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Perseverance

Recovery from this last brain surgery has been one of the most difficult obstacles yet. It was a big hurdle to get through having seizures and being on a ventilator and in the ICU right after surgery, but the challenges since I’ve been home have been a whole other beast. One that shook me a bit.

I was so excited and thankful to go home from the hospital, but I was not there long before we noticed something was really wrong. My short term memory was almost non-existent. Every day I would forget the day before, and often I would not even remember things from earlier in the same day. Entire conversations were deleted, things I had experienced earlier evaded me, and I often could not even remember what I ate for the previous meal, or IF I even ate. I remembered enough to know I was forgetting, and it was terrifying.

My husband is the very definition of steadfast. He would lovingly and calmly repeat things to me as many times as I asked, and would gently break it to me that we had already had this conversation or done that activity. Meanwhile I was curled up sobbing; broken that my husband was having to watch his young wife like this, and terrified that the rest of my days would be more of the same.

After a weekend like this my sweetheart reached out to my neurosurgeon, who unfortunately is a 2 hour drive from us. He has taken up my cause though, and would bend over backward for me, so it was no surprise that only a few minutes after leaving a message my hubs got a phone call from the doctor himself. Based on my memory problems and a handful of other symptoms I was experiencing my kind doctor explained I was probably continuing to have seizures, albeit small ones, but with enough frequency that it was throwing my mind and body into this blender of confusion. A treatment plan was initiated and they waited expectantly for results, but in my heart I was suspicious and saddened that this was truly the beginning of the end of my time here. I kept that fear to myself.

My love had a trip on the calendar way before any of this happened, so he somewhat reluctantly left me in the care of friends and family while he went on travel for the next week. That week was hell for so many reasons. It took several days to realize it had been a week since I had kept down any food. I switched to nutrition solely through my feeding tube, but quickly discovered all of the vomiting had displaced my feeding tube, so using it was not longer an option. I tried for a few more days to limp myself back to stable, but I could not even keep down jello or sips of sprite, I could only stand for seconds at a time before getting near to passing out, and my blood sugar was dangerously low. It was the last thing I wanted, especially without my wingman with me, but I had to go to the hospital for help.

It took some convincing for me to let them admit me again, but once I agreed to it they were aggressive about getting me sorted out, and I started to rebound quickly. With some IV nutrition and my feeding tube fixed, I quickly gained strength to be able to go back home. It was then that we realized that while fighting face down all week I had been too sick for us to realize that my memory was improving. Back home again I was able to remember things for longer and needed less reminders. One of my close friends had marched straight to the courts of Heaven and pleaded on my behalf, and God had honored her faith; he was healing the damage in my brain.

I will not go as far as saying that I am happy I had to go through all of that, but I will say amen and amen to my God showing his grace and great loving kindness in choosing to bring healing and restoration to me, and I do not believe he is done yet. I would not have chosen this path of suffering, but I will hold on because suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope has been the song of my heart through years of great challenges and life changing pain, and it will continue to be my heart song until my eyes finally gaze on the Giver of all hope.

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Plot Twist!

Well surgery didn’t go as planned. Fortunately we are well versed in changing plans!

I was admitted through the ER Saturday with an infected VP shunt for IV antibiotics. They took me to surgery Monday.

Monday night after surgery I had a series of seizures. I was intubated in the ICU and don’t remember the rest of the week. They are caring for me and trying to get me back home. Thank you everyone who has brought meals or watched my kids or sent flowers. We could not carry this weight without our community. Your grace runs deep.

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Mother’s Day Remixed

For days my kids and I chatted about what we would do on Mother’s Day. Sleep in…snuggle up to breakfast in bed… go out to a favorite lunch after church…stay in playing board games… go out to explore the beauty of a new park.

All week I had been hearing the excitement of my littlest guy as he earned his own money to create a project at school that his whole class were each making for their moms. When he came home from school Friday holding a beautiful flowered gift bag he was vibrating with excitement over getting to give it to me on Sunday.

Friday afternoon we got a call that would demolish all of our weekend plans. Ever since my shunt revision surgery nine weeks ago I have been fighting infection in one of my incisions. My neurosurgeon has kept in close contact with me as I know have done multiple rounds of antibiotics to try to clear it up, and sent regular photos of my incision to document its progress. Unfortunately on Friday it was obvious the infection has gotten much worse and was not responding to the antibiotics. It is a dangerous place for it to be located as there is a very small distance from the end of the tube to my brain. We have given ample opportunity for it to heal itself to avoid further intervention, but Friday it became obvious that my neurosurgeon was going to have to step in.

My kind and gracious neurosurgeon requested that I drive to Indianapolis to be admitted through the emergency room. They would immediately start IV antibiotics and plan to take me to surgery Monday to remove more of the shunt tubing and hopefully eradicate the infection. My heart sank at the thought of another surgery, but most of all at the thought of being far from my family again.

