Giving Life My All

Giving all of myself to everything in my life… God, my family, my health, my mind. This is my story… my ups and downs, struggles and triumphs.

So This Is Why It’s Called a Battle

I know now why they call it “battling cancer.”

It’s January 10th.  The start of a new year.  2016 is over… 2017 has just begun.  2016 was filled with so many things for the Davidson family… especially for me.  The first half was great.  Greg and I worked through some issues we were having in our marriage to come out the other end stronger and closer than before.  Liam turned 2 in March and continued to put smiles on our faces with his fun personality.  Cayden got to play in his first sport… T-ball… and loved every second of it.  I enjoyed teaching REFIT® at a local YMCA and co-teaching with a good friend at a nearby church.  Greg continued to excel at his job, consistently getting recognized for his work by upper management.  I stepped outside of my comfort zone and went on my first mission trip to Jamaica to help out less fortunate families.  And… Greg and I started thinking about trying for baby #3.

The second half was not so great.  Mid-June, we found out that I had a large mass in my left kidney.  At the end of July, I underwent major surgery to remove my kidney and the tumor that started climbing the walls of my Inferior Vena Cava.  August, we got the pathology report back confirming I have Renal Cell Carcinoma (an Unclassified version).  September, we took a family trip out to the Jersey shore and, during the same trip, met with doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in NYC about potential treatment.  October, Greg and I flew out to NYC again to have my first follow-up scans taken since the surgery.  A couple of days after the scans, we received horrible news that the cancer had grown beyond just the kidney and was on the Psoas muscle that sat behind the affected kidney.  At the end of November, we had another round of follow-up scans taken in NYC to measure possible growth, and got even more devastating news that the tumor had more than doubled in size in a matter of just a month and a half.  December, I spent 15 of 31 days in the hospital due to this cancer.

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Christmas Program at Cayden’s School

December was the month when I started understanding that what I’m going through is truly a battle, and that I’m fighting for my life.  The first hospital stay started out because my doctor here in Indiana wanted to get my pain under control. The pain that was in my lower back, through my pelvic bone and down my left thigh had become unbearable.  The day I was admitted was also the first day that my doctor decided to switch my Immunotherapy drug from Sutent to Opdivo.  We are praying that Opdivo is the miracle drug for me that will shrink this cancer.  The first night that I was in the hospital focusing on pain management, we had blood drawn and learned that my hemoglobin had dropped drastically to unsafe levels (7 g/dl).  What did that mean?  Well, it meant that my body was loosing blood somewhere inside my body and that I would need a couple of blood img_2246transfusions to get it back up to safe levels.  They rushed me from my comfy room at the Simon Cancer Center to the MPCU at University Hospital where they put me on bed rest, hooked me up to fluids, started a blood transfusion and monitored me as if I was a critical care patient.  Once my hemoglobin increased to safe levels, they sent me back to the Simon Cancer Center side of the hospital.  I would have 2 more blood transfusions during that 11 day hospital stay.  We did multiple scans and tests to figure out what was going on and, ultimately,  we found that the tumor had started bleeding inside of me, had created a large hematoma in my abdomen, and had pushed up on my diaphragm to the point where my left lung collapsed to half of its normal size.  Before leaving the hospital, we got my pain management under control with pain killers, started radiation treatment, and confirmed that the tumor was no longer actively bleeding but just “oozing” blood.  I underwent 2 weeks of radiation therapy and finished up the day before Christmas Eve.

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Ringing the bell at my last Radiation Treatment

I was able to stay home to celebrate Christmas with Greg, my boys, my mom and my family who traveled to us from CT.  The holidays were a ton of fun but just a couple of days after Christmas day, I was back in the hospital due to fluid buildup in my chest cavity again.  During my 4 day hospital stay, they surgically put a catheter into my chest to help drain fluid from the comfort of my own home so that we could avoid additional hospital visits.

 

So…. now I’m back home… continuing my Opdivo treatment every other week… and fighting for my life.  I have lost 14 pounds since mid-December, mainly consisting of muscle, and have to force myself to eat every couple of hours because my treatment has caused me to lose my appetite.  The doctors have put me on a medication to increase my appetite but it’s still seems like a chore to eat.  Between hospital stays, blood transfusions, immunotherapy treatment, a collapsed lung, a large hematoma, a large cancerous tumor, losing weight, and having little energy to do much throughout the day… I have learned the true meaning of “battling cancer.”

