Social Media and “Real Life” and Anxiety

Two things took place this week that have caused me to pause and reflect.  The first was a social media status from a young mom lamenting the “perfect picture” that most present on social media.  She made a war call for folks to have “real life” social media, at least balance that with the “perfect life.”  The second was as I watched an event at our beloved church in Arkansas.  The event was presented by Tangible Truth Ministries and was entitled “Addicted to Anxiety.”

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I’ve said it before.  I do  not think I would survive being a young Mom in today’s social media driven world.  I would wake daily feeling as if I was a total failure….because by human nature I would look at all the “perfect lives” on Facebook, Instagram, blogs and feel defeat.  It’s unfortunate social media doesn’t come with a “baloney meter.”  I have looked back and I have found myself guilty of “tooting the horn of my children.”  There’s nothing wrong with that, BUT, it has to be tempered with reality.  Real life.  The world sees that Johnny made straight A’s, was awarded perfect student of the  month and was just sent a mail-out from a prestigious summer prep program.  What’s not seen is that Johnny regularly slaps his sister in anger when they fight, or that Johnny screams “I hate you” at least ten times a week or that Johnny falls apart each day as he walks in the door from school from sheer exhaustion of keeping up his “perfect life.”  Now, don’t put all your Mama drama on social media either…cause frankly….that’s exhausting too.  Do put your pleas for prayer or wisdom.  Be real on those days you long for the beach and two hours of sleep without a kiddo interrupting you.  That’s real life.  Real life is sometimes dinner is a bowl of cereal and fruit and well….even that was a miracle to make happen.  Life is messy…keep it real.  Keeping up with the “perfect” blogging world some present, or the perfect Facebook land others present or the pictures of the perfectly styled children on Instagram…..it will eat you from the inside.  This same message is true for those of us more seasoned.  Stop looking over at Susie’s “perfect life” and wishing you had it.  It’s not perfect.  Susie is just doing a better job of painting one for the outside world.  Real life.  Real people.

I’ll be honest.  I really thought I was pretty together until last night.  I realized, very quickly, I have a whole lot of junk in my shopping cart that is anxiety related.  What’s puzzling to me, is that I didn’t think of it in an anxiety way before.  Angie Smith, yes, that wonderful Christian author, was my first “oh my” moment.  I knew that I really did not care for new social situations.  I tend to look present, but in reality, I am sitting up on a cliff waiting for the situation to be over.  I have always felt  judged, compared, and even devalued….but for what reason, well…I know two devalue buttons, but I will have to get back with you on how this works out.  Anyways.  Angie Smith was being “real” about her life and her journey with anxiety.  She was once told something that will resonate with me for a very long time.  “Wherever you go, when you walk in the door, assume you are welcome.”  Wow.  I can honestly say, that for the most part, this has NOT been my life mantra.  I do better when I have a strong social butterfly friend with me, as I can somehow feed off their energy.  (Does this make me one of those fish who rides on a shark for food???) Until last night, I never really called it anxiety.  (I’m certain now is where therapists are beginning to circle my blog…that poor girl.)

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I wish I could just post here every single scripture or word by the speakers that I wanted to tattoo on my forehead.  I simply don’t have that brain capacity for memory and I did not take notes. (Event attendee fail.)  One other thing that I have said a million times, but it is worth repeating here…and is actually an integral part of the “Circle Talk” given by Susan Goss, of Tangible Truth Ministries.  “You were NOT meant to carry God’s load.”  Oh, how many times have I tried to carry that load and only when crippled in grief did I release it to God?  Is that a female thing, to try to fix and carry…or is it a matter of a hole in my relationship with God?

So, I am pondering.  What’s your anxiety?  What’s  your “real life?”

The feed from the ministry is available at : http://www.fbcbentonville.org  Right now, one part is on the front page and the first session is under Women’s Ministry.  I encourage you to watch.

An Update to the Truman Show and Angry Dense Breasts

I’ve left the story hanging….ya know..the story with the girls and all.

I did it.  I did the dumbest thing, probably in the history of womanhood.  I agreed to three biopsies at the same appointment time…on the same girl.  It sounded so efficient when the doctor mentioned it.  I envisioned just one “bee-sting” and one “Mammotone” being used…and magically three different spots would all be ready for the slides.  Someone should have slapped me.  No, really, someone should have slapped me and woken me up from my medical “stupidity.”

Rewind to last Tuesday.  I am standing at the office door fixing to walk in, when the ultrasound tech walks in the main entrance and sees me and comes up and gives me the biggest hug.  (Clue number one. Kim…this is not a good idea.)  I am called back and I am talking, laughing about my “busy girls” etc….an order had been placed to scan the “other girl”, so we went through that and then it was time to let the doc know..”game on.”

