Thursday, April 14, 2016

My Battle with Endo

It's been a hot minute since I sat down to blog. Life has been crazy as usual with all these kiddos and I've been having some health issues that have been interfering with things a bit.



In an effort to raise awareness, I have been very vocal on my Facebook & Instagram about my battle with endometriosis and adenomyosis, and the effects it has on my daily living. I may have had it for years, but it started rearing it's ugly head about 7 years ago when Jay and I first bought our house together. I was under a lot of stress from moving & planning a wedding, so originally we thought it was a GI issue. I went to a gastro doctor and was diagnosed with IBS. I changed my diet and it was better, but never 100%. It wasn't too long after our wedding that I got pregnant with M, and I was totally fine during my pregnancy (except for the excruciating hip pain, carpel tunnel & insomnia!) & while nursing. As soon as I stopped pumping and my period returned, I was right back to square one. It took quite some time, and I had to do a lot of advocating for myself before I got my official diagnosis.


My mother had terrible cystic ovaries (I was conceived with only 1 ovary) and endometriosis. She had multiple D&C's and ended up having a hysterectomy at 45. I couldn't know for sure, but I just had this feeling that my issues were not stomach related. I am like my mother in so many ways and I just had this sinking suspicion that I had the same condition. After a few more trips to the gastro and more testing, he suggested I consult my gynecologist. I took his advice and for months we tried multiple types of birth control to ease the pain and control my cycle. Nothing worked and they all distorted my mood terribly. After pleading with my doctor for months,  I finally convinced her to do an exploratory laporascopy in 2013. My fears were confirmed with the diagnosis of endometriosis. She excised whatever she saw at that time and put me on a regimen of new birth control after my surgery. Again I had the same problem, we could not find a pill that worked. She suggested Lupron, but after researching it, I decided the risks did not outweigh the benefits. In June of 2014 I underwent an endometrial ablation with the hopes that if my period stopped the pain may stop with it. I was told my doctor had a 97% success rate of stopping menses with this procedure. Of course I fell into the other 3%! It did drastically improve the duration and severity, so I found relief for about 8 months afterward. In the beginning of 2015 the pain returned, and has been getting consistently worse ever since. The sheer exhaustion is unlike anything I have experienced before. I still continue to do my best to function for my family, but it has become increasingly more difficult as time has gone on. In the fall of 2015, after months of complaining to my gynecologist about the severity of the pain, she sent me for an MRI to determine whether or not I had adenomyosis as well. I cried when I received the news that I did in fact have the adenomyosis. There is no cure for either, but the best chance for relief for the adenomyosis is removal of the uterus. It's still not a guarantee however, because leaving the ovaries behind means hormones still in the system, which means any edo adhesion left behind could continue to swell, become inflamed and cause chronic pain. I truly felt as though I was at an impasse. I had hoped to put off a hysterectomy until my 40's, as I am petrified of suffering the same fate as my mother. I was scared about how a major surgery like this would impact my family, my weight and fitness level, as well as our sex life. How will I take care of my kids if I need to be off my feet for 6 weeks? So many questions and doubts, so I continued to put the idea on the back burner and finally agreed to try prescription pain meds instead. I refused to take anything controlled, so 800 mg Ibuprofen & 500 mg Naproxen were my only options. They helped at first, but then not so much after taking them for a while... Last month the pain was so severe that I ended up in the emergency room. I spent the entire day there, and the only relief came from morphine. They sent me home with Ibuprofen with Oxy, and I knew in that moment that I had to make a decision.



I refuse to let this disease rule my life. I will not be forced to live on painkillers just to make it through the day. Not to mention the fact that I have teenagers, so I do not even want that garbage in my house. I have 5 beautiful children who depend on me, and I CANNOT be kept down. I had a follow up with my gynecologist the next day and we decided it was time to do the hysterectomy. It is not a cure, by any means, but for now I feel like it is my best shot. She will remove my uterus and fallopian tubes, and excise any adhesion she sees while she's in there. My ovaries and cervix will remain for now so I will not have to worry about menopause at the moment, or worry that my bladder is going to fall out of my who-ha. Isnt' that a relief?!?!


