Friday, December 16, 2011

It's not always about the kids: Melanoma edition

Our story begins with me needing to schedule a hair appointment.

I really needed to get my hair done so my hair dresser squeezed me in on Saturday afternoon ... his busiest day. I sit down and the first thing he says to me is,"Woa, somebody got a hickey on their ear!" I was thinking, that's not possible (it wouldn't be on my ear ha ha ha) so I flipped my ear over and it wasn't a hickey, but it was a brownish (not totally brown, but a gradient of browns)spot the size of my pinkey nail on the side flap. I remember thinking to myself,"Ohhhhh THAT is bad." Outloud, I was like,"What is THAT?" Torry (my hair guy) was also highlighting another woman's hair. Her foils were setting and she was sitting close by. She waves me over and says,"Here honey, I'm a doctor, let me take a look at that. Hmmmmm. Yeah you should go and get that looked at. Call this dermatologist. Her name is Robin Glaesser ..." she knew her number by heart and I wrote it down. I called first thing on Monday and they had a cancellation for that Thursday. Otherwise I would have had to wait over a month. I go in on Thursday for a skin check (which I do once a year around my birthday so I don't forget). She took a biopsy of my ear and one spot from my back. The next day she called and said the spot on my back was nothing, but the spot on my ear was in fact stage 1 Melanoma.



Ugh. She referred me to a plastic surgeon and they got me in the next day (Friday). They did another biopsy which required them to take a pretty good size chunk out of my ear to make sure they removed all the cancer cells. I could either leave my ear the way it was (with a piece missing), do a graft or do "donor skin" of my own skin behind the ear. I almost decided to leave the ear as it was, but I'm young and the doctor said the result would be pretty good so I went ahead and decided to do the reconstruction.

A week from the first biopsy I went into surgery. My mom watched the kids A LOT and Joe never let me take a kid with me to a follow up appointment. My dad drove me to have my stitches taken out. Joe's parents brought dinner over one night, my mom also made us dinner and right before I left for surgery I got flowers delivered from my brother who lives in the Caribbean. Jane offered to bring me dinner as well so it was so comforting to feel taken care of by my family through all of this. I am so appreciative of all that my family has done for me.

I was put under and he took skin from the back of my head (behind my ear), attached it TO my ear where they did the biopsy. This allows the skin to grow a blood supply.
This picture is after the first surgery with the skin attached from my head to my ear. There is a space between the skin and my head so basically there is an "open wound".

Looking a little wrecked after surgery, but I was so out of it I don't remember INSISTING that Joe take pictures of me. Funny anesthesia. Nice hair. Peace yo!

5 days after.

3 weeks

I had to keep my ear covered for 3 weeks. Luckily for me the day after my surgery was Halloween so I didn't look totally out of place with my head all wrapped up, although, I looked like I had a really lame costume. I was too out of it to really try for a real mummy costume and seriously ... I just didn't really care what people thought of how I looked. I even ran into a friend while out trick or treating and she thought my "costume" was hilarious. She didn't know that I had surgery until later so I guess I blended in pretty well ;)

I went back to the doctor 3 weeks later and they cut the skin, folded it behind my ear and sewed it in place. It looks pretty terrible at first, but just a few days later it was looking so much better.
Front. Not too bad.

Back. Ewwww ... I know. Hurt. Like. Hell.

About a month ago. Looking pretty good. Oh nice manicure, too!

I think that it looks pretty good as of today and in 5 months I can go back and decide if any "revisions" need to be made (ie: cutting away some skin to look more contoured to my ear, etc).

So yeah, that's what I've been up to. I now have to go to the dermatologist every 3 months for about a year or so to get checked out. I am becoming a connoisseur of sunscreen and am slowly accumulating a hat collection for myself and my kids. Melanoma can be caused by the sun, genetics or a combination of both, which is probably the case for me. I live in the desert for crying out loud, my sister had stage 3 and my Dad had stage 1 as well. I know that in the scheme of things this is not a big deal. It was stage 1, caught early and treated quickly. In fact, if I hadn't of had the reconstructive surgery this would have felt like that big deal at all.

