Conversation with Arionna

I am very behind on blogging, but I want to commit this before I forget.

Saturday, she and I were playing with an interactive map, she is learning her states. We would select them and then talk about the state, I’d tell her if I’d been there and what I know about it. We got to the state of Oklahoma…

Arionna: Have you been there?

Me: No, but I’d like to go there.

Arionna: Why, what is it like there?

Me: I don’t know, but that is where Christian Kane is from.

Arionna: Oh! That’s your friend, you should go visit him!

Me: I’d really, really like that. (smiling hugely) Do you know who else is from Oklahoma?

Arionna: No, who?

Me: Blake Shelton

Arionna: I know him, he’s on The Voice!

And pop culture wins again. Also, even young children know Christian Kane is my friend. So, there’s a memory I’d love to cherish.

Best Mom Ever Turns 60

Happiest of happy birthdays to my favorite mom.

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Today, she turns 60 years wise. Without even trying I could name 60 reasons I love her. Or 60 things she’s taught me. Or tell you 60 wonderful stories about her. But I don’t need to, because at the end of the day, it all comes down to one simple thing.

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She. Is. The. Very. Best.

 

Keeps on Giving

If you know me personally, you know I’ve been sick. Since Thanksgiving. That’s a long, long, time of being sick. It was dragging my ass through my December teaching, feeling poor for the holidays, not being productive because I haven’t felt right. It’s been tough. I powered through and still did things, including all my holiday celebrations, but I wasn’t my usual sparkling self. People kept saying to me, go to the doctor. But I don’t. I’m not a doctor person. And a cold is viral, there isn’t anything a doctor can do. But it wouldn’t quit, it wouldn’t go away.

2014 ended rough for me, my mom being so sick and having surgery, then me getting sick, then my aunt was diagnosed with cancer, and Kelly found out she needed surgery, and Mindy learned her collapsed lung will always be partially collapsed, and suddenly I blinked and went from August to December.

When the new year hit, I was actually relieved. I felt like things would have to start trending upward. And they have, sort of. Kelly had her surgery and while it didn’t go perfect, she is recovering and will be fine. My aunt had surgery to help with her cancer and it went very well. Now we have to hope this is the start of a healing process for her. My mom is scheduled to have her reattachment surgery in February, earlier than expected, so this is great news.

But I’m still sick. My ribs have been sore for a while now from all this coughing. Then Saturday hit and things went sideways. I got a flat tire on my car. I’m blessed that my dad took care of it for me, even though it still cost me $120. Then I coughed so hard my back spasmed and I couldn’t move. But luckily my sister had pain medication to help me get through. We finally saw my nephew Simon for Christmas and got to spend some much needed time with him. Sunday I wasn’t really feeling better. And my house was a disaster. Literally a mess in every room and I still hadn’t taken down my Christmas decor. The tree, yes, but not the decorations. But I was in such pain I couldn’t move. I called in sick to work for Monday and then I was sitting in my chair in my living room and I started crying. I was in pain, feeling poorly, and feeling overwhelmed. Everything just got to me, all at once.

Finally, I took a deep breath (which hurt) and starting talking to myself. Out loud, yes, but sometimes it helps to hear the words. I told myself it was okay, there really weren’t that many problems, and the mess was something I could easily fix once I felt better. I reminded myself that while this was a thing, I’m generally healthy, I have a good job, a good family, wonderful friends, and while we have had our share of problems, we are all still here. (Side note to mention this has been on my mind often because when my mom was sick, I worried she might die and it scared me, and with all the health scares for my loved ones…then Kelly just learned that a close friend of hers, her husband unexpectedly died at the age of 43. I know it can happen so it has been on my mind.) But the people I love are still here.

Monday, after another night of barely sleeping, I called to get a doctor’s appointment. Of course, I couldn’t get in for a week. So I looked up urgent care and they opened at 1:00pm. I got ready and headed over and was there at the stroke of 1. I got right in and had an exam, where I learned I am actually much sicker than I realized. I have a sinus infection and bronchitis. Far more than just a cold. It started as a cold, but developed into these other things at some point. I also have sprained my ribs from coughing. Fortunately, I have not fractured my ribs, so that is a bright spot. I got medication (though it took me 90 minutes at the pharmacy, grrr) and headed home to my messy, messy house to recover. I took my pills on Monday and they knocked me out. Asleep before 9pm. I woke up once during the night, took another dose and slept until 10 am Tuesday morning. Luckily I had already told my boss I wasn’t coming in on Tuesday.

