The Hospital Post.

This is a continuation of Mike’s cancer story. Read the first part here.

On December 18th, 2013 Mike went in for surgery to remove the cancer on his back. Since we were expecting to be in the hospital for Christmas, we celebrated with our friends and family early. The night before surgery we went and had a really nice dinner at The Bazaar in Beverly Hills (I’ll make a separate post about that later).

His surgery took 21 hours, although it went long, it went smoothly and there were no complications. He didn’t even require a blood transfusion during the surgery. By the time I was allowed to see him it was 5AM and I had been awake for over 24 hours. Unfortunately, there was a breakdown in communication between the surgery team and the ICU staff, who had laid him on his back when he was not supposed to be. This caused his flap to become congested (the blood not to flow out) and the plastic surgeons started a leech therapy regimen on him to prevent necrosis of the flap (this is a great article explaining the process).

Seeing Mike come out of surgery was a scary and sobering experience. He had goggles on his eyes to keep them protected during surgery, a breathing tube down his throat and a forced air warming “blanket” (like this) on him to bring up his body temperature. I couldn’t talk with him, touch him, I had no idea how to help him. All I could do was be his advocate in an impersonal hospital system, and that was a full-time job.

Christmas tree on the ICU floor at the hospital.

Christmas tree on the ICU floor at the hospital.

Mike was in ICU for the next 20 days. On December 24, 2013 Christmas Eve, they took him off sedation and removed the breathing tube. He was very sore and in a lot of pain, which they treated with Dilaudid. Unfortunately, that pain medication gave him hallucinations and nightmares so we changed to OxyContin.

Unfortunately, Mike’s flap took much longer to heal than the doctors anticipated. They kept him on leech therapy until Jan 9th, 2014. Fortunately he was able to move out of ICU on Jan 7th. On Jan 14th we got the OK to go home after 27 days in the hospital.

I’m truly, truly grateful to City of Hope and all of our doctors and nurses there for saving Michael’s life and helping him to recover. I don’t know that any other hospital or any other team could have done it. But that doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing. When Michael’s hallucinations were so severe, he told me he’d rather be in pain than continue taking Dilaudid to manage it, I was the one who had to fight his doctors to make his wishes known. When nurses didn’t monitor the leeches properly and they ended up crawling all over his body while he was sedated, I was the one that had to reprimand them and demand new nursing staff. When, after almost 3 weeks in the hospital, the plastic surgery team told my husband that they wouldn’t be changing his treatment regimen over the weekend because they “had the weekend off,” it was me that had to complain to hospital administration about the callous way they treated us.

For the most part hospital staff tries hard to help the patients and make them comfortable, and help them get out of the hospital as soon as possible. For the most part they are very compassionate people and do their best to listen to your concerns. But sometimes you have to be forceful to get your concerns heard and that was very, very hard for me to do.

View from the ICU floor on Christmas Eve.

View from the ICU floor on Christmas Eve.

By day 14 in the hospital, I was emotionally and physically drained. We missed spending Christmas with our friends and family. The cafeteria closed early that day, even though it was advertised that it would be open until 1:30PM, so my Christmas dinner ended up being a sandwich from the bistro. We missed celebrating New Year’s Eve. Our 5 year wedding anniversary was just 6 days after we were released from the hospital, but there was no special dinner out or even exchange of presents. Every cent we have is spent on gas traveling to and from the hospital (which is over 70mi from our home), paying hospital and doctor co-pays, paying for motel rooms for me and food (hospital food isn’t so great), etc etc.

Mike in the hospital

Mike in the hospital

It’s been hard, by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Not only was I having to take care of my husband, I had to keep our catering company afloat. Luckily January and February is a slow time of year for us and we have a great management team to help pick up the slack. I’ve been so thankful to them for all of their help as well as our family and friends, who have been there for us every step of the way. We couldn’t have come this far without them.

And now we start the slow process of recovery. (To be continued)

The Cancer Post.

Mike and Erin at the WineryI didn’t know how to start this post. I sat down, Googled inspirational quotes that felt hollow. I guess the only place to start is at the beginning.