It felt like I had a boulder in my stomach when I sat Colby down to tell him the news. As expected, his face dropped as I told him I would no longer be home for Mother’s Day. He sat with his chin in his hands and big tears silently rolled down his cheeks. “This’ll is the worst Mother’s Day ever, Mom.” I had to agree. It was heartbreaking to see his grief over being able to plan a special day for me. We decided we would have a welcome home/Mother’s Day celebration on the day I get released from the hospital, so he was given the option to give me his gift before I left for surgery or to save it for when I came home. He said he wanted to give it to me now so that I could take it with me to the hospital.

My heart will forever have captured the picture of him walking into the room so carefully and proudly holding the flowered gift bag that he had chosen for my gift. He sat by excitedly as I unwrapped it. Tucked inside was a small wooden frame carefully decorated in butterfly and flower stickers, and holding an adorable photo of my precious eight-year-old, holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The tears hung in my throat as I lavished thanks on him and gave him all the hugs and kisses. It was the most thoughtful gift ever. He made sure I had room to take it with me to the hospital.

My sweet girl Baylie also gifted me: a delicate necklace with the word “Hope” on it. Boy does she ever know!

Late that night Mark took me to the store and I picked a small gift for each of my kids so that they would have something from their mama for Mother’s Day. It was so special the next morning to be on the phone with them as Mark handed them each their gift from me. Loneliness and disappointment turned into excitement and smiles as they each opened something from their mama 110 miles away, but right there with them at heart. It was not the Mother’s Day we imagined, but we found the grace to make it something special and memorable, and we still have a Mother’s Day celebration day to look forward to upon my arrival home.

My sweet boy Jacob surprised me yesterday and drove the whole two hours here to spend some time with me. I can’t even express my gratitude at how much it uplifted my spirit. These sweet babes have touched their mama’s heart in ways they’ll never comprehend.

Last night after Jacob left I had the kindest hospital tech taking care of me. He asked me about my kids and listened as I raved about them. He then sneaked off and brought me a delicious chocolate chip cookie, that I believe were supposed to be just for the staff! “Happy Mother’s Day,” he said. “I’m sorry you’re spending it here.”

It truly is each small kindness and bit of grace that keeps me going.

Today Mark will come down to Indianapolis to be with me as I’m taken to surgery. I’d greatly appreciate your payers for all to go well, and for there to be no more complications, only healing from this point forward.

Thank you for being my people and standing in my corner to hold my hands up when I’m too weak. It means so much to know I have an army of people behind me on the hardest of days.

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Hope and Healing?

Several weeks ago I had surgery to correct a problem with my VP shunt. A small handful of days before surgery my hospice company had been working on my recertification; that is getting everything in place for me to receive another 6 months of care. I was very anxious about surgery, but confident in knowing when I came home I would be in the good care of my hospice team. They have been so supportive and able to meet my needs no matter the hour.

Two days before surgery I got some very surprising news. My care team had collaborated, and they believed I have more like a year or two to live, rather than a number of months. On the day of my surgery, hospice would be pulling out of the picture and I would be transferring to palliative care, another aspect of comfort care.

At first we celebrated what that meant. The doctors seeing my condition stabilize and giving me a greater expectation of life was something to worship over! We had been seeking out some more natural ways of healing, and with the help of some friends also going before the Courts of Heaven to take ownership over healing for myself. This news seemed to be a nod that God in fact wasn’t done with me yet, and we had much to celebrate.

I am trusting God’s plan, but the transition has not been easy. When I came home from the hospital after surgery there was no one to come check in on me at home, and no one we could call at any hour if we needed more support. When my pain rises to unbearable levels we have to wait on a doctor appointment to address it instead of having immediate intervention from home. When I’m dry-heaving for hours on end and unable to keep my medicines down, we are on our own to fight through until relief is found. Instead of a phone call or home visit every week from one doctor who manages everything, I’m finding my schedule filling up with appointments I have to get to in order to see each doctor that handles each problem individually. That alone is exhausting.

I am dealing with infection from one of my incisions from my recent shunt surgery. Unfortunately because of where it is there is a risk of the infection traveling to my brain. It has taken many days and a slew of phone calls and my need to start IV antibiotics has still remained unresolved. These were the things that were easy when we had the hospice team at our fingertips.

While we celebrate that no more hospice means the anticipation of more days with my tribe, and perhaps even a complete healing of my body if that’s what God wihu, it has also been a bit of a challenge to adjust to. I did not magically feel better when I was given this news; instead I have continued to fight hard daily battles, only without the support I had grown comfortable with. I have had to fight harder with less support, and my capacity to do so taps out so quickly. It has meant long stretches with no relief from pain Sleepless night upon sleepless night. Indescribable fatigue having to make phone call after phone call to set things up or to get myself out in my wheelchair to see doctors in person.

