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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lilly's 6th Angelversary

Dearest Lilly,

I was so glad to get to bring your Christmas tree Friday.  December 15th ... your Angelversary.  The events of that day in 2011 forever burned into my mind.

Your old Christmas tree had finally fallen apart.  Mom Jenny gave me this artificial tree branch and I picked out some ornaments at Walmart to put on it.  I think it turned out nice.  Red white and blue - for my July 4th baby!  I really liked how the red glittery bows sparkled in the sunshine.  Beautiful!  Though not as beautiful as you of course.  

Do you like your new cherub?  It was time to replace your original one.  It was cracked badly and parts were gone.  It is not easy picking out a new cherub!  I looked on Amazon and the choices were overwhelming!  I felt so frustrated because I wanted you to have the perfect one.  Just when I felt like giving up, I saw it!  I just knew that was THE ONE!

I did notice the cherub isn't quite as heavy as your original one though, so I hope it stays put OK.  I brought your old one home to put in your memorial garden.  (Which is colorful with pansies for the winter.)



As usual I'm anxious to hurry and get through December.  I'm looking forward to the new year and what always feels like a fresh start January 1st.  So many things in life have spiraled out of control since you died.  But we're picking up the pieces and healing.  It sure can be a slow, confusing journey.  But I am blessed to have HOPE.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" - Jeremiah 29:11

Love always,
Mama

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy heavenly 7th birthday Lilly!

"Mama - just what is this crazy outfit you have on me?!"
photo credit: Steve Rubin Photography
Dearest Lilly,

Letters usually start with a "how are you?"  But wouldn't that be rather silly for me to start your birthday letter that way?  After all - I know that you are perfect, whole, and full of joy!  You have everything that those of us still on earth long for!  And that makes me SO happy for you.


So instead I will get to the point: HAPPY BIRTHDAY LILLY!!!!!  Yes today is birthday number 7 for you.  Amazing!  I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a 7 year old little girl running around the house.  But I know that wasn't God's plan for you.  You packed a whole lot of living into 17 months.  You definitely lived up to your nickname of "Little Firecracker!"

Your little brother Solomon loves to hear stories about you and ask questions about you.  He is super into all things holiday.  Lilly's birthday/Independence Day is no exception.  He delights in the Lilly-colored decorations all over the house and in the stores.  He made special star shaped chocolate lollipops for Tabby and her friends to eat, in memory of your birthday.

Big brother Hunter seems to remain just as interested in hearing stories about your medical equipment as he does you.  You know that's just how his brain works!  Yep - engineer boy.  Do you remember how he was only 2 years old and helping me operate your milk pump, oxygen, and pulse ox?  And nebulizer ... etc.  

And Tabby.  She remains as fiercely proud of you as ever.  And still hurts having lost her special little sister.

Speaking of stores, your siblings and I were at Walmart a few days ago.  Tabby and I stopped in front of the red/white/blue clothing for little girls.  Tabby pointed out an outfit that she would have loved to get for you.  I pointed out the ones that I thought you'd look adorable in.  There were several "awwwww" moments before we could move on.

And that got me to remembering how when you turned 1 year old, I had a collection of red/white/blue clothing for you to wear.  You had many days of celebrating in your colors!

Shall I remind you of some?









I guess you should have had a special red/white/blue outfit to wear home from the hospital on the day you were born.  Only I had no idea you were going to be born on the 4th of July!  You were due on June 17th.  Oh well!  



Well my Lilly girl, I've got go now.  We've got some celebrating to do.  We'll be sending your birthday balloons up to you later!

Love forever,
Mama

Sunday, December 18, 2016

To my dear Lilly girl

To my dearest Lilly,

Your brothers and I were talking at dinner tonight - wondering whether or not you ever get to peek down on us on earth.  If you do, then you know why I didn't write to you last Thursday.  On your 5th "angelversary."  

