Sometimes Saturday – Remembering an ovary

Around a year ago I had a hysterectomy.

Here is the link to my humorous and sarcastic

eulogy:

R.I.P. Ovary

and the huge yet humorous

mistake that followed:

An Unfortunate (but Funny) Oops!

Enjoy the archives…and laugh til tears run down your leg! ūüėČ

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Friday Flashback

What a year!¬† In honor of our anniversary together, dear readers, I am providing links for the favorite posts…yours and mine!

Feel free to read for the first time if you missed any, or to re-read as many as you want.

Thank you!

It is such an honor to know how many of you take time out of your busy lives to simply read my heart.

Here’s to many more years to come!!!

Love, Gracie

An Open Letter (to my uterus)

Unflinching and Unveiled (my story of surviving abuse)

Bilingual Foot in Mouth Disease (self-explanatory)

Edge of the Frame (my response to the Daily Prompt)

“Lilacs and Shackles” excerpt from Across the Street from Normal (Preview chapter)

The Heart of a Mother – 3 (Part three of my series on my heart as a mother)

Blue Cake – (my post-hysterectomy reality check)

Five Minute Friday – Notice (my link-up with Kate Motaung)

survivor story – Heather Von St. James (a Cancer survivor’s story)

Harold’s Story (my tribute to my grandpapa)

To be – (a timely reminder)

Soldering and Fragments (no longer broken)

‘Roids and an Ex (a.k.a getting over myself)

Happy Reading!

Live in the NOW.  Be here. (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

Live in the NOW. Be here. (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

Gracie’s Golden “Good-to-knows”

The following is a compilation of things that I’ve learned through this whole hysterectomy process.

1. Rhubarb extract is a life-altering gift, and in our house, to ensure temperature stability (and therefore the sanity of the household), it is a firmly established mainstay.

2. There is no shame in wearing elastic waistbands IF THEY ARE HIDDEN well under a baggy yet stylish top.

Secret Spandex Society (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014
Secret Spandex Society (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

3. I am still reeling from the realization that there seems to be a Secret Spandex Society which is only growing exponentially in numbers locally. ¬†Maybe it’s my upbringing from the Eighties, but I keep fighting back the urge to ask, “Oh sweetie, did you forget the skirt you had laid out to go over that?” ¬†[Sidenote: when exactly did fur lined boots get paired with yoga pants? ¬†Seriously, I am curious and have NO intention to be mean or offend…I am simply confused about when these styles became all the rage.] I digress…

4. When everyone says “You will be laid up, flat; for 4-6 weeks or more”. THEY AIN’T LYING.

Easy to Reach (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014
Easy to Reach (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

5. Seriously, assemble a collection of movies next to your bed BEFORE surgery. ¬†Trust me, you’ll need them for the days when you are awake but are somehow too exhausted to move.

6. Get used to having people come visit you and keep outings to a BARE minimum. ¬†It’s a few weeks of your life…not the end of all social life as you know it.

7. Expect lots of sleep.

8. Ask questions until you have none left. ¬†I did, and I knew everything that I needed to know as I went in for surgery…all the details, including what my insides would look like. There’s no shame in finding out what is being done to the body you will inhabit until death.

Pain is Diminished (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014
Pain is Diminished (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

9. Microwaveable rice heating pads are the best recovery tool ever invented. ¬†I packed mine in the hospital bag, and since moist heat helps draw out gas and discomfort, it was constantly being reheated by the nurses for me. It made a vast difference! ¬†(For my surgery, they had to fill my body with gas so that they could see my organs clearer. ¬†Post-surgery, the gas tries to escape through your shoulders and lower back. ¬†Honestly, it does, and it’s horribly painful. ¬†The heat pack worked amazingly well!) My Pinterest Board: Hysterectomy Fashion and tips has some images of ways to sew your own (www.pinterest.com/graciekharold).

