Monday, December 8, 2014

On Thursday (12/4/2014) Zach had his mik-key g-tube placed. He had lost weight again and when the nutritionist from the CF clinic came and saw us in the hospital she said that this had definitely been the right choice for him.

The surgery went good. They ran into a little bump when they discovered that he had more stomach muscle then they expected (which caused a big smile and a "gun show" from Zach). Because of this he wasn't allowed to eat until they rechecked the placement of the tube, which meant he went for 40+ hours with no food what-so-ever, making for a very unhappy boy. Once the study was done and he was allowed to eat, he pigged out (chocolate milk, pb&j sandwich and a burger).

They gave him his initial tube feed Friday night, starting at 35ml an hour and working up to 95ml an hour (the rate he gets at home) over 10 hours. So this meant a 2nd night in the hospital for us (yes I stayed in the hospital). That first night he had some cramping with the feed, but nothing horrible, which meant we got to come home on Saturday.

His appetite since we have been home has been less than what I had hoped it would be. I expected him to not be hungry at breakfast time, at least for a while, but he hasn't ate much for lunch the last 2 days and that concerns me. I am sure his appetite will pick up once his body adjusts to the calories (almost 1500) he is taking in over night.

I know we are probably going to have a slight weight lose before he starts to gain. I was just hoping that it wouldn't happen. I know his body has to adjust to the new feeds and that his stomach will gradually stretch back out so that he has an appetite, I just hope it doesn't take too long.  I suppose if it does we can always talk to nutritionist and see about doing a bolus feeding or 2 during the day, but I don't want him to become dependent on the tube feedings. He is such a picky eater to begin with and I don't want him to start thinking that now that he has the tube he doesn't have to eat normal food.

I have opted to keep him home for this 1st week of recovery. I am sure it is going to be a long week and he will get bored and probably drive me bonkers, but I just didn't feel comfortable sending him to school with the tube so new. He will have a tutor coming in for a few hours a day to keep him up on his school work and he isn't too happy about that, but I refuse to let him fall behind in school.

All in all I still believe he made the right choice to get the g-tube and I do believe in the long run it will be a great benefit to him and his health....

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Well the day we have been waiting for 2 days off. Zach made this decision and I am so proud of him for it. By this time Thursday he will be resting in his hospital room the proud new recipient of a g-tube.

Many people have questioned his decision to get the tube placed now. I am proud of him for coming to the conclusion that his weight battle may never end without the help of the tube. It was an extremely grown-up decision for a 13 year old to make.

I can't imagine how hard it is for him. He has this "rare" disease, that no one in our family has. He knows 1 other person with CF (a girl his age in his school). He is almost 14, struggles to maintain a weight of 80-85 pounds (most kids his age are at least 100 or better), he is barely 5 foot tall (shortest boy in his class). He's active, but now that puberty has started being active and having trouble maintaining or gaining weight is really affecting his activity tolerance.

 He often feels like he is battling this alone. I don't know how many times I have listened to him fight me on treatments because "you don't have to do them, no one else has to do them, why do I have to???" We hate this disease so much. Some days it seems like its a never ending battle. But then there are those days that it feels like we are finally beating this. Those are the days you live for. Those days when your kid just does his treatments without a fight, takes all his meds, doesn't hate life because he was dealt this shitty hand. The days when he stands up and says "YOU WILL NOT DEFEAT ME OR DEFINE ME". Those are the days we live for.

I am proud of him for deciding it was time to get the g-tube. I am proud of him for finally taking control of his health and starting to make decisions for himself.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

20 years

How the time flies. I can't believe it's been 20 years since I last saw your face. 20 years since the last time I heard you laugh or walked with you to my next class. You were my best friends when I didn't think I wanted to be close to anyone in a place I couldn't stand. We were both transplants from the North in a hick town in the middle of the South. From the day we met we were inseparable. You were there for me through thick and thin. You listened to me bitch about my relationship and you promised to always be there for me. You didn't get to full-fill that promise in the physical sense, but I know you are still with me. Still watching over me and now my kids.

 I will never forget the night I got the phone call telling me you were gone.....

It was as horrible November day. The weather was crappy, it was pouring rain and there were tornado warning all around. We were on Thanksgiving break from school. I hadn't gotten to see you over vacation because you had family down from Michigan. It was about 7 at night when I got the phone call. Someone I couldn't stand called me. They told me you had been in a car accident and that you were dead. I thought it was an awful prank. I remember telling them that they could kiss my ass, and that they were just flat out mean for saying those things. I was so angry at them. But in the back of my mind I was terrified that it was true. I hung up the phone and called R. I told him what they told me. I made him call your parents to see if it was true. I couldn't make that phone call. I remember sitting there for what seemed like forever for him to call me back. Finally I called him back. It was all true. In a heartbeat you were gone. I felt like my heart had been ripped from my chest. I cried so hard. I called my mom who was on her way home from work, but had to stop at some strangers house because the weather had gotten so bad she couldn't drive the last couple of miles home. I couldn't believe that you were gone! I curled up in bed, holding a stuffed bear, bawling my eyes out. I got so mad that I threw the bear across my room. I just wanted to break something, I wanted to run away, I wanted to see you, I wanted to see for myself that you were gone. I finally fell asleep crying. I remember waking up later that night, feeling like someone had wrapped me up in their arms and finding the bear I had thrown earlier stuck in my arms. That's when I knew that you didn't completely leave me. That's when I knew that you would always be by my side, even when I couldn't see you or hear you.

