Thursday, November 26, 2015

Deo Gratias

Well I have been wanting to get back into blogging for some time now, and too many things happened today for me not to share. Also I just ate some chocolate (b/c 2 pieces of pie was just not enough of a treat earlier this evening) and should be awake for a while. This morning as I perused Facebook, many inspirational posts and sweet thoughts passed my eyes, but 2 stood out the most to me. One was the phrase "Deo Gratias" from a priest friend reminding those of his friends to give due thanks to God who has blessed us with all we are thankful for. The other was this picture:

I texted my husband who was already sitting in our den, from the bathroom (This is where I hide pray because I have a place to sit, a space heater, and it takes a while for people to find me) and asked if we could pray as a family before the craziness of the day started and read the scripture readings together. He said sure. As I was thinking about all the pies Princess and I made the day before (and possibly salivating), and the multiple pairs of clean socks I have in my drawer (refer to above picture), we eventually rounded up all the kids and began to pray together.

Truthfully, the only time in the day I feel a deep sense of satisfaction and peace, is when I am praying with my family. Sometimes it can also be a prime moment for contagious, uncontrollable laughter to break out. Because God is a God of joy and laughter, right? And I'm certain at least, that he laughs at us quite often. Anyway, I look at each child and wonder at them a little bit, in the unique qualities God has given them. And finally, It is an opportunity for me to admire my husband, as he snuggles up next to Angel Boy, gives him "hints" about the mystery of the rosary he's leading so he can feel like he did it himself and looks at me like I have 5 heads for taking a picture in the middle of the family rosary?! WHaaat?!!

Angel Boy is cracking up at his mama for being such a silly head. But today I couldn't resist. Because I want to remember those moments. Deo Gratias.

As we started our Thanksgiving chores, my husband discovers, uh oh, our turkey fryer is dead. Meanwhile a child who shall not be named, clogged a toilet upstairs and "forgot" to tell someone. Until we saw water leaking from the ceiling in the hall downstairs. I just kept thinking about the above picture. Even when my poor husband yelled "great! poopy water in my hair!" Ok, actually at that point I was laughing. Deliriously. Because really, to whom do so many things happen on such a day, than to us? But still, we have each other, and socks. Deo Gratias.

My husband was such a trooper, and really dealt with all of the curveballs thrown at him exceptionally well. He made one of the turkeys in the oven, and the gravy, and coffee. He carved both turkeys. He, as usual, made sure I didn't work too hard and delegated tasks where he saw the need. Princess made pies, homemade rolls, and a salad yesterday and helped with the sweet potatoes (wait, what did I do?!). The Queen vacuumed, put up laundry, and cleaned her room. The girls set the table.

The boys cleaned up toys, wrestled, screamed, and didn't clog any other toilets. Some of my precious extended family came. My mom helped with dishes until my dad started saying stuff like "I've had about all the fun I can stand." and "It's bedtime for Bonzo." and "Your ride is leaving". I am stuffed. and exhausted. At the end of some quick nighttime prayers, as a finale, a large truck full of toys at the top of the stairs plummets, on it's own, down the stairs to the ground (toys flying) giving at least a few of us, a quick heart attack.

About 11 p.m., the Queen comes to give me a late night hug and sleepily I rush through it, but afterwards, sneak back into the darkness of their room for a "real" hug. Because one day, that room will be empty. And my heart will ache for "one more late night hug". Some days, I find multiple reasons to complain, but today by the grace of God, I can say, I am so incredibly blessed. Deo Gratias.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Health Recovery Journey, Part 1

(Before you begin, take this for what it is. I am simply sharing a personal experience I had, the things I learned from all the people I worked with, and the ups and downs of recovering from chronic illness. I am not a medical professional nor do I claim to be. Now that that's out of the way, Here is a story of hope, miracles, growth, and new life born from suffering...)
Almost 6 years ago, I was desperately searching online for some answers to my health problems. After some time, I found a woman's blog. She described in detail almost EXACTLY all I was suffering at the time and what she did to get through it. Although my path to healing ended up being different than hers, it gave me a tremendous amount of comfort, just knowing there was someone else in the world going through exactly the same thing as I was. It is my hope that this will do the same thing for someone else.

I have had allergies, eczema, and asthma for as long as I can remember. The allergies were pretty typical though, animal hair and dander, grass, trees, mold, and mildew were the biggies. It was inconvenient, at most, a pain sometimes, but did not control my life. I became accustomed to it. My hay fever, eczema, and asthma really only acted up when I came in contact with the things I was allergic to, so as long as I avoided these things I was pretty much fine. Extreme heat in summer would worsen my eczema, and allergy seasons were difficult, but temporary.

Even though in the years of all my pregnancies (5), I had noticed an increase in my symptoms, about 5 years ago, something changed. After the birth of my 5th child, a time bomb went off in my body. It started with a yeast infection I could not get rid of with ordinary means. My doctor prescribed an anti-fungal medication. Then immediately following, I had a UTI (urinary tract infection) that became so serious I had very high fever and my doctor recommended going to the emergency room. I was given a very strong antibiotic and told to take this for 2 weeks. Little did I know I was changing the course of my health dramatically.

After recovering from the UTI, my excema became increasingly worse, to the point of not being able to function. A distinct memory my husband and I have, is going to the zoo with my brother and his wife and son. When I got in the car, my reaction was so extreme I was shaking uncontrollably and couldn't stop the intense itching for about 40 minutes. I was miserable all the time. My hands were in such an awful state I had to wear gloves during the day just for comfort.
(At Disney with my kids. "The glove stage". A friend of mine saw this before she knew what was going on and said "I just thought you were getting into the spirit of things!" This was such a miserable trip. except for the joy of watching my children enjoy themselves.)

