Monday, July 16, 2018

After the Dust Settles

My last post left off in June 2017, right before my pituitary surgery. 
Spoiler Alert: I survived. But as usual it was exciting! 
Sorry this post is SO long, but so much happened.
We still had no idea how exactly we were going to pay for the surgery, and to top it off we were told that we would have to pay $10,000 upfront! If the surgery had no complications it would cost $35k. Cory reminded me that we would spend that much on a car, so of course my brain is worth the money. Logically it made sense, but I felt SO guilty for being the cause of my family's financial hardship. It all came together at the last minute and I had Pituitary Surgery on June 29, 2017 at the University of Utah Hospital by Dr. William Couldwell.
The surgery went great. 
They were able to get my whole tumor out without injuring my optic nerve or my carotid artery! It was a miracle, and I was in good hands.

I was in the Neuro ICU for a few days, and then transferred to the regular Neuro floor on Sunday June 2. Thats where I bottomed out.
I was SO sick, and no one knew why.
I had been fine, until I wasn't. I couldn't keep any food down and I couldn't even sit up without feeling nauseous and dizzy.
At one point I was so scared, I freaked out!
Like major psych ward freak out.
I had the thought that if I didn't get out of my bed soon
 that I would die in that hospital bed.
I grabbed my IV pole and hobbled down the hall 
and asked to be let out onto the patio.
 Once outside, I felt even worse in the heat. 
I walked back to my room, (with Cory's help) feeling defeated.
Finally they figured out what was wrong.
I was experiencing Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency.
Basically, my cortisol level had bottomed out,
and I needed hormone therapy to feel better.
It worked almost immediately.
This is just a complication of pituitary surgery.

I was finally able to go home the night of July 4th. 
The Freedom of leaving the hospital felt amazing!

It was so nice to be home with my kids! We all felt relieved that everything went well. The problem was, I was starting to feel sicker and sicker. I attributed it to the side effects of the hydrocortisone medication I was taking. By Thursday morning I had gained 4 lbs in the 2 days since returning home from the hospital! I was feeling very foggy, and confused. The kids were at a sweet friend's house playing,
and Cory was out mowing the lawn. I called the nurse hotline and told them what was going on. The nurse told me that I needed to head to the ER right away and that they would be ready for me. She told me to come to the ER at University of Utah if at all possible. I called Cory, who was outside, with my cell phone and tried to relay what the nurse told me. By this time I was very foggy, and very confused. He asked another friend to pick up our kids, and bring them home, and we headed to the hospital. I don't remember much of the ride, but it was long. They took me in right when we got to the ER, and they figured out that I had Hyponatremia, which is low sodium. Also a side effect from my surgery. About 5% of pituitary tumor surgeries result in
something called SIADH or
Syndrome of Inappropriate Ant-Diuretic Hormone.
Meaning my pituitary was releasing too much anti-diuretic hormone,
which resulted in water retention and Hyponatremia.
The things you learn when you have to stay in the hospital.😊
(The more common pituitary surgery side effect is Diabetes Insipidous
which is essentially the opposite of SIADH.)

In the ICU they gave me a PICC line and started a sodium solution. I started to feel better gradually. 
There were a few problems with all of this. 
Number 1: I did not want to be in the hospital, AGAIN, 
I wanted to be home with my family!
Number 2: How in the heck were we going to pay for
a second hospital stay?!

Number 3 and maybe most important: My family was all coming to Utah for a Reunion and if I was in the hospital, would Cory have to take the kids alone?

Once my sodium was back up I was feeling great. But I couldn't leave the hospital until they knew I could maintain the levels on my own. I was on a diet of salty foods and 1-liter of powerade only.
I felt like a prisoner. I tried to be positive, and enjoy the view of Salt Lake City from my room. Plus it did give me a chance to start studying in my nursing classes, but I wanted to leave so badly.
The view from my room on the Neuro Floor.
Salt Lake City is beautiful!

The view from the patio of the Neuro Floor.
As I got better, I was allowed to sit outside and it was so peaceful.

I now owe Cory for life because he did take our kids to the reunion
 by himself for a couple of days.
I told him he has complete immunity for at least 10 years,
after all he has done for me.
On July 11th I was finally released from the hospital again.
I got to join my family for the rest of the week of the reunion.
It was so sweet to be greeted not only by my children,
but by my whole family!

