Monthly Archives: August 2015

My scars tell a story

scar

I opened my eyes. Scott was sitting in a chair beside me. Facing me. Where was I? I looked around. I was lying in a dimly lit room in a bed that wasn’t mine. Then I saw the doctor. He stepped around where I could see him. He started explaining…everything looked good. You have a little red irritation so I’m writing a prescription. You won’t need another EGD/Colonoscopy for ten years. However, I would like for you to follow up with a physician at the Liver Transplant Unit. WAIT! Hold up! WHAT???

He repeated. I don’t know what he said after that because my mind got crazy…foggy. Like someone had set off a smoke bomb and things were all smoky and mixed up in my head. Huh? You want me to see a liver specialist? Really? What’s up God? Seriously? I honestly laughed. My mother and father both had substance abuse issues. I had always been scared I would end up just like my mother, so after I had my kids I avoided things that might lead me down that direction. Sure, I did crazy things I wasn’t supposed to in high school and pre-kids. But since then I lived a pretty straight and narrow life. Now, I was the one being told to follow up with a liver specialist. Wow! What a mix-up!

I played along…just in case…but I laughed every time I told someone I was going to see a liver specialist. I know! That’s the crazy part of the sweet. I have a warped sense of humor. I laugh at the craziest things! For instance, one of my favorite movies is – August: Osage County. I laugh almost the whole way through the movie. It’s really a sad dysfunctional movie. Most people turn it off. It’s too crazy for them. But I get it. I understand the craziness. In a weird sort of way, it makes me feel more normal.

I did as the GI doctor instructed and followed up with the liver specialist. I met his nurse first. She was lovely…kind, caring, knowledgeable, compassionate and sweet. Then I met him. He was also kind, caring, knowledgeable, compassionate and humble. I loved them both and I knew I was in the right place. He looked over my information and asked me questions. So I filled him in as best as I could remember…

…about 3 years prior to having the EGD/Colonoscopy, I went to see my primary care physician and explained to him that I thought I might have a brain tumor AND an abdominal aneurysm. He and his nurse are also wonderful. I love them too. His nurse is my friend and she knows my sweet and my crazy. Those are good friends to have – ones who know the good and the bad and still love you. He could have treated me like I was crazy. But he didn’t. He just kindly smiled and asked me why and I gave him my symptoms. Honestly – nurses can be the worst patients. We know just enough to get us in trouble. Sometimes we convince ourselves we have some terrible debilitating disease or diagnosis. He listened and then he ordered some tests. At the follow up appointment, he reported good news – I didn’t have a brain tumor or an abdominal aneurysm. However, they did find a lesion on my liver. Lesion is a scary word. Lesion on my liver – sounded to me like “cancer on my liver.” But it wasn’t. Over the next several weeks, months and couple of years – my doctor ordered more tests to monitor for growth and to determine exactly what it was. The radiologists hadn’t ever thought it was anything to worry about.

The liver specialist listened patiently then took me to the computer and showed me my images and explained them to me the best he could. He told me normally a simple cyst is smooth on all edges but this one had “fingers” on one side. He didn’t think the cyst was anything to worry but he couldn’t be sure which was worrisome. I liked him. He explained things to me in a way I could understand and he took time with me. I appreciated him and knew he was really good. I continued to follow up with him. So every 6 months I would follow up with him and then I’d have more images done to check for differences. I saw him for a year and a half and there were no significant changes. However, those “fingers” were still a concern. We discussed numerous options and concerns. He wasn’t comfortable releasing me just yet. Then he asked me to do something that truly amazed me…he asked me if I’d go to the hospital where I had always had my images done and get the images on a disk. Not the reports that had been interpreted by the other hospital’s radiologists but the images. He was going to have his radiologists review them. As long as they agreed with the previous findings – he thought he would be comfortable releasing me. So that’s what I did. I got the images on disk and took them to him. I liked him! But more importantly I trusted him. I knew he was going above and beyond.

