Tuesday, June 5, 2018

West Fork Park | Green Township, OH | Cincinnati

The weather yesterday was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, no humidity, mid 70s with a light breeze. A little too chilly for the pool, I decided to take the kiddos on an adventure to West Fork Park in Green Township after hearing rave reviews about this space that was designed to be inclusive for and meet the needs of all kiddos. Located in the West Side of Cincinnati, this park proved to be the ideal space to play and somewhere we'd definitely revisit, despite being outside of the Northern Kentucky radius we tend to travel within.
The park was teeming with children and their caretakers, but not overly crowded (note: we found parking immediately, though there were several cars parallel parked along the entrance). Before realizing they had a covered picnic area, we ate PBJs and fruitsnacks on beach towels in the shady, grassy area in front of our parking spot. Beck, Faith and Benny finished eating quickly, though, because the play structures could simply not be ignored for very long. 
They raced immediately into the rainbow-colored maze (wheelchair-accessible, might I add) and I could barely keep up with them from that point forward. There was so much to do, and they were easily entertained for over an hour with the climbing structures, zip line, swings, slides, tunnels, and more! 
Despite the many park patrons who had the same idea as us on this gorgeous day, the kids didn't wait long to play on any particular structure and there was ample space for running and jumping and playing freely without getting in the way of the other children or adults (read: I didn't have to tell my three to stop running or be careful or slow down). 
Beckham, my almost 10-year-old, was admittedly skeptical of going to a park without a basketball court, but afterward he said it fell into the NWIE category of summer adventures. That's the Not What I Expected category, meaning it exceeded his expectations. Parenting win! His favorite part was definitely turf surfing on the cardboard remnants found on the turf-covered tunnels that created hills to climb and slide down. 
Oh, and I can't fail to mention that there isn't any dirt or mulch at this park - a major perk! All of the walking surfaces are rubber composite or turf. It's amazing.

And, if the park wasn't perfect enough, Putz's Creamy Whip is located less than five miles away, making for the perfect way to cool off after playing hard. 
What was really neat was that while we were eating our ice cream, we were approached by a woman who we recognized from the park. She was Dr. Tina Stanton-Chapman - one of the masterminds behind the creation of West Fork Park! We learned that she is a professor of education and Associate Director of Early Childhood Education and Human Development and helped develop the park as part of her research project. Very, very cool

Overall, this was an adventure I'd recommend to tristate area locals. Admission to the park was free and we spent about seven bucks on our ice cream. Fun for three kiddos coming in at under ten dollars and lent itself to great naps afterward? I'll take it! 

For more information about West Fork Park, visit this site. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Summer Celebrations

Ah, summertime. My three favorite months of the year. I love the sunshine, the freedom, the warmth, and the endless adventure that define June, July, and August. Sundresses and evening cocktails on the patio are a nice perk, too, of course.

We have plenty of days with things to do and places to be and just as many days of unscheduled opportunities to let boredom and possibility dictate our agenda.  

We're one week into Summer Vacation and its kickoff has been nothing short of lovely. We've immersed ourselves in all things summery - from bubbles and chalk to skipping naptime(s) so that we could spend the afternoon at the library or pool. 

Our outside time has increased substantially and it makes my heart all kinds of happy to smooch sun-kissed cheeks when I tuck all of them into bed.
Yesterday, we celebrated my mama's sixty-first birthday with baked spaghetti, toasted garlic bread, and a delicious homemade banana blueberry cake that my sister made. The weather was near perfect and the cousins - human and canine alike - easily entertained each other so that adult conversation could actually be enjoyed.
Let's just take a moment and appreciate the beauty that is this cake. Tasted just as good as it looked.
I think what I really like about summer is that the ordinary feels like magic. And, it's truly the regular, seemingly unspecial moments that actually make up life, so summer is sweeter and more indulgent that any other time of year because those moments are plentiful.
There are still camps to attend and deadlines to meet and vacation adventures to be had, but my number one goal this summer is to find joy in it all: the sticky post-popsicle fingers, untimely fifteen-minute car snoozes because we are having too much fun to remember nap time, and the smell of the sun on their bodies before baths. 

