My Irish Luck!

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It’s June (1999) and for me that meant my annual Pap smear test. I know, that’s not the topic of discussion you expected…

At 21-years-old a Pap smear is nothing new for me.  Having had major issues, hormonally and with regulation,  since the onset of menses I’ve had multiple Pap smears since the age of 15.

But this was the first Pap smear that ever came back abnormal.  My doctor assured me “Nothing to worry about, cells are continually changing
and we see this all the time.  We’ll do another Pap in 3 months.  I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

I was completely reassured.  You see.  My mother had not been very diligent about her yearly exams.  Doctor’s were someone you went to only when you had to, after something was wrong.  Not for prevention, but for remedy.  This backfired on her at the age of 34 when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (total hysterectomy). My reassurance came from the fact that the doctor who saved her life was the same doctor I sat in front of and told me “there’s nothing to worry about.”

September rolls around and I repeat the test.  The results: low-grade SIL (squamous intraepithelial lesions)…more easily understood as stage 2 dysplasia. “Still, nothing to worry about.  We’ll continue to monitor it.  We usually repeat a Pap every 3 months, but let’s see you back in a month for a repeat.”

October Pap: results high-grade SIL. “I usually don’t see an abnormal Pap go from slight dysplasia to high-grade SIL in a 5 month period. This is a bit concerning, but it’s good that we detected this so early and have been monitoring it. Let’s set you up for a colposcopy next month to get a better look at what’s going on.”

Ummm….what? Dysplasia,  low-grade, high-grade SIL, colposcopy! What is all this? I just went in for an annual exam, not for months of testing and to major in female reproductive medicine & terminology.

At this point in life, I’ve been married for 3 years.  Life is good.  We’ve both got jobs we like. We spend a great deal of our time at our camp or taking random and spontaneous weekend trips through the Adirondacks, Vermont, & occasionally to “The City” (NYC), or longer scheduled weekends to “The Cape” (Cape Cod). We are enjoying each other and our family; we had 23 nieces and nephews by 1999 who we loved spending time with (the 2014 total is up to 37, soon to be 38, including the greats).

Other than rent our biggest responsibility is our 2 cats, Sadie & Amber.  There’s been some talk of children… but because of my long history of ‘female issues’, and mention by more than one gynecologist and endocrinologist that conceiving doesn’t seem likely with my ‘condition’. We pretended that “it wasn’t time yet”…we won’t mention that no birth control had been used in over 2 years.

So we schedule for November, my birth month.  The nurse is very casual and states “It’s noninvasive and requires you just take an OTC pain reliever for any discomfort. He might take a biopsy of the cells should he see anything questionable.”  My reply “Really? A biopsy, will this hurt? ” very casually again “It’s usually no different than a Pap using a small brush, but a solution is used to help distinguish your cells so he can see them more clearly. Possibly he might take a section with a punch.   You’ll just feel a pinch.” Okay…I can handle a little pinch. 

November 14th, 1999 (the birthday of the younger of my two brothers): I’ve been prepped and I’m laying there during the procedure.  The doctor states “This looks good.” “Phew, cells are back to normal, as he said might happen.” I thought quietly.  “We’re just going to biopsy a few areas” he stated next.  “Whoa, what?  If things look good why the need for a biopsy?” was my next thought.  But obviously his “this looks good” statement was referring to the solution highlighting the cells for him to determine where the abnormal cells were. 

Oh, and to the nurse who said “you’ll just feel a pinch.” You’re a liar! I think maybe like in the police force where you have to be tasered before you are issued a taser gun (not that I agree with that, but it perfectly demonstrates my thought) you should have a punch biopsy before telling people “you’ll just feel a pinch.” I have a pretty good pain tolerance and this brought tears to my eyes instantly and aching that lasted more than 24 hours (I believe he did 3 punches).

