Thursday, December 29, 2011

Temple Square Lights

Now that the crazy holiday season is nearly over and things have calmed down a bit, I'll be back to regular posting. Lots of updates coming your way! In the meantime, here's a sneak peak of pictures I took at Temple Square when my mom and I went to see the lights.

More to come! Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Answers

Just a quick little update.. OK, maybe not so quick.. Sorry my posts have been a little depressing lately. I just needed to finally get all of that out in the open. Things have finally slowed down a little, and after months and months and months, we have some good news! No, I'm not pregnant yet...BUT we have good news on that front finally too!

First of all, we finally got all of the tests done (except one non-pressing one) on Mike we needed. About freaking time! We have all but the results of his x-ray back, and so far so good! Cancer, nada! Still in the clear. They told us they expected his chest x-ray to be good too, but we'll find out for sure in a day or so, but we aren't expecting it to show anything, which is good!

However, with his thyroid, DHEA, and testosterone, things started getting a little whacky. His T4 levels are fine, but T3 is a little on the low side, so we're seeing if having him on some iodine won't fix that. We were also expecting his DHEA to be really low, which it is. (Sorry, not going to go into what all of those are otherwise you'd be getting a long lecture!) But here's where things start getting a little trippy...his testosterone levels tested out at levels you typically see in at 75 year old. Yes, you heard me right. 75. Our doc was amazed he is able to do the things he does. She said when they see levels this low, the person has usually lost their job, all motivation and desire, and basically can't even get out of bed. For starters, the amount of testosterone available in his blood is only 320 ng/dL (if you don't understand those units, look them up...it's too long to write them out and explain that!) when it should be about 1100 ng/dL! Then, the actual amount his body absorbs of that testosterone he has is extremely low. Hence, the reason Mike can't keep any weight on, is almost 40 lbs underweight, can't do any type of 'normal' daily activity, and much much more. Funny because people have never believed us when we say he can't do everything a normal 30 year old can, but now that we have 'proof' AND three, yes, three doctors saying he can't physically do the level activity healthy men his age do with no problem without permanently damaging his body, people actually believe us. Go figure! Sheesh.

Anyway, back to his testosterone levels. Even his oncologist said that since things have tested out perfectly with me, this could very well be the explanation behind our infertility and miscarriages. Since his levels are so low, his body makes little to no sperm, and the little it does make is most likely very unhealthy sperm, hence the miscarriages. (A little FYI to those who think miscarriages mean something is purely wrong with the woman...abnormal sperm causes them too!!) Mike will never have a decent sperm count, as infertility is a common result of chemo and radiation treatments, but puting him on testosterone will help the few sperm he does have become healthier. SO...we have Mike going on testosterone, and they are hoping this will not only help him start feeling better but also help us get pregnant with a healthy baby! Yippee!! I can't tell you how exciting this is for us! Mike said he's already noticing a little difference, which is fantastic! It's nice to finally be getting solid answers and to have HOPE!!

Another thing his doctors have told us, which no one quite believes us on, is that he will always catch even the smallest cold. This is because when you are a lymphoma survivor, Hodgkin's (which is what he had) or non-Hodgkin's, your lymphatic system no longer functions as it's supposed to, which results in a severely weakened immune system. They don't know why this is. Top it off with chemo and radiation, both of which have long-term effects seen 10+ years down the road, and it's not a good mix. Even when we go around kids who are sick with something that's "just a kid sickness," Mike WILL get it, because he has virtually no immunity. So, when we hear someone is sick with even a cold and we decide to stay home from an activity, it's not that we're paranoid that he might get it, it's the fact he WILL get it. Not only will he get it, but it takes him triple the amount of time to get over it because his body has such a difficult time fighting it. He has such bad immunity he catches things second, even third hand, which when we asked his docs about this they weren't surprised because this is typical of Hodgkin's survivors. We've tried to do things that supposedly boost your immune system, but nothing has worked because his is so compromised. As much as we would like for him to get healthier with this, it's just a fact of our lives that this is the way it's always going to be.

Here's a little clip from an article I found which perfectly explains the long-term effects Hodgkin's survivors have to worry about:
"The good news about Hodgkin''s disease is that treatment can cure the disease. The bad news is that survivors face a higher than average risk for long-term complications of these treatments, some very serious. Many patients may experience chronic fatigue that could persist for years. The most serious complications are secondary cancers and heart disease, which occur over the 2 - 3 decades following treatments. Secondary cancers include non-Hodgkin''s lymphoma, leukemia, melanoma, stomach and lung cancers, and breast and uterine cancers. Heart disease complications include coronary artery disease, stroke, heart valve problems, and cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle). Thyroid disorders are also a potential complication. Combinations of radiation and chemotherapies are especially associated with these problems. Studies of adult survivors of various childhood cancers have found that, 30 years after treatment, patients with Hodgkin’s disease have among the highest risk of developing serious health problems. Female survivors have a significantly greater risk than male survivors. In particular, women who received chest radiation are at very high risk for developing breast cancer."