So, the tech goes to the very angry girl that has been showing some serious “I want attention” issues…and I’m scanned and the three areas are marked.  Next up came the cleansing of the areas with alcohol….NOTE TO EVERY WOMAN IN THE UNIVERSE:  DO NOT SHAVE THE DAY OF A BIOPSY!!!  Y’all, alcohol and freshly shaved underarms do not mix.  I’m then draped and she leaves to grab doctor and have him review the right scan.  While she was gone, I may  have fanned, scratched…used any means necessary to stop the stinging party happening where I had shaved.  I was caught in the act as they entered the room…..more alcohol…I had contaminated the site.  (Well…then you shouldn’t have left me alone!) This is where my morning gets ugly and “Kim, you are really dumb” is going through my head over and over.

(Right scan, stable, rescan at six months.)  So, the doctor sits down and uses the probe to scan for the first area.  “This will sting.”  OH MY WORD.  I’ve had biopsies before, but I am instantly in the mindset of what can I do to get this called off for the day….fake a Menieres episode, claim amnesia, say my pet “Dust Bunny” just died…and then I hear the words I had never heard…”This breast is so dense that the medicine just won’t disperse like a normal breast.  It will take more medicine and you will still feel a lot of pressure as this site is close to the chest wall.”  Umm…hello…disclaimer a TAD late don’t ya think?  So, more stings.  This is where in Kim’s mind all that medicine would magically numb the entire girl.  Ya know, that all the bee stings would be over.  Numbed as best as can be, out comes the sampling gun.  One, two, three, four, five.  Each one seemingly bouncing off my chest wall.  Area one is complete. Two more to go. I can do this.

I’ve heard some women, crazy women, actually watch the ultrasound screen as the procedures are done.  I’m sane, so I simply keep my eyes closed.  Time for round two.  This one was just 2mm away from what is the most sensitive area for the girls.  Bee sting….yes, that’s me on the roof from what has to be literally the worst pain from a numbing injection ever.  More medicine.  Then the first attempt.  I thought I was going to scream.  More medicine.  Aspiration attempt.  By this point, I am literally crying and squeezing the life out of the hand of the ultrasound tech.  Failed aspiration attempt.  Here comes the gun again. One, two, three, four five.  Each one with the pressure of a thousand men pressing against a brick wall…ok, maybe a tad dramatic, but when you are laying on a table, with the girls laid out for all to see…you get to be dramatic.  Done.  I’m not sure who needed the time-out worse, me or the doctor.  Five minute time-out.  It’s here I am clearly trying to tattoo “stupid” across my forehead and contemplating just calling it quits for the day…but we still  had the area to go that was the one everyone didn’t like at all.  Getting me back on that table if I left..well…let’s just say some serious bribes would have been needed.

The tech encourages me with the news that this portion of my girl is far less dense.  It should be much easier.  Ok..I can do this.  And the bee sting came again, then the five pops…and done.  Doctor and tech trade places…she applying pressure to all the areas to stop the bleeding.  I’m just quiet.  Exhausted.  Steri-strips in place.  Taped.  Time for the lovely post-biopsy mammogram to ensure placement of all the clips.  All there.   Time to get dressed.  In walks a nurse to help wrap me with a pressure wrap and instruct me for healing process.  Still, Kim is quiet.  So exhausted.  I walk out to a very bored Lee.  So thankful that I asked him to come.  No way this chick was driving.

First stop-Walgreens for liquid Tylenol.  I am already wanting to just curl up and pretend this day didn’t exist.  That spot so close to the sensitive area…not happy with me at all.  The girl is angry and she is letting me know.  She wanted attention…apparently not all this.  I told her that next time, when scanned, wear camo.  She laughed by giving me a very nice camo-like bruise for the next week.  Back to the ride home…y’all, Lee tried two tried and true efforts to cheer me up-“Do  you want a Peet’s Black Tie?”  No.  “Do you want Portillo’s?” No.  I’m sure he was wondering if I was about to die….my two favorites and I said no.  The rest of the day was spent in and out of sleep.

Efficiency is over-rated when it comes to medical procedures.  That or I missed an opportunity to use IV conscious sedation!

Fast forward three days.  Girl is still angry and still angry even as I type this.  Back to three days.  Spot two-all clear, well as clear as they will give you on very dense breast.  Spots 1/3. Well, that call was “it’s benign, but a high risk lesion, so both will need to come out for a full biopsy.”  Whatever complex sclerosing lesions are, I am not a fan.  I mean, seriously, pick one or the other…..either be clear or not clear.  Don’t sit on the fence unsure as to what you want to be!  Pick one!  So, the Truman Show continues….date with the Girl Surgeon today and on September 14th.

