Monday, April 9, 2012

...and it flips again

*this is in a series of posts i'm introducing myself through. if you want to read the beginning of the story, start here then go to this one, this one, and this one.*

in 2005, nathan joined the coast guard. he went to boot camp that summer and then got stationed in astoria, oregon. though i was definitely glad we were around all my family when we found out michael had been killed, we were ready a year later to have a little space and actually start forming our own family, just the two of us.

we were incredibly excited and felt like we were headed the right direction after our plans were thrown of course the year before, and we got to astoria on october 31st. our belongings were about a week behind us for some reason (anybody familiar with the military can understand that one), but even that didn't seem like such a bad thing at the time. we bought a couch, chair, coffee table, buffet, and side table at a second-hand shop for $500, and we slept on the couch until our bed arrived.

the older gentleman who sold us our furniture invited us to stop by his church, so when we started looking for a church family that was where we went--
      and we loved it. it was a nazarene church; nathan went to the methodist church with his grandma when he was growing up and my dad had been a baptist pastor. there were certain points of doctrine we didn't agree on, but they loved us anyways and agreed on the most important point:
Jesus was sent as the Savior, the One who sacrificed His own life so that we could live.
it wasn't very long before we started working with the youth group, which was amazing! we loved those kids and had a blast spending time with all of them.

we really thought we had it figured out. nathan would spend a few years in the coast guard. we would get the chance to work with the youth. i could start classes and get into optometry.

new year's day 2006 found us in the emergency room. nathan was having extreme pain and we had no idea what was going on. the initial diagnosis was a kidney stone, but test after test showed up negative and the pain wouldn't go away. the coast guard would send us to a urologist. he would say, "there's something wrong, but i don't know what it is. you should go to a nephrologist." 

the coast guard would send us to a nephrologist. he would say basically the same thing, but want nathan to go back to the urologist.

we went to all sorts of doctors, to every doctor available in astoria i think. then they started sending us to portland. we went up to seattle. we drove all over the place that year (it was a good thing we liked sight seeing!), whenever the coast guard cutter fir was in port. eventually, they moved him to the air base because he couldn't do ship duty anymore.

when all the tests were coming back negative for just about everything, they started saying that it was all in his head and that nathan was just trying to get out of the coast guard. i can assure you, that was the last thing he had in mind. we thought we were finally headed the right direction--why would he try to get out? they did, however, send him for a psych evaluation. the diagnosis was that he was depressed, but according to the psychologist (i think that's who does those evaluations, right?) that was to be expected. he was in constant pain with people constantly telling him nothing was wrong. who wouldn't be depressed?

you wouldn't believe the meds they had him on. it seemed like every new doctor would add something, but in order to keep it from counteracting one of the older meds they would have to add another...and another...and another. at one point, my 21 year old husband, who had always been athletic and active, was taking around a dozen meds for the pain that would keep him doubled over on a daily basis.

things were getting bad, and i was starting to get scared. they couldn't figure out what was going on and there were times i was afraid i would lose him before they finally made a diagnosis. i didn't know what i would do if i lost him.

i've only recently told nathan this, but the main reason i started talking to him about us starting a family and having a baby was because i was afraid i would lose him--and i wanted to be able to keep some part of him. our little girl was born in december 2006. we traveled home to arkansas so her grandparents could all be there, meaning we drove back across country with a brand new baby. we also had 2 huge dogs at the time, and the story of that trip is one i'll have to share some time as one of our...adventures. the trip from arkansas back to oregon was spent like this:
yes, that is a rottweiler with his head on the edge of the carseat. thor stayed like that for most of the trip, usually staring at raiden. if you look really closely you can see an extra set of furry black hips behind the rottie. those belong to drizzt, our great dane.

i think they both thought raiden was their baby as much as she was ours!