The next days were a blur of anger and sadness and hurt. I remember my parents telling me I didn't have to go to school that Monday. My dad asking me to stay home. But I couldn't. I couldn't be at home, I had to be somewhere that you were with me. Going to school was the hardest thing for me. We shared a locker. All of your books and things were in my locker. I remember getting to school and standing in front of the locker thinking to myself  "how the hell am I going to get through this day, how am I going to open this locker and see your things and not totally lose it". I was standing there thinking all these things when all of our friends came to me and wrapped me in their arms. I remember we had a moment of silence for you. The school had counselors set up that we could talk to. None of them made the pain any better. I only made it through a couple of periods before we decided to ditch school. We went to the park and climbed to the top of the rocky hill and sat there and talked about you. Relived all the good memories. We sat there for hours. Then we went back to school for the last period of the day. No one questioned me leaving, no one gave me a hard time for skipping out on classes, not even my mother who had come to the school to check on me. They all understood that I was not handling losing you well at all.

Then came the memorial service. God what an awful thing to have to go to for your 16 year old best friend. It was horrible seeing you laying in that casket. Knowing that would be the last time I ever laid eyes on you or touched you. You were so cold. I remember smiling through the tears thinking about how proud you would have been of the bruises you were sporting that no amount of make-up could completely cover. I remember talking to your parents and holding on to them. I will never forget when your mom looked at me and told me how much you loved me and that you had hoped that one day I would leave R and then you would have your chance. She told me you were in love with me and wanted to marry me if R didn't. It hurt so bad to hear those words. I lost it. I remember trying to climb into the casket with you. I remember R dragging me out of that god-forsaken funeral home and trying to calm me down.

 I remember wanting to punch your girlfriend for being an inconsiderate, disgusting tramp.

Your parents let us put things in your casket with you. Things that made us think of you. I was so angry that so many people put things related to pot in there. I remember thinking how they really had no clue who you were. I remember thinking they only knew the party side of you, they didn't know the kind, loving, caring, awesome person you really were. I think you saved that side of you for only me to see.

It was hard for a long time. Time stops the tears and the pain, but it hasn't done anything to heal the hole in my heart that was your place.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I wanted to name him after you. I was told no, that I had to let you go and that I didn't need that reminder for the rest of my life. It wouldn't have mattered. I have never forgotten you. I invited your mom to the baby shower, but she couldn't come. I invited them to my 1st wedding, but she told me she couldn't because it should be you up there. These thoughts still bring tears to my eyes.

I tried to stay close to your family, but after the wedding I was told I had to let you  and them go. I had to stop holding on to the past. Even though you were both of our friends, losing you hurt me the most.

Every so often I would try to search for your mom, dad and brother online. I never had any luck finding them...until this year. I finally found your brother and parents on facebook. I am hoping they remember me and accept my friends requests, I am hoping its not too hard for them to reconnect with me. They may not want to, they may not want to reopen that old wound. I cried when I look at the pictures your dad has posted. There is one of you. The drawing someone did for them. God I can't believe it's been 20 years! You will always be that 16 year old boy in that drawing. You will never get old. I will always remember you that way, smiling and laughing, walking me to class.

I miss you so much Brandon. I don't know if you knew it or not, but I did love you. You were my best friend. My rock, my comfort, my support. I would have gladly said yes had you asked me out.

I saw a psychic a few months ago. She told me someone very close to me was watching over my kids. I had always assumed it was my grandfather. Then she told me it was a young man. I knew in a heartbeat it was you. She made me bawl, telling me things about us that only we knew. She said you know I loved you and that you would always be around me and the kids. My Tristan reminds me of you. So sweet, loving and caring, but puts on the front of the funny guy around those who aren't close to him. He's goofy, and silly, and strong and smart....just like you were. He could pass for your kid just by the way he acts. I think a part of you was reborn in him.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Zach's diagnosis story

31 Day of May the Cystic Fiborsis Way 2013

I follow a lot of CF pages on Facebook and one of them is  31 Days of May the Cystic Fibrosis Way 2013. This is a way for us to share our stories and hear from other CF families and to educate everyone on this disease. I have decided this is also a good way to get me in the habit of blogging more (for things other than product reviews). So here goes......

Our diagnosis story:

Zachery was born on New Years Eve of 2000. Our pregnancy had been normal, his delivery was a breeze. He was a 8 pound 5 ounce bouncing bundle of joy. He had no health concerns that we could see.

