Sunday, April 23, 2017

Our lasts in Greenville...

Time is flying by and with only a few more weeks before we will be leaving our home and our town, we are trying to to the best of our ability to soak up everything. We are going out to eat at our favorite places, walking around Falls Park, walking through Mast General Store, visiting with our friends and making as many memories as possible. We have so many exciting opportunities to create new memories ahead of us but we are just enjoying the last bit of time we have in Greenville.

Friday Night, Richard and I left Lillie with her favorite babysitter. We went to a fancy dinner and had drinks after. We walked all around downtown and talked about how much the town has changed in the 5 years that we've lived here. Downtown in unrecognizable in some parts and is just booming. When we moved here, the West End was dark and you did not really go down there except for maybe a Greenville Drive baseball game. Now it is just crawling with people, new bars, new stores and the next "hip" spot. We joked that should we ever come back to Greenville- to visit or live that we won't recognize anything about it.

Falls Park- Greenville, SC

Coop Crawl/Bad Hair day for me
Saturday we went to the North Main area of town for the "Coop Crawl". Urban Chickens have been a very popular thing in town. When we lived on Faris Road, our old neighbors (and friends who now live in Lexington) had chickens. We thought it was such a wild concept but thoroughly enjoyed eating the eggs.  Well, the fad has exploded since then. We traveled from house to house and saw the various types of chickens and each unique coop. It was fun and made us once again want Chickens. Lillie was pretty tired and didn't know what to think.  Everyone who welcomed us into their backyards were so kind and truly love these chickens. One lady shared that if she leaves her kitchen door open that one of her "girls" will help herself inside and check out the kitchen. Imagine that!!

We love this awesome town and will miss so much about it. We are so thankful for the friendships that we've made with everyone in town. Everyone has supported us and our marriage, they've supported Richards Career,  they've let us borrow their cars to move things or get mulch, they were gracious and loving when Lillie was born and continue to be an incredible part of our family. This upcoming Wednesday I will be attending a "goodbye" dinner for my Side-By-Side bible study (a ministry for medical spouses) and it hurts my heart a little bit to be saying goodbye to these women who have walked with me for 3 years through this journey.  Hopefully there will be no tears but if there are, I am sure it will be the first of many. We are trying very hard to soak up time with our friends and hopefully we will be able to do so. We cannot express how special you are and how thankful we are that God placed you in our lives. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fellowship Follow-up

My friend Kara started blogging again after a long absence and I took that as my cue to make some time for it too.  Check our her blog here--White House Red Roof .

What the email we received looked like
The last time I wrote we were preparing to apply for the Fellowship application process. Now months later, we are preparing to move for Fellowship.  In July we applied to 56 programs for a Hematology/Oncology Fellowship. Shortly after his application was submitted, the craziness began. Over the next 3-4 months, Richard traveled non-stop around the East Coast to interview at about 10 programs. We were lucky enough to hear from about 16 total programs, but interviewing at 10 programs was insane (time wise and financially) that we had made the decision to only interview at 10. He was gone multiple nights a week for that 3-4 month time frame and our family time was extremely limited. BUT it was all worth it. On December 7th, at Noon- we found out that Richard had matched at the University of Kentucky.  

At Keenland horse race in Lexington, KY
We were thrilled to finally have our location and a little more known about the future of our family.  As a family we had traveled to Kentucky for the interview (and twice since finding out). Our dear friends and old neighbors from Greenville now live there and graciously welcomed us for the weekend so that we could learn about the city and explore a little bit with their guidance. We thought Lexington was a great town and surprisingly seemed like a bigger version of Greenville with horses.

We will be moving there sometime in the next month or two and Richard will officially begin July 1st. We truly feel like we are being called to Lexington for a reason and are excited to relocate. We are excited about the possibilities that Lexington will bring for our little family and the time to explore in a completely new area of the country for both of us.

Richard is nervous about the unknowns of what Fellowship will be like but Lillie and I have every faith that he'll be amazing and successful.  As of right now, I will be staying home with Lillie until she can get into a daycare and I can start the job hunt. On December 8th, I put her on a waiting list and the daycare still has no idea when she'll be able to start.We don't have a place to live yet but are going to look next week as a family. The right house will happen for us. Our home in Greenville is under contract after less than a weekend of being on the market and we will leave the house officially mid-May. We love our house and our dear friends here in Greenville. We are sad to leave all of these wonderful and precious things/people behind but phones work 2 ways and it won't be goodbye, just see you later. My sweet bible study friends are already planning their trip to Lexington!