It's all the "what ifs" that kill me.

What if Torry hadn't seen it?
What if he hadn't fit me in that day?
What if that doctor hadn't been sitting there and recommended the dermatologist?
What if the dermatologist hadn't had the cancellation?
What if ......

It's maddening. I feel betrayed by my skin for literally hiding this from me. What a jerk! My skin and I are working on our communication and I am taking better care of her so we can get along better in the future. I am so lucky that I came out of this situation with the best possible outcomes and a fresh perspective on life. I AM SO grateful to those who were so supportive and helpful, brought meals, called to check in, sent flowers, drove me to appointments, watched my babies and kept me in their thoughts. If anything, I hope that you will be inspired to get an annual skin check and keep your kids protected since most skin cancer damage occurs when you are a child.

Peace yo!

Devon: November

Devon has returned to his normal, sweet little self. He and Audrey are getting along better and better every day and it has made all the difference with our day-to-day activities. I had to adjust my attitude as well and I think we are all reaping the benefits of being more positive. Devon knows all the words to "The tale of Custard the dragon" and loves to read, be read to and have his Daddy "tell true stories". He loves doing Playdoh, going to the Children's Museum, watching movies, riding cars and doing superhero jumps and tricks.

If there was a boy more into superheros than Devon I think the world would implode. He wears a superhero mask (that he painted) while he paints and every 30 seconds refers to himself as a different superhero. Just when I think I know which hero he is he simply says,"Ugh, mama? I'm not (fill in superhero name here), I'm Devon." He wears them on his shirts, underwear, plays with them and pretends to be them. He is Spiderman most often, but also loves Thor, Incredible Hulk, The Thing, Cyclops, Mr. Incredible as well as all Transformers. Sigh ... boys.

I bought this "light saver" a few months back when Devon was potty training. It was my incentive gift to get him to #2. One night just before bed it FINALLY happened. I gave him the sword and it never happened in the potty again. It's like he waits until I get a pull up on him for resting time and sleeping and then he goes.

Devon loves scuba divers and talks about regulators, seeing under water and being a scuba diver when he is a grown up.

We love going to the park and the zoo since the weather has been a dream lately. We can spend hours outdoors and the time just flies by. He loves lizards and birds, but is really into snakes and a big, coffee table snake book his Dad picked up for him.

I let Devon use my camera. He took this picture of me.

I took this picture of his muscles.

I leave you with this ...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Audrey: November 16 months

Audrey loves to go to the park and is very confident crawling away from me and doing her own thing. She can finally walk, but still prefers to crawl as her main mode of getting around. She loves to go on the swings and will literally send herself down the slide. She loves to interact with other kids, climb the equipment and dig with her brother.

She loves to play toys, sing songs, dance, play ball, ride cars read books. Her favorite book is "Counting with Blue". Audrey and Devon are getting along SO much better this past month and it has relieved some stress from the day. They will play together, share toys and very soon I think they will be throwing a ball around.

She has a great attention span and loves to watch cartoons with her brother. She gets just as excited as he does when I turn on Sponge Bob or Yo Gabba Gabba. Audrey can say mama, dada, Audrey (seriously, she can), cat, Sam (our cat) and meows when she sees him. She is starting to do animal sounds and is much more communicative with her needs. She is getting 4 teeth right now and it has been a bit challenging to manage her pain through it, but hopefully it is nearly over.

I didn't post about Halloween because I only post up until the 27th of each month (since that's her birthday), but Audrey went as a little ladybug complete with black and white striped tights. I didn't get any good pictures on the day since she was in the stroller when we did the trick or treating and you couldn't see her outfit anyway so I'll have to get her in the costume and take a couple for next time.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Devon: October

Devon got to pick out his own Halloween costume this year and though I tried to steer him towards something not so hot, he picked the CUTEST costume around. He was an astronaut complete with helmet and a salute! We went to La Encantada and he went trick-or-treating store to store. It's a fancy, out door shopping plaza and the weather was perfection.

