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Friday, April 27, 2012

Still Good

It's a busy Friday here as we're getting ready to head out of town to celebrate my sister's birthday. I wanted to write a super quick post about the ultrasound yesterday so everything will be up to date.

We're so happy that it was good news again at yesterday's appointment. You know, with this being my eighth pregnancy and even after the last one was a success, I'm still a nervous wreck each and every time. I don't think anything can make a person forget the sad memories of hearing bad news in rooms exactly like that one. My heart is always in my throat as we wait to see that fuzzy image come into focus and especially as we wait to see that little fluttering heart.

Our little bean is growing normally and everything was looking right on track for 8w4d. Heart rate was 179. We were able to take deep breaths and are now focusing on the next appointment in two weeks, on May 10. Having lost a baby before at close to this stage in the game, 9 weeks, I'm very anxious for these next two weeks to pass by without incident and hopefully still see that growing little miracle the next time we go see the doctor.

Today I'm resting in the fact that it's good news! Praise God!

As a side note: We haven't been working very hard to get Lily to realize that there's a new baby coming just yet. During our prayer time every night before we put her to bed, though, we pray that God will protect the baby brother or sister in Mommy's tummy. At 19 months we weren't sure how much she might understand. Today I thought I'd see how much she might remember. I asked her, "Where's Mommy's baby?" To my sweet surprise, she patted my tummy. It brought tears to my eyes and filled my heart with so much joy! My precious girl knows more than I realized.

Monday, April 23, 2012

All In A Weekend

It's the Monday after one of those weekends that seems to encompass just about everything: highs and lows, storms and sunshine, and joy and sorrow.

Friday afternoon I wasn't expecting a storm, but the skies darkened and suddenly we were under a severe thunderstorm with lots of lightning and rain. I'm sure I noticed it a bit more because it hit just as we were leaving the house to go have Lily's picture taken at a photo studio. The storm blew through fairly quickly, though, and left us with much cooler temperatures (a blessing where I live, even in April!) and a near perfect forecast for the rest of the weekend.

We came up with the idea of spending our gorgeous Saturday at the downtown zoo. It would be Lily's first trip ever, and it was a perfect way to celebrate that our girl was turning 19 months old that same day. We called her aunt (my sister-in-law), who lives in town, and she was excited to meet us there for a fun morning. We arrived around 9:30 and just in time to watch the elephants eating breakfast and getting their morning baths. We saw lions, giraffes, bears, monkeys, and all sorts of animals, and Lily had a fantastic time running and playing as we wound our way through the zoo until just after noon. We had snacks right next door to the giraffes as they had their lunch, and Lily tried (and loved!) cotton candy for the first time. It was a perfect day and one we'll remember as a family for years to come.

Lily was fast asleep before we even left the parking lot. She had played hard and was exhausted, so I was glad she'd have nearly an hour to nap in the car as we drove home. She was still out when we decided to stop and pick up food as we got closer to home. Chuck went inside to order while I waited in the car with Lily. I pulled out my phone to check messages and facebook and such, when I saw some devastating news. A precious couple we know from the town where we used to live were involved in a serious car accident just hours earlier. He was in critical condition; she did not survive. I sat there stunned in the car. My poor husband had no idea what was going on when he came back to the car and found me sobbing. We made some calls to friends and family to see if we could find out more, and bits and pieces of information came in about the wreck.

I'm so sad for this dear family. What a beautiful person she was, and I was blessed to call her my friend. Chuck and I had gone to see them when we were last in town, at Christmas. We had a great visit and were so happy to introduce Lily to them for the first time. I'm thankful for that last time I saw her smiling face this side of heaven. They are in their sixties and have two grown sons and several young grandchildren. My heart aches for them right now, as I pray continually for God to comfort them.

We spent the rest of our Saturday in a bit of a fog, wondering why things like this happen and praying for the healing of our friend's body and his heart. We carried on with the necessary tasks -- getting Lily fed and changed, and starting on plans for supper. A few hours later I was cooking while Chuck took Lily in the back yard to play. They came in, we ate, and started getting ready for bed. Before her bath, Chuck mentioned that a mosquito had bitten Lily on the side of her face, next to her eye. Mosquitoes are rampant here, and of course she's been bitten before despite our best efforts to keep them away. The last bite she had recently near her elbow, though, made her arm swell up quite a bit. I hoped she wouldn't have the same reaction this time... but by morning it was clear that she would. Her eye was extremely puffy, and by the end of the day it was swollen completely shut. We'd called her pediatrician's office and talked to the nurse, who told us the correct dosage of Benadryl to give her. After a few hours the swelling hadn't gone down so we took her to the weekend clinic near our house. The doctor there examined the eye itself and said it did not look red and she had no fever. We felt better about it and were given medicine to make sure it doesn't get infected. She's still getting Benadryl, too. I had hoped that it would look much better when I got her out of bed this morning but the eye was still swollen shut. I know she's fine, but it sure looks pitiful! Poor baby girl.

