Tag: TPN

An Empty Womb And An Empty Heart

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I have been putting off writing this post for a while now. I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to write this part of my story, but I could never actually bring myself to put my heartbreak into words. I have been very vulnerable in my writings in the past, but this, my inability to carry any more babies, this hurt too much to see it in print.

My husband and I had it easy with our first pregnancy. I literally got pregnant within a week of us deciding we wanted to start trying. I only had two weeks of morning sickness (which in all honesty wasn’t even that bad), and I was only in full labour for 2.5 hours. My daughter started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks, she was, and still is, a very calm baby, and we were absolutely, 100% percent, head over heels, in love with her.

Then, when she was 3 months old, I ended up in the hospital with a herniated small bowel, which they had to remove 99.9% of, along with a third of my large intestine. Our perfect little fairy tale came crashing down.

One of the first questions I asked my surgeon was “Will I be able to have more children?” His short answer of “no” tore my heart apart. I was inconsolable. I crumbled. I could actually feel my heart shatter. My dream of having a large family was over. Every time I thought about it, I would break down in sobs all over again.

A month later, I figured I was doing better than they expected, and maybe, just maybe his answer would have changed. Again, my surgeon’s answer was no. This time he elaborated a bit more. I still have all my reproductive organs, however, my doctors don’t know how I would do being pregnant while on IV nutrition (TPN). There are some who have been able to get pregnant while on TPN, but I have so little bowel left that they don’t know if they’ll be able to keep up with my nutrition and hydration. Short answer, they don’t know if I or the baby would survive the pregnancy.

Sitting here writing this, my heart still aches. Every show I watch where a woman is pregnant and giving birth, I cry. Every time someone tells me they’re pregnant, I’m instantly envious. Every time I see a baby, my arms and heart feel empty. Every time I see a pregnant woman, that beautiful glow on her face, and her smile from ear to ear as she feels her baby moving, my soul is in anguish. Every time someone asks me if more children are in the cards, I try not to be angry with them for their ignorance in asking such a private question. Did you know how painful that question can be for so many women? How do you tell someone you barely know something so personal?

I am beyond blessed to have my daughter. I will never stop being grateful for having her in my life. But I loved being pregnant. I loved lying in bed and feeling her move around; seeing her little bum move from one side of my belly to the other. I love that I got to catch my own daughter, that I was the first person to ever hold her, that we have a bond that started 40 weeks earlier than anyone else got with her.

I’ll never feel that again. I’ll never feel a baby’s foot in my ribs again. I won’t feel him move from side to side. I won’t be able to feel her hiccups. I won’t ever get to carry another baby from the beginning, but I will get the opportunity (Lord willing) to be a mom to more babies. Although I know that there will be moments where it hurts to watch another woman carry my baby, we have found someone to join our family in an unconventional way. My husband and I, after months of discussing, praying, and seeking guidance from those around us, have decided to grow our family of three to a family of four via surrogacy.

This process is still going to be long, and let’s face it, probably not easy, but it is an adventure that our family is ready to partake in. Does my heart still ache that I won’t get to carry a baby on my own? Every single day. But my heart is also so full of joy that we have found someone to step in my place for 40 weeks and help our family grow. Hopefully, with time, the joy and the excitement of this new journey will completely take the place of the hurt that has been sitting there, taking up residency, in my heart for the last 2 years.

 

If you would like to follow our journey or to help us with the financial costs of the surrogacy process, please go to our GoFundMe page to find out more information.

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Why Sepsis Should Be Taken So Seriously

Septicemia

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Sepsis. This is a medical term that I knew nothing about, hadn’t even heard of, until I was diagnosed with it back in 2015. Sepsis is a toxic reaction, a poisoning of the blood, to an infection found in your body and can lead to death (Mayo Clinic). In fact, 1 out of every 18 deaths in Canada is due to Sepsis (Sepsis Alliance). There are more deaths due to Sepsis than Colorectal and Breast cancer COMBINED in Canada (Statistics Canada).

Last summer, if you know me or follow me on Facebook, you would know that I ended up back in the hospital twice due to an infection in my central line – that was Sepsis. The bacteria started in my Hickman, which my nutrition travels through and goes to my heart. Then my heart pumps my nutrition throughout my entire body through my blood. I wasn’t in the hospital just because I was unwell, but because if left too long, I could have gone into Septic Shock and died. The mortality rate for Sepsis increases 8% EVERY HOUR that treatment is delayed (Sepsis Alliance). Sepsis is that serious.

