Dec 10, 2009

Thank you, praise God, it's all over!!!

For those of you who speak Portuguese, you'll be humored to learn that the first words/thoughts I had after surgery were in Portuguese. For the first 3 days following surgery, Portuguese came first, and then the English, and now it's all primarily English--"que pena!"

As I slowly type this, I am back in the Quad Cities, in acute rehab--which means I'm still hospitalized, but close to home. The PT and surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic thought the intensity and focus that I'm receiving here would help speed my recovery. Everyday is a little easier than the last, as my brain heals itself, and works out new pathways. I can walk by myself now, but I haven't tried out my Brazilian platform boots yet.

Speech comes slowly, but only those who knew me well can notice. And, I get my nods for "yes" and "no" confused a bit. Andrew claims that it is pretty cute. Andrew stayed in the hospital room(s) with me, while we were in Cleveland--never leaving my side while sleeping in chairs--some comfy others not so. He's been my rock--my gift from God.

Well, if all goes well, I should blow this pop shop next Thursday--with a weekend pass in between then and now, so, if you should see me around town in my Brazilian platform boots this weekend, don't be too surprised.

Thanks again for your prayers for "nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37

Nov 23, 2009

Life is going to be a gush of non stop busyness starting Wednesday, until we can catch our breath--hopefully by January life will take up its normal flow. My in-laws are arriving Wednesday from Minnesota, and will stay on with the girls until we arrive home from Cleveland. The girls are crazy excited to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa. I know that they will have a great time just hanging out and eating Grandma's good German cooking. We all are also so looking forward to Thanksgiving, and spending it at the Fernando home with so many special friends...and I am ever so grateful that I didn't have the surgery before hand, so I could totally enjoy the blessing of being back in the States with these amazing people and their culinary gifts!!!

We broke our contract for the new house, as on further research and with help from the energy company, we learned that the EMF levels were ridiculously high by the pond, and around the walking trail. High, consistent, EMF levels, have been found to be possibly correlated to childhood leukemia, and adult brain tumors--since we already have one of those in the family, we decided we really didn't want to risk any more! So, we are back to square one...should we build, or buy? I thought house shopping was supposed to be fun???

I want to thank you again for all of your support. I receive way to many compliments from you all on my strength. I know that the faith of my friends and family, is what keeps me strong when the road ahead of me looks bleak--it is your faith and your prayers that carry me farther than you can imagine. Thank you.

"Do you believe that I am able to do this?" Matthew 9:28

Nov 19, 2009

My surgery is scheduled for December 3rd, two weeks from today. We will leave here the Sunday or Monday before that Thursday. Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. I apologize for any folks that I have not written a proper note of thanks to, but please know I am so grateful for the prayers, e-mails, cards, calls, etc. The best part of this crazy tumor has been the out pouring of love, prayers, and support! :)

My scripture verse thought for today: "Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again." (Psalm 71:10)

When I feel the cold, I can say "He sends it,"
And His winds blow blessing, I surely know;
For I've never a need but that He will meet it;
And my heart beats warm, though the winds may blow.

L.B. Cowman

Nov 15, 2009

"To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else." Emily Dickinson

It's been a busy week, filled with great things...

First of all, we met with my neurosurgeon, on Tuesday, and we went over my latest MRI. We were testing to see if the edema could be MS, an infection, and to see if there were any changes/growth etc.. The test showed that the probability of MS is very low, and the "tumor" has not grown--praise God. It still looks to be a low-grade glioma in my frontal lobe. For having an in-brain tumor, it's a good thing. My doctor--said again--that it is only by God's grace that I am walking, talking, and laughing due to the sheer size of the tumor. The fact that it is large and I am functioning fine, also points to the idea that it is very slow growing, and has most likely been there for years. He feels that since I am now symptomatic, I really should get it out before it breaks through my system's threshold, and I start developing more negative effects from it than I currently am. He also gave me much hope in having a long, normal life span, as he believes that there is a 99.9 percent chance that it will not grow back. God is in control, and He holds all of our days in His hands.

