Sunday, September 13, 2015

What I didn't mention in my last post...

In my last post, I left out some big news. It's no secret to the people in my life, but to the blogging world of people who may, or may not read any of this at all, it went unmentioned.

I was going through some of the scariest trials of my life last I wrote over a year and a half ago. And not just because of how sick I was and how fast it happened, but because something else very big was going on too. 

Christmas Day 2013, I felt horrible. It felt like more than just my illness. After a long and tiring day of spending time with family, I said to my boyfriend (now fiancé) that I think I should take a pregnancy test. It was a digital that would say either "Yes +" or "No -", and before the result comes, there is an hour glass that blinks. Forever. And ever. And ever. 

I took the test, not really believing that I would be pregnant, and left it on the bathroom counter. I came out and my fiancé, a bundle of nerves, said, "So?!", me "Nothing yet". I kept going back in and checking, and just an hour glass. I finally decided to stop compulsively checking every 30 seconds and make myself busy with dishes. My fiancé disappeared for a second and then I heard, "Oh my God". I laughed. Literally, I laughed. I thought he was messing with me, being the joker that he was. I walked into the bathroom and said "Come on, are you fucking with me right now?"  He just stared at me wide-eyed and mouth open, the test still sitting on the counter. "Well come on! Let me see it!".  I walked over to it, and "Yes +" was on the screen. 

My hand immediately covered my mouth and my gaze shot up at my fiancé who was now cracking an open mouthed smile. This was obviously unplanned, but we'd had the "What if" conversation already. Hell, we already had all our future kids names picked out. So he said "Are we doing this?", and I replied with a chuckle, "Well...yeah, I guess we are!"

Then, the most terrifying dose of reality hit me that I had actually forgotten for that moment of shock: You're sick. You're really sick. You're wasting away and you haven't gotten help. What in the ever-loving fuck are you doing. 

This is what prompted me to finally seek medical attention for my illness. Messing around with my health and well-being is one thing, but like hell I would put my unborn child in harms way. I made the decision, work your next three shifts at the hospital  and go to the ER  the next day. That was New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, and the day following. I knew I would need the money for everything that was ahead. So I trucked through it, and after that last shift, I caught a couple hours of sleep and took myself to the emergency room. 

When I got there to check in and told them all my symptoms and what brought me in, I added at the end "And I am pregnant, too" and then burst into tears. I was ashamed, scared, and exhausted. I guess I should also add, that my fiancé didn't understand the extent of my illness at the time. I tried explaining it to him but he never really got how bad it was. My family too.  I was 7 weeks pregnant when I was admitted 

That is what made everything so scary. Losing weight, taking medications that I was afraid would affect my baby, and being on an immunosuppressive infusion during my was all so...fuck, it was scary. There is no other way to describe it. 

I had amazing doctors, and whenever I hesitated to agree with a treatment plan, they would remind me that my baby NEEDS a healthy mama to survive. That's what kept me forging ahead and agreeing to do whatever was needed to do and trusting them that it was safe and needed to be done. 

This has gotten long enough so fast forward, August 17, 2014, Declan Michael was born at a very healthy 7lbs 15oz, 21in long. It was the best day of my life. By the time I was well into my second trimester of pregnancy, my disease was in remission and I had the most wonderful and enjoyable pregnancy I could have ever hoped for. 

When I wrote my last post, I had no clue if my baby would make it. I prayed and begged and hoped he would. But the truth is that I was seriously unsure. At one point during the worst of my illness, my hemoglobin level was 6.5! For those not in the medical profession, that is a measure of the amount of proteins attached to your red blood cells carrying oxygen to the rest of your body. 6.5 is critical. It's life threatening it's not enough for normal functioning organs. Bottom line is that I was terrified. I stayed as positive and as hopeful as I could, but terrified. Who wouldn't be?

However, despite all the odds and what I consider to be truly a miracle (just as every single baby is, in my opinion), I had my beautiful boy with me, and as I type this, I am on my couch with him sleeping soundly in the next room. He is now over a year old. He is beautiful, hilarious, stubborn, curious, affectionate, and has the kindest heart and most beautiful soul of any person I know. Transit umbra, lux permanet has never rung so true. 

