Friday, October 28, 2011

If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take...

I write this on October 28, 2011 at 1:24 am a few hours before surgery. I am currently of sound mind, although my body is a bit lacking. I pray that this e-will is not put into action because I want to live. However, this surgery looms large in my mind.

I ask that my husband, Andrew, gain all my worldly goods for his & our children's benefit. I ask that he also see that our children, Simon & Rachel, be raised in the Catholic Church. My parents, his mother, & father (along with their spouses & extended families) shall all have equal rights with the children. Simon shall also receive a John Deere pedal tractor with a wagon. Rachel shall also receive a gentle pony to ride, drive, & eventually care for when she is old enough. Andrew shall fix his Turbo Coupe to the fullest extent. DAB at work shall keep the Sirius Radio.

~Erika M. J-V.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pain in the hiney...

Poor Rachel has had a serious pain in the hiney. Something she ate or a stomach bug caused her to have a scalded bottom. Wednesday morning she woke Andrew and I by padding into our room as usual around 7 am. Andrew habitually picks her up first thing, so he stooped to lift her. As soon as his arm went behind her legs, near her diaper-clad bottom, she began screaming. She screamed and cried until she was purple and shaking. He peeled her diaper from her only to see her bottom covered with #2. As we tried to wipe it off she continued screaming, crying, and twisting away from us. Finally resolved to help her as best we could, we sat her on her potty seat to rinse her off. What we saw was horrible. Her skin had blistered, peeled, and was angry-red. She had still not stopped screaming or crying. She was shaking so badly from the obvious pain that she couldn't or wouldn't even try to stand. I had dressed for work before the true depth of her problem was revealed. Without second thought, I clutched her to my chest and held her as I tried to relieve some of her pain. Later that morning, during a fit-into-the-schedule doctor visit, the doctor said that something she ate had probably made her #2 too acidic for her delicate skin to handle. He gave her some antibiotic cream and told us to coat her hiney after every diaper change with a barrier cream. Its been 5 days and she has made significant progress on healing, although the pain and raw areas on her hiney are definitely not completely resolved.

The good news of this spur-of-the-moment doctor's visit is that I got to have them measure her. She measured about 35" tall and weighed around 30 lbs. That is tremendous! This is in the 89th percentile for both weight and height. If she continues growing as she has, her adult height (according to some doctors' estimates) will be double 35" or 70" or 5' 10"! Of course, knowing her weight & height lead us to measure Simon at home. By our measurements he is about 42" tall and weighs 45 lbs! Again, that is tremendous! That puts him in the 94th percentile for height and 98th percentile for weight. Most of the child height predictors don't calculate for children in Simon's percentiles. However, the closest I can find indicates that he'll be well over 6' 2" tall! It's amazing that both of our children are predicted to exceed our height.

Rachel's hiney didn't stop her from enjoying the wonderful weather we've been having. She and Simon are huge fans of playing in the leaf piles. Simon is working on mastering riding his bicycle with training wheels, while Rachel is still struggling with pedaling her tricycle. My mom just recently got a play-set at her house, so the kids and I traipsed between her house and our house to play musical play-set! Her slide is a bit taller, longer, and slicker than ours, which prompted Simon to calmly tell her, "This slide is quite fast." She also has a toddler swing that Rachel adores. So the kids were quite well occupied this weekend!

This is NOT me, but a good visual.

Saturday, while they napped, I went down the road to our neighbor's barn to play with his horses. After grooming 2 tiny ponies my arms were already sore. That meant I didn't have the energy to try to harness them. :-( However, I decided to use the last of my strength to brush the 2 big horses. King, the Belgian, is truly a king-sized horse. His back is at least as high as I am tall (5' 6" or 16.2 hands). He is as broad-backed as an over-stuffed ottoman. While I was brushing King and his buddy, Golden, the neighbor came out. I broke the news to him that I was unable to harness his little pony team with him. I witsfully spoke of how much I missed being able to ride. Jokingly, I patted King's neck and wondered aloud what he'd do if I sat on him. That lead to me closing him into his stall and, using an overturned bucket, leaning across his back to see his reaction. Eventually, I gathered my courage (and strength) and clambered fully astride him. Although we were in a 14' x 14' stall, it was exhilerating to sit on an animal so powerful and huge. :-D I may eventually work up the nerve to ride him around!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Respect Life & Breast Cancer Awareness

