Archive | About Me

A Year Post-Op: What I Want You to Know About a Tummy Tuck and Muscle Repair

I’ve mentioned before in passing that I had a tummy tuck (technical term: abdominoplasty–which makes the surgery sound more serious…and more accurate honestly) and a muscle repair. It’s not something I just scream to the world because people like to assume the tummy tuck did all the work and that I just let a surgeon fix my body/get me in shape/take all the fat off. And don’t get me wrong, the tummy tuck DID do amazing things for me (they removed 5.5 pounds of EXCESS SKIN, y’all!), but it didn’t make me lose 95 pounds. No, changing my eating habits and going to the gym did that. I like to think that it accentuated my hard work, but it was/is my hard work.

The ONLY difference in these two photos is the 5.5 pounds of skin the doctor removed. Isn’t it crazy what was hiding underneath the extra skin?! (I went on to lose another 37 pounds after the pictures on the right.)

The picture on the left is of me at my heaviest. I lost 53 pounds (the two top left pictures are me after that weight loss) BEFORE my tummy tuck. The picture on the right is of me after I lost a total of 95 pounds around nine months post-op. You can see itty bitty ab muscles forming!

Now, I went into the surgery pretty blind. I have a close family member who had one about fifteen years ago and I asked questions, but I realize now I didn’t even know WHAT to ask!

So here’s what I think you may need to know if you’re considering a tummy tuck in the future.

  • A tummy tuck is NOT just a tummy tuck.

Sometimes it can be. It COULD just be the removal of excess skin. But that’s actually pretty rare. Most women–dare say 85%, if I had to guess–also need a muscle repair (because of diastasis recti–ab muscles that didn’t close after pregnancy or weight loss or something similar).  There are four types of diastasis recti: open (muscles split apart kind of around the belly button), open below the navel, open above the navel, and the most severe kind: completely open (meaning your abdominal muscles are split apart from the top of them to the very bottom). Because I never halfway do anything, mine of course was the most severe. I had a FIVE-INCH separation down the length of my entire abdomen (caused by my swelling from preeclampsia with MM–I gained 19 pounds in 3 days with her and it gave me crazy amounts of stretch marks and ruined my abs). My split was so bad that when I was pregnant with Lawson I could do a kind of half sit-up and if I held it for 30 seconds or so he would move his head and stick his head up through my abs (he was breach the whole time)–I’m sure he thought it was the coolest thing ever. But y’all, that is one serious ab split! And that, dear friends, is where the hard part comes in.

What they do for a tummy tuck and muscle repair is cut you kind of like a csection, but all the way across (my incision is 22″ long), fold/pull all your skin up to the tip/top of your abdominal muscles and repair (i.e.: stitch) the abdominal muscles back together. After the muscle repair they do liposuction on your flanks (sides) to even it out, and then they pull the skin down to make it taut and cut off any excess skin (remember, I had 5.5 pounds of excess skin removed!), they’ll cut out your belly button and reattach it in the middle of your new stomach. They insert two drains on either side of your mons pubis (the front part of your hoo-ha; these get removed 1-2 weeks after surgery usually). There are tons of videos online showing this procedure, but I didn’t look at them before my surgery. I didn’t want to see it (still don’t. Ick.).

So as you can see it’s not “just” removing the skin. It took right at three hours for mine, which is an average amount of time. You’re put completely under, but because insurance doesn’t cover it (so every single minute you’re there you are being billed) you do it as outpatient surgery and leave the surgery center/hospital after an hour or so in recovery.

  • Wait. If you have a medical problem (like diastasis recti) why doesn’t insurance pay for it?!

Great question. And I didn’t even think about turning my surgery into insurance since I thought it was purely cosmetic. I didn’t realize the severity of my muscle split (because I had so much excess skin covering it) until my first post-op appointment with my doctor. And he probably didn’t mention it at my consultation appointment because plastic surgeons (in general) hate dealing with insurance. Since my surgery one of my friends has had a tummy tuck and had a similar abdominal tear and her insurance paid for basically all of it. You live and learn, I guess. As far as cost: in Atlanta it cost $10,100. I’ve met some women who have gone to foreign countries like the Dominican Republic, Columbia, or Mexico (to name a few) and their surgeries have been as little as $3,000. I didn’t feel comfortable (actually, it didn’t even cross my mind) with anything but American medical care, but that’s just me.

