Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Other Side of Depo


Just like this post, The Other Side of Lortab, I'm happy to be done with my 3-month trial of Depo-Provera. Or as my family doctor calls it, Depo-ProSCAREa.

And when I say done, I mean D-O-N-E. Like NEVER EVER AGAIN! Unfortunately, it can take up to a year for all of the nasty side effects to completely disappear. I've learned doctors don't give disclaimers on certain drugs because every patient reacts differently to them. Some have no side effects at all and some have every side effect in the book. I would fall in the latter category.

While Depo-Provera is primarily used as a contraceptive, it's been known to be effective in the treatment of endometriosis. And when I woke up from my surgery last November, this first thing my doctor said was, "Moving forward, we're going to have to treat this aggressively." Which is why we went straight to Depo.

By suppressing ovulation, the goal of Depo-Provera is to keep all my crazy hormones calm, quiet and dormant. And theoretically, if this is accomplished, no new endometrial adhesions will form and life will be just peachy (insert sarcastic tone here). My life the last 3 months has been anything but peachy. More like an episode of LOST where I'm stranded on an island and nothing is what it seems.

Within a day of the injection, I started experiencing daily headaches and this weird pain in my side, right below my left rib cage. I started taking calcium pills (to counteract the effects of bone density loss from the shot) so I thought my body was just having a hard time digesting the big, fat horse pills. I switched to calcium chews and that seemed to help a little, but the pain continued, along with being bloated, gaseous and hungry ALL THE TIME. (Example: I went to the mall one afternoon and ravished a Philly cheesesteak and then followed it up with a corn dog because I was still hungry! Who does that?!) Then the pelvic pain and irregular bleeding started. The nurse warned me while my body was getting used to the shot, I would experience pain similar to the pain of endometriosis. I had to laugh at the irony. If this "treatment" is supposed to be helping me, then why is the pain worse than actual endometriosis? To stay sane, I was popping Advil every 4-6 hours. The Kelly Cocktail (3 Advil and a Coke) was my saving grace. Hair loss, weight gain, fatigue and mood swings came next.

Long story short, I was a mess.

But during those long 12 weeks, I had plenty of time to do research (knowledge is power after all) and was strangely comforted that I wasn't alone in my struggles. On AskAPatient.com, Depo Provera users rated their experience with the shot. Out of 2,102 responses, with 1 being "extremely dissatisfied" and 5 being "highly satisfied", the average rating was 2.1 "not satisfied". After reading through many of the comments, I found myself nodding in agreement, in fascination, and in horror. I actually felt guilty because many of the experiences were far worse than mine. So many referred to Depo as "synthetic poison" and "it will ruin your life". I can't say I disagree.

As the appointment for my second shot approached, I was anxious to speak to the doctor about other treatment options because like I said before, I was D-O-N-E with Depo. She listened sweetly as I rattled off all the side effects I was experiencing and let me vent for awhile. I'm sure she's heard it all before. But she also mentioned she has patients who have been on it for 5 years and love it. Grrr...

After careful consideration, she asked what I thought about a IUD (intrauterine device). Mirena, to be exact. This plastic, t-shaped device is placed in the uterus and slowly releases the same hormone that's found in Depo, progesterone. The advantages for endometriosis patients: the hormone stays in your uterus instead of traveling through your blood stream and causing all the horrible side effects. It also lasts up to 5 years or can be removed at any time by a physician. My sister, who also has endo, has had the Mirena implant for the last year or so. It's worked well for her and kept her pain at bay. The one disadvantage: she has had more ovarian cysts with the device. I asked my doctor about this and she said while it doesn't cause cysts to form, it doesn't prevent them like the pill or other treatments do. And these types of cysts usually resolve themselves within a couple of months.