Doctor number 1
 I went to a dermatologist. I have been to dermatologists all my life. Most of the time they have prescribed a steroid cream. Unassumingly, I always used them. A female dermatologist I went to actually looked me straight in the eye and said "You know steroid creams are bad for you. After you use it for a while you need to taper off." This is the first time a dermatologist had actually been honest with me about steroid creams. She then prescribed one for me, reluctantly, it seemed. I had noticed that when I used them, they worked for a while and then it would actually get worse. The next dermatologist gave me a new cream, assuring me it was not a steroid cream. I used it for a week, the itching got worse, not better, and I had to stop.

Doctor Number 2
Next I tried an allergist. We did all the possible food allergy tests and they came out negative. The doctor and I were both perplexed. He left the room and came back and sat down with me. He said "I honestly don't know. This is a shot in the dark, but maybe you have a nickel sensitivity. Nickel can be found in all grains, potatoes, legumes (this includes soy, coffee, and chocolate), fish, and nuts. Avoid these for 2 weeks and you will know." "What in the heck will I eat?" I thought to myself. But I was desperate for relief. I started researching, and began eating weird things like Quinoa and Tapioca flour. But all wheat, corn, rice, oats, and sugar were out. I began to discover vegetables for the first time. I mean, I had always eaten vegetables because I knew they were good for me, but if I had a choice between a cookie and some carrots, I would go for the cookie hands down. Now, vegetables were becoming a staple in my diet. Thanks to this honest doctor's "shot in the dark", the new nickel-free diet did bring me a little improvement, I think mostly because this was the first time I had started eliminating any food in my diet. I may or may not have had a nickel sensitivity, but I found out later it was much more. At any rate, I was eliminating a lot of higher carb foods, including sugar, and eating a lot more "whole foods". A good step in the right direction.
But something still wasn't right. I was still having severe allergic reactions, often to unexpected things. And I began to develop other symptoms. I was freezing all the time. Even in hot summer months.The only thing that gave me comfort was scalding hot baths, or sitting outside in 90-100 degree weather. I was losing my hair. I had gotten staph infections during stressful times as a child, but now it was at least once a month. I began to have chronic diarrhea. I could no longer tolerate any fabric but cotton. I had to start filtering all my water, including bath water. My life was a series of trying my best to avoid/control serious, dehabilitating reactions. Often these reactions would last an hour, sometimes all through out a day, and then I would barely have time to recover before another would occur. I was in tears often, and in so much pain I was limping around the house. I was also waking up throughout the night to react. I was completely exhausted all the time. Doing ordinary things like, getting dressed, hugging my children, and caring for them became very difficult for me to do. 2 doctors down.

Doctor Number 3 and 4
I decided to go to a gastrointerologist to get tested for a gluten-sensitivity, at the suggestion of my allergist. He said, however, that since I had already eliminated gluten with no improvement, there was no need to do an endoscopy. Then I went to a primary care doctor, a long time friend who had taken care of my mom and grandmothers. She ordered a whole series of tests on me, very thorough. After half a day of blood pricking and such, we were done and I went home to wait for results. She called me 3 days later, and with a very kind, compassionate voice said, "The good news is you are not anemic. The bad news is... I'm so sorry. I don't know what's wrong with you."

So, as we were desperate and had tried all the doctors we knew of and still had no real answers, my husband and I decided I would go to a friend who was a homeopath. This is someone who helps people to heal by natural means, herbs, supplements, and diet. She sat down with me and started asking some questions. "Can you remember a time when you were sick as a child and had to take an antibiotic?" and "About when did your eczema begin?" As I thought her questions over, I realized that my eczema started right about the time I began taking penicillin as a child when I was hospitalized for pneumonia. As we talked further I realized that, I was given Keflex, an antibiotic, for frequent staph infections. After doing her own analysis of my health state, she began to piece together some of the puzzle, though not all yet.

Here is my somewhat simplified version of her explanation. Over time, the antibiotics had stripped my body of the flora, or good bacteria. This good bacteria is necessary in our system for many reasons one of which is to create a balance with the yeast that reside there. Both yeast and healthy bacteria are good and necesary things for our body. The flora also create a protective layer in our "gut" or intestinal tract. "Leaky Gut Syndrome" is when that protective layer is compromised, and openings allow what your body would consider foreign objects in. Your immune system responds with inflammation of different types. You can read more in depth about "Leaky Gut Syndrome" here. In this whole process one negative effect that can occur is candida, which can act more like parasites than the friendly fellows they are supposed to be when you have plenty of healthy bacteria keeping them in check.
She also believed that frequent use of steroids (creams and some injections) had taxed my adrenals. Adrenal Fatigue is when your adrenals which normally produce hormones to help you deal with stress, don't do their job. Steroids try to mimic those hormones and in doing so suppress the adrenals. The person I was working with said the damage would take at least 1 & 1/2 to 2 years to repair. What she did not know is that my health problems were much more complicated than just leaky gut, candida, adrenal fatigue and a compromised immune system. But it was a starting place for my path to recovery. She gave me a foundation to jumpstart from. She built up my immune system and began the repair on my intestinal tract with supplements and natural herbs and put me on a restrictive diet to create an unpleasant environment for the candida I had developed. She also impressed upon me the importance of organic foods because of the homones and pesticides in regular foods. I remember the first time I was cooking with grass-fed beef versus regular. I was amazed, because for the first time while touching beef, my hands were not burning (I was not allergic to beef). The more foods we switched to organic, the more my health improved. After 6-7 months on her regimen, I began to see improvement. The diarrhea stopped, it was a daily occurrence every morning for several hours. My skin looked much better. I was still having reactions, but not daily and not as severe. Most importantly, I dared to hope for the first time. 

