Monday, January 21, 2013

My Mothers Daughter: A Story of Strength and Perseverance

     It was August 15th 2009 and my sister, Anneliese, had just delivered the second of her 2 beautiful babies, Rilynn May. Big Brother Timmy, 4 years old at the time, was excited to welcome Rilynn and Mommy home on Anneliese's 29th Birthday, August 17th. Little did we all know that the next 3 1/2 years would be some of the most trying and painful times Anneliese, Tim and the kids would have to face.

     Things were very normal and Rilynn was a good baby. She progressed naturally, as expected, meeting all the pediatricians expectations. She grew to become known as Monster because this little girl is full of spunk. Timmy went about his days and nights doting on Rilynn and helping Mommy, all the while looking up to Daddy who was hard at work making money "to buy us toys".

     In February of 2010, Anneliese became sick. It was in a matter of days that she went from the healthy, happy sister I knew to an extremely sick version of herself. After an exhaustive 5 days and 4 nights in the hospital, with more then one harrowing pharmaceutical drug reaction, she was sent home with instructions to follow up with the assigned Gastrointestinal (GI) Physician. As suggested she made an immediate follow-up appointment with the GI and was seen within a few days. Upon her first visit she was met by a partner of the practice and diagnosed with a diseased Gall Bladder. It was only a short time later that she was scheduled for and received laproscopic surgery to remove the Gall Bladder. Unfortunately the surgery was followed by 8 weeks of recovery and no change in symptoms. For quite some time, the doctors insisted that it was simply a matter of time for her body to adjust to the change and as a family we knew no different. Trips to the Emergency Room began yet again. It was about 3 months after the surgery that the GI informed her that he was sorry but he removed a perfectly functioning Gall Baldder and in fact she was suffering from Ulcerative Colitis. This made a bit more sense because mom had suffered from the same thing in her early 30's.

     With this diagnosis Anneliese was put on a strict diet, was required to see a specialist, dietitian and start on an extensive drug plan which would include steroid treatment. She followed the plan, saw the specialists and continued to become severely sick. For the next six months we saw her go from a typical 29 year old with 2 little ones to an extremely ill 30 year old. She continued to gain weight even though she could hold nothing down, had severe stomach pains and on most days had little to no energy. It was at this point that Liese(my nickname for my little sis) decided to look for a new GI and seek a second opinion. Most of you probably already know this but sometimes getting in to see a specialist can take months...and so those months were filled with relentless sickness, pain and hospitalizations. My awesome little sister was starting to miss out on little things like Back to School Night, baseball games and play dates. This may not seem like much to the casual observer but I can guarantee, any mom of little one's knows that these moments are irreplaceable!

     During one particularly trying period she reached out to a friend who works as an RN within the University of Pennsylvania Hospital network. She explained the problems she was facing and asked for her advice, chick to chick. She was given the name of a GI specialist at Penn who would get her in the next day. At this point it had been 2 years of uncertainty, frustration and distrust. I myself did not know whether I could summon the kind of strength Anneliese exhibited to see yet another doctor, hand over another co-pay, go through numerous additional testing only to be diagnosed with something completely different AGAIN! What I can tell you is that call, that specialist, that friend helped Anneliese find an answer. After another round of CAT Scans, MRI's and X-Rays all the answers were found in a tiny little capsule also known as a Capsule Enterscopy. I'll spare you all the boring details but what that little capsule did was captured pictures of the small intestine and resulted in an unbelievable finding. Liese did not have Ulcerative Colitis, she did not have Crohns (which one doctor, with no bedside manor, announced one day without having even seen any test results) and she did not have a diseased Gall Bladder after all. She had severe Endometriosis.

     Now with an answer she could be seen and treated by her gynecologist who had delivered both Timmy and Rilynn. During her first appointment after diagnosis, her female GYN matter-of-factly explained that millions of women have Endometriosis and that she should "just learn to deal with the pain". Surgery would not be necessary, nor would any kind of pain medicine. Instead she suggested she find a pain management specialist that could teach her how to live with the pain. I don't think I've ever seen my sister more defeated. She finally had an answer, a diagnosis that made sense and a doctor that didn't feel the need to treat her for it. She retreated from normalcy and happiness and figured that she was now faced with living a life of pain and never having her children see her fully healthy again. 