We have two surgery dates booked. One is for December 3rd, and the other is for December 10th. I will know tomorrow which one will be the one. (We are waiting on the radiology department). I will be arriving 3 days prior to surgery for tests and prep work, and then after the surgery we will be at the hospital for about 5 - 6 days, and then a day or so in a local hotel to monitor things, and then, we will be headed home with the tumor removed, and 6 weeks of recovery, before our return trip to Cleveland for a check-up. There is a possibility that I could temporarily lose speech and movement in my right leg, but I am super optimistic, that I will have little to no complications!!!

The other great news we have, is that we actually found the land/house we have been looking for. We've been watching all of the real estate sites for the past 8 months or so as we really wanted to get out of the work of building on our land, and we really didn't want to remodel anything either (our current house has been a big enough project for us). So, we've been looking for that "perfect" ready to move into property. On Monday night, a new listing appeared with 11 acres, and a 3 acre pond,, we e-mailed the owner that night, he responded that same night,we looked at it Tuesday, made an offer Wednesday, and signed the preliminary papers Thursday. The closing date is December 15th. We have looked at so many properties, and this is the only one that we both fell in love with simultaneously. The Minnesotan in me is so in love with the pond, and the country boy in Andrew, loves the space, the large detached garage, and the John Deere tractor that we will have to buy for mowing and snow removal. :) I have so missed swimming, jet skiing, and ice skating--all of those great things that were available on practically every corner of my growing up years in Minnesota, and now my girls can have that too!!! The back side of the house is all windows overlooking the water, and there is a one mile walking trail around the property--great for P.E. classes!!! To say the least, we are so grateful, and I look forward to recovering from surgery in my little Minnesotan oasis in Illinois.

Love and hugs to all from us!!!

Nov 4, 2009

Written Wednesday November, 4th 2009

  • I had my second MRI today. We are looking to see what is happening with my uninvited guest upstairs, and to rule out some other potential options that the edema could be or could be caused by.

  • The MRI was at 8:30 this morning, so the girls toted their school books along to the office. On the way home at 10:15, I decided I better stop by the mall at one of those drop in salons, "no appointments necessary," to have my highlights touched up. Due to the risk of more seizures, I am not allowed to drive until spring, so finding time, and opportunities for frivolous but important things like getting my hair done, have been hard to squeeze in. Plus by the evening my body is shot, and by that time I really don't care if my hair is blue or pink (blue is the best though, right Margaret?) So, since it was morning, and I still had my energy, my vanity won and Andrew dropped the girls and me off at the mall with their books in tow, and he headed back to Deere.

  • Upon entering the salon, 5 beauticians sat in the back of the shop chatting away. They looked like a friendly bunch, so I greeted them, and asked if they could fit me into their schedule that morning. Before answering one of them rudely accosted the girls with, "why aren't you guys in school?" I deflected her accusatory tone from my girls who have enough to think about right now and told her that, "I have a brain tumor that induces seizures, and am not allowed to drive, so when I have an opportunity to get out and have my hair done, I take it, and I take my kids who are home schooled with me." Silence. I hope they are nicer to the next person that comes in to their little shop. There are 2 main things I have learned from this experience...the first is, don't judge a person--period--we have no idea what they are carrying, and the second is, people are generally wonderful, generous, and overall extremely amazing loving beings.

  • Besides for the all encompassing fatigue that hits me like a freight train throughout the day, I feel great. I am using my time and my energy, purely for my little family right now. E-mails, phone calls, and visits, are difficult to accomplish by the end of the day. But, I once again need to thank you all for your kindness and support. I received a gorgeous lavender prayer quilt from a group of folks that I don't even know if I know from Brainerd, MN. I have it on my lap as I type. Whenever, I need to lie down, recharge, and let the peace of God consume me, I reach for this precious blanket and my Kari Jobe CD (thanks Jen), and remember all of the prayers that have been prayed on my behalf. THANK YOU!