Mike's 11 years out, and he's already experiencing the extreme fatigue, thyroid problems and cardiomyopathy. The only test he has to do is a stress test for his heart, which we're going to do in a few weeks, to see what it's functioning at. Last time he did this his heart was only functioning at about 55%. He's tried to do things to keep his heart functioning as well as it can, so we're hoping it hasn't continued to weaken. Keeping our fingers crossed.

People don't realize that just because you've beat cancer doesn't mean you're back to functioning at what you were before diagnosis. Cancer, chemo, and radiation take a permanent toll on your body. Just because Mike may look alright doesn't mean he's 100%, in fact he's never been able to function at 100% since before his cancer. Despite this, we are grateful he hasn't relapsed. Eleven years and counting! It's a miracle he's alive, and I am so grateful for each day he lives that is cancer-free! And, I'm so grateful that we're able to get going on things to get him feeling and functioning a little better. It's not going to 'fix' things, but it will improve things. For this we are incredibly grateful. And, we're grateful that we have such an amazing team of doctors to work with!

For more information about Hodgkin Disease, go here.
For information on what life is like after Hodgkin's, go here and here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Praying for a Miracle

I know my posts haven't been the most cheerful lately, and despite it being Thanksgiving time, this one isn't going to be all too rosy either. I am learning one of the best ways for me to express what I'm feeling is through writing, and if I don't get things out, it will build up until I explode. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for a lot of things in my life, there are just some things I need to get out that aren't relating to happy/thankfulness, and I figure now is as good a time as ever. I'm not the most eloquent with writing, but I think it's time I get these things written down and start sharing at least part of our story... (Forgive me if it seems that I am rambling off!)

Let's be honest here, the last week hasn't been great, or even good, by any means. I have experienced some of the most, if not THE most, darkest moments of my life. Moments where I felt no one could even possibly relate. Moments where I felt more alone and isolated than I have at any other time in my life. Moments of doubt and extreme fear. Moments where I would give anything just to simply hold my child in my arms. Moments where I wished I could just die. Moments so dark I can't even find words to describe them. No one understands what those moments are like unless they have personally been there. The isolation, loneliness, the darkness you feel are hard to properly convey through words.

This last year and a half has taken it's toll. More than I care to admit. I look back on who I was three, two, heck, even a year ago, and it's like I don't even know that person. Was I really able to actually genuinely smile? Was I actually able to go through the day without feeling like I was falling apart?

Here's the thing. I knew having children would be hard before we ever got married, because Mike was very upfront about things and the fact he was told he would never be able to have kids. But I had no idea just how hard it would be. Being off birth control for three years without having anything to show for it except heartbreak is indescribable. Infertility is hard. A miscarriage is hard. Infertility and a miscarriage is harder. Infertility and several miscarriages is even harder.

At this point last year, we were about two weeks away from receiving the best news of our lives: I was pregnant. Beyond any and all explanation I was pregnant. We were ecstatic. I felt joy beyond what I had ever felt. Then came the sickness. Unusual sickness. I basically became bedridden. Something felt extremely wrong. I had an inkling as to what it was, but I was in denial. I wanted this pregnancy to be healthy so desperately. Then suddenly came the blood. The excruciating pain. The ultrasound that confirmed I was having a miscarriage. I remember walking out of my OB's office fighting back the tears, trying to tell myself this was a nightmare that I had to wake up from.

Neither of us could believe my pregnancy had terminated in miscarriage at week 9. But in the midst of it all, I still had a small ray of hope it would happen again. Soon.

Fast-forward six weeks to the middle of March. Sure enough I was pregnant again. I was a little more cautious about this one, and tried to not get emotionally attached like I did the first time, but to no avail. Then I got another feeling that something wasn't right again, and I pleaded with the Lord for things to turn around. I didn't know if I could do it again. Two days before my first OB appointment I started bleeding. I tried to convince myself it was nothing. The ultrasound would be fine. But, things weren't fine. The ultrasound confirmed another miscarriage at 8 1/2 weeks. It was devastating, and it was at this point I started to lose hope.

We decided to take a break because Europe was only 6 weeks away at this point. I poured everything I had into getting ready. It was a welcome distraction. The two weeks in Europe were bliss. I was able to finally completely get my mind off pregnancy. There wasn't reminders at every turn about what I had lost.

When we got back to the States we talked about trying again around September. September came, and a very emotional Due Date #1 came and went. We ran test after test on me to make sure it wouldn't happen again. They all came back crystal clear. Then right before General Conference started, we found out once again I was pregnant. We decided not to tell anyone until I was well into the second trimester, just to be sure things were going well.