I'm not going to mislead you Lilly.  This year has been hard.  REALLY hard.  Hunter says it's been our worst year since you died.  Maybe you know what's going on.  But if not, I don't want to tell you and give you sadness because remember - "NO tears in heaven!"  It will be OK though.  I have the two most important things in life:  Jesus and Hope.

Last Monday I was coming home from an evening appointment and the alternator in the little old car I was driving died.  It was so dark outside but thankfully I finally made it home safely.  When I got home I found that my 5 month old laptop had died.  Your Uncle Patrick looked at it for me but there wasn't a quick fix.  And your sister had 6 appointments last week so I didn't have time to follow up on warranty stuff yet.  And that is why I didn't blog on your Angelversary.  

Here I am now though.  I gave in and bought another laptop - at a fantastic price.  Figure the way my luck runs with computers, it's great to have backup.


It was a bit weird in a way, that December 15 was on a Thursday this year.  Just like 2011 - the year you died.  This was the first time and well, it just was sort of unsettling.  I will always remember starting to pick you up from your nap that evening, and finding you dead.  Something so horrific for me yet such a blessing for you.  How can something be so contradictory?  

Sister hugs - last time I took pictures of you alive
And I am thankful, that most of the time, I only have good memories of you.  Of your smile, of how you loved to talk to us - and to ceiling fans!  Of your curiosity whenever we went anywhere.  Of how you liked to watch Tabby and Hunter.  Of how much you loved working hard in your therapy sessions. Of how you liked chocolate!  And playing with dried beans.  Of the time when you pushed and scooted across the floor.  Of how you were almost able to sit up on your own.  Of how, on the day you died, you had such a good day!


The boys and I were talking about a bunch of the pictures on your photo collage tonight at dinner.  It's the one I made for your viewing and funeral.  I love that we have it in the dining room and we can look at it.  Solomon is fascinated with hearing about you and likes to ask questions about you.  Hunter was pointing out all the photos he was in with you.  Lilly - he still likes machines!  Remember how fascinated he was by all your medical equipment?  He was only 2 and 3 years old then but he understood how to run them!

This just made Hunter and I laugh - here he is with Sam hooked up to a pulse ox that looked similar to yours!
On the 15th your siblings and I went out together.  Because of Tabby's health situation I didn't want to go to your grave.  You understand.  We went to the store and bought pansies to put in your little memorial garden we have here.  Pansies.  I know.  I have expanded my flower choices for you.  At first I would only allow lilies in your garden.  But then I realized it would look prettier and be more honoring of you to have pretty flowers in their all year long.  So you now have pansies.  Then in the late winter you will have daffodils popping up.  Pretty!  Though not as pretty as you were!  


Mommy loves you forever Lilly, and one day I will see you again!  Until then, the Lord will continue to be with us both.  Give Blueberry a hug for me Lilly.  I'm glad you two have each other.

All my love,
Mamma

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." - Psalm 34:18

"The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."  - Psalm 147:11


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Mesothelioma Awareness - Katherine Key's story

I'm sorry I haven't posted more recently.  Things are just difficult and busy at home.   Tabby has had some good days though.  Solomon, though better overall, had a stomach ache and threw up several times yesterday.  Hunter's beloved hen Kelly was killed last Sunday.  He is still sad and also is really struggling with a lot of worries about Tabby.  Tis the season to be ... ????

I've been making it a game for myself to think of things to be thankful for.  I was also pleased to make my 745th entry into my thankful journal this morning.  One day the light will shine again.  Though honestly it may be awhile.  Even in normal years, in the weeks approaching December 15th - Lilly's angelversary - are not my favorite days.

Well I suppose that was not a cheery beginning for a blog post.  However, my actual blog post IS cheerful.  It is a beautiful story of healing for a woman named Katherine.  Katherine contacted me earlier this month and wondered if I would share her story of healing from Mesothelioma.  I have blogged about this cancer caused by asbestos once before here.  I have been impressed with the initiative that survivors of this cancer take in spreading awareness.  (I have been contacted by a couple other survivors, through my blog, over the years.)  I have been thinking that those of us in the Trisomy 18 world might could learn some awareness spreading tips from these people.

