A Good Day 2/27/12

Monday, February 27, 2012

Today is Monday and my surgery was 12 days ago. I am so glad to report that today I had my PCA pump turned off (the pain pump) turned off this morning and have switched to strictly oral pain medications. It was a big step, as the pain pump is much stronger than oral medications and also delivers a great deal more relief than an oral pill can, but so far it is working. I am happiest about one simple fact, I have no pancreas pain! That was something that I honestly was not 100% sure about because many people who have had this surgery report something called "phantom pain" but I do not have that. The only pain I feel is incisional pain. That pain can be overwhelming at times, but I get through it with my medications and an ice pack. I don't know what I would have done without an ice pack! Sounds so simple, yet it has been a staple in my pain control. This makes me so excited and I can't wait to cut down on the amount of pain medications needed each week until I eventually reach my final goal of a normal life: no narcotic pain medications!
I am praying to the Lord that all goes well tomorrow and that I am allowed to leave. The docs say that I had a 2 day "set-back" the day that I threw up blood and needed a transfusion. So, even with the minor set back I am still ready to go home and I am really proud of that. I have worked hard on the transplant floor by sitting, walking, moving, keeping my brain busy, and most importantly praying. I have never prayed this much in my life, which I am not proud of. I could not have gotten through any of this ordeal without prayer. Every single time that the doctors would say something was "wrong" or not quite right" I would pray out loud. That is something a little new. I would also ask my parents to pray with me and my friends too. The morning of the set-back I kept praying and eventually I had a calm come over me that let me know I would not need surgery. God was there with me. 
Something that is hard right now is eating. Eating is so difficult because I do want food, and I have cravings all the sudden. However, I can't eat what I am craving or the pain would be out of control. I would love a bowl of Spaghetti O's...weird right? I have not had those since I was 6. But if I actually ate those, I would have pain. The pain from eating is pretty intense. I usually have to go to the rest room, if you know what I mean, about 30 minutes after and it can be so severe that I feel like it will never end. Luckily it always ends, it is just something my body will need to get used to. It sounds like no big deal, but the pain is so intense it is really hard to explain it in words. Tonight I am trying vegetable beef soup. 
The diabetes is an adjustment. I have to give myself insulin for every 15 carbs I eat. I so far have had well controlled sugars, but even though they are controlled my doctor wants to protect my islets for at least 6 months. That means I will have to take insulin every time I eat for at least 6 months. I will count all the carbs and cover my carbs. If I am ever high I will need to take insulin to lower my sugars too. I am getting the hang of it, and at first I am sure it will be a lot of carb counting, but I will get used to it before long. 
I want to thank all my friends for sending cards and gifts to me. Just when the day would drag on and I would get sad, something would arrive at my door and raise my spirits. I am so thankful for all of my family and friends and feel God has blessed me with incredible people in my life. My room is decorated by my friends with love and all of those things help make a recovery less depressing and much more soothing. Sometimes it drags on and I am just ready to go back to my life, but all of the love and support really helps me keep looking towards the future. I know I would not be doing this well if it was not for my faith and for God. He has helped me so much, there is no other way to explain how well I am doing. I have been blessed with a pretty much seamless recovery and I know that this is because of God. Tonight, I am feeling very thankful as I lay in my hospital bed blogging (and watching the bachelor). This life is so precious and sometimes we just blow through it without really taking the time to be thankful. I know that this surgery has given me a whole new life and a whole new way to look at life. I am grateful! 

Breaking out of Here

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Today is Sunday and it has been a while since I have updated. I entered the UMC on Thursday Feb. 16th and today is Sunday Feb.26. That makes a total of 10 recovery days, since surgery went all the way until late evening, and I am starting to feel like that length of time is more like 20 days! I am so ready for my own house, hot shower, and warm bed (and a bonus of interrupted sleep). I have told my doctors that I want to switch over to oral medications so that I can make sure my pain will be controlled at home instead of on the IV pump. I have decreased my IV pain medicine usage quite a bit today and last night, which seems like a step in the right direction.

I have been walking all over the place and even ventured outside with friends today. It felt so nice to get out for a little bit even if I was in my pajamas. They tell you to sit up in a chair and walk as soon as you can. I did not take that lightly. I began walking so early that the occupational therapist and the physical therapists never got a chance to work with me as I had mastered all of their "tasks" prior to meeting them. These things included stuff like putting your socks on, grabbing water, sitting up and getting out of bed, and walking around the halls.  I have been taking real showers, which is great progress from where I started, and that little step makes me feel so much more alive. Today I even put on my makeup and dried/styled my hair.

A few things are still struggles here and I know that this recovery can sometimes be a "one foot forward, two feet backwards" (as my doctor phrased it) type of progress, but it really seems that is the case tonight with FOOD. I never needed a feeding tube and my doctors don't put one in unless you need one or want one for a particular reason. Basically you begin eating when you get the NJ tube out and can eat. I tried this the day I got the tube out. I had jello and Popsicles (sugar free, since I am now diabetic). Those went fine, but then I decided to go wild and eat half a mashed potatoes, which is not a memory I like to remember:-( Needless to say, eating has been tough. Since, I have stuck to soups, which make me ill after eating and I have yet to master this task. Tonight, I was craving cottage cheese and corn. We will see what that is all about. I find this the hardest part of the recovery. When you eat it doesn't feel warm and fuzzy in your stomach. This could be because the surgery takes pieces, cuts, and re-wires parts of the digestive tract.

Things have overall gone well. I had a minor "set-back" the day of the internal bleeding scare. I required 3 blood transfusions and after that I was back to my normal self. Since that day (I believe 4 recovery days ago) I have kept my blood (H and H) at a normal level, which was God answering my prayers and my friends prayers. I think I am just ready to go home at this point. I still don't feel excellent, but I am very lucky to have a recovery that is going this well, and I am so thankful to God for that. I will be very happy when I am tube free and sleeping in my own bed. I do feel like the end of the tunnel is so far away, but I also feel like I am so lucky and blessed by God to be here in this postiion that I am in tonight in my hospital room. For tonight, I am going to cuddle up with my Mama and watch some good programs. Tomorrow will be another great day of recovery and hopefully I will make some big strides. Praying God helps me tomorrow with making progress in the right direction, checking out of my hospital room:-)

Day 6/7 February 22nd

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 6:
Hello bloggy friends! I am back, yay! And I need something...prayers! You see we have not posted since day 5. Let me fill you all in about day 6, and if you are thinking about getting this surgery please don't let this worry you. I just want to tell the whole story, predominantly for me, and when I look back at my life and see how far I have come. A virtual journal of sorts, but we will see how far I get this morning without interruption in the hospital, which rarely happens.