Me hugging my wonderful Grandpa Bertola as
 I arrived at the reunion house, powerade in hand.
He gives the best hugs!
Me with one of my favorite women of all time,
My beloved Grandma Sofia.
Being around her is always a joy.
Me and my favorite guy! On our way home from the reunion.
Notice the Powerade is never far away.

After the dust settled, I continued to get better. I stayed on Powerade for several weeks, and had my sodium checked often. I still need hydrocortisone frequently, and I can't exercise vigorously without getting tired out, but I am feeling great!

My mom ended up staying with me for a few weeks to help when Cory went back to work. Not only did she take care of us, but I was able to get all caught up on my nursing classes!!! She saved me! 

Life the rest of the year has been pretty normal and great! 
Not only was my surgery and recovery a miracle, but we received wonderful news in the fall.
The surgery was expensive, like all surgeries,
our insurance was going to help pay for it!!!!
The pathology of my tumor came back as "atypical" so it got
coded in a way that my insurance would accept.
We were flabbergasted!
My second hospital stay was covered also, because I was admitted through the ER.
I cannot atrribute any of this to luck.
This was a direct answer to prayer.
I don't know how many times I have to learn this lesson over and over.
God keeps his promises.
I hope I will never doubt again. 

I am thankful everyday to be alive AND healthy.
I am now in my third semester of Nursing school and loving it so much.
All of my illnesses and hospital stays have actually helped me a lot with my school work,
and it has given me so much compassion as I help treat patients on my rotations.

My Nursing program is through Western Governor's University.
We have our labs at the University of Utah Campus.
It is hard for me to not tear up when I drive to school and
see the hospital I was just in a short time ago.
It never gets old, and I never forget how lucky and blessed I am.

To top it all off, I finally got Lasik Surgery!!!
That alone makes this year one of the best ever.

Here is some of the fun stuff we got to do this year. 
Our life is not perfect, but it is pretty great!

We got to go on our first cruise in October to the Bahamas,
with some of our favorite people!!!
It was amazing!
We stopped at Walmart in Orlando before Boarding the boat.
We knew finding this Diet Coke was a sign that the trip would be great!

These guys are the best!
I think I grinned ear to ear the whole week.

My hair almost needed its own ticket by the end of the cruise, it got so big!

Aren't we adorable?!
This girl is everything a friend should be,
so glad she is in my life.

Normal day in Minion town.
This boy is a real life minion.
He makes us laugh everyday.
Cute little trick-or-treaters

It finally snowed enough on Christmas to go sledding!!

All of the Bertola Girls got to go to Waco, TX to visit Magnolia (Fixer Upper)!
It was so fun to be together and to celebrate my Mom's 60th Birthday!!! 
Crazy right? Everyone kept asking if we were all sisters. (She is the one in the red sweater.)

My mom caught me after one of my rotations. 
Can you tell how tired I am?
I think this is the only picture I have wearing my scrubs.

 Lisa got to visit me and we went with a fun group
 to see Hamilton in Salt Lake City.

Cousins are always the best.
We are always so happy when they come and visit!

This summer we embarked on a huge road trip to see some Mormon Pioneer historic sites!
We went to Omaha, NE to visit Winter Quarters,
 which is where they stopped  for a time before making the trek to Utah.
Then we went to Nauvoo, IL right on the bank of the mississippi river,
which is the coolest historic town to visit. 
It is so preserved, and it feels like you have travelled back in time.
We visited Carthage Jail, where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed,
(This was my favorite place to see.)
We visited Adom-ondi-Ahman, which is such a special place to see.
Then we went to Liberty Jail in Missouri, and saw the Kansas City Temple.
Seeing all of these sites in person adds so much to my testimony of the Book of Mormon, and everything the pioneers sacrificed so I can read it whenever I want.

Eventually we headed down to Arkansas to visit my three sisters!
On our way home we even got to see a Giant's game in Denver. 
Such a great Trip!
Looking down on Nauvoo, IL  and the Mississippi river from the temple.

Nauvoo Temple

Carthage Jail

Nauvoo, IL

Mississippi River where the pioneers crossed
when they left Nauvoo for good.
The river was frozen over and they walked across.


Kansas City, MO Temple
The kids got to ride a school bus and have lunch at the school with their cousins while in Arkansas. It was the cutest, and they loved every minute of cousin time!

 The Giant's game was awesome! So fun to go as a family.