On September 9, 2001, when my husband was just 17 years old, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Synovial Sarcoma. It’s a cancer that attacks soft tissues, usually in joints. Mike’s was in his left shoulder. He missed his entire Junior year of high school completing treatment, which included two resections (surgeries to remove cancerous mass), chemotherapy and radiation at City of Hope in Duarte, CA. He completed treatment in the spring of 2002 and was able to return to school that fall, which is when we met.

He was cancer free for over ten years. Then, this past fall, his cancer site would occasionally sting and his seroma (which had been on his back since his surgery in 2001) began to change shape. On Oct 22nd, 2013 Mike went in to City of Hope for a check up. His doctors did an MRI scan and saw a suspicious mass. They scheduled a biopsy for Nov 4 and during our post-op appointment on Nov 7, they confirmed what we hoped it wouldn’t be: Michael had cancer again.

Michael was scheduled for extensive surgery on December 18th to remove the cancer from his back. This surgery involved shaving off a small portion of his spine where the tail of the tumor is, inserting two rods and twelve screws into his spine to stabilize it, removing half his scapula, removing three of his ribs and replacing with a fabric mesh. They also removed some of the muscle on the left side of his neck where the cancer had spread. Once all of that was removed, they moved his Latissimus Dorsi Muscle up and across his back to cover the bone and new hardware. They also took a flap of skin from his lower back and transplanted it to cover his spine. The rest of the skin was made using a skin graft from the back of his left thigh. Here is an illustration I did of his back for friends and family that helps you get a visual.

Four surgeons from four different departments worked on him. A neurosurgeon worked on his spine, a plastic surgeon took care of the muscle moving, flap and skin graft; a thoracic surgeon to work on removing the ribs and the orthopedic surgeon resected the tumor itself. During our pre-surgery appointments we were told that Mike would be in the hospital 10-14 days. If only that was the case…

This post is already pretty long so I will finish up another time. I will say though that surgery went well and Mike is making a full recovery.

New Online Home

I finished moving over from Candace’s servers to my new home at E-Starr. So far I’ve had no problems and I’m happy with the price!

This month is igORG’s 11 year anniversary! I can’t believe how time has flown by. I started blogging on a different website, then I moved to blogger, then I moved to WordPress and invisiblegirl.org and have been blogging here ever since. My early entries are from my senior year in high school and very cringe-worthy! Some of my favorite posts are my wedding post, of course all of my quilting posts. I’ve been having a good time blogging about the improvements we’ve been making to the house, too.

I don’t think I had any idea when I started what I wanted to make out of this blog and I still don’t have any idea, but it’s nice to have a home on the web to exercise my creativity. Here’s to 11 more years :)

Long Time No Blog

Can’t believe it’s been 3 months since I blogged last, life has been too crazy! This is just a quick note to say that I am migrating servers right now, so if things look wonky please be patient! I am working on it! Have a great week everyone!

Currently Reading

I have to say, I’m really loving this link up. It’s really pushing me to read so I can have something new to report each week! With that said, let’s take a look at the shelf…

Erin’s bookshelf: currently-reading

Beautiful Chaos
0 of 5 stars true
tagged:
currently-reading

Break, Blow, Burn
0 of 5 stars true
tagged:
currently-reading

Lolita
0 of 5 stars true
tagged:
currently-reading




goodreads.com

Lolita, The Road Less Traveled, Break, Blow, Burn are gathering dust. But I do have a finish to report!

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I finished Beautiful Redemption, the final book in the Caster Chronicles series. I wanted to finish it before I could forget any plotlines!!

This was a great finish to the series and I really enjoyed the writing in this one, too. Lots of beautiful imagery and strong character development. You can definitely tell that the writers took inspiration from Dante’s Inferno with this book.

I’m linking up over at Patchwork Times! Check out what others are reading!

Dining Room Mood board

So as I pointed out on the floorplan, the dining room and the living room are actually one big room. We have done pretty much nothing in this room since we moved in. Evidence:

GEDC0011

The lovely mirrors (no sarcasm there, I actually love them) were left behind by the previous tenants. Thanks!

