MicroblogMondays: Mom’s Health Scare

My mother usually helps with the babies’ morning routines.  The morning after Bob left for Europe, she couldn’t come upstairs because of a huge headache she had overnight.  My dad and I took care of the kids.  Right before the babies’ first nap at 9am, she came upstairs to ask for some Ty.lenol.  Because she complained to me before that Ty.lenol didn’t help with her headaches, I gave her two tablets of Exce.drin.  After that my dad and I brought the kids upstairs to get ready for their nap.  Suddenly I heard my mother yelling out loud in the dining room.  It was this really loud yelling that was so uncharacteristic of her.  I quickly put one baby in the crib and rushed downstairs.  She was sitting at the dining table looking scared and yelling loudly “Get away from me!  I have kids and grandkids! Don’t come take me away!”  I was stunned by this scene.  I hugged her and she refocused her eyesight on me, called my name, and started crying hysterically.  I was telling her that it was okay, that nobody was going to take her away.  She continued to mumble while crying, “Don’t take me away.  You go away….” At that point I realized that she was hallucinating.  My dad, with Okra in his arms, came next to us and said, “It might be her headache.”  At that point, I just wanted to put the babies down for their nap so I could tend to my mom.  I took Okra from my dad, went to the nursery, and did a quick nap routine with the babies.  After that, I found my mom in bed and my dad by her side.  She was still saying things that did not make any sense.  When I told her that nobody was coming to get her, she scolded me harshly for not believing in what she said.  Then she complained of her heart beating really fast.  I was very worried about the state of her mind at that point.  I didn’t know what could cause this hallucination all of a sudden and wondered if she was having a panic attack.  I was also afraid of a stroke and didn’t know enough to know if it looked anything like a stroke.  I called my brother up.  (It is great to have a sibling for things like these.)  He was at work and told me to call her primary care doctor to ask for her advice.  I hung up and called the clinic.  The receptionist was so nice.  She tried to find the doctor who was at that time busy.  She jotted down my number and promised me that the doctor would return my call shortly.  Not even two minutes later, my mom’s doctor called back.  After understanding the situation, she said that it didn’t sound like a stroke but sounded more like the effect of Exce.drin on my mom.  I was like, she started acting strangely only about ten minutes after she took the pills.  The doctor said that this medication could have an effect on older adults like that sometimes.  We went over what to watch for and when it would be a good time to go to the emergency room.  While I was speaking to the doctor, my mom walked upstairs to see who I was talking to.  When I told her it was her doctor, she again scolded me for calling the doctor.  I pushed her out the door and continued the phone call.  I was telling the doctor that this was so uncharacteristic of my mom to be speaking so harshly to me.  My doctor said, “Since she could speak so well and walk so well, it definitely doesn’t sound like a stroke.”  She said the effect of the meds should pass soon, but if we wanted to have her checked out, make an appointment at the clinic on that day.  I updated my brother who was actually already on the train to come back to see my mom.

My mom at that point looked super alert and hyper.  She was talking excessively.  She was washing dishes and doing chores at a high speed.  She continued to claim that there were a lot of people coming to get her.  She was highly irritable.  I didn’t realize that she had already taken two pills of Ty.lenol at 5am.  So within 4 hours, she took four pills of two different medications.  My brother arrived and examined the pills.  The Ex.cedrin has a lot of caffeine in it.  My mom loves the smell of coffee and tea but can’t drink any because of the caffeine.  So it was most likely the caffeine that made her act so strangely.  Nevertheless we made an appointment for her to see her doctor that same afternoon.  Slowly she started to act more normally and started to feel tired and sleepy.  Her doctor’s visit allowed us to know that it was most likely the headache medication that caused that extreme side effect of hallucination and she was prescribed Ibu.profen instead.  Other than that, her vitals were good and everything was back to normal.  The interesting thing was, after all of that, she didn’t remember the episode of her hallucination.  I asked her if she was scared of what happened, she said no because she didn’t remember a thing.

Honestly, my mind was racing when I was trying to figure out what was wrong with my mom.  I know that looking back it didn’t seem like a big deal but during that time, I was so scared.  My mind went really far.  I was scared of losing my mom and started thinking about all the what ifs.  I was wondering what the ramification would be for us if mom was suddenly mentally unstable.  I was afraid that her life was in danger and didn’t know how to react to it.  I was so tense.  I know that we eventually have to face our parents’ morbidity but I was just not ready for that.  I know I am blessed to have parents who are healthy.  My kids are still so young and I am not prepared to think about my parents being old and sick.  My mom’s episode prompts me to think about sitting down with my parents to talk about their wishes in regards to their health should anything happens to them in the future.  It also makes me realize that I or anyone else should not pop over-the-counter medications like it’s nothing.  Everything carries a risk, and we have to be vigilant about even OTC meds’ effects.  This episode also makes me realize how much I love and need my mom.  She is the best mom, mom-in-law, and grandmother for us.  I just can’t imagine my life without her, and hopefully I will continue to cherish her and never take her for granted.

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MicroblogMondays: Blood Test Results that Scared Me

The babies saw Dr. Easygoing for their 9-month check up last Thursday.  Can you believe that they are 9 months already?  I’ll have to plan for their first birthday which will be here in less than three months.

The twins are doing very well health-wise.  To my surprise, both of them went up on their percentile for weight.  Okra is now at the 36th %ile, and Bunny is at 23rd.  Ever since they have become more mobile and their formula intake has been inconsistent, I kept thinking that they must have been lagging behind in their weight gain.  Dr. Easygoing reassured me that they are well.  He said some babies’ weight gain flatline when mobility increases.  Okra is 29 1/4 inches and Bunny is 28 3/4.  They are long and lean babies.  Dr. Easygoing commented on how social, interactive, happy, and healthy they are.

Shots were not part of the schedule for the 9-month check up, but blood work was.  I didn’t realize it but Dr. Easygoing usually orders lab test for a complete blood cell count, food allergy panel, and lead for 9 months.  Since Okra threw up twice after he had avocado in the past, Dr. Easygoing also threw in an order for avocado allergy.  Fortunately the clinic has a lab there so we didn’t have to go anywhere else.  Okra was the first one to be poked.  He already started crying while being held down prior to any needle going in his arm.  Bunny started pouting and crying when she heard her brother.  She also screamed when it was her turn not because she was poked but because she was restrained.  The good news is, they got over it quickly and stopped crying once we were out of the lab.

The lab results for the allergy panel came back the next day.  Both babies’ blood did not show elevated value for the common items for food allergies.  Right after lunch, I checked my email and found this from Dr. Easygoing.  It was regarding Bunny’s blood test results: “Her blood test to check for anemia was inconclusive and she had some cells not typically seen on a normal blood smear.  I want to recheck her blood test at our office and be certain everything is normal.”  My heart was about to jump out of my chest when I saw it.  What did that all mean?  I took my phone out of my purse and found a missed call and a voicemail from Dr. Easygoing.  He was asking me to call him when I had a chance as he wanted to talk to me about the kids’ lab.  He said there was nothing to worry about but he just wanted to repeat the lab test for Bunny to make sure that everything was okay.  He ordered another blood test and if I could bring Bunny in for it it’d be great.  At that point, I was truly worried.  So I called him back several times but he didn’t pick up.  I paced the living room and was trying to think what it could mean to have “some cells not typical seen on a normal blood smear”.  I was trying not to freak out.  Finally, Dr. Easygoing called back and spoke to me.  He said that the machine that ran the blood picked up on some atypical cells but because the machine doesn’t classify what kind of cell, it often marked it abnormal.  The machine does it about once a week, and 99 out of 100 times it’s nothing.  But to be safe and to rule out anything abnormal, he would like me to take Bunny in the same afternoon so we could get the results on the weekend.  He said something about white blood cells and such.  Honestly, I did feel a sense of urgency from his voice but I trusted that Bunny was in good hands.  I canceled a visit from an out of town friend and drove Bunny to the clinic when she woke up from her nap.

Baby girl did very well this time.  She struggled for a little when I held her down but she did not even make one peep when the needle went into her arm.  She just stared at the tiny tube that had her blood flowing through and was acting totally normal throughout the whole thing without being even upset for one second.  It was amazing to watch.

Then we waited.  During that time, my mind ran really far with all the possibilities of what this might mean.  I got scared at one point wondering what if she has cancer?  Do we have to contact the donor to request additional family medical history?  What will it mean for our family if she is sick?  What if I lose her?  I was freaking myself out and was trying not to freak out.  It was very difficult to wait.  But at the same time, I had to remember to pray for God’s peace that transcends all understanding.

Fortunately, Dr. Easygoing didn’t make us wait.  We had the blood work done at 1:45.  He called me at 5:20.  The first thing he said was, good news that everything turns out great.  Bunny is healthy.  Nothing is wrong with her blood.  Then he went on to explain what happened.  The lab’s machine picked up on some “abnormal” white blood cells on the first blood sample.  A hematologist looked at the blood and saw white blood cells that looked like cancerous cells (!?!?).  Dr. Easygoing got a call from the lab with those results.  He was alarmed and called up his trusted colleague who is a pediatric hematologist and showed her the results.  She told him to just tell the family (us) to return for an additional sample to rule out any problems.  He contacted me and tried to keep me as calm as possible but he himself was alarmed.  When the second blood sample got sent for analysis, the pediatric hematologist went to the lab to take a look at it herself.  This blood sample was totally normal.  It turned out that the first sample contained some white blood cells that were the results of the body created antibodies to fight out the cold virus that Bunny had in the last week.  Somehow the first hematologist (who apparently only looks at adult blood usually) mistook the cells as cancerous.  Dr. Easygoing apologized profusely for worrying us unnecessarily and burdening me to take the baby in for another unnecessary blood draw.  He said he’d talk to the clinic director about waiving billing for the second blood draw because it was the lab’s mistake and not ours.

I was just relieved that Bunny is still super healthy.  I am also glad that Dr. Easygoing didn’t mention the C word the first time.  I would have freaked big time.  I am also grateful that Dr. Easygoing was on top of things so we didn’t have to wait for the whole weekend to get the blood test results.  I hugged Bunny extra tight that day as we don’t have to worry about her healthy anymore.

MicroblogMondays: Tinnitus

It seems like my body is reacting to the stress that I may or may not feel.  I found myself with sore gums on a daily basis when I woke up in the morning a few months ago. That was around the time we initially got pregnant and I had to juggle going to the ultrasound appointment as well as to attend my grandma’s funeral in Asia.  It dawned on me that I was probably clenching or grinding my teeth during my sleep.  The logical next step is to get a mouth guard to wear in my sleep.  But since I will be getting Invisalign for a couple of misaligned teeth, I will be wearing that instead of a mouth guard at night.  That doesn’t solve my teeth grinding or clenching problems though.

The night before my trip to the 20 week ultrasound about 1.5 months ago, I took a shower and washed my hair.  When I was wiping my hair dry, my right ear felt plugged and full.  No amount of yawning and popping my ears would get rid of that feeling.  An air whooshing sound also returned.  I said “returned” because I had the same experience nine years ago right after I was at a concert and sat too close to the stage and the speakers.  I had vertigo back then and I heard air whooshing sound on my right ear constantly.  This is called tinnitus which is defined as hearing noises or ringing in the ears when no such external physical noise is present.  Luckily I work at a place with audiologists and one of my coworkers is a tinnitus expert.  She made sure that my hearing was fine, and told me that the sound in my ears should disappear in about nine months because my brain would get used to the sound.  And she was right.  The sound went away after 9 months.  That was so many years ago that I forgot how it felt.  Until now.

The increase in volume has been gradual.  In the beginning it was just a narrow band white noise like a hissing sound.  I didn’t really notice it that much unless the surrounding environment was really quiet.  As time progresses, it has become increasingly louder and much more noticeable.  The fullness in the ear started to disappear but the air sound has become stronger.  Two weeks ago at church during sermon I couldn’t hear Bob who whispered in my right ear because the air whooshing sound was so loud.  I had to turn my head towards him in order to understand what he was saying.  And then Last week one day I woke up in the morning by Bob’s alarm clock at 5:30am.  The quietness of the bedroom intensified the air whooshing sound.  The sound was so loud that I got scared for the first time ever since tinnitus came back.  What if this sound never goes away and only gets worse and louder.  It could be so debilitating.

My tinnitus expert coworker and I both agreed that this could all stem from my temporomandibular joint problem that is caused by my teeth clenching/grinding which in turn is possibly caused by the stress in my life.  The funny thing is, I do not feel that I am overly stressed, but my body may disagree.  I guess my body is reacting to my growing to-do list and the weekend tasks of getting the house ready for the babies.  Sometimes I can hear the sound so loudly when I work with kids that I have to work really hard to concentrate on what they are saying.  I feel the most comfortable when I stand in the hallway in front of the closet that houses telecom equipments because of the machine noises that resemble the white noise in my ear.  A friend of ours gave us a sound machine for the babies.  I put it by the bedside and turn it on when we go to bed and wake up to it.  Since it is on the left side of my bed, it helps to balance out the noise.  Who knew that something intended for our babies would be so useful in my situation?

I don’t think the stress level will go down any time soon as the time approaches for us to take our babies home.  We have been warned by many about the fatigue that we will likely experience the many months after the babies are born.  I just hope that my body pulls through again for me once more by getting used to the tinnitus so I won’t hear the noise again in a matter of nine months, just like last time.

Relief

The breast scare turned out to be nothing serious.  Such a relief.  Praise the Lord!

Yesterday’s visit with the doctor at the Breast Health Clinic already gave me good news.  The night before the appointment, I couldn’t even find the lump that was on my right breast.  I touched and searched and it was just not there.  The bigger and more solid one on the left was still there.  God answered my prayers by keeping me at peace with this whole thing.  I went into the appointment feeling calm.  And I really appreciated the doctor’s bedside manner.  She really put me at ease.  I will call her Dr. Calm.  After I told her about my fertility treatment, she shared with me her own infertility journey.  We chatted the whole way through the clinical exam and the ultrasound.

Dr. Calm told me that she went through many rounds of IVF before she finally got pregnant with her twins.  She spotted my pendant that says “Hope” and told me a story.  While they were still in the thick of it, her husband told her that if they have a girl in the future, he’d name her Hope.  And Dr. Calm finally got pregnant with boy/girl twins.  And her daughter’s middle name IS Hope.  We also chatted about her husband being the only child in a traditional Chinese family so the pressure was on from her father-in-law for her to make some boys.  She was very touched when her mother-in-law told her that she’d be equally happen if Dr. Calm was carrying twin girls.

While we were chatting about all this, she carefully palpated my breasts.  And she also couldn’t locate the small lump on the right breast.  She was quite sure that it was a cyst if it came and went so quickly.  She could really feel the bigger, more solid lump on the left breast.  She commented that it felt very mobile and oval.  So those were also good signs.  The ultrasound image showed a dark oval which looked to her like a cyst as well.  However, she said it looked like a cluster of cysts rather than just one cyst.  Just to be sure, she wanted to send me to get a diagnostic ultrasound because her simple bedside ultrasound couldn’t show the depth of the mass.  She said that there was nothing to worry about, but clinically she wanted to make sure that there was nothing hiding below the cyst/cluster of cysts.  She also ordered for a mammogram since the last one was done two years ago.

Dr. Calm then told me an encouraging story about egg donation and surrogacy.  A college friend of hers couldn’t get pregnant and was advised not to carry on her own.  She did both DE and surrogacy and had twins around the same time my doctor did.  The two sets of twins grew up together and are best friends.  She said that her friend is blonde with blue eyes so the donor was as well.  Mixed with her husband of Egyptian descent, my doctor said that the twins looked just like her friend.  Dr. Calm said that she was very hopeful for me for bringing home a baby.

Today I had a busy day running to the radiology department two separate times from work.  The mammogram itself was not so much painful but uncomfortable after being squeezed, moved, turned and told to hold my breath.  The entertainment came from the technician who was also Indian and chatted with me about all things Indian including food, customs, and in-laws.  The afternoon appointment was for the diagnostic ultrasound with a more powerful machine than yesterday’s.  The ultrasound tech took many images of my left lump.  Afterwards, a very eloquent doctor came in to talk to me.  She looked at my mammogram images and saw that I did have a mass.  But she didn’t think it was anything serious as it looked like a cyst to her.  I lay down again for her to feel the lump.  She looked at the ultrasound images that the tech had taken and told me that it looked like there was one bigger cyst in one location and a bunch of smaller ones in another location.  They are nothing to be worried about.  They don’t increase the risk of cancer and they come with the fluctuation of hormones.  Sometimes they go away depending on the hormonal level in the body, like the little one on my right side.  Although the guidelines for mammogram have changed from over 40 to over 50, she’d still recommend an annual one from 40 on.  The only disadvantage is a false positive that may cause a bit of anxiety, but the advantage is that it does catch cancer and save lives.  She wants me to know that having cysts does not mean the risk of having cancer is diminished.  So I have to know what these lumps feel like.  If there are any changes that are out of the ordinary, I should still seek help.  I think from now on I’ll have a mammogram on a yearly basis just to be sure.

It’s such a blessing to be healthy.  I am so grateful that this is nothing more than discomfort and soreness.  Now I can focus on other important things in life and won’t be distracted by this health scare anymore.

Breast Scare and Grandma

One of my grandmothers is going to turn 97 or 98.  (Age and year of birth of that generation in the Chinese culture is often vague.)  I haven’t seen her since our trip to Asia in April 2014.  It is tough to live so far away from the majority of my family.  Grandma had been in very good health until this summer when she fainted and was hospitalized.  Physically she is fine.  However, her mind might have been a little chaotic.  As someone who used to have the best memory (remembering everyone’s birthday), she exhibited some symptoms of mental confusion and at one point didn’t even recognize my cousin who lives with her.  She no longer takes the shuttle from her home to the market for her breakfast, which was her routine for 20 years.  Her mind has improved since the summer, but it feels that a visit with her overseas is necessary at a time when she is still relatively lucid and healthy and we can still spend quality time together.  I do not want to go when it is too late.  Since we have been trying to sort out the whole donor egg cycle and surrogacy, there has not been a good time to go.  The timing seems good now that we are down to the wire in terms of preparation for our gestational carrier’s transfer.  The legal paperwork will hopefully be completed by the second week of October and we are hopeful to do the transfer the first week of November.   Grandma’s birthday this year is October 22 (it changes yearly according to the lunar calendar).  My brother is set to fly over for a visit around that time.  It would be good for me to go around the last two weeks of October just in time for a transfer in the first week of November.  I was doing my search of reasonable airfare and then…

I found a little lump on my right breast last weekend randomly while watching TV.

It felt small and it moved around a little, but it was definitely something new.  I freaked out a little but decided to make an appointment with my primary care doctor online.  I scored an appointment for Monday afternoon.  I am not going to lie, but my mind was going fast and I was worried.  You know how it is.  Our worries about the future cloud our judgment as our mind jumps to conclusion.  The worst case scenarios flashed in my head.  Fortunately, prayers for peace and the determination to stay away from Goog.le search had kept me sane.

My doctor reviewed my mammogram results prior to coming in the exam room.  My one and only mammogram two years ago was normal but did indicate that my breast tissues were dense and fibrous.  Upon palpation, my doctor couldn’t even find the little lump at first until I pointed it out to her.  She said it felt more fluid-filled, like a cyst.  Just to be sure, she also examined my left breast and found a bigger and denser lump on the top left part of it.  She said that since this one felt more solid, it’d be best for me to do a scan.  She put in an order for a mammogram and told me to go to radiology to make an appointment.

At radiology, I was told that I could be seen immediately.  However, the staff members asked me a question that was taped on the counter: Do you have new masses or lumps on your breast?  I answered yes.  Because of this yes, I was told I had to go to the “Breast Health Services” downstairs.  Over there, I was told that I had to be scheduled to see a doctor there first.  The first opening is this coming Monday late morning.  So that means that I have had to wait a whole week to see this doctor before I can get any scans.

During this week of waiting, I still freak out at times, thinking about the possibility of me being sick and us bringing a baby into this world and the baby not having a mom.  The mind can go to the worst place fast.  But I am mostly at peace with this and am just waiting for the appointment.  I pray that I surrender everything to God as He is the one who is in control.  It could be psychological, but ever since these two lumps were found, I could seriously feel my breasts throbbing with soreness at times.  Speaking with others helps.  Both of the coworkers that I spoke with have had the same happen to them.  Both were checked out and were fine.  It’s helpful to know that the results could be normal.  This has also freaked Bob out.  The first night was the hardest as he was worried and wondered why we had to deal with one thing after another.  He has since then calmed down and has also just been waiting patiently for the appointment next week.

Because of this new development, I have been hesitant with the trip to Asia.  What if these lumps are more serious than I would like?  What if treatment is needed?  What if what if what if.  I have delayed looking into plane tickets but then I am also mindful that I would like to be around for all the initial scans that Annie, our gestational carrier, would have if/when we get pregnant.  It will be even harder to schedule a time to go see my grandmother in the near future once a pregnancy is achieved if I want to be as present for the pregnancy as possible.  So I have decided to purchase my plane tickets this weekend regardless of the outcome of the exam on Monday.

It is sometimes difficult, but I am determined to focus on the good things: seeing my family, spending time with my grandma, and being full of anticipation for our upcoming transfer.  I pray that the exam on Monday yields good results so that my mind can rest and truly enjoy the good things that life has to offer.