Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness…Part 3

So here we are…a couple months after the last update and what a couple months it has been!

So after the hospital visit and finding out my surgery date, I have been busy getting the house and office pod ready for my recovery and getting mentally prepared for what was going to happen. Mum and I also planned a trip away for before the surgery as a distraction.

This trip was the perfect thing and exactly what I needed. We first as a family went to Holland to see the rest of the family for a couple days, and then mum and I went on to Paris and Disneyland Paris for a week. We came home only 2 days before my surgery so I didn’t give my brain the chance to panic too much. The day before my surgery was just spent buying the last few bits that I would need in the hospital and stuffing my face at Yo Sushi.

The morning of my surgery started early…the alarm going off at 5am so that we would arrive at the hospital for 7am. It was a bit of a blur once the hospital gown and compression stockings were on, a blur of blood draws, blood pressure and heart rate monitoring and questions. Before I knew it though it was time to walk to the operating room.

So now for the details…I panicked a lot before my operation and actually needed to go on oxygen for about 15-20 minutes before they could put me under anaesthesia. When I came back out I was in the recovery room and I remember falling asleep a lot. One of the times I was awake, I remember the doctor came to see me and all I remember was her telling me that there were more fibroids than they had thought and I asked them if they were able to save my womb, which they did!!! I fell asleep again and before I knew it, I was back on the ward waiting for my parents to come in.

When they came in they both told me how worried they’d been. The surgery was only meant to be about an hour…however, I had been in for 4 hours. I was also super pale as I had lost a lot of blood during the surgery and had had 1 transfusion. The pain was unreal and I felt super nauseous. I also had no appetite and only ate a little bit of a yogurt and a few sips of hot water.

The next day was horrible. It started with another blood draw at 5:30 in the morning, followed by multiple blood pressure and heart rate checks. This was followed by the nurses telling me that they want to get me up into the chair so that they could take the catheter out and change the bedding. For anyone that has had abdominal surgery (my incision was through the abdomen from my belly button down) you know that it is incredibly painful to move your stomach muscles. I was told to use my arms to push me up out of bed however, I still had my catheter in and on my right hand I had a canula with 3 ports which pulled when I moved my arm, so using my arms was hard. But somehow with the help of the nurses, I managed to get up and into the chair. I tried to eat a bit of toast with jam and some hot water but I instantly regretted that. I felt the waves of nausea build and I tried to hold it in as much as possible. However my body had a completely different idea. Before I knew it I was reaching for the sick bowl. The pain that followed was unbelievable, my pain killer pump didn’t even make a dent.

Several hours later, my parents came in along with Althea (essentially my second mum), however I cannot remember much of what happened at all. I was still so out of it. All I remember is that I had another 2 transfusions but my levels were still very low. They were still very worried about my heart rate and blood pressure.

The next few days were a bit of a blur of more blood tests and blood pressure readings. But before I knew it, I had been taken off my pain pump and put on oral pain killers. I was able to walk a little more and able to walk to the toilet on my own. But after 3 nights I was ready to go home. The plastic bedding and no air movement just meant that I was boiling hot all the time and severely uncomfortable. So Monday morning I was convinced I was going home. I felt well enough to go home. However, my haemoglobin levels were still very low and they wanted to bring it back up to what it was pre op before I could go home. So one final blood draw was done and several hours later I was ready to go home!

Now my recovery is far from over. Walking goes at a snails pace and stairs still have to be taken slowly. But I’m getting there, pain is almost nonexistent now and every day I’m able to do more and more.

So when they opened me up, there were more fibroids than they thought. They reckon there were close to 100 fibroids in total with 5 large masses (15cm each). They also estimated that my fibroids had taken about 45% of my total blood supply and I lost around a litre of blood during the surgery. The best news though was that they were able to save my womb! I can still have kids!!

But for now…there’s still a long road to recovery but I am on the way 🙂 So far…this is the end of this chapter!

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Turtle Spotting Do’s and Dont’s

So I thought I would start a series on the do’s and dont’s that are associated with wildlife. For the first one I thought I would go with turtles. Now as you may know, I am a marine biologist with a huge love and passion for conservation. This has led me to take multiple trips around the world with focus on conservation and eco tourism. One thing that I noticed a lot was animal eco tourism trips and specifically those with the focus on sea turtles.

So over the years I have been on multiple trips where turtle spotting has been part of it. Whether it was working on a turtle conservation project with Archelon in Zakynthos or turtle spotting in Tobago. I have picked up certain behaviours from tourists that inspired me to write this.

