Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's a, seriously

Yesterday I got a call from Dr. Avizonis, the radiologist I went to see up in Salt Lake for a second opinion. She had had a conference with a bunch of other doctors that morning (Wednesday morning) where they reviewed my situation to see what the best course of action to take would be. I knew that whatever she told me to do, I would need to do. Honestly, I was expecting to hear that I needed radiation. Even if my MRI was clean - even if it showed no signs of cancer, there was still that 10% of my tumor that had been removed that was a high grade cancer, so I knew that just as a precaution I would still need radiation. I was scared to get radiation, but I was even more scared of what would happen if the cancer came back and spread, so I was trying to deal with the idea of living with the side effects of radiation for the rest of my life. It was a scary thought, but I knew it wouldn't do any good worrying about it until I had heard from Dr. Avizonis. Needless to say, it was an important phone call.

She's such a great doctor. Everything she could have done to help me she did. She talked to my ENT doctor who did my surgery, she got all my records, including my new MRI films, she got the pathology reports and slides, and she spend time with the other doctors at the conference thoroughly reviewing my case to decide what to do. She asked me if my nose had been itching that morning because they were talking about me :-).

So, on to the news - and the miracle :-). She reviewed my pathology slides with other pathologists and they discovered that the pathologist who had first looked at my tumor and had graded it as 90% low and 10% high was most likely using an older method of grading. All of the pathologist at the conference agreed that with the updated information out there, my cancer was actually ALL low grade. I couldn't believe what she was telling me! Because of that, it changed everything. I don't need radiation. There's less than a ten percent chance of my cancer coming back, which is even better odds than doing radiation. If by chance my cancer does come back it would be localized and would not spread. So, as long as I get MRI's every six months or so for the next several years, they'll be able to monitor it closely and make sure I'm ok. Plus, if that weren't enough amazing news, Dr. Avizonis told me what my ENT doctor, Dr. Riddle, had told her about my surgery. Dr. Riddle had said that if he would have known that my tumor was cancerous when he did the surgery (Dr. Riddle and I had no worries beforehand that it would be cancerous), he would have removed my facial nerve, or at least part of it, and grafted in another nerve in hopes that it would regenerate. So, I might not have full use of the left side of my face if he would have known beforehand that my tumor was cancerous. I'm so glad he didn't know!!! Now, if my cancer does come back he'll most likely have to do just that, but at least I have a chance to beat this before taking that kind of (in my opinion) drastic action. My MRI was totally clean, though, so that's very promising. So, at least for now, I can smile and blink my eyes and not have to worry about having half a face that doesn't work. From the odds that Dr. Avizonis told me, I'm not worried about my cancer coming back. One of the last things Dr. Avizonis told me was to focus now on being with my kids and taking care of my family. I swear if she would have told me all this in person I would have kissed her!

I got off the phone and just cried. I thanked my Heavenly Father for this miraculous news and for the chance to move on with my life and not have to worry about cancer or radiation or not being here to spend time with my family. I can't even explain fully how I feel right now. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude. I think what overwhelms me the most is knowing that this miracle came about not because of me or what I did, but because of all of you. It is because all of you prayed and fasted and put my name in the Temple and showed your support. I know it is because of the love of you, my friends and family, that I am going to be ok. Again, I cannot fully explain how grateful I feel. It makes me tear up just thinking about it. All I can say is thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your love and concern and prayers in my behalf. I love you all so much. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for this experience, and this outcome. I know that it has made me a better person.

Well, I hope this is the last you'll be hearing about all of this. But, even if it's not, I am just so grateful for this experience. I know that everything happens for a reason. I've seen the Lords hand in every tiny step and decision and I thank all of you for being a part of that. Again, I love you all!!! I hope you all have as good of a day and week as I'm having right now :-).

Happy Birthday JR!

JR turned 29 on Tuesday and we had such a fun day celebrating his birthday. We actually did a lot of celebrating over the weekend too, along with celebrating four other birthdays in my family, but I forgot my camera so you get to see lots of pics from Tuesday to make up for it :-).

For dinner we went to one of JR's favorite places: Tucanos. It was so yummy! They sing to you in Portugues when it's your birthday, so that was fun too.

We enjoyed lots of yummy food and the kids really enjoyed it also.

Here's JR in his new birthday outfit. Grrrrrr :-).

After Tucanos we went up Provo canyon and walked around by Bridal Veil Falls. Here's a pic for you Jenny!

Here's the Provo River (I think). It was really full.

