Pectus Excavatum

Okay, let’s begin with a quick quiz. Have you ever played WordPower in Reader’s Digest? No?!  … me neither… *ahem* … but I hear this is just like it.

     Pectus excavatum is:

a) a Latin legal term

b) a spell from Harry Potter

c) a chest deformity

I bet Hermione would know the answer… 

The correct answer is c.  And, well, I have it. I’ve always known that my “chest caves in,” as I would usually phrase it, but only recently did I learn the term for it. I never thought much of it, except for the inconvenience involved with all v-neck clothing. But, upon checking into the ER last week with various symptoms, the doctor called for a CT scan. The scan showed that my chest caves in so severely that it is pressing on my heart. In fact, it has pushed my heart further left than it is supposed to be. This picture isn’t me, don’t be fooled, but it’s pretty accurate.

An EKG later showed that my left ventricle is behaving “abnormally” and my heart is definitely “under stress.” Using the CT scan measurements, a severity index known as the Haller Index is used. “Normal” is about 2 or 2.5, while anything above a 3.5 is considered severe. I measured as a 6.25. Always an overachiever. This explains the racing heartbeat while resting or doing simple activities like walking up stairs, and the feeling like I need to pause and take deep breaths. What I thought had been stress related over the summer was actually brought on by this. Now that the doctor brought all of this up, I recall chest aches that lingered for hours after a tough Zumba class or workout, which I just attributed to my lungs overworking or something unimportant.

Once again, not me, but you get the idea.

In some instances, expecto patronum pectus excavatum can be treated with physical therapy or in minimally-invasive ways, but I’ve been told to expect surgery. I’ll be meeting with a cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon in the next few weeks to figure out the plan. Please pray for myself, Sam, and all the doctors involved. Pray for wisdom and discernment for us all, and comfort and peace for Sam and I. If you know me well, you know I’m terrible with all things medical and I tend to work myself up over it.

While it is somewhat disappointing to think that I may have to spend a few months recovering from this while I’m in ENGLAND of all places, I have seen God’s hand at work in all of this. For example, what if these symptoms had escalated while I was teaching full time or when Sam was gone? God protected me through that. I am taking a break from teaching and have the time to recover without the stress of sub planning. Where we lived before, there was no hospital on base and no ER, so medical help would have been more difficult and would have involved many more referrals and phone calls. The base here has a hospital and we are very close to several other highly regarded hospitals and clinics. The surgeon I’m seeing is considered one of the most experienced in the UK. God’s timing is no accident, and I am taking comfort in that.

Once again, I ask that you pray for me and everyone involved, for God’s “peace that passes all understanding.” Also please pray that I may give God the glory in all of this and that I may be a blessing and encouragement to those I come into contact with as I seek treatment. I’ll keep you posted on what’s to come. Thanks for reading!

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“So, are you going crazy yet?”

(First of all, I apologize if you are an email subscriber… the WordPress app got a little over excited and emailed this out before I was ready to post. Please disregard the previous error-filled and photo-lacking post and read this one instead. Thanks!) 

 

Sam asked me that question a few days ago. “So, are you going crazy yet?” I’m not working at the moment and he knows I prefer to stay busy. This picture pretty accurately describes me, actually.

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…then I love routine.

I haven’t “worked” since school let out in May. Besides that, from the time I was of working age, I can only think of one other summer that I didn’t work. In my working past I’ve peddled ice cream, chicken, coffee, coffee and bagels, coffee and pastries, oh and math and science. 🙂 I enjoy working, especially when it’s something I love doing, like making a quality cup of coffee or teaching a great group of kids (usually while drinking a quality cup of coffee).

Yup.

Yup.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to miss teaching quite this much. I absolutely loved teaching. Even on the days when it was hard to get up (almost daily), even on the days where I dreaded the required lesson planning and grading, even when tempted with the thought of doing something “easier” for a living… as soon as I walked into my classroom I was glad I was there and I was excited for the day. I thanked God often for the special students, school and faculty he blessed me with. But, as any teacher an attest, it is an exhausting career…

Exactly.

Exactly.

A quick Google search just told me that the average teaching career lasts 11 years, but I remember a professor mentioning that it’s around 4 years. Either number will show that teachers can burn out quickly. So, I expected this move and the break to be a nice rest from an exhausting job, but as my middle schoolers often post, truth is… I miss teaching! I have several teacher friends and as I see them posting about their classrooms, talking about new students, organizing, etc. I realize how much I miss it.  I’m taking a break from teaching for this year at least to adjust to our new life and start on my masters, but I know I’ll go back to teaching someday. Hopefully soon.

But to answer Sam’s question, no, I’m not going crazy (yet) being unemployed. I’m staying busy organizing and decorating the house, exploring the area, doing crafty things, making new friends, reading, and applying for master’s programs. And today, I woke up during the equivalent of 2nd period and I’m typing this in my pajamas… so there are a few perks of being unemployed. 🙂

I told Sam that this is THE red flag though…

Yikes.

