May 19, 2015

The Wilderness

I haven't written about infertility in a long while. But I have things on my heart and time on my hands, so here we go. David and I struggled with infertility for 3 years - then I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which was taken from me before it took my life - then that has been followed by another almost 3 years of infertility. We do not feel called to adopt (yet), we do not feel called to foster (yet) and we do not feel called to (or safe) pursuing fertility treatments anymore. The only thing that feels right in our hearts is waiting upon the Lord and enjoying our life together as husband and wife. We've been waiting for quite a long time with no answer in sight other than to stay in the place where we are.

I frequently feel as if I'm walking on a path in the wilderness. A path that has not been walked on by someone in a very long time.

For the past year, I've held on to this picture of traveling in the wilderness. I love word pictures. I love when I can conjure up a scene, a mental allegory of sorts, because it helps me to keep pressing on when reality seems harsh. I really believe God gave me this image of the wilderness. I first encountered it one day as I was driving deep into the woods for a photoshoot. I had just hung up the phone with my last 2 friends who called to announce they were pregnant (yep, they told me at the same time. Band-Aid approach, I guess?). It was now official, all of my friends in their 20s and 30s were either pregnant, currently giving birth or had a complete family. I felt utterly alone. It was in this moment that I felt God whisper, "It's just you and me now Beck. Get ready for a wilderness experience. You're going to learn the meaning of 'Jesus alone is enough'. It's going to be hard, but it's going to be good."

Let me tell you about this wilderness path that I'm on. It's overgrown, covered in mud and fallen tree branches. Completely unmaintained. It's so faint at times that I frequently lose the path altogether and find myself just bushwhacking in hopes of eventually catching sight of it again. I trip over roots and stumble daily as I try to make my way along.

This path is lonely and isolating. I look around desperately hoping to catch sight of another fellow traveler. Occasionally I see someone off in the distance, but they're on their own path and heading in the opposite direction. They might throw their hand up and wave as they continue on, as if to say "I see you there friend, but my eyes are fixed on the destination ahead of me and I don't have time to stop and chat." Yes, this wilderness can be lonely. It's often just me and the trees. Just me and the stars at night. Just me and God traveling this broad piece of land.

This wilderness is also vast, lush, beautiful, holy, inspiring. There is majesty in this wilderness and intimacy with God like I've never known before. There is healing here. Deep healing. There is discovery and peace, a sense of calm and trust that I don't think I've ever known before. God didn't bring us out here to just dump us off and leave. He is with us every step of the way. And like all cross-country travelers, we have been outfitted with the best survival gear, a trusty compass and a healthy sense of adventure (oh how different things would look if I kicked my feet in rebellion every step of the way!). God has given us everything we need to get through this wild land.

The fact that we are in uncharted territory undoubtedly means that others will not understand the journey we are on. Some people may think things got too hard, that David and I just gave up. Some believe we've closed ourselves off to the idea of parenthood, that we've simply walked away. But that's not true. We are simply being obedient to God's calling on our life right now. We have diligently followed God's voice every step of the way over the last 5+ years. And at this moment, He just happens to be calling us into a place that doesn't make a whole lot of sense at first glance. A place that is unfamiliar, unknown and doesn't look like what everyone else is doing.

It's frustrating for sure. It's hard to be misunderstood or judged. It's hard to go against the current and do something that virtually no one else in your peer group is doing. It's tempting to question God's plan and wonder if He really knows what He is doing. It's sad watching friends live the life you thought you were going to live. It's painful and confusing, disruptive and often feels endless. It's just plain hard sometimes.

But honestly, I must admit that I often find myself kind of loving it out here in the wilderness. I guess over time as I realized we may be here for a while, I decided to at least try and find the silver lining. Despite the isolation and lack of knowing where we are going or when this path will end, it sure is a beautiful place to roam. I love that God has created our story to be so unique that I am hard-pressed to find others like us on this path. I love that He drawn close to me, provided for me and picks me up when I fall (which is often). I love how much I've learned about His character and the Spirit inspired insight I've gained. I love the peace and healing I've found out here. I love walking hand in hand with David along the way. We try our best to enjoy our life to the fullest right now and that is beautiful. I love that our story isn't over, we just have to keep walking a little ways further.

May 18, 2015

Healing: Week 6 & 7

I had a feeling that I might not be able to get a post done last week for my 6 week mark since Caitlin was in town. I was right. :) That's ok, we'll just combine weeks 6 and 7 into one post today. My surgeons said that the 6-8 week post-op point was when I would really turn a corner and I believe they were right!

The Good

This week I had so much energy, I had to restrain myself from flying out of the front door and breaking into a full sprint. All I want to do is go for a nice 15 mile hike ;) It's a mixed blessing, because although I am feeling good and have lots of energy, I can't act upon that energy in the way I want. It's going to be a looong time before a 15 mile hike is a reality! But that's ok, I'm able to do other things with my energy that still honor the healing that is taking place.

Since Caitlin was in town and I had a full-time chauffeur at my disposal who willing to drive me wherever I wanted, I decided it was time to slowly ease back into society. What better place to start than Target?! We also went to Whole Foods, had a picnic, went to David's office and my in-law's. I'm happy to report all my outings went very well with minimal crying, confusion and mental breakdowns haha! I could tell God's hand was with us everywhere we went, protecting me from rogue shopping carts, crowded aisles and overwhelming produce sections. It felt really really good to be out and about!

