Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why I won't be at my son's wedding tomorrow

I'm sorry this is so long. 
I don't know if anyone will even read it, but I had to write it.  I may change my mind, and pull it off later.

This is a post I never thought I would write.
Because I don't want to.

I know some use their blogs to tell it all. I'm not like that.  But I feel prompted to share this, so I will.

When I was 19 years old I was working at JC Penneys, I was teaching the 12-13 year old girls at our church, I was attending our local college fulltime, and I was dating a wonderful man who I loved.  Busy and happy is what I was.

That August I had just returned from a week long camping trip with my family.  I woke up that next morning with my neck very swollen.  Very noticeably swollen, but no other symptoms.  I remember going into my parents' bedroom and finding my Mom.  She was awake but just lying there. I asked her to look at my neck.  What's wrong with me?  She sat up, looked at it and said I needed to make a dr appt.

Later that day I was in the dr's office and after blood was drawn I was told I had Mono.  "Oh, that's all, what  a relief" I remember thinking.  I felt fine so what's the big deal.  My dr told me symptoms to look for in the days ahead and said he had some "special medicine" if I get really bad, but he did not want me taking it unless I absolutely needed it.

Within the next few days I became very ill with high fevers, vomiting, the worst sore throat ever.  Pretty typical of a bad case of mono.

After a week of this Mom called the dr back and said it was time for that "special medicine".  I didn't want to take it, even back then I was suspicious of drugs and the side effects.  But I was miserable, so I did.  They were steroids.  Not as common place back in 1973, as they are today.

I felt totally well by the time my week supply of steroids were used up.  I felt better than fine.  I felt better than I did even before I got sick. 

I saw no reason not to resume my normal life.  Back to school and work, back to my church calling.  Back to dating.  I was sleeping little, and had lots of energy.  And not eating well. 

Then one day in October, 2 months later, I collapsed at work.  I went home and went to bed, completely exhausted.  With each passing day I seemed to be worse than the previous one.  I was very short of breath.  Three months later, in  January, I was put in the hospital for 8 days.

My "recovery" period went on for months and months.  I don't want to even say how long because in many ways I've blocked that period of time out of my mind.  Those were the hardest and darkest days of my life. I've had many other challenges throughout the years, as we all have, but those were the worst ones to me. I felt alone.  The Patty Hearst kidnapping was a regular on the news at the time, while my life was going on without me.  As hard as I tried, as much as I prayed, I just could not get better.

I never talk about these days.  I just don't.  Ask me about any other time of my life and I can pretty much be an open book.

So I was able to get married to a dear sweet, very patient man in Dec. 1974.  I still struggled with health issues and weakness.  I was certainly stronger than I had been but not the same as before my illness, not at all.  Three years exactly to the day from when I was admitted to the hospital for mono, I was admitted back to give birth to my first son. The happiest day of my life was when I became a mother.

I had to continually pace myself.  I wore out easily.  Pregnancies and raising babies and toddlers took their daily toll on me.  But I was so very happy, pushing through the days best I could.  Many days I did not do so well so my ever loving Mom would often come to our rescue with casseroles, picking up after my toddlers, stopping by to wash dishes, helping me with grocery shopping.  Sort of the best of times/the worst of times.

But I was there.  And for that I am grateful, and always will be.

When my first 2 sons were near 2 and 4 years old I thought we could spend a week up at Family Camp.  That is what I had always done as a child and I wanted my sons to have the same great experience.  The first day I was fine, but by day #2, I could hardly get out of bed.  The shortness of breath returned.  I was weak and sick.  Too short of breath to eat much.  It just took too much strength.  Many around me suggested I had altitude sickness and I would adjust.  Made sense to me, and I didn't want to go home thinking surely I would get better by the next day.  But instead, each day I became worse. I was miserable.  No matter what I did, lie down, sit up, try to walk, eat...I was continually short of breath and my chest hurt.  Finally on day #5 we all gave up and went home.  

It took me about a month to recover from that camping adventure, but slowly I did.

