Monday, January 6, 2014

Everything you never wanted to know about a hysterectomy

Things have been so super crazy since my last update.  I've taken nearly a year off blogging and just needed to relax after blogger burn out! 
However, I felt the need to write a post in honor of this month being Cervical Health Awareness Month! 

In my last post, I let you all know that I had recently been diagnosed with "pre-cancerous cells" after a routine
 pap smear in August.  I know pap exams are far from any woman's list of favorite things to do, but they are so very important to follow up with!  If I had put mine off just a few more months, things could have ended very badly for me, and here's why:

To update you all since that last post. . . . . I ended up spending my birthday Oct. 21 having a "cone biopsy."  They basically hollow out your cervix in the hopes of getting most or all of the cancerous cells out of there so they can biopsy it.  The surgery can be both for diagnosis, but also the treatment you needed if they're able to get it all!  Unfortunately for me, what I had was not "pre-cancerous" as they initially thought.  As it turns out, I had a cancer called Adenocarcinoma, which I was told is a pretty invasive cancer and aggressive as well.  It doesn't just grow a tumor that you can lop off of whatever organ it grows on.  It spreads throughout your soft tissue and other organs so they have to get every little bit out of there.  The cone biopsy was on Monday, pathology came back Friday that I had stage 1B2 cancer and I got a call from my surgeon that they were scheduling me for pre-op again the next week with a radical hysterectomy on Nov. 4th.  
That was NOT the news I was expecting to get.  No matter how cool those awesome hospital socks are, two surgeries back to back in your hoo-ha region is never a fun idea!

The surgeon was an OBGYN surgeon, so he had to refer me to another surgeon who was an oncologist for the surgery.  I met her for pre-op a few days later and she SOOO reminded me of Dr. Yang from Greys Anatomy if you're a fan of the show.  Not just cause she's Asian, but because she had that "I'm good and I know it," attitude.  Her confidence gave me confidence.  I knew I was in capable hands.  She was also one of the hospitals premier surgeons for the robotic assisted hysterectomies and after hearing that I would have a quicker recovery, I was all for robots!  This is the style they used, only I had five incisions that now spread from one side of my belly to the other like a rainbow of scars.

November 4th, hubby, Grandma Honey and I arrived at the hospital bright and early, checked in, and prepared for a very long day.  Mostly for them since I would be asleep!  I remember waking up much later that night being wheeled into a hospital room and being told to try to scoot over onto a new bed.  I was confused because I was supposed to be going home after the surgery since they did the surgery laparoscopic and didn't have to cut me wide open.  The nurse explained that there had been a slight complication and they had to call in urology to place a stint.  I scooted on over, feeling each and every one of my 5 incisions and quickly knocked out again.  In the middle of the night, I woke up in the most severe pain I've ever felt!  From my pubic bone up to my collar bone.  I screamed and cried, waking up hubby and a nurse came in.  Turns out my catheter wasn't draining, and because I had abdominal surgery, they had blown my belly up with air to be able to see what they were doing in there, so the gas was putting pressure on everything.  They gave me more meds, helped my catheter drain and I was able to sleep a bit more.  

My morning nurse, Lupe, was my life saver!  She had also had a hysterectomy and was able to explain so much!  She forced me out of bed despite my screaming, crying, and wanting to curse her out.  She made me walk and walk and walk some more to help my gas pains in my chest and explained every detail of the surgery.  A hysterectomy can take many, many forms.  Some can even be done vaginally so there's no open abdomen incisions.  Not the case with mine!  Through the five incisions in my belly, the surgeon removed my uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, (I opted to keep my ovaries since there was a small chance they'd ever have cancer) lymph nodes, and a bunch of soft tissues around the area that might have had cancer spread to it.  At the end of the second night I was able to leave the hospital, but I swear, I was nowhere near ready!  The whole car ride home I cried and winced with every tiny bump or turn! 