I had decided to write about Sepsis after one of my fellow SBS warriors was admitted into the hospital last week due to Sepsis. Many people that I know that are on TPN has had Sepsis before. It’s very common to those of us with central lines and unfortunately an ongoing battle that we will forever face.

I have been told since my first day leaving the hospital with my line that if I have a fever that I MUST come into the hospital and be checked for infection. It’s not something that I’m willing to play with. It’s not worth risking my life. Thankfully, every time I have been to the hospital with a fever, they’ve taken it very seriously and at least isolate me, keeping me safe from any other infectious diseases that may be in the air.

Why did I choose to write on such a serious and some may say morbid topic? Because this is my reality. Sepsis is something that I, and many others with a Hickman, fear. This is why I’m so paranoid about keeping my line clean. I can’t go in public swimming pools or in the lake for a swim. I have to keep my Hickman site covered at all times. I have a sterile area in my bedroom for where I connect to my TPN, and only a Registered Nurse, my husband or myself touches my line. I’m constantly using hand sanitizer. I have had to become a germophobe to ensure that I stay healthy. Yet another part of my life that has severely changed since my diagnoses.

A huge part of why I do this blog is to educate, and this is what I’m doing today. I’m wanting people to know about another part of what I struggle with, with my diagnosis.

Here are the symptoms of Sepsis:

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Educate yourselves. Sepsis isn’t found just in people who have central lines or suffer from a chronic illness. It’s serious, let’s treat it that way.

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Broken

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In Japan, there’s a term called “Kintsukoroi”; it refers to broken objects which are repaired with gold. This way, the flaw is seen as a unique attribute to its history and adds to its beauty.

Shortly after my first surgery, when my small intestine was removed and I was told I would never eat or drink again, I was in ICU and my mom was there visiting. I was obviously processing this grim news and spent most of my waking hours in tears. I was broken in every sense of the word. My mom took me in her arms, as much as she could being that I was attached to multiple IVs and oxygen, and with her head next to mine she whispered to me that she would take me broken over not having me at all.

Although these words comfort me on a daily basis, it still hurts my heart. I’m broken. I have pieces missing. And no matter how far I may come with medications or surgeries, I will forever have the scars that remind me that I am and forever will be broken.

But really, who isn’t broken in one way or another?

I love the idea, however, that maybe this brokenness can make me more beautiful. That gold can be added to these cracks and scars. Who doesn’t like to add a little bling to their life?

Ok, physically I’m not a fan of the scars that have been left on my body. But I have noticed how my being broken has changed me in other ways. I don’t get offended easily – it’s not worth the energy that it uses up. I make sure to spend some quality time with friends and family and I get family photos any chance I can. I’m more patient now. I’ve learned sympathy is a great asset to have. I’m slowly outlining my scars with gold. Making my brokenness beautiful with things I may not have had in my life if my life didn’t take this turn.

I woke up from a dream last week full on sobbing and I whispered “Jesus, I’m too broken. I need you to carry me.” I don’t remember what the dream was, but I’ve been hanging on to those words all week. “I’m too broken. Carry me.”

I’ll never get through this on my own strength. I’ve had to rely on family, friends and my church. Now I really need to let Jesus carry me for the time being and let more gold fill in the broken parts of me.

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Dealing with Guilt and Fears as a Chronically Ill Mom

I love being a mom. Love it. I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I still remember watching Angels in the Outfield when I was young and saying afterwards that I wanted to be a foster or adoptive mom. Give me a whole slew of children and my life would be fulfilled.

Two weeks before I got sick, I randomly turned to my husband and asked him what his thoughts were on adoption. I told him that I’d love to have one or two more of our own, but there are so many kids in need of a home, and that I really wanted to adopt. Crazy thing is, we had no way of knowing that I was about to get sick and not be healthy enough to get pregnant again and that if we wanted to grow our family, our option would be to adopt. I really do believe that that was God’s way of preparing our hearts for what was to come.

Along with dreaming of how big our family would one day be, I also thought a lot about what type of mom I wanted to be, how we would raise our kids, and all that went with the soccer mom life. I looked forward to being the hockey mom, going to piano recitals, and being a Girl Guide leader so that I could go on weekend camping trips with my daughter(s). Call me old fashioned, but I loved the idea of having dinner on the table for my family, making lunches for them and carting my kiddos around with me in the minivan.