December: Decorating, shopping, baking, wrapping, parties every weekend with co-workers, family & friends.  Such a busy and happy time.  But for me, on December 5th (my sister-in-laws birthday) it all seemed like time was standing still.  “Mrs. H, the doctor would like for you to come in to discuss your results.” “It’d be much easier to do a phone consult like we’ve done previously” was my response. “Mrs. H we have an opening this afternoon, it’s best to come in.” Noting the seriousness and sensing her urgency “okay, I’ll be there.”

“Good afternoon, staying warm enough?” I’m sure is how the conversation began.  But all I remember is the phrase; Squamous cell carcinoma.  Squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma. I was repeating it over and over in my head.  As he started going over results that’s the phrase he used.  I caught glimpses of the rest of the conversation; “we’re sure it’s contained to the cervix”, “you’re young”, “we’re going to attempt the least invasive treatment”, “LEEP”, “it’s a wire with an electrical current”, “cervical regrowth”, “Hormone surge”, “recovery time”, “pregnancy related issues”.

I was by myself, this was to much. I just started to cry. He was so calm and so comforting.  “Everything will be okay.  This was monitored from the start.  These cells moved quickly, but I’m certain we can remove them using the LEEP procedure.  It typically isn’t used at this stage, but we want to preserve whatever chances you have of conceiving children and I believe that with removing 1/2 – 2/3 of your cervix with the LEEP procedure (he’d already explained, that like your liver, the cervix is one of a few organs that had the ability to regenerate itself after partial removal) we’ll remove all of the cancer and the regeneration of new cells with the surge of hormones it’ll bring will increase your chance of conceiving”.

At this point I stopped repeating “squamous cell carcinoma”and heard “congratulations, you’re pregnant!” Okay a bit extreme, but my focus was now different.  He gave me something no other doctor had ever given me ~ hope.  Most doctor’s I had seen prior to this had resigned to the fact that there were few answers and unfortunately that’s reality for a select few.  Except they didn’t realize when you’re one of those select few it wasn’t just a small percentage or a marginal statistic it was everything and that statistic was 100% for you. 

So all I had left to do was to schedule my “surgery”. It was an out-patient, in-office procedure.  I needed to have someone to pick me up and I’d be out of work for 3 days.  I couldn’t do it before the holidays because I had to much else going on. I’d call after the New Year….January came and went.  Work was busy, life was busy…I was I ignoring things.  February came and I still hadn’t scheduled. Near the end of the month, Feb 24th to be exact (our engagement anniversary), the scheduler at the doctors office called me.  “Mrs. H, I know it’s not easy, but it’s best to just get it over with.” “I completely agree.  I’m sorry I haven’t called, could we do this on a Friday so I can use the weekend as part of my 3 days and not raise questions at work as to why I’m taking time off (this wasn’t something I was discussing with many people)?” “Sure, the next available Friday is March 17th. I’ll put you on the schedule for 9 am.”

At this point I spoke very little of this with my family and friends.  I didn’t want them to worry, I didn’t want attention on me, and it made it so I didn’t have to talk or think about it constantly. Even with my husband the conversation was minimal.  I’m not sure if he truly grasped what was going on (that would’ve been my fault), or if he was just scared. Maybe it was both. 

03/17/2000 – St. Patrick’s Day: I drove to the doctor’s office myself.  A word from the-now-much-wiser: when a doctor’s office tells you that someone needs to drive you home after a procedure,  LISTEN! The procedure was completed in about 40 minutes.  With the pain medication I took prior and the local injection no pain was felt yet, so I drove myself home (without the doctors knowledge).  I was tired and my emotions were all over the place.

I had isolated myself in this situation, something I regret now.  I understand why I did it, I just wish I didn’t.  I’m so thankful I’ve come so far from that point in life.  We are made to be in relationship with people for a reason, something I wasn’t taught growing up. I was taught that you need to be strong, independent, emotionless, and not direct attention towards yourself. Most of those can be great attributes, but not if used to isolate yourself.  I’ve learned that I can rely on and accept help from others without it being a negative reflection of myself or seen as a weakness. 