The absolute one main thing that has pulled me through all of this is God.  I put all of my trust and faith in Him.  He has the power to calm my soul when I feel anxious and He has the power to heal me of this cancer.  Another thing that has helped pull me through is the love and support we have seen from family, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers.  We have been blessed by people surrounding us and people God has brought into our lives.  I want to thank each and every one of you who have donated money, sent gift cards, sent encouraging messages, sent cards in the mail and sent Christmas presents to us and our boys.  Every cent donated, gift given, encouraging word written has put tears in my eyes and a smile in my heart.  Thank you all… each of you is helping me battle this cancer in your own way.  Thank you!  Thank you!  A million times, thank you!

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Words of Encouragement from REFIT Sisters

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I’m a Mama Bear

I’m a “mama bear”… true, real, intense mama bear.  You can’t mess with my kids… for real…. you CANNOT mess with my kids because I cannot promise that I will not yell at or interfere with whatever is going on to hurt my kids.  I’m not saying that to be mean… and that is not my intent in the moment that I’m defending my babies… but I honestly, seriously, cannot say that I will control myself and not get angry/upset about whatever is going on.  I’m a defensive person, I protect the people and things that I love and I cannot sit back and watch those people and those things get hurt without stepping in and making every effort to make that hurt stop.  I’ve done it since I was a child… I did it in college… and I still do it today.  I’m a fighter… I’m strict… I set rules and I’m stern when I enforce them.  I don’t bend easily… and I find it extremely hard to change what is natural to me.

 

Several times over the past year, I have watched my oldest son get picked on.  From innocent teasing to straight up bullying.  If I’m there and I see it happen, I put an end to it.  My son is sensitive.  He’s slowly becoming the smallest in his class and the smallest of his friends.  While his mama is a tough cookie, he’s not-so-much.  I’m trying to teach him how to defend himself with words and actions (i.e. telling the bully to stop and walking away from the situation) and I’m so proud of him when he tells me that he walked away from someone who was picking on him.  He’s only 3 1/2 years old and he’s making amazing choices every day… including walking away from a fight.  The problem comes in with the other kids.  If my son is telling the bully to stop and trying to walk away but the bully keeps pulling him back in and hitting him, what can he do?  Eventually, I’m going to tell him to fight back if there are no adults around to help him… because that’s what I was taught and it was the only thing that made some of my bullies stop.

 

But for now, if I see a child picking on my child and making him cry… I will not tell my son to “suck it up” and “get over it.”  I will physically remove my child (as well as the other) from whatever is going on.  I might yell at the other kid (this has happened on more than just a couple of occassions) and I will tell Cayden not to play with those kids again if they are being mean.  If it continues, and he keeps getting picked on by the same kids, I will no longer allow my child to be friends with those kids even if it means I lose a couple of friends along the way.  While I can control who my son is friends with at 3 1/2 years old, I know this will not always be the case.  One day I will have zero say in who my child hangs out with and what he does with those friends.  My hope is that right now, while I still have control, I teach my child the difference between right and wrong… the difference between fun games and games that are hurting others feelings.  My children’s mental and physical health are my number one priority as a mom and I’m not going to put that in jeopardy because I’m afraid of losing friends due to my “mama bear” reactions.

 

I pray that God will always keep my babies safe, as well as all other people in the world who feel bullied… and I pray that I make the right decisions in raising my boys in this crazy world.  I also pray for those who are doing the bullying, that God heals their hearts and leads to a path of goodness, kindness and love.

 

****Typical disclaimer for me****

I’m sorry if this offends anyone that I know.  It’s not my intent to hurt others… just to get my voice and opinions heard.

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My Littlest Love is Turning One!

Should’ve posted this last Thursday….

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One year ago today, I was sitting around my house, trying to keep up on my normal house chores and take care of Cayden, but all I could focus on were the slow repetitive contractions that seemed to be lingering in my abdomen… never getting stronger, never growing closer together… just lingering at a 4 or 5 on the 10 point pain scale and at 10-15 minutes apart.  I was trying my hardest to rub my special mixed essential oil lotion all over my belly to keep the contractions going and maybe strengthen them and bring them closer together.

