Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Panic Party

Today I had to pre-register for my operation and tomorrow I go for my pre-op labs.  Given I've had my share of surgeries, I'm used to the questions they ask to ensure they have all the necessary information.  I've been keeping a pretty positive attitude about this surgery because I know that it's routine for the neurosurgeon.  I also have faith that it's the right thing to do to address some of my chronic pain issues. However, I think this registration today brought some unexpected anxieties. Plus - I can't take any of the medications that help me control my pain, so I'm a real peach right now.  I wake up in pain, I go to sleep in pain and I hate it.  Steve teaches on Wednesday nights, so the kids are having to fend for themselves with a combination of books, Olympics and the tablet.  They are fed, they are clothed, and will be situated as my natural heating pads when it's time to go to bed.  I remind myself every night to not give in to the guilt I feel about my limitations, keeping my anger in check is no picnic either.

When I was answering the nurse's questions this morning, I was suddenly taken aback when she made some suggestions for what clothing I should pack, you know, as a brain surgery patient.  The logical person in me knows that's what this is, brain surgery, but it was weird to actually hear it.  Then, as I'm trying to answer the questions about my health care proxy and religious preferences, I had this overwhelming panic set in.  I felt like I hadn't prepared myself at all, for anything.  In that moment, I was feeling overwhelmed with work stuff, but as the day went on, I really felt the fear of not having the family prepared.  I know I've worked out logistics for next week, but I feel irresponsible for not solidifying the logistics of life in a will.  So, and I are becoming good friends over the weekend.  Super Bowl weekend, we had a party while we got our taxes done; Presidents' Day weekend we'll have a will party.  We Parrotheads always say, "Party with a Purpose"  ;-)

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Today is Steve's birthday - I'm writing this blog to remind him that it's his birthday and to embarrass him just a little.  I couldn't resist including this picture -- I swear, the Mary Washington College admissions office should have used us in their brochure.  I also think Steve looks like he's running for office.

I've spent 20 birthdays with Steve.  I had only known Steve for a month when he celebrated #23 and something had come up in conversation about lead pencils vs. mechanical pencils (he uses the latter).  I think it might have been a Seinfeld reference, but I bought him a pack of lead pencils.  To this day, he's never used those pencils, but there they sit, year after year, front and center in our desk drawer.

The following year, when we were "officially dating" , I tried to throw him a surprise party and failed pretty miserably, but Steve made me feel special for trying and the party was just plain, silly fun. When someone has your back like that and makes you feel loved and special - on his birthday - you know you've found something, someone worth keeping.

The years went by and we celebrated Steve's birthday with fun day trips, weekend getaways and all kinds of live concerts.  It's funny because those experiences, along with many others, really helped to define our partnership.  Having evolved from reading paper maps, to first generation GPS devices, to our present-day smart phones has earned us points in both how-to and how-not-to communicate.  Living in new places, knowing no one, having to figure everything out on our own has taught us a lot about each other as individuals and as a couple.

Now, as parents who get strung-out at times, Steve needs to be reminded about calendar items such as his birthday.  So, when he starts thinking about it, he usually starts thinking about how to celebrate his birthday through his children's eyes.  His sister reminded me that last year, a significant snow storm came in and Steve called our local cupcake shop hoping he could still get some cupcakes for his birthday.  He was really excited when the owner said, "come on down!" and he took Jack on an adventure in the snow to get those cupcakes.  Those were some really yummy cupcakes.

Last night, we went out to dinner and then Steve took Jack to see the new Lego Movie.  Today, we'll head out for breakfast and then go to the Boston Home Show.  Steve's love of This Old House and other home improvement shows is just another reason why I love him so.  Because of a fortunate raffle win by his boss, Steve will take Jack to the Celtics game later this evening.  Our time together is the best gift and I am so very grateful.

Steve, thank you for being such a wonderful husband and father to Jack and Anna.  And thank you for your severe chocolate addiction - it makes birthday gift-giving so easy this time of year.  I love you, honey.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My Life Under The Knife - Part Three

Snow day time and I'm doing some cyber-shopping.  I'm looking at knit headband options because in 2 weeks I will have neurosurgery.  Yes, my hair will be shaved, not all of it, but enough to warrant shopping for some hair accessories.  I went on Etsy and there are 21,893 items that matched my search -- clearly, a shopping task for my mother and sister.  I mean, my head already hurts enough.

