Sunday, November 19, 2017

VOICE

Voice

Its one of the first things people notice  when they meet you.  Other than your appearance, it allows them to begin to judge/evaluate/inspect/critic you.  Other cues allow us to determine additional information about that person, but we mostly form our opinions/thoughts/conclusion about this person before many conversations are even had.  I’d assume thats human nature.  When we first meet someone with an accent, we assume they are from a foreign country. Someone who has a cold often has a particular sound too.  However there are those rare occurrences where we can’t quite place the sound we are hearing.  I assume thats where I fall.  Before my brain tumor, I didn’t make much fuss about my voice. I used it in various venues- I sang at Church, I worked in customer service, and as a Mother of a toddler, I constantly had opportunities to talk, sing, correct & teach my son. I also was/am quite social so talking was just what I did/do. I am still timid about my voice when I meet new people & other times I’m sometimes lazy about my speech with those I’m familiar with.  You see after my brain tumor, I was unable to speak. I was capable of making sounds but what came out was sluggish garble.  I was diagnosed with aphasia. Aphasia is defined by Dictionary.com as “the loss of a previously held ability to speak or understand spoken or written language, due to disease or injury of the brain.”  I remember coming to after surgery and within moments being filled with panic and dread. I remember trying to tell the nurses I couldn’t swallow but when I spoke I sounded much like a zombie groaning. I remember someone saying that it must be swelling that was causing my trouble swallowing & difficulty speaking.  Nope & nope.  I had just had a brain tumor peeled off my brain stem and apparently some damage had been done.  Thankfully, I had a default I knew could help me communicate as I could tell from conversations around me that my Doctors & Nurses weren’t just trying to evaluate my speech, but also my ability to comprehend.  I began to use simple sign language which I think both impressed & overwhelmed them at the same time.  They knew I was still in there, but they had no one to translate. Finally, they got my sister Jaime and she picked pieces of what I was saying from a language we had briefly learned (the alphabet) in our childhood.  Shortly after this they gave me some paper and pen to use for communication.  Wow! I still have these initial writings and those that followed in the days and weeks I was hospitalized.  They are hard to look at but they provide a clear outlook into the chaos and disorganization my brain was enduring following brain surgery.  In those first few hours after surgery it was also discovered that I couldn’t move my body either.  Shortly after surgery, I earned the diagnosis of ataxia and apraxia which defined by Dictionary.com suggests my inability to move also had to do with loss, ‘loss of coordination’ in my muscles & the ability to ‘perform purposeful movement.’  To sum it up, I was a hot mess... sad thing was these diagnoses didn’t cover all the deficits I had to deal with. I also couldn’t swallow, had double vision (strabismus), didn’t recognize my center of gravity, and then there was my paralyzed vocal chord.  Every one of these things presented its own challenges & when added to the picture of healing from brain surgery, made the outlook seem impossible.  Many hurdles also developed along the way: pneumonia, the giant DVT (blood clot) that formed (due to medical error) from the bend in my elbow up to my shoulder, orthostatic hypotension (blood pressure mystery), and chronic hiccups just to name a few. I had a giant battle in front of me. 

Thankfully by God’s grace, I have travelled so far from that scary time.  Some progress was quick while other was painfully slow. I spent hours doing Occupational, Speech & Physical Therapy.  I was surrounded by incredible family, therapists, Doctors & Nurses that also deserve credit for my recovery. I know I am beyond blessed & I give the glory to God for restoring me.  Do I still have difficulties & deficits? I do and i’ve come to realize I might always.  Some days accepting that is doable while other days the thought is defeating.  So why am I thinking about this experience now?  It isn’t a special day or anything.  Last week I was in the Dentist office getting some work done and when I returned upfront to pay & checkout, one of the ladies commented on my voice.  Instead of saying something I feared, she told me she liked my voice because it reminded her of one of her children’s friends and she really liked this child.  I quickly commented well this isn’t my real voice.  Another gal at the front desk joined the conversation and when I said that, they both looked at me perplexed.  So I told them the brief version of what had happened.  They both looked at me shocked. So i finished my story as I always do, giving God the glory for it all and commentating on how blessed I am.  This experience has not been easy but its been blessed.  What a perfect time of year for this? Be mindful and thankful.