  • What’s the recovery like?

I’ve had a lot of surgery in my life. Easy stuff like my tonsils out and my wisdom teeth removed. Semi-easy stuff like two csections. Medium stuff like two ovarian cancer surgeries (10″ incisions both times). Hard stuff like a breast reduction (went from a J-cup to a D-cup). Very hard stuff like a kidney surgery with a stint and drain (12″ incision).

I say all that to tell you, I understand pain. I understand recovery. But y’all. Y’ALL. If you get nothing out of this entire post understand this clearly: this surgery (really meaning the muscle repair) is the hardest surgery I’ve ever had. I would say it’s like ALL my surgeries COMBINED. I am not exaggerating in the slightest.

The first two or three days I remember nothing. It was all a blur of pain. For the first fourteen days I slept on the couch. I stayed on the couch 99.9% of the day. I was unable to get up on my own. I was unable to shower on my own. I was unable to get to the toilet on my own. I was on pain medicine around the clock. From day 15-20 I made a lot of improvement and could take a shower by myself, put on my own clothes, and sit up on the couch. By 21 days post-op I was 75% again and driving (still spending 50% of my time on the couch). By 28 days I was 90% again and could pick up my 20-pound son (yes, I couldn’t lift anything even for one second that was over five pounds for 28 days and it hurt my heart wanting to pick up my nine month old but not able to; I didn’t realize that part of the recovery until right before I was wheeled back to surgery).  I was able to go grocery shopping again and return to a normal lifestyle. By the six-week mark I was 100% and back at the gym (low impact; regular workouts I waited until 8 weeks post-op). I did my tummy tuck at the beginning of my summer break so I had nine weeks before I had to go back to work. If I had to guess when I could have gone back I would say three weeks would be the absolute minimum (and I would have been exhausted at the end of the day), but by four weeks I would have been okay.

  • What else should I know about post-op?

Swelling. Because of your extensive incision they cut through your lymphatic system so your fluid collects in your abdomen after surgery until it reconnects. It’s like you grow in girth as the day goes on from the fluid buildup. You could start out first thing in the morning with a size 6 waist, for instance, and end up with a size 12 waist by 8pm, especially if you’re outside in the heat or working out. That’s why it’s important to wear a compression garment after surgery. Some women just wear light Spanx, some women wear the tightest faja they can squeeze themselves into. I wore something in the middle (mine was from Leonisa). I stopped swelling right at six months (which is average; I’ve met some women who continue to swell past the one-year mark and I can’t even imagine the frustration) and stopped wearing my garment then as well.

  • This is a pretty intense surgery. Are there any complications?

Yes, unfortunately. And of course I got one of them. I can’t speak for all complications, feel free to google them if you dare, but I can tell you about mine. When I went for my one week followup appointment (let me stop here and stay: I do NOT like at all that I did not see my surgeon for an entire week; I also do NOT like that I was instructed to NOT touch my bandages at all. I was told not to shower, not to touch any bandages or change them) I had what looked like scabs on the front of my incision–about 5″ or so across. It was necrosis. That’s a fancy word for “tissue death”. Don’t google it. Trust me. It’s “common”, relatively-speaking, when you have an area that has a lot of scar tissue (I had two c-sections and two ovarian cancer surgeries in that area already). At my two week post-op the doctor used tweezers and pull the scab-like thing off and underneath was a hole. This is called wound tunneling. It goes hand-in-hand with necrosis. It took 63 days for my incision to close.

There is so much I’m leaving out. Like, how my plastic surgeon told me I had an infection and refused to ever use the word “necrosis” (scared of a lawsuit/documentation on his record) and told me to clean it with peroxide twice a day and gave me crazy strong antibiotics–which is 100% the WRONG treatment (and necrosis is not an infection and does not need antibiotics). How I ended up having to go to a wound clinic for five weeks and use Santyl to get rid of the yellow slough, how I had to pack the hole twice a day (wet-to-dry dressing) with Dakins solution-soaked stringy gauze (with a very long Q-Tip, ewww), how I had to use medical grade honey and cover it with bandages, how they had to measure it every time I went to the wound clinic to make sure the depth was getting shallower (again, ewwww) and how they had to cut around and inside the hole with a scalpel to make it bleed to stimulate healing (again, EWWWWW). I could go on and on. It was a lot. I’m glossing over it. If you want to see pictures of my wound healing I can show them to you–I’m actually really proud of what my body was able to do, but I don’t want to gross people out. But please know that if you found this post and are suffering from necrosis I am here for you and will help you in any way I can.

