Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Cancer

Graphic and intense post.

Life is crazy. When you think you can't handle anymore, of course, more comes. Although I love my job, it is super stressful. Super stressful and super busy. I was looking forward to our Spring Break. Maybe I could actually have a break. We had four days off, Tuesday-Friday. Monday morning, at about 2:30 am I suddenly woke up with the need to vomit. I was sweating, but my body was cold. It happened again at 3:30. I didn't sleep very well that night. I ended up vomiting quite a bit and having some diarrhea. I figured it was probably food poisoning. I had some food I don't eat very often. It was hard to get up and go to work. I wasn't feeling well all day. My boss had me scheduled to come in some extra hours to help organize our materials and supplies. I went in Tuesday, still not feeling very well. Didn't feel well enough to go in Wednesday to finish up. However, I went out with some friends Wednesday night. Which for many reasons, didn't end up being a very great night overall. Thursday, I slept in still not feeling well. I finally got out of bed because I felt a rumble. What I thought was diarrhea again actually was mostly blood. When I first looked I was really confused. I called my husband to come look. He thought it was blood too. I didn't think too much of it and thought it was probably due to recent diet changes. It happened again about 30 minutes later. I needed to finish up my project at work so I convinced him to take me. I figured I would be the only one at work and I could use the restroom whenever if I needed to. It happened about six more times at work. I finally called my husband to come get me. We decided I needed to see a doctor. We went to Urgent Care. It would be cheaper and less busy than the ER. We also didn't think it was immediately life threatening.

I explained everything to the doctor. She did some tests and examined me. She confirmed I was losing blood and was anemic. The doctor thought I possibly caused a tear in my GI tract (probably esophagus) from when I vomited Monday morning. She recommended I see a GI specialist and gave me a few numbers to call. I was sent home because I was "stable" and my bleeding was decreasing in amounts and frequency. I was able to set up an appointment for Monday morning with a GI specialist. I was told to call or go to ER if my condition worsened. As the days went on I kept feeling weaker and began to have terrible headaches. I was going to see the specialist on Monday so I was gonna try to make it to then.

Monday morning came and I thought I was going to have an endoscopy done. I thought they would find the cause and I could get better. Nope. My appointment was just a consultation, but we were able to set up an endoscopy for Wednesday. He sent me home with some iron pills and recommendations to help with the insane headaches. We went to Chipotle after. I wasn't feeling well and my husband said I was getting paler. We decided to go home. He left to get the car. We think I passed out while waiting for him. He said he was waiting for me outside the restaurant, but I never came out. When he came in he said I was laying on the bench and was extremely pale and sweating. I convinced him not to take me to the ER. I told him it was probably just because I was really tired and we would be seeing the doctor on Wednesday anyway.

Wednesday was the worst. I couldn't stand long enough to shower. When I tried to rinse my hair I felt extremely light headed. My husband said when I was trying to use the toilet I passed out and threw up on myself. I barely remember riding in the car to my endoscopy appointment. When we arrived I do remember seeing the receptionist's eyes get real big and ask if I was okay.

Super long story cut short:
I was not able to have my endoscopy done because they could not stabilize me. I passed out at least once while there. They called the emergency response team in to take me to the ER. While in the ER they found out my hemoglobin count was down to 4 (normal for women is at least 12). I immediately received two blood transfusions. I stayed in the hospital for 5 days. In total, I had 5 blood transfusions. My blood was drawn so many times that I couldn't keep count. I had IV's almost all the time. They finally found the cause of my bleeding. First, I had an endoscopy and colonoscopy done at the same time to try and find the source. They didn't find anything. I had too much internal bleeding in some areas to see clearly. Then, I did a nuclear medicine scan. Still couldn't find the source. Next, was a pelvic angiogram. Finally, they did a CT scan which revealed a tumor as the source of bleeding. They performed a exploratory laparotomy to remove the tumor. The tumor was connected to my small intestine. About 5 cm of my small intestine was removed and resectioned. The tumor was about the size of a mango. It was about 10x10x5cm. I was told it looked like just another organ. I had my surgery on Saturday and was discharged on Monday. Everyone was amazed with what I went through. All the doctors and nurses I saw said they have never had a case like mine before.

I stayed with my parents for about a month while I recovered from surgery. The incision was pretty big, about 7 inches. I had 21 staples. The biopsy revealed I had a gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST). After those results, I met my oncologist and immediately scheduled a PET scan. The scan came back negative. Even though they didn't really know what they were looking for during the surgery, they did actually remove all the cancer. It didn't spread anywhere else. Supposedly, mine has a slow growth rate and the tumor was growing inside me for years. GIST is really rare. GIST in my age group is even rarer. It can return. Today, I completed 1 month of treatment. My treatment will last three years. There are many possible side effects. These next 5 months will kind of show me what to expect.

This is really hard to process and live with. I have felt incredible support from my husband, immediate family, extended family, co-workers, and preschool families. I went back to work one month after surgery. I still don't think I have processed everything that has happened in these past couple months. I don't think I will completely process it all for a while. My life has changed dramatically.

