Monday, April 26, 2010

Transplant Day

Well, it's 5 am, and can I just tell you, if you ever plan on donating your liver to someone, Ambien is not gonna cut it. I'm not exactly sure how much sleep I got last night, but I know it wasn't much. My stomach has been gurgling and screaming at me all night. I've been awake for at least the last 45 minutes tossing and turning. The first thing I see when I click on Facebook on my Blackberry is a prayer and blessing post on my long-time high school friend Wendy's profile. Thank you Wendy, and thank you Cristal for the late night post in response to my blog post last night. I'm so thankful to have known you both for so long.

Just as I finished typing that last sentence, the phone rang. It was Melanie from church. I saw the name on my phone and just started crying. She prayed for me and Cayden over the phone. I told her I'd talk to her when I was coherent again.

So here we go. Off to Stanford Hospital for this miracle of all miracles. I get to give a part of me to a "son" whom I love so much. Do you think this means he's not really my stepson after all?

Thanks be to God! I'll talk to you all when I'm coherent again. :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

'Twas The Night Before Transplant

I can hardly believe it. In just a few short hours from the moment I am typing this, I will be waking up here at Paul and Kristi's house (that is if I even manage to fall asleep), taking a shower with my buddy Chrolorhexidine (a pre-surgery antibacterial wash given to me by the hospital), and driving to the hospital to check in for surgery, only to later wake up to something that there really is no way to fully prepare one's self for, barring perhaps fervent prayer. I find it amazing that time has passed by so quickly.

Fortunately, I slept for a reasonable amount of time last night, although there was a point in time when I lay awake, eyes wide open, not able to shut off my mind no matter how hard I tried. I must have drifted back to sleep, but when I woke up, there was that tight feeling in my stomach again. Still lying in bed, I felt the need to say what had gone unsaid up until this point. I told Dan, "Even though I know I am going to be ok, just in case something happens, I want you to take 'me' somewhere with tropical waters." And I left it at that. Things were pretty quiet for a few minutes.

Getting ready this morning and each morning for the past week or so, I've found myself continuing to check out my belly, trying to imagine what it's going to look like after surgery. It's so interesting that I've spent the last 20 years of my life thinking somewhat vainly "Yay, no baby stretch marks, no c-section scar. I can still get away with wearing a two-piece swim suit." I so love Dan. He keeps telling me to quit it and assures me that he will LOVE my scar, and who knows, I just may wear that two-piece anyway to purposely show off my scar. Ok, well maybe after I lose that extra few pounds the hepatologist accused me of having!

The Facebook messages and posts, responses to my blog, emails, text messages, and phone calls started early this morning. The first message I received was from my dear friend Rebecca who happened to be driving by a huge billboard declaring "Living Donors Give Life". She took that as a sign that she'd better call. ;) The outpouring of support has overwhelmed me from the get-go today.

With Cayden hanging out with Angie, Rob, and Taylor today at the Stanford vs. Cal baseball game, Dan and I headed to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church today to help out with their Compassion Weekend. Our church's Compassion Weekend was this weekend also, which we didn't miss last year. What better way to spend the Sunday before surgery than helping assembly Haiti Caregiver Kits for World favorite charity. As I walked through the assembly line adding items like gloves, soap and washcloths to the bright orange drawstring bag, the tears started to flow. Once the kits were all assembled, everyone was directed outside to lay hands on the pallets containing boxes and boxes of kits to be shipped off to Haiti. As they prayed over the boxes, I started to sob uncontrollably. How blessed and fortunate are we to live in a nation where it is possible for doctors to give life to Cayden by giving him part of my liver? It was really hard to pull myself together. My sister Melissa called a little while later. After hearing the story of me being such a "puddle", she said I'd better drink more water so I wouldn't dehydrate today.

We met my dad and Patti at Cafe Barone for lunch after church. By then I was feeling like I was a little bit more "together". Cafe Barone is a hopping place on Sunday afternoons. They have a huge terrace to enjoy the nice weather. It was tricky to snag a table, but we managed to get one in the sun. I ended up eating an awesome turkey club on a baguette. They used pancetta instead of regular bacon and the cheese was smoky cheddar. Yumola! At one point during our conversations over lunch, Paul my brother-in-law, leaned over and told me that my 8 year old nephew Ian had asked the following: "When Aunt Amanda gives half of her liver to Cayden, will he talk like Aunt Amanda?" Paul asked him if he wanted to ask me about it, but he said "No!" We definitely got a good laugh from that one. :) Also during lunch, Paul and Kristi had given me a gift card for the bookstore next door, so we headed over there after eating so I could pick up a couple of books. One of the books I chose was one I've wanted to read for awhile now...The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I bought it and then had a funny afterthought: "Maybe I already am living a purpose driven life." I guess I'll find out once I've read the book. Stay tuned on that thought.

Gosh, it was really hot here today. Dan and I hung out at the house for most of the afternoon. I spent much of my time sitting on the front porch talking to my sister, enjoying the sun, and just remembering to breathe. When I finally decided to go in to cool off a bit, for no good reason other than I felt like it, I attacked the leftover key lime pie from last night. It was only 4 o'clock, but I didn't really care whether or not I spoiled my dinner. Like Paul said to me, I should do whatever I want today. I like that philosophy.

Our last big "event" today was dinner at Cedros Ristorante with my mom and Don. Yep, Italian for my final meal before the hospital. I LOVE Italian food. I was feeling pretty good until I'd finished about half of my spaghetti carbonara, which is one of my favorites...well except for the peas. I picked all of those out. Anyway, I started to feel sick to my stomach. I ended up in the bathroom three times before we left the restaurant. During dinner, more messages of prayers and well wishes popped up on my Blackberry. My oldest stepson Bryan called to say he loved me, wish us good luck, and say that he'd see me next Saturday. Oh boy, there came the tears again. Yes, I did drink plenty of water today, Melissa!

Finally, it was back home to try and settle in for the evening. We were greeted by Ian, who was now missing one front tooth and the other dangled by a thread of skin. Mouth all bloody and grinning, he was so excited. Being the expert second grade teacher and awesome tooth puller that I am, I suggested he twist it to get it out of his mouth. With two twists and a few spits into the sink, the tooth was out and all that remained was a big gap where both teeth had been. Two teeth in one night!