Now - here is Katherine's story, in her own words:

Katherine Keys has been fighting Mesothelioma for 9 years. If you don’t know, mesothelioma is a cancer caused by asbestos exposure. When she was first diagnosed doctors told her she had less than 2 years. Katherine refused to believe her time was limited and instead decided to fight the cancer. Katherine is convinced that it was her positive attitude and determination to win that has allowed her to survive against the odds. 
At first Katherine thought she had the flu. She was prescribed medication and painkillers but the pain persisted. When the pain was too much to take, Katherine went to the ER, it was there that she discovered she had cancer. Katherine was 49 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 1 pleural Mesothelioma. 
For treatment, Katherine had her right lung and the lining of the lung removed, a major surgical procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). After several months of recovery, Katherine began radiation treatments. She had treatments five times per week for several months. Although she had been scheduled for chemotherapy treatments, she was relieved to learn that she didn’t have to have them. 
Upon completing her treatments, Katherine attended her regularly scheduled follow-up appointments. At first, they were monthly, then every two months, three months, six months…and now annually. Her follow-up appointments typically consistent of blood tests, a PET scan, x-rays and other tests to confirm that she is still cancer-free. 
Today, Katherine feels blessed to be able to spend time with her family and share her story with other people living with mesothelioma. While she has been through a lot and is still challenged by physical pain and limitations after having a lung removed, Katherine sees every day as a gift. She hopes her story brings resilience and positivity to people living with mesothelioma.


Thank you again Katherine, for sharing your story! I love that you see every day as a gift. :) 

UPDATE: I asked Katherine how she was exposed to asbestos. This is her reply:

I was exposed from years of wiring work for Texas Power and Light Company. Asbestos was a commonly used material in construction up until the 1980’s because of it’s fire resistant characteristic. Some of the materials that contained asbestos include wire insulation, vinyl floor tiles, paint, ceiling tiles, wall insulation, cement, window caulk, and much more. Sometimes tearing out some of these things is necessary. This can release toxic asbestos dust into the air.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

One down, one to go ...


Exhaust Pipe the horse!
Great news - Solomon seems to be back to normal health!  Frank treated our well water for the Coliform Bacteria (no E. Coli) last Friday.  Saturday morning Solomon had a tummy ache for only a little while.  And nothing since!  After weeks of tummy aches every single day, and about two weeks of diarrhea every morning, he seems totally fine.  Much to his great happiness he got to eat cheese again!  (I had put him on a dairy-free, gluten-free diet last month but it didn't really help.  Nor would it if it was only the bacteria he was reacting to.) 

So yay!  Maybe one medical case solved.

Odysseus is almost all grown up!
Tabby remains a mystery overall.  But we have some more puzzle pieces to consider.  Last Friday we got the results of her fecal test back and she had no parasites, etc.  It did show that her Lysozyme level was elevated, which signifies she has internal inflammation.  Yep, knew that.

Dr. H went over what we do know.  Tabby has a lot of internal inflammation.  She has leaky gut.  She is insulin resistant.  Her adrenal glands and cortisol levels are a terrible mess.  And she struggles a lot emotionally.

He talked to her about the mind and body connection.  How staying under emotional stress will eat a person up.  How damaging it is for the body to think it needs to stay in the "fight or flight" mode.  How gratitude and positive thoughts have been proven to have healing effects on the body.  He recommended two interesting sounding books about the mind-body connection: Molecules in Motion and Biology of Belief.  He feels that what is going on inside her is all related and she is in a vicious cycle.

Exhaust Pipe seems to be one of our main photo props around here!

So we are going to stop testing for awhile and see how her body responds to supplements and food to repair her gut, fix the insulin issue, and heal her adrenals and cortisol.  Counseling for emotional help.  Getting up and moving more.  Taking short walks in the sunshine, or at least sitting outside some each day.