It was one of those weekends, full of the good, the bad, and the unimaginable. Losing a friend so suddenly certainly puts everything into perspective and shifts your focus to the things that really matter. I hugged my family a few extra times this weekend, thanking God for each minute that I have with them.

Brief pregnancy update: I'm 8w1d today, and as far as I know things are okay. Hoping for a good report at the next ultrasound on Thursday.
Thanks, friends, for the supportive comments on my last post. I'm glad you guys understand that, even after you have a baby, life is full of ups and downs. I'll keep writing about them here. And I'll always thank God and give Him the glory for the blessings in my life, and keep praising Him through the storms as well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Consultation and Jumbled Thoughts

My mind is racing today and I'm finding it difficult to rest right now even though Lily is napping. I thought it would be best to just write it all out here and hopefully feel some relief.

Yesterday was my first trip to MD Anderson as a patient. I've been to the big, famous cancer hospital twice before with two different friends who were receiving treatment for breast cancer, but this was my first time to go for me. I can say from experience that, every time you go there, it's a memorable and a sobering experience.

I want to start by saying this: I know that I'm going to be okay. I don't wish to sound remotely melodramatic about this melanoma diagnosis. I know that, while it is a very serious and potentially fatal disease, I'm fortunate that mine was found early and can be treated successfully with surgery. I have friends and family members who have fought different types of cancer -- some who have survived and some who have not. Knowing that my chances of even undergoing any type of chemotherapy or radiation in this case are between slim and none, I would never compare this experience of mine to any of those life-threatening ones.

It is a scary thing, however, to face cancer of any kind growing in or on your body. And scarier still, for me, is the fact that I'm already in the riskier stages of pregnancy. I was reassured yesterday by no fewer than three doctors that they will take the utmost care of me and my baby, and I believe that they will do just that. I know that, even without the skin cancer diagnosis, I would be feeling just as nervous about simply being 7.5 weeks pregnant right now.

I didn't get as many questions answered yesterday as I'd hoped, because for some reason my pathology slides had not arrived. This was disappointing because the doctor wasn't able to review them and decide on exactly what my treatment will be and when. I do know that I'll be having surgery, and my doctor was pretty sure that he wants to wait until I'm in my second trimester to do it. He said that, especially considering my history with first trimester miscarriage, he wants to go the safest route. That means it will probably be at least 6 more weeks. I hate to have to wait, but obviously I trust his opinion (he is the best melanoma surgeon in the country, after all!) and I'm willing to do whatever is best for the health of the baby. So, at the least, I'll have the skin around the area of the mole removed to make sure they get all of the cancer. At the most, I'll have that surgery plus a procedure to test the lymph nodes around the site. We don't know if that part will be necessary until he can review the slides, so I'm waiting to hear back from them on that and to get the date scheduled. And I met with more than one doctor who reassured me that there will be someone from maternal fetal medicine who will monitor the baby before and after the surgery and make sure everything is okay.

I know that I'm in good hands and will receive excellent care. But I'm being perfectly honest with you when I tell you that I'm stressed. Really stressed. It's unnerving, to say the least, to spend the day talking to doctors about cancer and surgery and pregnancy all at once. It felt like an out-of-body experience when I signed a consent form to participate in a research study about cancer and pregnancy. It was one of those I-can't-believe-I'm-doing-this kinds of feelings. All the while, though, I couldn't help but think of people (a few I know and so many that I don't) who have sat in rooms like those and heard much, much scarier things. Several years ago I had a dear friend who learned toward the end of her pregnancy with her third child that she was facing leukemia. I still think about her all the time, and how brave she was and what her struggle must have felt like as she fought for her life with three young children at home. That sweet friend is in heaven now but she is often in my thoughts.

I'm grateful that that isn't the road I'm on right now. And although it's so hard to imagine, I know that my God would see me through a trial such as that one just as He did my friend, who took the time to call and encourage me about recurrent miscarriage even as she fought leukemia. Actually, I feel very very weak when I think about people as strong as she was.

Even though it feels scary, I know that this is going to be okay. I'm not saying that I know for sure that everything will go exactly the way I want it to and be perfect. I don't know that. But I know that, whatever happens, the Lord will take care of me. Perhaps you don't believe the same way that I do, but I have complete faith and trust in my God. I've been through miscarriage before and I know that if it happens again He will see me through. I've been through surgery before, too, and I know I won't be alone when it happens again.