And so here I sit, working on deep breathing and trying to relax...all packed for the hospital. My prayer shawl and burden bear from church are in my backpack to take with me in the morning. All that's left is to take my antibacterial shower. There's a song on Spirit 105.3 that I just love by the band Mercy Me. The words of the song are taken from Psalm 121:1..."I lift my eyes unto the hills...where does my help come help comes from the Lord...the Maker of Heaven and Earth". Tonight and tomorrow Lord, I seek peace, protection, and healing for myself and Cayden. As I told Dan, Paul and Kristi tonight, I know in my heart that everything will be ok. I just want to wake up.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It's All About the Spaghetti and Key Lime Pie

Yep, it was spaghetti night. Call me weird, but I had this "need" to have everyone here tonight at Dan's sister's house. More about that a little later in the post.

No more appointments, just the waiting game now. Much to my surprise, after a teary Friday night, I was able to sleep in a little this morning. Pretty much from the moment I woke up today, I felt sick to my stomach and didn't feel much like eating breakfast. I don't know how Dan is managing to keep both me and Cayden from falling apart at the seams (ok, maybe mostly me at this point). Although we didn't have a specific "agenda" for our day, we did need to get to the store for the spaghetti supplies and some yummy dessert. Also, today was the day all 4 of my parents, Cayden's mom Angie, stepdad Rob, and brother Taylor were to arrive.

Before we headed to the store, we took in a few innings of our nephew Adam's t-ball game. Oh's been awhile. Can't say that I miss those days. If you've ever watched 5 year olds play t-ball, you know how painful it is to witness. Balls being thrown 90 degrees off from the direction they're aiming. Everyone plays in the infield. The third baseman running all the way over to second base to get a grounder. Little kids running the bases without stopping, even when the catcher's clearly holding the ball. Players climbing the fence and doing everything but actually sitting on the bench in the dugout. Multiple inquiries of "When do we get snack?" Yes, t-ball is definitely entertaining. Thank God it was a sunny day. :)

Shopping would have been uneventful as usual if it weren't for a phone call from our friend Melanie to wish us well and let me know that they were thinking about us and would be continuing to pray for us. Melanie and David are our music leaders at church and we love them dearly. She and David are especially empathetic to our situation because David has not only had a transplant (kidney, not liver), but he has experienced organ rejection and is currently on regular dialysis awaiting a new kidney. I love to talk to Melanie, because she always has this way of making me feel like everything is going to be ok. At church she's come up to me, put her hand on my belly and has prayed for my liver. She always makes me laugh. I sure miss our music group.

While I was peeling plenty of garlic for our garlic bread for dinner, I received a phone call from my dad that he and Patti had arrived safely. Not long after that, Mom called, so I left Dan to make his fabulous spaghetti sauce for dinner while I drove to meet my mom to give her and Don the key for Gail's house. (Gail is the woman from Dan's sister's church who rents out her downstairs for a nominal fee for people who have family at Stanford Hospital.) I beat them to the house, and as I sat waiting in the car I was trying to recall how long it had been since I had last seen my mom and Don. I am embarrassed to say that I think it's been since my sister had her baby, Carson, 2 years ago! Shame on me. Considering they live only 4 hours away, I'd best not let that happen again. They were pretty tired from their long day of traveling. Their flight had left the Tri-Cities at 6 a.m. Ironically, they ended up on the same flight as my dad and Patti out of Seattle into San Jose. Angie, Rob, and Taylor arrived from their ridiculously long drive a little later and took Cayden for a couple of hours while we finished getting everything ready for our dinner with 15 people.

Dinner together was really wonderful. Dan's spaghetti was out of this world, as usual, and I got to eat my favorite...key lime pie. But the best parts of the evening had nothing to do with the food. Before we ate, Dan prayed and thanked God for all of us all being together to celebrate this event. It was an emotional moment for everyone, that I am sure of. There was much conversation and laughter across the table. So much so that it was hard to take it all in and remember to be fully present in the moment. Later on, at one point, Angie pointed out the irony of what was in front of us. Here she and I sat talking together, while at the same time my mom and Patti (my dad's wife) sat talking together across from us...the current wives chatting with the ex-wives. Who'd have thought? As I stood in the kitchen, Cayden came over to me and just layed his head on my shoulder. God, how I love that boy!

As everyone left, I felt sort of sad. I had planned this night for weeks, knowing that I wanted to have everyone together for a meal and now it was over. One more night after tonight, and then I'll be waking up early to head for the hospital. Both my mom and my dad are worried for me, but I keep telling them I'll be ok. When I get really afraid, I need to remember to tell myself that very same thing.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Day to Chill (mostly)

Officially done with all of our pre-op appointments, we had just Cayden's morning session of school and his blood draw at the lab to deal with today. Even though Cayden has only been at the hospital school for 5 days, as we met Cayden at 11:30 when they dismissed, all of the staff were wishing Cayden well for his surgery. I love the teachers and staff at the hospital school. Being a teacher is hard enough, I can certainly speak from first hand experience, but what a tough job that must be.

Down to floor one and over to the Stanford Lab. After waiting about 30 minutes for Cayden's name to be called at the lab, I began to wonder if they had given all the phlebotomists either lunch break at the same time or an early start to their weekend. There were only two other people waiting when we arrived, so a 30 minute wait at a big hospital like Stanford seemed downright silly.

With Cayden's 7 vials of blood drawn, we were outta there. The sun was shining and we were ready to get away from the hospital for awhile. First stop...In-N-Out! Yes! As I bragged about it on Facebook today, I had a few nasty grams and jealous posts from friends. Actually, to be perfectly honest, Kim wasn't nasty, she just posted "Not fair!" Sorry Kim, my cheeseburger, fries and chocolate shake were delicious. Too bad Dan tried to avoid another In-N-Out patron when carrying the tray with pop and ended up soaking the back of Cayden with Dr. Pepper. He's now acting as " Super Chinese Laundry Guy" and is trying to get the pop stains out of the sweatshirt. Did I mention the sweatshirt was a white one?

As we were getting ready to leave In-N-Out, pre-op for Cayden called. We found out that he will be checking in on Monday morning at 7:00 a.m. for an 8:30 surgery start time. Of course, they always have to ask the same questions about the meds he's taking. You'd think they'd know what he takes by now. Instead of her asking about each one she had on file, I whipped out my Blackberry and rattled off my list of 10 different meds to her.

After burgers, it was off to the mall to get Cayden a pair of Crocs to wear in the hospital. Do you have any idea how hard it is to actually find a pair of Crocs? Apparently none of the stores sell them unless you want a pair of Wal-Crocs. We had to go all the way to the Valley Fair Mall to find the Crocs kiosk to get him a pair. Dan was in desperate need of a pair of sunglasses, as those of you back in Washington apparently let go of your tight grasp of our sun, so we ended up with a new pair of glasses so he'd quit complaining about it.

