Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hello cutie-kuties

Family pictures, Saturday, November 13, 2010
photos by Jayson Mansanerez
Thanks to JoJo for keeping us smiling during pictures
Thanks to Heather Ellison for Mary-Gail's hair clip
Thanks to Jessica Davis for Becca's hair clip

I needed something cold on my stomach after a long day of bending, sitting, standing, lifting (whoops) and climbing. So I grabbed a {large} bowl, scooped out some ice cream, and headed downstairs to unwind with Tony. The cold bowl felt good on my incisions, and of course, the ice cream felt good going down my throat into my stomach (I'll regret it later when I can get back to exercising...maybe not).

I gave my tired eyes a rest - I've read 4 books these past 2 weeks - and vegged in front of the TV. CBS was airing November Christmas and I immediately became hooked. Mid-way through the show I was bawling my eyes out, while Tony kept reminding me it was just a show. Not to me it wasn't.

The little girl reminded me so much of Becca, except that the little girl had cancer. The girl's mother asked, "Why couldn't it have been me?" (Why couldn't the mom have been sick instead?). Isn't that usually the way we think? Let no harm or foul come to my children, give it to me instead. And I was overcome with emotion, grateful that I had "C" and not Becca or Mary-Gail or Tony. What would I have done if the little girl in the show was Becca? Probably the same thing the father did - move up the holidays and make sure each day counted.

Becca's ears must have been on F I R E with how much I'd been thinking/crying over her, and shortly before the show was over, Becca stumbled her pretty-little sleepy eyes downstairs and on over to me. She climbed up into my lap and laid her little head on my chest, "Mommy, why are you crying?" "I'm just so happy to be your mommy." And I am.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

My family, November 2010

Everything has changed. Everything. I publicly announced on my blog on several different occasions 6/2008; 7/2008; 10/2008; 11/2008; 9/2009; 10/2009) of my personal desire, hope, dream, and prayer for getting pregnant again to become a reality. I've had this discussion with my family & friends more times than I can count. And finally, finally it seemed like having another baby would become a reality. And just when we had worked out the details of caring for Becca & Mary-Gail during the daytime, and while I was on bedrest; and just when we had the money saved; just when I started the medicine for In-vitro Fertlization again, and had gotten on the calendar...nope.

Yes, my heart still aches for something that I'll never be able to do again. I would say to myself, "'When I'm pregnant again, I'll do this & that differently," or "When my child doesn't eat this time around, I won't go into panic mode (Becca & Mary-Gail were "sleepers" - not "eaters" - & I was constantly worried about it). I also said I would forget about buying all the silly toys for the babies/toddlers and just buy doggie toys (doggie toys are perfect for child development, believe it or not). And I'd handle potty-training differently, and wouldn't be so freakish about winter weather. Well, I don't get a second time around. I only have this time now. And I'm grateful for that realization, because I'm shifting everything I have, all my energies, to focus on the family I have now. Not to say that I still don't morn or think about the tragic loss of my dream of prenancy and more children (and the loss of my cervix & uterus), because I guarantee this won't be the last post about those losses. But I have an abundance of blessings from the children I have now: my two daughters. I have my brown-eyed, blonde-hair Rebecca LaRae; I have my blue-eyed, brown-hair Mary-Gail Darleen. They are mine forever, and I am their mother forever.

I am a mother. My greatest blessing, and my greatest accomplishment.

My family

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rebecca & Mary-Gail's FOURTH birthday

This is how it ended:
And this is how it began:
We had a family get-together tonight to celebrate Becca & Mary-Gail's F O U R T H birthday! We had pizza, lemonade, and then a dress-up show...
McKena orchestrated several outfit changes for Becca & Mary-Gail. Becca's outfit took the cake
And speaking of cake:
Happy Birthday Rebecca

Happy Birthday Mary-Gail
Rebecca conducts & sings the "Happy Birthday Day" song
We sang it for Becca and for Mary-Gail - no sharing the birthday song here
Rebecca can always be found doing this finger-thing
Lights out for the wishing and candle blowing...
...and blow out the candles!
Mary-Gail's face makes me smile
"Sister, sister, do this! "
"Like this? "

"No, like this!"
I finally caved and gave them a fork to eat their own "Happy Birthday Cakes"

Everyone else got a cupcake. And, I forgot to get out the ice cream - rats!
Time to open presents!

