Expansion day…again

I officially dislike expansion day. I’ll continue with my previous analogy, though I’m not sure how there is room to fill any other space in the post-turkey day belly.

After filling up on Thanksgiving dinner and then the sweet decadence of chocolate pecan pie, the stomach is at capacity and can’t take on anything else. But you’re thirsty. So thirsty. And you need to wash down all that goodness with something, right? Imagine downing a large glass of ice cold milk, letting it fill in every last nook and cranny of your stomach. Now you go to sit down and feel more like you are going to burst than you ever have. Not the best feeling in the world, though you know it was worth the calories and deliciousness.

The expansions are not comfortable. The pressure is intense, pushing hard on my rib cage and outward as well. My range of motion is throw off a bit each time since the expander is quite hard. Today’s fill, which was 90 cc, is the worst yet, since the feeling in my chest is continuously coming back. I can’t feel my skin but I can feel the muscle underneath and around the expander a bit now. And right now those muscles are doing a bit of yelling. They are pulling and stretching, with each of those activities causing a pang or ping of pain. I couldn’t feel this type of pain on the previous fills so this is a new experience. Moving is a little more challenging now that I can feel the pull of the muscles as well so today I am learning to be even more careful getting around. The muscle pain ebbs and flows pretty consistently, even when sitting still. It’s similar to contractions in the way it comes and goes, though not as intense as labor pains. I can feel the pull in my back as well, I assume because of the pressure from the expander on my chest wall.

On a plus side, based on the previous expansions, I should feel better by Wednesday night / Thursday morning. My plastic surgeon said everything is healing nicely and we may do a little less saline at the next fill. I wouldn’t mind that too much. Part of me likes moving this along quickly so I have less fills but as the feeling within my muscles comes back, I am liking the idea of less saline at a time.

So, now I rest. Have a wonderful Monday everyone. Enjoy this extra day and do something you love!

My heart smiles

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The wind blew a heavy gust, which she welcomed under the warmth of the afternoon sun. The sun was falling from the sky but there were no clouds to hide its rays. As she walked across the wet sand, her feet sunk slightly with each step, leaving a trail of footprints behind her. Her footprints were not alone though. The indents in the sand next to hers were not nearly as big yet and didn’t sink quite as far into the wetness.

The smaller footprints come from the same place as the sound of the pitter pattering across the ground. Each step is music to her ears, pitter – patter – pitter – patter over and over again until there is a sudden stop. He yelps and reaches down to grab at the wet earth; taking up a handful of sand to grab the object that caught his eye. This time it’s half a sand dollar. He holds it up for her to see, a smile beaming across his face and his eyes shining under the sun. She smiles back and remarks excitedly as he places his treasure into the bright orange bucket.

He reaches back up to grab her hand again and she gladly accepts the offer. Though his hand is much smaller than hers, he holds on tightly as they begin to walk across the sand once again. The waves crash along the shore as they walk in search of more treasures. The water rushes up against their feet, trying to take back the sand as it moves out to sea.

A bird lands at the water’s edge, where it seems to merge with the sand. It squawks and wiggles its feathers in the heat of the sun, looking out at the water ahead. The little boy drops her hand and squeals again as he runs towards the bird. His pitter – patter is quickened and the shells in his bucket create a musical chaos.

She smiles to herself as she watches the bird taunt him, keeping just a few steps ahead. Finally the bird gives flight and the little boy stops and stares at the sky. He puts his hand up in the air and yells “Buh – bye!” as the bird soars away. He waits until she catches up and then takes her hand again, ready to find more treasures in the sand.

These are the days that make my heart smile, she thinks to herself as they walk along shore.

Saturday blessings

This morning I woke up grateful for a little man who loves books as much as me, an incredible aunt & (soon-to-be) uncle who made this alphabet book for him that he won’t put down and my wonderful in laws who invited us over for dinner and who support us always.

What are you blessed with today?



A Friday flashback

After putting together the Love Jars yesterday, I woke up wanting to read from mine. It was given to me during my first treatment and it sits on a table in my living room, proudly displayed to anyone who walks in there. The Love Jar is an interesting thing and while there is no right or wrong way to use it, I often wonder which way is best. Part of me likes the thought that I may find a love note that I haven’t read yet, so reading a few at a time is fun. The other part of me wants to devour every sweet word in one sitting, so I can be sure that I have read them all.