With all of our "necessities shopping" and eating out of the way, we headed to Santa Cruz to wander around on the boardwalk and the wharf to get our minds off the surgery. It's funny how you remember things as a child. My grandma and grandpa Houston used to take my sister and me to the boardwalk when we were little. I recall it being such a BIG and really cool amusement park. Funny, it didn't look so big to me anymore, and the Giant Dipper roller coaster just didn't seem like it could possibly be as scary as I remembered it to be. Another thing I didn't remember from when I was a kid was all of the "interesting" people, and I mean interesting. All the same, it was fun to wander along the boardwalk and enjoy the warm day.

As Cayden often does these days, he pooped out on us while we were walking, so we decided to do the rest of our sightseeing from the car. Within a few minutes in the car, Cayden was out for the count and the phone rang again. This time, it was the Stanford pre-op calling to inform me that my check-in was at 6:15 Monday morning with a surgery start time also at 8:30. I started feeling pretty upset, trying to figure out how this would all work logistically. Cayden will be spending the night with Angie and Rob that night, so I started panicking about how I would get to see him that morning before I go in for anesthesia. Dan told me not to worry that we would get it figured out and there was no way that I wasn't going to get to see him that morning.

Since Cayden was asleep, and we were in no hurry to get back to Menlo Park, we decided to drive up Highway 1 along the coast and cut back over at Half Moon Bay. It was such a nice day and that stretch of road is quite amazing with all of the vertical cliffs. At one point we passed a beach obviously popular with kiteboarders. I swear there must have been 50+ kiteboarders out there at the same time. I have no idea how they manage to get around without crashing into each other and creating a giant tangled mess. I guess that's why I am not a kiteboarder!

Unfortunately, driving doesn't exactly do the job of keeping one's mind off of things. I spent much of the afternoon trapped in my thoughts today, feeling nervous and thinking that I can't believe there are only 3 more "wake ups" until the transplant. I continue to receive such wonderful messages from many friends out there reading my posts. Although I have not had a chance to reply to every one of them, I can assure you, these messages have meant so much to me. I know that when I am not strong, He sends many to lift me up and get me through. I have no doubt that the next few days (and nights) are going to be very difficult, however I plan to post even until the morning we leave for the hospital.

Tonight I am praying for peace and for everything to fall into place prior to surgery for Monday morning.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One Tough Day

I find it interesting that all of the other times I've sat down at my computer to write a blog entry, everything just sort of "came out" naturally and without much effort. Today just doesn't seem to be the case. I'm not sure if it's because these were the last of my appointments prior to surgery or that I am feeling pretty emotional and realizing the reality of the fact that today I met with the man who will, on Monday, literally hold my life in his hands.

Because Cayden has had his own appointments, has been attending school this week, and the majority of my appointments have been "evaluative" in nature, Dan has not been with me for my previous appointments. Thank goodness he was there with me this morning, because I'd say today's was the toughest yet. All the way to the hospital, my stomach was in double knots.

When they took us back to do my vitals, my blood pressure was 131/83, much higher than where I normally hover around. We waited for a bit before the surgical fellow came in and asked if we had any questions about the surgery. I wondered about how soon I might be able to exercise, how long would my stay in the ICU be, will the family all be able to wait in the same place, and a bunch of other questions including the all important...when can I have a glass of wine? Funny for being a "fellow", she couldn't answer very many of my questions with certainty. After waiting for what seemed like forever, at about 11:30, we finally met Dr. Esquivel, "the liver guy". He is in charge of the entire liver transplant program here at Stanford and will be my surgeon. Dr. Esquivel is soft spoken with kind brown eyes. He has a thick Spanish accent, and judging by his lanyard around his neck, I'd venture to guess that either his country of origin is Costa Rica or that's where he's been hanging out for the last few weeks (We had been informed that he was out of the country prior to the surgery).

Dr. Esquivel started by asking me if I had any questions about the surgery. I again asked some of the same questions I had asked the fellow but got some real answers this time. I did ask about the "two-fer" surgery. Due to the nature of this surgery and the risks, he didn't feel it would be a good idea to do the hysterectomy that I was hoping for. After listening to his rationale, I trusted that he had my safety and best interest at heart. That will just have to wait until later in the year. I was disappointed to find out that my parents will have to wait in the the Stanford Hospital waiting area in order to get updates on my surgery, while everyone else (including Dan!) would have to wait in the Lucile Packard waiting area to get updates on Cayden. It was all I could do to keep myself from crying when I heard this. I know I've said all along that I want Dan to be there for Cayden, but hearing that hit me in a way that I wasn't prepared for. The conversation moved to all of the possible complications that could occur as a result of the surgery...internal bleeding, bile duct leakage, liver failure, death, infection, deep vein thrombosis. I think I am getting used to hearing all of these things. I felt much better hearing from him that Stanford has had excellent success with their right lobe transplants from the donor standpoint.

After we were satisfied that all of our questions had been answered, Dr. Esquivel got real serious. What came out of his mouth next really hit the two of unexpectedly. He said, "This thing you are doing is very altruistic. I know there is already a special place reserved for you in heaven." A HUGE lump developed in my throat, and I was pretty certain both Dan and I were going to lose it right then and there. I wasn't quite sure what to say at that moment, but I immediately thought how blessed I was to have such a man of faith as my surgeon. I finally told him that we have heard many great things about him and that I trusted that we were going to be in excellent hands. He said, "I will do the very best that I can." And I believe that he will.

I was late getting to my pre-anesthesia appointment and Dan was late getting Cayden over to the psychologist. It didn't really matter, though, as they were able to get me right in to take care of all the necessary paperwork and tests to prepare for surgery. Today was the day I needed my Advance Directive for Healthcare. I signed a form and will bring the paperwork with me on surgery day. The nurse practitioner asked me questions about allergies, past reactions to anesthesia, and went through what to expect on the day of surgery. I was relieved to find out that both my mom and dad can wait with me before they put me under. I still don't have a surgery time, yet. Someone from pre-op will call tomorrow night to give me my check-in and surgery time.