When I got home, there was NO way I would be able to lay down in bed or even get up the stairs!  If I didn't sit straight up, the gas pains in my chest became so severe it felt like I had a broken collar bone or something!  I could barely take a breath!  I sat and slept for two days straight in the comfy armchair in the living room, but there was NO relief from pain! I got up every hour or so to walk laps around the house, hunched over like an old man, swollen like I was six months pregnant, and shuffling each baby step.  The first week or two was such a blur.  I know hubby stayed home a while, and then Grandma Honey stayed so he could go back to work.  It was constant pain.  No relief.  No relaxing.  No resting like everyone wanted me to do.  Every half an hour or so I had what felt like crazy labor contractions.  God forbid I had to pee or poo, I would sit there crying, screaming sometimes, white knuckling it just to pee a little!  We finally got some different meds after two weeks when I showed up to my doctors office in tears.  

Apparently when you have a surgery that moves your intestines around, they go into a bit of shock and freeze for a while.  Then when they try to get going again, you end up with intestinal spasms.  Picture super bad cramps from food poisoning every 20 minutes with diarrhea so bad you give yourself diaper rash.  Yah, that bad.  Sorry I just ruined your lunch.  You should have seen hubby's face when I asked him to go to the store to buy me baby wipes to use.  I remember having days drifting in and out of consciousness, so weakened from a lack of sleep, food and water.  I was scared to eat or drink anything because it would cause more spasms.  I was also left with a lot of numbness, so I couldn't tell when I needed to go pee!  My doctor was scared of infection, so she only agreed to let me go home without a catheter if I promised that I would go pee every 2 hours without exception.  Which I did, but I could also never tell if I got it all out or not.  I ended up in the ER with such severe pain one night that even a dose of morphine in my IV didn't help.  Dilaudid won.  I figured it was an infection, but no, it was the stint in my kidney causing problems.

After three weeks, I decided I had had enough of people taking care of me, driving my kids to and from school, bringing us dinners, so I thought I'd say no thanks and start driving my own kids across town to their school.  Boy was I NOT ready for that.  Did you know that you use your abs to not only get in and out of the car, but also to control the pedals and stay in your seat when you turn a corner?!  Every lump and bump in the road was killer!  Plus with all of my intestinal spasms, I was never sure if I'd make it the 15 minutes back home from the school without an accident!  Thankfully I was spared that humiliation, but I never went without pain.  When I got home I doped myself, slept, watched Netflix, or literally stared at the walls for God knows how long cause I was so high.  By the afternoon, the meds wore off and I was able to grit my teeth enough to drive over to get the kids again, and then doped myself up for the rest of the night and hubby would watch the kids.  By the fourth and fifth week I finally began to get some relief from the pain and could cut back just a bit, only to realized that a whole month of my life had passed by and I didn't even know it.  I missed a month of time with my kids.  I really only saw them here or there when I needed them to bring me something.  They loved putting my socks on me cause I couldn't bend over.  My Boo Boo girl cried to me all the time that she wanted to sit on my lap or lay in bed with me to cuddle, but I was always so scared that she might hurt me!  My arms ached to hold her and squeeze her like I always did, but I just couldn't, so we did very gentle hugs where only our arms touched, not our torsos. 

Believe it or not, week 5 I went back to work!  I know, crazy, but I was so cabin fever I had to get out!  I stuck to my desk and skipped going out in the field to see my adoptive families and had other workers cover my cases.  Walking more than just a few minutes still caused the most horrible pain because of the stint I had, so I was sooooo grateful to finally have it taken out in week 6!  It was no fun picnic to have it taken out, but I was in for the shock of my life!  When I was told "stint" I thought of a small tube, like maybe an inch long a the most.  Ummm.....yah, no.  Here's an example of the stint they used on me.  


It goes from your bladder all the way up to your kidney.  No wonder it killed me anytime I bent over or walked more than a few minutes!  Literally an hour or two after they took it out I started to feel like my old self.  I wasn't hunched over shuffling around anymore.  I could stand up straight.  I could stretch in bed when I first woke up, I could walk from the parking lot to the store without needing to sit to rest!  I got home that afternoon and wanted to dance!  My belly still needed to rest a few more weeks.  No working out, no carrying anything heavy, nothing like that.  

And here I am.  8 weeks later.  Pain free.  (Except when I sneeze and sometimes when I hold my pee too long)  Most of the feeling has come back to my belly region, but there's still one section on my left inner thigh that is pretty numb where they took out lymph nodes.  I'm back to hugging and holding my kids on my lap which will never stop.  I'm even back to full duty at work, seeing my adoptive families each day!  Thankfully I fit back into my pants. . . . two months in jammy pants and slippers is too much for even me!  