When Zach was 3 weeks old he got sick. His breathing was abnormal, he was coughing, wheezing, you could see his chest muscles retracting every time he took a breath. We rushed him into the ER. We sat in the ER waiting room for hours. They did his vitals, his oxygen level was 78%. We still sat and waited. His lips starting turning purple so I raised a fit. Still we sat. 4 hours later we got taken back to the room and they swabbed his nose to test for RSV (respiratory synactil virus)and it came back positive. We were sent home with the instruction of "just make sure he doesn't stop breathing like that baby (pointing to the next curtain) did". SERIOUSLY! It was terrifying. They did order him nebulizer treatments at home (which took a day to get set up). Little did we know this was to be only the beginning of our battle with that hospital.

Zach never really got over the RSV. He remained sick for months. We were in and out of the ER at least twice a week if not more. They wouldn't do anything for us. Just kept telling us it was allergies.

At 6 months of age for some unknown reason I asked his pediatrician to have him tested for Cystic Fibrosis. We didn't have anyone in our family who had the disease and I just recalled seeing it on a movie when I was a teenager (Alex: Life of a child), but somehow I knew he needed to be tested for it. We were told "No, you don't have to worry about that because no one in your family has it" (yes that is what I was told).

He remained a sickly baby. Not so many ER visits, but constant respiratory issues. Not only that, but the kids poop smelled like rotten garbage and he looked like a little Ethiopian baby (distended belly and all). Every doctor we took him to said it was allergies. Allergic to dogs. Allergic to milk. Too much juice in his diet. They said he had asthma, and that he would eventually grow out of it (hopefully). In the meantime, we got rid of our dog, tried all different kinds of formula, only allowed a small amount of juice a day. He had failure to thrive, so we put him on pediasure.

Again at 1 year of age I asked for a CF test. We had moved and switched pediatricians so I thought maybe someone would listen to us. Again we were told no, there is no family history so no need to worry.

Respiratory infections continued. Failure to thrive continued. No one was doing anything to find out exactly why our son was so sick. We tried everything the doctors told us to, but nothing made a difference. By this time Zach had become a miserable toddler. I mean he was a happy kid, very active, but once those stomach cramps started all he would do is cry and cry and cry. He was so sick, we just didn't know what to do with him, so he pretty much go whatever he wanted just to make him happy (big mistake now that he is 12 and still wants this treatment lol).

His little sister was born in October of 2002 and she was perfectly healthy and happy. Zach was so sick when I had her that he couldn't come to the hospital to see us (and I was in for a week). All he did was cry and there was no calming him.

On December 23, 2002, a day I will never forget. I was in the shower when I heard my husband screaming for me. I rush out to find him changing Zach's diaper with a look of horror on his face. Something was protruding from Zach's anus. So of course we load them up and rush off to the ER, terrified. I had never seen anything like it. We didn't wait long to see a doctor (I was very vocal as to the emergency so I think they just wanted us out of there). The first thing this wonderful ER doc said to us when he walked into the room was "he has cystic fibrosis, right?"!!!! I about cried, but instead I gave a little laugh and said "I don't know you tell us. We have asked for testing for the past 2 years and have been refused" FINALLY SOMEONE HAD THE SAME THOUGHT AS I DID!! The ER doctor told me not to worry, he would be putting him in a referral to be tested ASAP.

On February 19, 2003 Zach went in and had his sweat test done. After the test his father took him home and I went to work. It wasn't even 4 hours later that I got a call from his dad telling me the hospital had called. Zach tested positive for CF. I was not surprised, as I had known all along that this was what was wrong with my son, but I still cried.

I didn't get angry right away. It took a little while to actually sink in that this was happening. I immediately started researching. I collected as much information on the disease as I could (I am one of those people that has to know all that there is too know, good and bad).

Things have changed so much since Zach was born. Now they do prenatal testing to see if mom is a carrier, and they have newborn screening. More kids get diagnosed at birth (or even before) now than they did when I had Zach. We relied on our doctors to do what was best for our kids and many with CF were misdiagnosed because the disease was rare and they didn't think a baby could have CF without a family history. Now we know that is not true. Now we know that just because we don't know of a family member over 50 with CF that doesn't mean there isn't one. This disease was only given a name back in the 1950's and even then it was hard to make a diagnosis as many children died very young of what was considered pneumonia or respiratory distress.

But even with all these advances in diagnosis, we are still in the battle for a cure. We are so close. But, unfortunately, the cures that are in the works are gene specific (and there are 1,000's of gene mutations that can combine to cause CF), which means that 1 cure isn't enough....not yet anyway.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Puff, Puff, Shake, Shake...this is what it takes to clear lungs

Now we come to the wonderful world of treatments. We spend about an hour of our day on treatments right now. I know that doesn't seem like much, but when you are tied down to machines shaking you up and blowing smoke in your face it seems like forever. And when Zach gets sick, treatment times go up.

