Monday, October 22, 2018

Signed Up for Surgery

Last September, I wrote a blog post for the Fort Worth Moms Blog about my family's history with ovarian cancer and other gynecological health issues. "Blood on the Couch, Cramps in the Bed" is the title of the piece.

In writing this, I hoped to urge women to take notice of changes in their body, to be proactive about screenings and appointments because these types of cancers and diseases can be sneaky -- and are often explained away by our excuses and reasons.

Well, it's now time for me to practice what I preached. I'm signed up for surgery on October 25.

Some ongoing pain issues and changes here and there mean a cystoscopy, laprascopy, and hysteroscopy are on the docket. In other words, I'm having a lot of scopies. ;-)

So, I'd love to know, friend, if you have experienced any of these procedures, or are an expert on this topic, I'd love all your tips on recovery. Mama wants to be comfy as possible through the weekend. I'm getting uninterrupted sleep for three days, so I've got to make the most of this. Can I get an amen?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Spinal Cord Surgery and Food Allergies

Wait. Wasn't I JUST writing about allergy issues with Anna Zane? Yes, yes I was. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Louisa had a MRI in April to re-check her spinal cord issues thanks to a new symptom that popped up. Today we had our follow-up visit with the neurosurgeon to go over the MRI findings. In short, he still thinks the results are inconclusive, which makes me want to scream, haha. (No really.) She does have a spinal abnormality and a filar lipoma, along with a couple symptoms of a tethered spinal cord, but he wants to hold off on surgery until we see more definitive symptoms. The doctor feels encouraged by how strong her legs are and her quality of muscle tone, so this is indeed encouraging.

I honestly haven't even had a minute to process much of this -- or fully decide if I want a second opinion because . . .

As we were walking out of he neurosurgeon's office, I noticed I had two missed calls and messages from Anna's school. It was the dreaded "allergy reaction" phone call. Thank God her teacher picked up on it quick, and the nurse responded quickly with the appropriate medications.

All of this allergy stuff lumped together may be simply coincidental, but the allergist is covering all bases, which means more testing for her in the next few days. We need to figure out what the heck is going on.

I'm thinking about turning this blog into a medical accounting of the Youree ailments. ;-)

Until next time. . .

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Cedar Mulch, a Pecan, and Congress

We've had one too many nights of watering eyes, itching eyes, and red, swollen eyes. While Anna Zane struggles with mild-to-moderate outdoor allergies (in addition to her food allergies), these last couple of weeks have certainly shown more intense symptoms.

Then Saturday happened. After being outside for a few minutes with a friend, Anna bolts in complaining from visibly watery eyes, itching, and congestion suddenly onset. I gave her Zyrtec and made a mental note. 

I thought something HAS to be going on outside because these symptoms seem to be building. She's played outside a lot the lately because the weather has been bearable -- which is rare. 

Cedar Mulch

That afternoon -- like a light bulb moment -- it hits me: We just had major landscaping done to our front and back yard, which was now covered in cedar mulch. 

Guess what is Anna Zane's #1 outdoor allergen? CEDAR!

Later that afternoon, Anna's symptoms increased in severity. She was at: itchy, puffy, watery eyes; nasal congestion; sore throat, sore and stiff neck; upset stomach; and ear pain -- along with feeling lethargic. Sunday wasn't much better. 

That was it: I was convinced. The repetitive exposure to the mulch exacerbated her symptoms. It was so severe, at one point, I thought I might need to give her an epinepherine injection. I stopped short of that because after a prolonged period, her symptoms didn't progress to her airways, lungs, and no significant swelling like what occurs when she has a sesame anaphylactic reaction

Monday finds her home from school and at the allergist, who burst my mulch bubble. He thinks it is very unlikely the cedar triggered this type of response because she is allergic to the tree pollen not the wood. He prompts me some more and thinks maybe it is a viral incident, but that doesn't really make sense either. So we've opted to keep up a rigorous antihistamine regimen (three times per day at least), and to document any additional flares with photos and notes. 

A Pecan

Then we drive home. Anna Zane remembers something we'd both forgotten: She touched a pecan just after her friend arrived on Saturday.

Mystery solved.