So, we're going to see how Mirena works for me. The "installation" was not fun. I guess the pain is worse for women who haven't had children since the device must pass through the cervix before it reaches the uterus. I had pretty bad cramping and spotting for a day or two, but the pain subsided. I had so much fun telling my male boss I was going to be working from home due to a "procedure". I could tell he wanted more information, but knowing my past female issues, he just nodded and wished me well. Good choice! It's been about a month, but I can already tell my pelvic pain is better. And I'm happy to report I'm completely off my daily consumption of Advil. Not by choice, but after taking it habitually for the last 9 months, I'm more concerned about the effects it's having on my liver and the lining of my stomach. We'll see if I can stay off the Kelly Cocktail...it is so addicting!

In hindsight, this last year has been a game changer for me. Health is no longer a gift I take for granted. I'm proactive and intend to stay this way until I find the best treatment that is right for me. If I can help anyone who is currently dealing with endometriosis or similar issues, I'll sleep well. And because laughter through tears is my favorite emotion (love that movie!), I had to share this ecard:


PK (#endosister)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Valentine Gift Box


I love personalized gift wrap. Boxes, bags, tags, oh my!

One of my last duties at Paper Crafts magazine (now Paper Crafts & Scrapbooking magazine) was to design two projects for the Jan/Feb Simple Printables column. Since they ended up merging Paper Crafts and Creating Keepsakes into one magazine (now monthly and digital-only), my two projects were lucky enough to be spread out over two issues.

My favorite of the two projects is this Happy Valentine's Day Gift Box found in the February 2014 issue. It's kind of crazy to think I made it last August!


I went with the trendy melon and mint color palette, which just happens to be featured in PC&S's March 2014 issue (Trend Talk column). The beauty of these Simple Printable projects is they're made with a FREE download featured in each magazine. I loved the chalkboard feel of the Happy Valentine's Day graphic, and immediately envisioned it on a cute little gift box.

I simply printed, trimmed, and matted it with pink/melon cardstock. Then I added a few stickers from the Dear Lizzy Lucky Charm collection. My favorite touch was using a date stamp to stamp the "Feb 14 2014" (in mint, of course!). I won't even begin to tell you how many times I had to stamp it to get a perfect impression!

To download the Happy Valentine's Day graphic, click HERE.

And here's a complete list of supplies:

SUPPLIES:  Collection: (arrow die cut, chipboard heart stickers from Dear Lizzy Lucky Charm collection) American Crafts  Cardstock: (Strawberry Slush) Stampin’ Up!; (white)  Rubber stamp: (Remember This And That Rotary) Stampin’ Up!  Pigment ink: (Celadon) Clearsnap  Digital element: (sentiment) PaperCraftsMag.com  Adhesive: 3M  Other: (gift box)  Finished size: 3 1/2" square

If you're needing a fun birthday option, check out my Make a Wish Gift Box in the January 2014 issue.


To download the Make a Wish graphic, click HERE.

Here's to quick and easy gift wrap!
PK

Monday, December 23, 2013

Candy Cane Popcorn


This recipe should really be called Candy Cane Crack Popcorn because I literally can't stop eating it.

Perhaps the addiction comes from the combination of sinful ingredients. You be the judge.

Here's the recipe:


I dare you to just eat one bite. Or even two. :)

Enjoy!
PK

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Be Merry Banner

 
Ah...Christmas! My favorite holiday of the year. I love decorating my home this time of year, especially with handmade (or pseudo-handmade) pieces.

I bought these mini stockings a few years back. I was going to make gifts for my co-workers, but it turns out they don't hold more than a piece of candy or two, so back in my Christmas bin they went.

Until last year...

When I opened my bin, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a whimsical banner to enjoy every year!

This project was so easy to make. Supplies: $1 stockings from Michaels, EK Success X-Large Snowflake Punch, Pebbles Corrugated Alphabet Stickers, white cardstock, red rhinestones, and Glue Dots.

Simply punch the snowflakes from the cardstock, add a letter sticker to the middle, and place red rhinestones on each snowflake tip. Then adhere each snowflake to the middle of each stocking.

