Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Recon Redo- All Pumped Up. Done.

It's been six weeks since my surgery.  

During these past weeks, in addition to healing from major surgery- phase two of reconstruction has been steady going.  A lot of people have asked me about the reconstruction process- I'll keep it simple.

After the initial surgery to either remove breasts (mastectomy) or remove previous placed implants as a result of mastectomy- expansion takes place.  The surgeon inserts a "balloon" behind the chest wall where one or both breasts would've been.  At each doctor visit, in my case weekly, as long as the body is ready, the surgeon adds saline to each side until the correct amount or desired size has been added.  There's magnets and buttons where the needle is inserted to keep the balloons from popping.  That wouldn't be good for sure. 

It isn't the worst pain I've experienced, but needles into your breast is never fun, and it is noticeably uncomfortable.  The purpose of the balloons is to stretch- and you can feel it.  The pain, as my surgeon puts it, is the "ripping away of the balloon from the chest wall."

I wouldn't call expansion and reconstruction easy- it is a difficult and pain filled surgery and the emotional side complicates it.  I crave the shower with the warmth washing over the reminders that I will never be who I was- each shower bringing me closer  to the finish line. It doesn't matter that this is a temporary step in the process. I struggle to look in the mirror- the reflection staring back is strange and scary and sometimes I don't recognize her at all.  No, not easy- but easier than the first time and for that, I am so thankful.

So, hearing my surgeon tell me that I am done made me very happy. I might have celebrated with a waffle cone filled with homemade orange cranberry ice cream.  I might have celebrated alone.

That may sound strange- because I've been surrounded with Rex, the boys, family and friends during these last six weeks, but it's just me in that room when the needles go in.  From the very first biopsy over a decade ago- to this week's appointment- it feels very personal and lonely sitting in that exam room in the pink paper top.  So, it seemed okay to be just me enjoying the ice cream cone in a personal celebration of being DONE.

Done with the needles, at least.

In order for everything to stretch and heal and settle, we wait.  For about six weeks my body will continue to accept the changes forced upon it.  And while it's settling, silly things matter- like whether I should continue sleeping in the recliner that wraps me safely or try to sleep in bed, knowing I will toss and turn and not really sleep at all.  Do I dare get into a bath or keep taking the showers.  When will my concentration come back.  And do I have to give up my naps. I'll deal with the back and shoulder aches and odd shooting pains that will continue until we're ready to finish this up with the second surgery- when the balloons come out and are replaced with implants. 

My surgeon is amazed that I've come so far in just six weeks- he said I could be the poster child for expansion.  I'm amazed too- thinking back ten years ago how different the first time I had this surgery was from this one. 

My family is getting back to normal- Eli isn't crying every time I fall asleep sure that I'm dead and Isaiah isn't hiding across the room afraid to come near me.  We're back to "bear hugs" and I missed those as much as they did.  I cooked my family's favorite spaghetti this week and even tried out a new crock-pot casserole.  And Rex, my rock, who has been doing mom and dad duty getting kids to football and school and daycare and bed and fed and clothed- I know he's glad that I'm done too.

Normal.  We wouldn't be the 5Allenz without a little chaos, so we didn't think twice about taking on more change during my recovery....  we started a major remodel in our house tearing down a wall, building a walk-in closet and switching 5 rooms around.  Boring just isn't in our vocabulary.

And because I know what you're thinking- yes, we made sure it wasn't a load bearing wall before they tore it down. 

Rex cleaning up after some demo

me- standing where the wall stood - photo courtesy of Eli

We might have called the wall coming down reconstruction

Whether it's breast reconstruction or walls coming down or Shayne leaving for school or the team we're building to help our RAD son- this family couldn't do a bit of it in our own strength.  So thank each of you for investing in and praying for us.  We sure appreciate you.

Thankful to be back at the keyboard - Happy Wednesday y'all!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Will you like him anyway?

Love is unconditional.  It's easy to love him.  Like... that's another story.
He's hard to like some days. 