Until next time...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Transit umbra, lux permanet.  Transit umbra, lux permanet. Transit umbra, lux permanet...

I am reminding myself of this saying that meant so much to me.  Reminding myself that I have tattooed this saying on my body.  Reminding myself that there is light remaining after the shadows have passed.  Trying so hard to take my own advice, something that I laid out for myself when I got this tattoo a couple years ago, not knowing all the hardships that I would be facing.

Last I posted, I had just moved back to the states from my year abroad in nursing school.  Since then, I graduated from Colorado State University in August 2012, moved back to Michigan (I will always be a Michigander <3 ), passed my nursing boards in October 2012 and officially became an RN!  That was easily the best day of my life.  Then, a month later I accepted a job on a progressive care cardiac step down unit (my dream job!!) at a hospital in Ann Arbor, MI.  My boyfriend of 6 years and I broke up shortly after I returned to Michigan (I felt sorry for myself for about a week and then realized how much better off I was without him).  Shortly after, I reconnected with an old college friend from my Central Michigan University days, whom I had been friends with for 6 years, and what do ya know, sparks started flying and he is now the love of my life.  I sure was blessed in 2012 and 2013.  So many amazing and wonderful things happened in my life and I will never take for granted how great those years were.  Did I mention that I LOVE my job and have the most amazing co-workers too?

OK, but now I am going to start feeling a little sorry for myself so just deal with it.  Pity party ahead.

2014 has not been my best year.  I spent the first two weeks of 2014 in the hospital, with a brand new diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis.  This is an autoimmune disease that I will have forever.  It is accompanied by a plethora of completely horrible GI symptoms and has been debilitating for me at times.  But...shadow passes light remains, shadow passes light remains, shadow passes light remains...

My symptoms started a couple months before I got help (bad nurse!), and they literally started overnight.  One day things were normal, and the next day things were far from normal.  I was sure for months that I had UC and before I even saw a doctor, I was telling my family that I was sure I had UC or Crohns.  But being a nurse and all, I knew the medications used to treat it and I was 150% against starting any medications like that I just tried to deal with it on my own (BAD NURSE!).  Eventually it got so bad that I was constantly having abdominal pains, and couldn't eat food with out being in severe pain or running to the bathroom, so I took myself to the ER.

I was dehydrated and very anemic.  I received a few blood transfusions the night I was admitted to the hospital and obviously lots of IV fluids.  Bless his heart, my boyfriend stayed with me in the hospital for long as he could get away with without going to work.  And when he had to return to work, he came over to the hospital every night and stayed with me, brought his work clothes, and went to work from the hospital the next morning.  He did this during the coldest weather that Michigan has ever seen in the worst driving conditions too.  Shadow passes light remains, shadow passes light remains...

After much blood work, diagnostic tests, and errrrrhm...certain samples collected...the doctors were able to officially diagnose me with UC.  It didn't come as a surprise to me however I was at the point where I was ready for relief, ready for anything...I didn't care anymore about the medications I might have to take...I just needed relief.

The first time I was discharged, I rebounded within 12 hours HORRIBLY without the IV steroids I had been getting (they tried to taper me down and onto oral steroids).  I was readmitted the next morning.

So next step for me was Remicade (I thank God for aggressive doctors).  I wasn't even worried about it.  I wanted it.  Bring. It. On.  I got back on the IV steroids while waiting to be cleared for my first Remicade infusion and spent days on only clear liquids (I think I have new cavities from all the popcicles and juice that I consumed during my hospital stays.)  After my first infusion, I saw MAJOR changes!  The doctors were able to switch me to oral steroids while in the hospital and I tolerated it fairly well.  Things were not perfect by any means, but I saw improvement and that was exciting and 2 days after that first infusion, my inflammatory markers dropped a lot...proof the infusion was helping.

Discharged again after spending 2 weeks in the hospital, 25 lbs lighter...every day is a struggle.

