Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Name is KAM


My name is Kam and I am a mother.  


 


















I first learned that I would most likely not bear children, while I was sitting in my doctor's office in April 2008.  I remember everything about that day.  I was sitting in my not so modest hospital gown, feeling awkward, as I had another ultrasound.  They had been tracking a cyst and trying to shrink it, but that was unsuccessful.  While the doctor was telling me that I would have to have surgery, we received some results from other tests that we recently preformed.  He told us what the results meant.  It meant that we would not be able to have children.  All in a matter of minutes, my life changed dramatically.  I didn't really know how it would change, but only that it would change.  I had always thought that I would have at least four children and that we would live happily ever after.  

When we heard this news, I looked at my darling husband and we just cried.  


We were in shock and I think both of us thought there would be some sort of "issue" that could easily be remedied and the plan would resume.  Our wonderful doctor said something that stuck with me and if the truth be told, I knew the moment he said it what my next step was. I felt guided. He said, "I am sorry for this news.  You come here to find a way to have a baby and I am sure this seems backwards to you when you get this news.  But, you can have as many children as you want, they just may not come to you the way you originally thought." 


Walking home, since we lived across the street from the clinic, we felt a bit numb.  We both cried some more and that happened periodically for the next few weeks.  My sweetheart took the news very hard.  He is so wonderful and tenderhearted and would make the best father.  Now he felt like all he could do was watch his friends and family experience the joy he wanted so badly.  But as we were struggling, I had a sense of calm about everything.  Don't get me wrong, I had plenty fall apart moments, but I was surprised at how well I was holding it together.  In all of this I felt like my love for my husband grew and I hated to see him sad.  So, with the peace I was feeling, I decided that I was okay and I would accept my life, even if it meant not being a mother. I was going to try everything in my power to become one, but if it didn't happen, I was okay.  I have been so blessed in my life, so I had nothing to complain about.  


Once we had both grieved, we decided to talk about where to go now.  We both decided that we wanted to pursue adoption.  I think this seemed fast to some people, but we both had wanted to adopt even if we had biological children, so it seemed right for us.  
 
We applied for adoption in November 2008.  The process was long, daunting, and somewhat cumbersome, but necessary if we wanted to be parents.  We looked into many avenues for adoption, and this was pretty emotional for me.  We spoke with several wonderful birth parents and got to know them.  Although they did not choose us to be the parents of their children, I hold birth parents in the highest regard.  They deserve our respect for acting out of selflessness and providing their children with the life they wish they could give, but their circumstances don't allow.  I can't imagine how difficult that decision would be.  
 
On July 30th, 2009, we had an appointment to meet with a birth family- a meeting that would change our lives forever.


We met this beautiful birth family and talked and got to know each other.  It was incredible and nerve-wracking all at the same time.  After our visit, we were told by this birth family that they would like us to be the parents of their child.  It was an incredibly emotional moment.  We hugged and cried and exchanged contact information.  The baby would most likely come in the next couple of weeks.  We were excited, and I was scared to death!  I started to have doubts that I could even be a mother.  I was an amazing aunt and maybe that was all I was supposed to be?  My husband calmed me down, but I was still very nervous.  


The VERY next day, Steve went to work and it was my day off. I was planning all of the things I needed to get done before the baby was born. I was in the shower when I heard the phone ring. I hurried out of the shower, because I also heard my cell phone ring.  I jumped out and answered, it was Dave (birth father) and he said that Amber's (birth mother) water had broken and they were at the hospital.  I was frantic!  I hurried and threw some clothes on and ran to the hospital! I looked pretty scary, but I didn't care!  I called my mom and asked her to call Steve at work, because I couldn't remember his work number!  (My brain was a little crazy!)  I also gave my parents my list of things to do to get ready for baby!  I was a crazy person trying to find my way around the hospital!  I finally found Amber and Dave and I sat with them until Steve made it to the hospital and we spent the day getting to know these wonderful people who would be an important part of our lives.  The time came for the baby to be born.  I was fortunate enough to be in the room when the most beautiful baby girl was born.  The feeling that my baby had been born filled my heart.  It was amazing!   A couple of days later her beautiful birth mother placed her in my arms and we hugged and cried together.  Every emotion there ever has been was present that day.  

Awe celebrate my daughter's 4th birthday today, I reflect on the events that have played out in my journey to become a mother and I see a small portion of the big picture. I love my beautiful family that was designed for me.  I have a little girl who I get to be her mother and I get to be a mother because of the selfless love of her amazing birth family, whom I love with all of my heart. I am so grateful my daughter gets to have a relationship with them and know the beautiful heritage she comes from.  I love adoption and I look forward to welcoming more children and their birth families into my heart.
























*Remember that the purpose of this series is to open our hearts, to interact, to uplift, to support and to grow. Kam will be reading your comments so you may comment directly to her. 

Thank you for sharing your special journey into motherhood with us Kam. It really is a wonderful day today! For celebratory birthday reasons, of course, but also because your message is such an example of love-- to me, this is love in its purest form.

To read more inspiring "My Name is" features, click here.




Monday, July 29, 2013

Togetherness Scholarships!























I am overwhelmed this morning.

I have been overwhelmed all weekend, actually.

The response that has come in regarding The Togetherness Project has been amazing. Women from 9 different states have emailed me expressing their desire to come to such an event. And to my great surprise, some of them are already working on making it happen. Plane tickets have been booked. Hotel rooms booked. Tickets purchased. This is really happening! How amazing is that?

Since last week, I have also had many women express their desire to help make this special day happen. They believe in the mission and they are more than willing to donate their time and energy to such a cause. I could not be more grateful and appreciative to these people- The Togetherness Project is most definetly a community effort.

And lastly, something else has transpired.