Our pre-Target selfie

Whenever Caitlin and I get together, we talk talk talk talk. We can't help ourselves, it's just too much fun. Since she lives in Mexico, we don't get the chance to be in each other's physical presence very often and we had soooo much to catch up on. Typically, too much talking causes pain in my ear and jaw that will stick around for 24-48 hours, so I've had to really monitor how much I talk.  But last week I learned quickly that this is getting better. I definitely talked too much each day with her around, but the pain would typically only last 3-10 hours and rarely over night, so that is major progress!

I'm also happy to report that the lingering exhaustion has vanished (knock on wood)! It's like the day I hit the 6 week mark, the exhaustion went away. I can now easily chop an apple without needing to rest afterwards haha! I wonder if it's tied to how much I'm walking now...I'm up to almost 2 miles per day and I can't help but wonder if the increased activity is also increasing my energy and helping ease the excessive tiredness. I also think that all my walking is really impacting my balance for the better as well. This week I had 3 straight days go by without a single moment of unsteadiness or feeling unbalanced. It's really tempting to push things even further and think "well, what if I walked 5 miles? Wouldn't I feel even better?" No. There is definitely a limit of "too much" that causes me to feel worse, so it's been a tedious process learning to do enough that I'm promoting healing, but not so much that I'm causing setbacks.
I also officially decided to outsource half of my editing jobs so that I could take more time to focus on healing and on getting better. I still have plenty to keep me busy, but keeping up with all my editing was stressful and unnecessary. So I hired a freelance editor and she's doing a great job and helping me out. Having that stress lessened is pretty great!

The Bad
I finally heard back from my UCLA neurosurgeons on the lingering heartbeat that I still hear in my right ear. They officially said it is "not normal to continue hearing it at this stage in my recovery". They suggested that there is probably another issue going on and that I should continue the investigation with the neurologist in CO.  Most likely, it is the brain cysts that are putting pressure on my brain, causing elevated intracranial pressure. One of the most common symptoms of elevated intracranial pressure is pulsatile tinnitus (hearing your heartbeat). So that is really hard. I was and still am very discouraged. I will be seeing a neurologist in CO next week, so maybe we'll get started down a road that leads to some answers.

Don't get me wrong, the surgery was still successful. It fixed my worst symptoms (vertigo & constant feeling of an ear infection) and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't hesitate. I'm so so so thankful I had the surgery, I really am. This is just an odd twist, because the pulsitile tinnitus was the very first symptom I ever had and we always attributed it to SCDS. But it looks as if it was actually evidence of something else going on that we just never knew about. It feels a little bit like we're back at the drawing board when it comes to that.

There are other small and rather insignificant setbacks I've had in the last 2 weeks like the continued confusion when there is too much auditory and visual stimulation, or pain/pressure in my ear and jaw if I talk too much. I still get off balance at times as well. But that is all still normal. This is a long recovery, so I'm learning that patience is part of the healing process.

May 7, 2015

Healing: Week 5

This has been an interesting week for sure. I'm in this weird limbo area where I am not yet fully recovered and not fresh out of surgery either. I have moments where I forget I even had surgery because I feel so darn good. And then that is followed up by moments where it feels like surgery was just yesterday. It's an odd place to be....feeling good, but then not so good. Full of energy, but easily exhausted. I guess I'm learning to take the bad with the good and go with the flow each day.

The Good:

  • I finally walked a mile! Yaaaay! I've been trying to reach that milestone for a long time and I finally did it on Tuesday. I was all by myself and I just kept going. I didn't get tired either. I was tempted to keep going, but the last thing I need is to have a wave of exhaustion come over me while I'm 2 miles away from my house. 

  • My balance continues to improve. I've even had whole days go by with only 1 or 2 moments of dizziness, which is amazing compared to where I was right after surgery and before surgery. It is so nice to see the world normally again.
  • I'm feeling really good on my own, which is so nice. I can walk alone and be home alone without any fear of something going wrong or needing help. It's a sense of independence I haven't had in a while.
  • I started working again this week. No, not out taking photos...that won't happen for quite some time! But I've been able to edit, invoice clients, email etc. for long periods of time without much issue. I do need to take breaks every 30 minutes so that I don't overdo it, but I've been fairly productive. I will admit, one day I worked too much and I paid dearly for it!
  • My hair is growing! It's about an inch long now where they shaved it and it's beginning to cover the incision. Woo!
  • I've been blessed to see some sweet friends this week and my best friend from college is coming into town next week to stay with us for a while and help out! I'm excited to see her and put her to work pulling weeds in our yard bwahahaha! ;)
The Bad:
  • What started as normal post-operative pulsing in my head&ear due to swelling and fluid has slowly morphed into what is eerily similar to my pre-op heartbeat in my ear. It sounds the same, feels the same and is about the same frequency as before surgery. It could still be normal. But it could be abnormal. I've reached out to my surgeons and am awaiting their response on this. In the meantime, I'm trying to keep my head up and not be discouraged by this.
  • Exhaustion and confusion continue to follow me around some days. I definitely notice it more if there has been sustained amounts of visual or auditory stimulation, like conversation, music, reading etc. My brain just hits a point where it can't process anymore and I get what I call "mashed potato brain"-I can't think straight, I can't find words, I have trouble tracking what is happening etc.
  • We have had like 5 straight days of bad weather here in CO, which is soooo not normal at all. My head is super sensitive to the barometric pressure, so I've found myself with more pressure and ear popping /crackling this week. It's like there is a bowl of Rice Krispies in my ear haha! 
  • I'm getting reeeeaaallly tired of my movement restrictions. Like, I just want to bend down and pick up my socks on the floor. I'm tired of trying to grab things with my toes. Ha!