Eating food has been the hardest thing for me...knowing that I could be facing consequences for it after.   The thing that is so shitty about this disease is that it is different for everyone.  One person claims that a certain food got them through their worst flare-up, while others say that they can't touch the stuff.  Its all trial and error.  Every day is a gamble.  And its incredible how easily winded I get, and how much weaker I am now than I was a few weeks ago.  I have never experienced anything like this before in my life.  Today, I went on the elliptical for 5 minutes, took a shower afterwards, had to just sit on top of the toilet when I got out of the shower out of just pure exhaustion, and then just literally crashed on the couch.  How pathetic!  I am currently on short-term disability and family medical leave from my job.  At the age of 27.  I never ever thought I would go through something like this.  Also, side note, I'm italian.  I'm obsessed with food.  Good food.  ANY food.  Since I have been sick, I literally dream about foods that I wish I could eat.  Shadow passes light remains, shadow passes light remains...

I am so thankful for my family and my boyfriend and for my GI doctor who keeps in touch with me and I call with updates regularly.  Some days I feel like I take a very large step forward, and others I feel like I fall back again.  That's the nature of this disease and I have to be prepared for that.  My next Remicade infusion is on the 30th, and I cannot freaking wait.  These infusions could put me into remission for years.  Until then, I'm going to stay focused on the light.

Peace and blessings to all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Soooo...guess what?

I SUCK at keeping up with a blog.  Also, make sure that you check out the post right before this one.  I started it on my last day in St. Kitts, and it had been sitting in my drafts box ever since.

Hey.  I never said that I was going to be good at this.  That draft I started and just uploaded was 6 months ago!

6  It honestly doesn't feel like I left the island that long ago.  It feels like it was just yesterday.  I remember how badly I wanted to get off that island.  That plane ride home was seriously one of the best days of my life.  Forget the fact that the St. Kitts airport staff almost didn't let me take home my cat, Reggae (I seriously hate those people), and that when I got to San Juan I found out that I had to buy a new carrying case for him because they only allow soft cases on Air Tran (and, very conveniently, they sold them at a store around the corner for 80 bucks), seriously, forget all that.  I was going back to the STATES!  I had a one-way ticket home!  I was about to feel like an American citizen again!

It was everything that I had hoped for and more.  It still  is.  I would never want to go back to living on an island again.  In fact, for the first 3 or 4 months I insisted that I did not miss one thing about that island, and I meant it when I said it.  Now thinking about that time and looking back at pictures...I do feel a little sad, I feel myself wishing just a little bit that I could go back there and be with all my friends (for like, a week.  TOPS.  Ha ha).  Just to live it up again.  When will there ever be days like that again in my life?  Where I could wake up to the sound of the ocean everyday, meet my friends at the beach bar down the street, go horseback riding in the ocean (never mind the hardware in my arm).  The thing I miss the most are all the great friends I made there, and seeing them every day.  We all still keep in touch and I think that we always will.  And for the time being I do have the company of a few St. Kitts folk here in my new (temporary) residence in Colorado.

And now I find myself wishing I were back in Michigan!  After all that talk about how I was SO excited to go to Colorado and I may never want to leave.  Ok yes it's beautiful and all, but it's not Michigan.  It's not home. I'm beginning to realize that I am a true Michigander and it's yet to be seen if I could be happy anywhere else. I love Michigan.  I'm sure that my family and loved ones have a lot to do with that too.  But Michigan is beautiful and it has a lot to offer.  I love it.  That's all.

Peace and blessings to all!

Looking Back

****Started this post just around 6 months ago....posting it now :)

I know I said that the next post was going to be about my mom's visit, but I can't upload those pictures until I get home and this is my last day on this island, so I felt the needed to post in honor of my time here.

So, I feel like all I have done this semester is complain.  Complain to friends and family and classmates, about how much I just wanted to be done and get out of here.  Well, they always say to be careful what you wish for; I am 1 day away from leaving, and part of me wants to stay (I knew this was gonna happen!).  I have had an AMAZING experience here, and I have made some AMAZING friends.  It's honestly hard for me to even think of what is the right thing to say.

1 year and 3 months ago, April 28, 2011, I got off a plane that had landed on this island for the first time.  A very special person was on that plane with me, one of my now best friends, Chenille.  We met straight off that plane, both in a new place, not knowing what was ahead of us, not knowing anyone at all, and we remained good friends during her whole time here.  My life would not be the same without her, and she's one of those friends that you know you'll have forever.