When she felt my body was strong enough to handle it, she put me on my first cleanse, a parasite cleanse, meant to focus on the yeast, but milder than the yeast cleanse. After going through 3 boxes of this, I began to see 4 different changes. 1. I could take a bath without filtering the water, without reacting 2. I could start to eat cashews. (I had to eliminate all nuts until this point) 3. The nightly routine of itching at 3:00 a.m. for up to an hour, stopped temporarily. And the itching died down dramtically overall. 4. I was able to wear some earrings and necklaces again. I was unable to wear any jewelry without breaking out in a rash until this point.
(Cute baby break! just kidding. Actually this was close to right after the parasite cleanse. I got a break here, a brief recovery that gave me the strength to keep going.)

Because of the obvious success of the parasite cleanse, she decided to put me on a more intense yeast cleanse. I began to experience detox symptoms with this cleanse. These "yeast die-off" symptoms included fever, nausea, itching, flu symptoms, headaches and fatigue, all of which I had. I spent a total of 40 days, cleansing. At first, the side effects didn't seem so bad. But towards the end, I started to see all my excema come back and more. I knew this would happen to some extent as my body was cleansing, and the skin is a "dumping grounds" so to speak, for toxins leaving the body, but I had no idea how much I had to "dump". Here's where the progress came to a halt. 6 weeks after stopping the yeast cleanse, The detox was intense. I looked and felt like I was severely sunburned from head to toe. I lived in the bath most of the time, or next to my space heater as the chills returned, and I had become confined to my bed. I honestly did not desire to live anymore. The lives of my children and husband kept me going.

As I look back on this stage I think several things. She taught me so much about the importance of healthy eating and educated me well on the benefits of natural remedies, God-given medicine in the bounty of creation around us. She taught me the damage that prescription medicine can do when taken without thought, personal education, or moderation. She, through no fault of her own was unaware of how incapable my body was of handling intense cleansing, nor did she realize there were other factors besides the ones we addressed. I still believe though that the cleanses layed a good foundation for eradication of yeast. However, they were like setting off major bombs to get rid of all the junk, and my body just wasn't strong enough to handle it.

While bedridden from the cleanses and unable to function, a dear friend of mine was helping me with my children. She, through the hand of Providence, had been given the name of a doctor in town that had helped many people including her friend, a cancer survivor, deal with candida. Since this was the only thing I knew was wrong with me at the time, we decided to, once again, venture into the medical world.
(This is the only birthday party I had to sit in the background for, July 2011. I think this was in between cleanses. My neck was swollen and red, as were many parts of my body. I couldn't bear to have my hair or really anything touch my skin, and lacked the strength to stand.)

Doctor number 5
My husband was more at peace with this because we as a family could not continue with the state I was in, any longer. This was important to me because he was carrying such a heavy burden of his own, working full time and being a full time mom replacement, and dad.

At my first appointment (August 2011) my husband went with me. I was unable to leave the house without a blanket, I had constant chills and I looked like a lobster from inflammation. But this doctor looked at me and said calmly, "I have seen worse than you." I wanted to give him a big kiss! I seriously thought I was done for, that I was a freak show, and that once again I would get that familiar doctor's puzzling look and an "I don't know." Although he used a combination of prescription drugs and natural remedies, he seemed to know more about my condition than any other doctor I had talked to. He had studied under Dr. William G. Crook who wrote "The Yeast Connection" and other related books. He explained, as it does in the book, that both overuse of steroids and antibiotics can lead to a yeast problem. He put me on a prescription anti-fungal right away, talked to me about the importance of rotating foods in my diet so as to not increase my allergic response to the foods I was eating. He also put me on some herbal teas, Vitamin E and a probiotic. I was on this regimen for at least 6 months, My diarrhea was under control again and itching was down to a minimum of 5-10 minutes a day, usually at night. This doctor did several things for me. He restored my faith in the medical community. He geuinely wanted to help me, understood my condition somewhat, showed me compassion, and gave me hope. He also taught me not to believe in every latest craze for health remedies. For example, while under his care, I had the experience of watching the documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead", the story of a man who recovered from his serious health problems, including excema by going on a juice fast and changing his diet and lifestyle. This was a new remedy for me, juicing to heal, and I wanted to try it. My doctor okayed it but warned me my "gut" would probably not be able to handle the sugar in the juices, even if just vegetables, and that I needed the fiber right now. He also was concerned that I might increase my allergic response by juicing foods I could eat as it made them highly concentrated. He was unfortunately, right about all of it. My diarrhea returned, and I developed more sensitivity to the foods I juiced. The following were the detox symptoms I had while juice cleansing :1. extreme bloatedness around the abdomen, like I was pregnant. 2. Lots of itching 3. cold sweats (at one point I changed my clothes 5 times in one day, this was not heat related.) 4. nausea 5. chills 6. irritability. So all in all, a roaring good time! In all seriousness though, if you are trying to get through a chronic health problem and have to dump some toxins in one way or another, you will probably have to put up with some kind of detox symptoms. And this is not to say juicing or juice fasting in moderation may not be a good thing for someone else. It obviously helped that man, and a good friend of mine with another chronic illness was helped greatly by it. It just wasn't the right thing for me at the time. Overall, this doctor did help to dig me out of the ditch and put me back on my feet, he just wasn't the final step.