The reality is, I shouldn't have been talking or even conscious when I went into the ER. It is really hard not being able to do all the things I used to. I have to think twice before I pick up a student. I have to think about how to get up. I have to find hidden energy to make it through the day. I have to keep telling myself I am strong. My body proved it then and with all the procedures I had done. I have to take it one day at a time. Some days are better than others. Most days I just feel extremely tired all day long. On rare days, I forget. I forget the stress, negativity, and burden. On rare days, I feel strength.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Garden Bench for Bitty Gardeners

I have been spending a lot more time with my parents this past month. I have been staying with them while I recover from surgery. Which also means I haven't been working for about a month. I miss my kiddos! Before Spring Break we, a few teachers and students, were really getting into more gardening. Our awesome garden box didn't have anymore room for new plants. We had an overflow of plants in the classrooms and in the playground. Of course we don't really have the budget to expand our garden the way we'd like. We decided to try and come up with creative ways to work around it. It just so happens my dad is wonderful at re-purposing discarded furniture. Between the two of us, we created a little garden bench for the preschool!

I don't have a current picture of our "Garden", but this is one from last Spring. It looks pretty similar.
We used an old headboard we got for free and an old sink we got for $1. My dad used leftover wood to combine the two into a garden bench.
My husband and I sanded down the bed frame. I painted all the wood with exterior paint I got for free at my county reuse program.
I did two coats. The paint dried pretty fast. I just couldn't work at a fast pace.
Here it is, all finished! I can't wait to post pictures of it filled with plants.
Here is another garden bench my dad made for potted plants. We got the wire shelf for $1. He used some leftover PVC pipes from another project and spent less than $5 for the rest.
We thought this would be a good start to creating an outdoor kitchen for the children.
We used the same exterior paint. (I forgot to finish painting it. Whoops!) My dad had an old parking sign the $1 sink fit perfectly on.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our 1st Anniversary

A couple weeks ago we had our first anniversary :) I can't believe it has already been one year since we got married!! (and I still haven't changed my name, eek!!!) We had a small get together at my parents' house. Lina helped out a lot with the party. She's such a wonderful friend :) Almost all these pictures are from her too!


floral arrangement from my mom
ice cream sundae table

veggie kabobs

lots of fresh fruit

my dad made wooden coasters

flowers floating in a giant margarita glass

food deck
Many things (plates, napkins, curtains) were reused from our wedding. My parents' backyard has some nautical decor, so we included that element into the party here and there. For example, those jars of lights are hanging from ship's wheels. There were tons of lights everywhere! I wish I took more pictures :( It was really pretty. We had meat & veggie dogs & burgers. Almost all the fruit and veggies were from the local farmer's market. We got a bag of peaches for $2! Plums were free from the yard. Lina made her super delicious peanut butter cookies. They were such a big hit! Everyone couldn't stop eating them :)

The morning after the party, we quickly cleaned up and took off for our lil getaway. Dale had fun surprises planned for the next two days! We stayed at a really cute B&B, ate at a yummy restaurant, went to a baseball game, and more!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Our Apartment

Waiting unknowingly for the job I preferred has worked out quite well so far. First, I got the job. They called me right after the interview to offer me the position. I've been working since Valentine's Day :) Second, the hours, pay, and benefits are more than what I expected. Third, they offered us an apartment at a very affordable price (especially for the area). Furnished with whatever we needed, includes washer/dryer, all utilities paid, no commute. My commute was 40 miles, 1 hr, $5 toll everyday. Now my commute is a 1-2 minute walk across a parking lot!! My husband and I are extremely grateful for this opportunity.

Anyway this post is about the apartment. It's cute and cozy, but also pretty awkward due to the layout. We are still in the process of moving; we started about 3 weeks ago. We're really excited to make it feel like home :) Here are pictures of the place before we started putting our stuff in.

This is our little yard area and our RV neighbors.

We're planning to start gardening here.

Our front door.

Opening it for the first time.

Living room/kitchen as soon as you walk in. That hallway is the shower area and entrance to laundry room/storage.

Our challenge area; the bar/table and sleeper couch.



Other challenge: the ledge that goes around the whole room.

3 doors, 1 wall.

Before we moved in, they painted all the wood paneling white, cleaned the carpets, and replaced the windows. The church (who the apartment belongs to) did a lot of work to make the place nicer for us. We love the white walls, plenty of windows/natural light, and built-ins.

Hopefully, we'll be able to post about our progress with turning it into a home and the creative solutions we'll need for some of the awkwardness.


Happy Mother's Day!!

Saturday, April 30, 2011


It has been quite a long time since I last posted! There are many things I'm going to post about, but today will be focused on Monterey.

A couple weeks ago my husband, Lina, and I went to visit our dear friend, Tamara in Monterey. She'll be leaving this wonderful city soon. We wanted to visit her before she graduates and gets married :)

Here's some of what we did on our little trip:

On the Wharf

Very Delicious!
Funnest Stairs
Silly Hubby
Lina & her camera :)
"Our Sea Squirrels"
We kind of crashed a wedding, with a bunch of other beach goers.

the girls
Taking a break at the fair.
Tamara making some of her yummy drinks.
We caught the ending of the Giants game. GO GIANTS!!
Most expensive candy we've ever bought... haha, tourist trap.
More delicious food!
At the Cooper Museum/Store
Even the bathroom area was pretty.
Crazy flowers!?!
Can you find us?
All the book stores were closed :(
Our amazing hostess :)