Dense

20 May

So, this week was a weird one.

A freshly aged 38 year old female, I took my doc’s advice and scheduled a “baseline” mammogram, so that when I am 40, she will have something to compare it to.

I have heard of many an incident where the woman has a mammogram done and is called back in for a secondary study just to make sure the full “picture” was captured. Often, a woman with, well, let’s just say it, HUGE FREAKIN’ BOOBS has an issue with the initial mammogram.

So, when I received a call on Monday saying they needed me to come back for a second time, I wasn’t too alarmed.

And by that, I mean I was super freaked out. I texted my mom. I think her response was “No freaking out. Big Boobs. I have had to go back before.” Ha! So, luckily I only had to wait for 24 hours before I was checking in AT THE HOSPITAL (they sent me to a different place this time, their ginormous imaging center where there is a radiologist on call at all times). Still trying not to freak out, but still pretty freaked out. I waited until they called me back to put a robe on and then wait again for the mammogram.

Also, here is something I noticed from having past MRIs done; the big trash can is always in the changing room with a sign that says “soiled linens only.” Just cracks me up. Uh, how many people poop on the linens? Maybe more than I realize. But can we figure out a better descriptor there?

I was waiting with two other women for the mammogram. Hey, wouldn’t group mammograms be hilarious? Like a big uncomfortable game of Twister. I kept thoughts like this to myself. One of the women in the room was smart enough to bring like 5 bags with her, and one of them had knitting stuff inside, so she was knitting a thing that looked like MAYBE a scarf, it was super long…but then I thought maybe it was a belt? So I was distracted by looking at that for a while. The other woman was like a mom and reading a magazine. She’d let out a long hard sigh here and there. This was stressing me out way worse. We weren’t talking to one another, and I think we were all pretty uneasy in there. On edge, in our unsoiled linens.

The technician came and called my last name, so in Willis went. This mammogram was a little different from the last, but I saw the films from the last one, and saw the area they wanted a better look at. I hung out with the machine for a bit (haha, literally) and then went back to the waiting area, joining up once again with my two robed peers.

A different technician appeared in the doorway and told the mom that they were going to need to do an ultrasound, as they just wanted to be sure and get a good look. She told her it would be a few minutes. I didn’t look up at the mom, I just heard her exhale another long, breathy sigh. Then I continued to freak out. I channeled it by staring at my shoes, listening to Whoopi talking on THE VIEW, playing on the wall mounted flat screen.  My technician appeared, leaned into my ear and WHISPERED that “we think everything is fine, they just want to do an ultrasound.” WHAAAAAT? ARGH! Now I am freaking out times ONE MILLION. All I could do was think about my dear rock star friends who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Like Sheila. And Angeline. She had breast cancer YOUNG. I thought she was our one friend who had breast cancer. I just never put myself in a bucket of “maybe I will have it, too.” And all of a sudden I was holding back tears. Oh man. A few more minutes passed.

My sweet whispering technician came back and led me over to the ultrasound room, which was dark, except for the big computer/machine. The nurse in there asked me to lay down on the hospital bed. She propped up a pillow behind my left shoulder and proceeded to burst out laughing when I asked her if I still needed “this,” which is best described as a heavy iron apron that they Velcro around your waist for the mammogram. No, I didn’t need it, so I got to take it off, and quickly realized that this was actually the culprit making it harder to breathe. That thing was heavy and tightly fastened!

After squirting an almost empty bottle of warmed (how thoughtful!) lubricant onto my dense left breast causing some of it to land somewhere on my face (why was I feeling so vulnerable that I didn’t wipe it off of my face??), the nurse got started with the ultrasound. I turned my head so that if I looked as hard as I could out of the right side of my peripheral, I could see the darkened stringy blotchy landscape displayed on the screen. Kinda like a trip to the moon. The boob moon. She told me she wasn’t sure how long it would take, so I get it, they do what they can NOT TO FREAK YOU OUT MORE. It took maybe 8 minutes, if I had to guess, including some technical difficulties with the machine. I feel like I’m bad luck around medical equipment. Always some kind of issue with my procedures.

