Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Absent and Accounted For

After the surgeon saw my leg this morning (no pictures this time - suffice to say the hole is approximately 11x8 inches and definitely shows signs of infection - he said i need surgery asap.

I go in tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM. He is concerned, and feels very, very badly for having not responded to my previous requests to do something more drastic as things were going rapidly south. But he has promised that I will keep my leg, and he has a plan set in motion to help me heal.

I will be staying in the hospital for a while - until he is completely satisfied that my leg is actually healing and is healthy. I don't know if that means a couple days or a couple weeks. Regardless, I have printed off a LOT of coloring pages, have packed my notebook, journal, Bible (most important thing to pack), and ways of coloring to keep me busy while I lay there in a hospital bed.

Your prayers and support are appreciated. I will have my phone, so will be able to update via twitter, so you can always watch my sidebar for updates.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

>So, Slurpy is good. Yes, I said Slurpy. I have named my V.A.C. unit. It makes the most inappropriate slurping sounds, and generally when all else is silent. So Slurpy it is. It's been great not to have to deal with the dressing changes, and to not have to smell the infection. It's also nice that all of the yuck that comes from the wound is being sucked into an air-tight container and I don't have to do anything with it other than turn it in to the nurse at my next appiontment.

That's the good - Slurpy is working out well. Chugging along at a continuous negative pressure of 175mmHg, with high intensity. It is helping to control the pain (although right at the moment, I am up instead of napping due to pain).

Now for the bad. The eschar hasn't receded or anything - still black, still hard, still leathery. Worse yet, I had to do a change of dressing (add more) on Friday night because even more tissue had died. And today, I'm looking at possibly doing again. I wasn't supposed to have to do anything at all with it until I saw the doctor on Tuesday.

The ugly? I think I'm looking at surgery, again. So much more flesh has died. And there's a lot that looks like it will die soon - it's red, raw, peeling, hard, hot, and mottled with white and yellow.

But the best? My God has promised me something. He said that by the stripes of Jesus, I have been healed. I have no fear. I know this will resolve. I know that my leg will heal. That I will continue to have two fully intact and fully functional lower limbs.

For those of you who have a certain... unusual curiosity (like myself) here are links to a couple photos of the way my leg looks today:

You'll notice that there are red lines around the wound - those lines are where the living tissue meets the dead tissue. It's bright red there and extremely sensitive. And that's all I've got to say about my leg today.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Today's Appointment.

Today did not go how I expected. On Wednesday, I was told that I'd be having all the dead flesh cut out today. Using only a local, and no sedation. This would be okay as far as pain goes - I can handle that. But it would have caused horrific flashbacks.

Today, w showed up and the surgeon informed us that the "line of demarcation" (which is the line where the dead flesh meets living flesh) hasn't clearly defined itself yet. So he put the wound vac on without removing any of the dead flesh. Meaning no pain for me! Well, some, but not much.

I'm a little confused by this, as it does say in the little instruction book that if there is necrotic tissue with an eschar present, the wound vac should not be used until the eschar has been completely removed. BUT... I will trust him on this one. His plan is to see me back in clinic on Tuesday, and if the necrosis (and the related eschar) have grown/spread, I'll have to go back into surgery. He wants to avoid that at all costs, so we will see how things go on that front.

Meanwhile, I did talk briefly with him about the reasons he cannot remove the dead flesh with a local or even spinal anesthetic, and he's agreed that if it comes down to removing things, I will be put under general anesthesia.

So I am very grateful for today's outcome.

The wound vac itself is silly - it's like having to carry around a purse. And it makes little gurgles and slurpy sounds. And there's almost no pain in the wound itself since the vac was applied. It fits perfectly inside my boot - I just leave the top a bit looser so the hose isn't digging into my leg at all. It's weird walking - I can feel the hose brushing my leg, and I'm just not used to having things like that hanging down inside my pants. :) The doctor was optimistic, I think, and I am going to choose to go with his optimism.

