going on. She said, "They use something called twilight sedation. You won't remember anything." I also told her I was scared about getting an IV. I've never had one before and I HATE needles. She said it would be okay, it would be really quick and just a slight pinch. I felt a little bit better.

At 1:00 I went to take the Magnesium Citrate and let me tell you, it's disgusting. But funny story -- I spent 20 minutes trying to take the dang cap off! We don't have a bottle opener, and I didn't realize the cap doesn't twist off (it kind of looked like it should twist off.) I tried running it under hot water and also tried using rubber to get a better grip. Alas, nothing worked. Then the bottle fell to its side and I noticed liquid coming out the top. Sure, I didn't get the cap open, but I had loosened it.

This is embarrassing, but I shook the bottle into a cup, filling it drip by drip at a time. My friends, this took forever. And I desperately wished my husband was home. Or that I had friends next door that I could have come over and open it for me.

The Magnesium Citrate was lemon flavored. At the first sip I was thinking, "okay, not too bad." Then I swallowed and the aftertaste was too much. It was really bitter. I decided to mix it with some Sprite to disguise the taste, and that actually worked pretty well. The only problem was, drinking 10oz of Magnesium Citrate and about 15oz of Sprite is more liquid that I'm usually able to drink. It takes me like 2 hours to finish a small water bottle. But I knew I had to drink/down the whole thing, so I did it. I think I finished in about 45 minutes.

Afterwards, I felt so awful. I felt extremely nauseous and I was scared I'd throw it all up and have to drink another bottle of it. Luckily I didn't throw up, but I did have the chills and had to lie down. At around 3:00 or so I finally went the bathroom for the first time of the day. I was a little bit surprised things didn't start acting faster. After going the bathroom, I took a short nap, then watching another episode of Property Brothers. And then, the Magnesium Citrate and Dulcolax kicked in. I was making regular trips to the bathroom. I define regular trips as going every 5-10 minutes.

Just when the 5-10 minutes turned into every 20-30 minutes, it was 5:00 and time to mix the MiraLax in a bottle of Gatorade. I couldn't taste the MiraLax at all, but it was hard for me to drink 32oz of Gatorade. I think I finished the whole thing within an hour and a half. Then it was regular trips to the bathroom (usually going 5 or 6 times in 5 minute intervals, then it slowed down to once every half hour or so.) I was glad to have the Vaseline because going the bathroom that frequently and wiping that frequently really hurts!

I think by 10pm or so I was able to fall asleep. I woke up twice in the night to go the bathroom, but that was it. Then I set my alarm for 5am so I could do round 2 of MiraLax and Gatorade. I was making regular trips again to the bathroom and I remember at one point telling Jonathan, "Can't I just dump the Gatorade straight into the toilet instead of drinking it? That's all that's coming out now anyway." But seriously, at this point everything was just liquid and that was kind of weird/not something I expected to happen.

My procedure was scheduled for 3pm, but I got a call at 8 or so in the morning saying they were moving it up to 1pm and check in was 12:15. I was glad, because it meant it would be over sooner and I could eat sooner.

Jonathan had the day off, so he drove me there. I filled out some paperwork, then I went to a back room to meet with a nurse. We went over my medical history (again), medications I was on (again), and drug allergies (again). Then I said goodbye to Jonathan, was given a gown and slippers to change into, and a bag to put my belongings in.

The nurse let me change in the bathroom and told me to wear the gown with the slit in the back and to not tie the back shut. This made me uncomfortable. Walking around with my butt and back hanging out didn't sound fun. I exited the bathroom and just kind held the gown closed. I had no clue where to go. Nobody was there to guide me, so I just waited. A different nurse called my name and led me over to a bed. There were a lot of beds separated by curtains, just like in the movies/on TV.

