Friday's Letters

Friday, April 26, 2013

Oh hey, Friday. Feels like forever since I've seen you. Well, it definitely has been forever since I've joined in on Friday's Letters. And today seems like a good day.


Dear job: thanks for keeping me on my toes the last several weeks that I've been flying solo in the marketing department. I have been the busiest I've ever been in the year (as of April 23) since I started, but I'm loving it! Seriously.

Dear hubs: I am growing weary of you living 3.5 hours away. At first, it was kinda exciting that we were long distance, and I'll admit it was kinda nice to have some alone time. But now, 3 months in, I'm over it. I just want to live with my husband, is that too much to ask? I know it's out of your hands right now, and I'm excited for our future, but right now I miss you allll the time.

Dear Savannah: I am excited to spend a weekend with you and stroll your pretty streets and eat your amazing food. It's been a while. You will be a nice little rendezvous for the hubs and I this weekend! 

Dear pups: sorry you're at the "slammer" (aka the kennel) again this weekend. Soon enough mommy and daddy will live in the same place again...

Dear spring: yeah, I heard you started March 20 but honestly, you haven't shown your face yet. What's up with sending us residual winter temps? We've had enough of that, thanks.

Dear wardrobe: I am trying to give you an update for Spring/Summer as hard as I can, but I am just not loving the clothes in stores right now! I hate when that happens!

Dear treadmill: thanks for hanging in there and being patient while I slowly improve my endurance capabilities. I'm trying! And we're spending more time together now than we ever have before. I don't hate it.

Dear sweets: you and my dang sweet tooth are killing me. I can't quit you!! 

Happy weekend! 

Sooo...getting outdoors is harder than I thought

Monday, April 22, 2013

My challenge to myself this month was simple and painless: spend at least 30 consecutive minutes outside at least 4 days a week. Sounds good, right? Who doesn't want to spend time outside right now, with the warmer weather and longer days?

Despite the draw of it, it's been a real challenge. It's so easy to come home from work and sit my butt on the couch in front of the TV. On the days that I do my run (basically every other day), I run inside on my treadmill. I have a real aversion to running outside. Maybe I'm scarred from having to run outside as a Florida school kid in 90% humidity all those years?

However, I will say that a few things have legitimately stood in my way: last Tuesday was our big event at work that I planned, so Monday was out (worked late prepping for the event) as was Tuesday, since the event went until 8. Wednesday, I was so exhausted from Tuesday that I came home from work and crashed. Thursday it was raining. Friday it was raining. You see where this is going.

But I tried to make up for it Saturday and Sunday, which were gorgeous days. I took Ellie for a long walk, did some yard work, read on the deck for hours, and played ball with Ellie while Penny explored the back yard. Spending a few hours in the warm sunshine really is therapeutic. Maybe I should try to do it more often...ha!

The countdown is on: Italia 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Big news: we booked our Italy trip for this summer! We've only been talking about this trip for the last 3 years. And now, thanks to a larger tax return than expected, it is actually happening!

We bought our plane tickets, booked hotels, and purchased the most important thing you will ever take to Europe: the Rick Steves guide book. If there is one piece of advice I can offer to any traveler going to any major European country, it's to spend the $24.99 on Rick's guide. He is amazing. Don't waste your money on any other guide book.

But enough about my Rick Steves crush.

We're flying into Venice, staying for two nights, then taking the train to Florence and staying there for 2 nights, then training it to Rome and staying there for 3 nights. To say I'm excited is a huge understatement.

We leave June 30, which can't come soon enough. Now to find the perfect wardobe for 8 days in Italy...


How I was (finally) diagnosed with Crohn's Disease

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I bet you are soooo excited to read this. I mean, that is one sexy post title, eh? But seriously, I have been meaning to write a post on Crohn's and what it's like for me, since I was recently diagnosed in December after trying to figure it out for 15 months. Crohn's is something that can easily go undiagnosed because it has so many similarities to other diseases, or it's just chalked up to having a sensitive stomach. Warning: this post is lengthy and gets a little graphic! :)

Looking back, I have probably been having symptoms of Crohn's for several years now, but they were few and far between, and I always assumed my stomach hurt or was upset due to something I ate. We all get tummy aches, right?