I was on a mission to find out what was wrong with me and what I could do about it.  I was diagnosed with everything from mitral valve prolapse, to a heart murmur to lung damage to an enlarged heart to hypoglycemia.  One doctor would say one thing, then the next something else.  I had been told more than once,  "Although it is rare, some people are never the same again after having mono."

I tried St George, the mountains around here, and a few other higher altitude trips, all with the same results.  I seem to be able to go up about 2200 feet, but anymore than that and I have symptoms.

As for my regular life when I was in my 20s and 30s, I rarely felt great, but I learned to settle for somewhat okay.  I learned to settle for being thankful I was alive and able to raise my sons.  No one loved them more than their Dad and I did.  No one wanted more what was best for them than we did.  So my heart was filled with gratitude for just being able to be with them, and guide them through life.  I learned what a sacred privilege this was.

We had lots of fun times together, at least that is the way I remember their childhoods.  Lots of music, art projects, making cookies, running around the house and playing outside with the neighbors. Of course that's a pale summary.

When McKay was 9 months old we decided to take all 3 boys to Arizona to see my husband's family.  Bill was worried about traveling the long distance with McKay since he had an unpredictable heart rhythm problem (which by the way was surgically corrected when he was 9).  So the plan was he would drive with Brock, age 7 while Logan age 5, and baby McKay and I would go by plane.  I had never been on  a plane before and it sounded like a wonderful idea to me!  

Before we even took off I became very symptomatic with shortness of breath, and extreme weakness.  No one told me the plane is pressurized at about 7000 feet.  I could not figure out at all why I was feeling so bad before the plane even left the ground.  My saving grace was an older gentlemen sitting near by who helped me with my baby, while Logan entertained himself by looking out the window and saying things like,  "I think I just saw Heavenly Father and Jesus." 

When I gave birth to my 4th son I thought I would like to try an epidural, after 3 natural childbirths.  I had heard great things about epidurals, they were just becoming popular. I was dilated to an 8 by the time we arrived at the hospital that very foggy morning in December of 1985.  I was given the epidural and immediately that horrible shortness of breath returned.  Suddenly I felt I was back at Family Camp 6500 feet up.  It was a crushing I was dying.  I told the midwife to remove it.  She said, "But not now, you are in transition."  I said with all the strength I had (which wasn't much),  "Remove it!!"  So they called the anesthesiologist back in and it was turned off.  The pain came back with a vengeance but that was much better than not being able to breath.

What an epidural has to do with having high altitude symptoms I don't know. But whatever altitude does to me, epidurals do the same.

I feel like this is becoming a medical journal, but I want to explain.

Fast forward 13 years later.  My first husband had been dead 2 years when I met Dennis.  When our dating turned serious, he naturally wanted me to meet his children.  His youngest was still on his mission but his other 3 lived in Utah.

It had been several years since the disastrous Family Camp experience, and 13 years since the epidural, or 'twin-symptom experience.'

So through much prayer, and armed with prescribed altitude meds, and oxygen for the flight there, I was ready to try again.  My worried Mom asked me,  "So if you have a bad experience in Utah does this mean Dennis breaks up with you?"  Good question.  I didn't know.  But I guessed it would be a test for both of us.

And it was.

Even with prescribed oxygen on the plane, the total misery returned.  Like an old friend I did not like at all was back.  I had no strength in me to even talk.  I just kept thinking...just live through this.

We landed in Salt Lake City, and arrived at a good friend's house for dinner, and then as Den checked into a near by hotel, I spent the night with my friend and her family.  I was so happy. I felt great.  All that worry for nothing, or so I thought.  I could breath just fine. I could even walk and talk at the same time.  So I went to sleep with great plans for the next day.

The next morning was not as good but I still wanted to go see Temple Square and other places I had only read about.  We went to lunch and to the mall but I was dragging.  I got so bad that Den had to get me a wheel chair in the mall.  I felt sort of like Cinderella.  Like it was midnight and my carriage was turning into mice.  My glorious day was fading quickly away.

Still I was determined and anxious to meet his children so we went on up to Logan the next day. Long story short, I ended up at the ER at Logan hospital.  I was given more oxygen and told by the dr there, "If you are not better in the morning, go home and don't come back." 

I met Den's children for the very first time on oxygen.  I will never forget how sweet and welcoming they were to me.  

