Monday, September 18, 2017


I am not a proponent of self medicating - I do not take Nyquil, I do not take more than prescribed, I really don't like pain killers, muscle relaxers, etc. in general - BUT - when you have hives, nothing hits the spot like some dear sweet Benedryll and wine.....

My parents set up their wing-backed chair for me in the living room and tucked me in like some old woman that lives in a Victorian home by herself and spends her days holed up in her parlor. Propped up with pillows and my necessities in reach, I took one of my pain killers and then my Benedryll an hour or so later. This is probably an ill advised practice but I slept pretty well, I didn't itch, and I wasn't in too much pain. 

The rest of the first week continued similar to this. My in-laws came up that weekend to help at home, I was still "sleeping" sitting up, and I went back and forth from being thankful to miserable each day. I quickly went down to one pain pill a day (before bed) and saw an increase in appetite. My kids were more indifferent to my drainage bag than I thought, which was great, and Austin seemed to really enjoy "taking care of me" and respected and understood what I could and couldn't do around the house. My amazing friends brought over food and gifts and my village really came together in a big way. I was/am blessed!

I also had an odd craving for hot dogs. So wrong but so so right!

One week later, I went in for my follow up and things improved 1038532%.

My dad came with me to this appointment.  First I had an initial X-ray to make sure everything that was left was doing well. I guess I passed because I was sent across the hall to the thoracic surgeon's offices where Rachel, the nurse, changed my life.

She took that damn chest tube out.

Now against my better judgment from past years of IVF experience, I know better than to google anything but prior to this meeting, I googled the removal of this chest tube. First lesson - again, don't ever google procedures. Second lesson, make sure you are entering the correct search terms. Because I failed at #2, I had this painful, awful experience in my mind when it reality - it was glorious.

"Lay down on your side for me," said Rachel. "You are going to feel a little pressure but take a deep breath and hold it,"

And with one motion, only seen by my dad who said "whoa!", Rachel pulled the chest tube out of my side and whipped it on to the table beside the bed.

"Sit tight while I suture you and clean up the area".

She bustled around for a little and then said "Once you sit up, you will feel like a million bucks".

Although I had my doubts, she was so correct, it was uncanny.

In my mind the tube that was actually in my body was only a few inches long. In real life, it was 12-14 inches!! No wonder everything hurt! My insides were all "WTF is this foreign thing doing in here cramping our style!"

My dad described it as a slimy pink snake. I'm kind of disappointed it was cleared away before I saw it. In any event, now I could breath better, the pain in my shoulders and back was gone, and I felt like a new person. I could also sleep laying down! Win!


Today marks 2 months since my surgery. I ran 8 miles this morning in 1 hour and 11 minutes. 

Life is good! 

Follow your Gut (Part 2)

Once the anesthesia wore off, the itching returned. The nurses seemed, rightfully, concerned that mixing benedryll and pain medicine wouldn't be the best cocktail but after begging them and promising I wouldn't become an addict, they relented. I also would later have to sell my soul to another nurse to get the damn IV out of my hand with the promise of lots of water drinking and reporting each time a peed.

After my first night in the hospital, and with the worry I may be there for up to 9 more, I remained optimistic and decided to incorporate some routine into my day. This started with an annoying trip to the bathroom. Between my IV, chest tube, associated machines, and general awkwardness - this took a little longer than I would like to admit but peeing on my own was a gold star in the eyes of the nurses and meant I didn't need a bed pan (or worse - a catheter). I also got a glance at myself in the mirror - I looked like death and roadkill.

Aside from looking a little skeletal from my involuntary hunger strike, I was sallow in some places and red and swollen from the hives in other. There were pinkish bags under my eyes that looked wrinkled and the area around my ears and down my neck were blotchy from scratching. Brushing my teeth felt like heaven! If it were ever a possibility to have an orgasm from tooth brushing, this would have been that moment. My teeth were in ecstasy and I never wanted to stop. It was joyous and probably one of the best parts of that first day.

