Wednesday, December 30, 2009

. . . . . . . . . Days in Paradise

We have now been in Hawaii for 17 days...ahh, the sun and warmth has penetrated my soul and I feel warm all over. It will be hard for me to return to the cold and snow next week.

Tolan and I just spent the last couple of days at the Marriott Ihilani. It is a beautiful hotel and our room had a large lanai overlooking the ocean. We spent hours talking, eating and looking at the ocean and listening to the waves. It doesn't get any more perfect than that. Even when it rained today, we enjoyed the surroundings. Outside our room were ponds, one with sting rays, the other full of hammer head sharks. The grounds were exquisite and the lagoon bays were picture perfect.

I feel stronger and healthier now than I have in over a year. Tolan and I went out each day for "power walks" and we went all over the property and shore walkways. We explored, talked and enjoyed the scenery, stopping to check out the tide pools and bays. Yesterday we laid on the beach and read books...and slept on the beach! So relaxing and wonderful!

This is truly a paradise, and for me, it has been rejuvenating in so many ways. I hope to go home feelings stronger and better than ever! My love to all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

. . . . . . . . Mary and CHRISTMAS

Have you ever taken a moment to think about what it must have been like for Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she first looked into the stable and saw her “room” for the night? Unlike the clean tidy straw and the perfect cradle-shaped mangers we have in our modern-day nativities, the stable Mary saw was likely musty, dirty, filled with flies and a variety of unclean animals. Yet, she knew when she saw that spot for the first time that it would be the place of something holy and miraculous, despite its current imperfections.

As a mother who preferred a clean hospital room to a stable, I believe it would have been disheartening and difficult to have such conditions. Surely Mary would have preferred the warmth and comfort of a room in the inn, but being an obedient, faithful, daughter of God, she humbly accepted the opportunity of motherhood and took her place in the stable. In order for her child, the literal son of God, to descend beneath all of mankind, so, too, did Mary, as she laid down amongst the animals for the sacred birth.

But being receptive to her calling, Mary did not see her condition as a trial, but as a blessing which allowed her to become a mother.

LDS Church scholar Susan Easton Black said that from the scriptures we learn, Mary’s son, Jesus, inherited “the physical, mental, and spiritual traits of his parents—one, the glorified God; the other, a worthy, blessed mortal woman.” Could Mary have had such blessings without experiencing the trials in her life?

Jesus was our perfect example, and he learned much at the hand of his righteous mother, yet even He had to suffer pain, injustice, beating and eventual death before His mortal mission was fulfilled. He knew suffering, though He did no wrong. We, as imperfect mortals, cannot hope to escape life without a bitter swallow here and there.

The amazing truth that Jesus Christ knew is that our trials are not meant to torture us or beat us down but are blessings meant to allow us opportunities for learning, growth and miracles!

This has been a year of many miracles for me and my family. We feel so blessed to KNOW the truth about our Savior, Jesus Christ, and to have been blessed by Him and our Heavenly Father. As we say Merry CHRISTmas this year, know that we mean it in the core sense of the word. May you be blessed with the spirit of CHRIST this season. May you have faith, hope, love and miracles surround you. May you serve others as He did and learn what the pure love of Christ is all about this CHRISTmas.

I love you all, more than you know. Thank you for making my whole year a season of CHRISTmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

. . . . . . . . Top 10 Reasons

Jodi's Top 10 Reasons to Be Grateful for a Brain Tumor

10. The "IV" only diet guarantees you will lose at least 15% of your body weight in just 5 weeks!
9. You can experiment with short and long hair styles on the same day.
8. If you forget someone's name, you can blame it on your missing brain.
7. People can call you metal head, air head and fat head without offense.
6. You can play the "Brain tumor card" to get out of any assignment at work or church.
5. You can be on the cutting edge of eye patch fashion trends.
4. You can sit around and watch movies all day and call it "recovering".
3. You are not only allowed, but encouraged to eat "whatever sounds good" to you.
2. When people call you "crooked" you can take it as a compliment.
1. Miracles are no longer scriptural terminology, but daily events!

