Let me just start off by saying the last six months has definitely been the hardest six months of my life so far, but I have continued to push and continued to work and continued on despite the difficulties that life decided it would bombard me with. It all began in October when we were voluntold by the Navy to move to Colorado Springs. You see, I am married to a Navy man, so I am a military spouse - we are a military family - and I absolutely love being a part of the Navy world. I have been extremely lucky to have lived in Stuttgart, Germany; Monterey, California; Singapore; and now Colorado Springs, Colorado. And with every move, I expect it to be difficult, frustrating, exciting, chaotic, exhausting and a new beginning. So, in October, we started everything over again. New schools for the kids, new job for the husband, bought a new house (Woohoo), met new friends and new emergency contacts, found a new grocery store, new doctor, bought another car, and moved my photography business to a new area. No big deal, perfectly normal for my life.
Well, the "no big deal" slowly began to be a big deal. Our family moved from Singapore to Colorado Springs with ten suitcases and five (maybe six) carry-on pieces of luggage. Now, slim those carry-ons down to four or five because of my camera gear, and that was what we had when we arrived. We typically plan to be without our household goods (otherwise known as everything else we own) for about 30 to 60 days. In the meantime, we bought some furniture for our home - a sofa bed to sleep on, a kitchen table, and a couple of air mattresses for the kids - all items we needed and planned on purchasing for our new home. It was fun in the beginning, my husband and I slept on the sofa bed in the living room in front of the fireplace every night (romantic right?), dinners were easy and cleaning was even easier! BUT, it got old pretty quick. BTW, did I mention it was also during the holiday season - Halloween, Thanksgiving + Christmas. Ugh!
After day 75, we gave in and bought some new Christmas decorations so it felt festive in the house for the kids. I had repurchased so many things I actually owned because I thought we would have our stuff. Things like water bottles, sheets, pillows, tupperware, cleaning supplies, dish towels, bath towels etc. Folding our bed up every morning and evening became annoying, but comical because we just had to laugh at the situation. Finally, on day 98 - one week before Christmas - our 7,000 pounds of stuff arrived! Just in time for the holiday and just in time for our first visitors who were arriving two days after Christmas. No problem, set-up the house, clean the house, celebrate Christmas, clean up the house, set the house back up after Christmas morning shenanigans and get ready for visitors. Check!
Christmas comes and goes perfectly for us and our children. In-laws arrive on time, no issues, and we begin exploring Colorado Springs. Garden of the Gods. Brewery. New House. Downtown. Everything is going swimmingly. Until...December 30th, 2017 at 4:00am. That is a night I will never forget and a night that brought me to the lowest of lows followed by the highest of highs. That is the night I woke up to my husband saying, "Nicole, wake up - there is something wrong with Bohdan." Bohdan is my son. He is my handsome, smart, energetic 11 year-old son. I jumped out of bed and went into his room; he was having a seizure. My beautiful boy was there physically, but mentally - he was unresponsive. He was making a strange noise, foaming at the mouth and his pupils were small. I called 911 and we were transported to Memorial North Hospital downtown because they thought he would probably be admitted.
Upon arriving at the hospital, we are taken to a small ER room, Bohdan has begun to be responsive, and nurses are coming into the room for his vitals/IV's/asking questions etc. My husband and I are waiting in the room, wondering what on earth just happened, and we are told Bohdan will be having a CATscan shortly to check on his brain. Bohdan is exhausted from the seizure and falls asleep and all I can do is hope everything is okay. After a few minutes, we go have his CATscan and are back in the room in about fifteen/twenty minutes. It is a simple picture of his head, but it does involve radiation; however, it was an easy procedure and we wait for the results. When the results come back, our ER doctor tells me "there is a mass on Bohdan's brain." I stop listening to him, I can't actually hear anything else he is saying, and am terrified! I thought they would come back with the results, they would show a normal brain, and would have no idea why the seizure happened. And, although that would have been frustrating, I would have happily preferred that news than the news I had just gotten. "A mass, you mean like a tumor?"