General Conference was amazing. As always, there was a certain talk that stood out to me. This time it was Elder Andersen's talk, entitled Children, given during the Saturday afternoon session. Tears streamed down my face as I listened, and I was filled with a hope I hadn't felt previously that this pregnancy would be okay and things would turn out. I became excited again.

The next weekend we went up to Park City. I was feeling great, emotionally and physically. I was starting to get my feet underneath myself and get back some semblance as to who I am. But, suddenly in the middle of the night I woke up in extreme pain. As soon as I got up, blood gushed out. I knew what was happening, but was afraid to voice it out loud. Mike woke up and I told him I was having cramps and bleeding and left it at that. The pain escalated, and Mike gave me a blessing and I took some leftover Loritab (from Mike's wisdom teeth removal) that he had brought up because he'd had a feeling we would need it. Around three in the morning my pain peaked, then tapered off enough for me to get a few more hours of sleep.

The next day I finally told Mike I thought I had another miscarriage, and he said he felt the same. A few days later it was confirmed. Miscarriage at around 6 weeks. This one was by far the worst for me emotionally. It stripped any and all feelings of hope, and ripped the rug out from under me in a way the other two hadn't. We felt completely blindsided. I didn't know who I was anymore. I felt completely and utterly lost.

It's been six weeks since then. I have been told I need to "get over it" and move on. The fact is I'm not even close to being "over it". Heck, I'm not even "over" the first miscarriage. Every day has been a struggle. Every day I have new demons to fight. The only time I have even a small amount of reprieve is when I'm asleep. I do not enjoy being around people, I do not enjoy going out in public. The last four days I've had more anxiety attacks than I can count. It's hard to "get over" one miscarriage, let alone three. Top it off with infertility issues, and it can be unbearable at times.

I'm still having a hard time not being  little jealous when I hear one of my friends is pregnant, but it doesn't mean I'm not happy for them, because I am, it's just I can't help but think it's not fair how most people have no problems getting pregnant, while there are some of us it's nothing short of a battle. (I hate using the term "not fair" because of course I know life isn't fair, but I can't pretend anymore that that's not how I feel because it is.) I can't help but wish that was me being the one to finally announce I have a healthy pregnancy. And it irks me when I hear some women complain about not being pregnant yet when they have only been off birth control for a month or two. It takes everything I have to not tell them, "Yeah. I know. Try three years, infertility, and three miscarriages the last ten months. Guess what? It's NORMAL to not get pregnant until you've been off birth control an average of 6-8 months." And I just about want to slap the women who complain about being pregnant. Trust me, I KNOW pregnancy isn't a walk in the park. But at least they can get and stay pregnant.

We were finally able to go to the temple again this week, after being prevented from going due to sickness. It was wonderful. Mike and I were actually asked to be the witness couple, which was the topping on the cake. I'm not going to go into specifics, but we did receive some answers finally.

I was hoping the peace we felt in the temple would continue with me for a few days, but a few hours after we got home and out of nowhere, I had a massive anxiety attack, which lasted for a few hours. Once it finally dissipated after a Priesthood blessing and Mike holding me, I began feeling a little better. But, a few hours later, another one hit. This one didn't last as long, but it was just as bad. That night was when I experienced some of the darkest moments of my life. More than once did I wish it would all just end. I wanted more than anything to just be able to hold my child.

The past few days have been a little better, but I'm still struggling. It was hard being around so many people for Thanksgiving, and it was actually pretty far out of my comfort zone. I didn't want to talk to anyone or be around anyone. Bella actually gave Mike the flu (fantastic, huh?), so we ended coming home from Park City before dinner was even done yesterday, but I was in a way glad because I didn't have to be around anyone anymore and feel like I had to keep it together.

Although things aren't easy, we're at least managing. Each day brings its own struggles, but I'm blessed to have an amazing husband and loving Savior who really knows what it's like. Soon we'll have good news, and soon I'll finally be holding my baby, but until then, we'll stay on our knees praying for a miracle.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jacob's Portraits









Cody and David's Portraits

One guess what this kid eat, breaths, lives, and dreams about.. These pictures were the only ones I could pull him away from Mike for a second to take!

His choice of a pose :)

This was really the only shirt Cody wanted to take pictures in... So I obliged. :)





 I know some of these aren't the greatest, but I was doing some MAJOR improvising seeing as how I have no studio/lighting equipment yet.. That will hopefully change in the near future!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sunrise Over the Tetons

This is one thing about Rexburg I will always miss. Waking up early in the morning with this view out my window. Does it get any better? I submit that it cannot.




Sneak Peak - Jada's Portraits

I love her eyes! We both got lucky to get the same color and kind of eyes.. Makes for amazing close-ups!