  • Wow. A tummy tuck is a lot different than I thought! So would you recommend it?

Yes. 100%. I know I just went through how hard and painful it was, but once the recovery period was over–I would say honestly about three months post-op–I was so happy I did it. And I still am. The surgery repaired my torn apart body (something no amount of exercise could ever touch) and it removed excess skin. And y’all, that skin removal changed my very being–it makes me get teary-eyed just thinking about it. I started doing yoga last August. I never did it before because I was horrified to think about if my shirt rode up during a pose and someone saw my tummy. And just a couple of nights ago I was doing a pose and a good 10″ of my skin was showing and I did not care at all. I go to Zumba and sweat and sometimes I even wipe my face with the hem of my shirt and I don’t care that my stomach shows. I even wear bikinis (something I hadn’t done since I was 12 until late last summer)! The surgery has pushed me to physically challenge myself (I had lost 53 pounds prior to surgery and another 42 pounds afterwards). It has changed my life.

If you have any questions please feel free to comment or even email me at twougaalums (at) bellsouth {dot} net and I will answer them. Hope you all have a great weekend–I’m going to the mountains with some of my favorite sorority sisters for our annual girls’ weekend and I can’t wait!

5


My Three Favorite Gym Classes: The 411 on Zumba, Yoga, & Spin

I mentioned it a few weeks ago kinda of casually (and I’ve shown a few pictures of myself), but I’ve lost 95 pounds. Yes, I post A LOT of super yummy treats {and unless it has bananas in it I taste them all!} on here, but I also work my butt off and watch what I eat the rest of the time.

Earlier this week I posted this picture on Instagram and 100+ people liked it (Thank y’all, by the way, it made my day).

And I got to thinking that maybe I would post a little bit about fitness and weight loss and my favorite classes and gym clothes and gym hair and ask some questions myself (I have so many questions about weight lifting!).

Before I talk about HOW I lost the weight with PCOS, I thought I might just dip my toes into the fitness pool first and talk about my favorite classes if that’s okay with y’all.

And to do that I have a little admission to make: up until August 1st (yes, right at six months ago) I had never done a class even though I was in the gym six days a week. (Well, I did step aerobics during fourth period personal fitness in high school, but I don’t think that really counts.) So know what I’m about to say is totally coming from a novice, kinda like a beginners’ guide from a beginner herself.

You see, I didn’t take classes because I was so so so so SOOOOOOOOO self conscious of my stomach & upper arms I was afraid people would stare at me. That they would flop everywhere. Or my belly would peek out from under my shirt in yoga. Honestly, I was petrified.

It wasn’t until I had 5.5 pounds of excess skin removed {and a muscle repair–my ab muscles had a hand-width separation between them} in June that I felt confident enough to finally do a class. (And yes, I realize this surgery warrants SEVERAL posts on its own and I’ll get to that eventually. Promise.)

What I discovered was that I love classes.  I haven’t tried that many honestly, I’ve found three that I like and stuck with them (and plus with working and three little kids it’s hard to fit many more into my schedule, ha!). So I thought I would run down my three favorites and give you the 4-1-1 in case you were like me and didn’t know where to start: the good, the bad, the materials you need, and the average amount of calories I burn. (This is the fitness watch & heart rate monitor (but in pink because man, I wish I had it in pink!) This is it in black (just like mine.) It’s two parts: a watch/step counter and a band you put around your chest with a heart rate monitor when you exercise. It’s also waterproof and you can swim in it!)

january 31. playground. double doozies. rolls. pink hot chocolate. february 2. yoga_0001_edited-1

I totally worked out BEFORE this picture and am all sweaty and stinky and gross here. Oops. 