She captured 5 or 6 images, printed out some films and told me to wait here, that she would take the films to the radiologist and they’d be back to talk to me.

Okay. Here is the hardest part.

Like, maybe the most scared I have ever been.

Isn’t that funny? I’ve done like 12 MRI’s. Those used to be scary. They are not scary. This was terrifying. I didn’t have my phone, and I was all alone, on a hospital bed, in a dark room, for like 10 minutes. Just wringing my hands, talking to myself a little probably, trying to get a grip on the reality of the situation. What was I afraid of? Worst case scenario there might be something to biopsy, and even then, you don’t know right away. So I tried to just calm myself down. The door opened. My nurse told me the Dr. was in a procedure so we just had to wait a little longer. She left me in the dark again.

Oh, in so many ways.

I sat, I crossed and uncrossed my legs. I wished I could text someone. It’s not good to be alone when you are terrified. It’s just not. She came back again, and told me I could come wait out in the hallway. In the light.

In my unsoiled linens. Maybe now somewhat soiled?

So I went out into the hallway and sat in a chair and leaned my head back onto the glass door of the fire extinguisher cabinet. I stared straight ahead at the cabinet with weird gas meters and a warning sign…something about emergency gas shut off. I thought, how odd that this gas shut off to the whole area is right here. Hm. …the nurse appeared again and said okay, you’re free to go. She had me step back into the dark room with her, and she explained that my breasts are asymmetrical on the mammogram, but there wasn’t anything alarming on the ultrasound, so they just want me to come back in 6 months to check again.

And that was that.

And I wanted to go straight home and crawl in bed and process what had just happened.

But instead I went straight to the office, unsoiled; and back to life as normal.

 

 

I Saw You.

22 Jun

I was in the room with your mama.
She breathed heavy, happy.
She exhaled strong and grounded. Moans and tears.
She laughed with us in between.
She exclaimed to me and to your daddy how happy she was.
How thankful. How she felt almost unworthy.

We sang together, just for a second.
A prayer- of praise and thanks and maybe a little bit of “please help us all.”

Your mama rested a little.

We listened to the soundtrack of your heartbeat in the room.
A perfect metronome, the nurse said.

Strong and Steady. Charley. Strong and Steady. Charley.

I knew that next to your mama, I was the luckiest girl in the room.
After 7 hours of waiting and practicing being patient (I’m still not very good at it), I had to leave for a little to get some dinner. But I didn’t want to go.
I didn’t want to miss it.
But I had time, it turned out.

I came back and brought your hungry mama some food (for much later). And your daddy ate some dinner. And we waited a bit until the nurse came in and said, “it’s time.”

It’s time.

Your daddy took your mama’s face in his hands and told her how much he loved her.
How he was very proud.

Your mama shivered with joy…and pain…and excitement.
Our bodies do what they need to, in order to get ready.

When it’s time.

Your mama pushed, and breathed deep.
She gasped, and pushed fiercely.
We cheered her on. We told her she was strong, and that she could do it.
I told her she looked beautiful. Because she did.
And it seemed wrong not to make sure she knew.

It must have been hard to be so strong.
She was tired.
She wanted to just see you already.
To hold you and cradle you and peacefully drift off to sleep.

I’ve been proud of your mama before.
Many times I have beamed with pride, heart bursting with love and joy.

But never have I ever been so proud of your mama,
as the day that she took one more big, deep breath,
air inhaled and expanding to all of the darkest corners of her lungs.
And she pushed.
(I think I may have, too)

That last, perfect push.

And the room sounded like a crowd.
Victoriously cheering for their championship team.
Except it was just the few of us.
And we were cheering for your mama.
She was our champion.
And then it happened…

I saw you.

I saw you exit the “before Charley”
and enter the “now Charley”
and we will never ever be the same.

Oh, how we love you, sweet baby girl.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful miraculous god-daughter, Charley May.