Post Truman show…confident I will be shopping in the little girls section.  Or, maybe I can see if as they take out stuff, they have to put stuff back in.  Surely that exists.

So, as my hilarious journey continues and I continue to look around for cameras, once again…..get the girls checked, know thy density and know that mammograms miss up to 75% of all things on high density breasts.  If you are dense, ask for a secondary method of screening.

Nine Months To Go….and Then, It is Done.

In less than nine months, we will watch our youngest child walk across the graduation stage as he is presented as a 2016 college graduate.  I sit here typing the words in disbelief that the end of this season is really that close to being done.  Our season as parents of a “student” and his season as a student still tied financially to his parents.  The days between his first day at Noah’s Ark, to his finals days at his college….in the time it takes for a flash of light to be seen.

We just helped him move back to campus this week.  So  much joy and excitement as the clock ticked down to the first day of senior year classes.  Stopping for moments to just soak it all in….this season as a parent.  Knowing that his next move-in will be to graduate school where he will not be tied to the confines of university dates…but to his own schedule and life with obligations that are in his name.  Knowing he is “this close” to the leg of his journey where he is truly being prepared for job auditions…..that at some point our baby became this man who is so close to his dreams being reality.  And I will treasure these final days of this season…and he will as well.

Sitting across the table from him at lunch and learning that two fellow Aspen Music Festival students won’t be completing their journey..their season..as they were tragically killed in a car wreck on the way to their destinations after the AMF.  Two kids, two men….that in the blink of an eye..it was over.  I found  myself sitting there thanking God over and over for protecting Josh in every moment of his day.  I sat there grieving for the parents of those two kids, the two men.  Being quickly reminded to treasure each day of this season…to not be so worried about it ending that I, Josh, miss the moments along the way…because tomorrow isn’t promised and today is to be lived and celebrated.

The clock is ticking….celebration one…he is on campus safe.  Celebration two…principal chair for his ensembles. Celebration three…he loves his school.  Celebration four….he has had such affirmation this summer that he is on the right path…that his dreams can happen.  Celebration five….he still is our baby boy…always will be…but he is now a man…learning how to navigate the world on his terms.

So, maybe it’s not none months to go, and then, it’s done.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s really nine months to go and then it begins.

Twenty-Nine Years

I am on a doctor ordered “take it easy” for today, and that gives me ample time to recap a tiny bit on “Twenty-Nine Years” and a week of fun and celebration.  Yes, you read that correctly, these two silly kids have been hitched twenty-nine years!  I am certain there were bets placed on our wedding day, and for those who bet “for us”….consider this your “you are welcome” for those winnings!  (Now, send us a present with those winnings!)  No..really….I like Tiffany’s.  Lee likes golf stores.

We have never been that couple that did fancy gifts….we are honestly that couple that if you did buy a gift, you might be met with, “what did you do?”  Our special day fell on a Sunday this year, so we decided that we would begin celebrating our very wise decision to marry one another on Friday, and Saturday..and well..Sunday…and maybe even a tad on the following weekend!

Since moving to Chicagoland, we have been searching for a “chicken tender” place. One of our favorite spots in Northwest Arkansas was “Slim’s Chicken” and we miss that treat so much!  So, Friday night of our celebration weekend, we tackled “Kicks” in Naperville.  I wish I could say it was amazing.  I wish I could say we have a new chicken spot.  Sadly, I cannot say either of those things.  To ease the pain of our chicken defeat, we treated ourselves to a delicious trip to Culver’s for frozen custard.  All was not lost.  We toured some areas of Naperville that we have liked and used a little Zillow action to determine if we were in “buying” territory.  We have noticed we spend most of our time in Naperville and seem to gravitate that way on just about all activities….and we can get more house for our money.  Win, win.  That was Friday night…pretty boring by some folks standard…but for us…it was a fun night!

