A Shot in the Leg

Last Friday, I took the girls to the doctor. Caroline had to get a flu shot, and if she was brave, she knew there was a cookie waiting for her on the other end. She patiently waited, and got the shot without even crying. It was a moment of bravery and she had a shiny silver bandaid as a trophy across her thigh to prove what a big girl she was. I was so proud of her. She had conquered painful things with a little motivation and willpower.

Then it all unraveled. She never wanted to take her band-aid off. We’re post-band-aid placement day 4 and there have been tears every time she has had to expose her wound—pulling her pants down to go to the bathroom and changing into her jammies. We postponed bath night by 3 days because she couldn’t handle the thought. If her pants were off, she needed to cover the area with a towel, and suddenly developed a limp. Today it came time to rip off the band-aid and jump in the tub (because 10 days is long enough to go without bathing). You would think she broke her femur from the screams.

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Having a quick cuddle with lambie after preschool.

Having a 3 year old that cries every time she falls, I’ve learned to ask her if she hurt her body or her emotions. I’m trying to teach her to understand the difference between the two types of pain. But this time there was no need to ask. This is 100% emotional, she is just giving it a physical outlet.

I wish I knew all that was going on in her mind, what was causing this intense need for security. Clearly, she has had the rug pulled out from under her, but if that is what’s driving this, it’s the first real manifestation of the pain of losing her father, and it seems to be a late and sudden start. Regardless of the cause, I appreciate the clear picture of what is going on in my heart. Often I teach my kids life lessens, only to repeat them to myself. Be patient. Pray for comfort. Look to others for strength. Have faith. Remember all the times in the past when that shot hurt, but over time stopped bleeding and the pain subsided.

Caroline went to preschool this morning wearing shorts. I hope that she will see that she is able to run and play without hinderance from her once-wounded leg. I’ll continue to talk to her about it– both the shot and her daddy. Not forgetting the pain, but talking through it, praying for healing, remembering why we miss him so much, and hoping we don’t get the flu.

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Six Months Later

I have intentionally been quiet, taking time to think and heal, and play with my kids. So naturally, the question I hear so often is, “How are you?!” And fortunately (although maybe not so fortunate if you’re looking for a nice answer) I am able to tell you: life is hard, and sad, and good.

I can see ways the Lord has provided for me in this time. I’m working at the hospital 4 days a week, which has been a good balance. Work is one of the only environments where I was not known as part of “Tony & Mere” and so my role there hasn’t had to change like it has in all other areas of my life. My coworkers have been supportive and thankfully don’t get weird in those moments when I cry at work. At home, we have transitioned from Taylor watching the girls during the day to Julie. Both nannies have been really good with the girls and I have so much peace about leaving them during the day. Having Eve & Cody in the house with me & the girls has been truly amazing, and keeps me from the brink of insanity. We really do have a lot of fun, and it has been a blessing to be able to enjoy moments of joy every day with all of the girls. I’m completely biased, but I think they are some of the sweetest, smartest, and happiest kids I know.

 

I grew up in the 90s, and feel like I was heavily influenced by the culture of Disney and Chicken Soup for the Soul, so while I am inclined to wrap all of this up in a bow and say “we’re doing it, we’re fine”. It just isn’t that nice. Life is hard. Every day feels like a marathon. Parenting all three girls all evening, every evening is hard. I miss being able to divvy up kids or ‘tap out’ when Caroline and I butt heads for the umteenth time in a night.

It has been 6 months since Tony died, which means it’s been 1 year since his major resection surgery. Both anniversaries make this day difficult. I remember in the immediate aftershock of his death, people told me that it would get a bit better, and then it would be hard around the 6 month mark. Six months has been enough time for me to learn to get on with life, however, I still miss Tony all the time. That has not gotten any easier, and I’m starting to wonder if it will. In the midst of the hard, I can see where God is giving me strength for each day. I pray each night with Caroline for peace, for moments of joy to bubble up, and hope for tomorrow. And so for now, I take everything one day at a time.

Even though it is hard to plan things like vacations, I have been able to get away and do some hiking, which has been the best kind of therapy.

Time

I have been thinking a lot about timing lately. Not the passage of time itself, but timing. The period of time when something happens. One definition of timing is: “The control of when something should be done”.  I think more and more I am realizing that I have no control over the orchestration of events in my life. Instead I see the Lord revealed in the timing of things.

So what are some of these events? Let’s start with some dates. Tony had his resection surgery September 1, and after which we thought he was “cancer free”. He died exactly 6 months later, on March 1. This year, March 1 was also Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, a solemn time of sacrifice and reflection. The timing seemed very fitting.

Lately, even His provisions are given with beautiful timing. The biggest need, as I see it, is care for my family. The past few weeks, I have had several people ask questions about how I am going to live my life. Even when I was closing some accounts at the bank, the man helping me asked, “so what are you and the girls going to do?” Honestly, I don’t have much of an idea. This isn’t anything I have a plan for. It’s really hard for me to take care of all three girls on my own. The thought of doing it everyday with no end in sight seems daunting. But I have some peace the Lord will work it out.

