Tunnel Vision

On this roller coaster of rare disease life, I’m embarking on a long dark tunnel. We just came up a huge hill and had fun spins and splashes, but it’s getting dark and scary again.

Monday Cooper will be re-doing his MRI – this time with anti-anxiety meds, and a time slot meant for sedation, so we won’t be rushed. Later this week he’ll have a dentist appointment (hello anxiety) where he’ll hopefully be cooperative enough to let them clean his teeth and peek at the baby tooth that has a cavity/infection that’s been painful. Last but not least, he’ll have infusion on Thursday. The “exciting” part about infusion this week is that afterwards (while his port is still accessed), he’ll have a dye study. The dye study should show us what’s going on with his port and why it’s so hard to give him his medicine during infusion, usually requiring TPA (what I refer to as “medical Draino”).

How’s Cooper handling it all? Eh, not great. I know he’s nervous about the MRI (they are uncomfortable and last time he was so upset he had body shaking sobs during it, making the MRI unreadable). I can be happy and supportive and the most optimistic crazy person you’ve ever seen for the appointment, but it’s the results of the MRI that have me on the edge of my seat. I’m fulling expecting to spend this summer in some sort of “surgery mode” for him, so any results requiring less than major surgery will be a pleasant surprise. The dentist appointment could go either way. I’ve seen him get his teeth cleaned like a champ, and I’ve seen him loose his cool – so it’s a toss up. Infusion will be fine, but new things are always scary, so the dye study afterwards will have him anxious.

In the meantime, we’ve chosen to live life to the fullest. Spring Break = beach, hockey games and skiing.

Spring break fun at Newport Beach

For the last 10 days I’ve been putting off the reality of the upcoming appointments, but on the last night of spring break, they are weighing on my heart. I’m restless and depressed. I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want more appointments pointing to more problems. I don’t want more unknowns. I don’t want Cooper to miss school. I don’t want him to be sad and anxious.

I’m trying to make up for next week in advance – let Coop stay up late watching TV with me, and crawl into my bed in the middle of the night. Then I watch him sleep and I pray that we are making the best decisions for him, and that he is as happy as he can be. And in trying to make him happy, is there a cost to the rest of the family? Campbell feeling left out or that she has more rules than Cooper does? Brian doesn’t sleep well when Cooper crawls in our bed. I know I certainly don’t. I guess this is how a special needs family works around the special kiddo – it’s a balancing act. This evening’s balancing act is me identifying and expressing my emotions in writing while watching Cooper sleep – sideways in the middle of the king bed (a very fitting analogy for this moment).

I believe Cooper doesn’t intend to have our life revolve around his needs, but it does…

For this part of our balancing act, I pray for patience, grace, bravery and strength for both Cooper and I.

WTH

What the Hell? I know life in general, let alone life with a child with a rare disease isn’t easy, but lately the shrug emoji is what I use most often to describe WTH is going on.

Two weeks ago Cooper’s surgery didn’t go as planned. As a matter of fact, it didn’t go. You can get details on CaringBridge, but after anesthesia, the surgical team stopped because the Neuromonitoring system lost signal on the right side of his body – possibly indicating spinal cord damage. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. We just opened a can of worms. And we have to muddle through all these slimy, entwined worms before we can move on. Cooper’s hernia bothers him daily – to the point of tears sometimes. His port is becoming harder to work with during infusion. The situation is becoming urgent.

The next step is to get an MRI on Cooper’s C-spine. Orders have been faxed in. I called and the radiology scheduler told me I had to go through a screening process to see if Cooper should go under anesthesia for the procedure. (Insert WTH and shrug emoji here.) I mentioned that Cooper did not need anesthesia for his MRI 3 weeks ago. I did NOT however tell him that the last time Cooper was under anesthesia he narrowly escaped paralyzation. Scheduler said, NO, the screening still needs to happen. I’m a rule follower. I know he needs to check the damn box before we get scheduled. So I was transferred to the “screening” number and left a message. 19 hours later and still no call back. The irony is that he shouldn’t go under anesthesia until we figure out what’s going on with his C-spine, hence the MRI! A growing circle of frustration right now. I’ll call again today.

