Category Archives: chronic illness

What About….

Did you know P!nk has a new album out? Yes? No? Xun, what does this have to do with anything? I love Pink. She’s a better, badass, outspoken version of who I want to be. I have lyrics from one of her songs tattooed on me…

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…because I tend to be pretty self destructive and I want to give better words, better directive, better inspiration to my daughters. So I try to teach them, and I try to live the words… “Change the voices in your head, make them like you instead”.

Have you ever listened to the way you talk to yourself? Women, it seems, tend to be pretty unkind to themselves. Would you let someone say something you tell yourself to your loved one? Your mom? Your daughter? Your best friend?

My point is I have been listening to Pink’s new album on repeat because I woke up with What About Us stuck in my head.

It feels like there’s always so much going on. Wildfires, threats of war, natural disasters. How can you breathe when the world gives you so many things to dodge and worry about? I have family and friends in Northern California too close to the fires right now and I hate how helpless I feel. But I know that they are all staying on top of the news and keeping tabs on each other…
“You good? No evacuation orders?
“Nope, we’re good here. You?”
“Yup. Good so far here too.”
“Okie dokie….stay inside. Can’t breathe out there.”

My mom, my son, my uncle….I’m worried and I wish I could just put them in a bubble and bring them here where it’s been raining for the last couple of days. Just long enough to be safe…

Maybe that’s why I woke up with another black eye today. That’s the hidden truth of chronic invisible illness. What you see is not my reality.

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The picture on the left is me just out of the shower, no make-up, half way between what the rest of the world sees and what nobody sees. Dark line under my left eye, and something that almost looks like a bruise on my left cheekbone. The picture on the right is hair and make up done and what I show the rest of the world.

One of the biggest reasons I think “invisible illness” is invisible is because on the days that the flares, the pain, the struggle is the highest, we disappear. I know I do. If my pain levels are higher than I can handle I tend to go off line. No social media, no writing, no phone calls, no connections. And call it vanity, but I definitely don’t leave the house if I look like crap. In fact, anyone that knows me knows I almost never leave my house without my hair and makeup done.

Just because you don’t see the struggle, the pain, the fear…doesn’t mean it’s not there.

What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us? ~ P!nk

 

It Hurts

When I’m overwhelmed or there’s just a lot going on in my life, I tend to get really quiet. Yes, I’m aware that when it would make the most sense for me to write it out, cry out to the world, I tend to shut down. Retreat into myself. I’m aware. I still call it a survival mechanism. A leftover from a tough childhood.

The things that hurt…

…on the day my sister (in law) died, my son kicked me out of his life and it’s taken me about a year and a half to get something that almost resembles the beginnings of a start. But he’s my son, that’s my boy. I’ll take the pain. There’s no way I’m walking away.
…I miss B (my sister) all the time. I wonder if I could have done more for her. I talk to her a lot. Which sounds like I’m just a leeeetle bit crazy. But I believe she’s around. I think….I hope that we can have these conversations and she hears me and I can find bits that tell me we’re communicating.
…I miss my dad. I miss my dog. I like to think they’re off in this amazing better version of here. And together.

…And my biggest secret. My wedding anniversary is supposed to be tomorrow. I mean …it still will be. The date marking an event that happened 18 years ago will still exist. But mostly only because I’m still alive, sometimes against my will, and I’m still here. I packed up and left for about a year, 10 years ago. But all hell broke loose in my life and I got scared. I retreated back into a life that was familiar. I told myself I was happy.

Then I got sicker and sicker….
Chronic pain, complications from my hip replacement, pneumonia in both lungs with O2 stats dropping to 86%,leading to in home O2 for 3 months. More surgeries, more treatments, all while a full time college student, all while moving to and through 3 different states, all while trying to make a marriage work and take care of my kids and my family.

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary, 18 years ago I stood at the base of the Ko’olau Mountains and recited words from an event I wrote.
Now, I don’t even know what “thing” (silver? cotton? silk?) the anniversary stands for. I don’t have a card, or a gift, or a plan. Because I am unhappy. Unhappy as in I go to sleep more nights than not hoping I don’t wake up.