The night we arrived home after 50+ hours in the car.
We were grateful for Utah weather after being so hot and humid in the midwest.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Surgery Tomorrow

The last weeks have been a whirlwind. Tomorrow is the big day. I will be having surgery to have the tumor removed from my pituitary. The surgery itself is only a couple of hours, but I will be in the hospital until Sunday. It was determined that I have Acromegaly. Of course, when the doctor said it is rare, we just laughed. Story of my life.
Having a tumor on your pituitary is not rare, but there are different kinds. Some release hormones, while others do nothing. The one I have is releasing growth hormone, which means if I were a child, I would have GIGANTISM! How funny is that? I am fully convinced that God has a sense of humor. I am one of the smallest adults I know, and I have an abundance of growth hormone?!
Although, because I am an adult and my growth plates are fused, it would only affect my hands, feet, and facial bones. The doctor asked me if I had noticed any changes. My wedding ring has been feeling tight, and some of my shoes uncomfortable, but nothing so significant that I would have gone to the doctor. I have some other symptoms too, but there is no way I would have connected them together. Cory got the biggest kick out of it and started calling me "Man Hands"! Awesome, right?There are fewer than 20,000 cases a year of acromegaly, and I am so lucky they caught it before I was having extreme symptoms or changes to my body.

After this diagnosis from my endocrinologist the real fun began. He said that one of the best neurosurgeons in the world practices right here in Salt Lake City. He said he has only ever had 12 people with this condition, and 9 were cured after surgery. The other 3 did not go to the surgeon he was referring me to. We were thrilled. How lucky is that to have one of the best so close to home?
Then the insurance rained down pretty hard on my parade. I won't go into too many details, but I will just say that after weeks and weeks of back and forth, we are going out of network, to my endocrinologist's referral and having the surgery done at the University of Utah with Dr. Couldwell. He has done over 3,000 pituitary surgeries, and is one of the best in the world. Especially with my history, and the fact that this tumor is so close to my carotid artery, we decided it wasn't worth the risk. But if you see us on the corner with a cardboard sign, you will know why we are out there!

Figuring out how we were going to pay for the surgery was more stressful than worrying about the surgery itself. I felt this heavy, heavy cloud over me constantly, and I couldn't get it to go away. I don't even know how many hours I spent on the phone with doctors offices and the insurance, trying to sort it all out. Plus, we had no surgery date. So trying to coordinate how everything would work when I was in the hospital was hard, not knowing when I would actually be in the hospital. Even yesterday, two days before my surgery, there were still hiccups and the threat of the surgery date changing. It has been pure craziness.

I finally went to the LDS Temple in Ogden this last Saturday. This temple was remodeled and was open to the public for tours in the fall of 2014. After my first jaw surgery, after being cooped up in the house for several weeks, we decided to hop in the car and take the kids to go and see it. I still had my jaw wired shut, walked with a cane, and was enormously swollen. Since I couldn't walk well, especially on stairs, one of the temple volunteers wheeled me around in a wheelchair. She took me wherever I wanted, and let me stay as long as I wanted in each room, all while Cory walked around with our kids. Sitting in this same Temple, now re-dedicated, a few days ago, having come so far from almost three years ago was surreal. It reminded me of how far I have come, and how many miracles and blessing I have received. 
The weight I have been feeling was lifted off of me. I was reassured (Again) that everything would turn out well. I got the impression that I just need to take all of the energy and stress and turn it into something positive. That if I stop wasting energy on negative thoughts and worries, that I would have more than enough to overcome this next challenge. I am so grateful for the peace that only the Savior can bring. I am so grateful to not have to bear my burdens alone. Having faith that everything will turn out well takes practice, and lots of reminders.  
Even Peter doubts in The New Testament-Matthew 14:29-31:
 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, 
O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

I have had some very good news also...I found out a few weeks ago that I got into Nursing School! I am beyond excited! But I wasn't sure if I needed to defer my enrollment or if I could go ahead. It starts next week! But the doctors said I should be feeling okay within a couple of weeks and that I should be fine to go ahead and start. This was such a relief and such good news. Now my goal is to get better quickly so I can move on to better things.

You would think with everything I have been through, that I would never forget the important things. But I do! I am once again so humbled to have such an amazing husband, and family, and angel friends (you know who you are) who save me time and again. They make me laugh when I am stressed, and encourage me when I am down, and kick my butt when I need that too.
I am so grateful for a loving God, and for Jesus Christ who brings me so much peace.

I know now, that everything will turn out fine tomorrow. I am in great hands, and I hope the next time I am in a hospital it will be because I am working as a nurse!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Sequel Is Never As Good As The Original!