More blood was drawn from an excellent needle poking lab guy (I didn't even feel the needle this time) who happened to be in the National Guard and had previously been to North Fort Lewis for some of his National Guard training. He even knew where my school was! What a small world. My last test of the day was to provide a urine sample. Good thing I had been drinking a lot of water and had my decaf latte today. Considering how often I seem to have to "go", that's one test I'm good at! :)

Tomorrow's a day without appointments. Cayden has school in the morning and then needs to have some blood drawn in preparation for the surgery. We're going to try and find something fun to do in the afternoon to keep ourselves occupied and our minds off the surgery. Two more days until my parents arrive. I can't wait to see them!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"I'm not mental . . ."

Anyone who knows our family well knows that Dan loves to make the most ridiculous voices. Sometimes he keeps going until he's satisfied that I am laughing so hard there are tears streaming down my face and my stomach aches. Imagine him right now with a doofy look on his face shouting out the phrase "I'm not mental!" Yep, today was my appointment with the psychologist, and I am happy to report that nope, I'm not mental. As a matter of fact, he's cleared me from a mental/emotional standpoint for the liver donation. Well, that's a relief. Six appointments down, two more to go!

Ok, I want to know which of you from Washington sent the crummy weather down here? Seriously, the wind has been blowing, it's been raining like heck, and it's downright cold. Just when I thought I must have been crazy on Sunday (when it was 80 degrees) for bringing my new fleece jacket and shell from Eddie Bauer, I was thanking my lucky stars that I had both of them to keep me from freezing to death the last couple of days. At least we heard that tomorrow should be sunny again and in the mid 70's. Give us back our nice weather, would ya!

While Cayden was at school this afternoon, we took a little detour through 3 South, the wing where he stayed for the two weeks while we were here in February. We got a chance to visit with Wajma and Jenn, Cayden's two favorite nurses on the wing. These two really are great! They put up with the four of us parents and Cayden for an entire two weeks...and we can be a real pain. Anyone who can handle all of us deserves a medal! We received big hugs and it felt a little like "coming home". They were so excited to hear that Cayden will get his liver transplant on Monday, and that I am a match for him. Fortunately for Cayden (and us!), he will be staying in 3 South again, so I am pretty sure those two will duke it out for who gets to be his nurse while he's there for 2 weeks! Wajma promised me she'd come visit me over on the Stanford side of the hospital when I am recovering. :) We are so blessed to be surrounded by such a caring hospital staff!

My mom and Don and my dad and Patti all arrive on Saturday. I'm so glad ALL of my parents will be here to support me during the surgery. Between them and all of our family here in Menlo Park, we'll have quite a rooting section waiting for us during the surgery!

Tomorrow's the all important pre-op appointment with my surgeon and the pre-anesthesia visit. I'll be finding out all the specifics of the surgery and probably more than I really want to know. One thing I do already know and forgot to mention yesterday, I will be in the ICU for the first night. Jessie, the Donor Advocate, said I will most likely wake up from anesthesia still intubated and with soft restraints on my arms so I don't freak out and rip the tube out of my throat...gross! I'm glad she at least prepared me with that bit of information. I can totally see myself "freaking out" if I didn't know this ahead of time. Dan will be with me at the appointments tomorrow since Cayden will be at school during that time. He's the one that remembers all of the medical details after I've zoned out from information overload.

Today was day # 3 without coffee. I finally broke down and had a decaf latte just so I could feel like I was drinking a "real" coffee. Getting through the day without coffee is a day without my giddy up and go. I hope by tomorrow I'll have gotten over the caffeine can only hope!

Tomorrow's Thursday - I can't believe how fast this week has been chugging along. I guess Monday will be here before I know it. Thank you and hugs to all who have posted comments and have sent private messages of encouragement. It means so much to me knowing how many are constantly thinking about us and lifting us up in prayer. If I haven't already mentioned it, Dan will be posting surgery updates on Monday the 26th on his blog .

Until tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Appointments...Round 2!

Today was definitely a much more positive day. I was prepared for the worst, but really ended up feeling pretty validated and a little less nervous by 4:00.

Cayden got to "skip" morning session at school. Our day started at 10:00 with an appointment with Rebecca, Cayden's psychologist. She specifically works with transplant kids dealing with their feelings pre and post transplant and has literally seen hundreds of kids who have undergone transplants. We all met with her together for awhile, then it was time for Cayden to meet with her by himself and me to hustle on over to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital for my 11:00 with the Pulmonary Function Lab.

I was still trying to figure out why it was necessary for me to be seen by the specialist in the Pulmonary Lab. Yesterday as we were headed back to the parking lot, Sarah our Transplant Coordinator while Carmela is away at Disneyland this week (nice!), came running across shouting my name. She said the Hepatologist from yesterday, with the "awful" bedside manner, saw an obstruction on my chest x-ray from February and wanted it checked out further. Weird...wouldn't I notice if I had an obstruction in my own lungs? Mary Jo in the lab was really sweet. The lab experience was interesting. She had me do a variety of breathing tests to check whether or not there really was a blockage after all. I sat in this glass booth and had to wrap my lips around a contraption that reminded my of my scuba regulator. One of the tests emptied my lungs of air and filled them with oxygen. Another test had me take regular breaths, then breathe in deeply and expel as much air as I possibly could for as long as I could. There was a funny little flying toaster with flying toasts that I was supposted to "catch". Another time I had to breathe out until I made the balloon on the screen "pop". Mary Jo said the kids love the games...heck, I kinda liked them too. They made me work a little harder! Still another test had me keep trying to inhale and then later exhale with resistance. Most of the tests I passed with flying colors, but on the one where I had to inhale deeply and then exhale, I had to do the test 3 times instead of two. She asked if I had been ill a lot when I was, but I did mention that my mom had smoked until I was 16. That could be a contributor she said. Apparently, I have mild pulmonary obstruction. It isn't serious and won't impact my ability to be Cayden's donor, but still, it's weird to find out that I have something I didn't even know about.

After the lab and Cayden's appointments it was back home for a quick lunch and then off to school for Cayden and over to the Blood Donation building for me. Today was the day I got to donate a pint of my own blood for my surgery just in case I needed it. I was floored when I saw the sheet of charges. You know how they love for people to donate blood at the blood bank, well when you donate your OWN blood, they charge you an arm and a leg...$325 worth to be specific! Well, ok, not me...I'm not paying for my own blood, but it's part of the "Liver Transplant" package deal. ;) And if that isn't enough, if I don't need my blood during surgery, they can't even use it for anyone else. It is specifically prepared for me. They did mention that they could use my blood for research. Did I already mention that I don't really like giving blood? The tech there, Mary Ann, had an English accent. She was very accomodating when I told her that I don't really like to see my own blood or the needle in my arm, and consequently covered it up so I didn't get a "crick" in my neck having to look the other way the entire time. Unfortunately, when my bag was all filled, she hadn't noticed that one of the vials they use to run all the tests wasn't filled with blood. She profusely apologized for having to "stick" my other arm to get the last vial of blood from me. At least it wasn't as big and didn't hurt as bad as the first needle. After a little snack of a glass of lemonade and a chocolate cookie (yum!), I was on my merry way over to the transplant clinic for my meeting with the Independent Adult Liver Donor Advocate.