The best part...the little hooks on the stockings made it so easy to thread a white satin ribbon through!

Here's to being merry!
PK

Monday, December 9, 2013

One Fine Day



After months of planning, the big day was finally here. Most of my hard work, sweat, and tears was wrapped up in the rehearsal dinner, which just happened to be on the Fourth of July. To read about my 120 hand stamped place cards (never again!) along with the 120 cupcakes with stamped "Love is Sweet" picks, check out these two posts on the Paper Crafts Connection blog:

Let Freedom (& Wedding) Bells Ring
Let Freedom (& Wedding) Bells Ring, Part II

It's funny…there was so much work that went into the rehearsal dinner. Mostly because all the decorations were handmade and required a lot of patience (to make, to set up and take down). And I wouldn't have had it any other way. I'd love celebrating the Fourth of July on an old-fashioned paddle boat surrounded by all of our family and Holly's closest friends. That said, it was a great relief NOT to have to do much for the actual wedding day, besides performing my Maid of Honor duties.

The days leading up to the wedding, I had a manicure/pedicure, waxed my eyebrows, and got my first spray tan. The morning of the wedding, all of the bridesmaids, my mom, my mom's best friend of 40+ years, and our "Little" flower girl McCall gathered in the bridal suite for a few hours of pampering and girl time.

I love this picture to pieces!
Holly ordered pizza and we took turns sitting in the make-up chair and getting our hair done. It was my first time having my make-up airbrushed on (the secret to flawless skin) and trying out fake eyelashes. The results are amazing! If Holly was Cinderella for the day, I felt like the Fairy Godmother with a magical makeover. 

Sadly at midnight, the tan disappeared and the fake eyelashes fell off.
But before the clock struck midnight, there was countless breathtaking moments. Here's just a few (courtesy of Callaway Gable Photography, the official wedding photographers):

It's show time!
The Father of the Bride and his girls.
Snow Bride and the Seven Bridemaids
The Ring Bearer holding a cute sign for the Groom.
The well-dressed Groomsmen sporting their new Proof sunglasses!

The gorgeous rotunda at the Pelican Hill Resort.
A part of the ceremony included a handfasting ritual.
Introducing Mr. & Mrs. Hendrix!
Sealed with a kiss!
The Smith-Hendrix Wedding Party
The Groom's Family
The Bride's Family 
The Mother of the Bride and Holly
The kids had so much fun playing in the petals after the ceremony.
Then it was time for the reception! Here's the gorgeous tables.


The suspended wedding cake was a big hit!   
And it took a miracle (or just the right song!) to get Brent dancing.  
The Co-Maid of Honor and Brent hug it out.

  
This picture sums up a perfect day. My dad said it best: "It was a ridiculous, over the top wedding, but Holly's ridiculously happy."

Congratulations, Holly & Brent! 
Love,
PK

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fiesta-Themed Couples Shower


Before Holly’s glamorous wedding, her bridesmaids threw her and Brent a Fiesta-themed couples shower in Dallas. Since Brent grew up in El Paso and loves Mexican food more than anything, this theme was a no brainer.

Holly’s seven bridesmaids divided up the assignments with her friend Alayna volunteering to host the party in her backyard. It must be said that most of the work was done by Alayna and her husband (who opened up their lovely home) and Chelsea, a fellow bridesmaid and party planner extraordinaire. My modest contribution was this umbrella wreath (an idea I found on Pinterest):

All you need to recreate this wreath is a Styrofoam circle, a bright ribbon, and a box of umbrella drink picks (I bought an assortment of 72 picks at Hobby Lobby for $4.99).
Alayna and her husband set up tables in their backyard and had a yummy fajita dinner catered with homemade tortillas. There was a Mariachi band playing some sweet Spanish tunes and even the light on-and-off rain added to the evening’s ambiance.

