Friday, July 29, 2011

30 Day Challenge - Week 2

Before I start this week's blog I need to choose my favorite relaxation and enrichment activities from last week. It was a hard choice, because I enjoyed them all. For relaxation, it came down to yoga or a hot bath with bath oil. As much as I love to do yoga on a regular basis, the bath was a truly special treat, so the bath won. For enrichment, it came down to sewing or making bread. I enjoy making bread, but I don't sew very often, so I feel extra accomplished when I manage to sew something that stays together and looks presentable! So sewing won. Week one winners: hot bath with bath oil & sewing!

Day Six:
Relaxation - Time with Bryan
Enrichment - Crafts

I am not going to go into detail about it, but having a loving relationship with my spouse is crucial to my happiness, as well as his. We enjoyed spending some quiet time together. The crafts were fun, but simple. I bought wooden picture holders, painted them, and added magnets to them to put on the fridge. No, my kids' pictures are not in them yet, that will happen soon!

Day Seven:
Relaxation - Prayer
Enrichment - Reading Scriptures

I pray every day, and our family prays every day as well. We do not read scriptures every day, but we have become so much better at reading them on a more regular basis. We read Alma 7, and the verses inspired me as never before. Not only was I thinking of the blessings for me, I was thinking of the blessings Grace will receive when she is baptised, and the honor she will have to take the name of Christ upon her. A new understanding of those verses brought joy to my heart, and I had a hard time reading it out loud without choking up with emotion.
Prayer is always a wonderful spiritual cleanser, and although I did not need prayer on this day more than other days, it felt nice to bow my head and give thanks and ask for inspiration and direction. :-)

Day Eight:
Relaxation - Massage
Enrichment - Painting

I was worried that the relaxation for this day would not happen, as we are being conservative with money and I did not want to pay for a massage (okay okay, I WANTED to, but I decided it was wise not to). However, Grace (loving daughter that she is) changed that for me and gave me an amazing ashiatsu massage. She has a natural talent!! Bryan made it even better by rubbing my back and shoulders later, so I got a double massage...... it was FANTASTIC! The painting was fun, but I kept it simple again. I got Grace and Andrew's advice for a small painting in the toy room. We agreed on an abstract flower painting, as long as there were not girl colors (a compromise for Andrew). Then I repainted a white wooden play crib in a basecoat of purple. I am going to make it into a special gift for a certain special niece's first birthday. ;-)

Day Nine:
Relaxation - Stretching
Enrichment - Cleaning car

So I cheated a little on this one and added a chore that I needed to do as an enrichment activity. I even cheated a little more and ran the car through the carwash instead of washing it by hand. In my defense, we had to do the grocery shopping that day, and shopping for 2 weeks worth of food takes a while.... especially with two wild kids. I did, however, clean out and vacuum the inside of the car, and it looked much nicer afterwards. The stretching was wonderful, but I stretch every day. I just stretched a little longer this time, and Bryan stretched with me. We needed it after a fairly lazy vacation! No pics needed, our car is used for carting kids around town, and I am NOT blasting an image of the inside of our well-worn car all over the blogosphere! :-)

Day Ten:
Relaxation - Deep Breathing
Enrichment - Placemat staining

The trick to deep breathing is to make sure you do it for at least 10 minutes to make it effective. I managed to do it for about 20 minutes after the kids went to bed, and it was a nice way to unwind and clear my head. I don't have a picture for staining the placemats, I accidentally deleted it from my camera! I bought 4 wooden placemats for $1.00 at Target a while back, and I decided they needed some protection from food that was dropped on them at mealtime. So I picked up a $4.00 can of stain and seal from Walmart and sealed the mats. They smell was awful and I ended up having to do it outside to avoid the fumes spreading through the house. But now it is easier to clean the placemats!

Day Eleven:
Relaxation - Deep conditioning
Enrichment - Handwashing and air-drying clothes

This was one relaxation that I had to pay for. The salon I go to only charges $10.00 for a deep conditioning, and I got my bangs trimmed while I was there. Melissa at The Hairitage did a wonderful job and I really enjoyed the deep conditioning. The heat from the dryer that infused the product into my hair was relaxing, and the salon was cozy, so that added to my peaceful state. She brushed my hair out (I love getting my hair brushed) gave me a quick bang trim, and sent me on my way. Thanks, Melissa! I haven't hand-washed clothes in a few years, so it was fun to fill the tub, add the soap, and slosh the clothes around. If you notice in the picture, I used a potato masher to stir and agitate the clothes. Don't knock it 'til you try it! I put some hempline on the fence to create a temporary line. Yes, it drooped some, but I can fix that with some screws, a pulley, and a cheap clothesline tightener. I think it would be a good investment, because knowing how to wash and dry clothes without the use of electronics is useful. Grace showed a lot of interest in it, so I am going to show her how to do it with her own clothes. Andrew thought the clothesline was "the most awesome thing in the backyard!!!". I love his enthusiasm! The best part of drying the clothes outside was the unexpected rainfall. I had to run outside, unpin all of the clothes, and run back in. It felt just like it does in the movies when the woman sees the rain falling and frantically runs outside to save the laundry from the lines. :-) The pictures are edited to make them look old-fashioned, because the whole feel of handwashing and hang-drying is old fashioned.