Saturday brought us back into Naperville.  Poor Lee…he has just always gone to one of those haircut places that you walk in, write you name down…and get a cut.  Nothing special.  Just a man’s cut.  I had suggested he just give my salon a try.  He did and he liked it!  While out, I may have made a little stop into Anthropolgie.  I may have left with a bag.  Soon, we were hungry and I had decided that we were finally going to try the BBQ joint in downtown Naperville.  Q-BBQ.  It always has a great crowd and reviews were solid…but we were southern folk and we have high standards for BBQ.  It was SUPER!  Loved my pork and Lee loved his chicken.(Plus…it was with slaw..and any good BBQ person knows it ain’t BBQ without the slaw on top!)  With that said….the stars on my tray were the hushpuppies and my brussels sprouts!  If you are in Northwest Arkansas, you know for the best hush puppies in the world you venture over to Catfish Hole.  Well, these were right up there!  Man…if I had only had  some melted honey butter!  Next, those sprouts.  Deep fried then rolled in the BBQ rub.  Y’all, I can’t even tell you how awesome these were!!!  Granted, I am sure any nutritional value is somewhere in the bottom of the fryer..but who cares!  They were tasty!  A little  more time spent wandering around downtown Naperville (Y’all, this is a super downtown.) and it was time to make the trek back over to the house and rest up for the big night!

I wish you could just taste these.

One of our favorite places here to eat is Morton’s.  It’s so awesome having it so close and it really is a great place to celebrate any occasion.  They go above and beyond to make you feel special while you are there.  I especially love that you can dress up a bit and enjoy a nice dinner without paper napkins or having to clear your own mess.  We were greeted by the same staff as we had on our last visit.  (It says a lot to me when you  have low staff turnover.)  One thing I loved about our visit this night was we had our seating changed so that my voice would be easier for Lee to hear.  I cannot begin to tell you how much this meant to me.  We didn’t ask for this change…they did it on their own.  We loved that we had the same server as our last visit!  She’s awesome!  Plus….I still love that little touch on the menu printed just of you and your occasion!  We normally each order the filet, but we were encouraged to try the Porterhouse and split the strip and the filet.  Oh my…I’m SO glad we did!  Seriously, the best steak that I have ever eaten.  I don’t know if it was the bone in as it was cooked…or just being hungry…BUT…SO yummy!  They do a good job on their sides as well.  I also appreciate the bread with the room temperature butter!  What good is the butter if it’s like spreading a brick on the bread??  Soon, it was time for dessert.  As part of our anniversary celebration, we had already chosen the hot fudge cake as our complimentary dessert….but…on the way in, I noticed they had cherries jubilee.  So, we may have had TWO desserts!  You can never have too many desserts-right? During our meal, we had them take a picture of us and then they came to our table to take a picture and printed it and gave it to us in a special folder at the end of our meal.  Those special little touches…make the night just perfect!  (Plus…you will NEVER have to send your steak back to be “cooked again” at Morton’s…it’s always spot-on!)  With full bellies, our night was over and it was onward to the actual date!

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Sunday was spent pretty much in our little routine.  A stop at Peet’s on the way to church for a medium “black-tie”….ok, I am addicted.  Iced coffee, sweetened condensed milk and a splash of cream.  Can you blame me?  Church, followed by what has become almost a tradition….Chicagoland breakfast after church.  Honey Jam was our stop!  I am not sure why, but Chicagoland seriously has some of the best breakfast ever.  Sure, hot-dogs, pizza, popcorn…but the breakfast folks around here have it going on!  Serve it with Intelligentsia coffee…and well…this gal is in love.  I wish I could figure out what they use in their pancake batter here.  These are not southern pancakes…they are delicious.  I need to make it a point to ask on my next visit…aka…this Sunday.  Our cards that we exchanged sum up so  much of us as a couple.  Lee gives me this sweet card that is oozing sentimental thoughts…I give Lee a card that’s full of humor and not a whiff of romance.  It is what it is.  I’m just not that girl.  Thankful he gets that and has learned to appreciate it.

All in all, we celebrated as we do each day….thankful that for whatever the reason…us two silly kids have made it.  Someone asked me a year or so ago what/why I thought we had made it.  On paper…well…it shouldn’t have worked.  I think lots of grace…lots of empathy…lots of letting each person grow and being ok with the fact some days are not going to be great…but you keep marching onward.  It’s messy, it’s imperfect..and yet…it’s perfect.  Learning very quickly not to look over at another couple and compare….that’s their road, their journey, their life.  Not yours. Finding room for each other’s family….even when you didn’t want to.  Toss in a whole lot of prayer…and that’s it.  Not anything of our own doing, but His.

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So, twenty-nine years……and to put the cherry on the top of the pie…the following weekend we explored Geneva, ate at Buttermilk (ya gotta go) and then had our first outing at Top Golf…ya gotta go to that too.  Maybe we are still two kids….just slightly older and a tad wiser…just a tad.

Adventures in Chicagoland continue….and the countdown is on to 30!!!!  On a side-note, just had to share this picture of our Josh…Aspen seems to agree with this kid…just a few more days to the start of his SENIOR year of college in one awesome town!

