Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Endometriosis : 6 Months Later.


It's been about six months since I last wrote about endometriosis.

I haven't been purposely avoiding the subject of endo - not entirely, anyway. But as we begin another Endometriosis Awareness Month I find myself holding a yellow ribbon between my fingers, sitting in front of my computer, really marveling at what a different year this is than last and feeling like I need to write about it. Even if it's a little bit hard to.

To be completely honest, the main reason I haven't written about endo in a while is because it is a much, MUCH smaller part of my life than it used to be. I went from living a life revolving around my illness and it's restrictions to getting into my bed one night and realizing that I hadn't taken any medication that day. I hadn't needed to. I felt well. Now, there are many days that I don't think about endometriosis. This is something that actually makes me feel really guilty to admit because when I was in the deepest parts of my battle, I swore that I wouldn't ever let a second go by where I didn't think about that pain and suffering. But I can't put into words how much weight is lifted off my shoulders when I can go a day without a thought of what I went through. It's like getting a mental vacation after 12 years in an emotional, physical, and psychological war… but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Recovery from surgery was a very long process, as I was told it would be. They said I would make gradual progress for about four to six months and then I'd really notice a difference. It could take up to one year for my body to fully heal. Sitting here now, I can tell you I must be a textbook case because right around the six month mark I started seeing huge, positive changes in my body after months of worrying that I wasn't any better off post-surgery.

For those months, I wasn't talking about my endo because my situation felt like a very anticlimactic ending to what was supposed to be this great success story. Months after coming home, I was still having daily aches, exhaustion, and pain. Even when I knew most of the surgical stuff was still healing, this felt like a horrible betrayal from my body. 

I had publicly shared my experiences with being constantly ill, in and out of the hospital, getting accepted by an amazing organization to have surgery performed by one of the nation's best doctors, traveling across the country, waking up from surgery without pain….. but then going right back to the way things were before? I felt embarrassed. I didn't want to share that I was still struggling and have anyone thinking, "Ugh, here we go again. Thought we were finally done hearing about all that!" or even worse, having girls who were encouraged or inspired by my story hearing that I was still hurting and feeling like they would be defeated by endo too. I shared a little bit about this on my @end_oh instagram account and the women there were incredibly supportive and kind. Many of them offered encouragement saying the same thing happened to them and to stay strong. At a time when I had been avoiding the endo community it reminded me of how crucial that connection with other girls is during challenging times. Just love my endosisters!

Pain-free days started peeking through around November. In between the tough ones I'd get these awesome days where nothing hurt and I'd think "Okay, this is it!" But somehow they never lasted very long. Towards the end of November right around our wedding, God blessed me with some pain free weeks. Our wedding, honeymoon, and reception were perfect and I was so relieved not to have endometriosis tainting those moments for me.

In December, I stopped taking daily medication. No more painkillers, no more ibuprofen, no more hormones - nothing but vitamins. The good days continued to become more and more frequent and the bad days slowly faded out of the picture. 

In January I had my first really bad flare up since the surgery. But after just three days in bed taking painkillers, I was able to go back to work and within a week it was over and the pain vanished completely. I couldn't believe it. I had always had flare ups that lasted at least a week and then continued to ache for weeks afterward. I had been so frustrated to be in such pain when it started but by the end I was excited and encouraged to see how quickly it had passed.

Life went on as usual until this past Sunday night when another flare up seemingly started. Weston and I prepared for it to get really bad… but after only a few wake-ups throughout the night, it was still relatively under control when I woke up. So I went to work. I came home a little early feeling sore and crampy, took an epsom salt bath and rested. Today, I woke up crampy and achy… but I made it through another short work day! In the years before my surgery, my pain would hit a 10 on the pain scale where as this flare seems to be peaking at a 6 or a 7. It may not sound like much, but this progress is enough to bring tears to my eyes. I'm in pain but I'm walking around, driving, continuing with my responsibilities and then resting as much as I can. I'm functional.

Weston and I keep high-fiving and saying how each time has got to just get better and better. He is so excited for me and I'M so excited that he's not having to be up throughout the night with me, fetching medicine and all that. It hurts, but it's under control. That's the best way I can describe it.

Now that I'm on the other side of things and not consumed by ongoing pain, a big part of me wants to forget all about endometriosis. 

I want to completely block out every horrible memory. The times I hid and cried in public because the pain got so severe. The times I had to be sent home from work because I couldn't even stand up straight. The times I swore at the top of my lungs while my mom or Weston raced me to the ER. The nurses who patronized me. The doctors who misdiagnosed me. The years I spent seeing multiple specialists, trying every treatment possible, reading every book. The pill bottles that covered my dresser. My mom giving me injections at home. Avoiding gluten, soy, corn, dairy, potatoes, - seemingly every delicious thing. The times I wished I could just die so I wouldn't hurt anymore.


Those are awful memories. Those are times I really want to block out and erase. 
But if I erase them, I will never be as grateful for my life as it is now.