Good Luck!

20 Jun

One morning a few months ago, I left our apartment building for work as usual and headed down the street to get in my car. I cautiously trudged down the cracked and jagged sidewalk on North Curson Avenue in a scuffed pair of kitten heels, and I noticed a couple in their “golden years” both dressed in spiffy clothing, waiting side by side in front of a neighboring apartment building. The old man, holding his wife’s boxy black purse, watched as I approached, as most of the old men on my street tend to do…

Let me interrupt myself to add some contextual background: Our street and surrounding neighborhood is populated largely by a group of refugees and their descendants, most of whom are Russian Jews. Sometimes the old men congregate in small groups on the sidewalk, and It’s common to observe them watching others pass by as if they are the eyes for the mafia. They do not crack a smile. But, over the past few years, I have figured out that if I make friendly eye contact and say hello, most people respond and say a hello right back.

This particular white haired man did not have the usual look of judgement, distrust or suspicion on his face. Also, just to reiterate- he was holding a purse. As I approached, he grinned at me while acting as if rolling out a red carpet ahead of me. He clearly did not speak English, or if he did, was not going to anyhow. He made some grunting noises as if to say “please, by all means, after you…” I was caught off guard by his silly and flattering gesture as his smiling, slightly younger wife leaned in toward me and warmly said in a thick Russian accent: “Good luck. Good luck. Good luck.” I wasn’t sure how to respond. Should I say, “Good luck to you, too?” I just didn’t know. I thanked them, blushing, I’m sure, and kept on my way. How can your day not start out in a ridiculously  positive place when someone pretended to roll out a red carpet for you, and then wished you luck not once, but thrice?!?

Thinking it was a very random and isolated street greeting, I completely forgot about it over the next few hours as my day unfolded… Until the next morning, when the very same thing happened again. And again, the next day.

Lately, the couple is sometimes standing on the opposite side of the street when I see them, and they still wave me down. The woman never fails to repeat the phrase three times: “Good luck. Good luck. Good luck.” It’s adorable. And I wonder if they think I’m someone I’m not, or especially unlucky?

But today I saw them further up the street. I hoped to catch their attention as they boarded a community bus run by a Russian neighborhood service. [I have grown accustomed to my daily good luck wishes. I would hate to miss out!] He carried her handbag and followed behind her so sweetly. She held on to both sides of the door as she balanced and carefully stepped up into the bus. Another neighbor walked toward me, dog leading him by a long retractable leash. His gaze was fixed on the sweet woman. I saw him smile at her, our wisher of luck, as if he knew she would wish him the same.

My Top 5 Bits of Wisdom Gleaned from 10 Years of Marriage

24 Feb

As Adam and I are approaching 10 years of wedded bliss on February 26th, I felt inspired to make a list of five of the most important things I’ve learned or found to be vital to our marriage thus far. The exercise gave me some time to reflect over the past ten years (which zoomed by at mach speed!). It also made me realize how thankful I am to have a loving husband and best friend with whom I live this life.

Disclaimer: As much as I am writing this to post publicly, I am writing it for myself to refer back to as needed, since it is always easier said than done! Also, maybe I’ll revisit after 10 more years and write my own rebuttals and revisions.

If you don’t want to read each detailed point, here are the cliff notes: We’re not perfect, we’ve learned to work on communication, we don’t criticize each other in front of or to our friends, we’re pro-therapy, we stick together through the hard days, and it’s all worth it in the end!

1. Much like life, no one has marriage figured out.wedding day
I think it’s good to remind ourselves that each committed couple is on their own crazy journey, and just because they seem to have successfully weathered storms and might have oodles of wisdom to impart, they are still taking it a day at a time just like the rest of us. It’s dangerous to put anyone too high on a pedestal. If you have found a wonderful couple to mentor you, bonus! That’s awesome, and will likely be a huge help and encouragement for your own relationship. I think community is hugely important to a relationship, too. But don’t forget we are all still human, and don’t be shocked to learn the “perfect couple” isn’t.