Be Blessed.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Gertrude Attacks

Too bad it's past April Fools Day - I was going to post a picture on Facebook introducing my new baby that we were welcoming on Wednesday (and tag my blog that told about the gallstone) to see if people just read the brief comment with the picture & said Congrats on the new baby or if they read the attached blog & discovered it wasn't a baby I had in my ultrasound picture.  Wonder how fast talk of a baby would spread? Guess that's the social psychologist side of me... Dr. Ponsford 😊

So Tuesday of this past week, I developed a very sharp pain in my back right below my shoulder blade. I figured I was standing wrong or had pulled something so I brushed it off, telling myself I'd stretch later. A few hours later the pain continued and as a sat waiting to pick the boys up from school, I struggled to get comfortable. Each position I shifted into provided only moments of relief. I tried to push the pain & discomfort out of my mind, but no luck.  By bedtime I was so achy that I had camped myself on my heating pad, hoping for some relief.  After putting the boys to bed I got ready for bed & noticed the pain shifted forward to under my ribs. This of course concerned me & I took my blood pressure... it read 179/105 and I became even more concerned.  I had Darren call my Mom to sit with the boys while I headed to talk to Zach as I knew he was still awake & would be scared if he saw his parents leave without telling him why.  I explained to Zach what was happening & that I was heading to the ER to get checked out. We hugged & prayed and then I headed out.  I arrived at the ER and because of my chest & back pain they got me right in.  I was instantly hooked up to an EKG machine. Thankfully results were fine. Over the next hour labs were run & meds for pain & nausea were given.  The Doctor suspected gallstones and said I should follow up with my primary Doctor. I returned home feeling a bit better but wondering.  I stayed home from work the next day to rest & felt bloated & full. I hardly ate as I didn't really have an appetite.  The pain hadn't returned, but had morphed into a tender spot under my rib & shoulder blade.  That evening I was nauseous & had a slight fever. It was a terrible nite without rest. I contacted work & my boss insisted I come in & have one of fantastic ultrasound techs scan me in between patients to see if I had a gallstone/s.  So I did.  Within moments of beginning the scan, I had my answer, a decent size gallstone. I lovingly named her Gertrude 😂 I had previously called my Doctor to make an appointment & she squeezed me in for the afternoon.  I took my ultrasound pictures to my Doctor & she asked if I had a preference for a surgeon.  I had already done my homework & asked my sister Wendy who she recommended & then found out who took my insurance so I was ready with an answer in case she asked.  She excused herself & called the Surgeon directly.  Upon explaining my situation, my now Surgeon made room in her schedule for a meeting & surgery too. As I write this, I'm sitting in Pre Op Registration... Surgery is set for Wednesday at one, prayers are always appreciated.

Blessings!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mud & spit

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,”said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.
8 His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” 9 Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The Pharisees Investigate the Healing
13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”
16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”
But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.
17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”
The man replied, “He is a prophet.”
18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”
20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind.21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue.23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind.33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Spiritual Blindness
35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
39 Jesus said,[a] “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

John 9:1-41

This past Sunday, my Pastor shared with us this scripture and it really made an impression.  I have spent more time in John than any book in the Bible, but I was refreshed by what he had to offer.  Thank you Pastor Andy! He titled his sermon Mud, spit & fears.  He introduced us to a man named Jean Vanier who believes:

“The weak teach the strong to accept and integrate the weakness and brokenness of their own lives.”

Vanier’s explains that  people 'really blossom when they are welcomed as they are, with their gifts and their weaknesses together'... what a beautiful thought!  Instead of getting hung up on our differences, we embrace them & accept them for what they contribute. Imagine what a wonderful world that'd be.

For someone whose struggled to understand how to accept myself & to accept how others welcome me has been/is still a challenge.  I still see myself broken.  However, by Gods grace, I've never spent too much time allowing myself to wallow in that.  I've tried to acknowledge Gods amazing presence in each detail of it.  Have I always done this? Or done it well? Certainly not.. I fail often.

In the scripture above it talks about Jesus healing the blind man.  As Pastor Andy explained, blindness was often blamed on the sin of the person afflicted. Jesus squashed that idea and explained that he wasn't blind because of his or his parents sin, but because it allowed God to be revealed through the work of Jesus.  Pastor Andy also shared the issue of fear and how that played a role in this story.  Fear prevented those who knew of this miracle to proclaim it. I know there are a number of times I have stayed silent instead of speaking up.  Throughout my brain tumor, I've been aware of Gods hand on me and I only hope I've been fearless talking about my miracle.

May we all be fearless & bold when it come to Gods handiwork.  May we see the beauty in each other & look for the gifts we each have.

Favorite song that encourages me on this matter is Fearless by Jasmine Murray ...
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hWdY8mwDgRA

Be blessed.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rare

Today is Rare Disease Day and Brain Tumors are considered just that!  Wow! Rare! Hmmm... What do I think about that and the fact I got one??? Over the last seven years, I have had a lot of time to ponder the whys? I never allowed myself to wallow in the 'poor me' talk very long.  Instead, I chose to focus on the why nots? I accepted the facts I couldn't change.  I didn't argue with the statistics, I took Dory's advice & kept swimming.

