Portrait of a strong woman

I recently went to Colorado for a spring break ski trip and had the opportunity to visit my Grandmother. It's been a few years at least since I've seen her and although I knew she was suffering from dementia I don't think anything could have prepared me for her condition. Prior to my trip, there was some question about whether or not I would be able to even visit her. In speaking with my Dad one day I told him I couldn't be that close to her (in the same state) and not go visit her. He told me, "She won't even know who you are." Maybe not, but I still had to go. And in my mind I thought that surely she would recognize me. Surely there was something I could say to her that would cause her to have some sort of memory of me.

Grandma Hein was born on February 21, 1914. She and Grandpa lived on "the farm" in Colorado and after my parents divorced I spent a lot of time at her house. Not nearly as much as my little sister Emily did since she wasn't in school but Grandma and Grandpa were local babysitters for us when we lived in Loveland with my Dad. I remember her always working hard in her garden. She grew and canned everything imaginable. Some of my favorites were her raspberries and cucumbers. String beans were plentiful too and I can remember sitting on the front porch helping her clean them.

Grandma gathered eggs and milked the cows and seemed to fear nothing. Her skin was wrinkled from her time in the sun. Her thumb scarred from cutting it in the oscilating fan one night when she was trying to cool us off. Her smile, always present as far as I can remember, was sometimes toothless if you caught her too early in the day before she had a chance to put her dentures in.

When Grandpa died (I think I was about 9 or 10 then?), Grandma continued keeping up with the farm. She still made us home made noodles and chicken soup with her delicious butterballs. Macaroni and cheese, apple butter, and cinnamon rolls I taste to this day are still compared to Grandma's home made versions. Nothing ever comes close to them either. We often went to visit my Great-Grandma, where Grandma would talk with her sister and mother in fluent German while Matt and Emily and I sat and devoured fresh cinnamon rolls.

The memories have faded some but they are still there; for me at least. Grandma is now a frail 94 year old woman. It's so difficult to look at her and know that she was once such a strong woman. At our visit she did not remember who I was. There wasn't a memory I could come up with that could make her remember my name, to show some sort of spark that helped me to know she recognized me.

Instead, she sat and watched my family while I spoke to her. She commented over and over again at what "a beautiful family" I had. She may not have known us but she was happy to have us there. And the biggest heart break came when it was time to go. Looking at my children, her Great-Grandchildren, she started crying and said, "They grow up so fast. And then they're gone." She said she wished we didn't have to leave and then she broke down and looked into my face with her kind blue eyes and asked, "Do you really have to leave?"

It was a truly heart-breaking afternoon. When I asked my father if she still spoke in German sometimes he turned and asked her if she remembered anything in her first language. She thought for just a second and then said, "Ich will nach hause gehen". I asked her what that meant and through her tears she said, "I want to go home." As hard as it will be when the Lord takes her from this world, I know she will be at peace and will truly be Home.


To know or not to know

Last year I was referred to a
Genetics Counselor when my then new Primary Care Physician learned of my family's cancer history. As you may know, my Mother passed away at age 49 after a 1 year battle with Ovarian Cancer. Her sister, my Aunt, has since become a victim of Breast Cancer. Their Grandmother, my Great-Grandmother, also died at the age of 49 from "female cancer" which we can only guess may or may not have been Ovarian Cancer. Having had several ruptured ovarian cysts and abnormal pap smears myself my PCP thought it best to speak with someone about my risks.

So last May I traveled to Oklahoma City to speak with Dr. Hollingsworth about my Cancer risk. He explained to me what exactly the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are. We discussed my increased risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer because of my family history. My mind was completely overwhelmed with the numbers and percentages of risk that he gave me. It was difficult to keep it all straight.

He said that if I tested positive for the gene that my chance of cancer increased greatly, up to possibly 85%. He then went on to explain that there is an incidence of false negative results and that there could possibly be a BRCA3 gene that has not yet been detected. That really threw me for a loop. Will I trust a negative result to be a true negative? Or will I still live in fear that somehow a gene inside of me wasn't detected and I'll still end up with cancer?

At the time I decided that I would have my blood drawn and submit my claim to insurance to see if they would cover it. Apparently there is only one lab who does this testing, and it's such an intricate process that the cost is nearly $3200. Not cheap. I figured my insurance would cover it and I'd just go from there. Of course, I figured wrong and Blue Cross Blue Shield decided that I didn't have enough first-degree relatives with cancer. I needed just one more. Wow. Whatever.