{Outfit details: GapFit top {check out the back! Also on sale!}. GapFit leggings. *Note: Gap is 35% off with the code ‘SWEET’ and an extra 10% off for card holders with the code ‘Bonus’ right now.}

Spin (RPM is what I do)

This was the very first class I did. I thought it would be be the easiest in terms of skill needed and I was right. I’ve never been a coordinated person {understatement of the year} and I didn’t learn how to ride a bicycle until graduate school. But I can rock a stationary bike. 😉

The Good: You don’t have to be coordinated. As long as you can pedal while you hold on to the handle bars you can do RPM!

The Bad: There are two.

The first bad is that your hoo-ha and your woo-hoo and your yee-haw will feel like they have been kicked by a donkey on steroids after the first class. You will realize you have bits and pieces down there you didn’t even know you had before! There are two things you can do to lessen this. First, show up early to your first class and ask the instructor to help you decide how to set your bike (I’m a 5 on the seat and a 7 on the handlebars)–that will help keep your bottom from constantly hitting the seat the wrong way when you sit back down. Second, get you a cheap pair of padded riding shorts. I got these off Amazon for $11.99 shipped! {Note on sizing: I bought a pair that were XXL and I was a size 12 in August. They fit perfect. I’m now more of a L or XL (size 6/8), but I haven’t bought a new pair.} You look like you’re wearing a diaper in tight pants, but your hoo-ha will want to give you a hug!

The second bad thing is the possibility that you won’t burn a lot of calories. YOU control the intensity {there’s a “dial” on the bike you turn throughout the class} and so the only person that truly pushes you is YOU.

Average calorie burn for me: 650-800/hour

Yoga

I remember when I thought stretching before and after a workout was no big deal. I totally didn’t think you needed to do it. Boy, was I wrong. And yoga has taught me that. The whole hour is spent stretching {along with some ab work and some balance} and it’s amazing how your body opens up. I can’t describe it.

I ran into Target fifteen minutes before my first class to grab a yoga mat. I got a Gaiam 3mm similar to this one {mine is sold out}. I asked my instructor a couple of months ago if it was okay and she said her own mat was a $20 “cheapie” too. {A month ago I did buy this ribbon strap on Etsy to carry it back & forth to class. Isn’t it cute?! $9 and it’s monogrammed.}

january 31. playground. double doozies. rolls. pink hot chocolate. february 2. yoga_0005_edited-1

january 31. playground. double doozies. rolls. pink hot chocolate. february 2. yoga_0003_edited-1

The Good: You will become more limber. Do you know that I can put one leg behind my head now {*after* an hour of yoga warming my body up, of course}. It helps me reconnect with my body, it calms my mind, it’s one of the highlights of my week.

The Bad: You don’t do yoga for the calorie burn. Also, I think you need a good sports bra if you’re larger chested. Going from a downward-facing dog into a plank into a crocodile into a…well, you get the idea. You want to be focusing on your body’s movements and not on keeping your girls in your shirt {trust me on this one}. I finally found a sports bra that it’s extra high cut and now I wear it every time I do yoga.

And I’m about to show you a picture of it. And my bare stomach.

I just deleted a whole paragraph where I apologized for being bloated and my stretch marks and my scars, and blah blah blah. Because you know what? My body is pretty amazing. I don’t mean to look at, I mean what it can do and what it has done {fought cancer & grown two babies for instance!}. I saw this meme and this is exactly how I feel.

Anyway, this is a link to this sports bra ($23 plus 30% off with code ENJOY). I LOVE it and my taataas never fall out. Woohoo!

Average calorie burn for me: 275-450/hour

Zumba

I was so intimidated to try this class. I think I mentioned how uncoordinated I am earlier, but y’all, IT’S BAD. Like, I’m even tone-deaf. I don’t have two left feet, I have two left feet that are upside down and backwards. 🙁

I’m telling you this because if *I* can do Zumba then I promise you CAN do it too.

It’s fast-paced and loud and all the songs are choreographed {it makes me giggle to even think I can do choreographed movements–I basically failed tap dancing when I was 7 & did like four classes before the instructor told me that dancing just wasn’t for me, ha!}. The first class I toughed it out for the full hour. I didn’t die. I liked the songs, I liked the instructor. So I went back. And back again. And now it’s six months and I go three times a week!

The Good: It’s so fast-paced and each song is so different that the hour goes by ridiculously quick. It is also an intense calorie burn. (And did I mention it’s fun?)