2. Communication is EVERYTHING.
If you are going to spend the rest of your lives together, you will need to TALK to each other. The danger in being with someone for many years is that you start to expect your other half to be able to read your mind. And in many ways, they actually can (which is both gratifying and terrifying). But try to pay attention to yourself when you’re getting frustrated that your favorite person on earth is not doing what you wanted them to do. Did you REALLY ask them?
Like, out loud, using words?
Or, did you put your dirty clothes next to the laundry room and there’s no way sweet-cheeks would misunderstand that you’re asking for a load of laundry to be washed, then dried, then folded? You’d be surprised. Words really can work.Cheers

3. It is helpful to build each other up.
When you say positive things about your partner, you tend to feel positive feelings toward them. One of the bible passages my mom helped me memorize as a child was this one: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” -Ephesians 4:29
First of all, UGH… I have failed this passage more times than I could ever account for, but I have always been mindful about how I choose to speak to others about my husband. I mean, it helps that he is PERFECT and has never done a single thing wrong in his life (winky face emoticon)… But seriously, be careful of how you vent and who you vent to, about the wrongs your partner has done, or what annoys you, etc. Chances are, if you are talking to someone else about your beloved, using words that do anything other than build them up, you probably need to have a heart to heart with your shmoopie and refer back to #2.

4. Everyone could benefit from a little therapy (or a lot).
Look, you might have the PERFECT relationship. Or an admittedly imperfect relationship that you are happy with and maybe even proud of. You could still benefit from therapy.
Eight or so years into our marriage, the hubs and I began seriously considering seeing a therapist to get some help with aspects of our relationship over which we felt we had lost control. We never felt we had hit “rock bottom,” but we knew we might gain a different and useful perspective- if not some bonus communication tools we could use in the future. Okay, we needed HELP! It was the best investment we’ve ever made, and we left the very first session hand in hand, feeling triumphant about taking action and fighting together for us. It was powerful! Feeling closer to one another is only one of the many rewards. Speaking of rewards, we even stopped at a gas station once and treated ourselves to (doctor-prescribed) candy bars for following through with our appointments. Chocolate= BONUS!dancing wedding

5. Hard times are imminent, but the good news is, so are the good times.
Hard times SUCK. It’s no fun on the days we are both feeling down and deflated. But one thing to remember is, the sun will come out again! I’ve learned it helps to distract ourselves during those times. We go on daily walks for health reasons, but we talk a lot during that time. So on the tough days, after one or both of us have shared our “bummer” situations, we do more activities that we enjoy together, such as cooking a meal, or we watch a show or movie (comedy is strongly recommended over drama), or play a card game. Suspend your own reality for a little while, as the storm will surely pass. I don’t know about you, but I can always see the clearest and the furthest after a little rain.

FIDELITER EXPECTAMUS

9 Feb

But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

-Romans 8:25

YIELD

8 Jan

PJ Yield

My always supportive, encouraging mom sent me the link to an article recently that was about choosing to be soft in hard times. 2014 will forever be the marker of a very trying time in my life. The author used the word “yield” several times in her article. The word was not at all meant to grab the reader’s attention (or was it?), but it really stood out to me (aside from being a Pearl Jam album title in 1998) and I thought I’d google it and read the full definition, knowing it can be used in more way than one.

The word “Yield” has three definitions:
As a verb
1) Give way to arguments, demands, or pressure
2) Produce or Provide (a natural, agricultural, or industrial product)
As a noun
1) the full amount of an agricultural or industrial product.