So Day 6 started out like any other day. I woke up and my dad was with me. He "shifted" home for a shower and some sleep while she slept in to spend the day. We had a good day, nothing special. Just hanging out. Then around noon, my doctors came in and said that I could go to "full-liquids" so I ate jello and had some delicious Popsicles. All was going well and they changed the diet even more by evening saying that if you are "going to the restroom" and all is "awake" you are fine to eat. Normally, I won't touch hospital food, but that day I didn't have anything else so I ordered a chicken noodle soup and a side of mashed potatoes. I didn't eat the soup, it was too horrible, and I played with the potatoes. I think I ate about 5 bites. Somewhere then I started crying in pain and all of my medical staff assumed it was the food. I got some medicine from the PA when we saw him and tried to fall asleep. I was too tired to care about anything and was ready to just sleep. I was now with my dad, since my mom had shifted home to sleep. I told him my stomach had hurt the worst and how upset I was, but we both fell asleep.

I woke for a bathroom break and at that time (around 4 am) I got sick. We won't go into detail but it involved bleeding and throwing up. Talk about scary. I had read about side efforts 500 times, but I still held out hope that sort of thing would not happen to me. My nurse was so sweet in keeping me calm. Her name was Lauren and she was such a great nurse while she kept me calm and told me these things happen. After a chest X-Ray and a Abdominal X-ray it was determined that there was a small pocket of air in the abdomen. It now seems the doctors had a new stress, the air pocket. They needed to know why it was there and if anything was bleeding. My H&H (hemoglobin being one, the other not sure) was low at 5. That is really low. Needless to say at 6 am I was signing consent forms for surgery and they were talking about going back in for exploratory surgery. If anything was bleeding they would fix it. I was looking at my dad with tears and we were praying intermittently. It was scary!

Day 7:
The surgery never happened and once my attending physician got to me he wanted to give me blood transfusions and do a real CT Scan in the afternoon. He liked the results the blood transfusion was giving me, and after 3 he said he wanted to wait and see. So day 7 was a quiet, nervous day. We all (Mom, Dad, and Myself) sat here and waiting for the transfusions to make me better, then went to the CT Scan, watched some TV shows on my laptop and tried to not talk about the fact that I could be having another surgery. Finally around 8pm, my doctor came and let me know that we did not need to surgery. He said the blood I was putting out was left over from the day of my surgery. I was bleeding when they resectioned my bowels and everyone sort of seemed to think that it the problem. However they did say we were 75% out of the woods. They said that as long as the air pocket and bleeding clears up on its own, I am out of the woods.

Friends and family, please please please pray that the bleeding and the air pocket clears up on its own. It makes me so worried to even think about the second part of being in the OR. I hate the thought and if anything happens it could be a possibility. Again, lets pray that the Lord puts His arms around me and makes all complications leave or heal in my body. Thank you friends,

Day 5: February 21, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Whitney is making progress! :) I'm always shocked by Whitney's passion for life :) She sure is a fighter.

So for Day 5 here is the latest...

Areas of Praise: Whitney walked 2 different times around the nurse's station for a total of 6 laps!!! Wooohoo!!! Get it Girl!! :) Her NG tube came out!!! Her foley catheter came out!! For goos this time since Whitney was able to pee two times!! Sometimes as I may have mentioned before after someone has a catheter it is really hard to pee so this is super exciting believe it or not! She was told by the nutritionist that sips of water are okay. The Dr.s even decreased her IV fluids since she can now sip water. She received no insulin today and even had a bowel movement. (TMI? Maybe! But from a medical standpoint this too is exciting because this means her bowels are awake and responding well to her surgery! Ohhhhh the things that get your blood pumping as a nurse ;) She is off of oxygen too!! And lastly Whitney called me!! Always nice to hear her voice :)

Areas of Prayer: Whitney had a chest x-ray today which revealed some fluid in her left lung. Drs. aren't too concerned for now but still this is something we pray doesn't cause any trouble for Whit. Also Whitney has a hematoma or bruise on her abdomen and her incision is slightly swollen. Again, Drs. aren't too concerned right now and let's pray it stays that way. Whitney said she was short of breath when walking so she wasn't surprised with the chest x-ray findings. Let's pray Whitney doesn't get any complications from surgery and continues to progress.She mentioned she did have a temp of 100. I know she is in good hands at UMC and they, as well as the man upstairs are watching over her but let's all pray Whitney remains infection free and the temp subsides. As always pray for manageable pain.

I don't ever want to downplay the surgery Whitney had. Whitney and I talked about this and thats why I am writing the good, the bad and the ugly. This was a major surgery and we are all so grateful Whitney is alive and recovering as well as she had been thus far. We love this girl sooo much! This
surgery was right for her. The pain she has told me is different than before and for that we are grateful.

We thank you all again for your love support and prayers. Whitney has never felt so loved.

Love and Prayers,

Feb. 21, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I want to thank all of you once again for your prayers, texts and calls.

Many of you have asked for the address and wanted to send flowers.  Whitney has asked that if you want to send something please make a donation to the hospital.  There are families who come to Tucson for this surgery and it is a  huge strain on them emotionally and financially.  If you would consider making a tax deductible donation to the UMC Foundation, 655 E River Rd.,  Building 2, Tucson, AZ.  85704 it would be appreciated.
**VERY IMPORTANT make check payable to the UMC Foundation and on the MEMO LINE of the check state:  Islet Cell Transplant Program Dr. Rilo/Yates.**It must be marked with is this info!!

Whitney DOES NOT receive any of the money.  She will not know how much was donated by the individual but she will be given the name so she can send a thank you.

Thank you...Whitney (Janine)

Day 4 Pictures

Monday, February 20, 2012

Whitney with Dr. Rilo!!!!

Whitney sitting up in a chair!!!!

Day 4: February 20, 2012

Whitney is settled into her room. Decorations are up and looking fabulous!!! I believe Whitney posted the address to where cards can be sent. Cards would really brighten her day so feel free to send one! I know she would LOVE it!!!!

Here is the address for you  to contact her:

The University of Arizona Medical Center - University Campus
Attention: Patient- Whitney Yates
1501 N. Campbell Ave.
Tucson, Arizona, 85724

Went to visit Whitney at UMC today!!!

Here is a day in the life of Whitney after 12pm when I arrived in Tuscon:

12pm: Arrived at UMC. Whitney informed me before I arrived that she can have sugar free candy. Brought Whitney WAY too much candy!!! (Honestly she is now good for life!) Nutritionist is allowing ice chips and sugar free chewing gum so that hopefully she will start passing gas. (Sometimes your bowels get sleepy after surgery. Gas is sometimes a good thing!! ;)

1pm: Dr. Gruessner and his PA came into see Whitney. It was sooooo cool to see the man who performed the surgery and virtually saved Whitney's life!!!