Here's to you, Summer.
Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy with Immediate Reconstruction


I remember telling Brandon when we were newly married not to get too attached while motioning to my chest area, in one of those kidding-not-kidding conversations. And, while we've been able to laugh that off for the past eleven years, that statement has turned to truth, and I will be having a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy on the 28th of this month. Just three weeks away. 

To be clear, I do not have breast cancer

A prophylactic bilateral (double) mastectomy is preventative surgery to remove all of the breast tissue with the ultimate goal of reducing the risk of developing breast cancer up to 97-100%. 


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B A C K S T O R Y

It was the summer of my sophomore year of college when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, fifteen years ago now. I was away at school in Lexington for the duration of her treatment, which included several nasty rounds of chemo, followed by weeks of radiation. She lost her hair, was sick as a dog, but fought through it like the champ she is and has been cancer-free since. Her mom, my Grammy, had breast cancer at sixty, many years before mom, along with my maternal great-grandmother and great-aunt. My mom's three sisters - my aunts - have also all had breast cancer in the past fifteen years. All currently remain in remission. 

My mom and dad with their grandchildren.
So, clearly, there is a very very very strong history of breast cancer on my mom's side.

My OBGYNs have encouraged me at my annual appointments- probably for the past five years - to do genetic counseling, and after dragging my feet, I finally met with a genetic counselor at our local hospital in April of this year. During genetic counseling, you basically meet with a nurse who has been certified to discuss your family tree along with the instances of cancer to help you determine whether or not you're a good candidate for genetic testing. 

I brought along the genetic testing results from my mom and her sister to share with the counselor and together we reviewed all of the cases of cancer, the age of diagnosis, and the outcome of each. While those tested - including my mom - do not carry BRACA1 or 2 (most well-know 'breast cancer genes' whose carriers have upwards of a 50% chance of developing cancer), one of my aunts was positive for a mutation of the NBN gene. This gene is responsible for the production of nibrin, whose job is to repair damaged DNA. In simple terms, it is a tumor suppressor.  In terms of genes associated with breast cancer, it is a newly researched one, and its carriers have an elevated risk of breast cancer compared with the normal population, though that risk level is currently unknown. 

Because my mom's testing is 15-years-old at this point, the next step was to have her re-tested to see if she, too, was positive for a mutation of the NBN gene (which wasn't a marker at the time of her testing). She was, not surprisingly, and I submitted a blood sample to a genetic testing lab shortly after finding out her results. 
Getting my mammogram in July 2017.
My results were phoned to me about two weeks later to confirm that I, too, carry the mutation of the NBN gene. By itself, it's difficult to determine just how detrimental it is to carry the NBN gene, but combined with my family history, it is concerning and I was recommended to a surgical oncologist to discuss my next steps. 

While surgery wasn't the only option I was presented, my doctor said it was a reasonable measure considering my genetic predisposition and family history, and I really went into the appointment knowing it was what I would choose. The youngest cancer case in our family was 36, and I'll be 35 next month.

Ultimately, the bottom line for me is this: Brandon, Beckham, Faith, and Benny.  


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S U R G E R Y 

I met with an absolute ass of a plastic surgeon in August, who barely looked up from his clipboard long enough to notice the tears streaming down my face.  He used fancy doctorese to describe the procedure that was ultimately going to reconstruct my breasts, and despite fully understanding what I was in for, the reality of losing a part of me was just overwhelming in that moment.  The long-term implications of the surgery are more than just the shape I'll have afterward and I felt like he neglected to acknowledge the psychological impact. While I don't doubt his medical prowess, his personal preferences as a surgeon and apathetic posture towards my personal outcomes of the procedure weren't ideal for such a life-changing surgery. 

When he finally noticed I was having a hard time keeping together, he responded with, "Obviously you weren't very prepared for this appointment," in an offhanded and extremely insensitive way. I WISH I would've been quick enough to say, "Would anything prepare you to have you balls chopped off, doctor?" #hindsight  Needless to say, he is not the plastic surgeon I chose. Bye, Felicia.

Instead, I found a female doctor whose ideals for surgery aligned with my desired outcomes.

Anyway. 