So I’ve whipped up a mood board for what I would like to do to the dining room area of this room. This will all likely not happen for a long while; this room is pretty low on our list of priorities and I actually like having it kind of empty for big parties and such. Anyway, on to the mood board!
dining-room-moodboard

1. I’ve been obsessed with this dining room set from Plummers since we saw it in store a couple of months ago. All of the pieces (table, 8 chairs, sideboard, cabinet) will cost over $7k so that’s on our dream list for now, haha. Maybe someday!

2. The current brown color in the room won’t work with that dining room furniture, so we’ll need to paint. Maybe the same grey as the kitchen/family room?

3. Of course, that ugly cream carpet will have to go and be replaced by a dark wood.

4. I’m loving this rug from Overstock.com.

5. We actually already bought and installed this light fixture from Costco! It takes the place of that ugly brass chandelier in the picture.

6. How awesome are these curtains from Ikea? They really tie into the high glossy luxury vibe.

I know there isn’t much color outside of grey in this mood board… what can I say, I love that color! Maybe once I get some inspiration for the living room area of this room I will think of some ways I can tie color into the dining room portion of the room.

Family Room Updates

So as we discussed in the kitchen post, these rooms are really one big open room, so we are keeping the color scheme pretty much the same in both rooms. With that being said, moodboard!

family-room-moodboard

1, 2. We painted the walls the same Sparrow by Behr color as the kitchen. I love the idea of accent walls, so we painted one wall (the wall the TV is mounted on) a green color by Behr, which I have now forgotten the name of. It’s close to this spring green by Glidden. We also painted the baseboards in this room which really helped the paint on the walls pop.

3. Like I mentioned in the kitchen post, someday I hope to refloor the entire house with a dark flooring like this one.

4. The drape shade I loved in our kitchen’s moodboard also comes in curtains! We have a larger window I am thinking of using this on.

5. This bar cart is sooo cool, I’d love to get something like this and place it below the large window to the right of the room.

6. We have a weird recessed area in one of our walls that I’d like to put some sort of white cabinet in to hold our DVDs and other assorted living room items in. This white one is from Overstock.com.

7. Love this coffee table from Plummers! I love different looking coffee tables and this one will bring more of the white into this room that is happening in the kitchen.

8. We already bought a dark mocha couch pretty identical to this one within a week of moving in. I had originally wanted to go with a charcoal color, but all of the sofas I liked either didn’t fit into our price range or were not comfortable enough for Mike. We compromised on this one. I am hoping once we upgrade the floors, it won’t stick out like such a sore thumb.

9. Really struggling with rug choices. I know I want something low pile and preferably solid, not sure if I want to do a lime green (worried about the room becoming too green) or a grey color. This rug is lime green AND grey, but seems a little too matchy with the curtains.

I didn’t include any artwork, but that’s another thing I’m really struggling with. There is one really large wall that I think I will do some kind of collection of artwork on, but I’m not sure yet. It’s not on the mood board but we did buy that awesome standing lamp within days of moving in. It’s been hard getting used to not having overhead lighting, in all of our apartments there was plenty so we’ve been buying a lot of lamps.

Also not included in my mood board was a wall mount Michael bought for the electronics (PS3, receiver, Wii, etc). That will go below the TV.

Here is a picture on move in day (excuse crookedness/darkness please!)

Untitled

Here are some pictures of the family room as it is today…

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View of the family room from the hallway leading to the garage and bedrooms.

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View from the sliding glass door leading to the backyard.

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View from the same door, but turned more to the left. You can see the weird recessed area on the bottom left I was talking about before.

Here is my to do list for this room:

      Move TV mount down a foot. It’s too high as is.
      Install electronics wall mount.
      Craigslist or give away current media shelving.
      Re-floor.
      Buy rug to go under sofa and coffee table.
      Buy coffee table (and end tables?).
      Fix fireplace.
      Remove ugly pink tile around fireplace, replace with something else that actually matches the room.
      Purchase and hang curtains for small window next to sliding glass door, the sliding glass door, the window above the bar.
      Replace the ceiling fan with something else (pendant light? Another ceiling fan?) or remove altogether.
      Get some art or pictures on the large wall next to the TV.