He told Whitney, "She walked in a healthy, normal girl and not in a wheelchair and that she will walk out of here healthy and normal". He encouraged Whitney to "rest" and "take it easy".
 He told Whitney 115 thousand islet cells were harvested and placed in their new home (the liver). He told her Dr. Rilo is pleased with the quality of the cells. He said not to focus on the quantity of the cells but rather the quality of the cells. Whitney currently has 2 JP drains. One to each side and he said if they drain less than 100 ml in one day they can talk about taking them out! The left sided one is leaking a lot unfortunately. :( Her NG (nasograstric) tube was clamped today (meaning its no longer hooked to suction=no more drainage from abdomen) and may be taken out once she is passing gas!!! He said to be careful not to have it taken out too soon because she may have nausea and it would then have to be reinserted.Whitney was bummed that some staff members have made comments about the amount of pain meds Whitney is receiving but Dr. Gruessner assured her they "don't know" about her circumstance. They may attempt to take the catheter out again tomorrow...Her incision to her stomach looks good :)

1:30pm: Charge nurse in to talk with Whitney about her stay.

2:00pm: Director of Nursing/ICU visited with Whitney. One of the nurses told Whitney she saw Whitney the first night and she looks "great" today!

2:30pm: Dr. Faucett (One of Whitney's favorite residents) came in and told Whitney she may put another stitch to the left JP drain site to help it stop leaking. Whitney was able to walk one whole lap around the nurse's station, felt her heart start racing and said she could "hear it in her head". She decided to sit in the chair for awhile to relax. Whitney showed me how good she was at her incentive spirometer and even did it 20 times! (Goal is 10 times an hour to prevent pneumonia!) :) Love her positive attitude! Whitney started to feel dizzy while sitting up and fell in and out of sleep....

3:00pm: Peripheral IV in her right wrist was taken out. One less tube!! Hooray!!! Dr. Faucett came in to put in some sutures in her left JP drain. She numbed the area around it first and put two more sutures in! Whitney was so brave and didn't even shed one tear! YOU GO GIRL! Whitney's heart rate has been elevated in the 120s (Normal is 60-100 beats per minute) which could be due to surgery and her pain level. Dr. Faucett said she came in towards the end of surgery and that when Whitney came out of anesthesia she just open her eyes right up and simply said, "I'm confused". The anesthesiologist told Whitney to relax and close her eyes and she told him, "I'd rather not". :)

3:30pm: Time to rest. She looked good. I am surprised by how with it she has been and how she is able to carry on conversations. Whitney sure is a strong girl!!

3:45pm: Nurse's assistant came in to check Whitney's blood sugar. Her blood sugar was 143 which is higher than what they would like. Whitney was bummed to hear she would be getting insulin again. Second time since surgery. The RN came in to give Whitney insulin and showed Whitney the size of the insulin needle. After getting the insulin Whitney said, "that didn't even hurt!" Whitney's oxygen dropped slightly and she was put back on 2 L of oxygen and felt better. They will probably take the oxygen off again tomorrow.

4:00pm: Trying to rest. IV pump beeped at least 7 times.... So annoying... poor Whitney :( Stupid pump... Whitney's left JP drain continued to leak despite the attempt to stop the leaking. A new dressing was applied to each side since both were leaking... stupid drains....poor Whitney has no rested more than 15 minutes :(

5:00pm: Dr. Rilo came in to visit!!! Again, it was amazing to meet the other man who virtually saved Whitney and gave her her life back. His bedside manner was awesome! He was extremely personable! He told Whitney that she will get insulin if her blood sugar is greater than 110. He wants to protect the islet cells.

5:05pm Dr. Faucett told Whitney she looks "awesome" :) They are going to try and take her NG (nasogatric tube) out tomorrow and her catheter out tomorrow!!! :) Let's hope she can pee!! :)

Areas of Praise: Whitney is getting better day by day! She walked and even sat in a chair! Every one kept telling her how good she looked :) Let's pray this continues!

Areas of Prayer: Whitney's Mom got sick :( She wasn't able to go visit Whitney today so let's pray she feels better soon!!! Please pray Whitney is able to pass some gas and can get that tube out of her nose! Also let's hope tomorrow after the catheter is out of her bladder she can pee. (Sometimes after a catheter is in it is hard to pee) Let's hope that catheter is out for good!!! Pray she remains infection free and continues to get stronger!!!

Thanks for all the prayers and love!


Day 3- February 19, 2012

Area of Praise: Day went pretty well. Whitney got up to the chair today!!! Whitney attempted to go the bathroom without success. Found out that Dr. Rilo got a total of 115 thousand islet cells which is better than no cells.  Let's hope they are happy in their new home :) Pain pump is still every 6 minutes and working when needed. Whitney even had some visitors! (Shayla and Arie) Room is decorated and looks GREAT! Whitney also made her first post on facebook:

This is my first status update I've made myself since my surgery. I'm alive, well, and so thankful. Life is a gift from God, so go out and enjoy your gift today!

 And biggest news is.... Drs said that Whitney is too healthy for the ICU! Time to move to the transplant floor!!! So Whitney is now settled in her new room!!!! :)

Area of Prayer: Whitney and her family were a little discouraged by the number of islet cells harvested as the average person has 1 million islet cells and Whitney only had 115 thousand due to Whitney's diseased pancreas but they are trying to stay positive.They tried to pull Whitney's catheter out as I mentioned but Whitney was unable to go the bathroom. She had to be strait cathed and then eventually had the foley catheter put back in.... Please pray for happy islet cells and better success with peeing :)

Love and Prayers,

Night 2

Whitney continues to recover. I worked last night and Katie spent the night with Whitney so we texted all night long. Kara, Katie's husband and Katie's two little boys went to Tuscon. Since only one visitor can stay the night, Katie spent the night with Whitney at UMC. Whitney's parents and Whitney's mom's good friend Eileen were able to go out to dinner and get some rest while Katie stayed with Whit.

So for night two here is the latest:

Area of Praise: As I mentioned Katie spent the night with Whitney. Whit was so excited Katie was coming up to visit her, and told Kate she was excited to be "sleepover buddies". She also told all the staff Katie was coming and that she was a nurse :). Katie was able to braid Whitney's hair, massage her feet and help get Whitney comfy. Whitney's surgeon adjusted her pain meds to where she needed them to be so she was able to get some rest (very minimal).  They did an ulstrasound of the portal vein (which is where they injected the Islet Cells through) and it looked good. Katie is an AMAZING friend! Love you Katie :) You hands down win friend of the year award!!!

Area for Prayer: Katie was worried to fall asleep that night because she was worried Whitney would wake up in extreme pain. Whitney only gets pain meds every 6 minutes through a PCA (pain-controlled analgesia) pump. If Whitney doesn't hit the button every 6 minutes she doesn't get any pain medication. Katie text me at 2 am that night that her fear came true. Whitney woke up in intense pain from not hitting it every 6 minutes. Some may argue that if you are able to sleep that you don't need the pain medication however, as a nurse myself I know that when people who have pain wake up after not getting any pain meds they are hurting!!!!! Pain is pain and no one should ever judge someone who says they're in pain. Doctors are working to find a solution that works to keep Whitney comfortable. Please pray Whitney gets some rest and that her pain continues to lessen.