I love these pics of Cali. She's so pretty!

Here's the fam on our walk at Canyon Creek Park.

JR and Cali found a bird, and if you look really close you can see it close to where they are. It was bright yellow with a red face - very pretty.

Here's my cute Isaac. He had a blast being outside.

There was a pink blossom tree in the middle of all the green, so I had to take a picture. I think it turned out pretty good!

Instead of a birthday cake JR wanted doughnuts. So, we made a stop at Krispy Kream on our way home. Cali LOVED watching the doughnuts being made and picking out one just for her. Here's JR blowing out his birthday doughnut.
They were yummy!
Happy Birthday JR! We love you!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Radiation Update

For those of you keeping tabs on me here's an update. I haven't started radiation yet. I'm getting a second opinion tomorrow from a radiologist up in Salt Lake, so I'm looking forward to that. From there I'll just take it one step at a time. The good news is that if I do need to get radiation I'm feeling much better about it. I was really scared at first, but now I figure if it can help me and increase my chances of not having a recurrence then it's worth it. I love my family and friends, so I'm going to do all I can to stick around just for you :-).

I need to give a big THANK YOU to all of you who have extended your love and support, as well as your opinions about what I should do. I can't tell you how much that helps me. I have the best friends and family in the world! I don't know how I could do any of this without knowing that I have such amazing support behind me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your comments, e-mails, and words of wisdom. I know I'm not alone in this. With all your love and support behind me I feel like I can make it through anything. So, for those of you who didn't think your words would help, just know that it's because of every single one of you that I'm able to think positively and move forward without fear. That, and my faith in my Savior. I love you guys so much. Thank you for everything.

I'll continue to keep you posted!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Picnic Fun

Since this week was our anniversary, JR took Thursday and Friday off of work so we could spend time together as a family. It was such a fun week! JR didn't want to go back to work today :-). On Friday JR wanted to take us on a picnic. We went to a park in S.F. just down the street from us. It was SUCH a nice day and we had a really fun time being outside and spending some good quality time as a family.

Here's my cute JR and Isaac eating the yummy sandwiches JR made for us.

Cali couldn't wait to go on the picnic. She had a blast!

After everyone ate Cali and Isaac got to play on the playground. I think the swings were a favorite :-).

Isaac had so much fun in the swings. Look at that smile!

Cali is so funny. When she was climbing on the playground I told her she was doing a great job. She replied, "Yeah, I'm pretty talented." She cracks me up!

I love this picture. Cali ran off without telling us where she was going, so JR is talking to her. Isaac thinks life is great, though, so he smiles for the picture while Cali is getting in trouble. It just makes me laugh :-).

Here's Isaac playing with Dad. JR plays so cute with the kids :-).

Here's me with my sweet Isaac. I love this kid!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Our Seventh Anniversary

On May 14th JR and I celebrated our seven year anniversary. It was so much fun! We both surprised each other with different things, which made it even better. I surprised JR with a new haircut and a fun new outfit (which he loved :-), and JR surprised me with a night in Park City and a yummy restaurant. JR really did an awesome job planning our anniversary and we really enjoyed time alone together while my family watched the kids.

Here's us at Ruth's Chris, a very VERY yummy restaurant in Park City. It's so fancy the waiter actually asked us if we wanted water "with or without gas". I was like, "what the?!" Apparently it just means with or without carbonated bubbles. JR was smart, he already knew what that was. You learn new things everyday! I learned I definitely DO NOT want my water with gas. It's disgusting!!!

Here's my cute JR with our YUMMY fancy chocolate desert. They even put a candle on the plate for our anniversary. It was a really nice place to eat and we really enjoyed ourselves.

Here's the huge condo JR rented for us in Park City. It was so nice! It had a fireplace and a hot tub on the balcony. Again, he did a great job surprising me for our anniversary :-).

Here's me with the roses JR also surprised me with. I surprised him with my new haircut. Do you like it? JR did! I really like it too. I'm blonde again!

