Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This is how Democrats take a vacation

Oh yeah, I said it, Democrat. I suppose I can't say that I'm 100% democrat just yet (I've always been in the middle, but have leaned to the left for the most part), but I'm getting close stepping over the line after all the political turmoil in WI as of late. To cope with the stress and anxiety of it all, I joke about it (usually paraphrasing 'jokes' the Republican party make about Democrats anyway, so I can't take all the credit... and yes, that was an underhanded bash on some, not all, Republicans... not those of you who are my friends and / or family that consider themselves Repubs). Since it's looking like more and more Dems are falling into the lower class division of society, it only makes sense to refer to our recent trip to the hotel in Rochester as a "Democratic Vacation" - cheap, but not home, so there you go - vacation!

Layla had an absolute fantastic time at the hotel we stayed at - wait for it... Oh yeah baby, a Ramada! Now that's what I call fancy. ;) It was actually pretty nice, and the indoor pool was impressive. They made it seem a little less "indoor" with the all-glass ceiling that let in sunlight and warmth. So, even though we were inside, when the sun was shining, you sort of felt like you were outside (minus the feezing cold). At first, Layla's favorite was the kid's pool (more like a wading pool) with a little slide and a turtle fountain. But, after I put a Dora life vest on her that helped her float (thanks for letting us borrow it, Maddie and Christine), she gained some confidence about swimming in the big pool and went crazy practicing her jumping and going underwater. She did so great!!

Of course, once Logan and Cody arrived, the fun amped up even more and the kids just couldn't get enough (kids in this case also include the parents... we loved it). I brought balls for the Meyer boys and for Layla, so they had something to play with in the pool. Lesson learned there: All kids should get the same color ball. I thought it'd be special for each of them to have their own color. Uh, no. That only caused problems because if Cody grabbed Layla's pink ball, all hell broke loose. And Layla was so concerned w/ who belonged to which ball that she'd freak if one of the boys switched balls. Mother of pearl - OCD much?


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sleeping Beauty

I'm going to post these pictures first (if you haven't read my previous post about how the camera was found, please do so now), because they're my favorite. I took these pictures after a long day at the hotel pool in Rochester when we were there for our Mayo appointment (3/18). Layla went hard all day long, running through the kiddie pool, going down the little slide that looked like a giant log (pictures to come), swimming in the big pool with mommy and going down the big waterslide with daddy. After all of the swimming and running, she played her little heart out back in the adjoining rooms that we had with the Meyer's. She played with Cody and Logan and even got a present from Aunty Tee (Barbie doll with two puppies, and a book). The kids were all so tired at the end of the night that we basically had to force them into bed and hold them down until they passed out because they weren't so pumped about the idea of the day ending. Once we got Layla into bed though, she was out. And I mean OUT. And as I watched her sleep, I couldn't help but melt. This is how she used to sleep, when she was a baby. So I snapped about 1,000 of the same picture, in hopes that I'd never forget that moment.

My bad - I'm the one who loses things

Before I begin posting the pictures I mentioned yesterday, I need to officially apologize to my innocent 3-year-old daughter for blaming her for losing the camera. She had absolutely nothing to do with its disappearance, we discovered, after finding it on top of the fridge - a spot that is clearly out of her reach! Jake told me the moment we found it that he vows to never, ever help me search for something that's lost again, because in all likelihood, whatever it is that's missing is missing because of my bad memory and reluctance to put things in the same place consistently.

Sorry baby dolly. Love you! :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Good intentions...