Love and Prayers,

Whitney's Second Day-Feb.18, 2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Whitney is making progress.  They team of nurses and doctors are doing everything to manage the pain.  We are in a socity where we want it now and it has to be now...well not everyhing is that way.  We must be wait and be patient.  Patience is a virtue.  I am working on that! 
She has again sat in a chair and is doing her breathing work.  I always knew my daughter was stong in opinion and mind and at times it was a challege but now I am forever greatful for that quality in this lovely young woman.

Day 1

As I may have mentioned before I told Whitney before her surgery I would try my best to keep her blog up to date for her readers. Know that Whitney loves each of you and is grateful for everyone's prayers, love and support. She couldn't have done this without you.

Each day I will post about areas for praise and areas for prayer as Whitney continues to recover. This journey is far from over and each day presents new hope and challenges for Whitney.

So for Day 1 of Recovery-February 17,2012 :

Area of Praise: Whitney was able to sit in a chair today!!! Whitney didn't remember getting up later but the fact that she was able to get up is crucial to the rehab process. Blood sugars haven't been too bad. The doctors let Whitney's mom know that this could change at any moment but for now we can be grateful Whitney's blood sugars have been pretty good. Whitney's mom also informed me that Whitney has a nasogastric tube that is draining fluid from her abdomen and that the fluid color is looking better today than before. Doctors are pleased with her progress thus far.

Areas of Prayer: Whitney still continues to have a significant amount of pain. The doctors are doing their best to control her pain but pain is still an issue. Whitney's mom text me last night that they had to medicate Whitney prior to repositioning her and Whitney's mom said to a staff member, "I'm glad she won't remember this" and Whitney replied, "I'll remember!" Also, her mom texted me that last night Whitney complained of being "hot". She didn't have a fever but the nurse rechanged her dressing anyway. This was definetly scary to think about... Let's pray today that Whitney's pain is manageable and that Whitney remains free of infection.

Again we are so grateful for each of you. Whitney really wanted to inspire and help others by starting this blog. She is one of the bravest people I know and is so strong.

We LOVE you Whitney!! Can't wait til you can read this and see how far you have come!!!
Thought I would end this with a picture of Whitney at the end of the Purple Stride Walk!! At the end of the walk she was so happy and full of life. You can do this Whitney!! Like I have told you a million times I know you will get your life back and get to do all the things you have dreamed of! Day by day Whitney!!!

Love and Prayers,

Whitney Day after surgery

Friday, February 17, 2012

I am so glad this operation is behind us.  Thanks to each and everyone of you for your thoughts and many, many prayers. 
The pain is very difficult. We were warned but until you are living it you just have no idea.  They are trying to manage with various drugs and it is working.  Matt her night nurse explained that the pain does not go away, we are just trying to manage it.  Matt was her gaurdian angel last night. Many thanks to this caring young man.
The doctors are very please with her progress.  Everything is looking good at this point and we are very greatful.
She sat up in bed and even made it to a chair today.   Baby steps!
I have been home catching up on sleep and her dad did the day shift.  I am heading back now to spend the night with my baby.
Many thanks to God for giving us these talented men and women in our lives.  They save and comfort those in need.  God Bless!

Prayers Needed!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


An update to the last post, Whitney is in need of some serious prayers for the pain she is currently experiencing.  It is a pain I am sure many of us cannot even begin to imagine.

We need these prayers tonight and in the days ahead to get Whitney through this.

Thank you!

Whitney Update- Post Surgery

Goodbye Cranky Panky!

The surgery went very well.  Her pancreas is out and she is awake!  Her pancreas was hardened and atrophied about 1/2 the size of a normal pancreas. We are fortunate they did not have to take out her spleen but they did take part of her small intestine and stomach.

The doctors were able to harvest islet cells and the doctors are very pleased with the results. WOO HOO!

The family has been let in to see her and she is awake and able to speak to them although she is on heavy pain meds.She is still in extreme pain and prayers are still VERY IMPORTANT.  Thank you to everyone who has been praying around the clock for our dear friend.  This is truly the best gift anyone can give right now.

As soon as we have more updates I will post. 

Sorry my posts are not as clever as yours :)  We love you very much and you have no idea how many people have been praying for you and your family.

More updates to come.


The Latest

 Just got word that Islet Cells were successfully taken from Whitney's pancreas and the surgical team is now going to transplant them into her liver. Let's hope they got a good amount and that her liver acts as a good host. Again the procedure won't be over for another few hours. Let's keep the prayers coming! :)

Pancreas Update

The pancreas was hardened and atrophied. 1/2 the size of a normal pancreas. Did not take out spleen. 4 hours to extract islets, another 2 hours to transplant. She is doing good. Keep those prayers coming. Hope we are done by 6 or 7 tonight!!!

Farewell Pancreas

Hello readers,

This is Whitney's friend Jenny. I told Whitney I would do my best to keep her blog updated as best I can :)

I just got word her pancreas is OUT!!!! So far things have been going well and as expected. Please keep praying! Now her pancreas will undergo a process where doctors will remove the Islet Cells and inject them into her liver through her portal vein! She is doing great in surgery according to Dr. Gruessner. Thanks for all the prayers so far and let's keep them coming. We know Whitney appreciates them.

Whitney wanted me to make sure every one keeps praying even though the pancreas is out! Please continue to pray that everything goes well. This journey isn't over yet and we still need lots of prayers!!! Thanks for all the love, support and encouragement.

1 More Day

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I found this on Facebook and thought it fit my life perfectly
right now. I need to remember this Thursday.
Before we left the house for Tucson today, my Dad asked if we could say a prayer. In the middle of the living room my Dad, Brother, Mom, Eileen, and Myself all gathered in a circle. I looked over at Ozzie (our beloved Vizsla dog who is part human) and I said "Ozzie is looking at us so weird, he doesn't know how to pray." We said an "Our Father" and Ozzie ran into the middle of our small circle and stood the whole time. It really was something that will forever be an unforgettable moment in my life and probably in all of the people present in the room, including Ozzie's, lives. Praying with your family, taking the time out to do things we normally don't do when all is going really well, is something that I cherish in all of this "mess" of the pancreas surgery.

Today I have cried the most during this whole process. I don't think I have ever been this afraid in my entire life.  I have learned that this surgery has many "unknowns" which is why I am having a difficult time. There is no uniform recovery, and all bodies are different. I could be a brittle diabetic, a moderate diabetic, or not a diabetic. After the diabetes, there are other "could be's" that I can't dwell on even though my mind does think about them. This surgery is not simple and has complicated risks. It is also the only surgery available to help me get my life back and help me reduce pancreatic cancer risks. So with all of that being said, today I have learned that in order to make tomorrow better and to go through with this on Thursday morning, I have got to have FAITH in God. I need Him to lead me, because leading myself will not work. I need to turn all of this fear over to God and let him do what he needs to do. He knows what I want and I believe He will fill those desires I have in my heart.