Two different people have been so inspired by our mission that they've offered a generous sum of money to help women who'd love to come, but cannot afford the registration cost at this time in their lives.

Scholarship money is here and I am in awe at its timing. I have been praying for something like this- and within just a few days of getting the word out, it has been presented. Totally awesome if you ask me.

So there is now a scholarship fund for The Togetherness Project, graciously given by two anonymous donors, and today, I am elated to tell you that we are giving away TWO of them. The scholarship will cover your registration fee of $75 which will provide you a most edifying and wonderful day with our amazing speakers, and a day with other women,  just like you.

To be eligible (and don't worry all of your information will remain anonymous):

1) You must be a woman who genuinely needs the help.

2) Email a brief description of your situation, as well as the reason you hope to attend The Togetherness Project, to thetogethernessproject@hotmail.com. Please use "SCHOLARSHIP" as your subject description.

3) Like The Togetherness Project on Facebook, HERE.

All submissions must be received by AUGUST 4th and the recipients of the scholarship will be notified by email on Monday August 5th.

Thank you everyone. Thank you for your positive feedback and for your desire to be apart of this special day! Even if you don't need it personally, thank you for sharing this, for liking our FB page, and for supporting such a brave community of women. Please keep on spreading the love however you can because...

"One simple act of kindness can cause ripples of healing."

p.s. if you are uncomfortable liking the Togetherness Project's FB page, I get it. Please don't let that keep you from entering the giveaway- just let me know. If it's not an issue, PLEASE like away. The more we can talk openly about all this, the less taboo it becomes and the more we can heal!

Image Credit


Friday, July 26, 2013

A Crossroad Between Family Planning and a Little Independence





























Little Dude is 5 and a half years old and just started full-time kindergarten on Monday.

My baby is gone.

My days of  "mom-do-this" and "mom-do-that" and "mom-can-you-help-me-with-this" all day long are over.

A new season has begun; he's becoming more independent and so am I.

I've been reflecting the last few days about how much I have loved being a mom to Little Dude during every stage he has gone through (minus the "mom I have poop up my back" part ;).  Some stages have been harder than others, but overall, he has been a really, really, easy kid to raise. It's been a wonderful ride so far.

I've been reflecting about how I honestly never thought I'd have a kindergartner without any other children. When I used to envision my life, I imagined I would have another little one, or two, by my side when we'd drop Little Dude off at his first day of kindergarten. It seems that I may be the only mom there without a stroller or a toddler on my hip. The "one kid" scenario is foreign to many.

I've also been reflecting on just how many times in the last 3 years I have literally craved to be pregnant. My body, my heart, and my mind were undoubtedly ready to have more children. Even though my situation very clearly didn't lend to having more babies then, my maternal instincts weren't curbed.  Everywhere I looked, I compared myself to my friends and neighbors. They were having children.... and more children... and more children...  I should be having more, too. That's how we do things, right? We compare ourselves to what everyone else is doing... and we base our choices on that.... and then we do it that way. At least that's what I found myself doing. But don't worry-- I always found a way to remind myself of my reality-- that my life was, in fact, very different than my friends and that it would always be a little bit different than the traditional setup.

Then I got remarried and the maternal instincts really KICKED IN.

NOW I should start producing offspring!

Seth is 32 and I am 29. We should start having children, right?

In the last 7 months of being married, the baby hungry feelings have come and gone... come and gone... Sometimes I really let them in and ponder them... sometimes I dream about having another little one... that is mine and Seth's.... experiencing the truly miraculously moment of giving birth- of creating life. Sometimes the moments overwhelm me and I feel more than ready to venture down that life-changing path again.

But I'll be honest, now that Little Dude has started school, for the first time in 5 and a half years, my tune has changed a little bit. I have found a small piece of independence which makes it so I'm not really thinking about the miracle of life and newborn babies anymore. I suppose 7 hours a day (5 days a week) to work on things other than being a "mom" will do that to you.

So now I'm at a crossroads: between enjoying this new found daytime freedom for a while OR doing what I've always envisioned myself doing-- having more children right off the bat, being pregnant and starting all over. Neither of which are bad.

After all this reflecting, I came to the marvelous conclusion that this is the beauty of life. We all get to choose the direction(s) we will go. No one can tell us what way is the right way. No one can tell us which way is better. We all get to make that choice.

As for me, I'm going to enjoy this special time in my life regardless of what other's think I should do (or even what I think I should do based on what everyone else is doing). I'm not sure how long this phase will last, but I'm going to enjoy life as it is presented to me and right now, that life entails a full-time kindergartner, no other children to care for at home, and a quite a bit of extra time to devote to something I am extremely passionate about.

And the best part of it all is that I am totally okay with it. Seth is too.  And that is all that matters.



** I don't want to ask the which way is better because I really dislike the mommy-wars that seem to start because of it... but I would love to know which way YOU have done things and why you did them? Did you have kids early on and closer together? Did you spread them out? Or did you have children at an older age? Did you have the ability to control your family planning? Or did life and mother nature have a different idea in mind for you? I'd love to hear :)

Image Credit






Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Guest Post




















With all the excitement happening around here in the last few days, I totally spaced out and forgot to mention that I was asked to write a guest post for my friend, Allison, over at  SAVOR/ SEEK.

Allison asked me to write about my favorite quote or words that I lived by. For some reason I had the hardest time deciding which to do, I couldn't narrow it down, so I took the plunge and I wrote about both :) In fact, I actually did my own "My Name Is" feature over there-- something I've been wanting to do for a while but wasn't sure where I would do it (I'll be honest, it felt a little weird to do my own feature on my own blog... haha!).

Anyway, have a look at the post HERE and while you're over there, make sure you read through Allison's blog. She's such a wonderful person and I absolutely love her messages!