His one concern was the fact that there have been five cultures done on this wound (well, two on the original and three on the surgical one). The original cultures showed 5 kinds of bacteria, one exclusive to parrots and one "hospital bug." Obviously, someone doing my wound care didn't do a good job of washing his or her hands. Anyway... the post-surgical cultures have been growing only tiny quantities of unidentifiable organisms. In other words, no obvious infection. However, the surgeon agrees with me that it acts like infection and more importantly smells like infection. So I'm on some very high-dose antibiotics right now in an effort to stop the spread of tissue death. My God, He is God. I know I will be well and whole again. I know I will keep my leg. I know I will return to full health.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010


Tomorrow, I have an appointment early in the morning with my surgeon. His current plan is to use lidocaine as a local anesthetic, and carve out the dead tissue while I am wide awake. In an awkward position on a hard table in a "procedure room."

I have issues with this. First, lidocaine has never been overly effective with me. I should know, having had nearly 1,000 stitches in my life. Second, and most importantly, the act of removing my flesh, while I am awake, is guaranteed to set off flashbacks. Not puny little ones, either. Big ones. Ones that all but consume me.

I have a plan, to attempt to get at the very least a twilight anesthesia administered. So if you wouldn't mind, please pray that I'm able to accomplish that without issue.

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Watch and See

Some serious stuff has happened spiritually. Watch and see what God is doing...

(I'll give you a hint... there's pink tissue appearing in the middle of my leg wound)

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Surgeon Says...

So, as some of you may know, I've been on the phone with a man who is not my husband an awful lot lately. His name is Dr. T, and he is my surgeon. I struggled for two days to convince him to see me, because my leg wound was turning black. He kept saying it was fine, that it wasn't really black. Actually, my description yesterday was "the middle is black, and the skin radiating out from the edges is mottled yellow and green and brown and black."

I've got a picture of what I was trying to describe. It's a bit... graphic. So if you're squeamish, do not click on the link below.

Click here to see what my leg looked like on April 20th

However, after my husband saw what it looked like, he called the surgeon himself and got me an appointment. Went in, had to wait 45 minutes, and the surgeon came in. He looked at it and I promise, he did a double take. He apparently really didn't think it was actually black. He thought that we were seeing blood clots or something of the sort. No, not so much.

He scraped away at the tissue he described as "dead" and then scraped some more. Then he got giddy, and called it a word I can't remember. And then the bomb got dropped - it was actually my fault. The cutting I did in January (haven't done any since before the last time I was hospitalized, by the way) has really hindered my superficial blood supply. The wound he made to treat the previous tissue death, inadvertently removed the blood supply for much of the surrounding skin/tissue as well.

Because of that, the skin, and the tissue beneath, has died. It looks gross. Smells worse than it looks. And it creeps me out. He said it's okay - that it will be self-limiting and should be about done progressing. On Friday, his plan is to keep me wide awake, use only a local anesthetic, and remove the tissue that has died. Time for a little baring of my soul, so to speak... that absolutely, thoroughly terrifies me. So if you pray for me, please, PLEASE pray for peace as I go in Friday morning. Once all of the dead tissue is removed, he will be putting a wound vac on. I haven't researched this yet, so if anybody has had one, or knows much about them, please share.

After all his scraping and carrying on, I don't think my leg looks any better at all. I think it looks worse, to be honest. But here is what it looks like today. Again, if you are squeamish, do NOT click the link below.

Click here to see what my leg looked like on April 21st

So, that's my update for those of you (and there have been quite a few) who have asked how my leg is.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Please pray?

So a few weeks back, I took a walk through a cemetery with a friend. Yes, this is the sort of thing I really like doing. She said she had fun too.

Anyway... we came across this marker. This girl of stone kneels in timeless tribute to someone who lived nine short years. She died in the 1950's. I don't know what it is, exactly, that is so very appealing to me about this, but appealing it is.

I'm asking you now to do what this stone girl is depicting - pray. Seems there are more complications with my leg. I am not going to go into detail, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared.

All of the visible evidence says that I'll end up having surgery again. I see the surgeon Friday morning. The only way I can see to avoid more surgery is if God Himself miraculously heals my leg. So on Friday, I will either be here proclaiming how awesome it was to see no evidence of the problem anymore, or I will be having surgery.