In the mean time, let’s not forget about my oldest, the “unaffected sibling”. She’s growing up, she doesn’t want to talk with me about “stuff” unless it requires turning on the internet or ordering something on Amazon. I’m so stinking proud of her. Straight A’s, she gives her whole heart to hockey. She’s funny, and sweet (although I don’t get to witness that side much).

Campbell, #43. Watching her thrive here fills my soul.

My self care is struggling. STRESS EATING. There, now that it’s published, I’m accountable for it. Valentine’s Day treats didn’t help. But that’s over, they were delicious and I’m gracing myself. I’d like to work out again. I’ll get there – I threw out my back last week and with chiropractic help I’m getting back to normal. I want to plan a girls’ trip, I’d like to figure out family summer vacation plans, but my planning is paralyzed with fear until we get Cooper figured out. The next MRI is just a piece of the puzzle. It may lead to bigger things – bigger than the port and the hernia. It may lead to spine surgery. Which would mean another summer “vacation” in Delaware, and recovery at home, on the love sac, next to Velocity. Which is fine. We are blessed to have the right teams in place to help make decisions. I’m just a planner and this in between, waiting on checking the next box is torture for me.

I’m reading at night instead of scrolling on my phone. Check out “Present over Perfect”. It helps me slow down and connect with what is really important TO ME, not what is important to others. Which I desperately need. So in the vein of self-help, I’ll list what I’m grateful for: Velocity, home, my health, supportive family, community, out of this world friends, hockey, fun times, my job, modern medicine, garage door repair guys. You may ask, “Garage door repair guys?” Ask Brian about how I backed into the garage door. And now I’m slowing down? Perhaps I should have slowed down a while ago. But this is where I’m at, where we’re at. All I can do is make adjustments (chiropractor joke, hahaha), embrace the now and move forward.

Update: after speaking with radiology (thank you Caylee at CHCO radiology who heard my cry for help), we are scheduled for an MRI on this Friday!

Happy Birthday Cooper!

Reflecting on our journey and what you’ve taught us

I feel selfish sharing joy on social media about Cooper’s birthday the day after his birthday…. 9/11. Especially this year, it being the 20th anniversary. But in my world it’s the 9th anniversary of Cooper’s arrival. It’s 9 years since we were blessed with this baby boy. I’ve finally wrapped my head around his birthday and recent events.

Cooper had a wonderful birthday – friends, flag football, Chick-fil-a, cake, presents – everything a 9 year old would want. He was so happy, and my heart burst watching him buzz around giggling. Last year at this time, not only were visitors something we weren’t doing, but he was still recovering from hip, knee and ankle surgeries. He RAN and RAN and played on Friday without complaining of hip pain. This is exactly what the surgery addressed, and we are grateful he had the opportunity to do it. Looking back, this is probably his greatest birthday yet. He’s mobile and relatively pain free, he has kind and fun friends and I’m not hovering over him like a helicopter batting away hazardous activities for a kid with cervical compression. Now that the neck and hips are fixed, he’s clear to live his best life (within reason!).

Of course I can’t think of Cooper’s birthday and NOT think of what we didn’t know on that day in 2012 – the freight train of a diagnosis and journey that was coming at us.

Earlier this month I was asked to write a letter to my younger self, the day I got news about this boy:

Cooper and I in January 2014

2014 Chris,

You just received Cooper’s diagnosis. There is no cure. Describing this disease, the internet uses terrifying terms like “shortened lifespan”, “skeletal abnormalities” and “malformations”.

Your world is falling apart. And it will feel like that for a LONG time. It’s OK to be sad and mad. Confused. Scared. In this journey you’ll feel more and deeper than you ever thought possible. Talk to friends that want to listen, who are good listeners. Smile and nod to all the folks giving unsolicited advice, then steer clear of them. Your gut will tell you when you hear something that may help. Talk to a therapist. Keep talking to Brian. He’s your rock.

Please know it’s going to be OK. It doesn’t look like it now, because you are a linear thinker and you need to see how two get from point A to point B in everything you do, before you do it. You’re embarking on new way of life. Put your trust in God. You don’t know the overall plan – you never did, and you never will. The quicker you come to the that realization, the better your heart. Let go a bit. You will still be in charge of a shit ton of life and decisions, but let go of the overall plan. Let the plan be flexible. See where life takes Cooper and the family, embrace and adjust to every situation.

