Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Friday, May 30, 2014

IVF - Day 11

Since I started my injectable medications 10 days ago, I have been closely monitored by my doctor. Every two days, I go in for an ultrasound and blood work. When I went in  for an appointment on Memorial day, my doctor called with the results and said my estrogen levels had not gone up enough. He even wanted to make sure I was taking the medication correctly and since I had been, this was concerning. I have been following other IVF journeys through blogs (check out my favorite, Amateur Nester) and instagram and have learned it is not uncommon to have a cycle cancelled due to factors beyond our control like low (or high) estrogen levels. If that happened, we would be out almost $4,000 on medications.

So after my appointment on Wednesday, I was eagerly anticipating the results of my blood work, and hoping my levels went up. My doctor is always the one to call, and I appreciate the personal touch and extra time it must take to do that. He called me around 11 am and told me that my levels had gone up, and everything was fine. I was relieved and elated.

I had another appointment this morning at 6:40 am. I'm a school counselor and need to be in my office every day by 7:15 am, so I'm thankful that they offer such early appointments. But getting up even earlier than usual every other day is killing me! And I was so looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow, but that isn't going to happen. I'm getting closer to being given the trigger shot and retrieval surgery, so now I need to be monitored daily. 

I was slightly disappointed to learn with the ultrasound  this morning that only 10 of my 15 eggs are the right size. Up until this point, he has been telling me i have 15. I do still have 15, but only 10 are growing big enough. He asked that I continue the same dose of my medications: 225 of follistim and 225 of Menopur which means that I had to place another order with the MDR pharmacy and have it sent overnight by FedEx. Cost? $402.00. A drop in the bucket compared to the whopping $20,000 total cost...but still enough to feel the pinch when we are trying to double up on our car payments in anticipation of summer and have Mom's 63rd birthday in Vegas at the end of June.

It is now looking like I will have my egg retrieval on Wednesday. Expect another update before then! 


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fresh or Frozen?

Fruits, vegetables, seafood, your breath. These are all things you want fresh, for many reasons. But the advantages are not as cut and dry when it comes to embryos; there are advantages and disadvantages to each. We're in a quandary and don't know what to do. We have about a week to decide, and it may end up being a game day decision.




I'm on my 8th day of injectible meds. Every day I've injected 225 of Follistim, 225 of Menopur and also used Lupron for the first three days. I'm scheduled for retrieval on Sunday or Monday, and my doctor says my 15 eggs are developing nicely.

Last night when I should have been sleeping, I decided to google IVF success rates. And boy was I surprised. You would assume that it would be a 60% or higher chance of pregnancy, right? Come to find that it is more like 20%-30% for my age: 37. This soft data (about.com) wasn't good enough for me, and I hoped it was wrong, so I kept searching. I found that the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART) lists the success rates for every clinic across the country. You can view that here. I looked up my place, Coastal Fertility Center, and that's when I found out that my doctor's success rates are even a bit lower. This upset me greatly, and I started questioning myself and our decision. How on earth did I not find this data sooner? Why did I spend more time researching our last vacation spot? And the big one: What if it doesn't work? 

A good friend told me not to be too hard on myself, and another told me that it is in God's hands. Both of those statements helped, and because I know we are committed to this particular center now, I let it go. There is no sense in being upset over spilt milk, even when you tipped the cup yourself. But there is one thing we do still have control over: Should we do a fresh transfer of the embryos next week, or should we wait until July and do a frozen transfer?

My doctor has been saying frozen is better because waiting would allow my body to get rid of all of the hormones I have been injecting and provide a more hospitable environment for the little embries. The national data does show slightly higher success rates for frozen, viewable here. A drawback of frozen is that not as many may survive the process. Counter argument to that is that they may not have made it to day 5 blastocysts anyway, and that the ones who make it are heartier and more likely to implant. 

Right now, I am leaning more toward having a fresh transfer, and then a frozen with what we have left. It seems to be the best of both worlds. And I hope and pray we do have enough embryos left to do another transfer because we cannot afford to do another round of IVF right away.

After my appointment yesterday (yes, my doctor works 365 days a year when needed, even holidays) my doctor called to say that my estrogen levels went up, but not as much as he would like. He called to make sure I was taking the medication right, and said if I was, to just continue with what I'm doing. He will recheck me on Wednesday, tomorrow, and hopefully they will be where they're supposed to. 