Tomorrow I will go to church and light a candle and pray some more. I will enjoy breakfast since it will be my last meal for about a week. I am planning to go to my favorite breakfast place here and I am pretty excited! I also have some exchanging of some pajamas to do, which will keep me busy. Father Keiran, our priest, will be coming tomorrow night and he will be in the waiting room with my parents all day, which makes me feel better about making my parents wait for me for 14 hours. He will be anointing me tomorrow and praying with me. I love that he is coming.

Katie, my oldest friend, is going to come up later in the day and we are having an old fashioned sleep over. I think I spent at least one night a week with Katie doing sleepovers at each others houses growing up, but sadly Katie is married and can't have sleepovers anymore! So lucky for me, she is leaving the hubby and kids home for the night and staying with me. She will wait until I am off to sleepy land the next morning before she leaves to go back to the kids. The great thing about Katie is that she is a nurse and worked in the OR, so she sees these things everyday. Also, Katie is a natural calm person, the kind that could have a train run through her house and she would just slightly notice! What I mean by that is she is very laid back- something I will need when I fall asleep tomorrow night and the next morning. I pray tomorrow is better and that God will calm my nerves tonight and help me relax. If not, maybe the Ativan the doctors prescribed for the pre-surgery jitters will do the trick:-)

Address of the UMC

So many people have asked so I wanted to be sure to have this as a post. I will be in the ICU for the first 3-7 days so as much as I would LOVE flowers, I wouldn't get them since it is the hospital policy! I would love letters though:-) That will cheer me up! Love to all of my kind, caring, friends. 

The University of Arizona Medical Center - University Campus
Attention: Patient- Whitney Yates 
1501 N. Campbell Ave.
Tucson, Arizona, 85724

Walk for Whitney and PurpleStride

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Heather, Whit, Stacy- so HAPPY to see these two! 
My girls from the hood! Or at least our hood??? Love these girls and will
miss trying new restaurants with them while I recover:-( 

My Litchfield Girls, and offspring #1. 

All the Theta girls and Lindsay's son Jordan.

Team Whitney
"Walking for Whitney"
What an amazing turnout! THANK YOU FRIENDS!

A huge turnout! 

My Dad and I just arriving.

We went "Walking for Whitney" today at PurpleStride, a walk put on by PANCAN (Pancreatic Cancer Action Network). It was the first walk and what a success it was! It drew a huge crowd and my crew alone was about 40 people! I was so honored and impressed with my amazing friends. I don't know what else to say about them other than they are the best friends I could ever ask for and more. Cheesy? Not even good enough to describe how much support my friends have given me. My darling sorority sisters, my high school friends, my family friends, new friends, work friends, etc all came today to support me. Even a man that my friends spoke to last night about my current situation came out to support me! It was a blessing and just another way God is speaking to me about my life. He has let me know that I have been blessed with the gift of family and friendship to an exaggerated extend. I am a lucky one, no matter what happens, because I can never be alone with faith, family and friends. Thank you for to all the friends who came out to support me and this cause, as well as those who made donations online. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Final UMC appointment before the surgery

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Walk for Whitney" with me on Saturday because
I am the cutest baby in the world. (He told
me to tell you blog friends that)
The next time I arrive at the UMC entrance my whole life will change. I will be accompanied by Mom, Dad, Brother Tyler, Mom's childhood friend Eileen, and Katie, my oldest friend! I will have feelings that are new, uncomfortable, and scary. But, by the time I am wheeled out of there after the first part of my recovery, I will have a new lease on life and will forever be changed, inside and out. My mind will never be ready to have this surgery, but my body has been ready for months.

Today I met with my head surgeon again, for a final time, to talk about the surgery and ask any last minute questions. My dad had the perfect questions, he is so good with his words, and we talked them out step by step. I kept looking at the light bulbs in the room, because I read in my very scientific Cosmo Magazine that if you feel like crying at work (the advice column titled "What not to do as a career woman") look up at the light bulbs and it will actually do something to the tear duct and help you stop the flow of tears. Dr. Gruessner's greatest concerns as a surgeon doing the surgery include: number of islet cells and portal vein clotting in addition to complications arising from a major surgery. The complications include bile leaking, blood loss (this is a common one, I signed consent to have transfusions), liver issues from rejection of islet cells or bleeding of the liver, and just overall affects of anesthesia for a lengthy period of time.

At this point, Dr. Gruessner has said no to robotics. I feel at peace with this because I was never that confident with it. The pancreas is at great risk for damage if done using robotics which would mean loss of islet cells. I have complete confidence that Dr. Gruessner is the best surgeon for this job. He told me that if I was his daughter, he would do this surgery and tell her to go for it, which is what my own father thinks as well. I then met with anesthesia, went over my history and had a brief health check. I had to get many labs drawn again (my poor veins are damaged from so many pokes). After, I had a migraine from stress and a great deal of pain. The PA (physicians assistant) Rob, who I have already come to love, wrote me some prescriptions to help with pain. He wanted to admit me given what had happened to me last night, but really didn't want me to get sick, so he gave me a wonder drug that helped so much already with pain.

When we left I had crazy thoughts. I told my parents maybe I should just stop this and start going back to yoga, vitamins, holistic doctors, and praying. We laughed, I came to my senses (I honestly tried this method since April with no avail) and I know this surgery is the right option. I won't give up hope that God will heal me as a miracle and we will cancel the surgery. On the way home we prayed together aloud, my Mom, Dad and I. We said an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and my mom lead us in her own prayer. And just like that my headache went away and so did my pancreas pain. Amen.

Update and What I learned Today

Update:  My dad and I set off to the Mayo Clinic (40 miles from their home) as I was in extreme pain and meds at home were not helping. At the Mayo I was given the reassurance that I needed before surgery. I was treated like a drug addict and faker by the doctor and the nurse. The doctor would only give me one mg of medication, which is not enough to put a dent in my pain. I am usually given somewhere around 5 mg to bring the pain down. I told the nurse I had my surgery in 8 days and he asked me if I had spoke to a surgeon yet at the UA. 8 days before and I have no idea I needed a surgeon...sarcasm. Because my lab work came back normal, my lipase no longer rises because the pancreas has become so damaged after around 35+ attacks, I was sent home in pain. Instead of looking up "hereditary pancreatitis" or even the UA website that my surgeon has, the doctor took things into his own hands and acted outside of his realm of expertise, and I paid the price for it. However, bright ending: I know this was God's way of telling me I am making the right decision. I have HOPE that no one can take away. I am blessed.