I laid down and she put a bunch of stuff on me which hooked up to a monitor. I had two on my chest, one around my arm, and one on my finger. I don't know what they were tracking exactly, but I'm guessing it was things like blood pressure and heart rate, etc. The next step was what I had been dreading the most with the whole experience - the IV. I told her I was nervous about it, but I didn't quite expect my anxiety to act up as much as it did. My breathing became very uneven and I almost starting panicking. I had this idea in my head that getting an IV meant having a huge needle shoved in your arm that stayed there as long as they wanted it too. I was worried I'd feel it the whole time and that I'd pass out because I can't ever look when seeing myself get poked with needles.

There was a slight pinch, as I was warned, and then she taped it in place. She told me I could move my arm around because there wasn't anything sharp in there anymore; it was a tube and syringe for the anesthesiologist to use when the time came. She said if I felt any discomfort, it was just the tape. The nurse went away then and said they'd be taking me in shortly.

Well apparently she had prepped me thinking I was going in for the procedure at 12:45. Not only was it scheduled for 1:00, but I didn't end up going in until 1:15 or so. So I just lied in that little bed for a half hour, trying not the think about all the stuff hooked up to me, and hoping I wasn't some rare exception who is immune to sedation. I said a lot of silent prayers to keep my anxiety in check. But overall, it wasn't terrible. Mostly I was starving.

The anesthesiologist (his name was Rex) came over to me and introduced himself. He double checked with me about drug allergies, and then shortly after I was rolled into the room where the procedure was to be done. The room was pretty dark. There was also a nurse I didn't recognize. She had yellow plastic protective wear around her close, a funny mask and hat. It reminded me of the CDA characters on Monsters Inc. Then I saw the anesthesiologist to my left. He was typing notes or something. Also to my left was a HUGE screen. It kind of looks like the screens you view ultrasounds on. I imagine that's where the images of my colon appear.

Rex asked me how much I weighed. I told him, "95lbs" and he responded, "Are you always 95lbs? Or did you loose a bunch of weight from the prepping?" I told him I've always been that size and he told me, "You're a tiny little thing!" I never know how to respond to these kind of statements, so I said nothing. Then he said, "Everyone gets oxygen", and proceeded to put a tube in my nose. Then he had me lay on my left side and move my knees toward my chest. I think he knew I was uncomfortable about the huge opening in the back of the gown, so he helped keep me covered. He told me to move my right arm toward him and rest it on the railing.

The whole time there was really obnoxious, loud, rap music playing. I wasn't sure if I liked this or not. Well, I know I hate rap music, but I just mean I wasn't sure if I was glad there was music. On the one hand, it was kind of nice to have the distraction and to not feel like I was in a scary, sterile, stressful room. On the other hand, the music was really loud and made me feel trapped in an environment I didn't like. Rex turned to me and said, "This isn't my choice of music." I agreed with him.

My doctor then came in. The doctor performing the procedure is the same GI specialist I meet with in the office. He came to my side and said, "How are we doing kid?" I said I was okay, and then he asked, "So what do we do next if we don't find anything?" I thought this was a strange question. Wasn't I supposed to be asking him that?? I said I didn't know, and he suggested either I go back to my gynecologist to check for endometriosis, or to get a CT scan. Then he went to the other side of the bed - my right side, and asked, "Do you have any questions?"

I said, "Yeah, how long will it take for me to fall asleep?" The second I asked this question, Rex pushed a clear liquid through the IV. I wasn't feeling sleepy at all. My doctor replied, "Quicker than it will take for the next Pitbull song to start." I remember coughing at this point when Rex gave me the clear liquid, but I don't know if it was in response to that, or response to the puffs of air in my nose. I turned my head and saw Rex push a creamy white liquid in the IV. This worked fast. I remember looking at the ceiling and feeling a dizzy fog trickle up in my head. My vision started getting blurry and the music began to fade. I have passed out several times in my life, and it was honestly very comparable to that feeling. Although when I feel like I'm going to pass down, I can usually sit down and the symptoms go away. This felt like I was leaving earth or something and slowly (yet also quickly if that makes sense) experiencing the world around me disappear.