And tonight, when I'm trying to fall asleep, I will not google what happens if my estrogen levels don't rise.




Friday, May 23, 2014

Coursera

You've heard about Coursera, right? Where you can take college level courses from top universities worldwide in anything you're interested, for free? Well, I finally signed up for my first class, and I'm really excited! It starts on Monday, and requires only 2-4 hours of work per week. I'm interested in learning for the sake of knowledge and all, just not too much.



The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future

How and why was the Bible written? Drawing on the latest archeological research and a wide range of comparative texts, this course synthesizes fascinating recent research in biblical studies and presents a powerful new thesis: Facing catastrophic defeat, the biblical authors created a new form of community—what today we would call "peoplehood." Their achievements bear directly on modern questions of politics, economics, and theology.

About the Course

With its walls razed to ground by Babylon’s armies, Jerusalem joined a long line of ancient vanquished cities—from Ur and Nineveh and Persepolis to Babylon itself. While some recovered from the destruction, others did not.  But none responded to political catastrophe by fashioning the kind of elaborate and enduring monument to their own downfall that we find in the Bible. Most conquered populations viewed their subjugation as a source of shame. They consigned it to oblivion, opting instead to extol the golden ages of the past.  The biblical authors in contrast reacted to loss by composing extensive writings that acknowledge collective failure, reflect deeply upon its causes, and discover thereby a ground for collective hope.

Working through colorful biblical and ancient Near Eastern texts, and drawing on an array of comparative examples, the course illustrates the thoroughgoing manner with which biblical authors responded to defeat by advancing a demotic agenda that places the community at the center. The aim of the biblical authors was to create a nation, and they sought to realize this goal via a shared text, which includes stories and songs, wisdom and laws. This corpus of writings belongs, without a doubt, to humanity’s greatest achievements. Whereas the great civilizations of the Near East invested their energies and resources into monuments of stone that could be destroyed by invading armies, the biblical authors left a literary legacy that has been intensively studied until the present day. More important, these authors’ visionary response to defeat brought to light a radical new wisdom:  the notion that a people is greater than the state which governs it, and that a community can survive collapse when all of its members can claim a piece of the pie and therefore have a reason to take an active part in its collective life.

The objectives of the course are to show:
—how biblical scholars work with archaeological and comparative texts to study the Bible's formation;
—how the Bible emerged from large-scale corporate crisis and rupture;
—that in our present state of uncertainty and instability we have much to learn from the various strategies the biblical authors adopted to create an enduring “people of the book”;
—that one doesn’t have to believe in God or accept the historicity of the Bible in order to appreciate its profound political messages;
—that the Bible offers modern societies a model for creating communities around a shared collection of texts, songs, and laws;
—and that the Bible itself has a major role to play in our futures.

Course Syllabus

Week 1: The Riddle That Has Yet To Be Solved
The Bible's Purpose
Books in Ancient Religions
Between "Church and State"
Theologies of the Bible
A Shared Text
The Bible as a "Pedagogical Program of Peoplehood"

Week 2: The Rise and Fall
Israel's Place in the World of the Ancient Near East
The Emergence of Two Competing Kingdoms
Military Triumphs
The Onslaught of Imperial Powers
Defeat and Deportation
Conditions of Conquest

Week 3: The Making of the Bible as a Response to Defeat
Diaspora and Divided Communities
Creating a Shared Past and Common Ancestors
The Pentateuch and Historical Narratives
One People with Multiple Law Codes
Creating a Collection of National Songs and Laments
Reinterpreting Prophecies
Comparative Cases: English and German History 

Week 4: Reinventing the Hero
Martial Valor, Masculinity, and Martyrdom
Long Life versus Glorified Heroic Death
The New Role of the Family
From Battles to Building
Comparatives Cases: From the Crow Nation to Jane Austen

Week 5: A Wise and Discerning People  
The Role of Education
National Education Programs: From 19th Century Germany to the Dalai Lama
From Deuteronomy to Ezra-Nehemiah
Freedom of Information and Open Access
Making Priestly Knowledge Public
The Attempts of the State to Control Prophets
Divine Knowledge for the People, Not Solely the King
The Reason Why Biblical Writings Survived Catastrophes

Week 6: Beyond Morality: The Bible as a Political Model
One God
Covenantal Ethics of Peoplehood
The Bible as an Attempt to Unify Rival Communities
The Bible's Impact on Political Identities Throughout the World
The Bible's Role in the Public Sphere and in Secular Society
The Bible as a Model for New Forms of Community 

Recommended Background

No background is required.

