11.27.2018

Giving Tuesday: The Amyloidosis Foundation



The Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday has been designated as Giving Tuesday.  It seems fitting that after Thanksgiving and during the holiday season we should try to give back to others.  I had not really heard of Giving Tuesday until this year, but it seems like the perfect time to pay it forward.  I have so many things to be thankful for this year.  And I am especially grateful that my mom was able to enjoy Thanksgiving after her stem cell transplant.

You may have read my post about making southern dressing for Thanksgiving, and I talked a little about my mom and her diagnosis of Amyloidosis.  Today, I want to share a little more and explain why this Giving Tuesday I am supporting the Amyloidosis Foundation.


First of all, you may be wondering what Amyloidosis is anyway.  To try and simplify, it is a rare bone marrow disorder where a protein called amyloid is overproduced and then clumps together and deposits itself on organs, nerves and tissues in the body.  The more the production of amyloid increases the more health issues are cause by it.  My mom has the AL form of the disease.  In her type, it typically affects the kidneys, heart, digestive system or the nervous system.  

The first symptom for my mom was when her lymphnode swelled under her arm in August 2017.  The believed that she had lymphoma; but after lots of tests, she was eventually diagnosed with amyloidosis instead.  At first, they did nothing to treat as they believed the amyloid was only affecting her lymphnodes.   But then she began to be unable to eat and lose weight.  She coughed all the time.  Her legs and feet hurt a lot and she had neuropathy as well.  My mom is a shopper like me and when she could not even shop because her legs hurt too much we knew something was not right!  

Back in February, Mom had an endoscopy that confirmed the amyloid was present in her GI tract and that is definitely what was causing all of her digestive issues and her cough.  Even though the amyloid in the nerves in her legs was never officially diagnosed, they believe that is what was causing the pain there too.  After this was discovered, she started a treatment plan of a chemotherapy injection called Velcade, along with some oral chemo medications to try and combat the amyloid production.

To make a long story short, the Velcade was not working so the doctor changed the regimen to a new drug.  After a couple of months on it, it was determined that it was not working great either.  The only other treatment option was a stem cell transplant.  I say treatment, because Amyloidosis has no cure yet.  The goal of the transplant was to kill the plasma cells causing the  overproduction of amyloid.  And hope that they stay a way for a long time.  

The week before her transplant, I went to Chapel Hill with her to many appointments.  She had to have her apherisis catheter implanted, meet with nutritionists to review what foods were off limits, meet with physicians and pharmacists.  It was completely overwhelming at times.  We also went to a wig shop in the hospital because her hair was going to fall out.  I have to say, it was something we were both dreading, but the ladies in UNC were amazing and made the experience fun.  One morning we got up super early because we could not sleep and went to Belk for the charity day sale.  I think it was a way to get out one more time and shop and enjoy ourselves before the hospital confinement started.

While we were in Chapel Hill, she had to begin injections in her stomach so her body would produce more stem cells for the collection that was set to take place the following week. Her stem cells were collected on one day the following week, and then the following day she had a massive dose of chemo called Melphalan.  The very next day, 8/31/18, the stem cell transplant took place.  During this time, my dad was there with her and I know I was driving them crazy calling all the time to check on her.  That weekend I drove down with one of my moms friends to visit over the Labor Day weekend.  Honestly, she was doing remarkably well.  I could not believe how great things were going, but I was super happy about it, especially since I was so worried.

The next Saturday, I drove down to stay for a week and give my dad a break.  I swear from the moment we switched places, it went downhill for her.  Her numbers began to drop, as was expected.  She was so sick that entire week.  She could not eat anything, it made her so sick.  Even walking was difficult.  She was exhausted and dehydrated most of the time.  She had to have IV fluids a lot and have a transfusion because her white blood cells went so low.  

Also during this week, her hair began to fall out.  She made the decision to shave her head while I was there. The nurses could not find their clippers and they used her electric razor for her legs.  That was the worst day.  The electric razor did a terrible job of shaving her head and left it patchy and gapped looking.  I wanted to just cry for her.  I know hair is just hair and will grow back, but it was still not pleasant to watch it take place.  Also, I did go to Target and get some clippers to fix all the patchy areas and it is finally starting to grow back some!