So lets start with the Dont’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see one in the ocean whilst on a boat…do NOT go near it with the boat…keep a safe distance and don’t drive over them!
  2. If you see one whilst swimming/snorkelling/diving…again keep a safe distance. Turtles can be very quick swimmers so if they get stressed by you, they will swim away but always give them space. DO NOT touch them!
  3. If you encounter an adult on the beach, give her space as it will most likely be an adult female who is getting ready to lay her nest. This will occur at night (or very rarely at sunrise) so do not shine your torches as that stresses them out and again give them plenty of space. Do not use any light at all, this includes phone lights, flashes from cameras and normal torches.
  4. If you are lucky enough to see hatchlings coming out of the nest. No matter how tempting it may be. DO NOT pick them up. They use their journey from the nest to the ocean to ‘learn’ where to come back to to lay their own nests.
  5. Don’t litter…This is an easy one. Even if you aren’t seeing any turtles, the litter you drop on a beach will inevitably affect a turtle at some stage. Whether its an adult or a hatchling, they all are effected by litter on the beaches and in the ocean.
  6. Do not buy turtleshell products when travelling. They are normally caught by poachers and are always illegally and inhumanely sourced.

Now for the do’s:

  1. If you are fortunate enough to see them…enjoy the moment! Do it responsibly but enjoy it none the less! They are beautiful creatures and I will never get bored of seeing them.
  2. If you spot a hatchling going the wrong way…pick them up and turn them around. If it is during the day…try and shade them so that the sun doesn’t roast them. And if it is at night, try and block out the lights that are disorientating them.
  3. Do a beach clean every time you go to the beach. Even if you only pick up 5 pieces of litter each time it will make a huge difference.
  4. If you decide to go on a turtle spotting boat…make sure you go with a reputable company that is known for its eco tourism. If you aren’t sure which company to chose, there are companies in most countries that are there for the sole purpose for turtle conservation, such as Archelon in Greece and Save our Turtles in Tobago, they will be able to tell you companies that they recommend.
  5. Use recyclable straws or reusable straws. Straws are some of the biggest culprits of turtles dying. Making a small change to reusable straws or no straws at all will make a huge difference.
  6. Eat locally sourced sustainable seafood. Companies that are locally sourced tend to use better fishing techniques so less turtles get caught in fishing lines. The sustainable companies will use more turtle friendly fishing gear.
  7. Last but not least. Donate to local turtle conservation projects. Most are NGO’s and need the money to keep running. If you can’t give money, maybe you can give some time and volunteer with them. I can’t recommend that enough. My time volunteering with Archelon in Zakynthos was one of the best summers I’ve had. The information I learnt then have stuck by me and have changed my daily habits.

Overall, enjoy them! They are truly beautiful creatures, so lets protect them so that we and the future generations can still enjoy them!

Camera 14MP-9PC
Camera 14MP-9PC

Cousins

My grandfather used to say ‘the sun does not set over the Knopper family’. The reason was that his kids spread to corners of the earth. One to Australia, one to America… and my dad stayed home in the Netherlands…

The consequence of this was that family reunions were just with very small portions of the family. We grew up without knowing any of the cousins.

There is a picture of 1971 where we were all together… apparently.., I don’t remember it..

A few years ago, my Australian cousin met up with us in Luxembourg.. so nice to meet! A familiarity immediately there.

Last year I met up with my American cousin… same thing… I wrote an earlier blog about that.

As I am regularly in America, I finally was able to arrange to spend some time with my cousin. Catching up on uhm… some 47 years of missing history… he remembers stories about my grandparents from what I don’t remember or was too young for.

A drive into the Smokey Mountains was the setting for all this..

Below a few pictures of that…

I know the sun will continue to shine over the Knopper family and not set.. as cousins have families, equally spread out in their respective countries…

One day we will have that total family reunion…it may have to wait till we are all Home with Jesus though!

Life Unexpected

People get sick… we know that, can see it all around us…. sometimes you browse through the Facebook news feed and suddenly you are struck by another person battling diseases or tragic events. As it’s someone else’s life, you comment with a sad emoji or a short message.

These things happen to other people … not in the own family circle.

My uncle recently passed away, brain cancer… the word no one wants to be associated with..

Very sad indeed…

The bomb shell really came Friday though…. my father in law…. lung cancer…

how is that even possible.. he does not smoke… never ever smoked…

Incomprehensible… and sad

Jesus told us the story about the little birds… those no one really notices anymore.. they are not colourful or rare… He said ‘look at those birds… they don’t worry about tomorrow.. they don’t worry where their next meal is coming from…’

‘Please you do not worry either… The Father knows you’

These are the words of Tommy Walker on the song ‘He knows my name’

I have a Maker

He formed my heart

Before even time began

My life was in his hands

He knows my name

He knows my every thought

He sees each tear that falls

And He hears me when I call

And the YouTube clip:

Life is tough sometimes… all you want to do is curl up and let the day pass…. no matter how unexpected life can be and no matter what each of us is going through… He knows us! Our lives matter!!