You will never again feel the way you did yesterday. You will be on a roller coaster of highs and lows forever. You’ll have a paradigm shift and find a new normal.

The news of Cooper’s diagnosis is going to change every part of your life. Some friends and family are not going to know how to respond. They don’t get it, they never will, and it’s OK. Don’t take it personally. (You’ll learn all about empathy and how that looks different to different people.) But please know that there are new, wonderful, life-changing friends to be made and compassionate people leading organizations that will lift Cooper and the family. Other friends and family will step up in ways you didn’t know you needed.

No one has your exact situation and there are few people in this world who will go through what you are going through. You’ll find those people and they will be part of your new tribe.

You have all the skills to take this head on. Organization, clear communication, and mama-bear compassion. Please take care of yourself. Fill your bucket – exercise regularly, get your nails done, spend time with your tribe and get away occasionally.

Welcome to your journey to a new, stronger you. God chose you for Cooper. Go live your truth.

Love,

2021 Chris

I wonder what I’ll be writing to the 2021 Chris in 2030?

But let’s deal with 2021. Yesterday Cooper asked me how to spell “disease”. I spelled it out for him and watched what he was Googling. “Rare Disease Flag Football”. He wants to play in a flag football league with kids like him – his size, his speed, his age, his agility. My heart sank. You don’t fit Cooper. Your friends, friend’s parents and family make you fit in – but out there – you don’t fit. At least for playing some sports. I’ll tell you where you do fit – your heart, your humor, your passion. There are places you fit naturally. For example we are excited to announce that Cooper will be a Patient Ambassador for Children’s Hospital Colorado in 2022-23! Did you hear him on the Dawgpod? He was natural there too.

Cooper, Smalls and Cappy recording episode 8 of the Dawgpod.

This weekend, Cooper, Velocity and I attended a fundraising event for Canine Companions. I loved watching Coop chat with volunteers and donors about his Service Dog Velocity. People seemed surprised when Cooper shared that he was 9 years old. But his conversation and sense of humor showed he was wise beyond his years. I made sure he knew how proud of him I am that he is such a fabulous ambassador for Canine Companions.

Cooper and Velocity hiding from raindrops under the picnic table

We’ll play your strengths and continue “Cooper-sizing” the things you want to do, Cooper. We love you. Happy birthday. Keep showing us the way.

Today Was Rough

And I can’t sleep.

While at infusion today I envisioned a blog post about how things are great, and I’d casually mention I broke my ankle three weeks ago playing floor hockey with Cooper. And he’s doing great, so excited to be on a baseball team this summer. And Campbell is happy, completely enveloped in ice hockey and loving it. And my ankle is healing. The walking boot has slowed me down, but with all the playoff hockey on, it’s OK to put my foot up for a while.

But I didn’t blog because I was too busy playing NHL ‘18 on the hospital’s Xbox with Cooper. Or watching him play. It’s his new favorite thing to do while at infusion all day, since he doesn’t have school work (or arguing about doing school work) to take up the time.

Check out the bottom left – Cooper created player #18, Cooper Tippett

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a rough day at infusion. But due to the butterfly needle sitting a bit weird in his medi-port today, we had a couple awful moments. Pressure on his port from trying to hep-lock him made him go through the roof. The pressure of the infusion all day was just fine – but the pump wouldn’t work with the syringe of heparin, which meant we had to hold him down, peel off the dressing (sticker covering the needle – always the worst part of infusion day), reposition the needle, push the heparin into his IV and then remove the needle and be done. As it’s always been, he’s so anxious about the process that the mere act of touching the needle and discussing what we needed to do made him so upset and frantic, he was literally sick to his stomach. So when we tried to comfort and distract him as our skilled, gracious and caring nurses maneuvered the needle, I had flashbacks of last summer when Cooper had his first cast removed, before his second hip, knee and ankle surgery. Last summer Coop screamed at the top of his lungs as the doctor started the saw – he thought they were starting surgery and didn’t realize/listen to the fact that they were only removing the cast. Screaming. Tears. “I can’t do this anymore!” “I don’t want to do this!” All again today.