I had also begun going to Accupuncture during my time with this doctor (who approved of and encouraged it) at the advice of friends and co-workers, and believe this significantly contributed to the healing in this stage of my health journey as well. At some point though, I was not getting worse, but also not improving anymore, and when we got the name of yet another doctor about 45 minutes from our home, one with promising stories from people we knew, it was time to move on.

Thorughout this whole journey, I was journaling about what I was going through. I thought the following was a good snapshot of the frustration juxtaposing the faith and hope you have to have when dealing with a chronic illness. This was during the above time but before I began juicing:

"I have learned that you are in fact what you eat, and only you can decide to take control of your health. No one will make you. If you're lucky like me though, God will place many people in your life who will not let you stay sick if they can help you. I have also learned that nothing is hopeless, no matter how hopeless it seems. My doctor has been taking me off of Diflucan to see how I fare, and I have not responded well. I asked him one time what is the longest time he has had someone on it, and he said 4 years. I have been on it for 6 months or so, so I guess it is just a drop in the bucket. I have been struggling a bit with depression as I was under the illusion that I am almost well, until taken off the Diflucan. I also began trying foods I formerly could not eat, such as nuts, beans, and some fruits that were not organic, and not responding well to that either. My doctor has asked that I try an elimination diet, where I eliminate one food at a time for 3 days and see if it gets better or stays the same. Dealing with this condition requires a great deal of patience. It feels like I can see the end, but it is still far away, further than I realized. I am making the practice daily now, of reminding myself where I was (with the encouragement of my husband) and being grateful for what I have and where I am. So here is my grateful list:

1. I am grateful to be sleeping through the night. No more 3 a.m. itching sessions.
2. I am grateful to have a supportive family, that keeps believing and trusting and encouraging.
3. I am grateful to still have many things to choose from to eat. My doctor told me one of his patients only had 3 things she could eat. 3.
4. I am grateful to be able to get out more. My illness no longer controls my entire life.
5. I am grateful that my reactions are not so bad that I have to soak for hours in the tub every day.
6. I am grateful to not be freezing all the time.
7. I am grateful to be able to cook for my family again.
8. I am grateful to be able to exercise again.
9. I am grateful to be able to wear jewelry again without reactions.
10. I am grateful to be able to wear some of my shoes again, without reaction.
11. I am grateful to be able to be a mom again.
12. I am grateful for daylight.

I have been thinking about this scripture:
Job 13:15
"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him."

 Some of the above improvements, were setback by my juicing experience, but I was allowed these little glimpses of hope on and off.

Ok so take a break, stretch a little, get some coffee. Stay tuned for Part 2! It's sooo much better!! Don't miss it! :) When you're ready, click here.

My Health Recovery Journey, Part 2

(Read Part 1 first. if you haven't already)
As I mentioned before, we got the name of a new doctor (Doctor number 6). The stories we had heard from friends were that he was unconventional but had helped some very hard cases. He basically used 1 day a month to treat patients who preferred as much homeopathy as possible. I went to see him and told him my entire history that you have just read. He gave me a new, more in depth name for what I was dealing with. Yeast overgrowth was certainly a significant part of it, but he said it had gone beyond that, to an Environmental Illness. That the combination of genes, and all the other effects I had already learned about (overuse of antibiotics and steroids, stressful events in my life, leaky gut syndrome) had created a cascading effect that set my immune response into a downward spiral. Basically I was allergic to everything in the world at this point. Seriously. I would react to everything I came in contact with, and everything I put in my mouth (even gluten free grains) except for a small handful of things (about 5) that caused less of a reaction. I would go outside for less than 5 minutes and react for an hour. He said it would only get worse not better, if I didn't get help. He advised me to start rotating several different probiotics, and anti-fungals, because doing the same ones over and over would create an immunity in my system to them. He said he could help me to improve but he could not get me well. (Kudos to all the doctors who were honest with me! We need more like them!) He felt my case was too far gone. BUT. He knew of 2 doctors in the country that he was confident could help to restore me to complete health. One was his mentor, a Dr. Lieberman at the Center For Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Charleston, SC. Here we come back full circle, because I was about to change my life dramatically again, by visiting this doctor, that February.

Dr. Lieberman's treatments were mostly not covered by insurance, but thanks to the generosity of family I was able to see this amazing doctor. Here is the first post I wrote following my initial visit there: "I can hardly believe all that has happened! As it turns out, my visit to see Dr. Lieberman last February was monumental. We were there for 2 solid weeks. I have met with him over the phone long distance since then every few months, and he has adjusted, added, or eliminated treatments or medications. After our first long conversation, he looked at me and said, "Ok, if we can lighten your allergy load, deal with the yeast and treat your staph, would you be happy?" He has done so much more though. As we continued to meet, and he was able to study the results of my blood work and hormone test he began to realize my thyroid was hypo-active, I was severely hormonally imbalanced, my adrenals were taxed, and I was allergic to approximately 85 things. At his office, they have a testing lab like only 2 others in the country. You are injected with a particular dose of your suspected allergen, results are noted, you are re-injected with a different dose every 8 minutes, and this continues until you have reached a dose that your reaction has neutralized at. I sat there for over a week, with a timer, a pen, and clipboard. I would start out with a huge whelp on my arm with intense itching, and end up with no itching whatsover. It was amazing! The final dose levels are put in a vial that is customized for you. You then give yourself injections. First for 10 days straight then down to 2 times a week. I was also given customized drops in their lab for staph infections, a nickel sensitivity, something to reduce inflammation, and something to neutralize a reaction (like benadryl). About a month or so later he added 1 hormone cream, then 2, and after much trial and error of trying different natural thyroid meds, he started me on some synthetic ones. I began to finally piece the puzzle together, now that I had more information on my health state. I did some research on hypothyroidism, and saw that inability to regulate body temperature, fatigue, and hair loss were all symptoms. Fast forward a year from all of this. My energy level is almost back to normal. Space heater is only used in winter months. My itching does not happen every day and is very minimal. Middle-of-the-night hour long itching sessions are a distant memory. I have been able to add back to my very restrictive diet about 15 items, and I haven't had a staph infection in several months. I think I can confidently say I will be completely well, within another year. Thanks be to God!"