On my way over, I was mentally preparing myself for more of the "informed consent" blah blah blah that had bummed me out yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised. Jessie, who had previously worked with the transplant team, was wonderful! It's her job to advocate for me. While she gave me lots of the fact that I won't have the "J" scar that I've heard about, it'll be more like the Mercedes Benz symbol (upsidedown Y). Cayden and I will have fun matching scars...I've pretty much gotten over the fact that my belly won't be a pretty sight after the surgery - not that it is now, anyway! We did talk about risks, but not in the way that they were presented to me yesterday. I was reassured that Cayden and I are in excellent hands and have two of the best surgeons on the west coast. Dr. Esquivel is the head of the entire transplant program here at Stanford and has been at the hospital since 1998. Jessie has been in the operating room of many of Dr. Esquivel's surgeries and has seen first hand what it's like for the liver donors both during surgery and post surgery. She told me that I will probably still feel a bit tired after 3 months but by 6 months, all of the adult donors she consults with were feeling as good as they did prior to the that's what I wanted to hear! Another encouraging piece of news was that the sooner I get my body out of that hospital bed and start moving around, the sooner my body will heal and I will get to bust out of the hospital. You can bet I'll be doing everything I can to fast track my recovery.

With the day of appointments behind us and school over for the day, we headed home. I unfortunately am reaping the "unbenefits" of having postponed my own hysterctomy that was originally scheduled for last week and went straight for the Tylenol. I'm still waiting to find out if I can get that "two-fer" surgery I was hoping to have but am not holding my breath on it. Between that pain, the lack of coffee and sleep and my pint of blood donated for my surgery, I felt like I had been run over by a Mack truck. A nap was definitely in order today.

Tomorrow is another day closer to the big event. Five days left to be exact. At least for now, I feel a sense of calm and peace about everything. With just one appointment tomorrow, whatever will I do with myself?

Monday, April 19, 2010

One Week to T-Day

It was a weird feeling flying down to California the other day. In my mind, I equate flying somewhere with a fabulous vacation or at least guarantees of some fun away from home. I felt a little sad (and some might think me silly), as I said goodbye to my three cats, telling them I'd see them in a couple of months. Wow...a couple of months. That's a long time to be away from home. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they refused to meow at me once we do finally return.

Waking up Sunday morning was strange, too. Usually we're scurrying around getting ready to head to music practice before church. After the last month of having lists and lists of things to do to prepare, I realized I have no more lists. I am prepared. I'm here. But boy, have I been tired. I dozed for about an hour before finally getting up at 8:30 a.m. - this is definitely sleeping in for me on a Sunday morning. I didn't sleep so well that night. As a matter of fact I haven't slept well for the last couple of nights. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I'm missing the familiar surroundings of my "comfort zone" back home...although I did manage to squeeze my favorite pillow in the suitcase...or the anxiety rolling around in the back of my mind knowing that because we are here, this is REALLY happening.

The weather yesterday was beautiful. We created a diversion for ourselves by having a little fun with Cayden, his Aunt Kristi, Uncle Paul, and his cousins Ian and Adam by going to the park and watching the boys all hit off the pitching machine. Even the dads hit a little. There's nothing funnier than watching grown men wiff the ball trying to hit with a boys's size bat. I didn't bat but had a blast running after some fly balls in the outfield in my bare feet. :)

Today was the beginning of a week of appointments and getting ready for the big day. We took Cayden and his 30 pounds of books (which cost us $50 in overweight charges on Alaska Airlines!) over to the hospital school on floor 3 of Lucile Packard Hospital this morning. He will go 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon, except Fridays, when they only have a morning session for school. Nice! I'd like that. :) They are so friendly and accommodating at the school. The great thing about the school is that it is located just outside the wing where Cayden will be located post transplant once he is discharged from the PICU. When he feels up to it, it'll be a very short "commute" to school each day!

My first appointment consisted of meeting with meeting my Social Worker, Miriam, in person after having spoken with her over the phone back home. There were many questions about everything from my growing up years to family medical history to my career, marriage, and being a step parent. One of the questions she asked me really caught me off guard. She asked about my relationship with Cayden. She asked if I had thought about how my relationship with him would change post transplant. I wasn't quite sure how to answer that. Would I expect him to somehow be more connected with me? For us to have a closer bond? I don't know. I absolutely love him, but I don't think I "expect" anything. To me, true love means giving without expectation. But it was her response that really threw me. She said, "What if something were to happen to him through all this? What if you went through with the surgery, and he didn't make it?" I about lost it at that moment. Now, how does one respond to a question like that...thrown at you like one of those homemade pipe bombs full of nails, created to do some serious damage? I felt sick. Not only did I NOT want to consider that question, I couldn't even fathom the possibility. After some silence, I finally responded to her. "I believe that Cayden has not fulfilled what he was put on this Earth to do. I know in my heart he has great things ahead of him. My trust is in God that He knows what He's doing and has big plans him." Downer number 1 of the day.

In between school and appointments, we zipped home to scarf down tuna melts, before I had to be back at the Hepatologist for a 1 o'clock and Cayden's 1:30 pre-op appointment with the surgeon. After getting "cut in line" at the check-in, which happened to be I swear the slowest check-in on the planet, I finally was seen about 1:25. The Hepatologist asked me a lot of questions about my health and noted that my weight was about .45% or whatever from being considered "obese". Are you KIDDING me?!! Ok, I might have a little belly pooch, but there is no way that I am that close to obese. Sheesh! Thanks a lot, buddy! That was downer 1 1/2.