The Bad: I think of the three classes I do Zumba is where I could get injured (I tried BodyPump and stopped going after three classes because I could just tell something was up with my wrists and knees afterwards…& I’m too old to be dealing with that!). All the sliding back and forth, the jumping, the pivoting, etc. is pretty rough. I bought new tennis shoes (these are a different color than mine, but I like the colors better!) about six weeks in–I was fitted at a running store–and that has been great (before that the top of my foot had started to hurt). A couple of weeks ago I bought these…uhm, things (I have no idea what to call them!) that go around my sneakers…to get rid of the traction under the ball of my foot. They make turning and twirling so much easier!

Average calorie burn for me: 925 – 1150 calories/hour (and over 7,000 steps)!


And if you’ve made it this far, thank you. That was one doozie of a post! 😉

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! MM and C. are going on their annual daddy-daughter date to Chick-Fil-A (oh-la-la!) and our town’s annual Daddy-Daughter Dance. She got a new party dress and some miniature sparely heels (lordy!) and C. is giving her a corsage. Pictures to come!

(Tomorrow my gym is having RPM at 9:30 and Zumba at 10:30 if you want to come join me!)

And Sunday we have the Super Bowl with our hometown team in it. And, yet again, just like every single year EVER, we are not invited to a Super Bowl party.

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Hopefully your weekend is exciting and you have more Super Bowl party invites than you know what to do with! 😉

I would LOVE to hear about any classes you enjoy. Seriously. Fill me in on what you like because I like trying new things!

 

11


So.

So.

I am alive, in case there was any doubt.

Just took a little break. Because 2.5 years is really not that long of a span between posts, right? I mean, in the whole context of time from the world’s point of view.

Right.

And nothing has changed, can you believe it?

April Fools (in January)!

Biggest change? Oh, I don’t know–maybe this little guy? Meet Lawson.

december 28. sleepy head_0005_edited-1

He’s a surprise {I say it like he’s a current surprise because he truly is–everyday I’m still surprised he’s here!}. …and yeah, in case you were wondering (because I totally would be too) I grew him in my wonky infertile body {maybe I’m not so infertile anymore?? HA!!}. He was born in August 2015. (For those that have been around from the beginning: his pregnancy was so different than MM. Yeah, I still had PreE {we discovered I had the hereditary kind}, but because I was 40 pounds lighter starting out and very active, I never had to go on bedrest. He did arrive at 37weeks5days just like his big sis, but only weighed 6lbs, 7ozs (she weighed 8 at that point). I even breastfed this little guy!)

august 8. davids wedding_0022_edited-1

Then there’s me. Or what’s left of me. 95 pounds down and reached “goal” (and yessss, I could lose more, but for now I’m just enjoying the whole “I’m at goal” thing I’ve got going on). I actually have three items in my closet that are a size 6–I started this journey at a 20W. Still blows my mind.

{MM & I headed to the Nutcracker at the Fox right before Christmas. She’s rocking my Christmas dress from 1989.}

As for the original two kids, they are no longer 5 and 2. Oh no sir, they are almost 8 {on Sunday} and 5 {next month}. Can you even believe it? Where are my itty bitty babies?

december 24. christmas eve_0020_edited-1

I’m still keeping C. around. 😉 Our 12th anniversary will be in four months {a dozen years, do what?!}. He started a new job last year and travels a ton during the week. We’ve started traveling some together as well. We’ve gone to New York, New Orleans, Las Vegas…without children {cue the hallelujah chorus}. Sometime this year we’re going to either the Pacific Northwest or Maine–we’re trying to narrow it down.

Us on the way to celebrate our 13th second first date anniversary. 

We still have our old house. We’re gearing up for Renovation 2.0 in the next couple of years {most likely summer 2018}. Adding 1.5 baths, redoing a bath, adding a closet, redoing a mudroom {and actually getting a washer + dryer that is NOT apartment-size, ohhhhh yeah!}, redoing our current kitchen into a butlers pantry and making our current sleeping porch into a kitchen. And then everyone switching around bedrooms {we’ll move downstairs and MM will go into the boys’ old nursery since we’re adding a bath in there}. It’s fun dreaming about it, but it doesn’t seem real yet, you know? I’m sure when I’m writing the checks it’ll become real, real quick.

