Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Avon Walk 2013 Redux

So this year, as many of you know, I participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Charlotte, NC.  I signed up for the walk, at a discount, last year when participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago.  It is my goal to experience the Avon Walk in each of the host cities.  I could use the excuse that it gives me a chance to view the local sights, but the reality is, you follow a path and if your path takes you past pretty stuff, then you're good.  Otherwise, as was the case with this walk, you're checking out the pretty Craftsman homes!  In truth, I am really just running away from the hills of the DC Walk.  What, you didn't think DC had hills?  Just try walking in and out, up and down the streets of Georgetown and Silver Spring!

This year, there were many factors against participating.  Fundraising was harder, training was nonexistent and oh, yeah, that whole seven months pregnant thing.  The more you tell me I can't or shouldn't do something, the more I want to do it.  Just ask my mom - I'm contrary like that.  To say that being pregnant (and busy) impacted my training would be an understatement, but I was confident I could do the 13 miles.  I knew there would be blood, sweat and possibly tears, but I had this.

Two weeks before the walk, some health issues, and doubts, started to appear.  For the first time ever, I doubted that I could finish something I started.  Fortunately, the healthy issues (braxton hicks and high blood pressure) were not significant enough for me not to participate, but admonishments were given to take it slow and do no more than I could.

I won't bore you with all the details, but I will say that I finished.  I thwarted the hills of Charlotte (who KNEW???), the steps they threw in just for fun on day 2 and the voice in my head that kept telling me to quit.  I gained inspiration in some of the strangest ways ever:  a pug in a dog cart with issues exactly like Sunshine's (!) who appeared when I was ready to quit, a woman who had a miserable time trying to raise funds and awareness, but who walked anyway and the girl from Florida who was woefully unprepared for the 40 degree weather but camped anyway!  And, oh yeah, the telltale hairless heads of women who had just finished chemo and brought with them not on the the strength to fight, but to walk as well. 

Many of you have said that I was awesome for doing the walk and remarked that you were unsure how I was able to do it as pregnant as I was.  I had a choice, for sure, to postpone to another year.  But I couldn't help but keep positioned in the forefront of my mind that my 26 mile walk was nothing compared to the battle many brave women and men, and their friends and loved ones, face daily.  This walk wasn't about me, it wasn't about me proving the naysayers wrong - it was about those who fought this disease with everything they have, win or lose and are mad as hell they had to do it in the first place.  It's about making sure that girls in KIC's generation have better weapons to fight with, or, hopefully, not ever having to fight at all.  And it's about ensuring that even if you don't know someone who has been personally affected by breast cancer, you cannot let blinders keep you from understanding the impact that this horrible disease has on the lives of those who have known someone impacted by breast cancer.

Second to childbirth, this is one of the most grueling experiences I have ever had in my life.  If it wasn't for the support of donations, my cowalker Sarah, and my wonderful friend Terri who was willing to hurry up and wait to schlep our tired bodies home, I could not and would not have done this.  I am grateful to everyone for their support and honored to be walking for such a worthy cause.  But, I hope you will remember, the true heroes, the humans who are really awesome, are the ones who go into battle everyday.  Send them your accolades and support.  Lord knows, they can use all the support they can get.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2 Legit 2 Quit

This pregnancy has been much different than when I was pregnant with KIC, on many levels.  One bit, in particular, that has been "fun", is the constant Braxton Hicks.  For those unfamiliar, Braxton Hicks is a nice way of saying "you're having contractions but it's not doing anything other than causing you pain."  Apparently, epidurals for Braxton Hicks has not been explored yet.  Someone needs to get on that!  But I digress.

Bean is a very active baby.  More so than KIC EVER was.  It would seem that with his activity level brings Braxton Hicks.  This has been going on since about week 17, in varying degrees of intensity.  I've learned, for the most part, to shrug them off and press on.  Recently, though, my contractions were timeable.  Every five minutes, I was experiencing the joy of a contraction.  The more I moved, the faster, and harder, they came.