Coop recovered very well. He held gauze over his blood spot as it dried up. His tears disappeared as he said goodbye and that he’d see everyone next week and play more NHL ‘18. We gathered our things and walked out of the hospital into the fresh air. That’s where Coop lost it. Just big tears as we stood on the sidewalk, waiting for Velocity to pee.

At home, Coop continued to feel better. He said he’s sad. I hear you buddy. I’m glad you’re not mad, or scared. I’m sad too.

So I’m heartbroken and I can’t sleep. Everyday I’m thankful there is a treatment for Cooper’s rare disease. I’m sad that Cooper has to live with it. I’m sad that Campbell has to live in his shadow. Campbell’s hockey gives her a place out of that shadow. Cooper’s upcoming YMCA baseball season will give him a place further from the medical rare disease space. But it will always loom near him. Like the fact that he’ll be playing baseball with 1st and 2nd graders, because they are the size of my 4th grader. He’ll make new friends with the kids, and he’ll be excited. But that takes care of this year. Next year he’ll be the same size, and the next year, and the next year. His problems and his differences won’t get easier or less noticeable. Just like today – we think we’ve got this infusion thing under control and we get a curve ball. Another reminder that I’m not really in charge, I really have no control over anything. It’s time to remind myself to put this in God’s hands and move on. Do what I can, and move on. Perhaps sleep.

Play Hard, Play Fair, Give Back

On the heels of MPS Awareness Day I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for Cooper, his situation and our journey. MPS Awareness day always sends me reeling. Usually I have a “wear purple!!” campaign and everyone posts photos of themselves wearing purple and wishing Cooper well. Instead of a purple campaign this year I was busy trying to generate interest in the MPS Society virtual gala and bidding on the auction items I had procured. Alas, the Gala and auction were a success and we toasted in celebration with a tiny group of vaxxed friends and family. But the excitement of the gala and MPS Awareness day is just one part of the past week.

This past Monday, the MPS Society organized virtual Hill visits to advocate on behalf of our MPS and ML affected individuals and families. We asked that our representatives and senators support newborn screening legislation and the STAT Act. We also asked our Senators to create a resolution to make May 15 National MPS Awareness Day. Senator Bennet’s office agreed to do the resolution!!! From what I understand, it’ll be presented to the Senate and a press release will be coming this week. HUGE WIN! So excited for a Colorado Senator to step up for us!

My mom, myself, Jamie, Jack and Mary (from Senator Bennet’s office) for the MPS Society Advocacy Day

Last weekend we were blessed to become a part of the Dawg Nation family. We all had the most wonderful night, being OUT, watching hockey, talking hockey, making new friends and finding old friends. We were surrounded by people lifting us up, celebrating and supporting Cooper. I felt like I was in a dream! We are excited to be involved and pay it forward with Dawg Nation.

Cooper with fellow Dawgs and Colorado Avalanche greats, Jan Hejda and Milan Hejduk

Of course these wonderful things happen and all the while sweet Velocity is by Cooper’s side. Everyday since February 14, 2020 she’s here. This expertly trained ball of white floof is part of our family, free of charge, as Cooper’s Service dog. Every week at infusion, she’s there. Every doctor appointment. Everyday I am reminded of the generosity and compassion of the staff, donors and volunteers behind Canine Companions.

Cooper and Velocity waiting to check in at the hospital for infusion.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I need to mention it again. The hospital staff is our adopted family. They see to it that Cooper has a great day, every infusion day. They’re his hockey team, his biggest supporters, and Velocity’s biggest fans. They are there with an ear to listen and empathic smile as I share our ups and downs. They’re along for this journey with us and they take care of the Tippetts. We leave every week after infusion and although we are relieved to go home after the long day, we look forward to being back with friends again next week. We are forever grateful for the compassionate care and buddies we have at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

