An Emotional Week

It’s been a very emotional week. I’ve cried, yelled, and just collapsed into exhausted sleep. I cannot see an ambulance with lights and sirens and not break down from the memories of being in so many of them this year.  Let me back up a little. I started having an increasing pain around my “upper right quadrant” that was wrapping around to my back. Classic pancreas pain. This was a little different though in that there it was also a specific, dull stabbing pain over my side as well that would not budge.

Assuming it was “just” another pancreas flare up, I put myself on “clears” starting Sunday afternoon, which is basically fasting with clear liquids. The reason for this is to give my pancreas a break and let the inflammation goes down. When the pancreas gets inflamed, it swells and the digestive enzymes cannot get out. The release of digestive enzymes is triggered when you eat only. My pancreatic duct is significantly smaller than normal so it takes very little to swell it shut. When they cannot get out, they go back into the pancreas and it starts basically digesting itself, which can lead to necrosis and sepsis and even death. Scary stuff!

It was still bad on Monday and I called my surgeon to see what I should do. I was in so much pain I’d packed my contacts, phone charger, and hospital socks because I was pretty sure I was going to be sent to the ER then admitted. It was that bad on Monday. I didn’t’ get a call back until late in the day and we decided I’d head in Tuesday morning for labs and an appointment. Fasting that whole day was helping some and since I’ve still got a fair amount of anxiety about ERs and hospitals that was just fine with me. While my pain was at a solid 5-6, I don’t need meds until closer to a 7 or 8.

My labs actually looked ok. No pancreatitis which was a relief! I did learn that I’ll always need to supplement with B12, calcium, and vitamin D, and the labs did show that I had not been getting adequate nutrition recently, which was not a big surprise. My surgeon is thorough and amazing and they decided to do a CT scan anyway just to be sure we weren’t missing anything. I was in for labs, my appointment, and finished the CT scan in time to be back at work at 2 pm – impressive!  I assumed the CT would be completely clear and didn’t think much else of it.

Wednesday I got a call from the surgeon’s office and learned that while the CT was clear from a surgical perspective (nothing Whipple related), they did find something called an adnexal cyst on the left side (exactly where my pain was, and still is). I believe it is like an ovarian cyst. The recommendation was to get into a gynecologist ASAP to confirm, hopefully, that it is benign and not something scary like ovarian cancer. So, I’m terrified now. Then my gyn can’t fit me in until SEPTEMBER 30th! I lost it. Just started crying right there on the phone.

Thank the stars above that I have amazing friends and I was able to get in with one of the TOP gynecologists in Atlanta next Thursday!  So, I’m getting my CT scan and labs transferred over to the new gyn and I feel much better about being able to get seen sooner than later.  I’m sure it’s nothing, but it’s scary after everything else this year. And honestly, if they recommend any kind of surgery to remove it I’m just going to ask for a full hysterectomy so I don’t ever have to worry about ovarian cancer!  Might as well – I’ve already hit all of my out of pocket maximums and deductibles this year!

Sick & Missing Out

Yesterday was so fun! We took the kids to the Canton Farmers Market where we saw friends, loaded up on fresh produce and baked treats, and had some delicious food. Bear & Elara got their faces painted too!

Bear & Elara
Look at all this gorgeous produce!!
Local honey!

We had carnitas and tomato sandwiches – super delicious!! However, two things I CANNOT have are apparently pork (should have learned my lesson from 4th of July!!) and tomatoes. I’ve been incredibly sick, in pain, and in bed for over 24 hrs now. I’m about to miss our “end of summer” pool party and cookout that starts in less than an hour.

I am so sick of getting so sick!! This episode is lasting a lot longer than usual and I’m just so over it. Probably because I started not feeling well Friday and in hindsight, should have switched to a liquid diet for a day instead of enjoying our farmers market bounty. It’s my own fault though. I knew better. I’m just so frustrated by not being able to eat normally anymore.

Ok, pity party should be winding down soon. I’m hoping to feel better by tomorrow, or even this evening. I’m just so weak and dehydrated on top of the pain that I’ll likely stay in bed until morning. Blerg!

Aging Backwards!!

I have been waiting to post about this AMAZING new line from Beautycounter until I’d tried it for a full 30 days so I could see the results for myself.