So up until the day the gastroenterologist told me to follow up with the Liver specialist all worry had subsided. The truth was – even when he referred me, I wasn’t ever worried. I had a sense of peace and I thought someone made a huge mistake but whatever – I’d follow up. I called my mother and told her. She had a warped since of humor too. I said can you believe I’M the one going to the transplant unit? Mother had been through interferon treatments because the alcohol had damaged her liver so much. She sounded worried. I made a couple of more jokes and we hung up. I was seeing a liver specialist. Not my mother the addict. But me the one who was too scared to drink much.

A couple of days after dropping off the images I received a phone call from his sweet nurse. She let me know the liver specialist’s radiologists disagreed with the other hospital’s radiologists. The liver specialist wanted to aspirate the cyst and run tests on the fluid. They wanted to specifically check for cancer tumor markers and levels. I still couldn’t fathom that I was seeing a liver specialist. I talked to his nurse for some time. She was always so knowledgeable and I trusted them both. I agreed to the aspiration. Scott took the day off and drove me up there and took great care of me. I knew it would be nothing and didn’t really worry. It was an outpatient procedure. They would call me in a couple of days and let me know everything was fine. At least that’s what I thought.

Then my life changed…in more than one way…

July 23rd 2013 – the worst day of my life. I was a little over 2 hours away from home orienting one of our new registered nurses when I received the devastating phone call from my son telling me my nephew had passed away. I was crushed. Devastated. We all were. My heart hurt, my mind swirled, my thoughts were with my family, his mom, step dad, fiancé, daughter, brother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins and all who loved him. My liver issues were nothing compared to this devastation. I somehow managed to compose myself and get through the orientation before loading up and traveling the two hours back to our office. I had ridden with my boss and another Director that day which was unusual.   They tried to get me to head back right after I got the news but I knew people were counting on me to get the orientation completed. I knew I would need time off for the funeral and to help as best I could…so I shoved my feelings and emotions in a box and put it aside until I could deal with them when I got home. I learned to do that at an early age. It was part of what I had learned from my mother’s addiction. File away hard feelings and deal with them later. I was dying on the inside…I prayed.

We were headed back to the corporate office (and home) when my phone rang again. I expected it to be from my family but as I looked at the number I realized it was from the office of my liver doctor. I answered the phone waiting to hear his nurse’s voice. I was surprised to hear the doctor himself. Up until that day, he had never called me. He said “Kandy, we got the results from the aspiration and your results were extremely high. Extremely high. The cyst needs to come out. We need to know for sure what it is.” What? This couldn’t be happening. My brain couldn’t wrap itself around the two major events I had just been slammed with in only a couple of hours. My sweet 27 year old nephew had passed away. That was devastating. And now I needed liver surgery? Me? I’d never had any surgery in my life and now I was facing a major surgery. I tried to make sense of it. My poor doctor knew nothing of the day’s events that had unfolded earlier. I know I sounded crazy…“okay – when does it need to be done?” I asked. “Can I wait several months?” My head was swirling. Nothing was making any sense. I kept talking…” I just started this exercise program and need to finish it.” My boss, who knew about my liver issues was sitting in the front driver’s seat and as I spoke, I saw his head flip around and he looked at me…several times. He is a kind, intelligent man whom I trust a great deal. I knew I must sound crazy. I explained to the doctor – I’m so sorry, I just found out a couple of hours ago that my nephew passed away. I think the doctor realized I couldn’t comprehend all that was being thrown at me. He asked if I could come in and see him in a couple of days after the funeral. My nephew’s passing was devastating for my family and me.

After the funeral, I went to my appt. He asked me where my husband was. I told him I didn’t bring him. I don’t’ think I still fully understood the enormity of the situation or maybe I was just trying to get through it so I minimized it. He went on to explain his thoughts and recommendations. After speaking with him at great length and consulting several other trusted and knowledgeable people, I decided to have the surgery to remove the cyst. There was a chance it could be or could turn into cancer and I didn’t want to take any chances. So, my very first and only surgery was a liver resection. The left lobe of my liver was removed. You know what’s amazing? Our liver regenerates. So after he removed the left lobe – it grew back. Isn’t that amazing? I also elected to have my gall bladder removed. My doctor prepared me well. He said I’d be in the hospital for about 5-7 days and be off work for 3 months. The surgery went well. I was released from the hospital after 3 nights.  I was back working half days after three weeks. Scott took three weeks off to take care of me and was continuously by my side. He was an amazing caregiver. Much better than me. My sweet friends and family cooked me meals, visited the hospital, checked on me and took excellent care of me. The cyst ended up not being cancerous but he told me there was a very good chance in 7-10 years it would have been. My surgery was a blessing. In 7-10, surgery might have been too late. I was thankful.