It was an emotional decision for me. Even though Jay and I decided we were done having children right after M was born, there is something much more final about having the organ that carries them removed as opposed to just having some tubes snipped. Not to mention the fact that this time it's me & not him! It makes me feel old, and I am still scared of ending up like my mom... but I try to remind myself that I take much better care of my body than she ever did. I am thinking ahead to the possibility of having this pain in my abdomen not be the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep at night. I am looking forward to making it through the day without my eyes closing at my desk at 3 pm, to not having to go home and stick the kids in front of the TV because I literally cannot keep them open one more second. I am looking forward to no longer having days were I literally cannot get out of bed and function at all. I have wasted so many days, lost so many opportunities to be enjoying time with my kids, lost wages & wasted so many hours of my life at doctor's visits, not to mention money on co-pays and medications. It has literally consumed every part of my life for the last few years. So, to me it's worth the risk of it not being a complete cure. If I can have any relief, if it will restore my ability to function as a normal human being at all, it will be so worth it to me. I can't spend every single afternoon of my life laying on the couch.



I've decided to document the process since I will be home from work for a while. Writing always helps me process my emotions, so I thought blogging this experience may do me some good, and may hopefully help some other women dealing with similar experiences.

Over the next week I am going to be eating as healthy as I can and banging out my work outs. I am hitting the abs hard, twice a day, to try to make them as tight as possible before hand with the hope that it will aid them in the healing process. I am sad to be missing out on the beginning of the race season this year, but hoping I will be able to be back at it by summer. I already missed one race due to fatigue, and I will have to forgo a 10K I was planning to run with a friend next month, which is a big fat bummer. In July Jay and I will be going to Vegas to celebrate his 40th birthday because his parents are awesome & we will be celebrating our anniversary as well while we are there. My goal is to get myself back to pre-surgery activity levels by the time we leave. I'm not sure if this is a lofty or ambitious goal, but I always like to set the bar high for myself, so why not?!?!

Today I go for my pre-surgical testing, and the surgery is set for next Thursday. My plan is to blog a little with each step. My hope is to help others prepare and maybe cut down on some anxiety - for myself & hopefully other women in the same boat as well.

Wish me luck!!!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mommy's right here, sweet girl....

As far as parenting goes, last night was a rough one.

R was having a total meltdown over a game he bought for his ipod that kept crashing, and M was adamant that she was not taking a bath. By the time I got both kiddos to bed I was exhausted, physically and mentally.

I swear I went out as soon as my head hit the pillow. I have no idea how long I was asleep when I thought I heard M's little voice...

Now I know all you mom's out there have lived this scenario.
Something startles you awake, but you're not quite sure what it was. 
You think you hear your child, but your not 100% sure. 

It can't be, right

Tonight was supposed to be the night no one wakes up and you get 7 whole hours of solid sleep! 

You lay there, and have the following conversation with yourself:

"You must be hearing things. She's not awake. She CANNOT be awake. Maybe if I ignore her, she'll stop.
Wait........................
Oh, CRAP!
Maybe if I ignore her, hubby will get her.
Oh wait, he's not home.
DOUBLE CRAP!!!! 
WHY??? WHY GOD??? WHY??? 
Why can I not get ONE LOUSY NIGHT of sleep????
FINE! 
YOU WIN!
I'm getting up!"

You know this has happened to you!!!!

Just as I'm about to drag myself out of bed, I hear Jay's soothing daddy voice, and I think to myself "Thank you, sweet Jesus! He's home and I don't have to get up now!!!"
 :::singing this and dancing joyfully in my head:::

Except after a few minutes, I hear her again, only this time she's calling for me... "Momma, Momma, I want MOMMA!!!!"

I know I'm terrible, but I have to get up so freaking early for work, that I really tried to ignore her again. "Let him handle it" I thought to myself, until I heard her again, only louder. This time she sounded like she was in pain, and the panic set in. So I dragged myself out of bed and went running across the hall.