HOLY COW – AMAZING STUFF!!

You know how important the safety of what we put IN our bodies is, but what we put ON our bodies is just as important. Also, I’m no spring chicken and my whole medical drama has added more than a few wrinkles and sad skin issues that I’ve been able to address with this WITHOUT any toxic chemicals, hormone disruptors, or other potentially carcinogenic things…which is a VERY big deal! Since my pre-cancerous tumor was NOT genetic, that means I can control my environmental risk factors and this is part of how I do it.

 

67280997_10219527496475069_8016004769434828800_nMEET COUNTERTIME!!! (isn’t her packaging so pretty?! It’s glass which makes it much more environmentally friendly than plastic!)

Beautycounter’s new anti-aging line that is a safe alternative to retinol!! Countertime was 3 years in the making and was developed to visibly reverse the signs of aging and deliver high performance results thanks to out innovative Retinatural Complex! It is seriously the best skincare I have ever used!!! My skin is so hydrated, even toned and glowing all day! I don’t even use any foundation or even my tinted moisturizer anymore! 
countertimecountertime before afterCheck out my 30 day result in greatly diminishing my dreaded and deep forehead wrinkles! And check out my friends 2 week results too!! While safety is a HUGE concern for me, so is EFFECTIVENESS! I wouldn’t use a safe product that didn’t work any more than I’d use an effective product that is laden with scary ingredients.

THE TRUTH ABOUT RETINOL…IS IT SAFE?

A lot of beauty brands tout retinol as a safer skin-care ingredient. But Beautycounter is not like everyone else (in fact, Retinol is on our Never List). For us, it’s not worth taking a risk on retinol. Studies show that retinoic acid can have harmful side effects, including being a skin irritant and making the skin sensitive to the sun’s damaging rays. Actually, both the EU and Canada have restricted the use of retinol—the EU cites a “precautionary principle,” which means that if an ingredient has shown evidence of danger to human health or the environment, it takes preventative action (and so should you).
That’s why we created our plant derived Retinatural Complex, a safer alternative—and the powerhouse ingredient—in our Countertime Collection.

PLANT-DERIVED RETINATURAL COMPLEX: BAKUCHIOL 

Traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic skin-care remedies, Bakuchiol delivers many of retinol’s skin benefits—without irritation.
SWISS ALPINE ROSE – Grown at the highest altitudes of the Alps, this flower is known for its ability to protect itself against environmental stressors like dehydration and helps boost skin’s antioxidant defense.
“Beautycounter’s plant-derived Retinatural Complex, featuring bakuchiol and Swiss Alpine rose, delivers retinol-like results without retinol’s safety concerns. Why? Because beauty should be good for you.” – Gamze Sauzeat, Lead Chemist

countertime results compare

HOW RETINATURAL COMPLEX WORKS

It Promotes Healthy Barrier Function. Our skin’s moisture barrier prevents excess water loss and helps protect skin from the environment—and as we age, it becomes depleted. Retinatural Complex helps improve barrier function to maintain the skin’s natural hydration levels (and keep that plumpness going strong).

It Visibly Plumps And Firms Skin. Collagen is the skin’s most vital protein and the cushion that keeps it supple, taut, and wrinkle-free. It’s found in the middle layer of the skin, and its production begins to slow by the time we reach 30. Luckily, it’s possible to visibly improve skin firmness and plumpness. Enter Retinatural Complex.

It Improves Resilience. With age, the skin’s ability to protect itself from oxidative stress is compromised, which damages cells, speeds up the appearance of aging, and leaves skin looking dull and sallow. The targeted ingredients in our Retinatural complex help protect skin and improve radiance.

countertime resutls

THE COUNTERTIME COLLECTION:

Step #1: Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil: Cleansing, reimagined. Inspired by Asian beauty rituals and informed by Japanese technology, this luxurious, lightweight cleansing oil gently yet effectively removes makeup and other impurities without stripping essential lipids from the skin. Rich in vitamin E, fatty acids, and our plant-derived Retinatural Complex, the formula reinforces the skin’s fragile moisture barrier for a soothed, nourished complexion. The smell of this is so light and beautiful! It leaves your skin so hydrated unlike many cleansers that can leave you tight and dry!!