I relaxed and recovered for most of Tuesday. I read a new book. It felt good, I haven’t felt like reading at all since I’ve been sick. I actually forced myself to read a few books in December, but otherwise, no interest. Then, about 7pm last night, I felt like myself. Not completely recovered, but better. So I got up and tackled my house. I put all my Christmas stuff away. I broke down the boxes in the corner that had been taunting me since Christmas. I gave homes to all my new Christmas gifts. I organized a cupboard in my kitchen that needed it. I did my dishes. I handwashed several items that wouldn’t fit. I cleaned my counters off completely. I ran three loads of laundry. I got everything back in order.

When I went to bed last night, I slept, deeply, soundly, and dreamlessly, for the first time in weeks. I finally felt as though I had turned the corner. I was up this morning to my clean house, ready to tackle the day and head back in to work. I hopped out of the shower, dried off, and used the toilet, then headed into the bedroom to dress. Suddenly I heard a sound I shouldn’t have been hearing. Running water. Did I not turn the shower off all the way? I went in to check and….stepped into a mess. My toilet was overflowing. Dirty water running everywhere. My bathroom is bordered by carpet, so I grabbed clean towels from the closet and built dams. I called my dad to find out what to do. He talked me through it and okay. I then called work to tell them I would be late and set about taking care of yet another mess. And it was a mess.

But now it isn’t. I got it fixed and cleaned up and threw in a whole load of dirty towels in the wash before I left for work. I also jumped back in the shower to rinse off and wash my feet. Gross.

When all is said and done, this has been a pretty awful week for me and many people I love. Yet, here I sit, blogging, not to tell you how rotten it was, but to tell you how lucky I feel. Life will always throw messes and challenges at us and we have to learn to deal and try not to get overwhelmed by it. At the end of the day, what matters is the people we love. If you still have everyone you love and they are, healthy (mostly) and happy, then it’s all going to be just fine. And if you don’t, if you lost someone, then it’s heartbreaking and horrible, but you still have all the moments that you shared with them. You still have the memories, good and bad, because for whatever time you had, you got to love them. So I’m happy and blessed with the people I love.

I don’t do resolutions in my life, but I notice a lot of bloggers choose words to help define their year. I don’t do that either, but this year, if I had to, I’d choose love. I’d choose to be happy and blessed with all of the life in my life and let that be my focus for 2015 and every year beyond.

A Year of Movies

One year ago, December 2013, my mom and I went to see “Saving Mr. Banks” the story of Mary Poppins. It was terrific. We were both off of work and were talking about how much we love going to movies together. Then we came up with a plan. What if we go to a movie together every single month of the year. I loved this idea. And so we began.

January: “American Hustle” This was probably the worst movie we saw. It was a big deal when it came out and it was terrible. We both wanted to leave before it was over.

February: “Monuments Men” This was in honor of her birthday, she picked the movie. I wasn’t that in to it, but it wasn’t too bad. She really liked it.

March: “Divergent” I got to pick in honor of my birthday. I had read this book series and really liked it. Mom had never read it, but she enjoyed the movie as well. I thought it was great, a strong retelling of a great book.

April: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” No doubt in my mind we were seeing this. I’d been looking forward to this movie for two years. (For the record I’m already looking forward to the next installment, due out in April of 2016) Of the Marvel movies, Captain America is my favorite character and my favorite movies. This did not disappoint. It was phenomenal. Best movie of the year, IMO. But mom also wanted to see “Draft Day” and I did, too, so we broke the rules and doubled up in April. Draft Day was pretty good, but it’s hard to go wrong with Kevin Costner, especially in a sports movie.

May: “Maleficent” We both wanted to see this and were glad we did. Much better than anticipated. Arionna’s pick for best movie of the year.

June: “The Fault in Our Stars” Another movie we both wanted to see because the movie looked good. I’d been avoiding the book for a while, but decreed we both had to read it before we went. We both did and we both liked the book. In a rare surprise, I thought the movie was better. Terrific movie.

July: “Jersey Boys” I had zero interest in seeing this, but with no better options, I agreed to go, since Mom really wanted to see it. We brought my sister as she seemed excited to see it. It was better than I expected. Quite enjoyable, really.

Then August hit and we were preparing for family vacation. We didn’t get to a movie. We talked about sneaking out on vacation to see something in Brainerd…but then Mom got sick and that pretty much took care of that. Our year ended in July, which was disappointing, because we were both enjoying it so much. It’s nice to do with someone else, because then you see movies you might not have, otherwise. We have decided, even though she is having her next surgery in February, we are going to do this again this year. Well, attempt it again, I suppose. We’ll just have to get our February movie in before the 17th, and hope she’s feeling well enough to go before the end of March.

I’ll be back next December to report how we did, let’s hope we did better than 9 movies in 7 months. Here’s to another year of movies!

The Chase

I don’t think at this point it is a surprise to anyone that I love Christian Kane. I think it’s been covered quite handily on this blog-seriously, search his name, it’s almost embarrassing, except I love him, so it’s not.

Therefore, imagine my utter happiness to receive this brand new photo of him, as a text messaging gift via my mother at 6:48pm last night.

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I know what you’re thinking. My God, he’s hot. Oh, wait, that’s what *I* was thinking. YOU were probably thinking, “why do I care what time her mom text her?”

Well, because, as it turns out, and I am assuming a bit here, my mom was on Facebook a few minutes prior, saw that photo, thought of me, and text me the photo to brighten my Tuesday night. It did, by the way.

Here’s the cool thing. At that exact same time, way across town, Kelly was getting a pedicure. She was playing online and saw a brand new photo of Christian Kane and, naturally, thought of me. She text me that photo.

Which is how, literally, within seconds of each other, they both text me a photo of Christian Kane. Here is THE VERY BEST PART.

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They aren’t the same photo!!!!!!!!

True story. At 6:48 pm last night I received two text messages. Both contained photos of Christian Kane, but they weren’t the same photo. They are obviously from the same photo shoot (I assume a promo for his new show, The Librarians,) but two different, equally awesome pics of my main man, Christian Kane.

How is this possible? I have no idea. I couldn’t believe it when they came in during the same minute. It makes it easy to love technology when things like that happen. Oh, and for the record, I do NOT hate text messaging when it contains photos of Christian Kane. Those are always welcome. Day or night. Even the same minute.

And that is the story of how my mother and Kelly were racing to be the first to send me a picture of my favorite singer….and tied. And I won. Thanks to you both! I lovelovelove them.

P.S. And while it was a fun little coincidence, this is mostly just an excuse to post pictures of Christian Kane and endlessly type Christian Kane. Remember in junior high when you had a crush on a boy and you’d write his name all over your notebook? This is kind of like that, only in the modern technology world. Christian Kane. Christian Kane. Christian Kane. See?

P.P.S Also, the title of this post, The Chase, is also a song title by, you guessed it…Christian Kane.

Family Vacation 2014

This is going to be the non-medical version of the story. We had been looking forward to this trip since February of 2013. We didn’t end up having the expected trip, and it was cut short, but the time we did have? It was terrific.

We rented a cabin on Lake Shamineau, at Auger’s Resort, outside of Motley, MN, about a half an hour from Brainerd. Fun fact, Mindy is from Motley and was up there the first weekend we arrived. She and the boys came over to visit us. Her mom actually lives about a mile from where we were staying.

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This was day one, pulling into Motley to eat before heading to the resort.

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This is the view of the lake from our back door. The day we arrived it was so windy and the lake was extremely choppy. Whitecaps, baby.

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This is the cabin. It was really nice. My room was the mirroring window hidden behind the tree.

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The view from that window, behind that tree.

Our first day, we unpacked and then made lists of stuff to shop for. In order to avoid grocery shopping on vacation, I volunteered to babysit the kids while mom and Em went food shopping and the boys went beer shopping.

I walked the kids out the front door to the convenient playground. Arionna is playing on everything humanly possible, while little Camden just wanted to swing.
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Because he loves it. Duh.

Then we changed and went for a swim. The lake was cold, no doubt, but once you adjusted, it was pretty nice. It was weedier than I like, but still fun. The big red slide was awesome, very fun for kids and adults. The floating toys were pretty great, too. Arionna was scared of the idea of swimming in the lake, but it took almost no time at all to get her involved. She liked when we relaxed and let the waves toss us around.

On day 2, we decided to rent a pontoon and spend the day on the lake. Brace yourself for a flurry of boat pics.

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We hadn’t even left yet….

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Again, we haven’t left yet, but she’s at least excited.


Morning sunshine on the lake.


He definitely likes it better when driving.


Ooops, guess it’s the waves, or the fresh air, or….nap time on the boat.


Relaxing in the back of the boat.


Me and my best girl.


She LOVED being in a moving vehicle and not being in a carseat and being able to walk around.


Lots of loons on our lake.


She loved driving, but only wanted to do it with Grandma.


Here she caught the wind and stood there, moving her head from side to side letting the wind catch her hair and laughing the whole time.


Me and my guy.

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She wanted to swim off the boat, not off the beach, so I had to jump in, in the middle of the lake. And MY GOD IT WAS COLD.


Driving the boat was clearly a highlight. And we’re anchored here but he doesn’t care at all.


I love that picture!


Oh, and that one.

Boat day was fun, we all enjoyed it and it was so beautiful and relaxing and just exactly what vacation means.

At night, we kept having bonfires and drinking and talking, once the kids went to bed. And of course, when it wasn’t raining.

On day 3, we drove into Brainerd to go to the Paul Bunyan Museum. We did this when we were kids, but apparently they’ve changed it since then. This? So not worth it. It is super expensive and there’s hardly anything to do there. But I did get a nice shot of my family with Paul.

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I’m not in it, but oh well.

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I got Arionna under Babe the Blue Ox, but not Cam.

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There was an old fashioned jail, so that was cute.

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There was also a train, which delighted Cam. It also delighted me to get a shot of the family on a kiddie train.

After PBLand was dinner at Hessie’s which was pretty much a highlight for each of us. We actually talked about coming back the next night which was to be Chad’s birthday dinner, once my brother Nick arrived. So that was the plan. Zack actually got a token or two for free drinks, and meals were buy one get one the next night, so the stars had aligned and we had a plan.

That night, we were hanging out and the sky just lit up so beautifully. At first it was just this gorgeous wall of clouds.

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It’s prettier with her in there.

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Because that’s the deal…

And then….
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The colors started to change and it was just gorgeous.

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Beautiful.

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A perfect summer night on vacation.

The next day was when this happened.

So we spent some time at the hospital in Little Falls, then ate dinner in downtown LF, which ended up being Chad’s bday dinner, instead of our amazing Hessie’s night.

The next day, Em and Chad took Arionna canoeing, because that was part of the deal.

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She was super excited.

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They are just about to take off, though it looks like Chad is decapitating her with that paddle.

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Out on the lake….

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Same photo, with zoom.

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Just to prove that Uncle Nick was there, even though he was only there for one day.

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The final sunset, on our final night. Mom was being transported home via ambulance, to United hospital and we packed up a cabin of 9 people in one hour. Oh yes. It was rockstar packing.

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One final moment, before we headed out at 9pm, ending vacation after only four days. But you know what? It’s not the length of time that matters, the time we were there was beautiful. It will always be a memorable vacation for the obvious reason, but I hope that we’ll also always remember the other moments as well. Including hours of endless Head’s Up around the fire.

Considering we have another surgery in 2015, I doubt we’ll be doing another week on a lake, but hopefully, in 2016, we’ll get another shot at a family vacation. I don’t think we’ll go back to Auger’s (though we really did like it, it just feels a little cursed is all…) but that gives us just about a year and a half to plan our next trip.

Mom? You’re just sitting at home….get looking!

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Do kids still write those in school? As a teacher, it seems like I should know that. So I am going to offer my report of my summer vacation. Warning, this is going to be incredibly long. Scary long, possibly.

My last post was August 20, 2014, nearly one month ago (Edited to add, I’ve since remembered and posted my August Books, so that is no longer true, but when I started *this* post, it was true. Edited again to add, by the time I got permission to post this and got the whole thing written, it’s been a month and I’ve posted several times. But imagine it’s about 6 weeks ago while you read this.). Right after that post, I went to the State Fair with my family and then the next morning we left for the lake, for a long overdue family vacation. We had been planning a week at the lake since about February of 2013.

We arrived on Saturday and spent a couple days just swimming (in a cold lake in cool August weather) and boating and relaxing. It was all beautiful and serene and just what we all needed. Then Tuesday hit and things went all to hell.

About noon on Tuesday, August, 26, my mom went inside to lie down because she suddenly wasn’t feeling well. A few minutes later, she went to the bathroom and broke out in a cold sweat and the shakes. She got a sudden pain in her abdomen and called for my dad. He got her in bed and was tending to her. Everyone knew mom was sick, but we didn’t know the extent. Eventually, my dad came down the stairs and said to me, “your mom needs to go the hospital and she can’t go by car, figure out what to do.” I ended up calling 911. The call was answered in Brainerd (which is Crow Wing County), then I was transferred to Morrisson County. They said they would send an ambulance but a first responder would be on its way. I asked how long and he sidestepped the question. Should’ve been a clue. They also asked us to have someone waiting out front because we were at a resort. So, yes, I stood outside this whole time, just waiting on help for my mom.

About 15-20 minutes after the call, the first responder arrived. Evidently these people do this as a supporting job, because they all came from something else. A total of three first responders arrived, all before the ambulance got there, just over 45 minutes after the call went out.

My mom was taken by ambulance to St. Gabriel’s hospital in Little Falls, MN, about 45 minutes away from the resort. We waited a bit and then got in the car to head to the hospital and find out what was happening. We were all pretty scared, my mom is not a medical panicker. She is very calm about all things health related, so for her to ask for an ambulance, it meant something was really wrong.

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(The moment they put her in the ambulance, one of the scariest moments of my life).

We arrived at the hospital and she was in the ER. Only one of us could see her at a time, so I went in first. I was told that they were assuming appendicitis, and were about to send her in for a CT scan to confirm. We had the kids with us, so we left the hospital and went into town to get dinner. This was Chad’s birthday dinner. Happy 30th, Chaddo. Eventually, my dad called and informed us that it was NOT appendicitis, and they were having a surgeon come to read her scan.

She was diagnosed with diverticulitis. It is, simply, an infection in her colon. She spent the night at St. Gabriel’s and was admitted and moved to a room. We went to see her the next day and spoke with her doctor about moving her. Because we aren’t from that area and we only had two more days at the resort, we wanted her moved home. They said they would arrange for ambulance transport to the hospital of our choosing. I chose United and they had to call and arrange a bed for her and a doctor to accept her. They told us, Wednesday afternoon, that she would end up leaving sometime Thursday afternoon.

She was in a great deal of pain and on a lot of medication at that point, so we all left her there to sleep and went back to the cabin. About an hour later, pretty soon after we got back, the nurse called and told us her transport was accepted and she was leaving that night. They called us at 7pm and she left Little Falls at 9pm. We had just sat down to dinner, so we finished eating and discussed options. It was decided that we would pack up the cabin that night and just drive home at night, rather than waiting for morning. We packed up that cabin in about an hour, it was actually kind of miraculous. We were on the road at 9pm, so about 45 minutes behind her.

We went to United that night to see her get settled. She saw a surgeon the next day and it was decided that she would have laparoscopic surgery on her abdomen to see how extensive the infection was. The hope was that they could do a wash out, to clean out the infection, and avoid a colostomy. Her surgery was scheduled on Friday, August 29. Her doctor said things looked good enough that they ended up only doing the washout, instead of the full colostomy. One of the things they were monitoring was her white blood cell count, which shows infection. A healthy human should be between 4 and 10, her counts were in the high teens at this point. In Little Falls, she was in the low 20s.

They spent several days having her get up and walk, move about, while testing her blood, and pumping her full of antibiotics. She was on an NPO diet, which means nothing by mouth. So, ice chips only. For days, she didn’t have anything to eat. Only ice chips. About Tuesday, a full 8 days of being in the hospital, she started to feel hungry. Her surgeon moved her to a clear liquid diet (chicken broth and jello, basically).