Now for What I learned Today: Today, Dr. Gruessner told me many things. One was that I will be in pain after surgery for 6-12 months and may have phantom pain that won't go away. I ask my blog friends to pray that I do not have the latter. There is no prediction on this, and no way to fix it, so I will need prayers. Why pain? During the surgery the pancreas will be removed, but that is not all! I will be getting part of my stomach removed, my duodenum, part of my small intestine, and my spleen. Why so much? Yea, I asked that same thing, geez! Because the ever so important pancreas shares a blood supply with all of those things and they are all connected. In order to get cranky panky out of there, they will need to get all the others too. Once he said this I looked my mom with tears streaming down my face and said "Will I live through this." She said yes, so did my dad, and we moved on, but I won't lie, that is a lot of removed organs and my brain wonders how life will be without them. Pain will be prevalent because my body will be healing inside and out. The nerves are sensitive around the pancreas, so they will continue to have the pancreas pain. Let us pray the brain is not programmed to tell the body there is pain, which is what will happen with phantom pain, but that will not happen to me:-) 

The walk is Saturday- and I am pretty sick. I want to go so badly, but I had no idea that I should be staying home away from infection. The doctors were pretty adamant about this today, and they want me away from all sources of sickness. I feel a sore throat coming on, and am trying to stop it now. I will be sleeping all day from here on out, and all night. What I really mean is I will be resting non-stop and staying in the house away from all things sick. I want to go to the walk and am praying I feel up for saying hello to everyone.  I am not well enough to walk right now, but I will go and see everyone. If you are sick, we can send our love through a long distance hug, because it is that important that I don't get any sickness from here on out. Please pray my sore throat gets better and that I am illness free by 2/16/2012. 

Advice from Others

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The online support group was a really great tool for me at first when I was beginning to understand what I had as a disease and what my options included. I really owe the groups in helping me make a life changing decision, you could say. Without the groups and the people in them, I would not have known about the TP-AIT, I would not have known Arizona had such an extensive center, and I probably would not be doing this surgery in 9 days. Wow, 9, really, eeeek. Anyways, what I am saying is that there is a time and a place for the support of others going through the same thing.

I believe people have selective hearing. The surgeons tell you over and over again all of the bad things that can happen once they take out your pancreas. They tell you that you can die. They tell you that you can have liver failure and need a liver transplant. They tell you that you can have a solid, rock hard pancreas that has no left over islet cells and that you could need a pancreas transplant from a donor, they tell you a common side effect is the loss of massive amounts of blood, they tell you that they have lost patients post-op (none on the table), hmmm you getting the picture? They do not paint a portrait of roses, butterflies and rainbows. Nope, not at all. They also tell you that you should plan on diabetes (look at a pie, 70% chance of it 30% chance without it, much more pie has it). They say that you will have digestive issues that could take a lot of time to fix and cause relentless diarrhea (there, I finally said it on this blog, it happens, it sucks) and cramping. They tell you that you could malabsorb nutrients forever. They tell you that you will have the most pain you have ever had in your life and it will be worse than any horrific attack you have ever had. They tell you they won't be able to fully control your pain. Okay I am done.

With all that being said, they do paint the picture and prepare you for the worst. Mentally, I prepared for the worst of the worst to happen. I prepared my family for that too. I have talked to them about what will happen if I needed another organ transplant. I have talked to them about what to do if the "worst" happens. Yes, I have had that horrible conversation with my mom about organ donation (yes, of mine, God forbid) and life support (do everything you can to keep me alive and I promise to fight like hell- go in there and yell at me to wake up). I am ready to count every single carb I put in my mouth and keep a diary of each piece of food I eat. I am ready to prick my finger 5 times a day and give myself multiple shots a day. I am ready to stay near a bathroom until I am blue in the face. I am ready to hang out in my room until I can make it through a few hours in public. Of course none of these things make me perfectly happy and all of them scare me like hell. I spoke at great length with my best friend Katie, who also happens to be an RN, about most of this. I told her that I keep getting emails from people supporting me and also "warning" me. I appreciate them, and even ask for advice sometimes. I wanted to know the good, the bad, and the ugly. They say things like "I hope you know you won't walk out normal and your life won't return to what it was before you got sick" or "you may get diabetes." I appreciate it, but I may have overdone it on the advice from others.

For my mental health I will need to stay off the support group for a while. It is just too close to surgery to have these reminders of all that can go wrong around me, even though I have come to love the strangers I talk to in the groups. I know bad things can happen. I know that many people who have this surgery remain sick for a year or even more after it is over. I do know my body won't ever be like it was in 2008:-( Boo. But, I also know people have success with this surgery. I have heard those stories too. I have heard from the beautiful girl who had this surgery and one year later got pregnant with her first baby, who is now 2 and is loving her married life. She got her life back and doesn't have any issues at all, not even diabetes. I know of the medical student who is 6 months out of surgery and back at med school studying her heart out to help others one day like doctors helped her. I know she goes to Zumba and eats Chipotle. I know about the man who has 2 babies and a wonderful wife who was back at work THREE weeks later, yes 3, but he did work from home and had a flexible schedule. His wife and I talk and she says that he never complains of pain 6 months out and just got cleared to travel internationally for work again.

Katie and I came to the conclusion that even if it takes me THREE years to fully recover, this surgery is worth it. In the grand scheme of things, 3 years is nothing to gain a life of no narcotics and no pain back. I know that I am going to get through this. I will leave you with a quote from a book my mom gave me today. She bookmarked this page: "When your world feels like it's falling apart, I hope your friends, family, and faith are the bonds that hold it together." Without those things, I will not make it through this. I am so thankful that God has given me my "tool bag" of weapons to use. I am ready to get this over with and start healing.

Chocolate Factory

Assembly Line

Big chocolate.

Tea House. 

Me at the Spicery- So girlie and frilly! 

I Love Lucy- episode where she worked with this machine. 
Adventure time! We went to the Sorreta's Candy Factory in Glendale. My mom booked us for a tour of this place and we got to make our own little creation at the end. I really didn't eat any of the chocolate as I didn't think it tasted good, weird what illness can do to your taste buds some days. But, it was fun nonetheless. We toured, chatted, and then went to The Spicery for lunch. Once when I was 8 Katie and I took our teacher, Miss Reutter, there for lunch. What goofballs we were. We loved her so much (she is my Facebook friends now and lives in Nebraska) that we asked her on a lunch date with our moms. Anyways, I still love the place and haven't been since I was that age so we went again.

My 26th Birthday

Brother, Tyler and I at the Wig.

My birthday dinner at the Wig.

I kept one strong hand on this kid before he went flying into the lake. 

Evan having the time of his life, me too actually. 

The girlies and I at the cupcake place. 

This is my favorite E and Nee Nee pic for sure!

Today was my 26th birthday! Today was an amazing day- I would not have changed one thing about it. I really mean that, not one thing. Even though my pancreas gave me a little trouble, I still enjoyed the day because it was perfect. The funny thing is I have even had some people ask me why I wanted to do this surgery if I was able to have such good days (or people look at my pictures and see a smile on my face or me doing activities). I really thought about that when I posted that today was an amazing day on Facebook because of what people have said. It makes me laugh, because yes I have suffering, but I still love the things I always loved, no matter what. I can't run laps or drink beers, but I will continue to love life no matter how badly it may hurt me. Some days I can't do anything and some days I can. Today I did tons of things with my favorite friends.