Step #2: Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence: Vital nutrients energize the skin. Lightweight but deeply nourishing, this milky moisturizing essence lends vital nutrients to the skin’s moisture barrier—instantly boosting hydration and radiance. Formulated with our Retinatural Complex, mineral-rich sea water, and a fermented blend of sugars, it renews and balances the skin and preps it for the treatment steps that follow.

Step #3: Tripeptide Radiance Serum: True radiance, revealed. This transformative rejuvenating treatment visibly increases skin firmness and elasticity, while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Formulated with a powerful blend of peptides, amino acids, and our Retinatural Complex, it helps enhance the skin’s moisture barrier function to optimize hydration for a radiant complexion.

Step #4: Ultra Renewal Eye Cream: Your brightest eyes, reawakened. This high-performance eye cream revitalizes the eye area for a youthful, brighter appearance. With a targeted combination of our plant-derived Retinatural Complex and Persian silk tree extract, it reduces under-eye shadows and crow’s feet for a smooth, firmed look. LOVE this stuff!!

Step #5 (day): Anti-oxidant Soft Cream: Protective, skin-plumping moisture. Formulated with our plant-derived Retinatural Complex and nasturtium flower extract, this velvety, revitalizing cream works to visibly plump and firm the skin while boosting hydration. Skin is left healthy and glowing. This can be used as a day cream or a lighter night cream depending on your skin’s needs.

Step #5 (night): Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream: Powerful, regenerative hydration. Supremely rich and deeply hydrating, this cream supports elasticity and visibly firms while smoothing skin texture to minimize the look of fine lines and wrinkles. With continued use, wake up to more radiant, youthful-looking skin. This can be used as a heavier day cream and night cream for very dry skin. It is so thick and hydrating!

Countertime Collection: includes all six products at a 10% discount. I highly recommend the collection! Each product has the Retinatural Complex, but also has a hero ingredient of it’s own. The regimes is designed to last for a full 10 weeks, but based on my use, I think it will last much longer, especially the eye cream and the supreme cream (a little of this goes a LONG way!!)

You can CLICK HERE TO ORDER and give it a try for yourself. Please keep in mind that there is a 60 day return policy for a full refund, so there’s no risk in trying these AMAZING products! I am certain you will love them!!

Feeling Good Again!

Looks like rest is my best medicine right now. My Mom shared the wise notion that perhaps it’s when I’m feeling good that I most need to remember to pace myself and rest. She’s right. Per usual. It’s easy to not do too much when I’m not feeling well. When I’m feeling good I tend to just go for it. Often with abandon. Often that gets me in trouble – oops!

I have found that, pretty reliably, when I over do it it takes me 4 days to get totally back to where I was.  Yesterday was 4 days so today I plan to walk on the treadmill at the company gym. By the way, how AMAZING is it that I have a company gym to use?! I’m going to take it slow and easy and stick to my 3.1 miles which I know is just right for me at the moment. I’ll take it easy Saturday and walk again Sunday.

I’m eating a bit better now too!  I can have small amounts (portions are KEY for me!!) of rice, chicken, lamb, pasta with red sauce, string cheese, tortilla chips, and I even did ok with a spinach artichoke dip with Greek yogurt! Last I had Greek yogurt it HATED me and I bloated up to about a 6 months pregnant size. I spaced out and forgot and got the spinach artichoke dip made with the Greek yogurt ON PURPOSE (because I forgot – anesthesia brain fog is REAL and lasts forever!) because it was lower in fat.

It’d be super nice if foods gave me more reliable reactions though. Feels very out of control to have a bad reaction one day then no reaction another. Hard to pinpoint true causes. There probably isn’t one though. My system is still just relearning how to process and digest food so that takes time. This is another reason that small portions are key. It limits the severity of any reactions. Also, I missing part of my stomach so I get full super fast anyway.