Very first day of classes that very first semester, I knew no one (except Chenille now).  This school is so small, but it felt so big that day.  Then after one of my classes, when everyone was walking out, I recognized someone!  And I'll explain how: before I got to the island, I joined the school's facebook group and left a message on the wall -- asking something... I don't even remember what now.  But there was one very nice girl who answered me.  She had been on the island going to school for a semester already, and her and I chatted quite a bit on facebook (mostly her giving me info).  And of course she told me that if I ever wanted to hang out or anything when I got to the island to give her a shout.  Well, that is the girl that I saw in my class, and I walked up to her and said, "Hey, are you Rachel?"  And the rest was history.

So eventually, Chenille, Rachel and I, all became best friends.  We lived together for the next 2 semesters, and it got to the point where everyone knew that we would always be together.  We had the same class schedule, the same clinical schedule too, and all that with living together -- it was basically inevitable that we would become best friends.  Because I chose a different partner school to transfer to in the states than them (the way my school works is confusing and I will spare you the details), they left 1 semester before me.  Due to this, I have received a never-ending flow of concerns and remarks from people at this school, wondering if I am doing OK without them.  Even on this last day here, I can remember just last week an instance where I was asked if I missed them and still talk to them... well DUH!

Well, the three of us eventually hooked up with the forth member of our wolfpack, Kelly.  We had a class or two with her, and to be completely honest, I don't even remember when it was that we became such good friends with was just one of those things that just happened!  I do remember though (before we became good friends with her, my first semester) I forgot a writing utensil in my statistics class, and she lent me a pen.  And mind you, this was a pretty good quality pen.  Well, I forgot to give it back to her right away, but hung on to it and MADE SURE that I eventually got it to her.  Once we became friends, she appreciated my earnest attempt at returning her pen to her :)  

Well, the four of us started calling ourselves the Wolfpack (after The Hangover, one of our favorite movies), and everyone soon called us that too.  We of course went on to have a lot of inside jokes, like sitting on the toilet sideways (you wouldn't get it, inside joke :D), but basically, these three girls will definitely be my friends for life.

Kelly's surprise bday party at the Blue Martini

Now you all know Heather from my previous post, we don't need to say goodbye though cause we are going to the same partner school in Colorado and living together (with a few other previous friends from here), and another friend from St. Kitts that will be starting at the same time as us is Jean, my whooleehooo, who I cannot WAIT to see again and take classes with!

Now, I can't neglect all my other friends too, cause I have met some really amazing people.

Amy, Me, Rachel, Sarah
Kim, Chenille, Acia, Kelly, Allie, and Heather

I have been friends with Acia since I first got here, and for as long as I have been here, she has been here even longer!  Heather and I got closer with her this semester, seeing as though it was just the three of us in Maternity this semester.  In fact, that is where we are headed for some drinks and swimming and stuff later on today :)

Marisol, Kelly, Chenille, Me, Allie, Kim, Jacqi and Rachel

With some of my girls, getting ready for a beach day

Me with some of my buddies my first semester before a game of Bar Golf.  Fun game :)

On a Catamaran.  Cat trips were ALWAYS a great time.

Cat Trip


Well, this is where I pick up this post from when I started it the day before I left the island.  I won't upload anymore pictures because it would be a never-ending process.  I have more pictures than I could ever count from my time on St. Kitts.  It was a good ride :)

Peace and blessings to all!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A [Friend's] Birthday on Nevis, and 6 DAYS.

So, on July 20th, it was my friend Heather's birthday and since we have Tuesday's off we thought we'd celebrate a day early, and went to Nevis.  It was tonsa fun!  First thing, we went to a beach bar and grill called "Sunshines" (I take everyone here when going to Nevis...if you can't already tell, ha ha), home of the alleged Killer Bee; a drink that stings.  We had a couple of those and some delicious lobster-themed lunches.