Honestly it was kind of deflating for me to hear all this.  I wanted a solid answer and for it to be a quick fix.  When I asked Tabby how she felt about what the doctor said, she was fine with it and answered "It makes total sense."

Tabby was happy the goats still remember her
 So Saturday afternoon, Tabby went outside with the boys and I.  The sun felt wonderful and so did the walk around, visiting with the animals, and hanging out while Solomon worked a paying job.  (He was hired to pick up a bag of pine cones to be used as decorations for an event.  He took his job so seriously and examined each pine cone carefully.  He'd be a good "quality control" inspector!)

After being outside, Tabby felt so good she showered for the first time in days.  Then that evening she cleaned up her room for the first time in months.  Sunday she went to church in the morning and then back in the evening for a teen lesson.  Monday she went to school.  She was totally exhausted in all these things but doing OK!

Yep - Exhaust Pipe again
Then this morning at 4:30 she called me.  She said the excruciating "hollow stomach pain" was back.  She threw up some.  She hurt so bad she was afraid to be alone.  So I sat with her until she was finally able to go back to sleep about 5:30.  (By the way, here is an interesting article about possible causes for hollow stomach pain.  It's not the same as being hungry!) 

When she woke up again later, she was just really sore but the hollow pain was gone.  This afternoon she had "regular" stomach pain again and was briefly nauseous. 

Man oh man. 

Hunter built and installed a radio for Kelly in her chicken coop

This is my prayer for ME in all this:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." - James 1:5

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The case of the disappearing & reappearing chicken AND Pain pain go away ...

Hunter is Kelly's best friend and she follows him around
-Sunday night Hunter's beloved hen Kelly was missing.  It was dark though, when he searched for her, and she is a black chicken so we thought maybe she just couldn't been seen.  But the next morning, Hunter and I were out at sunup looking for her.

No Kelly.

We periodically looked for her throughout the day, hoping and praying she might show up.  By supper time, Hunter was struggling not to cry.  He said, "This has been the worse year!  Tabby is so sick and then my chick Carla was killed and now Kelly is gone!"  We all felt sad.  Kelly was the tamest chick ever, thanks to Hunter!  And of course we felt terrible for him.

The feed store near us has more baby chicks in stock so Frank took the boys to pick out new chicks Tuesday afternoon.  (Solomon felt he should have a chick too because our little guinea, which he named Toad, had disappeared a few days ago.)

So, new chicks were purchased and brought home.  Shortly after arriving home, there was a stunning discovery.  Our old dog Lucia started getting all curious about something and upon investigation, Kelly was found alive!

What crazy timing is that?

So Kelly is back, much to Hunter's delight, and the boys each have a new chick.

Solomon named his Americana chick "Neil Pharaoh" and Hunter named his Buff Orpington "Kayla." 

Little Miss Pharaoh fell asleep!

Kayla is about a week older than Neil Pharaoh, so she's got more feathers than fuzz
Tabby enjoys when the boys bring their chicks to her so she can hold them.  Sunday afternoon she felt well enough to stay out of the recliner for a bit and went outside to sit in the sun and pet Exhaust Pipe.  There's just something special about animals!




Tabby woke very early yesterday morning with a new kind of stomach pain.  She said her stomach felt "hollow."  I wasn't totally sure what she meant but googled it and sure enough, there were plenty of people out there who have "hollow stomach" pain.  (And yes it is very different than just being hungry!)  Tabby was in extreme pain most of the day and nauseous too.  The only time she felt better was when she was throwing up.  She hurt so bad last night she was afraid to be alone.  We would have gone to the hospital if we thought they could actually do something for her.  (The pain meds they use worked a few times but now only make her feel loopy.)  I sat with her until about midnight, when she finally fell asleep.

This morning she felt much better.  She's just back to "normal pain" now.  Sigh.