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Name is MICHELLE






























My name is Michelle and I had a brain tumor.

In October of 2010, I gave birth to twins; Hayden and Caitlyn. One week later, my husband Zacc was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  He had his thyroid removed in November and underwent radiation in January.  That year was the hardest of my life up until that point.  Twins were a lot to handle.  Cancer was a lot to handle, but twins and cancer?  I was so overwhelmed and so grateful just to make it to the twins first birthday.  I am not sure where I got this idea, but people would often times comment on how much we had been through, so somehow I equated that to “no more big trials” for the Calls. We already had our share.

In August of 2012, I was standing in my kitchen when all of the sudden I lost the hearing in my left ear.  It felt like my ear needed to pop.  Yes, EAR needed to pop.  Not EARS.  My right ear was fine, but my left ear needed to pop and I had lost most all of the hearing.  After three days of going crazy, not being able to fix my ear, I decided to go to the doctor.  When my husband got home from work, I left him with the three kids and went to the instacare.  The doctor told me that I had fluid in my inner ear and that if I took some Sudafed it would clear right up.  Taking Sudafed did not fix my ear and I decided to make an appointment with an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) doctor.

I met with the ENT in September and he did a hearing test and told me that I had lost the hearing in my left ear and that they didn’t know why.  Sometimes viruses can cause nerve damage and there is really nothing you can do for it.  I was so disheartened.   So, you are telling me I am deaf in my left ear and there is absolutely no answer as to why?  I wanted a reason for my hearing loss…or so I thought.  The doctor scheduled an MRI.  He told me it was extremely uncommon, but sometimes there is a mass in the brain causing the hearing loss.  He also put me on prednisone.  It is a steroid used to fight inflammatory diseases and can be successful at restoring hearing.  I took the prednisone, and two weeks later, my hearing was back.  I was so grateful.  It is amazing the things we take for granted.  I never realized how grateful I was for my hearing until I lost it.  Now that I was back, I thanked God everyday for it.  My MRI was scheduled for a Friday morning and I still went even though my hearing was back.  For those of you who have never had a MRI, it can be somewhat claustrophobic, and very loud.  Towards the end of MRI, they put contrast into your IV.  I asked the technician what the contrast was for.  He informed me that it helped them find tumors.  He gave me a disk of my images, I threw it in our office drawer, and basically forgot about it…after all, my hearing was back, so I was sure everything was fine.  We were leaving for Disneyland the following Monday morning and I COULD NOT WAIT!  Also, I had a million things to do before we left.

While driving to the airport on Monday morning, I received a phone call from the ENT’s office.  She asked me when I could come in and talk about my MRI results.  I figured everything was fine (seeing as how my hearing had returned), and I told her that we were going out of town.  I asked if she could just tell me the results and save me from having to find a babysitter and go through the hassle of a doctor’s appointment if he was just going to tell me that everything looked fine.  She hesitated and said that I really needed to meet with the doctor.  My heart sank.  We were taking our kids to Disneyland for the first time and I had been looking forward to this trip for months, now I would wonder what they had found all week long.  We had a wonderful time in Disneyland and I tried not to worry about it, but it certainly weighed on my mind.

We came home on Saturday and after all the unpacking, hoards of laundry, and putting three tired kids to sleep, I decided to put the disc into the computer to see if it would read the MRI images.  It did.  I had no idea what I was looking for, just anything abnormal.  Everything looked normal and symmetrical to me, until I got to the end of the disc.  After the contrast was administered, a cloudy white mass appeared on the left side of my brain, pressing up against my brain stem.  I am certainly not trained at reading MRI’s, but it was very obvious that I had a brain tumor.  I was shocked.  I felt like I was living someone else’s nightmare.  Brain tumors were something that happened to other people.  I sat there in disbelief although the proof was right in front of me.  My husband Zacc, was reading on the couch.  I wondered if I should show him and for a split second I thought about not telling him.  I remembered how grateful I was that he was honest and up front with me when he had cancer and that he didn’t try to keep it from me.  I called him over to the computer and showed him.  I started sobbing and told him I was so sorry.  I had no idea whether my tumor was cancerous or not, but either way, I figured this was bad.  I started researching brain tumors.  What I found scared me.  If my tumor was malignant, I would be lucky to live for 5 more years.  I became extremely emotional.  I have 3 beautiful children and I would miss out on so much of their lives.  I wondered about chemotherapy and losing my hair.  I hear chemotherapy makes you nauseated and I hate throwing up. Hate it. I wasn’t really sure what lay ahead of me, but I was going to go down fighting. At this point I was bawling uncontrollably.















I am not really sure what happened next, but I transitioned from an emotional mess to a much more practical version of myself.   I wondered how quickly I would die if I did nothing.  I honestly wondered if this would be my best option.  Yes, I wondered if dying quickly would be my best option because it might be what was best for my family.  I could drag out the inevitable and be sick for years, or I could go quickly and let my family get on with their lives, even if those lives no longer included me. My husband is amazing.  He is a fabulous father and a wonderful husband and any woman would be lucky to be married to him. I know I am.  I felt like it would be easy for him to remarry.  My kids were so young.  My oldest daughter Macey was 4 and the twins were almost 2.  If I died in the next year or so, the twins might not even remember me.  The thought of my twins not remembering me threw me back into the state of uncontrollable bawling.

First thing Monday morning, I drove to the hospital where I had my MRI to pick up a copy of my radiology report.  The mass was most likely a vestibular schwannoma (more commonly called an acoustic neuroma).  I immediately started researching these tumors.  These tumors attach to the hearing and balance nerve and are almost always benign.  That was all I needed to know.  My tumor was most likely not cancerous and I was so grateful.