And now I am at 2 years after. How am I? Well, I will never be able to go back to how I used to eat before I got sick. I still have to rotate my foods, take my allergy shots, adrenal supplements and thyroid meds, and keep to mostly natural, whole foods. However, I am reacting only occassionally, and in comparison to before, very mildly. The seasons of spring and fall are still challenging, and I usually take an over the counter allergy med to get through it, but before I just couldn't be outside during it at all. Now, I can leave the house, do things with my children, help out in the community we are in, and live life again. My life has been completely changed. Before, I truly thought I was a hopeless case. I was woken up by this experience. I realize now that every food choice I make, has a consequence. I was only given one body, and I have to be a good steward of it. I learned not to take at face value what any one doctor or health coach or anyone, says. Each body and health journey is unique. Everyone has something to teach you, if you are humble and willing to listen.

The following, the final part of this story, is the spiritual journey I was going through while enduring all you have just read, so many hidden jewels in the midst of this trial.....

The Spirtual Journey

I was raised Catholic by my mom, and have had a prayer life and what most Christians would refer to as "a personal relationship with the Lord" since I was about 13. Never have I had doubts about God's loving care for me. And though I have had "dry spells", times when I did not feel consolation in prayer, I had never reached a point of feeling totally abandoned. I reached both points somewhere in the middle of this trial of suffering. I knew God had a plan, but my faith was seriously tested for the first time. As Catholics, we also believe there is a redemptive purpose to suffering as there was in Christ's suffering (Col. 1:23-24, 1st Cor. 3:9, and 2nd Cor. 4:8-12 are a few scriptures that might help in the understanding of this). This more than anything, got me through it. I was also blessed to have stumbled upon a spiritual treasure, a formation called Disciples of Jesus and Mary and the priest who wrote it, now deceased, God rest his soul. Some of the principles from this, based in scripture that helped me so much were: Nothing is an accident, everything is a providential gift of God, and since everything is a providential gift everything has a purpose in your life. Even the bad stuff. Suffering was a way of life for me, and I had to know God had a reason for allowing it.

My beloved husband, a precious gift from God, listened to my doubts, my rants and ravings, and very calmly replied that he knew God had a purpose, that he felt he was going to heal me, and most of the time, he just listened and held me. He was Christ to me, as a spouse truly should be, and often had faith for me when I could not. At one point when things were really bad and I was on my 2nd or third healing service/novena/etc. I had decided to do a novena to St. Thérèse, "the Little Flower". 

Maybe you have heard of her. She was a very young saint. She didn't do anything spectacular, just offered up every little thing she did for souls and for love of Jesus. But the Church decided her "little way" was so spectacular, she was not only declared a saint, but a Doctor of the Church, which is basically like saying she has a doctorate in holiness. On her death bed, she promised she would "spend her heaven doing good on earth, and send a shower of roses." So there is a novena you can say and at the end of nine days, receive a rose in some form as answer to your prayer. Sounds kooky, I know. But I have done the novena several times, and on all occassions I did in fact receive, a rose. In each circumstance, I was the only one aware I was looking for it. The best way I can explain a Catholic's reason for doing such a thing is this: First of all let's get this out of the way, we don't worship saints. Ok? We know they are people like us. But this life is tough and was not meant to be done alone. God made us to be in a family, on earth, but also in heaven. We need our family and friends to get us through, right? Well, the saints are like our big brothers and sisters who have won the race and are on the other side (Heb.12:1) AND they have connections. They are right there at the throne and are just waiting to help us out and intercede for us. Do you ask your mom to pray for you? your best friend? sister? I asked my heavenly sister to pray for me. 
So, at the end of this novena, my husband comes home from work and puts my ipod in the dock. He had been working on a special playlist for me and wanted to share. Now, I am a musician. Music is my passion. If a song touches me, I cry. Ask my children. The first song that played was "a Rose" by Susan Ashton. The tears were flowing. That night I can't explain it, but there was a release. A cloud of despair lifted. And even though things were still bad, somehow I knew it was going to get better. I sat there on the couch with my husband and just cried my eyes out, but they were good tears, tears of relief. One song that has stayed with me the most from that night is this:

There is something else I learned from this experience. Sometimes we have a problem with other people's problems. When someone asks "How are you doing?" we don't always really want to know. From the Christian point of view, somehow, we have gotten this idea that, we are not supposed to have a hard time if we are followers of Christ. We think that we should always be happy no matter what. And you know what? That just isn't realistic. Jesus wept when his friend died, and he knew he was about to make him rise again. And I am pretty sure he wasn't hanging on the cross with a big smile on his face. It has taught me to really think when I ask someone "How are you doing?" to want to know and to care, and to listen. This song spoke to me in the very depths of my aching heart, when I was suffering so much, and at times felt abandoned by God:

When you are going through something really hard, it is ok to question God, it is ok if all you can do is cry sometimes. I hope with all my heart that when someone unloads their problems on me, I will be willing to hear them, cry with them, and be compassionate, as my husband, family, and very close friends have done.