This is *my* month: Respect Life and Breast Cancer Awareness. God handed me the perfect way to live these two very important causes: a diagnosis with breast cancer while pregnant. As most of my readers know, I was diagnosed at 20 weeks and did chemotherapy while pregnant. Once I gained my strength back after chemo, delivery, more chemo, and surgeries, I have been focusing on being the best spokesperson I can be for both the Pro-Life movement and Breast Cancer Awareness. However, I seldom wear pink and never knowingly donate to the high-profile breast cancer awareness organizations. The reason for the former is that I just plain don't like pink. However, the reason for the latter is that I do not respect many of the breast cancer awareness organizations. This lack of respect stems from their stance on pro-life issues as well as the ways they handle their donations.

Initially after my diagnosis I searched some of the well-known breast cancer (and general cancer) organizations for options. I was shocked and abhorred the options presented: abort my precious baby in order to receive treatment to save my life OR keep my precious child and risk my disease progressing beyond a point of treatment. I chose the unknown -- searching for an alternative. I could not fathom being told to end the life of my baby just to undergo treatment. My heart and soul ached for mothers that thought those were the only options. I found MD Anderson and wonderful doctors who had 20 years experience giving chemotherapy to women with breast cancer. While I'm not certain of their stance on embryonic stem cell use, their help for me through this terrible time has garnered my support. Some other organizations that respect both life AND have resolved to find a cure for this horrible disease are: PolyCarp Research Institute (another that I'm unsure of their ESC use, but fairly confident they are within Church teaching -- ie do not use them), Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, and National Breast Cancer Foundation. I also favor direct donations to individuals who are struggling with this disease. During treatment there are many costs and few sources of income or support -- especially if the sufferer is also the family breadwinner.

I am getting ready to embark on another necessary struggle. The pain I have been suffering with since my mastectomy has grown unabated no matter what I've tried, including my exchange surgery, theraputic massage, pain medications, and muscle relaxers.We are heading down to Houston, TX (MD Anderson) for a second reconstruction option on October 25th. I am having a DIEP reconstruction surgery done that will put me out of work for approximately 6-8 weeks. Our time down there in Houston, TX will be no less than 10 days with a full week of me in the hospital. That is a significant amount of money just to shelter, feed, and transport us on top of our regular home bills. I am also unsure whether my request for donated time from the state (as they've done for all my other surgeries) will be able meet my needs. The employees of the state of KY are truly generous with their time, but this will be my 3rd extended leave. We (state employees) have also had "donated" time (unpaid furloughs) in the past year. I know everyone is struggling financially. However, I am the bread winner in our family since Andrew has been incapacitated (according to no less than 3 doctors) with his back. My paycheck is what keeps us sheltered, fed, clothed, and insured. If I am forced to take days off without pay for this extended period of time, our family will greatly suffer.

With this in mind, I find myself cringing as I ask for support from anyone who can give it. Prayers and thoughts are greatly appreciated. In addition, direct support (through PayPal -- see button* on the side bar), my medical fund through PNC Bank (in Owensboro, KY called Erika Vandiver's Medical Fund), or any other means would be greatly appreciated. I hate to ask for financial assistance -- especially in these economically difficult times -- however, if I've learned anything during this journey, it is to ask for help when it is needed. Help is needed. Thank you for your continued support!

*The PayPal account is listed as That is Andrew's account. I cannot use my own due to my inactivity on both eBay and PayPal my account is severely limited. The transaction description has been changed to ERIKAS FUND for bank statement purposes.

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Smiling already at 2 weeks

Smiling already at 2 weeks
Rachel has been smiling as a response to other people since day one.

And two shall become one...

And two shall become one...
In 2006, Andrew & I became one before God and family! Shortly thereafter we became 3 with the birth of Simon in 2008... Then 4 with the addition of Rachel in 2009!

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