There are always reasons to be grateful! My love and gr'attitude to all of you!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

. . . . . . . . Gr'attitude

Today I feel truly blessed to be right where I am. I don't mean just physically, (though I am so grateful to be here in Hawaii!), I mean in every way. I am grateful to be where I am, who I am, with the challenges and struggles that are my own. I would not change them for anything. A crooked smile and physical handicaps are a small price to pay for the blessings that have been mine on this amazing journey.

This week as I was preparing to speak at the PCC, the thought occurred to me that perhaps gratitude should have been a contraction, a combination of the words GREAT and ATTITUDE. That is just what it takes to be able to be truly grateful for all that we have in life, both the good and the "bad". We must exercise this gr'attitude in order to turn any situation into a good one. (Be like "Polyanna" and play the Glad Game. :)

On our flight here Sunday, our airplane broke down, which caused a 5-hour delay, before we took off on the 7-hour trip. We had already boarded and were prepared to take off when the announcement was made and we all unloaded the plane. My kids were moaning from the start. I looked at them and told them that there is no point in getting mad at something that is beyond our control, whether brain tumors or broken planes, we can still make the best of it if we try.

And so that is exactly what we did. My parents pulled out the games, I withdrew the snack bags from the bag pack, and we played, all afternoon. :) We received meal vouchers so we went and had a big meal and were able to purchase lots of snacks for the flight. A very kind gentleman took my little ones on a cart and rode them around the airport as they exclaimed "Aloha, we're going to Hawaii." It was actually a very good day and the children did remarkably well considering we left for the airport at 9am and didn't arrive at my parents' home in Hawaii until 2am Utah time.

So, was it a trial or blessing that our flight was delayed? It all depends on your perspective, and of course, your gr'attitude. :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

. . . . . . . . . A Near Perfect Day

Thursday was as close as it comes to a perfect day. The sun was shining from early in the morning and at first, the air was still. You could see beauty all around and hear birds chirping, equally happy at the amazing day.

As my Mom and I went to the PCC for the meeting in which I gave my talk, I honestly thought that there can't be a more beautiful place on the Earth. The Polynesian Cultural Center grounds are simply stunning and more like paradise than just about anywhere else. The meeting, a PCC Christmas meeting on gratitude, was absolutely wonderful. All of the speakers and performers were fantastic. I was brought to tears many times throughout the meeting, feeling the CHRISTmas spirit in the words and music. I feel so blessed to have been there.

I spoke directly following a DVD presentation - a DVD that was created for me by the good people at the PCC when I was in the hospital over the summer. Watching it was both difficult and good for me, but it made it hard for me to stand with dry eyes. My remarks were also on gratitude, and seeing that I have so much to be grateful for this year, I could have gone on forever, but then the audience wouldn't have been happy, so I kept it to about 15 minutes. :)
I couldn't possibly keep my emotions in check on this one, but it was OK and seemed to help them understand a little more from my perspective. We tried to get some pictures of the event that I will post later. Overall it was a great meeting and I was honored to have been a part of it.

Later in the day I took the boys back to the PCC and we got shaved ice and played some games. I love it there. I could stay all day, just walking around, enjoying the beauty.

After that, the kids wanted to go to the beach, so their uncles, Michael and Brandon took us to Castle Beach, where they helped teach the kids to boogie board. (They offered to give surf lessons, but my guys were a little gun shy when they saw the waves.) After much time sitting on the side watching, I decided I would attempt to get in.

I had to go in without eye protection and I was worried about getting salt water in my eye, but the conditions were just right so Michael and I paddled out on boogie boards and rode the waves for a while. Then we paddled some more and two giant sea turtles were within a few feet of us! It was amazing!

Later in the evening, Michael and I went on a walk with my little Daven. We walked over the LDS Temple grounds and went to the Visitor's Center, which was decorated with more than a dozen CHRISTmas trees. There was a slight breeze and it was refreshing and wonderful.

All in all, it was a near perfect day, with one exception, my dear Tolan is not here. He is still home in the cold and snow of Utah. If he had been here, it would have been a perfect day. Without him, it was close to perfection, but something was missing... :)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

. . . . . . . . . .MRI Results!