So about 10 months ago when McKay told me the girl he met the day before "is really cute and from Montana", I said,  "Oh."  When he said her name was McKenna, I said,  "Oh no."  I couldn't help but think those names were a matched set, although I didn't tell McKay that at the time.

I knew what "Montana" meant.  McKay knew what it meant.  Still, I had this feeling...

I didn't know McKenna then. I hadn't met her yet, so all I was focusing on, was where she lived.  

I had missed much of McKay and Tyler's life in Utah....I have never been to their apartments, I have not met their friends there, and I missed McKay and Karen's graduations from BYU.  How I would love to watch McKay teach math as part of being a grad student now.

But we all have sacrifices we have to make.  I know not one person who has everything they want.  I've learned the trick to joy in life is to be happy with what we do have.  Still, it's hard.

McKenna and her family really tried to move the wedding to California but that would mean her siblings would not be able to come out this far.  So McKay made the decision to have the wedding in the Billings temple.

So tomorrow while McKay and McKenna are taking their vows in Billings, I will be in the temple here, along with 2 of my precious daughters in law, Erin and Amy.  To me, I know being in the temple tomorrow, here,  at the same time they are getting married there, will bring me close in spirit to them both. 

I'm not going to pretend the past few weeks anticipating this have been easy.  Because they haven't been.  But still, I am very very happy for both McKay and McKenna. She has sweetness written all over her.  She's a doll, and they are so in love. 

And I will be anxiously waiting for pictures. 


Scrapally said...

It wasn't too long and I did read it ALL. Bless your heart! you are much stronger about your situation than I would be if I was in the same one! thank you for sharing - you make me more appreciative of what I have and to try harder to live life like I mean it! My thoughts are with you today...looking forward to meeting the happy couple next week. you are an inspiration...

darlene said...

Oh, Jill! After all these years, I still had no idea of your health problems! How awful! But, you and I have a lot more in common than I knew, and I can relate.
I will be with you tomorrow in spirit as you sit in Temple during the wedding. What time will that be?

Susan Rozier said...

Dear Jill,

Seldom does one get to see the inside of a person's trials. Thanks so much for sharing.

Please know that we admire you so much for seeing the glass half full with all of your blessings. A lesser person could certainly concentrate on the negatives.

It's all right to feel bad about the situation--it is a natural reaction as a mortal being. But taking control and doing your best with what your challenge is and meeting it with grace and gratefulness, shows what a spiritual giant you are.

Our prayers and thoughts are with you today.

Love, Dad and Susan

Jill said...

Thank you so, for the support.

Darlene, they are getting married today at 3pm Montana time, 2pm our time.

Lisa said... all makes sense now. Your story has me all choked up & I'm so amazed that you went through so much. My mom has the same exact problem in so many ways, only I don't think she ever had mono.

I only know the person you are NOW. I never would have known you had passed through all of that, on top of a zillion other things.

To me, you've always been AMAZING, WONDERFUL, & a POWERFUL incluence for GOOD. Thanks so much for sharing your story, it totally puts things into perspective.

Rebecca said...

Dear Jill,
I am a believer that we should share our trials, otherwise if no one did, we feel like we are the only ones with trials. But to see that others have trials and overcome them or have a positive attitude, that is a good thing to know.

darlene said...

Thanks, Jill, I'll be there with you at 2 today. Count me in.
Love and (((hugs))),

Mar~ said...

It's 2:15 Texas time, 1:15 MT time, 12:15 for you and I am thinking of you. My thoughts and prayers will be with you today. I know this must be such a bittersweet day for you. The love you have for your children is obvious.

I understand what it is to have to sacrifice. I understand the difficulty of having a body that will not/can not do the things that our minds and spirits wish to do. It is a constant battle of wills. Sometimes I do things even though I know the outcome will be painful, because I just want to or I feel I have to but it's always at a cost. There are other times though when I just cannot will my body to do what it needs to do or to function the way I want it to. It is frustrating but I have learned to live with it, as have you.

One thing I have noticed in my children though, is that they know me. They know my heart. They know that they are my primary priority and that I love them and would do anything in my power for them. They also know that sometimes what I can and cannot do is not up to me. And they accept that and love me as I am.

