Born and raised in and around Madison, WI, and having traveled a bit, I now know there is no better place in the world to live than in the American Midwest (except maybe Canada. I LOVED Canada.) Come for the changing of the seasons, stay for the fresh fried cheese curds!
I grew up a theater geek, singing and acting in every venue I could. Even living in small towns, there were always shows to dance in, madrigals to sing in, and unfortunately for me, obligatory sporting events to humiliate myself in. I'm sure my family, all hardcore Packers football fans, still wonder how they turned out a Broadway Baby. When other kids were listening to U2, Guns N Roses, and Bon Jovi (yes, I am old), I was listening to original cast recordings of Cats, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables. You can imagine how popular I was in school!
As a young adult, I was lucky enough to be in many fabulous (and some not-so fabulous) theater productions, sang on the radio regularly, and got to do some fun voice work here and there. Theater and the friends I made there were truly a haven away from the tumultuous times I faced in every other aspect of life.
Right when I thought I would implode, I was saved. By love. I met a man, fell in love, and married him. Gave up my dreams of moving to pursue professional acting, and moved instead into a 3-bedroom house with a hard-working, amazing man, had two kids, and absolutely no regrets 12 years later.
While pregnant with my first child, I became very ill. I couldn't keep anything down, and was throwing up all the time… way past the normal “morning sickness” experience. They diagnosed me with Hyperemesis (yes, the same thing the Kate Middleton had) and put a PICC line in my arm. Between bouts of vomiting, I had to be hooked up to an IV several hours a day. Thankfully, the baby remained healthy throughout, and I gave birth to a beautiful daughter. However, the vomiting continued. And continued. Every day, throwing up and feeling ill. Every now and then I would go to a doctor, explain what was happening, have my blood tested, and since everything was always normal I assumed my hormones had changed and that's just how I was now. My theater life came to an almost complete halt. I did one show during this time, and while the cast and crew were very kind and supportive, I knew me and my puke bucket would not be getting cast very often.
Six years later, one more trip to see a nurse practitioner, I explained yet again what was happening, and she ordered an abdominal ultrasound. She thought there may be some inflammation of my gallbladder. So I went to the ultrasound, sure that once again nothing would be found. Then I got it. The call.
"There is a 7-inch growth on your right kidney," the doctor told me. I thought she must have misspoke. 7-inch?? Don't you mean 7 cm? "No, it's big, serious, and you need to go in for a CT scan."
I'll never forget the video of my CT scan, the huge, perfectly round tumor growing out of and dwarfing my kidney. How can this be? I wondered. I'm too young for this. Is it cancer? Will I die? The same things everyone thinks when they are faced with unexpected obstacles.
I underwent surgery to remove both tumor and kidney, which was already dead. When removing tumors from bodies, doctors must wrap a bag around them while still in your body, and then remove, to prevent them from rupturing and causing damage on the way out. I was later told that they did not have a large enough bag in the hospital to wrap around my tumor, which was around 15 pounds, and had to keep me under while they went to another hospital to find a larger bag.
They sent my tumor (yuck) to the Mayo clinic to be analyzed so they knew what it was. The results came back: Cancer. Stage II renal cell carcinoma. Extraordinarily rare for someone my age. Usually a disease of men in their 70s, I had developed it in my twenties. The doctors had no idea why or how this happened to me.
No longer throwing up every day, after a long and painful recovery, I was doing much better. Lost 40 pounds, and finally knew what it was like to not feel sick all the time.
Pregnant again, very ill and tired all the time. Other women around me seemed to float and sail through their pregnancies, while I puked and plunked through mine.
I love babies, probably more than most people… but boy, do I hate pregnancy. It has always been painful, sickening, and ugly on me. I never wanted to be seen, hated the comments about how big my baby must be, and had an impossible time getting ultrasounds as every time I laid flat on my back, I would start to black out.
At a routine visit a month before my due date, my blood pressure was too high. It didn't go down, so they sent me to the hospital. I had pre-eclampsia and must deliver that night.
As I braced myself for the always unpleasant spinal block, I knew immediately something was wrong. With my first, it was painful, but really not much worse than a shot. With this one, the pain was prolonged. The man kept poking again and again in my spine but was unable to find the right spot. Every time he poked me, I got a searing pain down my right thigh. I told them this, but was dismissed. After a half hour of this torture they decided they must simply put me to sleep and get the baby out quickly. My pre-eclampsia was getting worse. At that point I would have agreed to anything to escape that hellish pain.
I woke up with my baby boy on my chest. He was very hale and hearty for a preemie, and didn't even have to go to the NICU. Things weren't so hot for me. Throughout the next couple days, out of nowhere, my leg would start burning and stinging right along that same stripe on my right thigh. It got so bad, I would be almost screaming in pain. They sent me for a CT scan and MRI in the middle of the night to figure out what was going on.
Results were scary. I had a blood clot in my back and a pseudo-aneurism in an artery. Once again, my life was in danger, and I was warned if I were to move the clot could dislodge and kill me. I was taken away from my newborn and kept drugged and still while they had meetings with the best surgeons to try to figure out what to do. In the entire history of the hospital, this had never happened to another person. They didn't have a procedure or even a surgery to help me.
Two young surgeons came up with an idea. They volunteered to take the case. I was taken to an OR and kept drugged but awake for the procedure. They decided to go in through my groin and insert metal coils into my artery to permanently block the flow of blood. This would correct the aneurysm and hopefully the blood clot would dislodge on its own.
Testing after the surgery revealed a great success… the men nailed it, saved my life, and as I understand it, were heroes of the hospital and were looking at promotion. They are heroes of mine.
I have so much to be thankful for, a wonderful husband, beautiful, healthy kids, and a happy life. My body will never again be young, flexible, and graceful. I am scarred from many surgeries, and still have pains and trouble moving sometimes. Theater is all but a memory now.
What does any of this have to do with Cloudberry Beauty? The answer is everything! Rare cancer at a young age made me ask a lot of questions. Why?? How?? No medical professional has any opinion on the matter other than, “It's just one of those things.” So I read and read and read everything I could on the subject, and learned about what causes cancer to grow in our bodies. No one has all the answers, but a good place to start is in what you eat and what you put on your body. I learned about the kinds of foods to help create health and vibrance, and what the major skin care companies were putting in their products, and what effects it can have. Sure, there were great natural skin care and cosmetics companies out there, but boy were they expensive.
So I had an idea: make my own stuff, make it accessible and affordable. Everyone deserves a healthy, natural alternative to chemical-laden products. That's why Cloudberry products are so low-priced! We can't all afford Lush and Arbonne!
Broadway star was a good dream – wife, mother, and entrepreneur is a better reality. So if you see me in my mommy-mobile, give me a wave! I'll be the one singing Wicked at the top of my lungs.