Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates // A Little Life Update

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Phew.  It's been a whirlwind few days.  Actually weeks.  Warning: long and heavy post alert.  If you follow me on Insta or Facebook this will be a recap with a bit more detail.

At the end of June I had scheduled a week off of work for some R+R/time home with my loves.  I had planned a ton of fun day time outings for Ayden and I while R was at work and was looking forward to spending a lot of time in my yoga pants.  Top knots + no makeup fo life!

All that changed when Ayden woke up grumpy from his nap one day and then had a fever by bedtime.  We noticed his tummy was a bit bloated and that he just wasn't himself the next day.  A few days later we took him to pediatrician after he still wasn't 100%.  The ped said it was likely a stomach bug and some constipation, told us to ride it out and give him some probiotics.  We went home.

By that weekend things were still miserable; Ayden was showing no signs of improvement and was a hot mess.  Long story short, after three trips to Urgent Care during which he was poked, prodded and tortured in every way possible, he was finally diagnosed with lower lobe pneumonia. (Note to self and other parents: lower lobe pneumonia presents with g.i. symptoms.  Who knew.)

The following week we saw the pediatrician as a follow up, who said in hindsight all the pieces now fit and would indicate pneumonia.  Womp.  He also went over the blood work that was done at Urgent Care and said there were a couple of things that looked off (low protein, somewhat low calcium) but that we would revisit in a month after Ayden's little body had a chance to recover fully.  Perfect.  We went home.

Fast forward to the end of July.  I had another week off of work (I have a crapload of vacay to use up) and Ayden was feeling great, so we finally got to do some of the fun things I had planned previously.  We had a great time going to the beach with friends and tidepooling, visiting the museum to see Sue the T-Rex, going swimming, etc.  We ended the week with a family trip to Avila Valley Barn, which was super fun!


Duck lips?!  Seriously?!




The first week of August came, which meant Fiesta here in Santa Barbara.  We had a blast at the park with Ayden even with all the dried grass and dust flying around.  However, later in the week Ayden woke up with puffy eyelids.  This had happened when he had pneumonia, too, and the dr. had said it was likely an allergic reaction to the bacteria causing his illness.  At that time the swelling went away quickly with Benadryl.  So, off to grab the Benadryl I went.  By Friday there was no change and his appetite was pretty crappy.  Ayden's personality was still normal and he was happy, so we figured he just needed stronger allergy meds, so I put a call in to the pediatrician.

We got to the ped's office at 10:45 on Friday.  We didn't get home until after 3:00p.m..  While we were there, the doctor said he was concerned that this was much more serious than an allergy, that the swelling would have responded to the antihistamine if that was, in fact, the case.  He suspected renal issues.  c r a p.  He ordered blood work and a urine sample.  Waiting for a toddler to pee on demand is like watching paint dry, first of all, and when it comes to having to pin your baby down to have his blood drawn...  ugh.  No words for how awful that is.  This time R held him for the draw and the whole time Ayden was crying "MOMMY!!!!  MOMMY!!!!" as I told him through my own tears that I was close by and that it was almost over.  Freakn worst.  The ped told us to go home and that he would call us when the results were in.  We went home.......

When we got home Ayden and I snuggled up on the bed and fell asleep.  The next thing I knew, R was gently rubbing my arm and whispering, "Babe...  Babe...   The doctor called.  We need to go to the hospital."  Ayden's lab work came back and was alarming.  His protein and calcium were still low, and there was protein in his urine.  The pediatrician called the nephrologist (kidney specialist) and they both agreed that Ayden needed immediate attention.  They called the hospital and warned them of our situation so that they would be ready for us.  We frantically packed bags and got ourselves out the door.  Friday night was a blur of nurses, needles and beeping machines and a diagnosis of nephrotic syndrome.  Simply put, Ayden's kidneys aren't working properly; instead of holding on to protein and using it for energy, it is leaking into his urine, causing swelling due to fluid build up in his tissues.  This explains the low protein levels in his blood.






Saturday afternoon the hospital pediatrician said that Ayden's blood work showed a tiny bit of improvement, so the nephrologist said he could go home and gave us strict instructions to see her this week. (By a miracle the nephrologist planned to be in town this week.  She is actually with UCLA Children's Hospital and comes to Santa Barbara only once each month.) We have an appointment this Thursday morning and will see where Ayden's progress is and will have more of an idea of what to expect in the coming weeks/months and how to handle it.  In the meantime Ayden is on steroids and a very low sodium diet (what does that even mean?? I need a number, people...) to help his kidneys heal.