So what about those why nots?  During my first few months of recovery, I heard from family, friends, Doctors, Nurses, Therapists and strangers... asking - but why you?  I quickly got sick of hearing those questions and began responding with why not me?

Guess what? I still don't have an answer to that question either!   It does however requires me to fully evaluate my circumstance, even today, and forces me to make a choice, be thankful or not?  I'd like to say I always choose Thankfulness, but I still find it tough sometimes to deal with my lingering deficits. It's hard to admit your shortcomings, real or unreal.  Things I see as roadblocks may seem trivial or silly to others, but to me they still matter.  I question so much of how this situation changed me, hoping it's mostly for the better,  but recognizing some is not.  I know I'm speaking in generalities, but I'm still not comfortable airing all my insecurities.

When all is said & done, if I've know you for a month or for years, I hope I have come across as someone who is Thankful that I have had this brain tumor experience.  I will never have the 'reason' that this happened, but throughout it all, I've been blessed more than I can say and I'm grateful for that.  I've discovered many truths throughout this.  Truths about God, people, love, healing, possibility and about myself.   I'm making lemonade from these lemons.  I'm turning my mess into my message.  I've been blessed by so many, I hope I've returned the favor & continue to do so.

So on this Rare Diseases Day, I'm going to embrace the fact I'm RARE and be glad with that.

Be Blessed

Friday, December 02, 2016

Water

Water is defined by Dictionary.com as a "transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid."  When you think of water, what sort of thoughts come to mind???

Within the last week, it has become a blessing.  Let me explain further... I got stomach flu over Thanksgiving break and it was no fun!  Even water was my enemy. Hours ticked by and as they did, I grew desperately thirsty.  I longed for small sips of cool and refreshing water. My lips began to crack and my tongue was dry and raw.  My mind was consumed with my thirst.  After hours had passed, I started with small sips and quickly moved to big gulps.  My mistake indeed, my body retaliated greatly.  Again, I started the waiting game, hoping I would feel better soon.  Another few hours passed and I again tried small sips, this time being more mindful of how quickly I was drinking the water.   I stayed with small sips for a few hours before I tried bigger sips. About 24 hours after it all started, I was finally able to hold some water down.  I can't just describe it as water. To me, it was cool and crisp,  it even had a sweet hint to it.  Okay, okay... am I crazy???

Water is tasteless, right?

This isn't the first time I have experienced this.  Over six and a half years ago when I was lying in the ICU recovering from brain surgery, I became severely dehydrated.  I remember desperately trying to swallow so I could finally have something to drink. I was overwhelmed with frustration, my body wasn't working, and no one could understand me.  Nurses gave me oral  swabs to add some moisture to my mouth until they could determine if I would gain back my swallowing ability or if they'd have to declare me NPO status and get a NG tube placed.  I'm not sure I will ever be able to forget the way my mouth felt. My lips were cracked & no matter how many times I tried to lick them, I never found relief.  My tongue was thick and rough as if it were covered in sand paper.  It felt swollen and fat, although I'm not sure it was.  At this time, my face was asymmetrical, I was black & blue and I had the crazy drugged look....we won't even mention my hair or my over active salvation glands. I was a mess!  Even after I had the NG tube then the PEG tube, I always had a longing for a cool drink of water. On the PEG tube, I was able to give myself free water with my liquid food to keep me hydrated.  When I was finally able to swallow, I had to start with a tiny amount (teaspoon) of thickened liquid. I then worked up to other beverages that provided me other stimulus to help aide me in swallowing.  Liquids with flavor, temperature (hot/cold), and texture were easier than water.  Without fail, 99% of the time, I'd choke on water.  About 9 months after I returned home, I remember waking up in the middle of the night.  I stood at my bathroom sink, thinking about water.  Usually, I would just put my mouth to the faucet & I'd let the cool water wash over my tongue, being careful not to let any stay in my mouth.  On this particular night, I decided to be a little daring.  I put a little water into a cup and tried to take a small sip.  I remember how hard I was concentrating.  I remember the cool water as it sloshed in my mouth. I was mindful of where it was in my mouth. I knew if I tried to swallow it without being ready, I would most certainly choke. Instead, I stood there with my head slightly faced down and I really enveloped the flavor of the water.  The longer it stayed in my mouth, the warmer it got.  It was sweet in flavor and it felt so refreshing.  I closed my eyes and relaxed my throat.  I visualized the water and hoped it would go down.  I swallowed.  I waited a few seconds, expecting a coughing fit.  Minutes passed and I was fine.  I tried again and again.  That first night, I managed to swallow water 5 times before I aspirated.  VICTORY!!! I was filled with emotions.  I was happy, overjoyed, hopeful, nervous, scared, apprehensive & thankful.  It took many more months & years to be able to drink a glass of water with ease. Actually, if I'm honest, I still am more cognizant when I am drinking water.  I probably will always be.  I just so very thankful I am able to swallow again.

