Sunday, May 8, 2011

Things I LOVE about my MOM

My mom is the most selfless person I know. She puts others before herself every time. I have seen her bend over backwards 1000's of times for others. She balances this selflessness well, because she is not a door mat either. She has a heart of gold.

She is ALWAYS positive. I grew up knowing that I could come to her for help, comfort, or support. No matter what is going on in my life, she reminds me to have faith and that things will work out for the best. She doesn't "fluff" up the truth either; she just keeps it real with a positive twist.

My mom didn't really have a mother. Her mother was ill and in and out of hospitals until she passed away when my mother was in her early 20's. I think because my Mom didn't have a mother, she GIVES everything she can to her children and grandchildren. She could be bitter and resentful, but she has turned a negative into a positive. She has built a legacy of LOVE. Somehow without an example of how to be a mother, her sweet and obedient spirit, brought 6 children into the world, and was/is an amazing mother and grandmother.

My mom is a night owl. The late hours of the night, or wee hours of the morning, are when she performed her best. I don't know if she wanted this habit, or if she had to have it this way with 6 children... but I do know that I have inherited this gene. She was always up late working on a lesson, paying bills, or planning the next day. Yet, somehow she was always up the next day, making breakfast and getting us off to seminary or school. You can still find her up late--on facebook, thinking about her children or talking to one of them on the phone, planning the family reunion, working on a church assignment or paying bills. Some things never change!

She is a great hostess. She knows how to plan and cook for a crowd. She holds nothing back, and often cooks for a army when only a platoon is coming. She is warm and inviting and makes everyone feel comfortable.

My mom has taught me to appreciate the diversity in others. Growing up military, we were exposed to many different races, nationalities, and religions, etc. She never saw that as a negative and taught us to learn and grow from every experience we could. Going along with this, my mom taught me not to fear change. This came from the fact that we moved every 2-3 years growing up. She taught me never to be satisfied with sitting on the sidelines even if I was the "new kid." She taught me to go for what I wanted! And if I got it, she cheered for me. And if I failed, she held me and told me that it was going to be ok. I love her for that.

She has supported me in every endeavor. From gymnastics meets, school plays, swim meets, HS elections, cheerleading tryouts, fundraisers, job changes, boyfriends, taking a year off from college, returning and graduating from college, getting married, moving away, my colitis diagnosis, and being at my childrens births. She HAS BEEN there. I love that.

My mom loves the Savior. She lives what she believes. I LOVE THAT.

Happy Mother's Day Mom, I love you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Living With Ulcerative Colitis: The Diagnosis

Consider yourself warned. In this new post I’m going to be really honest- I frequently get asked questions about ulcerative colitis, living with ulcerative colitis, what the illness is like, what the symptoms are, and what happens if I eat things I shouldn’t. I tend to shy away from answering because… well… it’s not very polite to discuss “number twos” (or as my kids call it "number three") in casual conversation. But the more I research for healthy lifestyle tips, recipes, blogs, the more I realize that there isn’t much out there. I feel like I should be honest here. But it’s not pretty. So for the squeamish (or those who just don’t want to know about my bodily functions), I understand. But you should probably stop reading.

It has been almost 10 years since my diagnosis. I was a newlywed, and had just moved away from my family. My new husband and I packed up what we could fit into suitcases and flew to Virginia. Buena Vista, VA was to be our new home while Cache finished school. We had been there 6 months when I first saw blood in the toilet.

I was exhausted all the time. I'd been having stomach pains, bloody stool, and had all but given up on eating. Nothing, and I mean nothing was sitting well in my tummy. I was working full-time at a Mental Health Clinic, and tried as best as I could to just keep going. It was so hard to slip in and out of the bathroom ump-teen times each day without being noticed. I finally went to my PCP in November. After numerous tests, coming back empty... He sent me to a GI doctor in January. My first of many colonscopies was scheduled.

The prep for any colonscopy is brutal, but I was so sick I could not keep anything down. Trying to drink the "beverage solution" was a nightmare. (Even after having one every year since never gets easier. Anticipating it is almost worst than I right now, I can actually taste it! Blah!) Somehow I survived the night and we had to drive to Roanoke, VA (about an hour away) for the scope the following morning.

I don't even remember what the doctor said to me after the procedure. I was hoping Cache was listening, because I was having a hard time waking up (don't get me wrong here, I love getting sedated!). At that time I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. We had no idea what it was. I think we were both just relieved that it wasn't cancer.

Ulcerative colitis is chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, and symptoms usually include severe abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Ulcerative colitis can be debilitating and sometimes can lead to life-threatening complications.

Ulcerative colitis usually affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. Cache hates the word COLON; somehow to him it sounds dirtier than saying large intestine! (Ha!) One of the most unique gifts he ever gave me was a Christmas ornament...Yes, it was a colon!

There's no known cure for ulcerative colitis, but there are meds available that may dramatically reduce the signs and symptoms and even bring about a long-term "remission".

After learning there was no cure, we slowly came to terms with the idea of having to "manage" this disease for the rest of my life. The doctor immediately put me on a drug called Asacol, which I am still on to this day. I was also put on a steriod, and advised to change my diet. Since UC affects everyone differently, there was no specific diet for me to follow. He suggested I avoid foods high in fiber, whole grains, raw fruits and vegetables, seeds, and nuts. But really, the only way to find out what I couldn’t tolerate would be to keep a food journal. To this date, I have not found that stress or any certain foods bring on my flares, it is still totally a guessing game as this point.

After a few days, I gained my strength back and went back to work. Life went back to "normal", and I started learning how to live life with a CHRONIC illness.

Since my original diagnosis, my disease has moved/changed/ I now have, Pancolitis, which means that the disease has affected my entire colon. I still have a colonoscopy every year. After living with the disease for 10+ years, the more important your check ups are. My last scope was in August 2010 and things looked good. I have about 3-4 "flares" a year, some lasting as short as a few days, and others lasting several months.

It has been a long journey since then, with ups and downs, and one that I’m finally going to talk about, little by little. And the journey has not only been mine, Cache has been a part of this the whole way through. I married THE best husband. He literally carries me when I am too weak; he also lifts me emotionally and spiritually when I just don't think I can do it anymore. I feel so grateful for his love and support. He has played a significant role on my healthcare team. I could not do this without him.

The learning never ends; how to function during flares, how much to tell my children when I am sick, how to travel comfortably, how to stay positive, how to get affordable health insurance, trying the newest medications and treatments and so on. I am also still learning about what my body can and cannot tolerate. I’m trying to learn how to eat healthy, and stop relying on Jolly Rancher's when I am flared.

But I have come a long way in ten years. The greatest blessing being my 4 beautiful children. Sometimes the hardest part is not being able to be the mother that I want to be on those "bad" days. So I treasure the good days...and with help from family and the Lord I continue to try and do the best I can one day at a time.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Life Lessons

"Chronic"- incessant, never-ending, enduring, unyeilding, incurable, continual...

The word "chronic" has deep-rooted meaning in my life.

1)I have an incessant LOVE for my husband & children. I value everyday life with them, and know that we will be together always; with no end.

2)My faith in Christ allows me the opportunity to endure all life's lessons. (Sometimes those lessons are weathered well, and other times...well, it can get messy).

3)I have such an appreciation and adoration for my family; my passion and respect for them is unyeilding.

4)My diagnosis with Ulcerative Colitis (since 2002) is incurable, however my fight for a cure and IBD awareness will be continual....

Follow me as I navigate through life's chronically changing landscape.