After I cleaned up, I went for my morning walk with DJ. Dr. Widmann asked me to walk the halls a few times a day and spend time rotating from my bed to my chair. The walks were a nice break to the day and a good measure of progress. At first, I was holding on to DJ for dear life and feeling short of breath to, rather quickly, feeling more independent. The soreness was still very present - mostly in my shoulder blades, under arms, and chest. Interestingly, or maybe not, there was a lot of different levels of decency in the hospital. I left for my walks with gym shorts under my gown and tightly tied to avoid mooning people whereas other people didn't seem to give a damn what they flashed. This led to a lot of averted eyes and looking at the floor. As if it were some kind of treat, DJ and I would stop and the free snack and drink station on the floor too. It wasn't much - juices, sandwiches on white bread, and jell-o, but hey! free stuff!

When walking was over, I would either eat, or watch DJ eat, breakfast and then wait for Dr. Widmann, nurses, and other medical staff. I was told to do arm exercises and be able to extend my left arm fully by the time I left. Using this as a measure for discharge (and activity), I was very diligent with my practice. I was also given a incentives barometer to practice breathing into. I was less diligent with this because I was so bad at it.

When my parents came that afternoon, I was admittedly down in the dumps and exhausted. Using my appendectomy and two labor/deliveries as comparison, I just didn't see how I was going to recover from this one. The pain was so intense, the muscles that was trying to heal was simultaneously being used, and I was draining mystery liquid down a hose and into some measuring device. I was still itchy and swollen. I was miserable.

By later that afternoon, I had sent everyone home. DJ needed to be with the boys and I needed to be alone so I could wallow in peace and watch more Alaskan Bush People. That night, I actually ate all my dinner - "baked ziti" and peed with a little less fuss. Sleeping was still horrendous because I was more or less forced to sleep sitting straight up but I was making progress.

The next morning, I was draining properly enough and there was talk of sending me home. Already! I panicked. I still couldn't get my arm over my head, I was still draining into my drain thing, and was still in a lot of pain. Oh and the hives. I told DJ as much when he came to see me but he didn't think it would happen since they told me "up to 10 days" and it had only been 2 nights.

I guess Dr. Widmann saw enough improvement by the time he saw me and told me I could go home that afternoon. I was shocked and terrified. I would have to have this gross tube in for another week so DJ and my mom learned how to change the bag (ew) and dressing (more ew) so we could keep it clean at home. Since I was still a scary, skinny, itchy nightmare, we decided I would spend the night, Friday, at my parents house to see how well I managed before introducing two young boys to their mom and her drainage tube. Long, uneventful day, short - I changed into an oversized shirt, since I still hadn't passed the "full range of motion" arm test, and was home in time for dinner at my parents spending only two nights in the hospital.

Follow your gut (Part 1)

This post,  and the two following, really has nothing to do with motherhood or parenting or my kids but I wanted to chronicle it for my own memories and to encourage people to trust their gut - even if the people disagreeing with you are physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals.

This Father's Day, 2017, my parents came over for dinner and it was a normal day - I felt great, I played with my kids, volunteered at a local 5K, and all of those normal Sunday Funday things. Shortly after my parents left, I was playing with my son and out-of-nowhere I felt a sharp pain on the left side of my chest. My first thought was a pulled muscle but I wasn't really convinced.

I decided to call it an early night and went to lay down and tough it out, but something told me this was more than a muscle pull.

(a brief history: In high school, 2000, I, also out-of-nowhere, suffered from a collapsed lung caused by pneumonia. They did a broncoscopy and all was well. In 2004, I went to the hospital with similar chest pain and they found an infection in my lung. Because we caught it early enough, they were able to treat it with antibiotics).

After about an hour or so, I decided I was failing at "toughing it out" and we gathered up the boys, dropped them off at my parents and went to Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in Rahway, NJ.

At the ER, I was seen right away because "chest pain" is the magic phrase that gets you in the door. I was x-ray-ed, EKG-ed, and interviewed but because I did not meet the textbook version of a pneumonia patient, despite retelling my history, I was brushed off. It seemed as though not remembering medications you took in 2000 when you were 16 years old makes you an unreliable patient and therefore not worthy of an ER physician's time. Well, to hell with you!