Relaxation - Girls Night Out
Enrichment - Mint sachets

Okay, the relaxation part hasn't happened yet, but I am really excited about it and I will update it tomorrow! The mint sachets were so much fun to make! The mint in the backyard had grown absolutely wild, so I pulled most of it out and hung it do dry. Then I crumbled it into a large bowl and made cotton sachet squares with the tops opened. I stuffed each one with dried mint leaves and sewed off the tops. I wrote "Sisters" on one side and "Friends" on the other. I won't ruin the surprise here, but it is part of something for Girls Night Out. Woohoo!

Have a relaxing and enriching weekend!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A new challenge

Last week I decided to start a new challenge. For 30 days I will complete one relaxing activity and one enriching activity every day. Then I will write about them at the end of each week and pick my favorites at the end of the challenge. It has been a lot of fun so far, and I am excited to share my experiences on my blog!

Day One:
Relaxation - Reading
Enrichment - Sewing

Reading is nice, and setting aside time during the day to do it helps to interrupt the bustle of the day. I loved sewing the skirt and dress, because they were easy to make and turned out very cute. (PS - Grace's dress looks cute with a short-sleeved sweater over it or a shirt under it)

Day Two:
Relaxation - Bath
Enrichment - Bath Oil

This is one of the easier challenges, but it is sooooooo worth it! A hot bath can work miracles of sore or tense muscles, and adding a nice bath oil (mine was a lemongrass oil) can moisurize the skin and awaken your senses. My kids are wonderful, because they did not interrupt me while I took my bath, so I got 30+ minutes to really soak it in. Hehe.

Day Three:
Relaxation - Aromatherapy
Enrichment - Journaling

Here is what I wrote in my journal:
"We slept in, then grabbed sushi for lunch. I did aromatherapy and a core workout, and we had pizza for dinner. The aromatherapy is great for my sinuses and the steam is really good for my skin. I had dark chocolate with almonds for a snack."

I kept it short and sweet, but I figured writing down information for all of my other days and also writing letters earlier in the week balanced it out and made the short journal entry worthy of being my sole enrichment activity for this day. By the way, wintermint oil is a little strong for aromatherapy. I will have to use lavendar or jasmine next time!

Day Four:
Relaxation - Yoga
Enrichment - Bread

I adore yoga for many reasons, but the best reason is how much it relaxes my body and mind. Supreme 90 Day is making my muscles tense, so a long session of yoga was much needed. No matter what I am doing or where I am going, yoga can always make me feel better and more balanced. I can safely say this will be one of my top 5 choices for best relaxation. I made some delicious garlic and parmesan bread for my enrichment activity. I didn't mix or knead it by hand, but we could all make use of the tools we have, right? I love my bread machine. :-)

Day 5:
Relaxation - Mediation
Enrichment - Hair Styles

Beach day! We had a great time outside in the sand and surf. I did hairstyles without washing my hair afterwards (I know... tsk tsk.... whatever!). Mediation only works if your surroundings are CALM. Try explaining that to two kids on a "beach high".

Okay, I retried meditation after the kids went to bed. I let my mind wander and then wrote about it afterwards....

I was in a coral reef with fish, seaweed, sea turtles, seahorses, mermaids, and oysters. One oyster had a pearl, so I gave it to the mermaids and they made a toe-ring for me. The one who presented it to me gave me an embrace, then I flew to a cloud, where an angel greeted me. I made a dress out of cloud and the angel lead me to the edge of the cloud to see the world below. I asked to be placed on top of Enchanted Rock. As I sat on top I looked beside me and saw a butterfly flapping its wings. As the wings flapped clouds slowly blew away and trees rustled. I watched the clouds make shadows on the land below, then looked back at the butterfly, but it had turned into a jeweled clip. I put it in my hair and transported myself to a hammock on a beach between two coconut trees. There was a mountain and a stream behind me. The kids played quietly nearby while Bryan strummed his guitar.

Meditation is a nice way to reconnect with your body and your mind. You can sit or lay down, I preferred to lay down this time. Deep breathing and relaxed thinking can help you refresh yourself at the beginning or end of any day.

Okay, here are some pics of my messy wind-blown hair styles!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Medical Journey: The Story of Concern, Assumptions, Relief, and Realization

It's April 4th, and Bryan and I are attempting to celebrate our anniversary. I am incredibly irritated at little things and chalking it up to PMS. I try my best to shrug it off, but it just won't go away. I have that dull cramping pain in the lower left side of my abdomen again. "I must be ovulating from my left ovary again", I think. I have been feeling this pain in the same spot every month for the past several months, always within days of starting my menses. It hurts A LOT to be intimate, and I cry (everything was making me cry). The next day I have dull pain whenever I use the restroom. The day after that I have constant, dull pain. The day after that I start feeling significant pain in the afternoon that won't go away. The morning after that I am sitting in a gynecologist's office, waiting to discuss my problem with the doctor. She examines me and finds nothing, but sends me to the outpatient center across the road to get a pelvic sonogram. The sonogram shows evidence of a rupture ovarian cyst. The doctor suggests birth control and I refuse it. I ask for a full blood test, and she schedules me to get it done in July. I go home and research causes and alternative treatments. By my birthday (April 11th) I am considering several different options and making some diet changes.