After tapping around on my belly a bit, checking my heart and breathing and testing my balance, he shared the "grim statistics" with me. Out of the 100 people that come in and get to this point, only 15-20 actually choose to go through with the surgery. Both he and the Social Worker informed me that I can change my mind at anytime even up until the day of surgery. I emphatically told him (and Miriam) that I had no plans of changing my mind. Then, without warning, downer #2 was dropped into my lap. "You can expect to experience serious pain post surgery. Because of this surgery, you may not be able to get health insurance or life insurance. There is a possibility that your liver may not recover from the surgery, requiring you to have a liver transplant yourself. You may not get a liver right away and would have to wait on the transplant list for a new liver. Cayden has a special kind of disease. This is not a cure for him, and you are choosing an elective surgery. There is a 30% chance the disease will come back and attack the new liver." Have you ever seen kids when they don't want to listen to what an adult is saying? They plug their ears and start saying "lalalalalalalala". That was nearly my reaction at that point. I finally had the wherewithall to say, "Yes, I understand all the risks. I am willing to take my chances and am going to have faith that the 70% will prevail here."

Yuck, yuck, and yuck. I left there totally bummed out. I do know the risks. I also am fully aware of the risks if we sit around and do nothing for Cayden. I wouldn't have chosen to go through with this surgery if I didn't believe that Cayden's life was worth ANY risk that he and I must face.

After my appointment, I made the trek all the way across the hospital campus to meet up with Cayden and Dan over at the Liver Clinic across the street from the children's hospital. They were just finishing up. Cayden's surgery will be 8-10 hours. They have a tentative surgery time set at 7:30 a.m. The surgeon informed them that if a cadaver donor came in that day for another transplant patient, though unlikely, our surgery would be bumped to a different day. We also found out that Cayden needed to get several new vaccinations, due to the fact that he will be taking anti-rejection meds post surgery and will have a compromised immune system. We ended up waiting for 2 hours for the pharmacy to prepare the vaccinations. Cayden and I were both terribly cranky and ready for ice cream by the time he was finally vaccinated. I so love Baskin and Robbins. Ice cream is the solution to ALL problems!

Tomorrow it's off to have my breathing checked out...the Hepatologist saw something on my chest x-ray that he wants to have double checked before totally clearing me. Then in the afternoon donating 1 pint of my own blood for my surgery and finally meeting up with the Adult Living Donor Advocate, who will no doubt be another person who tells me that I can "change my mind at any time, even up to the date of the surgery"... At least I already know that one's coming!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Oh What A Week!

I kept wondering at different points during this week, just how does one reflect back upon the kind of week that I've just experienced. It was challenging, wonderful, surprising, sad, joyful, heartwarming, and bittersweet all rolled into one. I can sum it up in a few words: "What a roller coaster ride."

As I sit here with my tired self parked on the couch at 10 p.m. donning a pair of my new PJ's and snuggled up to my favorite pillow , I'm wondering why in the world I am not in bed at this moment. I am utterly and completely emotionally drained from the ride, and yet, I intuitively know that there's still more to come...only it'll be different over the next week.

The beginning of the week started out witha sense dread. I just plain didn't want the end of this week to come. My brain had convinced itself that Friday was going to be absolutely unbearable. In my classroom, I began to feel the effects of the kids unhappyness about me leaving. Instead of having a class full of kids moping around or clinging to me, I noticed that even some of my normally well behaved kids were starting to act like hammerheads. What the heck? Who snatched my kids? To add insult to injury, it seemed to get a little more pronounced the closer Friday crept. At one point on Thursday, I had one girl literally shout out, "This is boring! Is it almost time to go home!" Holy cow...are you kidding me?! In all my 14 years of teaching, not one of my students had ever said something like that in my class. I kept thinking "Please...give me a break guys...I have just a few days left and now I have to deal with icky behavior, too? Be nice to me! I'm leaving soon. I'm going to miss you and you know you'll miss me!" Of course, I didn't really say that out loud, but boy did I wish that they could know how it was affecting me. I understand that kids act out as a way to express their feelings when they don't know how to deal with what they feel. I see it a lot teaching at Fort Lewis, when a parent deploys or returns from a deployment. It's so hard on families, especially the kids. In thinking about it from that perspective, as a teacher, I've become someone whom they've come to know and love. Someone they see on a daily basis, who now happens to be leaving them. I'm sorry guys...I wish I could stay. I'd probably act out too if I were them.

A funny thing happened Tuesday night. Although I have a Facebook account, rarely do I login from my computer. I get automatic updates on my Blackberry. As I was writing my last post Tuesday night, I heard the familiar "pop" of a Facebook instant message. It was my long lost buddy Wally, wanting to know how things were going. I ended up explaining all that had happened recently. He hadn't been following my Facebook posts, and couldn't believe we were leaving Saturday to get ready for the transplant. Wally's (who is Walt now, but will always be "Wally" to me) is the kind of friend that you have forever. You know the kind. It's been ages since you've seen each other, but once a year or so, one of you picks up the phone and just calls the other out of the blue. The two of you chat on the phone, catch up on all that's happened in the past year, and it's as if you just picked up right where you left off the last time....only the funny thing is Wally was my boyfriend in 9th grade. It was a relationship that didn't last long. We were better as friends, and friends we've stayed since I was 15 years old. To top it off, we hadn't seen each other since 1988. So, guess what I did Wednesday night? After all these years, Dan and I went to meet up with Wally and his wife for dinner. As he said to me during dinner, "Why the heck did we wait so long to get together?!" I wondered the exact same thing. What a cool and unexpected moment in my week.

And if that isn't enough for one week, right after my post, I received a private Facebook message from my good friend Lisa, my old next door neighbor in Lacey whom I've known since 1989, wondering if I needed some help Thursday night baking those cupcakes for my early "birthday" celebration at school on Friday. With all of the gazillion things I felt like I still needed to do, I could have easily rationalized that I should make the cupcakes myself while multi-tasking on packing for the trip and cleaning house. But I didn't. I really wanted to see Lisa, as we hadn't seen each other since March of last year. I am SO thankful that I asked her to come. While Lisa came bearing gifts, the most precious gift to me was the gift of her friendship and her willingness to drop the plans that she may have had to come and be with me before we left for California.

That brings us to today. Friday, the dreaded Friday. Yes, definitely bittersweet. I had a bad dream last night. I can't quite put my finger on what it was all about, but I remember jolting wide awake with my heart pounding. Trying hard this morning to remember what it was about, I recalled looking into my own face. When I told Dan about it, he jokingly said, "That's scary." I said, "Actually, it is if you think about that I am could I have been looking at my own face when it wasn't a mirror?" Whew...I was happy to be awake.