Driving my car. Getting through a day of work. A sun salutation in the yoga studio. Going out to dinner with friends. Riding my bike and not having to think about hurting the next day. Painting a room of our house. Making cookies. Dancing with my students…

Those would just be normal things if it weren't for the horrible experiences that came before them.
Instead, they're exceptional. And I wouldn't trade that perspective for anything.

So I'll keep the bad memories. They'll continue to push me to appreciate my life and my body and any bit of progress. They will also continue to light a fire under me to help other girls who are currently living in that awful situation and do whatever I can do help them out of it so that they'll be lucky enough to call those times "memories" like me.

If that's you, please tell me how I can help you : kelleoconnell@gmail.com

I'm so excited to keep healing and sharing what I know with others while I do.
Happy Endometriosis Awareness Month, my beautiful friends.
Let's keep talking about it.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Taryn's Bohemian Bridal Shower.


Back in November (yep, throwing it wayyy back) I got to celebrate one of my favorite people - my sister in law, Taryn! Now that I'm married and she's married and life is back to normal, I'm excited to finally share some pictures of her insanely beautiful bohemian bridal shower.

You may recognize this backyard from many previous events (my bridal brunch, our engagement fiesta, my parents vow renewal, our halloween party) and know that this lovely garden belongs to Weston's parents. It sure makes for a perfect backdrop, doesn't it? Guests arrived through the side gate and were directed to choose a flower crown to wear for the remainder of the party.

The entire patio felt like Morocco, with bright colors and big pillows. We ate popcorn and pizza, drank sangria, and played games until the sun went down.


ALMOST all the bridesmaids, together for a pic. :) 


Over the years, Taryn has thrown so many events for other people. She puts so much effort into each one and making every one of her friends and family feel so special. It was really amazing to be able to be part of a perfect evening that was all about her!

And her wedding was just as lovely as you'd imagine, too.
Here's to you, Mrs. Thompson! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Office Nook.

During our house-hunting process, we always kept in mind that Weston would need his own office. He works from home half the time and has lots of instruments and things that would need to fit in a space where he could play them, arrange music, and not be distracted by whatever is going on in the rest of the house.

As for myself, I figured I'd just plop my computer down wherever there was extra room. Luckily, the house we chose ended up coming with a little nook off of the main living area and I quickly claimed that as my new office space and excitedly started imagining what we could do with it.

Decorating big rooms takes a long time and I know everyone tells us that we'll never really be "done" decorating because as soon as we think we are finished, something else will need updating… but after a few months of slowly trying to piece the bigger rooms together, I needed something to be totally completed. So we got to work on the smallest space of them all - my little nook.


Originally, there had been no shelf or built-in anything, but Weston had an old desk lying around that consisted of white drawers, a sawhorse, and a plank of wood set on top. My dad helped us cut the wood to fit in the nook, stained it to match our cabinets, and the boys installed it like a shelf so we wouldn't need the sawhorse to keep it in place -  just set the drawers underneath the shelf on one side.



My chair was on sale at World Market and is nice and comfortable - especially when you consider that I had been balancing on an exercise ball at my parents house whenever I needed to use my computer for the last couple years haha. I love the herringbone design of the fabric and the chair's slight-wingback style.



I wanted to make sure I had a place to hang some of the artwork my students give me, so I was excited to find the wooden clipboard at Target. I spray painted the clasp gold to fit with the other accents and am always excited to switch out drawings or notes from the kids.

The weaving was done by my friend Nichole after my last surgery this summer. She is so talented and I love how well it fits in this space. Yellow for endo! :)


The arrow print is sort of a reminder of my endo journey too. Arrows have always been my symbol to cling to during difficult times because of a quote I read once about how arrows need to be pulled back before they can launch to their destination so when life is continuing to pull you back with struggles and difficulties to just be patient and keep your eyes on your goals and the future. 



I always thought I'd be really good about taking before/after pictures of our little home modifications, but it turns our I only ever remember to take the "after" - haha. I think I just do things pretty impulsively around here so I don't take time to sit and plan out what it will look like, I just start experimenting and painting swatches or hanging things one day… and then I realize it's done and I never took a picture of how it began!

Here is the closest thing to a before picture I can find, from the day we started painting.
My nook is the orange eyesore over there in the corner. ;)


Completing more of our smaller rooms lately and still slowly making progress on the bigger spaces too.
Excited to share more with you soon!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Oliver.


When we moved into our house, I was ecstatic. There were little things I knew I would miss about being at home with my family, but more than anything I was excited and happy to finally be in a place of my own, in a new town, with the man I love. However, after only a few days in our new home, I realized the biggest thing that it was missing - a dog.

