Friday, 19 September 2014

Recuperation, rejuvenation

Last week, my challenging last couple years came to a peak.  I finally faced one of my biggest fears and was admitted into the hospital for surgery.  It has always been a goal of mine in life to never have surgery, but it's funny how your priorities change when faced with health issues.

I have never had a great stomach.  I have always had problems with attacks of sudden diarrhea. My doctor had decided it was IBS, and that I was young, so not to worry.  I have also been on the birth control pill for years.  When my husband and I got married two years ago, we decided we would stop with the pills and hopefully welcome children into our lives.  That was apparently not in the cards for us.  I have had increasingly severe stomach and menstruation problems along with infertility since a miscarriage shortly after our honeymoon.

Over the course of that year, my problems with diarrhea became a new monster.  I would be struck by attacks at all times of the day and night, and the frequency and severity of them became worse and worse.  It got to the point where I would feel like I have diarrhea, but I would be unable to actually pass anything, sometimes for over an hour.  I couldn't find a food link, it seemed to happen whether I had eaten gluten or dairy, or anything at all.  By the end of the first year, every episode of illness would last a couple hours, would usually result in nausea/vomiting, and the pain was awful.  When I started passing blood clots with my stool, I decided to push the issue with my doctor, as this was something beyond IBS.

In January 2014, I initiated a referral to a GI specialist to perform a colonoscopy.  This was scheduled for the end of March, and when I report to the hospital after the worst bowel prep imaginable (I'm taking medications that force my guts to empty, but my guts refuse to let go), they sedate me to find that they are unable to pass any of the scopes past my sigmoid colon.  That's right, my colon is so narrowed that the scope they would use on little babies is unable to make that turn.  Dang.  Okay, new plan is for a CT scan to image the bowel.  That is apparently a year long wait, but I manage to have some strings pulled, and get myself bumped up to a May appointment.  CT scan shows an otherwise normal bowel, but this area of dense adhesions around the sigmoid.  My GI doctor feels this is still inconclusive and orders an MRI.  Another 20 weeks to wait for that.  Except I end up at emergency with pain and bleeding after a bad bout, and they mark my MRI request as urgent, and I am able to get in within a week.  MRI confirms what the CT shows, adhesions around the sigmoid.

When I see my GI doctor for results, his first suggestions is that we "try to manage this at home with diet and more fibre".  Ha!! At this point, I am having severe episodes that last 4 or more hours regardless of what I eat (which is mostly soup and Boost, a liquid diet), am regularly passing blood with my stools, and am pretty much in constant pain, which is worst when I am actively ill.  I tell him that this will not work for me, fibre aggravates the problem, as anything that adds bulk to stool is a nightmare to pass.  Luckily he suggests we go ahead with a referral to a surgeon.

So now, 9 months after starting the referrals, I check into the hospital after my third (and hopefully last!) bowel prep.  My most recent episode of illness lasted 7 hours.  That is 7 straight hours sitting on the toilet in agony, unable to pass anything, including gas, nauseous, in 10/10 pain, praying to God to strike me dead rather than continue dealing with this.  Ridiculous that it came to this point before something was done.

Surgery went very well.  They found a "big tangled mess" of adhesions, a thickened area of bowel that could barely squeeze anything through, and the surgeons said thank god they did surgery when they did, or I could have ended up with major problems- a ruptured bowel and emergency surgery on a septic abdomen.  Scary.  They cleaned everything up, and removed the problem areas, including 14cm of bowel.  The lab reports came back confirming that this nightmare was caused by endometriosis.  

I can't stress enough to everyone that you know your body best.  When you feel like something is wrong, don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and push for further testing or treatment with your doctor.  I am so glad that I had the nerve to step up and say NO, fibre won't cure me, I need something better.  Had I been meek, I very well could have ended up in the ER with a ruptured bowel or worse.  Be aware that birth control pills can mask symptoms of this disease.  I had symptoms before, but never to this extreme, and they got progressively worse from the point that I stopped taking the pill.  Knowledge is power, so don't be afraid to read and ask questions and be your own advocate.  

