Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Journey's Outcome

Two years ago today, our family life changed dramatically.

In many ways, the changes were very difficult. In other ways, the changes strengthened us and drew us closer to each other and to God. But undeniably, the changes were profound, and each of us experienced these changes in different ways.

Two years ago today, I took TP to our family physician because she had been experienced extreme fatigue (a typical teenage state of being) and some fluid retention in her ankles. Her tests revealed a kidney infection, but the doctor said that the protein levels in the urine were very high, so he was going to run a couple of other tests to see what would happen. So, it all seemed simple enough to me - just put TP on some antibiotics and she should be okay.

I wish it had been that simple.

Three days later, the test results came back in. And the doctor expressed concern that a lot more was going on within TP's body than just a simple kidney infection. He was going to refer us to a kidney specialist at Children's Hospital, and the soonest we could be seen was the following Tuesday.

The following Tuesday came, and my husband and I took TP to Children's and met with a nephrologist, who ran some more tests. He suspected that TP had nephritis, secondary to Lupus, but the only way to confirm it was to do a kidney biopsy. He was going out of town the following day, so he said we could wait until the next week, or we could see one of his associates sooner. Of course, we opted for the "sooner", and the biopsy was scheduled the very next day with Dr. B.

When we got home that afternoon, I did tons of research. The more I read, the deeper my dread and anxiety became. This was not a disease to mess around with, at all. I went to bed with a heavy heart, saying prayers to our Lord that TP would be safe tomorrow during the surgery.

We met Dr. B. for the very first time the following morning, right before TP was wheeled down to the operating room. He is a very kind and gentle soul, whose calm demeanor is both comforting and reassuring at the same time. He is also tops in his field, and has done extensive research about this disease. He explained the procedure to us in detail, asked us several questions, and then asked us if we had any questions. We didn't at the time, because we still weren't certain of TP's exact diagnosis or prognosis. We were able to go down with her to the operating room, where we were greeted again by Dr. B. and a great nurse who was wonderful with TP. As they put the sedative into her IV and she grew drowsy, I stroked TP's hair and sang her favorite song to her as she fell asleep. Once she was asleep, I smiled and Dr. B. and said "Take good care of her", and he smiled back and replied that he would.

The wait seemed like an eternity, even though the procedure only took less than an hour. Dr. B. found us waiting for him in TP's room, where he confirmed the diagnosis of Lupus nephritis. He said he was going to call in the rheumatologist on staff, Dr. R. When I heard that doctor's name, I was stunned. It was the same doctor who had treated TP's confirmation sponsor when she was a teenager! This young woman has several autoimmune diseases, and is now married with two children! She has been a constant source of inspiration and support for TP over the years.

Dr. B. came back a couple of hours later with Dr. R., and they discussed the treatment regimen for TP, beginning with huge doses of steroids in liquid form (called Solu-Medrol) given through an IV. However, because TP had had such difficulty with getting a good vein for her IV's, they were going to do yet another surgery to place a port in her chest, whereby the medicine could be administered via that route. They were going to give her several doses of the Solu-Medrol over the course of the next few days, and then begin her on chemotherapy.

Thus began the journey of living with this chronic illness. I don't have it in me right now to chronicle all of the hospitalizations TP has been through, how many infusions of the Solu-Medrol she's had to endure, how many times she has had blood drawn, or how the medication side-effects affected her physcially as well as emotionally. What I do know is that living with this chronic illness has brought about something amazing, which I never anticipated, usually because when a person thinks about living with a chronic illness, the negative is often emphasized and the positive is often overlooked.

The most positive and amazing outcome of this journey is how close TP and I have become. We've always had a very special relationship, but this illness drew us closer. I believe it is because she relied on me for so much while so gravely ill - I stroked her head when she was vomiting, I held her hand while they were trying to find a vein in which to stick a needle, I explained procedures and medications to her, I learned how to give her shots, I tried to answer her the best I could when she would ask "why me, Mom?", and I held her and comforted her when she would cry out against the physical and emotional turmoil she was experiencing.

TP is now in remission, thank God. She looks so healthy, so beautiful. She is about to start a new life at college in the fall. I want the best for her, no matter what. I want her to strive for her dreams and achieve them, no matter what. I want her to know no more fear or pain - but I know that is unrealistic, so I want her to be able to cope with whatever comes her way. And I have no doubt that she will cope. She will perservere. And she will, with God's grace, not only survive, but live the rest of her life being guided by His light. She will touch others with her compassion and kindness and empathy. Did her illness help her become the person she is today? Without a doubt.