Suspended for punching.
Kicked off the bus for arguing.
Sent to office for stealing.
Screaming at daycare teachers.

I'm not surprised.  Home isn't such a happy place these days either.  We're in a minute by minute survival mode. The meltdowns are daily.

He's hard to like some days.

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is an ugly, complex and scary disorder.  And it's real. So real. 

As ugly as it is, we realize more and more the need for an awareness and understanding of this disorder.

There are some famous people who had attachment disorder- and it's pretty clear the affect it can have on them and the people closest to them...Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Sadam Hussein, Adolf Hitler. 

What causes it?
RAD is a condition characterized by the inability of a child to form long-lasting, strong and meaningful relationships. The basis of this condition is chronic and severe neglect or abuse during early childhood.

What are the symptoms of RAD?
I have highlighted the ones we live with daily.
  • superficially engaging & charming (phoniness)
  • lack of eye contact
  • indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
  • lack of ability to give and receive affection- unless it's on his terms
  • extreme control problems: often manifest in covert “sneaky” ways
  • destructive to self and others
  • cruelty to animals
  • chronic crazy lying
  • no impulse controls (stealing etc.)
  • learning lags and disorders
  • lack of cause and effect thinking
  • lack of conscience
  • abnormal eating patterns
  • poor peer relationships
  • preoccupied with fire, blood & gore
  • persistent nonsense questions and incessant chatter (jabbering)
  • inappropriately demanding / clingy
  • abnormal speech patterns
  • false allegations of abuse
  • triangulation of adults (splitting)
  • parents appear hostile &angry
  • defiant
It may seem these kids do all this out of spite, but the truth is, they can't help the way they feel and don't even understand why they do what they do.  They've suffered so much they'll do whatever it takes to protect their heart from being hurt again. 

So RAD kids need, more than anything, consistent, strong and loving people in their life to show that they are trustworthy and can keep them safe.  It takes a whole team, a support system to do this- school teachers, bus drivers, principals, friends, Sunday School teachers and the family to not walk away in disgust but to like him when he is doing everything he can to push us away to prove that we really aren't trustworthy after all.  We can't do this alone.     

RAD kids feed off emotions.  Chaotic emotions is where they're most comfortable- they want the adults to be "in their world".  And it's our natural tendency to want to punish behavior that seems so intentional, so manipulative, so disrespectful.  To "teach him now" she said so he doesn't end up in jail, as if we don't think about that possibility every day.

Parents of RAD kids try it all, and the only thing we know for sure is that traditional punishment doesn't work. It simply makes it worse.  So, it looks to the people who call wanting us to deal with- fix- stop his behaviors, like we're making excuses for him.  They want us to punish him so he doesn't do it again. Which would be great, if he understood cause and effect. This lack of awareness and understanding makes dealing with school and daycare so difficult- because traditional punishment is what everybody knows.  It's the default.  But, punishment is punitive.  Discipline, on the other hand comes from the word disciple, which means to teach, not degrade or punish.  It takes thinking ahead, staying calm and never reacting, always being pro-active.  And we're trying to teach without shame or anger.  We are desperate for the school and daycare to understand the difference.  Not ignore behavior- but help us in teaching --changing the behavior in a way that will work for a RAD kid, not just punishment. Consistency is key- lack of consistency leads to regression.

It's discouraging spending hours on the phone with people who have so much control over his life when he is away from us,  but lacks the willingness to really understand and partner with us.  Some days we feel like giving up. 

He's hard to like some days.

But there is another famous person who had attachment disorder- Helen Keller.  Her legacy is quiet different. And while we're exhausted, frustrated and scared- we are not ready to give up hope.  Our help comes from the Lord.  So we keep praying for God to change his heart and develop his conscience.

And we know it's a lot to ask you - all the people in his day to day life either by choice or profession-  when he's making it really difficult to like him anyway. 

Together, as a team and with God's grace, we have to believe we can develop Keller qualities in our son.

Happy Wednesday y'all!

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