Ahhh, the burning question! If I had a dollar each time I was asked that question, I’d be a wealthy woman (or at least have a few more pretty splurge pieces in my closet.)
Alright. Yes, I’ll agree…I DO document and post many photos of my culinary adventures at Chateau Howard. That said, cooking truly is something that makes me happy, relieves stress and is THAT much more enjoyable when my “love” is shared with my LOVE. Thankfully Don and I make a great duo in the kitchen as well as life.
Our day to day duties (each running small businesses) coupled with life under the roof with a very spirited 18 and 13 year-old keeps us both on our toes. Safe to say it it makes for an exciting, incredibly demanding, at times emotionally frustrating and of course most importantly rewarding life AND blended family journey. Add my 26 year-old son and 23 year-old daughter to the mix (although they are adults and “on their own” so to speak) it’s a rarity there will ever be a dull moment at Chateau Howard. With 4 children between us it’s a perfectly diversified blend in so many ways. That said, I certainly know one thing all moms and dads out there can relate to…life is busy. And beautiful.
Getting back to the topic at hand:
News Alert: Although I love cooking and enjoy posting our culinary adventures, it’s a rarity that I partake in the reward of EATING these mouthwatering presentations. Yes, you heard me. I. Don’t. Eat. What. I. Make. Truth be told, I simply haven’t been able to.
As a now 51 year-old woman, I’ve struggled with processing food for years. The decision was made a number of years ago to give up meat simply as a personal choice and in hopes of getting a better grasp on the situation. Fortunately, I do love vegetables…and wine (but that’s a different story, lol.) In addition, I am an intermittent faster. Despite “smart choices” and an active lifestyle the situation has been an ongoing battle. My stomach is constantly reminding me…”enter at your own risk!”
Fast forward to this past summer and the start of the “Carla Summer Tour,” as Don jokingly coined it. Commence the 2021 summer schedule! Stacked with clients along with new destinations, travel and a great amount of responsibilities, quite frankly it all felt incredibly exciting. However, there was a noticeable (negative) change in how my body was processing food by September… or more truthfully…NOT processing it. By Mid-September it became clear that there was a real issue in which I felt was becoming more and more complex.
I’ve been to a myriad of doctors to talk about my stomach issues with no real diagnosis nor clear solution for years. In addition, it’s been a challenge having been diagnosed over 15 years ago with Hoshimotos Thyroiditis. Blood draws are now routine. Yet my doctors have struggled to manage my TSH levels from the start. I’ve become accustomed to a consistent change in medication dosage every few months. Most currently, no dosage. My primary care provider has decided to do what she calls “a reset.” Then, we start fresh.
Now, enter age. Being 51, I knew that I was due for a colonoscopy, however the “Carla Summer Tour” delayed this procedure. By the second week in September I had lost nearly 10+ lbs. in 3 weeks, could only tolerate (tolerate being a generous word) freeze pops, broth and my ginger/tumeric immunity shots/elixirs from Aldis (thank you Aldis!) It was painful to take in fluids. Oftentimes it still is. I was hard pressed to champion down 20oz of liquid a day.
I am sure you’re all wondering at this point why I didn’t go to the hospital? Well, I did. Twice in one week as a matter of fact, prior to my colonoscopy/endoscopy procedure. The first time in September I sat in the urgent care locally for nearly 6 hours due to intense abdominal pain. A blown vein on a blood draw coupled with lots of questions about my health and eating habits was both mentally and physically draining. 6+ hours later the MRI on my abdomen was denied, and I was sent home with a lidocaine patch, one pain injection to the upper arm and a few pills for the “discomfort.” I was back a mere days later due to new severe left chest pain. The pain at times was so difficult that it radiated into my entire rib cage/torso which prohibited me to take in full breaths, exhale solidly or sleep laying down. Therefore, arms crossed over the chest, nonexistent sleeping was standard for weeks while sitting upright propped in my bed. An EKG was done that day and an MRI on both my chest and stomach region. Thankfully no abnormalities were found outside of slight scarring on my left lung (with no real understanding as to why.)
I consider myself a pretty healthy and tough individual, however the discomfort and physical/mental stress was definitely wearing on me. The idea of the upcoming colonoscopy/endoscopy terrified me to no end. I was lacking sleep and googling everything known to man. Many of my late night google sessions on WebMD would seem to come right back to one word…cancer. I was convinced the upcoming results would lead me down cancers road.
Needless to say, dealing with the day to day responsibilities of life became more difficult. The mind can make one feel as though they are losing control of all aspects of their life. As one who is a perfectionist, people pleaser and self proclaimed “control freak,” it was a bizarre place to be seated.
Fast Forward. I made it through my endoscopy/colonoscopy with flying colors. However, I was also handed more than I bargained for. Digestive issues and chest pain is one thing. I was not expecting to hear my GI specialist tell me the following:
- Twisted Colon
- A cyst and fibroid on my ovaries.
- Hiatal Hernia at the base of my esophagus. For those that don’t know what this is, it’s when part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm.