This morning, while sitting next to Layla on the couch as she watched the Lindsay Lohan version of the Parent Trap, I was enjoying a cup of java, and thinking about all the things I committed to before getting sucked into the daily routine that we call Corporate America. Man... work has been insane. Now, I know that there is a large base of my coworkers who read this blog, including my boss (hey dude), so I'm not going to complain about that. I love being busy. I love not having a second to gather my thoughts, I love not having time to pee. I do. It's all about job security, right? ;) But because I've been so busy with work, I've neglected to complete some of the goals I committed to shortly after returning to work. Some of those include: posting pictures of Layla and the fam on the blog on a regular basis, putting together Layla's photobooks (off of Shutterfly, not anything fancy like scrap books or old school photo albums - I'm not Martha Stewart people), and, well, some other stuff. I'd kind of like to put together my 'bucket' list so it's all fancy and I can frame it. I dunno, just thinking that'd be cool. Oh, yeah, family photos. We're way overdue for those, so I've got to set that up and break the news to Jake - he hates it when I make him transition from country to modern. ;)

Anyway, the point of this post is to share the fact that this morning, after thinking about all of this I thought to myself, "Well, what are you doing just sitting here? Do something about it!" So I got up, grabbed the USB cord for the camera, and ... started looking for the camera. I cannot find it. Now let me ask this question to you, my loyal followers: Do you lose things in your house on a regular basis, or is it just me? I'm constantly losing things, probably because I never put anything in the same spot more than once. It's my own darn fault, but I'll blame a little of it on this tiny house. I'm constantly trying to 'hide' things so this place doesn't look like a hoarder's den, but it always back fires. I do remember that the last time I saw the camera, it was in Layla's hands. So now, Jake and Layla are arguing about whether she remembers where she put it. The girl is the queen of hiding things and not telling us about it until we find it. We'll see what happens with this one.

The pictures I will be posting, if we find the camera, include pics of our trip to Mayo, Layla's first dentist appointment (last Monday), pictures of Layla and her friend Adella, and some gorgeous pics of Layla sleeping like a baby.

Stay tuned. Any bets on how many days it'll take for us to track the darn camera down!? Oh, look at that, dad just found two sippy cups under the couch. I was wondering where all the cups were going.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mayo Clinic - been there, done that, loved it.

Mayo Clinic trip is officially complete. Let me start by saying that the drive there and back was a lot longer than I expected it to be. I think it ended up taking about 5 hours each way. Mostly because of our little Layla Bugs needing breaks and the fact that Jake is serious about babying our 'runner' car ("Ronda the Honda"). I'm sure there's some logic in his methods, but if you asked me to drive (he didn't, which is probably a good thing since I can't drive stick), I would've had the sucker pinned the entire way there. I don't drive slow. I have a heavy foot and have more tickets than I'd like to admit. I've also been known to speed past people that I know on the road, while they're trying to wave at me or flag me down, without even knowing I was passing them until they bring that little interesting fact up later. Oops.

Now, onto details of the Mayo trip. Let me first start by explaining my strategy for the trip. Since this was the 5th hospital we've visited, I felt like I had a pretty good idea as to what my day would end up looking like (check in at Mayo for my appointment, and wait. Wait, then wait more, then wait. Maybe throw in a few additional tests here and there, then wait, then see the big important doctor roughly 6 hours after my scheduled appointment). That's not how it went. Mayo has their SHIT together people. First of all, their shuttle program is insane, in a number of ways. The shuttles run on a very tight schedule and the drivers are committed to their schedules. This leads to rides to and from Mayo that resemble the bus ride we took from Montego Bay in Jamaica to Negril - fast, abrupt and frighting. But whatever. I was picked up and dropped off on time, so I wasn't about to complain. Anyway, because of our previous hospital experiences, I told Jake that it would be best if he stayed back at the hotel with Layla so that she could play at the indoor water park with her as long as absolutely possible, and that I would call him when things started to pick up.