10. Gas-X(R) is your friend.  Buy it in bulk before surgery.

Seeing the hand print in this photo...nope, have to rest. (c)Gracie K Harold 2014
Seeing the hand print in this photo…nope, have to rest. (c)Gracie K Harold 2014

11. Frozen dinners for 1 are your other best friend…even young children can microwave a meal for you. ¬†Additionally, after everyone stops staying with you during the day, there will be fatigued days when you really just want a warm meal in 2 minutes, without having to lift out the items from the fridge.

12. Granny Panties do have a practical use.  I was skeptical as well, but I am glad that I listened.

13. There is no shame in asking others to help (this from the bull-headed woman who insisted on putting on her own socks and promptly took half that day and the next to sleep off the pain). Learn to ask for help.

14. As my Dr. said, “Outercourse is okay while you heal, Intercourse is not.” ¬†Creativity is good, and can be fun. If it hurts, don’t do it. ¬†If it causes strain on your incisions, DON’T DO IT. Prolonging recovery time in the name of ¬†instant gratification is simply not wise. ¬†Take care of your body…it’s the only one you’re going to get.

15. Be gentle with yourself.  Pamper yourself wherever possible. Wear perfume with your pajamas, brush your teeth, put on lipstick that matches your slippers.  Have a friend paint your nails, you get the idea.

Opulent Rest (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014
Opulent Rest (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

16. The lifting restrictions and bending restrictions? ¬†They know what they are talking about. Seriously, experience taught me quickly that twisting and or bending to get the laptop off the floor really HURTS. ¬†My surgeon gave me a great rule: “If you start to get a pain or a spasm, or if you’re exhausted, you are doing too much.”

17. Random odd thing we learned: if you have ever learned to sing and breathe from your stomach/diaphragm…prepare to take a short hiatus from singing full-throttle until you have healed a bit. **Lesson learned after two weeks of utter exhaustion and near-collapse following church services where I joined the congregational singing…oops.**

18. Relax and give yourself permission ahead of time. You will need at least a week of being in the house and sleeping.

19. Have a friend arrange meals for at least the first 10 weekdays following surgery. Trust me, you’ll need it.

20. Have comfortable clothes in varying sizes in a drawer that doesn’t require bending or reaching. Bloating is an unfortunate side effect, but moving forward in health is the best reward.

I can’t believe how much better I feel already. ¬†Yes, I’m tired, but it’s a healthy tired. ¬†It’s a healing tired. ¬†I am so glad that we went through with this.

Oh, and last but not least:¬†Chocolate always helps promote healing ūüėČ

Engulfed

“Scars are a reminder that healing has taken place.” – (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

The most profound thing was discovered by my surgeon during my recent hysterectomy.

Before I divulge the discovery, however, I need to share an event that preceded surgery.

I had been doubled over in pain for weeks; and I was on my 5th round of antibiotics.

James and I attended church despite the pain.

After the service, there was an invitation to be prayed for; and James and I met our friend John up front.

Together, John and James held my shoulders as John began to pray that I would be healed.

As we prayed, I felt so loved and accepted and I knew that God is a loving Father; I felt assured that he approves of me and is proud of me; not because of what I’ve done but because I’m HIS.

I felt the sensation of warmth inside my abdomen, right where the pain was.

It felt like a hot tub was bubbling inside of me!

My pain went away, and even though I continued to have exhausting days mixed with good ones, the constant pain was gone.

While I was in the recovery room post-op; my surgeon met with James and asked him who had treated my Endometriosis.

James was confused, as he had no idea what the Dr. was talking about.

The next morning, my surgeon came in to do my discharge exam.

I told him about the prayer at church and he said, “That explains it then. ¬†Your uterus showed scarring over the Endometriosis, as if it had been surgically treated. ¬†Huh.”

I realized that my scars are a reminder that healing has taken place.

May we always see our scars as proof of healing, and may we always rest in His great love for us…and be engulfed!

Engulfed (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Engulfed (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Blue Cake

IMG_4295.JPG

My friend made us dinner a few days after I was home from the hospital following my recent hysterectomy.
She came over to drop everything off, and on her way out (after visiting with James and I for a bit), she told us that there was a cake in one of the pans. Her son, who is the epitome of a curious, inquisitive “son of thunder”; and who I absolutely adore in all of his full/throttled (mis)adventures, took great pains in decorating the cake with sprinkles.