So, peace out for today.  Make it count!

Am I like Truman, on TV and unaware?

I’m seriously beginning to wonder if a portion of my life isn’t a version of The Truman Show.  I keep looking around for cameras or repeating background scenes.  If it appears my life/blog has become one endless conversation on health, testing, etc…well…it’s because it seemingly  has.  You would think if I was some reality based television show that I would at least see an increase in the checking account….right?  I mean…if I am going to be the newest red pin cushion for the world to watch….show me the money!

It seems with all the attention that my lungs have been receiving lately, that “my girls” have become jealous and have decided that they want countless pictures made of them as well.  Attention “girls”, this chick is annoyed.  Sure, some of their activity is out of their control…dense girls…no, not that type of dense!  (Although, I am beginning to think it might fit.)  A little known factoid regarding a high breast density-Women with dense breasts have been shown to have a four- to six-fold increased risk of developing breast cancer; only age and BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations increase risk more. (Yes, you read that correctly…a higher risk factor than a first degree relative!)  I’m dense.  Again, not that type of dense.  My son may well disagree with that statement, but I’m clinging to my “not that type of dense” statement!

So, back to the girls.  I was very fortunate to be part of a breast clinic in Northwest Arkansas that took breast density seriously and made sure those “dense girls” were treated accordingly.  I had regular mammograms, a yearly Automated All Breast Ultrasound (ABUS)-they used Sono-Cine, and I kept those follow-up appointments without fail.  For a couple of years, the girls were active.  It was as if they wanted to see just how many “what’s that” they could toss out in screenings.  Four biopsies over the course of six years..fun times.  They settled down, grew stable and I was a mere three months from graduating from my “see you in six months” routine when we moved to Chicagoland!  Maybe it was the bitter cold that made them angry…maybe it was all the attention the lungs beside them were getting….maybe it was just their narcissistic personality of wanting attention…whatever their excuse, the girls are awake and having a party.

July I had my 3D mammogram in Chicagoland.  3D mammogram?  Are you asking what in the world?  Breast tomosynthesis is the fancy word for it.  A little factoid regarding 3D mammograms-Researchers found that 3D mammography, used along with standard digital mammograms, bumped up breast cancer detection rates by more than 40 percent. (From WebMD) Given my girls and their “dense” nature, this is my preferred mammogram method.  Still not perfect for their high maintenance attitude, but it’s a start.  Normally, I would have that and then the yearly schedule of my all-breast….but until this week, I had struggled to find a local provider.  Back to the girls and their drama.

Increased calcifications.  Yep.  The girls were awake.  No mention of anything else on the report.  BIRAD 4.  Well, isn’t that nice.  If you know anything about breast and biopsies, you know calcification biopsy is the least enjoyable of them all.  Not that any of them are enjoyable, but just put this in your head….biopsy gun for core samples while your girls are being smashed like a hot potato!  (I am looking around for the camera right now.)  True story-I laughed when Dr. Radiology came in to “break the news.”  I  mean, at some point, doesn’t all of the testing and such just become a comedy?  I think I replied something along the lines of, “Of course you saw something.”  Biopsy day came, a little Ativan to settle the nerves, smash/smoosh/squish…..passed out Kimmie coming to as the doctor and nurses are hovering over her with comments such as, “her pulse is stronger.”  Yep..stereo ain’t for the weak.  50/50 odds…give us two-three business days.  Thankful for a B9 report with some things to watch….but I can do that…it’s B9.  Take that girls!  See the machines in six months…..now, if you know me, you know that nothing is every that simple with me….I should have just brought snacks and a cot…..

Ok…so we remember…that’s ALL the fancy 3D mammogram showed…right?  Fast forward to that visit to Mayo.  Well, wouldn’t ya know it….the left girl got jealous of the right girl and decided to get all sparkly during the contrast phase.  Seriously????  You played hide and seek three weeks prior during the mammo and you decide to show up to the party a tad late and excite all the medical folks?  Drama queen!  So, back to the girl clinic this week…..ultrasound…oh yep…there it is….oh wait…what’s this?  (Insert my rolling of eyes…) Tech puts that obligatory hand on my shoulder as she tells me she will be back with the Doctor.  In walks the Doc and a solemn faced tech.  (Ok..I get it…women freak out about these things…but have you seen my file? I’m five biopsies in….you would have to come in with tears and the chaplain to really create a response here.)  So….blah blah…biopsy..blah blah…schedule..blah blah….ok.  Soon thereafter, the call from the Breast Surgeon office comes and I’m being passed off….the girls have made everyone nervous and it’s time for the big-guns to handle it from this point.  Next day?  Five PM?  Drama.  The girls have me so annoyed at this point.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful and thankful we have medical care now that saves lives…and I’m thankful for the proactive approach…but I can be annoyed.