When reading those definitions, some phrases really grabbed me.
GIVE WAY…
PRODUCE…
THE FULL AMOUNT…

One big theme in our lives now, more than ever before, is that WE ARE NOT ULTIMATELY IN CONTROL. Yes, we have made choices that led us to the life we are living now, and we daily find joy and love and so much to be grateful for regardless of any circumstance. We are good at that. But I’m not saying it’s all roses. Somedays it’s actually harder and harder not to feel bitter about not having what we desire the most right now. I won’t lie and say I didn’t look around at my friends in church on Sunday and feel sorry for myself, as they all sat with their snuggly babies, toddlers and pre-teens, happy-tired after a fun-filled Christmas and New Years…

I’m certainly struggling with that sadness and anger and confusion about where God is right now in my life, but I am trying to also take note of the importance in Yielding. Giving way to the pressure to become parents, to make “x” amount of money, to live in the up and coming neighborhood, to have a 2 bedroom apartment…yet alone a house!

Maybe it’s a formula. Maybe if we yield to the pressures that we tend to put on ourselves, we will naturally produce more patience in taking it a day at a time, putting one foot in front of the other rather than trying to jump over puddles that turn into rivers to swallow us and carry us back downstream. And that patience will allow us to realize the full amount of goodness in store- or maybe even the full amount of joy that we could experience if we would only allow ourselves to feel it in this present moment.

Maybe…

My Cheesy Analogy Summing Up 2014

15 Dec

Smell ya later, 2014! It hadn’t hit me until the last couple of days how very excited I am for a new year. I mean, if I could make tomorrow be January 1st I would (well, I wouldn’t want to miss Christmas though). I am READY. I was reading a blog this morning about how the author’s life hasn’t gone the way she expected it would. I’m sure that is a true statement for all of us. For me, 2014 held a lot of hard stuff. Lucky for me, my favorite part of surviving hard things is the looking back to see what good came from it. Read on if you don’t suffer from motion sickness.

2 little girls canoe

Reflecting back on canoeing as a child at church camp, there were always two of us to a canoe. In order to propel the canoe straight ahead, we each had to paddle on either side. If one of us paddled harder than the other, the canoe would favor the left or the right. When that happened, we’d have to communicate about how to correct it so that we’d be back on track again. This would happen quite a lot in the beginning, until we each figured out how much pressure to use when paddling in order to keep the canoe straight. Similarly, when the canoe started veering left or right, it became easier to correct it with a quick stroke or two. Soon, we were able to enjoy more of the scenery around us and not focus so much on our paddling. When the wind wasn’t blowing, and lake currents weren’t catching us, we could glide straight ahead, effortless and peacefully. My grip on the wooden paddle always rubbed blisters on my hands which would typically go unnoticed until we docked back at the shore. My blisters, though they stung, were proof that we accomplished something together that was not easy. I grew in confidence and knowledge. The next time we set out on the water, I would feel a tiny bit more prepared for what was ahead.

canoe rapids

As I previously mentioned, the past year of my life has been a particularly challenging one. I felt like our canoe was veering left and right, regardless of how hard we were paddling to try to keep it steady on the course. Adam and I worked really hard at communication with one another as we tried to navigate the “rapids” of my sudden, frightening neurological symptoms, and eventual MS diagnosis- in addition to other struggles of day to day life. I am so proud of us for what we accomplished together, if nothing more than further proving that neither of us will ever give up and “jump ship” no matter what we face together. It’s nothing that ever needed proving; we knew a long time ago that we would be lifers. And as 2015 approaches, along with our 10 year wedding anniversary, there’s no one I’d rather be paddling with.

Here’s to hoping that in 2015 we will get to paddle less and “enjoy more of the scenery.”

canoe scenery

OUR RAINSTORM HAD A NAME!

12 Dec

I was raised in a climate where thunderstorms were the norm; at least each spring. Having lived in Los Angeles for almost 10 years now, it’s comical to look back on my thoughts and reactions to our “Pineapple Express” storm last night (note that our rainstorm was officially NAMED). At 2:30-ish am, I woke up to howling winds, torrential rains, lightning, and hail. I laid in bed, frozen with a tiny bit of fear, as I listened to hail hit the windows maybe a few times in a minute. I miiight have been imagining that a big scary burglar was trying to break in by throwing small pebbles at our window with great force. Now I will say that a small percentage of my fear of the storm itself (winds and rain) was legitimate, as our apartment structure was built in the 1920’s and has several cracks in the walls and must be quite termite ridden by now. But, for the most part, it was ridiculous of me to wake up again at 7am and immediately look at my emails, expecting to see one from the office saying “work is canceled for the day because it’s raining heavily.” Alas, I rose from my bed and got ready for work. The commute was a big mess, as if we were all driving in 12 inches of snow. Several stoplights were out, there were reports of accidents all over the city, and traffic was extra backed up.