People have been asking me for over 2 weeks now, "Have you heard the results from your MRI?" It's funny, but I haven't really been thinking about it, because I have just "felt" like everything was going to be OK.

Well, today I got the official word from Dr. Couldwell's office and I was told that everything looks good and I don't have to have another MRI for a year! That is even better than I would have anticipated! I don't have any more details than that because the information was left on my voice mail, so I wasn't able to ask questions and they didn't leave any more insider's information.

I think the feelings I've had have been a peace the Lord has blessed me with to know that I am getting better. I haven't worried about the tumor regrowing or future problems, I have just felt good about things. This peace has helped me to enjoy this beautiful CHRISTmas season without the turmoil and angst of wondering what was happening inside my head. (Thanks to my friend, Jason, whose use of the word CHRISTmas inspired me!)

Now I can put that behind me and move on with my CHRISTmas celebrations..oh yeah, did I mention I am enjoying those celebrations in Hawaii? :)

It's fun and wonderful to find warmth and love here in the Aloha state. I'm thoroughly enjoying my days on the beach and at the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). In fact, Thursday morning at 9am, I am speaking at the PCC. My topic: Gratitude. I could talk forever about that one...I have much to be grateful for! :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

. . . . . . . . . . .Seeking Warmth

I love it when the sun shines and warms my skin, my body and my soul. I can literally feel the warmth engulf me, as it radiates, first touching my "outsides" then touching my "insides". As it spreads, I can rest, relax, heal and love.

There is a warmth I love more than the strength and power of the sun, and that is the warmth and peace I feel from the love of my Savior. His spirit brings me joy that fills my whole being, and bursts out from me like rays shooting out from the sun. I can feel it when I hear the song, in scripture and in testimony. It warms me and tears well up in my eyes as my soul overflows with the waters of the gospel.

My friend, new to the gospel of Christ, told me that when she goes to church, she wants to cry the whole time she is there. At my home, listening to the scriptures and testimonies of Christ, she said her whole body felt "full" and "warm" and again, she wanted to cry. That feeling, the power of overwhelming love and comfort brings warmth to my life and carries me through my dark storms.

This month, I am seeking warmth. I am leaving the cold and seeking the warmth so that it may touch my skin, my body, my heart, my soul and my spirit. Will you join me? We can leave today and journey together. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

. . . . . . . . Only in Time

Six months ago today...

I was lying in a hospital bed, attempting to eat small bites of actual food, not "IV Nutrition" fed through tubes.

The pain was intense, but lessened from it's peak.

Loving company surrounded me and helped buoy my spirit.

Therapists came and tried to teach me to walk again. Not something you forget, but definitely something you need to practice.

Walking spiked a headache; I "hurried" to my room to rest.

Thoughts of my home kept coming to my mind... When will I go home to my family? Will I be able to be Mom again soon? Will my kids understand my limitations? Will they know that I want to pick them up and hug them, but I simply cannot? Will they get used to my new appearance and accept me as I am now? Will they ever know how much I really love them?

It was so long ago, and yet just yesterday in my mind. Six months ago, I was nearing the end of the first phase of my tumor journey, I was preparing to leave the hospital, all 93 pounds of me that was left. I was weak, but I was strong.

Today I am safe at home surrounded by love and comforts enough to spare. Life can change in an instant. Someday I will be able to get through a day without thinking about "all of this", but that is not today. Only in time will my trials become my past. For now, they are my daily reality and the fuel behind the fire that keeps me going. Six months ago I was healing, today I am healing still.

This post was inspired by Stephanie Clark Nielson's blog, . Her flashback post prompted my own reflections on time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

. . . . . . . . Prayers Please!

PLEASE pray for my dear friend Jason Reynolds. He is the one I visited in the hospital on Tuesday. His doctors don't know what to do to help his dire condition, and without help, the outlook is not good.

See Jason's story at . Please say extra prayers for him and his family. Just 6 months ago, I was in the hospital fighting for my life. Jason has been fighting for his life for 5 years! Please pray for him, his doctors and the medical staff.