Now the panic and fear set in. My entire life flashes before my eyes. How can this happen? How do I deal with this? How do I tell his sisters? Our life has just changed, with one sentence, one moment, we are different. They tell us, they are not exactly sure what it is - it could be benign, it could be malignant, it could be a vascular mass - so they schedule Bohdan for an MRI. A pediatric neurosurgeon comes and talks to us about the MRI procedure and tells us he doesn't believe it is a tumor, but he believes it is a vascular mass. Either way, it will have to be taken out. It is 6:30am and we are talking to a pediatric neurosurgeon about brain surgery for my beautiful 11 year-old boy. I accompany him into the MRI room and cry for the entire time wondering how this could be and hope that my baby will survive.
After waiting for the MRI results, we find out it is NOT A TUMOR!!!! It is actually a giant brain aneurysm that is over 3.5 cm, but it looks like it has closed itself off (or fully thrombosed.) WTF! A freaking miracle! Not only does Bohdan NOT have a brain tumor, but he has a huge aneurysm that is no longer getting blood flow? So, it fixed itself? WOW! I cannot believe my ears. Now, he will need to have an angiogram to check his veins and make sure it is, in fact, closed. How did we just go from possibly having brain surgery to possibly not needing any surgery at all???? Honestly, it doesn't matter how or why, the only thing that matters is that our son is going to be okay.
The angiogram takes about an hour, and the pediatric vascular surgeon comes back and says it is completely closed. Our son can basically go back to being completely normal - ride a bike with a helmet on, go to the skate park and wear a helmet, normal activity and wear a helmet. He will need to have follow-up MRI's over the course of the next year to check the size of the aneurysm and the doctors hope that it will basically shrivel up like a raisin. As of today, it has shrunk 4 mm, but by the end of the year, they are predicting it will shrink at least a centimeter or more.
So, throughout the month of January, we begin to settle into a new normal. We have to get used to our son having an aneurysm and not freaking out at every headache. Of course, we ended up in the ER a few times because we are adjusting, but everything is okay. We begin to relax. Life starts to go back to normal - Bohdan goes to school, we all get over the shock of the end of our year, and the aneurysm stops navigating every thought and every decision over the next few weeks. And, I can finally feel okay trying to focus on my business again - until February 21st, 2018.
On February 21st, the day started off normal. I woke up, had coffee, took the kids to school and continued on with my day of editing a family photo session. I went to pick my kids up from school and when I parked my car, my phone rang. It was my step-sister and she told me my father had passed away. I was in complete shock. My husband was away for work, I was outside of my kids school and somehow, I had to pull myself together so I didn't scare them when they came out to the car. How do I deal with this?
Losing a parent is awful. Telling your kids, their grandparent has died is awful. The sadness and grief actually physically hurt at times and the tears continue to fall through exhaustion. We have been lucky - I have been lucky, our family has not lost anyone yet. My children have had all of their grandparents up until this day, I have had both of my parents, until this day. How do I heal from something like this?
Truth is, I don't know. As I write this it has been over a month and I am still grieving. I am still adjusting to the fact that I no longer have a dad. What keeps me going is the fact that I still want him to be proud of me (if he is watching.) I believe we learn and grow when the hard things come into play in life and this has been the hardest time of my life so far. I am not exactly sure what it has taught me yet except for the fact that you have to keep going. So, if you have been wondering where I have been or what I have been doing, this is it. This is the real life, raw reality of what has been going on behind the scenes of Nicole Andre.
I am not writing this for sympathy, but writing this to let everyone know where I have been. I am also writing this because I felt that I had to, I had to get all of this off of my shoulders and release the stress and pain. I am writing this because behind the lens and the business, I am still a person with real life happening. Now, I can move forward and grow and heal and get back to business. Even though this has all been happening, I have still been working towards establishing my business here in Colorado Springs and have many wonderful things coming up on the horizon.