And that’s about it for the updates, I guess.

I turned 36 last month. I feel it too. 

Oh. Except I now drive a minivan. So there’s that. At least I put a sticker on the back window that says “I used to be cool, I swear” so that makes it totally cool, right? …right?

2


‘Hair’ Today, Gone Tomorrow

For the past two years or so I’ve been growing out my hair for Locks of Love.

I did it back in ’05 right after we returned from our honeymoon and was going to cut it again on our anniversary.

But I woke up yesterday feeling like that kid in Napoleon Dynamite who shaved his head because he was hot. I feared that I might just start hacking away at it with scissors myself! So on the way home from work I called my salon and asked if *anyone* was available right that second to cut my hair.

Thankfully there was.

I went in like this.

april 19th. hair cut_0002

april 19th. hair cut_0004

Had four pony tails snipped right off.

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And left with hair that was a little over twelve inches shorter than when I walked in.

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april 19th. hair cut_0006

When I picked MM up from preschool her eyes got as big as saucers. She touched my new {straight} hair and declared us “hair twins”.

I thought it was funny when later she asked me if she could touch my cut-off hair–I think she might miss rubbing on it…what do you think? haha

april 19th. hair cut_0008

It feels good to have all that weight gone AND to be able to sit down in a chair and not get my hair stuck between my back and the chair anymore. That was getting a little frustrating.

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The stylist did tell me that you can only donate if less than 5% of your hair is gray. {They basically bleach all the hair in batches and then re-color it for a wig. Gray hair apparently doesn’t color as well.} She said that right now I’m about 5% gray {more so around my face and hairline}–looks like this will be my last donation. Just another sign I’m getting older, I guess. Ick. Boo. Hiss.

5


Merry Christmas to You and Yours

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas.

cooper
Our Christmas card that unfortunately I ordered 35 of instead of my intended 65. Oops. I blame it on a bad case of “Holiday Brain”.

And because I just couldn’t resist posting this, here I am with the jolly old elf himself, circa 1982. {I am 24 months old here, MM is 23 months in the above photograph.} I’ve said it before, but my, we are twins.

christmas 1982

Happy Holidays, dear friends!

4


Christmas Wishes

The other day my mother sent me home with a Christmas album.  Inside she had placed all my pictures with Santa in chronological order and as many Santa letters as she could find.

{I must admit, I LOVED writing Santa.  Like every night.  So to think she has kept them all–and we’re still finding little stacks here and there as we sort through things in the basement–is really quite amazing.}

Here are three letters dated 1990 and 1991 {Yes, I was 10 and 11 years old…I still believed in Santa until my mom sat me down in a Ryan’s Steakhouse the summer after sixth grade and told me the truth.  I’ve mentioned before I was a wee bit sheltered and naive, right?}

christmas letter 3

Two things to note: Donnie was my older cousin serving in the navy–this was written during Desert Storm after all. Second, I ALWAYS, I mean ALWAYS, begged and pleaded for a baby brother or sister. I even pictured it in my mind: I would run to the tree on Christmas morning and see a Moses basket filled with light blue blankets. I would pull them aside and there would be my baby brother. I dreamed of this so often that I honestly believed it would happen. That was in fourth grade.

Apparently between fourth and fifth grade I realized how babies were made and figured out Santa couldn’t just give me one. I became wise {and specific} and asked for a FOSTER sister that was nine instead. Ahh, yes, very wise.

christmas letter2

Now, I’m not sure why I needed a passport. My family and I never went anywhere “foreign” except to the Bahamas. Maybe I had grand plans of running away to Europe? Who knows.

Also, I was very specific on who I wrote to. Of course there was Santa, but I also wrote to Patch–his most favorite elf as seen in the movie Santa Claus {played by the cute Dudley Moore no less}, and all 9 (not 8 like some say) reindeer.

And while this has nothing to do with my other two lists, I just had to show you. Yes, even at 10 (almost 11) I wanted to be in the kitchen cooking. I was a Martha Stewart prodigy even in fourth grade. HAHA!

christmas letter 1 jpg

But this got me to thinking…what would be on my wish list this year?