I’m sorry to think that for my mom and my kids, but I just feel like my reasons, my purposes…are done. They’re over and I can go now. I mean I’ve lived through 6 surgeries, septicemia, a brain tumor, radiation, and MRSA . And 2 blood transfusions. When is enough enough?

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2016 was an all out, no holds barred suckfest. Universally.

But 2017 leaves me feeling like my life is upside down. I’m unhappy. And I don’t fight…..well, with anyone anymore, but my husband in particular. And very few people know that or know why. But the fight has been chipped away, and there’s not much left.

So, yes, I am very quiet lately. I am struggling. I am unhappy. And those are the kinds of things that leave me retreating into myself.

The Next Thing

It’s been a minute since I sent out a missive. When a lot is going on, I think I tend to step away from my blogging, fill it in with journaling, but my introverted nature takes over and I get quieter.

Where to start? Well, my labs from this year’s physical came back and Doc PCM was very pleased with my numbers. GGT came down by 110%, just a hair on the high side, but trending down so more more freaking about about liver function panels, etc. Seem me and my liver are mostly fine! So that was excellent news! Vitamin D, B12 excellent levels, cholesterol came down. The last bit to close that business out is a retest of my TSH and T4 in November to see if a change in my Synthroid might be needed, and that’s easy.

I had the requested thyroid ultrasound, and the report notes ” no nodules seen, finding consistent with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.”

So the next adventure will be me submitting a request for a specialist (Rheumatology maybe?) for pinning down that EDS diag-nonsense. According to my PCM (and therefore she who is the primary traffic director) it boils down to a lot of blood tests and my plan of care won’t change much, but (like I told her) my doctors like to have a diag-nonsense they understand. It doesn’t change my life, my care, or how I’m managed right now. I already have “benign brain neoplasm”, “left total hip replacement, Nov. 2007”, and a couple of other CRPS-type diagnononsense, so I get it.

But I know the docs like to have something to pull together all of these different surgeries, pain management, brain tumor, implants, etc. They like it when I have a diagnosis they understand, even if it doesn’t change much for the patient. And with a few of my doctors bringing it up to me, it was worth diving into research.

I don’t do Dr. Google or WebMD…..I read academic papers, case studies, research papers. And when so much fits, and I have 2 of the docs I see the most saying “yeah, go check it out.” I requesting the referral. So, that’ll be my next project.

So I guess that’s all the Xunnie medical updates:

Yearly MRI w& w/o contrast on my brain: Tumor is still there, stable in size. kthxbai.
Yearly physical: good labs, retest T4 & TSH in November
Thyroid ultrasound: measured, noted “Findings consistent with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. No discrete nodules noted”

Still a brain tumor patient, still interesting to ortho surgeons. But strong and doing better this year.

EXCEPT~~~~~~~~~~~~

My youngest daughter starts high school tomorrow and I haven’t quite figured out if and/or how much Imma freak OUT.

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It isn’t just my youngest starting high school, it’s just that my youngest is starting public high school and I have been Homschooling her for the last 8 years. So yeah. Big change! BIGBIGBIG changes for both of us.

So after 8 years, it seems I am out of a job, relegated to “just mom”.

It’s good stuff for her, and I am so excited for her to make friends and join clubs, all the good stuff out there!

But as for me, in the quiet, at the end of the day, I stare at the wall and I wonder. Do I freak out? How much? Should I?

My youngest is my rainbow baby (and if you get that, I am so very sorry), she walked early….9 1/2 months old, 2 feet tall toddling ….walking all over the house.
Now at 14, she’s thin and tall…just a couple of inches taller (*spoiler alert: I am not, repeat: NOT surprised my kids taller than me.

And in my middle of this, I try to remind myself to be grateful, #blessed, we are thankfully able to get through all this.
I don’t have to look far to see that people are struggling.
Danny (my MIL’s son) had to have a quadruple bypass, then he had complications.
Nick, a family friend, motorcycle wreck last week , had to have surgery and has rehab and PT coming up.
Another friend , Danny, had ACL surgery.
Jeff had rotator cuff surgery,
Destiny got diagnosed with a brain tumor and is getting fitted for her mask for radiation therapy (a process I’m familiar with….I did it 3 years ago this week!),
and hub’s Aunt Connie passed away (sudden heart attack).
And finally, one of my favorite people just had her Dad move back in. He has advanced lung cancer. He’s a hell of a fighter.