Let's all make a miracle for Jason! Thanks. Love you all. Jodi

Thursday, December 10, 2009

. . . . . . . .Christmas Day!

It is almost the weekend again, but I still need to let you know about the wonderful time we had celebrating the Brown Family Christmas last weekend! Due to some travel plans by family members, we had our Christmas early, very early in fact. Saturday (December 5) was our Christmas Eve and Sunday was our Christmas Day.

Saturday evening the kids got to open their traditional Christmas Eve gift, a new pair of PJs. These gifts inspired some Kung Fu fighting at our house, since Casen's new jammies reminded everyone of a ninja. :) After the fighting was over, I let all the kids decorate their own cakes for Christmas. I made several colors of frosting and we all made fabulous cake creations. It was a fun night with cute jammies and the kids were excited for their Christmas the next day!

The kids opening their Christmas Eve presents!
A little kung fu fighting anyone??
Lots of wiggles and excitement on Christmas Eve!
Decorating cakes for the big day! Lots of fun colors to choose from!

All the cake creations on display!
Getting ready for Christmas day!

Christmas was a wonderful day for all of us. We went to church, then came home and had our celebration in the evening. Tolan's parents, Larry and Kay, joined us for the festivities and brought presents to add to our stack. I was a little worried that the kids wouldn't think it felt like Christmas, but after a few minutes of tearing into gifts and getting wrapping paper everywhere, it seemed just right. It was truly a wonderful time for our family!

The peace and quiet before the big event.

What is it with packaging these days? Mom and dad had to use scissors and knives to get the gifts out of the boxes for the kids! Geesh!

Trenden showing off his new game.

Casen dancing with Grandpa Brown watching merrily on the couch.

Me and my sweetheart, cuddling on the couch.

Darling Daven playing with his new light saber. How do they just know what to do when you put a sword or toy gun in their hands??
With the Christmas songs playing, treats to eat, family to enjoy and the fireplace keeping everyone warm, we truly felt the spirit of Christmas. We talked about Jesus Christ and His birth, and the presents we could give Him this year. I am so grateful for my darling children and my amazing husband this Christmas season. We are so blessed to know and love our Savior and celebrate His birth!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

. . . . . . . . . Meeting My Heroes!

Today was not a normal day at all, and that was good. We woke up to several inches of snow (though it wasn't supposed to hit us here in the northern part of the state!) and blizzard conditions outside. I had a last-minute appointment with Dr. Kim in Salt Lake for my eye so my father-n-law, Larry, came over at 8:30am to start the trek into town.

My wonderful, selfless, loving neighbor Cami H., took Casen and Daven for me (again!) for what would turn out to be a very long trip to the doctor's office! Larry and I were on the road for just about 2 hours (more than double our normal time). I missed my appointment time, but luckily, so did everyone else!

The news is that I have an abrasion on my cornea, which in combination with the dryness my eye experiences because I cannot blink, has caused my sensitivity to light (photophobia). Dr. Kim put me on an antibiotic ointment to help the abrasion heal, and instructe me to keep my eye covered or closed as much as possible so it can heal. He wants to see me again on Thursday, though I just don't know if that is possible with my schedule this week. He said I am not a candidate for the prosthetic contact lenses because of the paralysis not allowing my eye to blink or produce tears. The contact would literally get stuck to my dry eye and cause damage.

What took me by surprise was the emotion that came over me when I saw Dr. Kim. Each time I see the doctors who helped me through the darkest times in my life, I can't help but feel affection and gratitude. Thank you, Dr. Kim and the Moran Eye Center folks!

My favorite part of the day came just after my appointment. My dear friend Jason is in the hospital and I went to visit him as soon as I was through. The crazy thing is, Jason is one of my best friends, but we had never met, until TODAY! When I saw him and his wife, Steph, I was overcome with emotion! The hug from Steph felt like we had known each other for years. When I hugged Jason for the first time, I could not stop the tears.

Jason and Steph are two of my heroes. They have inspired me in ways that I could never have imagined. I am truly a better person because of them. The few minutes we had together were wonderful, but not enough. I look forward to having a get together again, next time with the two couples together, as friends and survivors, just talking about life! Thank you, Jason, for being you and for continuing to fight! Love you! To read Jason's amazing story, visit his blog: I bet he will change your life, too!