Leaving the port in St. Kitts; on the ferry

Bye bye St. Kitts

Us + St. Kitts

Hellooo Nevis

At Sunshines; all smiles with the Killer Bee

Sunshines + Killer Bees 

Then, we went and crashed the Four Seasons; only the most amazing resort we had ever laid eyes on.  We went swimming in one of their infinity edge pools, and then set off to find the spa.  A guest at the resort had told us about a pool at the spa called, "The Plunge"; an ice cold pool.  What else could you ask for on a steaming hot day?

With some yummy pina coladas

The amazing 4 seasons.  Not just vacation worthy, but honeymoon worthy.

We finally make our way to the spa, hoping that we can just, slip right on through to The Plunge, when asked, "How can I help you today?"  Um... "We aren't guests here but want to take advantage of this really cold pool that we heard you had".  That's not going to work, so we just said simply that we were looking for The Plunge.  Her next question, "Do you have a service with us?"  What, you mean a $265 facial (literally)?  Nnnno.  So then she says, "Let me take you on a tour of the spa".  Off we go, drooling over the magnificently elegant quiet room, the individual massage rooms, then, The Plunge.  We get to the steps leading up to it, and our incredibly awesome spa tour guide says, "I'll just wait here while you check it out."  It was the absolute best and most refreshing 5 second dip in a pool of my whole life.

After that, she takes us into the women's change room, points out the Eucalyptus steam rooms to us, and then says, "I'll leave you here to dry off while I go back to the front desk..."  Is this girl for real?!  So, guess what?  We went into that Eucalyptus steam room, and we enjoyed every second of it!  We exited feeling as though we had just spent a day at the spa, and our unusually kind tour guide smiles and waves goodbye, giving us a look that said, "I can keep a secret if you can keep a secret".  We were grinning from ear to ear.

So following our lovely day at the spa, we went down to the beach and swam for a bit until it was time to catch a bus back to ferry, a task we were dreading.  Not because it's difficult, or expensive, or timely, but because we DID NOT want to go back to St. Kitts!  We pondered excuses we could make to our professors for missing the ferry back, where we would sleep if we didn't go back to St. Kitts (we decided on the cabanas at the pool), and basically just did endless complaining in vain about how we wished we could stay on Nevis.  We did, however, eventually find ourselves back on the ferry to St. Kitts.
Where to sleep in the event we decided to not go back to St. Kitts

Beach on Nevis


We found mini Lambruscos in a store by the ferry


Now, on the ferry ride to Nevis in the beginning of the day, Heather exclaimed, "I really hope that the Dolphins come to visit me this year!" and then she goes on to explain that every year on her birthday, she see's dolphins (shes from Florida, and has traveled to the Bahamas and to the keys for her birthday in the past).  Well, I was honestly thinking that this was unlikely.  I have been on numerous catamarans and ferries to Nevis, and I have never seen a dolphin on the way.  Not once.  So we are on the way back to St. Kitts now and I go downstairs to use the bathroom, and I hear all this excited yelling and talking from the deck while I am in there, and I get back upstairs to find out that there WERE dolphins, and I missed them!  But then...a gentleman from the lower deck starts hailing to us and yelling, "They're down here!"  We run down, and sure enough, there they are; swimming along with the ferry, gliding in and out of the water.  So, true to form, the dolphins visited Heather on her birthday, and that marked the end of a great day at Nevis.

Sunset on the way back to St. Kitts

After this picture is taken, Me: "I'm going to go use the bathroom"

Heather's attempt at catching the dolphin.  Me = :(

And then....(some really awful attempts at catching the dolphins swimming next to the ferry) 
Like I said, awful.

Back to St. Kitts.

But what proper birthday celebration would be complete without dinner with some good friends?
Left to Right: Payal, Heather, and Leticia (me behind the camera).  Dinner at Ciaos.

And now, here I am, less than a week away from being able to go back to the states for good.  I am more excited than not.  I have had a wonderful time here, and there are so many things that I am going to miss, and down the line I am going to wish that I didn't take certain things for granted, but for now, I want to go home.  Correction:  I NEED to go home.  "Home" in this sense means America.  That is my home, and I'm ready to live there again.  6 days can't go by fast enough.  It's not that I don't know how lucky I have been, but like I have said, it's just that time!