Most kids do some sort of chest therapy, either with a vest, a pep, acapella, or via hands on chest percussion.

This is what the vest looks like. It is attached to an air compressor. When this machine (there are other types) is turned on you have to set the frequency to which it vibrates (slow to fast), the amount of pressure it vibrates with (lighter or harder) and how long it goes for (we do 20 minutes at a sitting). It is recommended that you start at a lower frequency and pressure and stop every 5 minutes to do huff coughs (will explain those later) and work your way up the recommended frequency and pressure.

Zach rocking his camo vest

As you can guess, it is not always easy to haul these things around. Our machine weighs about 20 pounds, it's heavy and bulky and a pain in the butt to carry on trip. So we opt for a simpler method of chest therapy when we travel or when Zach goes away to camp in the summer.
This little guy here is called an Acapella. It is small and light-weight and fairly easy to use. This is what Zach takes when he goes away. They breathe through this device and it causes vibration on the inside of the lungs. Zach breathes into this device for 10 minutes. It's still not any fun for him, but it is easier for him to deal with because he is not tied to one spot.

On top of the fun of the chest therapy we also spend a lot of time doing inhaled treatment via the nebulizer. The nebs take just about as much time as doing the vest. Most of the time you can do the nebulize treatment while doing the vest, which cuts down on treatment time. There are a number of different medications they take through nebulizers. Zach is currently on Pulmozyme and albuterol.  Pulmozyme is a very expensive CF medication that helps break up the mucous in the lungs. This is one of our most important medications. In the past we also had to take antibiotics (to fight off pseudomonas) via neb and a hypertonic saline solution. Zach hated the hypertonic saline nebulizer. He said it burned his lungs. I have heard this from a lot of people. We found a great way to get hypertonic treatments with out actually doing them....SURFING! Being in the ocean is like getting a natural saline treatment, and its fun! So now we use the ocean as a treatment too.

While treatment times are no fun, they are an important part of a CFer's life. Without the daily treatment regime the junk in their lungs would just sit there and breed bacteria. It would cause infection after infection after infection.  It is a daily battle in our house to get Zach to do these necessary treatments. He absolutely hates them. They take too much time, they hurt, they're boring.....and on and on. He has been lucky so far that he has only had to battle psuedomona's infections a couple times, but he does have a severe MRSA colonization in his lungs. We battle flares ups on a regular basis. If he would just learn to do the treatments he needs to do, we would most likely have less. It helps that he is in the ocean on a regular basis, but it's not enough to just break the junk up, it needs to be cleared out and that is what he is missing.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Our at home CF pharmacy

Medication therapy varies greatly among CF patients. Some CFer's take a ton of medications, while others takes few. Our household pharmacies contain a wide combination of antibiotics, allergy medications, vitamins, nasal sprays, pancreatic enzymes; among many other things. The medications to keep our family members healthy cost us a small fortune. One of Zach's medications cost $1,100 a month! At one point we figure out the cost of his monthly medications. I must say we floored when we reached over $8,000 a month. And these are only preventative medications. There is no cure, there is nothing out there, yet, that is going to guarantee that he doesn't get sick, that he doesn't culture a life-threatening bacteria (like Pseudomonas) that will hospitalize him for weeks. All these med's do is keep his symptoms at a minimum and hopefully keep him as healthy as possible.

The other thing about medications is that these people have to watch what kind of over-the-counter medications they take. If your kid catches a cold, gets the sniffles, is coughing up a storm you reach for the cough medicine, right?  We can't. Our CF patients can't take medication that has cough suppressants in them. We need our CFer's to cough, they have to cough up that crap that is in their lungs or it leads to massive infections.

In the 10 years since Zach's diagnosis he has been on enormous amount of medications. These have changed over the years, as he has grown, or medications have developed and changed. In general, he takes about 25 pills a day (when he is compliant). Here is a look at what he has been on through the years:

Currently taking:

Creon: this is a pancreatic enzyme. He has to take these to digest his food. He takes 15+ of these pills a day!
Ventolin: rescue inhaler
Singular: cuts down on allergy symptoms
Vitamin E
Vitamin D
Aquadek: CF specific multi-vitamin
Vitamin K
Albuterol Nebulized
Pulmozyme Nebulized (will go into these more in treatments)

Taken in the past:

Doxycycline: to help keep MRSA under control

Hyper-tonic saline solution nebulized
Periactin: to help gain weight
Inhaled Tobramycin: to fight off pseudomonas infection
Various IV antibiotics

(10 day IV antibiotic therapy at home)

There are so many times that I have to laugh when someone complains about there kids being on an antibiotic for an ear infection, or needing Benadryl for seasonal allergies. And I don't do this meanly. It just makes me giggle. And when asked why I just say "you should see our medicine cabinet....or more accurately our home pharmacy".