Larry took this picture just as I was leaving. I will cherish it forever. Steph took another picture of us hugging goodbye, but I don't have that one, so I will have to get it from her and post it later. Words cannot express the feelings and emotions I had today, for those who have cared for me and my health, and for those who inspire me to be a better person! Thank you for this extraordinary day!

Friends and Survivors! Jason Reynolds and me at the University of Utah Medical Center, my first time in a hospital room since I checked out on June 15. Wow.

Monday, December 7, 2009

. . . . . . . . . Am I Normal?

We had a very special weekend which I will post about later when I have enough time to do justice to the topic. But yesterday, at church, I had an interesting conversation with an older gentleman that has made me think.

He has followed my "story" at church, though not read details here on my blog. He prayed for me, called me from time to time and congratulates me nearly every time I see him. This time, he asked me a question that was so simple, "How does it feel to be normal again?" I wasn't sure what to say about that, because, well, I don't feel normal.

My face is appearing more normal these days, so I am told all the time. That is wonderful and the answer to many prayers! And, when I am in public, I always try to be happy, positive and upbeat, partly because that is just who I am. But, am I normal? I don't feel like I am at all. I still have many issues that I am dealing with, though they are things that the world probably doesn't "see" from my physical appearance. With the exception on here on the blog, we deal with our challenges privately, with support from wonderful family and friends.

So I began to wonder, am I normal? Am I back to "normal" life? Some would say I have never been normal, and that is OK, too. A simple but strange thought to consider. Am I normal? Are you normal? What the heck is normal anyway?? Think on this and let me know what you think!

Friday, December 4, 2009

, , , , , , , , Photophobia and Photos

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I have been experiencing a sensitivity to light. After doing some research, I found that I have "Photophobia" caused by my facial paralysis.

On the All About Vision website, it says, "Photophobia, or light sensitivity, is an intolerance of light. Sources such as sunlight, fluorescent light and incandescent light all can cause discomfort, along with a need to squint or close your eyes. Headaches also may accompany light sensitivity."

Apparently this is normal, though not necessarily common, for people suffering from facial paralsis, Belle's Palsy, etc. I have had such extreme reactions to the light lately that I have been worried, as it causes problems anytime I am outdoors, especially if I am trying to drive, or even walk. My special moisture chamber sunglasses are helpful, but not strong enough to curb my eye's reaction. I am nearly blinded when I get into the light.

I read that there are special contacts you can get. The prosthetic contact lenses can reduce the amount of light that enters the eye and make your eyes more comfortable and tolerant of the light. Hmm, something to consider. I have a call in to my opthamologist, Dr. Kim, at the Moran Eye Center and someone is supposed to get back to me soon.

The beautiful shiny, albeit cold, December days have tested my eye, but warmed my soul, so it is a fair trade. :)

I am including a few pics of our Thanksgiving celebration. It was great to see so many of my siblings and for my kids to have a giant sleepover with the cousins. Always a good time!

Me and Casen opening some Thanksgiving treats!
Tami and some of the kids enjoying the feast!
Brandon, Myana, Grandma Brown, Michael, and Dave happily eating!
Tolan, Scott, Brett and Dave conversing at the table.
Lindi, Trent, Trenden and Taylor enjoying "big kids" table all to themselves!
I love this picture of my niece, Jessie, and Casen. They were having so much fun playing together and eating cookie pie. Too cute!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

. . . . . . . . . .A Cold Wait!

It appears as though I still have several days to wait before I hear anything back about the results from my latest MRIs. I talked to Margee in Dr. Couldwell’s office yesterday and she said they haven’t received my scans yet and once they get them, they will have to put them onto their computer system before a doctor will take a look. In addition, Dr. Couldwell is out of town for 2+ weeks, so he won’t even be the one reading the scans. His partner will take a look and Margee (Dr. Couldwell’s nurse) will call me next week sometime with the results.

There is nothing like waiting to teach a little patience! 