Next thing I knew, I was in a strange room I didn't recognize. I saw my husband and my nurse by my side. Apparently we had a lot of conversations because Jonathan recorded them (per my request before the procedure), but I don't remember the majority of those conversations. I do remember having a really hard time sitting up. I was super floppy and kept falling back on the bed. I remember being confused as to where I was, and I distinctly remember looking at the clock several times and it always saying 2pm. I asked if the clock was working, and they said yes. Jonathan later told me I repeated myself and my questions many times because you experience amnesia when coming off the anesthetic. I vaguely remember the nurse asking me how long Jonathan and I have been married. I told her we got married June 27, 2015 and that we would be together forever because we were sealed for time and eternity in an LDS temple. Later, I felt a little shocked I said that. I'm usually way too anxious to say things like that. But I guess when you're out of it and have no anxiety or a care in the world, it's easier to be brave and share gospel truths.

Apparently other things I did/said were "You got it dude!" in response to a nurse telling me the side effects of the procedure. Also, I started singing "Let it Go" when she told me they had to expand my intestines with gas, so I might be gassy and should just let it go. I only know these things because Jonathan told me. I also tried to do some basic math, calculating when my next colonoscopy would be (It took me longer than it should have to subtract 26 from 50). And I also tried explaining the falling asleep process. According to the video, "My head got dizzy, then my eyes went away, and then I was like, where are my ears?" I also asked if I was dying, and when Jonathan told me I was okay and they didn't find anything, I asked very concerned, "So it was for nothing?" Honestly we expected this to be the case, but it's still a little disappointed to keep ruling things out but the pain not going away because we don't know what's causing it.

Well, then I starting feeling back to normal (still couldn't walk very steadily though. I guess because of my size, it took a lot longer for the anesthetic to wear off). I was put in a wheelchair, pulled up to our car, and then we went home. I was told I should eat pretty bland food at first, but that by dinner I could have whatever I wanted. For whatever reason I was craving pepperoni big time. I had a baked potato for lunch, but then my babe bought me some pepperonis to snack on later. :) And we had enchiladas for dinner!

In summary, the actual procedure part was not at all bad. The IV wasn't fun, but it also wasn't as scary as I thought it would be.  I also didn't like having to drink so much liquid, and especially the Magnesium Citrate. But even the frequent bathroom visits wasn't as bad as I thought. It wasn't like I had to sit on a toilet all day, but rather that I just had to rush to the bathroom frequently and couldn't really go anywhere/do much during the day. If I were to pick what the worst part was, it was definitely not getting to eat. It's so nice to be able to have real food again!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Update: The Health Edition

This post is way overdue.

Back in April 2015 I started having really intense abdominal pain. Not super often, but often enough that it was definitely noticeable.

October 2015, the pain was becoming more frequent. I was probably having abdominal pain at least once a week - sometimes multiple time a week. The pain was almost always the same. I believe I would explain it to Jonathan as, 'It feels like a witch is using my stomach as her cauldron!' I'd feel a horrible bubbling sensation that often kept me curled up unable to move positions.

The frequent pain was concerning enough to get it checked out. This part may sound slightly familiar, as this was back in Kirksville when I was diligent about reporting updates on my life. I had two (or maybe three) visits with a doctor in Kirksville and talked about what I'd been experiencing. He told me he thought it was IBS. He wrote me a prescription for it, but I was on my dad's insurance (which only worked in California), so all my medical expenses were basically out of pocket. If I remember correctly, that IBS prescription was over $300 for one month's supply. Definitely couldn't afford that.

The thing with IBS is it's more of a "we ruled everything else out" kind of thing. I couldn't afford to get any of the testing done that is truly necessary to chalk something up to be IBS.  So anyway, I just dealt with the tummy pains.

Fast forward to October 2016. I was starting to feel some pain near my sternum/right breast. After feeling a small little bump, I asked Jonathan what he thought. His face grew very concerned and we set up an appointment to meet with my primary care physician here in Phoenix. She performed a breast exam, felt the lump, and said she wanted to get it looked at via ultrasound.

During this same visit, Jonathan wanted her to take a look at a few moles that looked a bit atypical to him. The doctor agreed that they didn't look quite normal, and referred me to a dermatologist.