After I got home from the hospital, I googled liver resection recovery. Had I done that prior to surgery -I’m not sure I would have so easily agreed. The internet was full of people’s devastating recovery stories. The thing that amazed me most was that I hadn’t googled or researched the recovery of a liver resection at all. I google everything. I mean everything. I didn’t google one thing about liver resection until after I had already had the surgery. That wasn’t an accident but it wasn’t something I did on purpose either. Divine intervention.  After reading everything I read – I would have been scared and I’m sure those things would have affected my own outcome.

I’m still not sure why the gastroenterologist sent me to the liver specialist in the first place. What did he see that others hadn’t?  I went to see him not to long ago thinking he might tell me some divine reason he referred me. He didn’t really remember and since we were there for Scott’s appointment he didn’t have my chart in front of him. I didn’t need him to tell me anyway. I knew it was a divine intervention. All of it – from the very start.

I’m still blown away that I had a liver resection. I wouldn’t believe it but I have a huge scar to prove it.

I can’t explain all the ugliness in the world. I can’t explain about why and when someone passes away. But I do know God is good. And when we look hard enough – there is always sweetness.

“My scars tell a story. They are a reminder of times when life tried to break me, but failed. They are markings of where the structure of my character was welded.” Steve Maraboli

Finding the sweet side of crazy!

Kandy

 

 

 

 

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Thorn Bushes Have Roses

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Isn’t that beautiful?

Life is hard. Life can be cruel and ugly. But life is also beautiful and sweet. I’ve learned I have two choices. I can either let what life hands me defeat me and spread more ugliness or I can sift through the junk and find the sweetness. There’s always sweetness. It may be buried deep in the ugly but it is there. I don’t want to hand ugliness to my boys to carry forward. I want to break negative generational family cycles. So that keeps me digging…well that and I want to keep my sanity. But sanity is debatable.

We make really stupid choices sometimes. We do really dumb things. Sometimes it’s hard for us to forgive ourselves or others for those things. How can we so easily accept God’s grace and forgiveness when we don’t extend grace and forgiveness to others? Be grateful for God’s grace and forgiveness AND extend it to others as well. Otherwise – you’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth.

My sweet friend Dewayne posted this on Facebook today…”I said to the Lord this morning, Lord I have done so much wrong in my life. And he said to me, Dewayne, I have done so much right. And my rights are so much bigger than your wrongs. And I am yours and you are mine. So moral of the story…no matter what you have done, what you’re doing or what you’re going through – his love is greater, bigger and more powerful than any obstacle in front of you. Choose Jesus and you win.” Isn’t Dewayne smart? He’s also kind and loving. And if you knew his story…this would be even more powerful. Dewayne’s thorn bush is full of beautiful roses.

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” – Abraham Lincoln

I’ve also learned – what we look for is what we’ll find. The days I have spent cranky and focusing on the junk…I find myself completely surrounded by negativity. But the opposite holds true as well. When I spend my day focusing on the positive…I am overcome by the beauty in each day.

It’s easy to be grateful for the good stuff in your life when you have plenty of money to buy the things your heart desires…fancy things, exotic travels, nice cars, gorgeous homes and you have a healthy family. But can you still be grateful when you are struggling and can’t afford to pay your bills? What about when someone you love is sick or has been diagnosed with a devastating disease…or has an injury with a long recovery period…or when someone you love has been ripped out of your life? Are you able to show gratitude then? Are you able to be grateful when it rains, snows or when you hit every red light? Anyone can be grateful when things are going their way. The true test is when things aren’t going your way…are you still able to find the sweet stuff?   It’s okay to be sad, to grieve or be frustrated or angry when bad things happen. But the important thing is – don’t get stuck in the negativity. Don’t let the ugliness rob you of your joy or ability to find the beauty.