On Saturday, I switched with my dad again, and while she was still some sick, it was much better.  She was released from the hospital later the next week and had to stay in Chapel Hill for  a few more days.  She has been home since late September and will be able to go out in public without a mask very soon.  The transplant has been very successful so far and at this point, no further treatment is required other than regular follow ups.  While I know the disease will return at some point, I am just extremely grateful that the stem cell transplant was an option.  Years ago, this would not have even been available.  

More research is needed in this disease, but since it is rare disease (less than 4,500 people a year are diagnosed), it may not always get the most funding.  But this is a very near and dear to my heart cause, and if nothing else, I hope that this blog post will raise awareness.  If you would like to donate, please visit the Amyloidosis Foundation site.  


Lastly, I would like to thank the staff at the UNC BMT. The nurses there were exceptional.  There is also a place that patients families are allowed to stay called the SECU Family House. The people and support you receive here is also amazing. And here in Hendersonville, I would like to thank Dr. Navin Anthony; he is so fantastic.  He is one of the kindest and most empathetic physicians and really cared about my mom and still continues to monitor her.  

September 2017
My parents, Easter 2018

Mother's Day 2018 with my mom and siblings


August 2018: 2 weeks before transplant






11.21.2018

Just A Few Black Friday 2018 Sale Picks



There is one thing about me that is a fact.  I love a good deal.  There is something about getting a bargain that is just invigorating to me!  Haha!  It is always my goal to save more than I spend.  Black Friday and Cyber Week make the perfect time to stock up on great deals that you may need or just want.  

If I am being honest though, I used to be a huge Black Friday shopper.  But when stores started opening on Thanksgiving and staying open all night, it just made me want to shop online instead. I loved getting up early, having my coffee and a plan of attack.  I think shopping all night does not appeal to me because I am so not a night owl.  I am usually in bed before 10. ;-)

One of my tips to save even more on these deals, is so easy!  Sign up for Ebates!  It is so easy and when you are shopping online you automatically earn cash back on things you are buying anyway.  It also searched for coupon codes so you can save even more.  It really is the easiest thing to earn more cash back.  I love it!  Sign up here:  Ebates Sign Up

Amazon Deals

Please note, deals are time sensitive and have limited quantities, they may sell out.

I love this deal on the Amazon firetv stick because you get prime video channels AND you get Starz free for 2 months.  Here is the think about Starz, you can watch Outlander.  And personally, I think that alone is worth the price!  If you have someone that loves a great historical TV show, this would make the perfect gift and it is under $25!


If you know someone that is easing into the "smart house" lifestyle, this echo dot/light bundle might be just the ticket.  It is a great starter pack and will allow someone to control their lights.  I got this for my parents last year and they use it all the time.  


A great tablet for kids is the Amazon Fire Kids Edition.  It has parental controls and is protected with a case too.  It comes in multiple color options such as pink, blue and yellow.  And it could help encourage reading as well.  My niece and nephew love theirs that we got them last year.

Amazon has so many great deals this week, but since they are quick as some of them only last an hour, it is hard to link you to them all.  If you are looking for something specific, send me an email or comment and I will help you look for it and send you link if I find a steal for you.

Other Great Deals I Love


I love these pull on jeans!  I hate wearing a cute tunic or a top and seeing the button poke through.  It drives me crazy.  These are under $15 and come in 4 colors.



I love a good pajama set.  The buffalo plaid on these is so cute. And I think they would make great photos on Christmas morning.  The best part is that they are on sale for $14.99.


I love some cute athletic wear.  The lace up detail on this sweatshirt is so cute!  And it is 40% off!  



This coat is perfect for winter.  It comes in 5 colors, I just love the winter white.  The gold button details and the fur trim are so gorgeous!  And it is only $66!  You save 70%! 



I am in the south, so flannel is standard among the men I know.  These are only $9.99 and come in a ton of colors!  You should definitely grab them.


I have so many more options that I love, but my internet connection is running sooooo slow.  So, I am going to post to attempt to post some more deals tomorrow on my stories and here.  Please head to my last Instagram post and tell me the best deal you found!  Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!  I am truly grateful to each of you that take the time to read my blog.  