My name is Michelle and I have an acoustic neuroma.

The receptionist from the ENT’s office called me on Monday afternoon.  She informed me that their office was sending my information to Dr. Shelton at the University of Utah hospital.  He is a specialist, and the best doctor anywhere at removing this type of tumor.  How lucky, the number one doctor I could go to happens to work about 30 minutes from where I live?  I called doctor Shelton’s office to make an appointment.  The receptionist told me that they can’t make any appointments until they get a chance to look at my MRI.  Apparently Dr. Shelton only takes referrals.  They told me that because my tumor was medium/large at 27 cm, they would try to get me in quickly.  When Dr. Shelton’s office called back they set an appointment for 6 weeks away.  Really, that is the earliest you can get me in?  Dr. Shelton is so good, that people travel from all over the United States to see him.  This translates to him being very busy.  I gladly accepted the appointment and started doing some research.

I easily read 50 articles on acoustic neuromas.  I researched methods of treating them.  There are 3; monitoring, radiation, or removal.  My tumor was already too large for monitoring.  Due to my age and the size and location of my tumor, the risk of putting radiation on my healthy brain cells was too great.  The chance of the radiation causing cancer in my brain was small, but it can happen, and if it did, it would be fatal.  Removal was my only option.

In the 6 weeks between my diagnosis and meeting with Dr. Shelton, I spoke with 3 individuals who also had acoustic neuromas that were removed by Dr. Shelton.  The first two were much older than me and their tumors were a lot smaller.  The third however, was a young mom, whose tumor was actually much larger than mine.  Her name is also Michelle and I would have never made it through the last 9 months without her.  I came in contact with Michelle through Facebook and we scheduled a time to talk on the phone.  When I first introduced myself and thanked her for talking with me, she started crying and said “I am so sorry you have to go through all of this.”  I cried with her.  We talked for about 45 minutes and I asked all the questions I could think of.  Michelle didn’t sugar coat things.  I was grateful for that.  I wanted realistic expectations.  She was also positive and helped me to know that she still had a wonderful life.  In fact, all 3 individuals I spoke with told me they had wonderful lives.  I felt these individuals were made more aware of their abundant blessings because of the trial they had been through.

I met with Dr. Shelton on November 9, 2012.  I was hopeful that he might be able to save my hearing. Dr. Shelton walked in the room and the first thing he said was there was no chance at saving my hearing. Again, I was disheartened at the surety of losing my hearing, but my tumor was just too large.  Because they were sacrificing the hearing in my left ear, it gave them the best chance at not severing my facial nerve.  Facial nerve damage was a huge concern of mine.  Patients who suffer facial nerve damage lose control over that side of their face.  Often times they can’t blink their eye or their mouth droops on the one side.  I am certainly not a model by any means, but like most women, I did not want facial nerve damage.

They scheduled my surgery for December 10th.  I wished that I could have had the surgery after Christmas and just enjoyed the holiday, but the tumor was a constant concern and I would have stressed about the surgery the whole time.  Also, our lives had somewhat been put on hold since the MRI and I felt like after my surgery, we could finally start having a normal life again.

I was well informed about my surgery.  I even watched one on YouTube.  They would have to shave a section of my head.  The incision would be made behind my left ear.  Dr. Shelton would then drill through my skull and remove the tumor from my ear towards the brainstem and Dr. Reichmann would work from my brainstem towards my ear.  Dr. Shelton is a neuro-octologist.  Dr. Reichmann is a neurosurgeon.  They work together as this is a complicated and lengthy surgery.  Acoustic neuroma removals usually last anywhere from 4-8 hours; they guessed mine would take 6, based on the size of the tumor.

December came.  I was so nervous! I would lay awake in bed at night and worry about something going horribly wrong during the surgery and me not surviving.  Then there were the real concerns.  I knew I would lose my hearing and I knew how hard it was to try and function without it.  I had serious concerns about my facial nerve being damaged. I felt like I had done a pretty decent job holding it all together thus far.  I mainly tried to keep busy in the days leading up to the surgery.  I knew I had to get Christmas done before the surgery because I certainly wouldn’t feel up to it after.  Not only does this surgery require that they sever the hearing nerve, but the balance nerve as well.  The good news is that my other balance nerve would eventually take over, but I would basically have to learn to walk again.

My name is Michelle and I am blessed with wonderful friends.

Wonderful women in my neighborhood left anonymous gifts on my door, the entire month of December.  Every day, I would get a surprise at my door.  These wonderful women will never know how much those sweet acts of kindness helped me endure this trial.  I looked forward to these fun surprises and when you have something in your future that you are dreading, like a brain surgery, it is so nice to have a little something to look forward to.

I had to be to the hospital at 5:00 am.  As my husband and I drove to the hospital in the dark, I told him I wished we were going on some fabulous vacation instead of to the hospital.  I asked him if next year we could go somewhere fabulous on December 10th.  He said yes.  Really though, how do you say no to a women with a brain tumor? We arrived at the hospital and I was surprised at how well I was doing with all of it.  I stayed strong until the nurse started my IV and then I lost it.  She asked why I was crying.  I told her I was so nervous.  She said “why?” I told her that I was about to have a brain tumor removed.  She said not to worry and that the doctors do this all the time.  Yes, I know the doctors do this all the time, but I don’t, and I am scared and nervous. I knew the tumor wasn’t going away on its own and that I had to go through with it.  Knowing that I had to go through with it, didn’t make it any less scary.  I knew the part where they wheeled me into the operating room and my husband had to leave me would be the hardest for me emotionally.  I asked the anesthesiologist to put me out quickly.  He did, and I was grateful.

This is a picture of my friend Michelle after her surgery, I did not take any pictures at the hospital.
