There were little jewels that God dropped down into the midst of the most intense suffering. I was given the gift of a spiritual director who I still have the privilege of meeting with. She helped me through the deepest struggles of my faith during this time. There were 3 priests who prayed for my healing, both in person and from afar. One priest, who is now in heaven but still very much in my heart, became a spiritual father to me and taught me so much about being a true disciple. Another priest, an exorcist and missionary, came to my house when I was bedridden, prayed with us, gave us many spiritual insights into our personal family life (that no one else could have done without the help of God), and gave me the Sacrament of Annointing of the Sick. This experience had such a profound impact on my husband and me, I can't even express it in words. 

As a couple and as a family, prayer became no longer a nice thing to do, but a must do. My children learned to help a lot more because I simply was unable to do a lot. They learned to think outside of themselves, and to step up to serve their younger siblings and me when I was in need. They learned a lot by watching me just be human. My daughter once sat with me on the floor and hugged me, while I cried through a difficult reaction. My husband too, took on a lot more burdens, and had already been doing a lot as a husband and father to 5. Sometimes it takes a good deal of hardship for our souls to grow, stretch and wake up a little. Sometimes we are only ready to receive God's gifts when we are broken.

I am happy to say that although I have been faithless many times and questioned God repeatedly, He has been faithful still! Over all, the greatest fruit I have seen in myself, and that I know beyond any doubt having gone through this: God is faithful. This last song was a theme song to me until the end, and sent to me by a dear friend:
Blessed be God my Father, who is faithful always, even when we are not!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Why Movies like "50 Shades of Grey" Break My Heart

There are many things I am passionate about, some I share online, some I choose not too. Sometimes I simply feel I don't have the time I need to sufficiently write about whatever it is I care about so much, because I have decided that the most important thing in my life right now is everything that has to do with raising my children. And parenthood can be one, big, sticky mess sometimes. It is hard work. It takes everything I have, and sometimes what I don't have. But the longer I am a parent the more I see what priceless treasures my children are, loaned only for a short time. The longer I am a parent the more I feel the weight of "giving all I have" for this job. Because the world out there is getting pretty tough to live in. And it's their world. God chose this time for them to live in. This gives me hope, at times, because of the gifts I know they have to share with the world, and I feel excited to see them grow and learn and come into their own person. But it also causes me great distress, when I see our society support and produce movies such as this. I have been blessed with 2 girls, double blessings. What I want them to know above all else about their identity is: They are cherished. They deserve the best. Their dignity is in who they are, and Whose they are (God's) not what they do or what they look like. They are daughters of the King of Kings, princessses in His kingdom, always. This means, they should expect to be treated like a lady.

Movies are a part of our culture, and what we take in forms our thoughts and feelings, and in some way can influence our decisions. I cringe at the thought of how this movie and others like it will form the minds and hearts of young and old. I will from the forefront say I have not seen this movie nor will I ever see it. I should not be expected to. But an individual can look online and get the basic story line, and just a few lines should be enough to upset anyone who cares about the dignity of women.

This morning as I was driving back from taking my son to school, I was praying about this, and to the point of tears, my heart was so sad! What I want to say to all women and girls just as I would say to my own daughters when the time is right, is this: You deserve better. You do not deserve to be treated like an object. You do not deserve to be used or abused in any way, verbally, physically, or sexually. You deserve to be cherished by individuals, men, and our society. You deserve to be loved for who you are. You deserve to be respected. What I want to say to all men and to my sons when the time is right is: You were made to be better than this. A truely strong and brave man will love, cherish and respect women, and stand up against this culture when it doesn't, the way you want your sisters and your mom to be treated, the way you want your future daughters and wife to be treated.

Fathers have such a powerful influence on their daughters and sons. I know from my own childhood, the way I saw my dad treat my mother and the way he treated me, made me not want to settle for anything less than a gentleman and taught me a lot about how I should expect to be treated. I hope with all my heart if my daughters do marry, they will find someone who cherishes them, and who has chosen not to be formed by a culture that degrades women.
My baby girl, once a princess always a princess

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Love Wins

My children teach me so much. I am so grateful for their individual personalities and perspectives on the world. Today I picked up my oldest girl, the Queen, who was attending a babysitting training class all day. We spent the afternoon together running some errands and shopping. On the drive home somehow our conversation went from the safety precautions they taught her to consider in a babysitting job for herself and for the children, to why do people do bad things, to current evils of our society. She said it seemed to her that there was a lot less evil way back in time than there is now. I answered that sin has been around since Adam and Eve. She responded "but mom, Love has been around much longer than sin. Love has been around since God has, because He is Love. and that's what I have to say about all of that." In light of some of the seemingly hopeless situations in our world right now, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Having a Child with Type 1 Diabetes

On Good Friday morning in 2010, my oldest child who had been vomitting on and off for weeks, was yelling in pain and on the floor saying his chest hurt, that it was burning. I had previously taken him to our pediatrician at the time who examined him saying he thought he was just getting over a stomach bug but if it got serious we might consider taking him to the ER. I knew in my mother's gut, something was not right though. My husband was home that day, and after a frantic discussion and a call to the local Urgent Care facility getting a recommendation we go straight to Le Bonheur, my husband ran upstairs, scooped him up, and took him to the car to go there. He called me about an hour later and told me he had been diagnosed with Diabetes Type 1. I was in a state of disbelief for several minutes. He reassured me that it could have been so much worse and that the nurse there when seeing my son all the way across the room coming in knew immediately what it was. Our son was in the right place. 