After we practically devoured the meal that evening, James brought me my slice of cake. Bright blue frosting was painstakingly dotted with polka dot sprinkles in a deliberately energizing way. It looked like a lively party was going on amidst blue waves.

I grinned, ate the cake, and we all took turns showing off our bluish teeth and lips. It was hilarious!

The pain meds do put my mind on a bit of a delay, but the next day I realized why she baked us a cake.

In one of my posts, “the Cake is old and moldy”https://adjustmentstonormal.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/the-cake-is-old-and-moldy/ I referred to my uterus as a piece of “old and moldy” cake that needed to be discarded. I explained my journey to acceptance, finally understanding that my identity as a mother doesn’t change simply because some of my organs are removed.

I opened the lid on the cake pan, and silently took in the festive cake in all of its polka dotted radiance. I broke off a corner piece and savored a bite. I thought about my other friend, Stacey, who hand wrote me a heart note with the reference of Jeremiah 29:11 as a reminder.

The verse says, “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

I grinned my biggest blue teeth grin and thought that a confetti cake was the perfect way to celebrate this newest chapter of my life… Motherhood sans uterus.

R.I.P. Ovary

The following is an unfiltered, unedited quote from the monologue I recently spit out like an epithet at James (and we subsequently texted to a very patient friend…Stacey, you are.a.saint!)

“I think my ovary just died….seriously, it is way past the date of recommended daily use. ¬†I am pretty sure that I just about birthed my uterus, so now I can officially walk like I rode a bucking bronco [yes I had the self control to say “bucking” and that’s what I meant ūüėČ ] ¬†Now I sit like I am flippin’ pregnant even though I am not…unless you count that I am “pregnant” with a fallen uterus…which has to literally be on the chair with my legs sprawled out like a cheerleader mid-jump. ¬†I am so HOT! ¬†Seriously, did we mistakenly turn on the heat in here? ¬†James, I am in a swimsuit, with a fan blowing on me and the air conditioner thermostat states it is at 71¬į but that has to be a lie! ¬†No way! ¬†Yes, I see that Rex is wearing a winter coat in the house….but the child has frail bones, maybe he should run around a bit. ¬†Oh, you brought me more ice for my water? ¬†Oh my…I don’t know why I am crying!!! ¬†It is just so sweet of you. ¬†*Sniff* ¬†Yes, I know that I have eaten half ¬†a jar of pickles and the entire block of cheddar cheese, but now I want to eat a raisin bagel with cheese and pickles on it. ¬†*sniff* Will you please hug me?”

That poor man.

My friend Stacey had mentioned that she had some extra hot flash support in the form of a rhubarb extract.  We texted her the following message:

“Need rhubarb extract. ¬†Ovary R.I.P. Cannot ride heat wave anymore. Help? Thanks, James”

R.I.P. Ovary (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

R.I.P. Ovary (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Dark humor? ‚ąö

Sarcasm? ‚ąö

Over it? ‚ąö

Attempting to find a way to worship through the hormonal influx? ¬†‚ąö ¬†This is all I got.

 God, I am so thankful that you have a sense of humor!

Meanwhile, could you please send us a (mild) cold front over to my general vicinity? ¬†Or maybe, provide us with a month’s supply of smoothies?

Love, Gracie.

editor’s note: The day after I wrote this, it rained unexpectedly and A COLD FRONT MOVED IN! Thank God…no more swimsuit in the kitchen! ūüėČ

Fashion Woes and Womanhood

 Look 03

***Images from torrid.com****

I really like fashion. ¬†A lot. ¬†Growing up, I loved following the latest trends. ¬†I’ve decided that having a hysterectomy is¬†not¬†going to mean that I lose my sense of fashion. ¬†This is hard. ¬†Quite frankly, it kind of sucks. ¬†I gained 15 pounds in 10 days from “water retention and inflammation”. ¬†(Great! Now my ‘moldy old cake’ is waterlogged…confused? Read my former post for an explanation).