I see all the struggles and I know how hard some of these things are to fight through.
My heart hurts. Reach out. #Loveoneanother. #Connect. #Support. Don’t wait…..tell them they’re important to you.
Hugs, love, positive energy…..<3 ~ Xun

Labs and Crap

Time for my “yearly physical”…..bwahahahaha. Yeah, I know. As someone that sees a doctor no less than every 8 weeks, it cracks me up when I have to go see my primary care traffic director every year. She likes to pretend she does more than bitch about my labs and direct referrals, but we know better.

She’s young and in her defense she’s only had me for a patient for about a year and a half and I’m a pain in the ass. It’s not her fault that she’s in over her head…she wasn’t even in med school when I had my hip replacement.

I went over to the lab like a good girl and had them pull my fasting labs last Monday morning so that she had everything before I see her Tuesday afternoon. They pulled 7 vials out of me!! Pretty sure I should have had a cookie before I drove home, but the good news is I am a super easy stick. No rolling veins or tough spots to try to find. And everything went smoothly, so I’m hoping I was the easiest patient that lab tech had all day.

So of course I had to log into the patient portal and get my labs so I can analyze them before I even see her.

My TSH and T4 levels look like they might have to raise my Synthroid dose. But they’ve been creeping it up for over 10 years. I’m not surprised. It is autoimmune thyroid.

My metabolic panel looks pretty good. Hemoglobin and hematocrit are just barely low, but they’re good for me. Vitamin D and B12 are really good! Yay me for taking my vitamins!

The biggest thing I noticed was my GGT is still high but nothing like it was last year. (I did have MRSA then!) And it’s trending down.

And I got a hold of my Cobalt and Chromium levels from last September and of course they’re high, but they’re normal people high, not MoM implant high. And honestly I don’t care. I’m not open to revision surgery. November is my 10th anniversary of my hip surgery, so the way I see it I’m doing pretty damn good.

More updates after my appointment this week!

 

The Leibster Award

I wanted to say Thank You SO much to Carly from My Hearing Loss Story for nominating me for this award. I started blogging in 2009 or 2010 (I think it was) as a way to figure out the changes life with chronic illness and chronic pain brought. That was post hip replacement/possible Fibro diagnosis/just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. So in a short frame of time a lot of my life changed. I finished my degree program, started homeschooling my youngest, and moved just about once a year there for a while.

I have made some new friends and learned so much through my little blogging group and finding people that understand and share their own changes and frustrations. It’s nice to know we’re not alone!

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The rules for the Liebster Award:

  1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you and display the award
  2. Give 11 random facts about yourself
  3. Nominate 11 blogs
  4. Notify them of the nomination
  5. Give them 11 questions to answer

 

11 Random Facts About Xun

  1. I am an only child.
  2. I have three kids of my own.
  3. I used to be a dancer, which is probably why my doctors missed hip dysplasia and all the symptoms that are now leading to an EDS diagnosis.
  4. I am a writer and had some of my work published in a book of poetry in 1999.
  5. I have 13 tattoos and 7 piercings.
  6. I was the first woman in my family to go to college since my great-grandmother.
  7. I have lived in 8 states.
  8. Alice in Wonderland is my favorite story (which lead to Xun in Wonderland!)
  9. My first car was a little ’78 Datsun that my best friend nicknamed “Corky”.
  10. My family goes to the Renaissance Festival every year and I have a full set of garb.
  11. Xunae was created from my WoW character and she’s my alter-ego (and the better, badass version of me!).