April 28, 2015

Healing: Week 4

Woooow! I can't believe I'm already in my 4th week of recovery! Crazy how time flies when you're sitting around doing nothing ;) This was my first full week home and I think that being home has really accelerated the recovery process. There's just something so good about sleeping in your own bed!

I continue to feel like I don't make a lot of day to day progress, but then I look back on a week ago and I can see lots of progress! Time is the best tool for perspective when you're on a long road like this one.

The Good:
  • I walked almost a mile on Saturday (.92 miles to be exact)! Walking is the #1 thing you can do to regain balance after this type of surgery, so they really push you to walk walk walk! Considering going down the block was a challenge 4 weeks ago, I'm super happy that I'm almost up to a mile now! Most days I'm walking 3x/day. 
  • This is the first week where I didn't have much mental fog. I felt really clear-headed, present and "with it," for lack of a better word. 
  • My balance is really improving a lot! It's hard to describe sometimes...before surgery, it always felt like the world around me was spinning. Now it feels like the world is done spinning (yay!) but I'm the one who is a little off balance and unsteady. It's just a new kind of dizzy to get used to and overcome. But it's getting better and I'm doing some exercises to help. And I can't stress enough how much better it is now versus before surgery. Thank you Jesus!!!! 
  • I feel stronger. I can stand up with less effort, walk faster, go up and down stairs easier and just feel more energetic. Yeah!
  • I can tell the swelling and fluid is beginning to go down now. My ear feels less full, my voice isn't echoing as much, and the pulsing that I used to hear and feel has greatly diminished. When I do hear/feel it, it is very subtle.
  • Neck pain is virtually gone now, yay!
  • I went into a grocery store and didn't have my brain shut down on me. This is HUGE! Public places have proven extremely challenging for me. My brain is working so hard on keeping me upright, balanced and healthy that all the auditory and visual chaos going on in public places makes it really hard for me to think clearly. But I managed to go into the grocery store with my father in-law, pick up a few things, check-out, and leave the store without a hitch. Progress!
  • I feel comfortable being home alone now! We were all a bit worried for me to be home alone, but I've eased into it and promised David that I wouldn't do anything dumb that would be risky. Being an introvert at heart, these days home alone have been very restorative. 

The Bad:
  • Now that my incision is healing really well, I can tell the nerves are beginning to reattach because I'm gaining lots of sensation and pain in the incision area. It was completely numb for a really long time and now I'm starting to really feel things a lot and it is painful at times. 
  • Sleep continues to be a challenge. I'm a stomach sleeper and so sleeping flat on my back with my head elevated on pillows is not my favorite. I wake up any time my head moves to the right because of pain.
  • I struggle if there is too much noise or motion around me. If there are too many people talking or if music/tv/talking is too loud, my brain just kind of goes haywire and I can't track what's happening. I frequently will feel overwhelmed and confused to the point of tears (sorry David!). 
  • My jaw is still very sore. Eating and talking are tough. Eating anything chewy is really hard and talking longer than 20 minutes or so causes pain and pressure. 
  • I'm am easily exhausted.  I cut up an apple the other day for lunch and I literally had to sit down and rest afterward haha! I nap a lot and usually have to lie down if I've had too much activity.
  • I *think* it may be the titanium plate in my head is conducts hot and cold air, but usually if I'm outside or doing much movement like walking, I have an odd sensation of cold air going deep into my head or inner ear. I've been wearing scarves wrapped around my head while outside to help with this, and also keep the sun off my incision until my hair grows more. Hopefully in a few more weeks this bizarre sensation will be gone!

HA! Walking is so important that we even do it when it's 40 degrees and raining non-stop. Sweet David accompanied me this weekend out my walks. We were freezing and soaking, but we did it and I am thankful that we were able to push through!
I had a bad day today and when I called David crying, he came home from work to be with me. And he brought me yummy treats. Seriously, I don't think a better husband has ever existed! I do not know what I would do without this man! Also...have you had the Orchard Skittles yet? No? Then you must go get them now, they're delish!

***Edited to add: I also wanted to say that many people have been very concerned about my sneezing restrictions. Haha! I too was concerned about this, but have learned a quick little trick that has proved highly effective so far (4 weeks straight without a single sneeze!). If you put your finger below your nose and push up on the underside of your nasal septum and wiggle your finger little bit, the urge to sneeze immediately goes away. There is your fun fact for the day! :)

April 22, 2015

Steady Heart

2 disclaimers: This will probably the longest post I've ever written. So much happened and I feel like this blog is the only place where I can really document and reflect on it all. So settle in! And also, I promise there are no gross pictures at all, so don't worry :)

It's hard to put the last several weeks into words. Partially because I feel like I've been in a time vacuum where every days bleeds into the next to the point where you lose all track of time and what day it is. Partially because I was on prescription pain killers that kept me in a haze. Partially because the fog of anesthesia is just now starting to wear off. I have moments of great clarity, followed by moments of mental sludge where I just can't seem to piece the timing of events together. But through it, I will do my best to describe my experience over these last few weeks

If you're looking for the short version, here you go: The surgery was a huge success and it fixed all of my pre-op dizziness and symptoms. Recovery has been full of ups and downs but I am doing great... well, considering that I'm still recovering from brain surgery ;)

And now for the long version....
We traveled out to CA with David's parents on Tuesday, March 31. It was a real blessing to have them with us out here! For the first few days, we stayed at the Tiverton House, which is UCLA's on-campus housing for medical patients. It's so convenient for families and patients to be within walking distance of the hospital. We did some fun things to keep my mind off of surgery and some nice meals out with them.