Next post: Mama Delizia's vacation in St. Kitts!

Peace and blessings to all!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A New Chapter, and the US of A!

I'll guess I will start with my blog name, "Transit umbra, lux permanet.".  It means, "Shadow passes, light remains." in Latin, and I have it tattooed on my upper right back.  I guess for me it's a way of living.  I am an optimistic, happy person, but like anyone there are things that come around in my life that get me down.  There are times when I have found myself to be unsure of my life or myself, or stuck in a rut.  This way of thinking helps.  To me, it means that no matter what happens to you in life there is always a brighter day, and good will come to you.  When the shadows have passed, light will remain.

So, why am I starting a blog?  I'm really not sure.  Maybe it's partly because I have been looking into the future a lot lately.  I'm starting to picture my life after school (because there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel).  I have a facebook, but eventually I am going to want to get rid of it.  Literally, the only reason I still have it is to keep in touch with family and friends.  But when I have my own home, and a family of my own, I think that I may chose to go back to the good old days of communication, you know.  And use this weird thing called a telephone to catch up with my loved ones.  This blog will help those that care about me, and likewise me about them, keep up with the happenings once my life starts finally moving forward.  No more facebook creepers.  Is putting it all out on a blog any better...heck, I don't know.  I haven't thought about that too much.  I know this is something that I have always wanted to do.  Maybe this seems like a better thing for a family, or more mature than facebook, or maybe I'm just tired of facebook all together!

So for the last year and 3 months, I have been living on a Caribbean island.  I know, sounds like paradise, right?  Well, sometimes it is.  And I could never ever get sick of hearing the living, rolling ocean outside my window.  But as sadly and perhaps spoiled as this sounds, the novelty wears off and you begin wishing you were home again.  I miss my family, my friends, and my wonderful boyfriend.  I miss the conveniences of the U.S.!  I miss the snow, and no, your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  I miss the snow!  Independence day here just wasn't the same.  Last Thanksgiving was the first Thanksgiving where I did not get to spend it with my family.  Crime has gone up on my little island, the people are unhappy and my school is starting to get on my nerves.  I know that a year from now part of me may wish I could come back here and do it all again.  But for now; a year and 3 months in, stuck on a little island, sweating my butt off everyday, with limited communication, paying double the price for groceries, largely in debt...I want to go home.

As for nursing on this island -- one of the best experiences I could ever ask for, and I know that the time I spent here nursing will absolutely be an asset for me in the future.  The thought that comes to mind when you see this hospital, and the way that some people live here is: Third World.  Lets pretend that there were a scale from 1-10 to determine how "Third World" a country actually is, 1 being the least severely "Third World", and 10 being the most severe.  My island would be placed between 3-5 probably.  Basically what I am saying is that it's not as bad as some places.  But it is a third world country.  With that being said, the skills I am picking up and experiences I have had, have been phenomenal.  I have had to think critically and creatively with every single patient I have ever had.  The hospital will run out of supplies daily whether it's sheets, tape, IV lines, or catheter bags and we have to work around it.  We have to work around the flies, the roaches, the fire ants, the broken beds, and the lack of AC.  And not only that, but I know that I have helped so many people, and even touched lives in some cases.  I would never give up the experiences that I have had here.

But it is all coming to an end soon.  This is my last semester (hip hip, HOORAY!), and I have my one-way ticket back to the states in 23 days (not like I am counting or anything).  4 long semesters, a year and 3 months, 100's of patients seen, a number of incredible friendships made that I know will last forever...numerous fire ant bites, cockroaches killed, and even one poisonous centipede killed in my apartment as well (see picture below), and it all ends soon in just over 3 weeks.  I'll admit, it's bittersweet.  But I am exploding with excitement to feel like an American citizen again!!

The Culprit:

Oh, and my sweet sweet cat Reggae is reminding me (by sitting on my keyboard) that I adopted him here too.  One of the lucky of thousands of stray cats here.  He's USA-bound as well :) Anyone who knows me, knows that it is very unlikely that I come home from living in a place with thousands of stray animals, not having adopted one myself.

Until next time, peace and blessings to all!