The hospital stay was a bit of a blur for me.  After my surgery, I was admitted to the ICU for the night to be monitored closely.  I was then transferred to a regular room for 4 more days.  I don’t remember the ICU at all.  I do remember coming to and asking my husband how the surgery went.  He said I asked several times, I only remember asking once.  He said it went well and that they did not sever my facial nerve, but they did have to dissect a lot of the tumor from it.  Remember how I said I hate throwing up.  Well, I do, and I threw up a lot.  Zacc said I threw up every 20 to 30 minutes for the first two days.  I could not keep ANYTHING down.  I was just throwing up stomach acid.  I also didn’t really have the strength to lift my head, so I mostly just threw up all over me.  It seems so gross now, but at the time, I was too sick to care.  Zacc would get a wet rag and try to wipe me up as best as possible.  Zacc ended up getting strep when I was recovering in the hospital and my mom and sister came to stay with me while his mom watched the kids.  We have a wonderfully supportive family.  They were constantly helping us out and I never once heard them complain.

On Thursday, day 4, my sister Lisa came to sit with me.  She walked into the room and told me I needed to shower.  I had been throwing up on myself for days and I am sure I was disgusting.  I told her I could barely stand, and it wouldn’t work.  She called in my nurse.  It happened to be a male nurse.  They stripped me down and hosed me off in the shower.  Normally, I would be super uncomfortable with a male nurse showering me; once again, I was way too sick to care.

I felt like I was knocking on death’s door.  I knew I was in a hospital and being monitored closely.  I also knew that seeing as how I woke up from the surgery, I wasn’t actually going to die.  However, I could not imagine being any sicker than I was, and not dying.  Before my surgery I was so concerned with how life would go on while I was recovering.  People were so kind and I had numerous people offer to watch my children and help out in any way possible. But the truth is; I didn’t want just anyone to watch my kids.  I wanted it to be someone they were at least familiar with, so this experience wasn’t quite as devastating for them.

Thankfully, our families helped out a ton and when my kids didn’t know the neighbors that came to help, it was still wonderful.  Here I had been so worried about how it would all play out and after the surgery I was just so thankful for anyone who was willing to help.   My kids really enjoyed having neighbors come read and play games with them.  In fact, I think they were kind of disappointed when mom started feeling better and all of that stopped.

I came home from the hospital on Friday.  Every day, Dr. Reichman would come in and check my facial function.  He would have me smile and blink my eyes and scrunch my nose.  Day by day, I lost more control of my facial function.  By day 5, I could not move the left side of my face at all.  My eye would not blink and water would run out the side of my mouth when I tried to drink.  When the doctors removed the bandages from my head I had a huge scar on my forehead.  They had actually bandaged me so tight that it had cut through the skin.  I was still so out of it at this point, but I remember the doctor saying “Oh no, that’s not supposed to happen,” and then taking pictures of my forehead with his phone.  Not a good feeling as you can imagine.

When it was time to leave, a nurse wheeled me down to the parking lot and Zacc went to get our car.  As I exited the hospital several people passing by stared at me.  I didn’t blame them.  I had a huge scar on my forehead and half of my face was paralyzed.  It was extremely humbling.  You know that embarrassing feeling when you run to the store in sweats and no make-up and you run into a million people you know.  Well, multiplying that feeling by a thousand is still not even close to how I felt.

Life at home was a BIG adjustment.  I couldn’t walk without holding onto the walls.  I couldn’t do much of anything to take care of my kids.  I couldn't shower myself.  I had to constantly put ointment in my eye to keep it from drying out because it would no longer blink.   Sometimes I would get really sick and start vomiting again.

But I had to be grateful for the little things I could do, no matter how small.

The doctors were hopeful that my facial nerve would be back to normal by 6 weeks.  6 weeks passed very slowly.  I improved little by little but my facial nerve did not come back after 6 weeks.  They told me to be patient and it would get better.  I saw a facial nerve therapist at 3 months, she gave me some exercises to do that would help and told me that by 6 months the paralysis would be gone.  I saw her again at 6 months.  Not only was my paralysis not gone, but some of my nerves are regenerating the wrong way.  Sometimes my left eye will close when I don’t want it to.  There isn’t really anything they can do for this.  I do more facial exercises, and my paralysis is much less noticeable than it was before.  In fact, if you weren’t talking to me, and just glanced my way, you probably wouldn’t even notice.

I still struggle with the hearing loss.  I have heard that it is the hardest to adjust to.  I cannot tell where sound comes from, because all sound comes through my right ear.  I have a hard time at loud restaurants or busy places because I can’t block out background noise.  My husband and I watch all shows with subtitles.  To be honest, I am not sure why we didn’t do this all along; I catch so much more of the dialogue this way.

I would have to agree with the three other acoustic neuroma patients I talked with, I have a wonderful life.  I have three beautiful children.  I have a wonderful husband.  We have an amazing extended family that loves and supports us.  My oldest daughter is turning 5 this month and I get to be here to watch her open her presents and to start kindergarten in the fall and I am so grateful for that. I appreciate the good times so much more now and do a better job at not taking life for granted.  I am so grateful for my beautiful life because I realize now how quickly things can change.

My name is Michelle and I am extremely blessed. 

Photo's by Tracy Layne




*Remember that the purpose of this series is to open our hearts, to interact, to uplift, to support and to grow. Michelle will be reading your comments so you may comment directly to her. 

Thank you for sharing this challenging part of your life with us, Michelle. You are an example of such resiliency and strength.

To read morinspiring "My Name is" features, click here.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Togetherness Project











This October, courageous and resilient women will come together in a spirit of sisterhood to help grow past the betrayal of trust and emotional pain associated with a loved one's sexual addiction and/or infidelity.