Weds, April 1st was pretty miserable for me because I spent the morning doing brain scans which sent my vertigo into overdrive. I was so dizzy, so miserable. I remember getting out of my first scan and cryng on David's shoulder because I felt so awful. The vertigo stuck with me through the rest of the day, which was unfortunate because we had a lovely day at the beach in Malibu. We went to Paradise Cove for lunch and spent some time on the beach. We had our first celebrity sighting as well! David saw Chuck Liddell and managed to get a photo with him hahaha!

We also welcomed my sister Jenny to CA. She rented a sweeeeeet condo in Brentwood, so we got to check it out and then had a "last supper" in Santa Monica at a great little pizza place. That evening we also welcomed two of our dearest friends from CO who came out to support us. Rob and Stacy are the salt of the earth. How lucky are we to have so many wonderful people come to CA to be with us!

I went to bed that night so incredibly ready to have surgery. Excited to feel better. Finally.

Thursday April 2. The day I had been waiting for since August when my SCDS symptoms first started. The day I had patiently anticipated for so long was here. We found out my surgery time would be 12:15pm, check-in was 9:45am. We spent the morning praying with David's parents, Jenny and Rob & Stacy. We spent some time at my favorite grove of palm trees and then walked over to the hospital.
I don't think I realized it at the time, but when I walked into that hospital, I was light as air with a smile on my face No fear. Just faith that everything was as it should be and God was going to be with me. Thank you Jesus for the incredible journey of overcoming fear! Who knew it was possible to walk into brain surgery and feel nothing but peace, joy and hopeful anticipation?  I have felt God speak the words "steady heart" over me for the last few weeks and I think that's what I really felt. Peace. Courage. Hope. Steady. My heart was finally steady. Only accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit. God is amazing, that's all I can say.

It took a while to finally get the ball rolling with check-in, but once it started rolling, things went very quickly! David made me laugh all the way through it, he's so good at distracting me :)

Pre-op was spent talking with 2 anesthesiologists about my prior complications during surgery back in 2011 and 2012. We also signed waivers and consents, got IVs started and eventually got to talk with one of my neurosurgeons. He was calm and confident, just what I had hoped for! The anesthesiologist gave me a shot of something that they said was going to "relax" me before we went into the operating room, but they were lying. It straight up knocked me out, I have zero recollection of going into the OR. My last memory was kissing David goodbye and hearing him whisper "it's all going to be ok."

UCLA has a beautiful area for families to wait while surgery is going on. They got to soak in some late afternoon sunshine while I got my head opened up haha! We even had a surprise visitor (sister of a friend of mine who lives in CA) stop by with a "survival kit" full of snacks and water for everyone. Amazing!
Surgery was 4 hours. It was supposed to be 2 hours but I wound up having a tear in the dura (outer layer of the brain) when they lifted up my brain, causing a cerebral spinal fluid leak during surgery. They were able to repair it, thankfully. The actual bone grafting surgery went well and the broken bone was fixed! They even covered more area than they needed to just to make sure that everything would hold and I wouldn't need to worry about doing a revision surgery. One titanium plate, a few screws and 16 staples later, I was lead into the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit.

I remember waking up smiling and laughing. No, not because of pain meds. Because all my symptoms were gone. Like, gone gone. 100% gone. No vertigo. No spinning walls. No feeling like I was on a boat. No hearing my blinking, neck muscles or heartbeat. It was all gone. I heard silence and I felt still. Something I had not experienced in 8 months. Incredible. What a miracle!

They allowed David to come back and see me. He told me how surgery went and what the surgeons relayed to him about the CSF leak. He said he surgeons were very happy with how things went (minus the little complication) and they were very confident with how well I did during surgery. Yeah! I got well acquainted with this awful heaadwrap they put on me to keep the brain swelling down. It was SO tight I could barely think straight. I hated that thing with ever fiber of my being. My sweet nurse thought it wasn't very fashionable so she made a pretty bow out of gauze to help me try and like it more. It didn't work, I still hated it haha!

Dr. Yang came by to see me. I was still in a haze of anesthesia but I distinctly recall him saying "I saw some things on your brain scan just before surgery that we need to discuss." Not exactly what you want to hear after just coming out of surgery...

I took my first steps within a few hours of being out of surgery, doing a full lap around the PACU. I was very unsteady on my feet and I walked at a snail's pace with lots of support and hand holding, but I could tell that the dizziness that I experienced before surgery was no longer with me. I could also tell that post-op dizziness was not going to be a problem either. Hallelujah! These were major fears that I had before surgery, I am so grateful that God spared me from that awful dizziness.