When one is pregnant, you are constantly admonished to call your doctor in the event anything out of the ordinary is going on.  I called, told them about my contractions and was summarily sent to the hossabuilding, as KIC calls it.  Since I was so far from my due date, regular contractions like that were definitely cause for concern, though I suspected it was still Braxton Hicks.  I got hooked up to all kinds of fun monitors and gave the usual personal information.  After what seemed like forever, I was seen by a doctor from my practice that I had not yet met.  This is what went down:

Dr:  So why are you in here?
Me:  I had been having contractions every five minutes so they asked me to come in.  They have (of course) slowed down since I got here.
Dr looking at the monitor and not seeing any contractions:  Well, it could be one of two things.  One, you're having pre term contractions or two, you're having pre term labor.  The only way to determine which one it is is to do a cervical exam.  If it's pre term contractions, you'll be able to go home for dinner tonight.  If it's pre term labor, then we're looking at putting you on magnesium sulfate and starting steroid shots.

Side note:  Magnesium sulfate was the thing I was most concerned about.  That stuff has TERRIBLE side effects on the mother, though it does really good things for premature babies.  Anything else, I could have handled.

Me:  Okay, sounds good.
Dr:  Okay, I'm going to do the exam now.
Me (experiencing one of the most painful contractions of the evening):  Ooo, that kind of hurts.
Dr:  Yep, you're legit.  That's a pretty significant contraction.

Ummmmmmm, what??  Did you think I came here so I could get a good night's rest???  Good golly!

The exam found that I was having pre term contractions and not pre term labor.  It seems that my uterus continues to be locked up tighter than Ft. Knox for now.  I was sent home that evening and treated myself to a milkshake on the way home.  My only care instructions are to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Because pregnant women don't spend enough time in the bathroom!!! 

For now, I am happy that Bean gets to cook for awhile longer.  In the meantime, if you see me walking down the hallway singing a certain MC Hammer song, well, you'll know why.

You're singing it now, aren't you?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It is never okay to point and laugh

I apologize in advance as this post may be all over the place.  Things for the Shoups have been pretty emotional (and expensive) lately.  It doesn't help that with Bean in the oven (one of many nicknames for the baby still cooking in mah belly), my hormone levels are higher than normal.  Just ask Brent.  ;-)

Our dog Sunshine, whom we dearly love, adore and cherish, is like a little old lady for many reasons.  As she ages (she turns 13 in January), so, sadly, does her body.  We have been managing diabetes for her for over five years now.  It coincided nicely with the birth of KIC.  "Hey, Shoups, I know that having a kid is an expensive endeavor, but let's throw in a ton of required veterinary care over the next five years to add to the fun!"  We have seen more specialists for our dog than most people see in in a lifetime.  We are dedicated to responsible pet ownership and would do it no matter what.  It's part of the package for us and always has been.  Is it an obligation?  Absolutely.  But is it done with love and respect?  100%. 


Sunshine's mobility had been failing for about 8 months or so. We noticed weakness in her hind legs and sought both traditional medication as well as homeopathic remedies.  She was diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy.  The vet could bend her rear paw completely underneath Sunshine's foot with no recognition or correction on Sunshine's part at all.  With the medications, we were able to buy a ton of time always knowing that the progress we gained was fragile.  In August, we had a huge scare.  And by scare, our worlds were rocked.  Sunshine's energy level had gradually been going down, but one night, it was clear through her coughing that Sunshine couldn't get enough oxygen.  At 1 am, B rushed her to the emergency vet.  We spent the next 14 hours wondering how long our girl would be with us.  The cost of a used beater car later, Sunshine was diagnosed with pneumonia and sent home with meds.  The oxygen and fluids had done wonders for her system, we knew what we were up against and we added another tool to our arsenal against her aging body.  We had a follow up with our regular vet the next morning, which gave us all peace of mind.  When Sunshine came home from the emergency vet, she was tired from not sleeping or eating much, but her mobility was much the same as it was before. 

The next morning was one of the scariest moments of my life.  I brought Sunshine downstairs, as we always do, since her neuropathy made stair navigation extremely scary for her.  When I put her down, she could no longer support her weight.  When I went to pick her up, I discovered she had defecated on herself.  Overnight, she lost almost all muscle control and seemingly, her bowel control.  I rushed her to the vet and carried her in myself, with KIC trailing behind.  The news from the vet was not good and she braced us to expect the worst.  Brent and I spent much of the day in tears thinking we would soon be saying goodbye to our girl. 

