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this blog is mostly a personal peek into my thoughts, anywhere from my husband and kids, to the photography industry, client work and random musings. glad you're here. :)

hysterectomy

Under: Ramblings
01.05.2017

If there’s one thing I’ve found out about needing a hysterectomy at the age of 33, it’s that as soon as I mentioned that I was scheduled for one, dozens of women privately messaged me saying that they had also had one at a young age. Dozens. I’m talking at least thirty women of all ages reaching out offering me advice, support and sympathy from all over the world. So first off, thank you. Every message calms my nerves a little more as my surgery date gets closer.

So lets get a few things out of the way, I’m going to say words like “cervix” “vaginal” and “pap smear” (I literally cringe at the word smear still). Not normal photography lingo, and not the usual cheery, upbeat post from me. Although, looking through my blog posts, they actually do tend to be a little bit more emotionally charged than what I post on my Facebook fan page! Also, forgive me for not knowing a single proper medical term for most of what I’m about to write about, I’m going to keep all of the medical stuff as short and sweet as possible!

Two years ago, while visiting my friend Kristin in Phoenix, my gynecologist called me with bad pap results. She wasn’t worried, but the results pointed to not just a regular “irregular” pap, but enough that instead of doing a re-pap in a few months, we went straight to a procedure called a colposcopy. Not to be confused with a colonoscopy lol, which is what most people thought I was having when I told them what was going on. A colposcopy is basically taking a few punch samples off of the cervix. Not ridiculously invasive, but uncomfortable, and can tell doctors more than a pap smear. Those results also came back bad. I started hearing words like “aggressive” and “precancerous” when referring to the types of cells popping up in my cervix.

After the colposcopy came back bad, we set up another test, this time something called a LEEP procedure. Where essentially my doctor used a laser to slice off a chunk of my cervix to see how much of it had these precancerous cells. We crammed this in the DAY before I left for Australia this past March, about a year had passed from my first bad pap results so she didn’t want to wait any longer to see what was going on. The results came in while I was already over in Oz, so Nick got the results first. He called me, and I could hear it in his voice, the doctor was officially worried at this point. There were no clear margins, meaning that the big sample that they took from my cervix was completely covered in these precancerous cells and that the edges of the sample had those cells…telling her that the precancerous cells were spreading. These cells were the worst kind of cells to have, the ones that 100% would turn into full blown cervical cancer eventually, and she wanted me back in her office for more tests within 4 months. With my schedule, it ended up being closer to 6 months and we did another pap, this time she tested the top of my cervix, as indicators showed that the precancerous cells were spreading upwards towards my uterus and pelvic wall. Those test results came back fast, yes, the cells were moving up.

Since March, before the LEEP, my doctor had been hinting that a hysterectomy was in my future. We have three beautiful kids and while I definitely wanted more, with the cells spreading, the chance of developing full blown cancer was too much of a risk. Now, with my gynecologist talking about the possibility of referring me to an oncologist depending on the next test results, the hysterectomy wasn’t a hypothetical option, but a very real option and obviously the better outcome when put next to cervical cancer that at this point looked like it could also be spreading to much more difficult areas to operate on. Our next step was something called a cone biopsy, and since we had resigned ourselves to an imminent hysterectomy, my doctor told me she was going to be very aggressive with her biopsy, removing much more of my cervix than a typical cone biopsy. This was outpatient surgery that I had the week before Thanksgiving, and was so lucky to have both my parents, Nick and Nick’s mom and stepdad in town over the next week to let me rest and recover.

The results were back and they were finally GOOD….ish. The best news was that the cells hadn’t turned into cancer, they were still considered “carcinoma in situ” which I’m pretty sure is greek for “you’re not screwed yet”. But it was confirmed that yes, the cells were in my uterus, and they were still the very aggressive/bad precancerous cells. My cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and possibly ovaries for sure had their days numbered.

So that leads us to now. It’s a lot to process for a 33 year old. Especially one who dreamed of having a baby in her 30’s. Throw in all the emotions of losing something that is part of what makes me a woman. Then the possibility of going through menopause in my 30’s. (My mom had ovarian cancer a few years ago, so this is a risk we’re talking about at my next appointment) ‘m just sad about it. Sad is such a lame word to use, but it’s accurate. Everyone on the other side, women who have had hysterectomies for the same reasons, tell me it’s the best thing ever. I’m just not there yet. Like, I’m being sterilized. Zero chance of ever having another baby, growing a life inside of me. Those years went by way too fast. Nick was done after Josie, our family of five was complete. We fostered, originally hoping to adopt, which thankfully didn’t happen and the boys are where they should be with their parents, but my arms have ached for another baby/child since I had Josie. So this feels very much like the nail in the coffin of my heart’s desire for another baby of my own.

I feel guilty because so many women have a hysterectomy without having children that they want desperately. I know how lucky I am to have my three, but again, I’m. just. sad.

Why in the HECK am I sharing all this? Nick thinks I’m over sharing and crazy, which probably both are true. But honestly? It’s because I’m just floored by how many women have messaged me, it’s like this big secret over half of the population has, which, the side effect of CANCER only affects women when it comes to HPV…99% of cervical cancer is caused by the virus, so like so many women-related things that don’t have to do with us being sexual objects, this topic is hush hush. And I hate that. So if my story, my hysterectomy can make one woman feel a little bit more normal, it’s worth throwing my privacy to the wind. And honestly? I just want to feel normal myself. I hate that I don’t personally know anyone who I can have over and just cry over this with. Nick has been so great taking care of me, but when it comes to the cluster-you-know-what that’s going on in my brain with all of this, I think he’s a little overwhelmed with what to do with the emotional train wreck this has turned his wife into.