The surgery is scheduled to take approximately four hours, as I'm opting for immediate reconstruction. This means, I will not have tissue expanders put in and will, instead, have silicone gel implants inserted immediately following the mastectomy.  This will allow me to have a single surgery. Not every woman or doctor is a fan of this technique for a variety of reasons, but my build and my desire to simply replace what I already have (read: I'm not getting bigger b(o)(o)bs), made me a good candidate.  Both my surgical oncologist and plastic surgeon will be present for the surgery and are on board with what I want. I will be required to stay at the hospital for 1-2 nights post-surgery.

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R E C O V E R Y

I'm planning for the worst and hoping for the best! I cannot lift greater than ten pounds for the first six weeks after surgery, which means I cannot pick up my babies :(  Sad. No working out for six weeks, either.  I also won't be cleared to drive or cook for awhile, wash my hair, or do anything that requires moving my arms above my shoulders. Fortunately, Brandon is taking off for almost a week to take care of me and our families live close by to help out with the kiddos.  I will have 2-4 drains to help with fluid and swelling, and it sounds like I'll be sleeping upright in our recliner for a month. Apparently, I'm going to live in button-downs and mastectomy tanks.  Everyone's recovery is different, so I guess we shall see.

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T H E  N E X T  T H R E E  W E E K S

I had my physical this past week and am all cleared for surgery and will still meet with my plastic surgeon the day before the procedure. With the holidays approaching, I'm planning to get as much shopping done as I possibly can and decorate minimally so take-down isn't extensive. With our kitchen remodel in full-swing and set to finish the week before my surgery, I'll be cutting it close with getting the house presentable again and decorated (we're currently living among all the new cabinetry in our family room).  If we get a tree up,  a wreath on the front door, and stockings hung on the fireplace, we're going to call it a win.  Actually, being stuck in a recliner watching Christmas movies by the fire doesn't sound like the worst way to recover, now that I think about it ;)

To my teacher friends: I'm anticipating taking the month of December off to recover, so I will be minimally involved on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I still plan to check in with Q and As and maintain my social media pages as I can. 

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H O W  D O  I  F E E L?

I'm going to be totally honest here: I'm terrified. I've intentionally emotionally distanced myself from it for the past several months knowing how big and scary my feelings about it actually are.  But now that I'm in the final countdown, I'm so scared. Surgery and anesthesia and being under for four hours completely terrifies me. I'm so afraid I won't wake up and all I can think about is my children growing up without a mommy and Brandon losing his wife. The thought is just unbearable and I sit here crying now as I type this. 

Outside of the actual surgery, the recovery is daunting, I'm sad to lose feeling in my chest forever, I'm stressed about Brandon and the kiddos having to do life without me for a bit, and anxious about losing control over the daily goings-on while I recover (i.e. making lunches, school pick-up and drop-off, helping with homework, grocery shopping, laundry, picking up the house, etc). 

While this is obviously an elective surgery, it's also a catch-22...sit around and wait for cancer and hope that it doesn't come? Or, pray that should I get cancer that I'm a survivor like my mom? Or, praise God for the fortunate option that modern medicine has allowed me know my risk and do something about it? No good answer, but for me, this seemed like the best choice. 

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P L E A S E  P R A Y

...for a successful, uncomplicated surgery.

...wisdom, guidance, and careful hands for the doctors and nurses.

...a sense of peace for myself and our family.

...good health and strong immune systems for myself and our family.

...for Brandon, Beckham, Faith, and Benny.

...no infections and complete healing post-surgery.

...a cancer-free pathology report. (no reason to believe this would be an issue, but they do a pathology report on the tissue removed nonetheless)

T H A N K  Y O U !

Saturday, May 28, 2016

True Stories About Our Marriage

Today is our Ten Year Anniversary.

The easier post to write would be the one where I post the adoring picture of us and caption it with something along the lines of...

Happy anniversary, babe!  It's been the most amazing ten years!  Can't wait to see what the next ten years holds!  Love you BIG!