My questions from Carly:

  1. Where do you live? Maryland, USA (about 40 miles from Washington, DC)
  2. What is the most delicious food you have ever eaten? Oh! I could go on and on about this! I got to grow up in Hawaii and the food there is amazing!! But my favorite thing and the first thing that comes to mind is Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee.
  3. What do you like to do in your free time? Read (I *love* my OwlCrate subscription box!!), game (I play Diablo 3), watch movies…
  4. Three things you can’t live without… The cheesy answer? My kids. The truest answer? my meds. But the best answer in the spirit of this: books, being able to go be by the water when I need to think, and music.
  5. What is your guiltiest pleasure? cheesy rom coms
  6. Describe yourself in three words. brave, strong, creative
  7. What single quality do you most appreciate in people? honesty
  8. Say something nice about yourself… When I love someone, I love them completely and I will protect them with my life.
  9. Why did you start blogging? to connect with people, to share information, to have an outlet
  10. Something that makes you laugh? my kids, my cats, witty humor
  11. Something you want to achieve or do in the next 5 years. Get off my arse and get my book written.

My nominees for the Liebster Award are:

  1. Kara from Polishing Dookie
  2. Laura from RibbonRX
  3. Pamela from Living in a Limited World
  4. Wendy from Picnic With Ants
  5. Laura from Bipolar for Life
  6. Brittany from Shits & Giggles
  7. Kate from Kate is Rising
  8. Lisa from Life of an El Paso Woman
  9. Sheldon 
  10. Kayla from Intrestinal Fortitude
  11. Migraines From Hell 

My questions for my nominees:

  1. If you opened your eyes tomorrow in a whole new existence, what is the first thing you would do?
  2. What would you eat if you could only have one thing for an entire year?
  3. What’s your zodiac sign? Do you think it suits you?
  4. What is your perfect day?
  5. Who is your favorite author?
  6. Where would you like to visit?
  7. What is your favorite quote?
  8. What is your middle name?
  9. Savory or sweet?
  10. What is your favorite animal?
  11. Who do you look up to?

 

To my nominees: please don’t feel like you have to complete this – I took a couple of weeks before I wrote this up and it takes a bit of time. If you have the time and want to write this up, then please do (I would love to see the answers!), but if you don’t want to share too much info or you just don’t have the time (or energy!), please don’t feel pressured to. I just wanted to share and to let some of the people I read and have met through here how awesome I think they are!

*gentle hugs* and Happy Blogging! (And THANK YOU so much!!) ~ Xun

In The Quiet

I have been pretty quiet on my blog for a bit now. Some of it because I’m going through stuff in my head, other reasons just being that I haven’t had much to report on my illness. Last year I couldn’t seem to stabilize, this year I have.

But it’s July 17. And aside from the insanity of the world and my country’s “leaders”, losses (George Romero. You will be missed.), and life, the universe, and fish; July 17, 2001 is the date my before became my after. Post part-of-my-world-didn’t-make-sense, post PTSD, post Rainbow baby, sixteen years later I am a very different person. And so I usually stop and take stock on July 17.

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The stuff I’m going through in my head? I’m trying to figure out how to want to live again. This is the kind of thing I haven’t touched on in my posts about scans and tests and insane amounts of radiation. We talk about the scans, the tests, the treatments, surgeries, recoveries, and medications of chronic illness, but what about when they tell you it’s inoperable? Incurable?

I got told I have a relatively small, most-likely benign tumor in my brain *but* it is inoperable, incurable, post-treatment (radiation) stable, but I’m still a brain cancer patient. I spent two years (give or take) preparing to die.

Inoperable, chemo’s not an option, radiation means scary complications are possible, and in some cases (brain edema) expected. I fought with my oncologist and refused steroids because the patient cases I read about them scared the hell out of me. High dose radiation scared me, the specific steroids for the brain edema scared me more. So I fought with him and fought through three weeks of brain edema and a trip to the ER that required meds, fluids, and a surprisingly high dose of potassium before they would release me.

Three years later I’m pretty stable. (aside from the awesomely clumsy episode of me dropping cleaning supplies on the bridge of my nose yesterday…….frickin OW)

Last year I couldn’t seem to stabilize. I had MRSA in my lungs and throat and spent almost an entire year coughing up green yuck. Another trip down the stairs. Frontal lobe spikes on my EEG. This year, I finally got my lungs back, I’m still clumsy but the stairs and I have an understanding for now, and I can (usually) finish a sentence.

