Monday, December 15, 2014

Contemplating My Future--Upcoming Pivotal Events!

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my future. That seems odd for a 50-something year old mother to say, but it is true. What comes after the kids are all grown and gone? That isn't too far away now! What do I want to do when I "retire" from medicine? WHEN will I retire? What do I want my life to be like in retirement, and how much money do I need to put away to allow me that life?

For the past year or so I had planned to cut down to part time work after I turn 65 but continue to work at MedExpress until about 72 (financially that is the age I should be able to retire and live off my investments). I had considered working as a doctor for a cruise line between 65 and 72. That gig is usually 3 months on and 3 months off and I would be able to travel! The drawbacks are that, if you are on a small ship, you are the ONLY doc and work 24/7 so I would not be able to visit ports. On a bigger cruise ship I could, but I don't know if you can specify this--I'm sure nobody wants to be the sole doc! I bet everyone has to do a combination. Also, at 65+ it might be hard for me to be on call 24 hours a day! It is still a consideration, but I am looking into other options.

I have a good friend who does TeleMedicine. I am going to talk to him further about it over the Holidays. I'm not sure it is for me, but I am intrigued enough to find out more. This would be something I could even start doing NOW on a limited basis to increase those retirement coffers! This same friend is also a travel agent and this excites me even more! After I don't need to work full time to keep medical insurance, it would be awesome to combine my love of travel and my love of writing and start a travel blog! Being able to travel at a reduced rate AND write it off as a business expense would totally ROCK!

So there you have it. If any of you have any ideas I might be interested in, let me know! Travel, writing and medicine are all things I love and am good at. I would love to be able to do all three well into my senior years!

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Slow and Painful Good-bye

Back in 2010 Mom went into a nursing home because Tim could no longer care for her at home and she refused Home Health. At the time she went into the nursing home we were told she probably only had about 6 months to live. She stayed at Harmon House in Mount Pleasant until February 8, 2014! I remember the date because it was Seth's birthday.

I was at work on that day and got a call from Harmon House. Something had happened to Mom's leg when they tried to move her. They sent her to Frick (the nearby hospital) and they diagnosed a fractured left femur. They were not equipped to handle that there so they transferred her to UPMC Presbyterian. I immediately worried about a pathological fracture due to cancer.

Mom had bladder cancer years ago but never had a recurrence. Before she went into the nursing home she was diagnosed with a lung tumor. It was not in an area that could be biopsied without surgery and we knew she would have a difficult time having surgery. Also, she insisted she would NOT have radiation or chemotherapy. So we decided to let it go. That is why the doctors thought she would only live 6 months. She fooled us all!

I expressed my concern to the doctors at Presby about this being a pathological fracture. It did look that way on CAT scan. She had surgery to pin the femur and they took a biopsy. The tissue was rather difficult to pin down (very undifferentiated) but it DID turn out to be from the lung. A staging work up showed metastases in the liver and lymph nodes, but not the brain. Again, Mom declined any treatment. I wanted to put her on hospice at this time, but neither she nor my brother were ready.

After discussions with my brother and my aunt, we decided to move Mom to a nursing home closer to the kids and I so we could spend more time with her. We moved her to one in Greentree. I wanted to bring her to the one here in Moon which is right down the street from me, but they didn't have a bed. From February to June she was in and out of the hospital with fevers and UTIs and she eventually developed a UTI that was resistant to all antibiotics. She became septic. I spent as much time with her during that last week as I could and we finally put her on hospice. She went back to the nursing home one last time. I had just pulled into the parking lot to visit her when I got the call that she had died. I was just a few minutes too late.

I thought I was prepared for losing my Mom, but I wasn't ready. I can't believe or accept the fact that she is gone. Logically I know she is gone, but my heart doesn't want to believe it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Separating A Family

One of the more recent pivotal events in my life was the decision to end my second marriage. Things had not been going well for quite some time. I admit a lot of that was my resentment over being the only one supporting our family. That resentment became toxic and we grew worlds apart (that wasn't the only reason of course, and I won't run through a list of what went wrong, but that is much of it). It was very sad and painful to see that once great relationship die a slow death.

The writing was on the wall by the Fall of 2008. So much so that I actually borrowed $5000 to give him to move out and find a place of his own. He also finally started working to save up money to move. He didn't actually move out until April 2009 but things were quite cold between us during that time. There were a few good times (like some Pens and Steelers games), but we were definitely not living as married people.

The hardest part of him leaving (for me) was that Kendyl went with him. They were extremely close and she opted to live with him. She stayed with him for about 3 years, but eventually moved back with me. I missed her terribly during those years, though she did visit often. Thankfully, we are now closer than ever!

Moving from our house that we had built into an apartment was also hard. But I was a victim of the whole mortgage crisis thing. The loan I got was WAY to high in interest, and when the market values crashed, I was upside down. My earnings at the job I was at were not enough to keep paying all of the expenses and the mortgage. I lost the house. That is a big regret in my life. Because I worked so much, the house was in horrific condition. I didn't have the time or the money to fix things. It was one of the worst times of my life--losing the love of my life slowly over the years and the home we had built. I did not handle it well. At times I felt the kids would be better off with my insurance money than with me. I felt like a complete failure in every aspect of my life.

Most of my adult life I have taken antidepressants. Having a father who committed suicide and a mom who was chronically depressed, I felt I needed these. During that difficult time I started a second one to augment the first. I think it did its job too well and actually made me a little manic. I recognized this and quit the second one. After life had settled down I quit the first one too. I have been free of any of these meds for about 3 years now and feel fine without them. I am sad at times because I am lonely as the  kids get older and have lives of their own, but I hope I never get back to those dark days of 2009/2010.

That time was a huge collection of pivotal events--ending my marriage, my daughter moving with her dad, losing my house, considering suicide. Very sad and scary times. But I got through them, and I am stronger for my struggles.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Life Can End At Any Time!

By far the scariest pivotal event in my life was my cardiac arrest. I had been having some chest and back discomfort so I underwent a stress test. During the stress test I became suddenly very breathless and had major chest pain. They took me straight to the cath lab. There they found I was having vasospasm but did not have a blockage. They put me on cardizem and we all thought that would be that.

I didn't have any more chest pain after that, but I continued to have pain in my back between my shoulder blades. I thought it was my disc in my neck. It was weird though because it only happened in the mornings as I was getting ready for work. I had to lay down completely still for it to go away.

So one morning in August 2005 (the 17th I believe) I was driving to the hospital to make rounds and I kept having chest pains. It got worse and worse and I walked into the hospital, went straight to the Medical Staff Office, and asked them to call the ER. I then dropped dead. Right there. I did have the foresight to lay down on the floor to make it easier for them to code me (I know that sounds odd, but I have coded people and getting the dead weight from sitting to laying is very hard and wastes precious time).

I did not see a bright light or dead loved ones. Maybe I wasn't dead long enough since I was in a hospital and had almost immediate help. Everything just went dark and I did not remember anything until I woke up in ICU. I do remember being extubated, and I remember feeling like I had to pee but everyone kept telling me I had a catheter in. Tom was there, and lots of nurses and other medical personnel.

The decision was made to send me to AGH where they could  implant a defibrillator. Washington now does this but they didn't back then. I spent almost a week there and got my defibrillator after I healed up from the arrest and biting my tongue. I was right by the heliport and didn't get much sleep due to helicopters coming in and out.

It is still hard to believe how close I came to really dying that day! I tend to minimize it to stay sane, but I know it happened. I don't like to dwell on it--it is way too scary! But it was definitely a defining moment in my life and a major pivotal event!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Meeting My Sisters For the First Time!

I always knew I had 2 sisters somewhere. Well, not always, but at a very early age. They were my father's daughters from a previous marriage. I had never met them, and since he died when I was only 4, I didn't even know their names. All I knew was that there mother's name was Jane and that she ended up marrying an Akron city policeman whose last name was Gray. I found these things out from my Nana and my mom over the years.

With the advent of the Internet, I had a way to reach out and research. Back in the early 90's there was Prodigy, AOL and Compuserve. I used Prodigy and belonged to several genealogy groups. People there helped me search for all of the Jane Gray's in Ohio. We came up with 5. Of those, 1 was in Akron and 1 was in Cleveland. These seemed the best ones to start with. I also found the address for the Police Department in Akron. I sent off letters then waited. This was in 1995 right around the time I was getting ready to move back to Pennsylvania.

After Tom and I moved back to Pennsylvania I got two responses! One was from the Akron Police Department and they said they knew who I was talking about and had forwarded my letter to him. The other was from Jane--my dad's ex-wife and the mother of my sisters!! She said Mary Kay and Janice had been looking for us too but didn't know we had left Ohio! Very shortly we were talking on the phone and making plans to meet!

Mary Kay and Janice drove out to Washington, PA to meet my brother and I that fall. It was awesome! We've gotten together many times since and they were the two people Tom and I had as witnesses at our wedding (Seth and Brogan were there too but they weren't old enough to be witnesses). They are awesome and I love them dearly! I just wish we could have found each other earlier!

Meeting my sisters for the first time was definitely a highlight of my life and a big pivotal event! I'm so glad they are now in my life!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Expanding Our Family

Two months after Tom and I got married, we were pregnant! I knew even before I missed my period because I woke up at 6 am one morning and was CRAVING chili! That was not normal at all for me so I was convinced I was pregnant. I also was pretty sure it was a girl since I had never had any cravings with the boys. A quick test confirmed my suspicions and I couldn't have been happier!

During my pregnancy with Kendyl I craved chili and mashed potatoes with cheese. Strange but true. At least I didn't crave junk or sweets! At about 14 weeks (not sure exactly) I had CVS to make sure there were no genetic abnormalities since I was over 35. This confirmed that I was pregnant with a girl! I was so excited since my previous two babies were boys!

I worked throughout my pregnancy, as I had with both of my previous ones. Kendyl was due May 15 but about a week before that, an ultrasound showed that I was losing amniotic fluid, so I was scheduled for induction on May 7. I worked the day before and saw a rainbow on my way home, which I took to be a sign of good luck.

Induction is a whole lot more painful than natural labor! And Kendyl was stubborn--she wasn't ready to be born. After about 12 hours of pitocin she finally was born and was absolutely beautiful! Seth and Brogan--who earlier in my pregnancy were worried there would not be enough love left for them--fell in love with her too! I enjoyed finally having a baby girl!!

I got pregnant again almost immediately, but had a miscarriage. After that I never had another period. People kept telling me it could take awhile but after several months I went to my OB only to find out I was pregnant again!! Our little CJ was born the following July. That time I had planned to take 2 weeks off before he was due (8/5) but after only 2 days off I went into labor and delivered CJ 20 minutes after getting to the hospital (long story--rush hour + road work + denial on my part). That made our family complete--FIVE great kids between us--Seth, Brogan, Haley, Kendyl and CJ! I love them ALL with all of my heart!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Taking a Second Stab at Marriage

In August 1995 we moved back to Pennsylvania--myself, Tom, Seth and Brogan. We initially lived in a rental house right next to Washington Hospital. It was small but cozy. My house in Virginia didn't sell until March 1996 so money was tight, but my school loans got paid off so that helped!

Once my home in Virginia sold, we started looking for a house to buy. We decided to build a home in a lovely neighborhood on a dead end street in a GREAT school district. Once we made that decision, we also decided to get married--I was going to take the plunge again!

We chose our wedding date based on when we could get a condo in Aruba--our chosen honeymoon destination. We got married at the Washington County Courthouse (it has a beautiful rotunda) with the boys and my two half-sisters in attendance. Later we lunched at a local Mexican food restaurant (Hungry Jose's if I remember correctly). That was a Wednesday I think. The next day we drove the boys to Winchester and met their dad since he was going to have them for the month of July. That weekend we headed to Aruba!

I fell in LOVE with Aruba and promised myself I would go back every 5 years or so. Unfortunately I haven't been back since but I do hope to sometime! We had a great 2 bedroom condo with a full kitchen and made friends with a great bartender named Andre! We met a couple of brothers we hung out with, as well as a mom and her daughter. Tom played guitar on the beach and we even went to areas tourists don't go! It was a great week, even though we BOTH got sunburned (I think the ONLY time he has ever been sunburned). It was definitely a good decision to spend our money on a honeymoon instead of a wedding!

Two months after we got married I got pregnant with Kendyl (I could see some of my relatives counting to make sure we were not pregnant when we got married). During that pregnancy we moved into our new home--it was the weekend between Christmas and New Years! But those are posts for another day!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Moving Back Home

After my divorce from my first husband, I dated a few guys but eventually met the love of my life. Tom and I started dating in January of 1994 (our first date was to watch football on Championship Monday). We hit it off and by February of 1995 he suggested we move back to Pennsylvania. My mom was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 1994 and I had been spending a lot of time driving back and forth to see her. On our Valentine's Day date, he suggested moving back. I had not really considered it, and the idea excited me.

It took a while to find a job--I interviewed in Indiana, PA, Mt. Pleasant/Norwin, Uniontown and Burgettstown. I decided I didn't want to live TOO close to home, so I nixed the Mt. Pleasant job. Tom wanted to go back to college to finish his degree so we wanted to be near Pitt. Thus, I took the Burgettstown job. This also allowed me to have the remainder of my school loans paid off! That was a huge benefit!

The odd part about moving back to Pennsylvania is that I actually did not get to spend enough time with my mom, even though that is the reason I moved back! When I lived in Va I would come up here for days at a time, often a week. Living closer to her, I saw her more frequently, but only for a few hours at a time. That was a weird irony with our move. Add two more kids into the mix and we didn't travel to see her nearly as much as I wish we had!

Moving back to Pennsylvania changed my life as well as the lives of Tom, Seth and Brogan. I will never know how life would have progressed if I had stayed in Richmond, but I'm happy with how things have turned out here. There are good things and bad things, but I'm overall happy with my life now. This was another one of my major pivotal events!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Becoming a Parent--Life's Most Momentous Decision

The years of medical school flew by. I got married between my third and fourth years (I only had a week off and was late for my own rehearsal due to my surgery orals). I went on to do a residency in Richmond since my husband was a year behind me. He joined me at Chesterfield Family Practice the following year.

We knew we wanted to start a family while in residency. All of my friends already had a kid or two (or three) and I was afraid to wait too long. Fortunately the trail had been blazed for me in my residency program--one previous resident had a baby during residency my first year. So I planned my schedule such that I got most of my difficult/busy rotations done early in my third year so that I could relax a little later in the year.

I remember finding out I was pregnant. We had been "trying" for a few months (as much as we could considering he was an intern and spending every third night and third weekend at the hospital), and I was moonlighting in the ER at Johnston-Willis Hospital. I mentioned to my coworkers that I was planning to go to Kings Dominion that weekend (an amusement part with lots of roller coasters) and they insisted I take a pregnancy test since I was a day or two late (not unusual at that stage of my life). I didn't have any symptoms of being pregnant (I never have, with any of my pregnancies), but I did it to humor them. Low and behold, it was positive! That was June of 1988. Seth joined our family on February 8, 1989 and my life was forever changed.

Someone once said that having a child is like letting your heart walk around outside of your body. That is so very true! I was forever changed when I held my child for the very first time! And I can tell you, it never gets old. I was in just as much awe when CJ (my youngest) was born. And the two in between (Brogan and Kendyl)! With everything I have accomplished in my life, my children are by far the most important and the most cherished of all!

I have not been a perfect mother, I don't think anyone is perfect. But I have done my best. I have made mistakes, but I think my four children are pretty great people with good heads on their shoulders. That makes me happier than anything else I have ever accomplished!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Back to Those Pivotal Events

When I started this blog, I wanted to share the many "pivotal events" that have shaped my life. I discussed my father's death by suicide, moving to a different state at age 11, and finding out my first husband was gay. These are but a few of the events that have shaped my life. I want to return to this goal and share more of my life with everyone.

Getting into medical school was without a doubt one of the most momentous events in my life. Throughout high school and college I was a very good student, so I assumed it would be easy to get into med school. I was very wrong. Since I thought it would be easy, I only applied to 5 schools. Of those, I only got interviews with 3--Johns Hopkins, Penn State at Hershey, and MCV. I didn't get invited to interview at UVa or Pitt.

My first interview was at Johns Hopkins. In retrospect, I should have scheduled that one later. It was VERY high pressured. They questioned my choice of college, stating that with my grades I could have gone to an ivy league school. I tried to explain that expense was a factor, as was my desire to participate in competitive horseback riding. I did NOT enjoy that interview at all. Despite Johns Hopkins being a world-renowned hospital, it is in a very bad section of Baltimore that made me nervous. I was not accepted there, but was put on a waiting list.

My second interview was at Penn State's medical school at Hershey. I remember it was on a Monday--the night before I stayed at a hotel and I watched the Super Bowl on TV. San Francisco won, though I don't remember who they were playing. Strange the things one remembers. The actual interview, I don't remember much of for some reason. It was not nearly as stressful, but it must not have stood out in any way, I suppose. I was also put on a waiting list for this school.

My final interview was at MCV. It was a very snowy day and I had to drive over Afton Mountain to get there. After a harrowing two plus hour drive, I got to MCV. One of the people who was to interview me didn't make it in that day due to the weather (and I drove all the way from Bridgewater), but the ones who did interview me were wonderful! They even had a student interview me which was AWESOME since she was able to answer many of my questions that I didn't feel right asking professors. It was a great experience and I especially loved the different way of teaching--by organ system rather than individual subjects (anatomy, biochemistry, etc.).

Then came the waiting.....and waiting.....and waiting. By the end of February I had not heard anything. I was leaving for a 3-week trip to Europe for my interterm and I had not heard anything. I left instructions with my boyfriend at the time to check my mail daily and I would call when I could to find out. This was before the days of email and cellphones. After visits to Iceland, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland, I finally had the opportunity to call him from Cologne, Germany. I had been accepted to MCV!!! The rest of my European trip was so much less stressful after finding this out!

So that is how I ended up attending MCV for medical school. I feel it was the best choice for me, even if the choice was not entirely left up to me. I had a wonderful experience at MCV, both academically and socially. It was the right fit and one that helped forge my future!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Portion Control is Working!

I am 5 days into the 21 Day Fix. For those of you who are not aware, it is a diet and exercise program that stresses portion control. I usually eat very healthy foods, but I eat LARGE amounts of these healthy foods. I have also given up alcohol. The diet allows 3 glasses of wine per week (on 3 different days), but I know myself and I could never stop at one glass of wine! So I have chosen to give it up completely unless I have one if I go out to dinner.

In 4 days I have lost 1.4 pounds. Not bad. At that rate I should lose 7 lbs in the 21 days. I was hoping for more like 10, but we shall see. The workouts are challenging but not overly difficult. I have had to do the variations about half the time and I hope to decrease this over the 3 weeks. The first few days I was so very sore!! Getting up and down hurt, as did going down stairs. I am much less sore now!

My long range goal is to lose 40-50 pounds by May (my step-daughter's wedding). I plan to take one week "off" between each cycle. I don't plan to go crazy during that time, but I will enjoy a bit of alcohol and a bit more cheese. I will need 6-7 cycles to reach my goal. This is consistent with May as my goal date! So far I have not been tempted to cheat and I have done the workout every day, even work days!!

I'm very happy with how things are going on this plan. I usually don't even get all of my allotted food in each day! The only category I wish I could have more of is the blue container--cheese, avocado, and nuts. But I'm learning to live with only one serving a day of these. Tomorrow will be challenging since I'm going to a Samhain celebration and there will be food--I can't really whip my little containers out to measure, so I'm going to have to eyeball it.

Today was fun also because we picked out Kendyl's senior pictures. They turned out beautifully! They were also incredible expensive. Over a thousand dollars! Yikes! AND her car needs work. Double Yikes! Broke days ahead for me!

Well, I'm out for now. Have a great weekend everyone!!!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fun in NYC!

For the past few days I have been visiting my eldest son, Seth Evans, in NYC. It has been a blast!! I got here on Tuesday and, after giving the taxi driver his OLD address, had to walk about 15 minutes to get to his NEW place (dementia setting in). On Wednesday we got to attend the taping of one of my FAVORITE shows--The Chew! I was hoping to meet some of the hosts, but we didn't get to, sadly. Still it was a blast!! Here is a view of the set!

On Thursday we went to the Avengers Experience in near Times Square and then on to Madame Toussaud's! I even won the "selfie" contest for the week--I'm still waiting to hear what I won, but here is the picture I won with:

Friday the mood was more somber as we went to the 9/11 Memorial. That day deeply affected me and watching all the footage and seeing all the wreckage and pictures just brought all of that back! I think they did a tremendous job in a very respectful way. I thought back to my very first trip to NYC in 1993 and getting to go to the top of the WTC. I want to go home and find the pictures I took that day! Here is a view of one of the fountains at the footprint of one of the towers and a picture of the Freedom Tower.

Today we checked out the HighLine--this is a beautiful path along an old train track that spans from about 12th Street all the way up to 34th Street. We walked it from 14th Street til the end. Gorgeous views of buildings and the Port of New York. We even saw an NCL cruise ship in port. It was very hot and I almost didn't make it. Now I am sitting in the a/c cooling off. Tonight I am taking Seth and his roommates to Becco, the nice restaurant where Seth and Jamal both work. It will be a fitting end to a great trip!

Here is a view from the HighLine:
I have to go back to Pittsburgh tomorrow but not until evening. Seth is going to try to get off work so we can go watch the game together at his favorite Steeler Bar. THAT will be a great way to end my trip especially if we win!!