Auntie Carol, Uncle Jack + kids, & Jacob + Michelle
Princess Aurora slippers and Wild, Wild West pink guns! (Tony was so happy!)

Aunt Pam, Uncle Joshy + kids
Ballerina Barbie Dolls & a special, hand drawn, picture-puzzle from McKena
(both Becca & Mary-Gail took their ballerinas to bed)
Grandma Pink
Hello Kitty coloring books PLUS, Becca & Mary-Gail get to go out to eat and go shopping with Grandma Pink -their first time ever!

Aunt JoJo, Uncle Jed + kids
Llama Llama, Holiday Drama book & coloring markers
Mary-Gail dove right in to open her gift bag from Mommy & Daddy

Mary-Gail was so excited., "Look Ma! I got lips!"(aka, Ariel Chap Stick - Mary-Gail LOVES lips)

and new clothes.
Great-Grandma Gourley
Mary-Gail and Becca get their birthday cards from Great-Grandma Gourley
Becca takes time to ponder her birthday card from Great-Grandma Gourley. Thanks to Aunt Carol & AmyCakes for being the most super-duper birthday helpers ever. Aunt Carol read Great Grandma's Birthday cards to Becca & Mary-Gail and when the girls discovered there was money in the card (by way of check) they were ecstatic! Thank you Great-Grandma Gourley.

Uncle Jack helps Becca put on her gun belt and shows her how to draw
Becca & Uncle Jack
(I wanted to include the 1st picture, even though I mistakenly cut off Uncle Jack. I loved Becca's ensemble: Tinkerbell outfit, one Jasmine slipper, and one high-heeled shoe...all complete with her new gun belt w/a gold belt buckle and pink gun holsters. Awesome!
Mary-Gail tore into her Aurora dress-up shoes and her Ariel Chap stick.
Then she headed downstairs to watch the movie that was playing *how to train your dragon* (it's a good one)

Turns out the guns the girls received from Aunt Carol & Uncle Jack were squirt guns.
Uncle Jack showed Becca how to "load" the gun, and Becca raced back to the kitchen
and started shooting at Daddy...

...and her two name-sakes, Grandma Pink (Rebecca) & Great-Grandma Gourley (LaRae)

And then I got shot.

Happy #4 Birthday my girls!

Becca & Mary-Gail's mini 5-day vacation

My family is amazing! I have a freezer full of frozen meals, my addiction to Diet Coke was met (thank you DarDar, JoJo, & CarCar), My sis-in-law, Pam, has offered to help me put op my Christmas stuff, and my two little girls have recently returned from a fabulous 5-day "vacation" @ Mommy Arlynne's house.

Aunt Carol arranged for Becca & Mary-Gail to stay with Mommy Arlynne for 5 days (Friday - Tuesday) so I could have a little more time to recover after getting discharged from the hospital (plus Carol understood that I was struggling with how to care for Becca & Mary-Gail once I got home). Uncle Jack picked up the girls bright and early Friday morning (11/19) at 8:15am. Becca & Mary-Gail were so excited to ride up to SLC w/Uncle Jack (Mary-Gail thought they were going Trick'o'Treating at Uncle Jack's work again!). Uncle Jack dropped them off at Mommy Arlynne's house, and there they stayed through Tuesday afternoon (11/23).

Becca & Mary-Gail called me every night before bedtime. They asked questions like, "Are you getting better Mommy?" "Why do you have owies on your stomach?" And my sweet little Mary-Gail was missing me so much - she lingered on the phone with tons of "I love you Mommy." Mommy Arlynne sent me pictures and cute messages every night too, which I attached below. Mommy Arlynne has watched our girls for us before: in January 2008 when Lovey & I went on our cruise. And that's when "Auntie Arlynne" turned into "Mommy Arlynne." Mommy Arlynne was absolutely thrilled to have our girls for the weekend! And I was thrilled when they came home Tuesday. I kept telling Lovey, "Look at them! They are so tall! They've grown so much!"