I was asked to stay overnight for "observation". Apparently Dr. Bernstein and I define that differently since I was really just left in a room to wait about 20 hours to see a pulmonologist, I didn't feel very observed. Oh, it was also at this time a nurse absently told me my EKG was abnormal and my white blood count was high. Super, thanks for sharing.

Near 5:00pm the following day, I was seen by Dr. Sinha. He spent, maybe, 3 minutes with me, moved my arm up and down, side to side, told me I pulled my pectoral muscle and wrote a prescription for pain medical. From there, I was free to go. He was an asshat.
There are two things wrong with this situation - well probably more than that but here are two. Thing 1) I had been sitting in this room for almost 20 hours at this point with no interaction, other than those tedious "vital checks" every four hour. If something was wrong, which we would learn that there was, it could have been growing, festering, and worsening (which it did) during this time and no one cared to ask. Thing 2) Dr. Sinha wrote me a prescription for a VERY potent pain pill and muscle relaxer without really asking me anything about my medical history, tolerance to pain, addictive habits, etc. This is part of the reason why we have an opioid crisis in America.

It may seem I am rushing through this hospital stay and omitting details but there really isn't much to say since no one seemed to care about me. I believe I had oatmeal for breakfast Monday morning if that helps paint a picture.

Fast forward to Tuesday night/Wednesday - I was up all night - sweating, freezing, restless legs, probably gas - it was a mess. Wednesday morning, I went to my parents to sleep. We were getting work done on our house that day and I didn't want to be bothered. Driving down the parkway, I really had to focus to get it together. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have driven.

As soon as my mom saw me, she knew this wasn't a pulled muscle and she took me to Summit Medical Group's Urgent Care facility. Again, "chest pain" got me right in the door and within two hours I was diagnosed with a "whopping case" of pneumonia and a pretty hefty infection. The team here was amazing - exactly the opposite of the team at Robert Wood Johnson.

They also took the time (and by "the time" I mean the two minutes required) to explain my EKG, high white blood cell count, fever, and other things that good doctors should do. They also put a sense of urgency on things - calling ahead to Morristown Medical Center and letting them know I was on my way. It was at this time, I began to feel two things 1) a sense of panic because there was something wrong with my lung and 2) a mental case of the I-told-you-so's and satisfaction that this was, in fact, something. My husband picked me up at SMG and whisked me over to Morristown. It is at this time, I would like to thank everyone in my family for being so awesome. If it weren't for them, I would have probably just remained sweating in a chair somewhere.

Wednesday to Friday, I was at Morristown Medical Center. This visit was uneventful but informative. I learned that this raucous was due to a birth defect. My lung never fully developed and there was a little pocket that was just asking for infection all along. My team of doctors, yes - I went from a pulled muscle to having a team - decided we would try and attack it with antibiotics, shrink the infection, and then surgically remove the mass (and ultimately the defunct part of the lung). This was a lot to take in but at least we had a plan but I was angry too. Angry that RWJ could be so wrong and careless in their diagnosis.

By Friday, I was getting my antibiotics through a pic line so the medications could more effectively do their job. The initial plan was to wear the pic line for 6 weeks with weekly visits from a home nurse to clean the bandage and take blood. Because of the nature of the line, this also meant I couldn't get that part of my arm wet - no good showers, no pools, no sweating, no gym, no real fun - until August 4th, but at least I was home and not in any pain. Things were certainly inconvenient but manageable.

Pre-pic line conversation:
"Does it hurt?"
"It will be a little uncomfortable but no, not hurt"
"Do you do a lot of pic lines?
"Yes. I wake up every morning thinking 'yes! pic lines!"
"Good answer! Thank you!"

On Monday, July 10th I had a visit with my thoracic surgeon. I went by myself since I was under the impression it would be a follow up and nothing interesting would happen.

Dr. Widmann checked my x-rays and scans and determined, in so many words, there was no time like the present since the infection wasn't shrinking as rapidly as they thought and, selfishly, I wanted to be fun on my vacation in August.