Devon has recently learned how to wink and got baby Claire to do it too. "Look mom! She's winkin!"

Devon picked out the pumpkin and selected the skeleton design that he wanted off the computer.

I love taking the kids to the pumpkin patch, letting them ride around in a wagon and pick out a pumpkin. When they are a little older we'll go to the actual place where they get to pick it from the ground, but at this age they are perfectly happy with this tradition.

Devon is very artistic and spends a good part of his day coloring with crayons, pencils, markers or painting. He has transitioned from scribbling to drawing people. This is me. Love it.

The figure below me is Audrey, to my left is Joe and below him is Devon and his long feet. We are not drawn as people. We are drawn as .... bugs. Yup. This is our family if we were bugs. How adorable is that?!?

Devon had a runny nose and I was always scouring for tissue. I decided to wrap him like an Egyptian mummy, which he loved, so I could always find a tissue :) He only had this on for about 3 minutes, but he liked it fully for that amount of time.

He is very much into doing big kid things himself. He wants to help me stir stuff when I cook, he wants to pour his own juice, take his clothes off, etc. He LOVES to cook. I sent him out to the garden to pick some basil for dinner. he washed it in the sink and I taught him how to chop it with a butter knife. I also let him use a real knife (under my INSANELY close supervision) and he did great.

I started Devon in "Little Feet" soccer and it is just about the cutest damn thing I have ever seen. It is for ages 3-5, they only do games and drills (no actual games, it's 6 weeks and an hour each time. The weather is beautiful so Audrey and I do a little picnic breakfast on the grass and watch Devon do soccer. He gets to run around and kick the ball, learn to follow directions, score a goal and meet new kids. Truth be told, he loves his coaches so much he would rather just stand by them so they do a lot of gentle encouraging, but I know that he has a really good time. Plus, his cleats and shin guards are super cute. He picked out his socks.

We go to the park once a week at least and Devon has really come out of his shell and has been very brave trying new things. He will climb and slide down really high equipment, but he is very careful and proud of himself. He pretends to be Spiderman or Batman or some other superhero and will designate an identity for you as well.

I am still struggling to get Devon and Audrey to peacefully coexist. He seems to constantly take toys from her and will hit her for no apparent reason other than the fact that she is in his general vicinity. He is very sweet when she is not around so I think he just needs a lot of personal attention and Joe and I are working on that. He is so funny and smart and a really wonderful kid. He loves to be read to and knows each and every word to "The tale of Custard the dragon". This is a great book with wonderful vocabulary words. The other day when we were driving around he said,"Mom, when we get home and I use a cutlass bright?" AKA a knife. My sweet little boy and his knives ...

Audrey: October 15 months

Audrey is a happy, cheerful, funny and sweet natured baby.

I am amazed how independent she is. She will crawl away from me and play by herself with toys or other kids. When we go to "jumping class" (a class where kids go to a gymnastics gym and get to use the trampolines, bars, rings, etc) she loves to jump on the trampoline and heads straight toward the foam pit. She loves to crawl all over the obstacle courses and even when she wipes out she just gets back up and keeps going.

Audrey loves yogurt, pretzels, Kixx, bread, eggs, soup and pasta. She does not like fruit snacks or raspberries. She loves to feed herself a bottle and I am slowly transitioning to a sippy cup, but she hates them.

Audrey loves to go to the park and swing. She crawls all over the equipment and goes down the slide, head first and on her belly, with out any help from me. Did I mention that she's 1? She squeals the whole way down and then tries to climb the slide to go again. My little dare devil.

Audrey is getting into coloring more and more, but still seems to like being read to and playing toys the most. Her favorite book is "Counting with Blue". She will crawl over and hand it to me to read to her then do the sign for "more" and we read it more. I didn't do signs with Devon, but I think Audrey doesn't get to do a whole lot of talking since Devon seems to be so "chatty". I thought this would be a good way to help her language. She can say mom, cat and bubble. She can sign milk, more and again.