With that said, the pecan does not explain her previous less severe itchy/red eyes that have occurred before Saturday, but it most certainly explains the much stronger, obviously allergic reaction she had on Saturday -- and that lingers still today. She's on day 4 and still struggling. 

I'm thankful her reaction to the pecan didn't involve wheezing and significant swelling. I'm discouraged because a quick, 2-second touch of pecan resulted in all of this. No eating, no rubbing a pecan all over her face. Just a touch. It's a sobering reminder that her food allergies are no freaking joke. 

We are still watching for any continuance of symptoms. She may have some newly developed outdoor allergies, or we may need to pursue cedar oils (from the wood) more seriously. All of which require more testing.


Along the food allergy lines, I'd like to ask your help. You see, sesame isn't considered in the "top 8" by the FDA so it does not require food and cosmetic companies, etc., to disclose sesame in their ingredient list. Sesame oil and seeds and tahini can lurk in verbiage like "spices," "natural flavoring," and what not. Recent studies show that 1 in 1,000 people have a sesame allergy, which is a more common incidence than tree nuts. Tree nuts get lumped together and thus represent a higher percentage. Even in Anna's instance, she can eat almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios all day long -- all tree nuts -- but she cannot touch a pecan, walnut, Brazil nut, or cashew. Yet, the FDA makes no distinction between these and labels them all as "tree nuts." By not knowing what foods contain sesame or were produced in the same facility of sesame, food buying becomes tricky and taxing. Yes, meaning literal phone calls to manufacturers asking about the definition of "spices" and "bread crumbs." 

Anna Zane has never swallowed sesame in her life. She's only rubbed a microscopic oil in her eye once and touched her tongue to some hummus. Her allergic reactions are intense and severe -- and bi-phasic anaphylactic, which is some of the worse reactions you can have.

Yet, right now there is a bill making its way to Congress that has the support of the Food Allergy Research and Education -- and the support of Bryan and Emily Youree.

H.R.5425 and S.2647 is on the floor and is being supported by FARE. If enacted, this legislation would require that sesame be labeled under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and that allergen information be included on the labels of non-packaged foods sold at retail.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE consider contacting your legislators asking them to support this bill. Yes, I am begging! It is so easy to do; you can click this link HERE.

I encourage you to mention in the "personal message" section to mention that you know someone who lives with this terrible food allergy.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Truth About February 17

On February 17, 1998, my nephew died . . . before he even breathed his first breath. He was 40 weeks gestation, full size and full term. I was 16 years old -- full of nothing but myself.

The magnitude of the grief I felt -- unfamiliar to me -- paralyzed me emotionally. The magnitude of grief I witnessed seared my soul. It felt all wrong.

As my sister buried her infant, the layers of the loss became deeper and deeper for our family. February 17 is a day of sorrow, mourning a child who never tasted air. We remember all we lost in losing him, wishing the story was different. February 17 is a day death won.

So imagine my shock on March 7, 2011, when I received the most life-changing phone call: "Congratulations, it's a girl!" This was followed with all the pertinent information, like her birth date: February 17.

Thirteen years to the day after Kyler left this world, the most life-filled little girl entered it. She is a wonderfully constant reminder that God hints at His redemption and restoration in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of ways that reach to the most tender corners of our heart.

February 17 is a day of sorrow and celebration. We cry a good hard sob, and we sing "happy birthday" to the top of our lungs. Ashes and beauty. Death and life. Loss and hope. That is the truth about February 17.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Eight Years

Eight years ago my father died. That year, 2009, also seemed to be the start of a lot of loss. In these eight years, I've lost:

  • My father
  • My mother
  • My last living grandmother
  • Two grandfather-in-laws
  • And a grandmother-in-law
  • Two first cousins
  • An aunt
  • And a best friend
This doesn't include the passing of an elder, and friend, from my church recently and a beloved college professor -- both dying this summer.

When you experience grief in all its fury, you think -- or at least I did -- that you understand all there is to know about it, mainly because the first months of grief feel all over the place. Surely I've experienced every emotion, every thought grief could produce. Yet, a dozen funerals later -- and, no doubt, dozens more to go -- I confess I know little about grief, except that it is unpredictable and uncontrollable. 