Although I feel uncertain and shaky right now, I'm keeping my eyes on Him because it's all I know to do. The words to this Bebo Norman song have been playing in my head and comforting me today. Thought I'd leave you with the chorus:

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
Of the mountains I can't climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
Of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Heartbeat

For two weeks I've been telling myself that, by tonight, we would be either very happy or very sad. At today's ultrasound we would hear either good news or bad.

Today, it's good!

We were able to see a very tiny baby with a healthy heartbeat of 123.

It was a huge relief for today! I have to take this one day at a time and enjoy each and every victory, so in that regard we are very happy and relieved. Because of my experiences having miscarried at 9 weeks and 10 weeks and 11 weeks, I know that I won't fully take a deep breath until we are well into the second trimester. That's not pessimism speaking, friends. It's my life and it's how I approach things now, but it doesn't mean that I don't have faith and hope that this baby will survive! I'm counting on that and praying with all my heart that we will keep getting more good news, two weeks at a time.

At my first appointment, I explained to my doctor that my cycles had been a bit long for the past few months. Already he suspected that I ovulated late, so with today's ultrasound and the one from two weeks ago, he adjusted the dates with that in mind and said that everything looked right on schedule. I do have to readjust the dates here, though, and I sure hate to have to back them up a little. Today I'm officially 6w4d, so that will be 7 weeks on Sunday. And my new due date is December 2.

I'll sleep well tonight knowing that this first big step is behind us. We're anticipating the next ultrasound on April 26. I have the consultation with the melanoma surgeon coming up on Tuesday, so I'm eager to get that done and find out when the surgery will take place.

Things are crawling along and I can't help but wish that I could fast forward through the rest of this month (and maybe the next one too?) to arrive at a place that is a little more stable and peaceful. But we're hanging in there... one day and one step at a time.

Today, there is life to celebrate. There is a tiny little heart beating away. And that makes my heart very happy.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The "M" Word

Thank you for all of the sweet and supportive comments, friends. I'm doing well. So far so good, although I can't say I don't spend some time thinking about the "m" word -- miscarriage.

Right now I'm 6 weeks, 2 days. I know it's true for any pregnancy, but these next 5-6 weeks will be critical. I can't help but anticipate the next ultrasound appointment next Thursday. When I was pregnant with Lily, my second ultrasound was at 6w5d, and we saw and heard that wonderful little heartbeat that began to put our minds at ease. I'll be three days further along with this baby at the time of the ultrasound, so I'm hoping and praying that it will be good news. I'm desperate to see that heart beating. Thankfully my appointment is early that morning, so I won't have to wait all day to find out if it's good news or bad.

With a history like mine, I can't help but think about miscarriage sometimes. I am, however, feeling hopeful and find myself making plans and daydreaming about a family of four. At this point, though, all I can do is hope and pray. And wait.

In the meantime, I got some other news this week about another unpleasant "m" word.

Let's back up to two weeks ago, March 23, two days before I got the positive pregnancy test. I had my annual checkup with my dermatologist that day. It had been a little over a year since I'd seen her last because of being busier in general with a toddler. Last time I was in her office, I was 7 or 8 months pregnant. (Imagine trying to fit all of that into a paper gown!) My husband and I have been getting these checkups every year for the past 10 years because we are both fair-skinned and have several moles that we like to keep an eye on. Hubby has a family history of skin cancer, from both his mother and grandmother, and our routine visits paid off about 5 years ago when our doctor found an early melanoma on his back and was able to remove it. Since then we've been even more careful to keep our checkups up to date.

At my appointment two weeks ago, the doc decided to biopsy a mole on my arm that had grown quite a bit since my last visit a year and a half ago. In the past 10 years I have had three previous biopsies: from my arm, my back, and the top of my head. All have come back negative for skin cancer, until now. I got a call this week to come in and "discuss" my pathology report, and I had a sinking feeling that all was not fine. So, I heard that other "m" word, melanoma, on Wednesday.

The two good things about this are that we caught it early, and that I happen to live near a city with an excellent cancer hospital. I have an appointment for a consultation on April 17 with the melanoma surgeon there, and then we'll schedule a date to have this nasty thing removed. I'm ready to get it over with, just for peace of mind. There's never a good time to learn that you have cancer growing on your skin, but it's particularly unnerving for me to think about it at all while there's a baby growing -- hopefully -- in my body.

I know it's all going to be okay; it has just been a lot for me to deal with all at once. The early weeks of pregnancy generally provide just about all the stress I can handle! It's been a tough week for me, but I'm holding out hope that the next few weeks will hold signs of a healthy, growing baby and a quick resolution of this melanoma on my arm.

Again, thanks for your words of encouragement and thanks for your continued prayers for us and for baby.