He took the time to explain the procedure, using models and my x-rays as visuals. For some reason, I assumed only the infection would come out so things got very foggy when he mentioned "removing part of the lung" and "separating the ribs" if the mass is to big. I remember just nodding along and then perking up when he asked, very causally, if next Tuesday, July 18th would work. He had an opening at 12:30 pm.

"What is recovery like?"
"Well when you first wake up, you may feel like you've been shot - but after a few weeks, you will be back to normal. I've had patients go on to run marathons, swim, everything as they did before the surgery and they were older than you"
"Oh. Well I have never been shot so that should be interesting but the rest sounds good"

Here is a little lobectomy 101:
A lobectomy is a surgery to remove one of the lobes of the lungs and may be done when a problem is found in just part of a lung. The affected lobe is removed, and the remaining healthy lung tissue can work as normal. The lungs have sections called lobes, 3 on the right and 2 on the left. (I would have one of these removed).  In my case, I was to have a  video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) procedure. With this type of surgery, 3 or 4 small incisions are used instead of 1 large incision. Small tools are put into the chest cavity. One of the tools is called a thoracoscope. It’s a tube with a light and a tiny camera that sends images to a computer screen. This shows the internal organs on the screen. The small tools are used through the other incisions to do the surgery.
I walked out of that meeting in a daze. So many things were said: lung removal, breaking ribs, laprascopic, 2-10 days in hospital, general anesthesia - whattttt? And of course I didn't think to bring a family member because I thought it was just a follow up!

When I called my mom and husband with this information, I'd like to think I sounded cool and composed with the "we gotta do what we gotta do" mentality, but I am not sure that is what came across. 

Meanwhile I was starting to get an allergic reaction to the antibiotics in the form of hives. Awesome. Monday, July 17th was my last at work before medical leave and I woke up itchy. My arms mostly but my stomach and back were well on their way to becoming a hot mess. As the day wore on, my neck, ears, and thighs started to itch. By the time I was ready for bed, I wanted to claw my skin off.

Tuesday morning I woke up in basically a leotard made of hives. From neck to knees, I was covered - blotchy, swollen, red, and itchy like you would not believe. It was so much so that I called the doctor's office to make sure they would still be able to do the surgery.
"Are they in your mouth or throat?"
"Oh god, no"
"Ok, then we will see you this afternoon".

We tried to have a normal morning with the boys before we took them to my parents and my husband and me off to the hospital. One pro of the hives - they took my mind off of the surgery.

Everywhere we went, the medical staff was shocked by my hives but there was little to be done since I was going under. Aside from being petrified, I reminded myself that at least I wouldn't be itching during the surgery. The worst part of the pre-surgery was actually the IV. Since I had been so poked and prodded the last month, the veins nurses usually go for were bruised and angry so they had to put the needle in the top of my hand. This was the most painful thing in my life up until this point - well maybe now - but it hurt like an MF-er and I was holding on to this poor medical student for dear life. Once it was in, I hid my hand under the blanket so I wouldn't have to look at it. Very mature of me.

DJ came in a little before surgery to sit with me in my waiting stall and meet with the doctors. My anesthesiologist came in and, for the first time, I felt old. This man looked so young. I was tempted to confirm I wasn't his first patient or that he wasn't a student. He, and the rest of the surgical team, were all as cool as cucumbers. I tried that but when they wheeled me away and separated from DJ, I fell apart. I think I was whimpering when they put the little mask on me before the drugs kicked in too.

Fast forward to 6:00pm. I remember waking up several times - beckoning to the nurses with my mind since I didn't have the energy to speak. Did I feel like I had been shot? I guess so. It hurt and it was very sore but there was no burning which I thought would be part of a gun shot wound. Speaking, however, was challenging. I could barely make it above a sultry whisper. If things didn't work out in Higher Ed, I could have gotten a gig as a 900-number call girl.

Once I was awake enough, DJ came in to see me, and later the transport team came and helped me move to my new, private (!) room. When we pulled in front of the doorway, the transport guy said "Okay, now you have to walk to that chair. Dr. Widmann likes his patients sitting up post surgery".