I was expecting to be transferred to the ICU, but they had several trauma patients come in and take those beds so I spent the night in the PACU. I still had an ICU nurse and care, but the PACU was definitely not conducive to healing. It was an open room with 25 beds, people coming out of surgery all night long. I heard patients moaning in pain, nurses telling people not to stand up, family members crying, doctors talking, X-ray techs working etc. I had a CT scan at 11pm and an hour long MRI at 4:30am, pain meds every hour, blood pressure/vitals were checked every 30 minutes.....needless to say, I did not sleep one minute that first night. It was awful.

Friday April 3rd was by far my worst day. The pain was intense, in my head and oddly enough, in my wrists. I learned that the anesthesia team tried 17 (!!!) times to get an arterial line going in both of my arms before surgery (thankfully I was out by then). It literally looked like someone took a little knife and stabbed my arms and wrists all over. I had (and still do) intense bruising up my forearms and into my hands. I couldn't bend my wrists or use my hands at all.

I also hadn't eaten since Wednesday and I couldn't eat much of anything because they had to cut my jaw muscle for surgery. I have a distinct memory of attempting to eat blueberry pancakes Friday morning. I could barely open my mouth because of my jaw muscle. I managed to get a blueberry in my mouth, but couldn't chew it, so I started crying and eventually spit the blueberry out into David's hand. Bless him, Lord, he is too good to me! I continued to not sleep all day Friday because I was still stuck in the PACU and there was just commotion all day long. Friday was definitely my low point. I've compared every day since then to Friday to show myself how far I have come!

Dr. Yang came back to talk with David and I a bit more about the surgery and to talk more about the vague brain scan things he talked to me about before. Essentially, just before surgery he was reviewing my scans and saw 2 cysts on my brain. One is behind my left eye and one is on my pituitary glad. He confirmed they were not malignant tumors, but they did concern him and I need to see another neurosurgeon in Colorado about it. At this point, that's all we know. I have no idea if it's just something we'll keep an eye on or if they will require some sort of intervention. One step at a time...We also talked about the CSF leak and how I was going to be restricted in my movements to make sure the dura that was repaired had time to heal. No bending, straining, sneezing, lifting anything over 5 lbs. or doing anything that would cause pressure in my head for 8 weeks.

I eventually was moved into a private recovery room sometime early evening on the 3rd. Relief! Sleep! Quiet! Ice cream! Ha, that was the first thing I really was able to eat in over 48 hours It was pretty fantastic :)

Saturday was the best because I got my horrible headwrap off. Hooray! It felt soooooo freeing to have that tight beehive of pain off my head! However, the removal of it revealed a few extra issues to contend with. One being nerve pain and numbness all over my scalp and ears. The other being a deep gash on my forehead, which we learned was from a surgical vice. Essentially, they place your head in a crown of head pins during surgery partly to keep you very still and partly so that if you were to wake up in the middle of surgery (gah! please no. no no no.) you don't try to sit up. Blech. Moving on...

I was able to see my incision eventually. It was pretty scary at first, the combo of shaved head + big incision + stapes = unsettling! My hair was a total nightmare after being drenched in Hibiclens and Iodine and then put in a messy bun with just a rubber band (obviously done by a man haha!) and then stuffed in the headwrap. We literally had to cut the rubber band with scissors to even begin to unravel the mess they piled on top of my head. Also? They tried to give me my hair back. Like, they had an envelope of hair they had shaved off and asked if I wanted it. Hahaha! Like, why? So I can stare at it and reminisce about the days where I had all the hair on the right side of my head? Hilarious. We politely declined the envelope of hair.

I was able to eat a bit more on Saturday. Jamba Juice! Applesauce! More blueberry pancakes! It was really the first time I ate any real food since Wednesday. I also got a solid 5 hours of sleep, which was the most sleep I had had since Wednesday night. I got lots of wonderful visits from everyone. The nurses joked that my room was the picnic room because everyone just camped out and ate food and had fun together. It was definitely a lighthearted room full of laughter, flowers, cookies and smiles. I think we were all really relieved that the worst was behind us. It was like we collectively breathed a sigh of relief and celebrated the fact that we were on the other side of brain surgery.

Easter Sunday was great for many reasons. 1) It was Easter! Yay Jesus! 2) David's mom got us all Easter baskets! So fun! I couldn't eat any of the yummy candy, but they were so festive and happy. I couldn't help but be excited about it! 3) I got released from the hospital! The surgical residents came in and basically said "feel good?" and I said "well, considering the circumstances...yep!" and they sent me on my way.

From the hospital, we went straight to my sister's condo that she rented and set up base camp for the next few weeks. I will say this, there are worse places one could recover from brain surgery. This condo was aaaawwweeesome! It was located in Brentwood on a quiet little street. It was brand new, had a full kitchen and the most beautiful rooftop patio you've ever seen. It straight up looked like HGTV had come in and designed the patio, it was beautiful! I can't believe we got it all for less than $100/night! If you ever are looking into vacation rentals, I highly recommend Air B&B! They have really cool properties and an easy booking process.

My time at the condo was spent doing short walks down the block, sitting on the patio in the sunshine, napping, eating smoothies and just resting as much as possible. Everything I did, I did very very slowly. From walking to showering and getting dressed (all done with assistance), slow and steady was the name of the game. I learned very quickly that recovery is not a linear process where every day is better than the day before. Nope, not at all. This is very much an up and down kind of recovery. I have good days where my balance is strong, the pain is minimal and things are looking up. Then the very next day knocks me over and I feel like I haven't made any progress. As I look back upon that first week now, I can absolutely tell I've made tons of progress, it just isn't your typical "every day gets better" kind of progress.