For our anniversary JR and I like to go and do Temple sealings. We didn't get to do it on our anniversary, so the next day we went to Timpanogos Temple and did sealings. I love that temple. The flowers were gorgeous outside. It was especially nice to be in the temple together. Doing sealings has been a really fun way to celebrate our anniversary. It brings back great memories :-).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

101 Reasons Why I Love JR

In honor of JR and I celebrating our 7th anniversary today, I wanted to let him know just how wonderful he is and why I love him so much. So here's 101 reasons why he's the best hubby ever:

1- He tells me he loves me every day.
2- He loves being home with me and the kids.
3- He's planning on surprising me with something(s) for our anniversary! I can't wait!
4- He has the best, most genuine loud laugh ever. I love it!
5- He is the reason why I'm better able to express my feelings.
6- He lets me speak my mind and doesn't freak out if I'm upset.
7- He's very patient to listen to me, even if it takes a while.
8- He's the first to apologize after an argument.
9- Both being Psych majors, we love figuring stuff out together to make our relationship better.
10- He's constantly trying to better himself in ways that amaze me.
11- He gave me two of the most beautiful children ever!
12- He LOVES being a dad and is so great with the kids.
13- He honors his priesthood and can give me blessings when I need them.
14- He loves to cook and spoils me with amazing meals!
15- He cleans the bathroom for me!
16- He sings Cali songs before she goes to bed.
17- He teaches our children the gospel and shares his testimony.
18- He is SOOO smart and remembers almost everything he hears, reads, etc.
19- He is the Sr. Primary chorister and absolutely loves his calling!
20- He is so great with kids.
21- He plays the piano and even plays the organ in church!
22- He's not afraid (like me) to share his talents with others.
23- He's very artistic and drew a picture of me as a gift for our wedding.
24- He makes me feel beautiful and tells me that I am all the time.
25- He plays the guitar!!!
26- He loves languages and knows two, plus understands parts of others.
27- He fulfills his male role of understanding electronics so I don't have to :-).
28- He watches chick flicks with me and actually doesn't mind them!
29- He loves talking almost as much as I do :-).
30- He has written me songs and sings them to me.
31- He has a beautiful singing voice!
32- He lets me do things my way when I get perfectionistic.
33- He likes spending time with me.
34- We're currently reading the Twilight book together and he actually likes it!
35- He helps me be my best.
36- He's a generous tipper.
37- He is kind to everyone around him.
38- He gets his feelings hurt sometimes when I'm sarcastic. He's not as sarcastic and I actually think it's sweet :-).
39- He helps me with all my issues :-).
40- He makes me feel safe.
41- He is so strong and supportive.
42- He is such a great dad and will put the kids to bed all by himself!
43- He irons his own shirts.
44- He likes to dress well.
45- He looks dang sexy - in whatever he's wearing!
46- He has beautiful blue eyes and (no-fair) long eyelashes.
47- He makes me yummy birthday cakes.
48- He works very hard to support our family so that I can stay home with the kids.
49- He helps me with my church callings.
50- He helps me make hard decisions.
51- He supports me when I'm having a hard day.
52- We both enjoy good food, fun restaurants, and eating healthy (well,most of the time :-).
53- He admits when he's wrong.
54- He is very knowledgeable about the gospel and I learn a lot from him.
55- He is an amazing teacher - whether it's primary or gospel doctrine.
56- He is also an amazing speaker. He loves it when we give talks in church!
57- He loves his family and is a great big brother.
58- He's like the son my father never had - they're so much alike it's scary!
59- He's honest with me, and doesn't just say something because he thinks it's what I want to hear.
60- He takes care of me when I'm sick. He even fed me pudding after my surgery!
61- He lets me talk him into giving me foot rubs :-).
62- He's patient with me when I sleep in or stay up late.
63- He's just as weird and crazy as I am!
64- I trust him with my life.
65- He makes me smile :-).
66- He'll buy me candy because he knows it makes me happy :-D.
67- He wrote the first talk Cali gave in church and helped her give it.
68- He tells me when he buys a Coke because he feels guilty :-).
69- He enjoys a challenge.
70- He is such a proud daddy :-).
71- He enjoys my cooking.
72- He is extremely eloquent and sweet, especially when he tells me how he feels about me.
73- He loves the sound of my voice.
74- He encourages me to get out of my comfort zone.
75- He thinks I'm funny :-).
76- He makes me feel good about myself.
77- He openly shares personal things with me.
78- He helps me with the kids as much as he can.
79- He would rather stay home with me and the kids than do anything else.
80- He stays up late with me, even when he has to get up early the next day.
81- He gets up with the kids at night.
82- He has a beautiful smile that lights up his whole face :-D.
83- He is an INCREDIBLE kisser! (sorry, I know, TMI)
84- He cooks dinner for the family when I have no clue what to make (or am just being lazy :-).
85- Some Sundays he plays primary songs on the piano and sings with Cali. It's so sweet :-).
86- He does silly things to make the kids laugh.
87- He likes to hear me sing and gets mad when I say I don't like my voice.
88- He tells me how great I look after having two kids :-).
89- He never raises his voice, even when he's angry.
90- He's patient with me when I get overenthusiastic about something.
91- He loves to visit Snow College and reminisce about how me met.
92- He'll warm up my feet when they get cold.
93- He encourages me to do things that make me happy.
94- He loves to ask me deep questions to know what I'm thinking.
95- I trust him to trim my eyebrows, and he doesn't mind doing it!
96- He makes me laugh :-).
97- He is so good looking I think people wonder how I snagged him!
98- He loves me despite all my faults.
99- He's a very deep thinker and always has something important on his mind.
100- He's my best friend and I love simply being with him.
101- He is the love of my life and I'm so grateful he's mine!