I probably should have explained sooner that I am under the influence of a lot of Benadryl¬ģ due to hives…which we assume are from the antibiotics (round 4 in two weeks), and I may be a bit abrupt, ADD, lacking a filter, etc.

Anyways, yesterday James took me for a leisurely stroll through the area mall so that we could get ideas of what I can wear after surgery.  I know that I will be bloated even more than now, and I will be sedated and sleepy; but I still want to at least look like I tried to look presentable.  I unashamedly admit today that I have quite a bit of pride about this.

When I started to feel good about my body again after the auto accident, I transitioned into clothes that were more form-fitting. ¬†In his typical gentle way, James challenged me to also mix in some “baggier, boxy” clothes; never once in a tyrannical way but in a friendly, “have you considered trying this?” way.

I like it. ¬†The shirts are comfy, yet they don’t hang on me like a shapeless tent.

This whole experience has been so humbling.

I am so bloated…only over my uterus, so I look about 3-4 months pregnant. ¬†But I’m not.

We walked into a new, hip, store for larger sizes, “Torrid”. ¬†(***All images are from their website, torrid.com, except my “Lightplay 5″***)

TORRID.COM - Chevron Print Wide Leg Soft Pant  TORRID.COM - Off-The-Shoulder TeeTORRID.COM - Double Layer Hi-Lo Swing TopTORRID.COM - Military Jacket

The sales associate was so genuinely helpful and kind.  She showed me the Fall Fashion Trends, including the highwaisted,  harem pants, baggy graphic tanks, flowing swing sweaters, and of course; scarves.  She pointed out some adorable, loose knit dresses which would effectively help cover my swelling.

I almost cried in the store.  Her help was so heartfelt and genuine and her thoughtfulness spoke volumes.

James reminded me (for maybe the 100th time) that he.loves.me. ¬†It doesn’t depend on my swollen abdomen, or flat abdomen, or anything else.

He loves me because I am me.

I’m trying to take ownership of the reality that who¬†I am doesn’t change when¬†the way that I look¬†changes.

So, today, world, I want to say that I am Gracie K. Harold. ¬†I have a swollen belly, but I am¬†not¬†pregnant…even though I may look like I am. ¬†I will do my best to rest and recover before and after surgery. ¬†I have a beautiful gift to take care of…my body. ¬†It’s lumpy and swollen right now, but it’s protecting and cushioning my soul and my heart. ¬†My heart is a rather tender thing in this moment…so please be kind and see me as I am.

I am a child of my Abba.  I am loved.  I am a wife. I have a mother heart.  I am a sister, a daughter, an aunt, and a friend.  I love passionately, and protect my loved ones fiercely, but with mercy.

World, please be gentle with me.

Women, my sisters…please. ¬†See past my size. See my heart. ¬†I will do the same.¬†

Love,

Gracie

PS, Feel free to see more of my ideas on my “Pinterest” board, “Hysterectomy Fashion and tips”. ¬†If you would like to join my board, email your email address ¬†or Pinterest username to gracie.k.harold@gmail.com and I’ll invite you to join! (Happy pinning!)

A Fear Realized

A Fear Realized (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

A Fear Realized (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

A cold sweat gripped me as I gasped for air. ¬†James traced his finger gently on my shoulder. “Baby, I’m here. You’re safe. ¬†What’s wrong?” ¬†I groggily wiped the tears off my cheeks. ¬†I mumbled, “Bad dream again”. ¬†He wrapped me up in his arms until I fell asleep.

My body is a constant enigma for the medical community.  I react to medications that most people can tolerate without blinking.  For instance, whenever I am on antibiotics, I need around-the-clock antihistamines or else I quickly become covered in hives.

I am thankful for the ability to heal and be on antibiotics, and I also understand from prior experience that my nightly dose of antihistamine produces terrifying nightmares.  Lately, my nightmares have been exposing my fears.

This particular nightmare consisted of me being shut-into our home, helplessly on the couch as life spun on around me.  James continually flitted in and out, kissing me on the head as he said goodbye.  Every effort that I made to get off the couch and join him found me in the same position, unable to move.  I was stuck.

I reached constantly after James and the children, but I couldn’t get my legs to budge. ¬†I felt abandoned, overlooked, and burdensome.