I pray this will settle down; that we will eventually find a rhythm in which my needs are met and we can go longer stretches between doctor visits. I pray my focus can remain on living my days well and embracing the moments that will last. Right now I feel like there’s not enough left of me for my family at the end of the day, and I hate that feeling. I know God has a plan in this. Will you please pray that members of my palliative care team will rise up to take some of the burden from us? That I will find rest and restoration at home, and be able to extend myself further to my family?

I’m thankful for you, dear reader, and the support and encouragement you have graciously continued to extend to me. Please tell me how I can pray for and support you as well!

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War

“War is hell.”

-General William Tecumseh Sherman

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I am tired.

So tired.

Tired in the marrow of my bones and to the bottom of my weary and tattered heart.

I feel beaten by the daily battle of fighting for life and time. Battling the indescribable pain that ravages my muscles and bones. Battling against the constant nausea that the pain brings. Battling to feed a body that usually has no appetite. Battling to take breaths when even while awake my body forgets to.

I am tired of seeing the grief my children carry over watching me become so different from the mom they knew. I am tired of watching my husband grieve over the things we used to do but no longer can. I am tired of feeling like a failure because of the things I can’t accomplish anymore.

And then I flip open my journal and there, taped inside the cover is the reminder I left for myself…

And I look at their faces and feel my weary heart swell with the uncontainable love I have for them and the bottomless joy that they bring.

And I pull myself up and don my armor and push through each battle with renewed determination. Because no matter how tired I am they will always be worth the war.

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Reality Check

I have been struggling with some hard things lately, and I have felt very alone in the midst of it. It was while I was checking in on social media that it suddenly became so apparent why I feel alone. I was reading a post from someone who I know is having a very hard, very messy time at home right now. The posts they chose to write though were all sunshine and rainbows and gushing about how to love on people and praise Jesus. It hit me like the sharp sting of a hand across the face. Why can’t we just be real?

I /know/ that I am not the only parent struggling to find my way with the ups and downs of having 3 teenagers. I /know/ I am not the only one struggling with feeling like a failure because my body will not let me keep up with the things I want to do. I /know/ that I am not the only one who sometimes questions if I am doing my best to love my husband in the ways that he needs. I /know/ I am not the only one crying in bed at night over big, weighty decisions that need to be made.

Why then do we hold our cards so close? Why do we paste on a smile and pretend that everything is peaches when what we really need is the camaraderie of the souls who are also walking in our shoes? We need each other! We need to know we are not alone not the only ones walking these barren trails. The only way that is going to happen is for us to let our guards down a little bit and be willing to put our real selves out there. I know it feels uncomfortable, but think of what will happen when we join arms with each other and be willing to say, “me too.”

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Never

Someone recently asked how long it would be until we “got over” the death of our youngest daughter. As if it were an obstacle course to leap over. As shocked as I was, it shed some light on an area where maybe people need help to understand. Perhaps for those who have never walked through something like that it truly is something they can’t comprehend. I think I know the answer to the question, and I’m going to share it with you.

When will we get over the passing of our daughter?

Never.

That’s right; I said never. If “getting over it” means when we will we stop talking about our beautiful blue-eyed little girl, stop sharing her pictures, stop acknowledging that she was a part of our lives, then that will never happen.

Last week would have been our Ellie’s 10th birthday. It has been most of a decade since we held her in our arms. Did we check the box; “10 years, now you can move on, stop bringing her up.” No. We did what we always do on Ellie’s birthday. We celebrated.

We celebrated because we are grateful for the 4 1/2 months of pure joy of having her here with us. We celebrated because her short life has changed us in ways we needed to be changed. We celebrated because if she were here we would be celebrating her, so why not still celebrate? Also we never pass up an opportunity to have cake! We reminisced over cake and then carried on our tradition of doing something helpful and kind for someone else in need.

Are you familiar with muscle memory? How your body automatically remembers how to do certain things because you have done them so many times? Well 10 years later my arms still have the muscle memory of what it felt like to hold my girl close against my chest. I can close my eyes and remember her smell and how her fine hair tickled my lips when I kissed her on the head.

These things will forever be treasured in my heart, and we will always find ways to honor her on special days, and that does not mean we are not “over it.” It means we loved someone so deeply we gave pieces of our hearts away and those holes will never be filled by anything else.

There will always be triggers of grief; when she would have started school, graduated, gotten married, etc. No matter how long it has been we will allow ourselves to grieve those things; that is a normal, appropriate, and necessary part of our healing process.

I am aware that some people are uncomfortable because, well, sad things are uncomfortable and they want us to get back to the happy baseline as soon as possible. We are not stuck in the deep mourning of our daughter, but as far as getting over it, we will never get over it, nor would we want to. We want to honor her life, her place in our family, and her spirit, which is still very much alive.