Chelsea pretty much handled the majority of the decorations, which included wild flower centerpieces for each of the tables, a fun display for her Margarita-flavored cupcakes and these colorful invitations:


After we finished eating, the guests were divided into 4 groups with someone from each group selected to be the “bride”. The objective was simple: create the most gorgeous wedding dress…out of toilet paper! The best part of this little game was someone managed to talk Brent into playing the role of blushing bride. And the first order of business was to strip him half naked so the magic could begin!


Then it was each bride’s turn to walk down the “aisle” to determine who had the best wedding dress, and more importantly, who wore their dress the best. 

The Toga Bride
The Debutante Bride
The Mummy Bride
The Sexy Bride
It was a tough competition, but Brent stole the show! 
Who knew toilet paper could be so versatile? :)

PK

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Other Side of Lortab



Oh, Lortab...how I miss you. What a good friend you've been these last few weeks. But all good things must come to an end. And frankly, I'm thrilled to get back to my pre-pill days.

It's been awhile.

When I last left you, I was headed into laparoscopic surgery to remove some persistent ovarian cysts. Since it was my first surgery, I had NO idea what to expect. I met with my doctor the day before and she explained the surgery would last about an hour, barring any complications. And then I made the mistake of asking what those complications could be. Let's just say the worst is death! I actually had to sign a paper saying I understood the risks of surgery and there's no guarantee that everything will go according to plan. 

Fan-freakin-tastic. 

My mom was able to take the day off from work, and as a R.N., I was happy to have her by my side for the day. We checked in around 10:30 a.m. (with a beeper, like at restaurants!) and things went very quickly from there. I changed into a gown, scrub bottoms, fuzzy socks and then the nurse came in to start my IV.

And it only took one stick! 
From there, I filled out lots of paper work, gave them a urine sample, and took note of the special date on the board:

That's kind of cool. Perhaps even lucky!
Around 11:30 a.m., they came to get me. And just like Grey's Anatomy, they put a shower cap over your head and wheel you down to the elevators. I quickly waved goodbye to my mom and up I went. The only thing that annoyed me is they left me sitting in my hospital bed for 30 minutes right outside the operating room. Doctors and nurses would come out of other surgeries, wash up, check their phones, and make small talk. All the while I'm just sitting there in my blue shower cap. The anesthesiologist finally came and introduced himself and asked if I had any weird reactions to anesthesia (to which I answered, "I guess we'll find out."). Then my doctor showed up and it was game time. My first reaction to the operating room? Crazy coldness. They transferred me to the operating table (which is very small, by the way) and covered me with a warm blanket. 

Then it was lights out.

The next thing I know, I'm waking up in a large recovery room. There's a clock across the room and it reads 3:00 p.m. Hmm...I must still be on drugs. They said it would only be an hour. Then I noticed a yellow bag near by bed and without warning a nurse removes a catheter from me. Hmm...didn't see that one coming. My doctor then comes in and says something with a sweet smile, but I'm too out of it to register. They wheel me back to a recovery room where my mom greets me with a kiss. Before they can even move me to the bed, I tell my mom I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. She helps me shuffle down to the bathroom, but nothing happens. Hmm..that's weird. I swear I had to pee. 

I get back to the room and my mom explains that the surgery went well, but in addition to the cysts, they ended up finding lots of endometriosis, which needed to be removed, via laser. Because the surgery went longer than expected, my doctor gave me clearance to stay the night if I needed the good drugs. Funny enough, I was in a lot of pain, but it wasn't that much worse than my pre-surgery pain. Honestly, I was just relieved it wasn't all in my head and that I was able to give the residents a good show. 

I ended up going home mainly because I wanted to be in my bed and see this sweet girl:

She stayed by my side throughout my whole recovery.
The first few days post-op are not a lot of fun. The goal is to keep the pain under control, so you're popping pills every four hours. Oddly enough, my four small incisions didn't hurt much. I'm guessing the real pain was from all the lasering. My surgery was three weeks yesterday and today was the first day I wasn't alternating Tylenol and Advil around the clock. Hopefully I've turned a corner. Of course, all the lovely get well gifts have helped tremendously. I'm so lucky to have friends and family who dropped everything to make me meals, bring me flowers, movies, magazines, and CANDY!

Thanks to my Debbie-Time for these sweet treats!
I had my post-op appt with my doctor last week. She showed me some incredibly cool and very disturbing pictures they took during surgery. There's nothing like looking at your insides up close and personal. Because I have a severe case of endometriosis, we're going to have to aggressively treat it going forward. There's many hormone-suppressing treatments, but all carry some not-so-fun side effects (hot flashes, bone density loss, depression, weight gain, and possible permanent menopause). I've opted to go with the Depo-Provera shot because the side effects are less severe than others. We'll see if it's the miracle drug for me. 

Sadly, the recurrence rate of endometriosis is as high as 40% following surgery. But I'm learning to wrap my head around this diagnosis. It's my thing. But I'm also learning that sooner or later we all have a thing. Some have more than one thing. And we still lead happy, productive lives. I've also gained enormous empathy for those that deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. My brief tango with it has been memorable, but I can't wait to get back to normal. Or find a new normal. As long as it's Lortab-free, I'm game to try.

PK

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sacs, Cysts, & Signs, Oh My!


Warning: this blog post contains graphic content of a medical nature. The material may not be suitable for those who are sensitive to health-related issues or males who don’t like to see the word ovary over and over again.

Stress is an interesting thing. Even though most of us have an innate ability to keep up with it, if not thrive from it, it can also take its toll on the most precious thing we take for granted – our health. I’m not going to lie…I’ve been blessed with a healthy body for most of my life. I’ve never been hospitalized, had a broken bone, or even had to deal with a lingering illness (other than bronchitis every other year).

So after my sister’s wedding this summer, my stress levels finally said, “Enough, girl. It’s time to teach you a lesson…or two or three seeing you’re a Smith and obstinance runs in the family.” (Looks like three was the magic number.)

It all started on July 4. It was the night before my sister’s wedding and I started to notice a slight pain in my left hip. Thinking I had hit it against a dresser or table, I didn’t think much of it and went about the business of fulfilling my duties as maid of honor.

Photo courtesy of Callaway Gable Photography
After the hustle and bustle of the wedding died down, I noticed the pain was getting worse and my mobility was starting to be affected. And it had spread to my right hip. Uh-oh. I made an appointment with my doctor and she seemed to think it was bursitis (inflammation of the bursa sac). After prescribing an anti-inflammatory, she sent me home with the promise I would start feeling better soon. After 10 days of no improvement, she gave me the number of an orthopedic specialist. He concurred with the initial diagnosis and started me on another round of anti-inflammatory, followed by oral steroids, followed by 6-inch cortisone shots in each hip. After little change, I started physical therapy three times a week where I would do stretches, electric shock therapy, and icing.


It’s funny, after all the money I’ve spent on doctor appointments, physical therapy, prescriptions, creams, etc., the only thing that really helped with the inflammation/pain was ice. I’d come home from work each night and stuff ice bags down my sweat pants. And I would keep them there for hours and it would never be cool enough. You could actually put your hand on my hips and it would feel like a fever. After eight weeks of misery, my doctor finally said, “I think it’s time we do an MRI to rule out there’s not something more serious going on.” Little did he know, but the MRI would reveal something else brewing in my body.

Here comes Stress Lesson #2.

The good news from the MRI: the inflammation in my hips was finally going away. The bad news from the MRI: I had bilateral ovarian cysts (cysts on both ovaries). Seriously?! After saying goodbye to my ortho with the promise I would continue my icing and ALEVE regimen, I promptly called my OB/GYN to schedule an appointment. Luckily, my normal 3-4 week wait was cut down to less than week. I guess “ovarian cysts” are code words for “We’ll see you next week.” After reading up (and obsessing) on all the different kinds of ovarian cysts (functional, complex, and the ones that contain hair, teeth, and skin), I met with my doctor and scheduled an ultrasound to determine the kind of cysts I have, as well as the size.