When I divulged my nightmare  to James that morning, I discovered how terrified I am that my health will cause me to miss out on the new and exciting chapters of life that we plan to start together this Fall.

He reassured me that he wants to share all of our chapters with me, and that he is not going anywhere. ¬†He gently reminded me of our honeymoon, when he pushed me around the Colorado Mountains while I was in a wheelchair. I scrunched up my nose and said, “I know, but I didn’t want to make it a tradition!” He laughed and hugged me.

In looking over our options, I can either choose the current state which has me barely functioning, or in constant pain, or medicated and halfway functioning; or I can choose surgery to alleviate the pain, with the hope that I will improve.

The question is, where on the calendar do I even possess 6 or so weeks for recovery? Also, how do I continue to be involved in the life of my family…from bed, or the couch?

I don’t want to be the woman that holds her family back. ¬†I want to be their biggest cheerleader, encouragement, and prayer supporter. ¬†I want to exude love and acceptance.

Ironic that I accept them with injury without any hesitation, yet I can’t quite receive myself with open arms.

James deftly called me out last night. ¬†He reminded me that it’s a privilege for him to care for me, that he takes great joy in meeting my needs.

Throughout my life, I have been deeply blessed by many friends and family members who are “differently-abled” than society’s norm. ¬†Their joy, love of life, and simple faith constantly pushes me onward in my own journey. ¬†Again, I unhesitatingly accept them with their “limitations”…so why can’t I accept myself?

Pensive (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Pensive (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

If I openly admit that I am limited, if I confess that I am physically imperfect, my facade crumbles.  I will then have to admit that I am the one in need.

I am. I hurt. ¬†I am in pain. ¬†I am in need of surgery, and I am a bit scared. ¬†I don’t want to overburden James at such a crucial point in our life, just when things are changing and starting in a new direction.

It’s humbling to need others. ¬†It requires honesty, but also trust.

God pretty much took my breath away this morning when I read the following blog post:

“Ever Upward – Isaiah” by Justine Froelker ¬†

Justine reminded me that He has this.  When I speak the truth about my pain, my fears, and even my insecurities; then I courageously disarm the shame that goes along with silence.

So, my name is Gracie K. Harold. ¬†I have a “mild” case of Ehler-Danlos syndrome, type 3. ¬†I have recently come to appreciate my uterus for the 5 children that it has harbored and held, even if I never got to embrace two of the babies which were embraced by it. ¬†I am planning to undergo a hysterectomy before the age of 40. ¬†One of my ovaries will hopefully be allowed to stay, but the other one has no possibility of not causing me more pain and damage.

I realized this weekend that when there’s an empty space, and I turn my face to God in expectation of His Goodness; ¬†He enlarges my heart and fills me with more than I ever could have imagined.

Don’t believe me? My next post on Monday will give more details. *

Meanwhile, until then, feel free to read my previous posts as you wrestle through to see the Goodness.

I’ll be praying that He enlarges your heart and then makes you speechless as he pours Goodness into your emptiness.

Love,

Gracie

*Please note that this link will not work until Monday, August 11, 2014 around 8 am EST, but the other two links are available right now! =)*

Plumbing – A Tale of Identity

Blurry Plumbing (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Blurry Plumbing (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Who was I, who do I hope to be, and who am I currently?  These are the questions that I have wrestled with over the past few years.  (No grand illusions here, no pollyana-glazed-over-sugar-coated-religiosity; it has taken me YEARS to grapple with this.)

The auto accident that I was in caused amnesia, the loss of my job, and the loss of relationships with some of the people who had been part of my every day reality. ¬†I had to relearn almost everything. ¬†I mean it. ¬†I had to set an alarm on my phone to remind me that it was time to use the bathroom…or I wouldn’t even be aware that I had not gone to the bathroom for 12 or more hours at a time. ¬†I read fashion magazines to see how to put outfits together, as I lost all ability to color coordinate without a color wheel’s assistance. ¬†My makeup application was only done by reading the numbered samples given out by a local makeup seller. “1. Apply foundation 2. Apply blush…” you get the idea. ¬†My eye shadow was always the quad that had the numbers on them, with directions about where to apply each numbered shade.