My life as a mom now looks significantly different. I won’t be able to do the super early hockey practices as I now barely function in the mornings. Everyone who knows me may giggle at this thinking it has to do with my severe coffee addiction (no really, can I hook it up to my Hickman??)

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I start my day slinging my TPN backpack over my shoulder, grabbing Maddie (some days with my forearms if my arthritis is flaring up), I hobble down the stairs, change her and get her to her highchair quickly before I get too woozy. I get extremely light headed and have a hard time breathing first thing in the morning, what I assume is a consequence to having my lungs filled with fluid and then drained while at the hospital. The long days of piano recitals is a dream of the past as leaving the house for more than a couple hours at a time leaves me incapacitated for at least the rest of the day. And going camping would mean not being able to find a sterile location to be able to get my TPN going.

Our daily routine at home really depends on how I feel. Hopefully we make it outside for half an hour – but never longer as it completely wipes me out. I can’t be that fun mom that plays with my daughter and chases her around. Even just helping her go down the slide a couple times takes everything out of me.

I don’t want to come off full of myself, but I know I’m a good mom. I’m not even close to perfect, but I love my daughter more than words could ever say and I do the best that I can. I’ve really had to learn how to deal with my fears and guilt surrounding being a chronically ill mom. Guilt that she won’t get all the experiences I want her to because I can’t keep up. Guilt that she’ll get more TV time that I’d like because I don’t feel well enough to entertain her myself. Guilt that she doesn’t have the mom that she would have had if I hadn’t gotten sick. Fear that I’ll fall sick again and won’t be here to see her grow up. Fear that she will one day resent me because of all of this.

You can say all the encouraging words you want after reading this, hoping to uplift my spirits. But all you chronically ill parents out there 100% understand what I’m saying and I know I’m not alone in this. There’s so much fear of being judged for our parenting choices, the amount of parent shaming out there is horrendous, but we’re all doing the best we can.

I feel like this post has been a little all over the place, very up and down emotionally. Welcome to my head space when it comes to parenting! I am my own worst critic. I am doing everything I am able to do, and sometimes more than I am capable (which I pay for for days to come). For those who are in the same boat – know you are not alone. I still struggle with my guilt and fears every day, I don’t know if they’ll ever go away, but I do know that at least I’m not the only one going through it. You do what you have to do in the moment, and as long as it’s your best, really, who cares what others think. People who aren’t in our situation will never completely understand how hard this truly is.

I pray for my daughter every day, I thank God for her, and hope she turns out okay in spite of the obstacles we will have to face together. She’s the reason I’m here.

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I Can’t, but We Can

I’m a very blessed woman. I have always had a community of some sort around me. Through every walk of life, I’ve at least had one person to turn to and as I grow older, my support systems have grown – both in depth and numbers. More importantly though, I have come to appreciate them so much more in the last year.

I have my family – my husband and daughter, my parents and siblings, and my in-laws. I also have my friends that may as well be family, those both far and near. These are the people who were the first ones there when I was sick. Waiting with Joe while I was fighting for my life in surgery. Hopping on the first flight to be by my bedside day in and day out. Friends who, over the last year, I have been able to call while in tears because I am so fed up with my situation. I realize not everyone has family and friends like this, but I have been immensely grateful to have these people by my side.

There are so many other forms of community out there though, and take it from me, no matter what you’re going through, you need community. Whether to help you celebrate or grieve different situations in your life, they are a necessary part of it.

Church – I found a great community in my church and I literally had hundreds of people praying for me, feeding my family, and helping care for us in many ways while I was hospitalized. These are the people who have held on to hope and faith and kept praying for me when I just wasn’t able do it for myself.

Online Community – I so love and appreciate the fact that everything is online nowadays. I have been able to connect with people from all over the world who also rely on TPN as a form of nutrition. Through Facebook, I’ve been able to meet a mom here in Ottawa whose daughter is on TPN (and am so looking forward to meeting her daughter). I’ve also become great friends with a woman down in Texas who went through a very similar situation as mine last April and hope that we can one day meet in person. I am forming friendships that I never would have found otherwise. They are under very unfortunate circumstances, but nevertheless, I am very thankful for my new friends.