As I leaned over her tiny body in her little "big girl" bed, she reached out her hand and placed it on my cheek. The next thing I know she's wrapping herself around me and sobbing, "momma, momma". We're still not 100% sure exactly what happened. We know she had a bad dream. We know that in this dream, something bad happened to me. She wouldn't, or couldn't, tell us exactly what it was. She just kept crying and clutching me, squeezing me up. All I know is that it took forever to calm her down, and that girl held on to me so tightly... it made my heart ache.

In that moment, as I was laying there with my head on M's tiny chest, as she squeezed me tight and caressed my hair, it suddenly reminded me of the day my mom told me she had cancer. In that moment, I remembered it so clearly. Laying on my bed, curled up in the fetal position, sobbing with my head on mom's lap. "I don't want you to die" I said. "I don't want to die either" she replied. "Please don't leave me" I begged her. She promised me, "I'll do everything I can to stay".

In that instant, laying there with M, I couldn't help but cry. The memory of the fear I felt at that time was so real and so raw, and the thought of my baby girl feeling that way about me, it just broke my heart. The thought of her feeling that kind of pain, it ripped me right at my core.

She did eventually calm down, about 45 min later. Luckily for me, she let me go back to sleep after about 20 min... and her daddy stayed the rest of the time until she fell asleep. 

As prepared as you think you are as a parent, sometimes even the most common of occurrences can catch you off guard. 
There are so many facets to parenthood, so many emotions you feel that you could never even fathom before you had a child. I've heard it likened to walking around with your heart on the outside of your body, and I think that's a good analogy. It's like a part of you is out there, vulnerable, but you can't see it or protect it. I wish I could protect her from that fear. I wish there was a way I could reassure her that I will always be here, but we all know there are no guarantees. I would love to shelter all five of them from the harsh realities of life, but I know it's just not possible. I know we can't shield them from the world forever. 

We never know what life will bring.

We have no choice but to fill each day with love, laughter and as much fun as we possibly can.

So, I'll just file last night under F for FAIL and move on. 

I will give no second thoughts to sending M to bed without her bath, or letting her go to school today with lip gloss and Desitin in her hair. 

I'll pay no mind to the fact that R got me so angry I slammed his door and the picture fell off the wall. 

It certainly wasn't the first bad night we've had. It certainly won't be the last. I'm also fairly certain the kids won't remember it. That's the blessing of childhood, of their innocence, every day is a clean slate.

I'm thinking maybe I should take a lesson from them. 

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Dee Runs Disney (Part 2)

Thursday morning we got up pretty early, hit the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory for some breakfast, and grabbed the bus to the Disney Health & Fitness Expo at the ESPN Wild World of Sports complex. I had no idea what to expect there, but it was pretty cool. I picked up my race bib and t-shirt, and they had lots of running goodies. Poor Jay was completely bored out of his mind as I dragged him from booth to booth. I had no idea how many cool running gadgets, accessories, etc. were out there! It was a runner's paradise for sure. We stopped for some photo ops and then set off for Epcot.   





My one major complaint about the Expo was all the walking. Walking from the bus to the complex, walking back and forth between the buildings, walking back to the bus... it was exhausting! Next year we must plan better! More time up front and after to properly rest the legs! 

Anyway, off to Epcot we go! We had a pretty good day there. We had planned our Fast Passes in advance, so we hit up Mission Space first, the Soarin' (which we hadn't been able to get on in our last 3 trips!) and then we hit the character spot and had some pics taken :) 



The best part about being there without the kids was that we didn't have to rush anywhere! We weren't being pulled in 5 different directions, so we were able to take our time. We used that time to wait an hour to ride Test Track, which would have been a nightmare with the kids!!! Then we took  a very slow stroll through World Showcase and actually wandered through every single country, which I haven't done since I was a kid! It was so much fun!

Mexico!

Morocco!

Of course, my favorite stop was the good ol' US of A!!!

Funnel Cakes!!!


We finished off the night with the most delicious dinner in Japan, at Teppen Edo. It was a wonderful hibachi style meal with a very talented and funny chef, and a very friendly family from Indiana who were celebrating the engagement of one child and the college graduation of another. Dinner ended just in time for the fireworks show, and then we headed back to the Port Orleans. Hollywood Studios was on the agenda for the next day! 