The Togetherness Project, Salt Lake City UT- October 19th, 2013

Featuring renown sexual addiction therapists, professionals and inspiring individuals, come experience a day full of honest, realistic, and validating discussions that will empower us to rise above our collective challenges together.

Registration includes:
  •  a full day's worth of interactive classes and presentations given by (but not limited to):
            ~Lindsay and Lexie Kite, PhD's, from Beauty Redefined
            ~Kevin Skinner, PhD, from Addo Recovery
            ~Maurice Harker, LPC, from Life Changing Services
            ~Brannon Patrick,LCSW, from LifeStar
  • lunch and a sit-down dinner.
  • the opportunity to connect and heal with other women who, just like you, have found themselves searching for understanding and a place to be understood.

Registration Fees:
Early registration (by 9/15/13):   $75
Late registration (by 10/10/13):   $85
After 10/10/13:   Please contact the Togetherness Project committee to request late registration.

*100% of registration fees will be used to cover the costs of the conference. For more detailed information, please visit togethernessproject.com

Please note: The primary focus of this day is for the unity and healing of women. In effort to best accomplish this, and out of respect for those attending, please leave your spouse/partner and children at home. Nursing babies are welcome, of course.


ABOUT THE TOGETHERNESS PROJECT

Something remarkable is happening!
As more and more tragic stories of heartbreak, betrayal, and even broken families surface due to the presence of sexual addiction and/or infidelity in their relationships, the most brave, resilient, and compassionate of women are taking a stand! We are uniting, we are speaking out, and we are weathering the storm and searching for peace, together.

The Togetherness Project is about sisterhood, healing and hope. It’s a movement of trailblazers paving a path that eliminates the shame and isolation commonly felt, and replacing it with the tools, support, education and empowerment to overcome. It’s a community of love, validation and the rarest of friends.

Whoever you are, whatever your age, or wherever you are in the process of uncertainty (recovering with your partner, healing after divorce, in the strangeness of 'limbo', or trying to figure out what it all means in your life), join The Togetherness Project at our first ever women's conference! By doing so, you will not only experience a day full of inspirational messages, but you will have the unique opportunity to connect with other women who, just like you, are seeking understanding and a place to be understood.

So, put your friends on hold, leave the kiddo's behind, take a break from your daily routine and come experience just how powerful this sisterhood is and discover how powerful YOU really are!

Together we rise above.

Picture
Jacy Boyack- Founder of The Togetherness Project

Jacy knows first hand just how quickly life can change. In one day, just one 45 minute conversation, everything she thought she had came crumbling down. Forced to face a brutal reality that she never could have comprehended (and knew absolutely nothing about), she hoped to find answers, solace, and possibly a friend by writing on an anonymous blog in early 2010. After months of what seemed like blogging to no one but herself, a comment finally came in... and another... and another. Other women enduring the effects of sexual addiction were looking for clarity too; an enlightening discovery that led her to a community, a type of friendship and an aspect of healing she never knew existed.

In the last 3 plus years, after feeling nearly every emotion possible, surviving divorce, and rebuilding a new life, Jacy has since found herself on the most rewarding and unexpected mission: to unite women bearing similar burdens, offering them an abundance of friends who "get it" and the ability to overcome and carry on- even after the most terrible and shocking of hurts. Jacy genuinely believes that happiness, beauty and love can and DO exist- even if life doesn't go exactly as planned. It's just a matter of rediscovering who you are, redefining aspects of your life you never thought you'd have to, and most importantly, never, ever (no matter what), giving up!

Jacy is a mom to the coolest kindergartner on the planet, Little Dude, and recently married her best friend, Seth.

The Togetherness Project


I am literally BURSTING at the seams this morning! I'm not sure if it's pure excitement, or if there is a little bit of anxiety in me.... either way, I am ecstatic!

Remember how I told you just two short months ago that I wanted to do something? That my heart and soul were practically forcing me to do something? 

Well I am so happy to announce that something has come to life! After a lot of brainstorming and oh so much work, along with a team of INCREDIBLE people, there is something. A BIG something. Something that, in my opinion, is pretty spectacular!

Something called...














But before I just spill the beans, I'd love for you to do two things for me:

1) After you're done reading this, check out the website  HERE 

2) If you like what you see, will you PLEASE share the Togetherness site on your Facebook page? Will you share it with your friends? Will you share this on your blogs? Will you share this with your church leaders? Will you share this with your family members?

The only way we can get the word out is if we talk openly! The only way women will get the invitation to come is if the message is shared! The only way we can heal and overcome is if we come out of isolation and into the safety net of healing and friendship and love, together. And even if you don't personally relate to the mission, will you please share it anyway?

If you do relate and you want to come, COME! There is no shame. There is no embarrassment. There is nothing keeping you from joining this amazing sisterhood. There is nothing keeping you from reaching out and finding hope and peace and comfort during these challenging times.

You see, I have been that woman. I have been the woman who suffered many days, nights, weeks, hours minutes, alone. I have felt extreme loss, brutal heartache and terrible devastation before. I have felt like no one in the entire world could possibly understand what I was feeling. In fact, there are still times in my life that I feel that way. Still

I guess that after everything I have been through, this is my way of reaching out... this is my way of trying to give back.... but most importantly, this is my way of healing. A process I'm finding to be continual.

Together we rise above.

Monday, July 22, 2013

It's a Big Day Today

His royal blue lunch box is filled with a peanut butter and honey sandwich, a golden delicious apple, a handful of baby carrots, two dozen goldfish crackers, and a bottle of water. He picked his teal plaid button up shirt, his cargo khaki shorts, and his black and teal blue van tennis shoes to wear.

It's a big day today.

Little Dude is starting full-day Kindergarten.