My morning commute consists of a stop at Starbucks, since our espresso machine is on the fritz, about 15 minutes of residential streets, followed by a daily ID check through the back gate at North Fort Lewis. It's a great start to every, not the coffee, although it's pretty great, I'm talking about JC. My most favorite guard guy. Funny, it wasn't until today that I knew his name. He always takes time to say hi and chat a bit, even if there's a line behind me at the gate. When Cayden got sick in February, I mentioned the situation to him in passing. He always took a minute to ask me how things were going. I think people don't always hear how what they do impacts the lives of others. Today on my last day through the gate, I gave a thank you card to "my favorite guard guy", to let him know how much I have appreciated his friendliness each morning. He's an all around nice guy. I'll miss seeing him every morning on my way to work. Thank you to the JC's of the world, you make it a better place!

School today was filled with hugs, "I love you Mrs. Luce", love notes from kids, pictures, flowers, more gifts and cards, and yes, more icky behavior. Oh well, I guess I should have expected it. The kids were so excited for cupcakes, and being the smart person that I am, I hid both trays of them in my cabinet so I wouldn't get the infamous "When do we get to eat the cupcakes?" and "When's the party, Mrs. Luce?" from my kids every thirty minutes. Saying goodbye at the end of the day was tough, but I did a pretty darn good job holding it together. A few of my moms whom I love dearly were teary-eyed as we hugged before they left with their children. I got choked up when I said goodbye to one of the dads who's son I've had since first grade. I made the kids promise they'd email or send me letters while I was in the hospital. :)

Saying goodbye to my friends on staff was tough, too. It was all I could do to keep myself from crying each time. I didn't get a chance to see everyone after school, so if any of my school friends are reading this...I'll miss you guys!!!

When I arrived home, a beautiful bouquet of flowers sat waiting for my on my front porch. Sheila, a good friend from church and also a teacher, had left me a little pick me up, knowing that today would have been a tough day for me at school. Thanks, Sheila! :)

Finally, my last hurrah before leaving. My best friend Tammela and I had a fabulous dinner together this evening. We have been friends for 14 years and started our teaching career at the same school. If you've never been to Asado on 6th Ave. in Tacoma, you've got to have the Hangar Steak and Poblano Polenta. It's a great "last hurrah" dinner. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a nice glass of Malbec. Perhaps after my left lobe grows back?

Well, it's off to my last night in the comfy Tempur-Pedic bed, soon to be traded for a stay in a hospital bed. Lots of appointments next week, and I am sure, many interesting things to post. Thank you to everyone for your continued prayers, words of encouragement, and positive messages. Thanks for such a wonderful send off this post from sunny (hopefully) California!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Fog Lifts (Slightly) With Just 3 School Days Remaining

Driving home from work this evening (at ten to 7!), I noticed that I felt a little more "with it" compared to the last few days. I think knowing that we are just days from departing gave me a kick in the rear end that I really needed to get those last few things finished at school in preparation from my sub. I've literally been wandering around my classroom after schoool, leaving things half done all over the room since the middle of last week. It's such an annoying thing to have happen for someone who is normally so organized. I finally think I am ready to go on the school end of things.

A funny thing happened today. Apparently the staff at my school was planning a special lunch for me tomorrow on our half day since this is my last week. It was supposed to be a surprise, but I was inadvertantly included on the email distribution list, hence no more surprise. After getting a phone call from Meghan explaining how I was NOT supposed to have gotten that email, I ended up laughing hysterically while my kids sat waiting and wondering what could possibly be so funny. Of course, once I got off the phone, I had to explain to them what had happened. They all seemed to think it was pretty funny, too. One of my boys who believes himself to be in charge of the world saw Meghan in the hall a little bit later and was sure to "remind" her that she blew the surprise! Way to rub it in, kiddo. :)

As the week wears on, little surprises have shown up from my students. I received a couple of pairs of those fuzzy soft socks with the grippers on the bottom from one of my little girls. I told her that I have them with my things to take to the hospital, and I'd definitely have the warmest feet ever! Today one of my boys gave me some coffee, candy and the most heartwarming card from he and his mother. She's the kind of mom who every teacher wants who seems to give me that "lift" just when I need it.

I can tell that I am not the only one affected by my rapidly approaching last day. Every Monday we do a 5 minute free write before we start Writing Workshop. I set the timer and everyone (including me) writes in a spiral for the entire 5 minutes. The only rule is that you have to write the whole time, but kids can write about anything that is on their minds. I thought I was a basket head when I started getting all emotional about writing about friends of ours who stopped by on the weekend to bring big bags of gummy bears and gummy worms for Cayden and a bag of candy for me. Little did I know what was on the minds of a few of my students. I've included the journal entries of two that were read in front of the class (all grammar and spelling mistakes included).

"I am scard that Mrs. Luce will get hert when she will go to the hospetle to give her son a liver. but she spent a lot of time looking for the best techer. I am so so plesd that she is givin her son a liver and I am happy that she is doing this. She is so nice doing this. I am sad that she will be leaving on Friday. I hope it dos not come pretty soon." - Chenoa

"Mrs. Luce is my teacher at school. She is the bestest teacher I have ever meeted. She helps me in math, writing, and test. She is nice. She lets ever one talk when it is there trun. She makes sher that ever one lerns something in math. She helps kids in reading. Mrs. Luce is caring and loves to read. Mrs. luce likes all of her presents. She is the best." - Adrianna

And a couple of recent paragraphs from two of my boys . . .

"I have a couple of reasons why I like Mrs. Luce. First, Mrs. Luce is extremely smart. She is good in math. After that, she is very funny. She says she is fired. Finally, she is very brave. She is going to exchange her liver with Cayden. She is cool." -Seth

"Mrs. Luce is cool. First, Mrs. Luce teaches math. Our math is fractions and fractions are hard. Next, she also teaches reading. We used to read about space. Space was the most fun so far. After that, writing. Writing is pretty fun, but I am writing about Mrs. Luce. And I'm sure about Mrs. Luce. Mrs. Luce is crazytastic." - Dustin

Boy, who taught those kids how to write? ;) Truly, what you see above is what makes it all worthwhile. As a teacher, you are a hero to your kids. They think you're great at EVERYTHING. It cracks me up that they think I am so great at math. Frankly, I didn't really like math in school and am very critical of myself as a math teacher.

With three more days to go, I wonder if I'll need to break open another box of kleenex. I promised my kids that since I will be gone on May 15th, Friday we'll celebrate my birthday early so they can celebrate with me! I guess I'll be making cupcakes on Thursday night.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

There is no such thing as a coincidence...

How many times have you heard people refer to events in their lives as a "coincidence"? I can say with perfect honesty that in the last several years, I have come to understand that there is no such thing as coincidence. As a matter of fact, just as I was typing this...and this is no kidding...I had a deja vu feeling. It was so strong that I went back and reread my previous posts just now to be sure I hadn't already made that same statement above in one of my other posts. Weird!