Our plan was to hit Toy Story Midway Mania as soon as the park opened and get that long wait out of the way, then head off to take care of our fast passes. It must have been only ten minutes past 9 by the time we got over there but the wait was already over an hour!!! That ride is insane. So we set off to do some of the smaller stuff while we waited for our fast pass times. They were scheduled one right after the other so we rode Star Tours, Tower of Terror, & Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (MY MOST FAVORITE RIDE EVER!!!) pretty much back to back. I still haven't purchased my Disney photopass pics yet, but when I do I'll post our pic from Tower of Terror. It is priceless. I am screaming like a mad woman, I look like a lunatic really, and Jay is just looking at me, laughing hysterically. This pic pretty much sums up a day in the life of "us". 

We used our extra fast pass to ride Star Tours a second time because everything else was sold out. In our travels we noticed the wait for Toy Story was down to 45 minutes so we jumped on that and waited. We also hadn't been able to get on this ride in our last 3 trips, so we were determined. I decided after that I don't think it's worth the wait, but hopefully now I'll remember for next time! 

After that we decided to basically see every show in the place, another feat that is next to impossible with 5 kids in tow. We saw Indiana Jones, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show. The only things we missed were Frozen & American Idol. I couldn't believe how fast that day flew and before we knew it, it was time for our pre-race dinner! We hit up Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano for some pasta & meatballs. 




3 am was right around the corner, so right after dinner we headed back to the Port Orleans & grabbed my runner's box (breakfast: bagel, PB, granola bar, banana, water). I hit the shower quickly and then laid out flat me. Flat me is basically every single thing I need to put on for a race. You would think that some things are obvious, but I am terribly forgetful, so I lay every single thing out. All the basic attire including my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 14's,  plus my Garmin GPS watch & heart rate monitor, Glide, iPod Nano & super cool new headphones, Flip Belt (for my phone, inhaler, tissues, snacks & ID), headband, race bib and pins. 

I was fairly satisfied that I had everything, so I hit the sack.

FLAT ME!  


I was asleep a little before 9 pm if I had to guess. I had a little trouble settling down, but I still ended up with a little more than 6 hours sleep. 

The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song woke me up at 3 am on the dot. I could hardly believe that the day I had been working so hard for over the past year had finally arrived! 


Stay tuned for my recap of the big day, the WDW Half Marathon!

   





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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dee runs Disney! (Part 1)

As many of you know, I took up running 2 years ago. 

I had reached my Weight Watchers weight goal a few months before and I was looking for a new way to challenge myself and aid in me maintaining my weight. When I first started out, my goal was simply to run the Marianne Volpe Pumpkin 5k & Fun Run - a local 5K that honors my late cousin Mary, the proceeds from which go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. In the beginning I used the C25K app on my phone, a program which uses a combination of walking and running to gradually build up to running a full 5k. I found that the app worked great for me and I completed the program on time with success in a full (albeit slow) 5k. I ran that entire summer, and I was totally ready for the 5k that October. When I crossed that finish line it was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I was hooked!


I started looking for other small races to run locally, and I really enjoyed my training. 


Last January, after seeing a friend posting from Walt Disney World, where her husband had just run a half marathon, I decided that would be my next goal. "I can do that", I thought... "I never thought I could run one mile, but I had been running 3.1 for past year, so why not? Right?" Who wouldn't want to run through the most magical place on earth???

I spoke to Jay, and went to work on putting my plan in motion. Registration didn't open until April, so I had 3 months to secure some funds and try to find a babysitter for M. Thankfully, because I have the most amazing Dad ever, he agreed to pay my registration fee as my birthday gift for last year, and to watch M for half of our stay!!! Yippee!!! 

Now we just had to wait for the registration to open and hope I could get in. Good news! I did!!!


I was really daunted by the task of running 13.1 miles. How does one run 10 miles more than they're used to? I wasn't even sure where to start... I did some asking around, and decided I would try the Galloway method, which RunDisney shares on their website. It uses run/walk intervals to maintain stamina and put less wear and tear on your joints. According to their schedule, training should start in September, but I was so nervous that I started training in July. I ran 2 short runs during the week and every weekend I would run a mile longer than the weekend before. Every week I thought it would be so much harder than the week before, but it really wasn't. Some training days were better than others, but I was able to just push through. 