JR- I feel so privileged to be the one that gets to share everything with you. All the little moments of the day that I have with you mean the world to me. We've gone through so much together and have grown so close that I can't wait to see what the rest of life holds for us. Thank you for all your love and support, and for everything you do each day to show me that you love me. I love you sweetheart! Happy Anniversary!

P.S. I can't WAIT to enjoy these next few days together :-).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day Mean Moms :-)

So, my daughter Cali informed me last night, for the first time ever, that I was a "mean mommy". The first time she said it I thought that's what she had said, but I made her repeat herself just to make sure. She made sure I heard it the second time, enunciating every word. "You are a mean mom." I was making her pick up the blocks that she had thrown all around the room, and she wanted me to know how she felt about it. As hurt as I should have felt that my beautiful daughter now thought I was mean, it made me laugh. "Thank goodness I'm mean," I thought, "or you'd never learn anything!"

As I pondered this poignant moment in my life I thought it was very appropriate to give thanks for all the mean moms out there that help their children learn that certain choices carry certain consequences. Now, maybe I could have made Cali pick up her blocks in a nicer way (like my own mom probably would have :-), but hopefully I'll instill in her something greater in those small teaching moments. Happy Mothers Day all you mean moms, from a newly inducted member of the club :-).

P.S. So, I asked Cali today if I was still a mean mom and she said, "Not now." She just had to leave room open for later. What a stinker! :-D

Friday, May 9, 2008

Calling All Opinions!

For those of you who have been anxiously awaiting :-) more news about my surgery, cancer, and recovery here it is. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, let me quickly recap (you can also check out my blogs from January '08 to get more info). In January I had surgery to remove a lump I had behind my left ear. From the surgery biopsy they discovered that it was cancer, but luckily they thought they got it all and the diagnosis was good (for cancer anyways). I was going to look into other possible options as soon as my facial nerve healed (the tumor was attached to my facial nerve and it got irritated when the doctors removed my tumor, resulting in the limited use of the left side of my face for about two months).

So, now that my face is basically back to normal (well, as normal as it can get :-D) I went to go see a radiologist to get his opinion on what I should do. My ENT doctor that did my surgery suggested just waiting to see if anything grows back, but he also suggested getting more info from a radiologists perspective. So that's what I did two weeks ago. To my complete frustration the radiologist recommended radiation. He said that my tumor was classified as intermediate-grade because 90% of the tumor was low-grade (no worries) but 10% of it was high-grade (lots of worries). If all of my tumor had been low-grade the radiologist would have recommended doing nothing, but because of that high-grade 10% he recommended radiation because the high-grade tumors are much more aggressive and are more apt to grow and spread. The other reason why he recommended radiation was because the margins around my tumor were really close. That means their was healthy tissue removed that was between me and the cancer (which is a very good thing), but it was really really close (.25 millimeters). So, the question remains is that too close, or did the doctor really get it all. My radiologist doesn't feel comfortable with how close my margins were, hence the radiation suggestion.

From what the radiologist told me, the only permanent side effects I would have from the radiation is a lack of saliva production on the left side of my mouth and a lack of sweat production behind my left ear because the radiation would basically destroy my sweat and saliva glands on that side. Putting it plainly, I would have some dry skin behind my ear and a dryer mouth that would just require drinking more water. I didn't think that seemed too bad. There are more short term side effects, though. The radiation would have to be done every day, Monday through Friday, for six weeks. I would feel tired, have mouth pain and possibly sores that would make it hard to eat (although I could lose weight ;-), my teeth could become damaged, my mouth would be dry and it might be hard to talk (hello! that's the worst thing ever for me! :-), and most likely I could lose some hair that was in the path of the radiation. Overall, though, my real worries aren't those as much as they are the rare side effects that COULD happen. I'm totally worried about the 'what-ifs', like damage to my inner ear (which my doctor said wouldn't happen, but a pamphlet I read said that it could happen, but very rarely does) and who knows what else could happen to me long term from the effects of radiation. If my only long term worries were lack of spit and dry skin I could handle that. I just don't want to fall into the 'rare' group that has to live with awful side effects for the rest of my life. I thought when I turned 27 this year that I was really old. But, considering the life I still have ahead of me I'm not old at all. I have so much to live for and I don't want side effects from radiation to affect my quality of life for the next who knows how many years. But, then again, I don't want the cancer to come back and have to have surgery again, or worse.