The walk might have been fifteen feet but looked like a mile - like in cartoons when the room stretches and seems to extend forever. The walk was easier than I thought and I soon learned sitting up was more comfortable anyway because of the chest tube and the need to sleep at a 60* angel.

After a late dinner, DJ and I settled in to our new accommodations and watched a few episodes of Alaskan Bush People. I wasn't super tired (since I had slept most of the day) so the hourly interruptions from medical staff weren't too bothersome. Yet.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

We have a walker!!

Yay! Not that I ever want to rush baby milestones (because they come and go so quickly!!) but this was a good one! Shortly after his first birthday our little B went from waddling and falling to walking! This is a game changer in so many ways but mostly because now he can be a more active playmate for Austin, trips to the park are more engaging, and his poor little knees will take less of a beating on the hardwood floors.

Still adjusting to shoes, he is a master when barefoot on the carpet. You can see his little toes tightening and curling to grip and balance. In his shoes, he walks like a cat with socks on but I look forward to winter when we can put on his boots and explore the snow.

Since walking encourages a new level of baby proofing, Austin - my champion big-brother - has been on patrol and ensuring "tiny toys" are out of reach. This morning I heard him take a toy away, explaining "too small for you Brendan" and my heart filled.

These little moments of family and brotherly love and respect and encouragement seem extra important now in our divided nation. Donald Trump is our current President Elect and whether or not he was your vote, he is our president. There is panic and worry and anxiety  but I am confident we will pull through as a nation. I admit I am not political at all but I do have children and responsibilities. I have friends in the LGBT community and want to protect and preserve our planet. I want the economy to thrive, the hungry to be fed, education to flourish, and our country to be safe. Of course there is room for worry but we also have to trust that our government - not only Trump but the hundreds of people that work with him, support him, persuade him - will do their part and the rest of the country will do ours.

That is about as political as I can get and will probably ever be in this blog but I would be remiss if I did not mention the outcome of the 2016 election. I choose to put my energy into my community and my family. Our health, our goals, and our milestones. And today i focus on milestones and our little walker! 

Monday, October 31, 2016


Today I am 33 years old! And I think that is totally and completely crazy. Crazier still is that I have been married for 5 1/2 years and have two children! WHHAAAATTT!

When I type out sentences like that I feel old, but when I look in the mirror I don't see a 33 year old person - or what I once thought a 33 year old person looked like. For example, when I was 18 or even 22, I thought 33 was old. That I couldn't wear sweat pants anymore, that I would have to cut my hair into a short bob haircut, and start shopping at Lord & Taylor. I don't know where these stereotypes or images came from but that was my vision of 33 year old moms.

I also thought these women had it all together. Not in the "have it all" sense of the word, but at 33 women had plans, they were organized, and their days ran like well oiled machines. I imagined a 33 year old woman's closet was filled with suits and matching shoes, everything ironed, and a fridge filled with well balanced snacks. If that is what 33 is - then I missed the boat!

My boys and I are all born in the same week. I am the final birthday of the palooza so some of the pomp and circumstance has worn off and everyone is tired of cake; however this morning a took a moment and saw how wonderful things were around me.

I admittedly have a "keeping up with the Jones' problem".
If "they" (whoever they are) are moving, maybe we should too.
Oh, they are making this much money - should I get a new job??
Ah! They are switching day cares - what if we don't? Will our kids be behind?

Fortunately I have a sane husband to talk me off the ledge.

SO instead of keeping up, today I am thankful! Thankful I went to that house party in 2005 and met my future husband. Thankful for my 2 million dollar babies that challenge and amaze me every day! Thankful for my fabulous parents to help and love in every single capacity of the word. Thankful for my extended family - in laws, cousins, etc. - for all that they do and that they are (even if it comes with a little drama) and thankful we all have our health, a roof over our heads, and food on the table. I am also thankful I didn't have to cut my hair in a bob ;)

I am thankful that I don't have it all together because how boring would that be!