School (noun): an institution for educating children. I am overjoyed that school for my kids means so much more. A safe place to be heard and seen. A place with friends, staff and curriculum they enjoy. An extension of home where the adults there are looking out for their wellbeing just as much as we do. Campbell is thriving at her “hockey school”. She’s made great friends, developed leaps and bounds as a hockey player, and is challenged academically. Of course the engineer in me is proud that math is her favorite subject! Cooper’s school continues to lift him up every day. His team is the best. I can’t put it any other way. Modify the bathroom for him? OK. Lower a swing? done. Need a HC accessible switch on the door? done. iPad robot in the classroom so that Cooper can attend school virtually while at infusion and recovering from surgery? sure! (We knew all about online school before COVID.) Special seating for each classroom/lunch situation? done. Speakers in the classroom or a speaker for the teacher so he can hear better? check. Customize the special class outings so he feels a part of the fun? yep. And then we’ll touch base and they’ll suggest ways it needs to be changed so it can better. Of course the IEP and Special Ed department are to thank, but this group goes above and beyond to make sure school is everything it can be for Cooper. I’m constantly full of joy and appreciation for Cooper’s experience as an elementary school kid.

Campbell and her classmates celebrating after her goal

So what am I getting at? My heart is so full. Our bucket is so full. We are living life to the fullest, and we need to give back. I know I do things to give back. But I feel I need to do more. Visit my new page, Extraordinary Organizations. Donate your time, talent or cold hard cash to these organizations that have lifted us up, and do so for countless other families as well. Share their missions. In the meantime, I’m going to carve more time out of my day to be of help where I can.

Thank you for lifting us up. For reading my rants. For sharing our story. My new mission is Dawg Nation’s motto – Play Hard, Play Fair, Give Back.

Reflecting on our journey

On infusion days, Cooper can be found WIDE AWAKE long after his bed time. He’s happy and chatty. Tonight, he couldn’t fall asleep in his bed, so he grabbed his book and crawled into our bed to read until I could join him. He finally wound down and closed his eyes. As I watch him peacefully sleep after a long day at the hospital, with Rare Disease Day quickly approaching, my heart had some things to say…

Thank you Lord for this journey with Cooper.

For the empathy it continues to teach me.

For finding my voice as an advocate for Cooper, and figuring out how to advocate for myself at the same time.

For the compassion I have grown to have for people in all walks of life.

For the angels on earth we meet along the way – those who lift us up.

Please give me strength to fight the battles.

Please give me wisdom to know which battles to fight.

Please give me grace to be the mother I need to be for both Cooper and Campbell.

Please give me the energy, words and actions to pay it forward and adequately recognize and thank those angels among us.

Thank you for this journey. Please continue to show us the way.

Amen

Celebrating Cooper’s Diagnosis Anniversary with Dawg Nation

Six years.  SIX.  It’s been six years since we were handed Cooper’s diagnosis.  This morning I watched Cooper’s uneven, labored gait as he walked away from me and I had a sudden twinge of sadness.  The scar from his spinal decompression surgery two summers ago glared at me from the back of his neck.  I watched my sweet eight year old start toward the steps.  Today it’s too much work to walk down them, so he sits down and bumps down each one on his butt.  He’s wearing Christmas PJs that fit a normal four year old.  He has become more mature with his questions and thoughts, and his face looks older.  But he’ll always be this size.  When I pick Cooper up from school and see his third grade classmates, the kids are giant!  It’s now VERY apparent Cooper is different.  I think the difference affects me more than him, and I hope it stays that way.  He’s doing age appropriate things (and that’s what’s important), I just don’t want him to ever outgrow snuggles with mama.


We’ve been hunkering down and masking up during the pandemic.  Theoretically, Cooper is at an elevated risk of serious complications, should he catch COVID.  We’ve mindfully chosen how and where we interact and are walking the line of enough interaction to keep everyone sane, while staying safe.  The one thing that hasn’t changed is infusions at Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHCO) – we still go once a week.  We check in at 9 AM and leave by 4 PM.  A couple weeks ago, we walked in and it was like the scene from the 80’s TV show, “Cheers” – NORM!  Everyone at the screening desk, the volunteers at check in and admissions staff all lit up and greeted us when Coop walked in.  Our weekly hospital visits haven’t changed, it’s been our one place of normalcy.  Isn’t that crazy?  Cooper’s rare disease treatment is the one shred of familiarity during the quarantine.  I’ll take it.  We cherish our CHCO family.  Last week we were lucky to be at infusion the day that CHCO staff arranged a ZOOM call with Colorado College (CC) hockey players and CHCO patients.  Coop and one other little boy got to play a word game with the CC players, then do some Q and A.  Cooper was beaming, laughing, being a ham!  He sat up straight and participated and was so stickin’ happy.  The players were animated, kind and fun.  I profusely thanked the CHCO staff and CC players for their time and involvement in such a fabulous activity.  One of the CC players asked a friend on the Colorado Avalanche to record a video for Coop.  The CHCO staff sent it to me, and I nearly died.  The Av said that he and the Av’s are all behind Coop, praying for him and rooting for him.  Queue the big mama tears.  Coop was starstruck. We were exposed to a bit of what the hockey family was like two years ago when we got to spend time with the University of Denver hockey players, but we’re experiencing this hockey family more and more now, and they are lifting us up.  


