Saturday, April 27, 2013

Am I a Hypochondriac?

Maybe, if you are an anxiety all-star like me, you have asked yourself at some point "How would I know if I had cancer?".  Maybe you've imagined what it would be like to figure something like that out.  Well, this is how it went for me.

After Julia was born, I'm not sure exactly when, I started itching.  Really bad.  So bad that as a grown-arse woman I could not control scratching.  It started on my lower legs and eventually affected my entire body.  I itched so badly that I became covered in extreme scratches, sores, and scabs.  It is not cute.  I have ruined a lot of sheets and clothes, and often wake my husband up at night because I'm scratching so badly in my sleep.  If my skin is dry, if it is hot and humid out, if I sweat, or if I'm wearing a bra or anything with a waist band or textured fabric of any kind it is excruciating.  Nothing makes it better, but those things make it much worse.  When I'm at home I wear loose jersey pajama or yoga pants and my husband's biggest oldest t-shirts--just the kind of ensemble that makes a man want to rush home to his lady.  He is a saint.  If we have to go somewhere, I often get the kids all dressed and buckled in the car and then run back inside to get dressed to minimize the time I have to have clothes against my skin.

At first I thought it might be some kind of hormonal thing.  Hormones can really mess a girl up and I've been stewing in a cocktail of pregnancy/postpartum/nursing hormones for years.  At the beginning I also thought it might be a result of, ahem, substandard postpartum hygiene.  When you have 4 kids ages 5 and under (which is what I had when this started) showering falls to the bottom of page 1000 of your to do list, at least for me.  Finally, I thought it might be a side effect of the anti-depressant I was taking because I had the PPD.  Each of these was pretty much eliminated over time as a suspect.  Every time the doctor sent me for blood work it came back clean as a whistle.  I tried every cream and lotion you can imagine, I tried elimination diets and added more probiotics.  I had been using vinegar, baking soda, and other non-toxic cleaners for years but eventually I eliminated all commercial hygiene products from my routine as well.  I washed my hair with baking soda and vinegar, brushed my teeth with baking soda, and used a coconut oil and baking soda paste as deodorant.  My husband rolled his eyes but it all worked well even if it didn't improve my itching.

I was straight up starting to lose it.  The stress of being constantly uncomfortable and often in pain, of having to choose clothes to minimize the discomfort but not draw attention to myself, and of being ashamed of the appearance of my skin was wearing me down.  This all continued through another pregnancy (Adam) and I actually spent most of the night before his birth waking up to scratch and put on lotion.  After Adam was born,  I redoubled my medical efforts and saw an immunologist, dermatologist, and a homeopath.  I've been put on steroids, anti-histamines, and homeopathic remedies.  Nothing has helped.  NO. THING.

All this time I would research obsessively.  I would pursue any lead.  One silly, crazy, completely off the wall possibility kept popping up in my search:  Lymphoma.  LOLS!  That's not me!  That's for other people on TV.  Besides, I had none of the other symptoms.  I put it out of my mind, but it would keep popping up, and that thought spiral went something like this:  "Of course I'm fatigued, I have 5 kids ages 7 and under and I don't have any enlarged lymph nodes and that is for other people on TV, and stop even thinking that you narcissistic hypochondriac nut job."  This kind of thing continued on and off over the course of the 3 years after Julia's birth.

Finally, on December 28th, 2012, I went to the chiropractor and as I was about to leave she said, "Are you coming down with something? Because I feel a swollen gland on your neck."  It would be a long time between that moment and my formal diagnosis, but in that moment, I knew.  I just knew deep down that I was not coming down with something.  I knew I had cancer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Who is this lady?


I'm Nella.  Hi.  I'm 30 something years old and I live in Western New York.  I've lived here my entire life except for 2 years in Florida when my husband was completing a post doctoral fellowship.  I'm Catholic, to the best of my ability.  God's mercy is a glorious thing because I fail everyday.  I'm a wife and a mother.  I'm an introvert with a big mouth.  I love to read and waste time on the internet.  I also love, Love, LOVE fast food and anything else crunchy types deem "gross".  The grosser the better.  That's a little insight into the name of this blog.  More on that someday.