As the summer came to a close I began to panic about my placement for the WDW Half. I had heard if you don't submit a legit time, they place you in the last corral. Now, I'm not a fast runner, but I'm not that slow either. I had been averaging between 10 - 11 minutes on all my training runs, so I didn't want to be at the back of the pack. I had to decide if I wanted to run a longer race and use that time for corral placement, and it had to be in by 10/15/14. "What should I do?" I was definitely trained for it. My body was ready to go. So, I registered, extremely last minute, for the Run like a Diva Half Marathon at a local park for 10/5/14. 




It was unbelievable! Somehow I finished, in spite of my nerves, with a pretty awesome first time PR of 2:28:33. I was so proud of myself not only for finishing, but for getting in under 2.5 hours. I felt like since I had one under my belt, now I could really enjoy the WDW Half when the time came. I submitted my time to RunDisney and actually ended up with a fairly decent corral placement of I - pretty much halfway through the pack. 

I kept up my longer runs on the weekends all through the fall, and thankfully we had some really warm weekends in December where I was able to get some road time in. The problem came when I got sick in December with a virus that I just couldn't (and still can't) seem to shake. I went to the doctor right away because I knew we were getting close to crunch time. She told me it was an upper respiratory infection and gave me two rounds of a Z-pack. I ended up taking them both because, while I felt a little bit better, it was still not good. I was still having trouble breathing, terrible head aches and severe exhaustion. I was getting pretty nervous about all the not feeling well. It's pretty difficult to run when you can't breathe! 



Before we knew it, it was time to leave! I don't fly well to begin with, and I was nervous about leaving M. We knew the boys would be fine, but this was the first time we were leaving our girl for an extended period of time. 

Anxiously waiting to board...

...and trying not to freak out before we take off!!!

Thankfully the flight out was smooth, and we landed on time. By the time we got the Magical Express to the hotel & checked in it was almost 11 pm. We hit the sack right away because I couldn't wait to hit the Expo the next day and get started at Epcot!!! 



Waiting for the Magical Express!!!!



Magical Express ride :)


Port Orleans - French Quarter 


Tomorrow, we go to Epcot!!!!



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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Life Lately...

I thought about doing a holiday recap, but our Christmas was pretty much the same as it always is. We argue with the ex about what time we're picking up the boys, run the kids back and forth, eat, open gifts, run around some more, open more gifts, eat again.... pretty standard stuff. 

I will say this: I'm really so sick of arguing about the pick - up time every. single. year. "The agreement says 11 am. No you cannot have an extra hour. IMO, 11 is already too late as it is, considering you live an hour away and especially since you refuse to ever compromise and let them stay with us on Christmas Eve."  
That's right folks, my daughter has never woken up on Christmas morning with all four of her brothers. Not one single time. Every year we ask and every year she says no and then expects Jay to go out there later than the scheduled time to pick them up so her parents can have breakfast with them. Ummm, no. They just saw them at Christmas Eve dinner 12 hours ago. Give me a break. For once. 

I would just love to have at least one picture from a Christmas morning where I have all 5 of my kids together. Is that too much to ask???

Okay.... end rant. Now for a couple of cute Xmas pics before I move on to 2015 :)




Me and my love <3

Being goofy with my sis and nephew :)

This is the scene every Christmas morning. Baby M opens all her gifts by herself and when R is with us (not at his dad's) he has to wait until his brothers arrive. This is by far one of the things I hate most about the blended family. I do not like to share, and I hate that my kids are missing out on these priceless moments with each other :(


The gang's all here... even the dog! Love my family :)

We've been pretty busy since the start of the new year. Jay and I kicked it off with a trip to Walt Disney World, where I ran the WDW Half Marathon!!!! It was our first real vacation without the kids since our honeymoon 5 years ago. It was AMAZING!!! We had the best time and the RunDisney experience was beyond my wildest dreams. I will be doing a whole separate post on that shortly. 