My favorite thing to do each day was take short little walks. I loved looking at all the flowers and cute little California bungalows on our block. I loved feeling the sunshine on my face and listening to the planes flying high above us. I loved walking hand in hand with David, slowly inching our way along. I've never walked so slowly in my life, but it was glorious. I honestly didn't think I would be able to walk much after surgery, so I was thankful for each little step along the way.

 On the good days, I would take small outings with my sister and David. One day, I rode in the car to Shophouse (do you have one of these in your town?! If so, consider yourself blessed) so they could grab dinner. One day, I took photos of the sunset in Pacific Palisades. One day, I watched the sunset in Santa Monica. One day, I simply sat and watched surfers in Malibu. My biggest adventure was going to the beach. It was also the most exhausting thing I did while out in CA. Who knew how much energy it takes to walk in the sand and sit on a towel?!

 On the bad days, I would curl up on the couch and watch endless episodes of Flip or Flop and Fixer Upper on HGTV (we don't have cable at our house, so HGTV is a real treat!) mixed in with some napping, popping extra-strength Tylenol and doing a jigsaw puzzle with Jenny.  On the really bad days, I cried and had some moments of weakness I've never known before. I'll never forget sitting on the rooftop patio with David, 2 days after being released from the hospital, tears streaming down my face, saying over and over "I don't think I'm strong enough to do this."

We were so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by friends and family, "Team Becky" we affectionately called them. Team Becky was about as incredible as you could ever imagine. They anticipated needs, made last minute runs to the drugstore, brought flowers and goodies, helped with laundry and meals and spreading cheer. David and I could not have made it through our time in CA without them. It's the kind of thing that no amount of thank you cards could ever touch. I could send flowers every day for the rest of my life and it wouldn't convey my gratitude. About a week after surgery, Team Becky had to start heading back to reality and our wonderful family began slowly heading home. David and I were a little anxious to have our support system head out, but we managed ok. Slow and steady.

2 weeks after surgery I had a post-op appointment with one of the surgeons, Dr. Gopen. Overall, he was very happy with how well the surgery went and with how I was healing. It was so encouraging to know he was happy with how I was doing. It's hard to gauge progress when you're recovering from this kind of surgery, so to know he was pleased meant so much to me. We discussed my CSF leak and he advised that around June 1st, I should be ok to at least bend at the waist (hooray! no doing dishes until June! Sorry David...) and lift things over 5 lbs. Slowly getting my movements back to normal.

David and I took a little road trip up the coast to Oxnard, CA as I began to feel stronger. We grabbed In-n-Out and watched the waves for about 30 minutes. That was about all I could handle so we headed back, but I was so grateful for some time with him at the beach!
I truly don't deserve him. Every time I think I'm lucky to have him, he steps up his game and does something even more amazing. Did I tell y'all that he shaved his head before leaving for CA so that I wouldn't feel alone? There aren't any words....

Later on, we saw the other neurosurgeon who did my surgery, Dr. Yang for another post-op appointment. He too was very happy with how I was recovering.  Dr. Yang said that by June or July I would notice a big difference in how well I am feeling and that I would really start to feel better in 4-5 months. So I am holding on and waiting patiently for September!
He also gave us the official "ok" to travel and head home. Hooray! As much as I enjoy the California weather, L.A. left a lot to be desired. The noise, traffic, people, congestion etc. were a little bit too much for me. As much as I was excited to leave CA, it was also a little unnerving to think about being away from my surgeons. What if something goes wrong? What if I need to see them for something? Lots of "what ifs" that made me uneasy, and still do. 

Traveling back to CO was about as awful as I expected it to be. LAX is not kind to brain surgery patients haha! It was so busy, so loud, so overwhelming. I didn't even made it in the front doors before I had a complete meltdown. Thankfully, I was able to get a wheelchair! That wheelchair saved me. I breezed through security and people left me alone thankfully. You might as well have put a sign on me that said "go away" because people avoided me like the plague haha! My mask was to ensure I didn't catch any airborne yuckiness floating around. My body is pulling all of its strength and resources to heal my head, leaving my immune system vulnerable. The last thing I needed was to catch the flu on the plane ride home. No thanks!
The plane ride was a little scary with all the pressure changes. My ears popped incredibly loudly several times and each time it made me more and more uneasy. But L.A. to Denver is a pretty quick trip and thankfully we had a direct flight. After delays and a very very long day, we finally landed back in CO. Home sweet home!

It feels gooooooood to be home. I love everything about home. I love the quietness of my house, the blue sky and big mountains in the west. I love being in my own bed and seeing my two kitties that I missed so much! The only thing I don't like about home is that it seems brain surgery followed me here. There is a part of me that wished it had just stayed in California. 