I was a newlywed when I realized it had to be more than just something I ate. It was September (we got married in July) of 2011. The symptom that tipped me off was that I was bleeding every now and then when I had a BM. I had noticed it for a few months, and I thought it was just a fluke or maybe I was straining (sorry to be blunt). I mentioned it one day to Alex - what a super-sexy newlywed convo that was! - and he was like "What? You're bleeding? That is not normal! How long has this been going on?" I sheepishly admitted that it had been happening for a few months, albeit rarely, but it was starting to be more common. I told him I had also been having some stomach pains for a few months, but I had assumed it was due to stress and nerves surrounding the wedding, and the very, very stressful job I had at the time. That week, I made an appointment with a gastroenterologist that a good friend recommended to me.

Thank the Lord my friend warned me of what was probably going to happen at that first appointment! As soon as the doc heard "bleeding," he wanted to take a look. And probe. It was unpleasant/awkward/embarassing to say the least. He then said I needed to start with a colonoscopy to try to nail down what was going on.

In October 2011, I had my first colonoscopy. If you haven't had one, you really should go get one for the hay of it - it's so much fun! Ha. Actually, it wasn't as bad as I had feared. I was, however, the youngest person in the endoscopy center by at least 30 years. After the scope, when I was still high from the anesthesia (thankfully the hubs was there to listen!), my doc told me that my bowels looked fine but that my rectum looked irritated, which he called proctitis. He prescribed a smattering of oral meds and suppositories to combat it. None of them worked. And some of that stuff was crazy expensive, even with insurance. Meanwhile, my symptoms were showing up more and more frequently as the months (and different medications) went on.

In May 2012, I started tracking my calories and getting real about losing some of the Newlywed Nine that I had put on (thanks Sandals, the "Luxury (aka a million calories) Included" resort!). I was sticking to a pretty strict, but healthy, diet. A typical day was oatmeal for breakfast, an apple, yogurt, and triscuits for lunch, and a balanced dinner with lean meat and a lot of veggies (esp. broccoli, my fave). Then the craziest thing happened: as I started to eat "better," my symptoms were quickly becoming the worst they had ever been. By the end of May, I was showing symptoms every single day, for pretty much all day. I was miserable.

What were my symptoms, you ask? I was bloated, horribly. Like, I looked pregnant. My stomach hurt and I had abdominal cramping. I sometimes felt like I had a baseball stuck under my rib cage. I felt like I was going to have a BM about every hour, so I would rush to the bathroom and only bleed. I was bleeding so much that it was scary. I was either constipated, or couldn't stop going. I started getting really nauseous throughout the day and a few days, I vomited in the morning before work. By the end of the month, I had to stay home from work for a few days even though I had just started a new job. If I hadn't just started a new job, I would have probably been at home in bed for the last solid week of May.

By the night of May 30, I was in a bad, bad place, y'all. I felt bad enough that I thought I needed to go to the ER or at least Urgent Care, but as luck would have it, I was uninsured for one day and one day only that year: May 31. Because I has just changed jobs, my old coverage was for only 30 days after my last employed month (until May 30), and my new coverage was starting June 1.

I stuck it out and went to the ER the morning of June 1. I decided to go to the Emergency Room for a few reasons: my gastro had not yet found that I had anything to worry about with his diagnostics so far, so I thought maybe it was something else entirely, like my appendix or gallbladder. Plus, I thought that since my gastro hadn't figured it out, maybe a fresh new set of eyes would.

I told the ER doc my symptoms, but all he seemed to hear was that I was vomiting in the morning. He was convinced I was pregnant. Sorry dude, but I was on my period at that very moment so I was most definitely not with-child. He ran a series of tests, including lab work and a CT scan, and told me that everything looked "normal." He sent me home with a few prescriptions for pain killers and anti-nausea meds. I felt so defeated though because I knew the symptoms I was experiencing were NOT "normal."

I went to my gastro a few days later, and he was concerned that I was bleeding so much and had a lot more pain. He put me on Prednisone, a steroid, to help with the inflammation in my intestines that was believed to be causing the problem. He told me that if I wasn't feeling better by the end of June, that we would do another colonoscopy.

But the Prednisone worked really well, and within 2 weeks, almost all my symptoms had subsided. I cancelled the colonoscopy. Then my gastro suddenly retired, and I was assigned another doctor in the practice. For the rest of the summer, I felt okay for the most part because I was still on the steroids. But when I started tapering off of them in late August, the symptoms slowly returned again.