  • It is now Friday, November 6th...We ate out at our favorite Indian Restaurant for lunch, and were thoroughly enjoying forgetting that life is anything but normal, when my neurologist and neurosurgeon walked in. They are both wonderful kind and compassionate men, but I didn't want the reminder right then as I was so enjoying "normalcy." There were no vacant tables at the restaurant, so they asked if they could sit with us...(LOL)! I guess God doesn't want me to forget, but to just look this challenge straight in the face. It looks like we will be having the surgery in Cleveland a week or so before Thanksgiving. We're hoping to be home, and to celebrate our annual Thanksgiving feast with the Fernando's and all our good friends there. And, Eleanor and Izzy, if I do make it, could you please sing at least one song with reversed parts? :)

Love, hugs, and prayers to you all from the four of us!!!

Oct 24, 2009

We visited Cleveland Clinic (in Cleveland, Ohio) this past week. It's number 6 in the U.S. for neurosurgery. We met with the chief of neurosurgery there, who gave me about the same information that I received at Mayo Clinic. His techniques are different, (etc), so we are going to speak with our local neurosurgeon on Wednesday, and present him with both doctors plans of attack and see if he has any adivce on which Clinic to go with. We are also scheduling another MRI, to see what is happening with the edema. I am desperately hoping it is gone, and that this was just an infection of some sort. The doctor in Cleveland said that there is a small chance that that could be true, so I am fixated on that right now, as it is a much lovelier option than the glioma (brain tumor). lol

  • While in Cleveland we took the girls to Lake Erie and collected some beautiful sea glass on the shore that we are going to use to make a small frame. The girls are being so awesome about all of this. They sat in the lobby for 3 hours by themselves during some of my consultations just playing and chatting it up with the staff.

  • One of the top comments/questions I am asked is regarding my hair, and what will happen to it due to the craniotomy. Well, the good news is that they just make a very small incision across the top of my head and flip the skull bone back to do the surgery. There will be barely any hair loss. (yay!)

  • Please add my precious mother-in-law, Linda, to your prayers as well. Last week, we learned that she has breast cancer. I will be updating how she is doing on here as well. At this point, they are just holding tight, as their appoinments don't start until next week, Thursday. I will post her updates here as well.

  • Thanks once again for all of the prayers and support. The prayers sustain me in a very tangible way. Throughout my life, as trials have come and go, I have always felt God walking by my side as I tackled the problem at hand. But, this time, there is not much I can do of my own strength to change these events, and I do feel God carrying us through it.

  • "The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philipians 4:7
  • Love and hugs to you all from all of us!

Oct 9, 2009

I discovered this song while living in Brazil, and loved it, but it has become even more precious over the past few weeks: "Healer", sung by Kari Jobe

Well, I really should be cleaning up this much "loved" little yellow house, but I thought it's probably a better use of time to give a little update to my dearly loved friends and family. Honestly, I am doing amazingly well. I spoke with a friend today who told me that, when speaking with her sister, she reminded her that her problems weren't so bad considering that she has a friend who has a brain tumor and needs "brain surgery." Hmm...are my problems really all that bad? I don't know. I still feel ridiculously spoiled and loved by God, family, and friends. Life is good, and God has been faithful, and He will continue to be faithful no matter what the outcome of all of this is. I have seen God answer the prayers of a very sad little girl, in a broken home, who prayed so earnestly for a good husband for herself and a good daddy for the children she would have when she grew up. Well, here I am, married to the most amazing man. Andrew has always simply been the best, and yet through this "trial" as we call it, I have seen an even more beautiful, precious side of Andrew than I have ever seen. He's the trusest of the true--I am blessed.

God opens and closes doors, and He has never closed a door that when looking back, we wish He would have left open. Looking on our past, I know our future is safe in His hands. The months ahead may be challenging, but it could be so much worse. I don't have it the worst. I don't have an inoperable brain tumor. There may be side effects from the surgery, but the fact is I am super lucky compared to so many. I dare not complain when we have been so blessed with so much. We've had so many blessings in just the past 3 weeks and, so many good doctors, who have bent over backwards, and have signed papers that say that they are not comfortable with doing my surgery, which allows me to jump out of our insurance network and go to the very best doctors available in the States--and thanks to those doctors who have put their professional reputations on the line and signed those papers our insurance covers the surgery costs. God is so good. Blessed I am. Love, and Brazilian style hugs to you all.

The Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. Isaiah 30:18

Sep 28, 2009

We are on our way to Mayo Clinic. We dropped the girls off with Grandma & Grandpa at their "farm," so they should have a blast and are removed from the boring doctors visits and any of the stress that comes with it. Grandma is going to be keeping them going with their homeschooling and they are very excited to show her what they do! :)

We are thankful to have gotten into Mayo so quickly. :) We have appointments over the next few days with neurosurgeons and neurologists. It'll be nice to have a little bit more info to help us decide what to do next.

Thanks again for all of the prayers, e-mails, packages, visits, food, juice, etc...We love you all, and are every so grateful for YOU.

Sep 26, 2009

Hey friends and family,

I just want you to know that I have been recieving your e-mails, and am ever so grateful for the love and the support. I cannot respond to everyone at this time, but will do so as time allows. I just want you to know that I appreciate your well wishes, and offers of help. I'm sure we will be taking you up on some of it, as our pets and kids would rather hang out with all of you than at the doctor's office! lol

God bless you all and big hugs to everyone! :)

Sep 3, 2009

Hello friends and family!!!
I have been away from this old computer for a long time, and will be away for awhile as we continue reaclimating and simply enjoying our life in the States. In a month or so, I will try to squeeze in the time to post updates and what not. We are all doing wonderfully...busy with the joys of kittens and bunnies, and all things that go along with girlhood and family life in America.
We said "goodbye" to my Grandma Bette recently, as she passed away on the 17th of August. She will be greatly missed. We are all just so grateful that we were home and I was able to see her one more time here on this earth.
God bless you all, and we'll have to chat soon!!!

May 13, 2009

Happy 8th Birthday Sweet Makaela!!! The birthday morning, looking out the window watching for Daddy to arrive for lunch.

Happy Birthday!!!

Laura stopped by before the party to drop off a gift--beautiful scarves that her mother crocheted that can be used as a belt also.
Our birthday princess
Daddy being silly as usual

Makaela received LOTS of books so she can keep using her Portuguese! :)

Giving each other "pedicures" with the sparkle lotion Makaela received
Makaela had a wonderful 8th birthday! Everything was princess pink, including her. The fun continues for Makaela as she is anticipating celebrating her 8th birthday again when we arrive in the States. Since we are so close to our return date, the grandmas didn't send the presents on to Brazil, but on to our little yellow house back home in Illinois. We are planning a birthday bash back home where friends and Grandma's can participate. It's been two years since the girls have shared their birthdays with their grandparents, and they are anxious to start up the tradition again!!! :)

Last night was very sad for me, as I am such a selfish mommy wishing time would slow down--maybe even come to a full stop--a pause button would be nice. I cried for a long time after my little Makaela went to sleep, all pink and basking in the glow of new presents to play with in the morning. I honestly can't believe how fast the baby years and the toddler years slipped through my fingers. Now we are in the school girl years which are the sweetest yet, but how fast they too are escaping me. I want to capture every moment and bury it deep in my heart to treasure forever. I hate every memory that has eluded me. I don't want to forget anything. Every year the joy deepens and the fun increases as the girls come more into themselves, but at the same time I have a piercing longing for things to stay as they are, and a reluctance to let go of who they once were--my babies.

May 5, 2009

The girls are really loving softball now!!!

Salto do Yucuma on Saturday afternoon

Our crazy friends--too close the edge for me!!!