She loves her Daddy and her brother, although, Devon is not too keen on returning that love at the moment. Joe and I are being very conscious about spending one-on-one times with the kids and taking them places so they get that special attention and age appropriate outings.

Audrey is getting 4 teeth and took 3 steps all by herself a few days ago. She can push the grocery cart around the living room and LOVES to walk assisted. I call it "the shuffle" because she holds onto the back of my pants to hold herself up while I shuffle around the kitchen. She is so sweet and happy and very easy to be around.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Devon: September

Happy Birthday Devon!

Little man turned the big 3 this month. I love how he does 3 fingers. Very unique.

The cake. Complete with spider rings and a real Spiderman toy that spins webs.

My first attempt at a layer, rainbow cake. I think it turned out pretty good for my first try. Truthfully, it wasn't difficult so much as it was time consuming. It took a little finesse, but easily done if you have the time. I LOVED making this cake. I really want my babies to grow up knowing that their birthday is a special day to celebrate how amazing they are.

I want to be able to make them a cake and decorate the house just for them with balloons in their room when they wake up and streamers everywhere. (FYI, Devon is clearly not ready for silly string. Oops.) He's been talking about having cake all day. He is mesmerized.

Make a wish!

We asked Devon where he wanted to go to dinner for his special birthday meal and he said,"Uncle Donald's" aka McDonald's. I NEVER take him to eat there. I think he's been there 3 times in his whole life and I hate the place, but if he wants to eat there on his 3rd birthday, fine by me. Look at how happy he is :)

Grandma and Grandpa took us out to dinner at Friday's for Devon's early birthday since they would be out of town on his actual birthday. He LOVED the knife, flashlight, Bernstein Bears game and shield my parents have him. He loved them all! It was fun to watch him while they sang Happy Birthday after which he delicately ate his free sundae.

We took a quick trip to Vegas with Joe's parents this month and the kids had a great time. Kiss on the lips for Mama!

Hangin' with Daddy in the hotel lobby.

At the Bellagio with Pops.

Watching the talking tree with Abuela.

Lovin' on this sweet boy of mine.

Checking out the pool from the 17th floor. The kids LOVED swimming. Joe and I had a great time as well watching them both have so much fun.

Devon loved having so much time to spend with Daddy literally running through casinos. I think he liked Caesar's palace the most.

Since we drove, we took several pit stops to get the kids out and let them run around.

Devon was a DREAM for the 7 hour drive. He played with toys and colored. I brought every DVD we own and he didn't watch any.

Scorpion sucker!

Devon got these glasses from my Mom. They turn light into rainbows. He is so tripped out by them. He points to me and says,"I'm turning you into a person."

A possible Halloween costume. Salute! Is there anything cuter than a 3 year old in a full on astronaut outfit?

This outfit inspired by Uncle Ben. Pony tail and all.

Making cookies. This is not a mixer attachment .... it's a sword obviously.

Hanging out in his "nice safe cage" made from pillows and blankets on Mama and Daddy's bed.

Equal parts frosting and cake make for one seriously happy kid.

Out for our weekly trip to Costco. Couldn't properly shop without this rainbow glasses. Samples just wouldn't taste the same.

Devon is very smart. No seriously .... he's really smart. The things he says continue to blow my mind. His vocabulary is increasing more and more each day.

Devon is very affectionate and gives out tons of hugs, kisses, says,"You're my brand NEW treasure!" and I love you's in sign language. He is very specific that Daddy is his pal and I am his best friend. Awesome.

Devon loves to eat hot dogs, popsicles, Eegees, toast, pizza, carrots and apples. He loves condiments like ketchup, ranch and steak sauce. He loves to read, color, ride his "motorcycle" (aka big wheel), watch Sponge Bob and Super Why and torment his sister ;)

The End.