Thursday, October 28, 2010

A story with two happy endings.

When I posted on Facebook on Oct. 15 for National Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness day, I was pleasantly surprised to find a message in my inbox from my mother’s former best friend. The two of them were close from childhood on, and I grew up calling this woman Auntie and playing with her daughters, one who was my age and one a few years younger. Fifteen years ago she and my mother had a falling out for reasons I don’t know and that are none of my business anyway.

This woman contacted me to share with me that she too had experienced two losses. She was understanding and compassionate towards me and understood my pain. I was touched that she reached out to me and shared with her how my mom was doing. Obviously, she was upset to hear my mother had been suffering with breast cancer and asked me if she could contact my mother and try to reconcile. I told my mother what happened and she started crying and showed me a card that she had started to write to her friend but had yet to send. She was thrilled that her friend was open to reconnecting.

Earlier this week, the two former best friends got together for the first time in a decade and a half. They spent hours catching up and talking about what had transpired in their lives since they’d lost touch. My mother told me a story that both haunts and inspires and comforts me.

In addition to the two losses my mother’s friend told me about, she also lost a twin-a vanishing twin, as it is oddly termed-during her pregnancy with her younger daughter. She did not give it much thought, nor did she ever share this with her daughter.

When her daughter was in high school and going through a particularly tough time, she asked her mother if she had been a twin. Her mother asked her why she was asking and her daughter replied that she knew she had a twin because her twin brother always visited her and comforted her whenever she was sad. Her mother shared with her daughter the name she would have given her twin if he had lived.

I am blown away by this story, and while of course I am skeptical, part of me wants it to be true. I firmly believe in an afterlife, and the idea of a brother being there for his sister in spirit, even if not able to in body, is comforting and wonderful. It also reinforces my belief that life begins very early, and that a lost baby is a real child that has died, no matter how early in a pregnancy a loss occurs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You're Not Shaken

The lyrics to this song really hit home for me with the events of the past year.

You're Not Shaken by Phil Stacey

I am sinking in the river that is raging
I am drowning
Will I ever, rise to breathe again
I wanna know why
I just wanna understand
Will I ever know why?
How could this be from Your hand?

When every little thing that I dream of being just slips away
like water through my hands
And when it seems the walls of my beliefs come crashing down
like they're all made of sand
I won't let go of You now
because I know, oh, You're not shaken

I am trembling in the darkness of my own fear
All the questions with no answers
So grip me while I'm here
And I may never know why
Oh I may not understand
But I will lift up my eyes,
and trust this is Your plan

When I am in the valley
of the shadow of death

You're not shaken
You're not shaken

You're right here beside me and
You have never left

You're not shaken
You're not shaken

Monday, October 18, 2010

Outlook: much, much better!

We recently found out that my mom had some brain tumors. The words cancer and tumors are scary enough, but combine them with brain and you’ve got something downright terrifying. We waited and hoped and prayed and spent time together all weekend in anticipation of her consultation with yet another doctor today. We were scared she wouldn’t be treatable. We were scared the radiation would make her too sick to fight the cancer everywhere else. We were afraid that the treatment would leave her radioactive and not able to be around her trying to conceive (and hopefully soon pregnant) daughter (that would be me!).

Today all of our fears were alleviated. Of course I’d prefer that there was nothing wrong with her in the first place, but considering that she has cancer and brain tumors, this is good news. Her doctor explained that brain tumors sound so scary but with recent advances they are so treatable that you could almost say they have a cure because the treatment works so well. They just can't call it a cure because the tumors can return and you often have to continue treatment later.

She has 8 or more small tumors all over her brain. They caught them all early. She has to go in for general radiation of her whole brain 5 days a week for 3 weeks. This should prevent new tumors from coming in. Then she has to have targeted radiation to attack the specific tumors, this will be 2 or 3 times, and takes about 6 hours each time.

During the 3 weeks she has to stop chemo, but she was doing so well with that that her oncologist is confident about her being okay with a 3 week break. She also cannot drive and so we are trying to coordinate that, but my sister should be able to handle most of the driving.

And, the doctor said I can be around her because the radioactivity leaves her body almost immediately so she is not dangerous to pregnant women (again, I am not currently pregnant, just trying to get there so we are being extra cautious!). He said I should not go to the facility, and my mom is so worried she doesn't even want me driving her and going near the treatment center. But at least I don't have to avoid her altogether for the next 3 weeks, which we feared. And it’s only 3 weeks, we also feared it would be another year of treatment like the chemo.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope

Today is National Pregnancy/Infant Loss Awareness Day. Please visit and support this worthy cause.