The nephrologist was kind enough to call me Saturday before we left the hospital.  She had been consulted and kept up to speed on every facet of Ayden's treatment by the incredible nurses and doctors at Cottage Hospital.  She said that nephrotic syndrome isn't super common in kids as young as Ayden and that while it usually is outgrown by puberty, we can expect recurrences throughout his childhood, as flare ups are often caused by infections (i.e.: a cold, etc.)  While we don't know for sure what caused Ayden's case, she suspects that the pneumonia was the trigger.


The only upside was the huge playroom on the pediatric floor!

Of course my kid won't sit still for the pic ;)


Special delivery!

HOME BOUND!!!

Needless to say, it has been an overwhelming few days.  Anxiety is at an all-time high.  Seeing my baby laying in a hospital bed and hooked up to an IV was surreal.  It sounds so cliche, but it felt like something that happens to other people, not us.  I felt the strangest, saddest connection to the other parents in the pediatric unit.  There is an unspoken bond even between strangers who have sick kids in common.  And that is a bond that I never thought I would feel at this magnitude.

We are so blessed by the incredible amount of love and support we have received throughout this ordeal.  The messages, calls and texts were pouring in.  Ayden even got a surprise delivery at the hospital of some new trucks gifted to him by some of our friends and had some special visitors.

We are remaining as positive as we can (R more so; I'm an anxious sort...) and are grateful for the amazing care Ayden received.  My mom said it perfectly when this all started: The Lord knew before we did.  My aunt later said that this was not a surprise to God.  We know that this was part of Ayden's plan even before he was born and that everything that happens is for a reason.  We have faith that everything will be okay and are so very grateful to have the UCLA specialist on our team.

I will update once we know more.  In the mean time, please keep Ayden in your prayers.  As Forrest says, life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you're gonna get.




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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

National Cancer Survivors Day {Honoring and Celebrating the Warriors I Love}

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Sunday, June 5, 2016 was National Cancer Survivors Day.  It's no secret that I have been touched very closely by cancer over the years (see that little blue ribbon in my signature? For you, Daddy.) and when the lovely Heather Von St. James reached out to me about collaborating to raise awareness, I was honored, to say the least.

Heather is not only a champion and advocate for cancer awareness, she is a ten year survivor of pleural mesothelioma, a very rare cancer of the lining of the lungs.  At just 36 years old, and just three months after giving birth to her daughter, Heather received her devastating diagnoses and was told she had 15 months to live.  Imagine that for a moment.  Her life as a mom had just begun and she had been handed a death sentence.  She fought like a warrior and is now dedicating her life to raising awareness and advocating for mesothelioma research funding.  You can read more about Heather's incredible journey here.



We all know someone who has been touched by cancer in some way.  It's a cold and ugly truth.  Maybe it's the elderly gentleman who lives down the block, your childhood best friend, or even closer still.  Cancer is all around us, and at times that fact is overwhelmingly real.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 is a date that is forever burned into my memory.  For months prior to this date, I had had the nagging feeling, a premonition, that someone I love very much had cancer.  I couldn't explain it, and I still can't, but I just knew.  The evening of May 6 was the same as any other evening; my then-boyfriend/ now-husband, Robert, was at work and I was at home with our dog Chico.  When my phone rang and I saw it was my mom I didn't skip a beat - we spoke every night.  Mom and I chatted for a while about who knows what and then Daddy got on to chat.  After a while, though, his tone suddenly changed and he said something to the effect of "I have to tell you something."  I knew immediately what he was about to say.  Please don't say it.  Don't let it be...  "I have cancer.  I have prostate cancer."

My whole world stopped in that moment.  I have no idea what he said after that or even how we ended our conversation.  The next thing I remember is being at the hotel where Robert works, walking towards him, sobbing.  My dad has cancer. How did I get here?  Did I drive here?  I really shouldn't be driving like this.  My dad has cancer.  

We were blessed that my dad's cancer was found very early, and surgical intervention was all that was needed to eradicate his tumor.  I am extremely happy to say that he has been cancer free for over seven years!!

Christmas, 2008.  You can find our t-shirts here.

After I received Heather's email about this collaboration I started thinking of those in my life who have fought or are still fighting cancer.  I was humbled and heartbroken to realize that there are so many that I've lost count over the years.  This post is for each and every one of them.

Even though National Cancer Survivors Day has come and gone, that doesn't mean the celebration can't continue.  Please join me in celebrating and honoring the warriors in your life who have fought the evil beast and won!  Post a photo of you and yours celebrating and make sure to use the hashtag #CelebratingSurvivors.  Please continue to pray for all those still in the fight of their lives.

In honor of my Daddy, Steve Chaparro.  

In loving memory of Erica R.





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