Results: “Mrs.  H, I ended up removing 1/2 of your cervix, and I’m positive all the cancerous cells were removed.  I would prefer you to wait 6 months before trying to conceive.  We want to give your cervix time to regenerate and heal. We’ll see you in the office in 2 weeks for follow-up and then every 3 months for monitoring and retesting.”

February 8th 2001: “Honey, we’re going to have a baby!”

I’m not actually Irish… but St. Patrick’s Day certainly is my lucky day ♥

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Instilling values

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As a mother I often wonder if I’m doing a good enough job of instilling values, I hold dear, into my children. 

It’s not just basic manners or work ethic I’m talking about.  Its about integrity (doing the right thing for the greater good, not just your own advancement), morals (having self worth and valuing yourself enough to stand your ground and not waiver from that, not selling yourself out) compassion (a heart for those hurting), conscious consideration of others (being aware of those around you and their needs and your ability to help, no matter how big or small it is), thoughtfulness (taking the time to let others know you are thinking of them), understanding (knowing that we are all on separate journeys, coming from different paths and crossing into others paths at different points heading in many different directions with different experiences and perspectives that give us all a different view of things and knowing that’s okay).

How do I know whether my actions are aligning with my lessons enough for them to get it? How do I know that I am taking advantage of the right opportunities to help them build the resources and equip them with the tools needed to be the best adults that they can be. Adults that will help make our society a better more positive place? Because as cliche as it sounds ‘I’m not raising children, I’m raising future adults!’

The answer – I don’t know. 

We each make our own choices. No matter the lessons our parents teach us, no matter the resources and tools we’ve been equipped with, no matter the path we’ve come from or the experiences we’ve had none of that ultimately makes a difference.

I know, I know!  How outrageous of me to be so bold as to state that a person’s past doesn’t dictate who’ve they become.  I know, how absurd that I suggest that everything in our lives leading up to this point hasn’t impacted the person we are.

I’m certainly not stating that our experiences aren’t important and aren’t influential in our lives.  What I’m stating is that each moment we are given is an opportunity to make a choice, to change a direction, to try something different regardless of where we came from or what our past experiences have been. At any moment we can choose differently, we don’t have to accept or continue with where we are now (just because of where we’ve come from).

For instance it isn’t unheard of for a child of an affluent well standing family to ‘go down the wrong path’ and become involved in drugs or criminal behavior, or for an underprivileged child from a single parent home with little to no resources to ‘make it to the other side of the tracks’ earning an education and/or becoming financially successful. These examples made choices that clearly redirected them from where they came.

The point is that even if my efforts are being received it doesn’t guarantee me that they’ll be practiced and employed by my children.  However heartbreaking that thought even is to bare, I know that as a parent it is my job to continue to teach these lessons and attempt to instill these values.  Not just because it’s beneficial for my children, but because it makes me a better person as well.  It makes me more willing to help others and to try to make a difference.  Not only because it’s ‘the right thing’ but because it’s what I would want for my children should they ever be in that position.

I’ll continue to pray that my children learn these lessons and put them into action in their lives as they grow and branch out on their own. 

In the meantime, the little glimpses of fruit I see from the seeds I’m planting in them are promising and rewarding.

A few glimpses I’ll share with you:

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m just waking. Yes, I know, I slept until Saturday afternoon! This only occurs when my husband works nights (driving) and I don’t sleep because A.) I stay up all night talking to him so he stays awake on the road, or B.) I can’t sleep simply because he’s not home with me. This time it was B.

Our girls are capable of getting their own breakfast and lunch.  They entertain each other, or read, or watch movies and complete their chores and if they need me I’m easily woken.

I’ve been awake for a bit just lying in bed catching up on emails, text messages, and social media stuff when my bedroom door opens.  My oldest enters my room and hands me a cookie.  Not just any cookie ~ my favorite cookie, a no-bake oatmeal chocolate peanut butter cookie! My first response was “Why did you get into the baking stuff? You know you’re not supposed to without asking!” She responded by saying “Mommy, I was just thinking about you.  You tell me to always think of others and not just myself.” I was thrilled! This wasn’t just words, this was action backed by words. I thanked her for the cookie and gave her a hug telling her how sweet and thoughtful she was.  And truly that cookie tasted better than ever!