As I pack his lunch, and get ready to walk him up the street, hand in hand, to his new home away from home- a classroom filled with 20 other 5 year olds- I can't help but remember a special day. The day he was born.

The nurse placed the tiny baby on my tummy. I had never been so close to such a new baby... actually, I had never experienced anything quite like this... and there he was, this delicate and precious human being, trusting me and totally depending on me.























I remember looking at him in those first few minutes, and through the glossy ointment on his eyes, he looked back at me. We connected. Our eyes. Our hearts. Our spirits. We connected.  I've never had a moment with anyone, or anything, like I did right then. I don't think there will come a time that will beat the fullness of my heart in that moment of my life.

As my mom was standing beside me, looking into this precious infants eyes, she said to me with tears streaming down her cheeks,

"Jacy, before you know it, this little guy will be going to kindergarten. Love and cherish every moment you have. Time flies faster than you can imagine. I promise you, it will be here in a blink."

Sitting here as I type this morning, my eyes are full of water. It's a bittersweet day. It is here.

I didn't really think it'd be hard. In fact, I've always rolled my eyes at the mom's who'd send their kids off to school and cry. It just made no sense to me. I mean, what's the big deal? Aren't they excited their kids are leaving? I would be!  I thought. I guess I just didn't understand it then. How could I have?

Now, it's soooooo different. So very different.

I'm sitting here, in the stillness of the morning, completely overwhelmed with emotion... but not because I'm sad.... but because it's the end of this phase of our lives. It's the end of my little guy being a little guy. It's the end of me being full-time, one-on-one, just me and him, mom.

You see, my Little Dude and I have been partners in crime from day one- but especially in these last three and a half years. We have experienced so much together. Our relationship has been a little bit different than the ordinary, I'd say. We've laughed until we cried, we've cried until we laughed, we have been overly annoyed with each other, we have learned from each other. In those very challenging years in my life, my Little Dude was all I had. He was all that was left of my broken life-- or so it felt.

For these reasons, and so many more, he is my hero.

He is my everything.

And today, our life together is about to change. It's the beginning of a new and independent life, for us both. It's the beginning of a new season.

But change, although wonderful and refreshing and fun, isn't always easy. Yes, much excitement is floating the air for this change, but there is also a little part of me that is scared, too. What if the kids are mean to him? What if he gets stuck in the bathroom and can't clean himself properly? What if he gets left out at recess? What if he disobeys the teacher? What if he shoves another little kid?

I know this is life. I know this is reality. I know this is all apart of growing up.

I guess that's why it's so hard. Because I am realizing that I will never have my little baby back. Those days have come and gone... they happened too quickly... I can't believe they are over.... and now we are diving head first into new and uncharted territory. Full-time school makes it so I'm not a full-time mom anymore.

It's a big, exciting and scary day today, for us both. But, no matter the change, I will always keep this little kid right next to my heart. We've been through so much together... and now, I am SO excited to watch him blossom into his own!




Friday, July 19, 2013

"My Name is" Series is BACK!

It's a happy day today! Upon some requests, I am so elated to announce that the "My Name is" Series is BACK!

If you're new here, I've posted a little recap below. If you've been with me all along, everything will be the same except these amazing stories will be posted on Wednesdays, instead of Fridays (the first starting next week- July 24th)

Other than that little change, prepare to have your eyes water, your souls touched and your perspective changed.

I can't wait!



















June 18th, 2012

Something undeniably awesome has been brewing in my mind!

When I started this blog 3 months ago, I knew I wanted to write openly and honestly. I knew I wanted to write for my continued healing. I hoped that someone, somewhere might benefit from my experiences but I didn't really know what to expect. In fact, I came in with little to no expectations at all.

To my sheer amazement, your heartbreaking/hopeful stories began to fill my inbox... your encouraging and well-wishing thoughts began to fill my inbox... your appreciative and kind words, in regards to this project, began to fill my inbox... and they are still coming. All the time. It blows me away! But what I am electrified by most is the growth that I've acquired from connecting with you. By stepping outside of my own world and observing the unique experiences of others, I am changed. I see the world a little differently... I see you a little differently... I see me a little differently.... and it's a marvelous different.

Because of you and the enlightening journey this has been so far, I've decided to add a new feature called"My Name Is..." wherein which willing individuals will be spotlighted by sharing their personal adventures of hardship, prevailing, or accomplishment, and how they've maintained and/or redefined their happiness in the process.

It is my hope that by opening our eyes a little wider and resetting the focus, we can view life through spectacles other than our own, lending us the wondrous opportunity to better ourselves in irreplaceable ways. 


Prepare to be inspired!


Image Credit

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Love Is So Big




















Two nights ago, at 1 o'clock in the morning, Little Dude came to the side of my bed running a very high fever. He was scared and shaking and didn't feel well at all. Hand in hand, we made our way down the dimly lit hall and back to his superhero bedroom. We got situated with children's Ibuprofen, two cold wash clothes, and a big bowl for barf just in case. His heart was set to rocket speed. His body was shivering. And heat was radiating from head to toe. He was like an electric blanket. As I tried to break the fever by running the cool cloth over his little chest, neck and head, he whispered in the sweetest voice imaginable, as his eyes struggled to stay open,

"Mom, I'm sorry I am keeping you awake and that you're not in your bed sleeping. Thank you for taking care of me." 

He slowly dozed off,  and I laid in his twin bed for the following 4 hours. While I, too, dozed in and out of sleep, with the chilly rags in my hands, I realized in the stillness of the night just how great the love is that we have for our children. And how much my parents love (and have always loved) me. 