You'll notice that a lot of Zach's meds are meds you hear about every day. Multiviatmins, allergy meds, asthma meds. Like I said none of these are a cure for CF. All of these help keep Zach's lungs as clear as possible, or help his digestion.

Our hope is that one day, and hopefully soon, Zach will be down to only a couple of medications. And that those medications will be a cure, or as close to one as we can get to keep him alive. There are medications in the works right now that "fix" the gene defect, that show great promise. Yes, this will be a pill they have to take everyday, but it's the best we have to look forward to for now.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The genetics of Cystic Fibrosis

By now you have read our diagnosis story, but you may be asking how we didn't know that having a child with CF would be a possiblilty for us. Well it's easy to not know when no on in your family, that you have ever heard of, has been diagnosed with the disease. Zach was the first, and is still the only, known person (young or old) in our family with CF.

That just goes to show how rare of a disease this is. I suppose there could be other older family members with CF who were just never diagnosed. People who have been living with various other conditions or who died from respiratory complications and it was never thought that they could have CF.  I bet if we look in our family history we will find stories of babies who died of malnourishement or what was thought to be pneumonia when in fact it was CF. Until the 1950's there wasn't a name for this disease so it was not diagnosed. And even once they discovered what it was most patients with CF didn't live to attend elementary school (we will get to more statistics on another post).

So how prevalent is the CF gene?

That's approximately 1 in every 31 Americans!

Looking at my family: I have 2 siblings. Together we have 7 kids. 

My dad had 5 siblings, counting me and my siblings that makes (roughly) 17 cousins (I may be missing 1 or 2). Now most of us have kids. Now your looking at 45 second cousins. A couple of those have had  kids...I think there are 3 3rd cousins (that I know of). So that makes a total of about 71 just on my dads side of the family! 

You add to that my mother's side of the family. She has 3 brothers. My uncles have fathered 7 kids (that I know of). Of those cousins I only 1 has had 2 kids.

Now we are up to a total of 80 family members (and that's not going back further than my parents) Is it really possible I am the only carrier in my family??? Statistically speaking there should be at least 1 more. Yet, my boy is the only one with the disease and my daughter is the only carrier we know of.

Then looking at my husbands family: He has 2 siblings. Those 2 have a total of 3 (biological) kids.
His father has a sister. She has two children. They now have 3 kids. (husbands family is a lot easier to keep track of LOL)
His mother has no biological siblings.
Just going back this far it makes sense that he is the only known carrier (statistically speaking)

Now to get to the insane part. I mean how likely is it for a woman from NY and a man from FL, both not knowing they carry the CF gene, to meet, fall in love, get married and have kids??? I'm sure if I was better at math I could come up with some crazy equation to figure it out, but lets just say it's not a likely as you would think. Pure luck I suppose you could say. It gets better.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cf doesn't just affect the lungs

While most of the discussion about CF revolves around the lung issues our CFer's have that is not all the problems they can face. (I must add quickly that I am having a hard time not saying "CF kids" as that is what I deal with a CF kid, but I want to include all CFer's in my posts not just kids). CF is a whole body issue. It affects so many organs due to the underlying gene mutation that causes it. (which I just realized I think I missed posting about that whole thing so I am going to go into that later). Here are a few of the possible other conditions that can affect CFer's. (our experiences will be under the pics in purple)

Due to all the lung problems Zach had as an infant and toddler he already has slight clubbing in his fingers and toes. It isn't to the point where it is extremely obvious to the untrained eyes, but will get worse as he gets older and has more problems.

 We have been dealing with "acid reflux" all of Zach's life. To help deal with it he has been on prevacid for years. When he was a baby he would only eat really bland foods (oatmeal was his favorite) and as he's grown up he has become a very picky eater and is very hesitant to try new food for fear that it will bother him.

Ah....malabsorption...this is the best part of CF (NOT!!!) This was my second clue that something was just not right with my son. This is why so many CF babies deal with Failure to Thrive. Our kiddos pancreatic ducts are clogged full of mucus and can't secret the enzymes needed to digest their food....which also causes some very, VERY disgusting foul smelling poops. This is also why my little man looked like an Ethiopian baby when he was little(and that's what we jokingly called him)

This has been one of our biggest battles. Zach has had 2 sinus surgeries so far to have polyps removed and to clear our his sinus cavities (it's like a rotor-ruter they put in there to break up the hardened mucus)I think the kid has only been able to smell good for a total of 6 months or so of his life. It seems we are always dealing with blockages in there. He loves it when they clean him out because he can smell all the wonderful smells...and some bad ones he wishes he couldn't smell!

Those are the related problems we deal with at the moment. With each annual set of blood work and chest xrays we worry about finding any of the following.

We watch very closely for this. Zach battles a lot of respiratory infections as he has MRSA in his lungs, so once the coughing starts we are on the look out for hemoptysis.

This is one that I dread having to deal with. Even at 12 Zach knows he wants to be a father. And he will be able to be, it may just take more work.