For this particular Love Jar, I wanted to spread the love across my treatments. I often found myself pulling a sheet or two or three from it on treatment day and every day for about a week after. Then I would wait until my next treatment before reaching in it again, letting the suspense build. I haven’t sat down and dumped the entire thing out so I never knew if I had read all of them.

Today, I decided to read through all of them. I dumped them all on the table and took a seat, tissues in hand. I took my time reading through each note. I laughed hard at some of the fun memories, cried at the inspirational thoughts and prayers people sent to me and tried to recall the details of all of these incredible moments I have been blessed with in my life.

The very last love note sitting on the table in front of me was one of the longest in the jar. It was written by my cousin Jessie:

“You had an issue with your feet and they pointed inward, so you had to sleep with these hard white shoes on your feet that were connected with a metal bar. The bar and shoes pointed your feet outward. I remember your mom putting the shoes on your feet one night, and putting you to bed. A little while later, I snuck into your room to see you guys. (Sounds silly because you were sleeping but I just loved you guys and wanted to see you.) I remember you laying there on your side, your one leg straight up in the air. It was kinda funny but I felt bad at the same time. You were so small, so young – yet you turned your head, opened your eyes for a second and smiled at me. You went right back to sleep. I can specifically remember thinking to myself, how is she so happy right now? But you were. You were so young, had no clue why you had to have these shoes on your feet while you slept. A brave little girl. You could have cried like crazy!! Madelyn would freak out – I can tell you that!

But not you. Not that night. Not the time I remember. Now here we are 30 years later. And here you are- that brave girl. She still lives in you.”

A few years ago, Joe & I traveled to New York and I wanted to gather some of the things that I have left there for the last decade (thankfully they don’t charge for storage). When I first moved here, I only brought what could fit in the cavalier so I left a lot behind. While searching through my parent’s basement for my old boxes, I heard Joe shout in excitement. He was in the room next to me and I could hear him scrambling across boxes and around furniture trying to make his way out to me. When he finally appeared in the doorway, his smile was huge and I could see the excitement in his eyes. In his hand, he held what can only be described as a long lost treasure…

My old shoes.

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Joe had heard many stories about these shoes and although a quick Google search showed him what they looked like, nothing quite beats the real thing. I had no idea that my parents had held onto these infamous shoes and was quite surprised at their reappearance that day. Thankfully they are a tad too small for me now.

Hearing my cousin’s story about these shoes and how she felt about me wearing them made me heart swell. Her recollection of me with these shoes was incredibly sweet and offered a different perspective than the memories I have with them. I love having a jar filled with so much love and so many stories just like this.

Feel free to share your Friday flashback!

More love…jars!

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I’ve been keeping an eye on the price of mason jars since I last worked on the Love Jar Project. I was a little worried for a bit because the cost of mason jars went up for a while (holidays, maybe?) and then there was a mishap where the 2 dozen that I ordered online arrived completely broken. Thankfully, the jars are back to their normal price and the most recent order arrived at my home safely.

After receiving such a wonderful response to the first round of Love Jars, I was excited to create more. My sweet friend Cara offered to help and today she came over to spend a few hours with me to do just that. In between lots of chatter & laughter at the table, we cut, folded, glued, wrapped and tied to make these fabulous jars.

Using supplies that we had on hand, and thanks to Cara’s creative skills, these jars look different than the first round but they are filled with just as much love. I’m excited that the look changes a bit each time, as I think it adds to the character and fun of the jars. The inside love notes are the same as before, although I did add one more about waking up and naming three things that you are grateful for each day. I love the idea of starting every day on a positive note and a reminder that I am too blessed to complain, so I wanted to share that through these jars.

I’ll be sure to post an update when I bring the jars to the treatment center. I hope the response is positive again so Team Red Phoenix & I can continue to give back in this way. Spread the love!


Nuts, anyone?

I grew up disliking any form of nuts. I’m not entirely sure why, and at one point in my early years I totally loved them, but one day I woke up around the age of 5 and decided that I didn’t like nuts. So I stopped eating them entirely. No peanut butter, no cinnamon roasted almonds, no sundaes with chopped nuts on top. Yuck.