The breast ultrasound experience came first. I believe it was the day after my doctor's appointment. The ultrasound technician was really confused as to whether to do a breast ultrasound or chest (the place of concern is between the two, so my doctor wanted both. I guess that didn't show up in the notes). The technician did an ultrasound of both places and then had me wait for like 45 minutes while she tried to get ahold of my PCP to ask if the images were good enough. She couldn't ever get ahold of my PCP, so I went home. I was expected to get my results within 2 weeks.

Not long after my ultrasound, I went to meet with the dermatologist. There were two moles she found concerning and took biopsies right then and there. The biopsies didn't hurt, but the numbing agent they injected did. Mostly I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable though because the moles were kind of in awkward places and every minute felt like an hour. I was told I should hear the biopsy results within 2 weeks.

The pathologist must have reviewed the biopsies quickly, because I got a call back from the dermatology place relatively soon. The lady on the phone told me "It came back as dysplastic nevus with mild atypia. It is recommended you schedule to come in for surgery to get them removed because they are precancerous. It isn't required and it's your decision, so call us if you decide you want to move forward." I wanted to talk to Jonathan about it. He agreed that I should probably get them removed, but that it wasn't super urgent and that the chest and stomach issues were the priority right now.

I anxiously waited for my results from the ultrasound. The 2 weeks came and went. After over a month, I finally got a phone call simply stating, "The ultrasound showed a cyst. No concern." And that was basically it. No further clarification.

Meanwhile, the abdominal pain was acting up again, but more frequently. It had started acting up the end of October, but I wasn't aware that things were getting worse. As I'm writing this post (mid February 2017), I can tell you honestly that I've had abdominal pain every day since the end of October. Every. Day. I classify my pain into three separate categories which seemed to rotate depending on the day: 1) Big Tummy. We're talking super bloated. Like, I have to wear sweatpants or pajamas because they're the only thing that fit. 2) Mini Explosions. This was the pain I had been feeling in Kirksville. The bubbly sensation that makes it hard to function or move. 3) The Stab. It's always in the same spot. The lower left quadrant of my abdomen. Sometimes it's a intense level 9 pain stab, but only lasts 6 seconds. Other times it's a very dull, but very obvious stabbing sensation that lasts a good minute or so.

By December 2016, the pain was not only happening every day, but multiple times per day. It used to only happen at night, but I was starting to feel pain when I woke up in the mornings too.

I had seen my PCP in Phoenix about the tummy issues once at this point, and when I showed her where my stabbing pain was, she referred me to a gynecologist. The pain is just about where my left ovary is. Jonathan was terrified at this point. My symptoms were getting worse and more frequent and he was so sure I was dying of ovarian cancer. That's not even an exaggeration. He was a wreck for about a solid week. I also asked my PCP about the ultrasound report, and she said that the image of the cyst was not clear and it was suggested to follow up with a CT scan or MRI.

At this point you're probably thinking, "wow, there are so many things happening at the same time!" And you'd be right. That's how I felt. It was hard to take in and manage everything. Gosh, and there were so many doctor appointments it was crazy.

I went in to meet with the gynecologist about my abdomen. The breast mass wasn't bothering me and the moles weren't bothering me. My tummy bothered me daily though. Figuring that out was my top priority. The gynecologist chatted with me for a bit, and then I went in for an ultrasound. My thought was that it would be like an ultrasound you get done when you're pregnant. Nope. It was a vaginal ultrasound, meaning they go IN. I was able to see the images on a huge screen in front of me. I have to admit, it was kind of cool to see my ovaries and uterus on the screen.

The gynecologist looked at the ultrasound right away and talked to me and Jonathan, saying everything looked great with my ovaries and that I did not have ovarian cancer, or any problems with my ovaries at all. He told me that my next step should be to investigate it from a GI perspective. He personally recommended someone, and so we looked into getting things set up with him.

Then Christmas break happened in Utah, so no updates on anything health related for awhile.