Your prayers are so appreciated.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

It's What I Do

Sometimes people ask me what, exactly, I do all day. Truth is, right now, what I do all day can be best described by pictures. I go through this process "as often as possible," according to my surgeon's instructions.

First, I take something to take the edge off the pain of the coming procedure... (usually only a half tablet).

Next, I use some sterile saline to wet the dressing that is currently on my leg. This makes it a little less painful when I rip it off. I had been gently peeling things off, trying to reduce or eliminate pain. But yesterday, the surgeon informed me that I need to literally rip the dressing off, so that I am also ripping away the tissue that's stuck to it. Appealing, eh? I still cheat a little though, and at least get it good and wet first.

Once the old dressing is off, I put Bacitracin on any exposed living tissue, so I don't rip that off with the dressing.

It takes a lot of gauze to cover the wound right now - it's about the size of my fist and goes down to the muscle and bone.

I put in a few layers just to "pack" things, and then a couple layers to cover everything up.

And then a couple more layers of packing material.

We go through a lot of this stuff right now... because all actual dressing materials are removed and thrown away three times a day, minimum.

I try to make this the worst that my loved ones have to see - a scarred up leg with gauze wrapped around it.

Once the wound is covered, I take this gel and rub it into my leg below the dressing, all the way down to my toes. It is an anti-inflammatory/pain reliever, and I am SO grateful for it.

It really helps with the swelling. Controlling the swelling is key to avoiding even more tissue death.

Next, I begin wrapping my leg from the foot upward, using an Ace bandage. It starts somewhat tight around my foot, and loosens as it goes up. This is also to help with the swelling, and to hopefully prevent further tissue death.

The trouble with Ace bandages is that they tend to wrinkle as you wear them, and the tension tends to even out. I want to avoid that - I need tension on my foot, and absolutely can not have tension on my shin. So I go over the bandage with Vet Wrap (the animal equivalent to Coban - identical in every way except for price).

Once my leg is wrapped up to the bottom of the dressing, I cut the Vet Wrap. I then use a second piece of Vet Wrap to continue up and over the dressing. This makes it easier to do middle-of-the-day changes and means I don't have to remove everything every time I do a dressing change.

Now I'd like to introduce you to Boot. Boot has been my companion since January, and I'm really not sure when Boot will be leaving. I was on my way to being Boot free when this setback happened.

I put my foot into Boot, like so...

...and then I close it up and secure the straps.

Lastly, I turn this little knob and then use the light colored "pump bump" to inflate the air bladders inside Boot. These help to reduce swelling, which helps to reduce... well, yeah, you get the picture. And then, several hours later, I do it again.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Roy

*For more of a background, please read this post from last year first*

There is a man named Roy. He is a good man. A gentleman. An exuberant and a cheerful man. He adores his wife. Loves his children with all his heart. Keeps His God ever before Him. Can stand tall through any storm.

Today is his birthday. I don't know which birthday - I don't know him that closely. And I can't ask him. He's not really here, you see. He is in heaven.

And today, his wife asked a question that really pulled at me. "Do they celebrate birthdays in heaven?"

My answer? I don't know. I don't see it in the Bible, but that doesn't mean they don't. Maybe today, there are all of those who went on before him, and they are gathered round celebrating the fact that Roy was born onto this planet. Or maybe it's just Natalie and him, sitting somewhere beautiful. Maybe he's doing something totally other, and is cherishing a grateful feeling by himself. Or maybe... maybe birthdays mean nothing there. I really and truly do not know.

What I do know, is that I am glad Roy was born. Exceedingly glad. I knew him a relatively short time. But in that time, he didn't just impact me. I watched him impact everyone around him. His love, his humor, his smile. His voice, his singing. The way he roughhoused with his children and their screams of joy as he did so.

So this evening, my husband and I took a break from what we were doing. We sat down in our chairs, and we each ate an ice cream cookie. We prayed for his wife, Carman. For his kids. For his entire family. But mostly, we thanked God that Roy was born. That he lived. That we got to know him.

So Carman... I cannot answer your questions. But I can tell you that here in Wisconsin, Roy's birthday was celebrated.