There is always a lesson. Sometimes is slaps you on the forehead and other times you have to really dig for it but it’s always there. Watch for it. Search for it. Be grateful for it. It’s super valuable.

Sometimes it can be like digging for diamonds. It takes a while. It hardly seems worth it, days spent up to your knees in mud, digging, washing, searching the gravel for diamonds. But when you find that beauty, that valuable lesson…it’s worth more than you ever dreamed.

Life lessons – embrace them. Let them polish you and bring out your shine.

If you feel like life your life circumstances have left you mistreated, cheated and robbed – how long will you allow your past to keep you locked up? Make a decision today to find the sweetness in every single day. You will notice the more you seek it– the more sweetness you will find.

I don’t always understand the bad things that have happened in my life. But I have faith that God will take those bad things and create goodness from them. Some of that goodness has already been revealed to me. I may not ever understand some things that occur in this old world but when I get to heaven…I have a whole list of questions. So until that day…when something bad happens or when I’m living through a difficult time. I go on treasure hunts looking for the jewels. I always find them. But if I go looking for poop – I can find that too. I prefer the jewels.

Think back to the negative things that have happened over your life. Can you recognize the good that came from those things? Are you able to see how you lived a little deeper, were a little more kind, compassionate, more caring and more forgiving? Those are the most valuable lessons of all.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” – Maya Angelou

Finding the Sweet Side of Crazy!

Kandy

 

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Feeling unbalanced? Maybe there’s too much sand.

Feeling unbalanced? Maybe you’re filling your jar with sand and there’s no room for the stones.

A professor of philosophy stood before his class. When the class began, he placed a glass gallon jar in front of his students. Without saying anything he began to fill it with large stones. He asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed it was full.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. Together they watched as they slid into the empty spaces. The professor then asked the students again if the jar was full.

This time some said yes while others said no.

The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. He lightly shook the jar and watched as the sand filled the remaining open areas of the jar. The professor asked, “Is it full?”

Together the class shouted, “No!”

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar signifies your life. The stones are the truly important things, such as family, health and relationships. If all else was lost and only the stones remained, your life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are the other things that matter in your life, such as work or school. The sand signifies the remaining “small stuff” and material possessions.

If you put sand into the jar first, there is no room for the stones or the pebbles. The same can be applied to your lives. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly important. This will leave you feeling unbalanced and off center. But if you prioritize your life to take care of the important things first, everything finds and settles into its place.

What are the stones in your life? Are you making the important things a priority or are you letting the less important things rule your life and dictate your time?

Make a list of the stones in your life. Prioritize them and make sure they are getting the time and energy they need. Do the same with the pebbles. You’ll want to make a list of the sand in your life – eliminate the junk that is taking your time away from the important stuff.

Live consciously. Don’t just wander and waste your precious time and throw away your important stones!

Your mind, body and soul will thank you. And so will those you love.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!

Kandy

 

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“MugShot of the Day!!!

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I google most everything. Google knows everything…all the important stuff and the junk.

April 6, 2015, five days after Mother was found dead on her couch from years of binge drinking…with trails of blood that had drained from her nose –  I googled her name. I’m not sure why.  I think I expected to see some kind of death notice. But I didn’t. There was nothing that let the world know my Mother had died a brutal slow death from her own powerless actions.  Her addiction killed her. And even though she had died just five days prior – I had lost her over 40 years ago when I was just a little girl.

I knew the obituary wouldn’t be there. That’s the family’s responsibility. My responsibility. I hadn’t written it yet. And still haven’t. I will. I’m trying to make sense of all of it. Trying to do something positive with such a tragedy. No, I knew a big fancy well written obituary outlining all of her loves and accomplishments wouldn’t be there. But I thought there would at least be something listing her name, age, city and date of death. Maybe I expected to see some kind of article about how she was found and how she lived. I’m not exactly sure what I was looking for.