We do not know what the future holds for my father in law…

All we can do is pray..

Definitely Not in Kansas Anymore…

When you travel around the world, you are bound to come across situations that are so different from home. Whilst here in Costa Rica, it has definitely been the earthquakes (or quacks according to mum).

The majority have been minor with only a couple seconds of shaking, which before it even registers as an earthquake is already finished. However this week was different. I had spent the whole day by the pool and hot tub, just enjoying the sunshine and spending some much needed down time to read, crochet, and read a book. I was sat in the hot tub when all of a sudden I get a text from mum asking if I was ok…Mum normally messages me but the tone of this message was different. So I instantly responded, seconds later another message pops up, a large earthquake had hit…didn’t I feel it?

Something I learnt was that whilst you’re in the hot tub, you apparently don’t feel earthquakes. This had been a 5.3 and I felt nothing. I knew it was a big deal though as instantly all the staff at the hotel went around checking if everyone was ok and switching off the various alarms going off. This was my first ever experience of a larger quake. Even though I didn’t feel it myself, I was still shaken (pun intended) by the idea of it. The rest of the day I was restless, expecting another one to hit.

So sometimes when you’re traveling, you experience things that you wouldn’t at home. Earthquakes in the UK are so rare and yet here there are around 10-15 a day!!! You don’t really think of these things when you’re traveling until you experience them. Last year whilst we were here, one of the volcanoes was active and so we couldn’t visit it, but the thought was in the back of our minds…what if…luckily nothing happened, and the volcano is dormant again. But you just never know.

Traveling opens up your eyes to not only new cultures but also to new experiences. Whether that is walking over the hanging bridges, whale watching, eating new foods, or feeling an earthquake for the first time. I love it and wouldn’t change it. Yes at the time it can be scary but you know what to do the next time!

What about you? What has been something thats happened to you whilst traveling that you didn’t expect to happen? Let me know in the comments below!

On to the next adventure…

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R and R

I know that I have been very quiet on here recently and the reason for that was that I took a break. I took time for myself and learnt to listen to my body.

The last couple months haven’t been easy for me and my mental health took a huge hit. Depression had a strong hold on me and I couldn’t find a way out. But after taking this time away from blogging and social media as a whole, I’m happy to report that I am much better now! My mental health is in a better state and I am actually looking forward to the upcoming events in my life.

I’m currently writing this from Costa Rica where I am really taking the time to do the things that I love to do…crochet, reading, photography and just binge watching Netflix. Allowing my brain and body to relax and to just be myself again. I’ve missed enjoying the day to day things and I feel like I can and am now!

So instead of all the doom and gloom that I had been seeing since the beginning of the year, I am now able to find joy in every day life. So I’m back now with lots of blog posts in mind. Be ready!

Hope you’re all having a great week!

Costa Rica 2018

Expectations

Everyone has them… expectations… especially on other people… how a person should act, dress, behave, raise their kids, love their parents etc..

And then we have expectations on ourselves… what we should achieve, do etc.

I am the wife if a pastor, and although we live in the 21st century, and my husband co pastors a large reasonably modern church there are expectations.. not just on me, but also my husband and daughter… it’s expected to contribute in a certain way. I am away a lot, so some of that transfers to my daughter too. When a member expresses how my husband should behave as a pastor it hurts too… I also have expectations on myself as to how I should live my life.. and I often let myself down too… especially being away so much (which also attracts comments)

Why am I writing this? Cause I read a recent article on self worth and what matters. Is it hard to look at yourself through someone’s expectations on you? Yes!! But it’s not needed to be hard. Our self worth comes through Jesus only. Only through His grace can we live up to our full potential. His expectations on us are that we accept His grace.

With that in mind, I will try to be not do hard on myself… it’s good to be reminded sometimes!!!

(And dad… am not sad!!)

The King’s daughter is all glorious within” Psalm 45:13

Exploring London…

A couple weeks ago I realised that I had never been to London on my own. I knew the reason for this was my anxiety, but that same week I had decided that I was going to fight this. I was going to fight my depression and anxiety head on and not let it beat me.

So here I was on a Wednesday morning, packing my rucksack with everything I thought I would need and off I went. After a quick stop off at Dad’s church, he dropped me off at Watford Junction and I was on my way…no turning back now…trust me, the anxiety was winning…my illogical part of my brain was telling me that everything would go wrong and I should just go home and lie in bed. But I thought the better of it and pushed through.