Baby M started dancing lessons 2 weeks ago, which is also super exciting!!! She had SO much fun and is already talking about the recital :) I can't believe our baby girl is growing up so fast!!! 




As many of you know I have been a Beach Body coach for a little while now, so I've also been working on growing that business (if you have any questions regarding Beach Body you can check out my link or email me at DeeRoeTonesUp.com). With that also comes more work on my own healthy lifestyle, especially since I've been having a bit of a hard time with that after the holidays and our vacation. The winter always depresses me. I feel more hungry and less motivated to work out and get moving. I also don't run outside in the very cold temps because of my asthma, and I really miss running! 

2 of my favorite clean meals: spinach salad with cut up lean beef burgers and rotisserie chicken
with 1/2 baked sweet potato and steamed or grilled veggies!

Post InsanityMax 30 Sweat Intervals


One last major development... we got a new addition to our family!!! We rescued a kitty from the animal rescue shelter that my mother-in-law volunteers at. We thought maybe a friend would help Guinness come out of his shell a little and help him feel better. It hasn't really helped too much in terms of him making a mess, but he does seem to be happy to have her and more interactive with the family again. She is so sweet and cuddly and so great with the kids! They all love her so much already! 

Meet Miss Lily

She loves her new girly bed <3

... and her new brothers and sister, even the feline one!

One last thing.... This guy made his violin debut last week at his very first orchestra concert!!!! We couldn't be more proud of our little budding musician! Now we've got one violinist, one drummer, one guitarist, and one singer... Maybe they'll form a band and make us rich!!!




Stay tuned for D & J take on WDW Marathon Weekend & Happy Wednesday Ya'll!




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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Letter to my Husband

To the love of my life, 

In the every day marathon that our lives have become, I don't think I take enough time out to let you know how much you mean to me, how much you are loved and appreciated. 

The twinkle in your beautiful baby blues, the way you clearly loved your boys so, the easy going way in which you spoke that made me feel like somehow I had already known you forever... All these things and more drew me to you that very first night. I had long since forgotten the feeling of butterflies in my stomach, but it all came rushing back to me under the dark lights of Cannon's Blackthorn. I couldn't wait to see you again, to get to know you better. When you kissed me I just knew, I knew I would be kissing those lips for an eternity.  

We've traveled a long and winding road this last 7.5 years. It hasn't always been easy, but together we have managed to take it all on and come through whatever has been thrown our way. Five kids can be a lot to handle, but I think they are all a testament to us, and the strength of our love; to the value we put on family. The boys especially; they are so good, so genuine, so loving, so strong, and it's all because they have you for a role model. An honest, hard-working, loving man who puts his life on the line daily for the job he loves. 

I would be remiss not to mention all the turmoil going on in NYC right now. It has a huge impact on our lives. First and foremost, I have to tell you how unbelievably brave I think you are. There is no way in hell I could ever be a police officer. I'm far too chicken to ever put myself in a position of possible physical altercation, or to even hold a weapon, let alone having to use one. 
I am humbled by the fact that someone I love is so willing to give of themselves for the safety of others, and so very honored to tell people that I am your wife. 
I am amazed by the ease at which you do you job, the comfort level you have even with all the risks involved. The way you never seem afraid...
In spite of all of that, I am terrified every time you walk out that door.

I never gave it much thought in the beginning. Work was just a place you went, and you always came home, and I never heard much about what happened in between. Then the assault happened. Ever since then I'm always a little nervous when you leave for work, because now I know something can happen to you. You are not infallible.

Now, today, in December of 2014, I am petrified at the thought of you being a walking target. The fear that you could walk out that door for work one day and never come home is far to real right now, and it paralyzes me at times. I can't imagine, even for one second, what my life would be like without you in it. You are the thread that stitches my ripped seams. The glue that holds all my broken pieces together. You are the rock on which I depend for all things. Without you, my world would be dark. Our children would be lost. I truly can't even fathom it. 

I wanted you to know that.

Today of all days, I need you to know that you are one of the 6 greatest gifts God has given me. Of course without you, the other 5 gifts would not have been possible.