Dense breasts……I’ve been told they will calm down as I enter the 50’s…but they don’t know these girls.  They have a serious Napoleon complex (yes, they are size challenged). Like a star pupil, the girls and me (or is it “I” or “myself”??? PS-don’t answer.), well, we kept that next doctor appointment and we are still scheduled for what should be a very fun morning next week…..see…everyone is so excited now, that well, it’s two spots (one of which has been there, but “since we are in the area, let’s go ahead and take some of it too) plus two cysts aspirations.  Is this where I need to start searching for a negative cup size sling for the girls?

So, back to the whole Truman show idea….is this where I look into the sky and talk to the people in the control room?  Somewhere far away, are two ladies with one-hundred cats sitting and telling all their friends over bridge about this gal in Chicagoland that is becoming one of the better claimants for BCBS?  Wait…I think I would be a bad claimant if I am actually filing claims..right?  Anyways….to my girls…party is over….after next week, y’all are in time-out until, well, the end of time.

Now for a bit of seriousness….ladies….next time  you have that mammo-ask for your density.  I suppose I first need to say-get those mammograms!  If you do have dense breasts, request a yearly ultrasound screening or MRI.  It could save your life!  Our girls tend to be drama queens…and like that friend who kept your drama queen friend in check in junior high..it’s our job to keep them in line…well…at least try.  Not one time have any of my solid issues been visible on mammogram.  Only calcifications…and even then, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.  Know thy density!

Now off to dream for biopsy #6 and #7…fun times….smile for the camera! Or wand…whichever it is this time!

Adventures at Mayo

Mayo Clinic Mission and Values

Mission

To inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research.

Primary value 

The needs of the patient come first. (from mayoclinic.org)

I just returned from my first “Adventures at Mayo.”  I didn’t know what to expect other than what I had heard from others and read on the internet.  How different can one medical system be?  Why is it difficult to get in?  What makes this campus in Rochester, MN so special?  And, why did I get in so quickly once the right department became involved?

A five hour drive from Chicagoland made more sense than trying to get on a plane.  By the time you factored in traffic, check-in time, travel time, etc…it just wasn’t worth the hassle.  So, off I went.  Excited.  Hopeful.  Nervous.  A little detour here.  I traveled across a good bit of the western side of Wisconsin.  I was amazed at some of the beautiful country Wisconsin has to offer.  Amazing rock formations, hills, small mountains that reminded me of Northwest Arkansas…just beautiful.  Having recently returned from the Eastern side of Wisconsin, I was pleasantly surprised.  Now if someone can explain to me Wis-Dells and all the waterparks!   OK, back to the topic.  So, I traveled and arrived the afternoon before day one of Mayo.  I found myself a tad bored, so after dinner a quick trip to Target was in order to help pass time.  I found myself in the book section and stumbled upon the “Grown Up Coloring Book” that has been around.  I, and my impulse shopping nerve, grabbed the book and proceeded to gather some colored pencils.  This ended up being my night.  I believe I missed my hobby calling.  Coloring.  I found it to be oddly relaxing.  I also found myself wishing I had about 100 additional colors to choose from.  I’m guessing I might be upgrading my color collection soon.