A few weeks later I decide that I don't want to wait until July, so I schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist in my area. I go in and talk about my symptoms, and she tells me she is sure I have PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). My mother has it, and the likelihood that it passes on is 50%, so I consider her assumption to be reasonable. However, bloodwork done the next day shows that no hormone levels are abnormally high or low, and that rules out PCOS and other hormon-related problems. I notice that my red blood count, hemoglobin, and hematocrit are all high. Before I can call the endocrinologist, she has her lab on the phone with me telling me I need to come in and discuss my results with her. The lab mentions bone-marrow mutation and I try not to panic. I schedule an appointment, and then I end up missing it because the battery in my car died the day of the appointment. I reschedule and end up having to take both the kids with me to discuss the results. She comes into the office and tells me that she wants me to see my GP (general practitioner) to discuss the next step. I ask her what she thinks, and she tells me with great concern that she fears I may have blood cancer. It doesn't make sense to me, because my white cell counts are normal, but just hearing a specialist say the word "cancer" makes my heart drop into my stomach.

What would you do if a doctor told you they are concerned that you might have cancer? I can tell you what I did. I did my best to regain my composure in front of my children, paid for my visit, and then got in the car and sat there, lost. Then I called my mom, I needed to hear her voice and talk to her. She knew what I needed in that moment. Then I prayed a frenzied prayer and called my husband. When we got home I set the kids up with some games to play and went into the restroom where I cried and prayed, and cried some more. Have you ever wondered what kind of thoughts might go through your head if you got news that would drastically change your life? Here is some of what I remember:

What kind of treatment will I need?
Could we afford it?
What will we need to change in order to afford my treatments?
How is this possible? My husband and children are not ready to have a life without me there.
I am not ready to die and be away from my family.
What can I do to make this easier for them?
I need to update my living will.
Could my heart possibly feel any more broken right now?

I spent the next few days soaking up every minute with my family. Taking a drive in the car with the kids, Natalie Merchant's "These Are the Days" came on the radio. It gave me hope.

I decided to skip the GP and go straight to a hematologist. My sister was my support, and my wonderful neighbor watched the kids. He told me that he wanted to test for bone marrow mutations, blood mutations, and secondary causes of my high CBC levels. He also wanted me to get an ultrasound of my organs to check for enlargment (a sign of hemachromatosis). The ultrasound was amazing. I got to see my liver, kidneys, spleen, and heart. They were all very healthy, according to the ultrasound tech, and NOTHING was wrong with them. I really appreciated that good news, so I proceeded to do my now-famous booty dance in the ultrasound room. The tech did it with me!

Did I mention that the hematologist was surprised that the endocrinologist mentioned cancer to me? He said he did not consider it to be a possiblity by any means. I considered making a complaint against her, but "forget it and leave it alone" was all I could hear whispering through my mind.

My bloodwork results came back and the hematologist wanted to see me again. He sat me down and told me that I did not have a bone marrow mutation. Hooray! He then told me that I had a gene mutation that contributed to my high CBC. However, he also delivered the good news that I needed more than one gene mutation to have hereditary hemachromatosis. Therefore, I was not at significant risk for blood clotting, iron overload, or.... cancer. This is where the big smile and huge sigh of relief came into play. His suggested treatment was baby aspirin and possible phlebotomy, but the phlebotomy would only be if my levels went higher. Donating blood can apparently ease the symptoms of fatigue and headache, so I tried that. However, the center I went to was horribly unorganized and I sat in the lobby for almost an hour after signing in without so much as a word or a form to fill out. I will have to try somewhere else, and that is fine with me. If I can relieve my symptoms and help someone else at the same time, it will be truly wonderful!

It is July 5th, and I am feeling peaceful. My views of my life have taken on a deeper hue, but I am also thoroughly enjoying all of the light-hearted moments. I went from hormonal, to scared, to superhuman. My body's ability to create more blood also carries more oxygen to my muscles, so I have more stamina and shorter muscle recovery time.

That, my friends, is a problem I can certainly handle.

By the way, thanks to Natalie Merchant for her song of hope. These are the days to remember, and I have felt the blessings of my life in new, heightened ways:

These are days you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this
And as you feel it,
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you
Are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you

These are days that you’ll remember
When May is rushing over you
With desire to be part of the miracles
You see in every hour
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you are touched
By something that will grow and bloom in you

These are days
These are the days you might fill
With laughter until you break
These days you might feel
A shaft of light
Make its way across your face
And when you do
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
See the signs and know their meaning
It's true
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking
To you, to you