Yep, still wanting that baby brother or sister for MM as you all know, and still wanting kitchen do-dads {a new, old sink and tile flooring for our impossibly-tiny kitchen to be specific}. I no longer want Guess cologne {HA!}, but am asking for more Angel. Oh, and peace? Yeah, that would be pretty awesome too.

What’s on your wish list?

6


Gotcha

This morning when MM got up her Mimi had a very special story to tell her on this day.  She said,

A long time ago there was a little baby born named Natalie.  One day a mommy and daddy got a call that said their daughter had been born!  So, the mommy, and the mamaw, and the little cousin got in their car and drove a very long way to Atlanta to pick up their little baby.  And do you know what?  That little baby didn’t even have a paci!  So the mommy had to get the baby a paci and diapers and a doll.  The whole day the mommy took the baby around her hometown showing her off to everyone she knew.  That night when the daddy got home from work (he had to work since he delivered packages and it was the Christmas season) he said, ‘Do you have something for me?’  Then the mommy put the baby in the daddy’s arms and they held her all night long.  That little baby was the best gift her mommy and daddy ever got and every year on this day they remember that gift.  Do you know who that little baby is?

And MM who was enthralled with the whole story said, ‘MOMMY!’, like she had known it all along.

You see, today is my Gotcha Day–the day my parents “got” me.  My whole life we celebrated this day almost as much as my birthday.  I get a gift and we go out to dinner to celebrate.

I’ve always felt very loved because I have a mother that loved me very much and knew she could not keep me.  I have a mom and dad that loved me so much they knew they wanted me before they even knew me.

Wow, there are not many people who can say they are loved that much.  I haven’t always felt blessed to be adopted–when I was growing up it was very hard on me–but through the years I treasure that I am surrounded by so much love.

Thank you, Joyce, for being my mother and making me “me”…and now being my friend.  Thank you, Mom, for loving me unconditionally from the start and being my mom every day of my life and nurturing every part of me.  Thank you, Deddy, for the never-ending love and always letting me be your little sidekick in everything you did.  Thank you to all of you for being so supportive while I searched for my beginning the past seven months.

Yes, yes, truly blessed indeed.

11


A Moment to Think

I accidentally snapped this picture on the way to dinner last night and as I was downloading the pictures to my computer I realized this photo spoke about the mood I was in yesterday: contemplative, searching, thankful. It might be just my eyeball to some, but to me it’s a window into my soul.

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You see, yesterday was my fourteen-year cancer-free anniversary.

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Fourteen years. It feel like just yesterday and at the same time it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

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I’m sure I’ve told you the story before of how I find out about the cancer. If not, here it is.

The summer before my sophomore year of high school I became very tired. So tired that I would fall asleep anywhere. During the track and field events at the Olympics. During class changes at school.  I couldn’t help it or do anything about it.  I was sleeping almost 16 hours a day by that September. My mother took me to the doctor and they did a battery of tests on me. I was severely anemic and had severe recurring UTIs, but that was all. There was nothing to explain the sudden, extreme tiredness.  And the problem grew worse. After many almost-weekly trips to my doctor he thought I was perhaps having seizures–that instead of sleeping I was really in a seizure-induced haze. See, I had became so perpetually tired that I could go to sleep and wake up having taken pages and pages of notes in biology without even remembering it. It was eerie. My mother got a recommendation for a neurologist.

However, before we could make an appointment I was admitted to the hospital.

It was election day 2006 and I had the day off from school. My parents had gone to vote and I went to take a shower. That’s when I all-of-a-sudden doubled over in pain. I’ve always heard that you forget pain, and it’s true, I honestly don’t remember what it felt like. All I remember is thinking that it was the worst pain of my life. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t move. Somehow I got out of the shower, fell to the floor, and that’s how my parents found me when they got home–delirious from pain and laying on the floor. They got me dressed and decided it would be quicker to drive to the hospital than to wait on an ambulance.

Since all this I’ve been to the ER before for various things. Never, and I mean never, have they taken me right back. You have to wait and fill out paperwork and get your vitals, etc. But that day it was so obvious that I was in intolerable pain, that they immediately put me on a gurney and wheeled me back.