Our Family

Obviously we have to start with Daddy!  My husband Michael is the best husband and father in the history of the world, so, sorry to the rest of you.  He is a medicinal chemist who works to develop cancer and immunology drugs.  I know, I'm impressed too.  We met when I was a junior in high school and he was a freshman in college.  We've been together for 17 years, and married for 12.  We are OLD, but he is older, hehe.  He is the love of my life and I am blessed beyond measure to have him.  The kids and I adore him and he pretty much says "back-atcha" every single day, in every way imaginable.  He is an introvert who is always very quiet and serious so we're a couple simultaneously at odds and simpatico.

Next up is Owen, our 9 year old engineer.  He is an EXACT replica of his dad.  He can change our oil independently.  I cannot.  He is a hard worker and a strong silent type like Daddy.  Owen likes to swim, play baseball, build stuff, dig stuff, take stuff apart, ride bikes, basically do all the boy things and all the man things. If you can imagine a meeting of engineers designing a playground, and they are thinking about all the unsafe scenarios they can and then trying to prevent them, well, Owen has thwarted all of their best efforts.  The kid can climb.

Madeleine is 6.  I love the author Madeleine L'Engle, which is nice, but Madeleine wishes we would have taken a moment to imagine what it would be like for her when she was learning to write her name.  Madeleine is like her Mom in that she is a highly emotional drama queen who loves a nice rest with a book or tv.  I picture future family vacations where Michael is leading the rest of the family up the side of a cliff and Madeleine and I are shopping, lunching, and reading.  Le sigh.  Madeleine loves ballet, fairies, princesses, and making art.  She also loves making plays and performances and getting her sisters to join her.  She can go from happy to mess you up in .5 seconds.  She also gets this from her mom.

Anna is 5.  We call her Hootie and she is scary.  How could a pro-life, pro-child Mom say this out loud?  Because it is true.  She taught herself to tie her shoes with ZERO adult input.  After rejecting my first overtures at teaching her letters and sounds, she went on a few months later to do 10-15 pages of phonics in a sitting with ZERO adult help.  She is a human border collie and someday she'll be the first Supreme Court justice to hear oral arguments while running on a treadmill.  If you want to discuss a sensitive topic and you need to be absolutely sure she will not hear, understand, and repeat it at a really embarrassing time, discuss it in another state.  She is an instigator who is much more sensitive than her swagger indicates.  She has what can best be described as a zest for life.

Julia is 3.  She is pure joy.  She loves to do what her sisters are doing, but she will NOT be pushed around.  She gives the best hugs and always asks for hohm-coo-wuhk (homeschool work), which must be printed out NOT on the backs of other hohm-coo-wuhk.  In all tasks big and small she wants to "DO IT MAH SAY-ULF" especially if you're in a hurry.  But hey, that's 3.

Adam is 19 months and a total terrorist.  He lives on top of our kitchen island.  Don't judge, we shut off the plumbing to the prep sink so it's cool.  He adores being outside, being with his brother, and dropping bites of his dinner in other people's beverages.

Avery was born July 24, 2013 at 32 weeks gestation.  She weighs in at a whopping 4 lbs, 4oz. and has dark hair.  She is currently in the NICU working on the complex and exhausting task of existence, so really she's no difference than the rest of us, she just doesn't try to hide it.  We miss her, we love her, and we can't wait to bring her home.

Trouble is our 4 year old rescue mutt.  I mean we adopted her, we didn't pull her out of a rushing waterfall.  She is the best dog in the world until she gets out of the gate and runs through the neighborhood.  The she is that damn dog.  Sometimes I call her him but she's a her.  But seriously, everyone knows dogs are boys and cats are girls.

So that's us.  We love each other.