I've gotten two more possible pieces of the Tabby-medical-mystery-puzzle.  Last Friday we got the results of her adrenal stress test. Her adrenal glands are a complete wreck.  Her cortisol is out of wack too - and explains why she is so dead tired in the mornings and completely wired late at night.  (The rates are very low in the morning and very high at night.)  Her test showed she has also become insulin resistant, which can explain why she's often so hungry and can't get full.

The other puzzle piece is the first part of our well water testing has come back and it was found we have "Coliform Bacteria" in our water.  This bacteria is common in our county.  We use a Berkey water filtering system for our drinking water and ice - which filters out this bacteria - but there are plenty of other times a day when we use straight well water.  (ex. brushing teeth, washing produce, cooking, etc.) 

This bacteria can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.  It often effects children 5 and under, pregnant women, and chronically ill people the most. 

The well water must be treated with chlorination.  Frank bought the stuff for it today and will treat it tomorrow.  Then we have 24 hours where we can not use our well water.  Hopefully all will be good after that!  (A friend told me that when this happened with her family's well water, they all were feeling better in less than a week after treatment.)

I am praying this helps Tabby!  Though I don't believe it's her whole problem.  And - I am praying this is the answer to Solomon's stomach problems!  He has been having diarrhea almost every morning now for a week or so.  And still having almost daily stomach aches. 

reading and snuggling help Tabby and Solomon both to feel a bit better
So what will tomorrow bring?  I am almost afraid to ask.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Random! Tabby health update, homeschool, stopping bedwetting with essential oils

This picture of Tabby says it all.  Still waiting to find out what exactly is wrong with her.  Even our mail carrier told me today that she is praying for Tabby and for answers!

Tabby had to repeat the stool test earlier this week.  (What "fun.")  The company changed up their testing.  But the good part is, they are now doing a far more extensive test and we still pay the original price.  Have to wait about 2 weeks for the results.

Last week Tabby took a saliva test that checks a bunch of things.  Still waiting for those results.

Yesterday I had our well water tested.  Just in case.  Will find out next week if there is any bacteria present in the water.  Then in 2 weeks, we'll get results about any "non-organic" matter.

I've got Tabby on a strict diet.  Lots of meat, veggies, and fruits.  Also some nuts and goat milk and a little goat cheese.  And I found a farm that has duck eggs and I'm getting some today from them.  I thought we should try them in cooking and baking and be sure Tabby's body agrees with them before I invest in ducks.

I reviewed several paleo cookbooks and have been cooking some from them.  But I've found that a lot of the recipes use some variation of coconut which she can't have.  And many use ginger or garlic.  She can't have those.  I've decided baking gluten free things doesn't necessarily make them healthy.  Several of the gluten free flours heavily relied on raise the blood sugar levels.  So we're using Trim Healthy Mama recipes (just tweaked when necessary) as that is low glycemic cooking/baking.

Sunday evening, Tabby suddenly got a "lull" in the pain.  (That is what we've dubbed those brief times when her pain level suddenly drops.  It's still there, but is much lower.)  When the lull comes on the first thing she does is take a shower, as on a normal pain day she just can't stand up long enough to take one.  Then after her shower she does homework.  The lull lasted all through Monday so she was able to go to school!  (Only the 3rd time in all of October.)  Tuesday morning she was getting ready for school and wham.  Pain came back so hard she hobbled to the recliner.  And has been there or her bed ever since.

This really blows my mind.  She's had the constant pain since September 7th!!  SO beyond sad.  :(

And ... Solomon's health update - I've had him on a dairy free, gluten free diet for about a week and a half now.  He has not thrown up any at all.  He is still getting some stomach aches but they are much briefer.  I plan to continue his diet for another week or so and then slowly reintroduce diary.  (He think's he's dying without getting cheese every day!)  If that goes well we'll try gluten a couple weeks later.

On happier news, Solomon has been loving homeschool/preschool.  He really wants to learn to read so we've been working on phonics.  He knows all the letters of the alphabet and so we're learning the sounds.  Each week I've been introducing 5 letter sounds.