When I arrived, they were trying to bring his blood sugar down and he was not allowed to drink water temporarily. I can't remember the exact number but his blood sugar was so high they were unable to read it (normal range is 80-120). He felt so thirsty and was constantly asking for water. He was also a little delirious and did not fully understand the situation. He kept asking for "kroger water" which we later understood he was referring to the huge filtered water jugs he would see at the front of the store. This boy was thirsty! (We later joked about the "kroger water" conversation, when we were able to laugh again) As a mother, it was one of the most diffficult times I have been through, telling him he could not have water when he was asking desperately for it. Then it occured to me, it's Good Friday. One of the many sufferings of Jesus on the cross was unquenchable thirst. I realized that the Lord had allowed us to have a small taste of his passion right there in the hospital room. 

We spent the next several days being educated about his disease. We came to realize he had been showing some warning signs before he had reached ketoacidosis which is where he was when we took him to Le Bonheur. The "burning in his chest" he was feeling was from acid building up from ketoacidosis. We also learned that Diabetes Type 1 (his diagnosis) was different than Diabetes Type 2. 
"Type 1 diabetes 
Type 1 diabetes was formerly called "juvenile diabetes" or "insulin-dependent diabetes," because 70 percent of diagnoses occur before a person reaches the age of 30. However, it can be diagnosed at any age. Only 5 percent to 10 percent of those diagnosed with diabetes have this type. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little to no insulin.  
If you have type 1 diabetes, you'll always need to take insulin, either through injections or through an insulin pump. Insulin, nutrition and activity (exercise) need to be kept in balance. 
It's also key that you test your blood sugar level, generally four times a day or more, to avoid extremely high or low blood sugar. 
Type 2 diabetes
This type of diabetes was previously called "adult onset diabetes." But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, type 2 diabetes has been reported among U.S. children and adolescents with increasing frequency over the past 20 years. Ninety percent of those with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. And approximately 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. With type 2 diabetes, your body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn't produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood sugar level. 
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes, which are generally the same as symptoms of type 1, may come on gradually or not be noticed at all. 
A healthy diet and exercise may not be enough to lower your blood sugar level to a satisfactory range. Oral or injectable medication may be needed to control your blood sugar level." (
The third type is Gestation Diabetes which occurs during pregnancy. I have not had this in any of my pregnancies thankfully.
 Some of the warning signs he was showing were constant thirst, nausea and vomitting (in the last few weeks), frequent urination at all times of the day, and he had in the past 6 months or so been growing alot thinner. This is a picture of him age 10, right before he was diagnosed:
Looks pretty normal right? Except he was never a skinny nor overweight child. Just healthy. I can remember looking at him when he took his shirt off before bed and thinking "He looks emaciated!" His bones were protruding. But I dismissed it as a growing season, and to him being an active boy. This is a picture of him a few years earlier:
His face looks a little less like a skeleton in comparison to the above. This was actually December 2007. 

What was happening as a result of his hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is the following:
  • Frequent urination: The kidneys respond to high levels of glucose in the bloodstream by flushing out the extra glucose in urine. A child with diabetes who has hyperglycemia may need to pee more often and in larger volumes.
  • Extreme thirst: Kids with hyperglycemia who lose a lot of fluid from urinating often will become very thirsty and may drink a lot in an attempt to prevent dehydration.
  • Weight loss despite increased appetite: Without enough insulin to help the body use glucose, the body breaks down muscle and stored fat in an attempt to provide fuel to hungry cells.
  • Fatigue: Because the body can't use glucose for energy properly, kids with hyperglycemia may be unusually tired
( on hyperglycemia)

After we became educated on what was causing his disease then we learned how to deal with it. We learned the art of counting carbs, and calculating proper amounts of insulin. I had already been making stuff from scratch because of food sensitivities, now I had to calculate carbs for everything I made, and figure out what a "serving" would be for him. We learned different doses for 2 types of insulin, one for long acting (overall coverage throughout the day) and quick acting for when he was unusally high or eating carbs. We learned how to give him shots. We learned what to do when his blood sugar was below normal, and what to do when he was above normal. We learned about emergency glucagon shots in case he was so low he passed out. After about 6 months we learned about using an insulin pump, and in a sense had to learn everything all over in a new way. We had to set aside normal daily life, schoolwork for this adjustment.

The emotional side of it was daunting. For the first few years at least I would say, it brought tremendous stress on our family life and our marriage. Suddenly my husband and I were summoned as our son's daily nurse/doctor overnight. Neither of us had any past experience of this kind. We lived with the fear of him not waking up in the morning every night. I was reminded of our anxiety as new parents with him, our firstborn, and sneaking in to his bedroom and leaning over just to hear him still breathing. We had to put his diabetic needs before many things, including his siblings sometimes. They had to learn to accept and adjust as well and dealt with the stress in their own way. We cried, freaked out, lost our " cool", and dealt with this newfound stress in many different ways. 