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A Funny Story With Serious Implications

Yesterday, I started running low on the narcotic I was prescribed for the pain caused by the large chunk of flesh that was removed from my shin. So I stopped taking it, and I realized that without it, the pain was... nearly unbearable. It wasn't too bad, as long as I didn't walk. Or sneeze. Or move. In between heartbeats, it was fine. But with all of those, the minor increase in pressure was almost enough to send me through the roof. I called the doctor, said I wanted to be seen because something was awry. I'll write more on that tomorrow, though, because today's post is about the picture above.

I'd like to introduce you to Lucy. That's what I call her. The cardinal, that is. Lucy has a problem. You see, she has worked hard with Mr. Cardinal to build a nest in a branch that overhangs our two dysfunctional cars. But at some point this morning - I'm guessing right around sunrise, which is when I first heard her complain, she discovered two intruders. As you may know, cardinals are territorial.

Lucy will do anything to keep any cardinal other than Mr. Cardinal out of her territory, away from her nest. She wants to protect it. She would lay down her life to give her eggs a chance. Well, these two intruders weren't like any she'd ever discovered before. I first discovered that she had this problem at about 9:00 AM, on my way to my car so I could go to the doctor. I could hear her complaining, Mr. Cardinal calling plaintively, and this repetitive smack, smack, smack sound. It was almost like someone was hitting one of our cars with a stick.

My first thought was that a child from an area daycare had escaped and was indeed hitting our car with a stick. But no... it was she. Lucy. She was using every last ounce of her tiny body and every bit of energy generated by her fierce desire to protect to attack an intruder. Unfortunately, she was unsuccessful. The intruder? Trapped within the mirror of our car. After about 30 seconds, she seemed exhausted - hopped on top of the mirror, ruffled her feathers, and looked around. Then she spotted the other mirror. On the other car. And she was right back at it.

I spent nearly two hours at the doctor's, and she was still at it when I came home. Several hours later, she was still attacking the "intruders" trapped within our mirrors. I laughed hysterically, and stood to watch a while.

I noticed that every now and then, Mr. Cardinal's voice would break through her obsessive, slightly crazy drive to defend, and she would follow him back to reality and "normal life." She'd stay as long as he occupied her, but sooner or later - usually sooner - she came back. I laughed some more.

And then I froze. I realized that I was laughing at myself.

I'm like that. There are things I am battling right now, very real, very intense, potentially dangerous things. Things that I want out of my life for good, that keep coming back. But there are other things - things that can't hurt me any more than those reflections could hurt Lucy's eggs - that I fight just as hard. I will beat myself senseless in so many figurative ways, giving all I have to defeat these reflections.

I am blessed.

I have a Mr. Cardinal. He pulls me back when I'm doing that. And just like the real Mr. Cardinal, he shows no sign of judgment when I return. He receives me with joy and gladness, eager to show me the joy and wonder of the world we live in. He points out the good things. Loves me. Shows his love. There is no shame, no condemnation. Just... love. Even though he knows I've been fighting against reflections, against shadows - things without substance - he helps me fight and holds me close when I'm done.

Mr. Cardinal and my husband have a lot in common. I am so amazingly thankful for this vivid picture that was painted for me today. And even more thankful for my very own Mr. Cardinal. I usually call him Derek or Sir though. I think he'd look at me oddly if I were to address him as Mr. Cardinal.

But most of all, I am thankful for my God. Do you know that some of what we battle is nothing more than shadow or reflection? I know, it's hard, and seems so real. It is so real. It's just that so often, it's not as bad as we think. And He gives us strength for these battles we wage. And when we finally notice Him calling us, and we run after Him.... He welcomes us back. Romans 8:1 - there is no condemnation for us. He doesn't judge us. No name calling - we are not addressed as silly or foolish or wasteful or stupid. He welcomes us, with just love. Unfailing, unyielding, unchanging, unshakable love.

That's all for today - a funny story, with some serious parallels. By the way, did I mention that cardinals have an extremely special meaning to me, and that I have been praying for God to show me one for a while now? Once again, He's done exceedingly above and beyond that which I have asked or even imagined.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

News Flash: Kittens Triple in Size!