And TP, I know you're reading this right now. I love you, sweetie! May you always keep my love in your heart, no matter where you go.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Spring Break

I hope all of you had a blessed Easter! Ours was a rather quiet one, which I prefer. It was just the four of us.

This week is our spring break, so the girls and I are doing some much-needed cleaning around the house. This is in preparation for the upcoming graduation festivities and company in May. My husband even joined in this past weekend - he used the power washer on the exterior of the house. It looks great! We are having the front of the house professionally landscaped this week - I am thinking about taking some "before" and "after" pictures just to show you how BAD it looks right now!

I've been pondering about a couple of "issues" over the past week or so, and I am in the midst of drafting a couple of different posts. It will be interesting to see what each of you have to say about these topics.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who participated in the "Forty to Forever" Lenten blog. Jules is leaving it up until the end of this week, so if you get the chance, please stop by one last time to leave an Easter prayer. Many thanks to Jules for all of her work on the blog. Perhaps we'll do something similar again some time!

Have a great Easter week!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Lord is Risen!

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and annoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, "Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, "Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised, he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.'" ~Mark 16:1-7~

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Separate Lives

"What are you going to do with all your time when we are gone?", my oldest asked me.

We were discussing how life is going to change for the family when TP goes off to college in the fall, and then again in three years when DQ leaves. Already, I feel the shift in family life - less time together due to extracurricular activities, going to work after school and on weekends, and the time spent with friends. This shift is preparing all of us for life apart from our little family - and I keep on reminding myself that this has always been the ultimate goal.

But what made me smile is that the question which TP asked reflects a certain image that mothers are often thought of as people who "don't have a life" outside of their family. In all honesty, I don't get offended by that image at all. If anything, I find it to be a compliment, because to me, that means that my image to others is one of being devoted to my family. That image is not something which should be made fun of, nor should it be a cause for derision. It should be one of respect and pride. A mother puts her children's needs ahead of her very own while raising her children. The time will come again, all too soon, when the house will be empty, and the mother can once again focus on other matters which bring her joy and peace.

I explained to my daughters that I will be fine when they are gone, that I will find plenty of activities to occupy my time, but that nothing could ever compare to the satisfaction and contentment that I have experienced over the years being a mom. I told them that I would miss them, and I would look forward to their visits, and I gently reminded them that I did "have a life" before they were born. They wondered if I would go back to work full-time, and I said I didn't know for sure. What I do know, and what I didn't tell them, is how empty this big house will be without them, and how their departure will leave a huge void in my heart. I don't ever want them to feel guilty about leaving, or to feel hesitant about going off on their own. I want them to grab onto life and experience it to its' fullest without having to worry about me.

It will be a different stage in my life - an unfamiliar territory which can be frightening yet exhilarating. A whole new set of opportunities will be beckoning. So, I can't help but think about how my stage in life will parallel theirs as we face our new beginnings together. Separate lives, yet still connected by our love for each other and our history which we shared together. Separate lives, yet we'll always be able to pick up where we left off. I can't help but think that this new stage of our lives will be as rich and rewarding as the past one, but in different ways.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


First of all, many thanks to all of you who wrote such kind and supportive words about my last post. You wrote with such compassion and insight, and I was very touched. I am honored to call each of you a true friend.

I really would prefer to not go into details, but suffice it to say that this experience has brought home to me how deeply betrayal and secrecy and lies can hurt a relationship. Then, it dawned on me , at such a deep and personal level, how much our betrayals and sins causes God pain, and how they can cause such a distance in our relationship with Him.

During this Lenten season, we are made aware of how much suffering Jesus went through for the atonement of our sins, and the salvation of our souls. I am so grateful for the gift s of forgiveness and reconciliation He has given to us. Because of His example and His unconditional love for me, I am able to forgive my daughter and never, ever, cease loving her.

My situation is gradually improving. She recognizes how painful her betrayal has been for me and the rest of the family. In time, it is my prayer that she will recognize that the path she has chosen was based on all the wrong reasons, and that she will reject all the false promises given to her when she was making this choice. So, your continued prayers would be greatly appreciated in this matter.