Be Blessed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Seasons

Happy Fall!
This is my favorite time of year. It's a great reminder of the changing seasons. The leaves turn to fantastic shades of yellow, orange, red, maroon. Everything has a slight frost on it in the mornings.  The kids head back to school. You have to dig out coats, boots, gloves & hats. The season has certainly changed and before we know it, there will be snow. Gasp!!!! But I've discovered their aren't just seasons in our weather, but also in life.  Life is full of transitions and sometimes we are ready for it and sometimes we have to just hang on for the ride.  I'm in a new season and am really enjoying it.  When the boys headed back to school this fall, I longed for something to do. I've toyed with the idea of going back to school, volunteering long term somewhere, getting a job, and much more, but I didn't know what I really wanted to (or felt like I could) do. My mind at times swirled with ideas and then raced with fears & anxiety.  Questions galore!!! One day I sent my oldest sister a text message asking her what job often turned over at the medical office she works in? Well it started a whole discussion which only encouraged more thinking. Drat! A few weeks after our conversation, she called me out of the blue with a proposition.  Her office needed someone to do some data entry for them and she wanted to know if I was interested.  I didn't have to think much because they were offering work with flexibility so that I could still be available for my boys. Basically work when they are in school. Win-Win. Another answer to prayer.  I'm in my second week and I'm really enjoying what I'm doing.  It's been such an encouragement to my spirit. It's begun to squash some of the fears I've had about myself. A blessing for sure. Thank you Lord!

Seasons... they come and go, may you be blessed in the one you've just had, the one you're in, and the one just around the corner.

Blessings.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Summer Days



So it's been a couple months since my last blog... I did go see my Neurosurgeon and got the thumbs up! I did bring crazy brain treats too. Then fast forward a few weeks and it was the end of school for the year. I was busy running between Kindergarten performance, class picnics, teacher gifts and watching Miss Ashlynn the last few days of school. Lots of good memories.  So far we have filled the summer break with zoo trips, play dates, water gun & balloon fights, soccer, chalk masterpieces, pool parties and much more.  There is still so much left of summer and we plan to fill it with more zoo trips, camping excursions, play dates, soccer and more. Here's a few pictures of the fun we've had.  We are so excited when Darren can join us for the fun.
   


My love



Enjoying the Alaska Zoo with great friends


First soccer tournament of the summer 


First soccer tournament of the summer 


First soccer tournament of the summer 


First soccer tournament of the summer 


Visiting the Alaska Zoo


Timber - Darren took out the large tree behind our house



Its been nice & warm so the boys have enjoyed running through the sprinklers


More soccer & more family fun


Lucky Dog - she will be 13 in September


I have some exciting news on the brain front...okay, it's exciting for me because many of you wont realize how significant it is. It's proof that I am still healing, 6+ years later. Praise God! 

It's summertime... So what is the footwear of choice? Flip flops, right? I use to have flip flops in so many different colors but I got rid of them after my surgery because I figured I'd never be able to wear them again.  Well I threw some $2.50 ones in my old navy basket the other day and thought 'what's the harm?'  Well, I can walk in them. I still have a death grip on the toe separator thingy but they don't fly off my foot with every step and I don't look ridiculous walking in them (an added bonus)!!!



Flip Flops



Thoughts:



I came upon this reading this last week and it really resonated with me!  It addresses Trauma and I love that it says: "This is not a wholly negative thing. Healing from trauma can also mean finding new strength and joy.  The goal of healing is not a papering-over of changes in an effort to preserve or present things as normal.  It is to acknowledge and wear your new life - warts, wisdom, and all - with courage."

That is it!  No matter what I have endured through this brain tumor, I've tried so hard to remain positive and focused on the blessing it was/is. I am sure that sounds trite to many or to those who've had a brain tumor too, but that is it, a blessing.  I still have moments where I am uncomfortable in my new normal, but it's a reality that I need to accept.  If I don't accept it, I can never fully embrace all that has happened, good and bad.  Trauma is truly a reset button. It's not possible to return to the old and I'm thankful for that.  I'm turning my mess into my message.

Be blessed!