Zachery's liver enzymes are monitored very closely because he has had funky test results in the past.

These are a few of the complications that can occur with CF. Because the lungs are so greatly affected it also can cause heart problems (like pulmonary hypertension). A good portion of CFer's have to have lung, heart and liver transplants. As you can see, health care for these people is a HUGE issue. But when you are blessed with a child like our Zach, each day you are given is a gift and you wouldn't trade it for all the healthy kids in the world.

**I apologize for how small the graphics are in this post. For some reason I can't get them to resize.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What is Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disease that causes mucus to build up and clog some of the organs in the body, particularly the lungs and pancreas. When mucus clogs the lungs, it can make breathing very difficult. The thick mucus also causes bacteria (or germs) to get stuck in the airways, which causes inflammation (or swelling) and infections that lead to lung damage.

Mucus also can block the digestive tract and pancreas. The mucus stops digestive enzymes from getting to the intestines. The body needs these enzymes to break down food, which provides important nutrients to help people grow and stay healthy. People with cystic fibrosis often need to replace these enzymes with medicine they take with their meals and snacks, which helps them digest food and get proper nutrition.

How does CF affect the lungs?

Normally, the healthy CF gene makes a protein — known as CFTR (Cystic Fibrosis conductance Transmembrane Regulator) — that is found in the cells that line various organs, like the lungs and the pancreas. This protein controls the movement of electrically charged particles, like chloride and sodium (components of salt) in and out of these cells.
When the protein is defective, as in cystic fibrosis, the salt balance in the body is disturbed. Because there is too little salt and water on the outside of the cells, the thin layer of mucus that helps keep the lungs free of germs becomes very thick and difficult to move. And because it is so hard to cough out, this mucus clogs the airways and leads to infections that damage the lungs

May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month

This is my son, Zach. He is smart, caring, funny and lovable. He loves sports, no matter what, baseball, karate. He plays the viola. He likes to make up songs. He loves spending time with his grandparents. And he likes to annoy his little sister (what brother doesn't). He is strong willed and oppionionated. He also deals with a life-threatening disease everyday of his life.

Zach has Cystic Fibrosis (CF). He was born with this disease. However, he wasn't diagnosed with it until he was 26 months old. We fought a very long and hard battle for the first 2 years of his life to get answers to why he was so sick all the time. It took a smart ER doc to finally get the test he needed done.

What is Cystic Fibrosis?
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product cause the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that:
  • clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections; and
  • obstructs the pancreas and stops natural enzymes from helping the body break down and absorb food.
Who gets CF?
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease. This means that people inherit it from their parents through genes (or DNA), which also determine a lot of other characteristics including height, hair color and eye color. Genes, found in the nucleus of all the body's cells, control cell function by serving as the blueprint for the production of proteins.

To have cystic fibrosis, a person must inherit two copies of the defective CF gene — one copy from each parent. If both parents are carriers of the CF gene (i.e., they each have one copy of the defective gene, but do not have the disease themselves), their child will have a 25% chance of inheriting both defective copies and having cystic fibrosis, a 50% chance of inheriting one defective copy and being a carrier, and a 25% chance of not having CF or carrying the gene.
    What are the symptoms of CF?
    People with CF can have a variety of symptoms, including:
    • very salty-tasting skin;
    • persistent coughing, at times with phlegm;
    • frequent lung infections;
    • wheezing or shortness of breath;
    • poor growth/weight gain in spite of a good appetite; and
    • frequent greasy, bulky stools or difficulty in bowel movements.

    How is CF diagnosed?
    Most people are diagnosed with CF at birth through newborn screening (this wasn't available when Zach was born), or before the age of 2. A doctor who sees the symptoms of CF will order a sweat test or a genetic test to confirm the diagnosis.
    sweat test is the most common test used to diagnose cystic fibrosis and is considered the diagnostic "gold standard." A small electrode is placed on the skin (usually on the arm) to stimulate the sweat glands. Sweat is then collected and the amount of chloride, a component of salt in the sweat, is measured. A high level of chloride means that the person has cystic fibrosis.

    For children who are less than six months old:
    • Chloride levels at or above 60 mmol/L (a measure of concentration) means the child has CF.
    • Chloride levels between 30 and 59 mmol/L are considered borderline and need to be examined on a case-by-case basis.
    • Chloride levels below 30 mmol/L are considered negative for CF.
    For people over the age of six months:
    • Chloride levels at or above 60 mmol/L means the person has CF.
    • Chloride levels between 40 and 59 mmol/L are borderline.
    • Chloride levels below 40 mmol/L are considered negative for CF

    These are just a few important things to know about Cystic Fibrosis. Throughout the month I will be posting more information on the disease and ways to help find a cure. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about CF go to . You will find lots of information on the disease, how to help, accredited centers for testing and care and much more.

        Thursday, April 24, 2014

        A happy, healthier me in 2014!