The overarching 'what-ifs' that are the hardest for me to deal with right now are: What if the doctor got all the cancer and I don't have anything to worry about? What if I do radiation unnecessarily and end up with side effects for the rest of my life? What if the cancer comes back and I have to have surgery again and possibly loose my facial nerve? What if I wait it out for now and the cancer comes back and spreads to my lymph nodes? What if I don't take the necessary precautions and this becomes a life or death situation??? I know that life is full of what-ifs and if we had all the answers agency wouldn't be necessary and there would be no point to this life. It's just hard having to make these kinds of decisions not knowing exactly what the outcome will be. I guess that's where faith comes it. This experience has definitely been a test of faith, but I know in the end I'll be stronger because of it.

Well, after some praying and planning I decided to start radiation a week from Monday, on the 19th. I'm freaking out because I just don't know what to expect as far as side effects go. I talked to a lady from the ward I grew up in who had almost exactly the same cancer that I have and she did radiation too. She told me that it wasn't bad at all and the side effects were totally manageable. But, another lady from my home ward said she had radiation when she was in college and now she has health problems that she believes stem from the radiation, including dizziness from her inner ear. But, you also have to take into consideration the advancement of radiation from thirty years ago until now. After talking to my mom and dad this morning about it, I'm thinking that I'm going to go to another ENT and radiologist up in SL to get a second opinion. I know that sounds like a 'duh', but honestly I've never dealt with anything like this before! Out of probably 150 people in my extended family there has only been one other relative that has had cancer, and she died when I was young. Cancer just doesn't run in my family, so I don't have a lot of experience and resources around me from family that have gone through it before. I am going to make an appointment today with the ENT up in SL, but I most likely won't get in before I'm scheduled to start radiation. So, I'm probably going to postpone that for now, until I get more information. This is all still so new to me. Honestly I'd just like to forget any of this ever happened and be in denial (which is kind of how I was coping with this up until I heard I'd need radiation). I'm dealing with things a day at a time, and it's definitely starting to sink in. It's still a very weird reality, but it's my reality and hopefully I'll learn something from the whole experience and be a better person for it.

SO, after that long speal, here's my request: PLEASE let me know what you think I should do. If you've had experience with cancer, or if you know of someone who went through radiation, or whatever, please let me know what you think. I honestly just don't know that many people who have had experience with this and I need all the help I can get. Or, if you just want to lend your support that would be great too :-). Oh, and just FYI, the type of cancer I have is called Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma (for those technical people out there, like JR :-).

Thanks for listening to all my rantings. It feels good to get all my thoughts down, even if some of them are a little crazy :-). Thanks for all of your help and prayers. I feel so blessed to get to associate with all of you. I look forward to hearing your opinions! Thanks again. I really do feel overwhelmed by all of your thoughts, prayers, love, and encouragement. I love you all!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Isaac!!!

I can't believe Isaac is a year old! He's definitely big enough to be, but it just seems like this past year has gone by too fast. He is the cutest and sweetest little boy ever and I am so grateful to be his mom. Isaac's birthday was on Monday, May 5th, but we celebrated it with family on Saturday, May 3rd. We had a party in JR's parents backyard. The weather was perfect! My sisters came with their kids and my parents were there along with most of JR's family and his grandparents (Isaac's great-grandparents). Isaac got completely spoiled, but luckily he's young enough that it won't cause any permanent damage :-). JR and I had so much fun with family celebrating Isaac's first birthday. Thanks so much to everyone that came and showed their love and support. We missed those who couldn't come, but understand that travel presents a problem sometimes :-). Isaac is such a sweet little boy. He gets bigger and more animated everyday and I look forward to future birthdays and milestones with him. He brings so much joy into our lives and we don't know what we ever did without him! We love you Isaac!!!

Enjoying lots of cake with his grandmas.
Thanks for the birthday hat uncle Steve :-).