I spent the day with my first friends, my friends I met when I was somewhere around 5 years old in Litchfield Park, where I grew up. These are the friends I used to ride my bike to the Mayfair Market with, the friends I was in Brownies with, the friends I attended first grade with, and the same friends I have shared adulthood with. We went to lunch and of course the cupcake place. After, I intended to help my friend out and babysit a few hours since she had worked the entire night before, but it turned out she didn't feel like sleeping and spent the day "babysitting" with me. We went to the lake and fed the ducks, read books to the kids at the library, and went to the park where I remembered how much I loved swinging on the swings. I may have enjoyed the park more than the kids. It's funny, my moms "activities" inspired me today when I was with my girlfriends and we repeated some today. One thing we didn't do- talk about the surgery. Thank you friends, thank you! I forgot about it for the day. Peaceful.

I went with my family to Reds, a favorite spot of ours, and had a birthday dinner. We did talk a little about surgery and some logistics. My parents will be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day and we will be in Tucson. We discussed that Tyler will be coming up to spend the night with us and probably week. We also talked about having a fun dinner to celebrate the anniversary. I had intended on throwing them a party at one point for this, but maybe that will have to wait until the 35th!? Or maybe throw them off and do a 31st party! This day was a good day and I again saw what blessings I have in my life. Thankful.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Next up on the adventure list, the Wildlife Zoo. We were driving out in the middle of nowhere and I kept asking if we were eating at Duncan Family Farms, a farm by my parents house that does not serve lunch so I am not sure why I thought that. I just couldn't imagine where we were off too. We pulled up to the ZOO! I was so excited I cried, no surprise there, I cry a lot these days as I told my blogger friends already. But anyways, I had the best lunch there and we ate with the sharks. Our table was right in front of the shark aquarium. So much fun and yet another west valley hidden gem. If you have kiddos or friends with kids you have to check this out. You can pick to either eat with the sharks or with the flamingos. I chose the sharks. Again, my mind was far from the surgery during our date together. I can't thank God enough for putting my mom and I together on this earth. A friend of ours, who we work with at our real estate office, said that she thinks God knew what he was doing putting my mom and I together! I couldn't agree more. I hope that one day I will get the opportunity to be an amazing mom to sons or daughters (please give me a daughter!) one day. I know I will be good at it, I learned from the best. Enjoy the pictures, and if you live in the west valley you should really try Dillon's at the Zoo- even if you don't have kids. I promise you will feel like a kid again if you try it.

Me with the statue.
The view from my table.


Flamingos, the outside table view.

Kreative Kupcakes

Too many cupcakes to choose from at this place. YUM. 
With my pre-surgery nerves kicking in I started to have a lot of anxiety. I am extremely emotional lately, as I am preparing to have my TP-AIT. I think my problem is because this surgery is so rare, with only somewhere around 600 completed since 1978. I feel like many people in the public don't understand, which I wouldn't either, had I not had this. I tell people "I am getting my pancreas out" and they are like "Oh okay, good luck!" HA! Unless you are pretty educated in the health arena, you may feel that it is equivalent to saying you are having your gallbladder out. I had my gallbladder out, and let me tell you what I am feeling now is nothing like what I felt 10 days before that surgery.

What am I feeling? Mushy, right? It is 10 days before surgery and I feel scared for my life, literally! And that pretty much sums it up in as few words as possible. Have you ever felt fearful of your life? Maybe you got a cancer diagnosis, or were in a life threatening car accident. I know many people have had this fear before and can relate. One thing I have come to realize during all this is that I truly LOVE my life. I mean I really love it, horrible, relentless pain and all. I love it so much that I repeatedly tell God that I am not done here and not ready and just no no no no no!

In an effort to get all "this" off my mind, my mom decided that in the days leading up to my surgery we will go on an adventure each day. She doesn't tell me where we are heading until we are there, and what a fun thing this is to do. We have enjoyed it so much and we both decided that we feel people (including us) don't take the time to enjoy life until something comes up that makes you face life and death. Unfortunately, we just work that way for some reason. But, if you are reading this you are lucky. You are lucky because I am reminding you right now to do these special things with your loved ones today or tomorrow. Think about where you live and what a tourist in your town would do if he or she came to visit. Go do whatever it is that you would think of to tell this person visiting today or tomorrow with a loved one. I promise you will be happy that you did.

My beautiful Mama and I...I like to wear Yoga clothes out, they need to get
some use since I am not able to go to Yoga anymore! 
So far we have gone on 4 creative and memorable "min-adventures" (I will post pictures from all of them). The first one way to Kreative Cupcakes. We enjoyed this place, a little hidden gem, in the small town of Avondale. It is on Western, in Old Town Avondale and seriously as good as Sprinkles, if not better. I am not lying. Before this little trip I was feeling blue. Blue is something I have been feeling a lot in the months of January and February. It's to be expected, but I will tell you this cupcake place made me forget all about that. Cupcakes are high in fat and probably made my pain a little worse, but I enjoyed it anyway. I could use the extra fat:-) Never thought I would see a time in my life that I would intentionally be trying to GAIN weight. It's really not that much fun when everything hurts. I always imagined it to be so fun! I believe that after the surgery the gaining weight task will become more fun.  Enjoy- more adventures of Janine and Whitney to come! And thanks for reading. I love hearing that people are reading my blog, it really makes me feel good. I always wanted to be a writer, I just never knew what to write about.

A New Day

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This weekend was a rough one, and my blog post from yesterday was too negative so I won't be able to post it. I looked back and re-read it and instantly became upset with myself. I promised myself that I would search for the good in every day, and that I would always remember that my life is BEAUTIFUL no matter what happens. I have blessings that no one can take away from me, not even this evil pancreas that is making me so sick.

My blessings begin with my family, that is something that I am so lucky and thankful to have. I have said it a thousand times, but my parents are really there for me through every time of my life and I would be lost without them. My faith is also a blessing. I have been diving deeper into my faith than I ever would have imagined. My personal journey has taken a few turns and it is something that I am worthy of and proud to have.

This weekend I had to double my pain medication (after checking with my pain doctor) because my pain was so bad. It started Wednesday and I was determined to stay out of the E.R. until my long hospital visit for my surgery. I think something in the medication makes your mind a little funny, maybe it is my fault, or maybe it is the medicine. I want to blame the medicine! No way can I be having these crazy thoughts all on my own. I threw myself a huge party where I would cry myself to sleep on Saturday night. I am not proud of it, but I feel not mentioning this struggle would be lying and I am trying to help others who have HP and need to have surgery by being honest and sharing my struggles.

My pancreas has hurt since Wednesday. I get relief with my pain pills, but hate that I have doubled the dose within the past week. I have been living off of them and still get pain in my back and the pit of my stomach. I think pain wears a person out, mentally as well as physically. I feel the pain is where my "cry party" began. I looked on Facebook at all of my friends and acquaintances who were posting pictures from the Phoenix Open. I literally had tears streaming down my face looking at Facebook! It was to the point that I was unable to look at Facebook for the rest of the weekend because it made me so upset. Seems silly, right? I still can't place why this made me so upset. I have gotten used to staying home when  my friends all go out, yet this weekend it really bothered me more than most.