We had to watch our little boy, who already had challenges because of ADD and food sensitivities, become even less, normal. When his friends were running to play, he was testing his blood sugar and taking insulin, or waiting on a low blood sugar to come up (as you cannot be active until it does). He was woken up in the middle of the night for testing and insulin doses. His diet had to change even more, trying to maintain better blood sugar levels. We found over time and experience, that dairy products and higher carb foods with sugar were not good choices for him. Eventually we switched to a completely sugar free diet.  

But in trials are buried treasures, and lessons taught that otherwise go unlearned. I saw my husband be a true hero in my eyes several times and it made me love him all the more. When he was in intensive care in the beginnning, my husband stayed with him all night sitting in a chair checking on him, being there for him, though the staff assured him he would be fine. I remember the conversation so vividly. I said "you are going to be so exhausted!" He simply said "I'm not leaving my son." When my son gets sick especially with a fever, and when his blood sugar is high because of illness, he usually vomits. Vomitting can be a scary thing when you are diabetic because it becomes even more challenging to control blood sugars and often you can end up in the ER. On several occassions when my son got sick my husband slept with him in the same room 24 hrs a day until he recovered, vigilant with testing him, making sure he was getting fluids, testing keytones. We learned to forgive each other and allow each other to make mistakes. Like the time I accidently gave him the wrong type of insulin in the beginning with the other dose, causing him to drop dramatically and have to eat large amounts of carb heavy food and eventually a glucagon shot to bring it back to normal. We have had many late nights, and all nighters, trying to keep him alive, but I have often laid there at night looking at him sleeping peacefully after his blood sugar finally got to normal feeling such a supreme sense of peace and satisfaction myself, and confidence that we were all in God's hands.

A few years later our close friends' son was also diagnosed. My son was able to take theirs "under his wing" so to speak and reach out to him, diabetic brother to diabetic brother. We were able to help them get adjusted some and answer questions. It has brought home to my son and all of us even more that what you put in your mouth matters and affects your health for good or bad. 

Each new phase in his life adds a new element of challenge. He is currently a teenager and wants to be "normal" more than ever. He wants to eat without taking insulin, eat what others are eating, and go on with his daily life like everyone else. But until there is a cure, he won't be able to be like everyone else. We struggle with the desire to help him become independent as eventually he will not be living with us, and of course the desire to keep him healthy and alive. It is a daily challenge to make sure we are not asking too much, or too little, and constantly second guessing ourselves. 

I believe all things happen for a reason, and that trials are given to us to form us, to give us character, to help us grow in compassion for others and reach out to them when we would otherwise not care. My son may feel weak sometimes and different, but in the long run this trial will make him stronger, will soften his heart for the sufferings of others. I have already seen him capable of things most young boys don't even have to think about. He has been giving himself shots since age 11 or 12? and knows much about his disease. He dealt with the trauma really so much better than his parents. His attitude astounded me. Every challenge life has thrown him, he has remained an upbeat, relatively positive individual. I am also so grateful for the medical community that has helped us through this countless times, the doctors and nurses that have been on the phone with us in the middle of the night or all through the day. May God bless them richly! God has also blessed us through a dear friend we have known since college but who was diagnosed as an adult after we lost touch for a time. We have since reconnected and she has become yet another source of consolation for us and him, making him feel he is not alone, buying a pump skin for him to make him feel special (see below pictures for explanation of "pump skin"), answering my crazy texts about diabetes sometimes, because I still don't know everything there is to know about it, and never will. Here is a picture of him the Christmas after his diagnosis, healthy rosy cheeks, thanks be to God:

And a few years ago, while changing his site with his pump:

And a current picture of him, excited to put a new "skin" on his pump (a way of personalizing it) His skin of choice this time, from his favorite show "Ben Ten" :

If you or someone you know has been given this diagnosis, be patient with yourself or them, and believe that you will get through it in time, and be stronger for it in the end. Please share the above mentioned symptoms with anyone you suspect may have a child or themselves may have any or all of them, you could save their life.  God bless you!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The School Nightmare

Hi Friends it has been a while since my last post. Wow, almost a year. Well, it seems like a good time of year for this post so read on. We decided to put our oldest child in school this year. He is not a morning person, nor am I. He requires a great deal of pulling and dragging  nudging to get him moving in the morning. My husband and I take turns with this process. This morning was my turn. However before I woke up, I had the following dream: I oversleep, which means my son is still asleep. I get up in a panic. As we are getting ready I realize he needs a coat because apparently winter has come early. I go to pull out his coat and the inside is coated with sticky food. Ew! I also realize that he is supposed to have "cake" today. I quickly whip up a cake the size of my car. It is gluten, sugar, dairy, and yeast free of course. I look at it before we get in the car and somehow there are bike tracks running through the middle of it (since it is that big). Oh well. Somehow, one of my son's teachers is magically there in the morning to help us get going, but she asks that in return I get her class started when I arrive as she will be late. We open the car door and much to my horror the 2 younger children of a friend of mine are still in the car from the other day when I picked them up from school. The youngest is crying. I decide to take them to another good friend's house (because in real life her house is like a refuge) which in my dream is 2 doors down. Perfect! When I arrive there they are making homemade beer with their own brewery. Everyone is having a taste. This is where I leave my other friend's little girls. As I finally get underway to take my son to school I remember about the teacher's request and sigh, because I am certain that somewhere at school is an unattended classroom full of students. and it is my fault. And I thought I was done with school nightmares. Hope you enjoyed! I did when I realized it was a dream!  
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