It's probably happened to you. You and whoever are talking about someone else or maybe you've been thinking about a friend you haven't seen for awhile and you've been wondering what they've been up to lately. You're at (insert your favorite restaurant, store, movie, etc.) and you just so happen to run into them or the phone rings and they say, "Hey, I've been thinking about you lately!" Do you start singing the Twilight Zone theme song in your head...nee nee nee nee, nee nee nee nee?

Let me explain what I mean and how this has shown up in my life recently. I'm a planner...yes, a BIG time planner. I like to know far in advance what I am doing, vacations especially, and I want to make sure that I forget nothing. I am a self proclaimed "anal control freak". There, I said it, and Dan would agree with me. For a long time now, I have wanted to go to Italy. Like my whole life. My great grandmother was born in Northern Italy, and beside loving to eat, I have had a fascination with traveling and experiencing other cultures. Last year, even before the 2008-09 school year was out, I had a trip to Italy all planned out. And I mean ALL planned out. I had already contacted places to stay and each villa or bed and breakfast was holding a tentative reservation for us and we wouldn't have to deposit until January. Heck, I had even checked out Italian CD's and was learning to speak Italian. All that was left was to reserve a car and plane tickets. I was holding off because the airfare was still more than I wanted to pay. Enter the month of November and a funny feeling in my gut. Even though I REALLY wanted to go on this trip, I got the sense that we should postpone and wait to go to Italy a different summer. Hmmmmmm. Have you made the connection yet? Call it what you will, but I am certain this was no coincidence.

Now this is not to say that we didn't have plans for the summer. Actually, we did. We were supposed to go to Mexico for a few weeks...and were holding non-refundable plane tickets. God bless Alaska Airlines. One call to reservations and a supervisor named James. As I began explaining our situation, without even finishing my story, he quickly said "Would you prefer me to refund these on the same card you used to purchase them?" Talk about unexpected and utterly wonderful!

Another "non-coincidence" was experienced just today. Angie and I finally got our pajama shopping day at the mall, after having to postpone last weekend. Let's just say I am going to have the cutest PJ's in all of Stanford Hospital...thanks, Angie! :) We were having lunch at the Nordstrom Cafe and ended up running into one her former students from one of the local high schools. He happens to only work there 2 days a week. Interesting that we ended up there on one of those two days?? After sharing Cayden's situation, he mentioned that his ultimate goal is to become a pastor. He is at a crossroads in his own life and is searching for clarity. I have no doubt that this young man will make a fine church leader one day. I had never met him before today, but sometimes you just get a sense about someone. He told the two of us that he will be praying for Cayden and our families...and that's one more person in God's Army praying for us.

I think about the many "what ifs" that bring me to this day. What if I had finished my teaching degree right away instead of going into the travel industry? What if I had stayed working for Alaska Airlines instead of going back to get my teaching degree? What if my mom hadn't encouraged me to go back to get my BA in Education (I was afraid I was too old...hard to believe I thought age 26 was too old)? What if I had gotten a teaching job in Olympia or Lacey instead of Lakewood? What if I was able to have gotten pregnant in my former marriage? What if I hadn't been teaching in a school that had joint professional development with Dan's school?

All of the significant events in my life have led me to exactly where I am now. God's plan is perfect and everything is as it should be. I trust that. Now, that's not to say that we don't have choices along the way that help direct us on our life journey. Some people live their life with the "why me" attitude, as if they are a victim of circumstance and everything around them is happening "to" them. We ALWAYS have a choice. Don't misunderstand what I am saying here. We don't necessarily get to choose whether or not a particular event happens in our lives, BUT we CAN choose how we perceive the situation. If we trust that there is a reason for everything, that there is something to learn from every challenge in our lives, then we realize there are no coincidences.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fear, Anxiety and Stress Rear Their Ugly Heads

I wish I were a better "observer" of myself and others. As I've plugged along this last week finishing report cards, cleaning and organizing my classroom, making mental lists, buying last minute items needed for our trip, I have only been slightly aware of the brewing emotional unrest around me. I'm the kind of person who although social, tends to live in my own little world. When things happen at work, I am often the last to know. I'm so wrapped up in what I am doing and thinking, that I often fail to recognize the subtleties of what's happening around me.

I'd like to think that I've done a pretty good job of holding it together myself, knowing that in just 11 short days, we fly out to California and that yesterday was the three week mark before surgery. I am getting the sense, however, that the closer we get, the more "foggy" I seem to be getting in my brainola.

The end of Spring Break has brought a sort of smack back into reality for everyone in the family. My heart aches for Cayden right now. He's having such a hard time. If I could take his place, I would, but in thinking about it, I am doing the next closest thing to taking his place as one could probably get. While I won't be going through quite the same extent of surgery that he will, but the risks are nearly the same. I suspect he is beginning to feel a similar fear that probably most every child in his place experiences but doesn't want to say out loud. I've thought about it, too, and I imagine, if I didn't or he didn't feel afraid, we wouldn't be normal human beings, would we? I am talking about...the "d" word, and yes, I don't want to say it either. I know it's ok to admit that I am scared, but I also know that there are SO many people out there praying for the both of us. Our God is a God of healing and protection, and I intend to take that comfort with me going into the 26th.

Dan has been so supportive and strong through all of this so far. I have no idea how he is able to be such a rock in our lives especially when the two people he loves so much are preparing for such a stressful life event. Anyone reading this who knows Dan at all, understands that he has an amazing effect on people. His gentle and calm nature have changed the outcome of many "prickly" and highly volatile meetings in his line of work. I can't even count how many times he's gotten me "unwound" when I've gotten myself so far out of whack. Dan loves others with his whole heart. I've never known him to put himself first in his relationship with me or with the boys. He wears his heart on his sleeve. I love this about him, but it sometimes leaves him open to hurt and disappointment (and I am sometimes guilty of being the cause). He is compassionate, kind, and loving, and he married ME. How could a girl possibly be so lucky?

And so it is that the three of us move toward "T-day", each having our own unique emotional experience. Tears, anger, disappointment, frustration, fear, anxiousness, annoyance, and feelings of helplessness have all shown up in the past few days. I think a lot about what I learned in my Wings training a few years ago and about how human belief affects people's lives. Two things stick with me at this moment: "This too shall pass" (referring to the yuck feelings and reactions) and "Our thoughts create our reality". So I'll end this post tonight with this thought, which I intend to make my reality..."I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13