Yikes.

I made him promise that if he comes home to find that my latent cat lady tendencies have come to the forefront and I’ve made friendship bracelets for the cats and myself, he has to make me get a job! 

Gyffrous a syfrdanol Cymru (Part 1)

Exciting and breathtaking Wales

When we arrived in the UK, we asked around to see where we should plan our first trip to. There are so many places to go, it can be a bit overwhelming! When we asked where to go for great hiking, several people told us to go to Wales. We’re so glad we listened!

Wales was absolutely beautiful. Verdant landscapes spotted with ruins, castles and lakes beg you to hop out of your car and start hiking. So, our first day there, we did just that, and hiked up Mount Snowdon.

Our guesthouse was in the town of Betws-y-Coed (I’m still not sure how to pronounce that), meaning, “prayer house in the wood.” I think you can see why:

Talk about a room with a view!

Talk about a room with a view!

The guesthouse was called Coed-y-Fron (“church in the wood”). It was very comfortable and quaint. The garden was beautiful as well.  They served a full English breakfast in the morning. That includes tea or coffee, brown or white toast, bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, beans, and a grilled tomato. They also had juice and cereal to begin with while waiting for your hot breakfast. Needless to say, we were well fed!

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We would definitely stay there again.

Both nights that we were in Betws-y-Coed we ate dinner at The Stables, just down the road. The food was excellent, a definite step up from pub grub. They had football, tennis and rugby playing, and one of the young servers kept ducking behind a wall by our table to catch glimpses of the Chelsea game. Then he’d lean back and walk forward from behind the wall with faked momentum to make it look like he’d just been tidying outside. Hilarious.

The Stables

We saw several dogs out on the patio with their owners. Maybe next time, Toby.

Our main reason for staying in this town was the proximity to Snowdonia National Park and the summit of Mount Snowdon. We drove over to the car park and found it full so Sam dropped me off and drove a mile down the mountain to park. He then ran back up to the top before we even began our 9 mile hike. He’s quite a guy isn’t he? 🙂

If you ever go to Wales, I HIGHLY recommend hiking Mount Snowdon. It was a difficult hike, I will admit, but there are easier trails that offer sweeping views as well. Go. And if you don’t like it, then let me know, and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong.

We started off on the Miners Path which leads you by old copper mine ruins and large patina-green lakes. You walk along wide, gentle paths with incredible views of summit, then you realize, “I suppose we have to walk up at some point, don’t we?” and the path turns to rugged rock and stairs and you begin to ascend. There were a few points where my calves and quads screamed, “We can’t do this!” but I told them to shut up and pressed on. I didn’t go all that way for nothing!

The view from the top was worth the shaky legs and freezing face, because let me tell you, it was chilly! It was probably in the low 40’s, maybe even 30’s at the peak. Buuurrrr! Now, some of you may disagree with this on principle, but I greatly appreciated the cafe at the top of the mountain offering snacks and warm drinks. “Oh you just climbed a mountain? Would you care for some coffee?” Um, YES!  The cafe was almost camouflaged into the mountain side so there was no flashy neon signage or rubbish everywhere to indicate its presence. Really, the only reason I knew it was there was because I saw people holding paper cups that contained warm beverages. “Where did they get that?!”

Our one fear about hiking to the summit was that it would be cloudy and foggy and we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the view. At first, it looked like we wouldn’t be able to see much, so we sat down to have a snack.

We could barely see the peak.

We could barely see the peak.

As we sat, the clouds shifted, opening up the expansive views of Snowdonia. Such beautiful creation. Well worth the hike. These views remind me of the omnipotence of God and make me so thankful!

The view from the peak of Mount Snowdon.

The view from the peak of Mount Snowdon.

After resting, we headed back. We took the low road up and the high road back down. We were able to look down on where we hiked on the way up, which was neat to see. The picture below shows both of them.

The Miners Path, seen from the Pyg Path.

The trail splitting into the Pyg Path and the Miner”s Path.

It was a beautiful hike down, spotted with lots of sheep. Or, “sherp” as we began to call them. They were everywhere!

This ladder for humans only. Sorry, sherp.

This ladder for humans only. Sorry, sherp.

Share the road.

Share the road.

The hike back down was hard on my knees. (Afterwards, the stairs up to our 3rd floor room about made me cry). Sam and I were thankful that we had invested in good hiking boots before this trip. You definitely need ankle support. Overall, someone in good shape could do this hike without a problem, but if you have bad knees take your time on the way back down. And don’t plan much else for the day. We were exhausted!

During this same trip we also visited the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, Cardiff Castle, and Conwy Castle. I’ll post about the rest later on.