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My body seems to take a year to get through something. Instead of having pneumonia, getting antibiotics, and recovering; I had pneumonia, lots of antibiotics, 3 different inhalers, and eventually in-home oxygen when my O2 levels dropped under 86% walking around my doctor’s office before, about a year later, I recovered.

Dunno why. But a lot of things take me a year.

Throw an artificial hip (10 years ago this November), a brain tumor, and crappy MRSA lungs at me and I start making peace with my the great hereafter. Or something along those lines.

We talk a lot about life with an illness or during a treatment, but we don’t mention staring into the mirror and making peace with your mortal coil. But it does happen, and we should know we’re not alone. I should know I’m not alone.

So I’m kind of, sort of, coming out the other side of that. I’m thinking this stupid thing won’t kill me. At least not yet.

So while I’m pretty quiet on my blog, my journals show I’m still thinking, writing, struggling. I’m still living.

Me Without Healthcare….

This came through my inbox by way of another awesome chick I follow. Her take:

When I read over the healthcare bill draft released to the public last week, I couldn’t help but cry. If this bill passes Senate, I won’t live to see my 40th birthday. This isn’t a maybe, it’s an absolute fact. This is secondary to the millions of others who will be affected by this and I’m terrified for all of us.

Nikki perfectly and succinctly articulates the way many of our government officials view those with disability and hardship – that these problems are self-created by the individuals who are on these programs. Her mock obituary is a sobering view of what the passing of this bill will do to her, myself, and millions of other Americans.

Many of us in the chronic illness community are already fighting to be taken seriously, to have access to pain relief, to be seen and heard. The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but no option for health care is so much worse.

My friends, my sisters, my daughter….need access to health care. Even without the challenges of an inoperable brain tumor, or a lung transplant, or kidney disease, Crohn’s Disease, or any of the myriad of autoimmune diseases, health care should not be a privilege.

Yearly preventative check-ups, well baby and child care, vaccines (don’t start with me), birth control, or emergency services for when your kid falls of their bike!! These are not unreasonable expectations for a developed society.

Please write to your representatives. Yes, again, if you have to. Stand up for those that don’t have a voice, stand up for your loved ones, stand up and tell DC this is not okay.

Source: Me Without Healthcare….

Do You Know What YOUR Brain Looks Like?

I have been terrible with up dates, I know.

“hey Xun….whatcha doin? How’s the brain? Seizures? What’s the little fuuuuhhhnny thing doing in there anyway?”

Well, What I DO know is that

Percival is still hanging around. I have images from this year’s scan that were done on Wednesday, June 7.

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Good news(ish): He IS still there and not like the size of a grapefruit, and if he’s grown, it’s not much. At least I don’t think so….

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Xunnie, a deviated septum, Percival (the kid loves this one with the eyeballs….)

So, not a lot to report on just yet. But I do think I have a demon in my brain….

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Should I be worried? Anybody got any Holy Water hanging around I could maybe borrow for an experiment? =D (Should we name the demon?)

I am hoping to get the report for this MRI in the next few days. I did explain that I was waking up feeling like the bed was shaking a couple of times, and that I had managed to scratch my face on in my sleep. Dysphasia ruled neurologic in origin, aphasia as well, EEG better than the last one, minor changes to my meds.

So….yeah, updates on Percival and me in a couple of days hopefully.  Until then…..
we start with what’s been stuck in my head for 3 days….

Along with stuff in the back of my head, on my playlists, haunting me….

 

There are a lot of memories intertwined with allllllll of the music on my phone, my hard drive, and hell even still the CDs I shepp around!

Xun = Music, Music IS Xun.

 

…Xunnie’s Need for Updates

And now for the other half of the title. I know I have been lax on updates, and I am sorry for that. Lazy, exhausted, overwhelmed. Sometimes there really isn’t much change to report on, and sometimes I have symptoms that I haven’t figured out yet so I don’t say anything.

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But, I have had two different people, from two different parts of my life, note this week to me that they’re seeing me out and about and staying busy, and it got me to thinking that their surprise probably comes from “I have a brain tumor” and then not a lot of updates recently. And if you saw my instagram or my personal facebook page, you might think I have been pretty busy, out and about, and maybe even a little “better”?

Like most chronically ill people I only post pictures when I feel up to it, and I only go out on the days I’m doing okay. What you don’t see are the days it takes me most of the day to get a shower and get dressed, or the days I crawl back into bed because my head is hurting. And that’s my fault. I don’t share the hard stuff.

Even as I’m coming up on my third anniversary of my tumor diagnosis, I still have hair almost to my waist because I had radiation and not chemo. I still go to museums because that what we like to do. I post about going to the movies, but the movie theatre is only 10 minutes from my house, and that might be all I do that day. I get dressed and put on make-up because I feed the shallow, girly part of me. I don’t “look sick” because that scares people.

But I am having some symptoms that may indicate my tumor is progressing. I have dysphagia to deal with now. And moments that might just be aphasia or they might be absence seizures. I forget things or lose words way more often than I’d like to admit. And in the last few months I have had 3 episodes of “sleeping” but feeling like my bed was shaking, only to wake up to quiet at 3 or 4 am. Seizures? Muscle spasms? Dreams?

I’m not sure yet, but I see my neurologist on Monday, June 5, and it’s time for my brain MRI scans (with contrast….oh joy).

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When I was diagnosed in July of 2014, my doctors believed that I have a meningioma or a shwanomma, which should be benign and slow growing. I had some pretty aggressive radiation treatments in August, 2014. So, by no I should be stable and moving towards scans every other year. But I haven’t stabilized yet, and my tumor is too close to my brain stem for surgery.

So, no, I haven’t been as good at updates and postings about life with and without a tumor as I wish I was, or as much as I should be. But it’s time for scans and updates, and I’ll get my act together. I promise! 😉

Happy….

Happy Mother’s Day to you Spoonies in America that have spawn.

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Or…..
Happy second Sunday in May to those that aren’t in America, don’t have spawn, or are choosing to ignore the muss and fuss today. And gentle hugs. And if someone hasn’t told you that you’re awesome and they’re grateful you’re here, I am. You’re awesome. And I’m grateful you’re on this rock swirling through space with me.

Happy Spring Sunday in May to my sisters, spoonies, fellow strong chicks, and amazing people that need (or don’t need) a day to celebrate or just a reason to remind you that you’re awesome, loved, and appreciated!

Am I being too cheerful or cheesy? I probably am, but I’m also aware that it’s easy to get lost in the everyday and it’s nice to be reminded that you matter. Call it “Xunnie’s learning that she’s lost too many people not to say the good stuff when you can”. Or just “be good to one another” if the first one is too many words.

Also, quick side note, especially if you’re a girl: I just watched “Embrace” on NetFlix. I had donated and supported Taryn’s Body Image Movement way back when it was a picture that went viral and inspired a kickstarter and after finally having the chance to see the result of her hard work, I am honored and grateful to have watched that with my youngest daughter and shared the message.

So, love your body. Even if it’s pissing you off today or it refuses to cooperate. It’s the only one you’ve got. At least right now. And go add Embrace to your Netflix queue.

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Xunnie, right before bed a few weeks ago. This is me, no hair done up, no make up, no filters, and no muss or fuss. I spend a lot of time pissed off at this ridiculous body because I can’t run or dance anymore. Because it hurts. Because I don’t have as much control as I’d like anymore.

But in this picture I was actually feeling pretty good that day. I had gone for a walk and it felt good to get out and walk around and look at some trees in the Spring. It was a beautiful day out in my corner of the mid-Atlantic US middle of nowhere, so I went for a walk, and I was feeling pretty good that day.

So happy Mother’s Day, happy middle of May, and gentle hugs.

Oh! I know I have been shit on posting updates. Partly because there’s not always much to share, partly because last month was a little crazy busy for us. But it’s almost time for my yearly scans so I will have updates soon. I have been having some symptoms that could mean my tumor is progressing or growing and I have been putting off going in to get an EDS diagnosis confirmed. But my lungs are slowing healing and I’m not coughing as much anymore, so I’ll take that for good news right now!

Updates soon. I promise!