Unfortunately our insurance wouldn't let the OB/GYN send in the referral to the gastroenterologist. So I had to go BACK to meet with my PCP (which by the way, ended up switching because the PCP I was with before moved to work for someone else.) I met with my new PCP and had to get a referral from her to see a gastroenterologist. I also asked for a referral to get a CT scan for my breast, and she wrote me one for that as well as a CT of the abdomen.

Then my GI appointment happened. He wrote me a prescription to help with stomach spasms (it's an IBS prescription), told me to send him the CT results, wanted me to get lab work done, and to send in a stool sample to be tested for blood.

The CT scan was denied by my insurance for the abdomen. I was feeling extremely anxious about the idea of a CT scan period, and Jonathan felt like I didn't really need one for my chest. He thought it would be less risk to just get a new ultrasound done because the only reason they suggested the CT of the breast in the first place was because they didn't get a good enough picture (didn't capture all of it) when they did the ultrasound.

Soooo....anyway, I couldn't send the gastroenterologist CT scan results of my abdomen since the CT scan out of pocket was in the hundreds of dollars. But I did do the stool sample (no blood showed up, which is good). Also, just a heads up if you ever have to do a stool sample....it's gross. You basically have to stick a little swab in your poop and then put the small sample in a vile. I hated it. I also did the blood work and everything came back great except for a few food allergies.

What are the allergies? Peanuts. Walnuts. Sesame Seed. Corn. Wheat. Soy.

Let me just pause for a second and let you think about that. Corn doesn't mean straight up corn. It means CORN SYRUP, corn starch, corn meal, etc. Basically an ingredient found in a LOT of food. I'm sure you're already aware what wheat shows up in. And soy shows up in a lot of things too - you'd be surprised.

Luckily soy barely showed up as an allergy, so I don't think I'm going to worry about that one. Peanuts showed us as a high allergy (Which was total news to me!!! Scary!) and the other ones showed up as moderate. I made it a goal to avoid corn and wheat (walnuts and sesame seed weren't a problem) for a month to see if my symptoms improved at all.

They haven't.

Because my CT scan was denied by insurance, the gastroenterologist wanted me to get a colonoscopy instead. I got that scheduled and completed, and everything showed up as okay. Because the IBS prescription as helped some, but not helped with the stabbing pain, and because the colonoscopy and stool tests came back as clear, the doctor believes the CT scan will be approved this next time. That is our next step with figuring out my chronic abdominal pain.

This is where we are at now. I have another appointment with my gynecologist in a little over a week for a well women's exam. While there, I plan on asking him about the breast cyst and if he thinks I should get another ultrasound (from his office staff this time!!) or if I should go ahead and do the CT scan for that.

Finally, I have every intention to get my surgeries scheduled for the removal of the precancerous skin lesions. I have gotten two letters in the mail from the dermatologist the past few weeks telling me if I don't take action, my moles can develop into skin cancer. The surgeries need to be scheduled two weeks apart from each other, so I'll probably try to get them both done in March.

My hopes are that by the end of next month I will be all taken care of and not have to worry about these issues anymore.  (Well, I'll probably forever have to keep my eye on the breast cyst and other moles, so that statement wasn't entirely true.) It has been a roller coaster of emotions over here. I'm grateful for the members of our ward we've been able to turn to for priesthood blessings.

I haven't really brought up the health issues with family or friends because I didn't want to worry anyone. I wanted to have answers first. I think we are at the point now where we know there is nothing life threatening and we've ruled out the major things! Whew!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Hi! Remember me?

Can you believe I wrote a blog post every single week in Kirksville?! I can't. I've been failing pretty miserably at staying caught up with blogging and it makes me a little bit sad because it was suppose to be my alternative to writing in a journal, which I haven't done since being married.

But here I am, trying to make an effort at being in the habit of blogging again. We'll see how it goes.

Nobody cares about my work life, but I'm gonna talk about it anyway. Feel free to not read on.

We have a new manager. I don't really know her, but she seems good for the company. As in, I think she's going to make some positive changes. Changes in management is always a bit scary to me because living out of state, it's easy to be forgotten. I hope I'm still seen as an asset to the company because this work-from-home opportunity has been fantastic and perfect for our situation.