Life right now is very busy and our time is limited with so much to do before we leave South Carolina. Somehow a million events are happening in May and right now Richard's hospital schedule leaves us with a 36 hour window to drive to Kentucky (6 hours), tour houses and drive back home. Please think of us and send good thoughts as we try to wrap everything up and find our new home.  As always, thanks for reading and following!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Another 3 years?? Maybe

This month Richard is officially in his FINAL year of residency. It is amazing to me that time is flying by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday that we had matched at GHS and were getting settled into our new house. Now, we are starting on the 3rd and final year of residency. This year Richard is the top dog. He's come so far in his knowledge and throughout the course of his time at GHS, he has decided that he has an interest in going further into his medical training.

Richard has a passion and interest in Hematology/Oncology (Cancer and blood disorders). His intern year he started sharing how much he enjoyed it and that he thought possibly he would be interested in a fellowship. Well, the time has come for us to pursue that interest. Hem Onc is one of the most competitive fellowships for internal medicine with 1/6 people getting accepted. There are a lot of extremely competitive programs across the country and many associated with big name schools. Unlike residency, there aren't any small community based programs so the stakes are much higher. Richard has worked hard to beef up his CV  and has more research. He has asked some wonderful physicians to do letters of recommendations for him. On Friday we will once  again hit "submit"in ERAS and say lots of prayers. We have selected many programs across the country and hopefully, will be hearing from them soon.  If the programs like your application enough, you will be one of the lucky ones to get an interview.

The timeline of Fellowship events:
- July 15th applications are due
- August-October is Interview Season
- December is Fellowship Match Day

Should Richard match, we will be looking at another 3 years in a location TBD. We would be moving and selling our house in June of 2017.We are keeping our fingers crossed and saying lots of prayers for Richard (and our family). He will be so wonderful as a Hem Onc Doctor and I know that he will touch so many lives. I pray that these programs all want interviews with Dr. O'Neal, but I know that with such competitive odds that we are going to be thankful for any interview that we do get.  I have complete confidence that regardless of the outcome this year that Richard will someday be a Hem Onc Doctor.

Please keep Richard in your thoughts, send him good vibes and prayers that he does not get discouraged or overwhelmed with such a competitive application process. Pray for lots of interviews! We are excited about the possibility of another adventure in a new place and hope that we can visit people during the interview season. As always thank you for following our adventure.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Mamas Fears

Since Lillie's birth Richard and I are constantly being told how "beautiful" she is. Yes, we think she's the most beautiful baby in the world but as I read things in the news or hear stories about things that horrible things that happen to people in our world I very seriously worry about my child's future.

I sat down with a lady (co-worker) the other day who shared with me a sad story relating to her daughter and a sexual assault situation at her high school. This young woman is stunning and has been since infancy. She was attacked by another student in her class and the school district is not doing anything to protect this girl or punish the young man.  This mother was in tears as she spoke about it and about her 14 year old being in counseling for something so traumatic. It broke my heart.

For years now I have been aware of the sex trafficking issues in South Carolina. There are people who prey on beautiful children or people that they can lure into enslavement. This is a very serious problem in the world and is in our own backyard.

This year there have been more violent hate crimes against the various minority groups than I ever remember happening in my lifetime. Never in 2016 would imagine that such hate for a population of people could exist. It is tragic and unjust what is happening in the African-American community and I pray daily that we will get to a point where skin color, religion or sexual orientation will not lump an individual into a category.

Lillie is 1/2 Colombian and 1/2 White. At this point, she looks more Colombian. In my own lifetime, people have made racist and ignorant comments towards me. "I don't speak your language" and "I was going to ask you for towels" are just two examples.  I am beyond proud of my heritage and my skin tone. I wear a Colombian bracelet everyday and proudly share my heritage with people who ask "where are you from" (which means what's your ethnicity).

Richard and I don't know what Lillie will look like as she grows up (maybe she'll eventually favor him more) but I do worry for her. I worry that people will remain ignorant and racist. I worry that she will be targeted for many reasons or that she will be discriminated against. Any situation that involves the safety of ones child or of human injustices is terrifying but for me as the mother of a "beautiful" (and bi-racial) baby scares me for her future. I really hope she has an awkward stage until she's 80. Braces, pimples, horrible glasses- you name it and I hope she gets it.  Most of all, I hope and pray for a safer world with more equality for all people

Please Pray for a world with accepting people, pray for a world with less hate and pray for the safety of individuals.