And a huge shout-out to my family, friends, and church members who have served us these past 10 days. I appreciate all the phone calls, e-mails, drop-ins, treats, and my family appreciates all the meals. They have been wonderful!

My two angels going to church w/Mommy Arlyne and family. Joe helped Mary-Gail get her jacket on & zipped up. Can you tell it's on inside-out?
I didn't notice either until Arlyne told me. Do you know how hard it is to zip up a jacket inside-out?

Friday afternoon, November 19th.
Mary-Gail and Becca /Joe sandwiched between them during quiet time

Sam reading to Becca & Mary-Gail before bedtime

Mary-Gail and Joe; Sam & Becca.
The boys were more than happy to share their room with the girls.
Mommy Arlynne's text said it only took them 20 minutes to quiet down and fall asleep too. Amazing!
Becca & Mary-Gail slept toe-to-toe. They loved the bunk beds
Welcome home Rebecca & Mary-Gail; You were missed!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Just how much do you wanna know?

This post is dedicated to the robot in my life...the da Vinci Surgical Robot. This hunk of metal combined with cutting edge technology, plus Dr. Jeffrey Thorpe, Dr. C. Joseph Glenn, and 8 other "proctor doctors," performed my surgery on Tuesday, November 16th. I was happily discharged on Wednesday, November 17th. I must say I am a little (a lot) wordy here, but there are pictures at the end, so that makes it worth the time to read! Plus, I made the front page news of the "Our Town" section B in our local newspaper! Go here to check that out. (click on the image tab and scroll through the photos)

One of the reasons why I opted for the robotic assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy, aside from being a good candidate, is because the recovering time is cut in half – instead of a 4-day hospital stay, it’s a day and a half; and instead of a 6-week recovery, it’s more like 4-weeks. I have 4 puncture wounds on my stomach instead of a searing 12 inch long horizontal cut across my abdomen. And I can sit up/stand up with out much assistance (I still have to do the "sideways roll," but I don’t have to worry about my guts falling out). I’m relieved the surgery is over and my recovering is well underway. And I had an experience earlier this week that helped me close the book and soften my feelings about the “why’s” I’ve had. What I know and feel is that I am grateful. Very, very, humbly grateful for my life, husband, and amazingly healthy, charming, beautiful, smart, happy and joyful daughters. I am full. Now get ready to read all about my surgery...

**Everything you wanted to know (and even stuff you didn't) about my robotic assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy...**

My awesome sister, Joanna, volunteered to have Becca & Mary-Gail sleep-over at her house Monday night, so Tony & I could have some time together and leave for the hospital early Tuesday morning w/o any hiccups. I packed an over-night bag for Becca & Mary-Gail, smothered them with kisses, and held them tightly. I knew I wouldn't be able to hold them for a long time after my surgery. I wouldn't be able to hold my own babies. The lump in my throat is swelling just thinking about that.

I packed myself an over-night bag also. But instead of including fun goodies for a hospital stay on Labor & Delivery & NICU like I had anticipated for sometime in May, my over-night bag was pitifully depressing. I threw my hair dryer and mouse in just to give the bag some weight and take up space. Tony & I stayed up talking late into the night - mostly Tony was speaking kind, reassuring words. I always have him tell me, "Everything will be OK," so I asked him to tell me that again and again - even though both of us knew this was going to change our lives forever.