Being diagnosed with a rare illness makes it hard to find answers (my doctors don’t have answers to many of my questions), and through online forums I’ve been able to ask many questions to others who have been on TPN for longer than I have. The best resources have been through these online communities.

Even just through Facebook and writing on my blog, I have regained contact with old friends who are also struggling with a variety of life’s hardships. It’s interesting how when life seems to dump on you, it can bring people together. Hurting people tend to know how to encourage other hurting people, no matter how different their situations may be.

Support Groups – The last form of community that I want to mention in this post, is support groups. This isn’t necessarily finding a group that is going through something similar to what you are, although it can be, but it’s also to find a group that will uplift and encourage you and that you can do the same for the others in the group.

I’ve been going to a Mom’s group which has brought into my life such wonderful women. Although we all come from different walks of life, it’s 2 hours a week where we can forget life’s troubles and just come for a laugh and a good time. It’s something that I really look forward to going to and again, it’s introduced me to people that I may not have necessarily gotten to know.

I’m also starting a book group with a few others to study Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller (check him out, I love his books)! This is obviously a very different type of support group than the one I previously mentioned, but I really didn’t want to go through this book alone. I know that it’s going to bring about some very difficult issues to deal with and why not go through it with other people who are also grieving different losses in their lives.

There are so many different forms of community out there. You don’t have to be a part of a big family or a church. You don’t have to be ill or going through a difficult time. But everyone needs a community of some kind. It’s so important and so necessary for the soul.

I really don’t think I could have gotten through this last year without my different communities. They’ve all played their parts and for that I will be forever grateful.

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Moving On

Have you ever felt like everyone has moved on after something huge has happened, but you haven’t yet? That feeling like you’re getting sucked down by this enormous event — as if you were stuck in quicksand — and everyone just keeps walking and they don’t look back? They just assume you’re keeping up the pace with them? Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling.

I realize that my being ill will obviously affect me in a very different way than it will affect anyone else. I say obviously, but when someone is in a situation where they are dealing with something of this magnitude what seems obvious to them may not, in fact, be obvious to those around them. At the end of the day, all I want to do is move forward in this journey, just the same as everyone else. Instead, it seems as if I’m stuck in this huge pit of mud and I have no clue how I’m going to get out any time soon.

I’ve had a difficult time finding a balance between trying to live a “normal” life and actually talking about what I’m feeling and what I’m going through. Should I actually talk about what’s happening in my life, or would it be better if I just ‘smile and nod along’ as if nothing has changed? How much do people REALLY want to know about what’s going on in my life when they ask me how I’m doing? I don’t want to lie and say I’m great (an answer I haven’t given in roughly 11 months), but I also don’t want to be viewed as a ‘Negative Nancy’ and always be the one bringing the mood down when I give a more realistic answer to such a simple (for most) question. My go-to answers of late have been either a simple “fine” or “oh you know, just taking it one day at a time.”

I guess I’m finding it challenging, because everyone seems to have gone on with their lives. Meanwhile, I face this every single day. I can’t escape the reality that things have changed. Even if I am having a good day pain and energy wise I am faced with the reality that my life will never be the same. At the end of every day, I still need to head upstairs approximately 45 minutes earlier than whatever time I figure I will actually want to be in bed. That’s about how long it takes me to hook myself up to my IV bag, give myself my injection, take my medication and then after all that, go through my normal bedtime routine. My good, normal day has all of a sudden come to a halt and I have been brought back down to reality.

Just when I sometimes feel like I’m maybe finally getting used to this new normal, something happens to make me realize all over again that my life has been forever changed. Something as simple as taking my daughter to a jungle gym for 1 hour sent me to bed at 6pm that day, and took me 48 hours to recover from – making me realize yet again that my life will never be the same.

Allow me to wrap this up by clarifying that I don’t expect people’s lives to revolve around my situation. I would never want it to be that way – people all have their own lives to live. I just want to get unstuck from the muck, catch up and move on with everyone else.

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I hurt, God hurts

Something I’ve noticed while walking through this journey over the past few months is that certain people seem to get really unsure around someone who is going through a painful or challenging experience. An experience that someone has never gone through – something that to them is unimaginable often brings out the awkwardness and uncertainty. What does one say to someone during these times?