A couple of months ago I was sitting in church
 listening to a wonderful lesson on Trials.
 I was handed a small card and asked to
write down some of my current trials. 
Yes, it was the middle of tax season,
meaning my husband was never home. 
Of course I was exhausted and drained from parenting alone. 
But I had nothing to write down. 
My mind was blank. 
My life is so good! 
*Cue "Jaws" music*
It was the eery calm that comes right before a storm, 
or using my past experiences as a reference, a Tsunami.

Time went on, Tax season ended, life is good.
I even had plans to get my eyes checked
 to see if I could get Lasik surgery!
Glasses for a whole week before
my appointment was brutal!
But I knew it would be worth it!!

Now, I have some things to write on that card.
I had my routine MRI scan done a few weeks ago 
to check the area of my head and face where my jaw was removed.

I was at the paint store the next day with my 8 year old daughter 
when I missed a phone call from my Dr.'s office.
It was a Friday after 5p.m., and the office manager asked
 that I call her cell phone.
(I knew that was not a good sign!)
I called her back, and she said my MRI scan was abnormal, 
and I needed another, plus a CT scan.
There was that stupid "Jaws" music again!

My 8 year old daughter could hear all of this,
and as I hung up she started saying, "Oh no, oh no, oh no." 
I tried my best to hold it together
and reassure her that everything was fine.
I was trying to convince myself.
We got home and I went into my room to tell Cory and I finally cried.
Like, crumple to the floor ugly cry.
The tears were a mixture of worry, anger, and more worry.
I put in my time of being sick. I feel great, 
and I am too busy to be sick again.
After about 2 minutes of tears,
I got up and dried my eyes,
and started working on distracting myself. 
I painted a bathroom to help me pass the time.
Waiting for answers is the worst part!
The paint was dark dark brown before.

Fast Forward a week (and 5lbs. of stress eating) 
and I finally have some answers.
The area I had surgery initially in 2014 actually looks great.
Nothing abnormal, thank goodness!

But my pituitary gland wanted to join the party
 and decided to grow a tumor of it's own!
Another Freaking Tumor!
Doesn't it know that was SO 2014?!

I am having more tests done to decide how best to treat it/remove it.
Of course, my tumors are friendly
and like to grow right up to surrounding body parts.
So it is looking like surgery will be in my near future.

This type of tumor is much more common than the one I had before.
The uncommon part is how fast it has showed up.
 I have had lots of scans after all.

So, for now, no Lasik for me.
(I am SO bummed!!!)
But you all are still stuck with me, 
this isn't going to kill me anytime soon.
I am not too stressed about it all.
But I am definitely bugged.
I am too busy to deal with this crap.
But man am I grateful my doctors saw it, and that it is fixable.
The sequel is never as good as the Original.
I thank my lucky stars for that.

Surgery was not in my summer plans!
But I definitely don't have much to complain about.
My life is still pretty great.

This is one of my favorite songs:

I find out any day now if I made it into the Nursing program here in Utah, 
to get my Bachelor's degree in Nursing. 
I would start in July, so I hope they fix me before then.
And hopefully having my pituitary healthy again 
won't regulate my hormones too much.
Cory would be so bored!

Here are some pictures of some of the things we have been up to that are a lot more fun.
This guy is usually ready to relax after kindergarten,
and the dog is more than happy to accommodate.

Talk about a lucky girl!
 She has only had two lessons so far, and she loves it. 

May 5th is a special day at our house. It is the birthday of our first baby, Lorraine.
We like to celebrate by buying a game we can all play together as a family.
One child decided not to participate because the game was too weird.
(Hint: Its the blonde one not pictured.)

This is my view most mornings.
She sneaks in sometime in the wee hours of the morning
and loves to cuddle with her daddy.

This Harry Potter fanatic turned 10 a few days ago.

Not sure if little sister likes being tied up!:)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I Have A New Friend.

I finally have given myself permission to be myself, and I am pretty great!
I feel like I have finally become friends with "the real me".
The real me is happy, even when I am alone.
The real me is able to set goals and not be afraid of the hard work it takes to achieve them.
The real me stands up for my beliefs, always.
The real me loves myself for who I am, not what others think of me.
I am now doing things that I love, because I want to.
2016 was such a great year for our family.