But now, only 2 hours later, I am happy to report that the sun is out and everyone is functioning again. I’m going to look pretty silly going home in my galoshes. I LOVE L.A.!!!!

Sometimes Christmas is hard.

8 Dec

This poem is a little shout out to people in our same boat of infertility especially, and others who will only feel the pain of loss this Christmas. Particularly, my dear friend Margaret Huff, who tragically lost her son Lee last January.

I’m normally “miss bright side,” but I think Christmas this year is going to be a little bit sad. I know the sadness is going to be magnified by other loved ones’ happiness. Which is weird and hard, because I love them and rejoice with them at the same time that I feel extreme sadness inside of me.

I also want to point out that I don’t walk around feeling constant depression or sadness. I suppose it’s present deep down at all times, but it only bubbles up to the surface here and there. I just know I’m not alone ever, and especially during Christmas, and wanted to express it in this way.

The lights and their glow upon grass, dirt, or snow
As the record plays “O Holy Night,”
The warmth of the hearth and gifts under the tree
all should bring me endless delight.

Yet my heart is heavy this season of joy
Though the secret shall remain with me
As we celebrate birth of a sweet baby boy
There’s a miracle I’ve yet to see.

I rejoice every Christmas my Savior was born
For because of his life I have HOPE.
But for years I’ve begged God, and Santa, and science
To bring me a bundle…and, nope.

Oh how I love this Holiday though…
Lights, angels, reindeer in the yards…
‘Tis the season to celebrate blessings and love,
but for some people, Christmas is hard.

It Was Royalty. (Part I)

30 Sep

In 1991, my grandmother, whom we only called “Frances” (because calling her “grandma” would make her feel old) and her husband, Rex, bought a home on the top of a hill just steps away from the beach club in La Jolla, California. I was 13 years old. Our annual summer trips to La Jolla began, and my two sisters and I were allowed to each bring a friend when we flew out from Texas. It was then that I truly realized how rich Frances was. We memorized Rex’s magical member number at the beach club. We had burgers and mint chocolate chip shakes on the beach whenever we wanted. Frances paid for me to have my hair done by her hairdresser. She paid for me to get mani/pedis. She paid for us to go to movies, she rented us cars, we could order pay-per view movies and pizza whenever we wanted. She provided fresh donuts and honey-buns for breakfast every morning. The refrigerator was always stocked with sodas. There was a hot tub on her patio, which included a little cave/grotto with speakers inside of it where we could listen to music while we warmed up after swimming in the frigid ocean water all day. There was a waterfall that you could switch on that would cover the entrance to the “cave” in the hot tub. Like our own little Hawaiian effect. She had dinner parties on her patio, with servers who passed hors d’oeuvres. The newspaper printed the names of the impressive people who attended. We could simply tell anyone in the neighborhood that we were Frances’ grandchildren and they would know exactly who Frances was. Frances was our secret password into the world of riches and spoils. We quickly learned that the house my grandparents bought had previously belonged to the father of Danica McKellar, also known as Winnie Cooper on the TV series, “The Wonder Years.” I remember hearing a car screeching around the corner estate one night, and a kid yelling out “Winnie!!!!” I’m sure we giggled with delight. The house commanded drivers, joggers, and bikers to slow down as they climbed up the steep hill, and marvel at the two curved glass windows on the second and third floors. We’d often sit in the window and wave hello to ogling passersby. It was the closest I’d ever be to royalty. Heck, it was royalty.