I was so touched in that moment. There is something so positively rewarding, something so unbelievably beautiful about being a mother. And I find those moments, the moments that usually lead to little sleep and sacrifice, to be the ones that are the most special. They are the moments we reconnect with our purpose-- the reasons why we are doing what we are doing, day in and day out. 

Love is so big. My heart is full. My 5 year old appreciated my love for him in time of sickness and discomfort and I cannot even begin to describe how much that meant to me. I cannot even begin to describe how that simple and tiny interaction gave me a gigantic boost.

It's so worth it. I my have been exhausted from the lack of sleep the next day but, wow!, it is so worth it.

**I shared this little story on FB last night- but it was filled with typo's galore. Of course the one post that people really liked, I totally bombed. Go figure :-/ Regardless, because it got positive feedback, I assume it must be resonating with someone, somewhere. So... I thought it wouldn't hurt to edit the typo's and share it here as well (for documentation purposes and for the non-Facebookers out there :). 


Monday, July 15, 2013

My Beef with the Beauty Hype





























Thursday night I attended the Beauty Redefined presentation in Salt Lake City. It was so awesome for so many reasons.The theatre was jam-packed with women of all ages, of all shapes and sizes, and of all different styles. No woman looked alike. And what you looked like wasn't the purpose of being there anyway.

Listening to their message, I was so impressed with its content but more importantly, I was so overwhelmed with how the message affected me. As I drove home on I-15, I was pondering it all. Digesting what I had just learned, here's what I came to conclude:

We are so consumed with our outward appearance.

We are totally enthralled with everything on the exterior.

We compare ourselves and make judgements based on who is wearing the cutest, most fashionable clothes... whose body is the the firmest... whose hair is the silky smoothest... whose tan (real or fake) is the glowiest... whose eyelashes are the thickest and longest... whose purse is the most fun... whose teeth are the whitest.... whose lips are the fullest... whose breasts are the most natural looking... etc. etc. etc.

It's like we are all longing to be someone- or something- that is totally unrealistic. We are always striving to be the unattainble. The impossible. We try to mimic the edited, enhanced and over the top images we are bombarded with every single day. Our goal is to look picture perfect all the time and we spend hours and hours and hours trying to achieve it. And let's be honest, as women, it's not uncommon for jealousy and insecurity to cloud our minds when we don't get that perfection.

We are driven by HOW WE LOOK.

It's an obvious trend.

Look around you. It's really not hard to see.

And I am guilty. Totally.

Believe me... I get it. 

I've had the breast augmentation and the nose job... I've done the shopping binges... I've done the expensive and high maintenance eyelashes and hair extensions.... I've attempted and failed at the "try your hardest to fit a certain mold" thing. Yes, I do understand that some of these things can enhance your confidence, no doubt, but I also understand how addicting and all consuming it can become. I understand how backwards our thinking can be-- I've been there.

So there I was that night, driving in my little clunky white mini van and I started to cry- why am I always crying? I had this aha moment! And maybe it's common knowledge and nothing new to you, but for me... it was like lightening bolt.

Every single night we all prepare for bed (a routine that is quite similar for us all I imagine).

We take off our flashy shoes.

We hang up our vibrant shirt (or plop it on the floor if you're lazy like me :)

We fold our trendy, skinny jeans.

We hop in our comfy, baggy jammies.

We leave all of that stuff in the dark closet for the evening.

We pin our hair back or throw it into a quick, sloppy ponytail.

We remove our make up.

We cleanse our faces.

We brush our teeth.

We do whatever else we do.

The moon shines brightly, and the hustle and bustle of everyday is quiet. Everyone is sleeping. The show is over. Our physical presentation is done for the day. We wipe that last bit of mascara from under our eyes and we look in the mirror only to see that all that stuff-- the stuff we put on to beautify and sparkle-- is gone. All that we are left with is our naked selves. All we are left with is who we are as human beings. We are left with our souls. Our nighttime bareness portrays a completely opposite version of who we become the next morning. So much so that sometimes, many of us may be unrecognizable.

It is then, in those silent and raw moments, that I ask myself:

Who am I?

Take away how I look, take away the foundation, take away the curling iron, take away the dangly earrings, take away the adorable lace tights, take away the bronzer tanning lotion, take away the eyelash growth serum, take away the shimmery lip gloss, take away the clothes, the bags, the heels, the scarfs, take away everything materialistic and what am I left with?

A vessel.

A vessel that I have been blessed with to do GOOD THINGS.

Can I honestly say that I like what I see?

Can I honestly say that I am more than how I look?

Can I honestly reflect on the goodness I have done?

I think sometimes we (I) forget our (my) true purpose; that we are here to do good things.

Yes, beauty and fashion are FUN and nothing is wrong with being creative and loving all things beautiful (and of course, it is possible to be beautiful and fashionable and decorated from head to toe while doing really good things... this post isn't to say otherwise). I'm not saying we should ditch the razor and go totally amazon woman, but I do think that sometimes we get so overwhelmed and bombarded with how we look on the outside, that we're forgetting who we are on the inside. We are far more worried about what we wear and how we will look tomorrow, rather than who we are and what we are DOING to become better.

So I've got a little bone to pick.

But I don't mean to pick it with anyone else. I mean, I have friends who positively change lives because of their talents in the industry and I personally like to look (and feel) put together and cute and stylish. I like my outside appearance to reflect how I feel on the inside. But, I'd be lying if I didn't say I've got a little bit of beef with all the hype right now. I think it's just my way of processing the pressure and ideals and expectations that have been crowding my mind, sometimes leaving no space for anything else. I guess I hope that we can approach the topic with moderation because just like anything, too much of one thing is just that, TOO MUCH. 

Overkill in my opinion.


**I'd love to know what you think about this. Do you agree or disagree? Do you get sucked into the hype? I know I do.


Image Credit

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