Friday, September 23, 2016

30 Things I Think About Running with a Jogging Stroller!

I see a lot of posts out there about what runners think about while they are running and I love all of them because they are true. For that reason, on my most reason run with my son, I wanted to create my own list - 30 Things I Think About Running with a Jogging Stroller!

Before run
1. Awesome! B is rubbing his eyes so if I can get him in the stroller now, we can go for a run!

2. (picking baby up) Why are you suddenly awake and smiling? Be tired again!

3. (putting baby in stroller) Don't fight me, B! Just tuck your arm in. Ok good Let's go!

During Run
4. Yea! Look at me! Running with my kid!

5. This is basically the best idea ever!

6. Should I have changed B's diaper before? Eh - he is sitting. It should be ok!

7. I hope I see someone I know so they can see how I am killin' it as a mom right now!

8. I should have peed before I left..

9. Jogging stroller = best purchase ever!

10. C'mon! Move over! Who walks 7 across?

11. B? Are you sleeping? Go to sleep.

12. Ok so after this - I will throw in laundry, start dinner, shower, and then sit for a minute.

13. Only one mile?? Ugh!

14. (peeking around stroller) Sweet! He sleeps!

15. Crap! Where did that giant bump come from?!?!?

16. Keep sleeping B!

17. Ugh! You're up!

18. "The ants go marching..." *gasping for air*

19. "Mommy is just going to hum to you"

20. HmmmmMMmmm...

21. Ok - 2 miles - let's head back.


23. Every.Step.Forward.Is,One. Step. Closer.To.Home.

24. Aww B! Isn't this great! The breeze going downhill

25. Whoa whoa...almost lost you there on the decline.

26. Almost home - stay sleeping...stay sleeping.....

Post Run!
27. Yes! Made it! Now if I can get you from here into your crib.....

28. Gentil. Easy.Almost...

29. "whaaaaaaahhhh"

30. Damn it!

Friday, August 19, 2016

B! Why are you 10 months already!


You are going to be 10 months in 8 days and I have been the worst at documenting your milestones. I would like to say it is due to the fact that I have been busy absorbing your every move, touch, tear, and tirade and although part of that is true - it is not an excuse.

You started clapping this week and it is amazing! At first you were a little hesitant but now when Daddy, Austin, or I clap you enthusiastically follow along and it is amazing.

You have been crawling for about two months now and your first words were Da-da and ba-ba. Occasionally we get a Ma-ma but I am not sure if you know it is me you are referring too.

Unfortunately you are still not sleeping through the night but we have worked our way down to only one or two "wake ups" which helps Dad and me get through our work day with a little less coffee. Despite this, you wake up smiling every morning with your bangs in your face. We keep talking about getting you a haircut but you are a little squirmy and I don't want you to get poked in the eye.

Austin adores you. Sometimes I think it is a little too much. Lately he has taken to poking you in the cheeks and forehead. He tries to go for your eyes too but he hasn't made contact yet. Phew. For the most part you play well together but I  notice that when he is asleep or away, you play a little more freely in the house and have a certain independence. I think you like your space but also appreciate your alone time. I get that. I am like that too.

You are willing to try new foods which is GREAT since your brother is a picky eater. This morning you had avocados with me for breakfast but you have also tried tons of fruits, vegetables, and treats. You even tried a little ham in Avalon this weekend and ate it so I consider that a win. Where your brother's strength is/was sleeping, you might be our little eater.

You have been to the beach, fossil hunting, hiking, and to the pool. You love water play at school but hate getting dressed. You hate clothes in general but your brother did too. You take in the world and you are kind. You like watching Austin do things - as if you are learning along with him and seeing yourself in his shoes. You don't take a binky which is a bit of a relief, but sometimes I wonder if that is why you have trouble sleeping. Who knows. I sure don't!

There is so much more to say about you. Oh! You have had these two adorable bottom teeth forever but that is all we have so far. Some other teeth have been working their way in and down for weeks and week but they are taking their time - either way, you snack like a champ on puffs and crunchies and now cereal and bread. You go!

Even though my documenting has been weak, I love you tons and I am so glad you are here. I can't wait to recap more of your moves and share this with you when you are older. XOXO