Happy Birthday, Maddy!

When Maddy turned seven, our family celebrated by beginning a new chapter that was be life changing, helped to raise awareness for those suffering from food allergy, and helped educate people about OIT. Now, as Maddy turns 8, and will begin the 3rd grade, so many possibilities are open to her as a child that doesn't have food allergies standing in her way!

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Check out my other blog, The Best Medicine, about my husband's battle against cancer.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Take Care Now Y'Hear!

175 mgs and a smile!

Jason and I have always taken great pride in the balance we’ve had in our lives. We’ve always had beautiful friendships with a long-time support system, upheld a strong relationship together, and have had an amazing family to help us raise this gorgeous child of ours. We did this happily, healthily, and without major incident for some time. Sure we had the same problems as everybody else – not enough money, time, or resources as the rest of the world to get our yard work done, keep our house clean, or even to go on a family vacation every single year. But we were and still are a happy family with few complaints. We had each other! Then, food allergies hit our life and we had to adjust. No problem, no problem – we adjusted. Then cancer hit, as well. We adjusted then, as well – big time! Life happens. When life happens, though, balance is thrown off. It takes time, energy, and a lot of work to maintain any semblance of balance and let’s face it, taking care of ourselves is one of the first things to go and one of the most difficult things to preserve, even if we know better!

250 mgs! Biggie!
Maddy was diagnosed with food allergies when she was just over two and it was devastating and difficult – how do you keep a two year old safe when you have so many plans for her? How does this fit in with school, sports, life… how do I leave her with anyone else? I questioned everything we did with her or without her. Somehow we took that idea of balance, though and went with it – modeled with her involvement and caution and taught her how to take risks and be safe at the same time. Food allergies are an ongoing management issue, though, as every mother and father that deals with them knows. No stone goes unturned in planning every daily activity weeks in advance, going only to restaurants that are recognized, calling caterers of weddings or skipping them altogether, preparing with Vacation Bible School coordinators in advance, training people to use Epi-Pens, helping with food menus, bringing in extra snacks, preparing meals … planning, planning, planning. Anything to keep your child safe, happy and healthy, even if it throws off the balance of your healthy, happy household. 

Maddy cuddles with Dad on her birthday.
Jason has been treated for cancer for nearly three and a half years now. Of course this news was overwhelming and shocking. At 32 years old, who could have imagined such information? He started with a colon resection surgery in July 2009, 4 days before Maddy’s fourth birthday, which led to his first six – month round of chemotherapy.  The following fall, a PET scan revealed the colon cancer had traveled to his lung, requiring a lung resection surgery and 6 more months of chemotherapy. We were exhausted at this point, yes, but we had life to attend to. After finding another small spot in his lung then, he received six weeks of radiation, and continues to receive treatments of a drug called Avastin, which is to prevent the growth of new blood vessels that feed a tumor.  Amazingly, my husband has had tremendous health otherwise, the most positive attitude, and a ridiculous sense of humor that has kept him and myself moving right along. Aside from certain chemo days, he has worked right through most of his treatments, even receiving a promotion to detective along the way! I mean, really, the man is my hero. He is an unbelievable father & partner in my life, even on our worst days, I love him more today than I did the day I married him. Something most people are blessed to not know is how much cancer can test a marriage. You may believe ‘the big C’ would bring you ever closer, and it will. But there are also times it tests your limits, hurts your heart, and throws you both off your equilibrium. 

A good friend of mine, a math teacher, has told me many times, “everything has a tendency to disorder.” And she is right. Ever notice your house cannot stay clean? Your car? As soon as you check off items on your to-do list, you realize you’ve forgotten a few? It takes work to keep yourself up as well!

I will be the very first person to tell you, “be sure to take care of yourself,” when you are in time of need especially since I have been there myself, but I’ve recently realized I don’t follow my own advice. I know moms are their very worst enemies when it comes to taking care of themselves. They just do for everyone else before themselves, so much until they are worn out entirely. Usually it’s moms that don’t get enough sleep at night, skip exercise routines, forget a doctor’s appointment, forgo a shower, a meal, or drop their own hobbies or interests all together for their children and families. I’ve heard many a conversation about forgetting to look in the mirror even before walking out the door! 

There are many things in recent days that have made me realize that I am not taking care of me. I went to the dentist for my annual cleaning only to find out that my annual cleaning hadn’t occurred since before Jason’s diagnosis! I remember cancelling the appointment; I had no sick days left due to his chemotherapy and didn’t feel that I should take any off for myself! I simply never rescheduled. I didn’t even realize it had been so long, I just went about my business taking care of my family. There are times that I just don’t know how I do all that I do! And then I look around my house and see that everything has found itself in disorder and dig in again. Because we do what we have to for the ones we love. 

It has taken me a lot of time to realize a few things about my life and those things remain constants. I have to find time for myself, time to do the things I love, even if it is terribly difficult. Last year I joined a singing group and perform with them twice a year. I love the people and love the joy in singing and performing, even if I’m not the solo act. Also, every now & then, even if it isn’t a regular thing, I have got to have an occasional ladies night. My girls - I love ‘em, I laugh with ‘em, and I couldn’t live without ‘em. They know what I'm talking about and when I'm talking about it – my work girls, my PTO girls, and my college friend girls! Man, I have great friends! On top of all of that, my family – I have to get home now and again, for a good ol’ game of spoons with the fam! Isn’t it nice when you know that you can just go home, get centered, and play a game with your family? It is always good to go home. These things I must have to keep me sane, keep me, well, me. A healthy mommy is a happy mommy!

It's only up from here!
Maddy’s peanut desensitization has become our focus. I’ve drawn that line in the sand for many other activities in my life. I’ve dropped many things that have lost importance to me and now I am beginning to bring focus back to things that are important; one of those things is me. And the balance shifts – the scale is different than what it was when Jason and I were first married; some things remain important yet others have changed. I need to figure out where we all fit and how. Such is life now. What hasn’t changed is that I am just as important to this family as I always have been, and in order to give them all of me, I need to carve out time for me, take care of me. 

Peanut desensitization takes full commitment from everyone involved and even though Maddy practically flew through the weeks of October 24th with 175 mg and October 30th with 250mg of peanut flour, there are always worries, so taking care of myself is important. She flew through peanut flour so easily though, that it began to seem too easy, almost boring! We began to knock on wood, and “wait for the other shoe to drop” kind of easy. Halloween came and went. Talks of “next year” and the candy she will be able to eat passed our lips. As she screamed through the neighborhood, our friends and family remarked about how her allergy hardly slowed her down anyway and how next year will be so amazing – next year, next year, next year! Hopefully next year – we'll be that happy, HEALTHY, balanced family again!

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