I have felt such an outpouring of love and support from friends and family that I could never have imagined.  We praise God every day that the surgery removed all of the cancer, and there was none found in my lymph nodes, so there's no need for chemo or radiation which was our biggest fear!  True, this is all a lot to share with the public, sorry for the TMI, but I know I had so many questions that I needed answers for and I wanted someone to share them with me!  I'm here for anyone who has them. . . I'm happy to pass on anything I've learned.  The most important being - check out Hyster Sisters website and forums!  You can find so much support and info there!  You can even input your date of surgery and they email you updates each week with what you can expect.  Two months out and I still get encouraging emails every few days!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Catching you up

These last few months have been quite the whirlwind.  Sorry for abandoning all my blogging peeps, but we've been quite busy, and not always in a good way.

A little bit after my last post, Mr. VB and I became foster parents.  We were placed with two little girls, ages 3 and 6.  Four itty bitty girls all at once was quite the challenge, but I loved having them first.  And then it started to get challenging.  I had initially wanted to adopt these girls, but they were part of a sibling set of 9 kids total, so at the end of August, the girls were moved to a home that would be able to accommodate these two, plus a few more of their sibs.  I guess it's good in the long run, but I sure will miss those little stinkers.  Wish I could show you a pic of their adorable expressions, but we're not allowed to show their faces.  

During their few short months with us, we tried to fill their free time with a ton of "firsts."  First time camping, first snow cones, first hot chocolate, first time seeing the ocean, first time on vacation at a hotel, first time going to the mountains, first dental surgery (bleh. our 3 year old had such bad neglect that she had to have 5 fillings, 3 root canals, 4 teeth pulled, and 3 crowns.  Thankfully they put her under!)  first time apple picking and making fresh cider, first time making a cake, you name it!  Our 6 year old (almost 7 year old) even started kindergarten for the first time!  When it was time for them to go, I printed all the pictures for them and then put together a nice album with stories written on the back of the pictures so they would have it to remember us by.  Hopefully the family that adopts them will love on them forever and give them an awesome upbringing!

The day after they left, I also started struggling with the fact that life might get a bit difficult soon.  My paps have come back "abnormal" the last two years, so I had a hunch something bad might be coming down the road, and this year was the year.  I had a biopsy the day after the girls left which showed that indeed, I have precancerous cells that need to be removed.  Things just got real.

So......pre-op in a couple days and then surgery on the 21st, yes, that happens to be my 35th birthday y'all.  Happy birthday to me.

And of course, to add to the chaos, a few days after my biopsy, I had an ovarian cyst that burst one morning so I was so fortunate as to spend the entire day in the E.R. with a morphine drip, ultra sounds, and CAT scans.  The two issues aren't related to each other, but it's sure not a good thing when "lady parts" issues pile up!

I have an awesome doctor with great bedside manner, and I have full confidence in him when he says it's early and it'll be no big deal.  I'm totally done having babies, so frankly, I don't care what they do with my lady parts, but I'd honestly rather they take them out all at once instead of piece by piece if you know what I mean!

On a much happier note, we had an awesome, busy, fun-filled summer with beach and camping trips, and hubby and I got Disneyland annual passes for the fam, so you KNOW what we do every spare afternoon we have!  Luckily it's just 40 minutes or so from the house and traffic isn't usually too bad!  The kids are LOVING life!

Oh, and did I mention I went blond?

But just until I realized how expensive it is to upkeep dark roots and then I went right back!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Cupcake Star Flower Topper Tutorial

Last month, if you remember, I did an all cupcake wedding.  Super fun!  I thought you all might like to learn how to make the simple star flower that you see in the top picture.  It's a really quick flower to make, not at all time consuming like roses or mums can be, and it will have a great impact on a simple cupcake if you do a punch of color!

You'll want to start off with a small ball of gumpaste or fondant.  Personally, I like fondant because it won't dry as hard and it's much more tasty than gumpaste is!  You'll also need your calyx cutter and some cornstarch so that it won't be sticky.