The worst part of an ultrasound: drinking 32 oz of water and having to hold it. I actually showed up for my appointment (the first one of the day) and was left waiting 15 minutes. It turns out the ultrasound machine was broken and no one told the staff! They sent me over to a nearby sister clinic to see if they could fit me in. Unfortunately, a cute little pregnant lady showed up for her appointment early. And my bladder couldn’t wait another 30 min, so I rescheduled for later that afternoon. Luckily, that day we were having a team-building event at Boondocks (a local arcade/entertainment center), and we would be done by 2:00 p.m.

But Stress Lesson #3 decided it was the perfect day to rear its ugly head. And my head was on the receiving end!

As I was leaving Boondocks, I was walking and talking (a dangerous combination!) with a few of my co-workers. My head was turned and before you knew it, I walked right into a 6 ft tall metal sign that was in the middle of the walkway. Thinking I was just clumsy, I cursed to myself and kept walking. Then a co-worker says, “Kelly, you’re bleeding. You’re bleeding A LOT. We need to go to the bathroom.” Seriously?! I’d been down this road 18 years ago. That little accident resulted in A LOT of stitches and a pretty scar right in between my eyes. I really didn’t want stitches right now – especially with everything else going on with my body. So, I followed my co-worker into the bathroom and we proceeded to soak up the blood with A LOT of paper towels.

Up close, it was a nice, straight 1-inch cut. Oh, and I was sporting a smaller version on my lip. I left the bathroom and met with the manager who was nice enough to get me an ice bag for my head. Ah, ice…my one and constant friend! After filling out an incident report, my co-worker says, “Well, we better get you to the hospital. I think you need stitches.” But before we could leave, our new CMO walks in and says, “Forget the hospital. I’m taking you back to the office (where there’s a doctor on site at all times)." Great perk of the new job! Instead of stitches, the doctor put some sticky adhesive over the wound, added Steri-Strips and a Band-Aid. Crisis averted. But there went my scheduled ultrasound.


After calling the clinic back and explaining my injury, I was able to reschedule my appointment for the following week. I got the ultrasound results back a few days later and it showed that the cyst on my right ovary was 4.2 cm and the one on the left was 5.4 cm (and actually two cysts fused together!). And it was their opinion that they were hemorrhagic cysts, which develop when a blood vessel ruptures and drains blood into the fluid already collected in the body of the cyst. And while they’re the least likely to rupture (hooray!), they’re also the most painful. And as I’m quickly learning, there’s a host of other symptoms besides the intense pelvic pain: constant need to pee (but never able to fully empty bladder), bloating, nauseous, dizziness, moodiness, exhaustion, weight gain.

Lovely.

In all my reading, doctors usually elect the “watch and wait” approach with ovarian cysts. Most usually resolve themselves within 2-3 months. In fact, most women have had ovarian cysts at some point and not even known about it since they never show symptoms. My doctor recommended a follow-up ultrasound in 6 weeks. In the meantime, I felt like a ticking time bomb. After about the month, the pain was getting so bad, I called my doctor and asked if we could move up my next ultrasound. Surprisingly, she said yes and I was able to get in the very next day.

This time the results showed the cyst on my right ovary had shrunk to 2.9 cm, but the one the left had grown to 5.9 cm (2.3 in). And they now think they're endometrial cysts. Because there hasn't been significant change between the two ultrasounds and the fact the pain is getting worse (even on Lortab), my doctor has agreed to laparoscopy surgery to remove the cysts. My sister Laurie has actually undergone this procedure a couple times, so hopefully the outcome will be just as favorable. All I know is I'm done with the lessons in stress. Message received loud and clear. It's time to get back to the business of living.

I'll keep you posted with my progress. If I text you or leave a strange message on Facebook post-surgery, blame the drugs (which I hear are fabulous, by the way!).

PK