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Sitting with my 8-year-old talking about her day at school the name of a girl in her class, who often negatively impacts my daughter’s day, came up.  She was telling me how this classmate was not following classroom procedures and was very blatantly disobeying the teacher.  I asked my daughter what she thought about that and how she responds to this classmate when she’s acting out.  She replied “Mommy, I prayed for God to help her and guide her so that she would be better behaved. Not out loud though, just in my head.” This truly made my heart swell. Not just because my daughter prayed. But she prayed selflessly. She didn’t ask God to help her get rid of this pesky classmate, she didn’t ask God ‘why me?’ She prayed truly for the purpose of her classmate. I asked her if she avoids this classmate during playtime or other activities and she said “No. Mommy, she still needs friends and I let her know if she’s being bad I won’t play with her, and that seems to help.” I was so proud of her for being so caring toward this little girl when it would have been just as easy to ignore her and play with other classmates. 

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When it all comes down to it. Instilling values in our children is just as much for us as it is for them. It helps us along our path, hopefully making us better people, giving our journey more purpose and worth ~ no matter what the payoff is.

the truth about getting engaged before you’re 23. | THE LIFE OF A FLOWER GIRL. write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year. -ralph waldo emerson

http://thelifeofaflowergirl.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/the-truth-about-getting-engaged-before-youre-23/

A Letter To Miley Cyrus

While I do not support in any way the performance that Miley Cyrus gave at the 2013 VMAs, I also do not agree with the complete crucifixion that she is receiving in the media and on social networking. It was just as despicable for Robin Thicke, who is a married man with children, to let a woman who is not his wife to ‘molest’ him on stage like that, putting fame and fortune before his marriage and family. I love the sentiment of this ‘Letter to Miley Cyrus’ and my belief system says that we should not throw her away because of her actions but to let her know that we don’t support those actions and that we love her talent without the trash, and to pray for her. This is a well written, well thought out letter, we could all learn something from the compassion in it rather than acting on our first response to stone Miley.

John 8:7
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

The Happy Heart

Dear Miley,

I, as well as millions of Americans, sat in amazement as I watched your VMA performance. No, you are not the first artist to grind on a backup dancer (however you may be the first to grind on a teddy bear but who knows), sing about your life of partying and drug abuse, or to strip down to your chonies. It’s all been done before. So why is your performance evoking such media attention, anger, amusement, and general confusion? Well, I have yet to speak to the millions of viewers personally, but here are a few of my guesses.

1. Yes, we all know that you are NOT Hannah Montana and we are all aware that you are of legal age to make your own decisions and mistakes. I am sincerely sorry that at such a young age you were forced to adhere to the pressure of being…

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How to talk to your daughter about her body

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Wonderful concept on how to talk to your daughter about her body. Parent with love and encouragement, leave you’re expectations behind. Embrace life fully as it happens, being a beacon of light helping to guide your children through their journey in life.

It Matters Whom You Marry

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Who you marry isn’t just about who you fall in love with. There is much more to consider.

THE CHRISTIAN PUNDIT

My husband and I were once with a youth group. There were three kids sitting across from us at a meal: two guys and a girl. The one guy was a computer geek with glasses. The other one was a college student with slightly cooler hair and no glasses. The girl was obviously with him. But while the computer geek was busy serving everyone at the meal, clearing plates and garbage, the college student got angry with the girl for a small accident and poured red juice over her leather jacket and white shirt. She picked the wrong guy, and the juice didn’t seem to change her mind. She is in for some grief if that relationship continues and especially if it leads to marriage.

So to all the young, unmarried Christian girls out there, listen up: who you marry matters.

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Beautiful advice from a divorced man after 16 years of marriage