Roll out the bottom of the circle between your fingers so it comes to a bit of a point like a Hershey's kiss.

Next, smash the bottom part so it's nearly flat.

Use your round pencil tool to roll it even thinner, but make sure that you roll it in every direction so that it ends up round.

You'll want to be super careful on this part so you don't damage the tip, but gently slide the calyx cutter down until you hit the bottom and then cut out your flower.  You'll want to gently push it out of the cutter with a toothpick or other thin tool because it has a tendancy to get stuck.

Next, use one of your tools that is round, but has a point.  Stab the center of the flower to make an indentation.

Then you'll want to use your pencil tool to indent each individual petal  down the center.  Press from the center of the flower out to the ends of the petal.

Once you have the shape that you'd like, set them to dry upside down.  They don't have delicate petals like other flowers so they're great to make when you have a large order and need to move quickly!

Once they're all dry, you can go back with some pearl dust and add accents down the middles of the petals!  I even added a tiny pearl in the center of the flower with a dab of water from a paint brush.  Quick and easy!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Pantry Organization

I finally did it!  It's only taken me three years in this house, and endless days of complaining about not being able to find anything, but I finally got the pantry organized!

First up, of course is finding the right containers. . . . but have you ever noticed how crazy expensive baskets and matchering containers can be?  However, being thrifty, I headed to the dollar store and found these great wire baskets!  Totally wrong color of course, but a quick spritz of metallic silver spray paint and now they're just right!

I've been teaching the girls how to pack their own lunches to save me time in the morning, so I labeled three baskets for them:  Sweets, Chips/Crackers, and Pudding/Fruit Cups.  This way, the girls can make their own sandwhich, and grab one item from each basket, as well as a juice box.  Saves momma big time in the morning, trust me!

I also HATE those nearly empty cereal boxes that I don't know to replace the next time I'm at the grocery store. . . .until the kids complain at the breakfast table that we're all out!  For a long time, I've been searching for the perfect containers - clear with the perfect teal colored lid.  Low and behold, I found them at IKEA!  And they were super cheap too!  The tall ones I used for cereal, the medium ones I used for my baking supplies like flour, sugar, bisquick, etc, and the little round ones, I used for my other small baking supplies like merigue powder, baking soda, and baking powder.

I wanted all the lunch supplies and cereal at the girls eye level so it would be easy for them to help themselves to breakfast and lunch.  My baking supplies aren't used daily, so I stuck them on the bottom shelf and since I had that top shelf that's not very tall and won't fit much, I organized all my bakeware on that one.

The top of our pantry has three very tall shelves that are pretty deep, so it's easy to lose things and then end up buying double!  The only way to avoid that situation again was to group like things and stick them in one container! 

On the top shelf I stuck all the things I didn't want the kids to get to:  Mr. VB's lunch snacks, our Friday night movie snacks, and the sprinkles for cupcakes or "decorate your waffle night." 

Once I had everything contained into it's own basket, it was surprising to see how much room there actually was in our pantry!  I could have fit several more containers in there, whereas before, it always seemed overflowing with random things that would fall out as soon as you opened the doors!

The teal and white containers are from the Dollar Tree, the wicker basket was just something extra I had in the craft room, and the sprinkles box is an awesome stackables container that I got at Joann's.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Wedding cupcakes

A little while ago I started taking orders for wedding cakes and other event cakes.  Stressful to say the least!  Mr. VB and I ultimately decided that while working full time, it's too much to take on wedding orders too!  I end up staying up all night and stressing about making things perfect for the bride.  I did however, agree to do a recent wedding that was all cupcakes, and it was SOOO much fun!  Stressful yes, but only because I had about 1,000 flowers and toppers to make, but not at all stressful like building a four tiered wedding cake!

The bride had seen something like these cupcakes online and asked me to do something similar.  Here's what we came up with!

The bride ultimately decided that she didn't want any kind of big tiered cupcake stand, and just wanted them all on this old table that was at the venue.  However, it looked a bit flat, so we opted for one cake stand in the corner for just a bit of height.

Each cupcake had it's own topper.  Some were just large pearls, some were pearl hearts, others were these white flowers, or single rose buds.

I've already shown you all how to do roses, so up next is the tutorial for the star flower that you see above! 

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