My family's dog, Toby, stayed behind at my parents house when I moved. I knew when I left that I'd miss coming home to him and his excited doggie kisses, but I had no idea how much. It didn't take long before I was searching high and low for a pup that Weston and I could call our own. I closely followed several local shelters, checking their websites daily to see if there were any dogs that may be a good fit for us (hypoallergenic due to Weston's asthma and allergies)  when finally, a nearby rescue center posted that they would have a littler of 8-week-old Schnoodle (schnauzer + poodle) puppies up for adoption the next morning!

Weston and I were second in line that Saturday, arriving two hours before the shelter opened. Once they finally let us inside, we got to observe the puppies playing together as the family in front of us made their choice. One little guy stood out to us right away. He was the fluffiest one - all different shades of brown, white, and black fur. One of the volunteers at the rescue handed him to me and he nuzzled his nose into my shirt and got comfortable in my arms.

And that was it.


As you can probably tell from the photos, I had tears of happiness streaming down my face throughout most of this experience haha. The family who had been fostering the puppies was really happy to see how much we wanted him. They even asked to take our picture so they could remember us! When they asked what we would be naming him, I told them we like the name Oliver and the mom teared up and said Oliver Twist is her favorite movie and that's why she's adopted several children of her own and why they foster dogs!


Ollie became part of the family instantly, but only two days into puppyhood at our house, he got incredibly sick. We frantically took him to the vet who was concerned it was Parvo, which is often deadly for puppies! I was inconsolable throughout the appointment. They ran some tests as we waited in the vet's cold office for thirty minutes. I held little three-pound Oliver in my arms as he whimpered and I finally got to understand a fraction of what my mom must have felt all these years, watching me go through health issues and feeling so helpless! Finally, the doctor returned and thankfully told us that it was NOT Parvo, but instead a parasite called Giardia.


Having a new puppy is challenging, but having a sick puppy is something else entirely. We went two days without sleeping because no exaggeration, every twenty minutes Oliver would get sick and we'd have to take him outside, clean up his messes, and hold his skinny little body while he whined. It was heartbreaking. After several really exhausting days of medications, he finally started feeling much better and showing more of his fun little personality. Now that a week has passed, he is super hyper and running all over the place like a whole new pup! It was quite a scary and stressful way to start off our time with him but we definitely bonded over it and Oliver is very aware of who cares for him now!


For a few more weeks we are stuck inside of the house, waiting until he gets the rest of his shots so we can start adventuring out in the world together! For now, we are keeping him busy learning his first few commands and mastering going up and down the stairs, which is pretty darn cute.

He is on a hilariously self-regimented sleep schedule too - falling asleep right around 9:45 each night and waking up at 7:00 on the dot each morning. He still loves to nuzzle his nose into my arms which is probably one of my favorite feelings in the world and on the rare nights that he whines a bit in his crate, if Weston and I talk to each other he becomes calm and quiet, listening to our voices. :) He certainly is a worthwhile handful. We just love this little guy.

Be prepared to see a lot more of Oliver in the future.
Welcome to the family, ya little cutie.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Our Backyard Reception.


When my mom's parents moved to California 50 years ago, they bought a house in Fullerton. It's where my grandma raised seven children as a single mom. It's where my dad pulled up on his moped to pick up my mom for Sadie Hawkins. It's where my uncles put ketchup on their faces in the bathroom to scare their sisters during a game of "Bloody Mary". 

In more recent years, it was pretty much run by the grandkids - all thirteen of us. Marching through the family room and kitchen in a parade, practicing piano in the den, going out in the garden to pick fruits and make juice with grandma, or sitting in Papa's chair when he wasn't looking - stealing tootsie rolls and sips of his iced tea when he returned.

This house and all of it's memories are sacred to me. 

When my Papa passed away, my grandma moved into the house next door and my uncle moved in to her house, and we were all happy to be keeping it in our family. One day, many years ago, I mentioned to my aunt that I'd love to have a wedding reception in that backyard. When Weston and I got engaged her first words to me were, "The backyard is yours!"

So, a week after our wedding ceremony, after returning from our honeymoon, we had our reception. 

^ When I asked my mom to make our wedding cake she initially said no way, but I'm so glad she gave in. Gorgeous and delicious!

My dad is the jack of all trades and helped us SO much with his DIY contributions. He made those giant wooden initials, our table numbers, and the entire bar out of old pallets! It was seriously insane watching all of his work come together!

We got to be outside, greeting our guests as everyone arrived which we loved. My friend, Jodi, was tending the bar and she came up with this insanely good "lovers punch" that was to die for. When I asked what was in it she said, "a little bit of whiskey… and a whole lot of love." Down. ;)





For dinner, we had mediterranean food from a tiny little restaurant that Weston's family frequented when he was growing up. I'm salivating just thinking about it!

As everyone finished their meals, Weston and I said a quick thank you to our guests and I actually got really emotional, looking out seeing all of the people we love, realizing this is probably the only time in our lives that every important person to us will be in the same place at the same time. It's a really incredible thing.

Then, we showed a little video of clips from the last seven years of me and Weston dating, before we got to share our wedding video. Lots of teary eyes in the audience. :)