My appointment was at 9:15 on Friday. I was called back at 9:20 (that's a record for sure). Before being called back, I handed off all of the discs I had, with every single MRI, CT, etc., that I've had since day 1. Because there was so much that I was handing off for review, I thought for sure there was no way in hell I'd see a doctor who knew what on God's earth was going on with me until at least noon. The doctor was in the exam room with me by 9:35, and, he apologized for his "lateness". Whaaaaat?!?!? He told me he wanted to get through every scan I brought to be fully informed on my situation, which is why he was 20 minutes late. Well, you better have a good excuse, Mister! ;)

The doctor started by telling me that he reviewed my scans from the most recent (January) to the earliest scan (October). He did this so that he could make his own decision as to whether he saw a trace of anything on my scans without knowing where the tumor was to begin with. I thought that was interesting. He said that if he didn't know any better, he wouldn't know that anything had ever happened to my brain (besides some very regular and expected scar tissue). We discussed my concerns about doing radiation, which were basically that if the tumor has been completely removed, the full body and bone scans show no traces of tumor activity or other cancers in my body, etc., that I don't feel comfortable doing radiation when there isn't a 100% guarantee that the radiation will PREVENT the tumor from recurring. He agreed with me fully. He said that if my objective was to have a clean scan every 3 months, then sure, I could do radiation. But if my objective is to prolong my life, then there's nothing that says radiation will do this, especially given the fact that there is no tumor to pinpoint with the radiation. This would be a completely different story if there had been even a trace of my tumor left behind during surgery (say, for example, if it was in a place where it would've been dangerous for the surgeon to remove it). If that was the case, then my one and only option would be radiation (chemo isn't an option for my tumor). Thank you for that to my surgeon, Dr. Ahuja. The doctor also confirmed for me that yes, radiation has side effects. Obvious ones and ones that some people don't often know or think about. Radiation could potentially do harm to me, if it spread to other parts of my body (which it likely would) which may or may not show physical signs of damange in my lifetime, but if they did, I'd be pretty upset (for example, another type of cancer).

In any event, the doctor said that I do not have to pursue radiation and will be safe continuing on with observation (MRIs every 3 months, full body CTs every 6 to 12 months). Because of our preconceived notions of what would happen at Mayo, Jake was not with me when the doctor made his appearance and shared the amazing news with me. I'll tell you one thing, I think that was one of my top 5 "stay focused" moments of my life. When a lot of information is coming at me at once, I tend to get lost in it, or, to hang on the one important fact that has been mentioned, which in this case, was that I wouldn't have to do radiation. I had to do everything I could to take that wonderful fact, put it in my pocket and continue listening to the other questions he was answering for me. Some of those questions:

1) Is this tumor genetic (yes, I've asked this 1,000 times before, but why not ask again, especially if I'm at Mayo)? No, it's not. This tumor develops because of something that happens to your DNA after you're born. What exactly that "something" is, no one knows for sure.
2) Can we have another child without the risk of a tumor recurring during preganancy (really, what we were worried about, was that the crazy pregnancy hormones might spiral my body into producing another tumor)? Yes, we can have another bambina (or bambino) without the risk of the tumor recurring because of pregnancy hormones. Some tumors, like the meningioma, have receptors that react to pregnancy hormones and grow as a result of the hormones being produced in the body. The hemangiopericytoma does not have these receptors. Whew.
3) Statistics show that there's a 70% chance that my tumor will come back. Really? Is that for realz, yo? ;) The statistics are real, but not certain. And that number is not 100%, so, it's not definiate that my tumor will come back. Holla. I knew it! :)
4) Meds... Seriously? Do I have to stay on these anti-seizure meds for a super duper long time? No, probably not. 6 months minimum, because of the fact that I had surgery on my brain and the tissue has been "messed" with, which, regardless of whether a tumor is there or not, could cause a seizure, espeically within the first 6 months after surgery. The doctor was confident that we could speak to my oncologist at Frodert about beginning to taper off after 6 to 8 months.

I'm pretty sure there were other questions mashed in there that I'm forgetting, but the good news is that today at 3:00 the Mayo doctor (Dr. Uhm), will be getting on a conference call with Jake and I to answer any additional questions that we have, and assure Jake that the good news I gave him wasn't just a load of crap that I made up because I didn't want to do radiation.

So, all in all, a very successful trip. Jake and I finally feel like we can celebrate a milestone in this whole adventure. Although it only started 5 months ago, it feels like it's been going on forever and we were beyond ready to get some good news and have a little break from all of this. With that said, I have my first regular MRI next week Monday at Froedert. Cross your fingers that it comes up clean. Then I'll continue on with my MRIs every 3 months, so the next one won't be until June.