         So- that is me. The fat cheetah on the left. I don't generally allow myself to be photographed for any reason. I hate the way I look, I hate the way I feel (or felt) and the camera just makes it all worse. There are few occasions when I will allow my picture be taken....for anything that my kids accomplish (and want me in pics for), if the husband and I are at an important event (friends weddings are really the only time as far as this goes), and Halloween (I know, I know, weird, but it is the one time of the year that I get dressed up and go out....and I am usually too drunk to care LOL). 

        I am a big girl. I have fought weight issues since my first child was born. I gain, I lose, I know how this goes. I have never been strict on myself when I say I am going to diet (which I do often). In general my diets have only last a few weeks. You see, I have a serious problem....I LOVE FOOD! Food makes me feel good. When I feel depressed I eat. I eat sweets and junk food and greasy food (comfort foods). 

        A couple years ago we took family pictures at Christmas time, this is when it really hit me that I 

        looked horrible. In a picture of just me and my daughter she has her hand on my belly....what looks like a pregnant belly! I almost died when I saw this picture. My stomach stuck out as far as my boobs! (and I have big boobs) That was when I got even more depressed. I gave up on caring how I looked, it was obvious. I felt fat, undesirable and just like crap. I kept saying I was going to do something about it, but I never did....until my physical this year.

        No woman likes to step on a scale. Scales are a woman's arch enemy! But, being the masochist I am, I had to watch to see what my weight was....215 pounds! Are you kidding me???? I didn't even weigh that much 9 months pregnant (after gaining 50 pounds)! I had it. I was done. I didn't care what I had to do I was going to lose weight. Not just a little weight either, I WILL WEIGH NO MORE THAN 150! So it was time to get tough on myself. So with the help of my doctor I have come up with a weight loss plan. I have cut my calories (which I track religiously with My Fitness Pal), I have completely cut out soda, candy bars, fast food....pretty much all junk food, and I walk. I walk with my sister as many days a week as we can, 3-5 miles a day. I can have 1700 calories a day, and most days I fall well under that once my activities are deducted from it. I got 
        This is me as of 3 days ago
         real strict March 1st, the day before my 36th birthday. Since then I have lost 21 pounds. I step on the scale once a week (sometimes more if I am feeling fat) and it makes me happy to see those numbers go down each week. I am well on track to meet my goal of 150 by July 31st. And I am finally feeling good about myself.

        GOAL #1: LOSE 65 POUNDS BY JULY 31ST, 2014

        I smoke....I smoke A LOT! I have been smoking since I was 15. I know all the medical reasons why this is bad, I have just chosen to ignore them. My kids have asked me for years to quit, and still I didn't. (Let me just add here that I did quit smoking during my 3 pregnancies.) Every year I say I am going to quit, and every year I don't. Part of the reason I have continued to smoke is I have been afraid if I were to quit I would gain a ton of weight (remember... major weight issues). The other major reason is smoking is a stress release for me. There is just something about lighting up when I am pissed or stressed that just makes me feel better (I am sure it has something to do with the nicotine).

        I finally decided to call the doctor and ask for a prescription of Chantix. I have heard many great things about the effectiveness of this drug, so I am giving it a try. No there is no medical reason for me to finally decide it was time, I am not sick, I am just ready to make ME a better person, a better mom. (Well there is one medical reason for me to middle son has Cystic Fibrosis. I should have quit 11 years ago when he was diagnosed).  So as of tomorrow, Friday April 24th, 2014, I will begin my journey to quit smoking....FOR GOOD!  This will not be an easy journey for me. I have smoked for more than 1/2 my life. But again, I am determined to make this happen. I am giving myself until December 31, 2014 to be done with cigarettes. It shouldn't take that long with the help of the Chantix, but I am giving myself 8 months to quit and NOT pick up another cigarette before I will actually consider myself a "non-smoker". (Be prepared for many ranting posts in this time     period, as I am
        sure I am going to be quite bitchy).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    GOAL #2: QUIT SMOKING BY DECEMBER 31ST, 2014
        My next goal is a fun one. I am going to participate in a 5K! INSANE! I have often envied those that participate in events like this, but there was no way in hell I was going to be able to do them (I was 70 pounds over weight AND a smoker...does not equal being able to run). This morning I pre-registered for my first 5K, a Run or Die. The date for it hasn't been set yet, but I am hoping it isn't until at least August so I have time to get more in shape and train a little. Even if I can't run the entire time (I believe it just over 3 miles) I am participating to the best of my ability and I am going to LOVE it! (again DETERMINED)