- 3 polyps were removed and being sent in for a biopsy.
The GI specialist did his job and did it well. I never would have known all of the above had I not made time to have these procedures done. Although thorough and an expert at his job (which I am immensely GRATEFUL for,) I also learned his bedside manner needs a bit of work…
…a week later I received a call from my GI Specialist sharing the news confirming all
all of the above from when in the recovery room that day, and a bit more. The results were back on the three polyps he removed.
Two were benign. The other?… moderate dysplasia (level 2 squamous.) His exact words, “The third is cancerous and our receptionist will be calling you with a referral to an oncology specialist.” And that… was pretty much how the conversation ended. Honestly, I sat at the kitchen table numb. The whole conversation seemed so cold. After I could peel myself from the chair I had been sitting on, I went to tell Don the “news” and we immediately called to secure an appointment with the recommended oncologist.
I was told that I had cancer. The day came to meet with the oncology specialist who made a few things very clear to Don and I that day.
- The polyp of concern was in fact NOT cancer, yet. Rather PRE-Cancer.
- The level (number) “2” is very concerning, yet a “level 4” is when officially categorized as cancer.
- I have now been forwarded into the care of an incredible doctor within the city of Chicago who whether I like it or not, will now become good friends with. We will meet every 6 months for routine high resolution exams that will hopefully reveal the surrounding tissue is clear and there is nothing abnormal. He seems very confident and that is reassuring. I trust his expertise. Our “first date” is scheduled for Mid-November. We are still waiting on the exact time. I have learned that scheduling procedures/tests/exams is tricky all around for everyone, thus not is the time to get picky. I took what I could get (but still giving a nudge.) As always, staying positive, and grateful:)
Moving forward, I still cannot eat much. There’s no question that I feel a little overwhelmed from time to time. For now I’ll continue to deal with the intense chest pain and stomach issues (some days good, other days not so much)…but at least we now know what we are dealing with, somewhat. I believe it’s at least a start. (Repeat. Grateful.) And, we forge ahead with purpose!
The focus is to navigate through rough waters chin up! Yes, I’ve had to make a few changes and VERY tough decisions (business-wise) as my health is important to me. The people pleaser inside of me is still struggling with these decisions, yet know it’s the right thing to do. Admittedly, I am still processing through my own thoughts like, “Hey Carla Ann, not everyone will understand nor appreciate/respect that you are temporarily lessening your work load for health’s-sake.” It’s human nature.
That said, for the next three months I am all about ME (unapologetically.) Ironically, the journey I am on (which in essence has always been about the “WE”) has only been heightened and redirected. On this journey is where we TOGETHER will find OUR strength! Gentle reminder: NEVER let your current circumstances define you. Pour what you have learned and experienced in life upon others. Trust me, I’ve learned a lot in 51 years of living. #mentorshipmatters
If anything, we are the authors of our own book of life! Rewrite. Close a chapter. Start a new one. Turn the page…but most importantly keep writing because life is beautiful!
Yes, I have lightened (by choice) the proverbial work load while I continue to weave through the diagnoses. I’ll simply state that I am and have been focusing on the big win in 2022 (on multiple levels.) #inspire #uplift #empower …if you’ve following my social media posts, you know exactly what I mean.
The purpose of sharing today is not for sympathy nor pity. It took a bit for me to confidently forge ahead and post/blog about my journey. People can be harsh when tough decisions are made and people can be judgmental.
Example: Being perceived as “skinny” is something I’ve been consistently questioned about for a number years. Even in my adult years, I’ve been the subject of social media shaming and bullying. It’s saddens me that there are those who choose to make assumptions about me and my health. That said, it was time to set the record straight and clear the air. Truthfully, I don’t owe anyone an explanation. However, I do believe that we all have a voice and I might as well make it loud enough for others to hear. We learn and grow stronger as individuals when we share.
Perhaps it’s a bit cathartic as well.
If you’ve read along this far consider it a wake up call. To all of those moms, dads, friends and acquaintances out there:
Please do NOT allow the busyness of life, lack of insurance, fear and/or the thought of the “physicians bill” to stand in the way of doing what YOU must do in order to remain happy and healthy on this earth. Despite life’s responsibilities, pressing the pause button is never the answer. Had I continued to press pause because of “The Carla Tour” that “grade 2” highly concerning polyp that was removed could have easily become a grade 4 and a completely different journey/path. I’m grateful and will take the consistent repetitive 6 month scans over the latter.
Secondly, simply put…do NOT judge a book by its cover and please STOP making assumptions.
In closing, as is in life…we keep on trucking along. I’m no different and most definitely have big plans in the works! Face it. We all will hit periodic bumps in the road of life that will challenge our suspension! As a mentor I embrace my life experiences, challenges and triumphs. These are valued. OUR stories will continue to impact others both directly AND indirectly.
Now more than ever …
(And now you know.)
#paigesoflife #LiveItFullyEveryday #mentorshipmatters #blondeandbecoming #inspire #uplift #empower