I am only teaching 2 classes this semester. We're about 4 or 5 weeks into the semester, and I'm enjoying the students I have so far. They seems pretty diligent, hardworking, and willing to participate. I hope they keep it up. :) 

Last semester I taught 4 classes, so I was a little bit financially nervous to learn my hours would be cut in half. But an enormous blessing in disguise happened. I am working on a very time consuming project that has given me the opportunity to work extra hours (probably an average of 15 more hours a week).

Why is it a blessing in disguise? Shouldn't that just be considered a very obvious blessing?

Over the summer I had this brilliant idea of a way to improve the online class. It would help to save my students time, help them understand concepts better, and save us both the hassle of emailing back and forth for clarification and help on specific types of problems. This brilliant idea was not something I discussed with my manager. I took initiative and made the idea happen -- not logging in the hours since it wasn't approved officially (it might have been had I actually asked about it). Anyway, I probably spent about 60 hours (at least) on the project, all of which was unpaid for because my motivation was to help my students, not to find a way to make extra money.

During the fall, I told one of the directors about my brilliant idea. Over the course of a few months, we sent dozens of emails back and forth, had several hours worth of phone calls, and spend countless hours doing research about how to make my brilliant idea even more brilliant. I thought I had just had an idea to improve the online class, but looking further into the idea proved to be an improvement to the effectiveness of our company AND would save us money in the long run. We brainstormed and hashed out so many details to get it to be a resource for everyone to use come January and then just shortly before the semester began I got some heart-stopping news:

"[Big Boss Man] wants you to redo everything." Not because it was bad, but because we need to cover our bases. And if it was to be a company-wide resource used for years to come, it had to be perfect. I have to admit, my unpaid work on the project wasn't perfect. It was decent, but not to the standard Big Boss Man wanted. And there were a few stumbling blocks I hadn't found solutions for in the summer that I had ignored my first go-through with the project.

We talked about the changes that needed to happen, and it ended up working out that I'd be needing to spend about twice as long on the project. Oh, and it needed to be completed within 8 weeks. So somehow, I'd have to find a way to fit 120 hours worth of work into an 8 week period (thus the extra 15 hours a week). As stressful as that has been, the blessing is I am now getting paid for this project. And I feel like I'm really making a positive difference and a promising improvement to our company.

That all said, things have been very busy and stressful. I have a very strict schedule and deadline for things to be completed and sometimes I feel like I'm treading water with broken arms. I think I only have 3 more weeks of the crazy though, and then I'll still have to tread water, but will have floaties on -- so things will be a bit easier and less stressful. 

Like I said at the beginning, I know nobody cares about my work life. But it's a huge part of my life, especially right now. And I can't give a true journal account/update of my life without mentioning this project!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Songs

On Sunday I was able to go to Relief Society for the first time in awhile (I'm usually in Nursery). One of the ladies in the ward announced that on Wednesdays she sings Christmas songs at the assisted living facility nearby and invited anyone to join her that was able to. Normally I work Wednesday mornings, but since the semester is over, I could actually make it.

I woke up and seriously contemplated staying in bed. However, I felt a push to get up and get ready and I'm so glad that I did. I drove to the assisted living home and the only other person there was this lady who made the announcement. There were a handful of residents sitting around to listen, but I was grateful I came. 

The lady in my ward played the piano and sang the melody. I was secretly grateful because 1) I can't play the Christmas hymns very well, 2) I can't sing melody. I harmonized with her and many of the residents joined in singing with us. 

Things have been pretty overwhelming for me lately. I have been dealing with a lot of stress, some health issues, and some new changes with management at work. But going to the assisted living home reminded me of something -- service brings peace. I put my selfish desires aside, and spent time visiting with people who don't always get may visitors. I was able to celebrate the birth of the Savior through song. I was able to share my testimony through music. And by simply smiling at the residents, putting my hand on theirs, or taking the time listen to them, I could see their eyes light up and I thought, 'This is why I came'.

I have been using too many excuses lately. It's really not hard to serve others and I want to do a better job at following Christ's example of service.