She finally got to go home on Saturday, September 6, after 12 days in the hospital. It’s very rare these days to spend more than a couple days in the hospital, 12 is almost unheard of. Her WBC was 15 when she got to go home, still too high. She had to go to her doctor to get her bloodwork done, but it looked like we had dodged a bullet.

Then we found out, from her doctor, that her WBC was high again, up to 22. That same day, Wednesday, she was not feeling well. Finally, my dad called her doctor at United and they said to bring her in, so back to the ER she went. She had another WBC check that night, and her number was 25, the highest it had ever been. It was supposed to be going DOWN this whole time, but it kept going up, and up a lot. Regardless of the gallons of antibiotics pumping through her system, she was not fighting the infection. They readmitted her that night, Wednesday 9/10, after a measly three days at home.

By Thursday, her WBC was up to 29, and that was it. Her surgeon said they had to go in and fix this thing. She was scheduled for a colostomy later that day. Their initial plan was to enter in laparascopically and see what they could see and try to fix what they could without opening her up, but as soon as they got her in the OR, her surgeon said she knew they had to go in. They did an eight inch incision in the abdomen and removed about one foot of her colon. Apparently her colon was horribly infected, it looked bad even to the surgeon. She was given a colostomy bag, a drainage tube, and because of the infection, they did not close the incision, because it would have become infected (100% chance, said the doctor…and doctors rarely deal in certainty). So she now has three holes in her stomach.

For those who don’t know, a colostomy bag is a drainage bag that is attached to the end of her colon. Her colon is now not connected inside her body, instead one end now comes out through her abdomen, the healthy end, giving the infected end a break, allowing it to heal. Which means that bowel movements now come out through her abdomen and are deposited into the colostomy bag. Got that? Yep, it’s gross, but it is also saving her life, so we deal. She will wear the bag for about six months. We are hoping she will heal faster…but they are estimating six months. At that point, she will have a colonoscopy, to make sure all is healed up, then they will do ANOTHER surgery to reconnect the ends of her colon, allowing her to lose the bag and hopefully be healthy and live a normal life thereafter.

This, the colostomy, is the worst case scenario, and we knew that from the beginning, but as it turned out, this was what was needed to get her back to healthy.

Of course, she is still in the hospital. She needs to heal more, and her WBC needs to be down to reasonable levels before they will let her go home. After home, she will have a home health nurse come out three times a week because she will still have to learn to deal with the colostomy bag, how to change it and care for the ostomy (the colon sticking out of her body), as well as dealing with the 8″ open incision on her stomach. Which requires a VAC pump to help it drain, which needs regular cleaning and disinfecting.

Plus, she needs to get stronger and begin eating more. She’s barely had any food in the last month (almost a month). Here’s to hoping that she’ll go home soon, as of right now, she’s been in the hospital 21 days. I thought 12 was outrageous!

So many people have been kind enough to stop down and visit, send gifts, and, most importantly, send their thoughts and prayers. It’s been wonderful to see the outpouring of love. Turns out, people really like my mom. (Just kidding, I knew that, who is more awesome than her?)

For those who wonder what they can do…nothing. Though I genuinely appreciate the offer. As, I’m sure, does she. The outpouring of love and support we received was generous and wonderful and, as a family, we are all grateful.

And that is that. A super long post about what I did on my summer vacation.

***Edit*** I didn’t have a chance to post this after I finished writing it, so I can give that final update now. Mom has been home for about a month, after a whopping 24 days (in total) in the hospital. She has a nurse that comes to help her out at home, but she’s recovering really nicely. She finally got her VAC taken off and now just keeps her incision clean and changes her colostomy bag. Her energy is surprisingly good for someone only a month post surgery. She still gets tired easily but other than that, she’s really doing great. She has some restrictions on her diet, but they aren’t too terrible and her appetite is back, so she’s able to eat regularly, go on short walks, and generally just keep in improving. My dad even finally went back to work after 7 weeks at home/hospital with mom, so I definitely take that as a sign of improvement.

And what did we learn from all this?

Well, now every member of the family can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the large intestine.

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See?

Love you so much mom, and so glad you’re doing better and are practically back to your old self!