Yesterday I saw my ENT who originally diagnosed me with SCDS in September. He was soooo happy to hear that surgery was successful and that I am on the road to recovery. He thought my incision looked good and said my inner ear looked flawless, so thankfully the flight home didn't do any damage, despite all the pressure and loud noises. I also saw a vestibular therapist and talked through some things I can do to get my balance back on track. It's hard because for 8 months before my surgery, my balance was completely off. Now after surgery, it is still off, but in an entirely new way. My brain needs to learn how to see the world normally again. Thankfully, there are some really easy things I can do to help, walking being the #1 thing. She said it would just be a matter of time before I was back to 100% with my vestibular system working normally. Can I just saw how awesome it is to walk away from a doctor's office feeling encouraged? I've had so many doctor appointments over these last few months and so many of them were scary, discouraging and frustrating. It was awesome to have a really really good one! :)

Since being home, a lot of people have been asking me how I feel I have found it very hard to describe it. I feel everything. I feel good. I feel bad. I feel tired. I feel like I'm getting stronger. I feel thrilled that the surgery was successful. I feel happy. Very happy. I feel pressure and pain one minute and the next minute it's gone. I feel nervous that the CSF leak will return. I feel happy to be in CO and scared to be away from UCLA. I feel steady. I feel unsteady. Up. Down. Good. Not so good. Basically I feel like I'm recovering from brain surgery. I suppose there just aren't any words for that. I'm hanging on to a positive outlook, hopeful anticipation of a full recovery and I'm so thankful to be on the other side of SCDS!

One thing I do know...this recovery is going to dominate my life for a little while. At least for the next 6 weeks while the brain swelling goes down and I find my way out of the woods with this CSF leak. I'd like to do a post each week, documenting my recovery so that hopefully I will be able to see some tangible evidence that I am making solid progress. 

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! And thanks for your prayers and support over the past few weeks as I was in CA! I'm thankful for my friends and family who have stood by me since September when I got this crazy diagnosis and navigated my way towards surgery. I'm grateful for your love and support! :)

March 29, 2015

Radio Silence

We are LA bound in 2 days. Surgery is in 4 days. I have absolutely no idea how my recovery will go, so I have no idea when I'll be able to post again. Maybe in a week! Maybe in a month! Or maybe in October! It's hard to know what to expect with brain surgery, it's not exactly a simple thing. So if all you hear is radio silence from me, fear not!

In the meantime, I would love your prayers. Prayers for a smooth surgery. Prayers for an easy and restful recovery, without complications. Yes, pray that one again...please Lord, let there be no complications. Patients undergoing this specific craniotomy are at a high risk for meningitis, bell's palsy, mastoiditis, cerebral spinal fluid leaks and fun things like that. A tiny little cold can turn into something devastating that lands you in the ICU again. Complications, stay away from me!

Overall, I feel good. Peaceful. Ready. Hopeful. Light as air with a smile on my face because my faith finally overcame my fear. I stood out under the stars the other night, I highly recommend it, it's a great way to gain perspective if you ever need it! I'm happy that my star photos are getting better as time goes on, hooray! Ok, signing off for now....Cali here we come! :)

March 10, 2015

This & That

My This&That beauty edition made me realize I wanted to do a regular This&That because there were so many things I wanted to add, but couldn't because...well, then it wouldn't have been a beauty edition. So here we go with a "normal" one...

  • I don't know why I've never thought of this before (thanks Pinterest!), but I'm currently in love with this amazing combo of chopped apples, melted peanut butter, chocolate chips and I add a few raisins too. Next time I might even get crazy and add coconut! There's just something about it, I can't get enough. I suppose you could just cut it into slices and spread everything on each slice, but something about chopping the apple makes it better....probably because there is more surface area of each bit to be smothered in peanut butter. Ha! I would post a recipe, but I bet you're smart enough to figure it out :)

  • I'm officially on the essential oil bandwagon. No, I'm not selling them. No, I don't think they're a magic cure-all for every ailment that ever existed. No, they don't work for me every time. Now that all that is out of the way, I will say that I'm really excited about them and have already seen some cool benefits! I originally looked into essential oils as a natural way to help me deal with my vertigo and the anxiety that vertigo produces in me. I'm not prone to anxiety, but when it looks like the walls in your house are tilting and you can't ever seem to find a straight horizon...anxiety is bound to creep up. So far I have: Lemon, Lime, Peppermint, Lavender, Cedarwood, On-Guard, a Focus blend and an Anxiety blend (aka liquid Xanax). I've had the most relief from Lavender for headaches and Peppermint for mild vertigo. I'll be honest, nothing can touch the crazy vertigo spells but Peppermint certainly helps when I feel just a little bit "off".  I even got a cool little diffuser to bring to CA with me! It's all a big experiment at this point, but I like what I see so far!

  • The countdown is on to California! 3 weeks until we leave! At this point, I feel virtually no fear about the surgery itself. That's a pretty big change from where I was just a month ago when I felt like fear was swallowing me up. I've had a lot of time to think, pray and rest in God's assurance that He lead us to UCLA and He will bring me through this. I'm mildly apprehensive about recovery. I've never been through this before and I have no idea what my recovery will be like. But I do know that God is faithful and powerful and His presence will never leave me and that helps immensely. I've been compiling a list of Scriptures to read and a great playlist of worship music to listen to. Even if my world is upside-down, I know God's truth will ground me.
  • I can't tell if God is just being ironic or this is a sign that everything will be ok, but I've been having a crazy flood of prospective clients lately. I typically get 100 inquires per year from prospective clients (that's not my booking rate, just inquiries). This year, I'm on track to have triple that number. Bananas. The Denver Post published a fun elopement article a while back, featuring some of my work so maybe some of these people read it, but aside from that I have no clue why I've had such an increase in activity! The sad thing is that virtually everyone who contacts me is getting the standard response of "Thank you so much for contacting me! At this time, due to unforeseen medical circumstances, I am not able to accept any new clients for 2015...." I've lost soooooo much income by turning away these lovely brides, it's painful. Regardless, I am 150% confident that God will provide, He already has in so many way! This will be a light year for sure. But it will be good so that I can focus on healing. God has everything planned out already. 
  • Can we talk about the season finale of The Bachelor for a sec? YAY! I was kind of always secretly hoping Whitney would be "the one." Maybe it's because she's a fertility nurse and she reminds me of all the wonderful nurses I worked with at Dr. B's office. Maybe it's because she was one of the only sane girls on this season. Oh, I also really loved her choice of pink was like every time she was on camera, she chose a killer shade of pink and I have to give her props for that! Regardless, the finale made me happy last. Now as for having 2 bachelorettes for next season...I'm not so sure about that. I'll hold off on making a judgement until I actually see the first episode :)