I’ve been praying for God’s provision. I have had about 30 people join me in this prayer. One of my biggest needs is for a nanny that could come to my house four days a week and watch the girls. I need someone with energy and who isn’t afraid to talk about heaven, among other things. This felt hard to find, so we started praying.
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I had gone to Florida for a vacation with Caroline and some friends in the middle of March. When I returned, I had a week left before I had to start work, and in that week, I texted the two people I know who nanny. I asked them if they had any interest or availability to watch my girls.  Do you know what they said? One of them could do it long-term, but she can’t start until August. The other one? She just resigned her previous job and could start in two weeks, but is starting grad school in August so could only work through the end of the summer. Pretty perfect. And worked out in less than a week. Thank you Lord.

So the time when I’m at work is covered, but what about the in between times? The early mornings when everyone is waking up and I’m trying to get out the door? Or the evenings, when I’m trying to get everyone fed and to bed? Those times are exhausting for any parent. Before I could worry too much, my dear friend, Eve, and her husband, Cody, came to me and offered to move into my house and help me take care of the girls. It’s something they had been praying about for awhile. When they offered, all I could do was cry.  It’s a provision I couldn’t have even imagined or asked for.

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Cody, Eve, & Reggie

I am completely humbled by the way the Lord has provided so beautifully for my  most immediate needs in taking care of my family. And the timing?! I think it is no coincidence that Eve and Cody moved in last Friday, on Good Friday. It felt like an end to a very hard period of Lent. And so on Easter, though feeling the absence of Tony, I had friends over to celebrate. Together we packed in my house for egg hunts and conversations over brunch. We shared stories about the Lord, both what He has done for us, and what He continues to do. Seeing the timing of these events, these provisions, has been a welcomed encouragement in an otherwise difficult season.

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Audrey & Emily on Easter (7 months old)

Christmas is for this

This Christmas was looking to be one we would not soon forget. This is the first year Caroline can really start to grasp what Christmas is about. Add in two new babies and two weary parents and we were certain there would be memories. 

Emily, Caroline & Audrey in winter jammies


Getting the news of new cancer growth hit us hard. It is so difficult to be grieving, struggling, really anything but jolly at Christmas. Our news came 17 days before Christmas, yet we were determined it would not derail our desire to enjoy some of the simple things in life. We went and saw lights with Caroline, made cookies, and played in the snow. 

Caroline’s first snowman

Still, we have cried our way through this advent season. I hate that my heart is so heavy while it seems the rest of the world is calm & bright, holly & jolly, etc…

And then I realized, it is for this that Christ came into this world. He brings the hope I long for. A friend sent me these words from Max Lucado, and I think they speak so perfectly to the place where we find ourselves: 

Max Lucado- Because of Bethlehem


“The manger dares us to believe the best is yet to be. And it could all begin today.”

Merry Christmas.

September 2016

September started with surgery for Tony. We knew the month could be action-packed, and it did not disappoint.


When Tony had his surgery, I was 33 weeks pregnant and praying for a few more weeks. I wanted to get further along, both for the health of the girls, but also to allow Tony some time to recover from such an invasive surgery.

Our moms have tag teamed and helped us out the last 5 weeks.

Thankfully, this prayer was answered, and the girls came halfway through September. At times I wonder if we could have gotten farther along, but it wasn’t meant to be. On September 15th, my OB removed my cerclage, and broke my water in the process (something we knew could happen). So, we went across the hall to labor & delivery and prepared to have a couple of babies.

Feeling huge. The last day of my pregnancy.

We settled into our room and waited for labor to ramp up. My OB was hopeful that both babies could be delivered without a C-section, but informed us that all twin births occur in the OR, because of the high probability of surgical interventions. And so, around 4:30am I awoke and knew it was time to push. As the nurses were wheeling me down to the OR, the doctor arrived, as did anesthesia.


It took only 6 pushes for Audrey to be born. As Tony & I were listening to her sweet cries, we heard that the second baby had dropped breech. The whole team in the OR prepped for a C-section and quickly removed Emily. It was a whirlwind, all happening from start to finish in about 30 minutes. The result was 2 premature, but healthy baby girls.

Audrey Renee Hayden   –  Friday September 16, 2016   5:16am      5lbs  8oz

Emily Anne Hayden   –  Friday September 16, 2016    5:29am     5lbs 11oz

Getting to hold Audrey and Emily for the first time.

The girls were taken to the NICU. Born at 35 weeks, they were healthy enough they didn’t need any medications or oxygen. However, they hadn’t yet mastered the pattern of suck-swallow-breathe and so struggled to eat enough calories to keep their growth up. They both had feeding tubes, and every 3 hours, would drink what they could from a bottle, and then have the rest of it poured down their tube.

Emily and Audrey

The nurses told us being the parents of “feeder-grower” babies is often the most frustrating, because the babies are big and healthy, and yet can spend weeks in the NICU learning how to eat.