That’s pretty much it. I had an overall great week at work (except that one bad day) and it was my most productive since returning which felt great!  I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with the family this weekend and with a few other families for an “end of summer” pool party and cookout before school starts for many next week. Our kids are home schooled and don’t start until after labor day 🙂

The next big project we have is a deal I made with Todd. When he gets my raised beds cleared out and filled with dirt (that is being delivered early next week), we’ll get him the pellet grill he’s been wanting. I know we missed a lot of the growing season, but there is still half of summer left, plus winter things we can plant. We’re really focusing on real, local, and organic foods for overall healthy living. We found an amazing local farm where we’re now getting milk from their family milk cow, named Baby. We are getting fantastic produce from another local farm and what we can’t eat straight away we’re canning, pickling, dehydrating, or freezing so we can extend the fresh eating season through winter. We’re also working on filling the deep freezers with local pork, beef, and maybe lamb/rabbit/chicken as we can source it. The kids love all the fresh stuff and have fun helping prepare and preserve it. I love that they’re growing up learning these skills!

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Todd making sourdough pizza!

T

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The boys are getting sliced okra ready for the dehydrator – shockingly delicious!!
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Callister was unhappy with his job when he was doing it alone…much happier when his brothers chipped in!
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Thatcher and Bear shelling peas…and eating as many as they shelled!
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All 3 boys helping with our farm basket while Elara napped! We dehydrated okra, froze some, and pickled it too. Cucumbers and tomatoes were eaten in a yummy Greek bean salad. More cucumbers were made into bread and butter pickles and the rest of the tomatoes were eaten either on burgers or good old tomato sandwiches!  We dehydrated some of the beans and ate the rest and we froze the squash for later. YUM!

Whipple Attack at Work & Total Exhaustion

After many, many good days, today was completely rotten. I was exhausted last night and went to bed early. I slept solid for well over 9 hours and still struggled hard to get up. The exhaustion was so complete it was like a physical weight on me.

I made it into the office and even after coffee and some B vitamins I was still just as exhausted. Then, as I pulled into my parking spot I felt a whipple attack coming on. Thank goodness I get some ‘warning’ time first! The pain started building and I had to sit in my car for several minutes before I could move. I managed to make it into the building and to a private bathroom where I had to lie on the floor in a fetal position to get through the pain. It was awful.

Whipple attacks always leave me exhausted and this one was no different. I’m thankful this was only one attack and not four like last time!! The rest of the day was a double whammy of exhaustion so thick I could barely function.

I made it through my meetings and drove home around 3:30 when they ended. I went immediately to bed and slept solid for a couple more hours before getting up to get the kids to bed. I plan to go back to bed after a cup of hot tea.

Best I can figure I brought this on myself by walking a full 5 miles on Sunday after walking 3 the previous day. I was tired but ok Monday and today it just caught up with me. Even though the intensity of my walks in very low, apparently distance and time matter right now. I expect to feel good again tomorrow, but will probably wait until Thursday or even Friday to walk again. Recovery just takes me a lot longer these days.

So, I’m still learning and unfortunately, learning the hard way more than I’d like. It’s easy to feel more ok than I am and then over do it. I need to remember that and pace myself more.

About that time I “saw the light” and “met God”

I’ve been debating whether to share this part of my Whipple journey. It’s both very personal, and probably a bit controversial too. I ultimately decided to share because it just felt right. I’m not sure if there is maybe someone who needs to read this today, or if there is some other reason, but today felt like the right time. I know I’ll never find the word to do this experience justice so bear with me.

I want to preface by being very open about the fact that I am not a religious person. I’m not a christian. I don’t attend church. I don’t believe in doctrine, and I don’t see the bible, or any other religious texts as anything other than historical and/or political documents. I have zero judgement and the utmost respect for anyone who has different beliefs. I’ve always agreed with the statement that if you use your religion to judge or justify mistreatment or lack of respect for others, you’re doing it wrong.

I am, however, a very spiritual person. What I mean by that is that I believe we are all connected and that the concept of that ultimate connection is maybe what religions mean by “God” in any case.  I believe all religions fundamentally come down to one thing at their core: LOVE. If I had to identify with any religion I’d say Buddhism resonates most with me. Probably because it is not a religion, it is a practice. You can BE Catholic/Protestant/Muslim, etc. and still PRACTICE Buddhism. Buddhism comes down to 2 things (which both = love): 1) Treat others with loving kindness, and; 2) Do no harm. That just feels right to me.