In October, Cooper tried sled hockey for the first time at an event put on by Aces Hockey Academy (where Campbell attends fifth grade) and Colorado Sled Hockey.  Although his arms weren’t strong enough to pull him, Cooper quickly made friends and the hockey family stepped up to push him around, make sure he had a great time, and help him succeed at playing sled hockey.

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And here our hockey family grows again.  Dawg Nation (a non-profit providing hockey families assistance and opportunities during times of crisis) has reached out and wants to provide special fun and support for Cooper and our family.  We are humbled and honored to the recipient of their time, talent and our community’s generosity.  Visit Cooper’s Dawg Nation page to help. Feel free to share the Dawg Nation link or this blog link if you are so moved.


Flashback to six years ago – a devastating diagnosis for our 16 month old son.  We’ve seen five surgeries and recoveries.  We know how to handle weekly infusions.  We move through the world and change it to accommodate Coop.  Today we deal with the physical and emotional challenges as they come.  I think this is the first year I can say that.  Before now, I’ve been so concerned about what IS to come.  Time for a new mindset.  Now we aim to celebrate every day, and live in the now.  We are grateful to Dawg Nation for our upcoming celebration! January 30 (diagnosis day) usually brings me such sadness, I am delighted to have fun news to share on this year’s diagnosis anniversary. Cheers to our hockey family!

Seeking Stillness

I find myself seeking stillness recently. A lack of things. A lack of motion. A lack of noise. A lack of doing. A lack of thinking? Or am I seeking the stillness to allow thought?

I am sooooooo tired. Like drop the kids off at school, jar myself awake as I drive home, crawl back into bed for a two hour nap – tired. (Mind you I’m in bed by 10pm on a nightly basis) I make sure I don’t have anything pressing for work, then I set my alarm for noon and doze off. It doesn’t take me 5 minutes. It’s not like I want to surf Facebook or play a video game. I need to shut my eyes. I have SO MANY things I need to tend to, all piled up in my inbox. It’s not even neatly sorted. The number of things I need to catch up on and the breadth of emails I need to address to get everything figured out is appalling. Apparently, I’m currently operating on the “whoever screams the loudest gets addressed” system.

The fact that I feel the need to sleep when I have so much piled up makes me realize something has shifted – perhaps I don’t care? I can’t care about it all. I cared about it ALL for so long. And I can’t anymore. Is my body shifting into self-preservation mode? Or am I truly just exhausted after the most difficult year of my life?

Being “mom” makes me (and so many others) the funnel for my family’s health, social, school, and church related things. Let’s try to cram Mom’s work, volunteer duties, exercise, typical chores and me-time in the funnel too. But WHAT?? There is a pandemic and now everything is done virtually? What’s the email address for all things virtual at my house? Mom@PerhapsThisIsTooMuch.com The funnel is overflowing.

Today is infusion day for Cooper which means we are at the hospital for 6 or 7 hours. We bring Coop’s school stuff, my computer and some gaming devices. School work is complete. But instead of digging into my personal inbox I find myself staring out the window, taking in the scenery. Making up a story about the Pest Control guy by the Central Utility Plant and what he orders at Chic-Fil-A. Watching the oversized ground hogs and wondering if they are the pests. Wondering where the hawks are, and when will it snow? Maybe I’ll ask for a warm blanket and nap next.

I don’t know where the “Go getter Chris” is, but if you see her, will you send her home? The dazed and confused mom there needs a boost.