4:45 am Tuesday morning came way too early and way too fast. I took a ridiculously long shower, dressed and climbed into a nice, toasty-warm car. Tony had been warming it up for our drive. We checked it, completed some paperwork, and waited for the admitting nurse to call me back. When she did I think all the blood drained from my face, because Tony very quickly took hold of me and wouldn't (thankfully) let me go. The nurse drew 3 vials of blood and she asked me to give a urine sample. What's the urine sample for? I asked. We need to make sure you're not pregnant. I laughed out loud - joke of all jokes. The nurse took Tony & me to the "holding room." I was to change into the hospital gown and put on the bright, yellow hospital sockies. I thought to myself, "and cover up this awesome pedicure I have? What a shame.

I gave my urine sample, changed, and was holding my emotions together - my facade hadn't crumbled yet - and then nurse needed me to sign a few more things. "This form is for your consent for surgery; and this form says you understand that you will be sterile after having a hysterectomy..." Lights out. Black splotches. Shaking hand. Terrible, terrible, terrible signature.

She left me and Tony alone. The facade crumbled slowly at first, and then came crashing down. Why did I have to sign a consent? Why did I have to sign my name to that stupid paper? I know why, but...why? I could care less about having stupid cancer. What I was really upset about was being "sterile." Today we were supposed to have an ultrasound to check my uterine lining and determine when my embryo transfer was going to be….but after today I wouldn’t have a uterus and there would be no embryo transfer.

It was time. I was wheeled down to the OR in my hospital bed. The OR nurse was Caroline (ooh - that was supposed to be the name of our next daughter - Caroline Joanna Kemp...). Caroline said she had been in on every one of the surgeries that had been performed with the use of the da Vinci robot, and not to worry - everything will be OK. Dr. Glenn came by to see me before surgery, and Dr. Thorpe was right behind him.They said they were almost ready. The nurse anesthetists started my IV and ran the antibiotics. I told him I wanted to see the robot before I was knocked out with the Versed. He and Caroline (I just love that name!) wheeled me into the OR room. Dr. Thorpe was smoothing out the wrinkles on the surgical bed- so nice of him - and while I waited to transfer myself to the bed, I beheld the da Vinci robot. It looked like a giant spider! And all I could think was, "This is the latest and greatest in medical technology. This is going to be awesome." And then the Versed hit me and I don't remember anything else.

The da Vinci (aka, "the giant spider")

I was told the surgery lasted 3 hours - from 7:30 am - 10:30 am. I didn't wake up until 12:20 pm: my blood pressure had plummeted. We're talking 54/40. I was given 2 bags of IV fluid during that 2 hour "intermission" and was on canula oxygen. It wasn’t until after 12:40 pm that I was transferred to my room, Room 323. Tony was there waiting. He looked relieved, which made me feel nervous - like, what do you know that I don't know - but then I learned that he'd been waiting in my room since 10:30 am. Poor thing.

By 3 am the next morning I was ready to get up and go for a walk. That's right - 3 o'clock in the morning. With the help of my nurse, I did the "old man shuffle" to the nurse’s station and then shuffled back. I was exhausted! Dr. Thorpe rounded at 8 am and said the surgery was successful: I had minimal blood loss, my uterus and cervix were removed intact, he felt that the cancer was contained to the cervix and uterus, and didn't see the need to remove any lymph nodes, but the pathology report would confirm the findings. Dr. Thorpe said my blood pressure was "interesting" and I agreed. The first part of October my blood pressure was running higher than normal for me (I attributed it to learning I had cervical cancer), and I believed that this significant drop in my blood pressure after surgery was due to my inability to continue my quest for more children through in-vitro fertilization. Dr. Thorpe said that I would most likely be discharged that day (Wednesday) if things went well. (Which was code for, among other things, if my BP could rise and my heart rate could drop {it was over 100 bpm}).

My IV and catheter were dc’d and I took a shower, did my hair, and after Tony arrived @ 10 am, I decided I should put on my makeup ("fancy word" for mascara & Chap stick). Tony said the Robot was in the lobby and I begged my nurse, Sara, to let me go down and see it. She got authorization from the Nurse Administrator and we three took the elevator to the lobby.