But I did find something. It was such a strange feeling. It made me sad, cry and mad.  And in a very crazy way – it brought me a speckle of comfort.  It reminded me of the misery and devastating life she had been living but was now free from. It reminded me that I no longer had to worry about her.  Or that I would no longer be getting the crazy drunk phone calls…powerless to the craziness.   It was a mugshot. Mother’s mugshot. MY mother’s mugshot. The whole thing was heartbreaking really.   It was dated October 2012. The title read…”MugShot of the Day!!!” Just like that. Three exclamation marks!!! Making fun of my mother during such a heartbreaking time. It listed her full name, age, arrest date, city she was arrested in and charges. I looked at the picture. She was drunk. I could tell just by looking. She had on her glasses and the picture captured the tears that rolled down her cheek. It showed the misery her addiction had brought into her life. It made me sad. It made me cry. I sat looking at the picture of my crying sad drunk mother as the mugshot of the day.  I saw a broken, sad, hurt, out of control, devastated woman.  I cried.

Then I noticed the comments. Heartless cruel comments. People were making fun of her. The people writing those comments obviously hadn’t experienced the heartache of addiction like I had.  They hadn’t had their mother stolen from them at a very young age and watched as she spiraled out of control over and over again.  They hadn’t watched as their mother continually fell further and further into darkness.  They hadn’t tried to stop the out of control spinning only to realize the more you tried to stop it the faster things would spin and spiral further and further into ugliness.

I’m sure they had no idea her daughter would one day read those things. Especially not just after she died. Or maybe they wouldn’t care. Maybe they couldn’t understand the devastation and heartbreak addiction brings to the addict and those who love them. I don’t really know why they took the time to write ugly comments about a person who was already miserable. It made me mad. Then it just made me sad and cry some more.

People are mean. Making fun of someone when they are at their worst…when they are hurting and obviously in a very bad way is just cruel. I get it. She wasn’t there. They weren’t doing it in front of her. They were hiding behind a computer typing ugliness not facing those who were affected.

Some people still think addiction is a moral issue instead of the brain disease that it is.  They don’t realize how much power addiction has over a person.  That it devours the person as much as the person devours the alcohol or drug.  They wouldn’t make fun of someone who had another disease such as dementia, cancer, diabetes or heart disease but yet we are cruel to addicts…and their families.

I saved the picture to my phone. I knew I would need to be able to look at it in the future.

I looked past the hurt and the ugly comments. It was strange. I found comfort. When I looked at that picture…I was and I am reminded of how miserable my mother was. How miserable I was. How helpless we both were. She had been in a bad way for a very long time. I was thankful she finally had peace. Of course I would have rather she beat the disease. I would have rather had my Mother. Not like she was but like I dreamed she could have been. I would have loved for her to have known me. To have known my boys. I would have rather she would have known the simple joys in life. But the disease controlled her. She was ate up with it and had been for far too long. It had weakened her. Stolen her strength. Stolen her family. Stolen her joy. Stolen her life. The picture reminded me of how sad she had been and brought me peace knowing she was no longer living like that. Besides, what choice did I have? Be miserable and give the disease more power than it already had. Allow it to take even more from me than it already had?

It’s the younger picture of her that made me sad.  I looked at that picture, before she was controlled – all I could see was a beautiful girl who lost so much. I saw what could have been.

So tonight, as I was typing this – I googled to see what else I could find. Surprisingly, the Mugshot is gone. I looked and looked and can’t find it. I have it. I know it existed. I have proof. I looked to see what day I saved the picture – It was April 6th, 2015. Tonight when I googled her name, I found the death notice that I was originally looking for. It was posted April 6th. The very day I was originally searching for it. The day I found the mug shot instead. Strange.

It’s as if God erased that sad, heartbreaking photo where people were making fun of my mother. It made me smile.

Addiction is a devastating brain disease.  It affects not only the addict but the whole family.  It is heartbreaking and tragic.  Please be kind, empathetic and compassionate.  You never know another’s struggles.  Your kindness may be the only thing that helps someone get through the day.  Show love. Love does.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!

Kandy

 

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