I just can't type that without feeling awkward about it.  It would portray my marriage as glossy and superficial.  And, not only is our marriage not glossy, but there is nothing superficial about marriage. Marriage is complex, refining, and beautifully brutal.  It's loving despite

There have been many times in the past ten years that I didn't think we'd make it another day.  Where loving despite seemed like a challenge we no longer wanted to endure. Because that adoring couple you see above, they only sometimes exist.  They've disagreed and said hateful things to one another in heated arguments.  They've gone to bed angry and been on the giving and receiving end of The Silent Treatment countless times (such an unfair game to play, btw). There's been shouting matches where no one wins, and there's been times where leaving seemed like a better option than staying.  

Marriage is work. Every. Single. Day.

But, it is worthy work.  I have to remind myself of that daily.  It's a sacred covenant that God intended for His good.  Marriage is an enduring, undeserving, sometime one-sided love that requires less of me and more of Him.  It's accepting that 50/50 rarely exist, and that we're given each other to offset that imbalance.  Loving despite.  

While each of these pictures shows a smiling Brandon & Abby, the back stories contradict an always-happy-always-loving couple.  

True Story: We were in Hilton Head and spent a large part of our time there arguing with one another.  I couldn't wait to come home. 

True Story: Brandon had just quit his job of seven years.  The future was uncertain.

True Story: We were headed to the fertility specialist, hoping to get pregnant. SUPER stressful.  Hormones were TERRIBLE and I was NOT a nice person during that six month stint!

True Story: We took Becks to the pumpkin patch. I took the day off of work after finding out the mother we had been matched with - and were expecting to bring her baby home to our house in a matter of weeks - had changed her mind. I was devastated and could barely function for days.  

True Story: We were at my grandpa's 80th birthday party and  it was a challenge to hold a conversation without crying about our failed adoption. Ironically, we'd leave this party to find out our daughter had been born the week prior :)

True Story: Faith had been in the hospital for a little over a month at this point and was enduring a second extremely intensive 4-hour surgery.  We were just trying to keep our heads above water at the hospital and at home.  I still don't know how we survived.

True Story: We were headed to look at Christmas lights with the kids, and almost didn't make it after getting into a ridiculous argument in the car.  

True Story: I'm about six months pregnant here and we're at Graeter's for ice cream after a session of marriage counseling.  One of the best things we've ever done for our marriage and each other. Counseling, that is.  Not Graeter's ;) 

True Story: I'm about six-weeks postpartum with Ben, and am heavier than I'd like.  But, I LOVE this picture. Even though we aren't like this ALL the time, there are plenty of times when we are.  When we look at each other as if we're the only two people in the room.  When we know that the decision we made to stand by each other forever ten years ago was the right one. 

I am a better person for being married to Brandon.  He is my best friend, my confidant and lover.  I would stand next time him today and do it all over again.  



Happy Ten Year Anniversary, B. I love you BIG. 

(PS. We are staying in downtown Cinci tonight WITHOUT kids, and will probably sleep through the night for the first time in almost three years!  Wooooo to the hooooooo!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

These three.

As soon as the picture above loaded into the blogger template, I couldn't help but laugh a bit.  And simultaneously blink back tears. It still startles me - in the best possible way - to see three sweet little faces staring back from the screen. 

For a long time, it seemed like I'd only be blessed to be the mama to one kiddo. Yet, here I am, happy mama to three :)

Becks is my spirited, sensitive, strong-willed,  and smart as a whip 7-year-old.  He's in a self-made band, Wikkid Vömit, takes guitar lessons once a week, plays baseball, and loves school.  He is the best big brother to the babies and still loves to be snuggled into bed a night. His two front teeth have grown in recently, a reminder of how quick this parenting thing goes. 


Faith is my fantastically adorable, ridiculously sweet, happy little joy bird. She'd spend all day outside if it were up to her, awaits the return of her Bubba from school everyday, still sneaks pacis at bedtime, and reminds us all what a blessing life is. She'll do big things someday. 

And, sweet Benny is my squishy little baby muffin.  He will be nine months in a couple of weeks.  Bathtime, graham crackers, and running the hardwood in the walker are his jam. I don't mind the 4:30am nursing sessions, knowing those precious moments are limited. He refuses to belly laugh, and instead chuckles like your old fat uncle. 

Thanking God they're mine.

Happy Wednesday :)