At around 7 pm, I decided to Skype with my mom over in CT to tell her that I was pretty sure I was in labor and had been most of the day.  Throughout the hour or so that I talked to her, the contractions finally started strengthening and getting closer together.  She looked at me (over the computer screen) and said that I was definitely in labor, would probably be having a baby by the next day, and that I should head to bed to get as much sleep as possible because I was going to need all the strength I had over the next 24 hours.

After getting off of Skype with her, I continued to keep track of my contractions as they continued to increase in strength… starting at a 6 when Skyping with my mom and ending at a 7 when I decided to call it a night at 11.  From 11 pm to 12:30 am, my pain skyrocketed to a 9 and my contractions were just 1 1/2 to 2 minutes apart.  I decided that since the pain was too strong and I wasn’t getting any sleep, I should probably get to the hospital because there was no predicting how long my active labor would last.  Thankfully, my sister, Nicole, slept over knowing that I was going to be induced early the next morning.  She was able to watch Cayden while Greg went with me to the hospital.

So at 1:00 am, I finally woke Greg up out of his deep sleep.  He grabbed all of our hospital bags, threw on some comfy clothes, and helped me hobble to the car.  We were at the hospital by about 1:45, was checked in by 2, and had all of my vitals checked and IVs in by 2:30 am.  At about 3 or 4, I gave in to the pain and got my epidural.  My water broke on its own around 6… and just 3 hours later, I was fully dilated and ready to push.

My doctor came in at 8:45 am to check on me… it was the first time I saw her the entire time since I had been admitted.  She told me that I could try to push now or I could hold off until after she performed a surgery at 9:15.  I told her that I could wait since I didn’t feel the urge to push at that moment.  She turned to leave the room, I rolled over onto my side and all of a sudden felt an extreme need to push.  We called her back into the room and told her I wanted to give it a try.  I gave 3 good pushes to see if I was ready… my doctor said, “oh yeah, we could have a baby in the next 15 minutes.  Let’s have a baby!”  I said, “But what about your surgery, I don’t want to keep you from a surgery.”  She said, “Don’t worry.  I’m pretty sure I’m still going to be able to make the surgery.  Ready?”  She brought over a mirror, after asking me if I wanted one, so that I could see the progress.  Yes, some might think this is gross but it was actually pretty amazing.  I was able to actually watch my baby being born and watch the progress I was making.  It was so encouraging to know that my pushing was getting me somewhere since I couldn’t feel it due to the epidural.  As the baby’s head and neck made its way out, my doctor noticed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around him.  She sounded very nonchalant and cool when telling us about it… not nervous at all.  I trusted her that he would be okay.  The rest of his body came out, she quickly untangled the cord from his neck and stomach, and she put him on my chest.  He was blue in color and I’m pretty sure those were my first words about him, if not my first thoughts.  I was so happy to finally have my baby in my arms.  He was breathing just fine and his color was returning to normal.  He was healthy… he was adorable… and he was finally here.

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The second thing I noticed after his coloring was that he had 2 adorable dimples in each cheek that came out any time he scrunched up his mouth or smiled.  I was so in love with him… a love that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to share or have since I felt that Cayden had all of that love.  After taking a moment to soak in my new baby, I said to my doctor, “That was fast.  You can still make it to your surgery, right?”  It was just 9:10 am… took me only about 12 minutes to push the baby out.  She laughed at me, amused that I was still thinking about her surgery.  A couple of minutes later, Greg looked at me while holding the baby.  We decided on naming him Liam Thomas honoring both sides of our family… Liam stemming from William (Greg’s dad and a long line of Davidsons prior to him) and Thomas for my grandfather who passed away just 2 weeks earlier.  Greg then said to me, “Boy, that was rough.  You sure you want to do this a third time?”  I responded with, “What?  Are you kidding?  That was easy!  Of course I want to do it again!”