If you are a mother to a living child, please honor those of us who are mothers only to angels today by being grateful that you have your child here with you. If you are pregnant, please take a day to enjoy it, and don’t complain about how hard it is to have morning sickness or any of the other signs that mean you are going to have a healthy baby. Please keep in mind that some of us would love to be in your shoes, swollen ankles and all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


So things were looking up, everything was going well. I was excited that we finally reached the third cycle required to start trying again for a baby. I had a doctor’s appointment and my OB is happy, everything looks fine and we are good to go.
My mom’s arm got better very quickly, the swelling went back down to what it was before and her skin is much better. Her hair is still going but she has a great sense of humor about it. She even bought a “wig” which gave her a bright purple Mohawk.

Today I found out, through my grandmother, because my mother likes to keep things from me so I won’t worry, that she has been having trouble seeing and is going into the hospital tomorrow for an MRI to see if she has a brain tumor. We’re not panicking yet, it could be something else, and it could be operable and no big deal.

So far she has done much better than any of the doctors predicted and beaten the odds at every turn. But hearing brain and tumor together leave me pretty scared. I feel completely helpless and overwhelmed. I believe in prayer and I am praying for her, but after what happened to my baby, despite my desperate prayers, after what I have seen happen to so many other worthy mothers, it is hard to keep my faith strong. There is nothing I want more than to be able to tell her she is going to be a grandma again, and to actually bring a baby into this world for our family to love.

The thought that she might not be here long enough to meet her grandchild breaks my heart, for me, for her, and for my future child who might never know her love. I am comforted only by the hope that things will be okay and the knowledge that she does have a grandchild waiting for her in Heaven if she has to go soon.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

First, the good-this cycle is almost over and that means we have waited the requisite 3 cycles since my D&C and are cleared for trying again! I am so excited and relieved and though I am fearful I cannot wait to start trying and get some hope back into my life. I am trying to give my fear to God and relax and accept that I will be a mother, one way or another, when the time is right. That is all I can do at this point, well, that and have lots of sex.

The bad was Sunday. MS and I went and took a walk to a park in our neighborhood so he could use the monkey bars to do pull ups and other manly exercises. Now even though it is a park with a playground meant for children and even though it was a nice sunny day I didn’t expect anyone to be there. There are hardly ever any kids there aside from the occasional surly teenager smoking or dropping the F-bomb every other word in their cell phone conversation, which does not really make me long for a child of my own.

But on Sunday there were kids. Three kids, three beautiful adorable blonde kids-a ten year old boy, a five year old girl and a three year old boy. They were being chased around by a cute woman who looked so young that I assumed she was their babysitter, until I heard her children calling her “Mommy!” over and over as they ran around playing tag. They were adorable. So happy, cute and energetic. I wanted them, I wanted to be her. I couldn’t believe this girl already had three while I was sitting there feeling much older than her with nothing to show for it. I sat and tried to ignore them as MS did his exercises but each gleeful scream of “Mommy!” made my heart ache. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to cry and MS consoled me with his usual “We’ll have kids someday.” And by trying to cheer me up by finding a dried crunchy leaf in the grass, picking it up and putting it on the sidewalk for me so I could step on it. He knows I love stepping on dried leaves. Silly but cute and sweet of him.

And the ugly. My poor mom’s arm. Don’t think I’m horrible for calling it ugly, she would say the same thing. Everything had been going very well with her chemotherapy and treatments. Her swollen arm, which had filled with lymph fluid due to a tumor blocking drainage, had finally started to shrink on its own, defying the doctor’s predictions that it would never improve. It only looked a tiny bit bigger than her svelte left arm, the difference only noticeable by comparison. They sent her to a lymphedema treatment office, where they wrapped and bandaged her arm to try to force the swelling down. She happened to have this done on one of the hottest days of the summer. It was sweltering and humid for Southern California, and my poor mom’s sensitive skin got incredibly itchy bound in the tight bandages. The pain and frustration of not being able to scratch kept her up all night but she endured it and ignored it and went all weekend with the bandage on. When she went back to have the doctor take a look, they found that under the bandage her skin had become so irritated and inflamed that her arm had swollen up again to its old giant size, and is now covered in a bright red scaly rash. Poor thing, she tried so hard to be good and leave the bandage on, which ended up making it worse. She’s now waiting to let her skin heal before trying the bandage and compression again.