The da Vinci Robot was there; it was truly awesome. The da Vinci robot staff couldn’t believe that I had actually had surgery 24 hours earlier. They were amazed that I was up and I’m sure they were amazed that I was dressed and ready for the day (I know I was). I showed off my (4) ½ inch long slits in my belly, and everyone gathered round for a look. The local paper, The Daily Herald, was on sight doing a spotlight on the da Vinci Robot and I was questioned about my experience, what I thought of the robot, and how I was feeling. I was able to sit at the console and get a quick run-down on how the da Vinci operated. I practiced my surgical skills by using the robotic arms to pinch small rubber bands and move them from one small silicone cone to another. And my picture made front page news in the Local News, section B.

Before leaving the hospital my blood pressure had risen to 98/64 and my pulse had decreased from over 100 beats per minute to just 92 beats per minute. One might ask how I remember all these numbers and specifics of my care after surgery. And I remind them that, "I'm from a family of nurses. We talk about stuff like this at dinner. We remember all the little things because that's what nurses do." (And I write things like this down because I’m a mom of preemies and I’m neurotic).
These hospital gowns are so flattering...ugh, I already look swollen
Hee, hee, hee. It's 6:30 in the morning, and I'm having major surgery today
After Surgery
My awesome sisters, JoJo & CarCar! CarCar brought her twins, Quincy & Tenley, too.
Their visit & gift basket brightened the room and lifted my spirits
CarCar and Quincy
There's that swelling I was talking about. I had one bag of saline every hour for the first 8 hours before they knocked down the drip speed! Talk about dehydration - whooh

Wednesday morning, Timpanogos Regional Hospital Lobby. I'm talking with Rustin Beck, Business Development for Utah County's MountainStar Hospitals
Rustin Beck is giving me a run down on how the da Vinci operates
Slip your middle finger and thumbs into the finger pads and look into the view finder. A laser beam senses your head is engaged in the view finder, and gives you control over the da Vinci. Your hand movements operate the da Vinci's movements - you are in control of the robot and its movements at all times. Once your head pulls back from the view finder, the laser senses you are no longer engaged and will not allow you to move or manipulate the robot.
Image copied from Yahoo image search (da Vinci robot)

This is what I'm "operating" on: moving tiny rubber bands from one silicone cone to another.

And this is a depiction of how the da Vinci can perform a hysterectomy. I had 4 access sites and my uterus + cervix were intact (instead of morsilated) and were removed vaginally.
Image from Yahoo image search (da Vinci robot)

This is it, The da Vinci Robot
My hands are clasping the finger pads, and my head is engaged. The black console is the view finder, and what I'm looking at as I look into the view finder, is the silicone cones and tiny rubber bands. This is virtual reality at it's best!
No way! This is too cool!
Back in my hospital room, waiting to get discharged...
Along with my dropping blood pressure, and rising pulse, I had a fever of 100.5 after surgery. My nurses gave me a "goal" of doing 10 sets with my Incentive Spirometer (IS) every hour. They said the IS is the best way to deter pneumonia and to help reduce fevers. I was on that IS every hour. Slowly my fever began to decrease, and my bp increased. My pulse never did return to "normal," but it wasn't over 100 anymore. My final stats were: 98/62, 92 bpm, and my temp was 98.8. Good enough for a 12:45 pm discharge on Wednesday.

The IS is a lot harder than it looks. Sorry Dad, I gave you a hard time when you had to use the IS; now I understand it's not that easy, and can be a bit painful too. xoxo
One of my amazingly awesome nurses, Sara. Isn't she beautiful? She took great care of me, and was able to get authorization for me to leave the floor (with her and Tony) and go to the lobby for my rendezvous with da Vinci!
Oh, I just love my Incentive Spirometer
Me & Tony. He's been worried about me, but I think both of us can stop worrying. Tony has done a great job caring for me!
*** The Daily Herald ran an article on the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System on Thursday, November 18, 2010. Go to www.heraldextra.com or click here. My picture appeared in the paper - crazy! (Go to the "image" tab and scroll through the images)***

Kemp Kuties on the Charleston Pier

Kemp Kuties on the Charleston Pier
September 2007