I bought wooden letter "plates" at a yard sale and Solomon lines them up.  He matches the blue magnetic letters to the proper letters on the wooden plates.   I have a 77 cent metal baking tray for putting different foam magnet objects on.  We talk about the sounds each letter makes and then he lines up picture magnets with the right letters.  ("Lion" starts with "lllll" etc.)

He usually takes this very seriously for 2 days.  Then the third day he get silly and puts the pictures by the wrong letters on purpose.  Which really is fine, because we sound out that picture using the wrong sound.  (Ex.  "Drum" becomes "Trum.")  Then on the 4th day I get out a timer and set it for 3 minutes and he hurries to beat the timer.  We usually do the same thing on Friday and it's a breeze then.  Then we start the next week with new letters/picture magnets.


Then we reinforce letters with some free alphabet "Do-A-Dot" printables.  Solomon loves Do-A-Dot paint markers and is always asking for printables to use them with, or making up his own pictures.  (You can find free printables for all sorts of activities including fun pictures and math and reading, etc. just by doing a search.)


Solomon is my first kid that seems to naturally love math.  He walks around doing addition and subtraction and asking me to verify his problems he comes up with.  Ex.  "So does 2 + 3 = 5?"  Last spring I bought "Farmyard Math" from Timberdoodle during a sale.  My only regret is that I waited until last month to introduce it as a lot of the lessons are too easy.  I thought it was for "preschoolers" but it seems more at a "toddler" level.  But that is OK!  Solomon loves this math and I make up harder problems for him with it.

Farmyard Math comes with a tub of farm animals, farmyard mat, and a 36-week curriculum guide.  (We've blazed through the whole guide in just a few weeks and I'm making up stuff now.)   For each lesson, there is a little story, and the child follows instructions in the story.  They learn basic counting, patterns, and some easy addition and subtraction.  It really does teach the child to listen carefully to the details in the story so they can do what it is asking.  (You can see a video about this math program on the Timberdoodle webpage here.)


Hunter really enjoyed a science experiment we did last month.  But I warn you - it is not for germ phobics!  Like me.  :(  We tested for bacteria on a range of different things around the house.  We swabbed objects then rubbed the swabs in petri dishes of agar. (Kit I bought is here.)  Then we waited a few days.  YUCK!  Seeing bacteria growing is gross.  But interesting.  (The only thing I didn't like about this kit was it didn't tell you how to identify if it is good or bad bacteria.)


I found the most bacteria covered thing that we tested for was one of the kitchen sink knobs.  (Really!  Why would someone put knobs at a kitchen sink?  You have to get it all gross when your hands are filthy with say raw chicken, just to turn it on to clean your hands.  I told Hunter we must replace those knobs with something else as soon as we can afford to!  In the meantime I clean the knobs several times a day now!)


On a different note, if you've never read Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, I HIGHLY recommend it.  Tabby and I both read it yesterday and thought it was incredibly inspiring.  And as it is an autobiography - there is no re-writing of history!  ;)  This is one of those books that challenges the reader to better develop their character.  My boys will be reading this as soon as they are old enough.  (Fun aside - we lived in Tuskeegee when I was a toddler.  My dad taught at Tuskeegee University.  He said he used this book in his humanities class and it was always received well.)

Finally, I just wanted to share an essential oil blend to help combat bedwetting, that Donna, one of my reader's makes and has had good results with.  (Her 9 year old son stopped wetting after several days of consistent use.)  To make the "Clean & Dry" blend, Donna adds 10 drops each Cypress and Copaiba and 5 drops Frankincense to a 10ml roller bottle, and tops with a carrier oil.  Her son applied it his lower belly, lower back, and the bladder vitaflex points in his feet. 

I hope that helps someone reading this!  I actually got a lot of feedback from my posts last winter on Hunter's bedwetting.  (He has been dry since January.)  This is a problem that more kids face than I realized in the past.

Well I know this was a long post.  So if you've made it to the end - thanks for reading!  :)