     Then one day, after spending additional days in the hospital she got pissed, really pissed, and started calling people, calling doctors, calling friends. She called anyone that would listen, anyone that could suggest anything, anything to make her life whole again. She was referred to a Endometriosis Specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, once again. Within days Dr. Gochial had her in his office ordering tests, getting results and reviewing her medical records. The final test that would provide all the answers came this past September. In this procedure known as a Hysteroscopy, the uterus and cervix are checked for any inconsistency's. What Dr. Gochial found was beyond any of our imaginations. 

     In February 2010, 5 short months after Rilynn was born Anneliese had a simple gyn office procedure done, known as an IUD a.k.a. Mirena. At the time, she thought nothing of it and the doctor felt it was a good choice for her, not knowing whether her and Tim would want to have more children or not. Three weeks later when it needed to be removed, again a simple office procedure and everything was fine. What no one knew was that during the removal of the Mirena, the lining of the uterine wall was pierced and an infection began. Three years later when Dr. Gochial performed the Hysteroscopy he learned that the infection had inflamed so intensely that Liese's uterus had expanded to the size of a women's uterus at 9 months pregnant. The endometriosis had spread to the cervix and the small intestine and meant only 1 thing, a Hysterectomy at 31 years old.

     Jump ahead to this Thursday January 24th. On this morning most of us will wake up and go about our day as planned. Tim and Mom will be heading to Jefferson University Hospital with Anneliese bright and early for her surgery. Most of my day will be spent shuffling little butts around the house, building forts in the living room and stuffing little faces with popcorn and ice cream to stay preoccupied because if you know anything about me, you know my Anneliese is my everything! So if your the praying kind, please pray. If your the mediating type, please meditate with Anneliese in mind. And if your neither of those things...please think of my love, my life, my sister and send her your positive thoughts!       

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Birthday Celebration

     I haven't written in a few weeks but wanted to share a few photos from my fabulous weekend in NYC with my Baby Sis. Thanks to my sister and her husband I had an amazing two days in Manhattan. We took the Sex and The City Tour and did the touristy thing. This was a weekend I will never forget!
                                     Only a few pairs of shoes for our adventure

                                 Yep that's us, Sisters & Best Friends.

                                              Rockefeller Center

               Hot Chocolate from Starbucks to honor my dear sweet friend Natalie!

                                                 Louis Anyone?

         If I could afford to spend a whole years salary...this would be my LOVER!!!!

                                          Need I say more...I love NYC!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Brotherly Love

     As the last work day of the week winds down, I am eagerly anticipating my brothers homecoming! Gill actually only lives about 30 minutes away but it's far enough that we don't get to see each other very often. So as he is probably packing his overnight bag and making sure to bring along his girlfriends gifts, for me to wrap, I am planning our traditional Christmas Eve Eve. ;0)
     When Gill and Katie arrive tonight we'll go to town placing all those colorful packages under the tree. As the bubbly and beer start to flow, Mom and Dad will join in to watch Christmas Vacation and laugh our butts off. Most of these evenings have ended with my little brother, eight years my junior, and I talking til the wee hours of the morning. 
     Like my sister and I, Gill and I have a special bond and these moments are the one's that mean the world to me. I am so very happy that he has found Katie, because they truly complete one another, and I love that she goes with the flow and has become a part of our traditional fun!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Traditions

     Last night I was lucky enough to partake in one of my most recent annual holiday traditions. My little sister, Anneliese, picked me up and we headed into the madness of holiday traffic. First stop was the mall to shop for various items to be checked off our "To-Buy" list. As usual, I have been done shopping since last week so I'm simply along for the ride. As Anneliese picked and added things to her arm full of items, I momentarily slipped into panic and disbelief. It wasn't the lines, it wasn't the lack of merchandise, it was simply the size of the chicks shopping in a certain store. Apparently to step within the confines of the big EX you must wear a size (-)4! That's right, I thought it strange as well, but then I glimpsed a pencil walk by in a set of high heeled boots (which she clearly could not walk in). She was chatting away on her bling accessorized i-Phone and chomping her jaws on what I assume was sugar free gum, which probably substituted for dinner. It was at this exact moment that I tweeted away about the drama induced fog I was in. To which two of my grade school friends responded with #OccupyEX tweets, completed with talk of donuts and lots of fun. And a smile was had by all.
     As Anneliese and I speed raced through the throngs of parents, teens and families dressed for Santa pictures, we were silently planning our "After Party". See for the past 3 years we have completed our shopping and picked a place for margaritas accompanied with chips and salsa. So as the last item was purchased we headed for the car and agreed on the Olive. Seated in our both munching on stuffed mushrooms and plenty of soup and salad we downed a pitcher of beautifully sweet Sangria. And as two sisters only 4 years apart, exhaled, we shared yet another tradition. Last minute shopping and Yummies!!!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Trimming the Tree