Monday, May 2, 2016

5 love languages... while being married to a resident

At work this past week, our Chaplain gave us the 5 love languages test to help us identify our own love language. Although I had already guessed which love language categories I fall under, it was nice to see it in person. After taking the test, I ranked highest in Acts of Service and Quality Time. These are the things that have always and will always be important to me. Having someone help around the house or spend good one-on-one time with me is essential. We are in a hard phase of life right now with residency that makes both of these things difficult in our marriage. Richard is swamped and overwhelmed by residency and the hospital is his "mistress" as I call it.  It is hard for him on his bad months to even get sleep let alone help around the house or to spend time with us without his cell phone beeping with pages from a nurse at the hospital or something residency related. Richard's love languages are absolutely not the same as mine and I know that without him having to even take the test. Working with one another to address the way we feel loved is often hard when many months we are like 2 passing ships in the night. Richard cherishes 5 minutes of hand holding or cuddles on the couch in addition to words of affirmation. I know that he struggles to function between his duty as a husband and father along with his career goals. Encouragement , praise and understanding keep him motivated.

Being married to a resident is so rewarding in so many ways. Watching him grow and become an incredible doctor has always been and will always be a joy. Many years ago (almost 8) when we first started dating, he told me of his dream to become a physician. I promised Richard then that I would bring him coffee late at night during his journey to become a doctor. Little did I know for Richard that would really mean bringing a bag of spree and a regular coke. Growing up I witnessed the challenges and incredible strength that my parents had (have) related to my fathers own career as an ENT. It is so hard to explain this journey unless you've lived it or are living in it. It's hard to explain to our friends and family who don't have any knowledge of this journey or process what it's like for us. Yes, this is normal and part of the journey, but still doesn't make it any easier. We struggle to hold onto the little time together as a family and savor every minute the 3 of us have alone. I knew that the journey would be a long and challenging one but that there would be many rewards along the way.  Living it daily is financially challenging,  often isolating and lonely, but on days that he comes home and shared something incredible that happened that day make it worth it. He is becoming an incredible doctor and has such a God given talent for taking care of patients and families. At home, Lillie and I cheer for him from a far and wait to catch a glimpse of his handsome face.

Richard recovering from ICU nights and Lillie during nap time. Few moments that they can snuggle

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pictures that chart Lillies growth over 12 weeks of maternity leave

I was thinking the other day about how far Lillie has come since birth and went back to to look at pictures of how much our baby has changed. When we brought her home she was 5 lbs. At our last pediatric visit in February, she was just below 10 lbs. Today I think she is somewhere near 11/12 lbs. At the end of April we will go back to the pediatrician and I cannot wait to see how far she has come since February. It's amazing how much she changed even in my 12 weeks of leave. Enjoy these pictures

1 day old

2 week pediatric visit

1 month old

2 months old

last day of maternity leave

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Back Blogging: It's a baby girl

Our due date to welcome Baby O into the world was January 16th, 2016 but for the last few months of my pregnancy I had a fear of going early. At birth, I weighed 5 lbs and I spoke with the OBYGN about that being due to prenatal nutrition or if my birth mother went into early labor. I spoke with him about how that would impact my own delivery. He assured me that it was not factor in my own situation.