So now I am focusing on recovery.  I am resting up and easing into eating again.  Over this whole ordeal, I have lost 50 lbs.  I am so much weaker, I can't lift or wrestle big dogs at work anymore, and I get so tired doing any kind of exercise.  I am looking forward to getting onto a better foot health wise, building my strength and endurance, and increasing my fitness.  

I am also looking forward to getting some serious reading and crafting done!  I have a stack of books on the ready, a mix of favourites to reread, a book club selection, and some new titles.  I already polished off His Dark Materials during my hospital stay- if you haven't read this series, I highly recommend it!  I brought some knitting with me to the hospital too, but didn't get much done.  Apparently it is really hard to focus with morphine in your system.  
My to-read pile
I am working on a knitted blanket for my husband that is inspired by the Game of Thrones' Stark family (he is a huge Stark fan). Gotta keep him warm, as winter is coming!  I am using illusion knitting to make two separate panels of the wolves, and then a centre panel with a forest of cabled trees and the illusion knitting "Winter is coming".  I will attach the three main panels with some chunky cables, and put a border around the whole thing.  Tassels are a maybe at this point.  The whole thing will be in grey and white, to play homage to the Stark colours.  I think Pete is more excited than I am about this project!  
My design sketch for the Stark blanket
For quilting, I am currently reworking a quilt for one of my husband's cousins.  When her mother passed away, she had some of her clothing made into a quilt, but never really loved the final product.  She asked me to take it apart and come up with a more modern design.  I hand-ripped all the seams to take apart the quilt, and separated the whole thing (thank goodness there wasn't extensive quilting over this one!).  Since there were lots of dark colours, blacks and blues, I thought it would be nice to make a scene of a full moon shining over the ocean.  I made a little mock-up in Excel, and got her approval, so I started laying out the fabrics this week.  I am excited for this project, I have some nice little touches in mind to make this a special quilt that she can treasure forever.  
Annyong admiring the before quilt
Demolished quilt
Moon over the ocean layout
I am thankful that my friends, family, and work family have all been so supportive of me throughout this journey, and I hope that moving forward I can live a more balanced, healthy life.  I am ready to put this past behind me now, and move onto bigger and better things.  Here's hoping for a healthy, fit, fertile future.  And, of course, lots of crafting!
My kitchen is a garden!  

Monday, 1 September 2014

Liebster Award

I've been nominated twice for the Liebster Award by Mademoiselle Maquillage at mademoisellemaquillage and Jennifer Baron at jensbeautybible.  Thanks ladies!  This award's intent is to get a little more exposure for bloggers with a small following.  

Here's what to do:

  1. Post 11 facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions set by the blogger who nominated you.
  3. Nominate up to 11 bloggers, with under 200 followers.
  4. Link the bloggers to the post.
  5. Create 11 questions for your chosen bloggers to answer.
  6. Let the bloggers know they have been tagged.
So here goes.......

Eleven little (or widely) known facts about Laura:
  1. My two favourite cities I have visited are Quebec City, QC and Key West, FL.  Both are so beautiful and a real pleasure to explore.  Quebec City has the added benefit of the music of the french language, and Key West is filled with cats and chickens!  
  2. I love to eat fruit.  Nectarines, cherries, plums, blueberries, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, mango, cantaloupe, bananas.  Yum!
  3. I don't really like soda.  I will drink a root beer here and there (especially if there is an option to make it a float), but not much else.  I despise colas.  My favourite beverage is water.  Plain and simple.
  4. I love cats.  
  5. My husband's nickname for me is LT Smash.
  6. I love birds in art and in nature, but I hate birds as pets.  
  7. I love learning.  My favourite thing to do is to learn something new.  
  8. I aspire to be an understanding and diplomatic person.  I always try to remember that everyone has their own reality, and that it will be different from mine.  I try to remember that everyone is fighting their own battles, and I can't know what has happened up until this point, and what will happen after this point.  I try to cut people some slack and make my life not all about me.  But I often fail.  Damn being human!!
  9. I am a huge fan of the "womanly" arts.  Cooking, baking, knitting/crocheting, sewing, caring for others, love.
  10. For me, family is always first.  
  11. I love reading so much.  Books are a treasure.  To be treasured.  The end. 
My (combined) assigned questions:

If you could invent something beauty related, what would it be?
I would invent a mirror that shows what you look like to people who love you.  I truly believe that inner beauty shines through, no matter how many blemishes and imperfections you may have!
If you could learn another language, which would you choose?
I love German.  Mein hund hat keine nase.  Evictius? Auful.
If you could, what would you change your name to?
I love my name, and wouldn't want to change it.  But as a child, I always wanted to change my first name to Candace, then my initials would have spelled CAT.
Do you like sweet or savoury food?
I like to eat something salty, then I need dessert, so I have something sweet.  Then the sweet is too much so I want something salty to cut it.  A vicious cycle.  I typically prefer savoury though.
Is your daily style dressy or casual?
Where does bummy fit in?  I wear a lot of yoga pants and cozy sweaters.  And scrubs at work.  But when I dress up, I do clean up well!
Do you have any tattoos? Would you get any?
No. And probably not.  I can't really think of anything that I would want permanently on my body.  Also, I am a bit of a non-conformist, so if I got one, I would be joining the crowd, so it would have to be pretty damn special to make me cave.  
Do you prefer having your makeup done by someone else over doing it yourself?
I like having it done for me, because I cannot apply false eyelashes, no matter how hard I try.  But I do like doing it myself, because I don't put that much on.  I don't like having a heavy face.  
What is the beauty product you go through the fastest? What are your holy grail products you can't live without?
Do you have a signature nail polish colour you are always wearing?
I don't always have polished nails.  My job is hard on the hands, I have to wash them about 599 times a day, so when my nails are painted, they are promptly chipped and crappy looking.  I do love my neutral colours, I love any shade of grey.  
What is one beauty product worth investing in? Favourite high end and low end makeup brand?
I love the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette.  It is the perfect combo of colours for me, and in all my favourite neutrals!  Also, the brush that comes with it is superb.  For someone who doesn't wear much makeup, I kinda splurge on everything I use, because I don't use that much!  
What makeup item gives you instant confidence?
 I honestly rarely wear makeup.  Never in my day-to-day, mostly only if I am dressing up.  So is it corny if I say my smile?!
Products you use for a no makeup, makeup look?
See above!
List of things you want to do before you die?
Learn to swim and go snorkeling or scuba diving, own a second home by the ocean, mortgage free by 33!, read all the books.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Snorkleing and reading on a beach in Hawaii, enjoying my second home by the ocean, which is mortgage free.
Heels or flats?
Heels.  No, flats.  No, heels.  Dang, I can't decide!  
Any hidden talents?
I don't hide my talents!  I am a champion whistler, a decent piano player, I am a fast learner, I do a pretty good job at knitting/crocheting/sewing things.
What career do you see yourself doing?
I could see myself being a woodworker of some kind.  Building furniture or something.  Or a social worker for children.  Or a teacher.  Or an Animal Health Technologist, I suppose. 
Favourite singers/bands?
I love Rancid, Sam Roberts, The Trews, Ron Sexsmith, fun., K'naan.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Sleeping in.  Indulging in grumpy moods.  Bitching and complaining.  I really gotta stop with these!  Except sleeping in.  I love my sleep!!

My nomination:
I am nominating a brave blogger who I feel like speaks truths I have in my heart.  Also, she has an adorable son and an interesting life.  I enjoy reading her posts, and I hope other people will too!

My questions for my nominee:
  1. What is a quote that sums up your philosophy on life?
  2. What is your favourite creative outlet?
  3. What is your inspiration/muse?
  4. Name five of your favourite decor items in your home.
  5. Tell us a story from your childhood.
  6. What is your favourite rainy day activity?
  7. What is your favourite sunny day activity?
  8. Tell us about the best day you have had yet.
  9. What is your favourite food to make?  To have made for you?
  10. If you could be any animal, which would you be?
  11. If you could have an all-expenses-paid vacation, where would you go and what would you do?