So the tiny kittens we were given to raise on formula have grown tremendously. They are now nearly three times the size they were when we got them. They are longer than the palm of my hand, even! It's remarkable how well they are doing.

They have even been named: Alibaster for the white one (Ali for short) and Mickey for the splotchy one. We're not sure why he looks like a Mickey (definitely isn't a resemblence to the mouse!) but... he does.

Sadly, no pictures right at the moment - have to feed them and then drive over to a nearby town to have my leg checked by the surgeon again. Fun and games, folks, fun and games. Or something along those lines.

Sorry to be so brief, but I really have to go.

Remember, you can always use the contact link on the left of the page - I check that email throughout the day and so far have been able to respond to everyone who's written.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

No Pictures.

Sometimes, I use pictures to tell stories.

But not today.

Today, I'm just going to be real, raw, honest... and tell a story with words only.

Back in January, I cut myself, badly. Deliberately. I know that's a frightening concept, and not something that I would have shared even a few short months ago. But it's t rue, and I did it. I regret it. And life goes on. It got massively infected, was treated with heavy-duty antibiotics, and eventually healed. However...

There has been an issue with fluid building up between the skin and muscle tissue below that cut ever since. I've been successfully draining it here at home, and there was no sign whatsoever of infection. Until Wednesday. Wednesday, I couldn't get it to drain. The fluid kept increasing, pressure building... it looked like I had balloons under my skin. By midnight, it was hot. Red. Had a fever. I emailed my doctor with all pertinent information, and my husband called first thing in the morning for an appointment.

Got to the clinic, the doctor came in and told me he had already called the surgeon and we were basically just waiting on him to come over and take a look. The surgeon informed me that with the damage I had done, the blood supply to my lower leg had been diminished to only one supplying artery. Told me that if I ever damaged that remaining artery, I would lose my leg. Two hours later, I was on my back in the OR breathing through a mask, waiting for them to knock me out. The surgeon removed all of the infected/dead tissue and a large, football-shaped section of skin. Instead of skin, in that spot I now have a wad of yellow gauzy-type stuff which will be removed Tuesday and replaced (I suspect this will be very painful). I really have no idea how long all of this will take to heal - but I'm guessing more than a month.

So why would I share this with you? It doesn't make me look good. Isn't fun. Is actually kind of gross.

But, I share this with you for one reason:

I want you to see God at work. You see, I still have my leg. There are NO circulation issues in my foot, even though it's getting less than half of the blood supply it normally would. I can walk (painful, but doable). God has preserved my leg. And I am thankful, to say the least. My fever has finally cracked, and I'm actually starting to feel "Better" than I have in weeks. To HIIM be all glory and praise for that - the surgeon said not to expect to notice any immediate difference.

I also want to address something I asked my Pastor about. If a wound is self inflicted... can I really ask God to heal me? Do I have any right to expect Him, Creator of the Universe, to do anything about something I've brought completely onto myself?

Short answer - yes. He is a merciful God. It's hard to "stand in faith" for healing in this realm. But it's easy to ask for mercy. Blind Bartameus didn't cry out "Lord, Heal me!" He cried out "Lord, have mercy!" Over and over he cried out, despite a lot of people trying to quiet him down. And Jesus had mercy.

Whatever it is in your life - alcohol, drugs, selfishness, pride, fear, doubt, hate, unforgiveness, bitterness, self injury, or any other thing that you have brought on yourself - you can bring it to Him. You can ask for mercy. Ask for healing . Restoration. Help. and He will. Because He never changes. He knew you'd do whatever it is you've done, before He went to the cross. He knew each mistake you'd make, each willful sin, each shortcoming. And He did it anyway.

So go. Go to the King. Ask for mercy. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for healing and restoration. There is NO condemnation for those of us who are in Christ (see Romans 8:1). We are not condemned to a life of misery. Nobody has to stay in the shape they are now. He is there, anxiously waiting for you to merely ask. So will you?

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Friday, April 9, 2010


It's springtime once again. And with it being spring, there are baby animals being born everywhere.

We got our first two fosters in last night. Perfect timing really, as I'll be laid up for a while following emergency surgery on my leg yesterday.