  • I've been taking lots of beautiful drives lately. It's no secret that I LOVE driving (hence my love for road trips and my secret desire to be a truck driver), there's something about it that calms me. I love listening to music, looking at the scenery,'s wonderfully restorative. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's where I overcame a lot of my fear about surgery. God met me on some of those winding mountain roads and I'm so very grateful.

March 4, 2015

This&That: Beauty Edition

I've tried so many awesome products lately I decided to do a whole This & That devoted just to fun beauty things that I've tried. As always, my favorites are cruelty-free. Yay happy bunnies! :)

  • Archipelago Botanicals Coconut Body Butter. I love my in-laws for many reasons, one of them being that they buy me yummy smelling things from their niece's beauty store in Nashville from time to time. When my mother in-law brought home some of Archipelago Botanicals body butter, I almost died. The smell is awesome! I'm a sucker for anything scented with coconut. Combine the smell with a luxurious texture, this stuff is a keeper. This stuff is reeeeaaally rich, probably not something I'd put in my purse and use during the day. It's great for putting on before bed for all night moisture, my hands always feel great in the morning! 
  • Too Faced Primmed and Poreless Primer, BB and Foundation Powder. It's a winning trio! The primer is awesome, it smoothes out lines evenly and allows the BB cream to really stick and stay on all day. The powder is my favorite though because it gives great full coverage without being cakey. By the end of the day, my makeup is still on and usually without filling in all the wrinkles itty-bitty, barely noticeable, fine lines around my eyes ;) I've tried a lot of different foundations, powders and BB creams and this trio is my all-time fav.

  • It's A 10: Miracle Leave-In Potion. Oh wow, this stuff is so good! The smell is incredible and it always leaves my hair feeling thicker, healthier, shinier and smooth. I originally got it to help with winter static because in the winter it often looks like I've just stuck my finger into a socket. I love that it doesn't make my hair feel sticky or full of product. My hair is already thick and it tends to feel "gunky" if there is too much stuff in it. I swear I could use the whole bottle of this stuff and it would still feel great!

  • NYX Concealer in a Jar. I'm always on the hunt for the right concealer. Something that doesn't wear off after 30 minutes or gets too thick. This stuff absolutely fits everything I need. You can use a concealer brush to apply or just dab a bit on your fingers. It's really good for blemishes, under your eyes and evening out any red areas. A little goes a long way so this little pot should last forever! Plus, you can't beat the price tag ($5!) of NYX! 

  • Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara Ahem....setting aside the name and my commentary about the person who named this' sex life...this stuff is pretty darn good. I used to adore Benefit's They're Real mascara, but since learning that they're not cruelty-free, I made the switch over to Too Faced. And to be honest, I actually like this better than Benefit's! One of my biggest pet peeves about They're Real was that it was impossible to take off. You had to buy a whole separate remover from Benefit or practically pluck your eyelashes off while trying to scrub it off. Not the case here with Too Faced! This stuff comes off rather easily when you're ready. The wand is a bit intimidating, it looks chunky and scary, but it goes on easily without any clumping. And you get almost the same fullness and length as Benefit.

  • Organix Shampoo & Conditioner Currently, I'm obsessed with their Kukui Oil shampoo and conditioner. The smell is incredible! I've also used the Coconut Water and Argan Oil. I feel like it does a great job cleansing and moisturizing without stripping your hair or over gunking it up too much. Plus, you can find it at just about any drugstore or grocery store. Hooray!

  • And now for some sad news. 2 of my faaaaaavorite brands have started testing on animals, so I'm no longer supporting them. ::sniffle:: EOS (evolution of smooth) and Algenist both started selling their products in China recently, which requires animal testing, so I have to scratch them off my list. Waaaaaaaaaa! This means I'm now in the market for a complete new skincare system (gah!) and a new favorite lip balm. The lip balm isn't something I'm worried about because there are a gazillion good ones out there, but the skincare system.....oiy. On a positive note, this does mean I get to try out all sorts of new brands I've had my eye on lately, so that's fun! And I will say that I thnk China is inching closer to eliminating the requirement of animal testing, so hopefully in the not too distant future, I'll be able to buy some of my favorite products again. 

About Me

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Hi friends, my name is Becky. I am a follower of Christ, wife, photographer and business owner. I am an explorer of the great state of Colorado and constantly seek out God's creation. I'm obsessed with beauty products, simple living, traveling, my awesome husband and learning more about God. I'm glad you're here :)



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