So, yes, the surgery is upon me.  It's one in a long line of parties to try and get rid of that drunk uncle -- or, you know, unwanted objects out of my body.  My major issues started in October, 2004, when Steve moved to New Hampshire and the Red Sox broke their World Series losing streak.  I stayed in Florida to finish my degree and make final preparations to sell our house.  Those months alone sucked - I had some pretty serious manic-depressive episodes.  I think, while it was happening, I assumed I was missing Steve and was incredibly nervous to take my oral and comp exams, but really, I was incredibly anxious to move and truthfully, was resenting Steve for leaving a town I'd come to love for a place I knew nothing about.

2005, in snowy, icy New Hampshire, knowing no one and being unemployed, I was pretty miserable and I did the best I could.  Something that Steve and I had started to be more serious about was starting a family - figuring if I wasn't finding employment, maybe it was a good time to start.  Because everyone should start a family when you are miserable, right!?! Well, I wasn't getting pregnant and at about the same time, I was hired by Boston University in November of 2005, an opportunity I was thankful for, even if the commute from New Hampshire was brutal (2 hours one way).  Pretty simultaneously to starting the job, my periods and migraines got unbelievably painful.  We moved to Massachusetts in March of 2006, hoping that the stress of commuting would help a little bit.  But, by the time summer rolled around, I found myself in an oncologist's office being told I had severe endometriosis, endometritis, and ovarian cysts and that a hysterectomy would be the course of action recommended.  Excuse me, What?

As I sat there in shock, not believing what I was hearing, the doctor said that since I was of child-bearing age, she would try alternatives, but wanted to be honest about what I was dealing with.  Well, we had to, just had to, go with the alternatives.  In 2006, I had a laparoscopy that confirmed my right side was messed up - scar tissue, cysts, and the ovary being the main culprit with its desire to be over-productive.  So, I had a hyper ovary -- me, hyper?  Who would have thought?  The ovary liked to move up my fallopian tube and create cysts.  A shunt was inserted to keep the ovary in check and for basically a year, I went each month for Lupron Depot injections - a treatment for patients with prostate, ovarian, and uterine cancer risks. Meanwhile, I had this osteoma developing in my head, but tests came out negative and I didn't feel like dealing with it was a priority - getting pregnant was.  I had an ectopic pregnancy in June 2007 and thought to myself that maybe it wasn't meant to be, failed again in September, but then was told I was pregnant in October of 2007.  I didn't believe it, wouldn't let myself believe it and was really thankful that Steve had optimism for the both of us.  John "Jack" Clement Schaffer was born on June 17, 2008.  13 hours of labor that ended in a C-section because of course, my right side wouldn't cooperate!

For me, breastfeeding Jack was the best medicine because the hormonal benefits kept most of my gynecological issues in check.  My migraines, always radiating from the osteoma on the right side, were also occurring less, so things were good and then, in the fall of 2009 I found myself right back in 2004 all over again.  Here's where I know some people would call me greedy, perhaps foolish for playing Russian Roulette with my health, but I decided to have surgery again (same procedure to remove cysts, adjust the shunt, etc.) and also agreed to an IUD because studies had shown its effectiveness in helping patients like me.  Steve and I just weren't ready to give up on the dream of a second child and additionally, I didn't feel like I was emotionally ready or physically ready to take 4-6 months recovery time for a hysterectomy. I asked for the IUD to be removed in August, 2010 and was pregnant the following month.  Anna Elaine Schaffer was born May 10, 2011.  I still look at Anna and don't believe she is real.

For me, the past 2 years have almost been as hard as 2004-2007 because I have been blessed with 2 children, but because of my extraordinary arthritic and headache pain, I can't be the active mother I wish I could be or the one they deserve.  I had to get cortisone shots in order to breastfeed Anna because I was battling severe carpal-tunnel and tendinitis.  It got pretty bad, so I had to have, you guessed it, surgery to remove 10 cysts from my wrist and hand.  I also had my shunt checked and IUD inserted.  Of course, I still have a when decision to make about the hysterectomy, but this head of mine needs work first, then my heart, and that just may take some time, like the lifetime of a blog ;-)