So spam me with any and all good vibes, prayers, recovery tips. January 26th is the big date for my total hysterectomy. There are a few what-ifs still, so I’ve waited to open up 2017 family sessions and workshops until all results are back and I’m deemed 100% cancer free and recovery goes to plan. And frankly, dealing with all of this medical craziness has worn me pretty thin while working and juggling our family. One of the result calls came as my clients were arriving to my house for a session back in September. The one where my doctor actually personally called me to tell me that she was worried that the cells had turned into cancer. It took literally everything in me to answer back cheerily, “Okay! Great, well my clients just got here, I’ll call back and schedule something tomorrow!” and then turn on photographer Rachel and get awesome pictures for my clients. Looking back, I’m actually thankful for the distraction immediately after that call because otherwise I probably would have ate a pint of Ben & Jerry’s with a side of wine while reading about cervical cancer on WebMD.

So, if you read all that, I’m sorry that you know more about my cervix than you probably should *insert monkey covering his eyes emoji* but I’ve always been pretty dang transparent with all of you guys, who are more like 230k friends than “fans” in my mind. <3

fostering: two months in

02.15.2015

It’s been almost a month since my last blog, I’ve sat down a hundred times to write how we are doing now, but either the words wouldn’t come or there was someone who needed me. I finally have a little bit of time (knock on wood!) and just reading the last post feels like a million years ago.

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The first month, and even after that first post about the boys, there were some hard conversations between Nick and I. We argued and fought more in the last two months than ever before in our relationship. There is just so much that we simply weren’t prepared for–there was no WAY we could have prepared ourselves for the roller coaster we got on. From lack of sleep, nerves being shot from parenting five kids, schedules to keep up with…some pretty dark marriage moments happened. I won’t lie, there were conversations that actually involved giving up. Real conversations because we simply couldn’t do it. It’s one thing to fall in love with a child, and want to help them—and another thing to actually do that. Nick and I each have our “favorite” boy. I bonded fast to Dimples (FS5) where Nick felt like he understood Grizzly (FS2) better. So while it’s great that we each can manage one kid better, it’s the frustrations we each had with the one we didn’t connect with that drove a wedge between us.

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I can’t put my finger on what finally clicked…time, I guess. It’s such a cliché saying, but time really does heal all/most wounds. Slowly, Dimples came out of his shell for Nick. It wasn’t easy for him, he trusts slowly and loves fiercely, something I feel like we all can relate to in some way. But over and over I reminded Nick that none of his behaviors are his fault. He’s five. He didn’t ask for any of this. He is comfortable with us, says he loves us, but oh how he loves his mommy and daddy. Visitations are all day on Saturday and the best part of my day is watching him run into their arms. The worst part is bribing him into the car. The pain is etched on their parents’ faces and you can see it in their eyes. It’s awful. I can’t imagine only getting to see my children one day a week. So I think Nick finally got that part of it. If Josie, our five year old daughter, was taken from us…no matter how nice the house was or how lovable the people caring for her were, she would throw fits, she would be scared, she would do things that would frustrate someone who couldn’t empathize.

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Speaking of his parents, his mom and I have become pretty close over the last month. They are doing everything the court is asking them to do, and then more. To keep Grizzly bonded to his mama, we try to get together midweek every week for them to hang out. So not only have I been able to watch the boys grow and heal, but also their beautiful mom. Last week she texted me about possibly doing a Bible Study with me on these days together and I just can’t wrap my mind around how insanely amazing that is!

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I did a shoot with their mom and Grizzly on one of our outings, the right picture is Grizzly swinging between our hands 🙂

 

There is a tentative reunification schedule their mom told me about, and we’ll be going to court this week to support their parents in mediation. So I look at these two foster sons of mine and have a thousand conflicting feelings. I love them both and my heart catches and breaks into a million pieces when I stare at their sweet sleeping faces sometimes. Right now I have a sleepy Dimples curled up at my side…rosy cheeked and puffy eyed from the nap he took on this lazy Sunday afternoon. I can hear Grizzly upstairs annoying Brynn and the friends she has over, and I realize that months from now, these moments won’t be my reality anymore. And that is hard to think about.

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But for now, we are living in the now. Embracing the craziness that comes with five kids. The messes, the laundry, the screaming, the tantrums, the McDonalds (gag, I know), the lack of sleep, the bartering, the “GET YOUR FIVE BUTTS IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW WE ARE ALREADY FIFTEEN MINUTES LATE!”, the lessons being learned by all of us, the patience I never thought I had, the kisses, the hugs, the tears, the accidents and spills, the laughing, the bed jumping…all of it. Some day, it will be just Nick and I, and this time in our lives, we’ll look back and say, “Did that really happen? Did we really sign up for that?” and I’m hoping we’ll get to see these boys grow into men. That we’ll meet their girlfriends/wives and hold their babies. But mostly I just want them to be happy and safe, and I’m thankful that for however long, we get to be a part of their journey through life.

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