T minus 3 days

I find myself not wanting to go to bed. I’m so tired my head hurts and my body is dragging, but I don’t want to give in. Going to sleep means I wake up the next day and we are one day closer to Cooper’s surgeries. I see Cooper pulling the same trick. He even verbalized it last night “I don’t want to go to bed, then I’m only three days away from surgery” – that’s when I realized I was doing the same thing.

Now I need to get him, and myself, on the next page. We need to get to surgery and beyond. After surgery is cast day #1, which brings us closer to cast day #48, when we get the cast off.

We’re taking one step at a time. And right now, we are enjoying the time Cooper is still literally taking steps.

This was supposed to be our Christmas Letter

Blank space.  Lots of blank space. An empty glass of egg nog (the good kind) and an empty Word document…Where to start…..  It’s time to write this year’s Christmas letter.  It’s one of my favorite parts of the season! But I’m not feeling it yet.

I start by reviewing last year’s Christmas letter.  I feel like this year didn’t happen.  We are right back where we were last year – preparing for a major surgery for Cooper.  Is this it the rest of our lives? Will we be continually preparing for the next big surgery?  (Catch up on how this is Groundhog Day on Cooper’s Caring Bridge site, look for June 3rd’s post titled Curveball. But the Cliff’s Notes version is this – Cooper was supposed to have hips, legs and ankles surgeries last summer.  We got to the hospital and found he had the beginning of spinal cord damage, so the surgery plan switched to spinal decompression surgery.  Now this summer is approaching and we’re “back to the future” preparing for the surgery we were supposed to have last year.)

I tell ya what, I’m ready for it.  Well, I don’t think I’ll ever be READY for it, but I know it needs to happen. 

Cooper and Campbell are taking ice skating lessons.  If you hear Cooper talk about it, he calls it “training”.  Ya know, because this kid has NHL (National Hockey League) written in his heart.  Lessons are 30 minutes, once a week.  Campbell is doing really well, loving it and ready for more advanced lessons, hockey pads and a stick.  Sweet Cooper is having trouble.  His knock-kneed stance, incomplete hip structure, misshapen spine and large chest cavity prove to be hard to accommodate on ice skates.  Getting up from the ice by himself is near impossible.  He can do the move on the living room rug, but can’t get it to work on the ice.  Tonight was the first night he repeatedly fell to the ice on purpose, just to rest his legs. The instructors offered to help him up, but he chose to sit there for a long while.  My heart broke.  He’s been able to overcome, or we’ve been able to accommodate, everything so far, but not here.  Not yet. 

So my heart knows this next surgery, to correct Cooper’s hip shelves and align his knees and ankles, is a necessity to give him the mobility this active kid desires. 

I have so much anxiety about the whole damn thing.  And again, it’s right where I was last year.  At least I have one out of state surgery under my belt from our adventure this summer.  I know the hospital and when the cafeteria closes.  I know where to order the good Italian food from.  I know a Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball game will cheer us all up.  I know to keep track of the pain meds as close or closer than the nurses do, because they are very busy and Coop isn’t necessarily their number one priority.  I know not to buy plane tickets for the trip home until we know when we’ll be able and comfortable to fly.  I wish I could say I knew where to stay.  The condo we called home last year has had management changes and is no longer doing short term leases.  So I’m on the hunt for a new place to stay near the hospital.  Must have full kitchen and ample space to accommodate the family, two of us who will bring work along.  Must have exercise facilities.  Must be wheelchair accessible.  That doesn’t seem too overwhelming.  Why can’t I get over it?

I think the unknown part of recovery still has me on edge.  True, we’ve done recovery with a neck brace, but Cooper was playing mini golf eight days after surgery!  Time to do recovery in a body cast this time.  The travel will be challenging.  Cooper’s seven weeks in a body cast will be the most challenging.  But we have such great support, family and friends who would stand on their heads to entertain Cooper if I asked them. 

I’m coming to the realization that I need to hand this preparation anxiety over to God and let my heart rest. That’s hard for me to do.  I have too many spreadsheets and checklists and where does God fit in?  I can pick up planning again in February and do the leg work, but I need the rest.  I need the happy elf-like Chris full of Christmas spirit and optimism to show up and write my Christmas letter.  She’s around here somewhere…..

Thankfully my friend Amber’s elf provided inspiration for our elf’s toilet paper snowflakes tomfoolery tonight.