So then I went through the decision of whether or not to pursue the testing on my own. I wrestled with it and finally came to the conclusion that I didn't really think I wanted to spend that amount of money to still possibly be uncertain. If it was a simple positive or negative I would do it in a heartbeat. Knowing my luck though I would get a negative be told that there was a good possibility that it was a false negative. Then what?

Last Friday my newest People magazine arrived in the mail with a 4 out of 4 stars review of the new memoir by Jessica Queller titled Pretty Is What Changes. The book is about Jessica's journey after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation and her "impossible choices". The article states, "Her brave, inspiring journey lends credence to her message: "Scientific advances give us new opportunities to live," she writes. "Seize them."

I pre-ordered the book from Amazon.com and am anxious to read it. It's such a hard decision and sometimes I'm not even sure if I really want to know if I have the gene. What if it doesn't matter? What if all the preventative measures don't even matter in the end? Do you just live for today or do you try to save tomorrow?


I need help

Probably in more ways than one. But today I'm needing help with my pictures. In my ever-present quest to capture the best photos and sharing them I've run into a little snafu and I'm just not sure what I've done wrong. Did you notice that my photos on Teagan's birthday post are all sort of pixel-y? Why is that? For instance, look at the photo of her getting ready to blow out her candles below. It doesn't look right and I thought it's because I didn't "save it for web" or something. But if you view it on flickr here it's all nice and clear. So what am I doing wrong? Anyone?

In other news, we're back at work/school after a Spring Break week. Lots to share and as usual I'm behind on editing photos and sharing. What's new though, right? I hope to share a bunch this week. Here are some things I'm hoping to share this week...

~Photos and stories of our trip to Brekenridge
~Details on what could have been my last visit with Grandma Hein before she joins Grandpa in Heaven
~My newest craft obsession
~Our Easter celebration

Cross your fingers that I get it all done! And hey, if you visit my blog please leave me a little comment. I love to hear from people!


Happy Birthday Sweet Tea

Six years old. I can't believe it. Seriously. I was just telling Emily that it seemed like yesterday that she came to Stillwater to cheer me up in those last days of pregnancy when I thought Teagan would never arrive. I wish I enjoyed being pregnant more, I think I'm just always so anxious to meet the little thing that I can't stand it. And now here it is six years later. Unbelievable.

Hubby and I both had to work today but we did manage a quick trip to Edmond to pick up the requested Mommy I Can Swim doll. There was a time when I would have had gifts purchased and parties planned weeks before the day of celebration arrived. Now I'm doing good to remember what day it is. Poor Eli completely got passed over for a party last year. I owe him big come August!

So Teagan just chilled at home with the big kids today. We planned on taking her to see Horton Hears a Who and I called her around 2:00 to tell her it wouldn't be too much longer and to get cleaned up. Last year I made her a little outfit that I appliqued a big #5 onto and when I told her to clean up she asked if she could rip out the 5 and glue a 6 on it. So I gave Madi instructions for helping her pick out some fabric and cutting out the number 6 and then got home just in time to stitch around it so she could proudly display her new age.

Then we headed off to the movie (which we enjoyed!) and then over to Mexico Joes for a birthday dinner. Teagan often gets embarassed when the attention is on her and people laugh. I think she thinks they are laughing at her and just has no clue that she's just so stinkin' cute! (I'm not biased, I swear!) For some reason though, on her birthday there is no embarassment at all. When she saw the wait staff gathering to bring her a treat and sing Happy Birthday she proudly stood up and started waving her hand at them to be sure they knew just where the birthday girl was. She loved it!

And of course we had to drag all her gifts with us to Mexico Joes so that she could open them. She's such a sweetie when she opens gifts. I seriously think you could give her some switches or a lump of coal and she'd still do this awesome face of sheer excitement. Man, I love this girl!

We ended the night with a little cake from Wally World and lots of birthday wishes. Now I've got to get on the ball planning her party. Madi's birthday is coming up as well so I think I'll do both of their parties in a couple of weeks. I just haven't had a chance to get them done! I will though, don't you fret. *wink*

So Happy Birthday to my Sweet Tea, I love you more than you'll ever know!