        My main goal this be happy. I want to be happy with myself and every part of my life. I am tired of being miserable. I am tired of being hateful. I am tired of holding grudges and not forgiving, I am tired of regrets. I want to smile again. It has been so long since I have smiled a true, happy, content smile. I seriously can't remember a time since high school that I can say I was truly happy with every (or even most) part(s) of my life. It is time for me to love my life. Love every part of it that God has given me (even the parts that I despise). I want my kids to SEE me happy. I want them to KNOW what happiness is and I want them to BE happy. I don't want my kids to be miserable like me just because that is all they
        have ever seen.                                                                                                                                                                                                   I am letting go of it all. Everything that has happened in the past is going to be put behind me. I am not going to wish I could change things anymore, nor am I going to wish I was young again. Life has thrown so many curve balls at me that at times I haven't known which way was up. I have let my past rule my present and future. I have held other peoples past mistakes against them for far too long.  I have held people to standards that were set when I was just a teenager. I have probably missed out on a lot of great friendships because of it.                                                                                                                                                                                                        At the same time, I have held my tongue when what I really needed to do was speak up. I have left much unsaid. I have missed opprotunities to tell people I love them. I have let people stay in my life instead of telling them to
        leave it when I should have. Long ago I shut myself down, I decided to refuse to let anyone into my life, into my heart, for fear of being hurt. I don't want to be that person anymore. I have been angry and shut down and didn't let people know what was going on. I have been walked all over and just let it happen. NEVER AGAIN WILL I BE THAT PERSON! I am going to be that person who speaks her mind regardless of whether it will piss people off or not. I use to be that person....when I was young, before life knocked it out of me. It's time to let those I love and care about know it. It's time for me to tell some people in my life to just get lost, those people who bring me down and make me a worse person. I am done with those people. 

        And the anger. God how I want to just let go of all the anger inside me. It has made me such a mean,
        bitter, unhappy person. How can any one love the person that I am? How have they been able to stand by me and except me? Honestly, there are very few people in my life that have stuck by me through all my crazy shit. I have few friends from my high school days, and even fewer from my adulthood. I am lucky to have the people in my life that I have. I am lucky my husband has stuck by me for the past 15 years (and they have been HARD years). He may not be the most supportive person, but maybe that is just because I don't welcome his support most of the time. (Although, telling me I am beautiful and noticing physical changes would be awesome every once in a while) He is one of the people I need to forgive and let go of his past wrong doings, I need to allow us to move on from them. God that is hard, but it has to be done in order to move on.

        WOW there was definitely a lot to that last goal. Who knew that when you decided that it was time to be happy again you would have to revisit the past for just a minute to forgive, forget and put it all behind you.

        So there it is, laid out in black and white (well....purple, white and red). These are my goals for this year. No, I wont call them resolutions, because resolutions are made to be broken, goals are set to keep. And I am DETERMINED to follow through and keep these 4 simple goals I have set for myself this year.

        Now that's what I call "putting it out there so I am held accountable". 

        Friday, January 3, 2014

        Where have the years gone???

        17! How can it be that my baby boy is 17?!?!

        It seems like just yesterday  he was a little bundle of blue wrapped up tight in his "booboo" (a blue blanket). He would carry that blanket everywhere. I think he was 4 or 5 before he finally gave it up. I miss those days so much.  This boy changed my life. He is the reason I became a mom. My first baby. My first love. 
        Where has the last 17 years gone? I know I have not spent nearly enough time with this boy....well this young man now. Over the years I have had to watch him grow and change mostly via pictures on facebook and a few selected weeks through the year. I miss so much. I have spent the last 14 years regretting a lot 
        decisions I have made. The one thing I will never regret is having this wonderful young man. Since the day he came into my life he has been a joy and a blessing to me. He is my heart and soul. I will never forget the moment I first laid eyes on him. He was a screaming little bundle of joy, with a pointy head...yup a pointy head, like a conehead! It was a long 14 hours of labor, and the little stink pot got stuck (thanks to a broken tail bone that healed wrong) and they had to pull him out with the suckey,  vacuum thingy. But, God, was it worth every minute of it. I was young, 18, and I thought for sure my life would never get any better than at that moment in time. 
        Every year he has proven me wrong. Every year he amazes me with his strength, his love, his kindness and his never failing devotion to those he loves. I sometimes feel I don't deserve to be his mother. I have not been the best mother in the world to him. I have not been around when I should have been.  I have missed so many important days of. So many milestones in his life. I missed his first day of school, his first girlfriend, getting his drivers permit, the first day of his first job. I have missed most of his first. 
        My baby has grown into quite a young man. He is handsome, smart, determined, loving, kind. He is a joy to be around. He makes my heart full and my life happy when he is with me. When he is away, a piece of me is missing. 

        I hope he always knows how much he means to me. A day doesn't go by that I don't think about him. I know he might think otherwise, but it's true. I think of him every day. I wish I could turn back time and right all the wrongs, but I can't. All I can do I hope and pray that he knows in his heart that he is my son, he (and his siblings are) is my life. He is my reason for breathing, my reason to go on everyday, my reason to want to be a better person. 

        Tristan I hope you know all these things. And most of all I hope that on this day, the day I gave birth to you, that you know that I love and cherish you so much. 

        Happy birthday Boo!