By late September, I was feeling pretty bad again. The symptoms escalated again and, although hard to believe it, they seemed even worse than the last time. Alex was adamant that I go to the ER for a second time one Saturday night. They pretty much did the same as last time: more painkillers and more anti-nausea stuff, but they also put me back on Prednisone for a quick 4-week round. I called my gastro that Monday and demanded that I have an endoscopy along with the colonoscopy that was already scheduled for October. After some begging, he agreed to do it.

In October, I was just finishing the second round of Prednisone when I had my second colonoscopy and first endoscopy. When my doc came to chat after the scopes - again, when I was still high - I was downright elated when he told me he'd spotted lots and lots of ulcers in my upper GI tract during the endoscopy. So everything wasn't "normal" after all! Ha! The ulcers explained some of my symptoms. But still, he needed to see how far into my small intestine the ulcers went to determine the cause.

Next up? A capsule endoscopy, where you literally swallow a camera the size of a large pill and it takes video and images of your digestive track allllllll the way through until you "pass" it. It was a little disturbing to swallow a little camera that had a blinking light on it, but alas, it did its job. And its job was to diagnose me with Crohn's.

A few weeks later at my follow-up, once my doc had time to review the "footage" from the capsule endoscopy, I could tell my doc didn't want to say it. He was so nice about it. But he ended up blurting out, "The capsule showed what looks to be classic Crohn's." And there it was. What I had been expecting for awhile. Regardless of the fact that there is no cure and it never goes away, it was a form of relief that I felt. [Side note: because of all the bleeding that had been going on, I had developed acute anemia - my Hemoglobin had dropped to 7 - and had to undergo a series of four 4-hour-long iron infusions as a result. One thing leads to another!]

My doctor started talking about treatment options, and about how our goal was to achieve remission. He was sweet and apologetic, and conveniently left out that about 75% of Crohn's patients have surgery at some point. I went home with a bunch of brochures on my treatment options and another appointment scheduled for the beginning of February, when I would have to make the decision.

We [me, Alex, my doctor, and his nurse] decided to go with the middle-of-the-road treatment, Humira, a biomedic. It's a subcutaneous injection that I give myself once every other week. No biggie (even though it sure is hard to push that button to inject myself!). The downside of biomedics is that they basically shut your immune system down, since that is essentially what is attacking your GI tract. So that means you are susceptible to diseases and sicknesses like whoa. And you are at a greater risk of serious illness, like lymphoma. But hey - every medicine has risks these days.

I am also trying to figure out the foods that negatively affect me, since every Crohn's patient is different. So far, I have identified two things that I need to steer clear of: red wine (sadly) and anything that is high in fiber. Usually, high-fiber foods are good for the digestive tract, but for me, it accelerates digestion and causes all my symptoms to flare. When I discovered this, I realized why I started feeling so bad back in May of last year: I was basically on a super high-fiber diet, with all the oatmeal, apples, and broccoli I was eating! And now it all makes sense.

Since December, I have been careful to stay away from red wine and foods that are high in fiber. And I have now been on Humira for about 8 weeks. I can honestly say that I feel better. I am starting to taper off a few of the other meds I'm taking, with the hope that I can eliminate some or all of those eventually. I think I am heading toward remission. I sure hope so. 

My biggest fears about Crohn's? That I will have to have surgery one day. That I will have a flare during a big vacation. That I will feel miserable when I am pregnant. That I will be a slave to Humira (or whatever other drug) forever.

But it could be a thousand times worse. I am so thankful that this disease it treatable and not life-threatening. 

I hope this has shed some light on the yuckiness of this invisible disease. If you have had any of those symptoms, it is worth a trip to the doc to check it out. I wish I had figured it out sooner.

And seriously: a colonoscopy is not that bad.

Tea parties and wine bars

Friday, April 12, 2013

Yes, I know: I am doing my weekend recap on Friday. Life has been a little crazy lately! Work has been keeping me busy (and late), and Ellie has had a little bug this week turning my evenings into clean-up duty and a trip to the emergency vet (she's okay now). But I digress.

Last week was a short one for me: I took Thursday and Friday off and headed down to Florida (sans the husband - boo) for two big parties: my Nana's 80th birthday and my sorority's 25th Anniversary.

I flew down on Thursday afternoon, and went to Okeechobee first to celebrate with Nana on Friday. She wanted a tea party - and boy did she ever! About 120 people came to celebrate with her. Sooo cute!