Grief goes from being a stranger who will not leave you be, forcing weird emotions on a whim, to something you tolerate, hoping he will take the hint. Grief is in one instance an enormous sense of comfort and closeness and the container of deep loss and regret the next. Grief enters as a stranger but settles in to be a constant companion. You get used to his smells and habits and intrusion. Dare I say: Grief becomes a friend.

Eight years seems like a massive amount of time. I've welcomed two daughters my dad never knew. I've lived a lot of life. I'm due for a conversation with my mom, now nearly five years since her death. And for sure I yearn to catch up with my Bethany, nearly three years gone. 

Saying the years out loud stirs me, reminding me of all that has been lost, all the years "without." However, it also means I am one year closer to these losses being redeemed -- eight years closer to all things being made new and right and good. My good buddy grief keeps reminding me of that. And for that, I'm thankful.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Robbed :: Another Fake Emily Youree Strikes

This last Friday, I loaded the girls into the car for a morning of errands: Walgreens, uniform shop, Target. We picked up school prescriptions, a supply or two here and there, and school clothes. I felt accomplished that we'd checked everything off our to-do list by noon. A trip to Chick-fil-A was in order. We went through the drive thru and headed down the road a tiny bit to Trinity Park, where we had a quick picnic -- 15-20 minutes at most. See, we were trying to get to Bryan's office to grab ice cream from an ice cream truck by 1:00 p.m. I'm like mom of the year at this point: Chick-fil-a, spontaneous picnic, and promised ice cream.

I gathered three Chick-fil-A bags, three drinks, my phone, keys, and sunglasses -- plus two children -- and walked to the picnic table maybe 50 feet away. I left all our shopping bags and my purse in a locked car.

Here's the scene: 12:30 p.m. in a park parking lot that is nearly completely full. Numerous people coming and going to the park trails; numerous people coming and going to the Chuy's on the other side of the side street. There are tons of people around.

Shock and the worse sinking sick feeling in my stomach soon greeted me when I saw this shattered window once we were back at the car. Glass everywhere and my purse nowhere to be found. Gone, wallet and all.

The actual temperature was near 100 degrees; the heat index was well over that mark. There I was with two small children baking in the heat, waiting on the police to arrive. Louisa and I cried randomly while Anna Zane held it together.

During my 1-hour wait for the police, one woman stood with me when we first got to the car and watched the girls some while I called 911. Shortly, another man came to offer assistance. And then a family of three repeatedly asked to help, not listening to my "no, we are okays," waiting with me for a half hour, worrying about the kids getting too hot. The dad walked to Chuy's bringing back three large ice water drinks and two popsicles for my cuties. Two teenage boys stopped to ask if we needed help. Another mom and her baby came to check on us too. Three men walking from lunch at Chuy's made sure we were okay before leaving the parking lot.

In one moment, the worst of humanity impacted my life in a dramatic way. In the next several moments -- and throughout the day -- the best of humanity helped me pick up the pieces.

Bryan arrived just after the police. He spent the minutes after my alerting him to this robbery quickly cancelling as many cards and accounts as he could. In my wallet were debit cards and credit cards for our personal accounts and my business accounts. The robbers made quick work at a nearby gas station and Walgreens, spending about $200 total. I hope they enjoyed the $5 cash and $10 gift card I'd just earned at Target.

Thanks to the kindness and compassion of our nanny, she took the girls until nearly 9:00 p.m. that night so we could spend . . . wait for it . . . five hours closing and reopening accounts. Not only all those credit cards and bank accounts, but also HSA accounts, replacing insurance cards, and on and on.

By the end of the day Friday, we were wiped, but we were safe, we had lost only $5, and my car will soon be repaired. Everything is JUST fine.

Then the plot thickened on Saturday. While I was running errands, a woman shows up at the house with a purse that is not mine but contains practically all of my non-valuables: zoo membership cards, Carmex, receipts, insurance cards, even a doll dress that belonged to Anna. The purse also contains some info for another woman, whom I presume owns this handbag. She said she saw it on the side of the road, pulled over and picked it up, and brought it to this address. I mean I'd like to believe this, but . . . .

Will this fake Emily Youree who busted out my window, grabbed my purse as his or her own, and used my cards ever be caught? Who knows, but we are trying. The case will hopefully be assigned a detective this week.