somewhere in there, we finally got a diagnosis. nathan was sent to a nephrologist (kidney doctor) in portland who reviewed his case and told us that earlier that day he had just happened across an article in a medical journal about something called "loin pain hematuria syndrome," or lphs. his symptoms fit: extreme loin pain that can't be explained, sudden onset, and unexplainable blood in the urine. basically, lphs is the diagnosis patients get when everything else has been ruled out. he ordered a kidney biopsy to rule out anything else that might not have shown up on scans, and the results of that biopsy showed that nathan had something called "thin basement membrane disease."

so, now we had a diagnosis (about a year after the symptoms had first appeared).
 the problem was, there isn't really a set way to treat either of those.
nathan was basically just put on high levels of pain killers and more or less told good luck.

he was given a temporary medical retirement from the coast guard, which has since apparently turned into not temporary. i say "apparently" because we've never really been told anything. one day his pay stub (that we get every once in a while--i've never been able to figure out how they decide when they're going to send us one) just said retired. we started getting the retirement newsletter, so i guess that makes it official...yeah, that's the military...

so, we couldn't stay where we were because we were in base housing. i hadn't started classes in astoria because i had chosen to stay home a semester to write, so we didn't really have anything to keep us in oregon. neither of us had a degree, so there really weren't many options in front of us. we moved back to arkansas and moved back into our "barnament," now with 3 of us living in a one bedroom apartment.

it was time for us to start over. again.

neither of us really knew what we would do. with a new baby and the start of our family, i decided against optometry. i couldn't see going to school for another four years after i finished getting my last prerequisites out of the way because i didn't think i would be able to do justice to both school and my family. for nathan, flight school was out of the question--he wouldn't be able to pass the flight physical now. i had no idea what i wanted to do.

we finally decided we would both work for a semester and then head back down to russellville and go back to arkansas tech in january 2008. nathan was going to major in history and political science. for some crazy, unknown reason, i decided to major in engineering physics.

i know.

nathan started taking classes at the local community college and working at the grand country hotel in branson overnight. i subbed for a semester at my alma mater. in january we moved to russellville. we were optimistic, even if we had no idea what we were going to be doing. we both had a couple of years of classes to take, so there was time to work out the rest.

a few weeks in, i had my first test after returning to college. with a one year old at home, study time was non-existent. that may not be the experience others have had, but it was definitely the case for me. most of my college text books were never opened once i got off campus. 
after all, when you have this at home-->
who wants to spend time studying?

so, back to my first test--it was in physics 2 (i hadn't taken physics 1 because of scheduling conflicts) and if i remember right 
i got a 43%.
you read that right: 43%.
i was ready to throw in the towel. why in the world had i ever thought i could get a degree in physics? after lots of tears (on my part) and lots of encouragement (on nathan's part), i decided to keep going. it did get better, much to my surprise, and eventually not only was i passing my physics classes but i was asked to be a teaching assistant. i still had very little confidence in my physics abilities, but for some reason my professors had faith in me. that's something i will always be thankful for, because without knowing they thought i could do it i never would have made it through those classes.

somewhere along the line, though, it occurred to me that i had no idea what i was going to do with my degree. i changed from engineering physics to general physics eventually, not because i had some amazing breakthrough on a career choice, but because in july 2009 we had our second baby (a bit of a surprise)--and i could get out a semester earlier with the major change.

*once again, this is getting pretty wordy. i'll stop here for today and finish the story in the next post.
  i hope you're getting to know me a little bit better through this "introduction" series. it is way longer than i figured it would be. 
but then again, i guess that's how it usually goes when i write...


  1. It's crazy how much I've learned about you that I didn't know before I started reading these. I do remember seeing your truck and your flying squirrel thing on the way to Oregon. You might be the only one I wouldn't be surprised to see a flying squirrel LOL. Your blog is awesome, inspiring, and makes me even prouder to be your friend!

    1. Thanks, Erin.
      Yeah, there's a lot on here I haven't really ever put into words for anybody...and now for some crazy reason it's all out there...yikes!
      I'm glad you're reading, and I'm glad you like it :0)


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