Kitchen Updates

So before I go any further, here is a mockup of our new house’s floorplan:

house-floorplan

Totally accurate rendering.

Totally professional, right? :) Anyway, as you can see the kitchen and family room are actually one big room (gotta love open floor plans!) so we are doing both in the same color scheme. Here is a moodboard I whipped up for the kitchen…

kitchenmoodboard

1. White Cabinets/Long Nickel Hardware/White Countertops: This site happened to have a pretty exact picture of the cabinets I’m envisioning. We are refacing our existing cabinets to make them white through Home Depot. Those will be installed within the next six weeks. We are also replacing the hardware from dark knobs to these long nickel handles. We’re still debating where we want to go with the countertops, but my vote is for white Corian!

2. Stainless Steel appliances: The appliances in the kitchen look to be original to the house (almost 20 years) so we are slowly upgrading. We had to replace our refrigerator within a week of moving in and got one similar to this (it’s one door on top instead of two).

3. We already painted the walls this grey sparrow color by Behr.

4. Someday I would LOVE to upgrade our flooring. Right now we have cream carpets and pink tile (ew) but I’m dreaming of this dark handscraped hardwood (swoon). However, to do this throughout the house will cost upwards of $7k, so we’ll probably go for a more affordable dark laminate.

5. I already bought this Young House Love Farmhouse Pendant Light from Shades of Light to replace the globe light above my sink in the kitchen. Can’t wait until it arrives!

6. These happy Limeade Metal Stools from Overstock.com arrived just in time for our housewarming party and I’m so happy with them! They will be a great punch of color against the white cabinets.

7. I’m loving this Soaring Bird shade for above my sink, but I’m worried that the pendant light will be lost against this busy (but beautiful!) print. Guess there’s only one way to find out, I need to measure the width of the window and see if it will fit. That may make the decision for me!

For reference, this is what we started out with:

kitchen

Beige-y glory!

You can’t see our kitchen’s main amazing (imagine sarcasm) light fixture or the pink tiles in that one. Here is the progress we’ve made so far…

GEDC0003

I took off those basic blinds, we painted the area grey, added appliances like a microwave and refrigerator, and added the stools. The new light fixture for over the kitchen sink is on order as are the cabinets, we’ll see which gets installed next!

Currently Reading

Again, shelf looks much the same as last week:

Erin’s bookshelf: currently-reading

Beautiful Chaos
0 of 5 stars true
tagged:
currently-reading

Break, Blow, Burn
0 of 5 stars true
tagged:
currently-reading

Lolita
0 of 5 stars true
tagged:
currently-reading




goodreads.com

Still got Break, Blow, Burn, The Road Less Traveled and Lolita on the shelf. However! I did make some progress.

A couple of weeks ago I talked about how I left off on Beauiful Chaos because I couldn’t remember the story line. Well, I re-read the first book in the series, Beautiful Creatures (now coming to a theatre near you!), read a summary on the second book and got back on track with the third novel, Beautiful Chaos and finished that Sunday night.

beautifulChaos

Beautiful Creatures is a Southern gothic Young Adult novel, the first in The Caster Chronicles series. The book starts out with a young man named Ethan who falls in love with a girl named Lena… who is not all she appears to be. Turns out she is what is called a Caster, or a person with magical powers. On her sixteenth birthday she, like all of the members of her family before her, will become either a Light (good) Caster or a Dark (evil) Caster. Other Casters can choose which side they will become but in Lena’s family, fate chooses for them. However, when it comes to her birthday she is able to choose for herself, throwing the world out of balance and resulting in the deaths of people close to her. The next two books, Beautiful Darkness and Beautiful Chaos explore the consequences of her choice. There is a fourth book in the series which (I think) wraps up the story.

Lots of people compare the books to the Twilight series but I actually think they are better. If you enjoy reading YA books I definitely recommend them!

I’m linking up today with other readers over at Patchwork Times. Check them out!