Thanks to the strangers who stepped out of their comfort zones to help me. Thanks to a super nice police officer who encouraged me not let this ruin my day. Thanks to Ms. Lisa and all the crew who took such great care of my kids. Thanks to Cathy at Allstate and Victoria at Chase. Thanks to Jesus who knew it all, showing mercy every step of the way. (The rainbow in the sky that evening was a nice touch. Good one, God.)

So, after all of this, I think I deserve a new purse, right? Ahahahahaha.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Anna Zane's Allergy Update

Yes, I realize the world at large will not flock to this blog post, but it serves us well as a means of sharing this update with friends and family who come in contact with Anna Zane on a more regular basis. It's my one-spot stop to explain . . . . We all know the written word is the way I process and best communicate. So here goes.

Long story short: Anna Zane suffered an exposure to sesame at school in May. One fact of that incident is concerning to us: There was no visible trace of sesame anywhere to be seen. Like I said, it is a long story about how she was exposed; for the purposes of this blog, we will focus on the fact she reacted in hefty fashion to an invisible trace of sesame on her finger . . . that landed in her eye. Whiz. Bang. Boom. Swollen eye and cheek and lips. Epi pen, hospital, the whole nine yards.

That landed us in the allergist office. Since the end of May, Anna had a blood test and a skin test. Today, we received the verdict on all of it.

Here's what we discovered:

1. Anna is severely allergic to sesame. This is not news, obviously. She is still bi-phasic anaphylactic. The only new bit of info to come along is her increased sensitivity. Her reaction has moved from "ingestion only" to "contact," meaning she will react in some form or fashion if she touches sesame. This also points to the likelihood of her sensitivity to her allergy increasing every time she has an exposure. We pray to God that she never enters the "air borne" phase of this.

2. Blood work confirmed an "impressive" allergy to mountain cedar. This explains why her eyes swelled and were blood red when visiting family surrounded by freshly chopped mountain cedar. Hello, Zyrtec.

3. To me the next development seemed out of the blue, however, her doctor was not surprised. Tree nuts, specifically Brazil nut, pecans, and walnuts also posted "impressive" results with almonds, cashew, and pistachios coming in at "mild." It appears that she now has cross-reactivity issues with some tree nuts . . . well, varying degrees with tree nuts. What in the world is cross-reactivity? Ah, I'm so glad you asked. First, know that science doesn't know WHY or HOW allergic food reactions first occur . . . like why one person has it and another doesn't . . . or even why sometimes it escalates and sometimes it doesn't . . . . why some grow out of it, etc. But it does know this: In most instances, the antibody created to "fight" when she ingests sesame is coded super specifically: It will only start fighting when it identifies the sesame protein that triggers her allergy. However, in instances of cross-reactivity, that antibody gets a faulty signal. There is something about the protein make-up that is similar to these tree nuts that causes a percentage of those antibodies to think it's sesame, and thus, start to fight. This explains why her tummy hurts, tongues tickles, and ears burn when she eats pecans. So the tricky part is this: Can she continue to eat tree nuts -- even tree nuts she consumed many, many times before (pistachios) -- safely? The reaction to date isn't ANYWHERE close the reaction to sesame. Not only is the reaction not close, but the numbers in the blood work and skin test are no where NEAR her sesame. (For the record, the tree nut spots from the skin test are gone. Her sesame spot on the skin test? Is a hard knot about the size of a half dollar -- red and tender. That's after two rounds of benadryl cream, washing with soap/water, a dose of Zyrtec, and a dose of Benadryl.) The doctor completely recommends avoiding all tree nuts because, as he put it, it's like playing Russian Roulette. Most of the time when she eats nuts, she will likely have a mild reaction because a small percentage of the antibodies think those proteins are sesame and not tree nut. However, there is no way to predict when a larger percentage of those antibodies will get the faulty message . . . . If that happens, it's a full-on anaphylactic reaction.

There you have it. We are still processing and making changes to school, home, and play -- digesting this information. But, I think it is safe to say we are saying adios, tree nuts. Now our dates nights will consist of humus for an appetizer, sushi for a main course, and pecan praline for dessert. ;-)