When James and I became engaged, he took me clothes shopping. ¬†It was very strange to walk into “Plato’s Closet” and have the helpful associate ask me what my style was. ¬†I simply gaped at her like a fish, and looked at James in confusion. He smiled, put his arm around me gently and explained, “She was a single mother for years and has lived off of hand-me-downs. ¬†If they fit, she wore them. ¬†She has amnesia from an auto accident, and is starting to rediscover what her style is, or even, what it will be.” ¬†I swallowed the panic that was rising in my throat, and timidly eyed the associate. ¬†“Will you help me figure it out?” ¬†She squealed, “Of course! ¬†This is going to be so fun! ¬†Let’s get started!” ¬†She took my hand and carefully steered me over to the clothing racks.

She was incredible! ¬†She patiently held up a dress, and said, “Do you like it?” I exclaimed that I did. ¬†Then she took me to the accessories where she rotated between belts until we discovered my preferences. ¬†It was so fun! ¬†We discovered that I tend to be vintage-punk with an unexpected beachy twist once in a while. ¬†We were there for HOURS trying on clothes and establishing my style, and I loved every second.

My opinion mattered, and it had value! ¬†It may sound like a minor deal, but to me, I had had no control over things for so long ¬†that it was truly liberating to say, “No, I don’t like that; but I DO like that!” ¬†I discovered not only my style, but I rediscovered my voice.

I also discovered that the styles I wear are merely an outward reflection of who I am inside. ¬†My identity as a child of God doesn’t change if I wear hand-me-downs or punk clothes. ¬† I learned this truth by reading verse after verse about identity; and stories of how others discovered their purpose in life.

It’s no secret that our miscarriage this last year rattled me. ¬†Grief does not allow one to wear a mask for long. ¬†The truth about our insecurities and fears are eventually revealed when we grieve. ¬†After we miscarried, James and I decided to look into adopting a toddler or preschooler. ¬†We were told that we need to be married a few years longer before we are approved. ¬†By then, most of our kids will be ready for high school, middle school, or even college.

My heart was so wounded by the reality that despite our desire to open our home and hearts again, we don’t fit into the formula for “acceptable” placements. ¬†I understand, but I don’t like the pain that it brings.

I was just starting to accept with gratefulness our current situation.  I was prepared to simply invest in our children and those around us with openhearted compassion.  Then, we received the news of our genetic disorder.  I wrestled through to acceptance, and even thankfulness for the quality of life that we currently have, and the preparation for this moment in time.

Enter the latest physical ailments.

I developed a very serious infection, which I neglected to realize until it had progressed to the point of needing IV antibiotics, and a double run of oral antibiotics.  The inflammation is finally showing signs of improvement, but the pain is subsiding only minimally.

My Dr. and I discussed….why can’t I write this? Hysterectomy. There. It’s out there.

My emotions are surprising me. ¬†My monthly cycle has become so painful that I literally have all the symptoms of pregnancy; morning sickness included, but I don’t get a baby to hold and parent when it’s over.

One would think that I would be ecstatic to finally see relief in the not-so-far-off future.

Instead, I am rather blindsided by my urge to cry over saying goodbye to a uterus which I finally “made friends” with, which I hold great admiration for as the place where my 5 children were cradled inside my love for them. ¬†Interestingly enough, though, loving my three bonus children has helped me to see that my children (all 8 of them) are cradled in my heart…and that isn’t going anywhere.

No surgical decisions are going to be made today (in a slightly-medicated, pain-filled disclosure), so I am confident that the next few weeks will hold emotional processing and more wrestling until we can see the plumbing issue clearly.

plumbing, clearly. (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

plumbing, clearly. (c)Gracie K. Harold 2014

Today, though, in this moment when I am facing the possibility of saying goodbye to another part of me; I am content to simply be loved. ¬†I am standing with a surprisingly quivering lip, teary eyes, and arms outstretched…fully trusting that the following is as true today as it has been for every moment of my life:

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV)