Showing posts with label Birthday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birthday. Show all posts

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Finding My Person

This year I turned 36 and I received an unexpected surprise to celebrate my birthday.

I previously shared how birthdays turned from once an enjoyable experience to one of emotional devastation along with other milestone holidays. 

When I turned 35 last year, it was my first birthday to celebrate with my boyfriend, Mike. It remained a difficult day for me but Mike and my coworkers did their best to help me celebrate. However, it was the best birthday I had experienced since 2015 when a close friend of mine came to visit from out of state and took me on a full day birthday celebration. I learned that my birthday could be a day to look forward to with Mike. 

This year's birthday was even better. Not only did I not feel alone but I also wasn't consumed by my usual emotional turmoil surrounding milestones. I attribute part of this to the unanticipated healing experience I encountered through a Reiki session in April. I've noticed since this Reiki session that I have significantly reduced the frequency of time I fixate on my life expectancy and my fear of losing my parents. This reduction was helpful to allow me to focus on celebrating my birthday rather than focusing on negative and fearful thoughts. 

After my divorce, my views on relationships and marriage greatly changed. I never expected to allow myself to feel deeply for another person again after my divorce. I unexpectedly found a great love again after my divorce that would end after a year together. While this break up was a painful experience, it taught me that I could indeed love deeply once again. With this knowledge tucked away, I remained open to finding love again in the future although I didn't let relationships overly worry me.

Me and Mike

I happened across meeting Mike through a dating app and didn't expect much of anything to occur. He seemed nice and a week after our first date, he started asking to see me a couple of times a week. I encountered a few emotionally difficult incidents which were complicated by the sudden departure in my life by a couple individuals who I had thought cared for me. Mike, however, stood by me and was extremely supportive. Within a month, we decided to become exclusive and we found ourselves falling in love with one another. He soon began to collaborate with me on Life's a Polyp by creating designs for Life's a Polyp Shop and brainstorming ideas with me. His son even inspired two characters that are featured in my children's book about Familial Adenomatous Polyposis that is being published in 2022: Life’s a Polyp with Zeke and Katie

Before I knew it, our relationship reached our one year anniversary and we were talking about spending our lives together. I am opposed to marriage and Mike is indifferent to the idea of marriage. We agreed we would some day exchange commitment rings when we were ready to commit our lives to one another but we would not seek legal marriage.

To celebrate my birthday this year, Mike surprised me with a commitment ring. So, of course, I provided him a ring in return. 

I'm thrilled to share that I found my person!

3 rings
Our 3 Rings Together

When we shared with Mike's son about our commitment rings, he asked for one of his own too!

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Turning age 95 with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis

95th birthday celebration

Carleton Myers turns 95 this June. He has Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and has had an ostomy since about 1948. He has seen a lot in his years and a lot of changes in the management of this rare disease and ostomies. 

Carleton's mother likely had FAP as she died from colon cancer in 1928 at the age of 28. She was adopted so there is no further family history of his mother available. His father lived to be nearly 105 with no history of colon cancer or FAP. Carleton's only sibling, Elmer, was first diagnosed with colon cancer and FAP and Elmer's first son also had FAP and died in his mid 30s. Carleton and his wife, Sheila, 91, have 5 sons who have all tested positive for FAP. Two of their grandchildren also tested positive for FAP.

This is an interview with Carleton conducted by his son, Kevin.

    What were things like when you were growing up with FAP?

    I managed it very well; it was right before I went into the service. I didn't have too much trouble then; it was after that when trouble started. When I learned we could have an operation to take the large intestine out completely, I did that, and it was successful.

    When did you first find out that the operation could be done?

    It would have been probably around 1948. That's when I knew what had to be done because my brother (Elmer) had it done in the early 1940s. He was out in the South Pacific and they sent him back because of it. He had a lot of trouble and hospitals. He managed to survive it. He died when he was 42. Other problems that this brought on, I guess. He had a lot of trouble before it. I didn't, I was fortunate enough to be younger than him and they were learning more and more about it and what they had to do and that saved me.

    How did you find out about Henry Ford Hospital and Dr. Block?

    I went there when Elmer found out that he had cancer. In two months, I went in and had the whole rectum system out because that's where it started growing in my brother. Because he had his intestine out before me. I didn't know which way, but I had good doctors. Just as soon as we found out that my brother had cancer, I had everything taken out.

    You never expected to live into adulthood when you were a teen, is that right?

    I was hopeful about getting into my 40s. That's what I was shooting for, that I could get that far. I got that far, and I kept going. What they did to me originally was taking all of the polyps that were left after they took out most of my large intestine, they left about 6 inches and the rectum. I had to go in many times to get polyps removed. Once Elmer found out he had cancer, I went immediately and found a doctor and had the rectum taken out - it was about three months after that. All of you (my children) were look at in your teens.

    Do you have any recommendations for anyone now that has FAP?

    I don't know what the doctors are doing now. I was just so glad to be living.

    What was it like knowing about FAP?

    Sheila - Scary. I knew it was going to be a battle.

    Carleton - My brother wrote me a letter right away and I immediately got a doctor to do it. My brother raised me because my mother was dead so didn't have much choice. 

Myers Family
Carleton and Sheila in the middle
Their son, Kent, and his wife at top left
Their son, Keith, below Kent on left
Their son, Kevin and wife next to Keith
Their son Kory on bottom left
Their son Kurt on bottom right

Carlton and Sheila at their 75 Wedding Anniversary
Carleton and Sheila 
75th Wedding Anniversary
Carleton passed away at age 96 on 10/16/2022 after viewing the Autumn leaves changing with his son, Kevin, and daughter in law. By all accounts, he died peacefully.

Carleton had an ileostomy and in recent years had surgery for an urostomy as well. He had Diabetes and some difficulty walking without mobility aids but in general was doing well with only rare intestinal blockages and maintained a well intact memory until Sheila's death in June 2022 - afterwards his health began to decline rapidly, per his son, Kevin. 

Michigan started a Familial Adenomatous Polyposis Awareness Week each year during the week of June 16 to honor him. Find out how to help further honor Carelton's legacy and FAP/AFAP patients where you live with the FAP/AFAP Awareness Week Proclamation


Updated 10/20/2022

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Sensory Deprivation Tanks

I've wanted to try out a sensory deprivation tank for years now and this year, for my birthday, I finally went to one.

Sensory Deprivation is also known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy. A sensory deprivation tank is a float tank that contains Epsom salt (800 pounds or more) in a small amount of water to allow an individual to effortlessly float. Floating in salt concentrated water allows pressure to be removed from joints, muscles, and tendons. The tank is closed to eliminate all sensory tasks including light and sound thereby allowing the entire body to enter a deep level of relaxation and process information and thoughts in a new way without distraction or strain. The water and air are heated to skin temperature to reduce the sensation of water on the skin. Benefits can include reduced joint, muscle, and nerve pain, improved sleep, energy, creativity and mood with a reduction to depression and anxiety. Soaking in Epsom salts helps soothe sore muscles and irritated skin and reduce swelling thereby helping with minor aches and pains.

My boyfriend and I went to a local float spa. Each suite had it's own sensory deprivation tank and
private shower. We were instructed to shower, using their provided products, before and after entering the float tank. The reason to shower before is to remove any oils or body products that would enter the tank water and with hundreds of pounds of Epsom salts, one would want to wash again afterwards to remove the salt water. The tanks could be left open or be closed and offered a blue light that could be turned on or off as well as sounds. We both decided we wanted the full experience and so we turned off the light and any sounds and kept the tank closed. We were offered ear plugs to further reduce sound and help prevent water from entering our ears. The suite and tank weren't completely sound proof but the float spa was kept quiet and soothing music was quietly played in varying areas of the spa. A head flotation device and spray bottle to rinse your eyes of salt water were also available.

We laid with our heads at the end with the blue light and quickly discovered just how buoyant we were in the saturated salt water. We both kept floating around the tank until the water settled from our entering the tank and disturbing the water. Any movement inside the tank would disturb the water resulting in floating around the tank once again. The water felt silky when touching my skin due to the high level of salt. The salt water could cause slight burning to any open skin that was cut or irritated. Protective ointment was offered to help reduce any stinging from the salt water. We started floating with our arms down by our sides, however, we both felt tension in our shoulders and neck in this position. I found stretching my arms above me to be comfortable and my boyfriend remained with his arms down by his sides and stated that eventually his shoulders and neck relaxed after a period of time. We both have neck problems so I'm not sure if the shoulder and neck tension we both experienced was related to our neck conditions or if others would have the same experience. My boyfriend also has chronic nerve pain in his back and lately his knee has been bothersome as well (we've since learned he had a meniscus tear so no wonder his knee was hurting). I noticed completing a full body stretch in the tank was very pleasurable and felt better than typical stretching outside of the tank. My boyfriend reported reduction in pain after the float but was experiencing pain again by the evening time.

I had a difficult time shutting my mind off in the beginning of the float by towards the middle of my float time I was able to experience a meditative state. My boyfriend became so relaxed he almost fell asleep during his float. There are many benefits to meditation and a sensory deprivation float helps to reach a deep meditative state by relieving the body of sensations. Some of the benefits of meditation include to reduce stress, anxiety, pain, and improve sleep. Meditation becomes easier and more effective with practice. I would conclude that this would be the same for sensory deprivation floats as well. Visit here for a list of relaxation techniques you can complete at home.

Overall, we both enjoyed our float experience and would recommend it to others.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Birthday Struggles

birthday balloons girl running

My birthday is a bit of an emotional roller coaster at times for me and has become increasingly difficult for me to enjoy as the years pass by. I shared earlier this year about how my birthday and New Year's start a period of mourning as my fears about the future are intensified. Over time, birthdays have changed from a triumph of survival to a period of mourning.

Often individuals enjoy taking off from work on their birthdays as a way to celebrate. I prefer to work on my birthday so that I can be surrounded by coworkers and celebrate with them versus being home alone on my birthday. This got me thinking and I realized that even as a child, I felt that my birthday wasn't anything special - it was insignificant - which led me to feel that I too was insignificant. I didn't deserve anything significant to occur on my birthday and it was significant when someone remembered to wish me a happy birthday. As the mourning of my birthday years worsens with time, I particularly do not want to be home alone allowing myself to wallow in my mourning.

Since I entered a brief period of depression surrounding my birthday last year, I expected the same to occur this year. I was pleasantly surprised with myself when this didn't occur - at least to the depth of last year's birthday. I struggled in the morning with feelings of sadness and even welled up with tears at times but I was able to fight off the tears and turn the day around by the afternoon. I pushed away my fears about the uncertainty of the future and instead I enjoyed my the birthday lunch my coworkers provided me and appreciated all the birthday wishes from loved ones and even strangers online. I thought I would be in an emotionally fragile state once I got home and asked a friend to spend some time with me. But once again, I surprised myself and was comfortable in my alone time.

Although the sadness I tend to experience around my birthday lessened significantly, I also didn't experience a surge of triumphant feelings about survival either. And that's okay. I was content with a lessening in sadness allowing me to more greatly enjoy sharing my birthday with my loved ones.

Whatever holidays serve has painful reminders to you, may the next be easier. Sometimes our fears and mourning never fully dissipate but they can lessen and we can still enjoy the good times, particularly with others. It can help to utilize coping tools to reframe our negative thoughts to allow us a reprieve.

Here's to an even better birthday next year.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Milestone Depression


I never was one to attach a lot of meaning to holidays or birthdays, they were just another day, another year. Sure I enjoyed celebrating with loved ones but they remained just another day. I even recognized birthdays as a milestone of survival. However, my outlook on holidays drastically changed over the last couple of years for two particular days - my birthday and New Year's. Now I enter a period of mourning around these days in anticipatory grief over what the future holds.

I have always wanted my parents to outlive me and there were times that this was nearly the case. I fear the real possibility of outliving my parents. And as I age, this fear has intensified. My birthday and New Year's have become to serve as painful reminders of this fear as I become another year closer to my fears becoming reality. I no longer enjoy these days, instead I become overwhelmed with fear and depressive feelings - spending hours sobbing while my mind is consumed.

As a child and teenager, there were times that my doctors were amazed at my survival of times that I wasn't expected to live through. Afterwards, I was convinced that I would not live past age 21. When I turned 22, I was overcome with feelings of bewilderment and grief at passing 21. I had come to accept my death and was prepared for it. I didn't know what to think about continuing onward with life when I was utterly convinced I wouldn't see 22. My health was still precarious enough that it wasn't unreasonable to think my life was limited. Age 21 has come and gone and now, I find age 40 to be a prime limit to my life. At 40, my parents should still be living and they would be recipients of my life insurance policies that would allow them to be taken care of financially and medically in their older years. My parents' comfort and security is more important and means more to me than a long life for myself nor do I want to endure the loss of my parents. As selfish as that may be, their loss is a tremendous fear of mine and I truly believe they would handle losing me better than I would handle losing them.

And so for the day of and a few days past my birthday or New Year's I am overcome with mourning for another year added to my age and my parents' ages. This state doesn't stay for long but it is long enough to remove any joy these holidays may have held for me in the past. I try to remind myself during these days to enjoy the time that we do have together and no one knows the future. After a couple of days the intense feelings extinguish themselves until the next year when they are renewed with acuity once again. The fear remains with me on a daily basis in the back of my mind, however, not as acute as on these particular holidays. Most days it is easily manageable as I practice reframing my bothersome thoughts and distract myself with activities. It's important to focus on the present so that we don't get lost in the fears of the future.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Celebrating Birthdays and Survival

survival and birthdays life's a polyp

Today I am 30 years old. Most people fret over reaching 30, leaving their 20s and "younger days" behind. My mind is elsewhere today as I survey my life in awe. I've miraculously reached an age I never believed I would reach. I have surpassed ages I shouldn't have passed. Like many with chronic health issues, being told that I shouldn't have survived a situation or I'm not likely to live past a certain age isn't new to me. I've heard such statements since I was 9 due to complications and medical negligence and again throughout high school and into college during a several year recovery period from my reversal and subsequent complications.

I recall lying my head on my mother's lap as she sat on the couch stroking my hair and I told her how I loved her and said my farewells. I could feel the life draining from me, peace beginning to surround my spirit. I was uncertain how many more moments I had remaining but I knew they were coming to a close. I watched her tears run down her cheeks as she gazed upon and told me how she loved me. I had never felt such peace and have never again since this time.

I was back in the hospital soon after, veins being pumped with electrolytes and blood coursing life back into me for another day. If this had been delayed in its delivery by a few more days, I wouldn't have survived. There were many weeks my doctors weren't sure if I'd live to see them the following week due to risk of heart attack or brain seizures. Over the following years my health would gradually improve and become stable again.

Due to my ongoing health crises, I came to fervently believe that I would not live past the age of 21. I held this belief so firmly that I completed all of the end of life documents and arranged the details of my funeral according to my wishes and distributed copies of this information to my executors of my will. This belief was further cemented as I began to develop precancerous polyps within my stomach and my pediatric GI doctor predicted I would develop stomach cancer by the age of 30. The treatment of which I was still unsure I would be willing to subject upon myself.

My conviction was so strong that I was left amazed when the clock struck midnight on my 22nd birthday and I was still breathing. How could I still be living? I have wondered this many times throughout my life. I have been prepared for death for 2 decades and at times I feel as though I have been teased with death and the chance for peace from my health issues, particularly on the most difficult days. I remain ready for the day of death, waiting for the day that I was told would come so long ago.

And yet I continue to survive. And survive quite well in my opinion. I had many years of struggles and presently I am battling chronic nausea, pain, and difficulty eating after a recent hospitalization. I remain standing amidst the battle. Cancer free. Precancerous polyps free.

I have learned a lot over the course of my disease and I have gained a unique understanding of myself, life, death, the world, and what Familial Polyposis (FAP) means for it all. FAP isn't a death sentence to me. It doesn't guarantee to shorten my life simply complicates my life. I won't know how it affects me otherwise until the progression of developments occur. FAP affects each person differently to a drastic degree. My grandfather had very little problems after he received his ileostomy until his death at age 81 from stomach and esophageal cancer due to the FAP. Others are not so fortunate and children are presenting with symptoms and precancerous polyps at younger and younger ages. Each person's story and battlefield is different though in the position of landmines. I refuse to believe I have no choice in my footing amongst the landmines though.

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