Throwing a stone from Brazil to Argentina

Andrew and Makaela enjoying the view

Friday nights with a Max Lucado video and their favorite "stuffed" animals

Friday afternoon at the Tres do Maio fair

This rickety old thing was a little too rickety for our tastes

This was the girls' first ride that took them anywhere off the ground. They appreciate that I'm loosening the apron strings a little bit!!! lol

Five weeks until we leave for home!!! Last night Makaela was talking about going home, and she said, "it feels like forever (until we leave), when I think about how it's like heaven there (the U.S)."
All of us, except for Makaela, are nervous about going home. We are so pumped and ready to resume all of the little details of life that we miss, and yet are a little uneasy about going through the transition from one culture to the next again. There are weird little things that start to seem normal, and some habbits that you're not sure if it's universal, Brazilian, or American--whether it's how you drink water out of a water bottle, to stopping at stop signs--to how you greet your friends, so many things are different. We are also afraid of forgetting all that has happened here, of forgetting all we have learned. We are planning on continuing Portuguese lessons weekly, and a good friend of mine from here will be moving to Moline, with her family in September. It will be so awesome to have her in town. She has two kids the same age as my girls, so it will be nice for all of us to stay in touch with our Portuguese and the culture the girls have assimilated into.

We aren't planning anymore trips in South America. Our last trip to Argentina left a bad taste in our mouths. :) Everything is harder to facilatate here. Makaela is right when she says the U.S. feels like heaven. It does in comparison. Brazil is gorgeous--the areas that God made that is. Illinois doesn't really compare to it's tropical beauty, but the infrastructure back home, is a paradise in and of itself. Our trip to Buenos Aires, left us stranded between angry tobacco farmers blockading the road, and a ferry that had already closed for the day. The police and milatary were useless, and were wholly at the mercy of the farmers. So, we sat for 3 hours on the road while a lot of the folks around us decided to get drunk and party--what else is there to do, right? So, when the farmers were pleased with themselves, and felt that they had sufficiently disrupted transit, they moved the blockade, and let 100 angry cars, half of them drunk pass by---oh, my word--that was pretty freaky to be driving down a one lane unlit highway in the dark with everyone trying to pass everyone else!!! And, the story continues...but, it's too long...but the moral of the story is we will enjoy the ease of traveling in the U.S.!!! :)

Apr 22, 2009

Road blockade in Argentina

Things I learned on the way to Buenos Aires, Argentina from Horizontina, Brazil
1. Cross the ferry to Argentina at your own risk, once across, you may have to wait until the next day to get back to Brazil due to 2 hour lunch breaks, and 5 p.m. closing hours.

2. Angry Argentinian tobacco farmers have more power than the Argentinian police and the Argentinian Miliary.

3. My girls are brave and strong. They are going to be so much more than I will ever be on this earth. They can do cartwheels, skip in ditches, & wait 7 hours to use the restroom while the world stops around them.

4. Corn sandwiches are good.

5. Driving 14o kilometers an hour on unlit backwood Argentinian roads at 10 o'clock at night in order to catch a bus that is already on the move is NOT fun.

6. A semi-cama (bed) bus is not comfortable, but is SO much better than the cheap seats on international flights.
7. Buenos Aires IS beautiful, romantic, charming, dirty, exciting, scary, poor, posh...

8. Feeding hundreds of pigeons in front of the Casa Rosada in the heart of Buenos Aires was worth all of the stress of getting there.
9. Experiencing your children's firsts is awesome, experiencing firsts together is doubly awesome--riding on a subway together for the first time in the heart of Buenos Aires--priceless.

Apr 16, 2009

Hi there again!!! Wendi--you've given me back my blogging bug--lol!!! :) I took these pics of the girls this morning. I loved the way the sun was dancing through the oarnge tree on our driveway, so I shot the pics there. Makaela dressed herself in those adorable Brazilian cowgirl boots this morning, and that was my inspiration to drag them outside and capture the magic of her style sense. Also, the girls got bangs yesterday!!! It cost me 75 cents to get them bangs, and 6$ for a manicure AND pedicure for myself. Terribley cheap!

The top picture of Makaela, is of her holding our last can of vegetarian hotdogs (until we return home)! It was a big deal, let me tell you!!! We ate them all up for lunch today! :)

Also, we have an American who moved next door last week, so the girls are having fun spoiling him with gifts they leave on his doorpost. The pic of Mak holding the red bag, is one of his "surprises" she made this morning. His fiance, will be coming in June, once they have married!!! They are neat, neat couple--too bad we won't be here for much longer to enjoy them!