11.13.2018

Thankful Tuesday + My Mama's Southern Thanksgiving Dressing Recipe



Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It is a day filled with some of my most loved things; family, food and shopping!  While I am always thankful for my family, this year I feel especially thankful for my mama.  It has been a year full of struggles for her and I finally feel as if we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

A brief back story for those of you that may not know me on a personal level.  Back in August of 2017 my mama woke up with a really swollen lymph node under her arm.  She went to the doctor and was told that it was probably an infection and they administered IV antibiotics.  When that did not fix the problem, she had a biopsy and the lymph node was removed for testing.  At this point they believed that she had lymphoma of some kind.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and she still did not have results.  You should probably know that I am a pretty impatient person. I know I was driving her crazy calling her every hour asking if she had heard results from the doctor.  I could not understand what in the devil was taking so long!  FINALLY, the doctor called and told her that she had something that he did not really understand enough to explain and that he would schedule her with a hematologist/oncologist to review, but that she did not have lymphoma.  (Yeah, it is comforting when the doctor hasn't heard of it.)

On one hand I wanted to be excited because it wasn't lymphoma but on the other, the unknown is frightening!  I went with her and my dad to the doctors appointment and she was officially diagnosed with Amyloidosis.  I linked you to a page that can explain this disease further.  This disease is pretty rare and only about 4,500 a year are diagnosed with it.  I feel like I am a pro at explaining it at this point, but it is so complicated the link is probably best.

My mama has had a year filled with tests, scans, chemo and a stem cell transplant.  She has been sick with nausea and stomach issues from where the amyloid impacted her GI tract both before and after the transplant.  Food does not taste very good at times and even when she gets a craving for something it doesn't quite taste like she hoped.  But even with all of that she will still get up sometimes, cook a huge meal and call me after work to come and have dinner so I don't have to cook when I get off.  I can't even begin to tell you all how much my mama amazes me with her strength and giving heart.  I will always be extremely grateful that God blessed me with her as my mama.

Thanksgiving is a family affair.  I have a pretty big family and we all live very close to each other.  My brother and sister in law have 6 children (3 biological and 3 adopted, I will write about that story one day soon!).  My sister has 3 cute kids and I have 2, but my oldest is 22 so she isn't really a kid anymore.  Typically, my uncle, cousin and Mamaw come too, so it is a full house.

We take our food very seriously at Thanksgiving.  My mama has always made the dressing for as long as I can remember.  And this year, she is making one and I am making one too.  Even though I followed her recipe to the letter, for some reason I bet hers will still taste slightly better.  What is it about your mamas food that makes it better than when you make it? Haha! ;-)

I made a video below that goes through the steps, give it a watch and comment either here or my last Instagram post to tell me what you think.  The full recipe is below the video.  I was a little nervous to film myself, so forgive my constant RBF.  I was happy, I swear! LOL!  I would love to hear how you do your dressing different and tell me what your favorite Thanksgiving food is too!

 
Mama's Southern Dressing

  • A pone of cornbread, staled for a day or two
  • 4-5 leftover biscuits, staled for a day or two
  • 3-4 pieces of stale loaf bread
  • Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Dressing Mix (One 14 oz bag)
  • 1/2 lb high quality breakfast sausage (I buy mine here)
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/2-3/4 stick of butter
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of onion, chopped (put as much or as little as you personally like)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of celery, chopped (put as much or as little as you personally like)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 32 oz carton of Swanson Chicken Broth (or you can make your own broth) 
  • Poultry Seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Directions:  
Crumble the cornbread, biscuits, bread and dressing mix into a large bowl.  Heat water and butter on medium heat and add the onions and celery, cook until tender.  While the onions and celery are cooking, brown the sausage.  Once it is browned, add sausage (+ pan drippings) and the hard boiled eggs to the bread mixture. When the onions and celery are tender, add them as well.  Mix well.  Add salt, pepper and poultry seasoning to taste.  Add two eggs and slowly add the chicken broth and continue to mix.  Once it is mixed well and has a sticky consistency, crumble the dressing mix into a buttered casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until browned.  You can make the dressing ahead of time and freeze.  Just take it out of the freezer and thaw completely before placing in the oven.