Course Format

The class will consist of weekly videos with one or two quiz questions per video, as well as various weekly assessments and a final exam.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Started IVF medication!

Last month, my estrogen levels were too high to start the IVF medication and I was crushed when my doctor told me that I would need to "wait until next month." If you don't know, my Mom has stage IV cancer, and I am as anxious to make her a grandmother as I am to become a Mom. 

When I was given the green light yesterday, I was elated! Until I found myself sitting at our dinning room table with needles, syringes and three different types of medication to mix and inject into myself.

I sat for awhile reviewing the notes I had taken when the nurse demonstrated it to me, and even had to watch a video for the follistem pen. There's no room for error with how expensive the drugs are. One of the medications requires me to draw up 1 ml of sodium chloride into the syringe, then inject it into a vial of powdered medication and draw it back into the syringe. Then I need to repeat two more times to mix the amount I need. 

After the prep work, it was time to inject.

So there I sat, for about 20 minutes, holding one of the needles and trying to work up the courage to inject it an inch below my belly button "with a dart-like motion" as the video recommended. My heart started beating faster. My palms started sweating. I tried counting to three. Nothing. Then I took the needle and touched it to my skin to test out what it felt like, and pulled it back really quick. Yep, it's sharp! I was still sitting there, talking to Nathan when I looked down and realized that the needle was in! I had been resting it on my skin, and it went right in without me feeling it! But then I had to inject the medication, and that did hurt.

And I also had two more injections after that. All in all, the idea of doing it was worse than actually doing it. I had mild discomfort afterwards, and this morning noticed a small bruise, but I am on my way! When I was checked yesterday, I had 12 eggs. The goal of the medication it to help as many as possible reach maturity so they can be retrieved around June first. Normally, your pituitary glands "pick" one to reach maturity. The medications override this.

My next appointment is this Saturday and I will know more. After that, I will hopefully only have one injection per day. Now, time to inject again!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Facebook: For Introverts?

Years ago, I had the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator administered to me and scored by a professional. I turned out to be an INFJ: Introverted iNtuative Feeling Judging (read more about this personality type HERE). This has always "fit" and resonated with me, as much today as it did when I took it over a decade ago. I have known that I'm an introvert as long as I've known what the word meant. And before that, I knew I was shy. But those who know me today find it hard to believe that I was once terrified by the thought of speaking in front of a group, or that I once asked a guy on a date using a note because I was too scared to talk to him when I was in college. My husband doesn't even believe that I'm an introvert, because he says I'm too good with people.

While we can learn certain skills, like public speaking, our basic nature doesn't change. Once an introvert, always an introvert. And introverts can fool you by being very good with people. Here's an easy question to ask yourself in order to tell the difference: When you're tired and drained, how do you recharge? What gives you energy: staying home, or going out? If attending a social gathering and being around people sounds energizing, you're an extrovert. If it sounds draining, you're an introvert, simple as that. It doesn't mean introverts don't enjoy gathering in a group, they're just not likely to do it after a particularly long week. 
As Introverts (I), INFJs need to have some “alone time” every once in a while; otherwise their internal energy reserves will get depleted really quickly. If this happens, the INFJ may surprise everybody around them by withdrawing from all their activities for a while, and since other people usually see INFJs as always friendly and sociable, this can leave them both surprised and concerned.
So, what does introversion look like in the social media world? I think it can look exactly the same as extroversion. It depends more on how open a person is. Openness is one of the "Big Five" personality dimensions, and I definitely have it. I may be an introvert through and through, but I sure do like to share. If you know me, you know that. And even if you don't know me, you probably also know that!



I was talking to one of my co-workers yesterday, a teacher, and she asked how the fertility treatment was coming along. But she asked in sort of a tentative way, mindful of the fact it is hard for some people to talk about struggles such as this. I was hoping to start the injectible medication last month, but my estrogen levels were too high, and he decided to have me wait a month. Not only did I not mind her question, I welcomed it. Oh, don't ever worry about that, I'm really open was my response. And I meant it.