After a quick check to make sure I had enough on my Oyster card, I ran into one of my old school friends and instantly the anxiety reduced. Instantly I was calmer. Turned out that he was headed for the Science Museum which is directly behind the Natural History Museum. The anxiety for travelling had almost completely disappeared at this point and the other fears and anxieties built up. But again, I didn’t give in. I powered through.

About 30 minutes later and there I am, standing in front of the Natural History Museum. Now my plan had been to spend the day there, meandering through all the different sections and reading as much information as possible. However, the second I walked through the doors, I realised that that wasn’t going to happen. It was so incredibly busy, and boiling hot! Not a great combination when you are already struggling with anxiety!

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I tried to enjoy myself as much as I could but after about an hour, I gave in and left. I moved on to the Victoria and Albert Museum, hoping that that would be quieter, unfortunately, it wasn’t. So after a quick dash through the V&A and a quick pep talk from someone special, I picked up the guts, ignored my anxiety and decided to go to the British Museum.

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The British Museum has always been one of my favourites as it includes a lot of ancient Egyptian history and Ancient Greek history, two of my favourite topics!! Yes, it was busy and hot like the other 2 museums, and yet my anxiety was a lot less there.  I was able to distract myself with all of the awesome history that surrounded me. I drowned out the illogical brain and all of my anxieties, I was actually able to enjoy myself!

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Multiple hours were spent here just wandering around looking at all the different artefacts and then realising two important things:

1) How many plaques said ‘now missing’ or ‘now destroyed’ and it made me sad to think about how much history we have already lost and would never be able to discover!

2) That the Natural History Museum didn’t have any information that I saw about the current crisis and what we can do to help to stop more extinctions, etc to happen.

The journey back really tested my anxiety and fear though. It was just before rush hour, but people were already there and pushing. I decided to let one train go as it was so busy and full that I knew it would be a recipe for disaster. The next train was practically empty and I was able to avoid a near-certain panic attack.

Now for those who don’t suffer from anxiety, this day just sounds pretty calm and ‘normal’. For me, however, it was a HUGE step. It allowed me to see that I can push through and not let anxiety run my life. It also showed me that London isn’t such a scary place to explore on your own! Would I do it again? Definitely!! I’m already planning my next trip in!!

If you suffer from anxiety…what do you do to stop it? How do/did you overcome it?

Chunky Veggie Chilli

One of our favourite recipes is chunky veggie chilli and we wanted to share the recipe with you!

Ingredients (for 4-6 people):

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 onions
  • 3 or 4 carrots
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tspchilli powder (we use mild)
  • 2x tins red kidney beans in chilli sauce
  • 1x tin mixed taco beans in chilli or tomato sauce
  • 1x 500g passata
  • 1x tin of sweetcorn
  • Tortilla chips to serve
  • Guacamole
  • Soured Cream

Method:

  • Roughly chop all the veggies
  • Cook in oil until fork tender
  • Add the spices and cook for a further minute
  • Add the beans and passata and cook till hot
  • Serve with tortilla chips, guacamole and sourced cream
  • Add some grated cheese if you fancy

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My Story Isn’t Over Yet…

As I’ve mentioned before…I suffer with anxiety and depression and as much as I would love to be happy all the time…sometimes I slip. And what I have come to realise is that its okay! It’s okay to not be happy all the time…it’s okay to slip and be down. Life is tough and sometimes you end up questioning everything. That has been me for the last 3 weeks.

Certain life events over the last couple months has meant that I have ended up questioning every aspect of my life! Now those of you who know me, know that my life has been far from easy. I have been through a lot and I’m sure that there will still be plenty more ups and downs to come. But you know what…my story isn’t over yet! My past does not dictate how I will live my future.

Someone super close to me introduced me to ‘Hamilton’ by Lin-Manuel Miranda and there is a line in it that has really stuck to me. ‘There are a million things I haven’t done…but just you wait!’. I am only 26 years old…I still have the rest of my life to go, plenty of time to do the million things I want to do. I can also look back at what I have accomplished…I have completed a research masters degree, which if you’d asked me whether I would have done one 10 years ago, I would have said no, and planning on doing a PhD.

Whilst talking to my best friend about my situation lately, she reminded me of another line in ‘Hamilton’ and it goes ‘I am not throwing away my shot!’ and I decided this week that I won’t. I won’t let my depression and anxiety get the better of me. I am going to fight it and I’m going to get better. I won’t let myself worry about whats going to happen in 5-10 years time. I am just going to focus on what I want to achieve by the end of 2018.

I also just want to thank those closest to me who have been a support through this tough time for me! I really appreciate every single one of you and I love you all dearly. I know I can be a lot to handle and that I say things I don’t mean when I am down. But know that I really do love and appreciate you!

So I might have a million things I haven’t done…yet…but what about you? What is a song lyric that sticks with you and helps you?