Anyway, we have no names yet - suggestions are definitely welcome! Today is their third day of life, at most. Might only be their second. They are robust and healthy, but they still have spongy umbilical cords attached and eyes sealed shut, so we know they're quite young. We feed them with impossibly tiny bottles. They eat every 90-120 minutes around the clock, which is somewhat exhausting but oh so worth it. In a week, it will be every 120-180, and then every 3-4 hours, and before we know it they will be feeding themselves.

Here are just a couple pictures - name away folks! (Leave your suggestions as comments please). I will endeavor to produce more pictures for you... later. When I am less medicated. :)

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Leap of Faith. Again.

A year and a half ago, I said here that I was going to be taking a leap of faith. Back then, I was terrified. Afraid it would hurt, be uncomfortable. Drag me down. Be difficult. Challenge me more than I wanted. Be too much to handle. And tonight, if I am going to be completely honest, all of those things I was so afraid of have happened.

I've wrestled with what to post here for so long... and instead of doing anything with it, I've stared at a blank text box wondering what to write.

Tonight, I am taking a leap of faith. I have been talking a lot lately (in "real life") about how much I admire those who are totally transparent. The people who let their lives - faults and all - shine for Him. Those who are raw and honest, and want God glorified more than they want to protect their own reputation.

So instead of just talking about those people, I am going to try it myself. Take a radical leap of faith, so to speak. Do what I believe God would have me do - and be real. Be raw. Be honest.

Truth is folks, I've been so close to falling completely apart. I've been struggling with the symptoms and manifestations of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The nightmares, the flashbacks, the constant "hyper vigilance." The inability to fall asleep, and after I finally do, waking up easily and then being unable to go back to sleep. Unexplainable rage. Irrational fear. Inappropriately intense emotion some days, and some days no emotion at all. And that is just the tip of the ice burg. I am no longer employed by my previous (amazing) employer, as I was hospitalized for quite some time.

Just admitting that is so hard to do. Fear is telling me that "my readers" will judge me. That some will say I'm making it up. That there will be nay-sayers and put-downs. I can't really share details pertaining to the cause of this disorder, other than to say it stems from multiple childhood events. This diagnosis is new, but the problem has been persistent for the last twenty years. I'm twenty six. Do the math - I can't remember ever being any different than I am now. The symptoms have been mild, and I have been able to hide them, up until last year. And things didn't get out of control until this past December.

I am not crazy, by the way.

Since coming home, I'm almost never home. I have Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for two hours every week. I also meet with a private therapist once a week, who is taking a two pronged approach as he supports the DBT as well as works in the realm of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I underwent EMDR for nearly five months. It helped immensely in some areas, and in other areas, it stirred up things that probably should have been left alone. Once a week I see a different therapist to address one very specific issue. I can't really share that here - legally, not allowed. I also work with a psychiatrist, who is helping to figure out if we can use medication to control some of the issues.

Lest this all seem gloom-and-doom... I do have some good news. First, a new heart med (new to me, not new to the world) has been working really well to control my heart rate. Second, one of the meds from the psychiatrist has enabled me to get an average of 4.5 - 5 hours of sleep every night. I was previously getting between 1 and 3. No exaggeration. I am quite sure that the lack of sleep contributed very much to the major increase in symptoms. Also, I have been blessed with a husband who stands by me through all of this - even when he has no idea what to do. My church has been unspeakably helpful. Always there. Always helping. Always good. My dad, my step mom, friends... so many people have shown themselves so faithful. God has provided financially as well. He just never stops blessing us.

I have gotten back into Martial Arts. I never stopped being a Martial Artist, but I had been skipping class for years. And now, my husband happens to be hooked as well. Which is of course fantastic. :) It's great for the soul (mind and emotions) and helps the body as well. One of my best friends is the head instructor there. It has been such an amazing gift to spend more time with him. I first met him almost 15 years ago. He has been one of my closest friends for 14 of those years. It is amazing how much one single person can do for another, by merely existing. But that's a whole other post.

Now... if you have read all of this, I expect you to have questions. Please feel free to use the "E-mail Me" button over on the left-hand side of the screen. I will do my best to respond to every question, even if that means letting you know that I can't give you an answer.

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