Laying to Rest

We laid my father-in-law to rest yesterday… a diagnosis made 2 months ago, and the fight following did not result in success. Not all fights can be won. He was spared much suffering, but leaves an empty space.

A wise man said to me a few days ago that even if the wish to die is not there, the knowledge of Jesus and His loving grace is there. That makes death a pause… not a permanent end. And life has been worth living, he is now sleeping in the knowledge of Jesus return to take us all home.

It does not ease the pain. We want to keep close that which is precious to us. We want the physical touch, the conversations, the knowledge the other person is there when we need them.

We were touched by the love of the people that loved him too. Cards, texts, emails, presence at the service.. it’s a wonderful thought to know he touched so many lives.

Life will go on. The missing will not get less, but life will be a new normal which takes getting used to. Memories will be relived and stories retold. All the ‘firsts’ will be hard. This is not unique to this family, all of us have to deal with loss, a tearing apart of a connection. Death is the enemy. But glad we know Jesus, who is Life!

1 Timothy 6:12

Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for it was to this life that God called you when you firmly professed your faith before many witnesses.

Because He lives

As I was driving down the motorway, reflecting on the day and the sad news that sickness is winning over life, the song below came to my mind. I copied the full lyrics… and maybe that is just enough for this blog post.

It sums up my sentiment pretty well. The future is the only thing that allows me to get through these days and I know that is the same for my family.

God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and the joy he gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives.

And then one day, I’ll cross that river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then, as death gives way to vict’ry
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives

Because he lives
Because he lives

Written by William J. Gaither and Gloria Gaither

I hope that where ever you are, and what ever you are going through, this song gives you as much courage to face tomorrow as it gives me.

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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Gratitude

Every day, I like to wake up and remind myself to be grateful of the simple things – Miranda Kerr

Maybe this quote speaks to me cause we are name buddies… or maybe it’s because I like to be reminded that the little things are not really little… these are the important things.

This weekend we spend some time hanging out… going to a pumpkin patch, driving around in the zoo (yes… driving.. Mel can’t walk too well just yet) and having a pizza at the Pizza Hut.

In my book those are not little things.. these are really important connection moments. Moments to soak up the sun, have fun together and just do nothing at all.

Little things… that’s what makes big things!

Below a few pictures that typify the day.

Sorrow

We are all different. We all experience events differently. We all have different coping mechanisms. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade…. some say… don’t worry about tomorrow, is what God says… I care for you today and every day…

But then you hear the words from a doctor no one likes to hear… we are talking about lengthening life, not healing… and suddenly the crazy world is upside down….

My previous post I referred to my father in law being sick… now we know how very serious it is…

what to do next…. everyone has words of advise… diets to follow, pills to take… all meant very well ofcourse. No one wants to say goodbye…even if this world is not our home, we are still at home here and saying goodbye till we meet again is very hard.

How do I cope? I am very good at pushing things away… not thinking about it is better than trying to deal with it.. other members of my family are different… we are all so busy and suddenly we are all forced to slow down…

I have spent these last days in an imaginary world… a world of make believe.. where miracles happen… even if it’s just fairy tales, I know my God is in the miracle business… not all miracles have happy endings… but for sure our end is sure… He will come back to take us home. We will be reunited with our loved ones.

And that keeps me going more than anything!

Let these flames be a prolonging of my prayers….

Pancakes

It’s maybe not my all time favourite thing to eat, but it’s probably a very close second….Dutch pancakes with cheese and pineapple… or pancake with apple, cinnamon and sugar… or just simply pancake with stroop…. or I have been known to order all 3… just for me…

The family was deciding what to eat…. and it soon transpired that one of our nieces is waitressing at a pancake restaurant….as we would not have an opportunity to see her on our whirlwind visit, and we love pancakes… the decision was quickly made…. pannekoekenhuis!!!

A quick call to make the reservation, ensuring we would sit in her section, and asking if they would not tell her…. and off we went…

The family is loud… everyone talking over everyone else, laughing, joking…. but surprisingly she did not hear us until we all stood in the doorway, waiting to be seated…. judging by her face the surprise was a success… at least for us loud bunch…

The pancakes were delicious! Being waited on by one of the youngest nieces a pleasure… her boss allowed her to sit with us…. memories were made!!! we missed those not able to join..

My earlier post spoke about illness in the family, and the unknown ahead… that’s when these moments are most precious….

There is this song by The Isaacs… the words are below…

The sentence ‘I don’t know about tomorrow…. I just live from day to day…. I don’t borrow from it’s sunshine…..

It speaks to me…

we may not see each other again… but the pancake moments remain!!

I know who holds tomorrow

i don’t know about tomorrow
I just live from day to day
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey
I don’t worry o’er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I’ll walk beside Him
For He knows what is ahead
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow,
And I know who holds my hand
I don’t know about tomorrow
It may bring me poverty
But the one who feeds the sparrow
Is the one who stands by me
And the path that be portion
May be through the flame or flood
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood
Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand

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

Living with a hidden (not so hidden) illness…Part 2

So here I am almost a year after writing part 1. I thought it was about high time that I updated everyone with my situation as a lot has happened over the last year!

So back in the beginning of the year, I had just had enough of waiting and so I made another appointment with my GP to chase what was happening. I finally found a GP who took my case seriously and chased it up for me straight away.

Fast forward a couple months and here I was waiting at the hospital for my first appointment in almost 2 years! I knew that I wasn’t going to be seeing the same specialist as last time which made me a bit nervous. However, the second I met my new doctor, that anxiety went away. I explained my case to him and he was upset to hear that my case had ‘slipped through the cracks’ for so long.

Well this is where it all changed for me. Normally these appointments only last about 10 minutes and I tend to come out of them still as confused about what is happening than when I went in. Well this time, the specialist took a long time to really understand my situation and to update the notes on the system to include as much detail as possible. He took the time to really explain to me what was happening inside my body and what my options were. Well, lack there of. He called in the head of department and between the two of them, they fully discussed my situation with me and put me at ease.

After a quick feel of my abdomen, they noted very quickly that unfortunately my fibroids and my uterus had hardened meaning my only option was for surgery. And not just a small surgery which we had all hoped for…but quite a serious one. My fibroids had hardened at 15x15cm. This meant that my uterus had grown to the size of 7 month pregnancy. All of these factors meant that the surgery incision would have to be a midline incision from above my belly button…all the way down. They tried to put me at ease saying that I should get an anchor tattoo afterwards to hide the scar and something that is fitting with me.

After about 5 minutes of laughing and coming up with ideas…they sat me down and talked me through the procedure and the recovery time. This was the bit I was most afraid of. When the doctor starts the sentence with ‘There is one more thing and some women think that this is outrageous…’ my mind instantly fills in the blanks. I knew a hysterectomy could be on the cards for me. I had been previously told that the risk was extremely high considering my situation. However my chance was actually at less than 1%!!!! AND the chance of having kids afterwards would be high! So not only would I be getting my life back, but my chance of having kids wasn’t completely ripped away from me!

45 minutes later I finally left the hospital knowing exactly what the plan of action was. And here we are…less than a month away from my operation. Yes my anxiety plays up from time to time thinking of all the ‘what ifs’ but I am just going to take it one day at a time.

First things first…I have a lovely trip away with my mum for a well deserved holiday (for mum) and a great distraction for me! See you on the other side!!

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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