I don’t remember much, thankfully. I do remember coming to {I was passed out from the pain for most of it} and begging for pain killers. I remember being told they couldn’t give me anything until they knew what was wrong because they might have to do emergency surgery. I remember them telling me that all my xrays were cloudy because it looked like I was bleeding internally. They did catheterized me {without any pain medicine, I might add}–I do remember that plainly–and admitted me.

Finally, they did an abdomen ultrasound and realized that most of the bleeding was coming from my pelvic area. A surgeon came in and told us he was going to do exploratory surgery because he thought I might be having a cyst issue.

“A cyst issue” was an understatement. It ended up weighing 15 pounds and had twisted and destroyed my ovary so much that it had to be removed. It had caused me to lose massive amounts of blood to my internal bleeding {hence, the sleepiness and anemia}. It had put so much pressure on my bladder and kidneys that they could not function.

After a four-day stay in the hospital, I was sent home to heal. It was all going to be fine I was told.

A week later as I was laying on the couch, my parents received a call from my doctor. They left quietly and without telling me who had called. I assumed that they were going to look for me a car for my 16th birthday that was in less than two weeks.

They came back a couple of hours later crying. They told me I had cancer.

I tell you this story because it is an important part of who I became after those three words, “You have cancer.” I am such a blessed woman to have survived this ordeal. I have a wonderful family. A phenomenal husband. A daughter I don’t deserve. She is my miracle baby.

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I only let me dwell on the “Cancer Natalie” one day a year. Every November 7th I allow myself to think back on those dark days. But every single day I rejoice for what I’ve been given.

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Because I have been given so very much. And last night we celebrated by going out to dinner and I was given beautiful things by my family that I treasure.

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In fact, I treasure everything since November 7, 1996.  Because that is the day my life, and its purpose, changed forever.

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5


Two of a Kind

Growing up I had a fantasy that I had a long-lost identical twin sister.  Perhaps I would find her at camp like in The Parent Trap or in a shopping mall like Sister, Sister.

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I have been told numerous times growing up that I have a “twin” in Dunwoody which only fueled my fire on my separated-at-birth twin sister theory.

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What I didn’t know growing up is that I did have a twin, we were just born twenty-eight years apart.

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I found these pictures of me today from May and June of 1982.  I was 17/18 months old.  I looked through the photos I have of MM and sure enough, other than the hair, we’re twins.  She even picks her fingers like I used to do {okay, okay, I’m still a finger picker!}.

Yep, God gave me my twin I prayed for after all.

5


I Ain’t Got Nothing

I’m having writers block this week.

It’s one of those weeks when I have nothing to say. Zilch.

Other weeks I feel as if I could write multiple posts per day.

But not this week.

So, in honor of having nothing to say I shall make a list of things you may or may not know about me.

1. I once went to a luncheon with Martha Stewart.

2. Other than a toe, I’ve never broken a bone. When I was growing up I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have had a cast so people could sign it. My favorite book was Jenny’s In the Hospital about a girl, well, who has a broken arm in the hospital.

3. Other than first grade, I’ve never worn glasses. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to wear glasses.

4. My biggest fear is frogs. Followed by being buried alive and drowning.

5. I’ve been researching how to make your own flour {using wheat you’ve grown, of course}.

6. I’m making homemade butter now too.

7. I saw a preview a while back for a show where two guys move to a farm and learn everything they need to know about it on the internet. I’ve never seen the show, but I could totally do that.

8. In high school the Atlanta-Journal wrote in article about me and called it “Martha Stewart’s Whiz Kid”. {They didn’t know about #1.}

9. I can’t drive a stick shift.  Even if my life depended on it.  See, my dad tried to teach me how on our farm’s ’62 Ford truck (we called her the “blue hornet”) in the pasture when I was in high school.  The clutch in that thing was majorly messed up and I couldn’t get the hang of it.  And if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that I like to master things quickly.  I stopped riding bikes for fifteen years because I couldn’t figure it out when I was 7 and I stopped driving stick shifts when I couldn’t get the hang of it at 16.  I’m a perfectionist ridiculous like that.

10. I can spell any word backwards as fast as I can forwards. I’ve won a couple of contests for doing it. ?evisserpmi taht t’nsI I think it’s strange that there are actually contests for that sort of thing.

So there you have it.  Me in a nutshell.  Hopefully I’ll be back later with something. 

Anything is better than that list!

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