Inexplicably, Sunshine, as she is wont to do, defied the odds.  Her appetite started to increase, though her mobility was clearly lost.  We were sling walking her so she could relieve herself, prompting one very nice gentleman to stop and tell Brent that he had much respect for what Brent was doing and hoped that if his dogs got to the state Sunshine was in, he would do the same thing.  When B came home and shared, we both broke down and cried.  It was an extremely emotional time. 

We started to see that the sling could only be a temporary solution.  At five months pregnant, I couldn't physically support her during her sling walking.  We bought a cart, the cheapest on the market, because we weren't sure if she would accept walking in a cart.  Our reasoning was that if Sunshine didn't take to it, we could always donate it to a dog rescue that could use it. 

It took awhile, but as you can see, she eventually accepted it.  It didn't hurt that to goad her into walking in it, I would take another dog with us to provide competition.  ;-)  Nope, not a one of us Shoups is competitive.  The booties on her feet are from when she was at her weakest and dragging her feet as she walked.  If you look closely at the farthest paw, you can see how the weakness would allow her toes to bend under her foot.
To reach this milestone with Sunshine was huge!  HUGE!  We were all extremely proud of her and her accomplishment.  I was excited to be able to walk with Sunshine again, without having to worry about her falling and taking me with her.  We walked around in a bubble of pride, praising Sunshine with each accomplishment.  If rewarding her with an M&M every time she peed or pooped was appropriate for a dog, a diabetic dog at that, I would have done it!  Go Sunshine!  Even KIC would walk behind Sunshine chanting "Go Sunshine, Go Sunshine!"  It was a family effort.
And then, I started noticing the stares.  And the children outright pointing and laughing.  Some people even looked at us in disbelief and disgust.  I think the perception is that we were prolonging Sunshine's life for our own perverse satisfaction.  I actually began to welcome the folks who asked why she was in the cart.  Nobody knew what we went through to get to that point, nor was I going to give them the full run down, but the number of people who had their own perceived notions about our intentions or how "funny looking that dog is" was incredible.  Sunshine didn't and doesn't care so long as she gets to check her "pee mail" and do her thing, but I could see KIC start to take it in, especially when it was a peer who was doing the pointing and laughing.  It bothered me, more than I can say, and made me so sad.  The bubble of pride had shrunk and had become a bubble of protection.
Since school has started, Brent has started taking Sunshine to the bus stop in the mornings.  In a rare move of efficiency for him (cuz he's a boy), he walks KIC to the bus and then walks Sunshine afterwards.  Remember me saying we bought the cheapest cart we could find?  Well, it has come back to bite us in the butt.  The cart bit the dust for good and we are waiting for her custom cart (which was actually not that much more expensive) to come in for her.  In the meantime, the time she had in the cart gave the swelling around her disc compression enough rest that she can walk a block under her own power - albeit like a drunken sailor.  Those kids who were pointing and laughing have been able to see up close and personal the phenom that is Sunshine and KIC is proud to have Sunshine at the bus stop with her. 
I know that our society generally looks away from people with disabilities.  The fact that pointing and laughing is acceptable for an animal with a disability is interesting.  If we didn't frown on such behavior when a human being is involved, would we see a lot more laughing and pointing at humans?  Perhaps I am oversimplifying, but a smile always goes a lot further than ridicule.  Maybe people don't want the explanation and maybe I don't want to give it, but before they pass judgement, they should consider that they don't know all the facts and sometimes they really aren't all that important anyway.  Kindness is what counts.
The face of misery?  Not a chance.
In the meantime, we continue embrace each day with Sunshine, now with joy instead of grim determination.  Havoc has taken it upon himself to be her boon companion, her instigator and her general pain in the rear.  We see her happy grin more and more, and each walk seem to be a point of pride for her.  Instead of thinking we have weeks, we now hope we get another couple of years.  No matter the outcome, she'll always be our Sunshine.