Sharing on social media is much easier than doing it in the "real" world, but it can be a doorway for very meaningful real world conversations that may not otherwise take place. It's a way to stay connected and garner support and encouragement from people all around the country and the even world, if you want it to be. It's perfect for introverts, like me, who may not have the energy to go out and be around everyone, but still want to stay connected.

Some people don't want everyone, like their co-workers knowing what they do in their free time. But I don't mind. Partially because I have nothing to hide, but also because the energy it takes to conceal things is more than it is to just put them out there. Again, I'm speaking for myself. Everyone is different, and I respect that there isn't one "right" way to be. Some people would cope much better, for example, without people knowing about their Mom's cancer, or IVF treatment. But I like talking about it. Hearing that others have been down the same road makes me feel less alone. It's the first time my Mom has had cancer, but she's not the first Mom to get cancer.

Sometimes people speak of facebook or social media as if it is inherently evil or a waste of time, but it's all in how you use it. At the end of the day, there are a lot of positive things in my life that would not have happened if it weren't facebook, and my openness on there.

When I moved to Orange County in 2006 and knew no one, I used facebook to meet other runners. One of those runners, Delia, was a bridesmaid at my wedding and now in my closest circle of friends.

I would not have raised money to quickly move Mom and Dad out to Orange County right after Mom was diagnosed. We had depleted our summer funds and all our savings had been spent on deposits for the wedding. Yet through spreading the word on facebook, we were able to find her apartment and pay the rent/security deposit while she was still in the hospital. I had several people that I had never met contribute very generous amounts of money. I cant tell you how good it felt to take her by her new place as soon as she was released from the hospital after a two week stay ad brain surgery. 

Then there are the countless words of support and encouragement for Mom over the past few months, many of which elicit her trademark Awwww when I read them to her. Having never really gone through anything more traumatic than a breakup since the inception of facebook, I was blown away (and still am) by the level of genuine support and caring that comes through when times are really tough.

I also would not have had family from Ireland at my wedding! Not only did I find them and get to know them through facebook, but I learned that they were traveling to California for another wedding around the same time through my 2nd cousin Pip's status updates, and invited them to extend their trip. This just wouldn't happen through the occasional email or letter writing. Mom was able to see her cousin Alan for the first time since she was (ready for this?) 18 years old.

Family reunion, brought to you by facebook

And then there's the fun things, like meeting Elizabeth, a lawyer from Maine. I had started following her blog 50 for Billy about her plan to run a marathon in every state in honor and memory of her father. She was in town for another reason, we met and  hiked the Hollywood sign. Along the way, we had some pretty meaningful conversations about family and the commonalities we shared. 

Or, this sweet note, left on my wall yesterday morning:

I just have to tell you because I'm kinda fb staking you! Haha! Although I've never actually met you, I really admire you as a person a lot... You seem so kind and genuine, and you can tell you are loved by many! Your pictures tell so many stories... I love your positive outlook on everything in life, despite all your battles your going through... I think that Everytime I see your posts, and just wanted to share! You and your momma are in my prayers! 
And let's not forget how I initially connected with Nathan after we talked at the work mixer. As soon as I went out to the parking lot, I friend requested him. He sat on it for a few days before finally accepting my request and I sent him this very first message:12 November 2011 17:23
 Thanks for accepting my friend request. I was worried there for a bit. How was tree house building?  
So, suffice to say, I'm not going to be giving up facebook anytime soon. I'll be sharing and blogging through all of life's ups and downs because that's what gets me through. And if I happen to be feeling tired and drained from a busy week, I can still feel connected when I'm in my pajamas. 



Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day + Mom's Next Steps

We had a lovely Mother's Day down at Crystal Cove. Our reservations were for The Beachcomber at 5:45pm and we were seated right away. Mom had the filet mignon, and opened her gifts to a beautiful view of the ocean. It was the perfect time of day, because the sun was getting ready to set.


Nate told Mom I was up really late painting this oil on canvas.