Despite my distaste for nuts, every year at Thanksgiving I helped my Dad make chocolate pecan pie for dessert. It’s a family recipe and people raved about it. They looked forward to it every year and even after I moved to Florida I kept up the tradition. Whenever people would complement the pie, I would smile and politely say thank you…but the truth is, I had never tried it. It was chockful of nuts and therefore not something that I was interested in eating. This amazed my husband for years.

When I was pregnant with little man, all of this changed. I woke up one day and ate a peanut butter granola bar. I stared at the wrapper as I chomped down on the bar, surprised that the salty sweet combination tasted so good. Then I ate another. On the third one, I decided that maybe I do like nuts after all. That Thanksgiving, I decided to try the infamous chocolate pecan pie for myself. I started by taking a bite off of Joe’s plate. Wow, I finally understood what the hype was all about – that pie was good! By the third bite, Joe decided it was best to hand me his plate and go grab his own.

The other day I compared my first post-surgery expansion to an overfull stomach on Thanksgiving. Now imagine that you finished this incredibly wonderful feast and then saw the decadent chocolate pecan pie sitting on the table. You see people grabbing a piece and savoring each bite. Before you know it, the pie is half gone and you can’t even think about eating a piece. But, then you think to yourself, what if there is none left for me?! The panic sets in and you immediately cut yourself a slice. You can’t help but begin eating it right away, deciding that your stomach will just have to find the room. It does, of course, but you are uncomfortable and you can’t decide if it’s better to sit, stand or lay down to relieve the pressure. None of these options help but dang it, that was some good pie.

I had my second post-surgery expansion today. Another 90 cc of saline was added to my left expander. The pressure from the previous expansion has been relatively normal since Sunday night / Monday morning so the pressure from today wasn’t compounded. Although I’m still mostly numb, some of the feeling is coming back. I couldn’t feel the stick of the needle, however I could feel the needle inside of my chest. I could also feel the pressure from the saline as soon as they started to inject it into the expander. I can now feel some slight pain near my skin, towards the center of my chest, which is new this time around. It is a bit more uncomfortable than before but I am glad that I am beginning to get some feeling back, even if it’s only a little.

I go back again on Monday for another expansion. Right now, my left is filled with a total of 380 cc, with 220 cc left to go for a total of 600 cc in time for radiation. The plus side of filling so much each visit is that I should only have to go once next week instead of the twice that was originally thought – yay!

The expander itself is quite hard, similar to a mango that is about to ripen. It has some give since it is fluid filled but not a whole lot. I often find myself reaching with my left arm and having to move my entire body because it’s uncomfortable due to the expander. I mostly notice it when getting dressed or folding laundry. One of my new normal that I am getting used to.

I’m able to do some stretches to help my range of motion but still no lifting above 10 pounds. I can use 2 – 3 pound hand weights to get the strength back in my arms though. That’ll help me prepare for when I can pick little man up again!

That’s all for now…I think I need to go eat something sweet.

A warm spring day

The sun shined down through the trees, casting a shadow across her face. The large oak that stood above moved slowly with the wind; just enough to make the moss hanging from each limb come to life, reaching for its mate. The wind sent a shiver up her shadowed arm, despite the sun sparkling across her bare feet.

The birds sang their springtime song, calling out to their friends to come share in the warmth that the shallow water of the bath provides. The blue jay, its feathers the color of the ocean on a warm summer day, dips its beak in and sprays the water about.

An ant crawls up the chair she lays on, trying to sneak a taste of the chocolate scent he follows. She breaks off a piece and savors the richness of it. Her fingers are covered with the melted sweetness and she absently smudges the page of her book, engulfed in the words that fill the page.

There is noise of road work in the distance, the constant humming of a machine that moves dirt around the road it’s working to fix. A project that is long past due and yet provides the familiar comfort of an old friend.

It is the type of spring day that leaves your soul calling out for more; wondering what life has to offer, what comes next in this world, what adventure awaits. A day for reflection and thought.

But all of that is lost on her, as she is adrift in a world that is not her own. A world filled with fantasy and fight and hope, a battle being fought that is not her own. Today, she has no anxieties, no fears, and no worries. Just the words on this page and the next and the one that follows that.

Today, she is just a girl reading a book outside on a warm spring day.

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