In March I went to my very first Utah Caucus. 
I was selected to be a Utah state Delegate. 
It has been such a great learning experience so far. 
I love everything politics, and this has been so fun. 
Man, I have learned a lot! 
The Utah Republican Convention was pretty fun too.
 I love being informed, and now I really feel like I have a vote, 
which is really awesome!
(Sorry Cory, I will stop talking about politics. On this post anyway.)

At the beginning of the year I made a goal to train for a half-marathon. 
A few of my new friends were all signing up. 
I had never run more than a few miles at a time in my life. 
But I thought, "Hey, why not?". 
 I had to work extra hard to strengthen my right leg. 
But it did get strong enough. 
In June 2016, after four months of training, 
I completed my very first half-marathon! 
It was such a great experience. 
Reaching the finish line was very overwhelming. 
I was tired, but I was also so proud of myself. 
I am great at making goals, but the sticking with them 
until they are complete has always been hard for me. 
The finish line of this race held so much significance for me. 
I felt strong for the first time since before I was sick. 
I felt like I was back. I was no longer defined by my limitations. 
I now had the ability to do anything I set my mind to do.
So, what did I do as I felt so empowered? 
I cried, of course!
This was my view after I crossed the
finish line. I cried tears of joy,
and ate my little heart out!
Loved this!!!
One happy girl!!


I can't really complain about running in Utah. 
What a beautiful state I live in!
Antelope Island. I actually took this
while I was sitting in my car.
The beautiful trail by my house.

Life in Utah has brought lots of visitors, and lots of fun. Cory finished his Master's in Taxation Degree (I know, he is super smart. I am so proud of him!) over the summer, and we finally had some free time. The fall got busy again because I decided to go to school to get a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing. I needed a few classes to qualify to apply for the program, so I completed 12 units over the Fall. It took a while for my brain to warm up to school again. But I have loved it! I even had to dissect a fetal pig for my Anatomy and Physiology classes. That was quite the experience.
Now I just wait, and hopefully I will get in to the Spring 2017 Nursing program!!

Here are some of the things we were up to during the rest of the year:

G loves her stuffed animals.
We even had a wedding for two of them!

This boy is growing so fast!
We love him so much!
All we need is LOVE and S'mores.

My crew. We are a two cart family.
One for the kids, one for the groceries.

t-Ball might be one of the cutest things ever!
This boy brings us so much joy!
Excited for Tucano's.
If you are ever in Salt Lake City, this restaurant is a must!

This girl keeps things
very entertaining.
Love this guy.

Salt Lake City Temple
Visitor's Center.

We had so many apricots this year!
We love that Utah has all four seasons.

These pictures don't need captions.
 These kids are so good at entertaining themselves.
We even found the high school from the
High School Musical Movie!

This beauty turned 8 this year.
It was so special to watch her get baptized by her dad.

This little cutie loves being our baby.
So much personality in this little body.

If I don't text you back, 
it means my phone has been hijacked. 
She cracks me up!

 We had family pictures taken just before Christmas. 
It was SO COLD, but they turned out so good.

Second Christmas in our new house. 
We have so much to be grateful for!

Our life is far from perfect. But we are so blessed. We are not rich, but we have a steady income. We have a warm house, two cars, clothes to wear, and plenty of food to eat. We have access to the world's best medical care. 
I truly feel like we live in the greatest country in the world. I am so grateful for all of the blessings in my life. 
If I have learned anything these past couple of year it is that God loves ME. He knows my struggles, and he blesses me constantly. 
I know He loves each of us, and is aware of our specific needs.

There was a time this year when my sister had to have an emergency c-section to save her baby. 
She had to be taken back into surgery after he was born because she was hemorrhaging. 
All while her baby was being cared for in the NICU.
I felt so helpless. 
My sister was over a thousand miles away, possibly dying, 
and I couldn't do anything.
I found a quiet room, and prayed and prayed and prayed. 
This was 2016, women don't die in childbirth.
Let alone my own sister!

My prayer was interrupted by a very loud tapping on my window.

I tried to keep praying. I had important things to pray about. But the bird would not stop. Finally I realized what the bird was trying to help me remember. I opened my Bible to Matthew 10:29-31

God was aware of the situation. Everything was going to be okay.
 "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

Thankfully my sister, is alive and well.
Her baby has grown into a cute, healthy, chubby baby.
Am I the only one who has to learn the same lessons over and over?!

This is my new motto. 

There is so much negativity surrounding us, trying to bring us down. 
I know if we keep our focus on the Lord, we can feel peace. 
No matter our circumstances.
We have no reason to fear. 
God knows and loves every one of us.