You show me love, Every. Single. Day. Even when I'm in a bad mood; when I'm being evil and terrible to you, you always show me love and patience. 
You support me, Every. Single. Day. When I feel like the load of this life is just to much for me to bear, you shoulder it for me. 
When I am down on myself, you lift me up.  
You give me strength, Every. Single. Day. When I lose faith in myself, you encourage me in ways I could never to do for myself. 
You truly are my better half, and I would be so lost in this world without you. 

I pray to God that he will keep you safe; that my mother - my guardian angel, is watching over you as well, and that they will keep you coming home to us safely every single night. 

I love you, my lobster. I will never stop loving you. I will love you with every ounce of my being for the rest of my life. 

Today, and every day,  I just need you to know how thankful I am for the gift of you. 

Forever and always,

Dee XOXOX



A Letter to my Mother

To my mother, my angel,

16 years ago I had to say goodbye to you,  the most amazing woman I have ever known. Beautiful, smart and funny; loving, compassionate and kind. Sarcastic and sassy, yet sweet and gentle, generous and the most loyal person you could ever meet. When I think of how difficult it was to say goodbye, I have to remind myself that no pain was greater than the pain of watching you suffer in those 7 months, and I have to thank God for taking you to a place where you no longer feel pain.

For years I replayed that last day over and over in my head. Every. Single. Detail. Every memory like a tiny needle stabbing me again and again. Now, so many years later, I choose to remember all the days before that last day. We made more happy memories in the 19 years before the cancer than can be erased by those 7 long, hard months. Most days now I can wash away the sadness with a happy thought of you shaking your booty in some ridiculous dance, or calling out to me, "Petunia..." from your perch on the couch. I remember the smell of your Trident Original gum, and the curves of your perfect fingernails. I remember the way you would tuck my hair behind my ear, and wait up in my bed for me to come home from a night out. I remember your round face, and your love of Vienna Fingers. I refuse to remember the way the cancer left you. I won't let it win.

It has been 5,840 days since I gave you a hug, or a kiss, or heard the sound of your voice; and while each of those days it has gotten a little bit easier for me to carry on without you, not a day goes by that you are not on my mind or in my heart. It breaks my heart that my children will never know your love the way I knew it, but I know you are watching over us and keeping us all safe every day. I know you live on in Michele and I, more so than I'd like to admit sometimes(!); and that J, A, R and M all have a piece of your spirit - I see it in the way they love others. To quote a great family friend, "she left an indelible impression on all those who had the pleasure of knowing her. My life is a better place because she was in it". I hope you know how much you meant to everyone in your life, not just us. Your friends still reach out to me to tell me how much they miss you, how blessed they were to have had you in their lives. 

Thank you for keeping daddy safe, and close to us. When I was younger I would sometimes wonder how you put up with him, but I see it clearly now. There has never been a man with more patience, or kindness. You chose wisely when you married him, maybe somehow you knew someday we would need him, and his inner strength and beauty would shine through. I couldn't ask for a better father for myself, or grandfather for my children.  He has kept us all going in your absence, you would be so proud of the way he has opened himself up. Ever since that day at the funeral home when he was showing everyone the napkin you wrote your phone number on for him the night you first met, 20 years before - the way he tucked it into your hands so lovingly, so you could take it home with you. I knew in that instant what true love looks like. So I thank you for giving me that gift, even after you were already gone. 

Mom, thank you for being my rock for the 20 wonderful years we shared on this earth together, and for being my guiding light in the 16 years since you've been gone. Thank you for being the voice in my head that keeps me going when all I want to do is throw in the towel. Your memory, your legacy - they give me the strength to keep going. 

"In my dreams I'll always see you soar above the sky, in my heart there'll always be a place for you for all my life. I keep a part of you with me, and everywhere I am, there you'll be. Everywhere I am, there you'll be". 

I hope that I can be even half the mother to my children that you were to us. I hope that my friends will hold me in the same high regard that yours do you. I hope that my husband knows that even though I am rough around the edges, every edge is carved with fierce love for him and our family, just like yours were. Every day I strive to emulate you, your love & your generosity. I hope that someday I will come close. 

I love you, Mom and I miss you more than words could ever say.

Until we meet again, 

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