The majority of people are Encouragers: “Keep your chin up”, “You’re so strong – you can do this”, or “God will pull you through this”. We also have the Silver Liners: “At least it’s not cancer, a heart attack, or insert some horrible ailment that they believe is worse here”. There are the Fixers: “I know someone who went through something similar – they did this and were healed”, “This diet will fix you”, or “Exercise, exercise, exercise!” And, since I’ve always been a straight shooter this last group is my personal favourite – the Realists: “This sucks – but I’ll be here for you and hold your hand”. They allow you to cry it out, and perhaps they even cry alongside you.

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Everyone means well. I really believe they do, but sometimes it’s better to not say anything (in my opinion) than to fill the conversation with awkward niceties because you don’t really know what else to say. One thing you can do is just ask what they need from you. It’s such a simple thing, and if they’re comfortable with you, they’ll tell you.

One of the things that was said to me often that made me upset) was “God is putting you through this for a reason, He’s testing you”. Telling someone this while they are in the midst of fighting for their life is a HUGE slap in the face. HUGE! I 100% do not believe God did this to me. This isn’t to say that I don’t think God will put tests in people’s lives, but there’s a difference between going through a patch of financial difficulty to learn to rely on God and literally being on your death bed. That being said, I still struggle with wondering why God didn’t stop this all from happening. I’m sure I’ll struggle with that one for a while.

I had an old friend message me while I was in the hospital and he brought a different perspective that was beyond encouraging. He said:

I just want you to know that God loves you as much now as He ever has, and the depth of that love is unimaginable. And every time we feel pain, or weak, or frustrated, or depressed, that God sees that and it breaks His heart and He suffers alongside us.

This! This made me think of how I would react if my own girl was hurting or how my parents were feeling while I was laying there in a hospital bed. When your kid hurts, you hurt. When you hurt, God hurts. When I hurt, God hurts.

One last thing I want to share with you today – I remember one night, early on in my hospital stay when my family had gone home for the evening and I was on my own. I was feeling so alone and so scared. I don’t know if it was a dream, a vision, or whatever you want to call it, but I saw/felt God holding me. He was holding me in His arms like I would hold my baby girl. It brought me so much comfort at the time – truth be told, it still does! I knew He was there and that He was caring for me the way I needed in that moment.

When I hurt, God hurts.

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but God…

Before I get deep into my first blog post, let me summarize for you what happened to me 10 months ago. In April 2015, after a couple trips to the emergency room, I was rushed in emergency surgery after becoming tachycardic and showing signs of major abdominal pain. After my first surgery, they had removed the majority of my small intestine, disconnected my esophagus from my stomach and my stomach from the remainder of my intestines. When I woke up from sedation, two days later, the surgeon told me that I would never eat or drink again and that my quality of life was going to be severely diminished. After a few more days, I still was unstable, and so I transferred to another hospital where there was a gastro specialist. 6 days after my first surgery, I showed no signs of improvement and underwent a second surgery. The remainder of my small intestine had continued to die and the surgery resulted in them having to remove the rest of it along with one-third of my large intestine. Although the first surgeon was wrong and I can eat and drink, I can’t absorb any nutrients and I now face a life of living with IV nutrition, deficiencies and constant exhaustion.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  –Genesis 50:20

This verse has been what’s gotten me through, day by day, for months now. I still have no clue why this happened to me. I still have my “why me” days, and I’m sure I will for a long time to come. I don’t believe that God caused this to happen to me and I don’t think this “happened for a reason” — and in fact I get insulted when people argue with me on that point. I think this is one of the many moments in life that you just have to say “crap happens”. I do however believe that God saved me. The doctors themselves are baffled that I have survived this. And I hope that because it did happen, that it can be used for good – that my pain is not in vain (whatever that may look like).

Those two words “but God” are a turning point in the verse I quoted above. They represent hope that God can take this horrible situation and use it for good. Use it to help someone else. The hope that I find in this verse is what gets me through my painful mornings and helps me get to the end of my beyond exhausting days. Without hope, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the mornings. I would be drowning in despair. I would not be able to do this without my faith in God and the hope that things will get better.

I definitely still have rough days, quite often actually. But when I have good days, I make sure to make the best of them. I try and stay positive, but I allow myself to have my negative days where I throw fits and yell at God. Eventually the reality of it all will become normal and my rough days will be fewer and farther between as time goes on and with God’s help.

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