Soon, the night was over and it was time to head over to the Mayo Clinic for check-in.  Park. Check.  Try not to hit a pedestrian as you look at everything around you.  Check.  Coffee.  Check.  Walk in the front door.  Check.  Instantly realize this is something special.  Something different.  Double Check.  I proceeded to the area where I was told to check-in and get my picture made.  (Disclaimer:  I have been to many clinics.  Many hospitals.  It takes a lot to make me go, wow.)  Just in the lobby area, I went wow.  I cannot explain it.  You did not see patients walking around covered with stress.  You didn’t see a sea of white doctor coats.  You sensed a peace.  An assurance.   Next, over to the elevators for my first appointment of the day.  A beeper to call me for my appointment time?  Yeah!  The clinic’s are well organized, well ran and very patient focused.  My beeper goes off.  I first meet with the Otolaryngologist’s NP.  I was impressed with her knowledge, her compassion, her ability to ask the right questions in order to get a full picture.  I was even more impressed at how she was able to relax me during the dreaded scope.  Instead of telling me how I shouldn’t be, she worked with how I was and used whatever she had to use to help me relax.  Music, calm tones, quiet room….I mattered.  Next, in walks the Doctor.  (He had a student with him too.)  Seeing doctors all in suits is new to me.  You can’t tell which ones are students and which ones are seasoned at their craft.  The playing field isn’t about your coat….it’s about the patient.  I never really realized until this week how intimidating those white coats are.  They create a line in the sand in the relationship.  Trust in doctors is not my strong-suit.  I will analyze a doctor up and down and back again.  I suppose this is an unavoidable part of living with a chronic illness and having poor result/outcomes that in hindsight were because I trusted too blindly.  So, imagine my surprise, when within ten minutes, I had a full confidence in this physician.  I think God knows this character trait in me and knows that I needed that instant “click.”  More on that later.  After going over what he saw and what he suggests, we agreed that more needed to be known on my anatomy that couldn’t be visualized by scope.  CT.  Scheduled.  Coordinated with next appointment so that both CT scans would be done at the same time.  Three months ago I heard a seasoned ENT here in Chicagoland say that my anatomy was the “worst he has ever seen.”  I am thankful today for a meeting where my anatomy did not shock or scare or worry the doctor.  That my virus history wasn’t new to him.  I’m a fan.  Within one hour of my appointment, his dictation was ready on my Mayo patient portal.  Impressed.

I had about a two hour window between appointments on the first day, so lunch was in order.  Right outside the clinic area is a beautiful area known as “Peace Plaza.”  From the lobby I could see a restaurant called “Chesters”, so I decided it was fate for us to meet.  (I am so thankful I can eat alone.  It has served me well in my lifetime.)  Seated.  Cornbread with maple butter???  What!!!!  Yes, I will take a slice of that.  Slap your Momma good!  (Don’t slap your Momma, but you get my idea here.)  What to eat for my meal???? What to eat???  Salads.  That sounds good…so I went with the Chester Chopped Salad.  Seriously good stuff.  In house roasted chicken, apples, fresh spring greens, eggs, homemade croutons, sweet corn and bacon….what is  not to love on that list?? Time for pulmonary.

Back to the clinic I went and up eighteen floors….I seriously don’t like anything above about ten…but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  The second time of being called back earlier than my appointment time…seriously, I think that in itself is a five star rating!  Pulmonary is not my favorite department.  I can say that about every pulmonary department I have been to.  I can’t explain it.  It seems to be the department I struggle the most in with that all-important “click.”  After a review of  my history and a chat about ideas of where and what we need to do, I was rescheduled for a longer appointment on day two after more tests were available.  Ok…here’s where I am going to give another shout.  I was not charged for day one clinic in this department.  Even though it was a good forty-five minutes, I was not charged.  Doctor told the desk to make the second day my “official” appointment.  A different way of doing medicine.  I told ya.  Day one at Mayo was coming to an end and this chick needed to just go and put her feet on the bed for a bit and process the day.  Soon, hunger set in and the decision of where to eat began swirling around.  Everyone kept telling me I had to try wall-eye…..slight issue….I only like two fish.  Catfish cooked Mississippi style and Halibut.  I decided I would at least consider it, so I thought hey…there’s a Canadian Honkers (Ok…I laughed…it’s just a hilarious word…Honkers.) right by me.  I walked in, grabbed a table….menu.  Began to realize this was just a Denny’s type establishment in disguise.  No…Kim can’t do this.  So I ever so politely excused myself and opted to go back to Chester’s where I had the most wonderful lunch earlier in the day.  The homestyle turkey dinner and a delicious dessert of banana cream pie and this gal was full and ready to stick a fork in this day.  I remember 9PM and I remember 9:45PM, but not anything in between those two times….so it was an early night.

Day two started early and included a bit of fasting in order to be ready to the contrast that would be needed for the tests.  Anything that involves the need to start an IV line causes me to have near panic attacks.  I suppose that’s just part of the journey when your veins are full of scar tissue and the idea of enduring multiple sticks to hopefully thread an IV are your norm.  Normally, an injection of lidocaine at the IV site along with warm towels is the only way we “might” get a thread on the first try.  The precious girls up in the IV room kept assuring me that Mayo was different…to trust them…they could do this without the numbing medication.  So, my arms were wrapped in warm blankets, then it was time to find a vein.  She quickly saw the vein she wanted and decided to spray a topical numbing medication on my skin just to help keep that area of skin remain relaxed (I believe it was honestly due to me being a baby in the IV room.)  Deep breath….and it was IN!  Zero discomfort.  It was IN! I wanted to hug her.  Now that I know what its supposed to be like, well, Mayo is different.  Time for scans.  So, honestly, how different can scans be from one institution to another?  It’s a scan.  Even that is different.  Most was the same until it was time to inject the contrast.  My arm placement was different, the way that they administered the contrast was different (No sensation of you just well….if you have had contrast you know what I am talking about here.).  When finished, I was handed a bottle of water to start my four bottles by the end of the day flush.  Different, yes indeed.  Back to Pulmonary.