My heart had a little bruise on it this weekend as well, which didn't help and everything just made me upset by Saturday. I had been hoping for a good thing and took a chance, which I probably did not need to do two weeks before my surgery. Usually I am fine when things don't work out the way I want them, but this time I was really upset. I think I just felt like I was drowning in life this weekend. I told my mom I wanted to snap out of my life and into the pictures of one of my friends lives on Facebook. I don't want that looking back, I just had a bad weekend. Sometimes I feel that this sickness has taken a lot of the past three years from me. It has made it really hard to date anyone, as most 25ish year old guys freak out when you even mention the word "hospital" and undoubtedly once I began dating someone I would end up in the hospital. It has taken my freedom (to travel, live alone, do things I want to do), my desire to go out with friends on the weekends, my ability to work in the profession I chose, and this weekend it took away my happiness.

The only thing that makes me feel better sometimes is God. Nothing else can help, not my Mom, my family, my friends, shopping, or even getting a manicure (I won't lie- it can help sometimes, I did this on Saturday too) can fix some of these things I feel. Here is a thought that makes me so hopeful for the future.

"Difficult things we have endured in our past prepare us for God's blessing in the future." -Joyce Meyer

I read this in my book and it is so true. God may ask you to face trials so that you will learn to appreciate all of the blessings He will give you in your life. So if you are feeling blue or like nothing is going right in your life, maybe it isn't. Maybe you are being tested and asked to get through a rough period in your life so that you can learn to enjoy the blessings you will receive later. It is a warm and comforting thought, isn't it?
(A much more uplifting and positive message with fun pictures to come tomorrow- I am off to bed to get rid of this yucky weekend and move on!)

Faith while Facing Trials

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ang, reading me Bible stories on the
floor at Barnes and Noble. 
The middle is my new Bible! The left is the
devotional book Angela and I share.
 In May, at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, I was told things I had never been told before while dealing with this illness. Before I left, I thought I would be given answers and medical treatment to fix whatever it was that was going on. We did not know why my pancreatitis kept happening. I told my friends and co-workers that I was so excited to go and "get fixed" by doctors that knew what to do for me. A clear memory I have from before my trip was when Amie, my roommate at the time, and I were chatting about what I expecting to hear in Minnesota. She said "this has been ridiculous, something has to be able to fix this." I agreed with her wholeheartedly. We both thought the doctors in Arizona were giving me the run around and must just not know the right stuff. We were both happy I was heading to Minnesota to get some answers and everyone, including myself, thought I would be given a treatment to fix this chronic pancreatitis I kept getting.

Minnesota was a learning experience for me and I even think some of my friends. We are so used to answers and fixes as people living amongst this technology that we are lucky to utilize. We are also young, and not used to hearing that something can't be fixed. Most everything my friends and I have had to deal with are things that can be fixed. A cold, fixable, an infection, fixable, even a cancerous spot on your skin...we have dealt with that as friends. Doctors made us feel better, they fixed things. Unfortunately, in Minnesota, after something called an endoscopic ultra sound, which is basically a scope with a camera on it that goes down your throat and into the area where your pancreas is located, I learned the depth of my illness. I learned that I had irreversible damage that was already done to my pancreas from many attacks. I learned that it was scarred and would continue to scar throughout my lifetime until it turned from scarring to calcification or even worse, pancreatic cancer. I learned that I had a "chronic illness that was progressive and had no cure."

After hearing that, and sharing a box of tissues with my mom in the doctors office, we left to head back to Arizona. On the way out of the exam room I had profound thoughts and said things I would never have said prior to that news. I looked at my mom with tears streaming down my face and told her I just wanted to have a baby. That was all I wanted to do. I asked her how we could make this happen. I felt like I didn't know how much time I would have left before this "progressive" part of the disease would start. She loves me so much that she said that she would help me make that dream come true. We both had no idea what we were talking about or why, it was just happening and that was my reaction. I felt like that might be taken from me, and I didn't want it to. Fortunately, Mall of America was a closer place than some baby making clinic, and we didn't end up with a child. Instead we ended up with a huge mall at our disposal that made the two of us feel better, much better. I had to buy an extra suitcase to carry home all of my loot from that trip, and no I am not kidding.

My point in going back to share my beginnings is that this is where my faith kicked in. I have always been a Christian, a Catholic, a child of God, but it was that day that my true and deepest faith began to kick in and my spiritual journey took off. I have always read a blog called www.nieniedialogues.blogspot.comstarted reading this blog when it was featured in the Arizona Republic ages ago, long before I got sick. I loved it because this lady inspired me. She was burned over 80% of her body from an airplane crash she and her husband were in. She and her husband survived and have 4 kids together. Her survival story is one of the most incredible stories about faith. I know she would not be alive if it were not for her faith. This lady, Stephanie, is a Mormon, and she is so tied to her faith that it literally saved her life. I do not know her, but it was so obvious reading her blog back when I read it daily. The funny thing about this is that I remember being almost envious of her, even with her 80% burned body and her disfigured face. Because she had something so strong, so unwavering, which was her faith. I remember thinking I would love to get to where she is with her faith with my own faith one day. She was also so happy, no matter what happened to her, because she was alive. I thought that would be so amazing to have that outlook on life. I remember my mom asking me if this women I had never met was my hero. I said yes. I even wrote her to tell her this once, creepy I know, and so unlike me to write a women I have never met, but I felt I had to, I felt I knew her. 

I can proudly say that my faith, although it may not be fully developed, has helped me today and most days since May when I found out what I was facing. This experience has made me a much more faithful person, a stronger believer. As the days lead up to my surgery, I try to let my faith be what drives me and what keeps me strong. I have been having moments of panic where I feel I will back out of this surgery if given the option. I have moments where I think I am saying "goodbye" to my friends and moments when I think I am going to have some horrible complication and be so sick (Oh, the human mind!). When I feel that way I pray. I pray when I don't feel that way too. I pray and I tell the Lord how much I love my life here on Earth and how I am not ready to leave it. I tell Him how great of a mom I am going to be and how much I will love being a wife. I tell Him how I want to help others and give back. I tell Him that I will use my experience with this as a platform to share His word. I dream big and out loud. I speak to Him. I know that He knows this, and I know that He will have me wrapped up in his arms protecting me the day of my surgery and during my recovery. 

Tonight Angela and I picked out a book to read together. It has a daily devotion to read each day and she is going to call me at night when I am in Tucson and we are going to talk about the prayers for the day. I feel so blessed that I have a friend to do this with me as I recover. We also picked out the prettiest new Bible for me, it is the one with the pink flower on it, and I am taking it to Tucson. I picked out another women's prayer book, just to have when I feel down or the going gets tough. Thank you God for making me a stronger believer through all of this. It is an added, and unexpected, bonus to being "sick". 
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