Saturday morning sunrise in Okeechobee
Saturday morning, I got super early and drove my rental to Gainesville to celebrate the 25th Anni of my sorority, Sigma Phi Lambda! Every chapter across the country celebrated the same day, and it was cool to think of all the sisters - current and alumnae - that were celebrating in unison. I got to see some of my sisters that I haven't seen in years - what a fun time!

Girls' night out!
Saturday afternoon/evening and Sunday were spent with my besties Lesley & Lindsey. So lucky to have spent 2 weekends in a row with them - that never happens! The three of us went out Saturday night, giving Les and break from the baby. I can't tell you the last time it was just the 3 of us out somewhere. It felt like college again. Except that I always feel old when I go out in Gainesville.

At the wine bar: heaven, I tell you!
I flew home on Sunday, picked up my babies from the boarder, and unwound from my trip. There's no place like home. And for me, home's three places: Greenville, Okeechobee and Gaiensville.

Monthly Challenge: it's April?!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Okay seriously y'all - I have not fallen off the face of the earth. One day, it's freezing out and the next it's April 11th.

So about that Monthly Challenge for March: I did it! My challenge to myself was to continue tracking my calories and to begin the Couch to 5k program. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm no runner. I have never enjoyed running, and can remember wayyyy back in elementary school that the day we had to run "The Mile" in PE was the worst day of the year for me, every year.

But I'm trying to change that. While I don't have aspirations to be a serious distance runner, a 5k seems doable. Plus, there are 5ks every weekend around here for a good cause, so it's a way I can contribute while doing something good for my body.

I can proudly say that I no longer dread getting on the treadmill and I've hit a major milestone: I can run a mile or more without stopping. I don't think I've been able to do that since those days in PE circa 1995.

As for my April challenge? Continue what I'm doing, for sure. But adding to that, I want to spend at least 30 minutes outside (consecutively) for at least 4 days a week. This is tough for me, because although I enjoy the outdoors, I work inside and just want to relax when I get home from work at the end of the day. And I much prefer the treadmill to the pavement (the combination of A/C and TV is hard to beat). But the weather is getting nicer - minus the thick layer of yellow pollen that is covering everything from my car to my patio furniture - it's getting dark later, and I have no good excuse NOT to get outside and enjoy God's earth! (Plus, I should enjoy it now before the summer heat comes to suffocate us and we all start complaining about how hot it is and how we can't wait for Fall.)

Happy April! 

Easter weekend in the mountains

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lesley and Lindsey, my best friends from Florida finally came up to my mom's cabin in NC for Easter weekend. I say finally because we have had the cabin since October, and they love the mountains, but this was the first time they've come to visit. Lesley might have had an infant that kinda got in the way of a trip before now...small detail ;)

They have arrived!
Snuggling Avery: I had missed her so much!
We had so much fun: we ate too much, stayed up too late, and I'm not ashamed to admit we had a dance party one night. (For about 20 minutes until we were too tired to dance any more.) We had a full house, with my mom and stepdad there, Lesley and Lindsey, Lesley's baby Avery and husband Chris, and the girls' brother Eric.

By the campfire with Pinnacle Whipped & Pinnacle Pumkin Pie: a smashing combo!
Gator socks. Keeping it cozy at the cabin.
After a few days in the mountains, we went down to Greenville Saturday afternoon. They hadn't been to my house in nearly a year and a half! We shopped a little, then went downtown for an early dinner before we had to put the baby to sleep and pick my hubby up from the airport. Alex had been in Tampa for a recruiting trip and couldn't leave until Saturday night, but even though he was only home for about 36 hours, I was soooo glad to see him (it had been 3 weeks!).

Lunch in little Saluda, NC
On Easter Sunday, we rounded up the entire crew and went to church for a lovely Easter sermon. Alex's parents came up to spend the day with us, too. After church, we had some appetizers while we watched the Gators lose in the Elite 8: major bummer, but at least we made it to the Elite 8! Can't complain about that. Meanwhile, I was cooking up a big dinner with lots of help from all the ladies present. We had a delicious dinner, with a little bit lot of wine and topped it all off with apple pie a la mode.

But the best part of it all? Spending Easter with such special people. To have a dining room table full of so many loved ones was a wonderful feeling.

Obviously, we had to dye Easter eggs! It was Avery's first Easter!

In our Easter dresses

Hubby's home for Easter!
The table is set!
An Easter staple!

Penny in Avery's Bumbo - this just makes me laugh!!

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