For the past 3 weeks, we’ve been going to the NICU each day. In the process, we’ve worked through a range of emotions. In the end, we remind ourselves this is only temporary.


Audrey made a quick turnaround last week. She started taking all of her bottles, and we brought her home on Monday. Caroline may be the most excited to have her home, and wants to regularly touch her feet, find her belly button, and help change her diaper. We’re praying Emily will be able to come home soon, and we can have our family together in one place. Until then, we continue to take everything a day at a time, and be thankful for all that has happened this past month.

The Day Has Come

This summer has been rolling along, and it seems as though our unofficial theme has been “stay the course”. We have been taking it one day, one week, at a time. In my pregnancy, I have reached the level of huge, currently carrying a total of 9lbs of baby. Though strangers are now asking when I’m due, I’m still hoping and praying for 5 more weeks to get me to my goal of 37 weeks with these twins.

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Tony and Caroline at the State Fair

This summer, Tony has continued the combination of Xalkori twice a day and a Nivolumab infusion every 2 weeks. He’s had some speed bumps: some increased pain after his infusions due to an immune-mediated response, a case of cellulitis that had him spending a night in the ER, and a car accident (that one the whole family was a part of– thankfully we came away without any injuries). Through all of this, Tony’s oncologist encouraged him that the pain is a normal part of Nivolumab treatment and we couldn’t see how effective it was until he had completed 4-5 months of therapy.

Tony went in for scans last week, and they found that the tumor had grown slightly, even after 4 months of combined treatments. So after talking with Dr. Rushing, we realized: we’ve exhausted all our options, and it is time for resection. Last Thursday when we heard that word resection it was completely surreal. The thought has been lingering in the back of our minds for 3 years now, and we’ve been trying everything possible to avoid it. And now, here we are face to face with the idea of a potentially life-altering surgery.

Our current reading selection.

Our current reading selection.

We had an appointment on Wednesday with the urology surgeon and talked through all of the possible outcomes– most of which he won’t know until he gets into the surgery. That leaves a lot of room for worry. At first, my mind goes to worst case scenarios: not only could the surgery be long and involved, but Tony could have loss of function, and complications. Then there’s the possibility that he could be recovering in the hospital while I go into labor. Then what would we do? Just be ok with him missing the birth of his twin daughters!? Worry can be a downward spiral.

And then the other night as Caroline & I were praying, I realized that I’m jumping to conclusions again. I know, imagine that– a pregnant woman jumping to emotional conclusions!! I did this when we first found out we were having twins. People were ready to congratulate us and repeatedly said how excited they were for us. I was just scared– fearing a difficult pregnancy. But then, I realized the Lord gave us twins, and I could trust Him to walk us through each day of pregnancy. So why is my first reaction always to a bad scenario!? Maybe the Lord is closing the chapter of chemotherapy and all of its dreadful side effects before the twins’ arrival. Maybe this is just what we need in the timing that we need it.

IMG_7980Tony’s surgery is scheduled for Thursday morning at 10am. Of course we are still nervous about it and how all of this will play out for us. We are praying every day for healing and a minimally invasive surgery.

…and sometimes we just need a large visual reminder of where our heart needs to be through all of this.

To Motherhood

I feel that Mother’s Day is an appropriate day to post about how we are expecting the Hayden family to grow this Fall! It’s been a bit of a wild ride already, but at this point, I’d expect nothing less.

Over the course of the last 2 years, Tony has been on a total of 5 chemotherapy agents that each can take their toll on our ability to have children. So, this time around we had to use non-conventional methods to get pregnant. It is not at all glamorous, and I now have so much more compassion for couples who must use doctors for something that the rest of the population does so naturally. Since I haven’t had issues getting pregnant in the past, and am not a good candidate for carrying multiples given my history, we decided to do inseminations. Less intervention and lower risk.

We were elated when we learned, in February, that we were pregnant. Then our emotions flipped in March when our 8 week ultrasound showed that I am carrying twins. Never in my mind was I prepared for this. We had specific conversations with the doctor about how I am terrified by the idea of carrying multiples, and made sure not to do anything that could increase our risk. But here we are, expecting two more additions to our family.


After getting through the initial shock and denial, we’ve come to accept the fact that we’re having twins. The Lord has seen us through so much, and if this is something He is blessing us with, then we need to trust He will see us through again. In addition, we’ve taken some practical steps to lessen my chances of preterm labor, as much as is in our power at least. At work, I’m only working in areas of the pharmacy where I generally sit at a desk all day. At home, we’ve tried to stick to a 10lb lifting restriction. This means Caroline has had to grow up fast, and now gets in and out of her car seat on her own, eats at her own table & chairs, and has moved into a big girl bed. 

I also had a preventative cerclage done in April (if you don’t know what this is, check Wikipedia, but please stay away from YouTube). I’ll also start weekly injectable progesterone this week.

We’re about 17 weeks into this pregnancy and taking it one day at a time. One doctor’s appointment at a time. We’re praying each day for the Lord to sustain us. It seems as though we have a loooong way to go– I’m praying for another 20 weeks! Let’s pray we make it.