 Afterwards, we walked along the water's edge and made her (and ourselves!) laugh by my repeated attempts to get on Nathan's back for a piggy-back ride.  
It's not as easy as it looks, folks!
But we finally got it right.
This time was a welcome distraction for all. I just received word that Mom is going to have surgery on Thursday to install a port in her head so that chemo can now also be administered to her spinal fluid. She will stay in the hospital for two days. All signs are pointing to her now having cancer in her spinal fluid. This is likely the cause of her loss of vision in one eye. 
Ommaya Reservoir
We're not thrilled that this has to be done, but have little choice. If we leave everything as is, she could loose the sight in her other eye, and her ability to swallow. If she responds to the chemo, she could regain her vision...something that would vastly improve her quality of life. It is the one side effect that bothers her the most. 

Courage, strength and grace


Friday, May 2, 2014

Invaluable Gift

As I reflect on the last months since Mom's cancer diagnosis, I feel content and, dare I say...happy? I find myself filled with gratitude and joy on a daily basis. To have had all of this time with her is a gift. Instead of feeling unlucky  that she is afflicted with this horrible disease, I feel lucky she is here. This is an outlook and perspective that I never would have imagined I would come to just eight short months ago. 

When I was first told she had a brain tumor, I hoped it was benign. When I learned it was cancer, I hoped it hadn't spread from another source. When I learned it had spread from another source, I hoped it wouldn't at least be from multiple multiple sources. And then of course, it was. 

Back then, I couldn't think about, let alone talk about, Mom without crying. Now, I smile when someone asks me how she's doing, and happily update them. How did this happen?

I've identified two reasons: the love and support of my friends/husband and applying Mom's upbeat attitude to the situation. I learned this perspective from Mom, because it is how she is responding to the illness. She is still teaching me, all these years later, how to be a woman with grace. And the very best teacher leads by example.

Back then, I worried she wouldn't be able to enjoy our wedding. And here she is, all this time later, still going strong. Yes, she has side effects too numerous to list and has even lost the sight in one eye for unknown reasons but she is still...Mom. She is still the same happy, optimistic woman I have looked up to all my life. The fact that she has remained cheerful, gracious, sweet, kind and funny in the face of the monster that is cancer is a true testament to just how strong and unwavering her core personality is.

How can I feel sorry for myself when she's not sitting around feeling sorry for herself? Don't get me wrong, we all have our days and I'm sure Mom must too, though she protects me from it if she does. Living with this isn't easy for any of us, and it's something I would not wish on my worst enemy. But, it's here. And so now, it's about what we do with it; what we make of this time.


Bring you parents to work day!
































So, Mom's attitude has shaped me and then there's the friends. Just how much I rely on them was very apparent yesterday. My massage therapist Rebekah contacted me through facebook a few weeks ago, and wanted to pay it forward by donating six massages to my Mom. Dad brought Mom to my work after school got out, and I we drove to her massage. 

Dr. Dadivas and Rebekah
Newport Beach Wellness
Mom was greeted by these smiling faces when we arrived. They treated her like a queen, offering her coffee or tea, and commenting on what a warrior she was. Although Rebekah had never met my mother, she said that she felt like she knew her because of this blog. As she was working on her, I sat in the room and we all chatted and caught up. I realized then that Rebekah was not just helping Mom...she was helping me. It felt so good to be able to give Mom this treatment, because of an amazing connection I have in my life. And it warmed my heart to know that Mom was already experiencing some immediate relief from her symptoms. Her feet have felt like blocks of ice for months due to neuropathy, another side effect of the chemo. But for the first time, as Rebekah was massaging them, Mom said they almost felt warm. I smiled from ear to ear.


After the massage, Mom said she felt like a "new woman" and it was time for the annual dinner with my Birthday twin, Monet, and all the girls. We went to the same location last year, but Mom lived in Yucaipa back then and I didn't bring her. Not wanting to feel like a "fifth wheel" Mom asked if I was sure it was alright that she tagged along. "Mom, it's a girl's night! You're a part of the group now, and they want to see you!" I said this, because it's true. The ask how she is doing on a regular basis, and claim to also draw inspiration from her.

We drove home, smiling and happy. I thought about how tremendously lucky I am to have these women in my life. Really, I do not know how I would do it with "just" my husband. As amazing as he is, he's only one person. And for a monster as big as cancer, you need a treasure trove of supportive people. And on my birthday, this is the greatest gift of all.