That being said, I’ve always suspected there is some kind of fairly universal experience that people have, regardless of religion, spirituality, or belief, when death is near. Whether it is a near death experience, or a final death. I’ll also add that I believe how our brains work probably contributes to this. There are just so many strikingly similar stories of people who “see the light” and come back that it just feels universal.  I guess this one will have to remain a mystery to the living.

lightMy experience was indeed quite similar to the stories I’ve read. Maybe just hearing the stories influences the experience? It was clear, real, and overwhelming in any case.  I was in the hospital after my Whipple surgery and in a pretty extreme amount of pain. My epidural had slipped out of place and the pain was not well controlled. I didn’t know at the time that I’d experience pain much more severe as I proceeded through recovery.  Wouldn’t have thought it was even possible!  It was still incredibly intense and not a pain I could even describe other than saying it was the kind of pain you didn’t think you could survive and felt like it would never end.

I was barely awake/conscious and I remember closing my eyes and seeing an incredibly intense light that was both fantastically bright, yet soothing and reassuring at the same time. It was the pure embodiment of love. I can’t describe it any other way. It was just love. Pure and complete love. Like the veil between worlds was lifted and I was seeing to the other side.

It was also very clearly a choice for me. I did not see a figure or hear any words. It was just a knowing. I knew, sure as I’m sitting here today, that if I wanted to leave this physical world/plane behind, all I needed to do was keep my eyes closed and I would make the transition. I struggled to open them, then close them again in an attempt to shake this off. Yet every time I closed my eyes again, which I did 3 times, it was still there. I felt sucked in and the lure to keep my eyes closed and just be enveloped in that love light was incredibly strong. I thought of my children especially and kept my eyes open. If not for them, I 100% for sure would have given in.

It’s never left me that I am here because of a choice I made. There were so many times earlier in my recovery where I wanted to give up. I could not see an end to the pain and agony I was in. To call this surgery brutal just doesn’t even seem to scratch the surface. There are no words that are substantial enough to do this experience justice. And only my family will ever really know just how bad it was. Or that, even though I “look great” and am doing a lot more normal things now, I still struggle mightily. Daily. I work very hard to focus on the positive and to keep an optimistic outlook, which I believe is helping my recovery.  Thought I’m sure that focus often gives the impression that things are back to normal and that I’m recovered now. They’re not and I’m not. Better, yes. Back to normal and recovered, no. There is still a long road ahead of me.

My “seeing the light” experience is something I could also describe as “meeting God.” Except that I don’t really like the word God. God sounds like an individual person to me and for me, the concept of God is the embodiment of the connection we ALL have. I believe that this connection is what is being referred to when I hear things like “God is a part of all of us.” I’m not sure those are the right words, but that general idea that we are all God and God is all of us.

One thing this experience has taught me is that while I used to get stuck on and aggravated by certain religion based words and ideas and how they’re expressed, I just don’t anymore. It just doesn’t matter to me anymore what words people use to describe their beliefs, or even what those beliefs are. I think that everyone connects with the words, beliefs, and actions that resonate with them and so long as the focus is on love, the rest doesn’t matter. Where as before I would never use the words “God” or “pray” (and frankly, didn’t even like when people said they’d pray for me), now I am apt to use whatever words resonate with OTHER people, regardless of if they resonate with me. It just feels so silly to have ever focused on a word.

For me, prayer is simply calling on that connection we all have because what is good for one of us is good for the entire connected being. I believe that setting intentions is incredibly powerful and that when there are larger collections of individuals focusing on the same intention (praying), change can and does happen. I had a LOT of people praying for me and it very clearly worked and it something I’m incredibly grateful for! While my recovery has been very rough, I am still doing so much better than so many people and there is simply no other reason for it.

So thank you for your prayers, and yes, I will pray for you too. Even though the words or method may be different, I hope the end result of filling the universe with loving intent will still be the same.

 

My Favorite “5K” Walk

I feel so incredibly fortunate to live where we do. Granted I don’t always love my super long commute, but when I get home, it feels like vacation! The the air is noticeably cleaner and fresher and I love the little country roads with spaced out houses, farms, and gorgeous scenery.

Here is some of the scenery along my favorite 5k route that I like to walk. This is starting right out my front door!