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I was so unbelievably happy with how my labor and delivery went at IU North and with my doctor.  The entire experience was calming and comfortable.  Even during pushing, I felt calm and peaceful (unlike my first birth experience where I felt like it was complete chaos).  There was only 4 people in the room during the entire time I was pushing… me, Greg, my doctor, and a nurse.  In one word, I would describe my labor with Liam as amazing.  If all of my labors go as well as that one did, I could easily have another 1… maybe 2 children. 🙂

I always try to wrap things up and bring my life journey back to God.  Maybe I read too much into situations and things are all just a coincidence… or maybe it really is God at work.  I had a decently rough pregnancy with Liam.  From about 2 months into being pregnant, I felt a horrible pain right down the middle of my pelvic bone.  It was a sharp pain and got worse with each month.  Anytime I got in and out of my SUV, I felt the pain.  Anytime I moved from side to side in my bed at night, I felt the pain.  Anytime I bent down and stood back up, I felt the pain.  Anytime I tried to take wide strides on the treadmill, I felt the pain.  Anytime I went up the stairs, I felt the pain.  The pain felt like my pelvic bone was ripping in half.  It was bad and I don’t know why I didn’t tell my doctor about it from the start.  Eventually, I looked into what the pain could possibly be and I found out about tearing or stretching of the Pubic Symphysis.  I’m 100% positive that this is what I experienced… although I never officially had it diagnosed with X-rays.  The ligament between the pubic bone is supposed to stretch a bit with pregnancy… but for some women, it stretches beyond a normal range.  There’s also the possibility of re-tearing the ligament if it was torn in a previous trauma.  After looking it all up, I started reading about what could happen during childbirth if you really did have it.  I read about anything from months to years of rehabilitation of the ligament if it fully rips during childbirth.  I read about women who could no longer walk normal… and women who now walk with a cane.  I read about how to try to prevent further ripping by not straining too hard to push out a baby and not pulling your knees up too high when “bearing down.”  I freaked out and for weeks leading up to Liam’s birth, I pictured the worst case scenario.  I forgot to trust in God and forgot that He has ultimate control over everything.  He reminded me on this day.  He reminded me with the easy birth of Liam.  He made sure my labor and delivery were as comfortable as possible.  He made me fall in love with the end result after months of pain and questions.  He eased my fears.  He was there through it all.  I did not fully rip my Pubic Symphysis during childbirth… I’m not walking with a cane… I’m not bed ridden.  I do have some pain in the ligament even a year later.  I tried running about 6 months after giving birth and felt the pain come back with a vengeance.  I learned to ease into my workout routine.  Every now and then, if I push myself too hard with running at a high-speed or I attempt to “lift” too much weight with the Hip Abducter machine, I feel the pain.  I’m praying that I continue to trust in God for future pregnancy #3 and that I know in the end, He will take care of me.

Thank you Lord for Liam Thomas.  Thank you for the healthy but painful pregnancy I endured.  Thank you for the easy and calm delivery of Liam one year ago.

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The Word of the Day…. Exhausted.

Lord, I need You
Oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense
My righteousness
Oh, God how I need You

Matt Maher – Lord I Need You

Sitting here at the end of an exhausting day and the lyrics to “Lord I Need You” keep running through my head.  I’m exhausted.  Mentally and physically exhausted.  I’m not sure what I was expecting when I decided 2 1/2 years ago to try my hand at staying home to raise my first son… but I surely did not expect it to be as hard as it is.  The grass is always greener on the other side, right?  I was so unbelievably unhappy working a full-time job and trying to raise a 1 year old.  I felt like I missed an entire year of my first born’s life.  I hated that I was probably not the first person to see him roll over for the first time… or wave goodbye for the first time… crawl for the first time or take his first steps (although I’m pretty sure I got to see those first steps at his 1st birthday party!).  I was sad… I was working to be able to afford to live and to afford daycare.  What was the point?  I didn’t want to send my baby to daycare but I had to because finances just didn’t work out in our favor.  So… we made a massive change moving from CT to Indiana to give me the chance to stay home and fulfill my dreams.

March 2013 – Standing on the location of our current home

I’ve been down both roads… full-time working mom and full-time stay-at-home mom.  Everyone has their own opinions.  Working moms think stay-at-home moms are ungrateful and weak for complaining about how tired they are all the time when it’s their choice to stay home.  Stay-at-home moms think working moms are selfish and have it easy because they get an 8 hour break everyday from their role in the house.  Honestly, I think both types of moms have it pretty hard… each for different reasons.