Thanks to the Meyer's for making the trip to Rochester to see us and support us!! It meant the world to us to have you there and to be able to celebrate our awesome news with you, and Layla cries every night since we've been home because she misses you. I'll post pictures soon.

Also, thanks to Nate Baily and fam for visiting w/ Nina and Lyla. It was great to finally meet your little peanuts and to spend some time w/ ya!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

As promised...

As some of you may already know, I decided to give up Facebook for lent. With the current events and political chaos that has taken over in WI, I feel like I need a break from it and will regain some of my sanity by living without constant access to people's thoughts, daily activities, plans, latest meals, opinions, etc. Who knows, maybe after Easter I'll be so calm and peaceful after my FB hiatus that I'll be ready to walk away forever.

Not much to update on right now. We're anticipating our trip to Mayo (we leave tomorrow night) with excitement and jitters. I'm ready to make a decision on treatment, but in all honesty, am really hoping that the decision that we're led to is to continue on, life as usual, with 'observation' (regular MRIs and CTs for life) and that I'll be okay without pursuing radiation. I've been trying so hard not to worry or be taken over by anxiety in anticipation of my appointment. I've found that since being jammed into the ICU back in October, I am now officially afraid of hospitals. So walking into Mayo will likely not be a non-event for me and I anticipate some mild heart palpatations, to say the least.

I'm putting all my eggs in the, 'Luck of the Irish' basket for now. It has to mean something that we're leaving for Mayo on St. Patty's Day, right?!?!

Updates and pictures to come... we've managed to incorporate some fun events into our trip so will have pictures of Layla, Logan, Cody and Nina swimming away in the pool at our hotel!

Wish us luck!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kill the Bill!!

I'm not going to type much about this event, as I think the pictures do the talking. I will say, that this day (February 26, 2011) was a very special one for our family and many of our friends, and I'm so thankful I was able to be there and be a part of it. I was absolutely amazing to be surrounded by so many thousands of people who supported each other and were willing to come out in the freezing cold and snow to express their opinions and objections to this crazy proposal our lunatic Governor is shoving down our throats.

Thanks to Grandpa Ice and Gramma D for making the trek with us, to the Gritts for meeting us there, to Bob for making the trip with us and to the rest of you who were there, and have been there for days on end, for voicing your opinions and fighting for the rights of those who've EARNED them.

Awesome view of the capitol and crowd. Lots of good energy and support.

Layla and daddy were chanting, "Kill the Bill! Kill the Bill!" in this one.

One word: Amen!!

You can't really see this in the picture, but the sign is hanging on a little kid's back. Poor kid NEEDS to take part in the American Dream people! ;)

Another pic of the awesome crowd on the steps of the capitol. This is what democracy looks like.

Our beautiful capitol, Madison, WI.

Nuff said.

Look closely at this one. The yellow sign, attached to our state flag, says, "For Sale by Republicans". Again - nuff said.

He makes a lot of mommies (and daddys) cry, my sweet one.

Our view as we walked up to our rally spot (on Wisconsin and Mifflin).

Our enthusiastic protesters - Layla, daddy and Gramma D!!

Layla and Gramma D on the bus ride to the capitol.

Daddy, Gramma D, Bob and Layla... In the freezing cold line waiting for the bus.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Birthday to Nonnie!

Yesterday was my mom's Birthday. A milestone birthday for her, that I'll leave unmentioned, as I'm not sure whether she wants those numbers advertised or not (even though I think age is nothing but a number and that your true "age" is really what you make it). :)

Mom took the afternoon off of work yesterday to meet up with my cousins Colleen and Quinn, and Quinn's little one, Emma (who you can see in the picture, helping Nonnie blow out her candles). Mom's sis Joann was there too, as well as my Uncle Joel, who owns the Midtown Pub where they had lunch. Thanks fam, for taking care of my mum on her Big Bday!

Happy Bday, again Mom!