I have seen how your family, boys, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren love you. They know how much you love them. They gravitate toward you. I hope you will feel peace today. I pray the Lord will send extra comfort to you and to McKay and McKenna on this very special day.

Also...congratulations! Today you gain another beautiful daughter. What a blessing.

Mama Pea said...

I'm so sorry, hon.

I know how hard this must be. I wish you had some answers and I wish you never had to feel that way again.

It IS a special day for your son and his bride, but you can be there for them in an equally, if not more significant way once they are married. I can't tell you how important it is to have a loving and supportive family, comprised of in-laws and immediate family (okay, I can...because I have no relationship with my in-laws). What you will give to them to nurture their marriage will far mean far more to them than risking your health to be there.

I'm praying for you all.

Heidi Garvin said...

Thank you for writing this. I never knew you first struggled with your altitude sickness at age 19. I have spent a lot of the last 5 or so years feeling very left out of life, as health problems would often marginalize my social life or hinder me from being as productive and active as other young people. While I know I am not the only one to go through early adulthood feeling left out, looking just fine to everyone else, but not feeling it inside, it is a comfort to personally know someone else who has had this struggle. Even more, it is an inspiration and encouragement to me to know that your life is wonderful and full. Thank you!

Heidi Garvin said...

P.S. So sorry you could not be in attendance at the wedding. I cannot believe McKay is getting married as I type this. It's making me tear up!

Princess Fluffybuns said...

Jill, thank you for sharing your story! I have a much deeper understanding and sympathy for your health issues--I promise never to harass you to come to family camp again.

I can't wait to see pictures of the wedding and look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

grandmapeg said...

I have been thinking of you all day. I admire you for the loving mother that you are. Health problems can certainly be a trial and my heart goes out to you. Just think how much fun you'll have next week with the newlyweds there! I hope you, Erin and Amy had an enjoyable day at the temple. Thanks for sharing your story.

Natalie said...

I can't imagine raising four little boys with such a strain on my physical well's a strain enough as it is without any additional health problems. You are so amazing to me, now more than ever. I imagine this has been a bitter sweet day for you, but I hope you felt peace and joy in the temple. Thank you so much for sharing this, it only makes me love you more.

Grandmotherfairy said...

Thank you for the wonderful post Jill...I am so prayers will be with you today at 2:00pm...I know your temple session will be sweet.

darlene said...

I keep checking your blog for pictures!!

Sue said...

That is so hard, Jill, but you have the perfect attitude about it. I admire you so much as a mother. And (having read ahead), no wonder you are the first person they called. And, honestly, looking at that video of them calling you is as close to being there (and heaven) as it gets.

Congratulations on such a wonderful marriage for your son.


Miranda said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are a selfless and loving mother and I have so much love and respect for you. What a tender moment when Mckay and Mckenna called you from the temple. She looks like she will be a beautiful addition to your family. Miss and love you!

Eileen said...

Jill, I know this is going to sound strange, but I found this post to be so beautiful. I love your courage, and I love your appreciation of all things good in the midst of trials.
It's really very humbling to me.

I think you are a strong and brave woman. And I love that you are so sensible about life.

I'm sorry that you had to undergo these trials among others in your life, but you carry your cross well.

All my best wishes to the happy couple. And all my best wishes to you, Jill.
I will remember you in prayer.
I often speak of you with high regard to my family, and you have just added to that admiration.
Love and Prayers,

Krista Gage said...

I love your attitude! What an example you are. It's nice to know that in the end, if we endure this life well, we will have everything we want.

Amy Nielson said...

I'm glad you shared that with us. What a difficult thing to deal with. You are a strong woman whom I admire very much!

James and Kresta said...

Jill, I'm a little behind on blogs so I just read this post. You are a wonderful person! I could feel your love and dread as I read your story. Thanks so much for sharing this with us! I'll keep praying for you!!

Valerie said...

You are right. None of us has everything they want. It's helpful to read about other's trials to get through our own. That must be so hard not to be able to be at his sealing. I'm glad that you were able to be in a close temple at the same time though!