As a working mom, I remember how hard it was to leave my baby in someone else’s care day after day to go to a job that I was not happy with.  I remember being exhausted by the time I got home and not wanting to cook dinner or do the regular household chores.  I remember feeling horrible because I only had 2 hours with Cayden before it was time to get him to bed.  Life was hard…. I figured that surely staying home with my baby would be 100 times better.

Currently, as a stay-at-home mom, I’m exhausted from the moment I wake up until the moment I close my eyes.  I rarely have a normal conversation with an adult.  I still find it hard to find time for the regular household chores…. but the difference is that I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.  There are days when I think the grass is greener on the other side… but then I think about how much I get to see and experience with my children.

Today was a rough day… it was actually completely fine the entire day up until about 5:30.  Greg gets home around then and, of course, at that same time is when Cayden likes to act up.  I’m sure he’s just excited to have his dad home but our house turns into complete chaos.  Greg and I can’t have a conversation with each other without Cayden interrupting and trying to make as much noise as possible to make it impossible for us to talk.  Tonight, Greg had basketball at a nearby church which he had to leave for at 7.  That left me to feed the kids dinner on my own, clean the dishes and continue to take care of them for another 2 hours of the day… on my own.  Dinner took close to an hour because Cayden just can’t help but goof around and talk during dinner.  Liam and I were finished eating in 25 minutes… Cayden took 45.  Dinner was finally over at 7:45, I cleaned up a bit until 8:15, and finally after that, Cayden, Liam and I were able to relax and watch a little TV while playing before Greg got home around 8:30.  At 8:45, it was time to head up to bed for the boys.  Greg took Cayden and I took Liam.  I heard Cayden talking to Greg in the bathroom asking, “how come mommy never takes me up?”  Thankfully, the explanation that “mommy takes Liam and daddy takes Cayden” is good enough for him right now… but the truth is, I’m just too exhausted and about 5 times out of 10, I’m annoyed about something and just want to veg out on the couch not having a conversation, not entertaining a child, not existing to anyone but me for an hour of my day.  Of course, tonight I was annoyed about a lot.  Greg didn’t help with dinner… Greg had a basketball game that took another 2 hours out of the day… Greg was on his phone the second he stepped in the door from work… and was texting people and playing games on his phone when he got home from the game.  I know it sounds like I’m blaming him for everything and I really shouldn’t but the way I see it is that staying home, taking care of the kids, cooking dinner, and cleaning up are all parts of my full-time job.  On days like today, I literally work a 12 hour day…. and at the end of a 12 hour day, I’m exhausted.  At this point, even the littlest thing annoys me.  I’m trying to work on bringing Cayden to bed on a more regular basis.  I understand that it’s important to him to have both of his parents involved in his bed time routine.  It has become a special time in our family… a time when there are no distractions… no electronics, no toys, no shared time with other people or kids… just one-on-one time with Cayden where we can read books and pray together.

March 2013 - Reading before bed with Oma

March 2013 – Reading before bed with Oma

Greg brought Cayden to bed tonight as he does most nights.  Brushed his teeth, put on his PJs, read a couple of books, said goodnight, turned off the lights, and closed the door.  Not more than 5 seconds after Greg closed his door, Cayden was up out of his bed and his room calling to Greg, “Daddy, I want a hug before bed.  Can I have a hug and kiss?”  It melted my heart.  Just like that… my annoyance with the day faded.  I love that little boy more than words can describe and his gentle, sensitive, sweet loving heart… a piece of Greg and me that I can hear and see in him.

I love the job I have… I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  It’s amazingly difficult and amazingly rewarding at the same time.  Every day is a struggle… especially if I don’t make it to the gym.  On those difficult days, I find myself singing in my head, “Lord I need you, Oh I need you.  Every hour I need you”… just a little reminder to myself that I’m not doing this alone.  He is my strength and in those stressful, difficult times, He will show me something to lighten my heart and mind… I just have to keep my eyes and ears open to it.

**Disclaimer**  I hope I in no way offended either stay-at-home moms or working moms!  I respect you all and sympathize with both groups!

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