Lets back up to the week of Christmas. While at work in Anderson, my car transmission died. I was stuck 45 minutes from home and wound up having to call a tow truck to bring me and my Nissan back to Greenville. While riding in the tow truck, I suddenly was VERY aware of my babys head. The truck was very shaky and I honestly felt like I was sitting on top of the baby. It was a horrible feeling and I started texting Richard. I was worried that the baby was so low that labor would happen any minute in the tow truck. I tried my best to hover over the seat and lift my rear end up so that the sharp pains and discomfort would ease up. Well we finally made it back to Greenville and no problems. After that ride however, I began to have those same sharp pains while sitting down. I often had to get up from sitting because of them. This went on for a few days. We celebrated Christmas at our house with the entire O'Neal family. It was lovely to have everyone here and we were so thankful that everyone drove to be with us since we were stuck within a certain proximity of the hospital.
Since Richard had the week of Christmas off, it was his job to cover for the residents who had the week of New Years off. Beginning Sunday the 27th I had a strange feeling it would be just around the corner before this baby arrived. The bags were already in my car and I had everything set. Sunday I spoke to Richard and urged him to have a conversation on Monday with his attending physician about an In-case of Emergency plan for coverage. I believe my exact words were "Richard this baby is coming- you need to have a plan in place". Sunday night, I began my bloody show. My wonderful OBGYN friend said when I talked to her that it sounded like things were moving. I went to work Monday and still had that horrible feeling looming over me that this would happen very soon. I moved all my visits that were spread out that week to Monday and saw everyone. I went home and we had a normal night. I asked Richard to give my lower back a rub because it was aching a little bit. Just for kicks before bed I read the Labor and Delivery chapter of my book. In there is said "you might want to cover the mattress with something incase your water breaks while you're asleep". In my mind, I thought "Noted: will accomplish tomorrow". Richard was asleep and I quickly drifted off too (10:30 pm). At 12:30 I woke to a "POP" and a slight gush of fluid. I softly said "Richard.... Richard..", but Mr. Soundsleeper didn't stir. Finally I had to yell his name a little bit. "Richard- I think my water just broke". Richard leaped out of our bed so quickly it was funny. We had NO idea what we needed to do to get to the hospital. I took a shower while Richard contacted the hospital to see and then I made him get a shower before we left. Poor Luka was so freaked out by all of our frantic behavior at 1 am. We contacted my best friend and asked her to take care of him in the morning (they live a mile down the road) so we knew he'd be in good hands.  We made it to the hospital triage by 1:30 am.

In Labor
I won't go into details about the experience but by 3:30 I was 4ish centimeters and ready to go to Labor and Delivery. All of the nurses we encountered in the journey were wonderful and it was such a wonderful experience. At this point I called my parents to let them know I was in labor and being admitted. My sister, her husband and my brand new niece had just arrived in PA for a visit plus, my parents were throwing a huge NYE party on Saturday.  I am certain none of them went back to bed after that phone call! I had my epidural placed and sent Richard on his way to go round on his patients.  Around 9 ish the doctor came to check me and determined I was a "good 9 cm". He asked the nurse to have this giant egg/yoga ball type thing placed  between my legs to allow babys head to come a bit further down. At 10:30 he came back to check again and said it "looked great and wouldn't be long" he also asked the nurse to do some practice pushes with me. Well,  we did about 3 practice pushes and the doctor had to come back because her head was right there.  There was a total of about 15 minutes of pushing before I was told to stop.  I was too focused to understand Richard when he told me the baby had its cord wrapped twice around its neck (this hit me the next day). I was able to push again and before I knew it the Doctor said " OK Dad, tell mom what we have". Richard said "it's a girl " and he immediately began to cry.  I was too concerned about him that I didn't even cry (for all of you who know me -this is a shocker). Waiting on finding out the gender was amazing and so magical.  I honestly don't think we'd ever find out after that experience. It was too perfect

Our baby girl was born on December 29th, 2015. She weighed 5 lbs 8 oz and was 19 inches long.

Richards family arrived at the hospital within the hour of her birth and were the 1st people to see her. Melanie purchased premie clothes which later were a huge help as our baby wore those for about the 1st month because she was so small. The next few days in the hospital were very busy but everyone we encountered were amazing. There wasn't a lot of sleep being had at those nights in part because she didn't sleep but mostly because I couldn't not stop staring at the miracle that we had created. 

We came home on NYE and how perfect that was too. In 2008 on NYE after months of "talking" , Richard and I finally put a title to our relationship.  In 2015, we brought our baby Lillie Jean O'Neal home. 

While in the hospital I had the lactation consultants on speed dial and our mom/baby nurses were amazing.  There were a lot of feeding and latching problems initially so our girl dropped down to 5 lbs while in the hospital. It was an extremely stressful first week monitoring her and trying to make sure she was getting enough, adjusting to no sleep and not to mention the healing that was very slowly occurring from childbirth.  We had 2 pediatric appointments too.  Needless to say we were overwhelmed but having my parents here that first weekend was incredible.  They ran errands for baby items while we bonded as a family.  My mom stayed to help and single handedly organized my life and took care of us with food and clean laundry.  I cannot sing her praises enough. 

It was amazing for us the immediate love we felt for her.  Richard put it best when he said that he immediately felt so important to someone so little.  We have a very important role in her life and it's amazing how that clicked so immediately with both of us.  We love our precious girl and are honored God has chosen us to raise her.