In the meantime, my body feels like it has been hit by a truck. I’ve come down with a terrible cold. Yes, it’s just a cold, but I feel pretty lousy. No fun. I can’t seem to fight anything off this year. I know my body is in a weakened state, but I am still surprised because it was just over a month ago I had strep throat. I was hoping to avoid further illnesses this season. But, alas, tis not so. Today I hope to get some rest, perhaps with my little boys watching a show in my room while I curl up in my bed.

Yesterday, despite being sick, I was all over my 3-mile traveling radius with my 2 little boys. We went to the doctor, to the bank, to multiple stores and to pick up the kids from school. The fun part of the day was taking all the kids to a store to let them Christmas shop for each other. The logistics were tricky at times, but I think everyone managed to get a little something for their assigned sibling and I don’t think any of them saw their own gifts in the process. It was so fun to watch them pick out things for each other!

So, the wait is on. I will wait out the cold and wait for the doctor’s office to call! I have no doubt the waiting time won’t seem too long. With 4 active children keeping me busy, every day seems to fly by, so I can’t imagine the next few will be any different!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

. . . . . . . . . MRIs for Christmas!

Yesterday I had my first MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) since my brain surgeries this summer. I have both looked forward to and dreaded this day. Sunday night I had a case of the "Flashbacks" from my MRIs back in April, when we first found the tumor. The feelings of that day can never be forgotten, the fear, pain, grief and "unknown" was so strong it nearly took us over. Thankfully, by the time I went to the hospital on Monday, I was feeling at peace.

The MRIs proved to be more challenging this time around than any of my other times. Now, of course, I have metal in my head, and gold in my eyelid. These things can be potentially dangerous when the magnets start going. So, after 30 minutes waiting to hear the "go" or "no go" from the radiologist, I climbed into the claustrophobia-causing machine. The technician told me that if I started to feel pain or heat from the gold in my eye, that I should press the emergency panic button and she would stop the procedure. However, I was relieved to find my eye was ok for the first round of scans.

The second MRI was to be conducted with dye in my veins so any mass in my brain could be more easily detected and differentiated from normal brain tissue. This also proved to be a challenge. It turns out that my "IV arm" is full of scar tissue from all my previous pokes and prods. :) She was able to get the IV started so the dye was successfully in my system for the 2nd scan.

I am not normally claustrophobic, nor am I prone to panic attacks or anything of that nature, but being stuck in an MRI machine for 40-50 minutes is enough to make anyone go nearly crazy. The noises are loud and disconcerting. The "shaking" of the machine makes you feel like you are riding up a hill in a rollercoaster and the 3-6 inch space around my body felt like it was caving in on me. All I wanted to do was jump out and MOVE my body. You simply can't hold perfectly still for that long. Ugh. The thought of it now gives me the chills.

By the end of my time, I noticed my eye was indeed heating up. However, not wanting to ruin the last several images, I stayed put and didn't notify the tech until the MRI was through. She said that next time, we will cover my eye in cold compresses in hopes of keeping the "heat factor" down. Weird, huh?

When I emerged from the medical imaging coffin, I was surprised to see "Kim", the technician who performed the MRI on the day I was diagnosed. She was so wonderful to me on that difficult day. So, I told her how grateful I was and gave her an update on my "status". She gave me a hug and we cried tears of joy, together.

Now, it is time to wait for the results. This process takes a while because the radiologist will have to write a report, then have the report and the disc of my images sent to Dr. Couldwell. So, I don't anticipate I will hear anything for at least a few days. I won't see Dr. Couldwell again until January, so at least the first "news" will likely come by phone sometime in the next week.

Throughout the day, despite the little bumps and challenges, I couldn't help but feel peaceful and calm. My Dad asked me if I had any feelings as to the results of the MRI. Well, those feelings of peace were enough for me. Regardless of what they say, I know things will be OK. I felt it. :)

Today is the first day of December and I am officially excited for Christmas. I have to get over this cold I am coming down with, but still I plan to enjoy every moment of this beautiful, amazing time, and focus all my efforts on the TRUE meaning of the season. I continue to be grateful for my Savior, my family and all my blessings. Are you counting your blessings yet? :)