      Recently I joined my sister and her family for some quality "Christmas Tree decorating" time. Of course the night started off with my 2 year old niece being asked to put the Christmas balls on the tree. To which she reach in the Tupperware storage container, palmed a shiny red and white glass ornament, and tossed it at the tree. Yes I know, balls are meant to be thrown! 
     But the highlight of the night was when I overheard Timothy telling his father that he wanted to put the star atop the tree. As his little 6year old self explained, it was important to him because his teacher had told him earlier in the day why most people placed a star on their tree. As I directed my attention to his story he went into detail about how Mrs. B had taught his class that, the night Jesus was born, a bright star was place in the sky. As a public school teacher I was immediately struck by Mrs. B's decision to breach the biblical story of Jesus' birth. We are a christian family and both Timothy and Rilynn were baptized in the Catholic Church, but creationism in school is virtually unheard of in the public school system here in Good Ol' Jersey. It was only an instant later that I found myself smiling with a tear in my eye as Timmy went on to explain Dawli, Hannukah and Kwanzaa. I was filled with pride knowing that my little nephew would grow to be an honest humble man. 
Later that night I fell in love all over again as he sat nestled in my lap as we surfed the internet researching all types of religious and cultural beliefs. The beauty of religion is that you don't have to subscribe to a set of standards to honor the beauty of differences. 
     So as you celebrate this year, may Timmy & I wish you a blessed holiday season. xoxo

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Loves

There are two little things in my life that mean the world to me. Yes, you guessed it, Timothy & Rilynn. Today, Monday December 5th, 2011, my dear sweet boy turns 6 years old. What most people do not know about me  is that 6 years ago today my life was saved. 
In December of 2005 my life was at an ultimate low. For no reason other then I was enormously depressed. I've spent a good portion of my life struggling with depression and I had always experienced Highs and Lows. At this particular point in time I was at a loss. I found happiness in nothing and no amount of time or energy could help me "snap out of it". 
Then at 4:00 AM on a chilly December morning I received a call that would change my whole world. Anneliese, my younger sister, was in labor with her first child. Being new to the whole Aunt thing, I rushed to the hospital in a flurry and announced that I was there to see "Anneliese Cornwall". Apparently in my sleep induced fog I had forgotten that my sister had been married for some time and was no longer a Cornwall. When I finally convinced the Labor & Delivery Nurses that I was in fact the soon-to-be Aunt and must have left my mind at home I found Anneliese, Tim & my Momma enduring contractions in anticipation of the little guys arrival. This went on for a few hours and Anneliese was a trooper.
Then at around 9:52 AM life as we all knew it changed. Timothy Joseph Eddis, Jr. was born and the sun shone a little brighter. After some time with Mommy & Daddy and of course Nanny, little Timmy was handed off to me! I don't remember crying, I don't remember talking, I don't remember much of anything other then the cloud of warmth that enveloped me. In that moment Timmy saved me from myself. Life was completely worth living and I would make sure to thank him, silently, each and everyday for opening my eyes!
Since then we have welcomed Rilynn May Eddis to the family as well and just like Timmy she is the force behind me: to keep my head up, eyes open and smiling.       

Thursday, November 17, 2011

In The Office

Just like every other Monday through Friday morning, I arrived to work this morning with my wonderfully aromatic cup of Dunkin and went to town doing as I do any other day. It was as I set my coffee down and went to place my purse under my desk that I realized that I, the secretary, am very antiquated. Not personally of course, with my snazzy scarves and hip jewelry but instead my office space.
One of my very first tasks each morning is flipping the switch to power up my typewriter. Yes I said it, Typewriter. In the days of tech savvy companies and interaction through the World Wide Web, I am still required to type work orders on the good old Brother Typewriter. 

Granted this may be a few years older then my nifty little friend but believe me, it's brutal! As a result of using this little beauty I have also invested all of my savings in Wite-Out. Yes that's right, dear old Wite-Out has become my new BFF. Not because I'm painting my nails with it or sniffing it but because my goofy little fingers can never figure out how to slow down. Hence the anticipation of Wite-Out stocks going through the roof. 
As I reflected upon this devastating statistic I reached over and flipped the switch AGAIN, on my FM Stereo Cassette Player. No, I'm not still trudging along to my mix tapes but yes I am still listening to the radio via a radio, with an antenna no less! 

  So as you start your mornings each day, think of me and say a little prayer that all my gadgets are in order and working functionally! Till then.....