I wish I could pin point my issue with Pulmonary everywhere I go.  Is it that I know too much about what works and doesn’t work that flags are always going up?  Is it that I’ve already decided what route I want to take and haven’t found the one that says it without me bringing it up first?  Is it just the nature of a pulmonologist and their personality?  Is it just me and my over-thinking nature?  Or is it that this isn’t the department I should be in first….that maybe the process is off?  We went over the scans from the  morning and decided that we were missing a piece of the puzzle in order for him to make a decision on where to go from here.  So, I am to get that puzzle piece sent priority mail directly to his office.  Then a meeting will occur where all the information will be sorted through.  Looking for the smallest of change…a clue.   And that was the end of this first Mayo Adventure.

Where we left things at Mayo.  Otolaryngology has their scan results and has emailed me their plan.  I just have to set the date for what they want to try.  Pulmonary-we are on hold.  I learned a few things that I didn’t know while there…some things I should have known for years…thankful that I know them  now.  It really is a different way of doing medicine.  You can’t really explain it…you just have to be a part of it.  The level of care from front desk to the top is greater than anything I have ever experienced.  Watching patients and such sit at the grand piano in the lobby and play hymns and sing-along songs…watching women walk up and join in harmony…..while the sun shone brightly in through the beautiful windows…just a peace that you normally don’t feel in any clinic setting.  I’m a fan.

It was time for the drive back to Chicagoland.  It was a time to process the visit and logically go over the events of the past two days.  Was my uncertaintity of the Pulmonary a personality issue, a flag, me over-thinking….what was it?  I really don’t know much more in that area than I did last week….was it simply due to that missing puzzle piece?  Then the phone rings and I let it go to voicemail.  It was MD Anderson.  About the time that the Mayo process started, I had made it past the gate-keepers of MD Anderson and they had requested my medical information.  I was in.  The appointment was mine.  Instantly, I am wondering if this is God’s timing to my questions…or simply a distraction from where God had led me already.  I sat on this voicemail until the next day.  Praying over wisdom, discernment….so I returned the call.  They see my medical file a little differently than Mayo.  I sent out a SOS to a couple dear friends and made that phone call to my Sis.  I prayed for just wisdom….take it..not take it…why are they starting me in a different department than anyone else?  Remembering that MD, like Mayo, doesn’t just take appointments.  It’s not like calling a local specialist.  My file meets their area of expertise….Ugh…grown-up life..sometimes…just saying.

Long story short, I am taking the appointment in Houston.  I could have gone in two weeks, but in fairness to the pulmonary folks at Mayo and my need to see their plan, I have opted to go early September.  After that appointment, I plan to allow Mayo Otolaryngology to proceed with their plan.  At MD Anderson, I am starting in thoracic oncology.  I’m starting where I would be treated.  Different approach.  Different eyes on same file.

In all of this, I am dealing with a touch of anger.  I am angry that everyone isn’t allowed the level of care I received at Mayo.  That should be the standard for each of us…no matter where we are.  I’m angry that doctors don’t refer patients when the doctor isn’t fully qualified.  Learning something from a book while in medical school does not qualify you.  I’m angry that any patient has to feel that they don’t have knowledge or power in their healthcare.

I’m also dealing with gratitude.  I am so grateful that we have an insurance plan that allows me to seek the very best care I can find.  I know many don’t have that option. That should change.  It needs to change.  Geography and income should not determine your medical outcome.  My life is of no greater value than the person next to me….so I am thankful that I can go.  I’m thankful for the ability to travel and the huge support team I have in my RRP family to help guide my way.  People I have never met that I have cheered me on, supported me, provided vast amounts of information….I am thankful that I am not fearful of traveling alone or facing doctors and questioning their words.  Grateful.  I am thankful for friends and my family.

I am in awe of God who has clearly guided each step of this journey these past few months.  I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I know He guides my steps and has gone before me.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

So, now we wait for the Mayo plan and prepare for Texas.  I plan to eat Tex-Mex daily!  Texas brings a chance to hang out with my aunt, my sister and hopefully some of my Texas friends.  It’s almost surreal that where my RRP journey began…it’s going back.  Life really is a circle…..and somehow we are all woven together within that circle.