It’s been a year of kidneys and cake pops and I have a heart full of thanks.
This is an extremely long post. And just to warn you up front it involves a couple of pictures of blood and things that might make you cringe a little, so if you’re squeamish about that kind of thing, you probably don’t want to keep reading.
But, if you’re not, and you’re interested – it’s kind of a wrap up of 2011. Not of recipes from the blog, but of some things that made this year special.
And of course, it involves cake pops. How could it not.
The year started off pretty normal, or rather I was trying to keep things up as normal. But in the back of my mind was the knowledge that my transplanted kidney was starting to fail.
But I was hoping for the best. Hoping to just maintain whatever functioning it had left. Hoping to keep living the status quo.
In February, I had what was supposed to be the beginning of a few more book signings that would take place through the spring.
I started out in San Francisco and as soon as I saw your smiling faces, I managed to forget all about feeling bad. I want to thank you for that.
Because in March I had to cancel the next book signing in Minneapolis.
I couldn’t be there because I was very sick and in the hospital with an infection in my bloodstream and transplanted kidney.
Needless to say, my already weakened kidney could not handle the extra stress and I had to go on dialysis while I was in the hospital.
There are some pics in this post that I normally wouldn’t put out there, but I hope they help someone who might be going through something similar. It’s tough stuff.
This machine reluctantly became my new best friend. The only thing to keep me from eventually dying.
This was probably the hardest thing for me. I never wanted to go on hemodialysis . Just the thought of being hooked up to a machine and having my blood removed, cleaned and returned to my body, freaked me out. The first time my kidneys failed, I did peritoneal dialysis. It doesn’t involve your blood and it allows you much more freedom. So I was prepared to go on that kind of dialysis again if I had to. But not for an emergency port to be placed for hemodialysis. Peritoneal dialysis requires a scheduled surgery and planning. But hemodialysis doesn’t. So I had a procedure to have a temporary port placed in my chest and by the end of the very same day, I was having my blood move through those tubes on the machine.
Let’s just say my mind was not prepared. The first time I was on the machine, I can’t even describe what it was like. I just felt numb. Numb that it was happening this way. Scared that I didn’t know what would happen next. Upset that I couldn’t stay well for just a little while longer while we waited to see if my mom could be a donor.
But I was also thankful. Thankful that things like this exist. Thankful that even though there isn’t a cure for kidney disease, that there are options for treatment to prolong my life.
But still freaked out.
I was in the hospital for 18 days. And if I hadn’t been there so long, I probably would have come back home and kept baking as if everything was ok.
That was the plan anyway. But then I was there another day and another day and after a while I felt I needed and wanted to share what was going on because I had been absent from the blog so long.
So I wrote this post. 
And I was overwhelmed by your comments and thoughts and prayers. I still am. I get teary-eyed even now thinking about it as I write this.
I will forever cherish your words and kindness. I read them while I was hooked up to that machine and it made it all better. Thank you.
Flowers from new friends made it better, too. Thank you P is for Party , Anna and Blue , TomKat Studio , Pizzazerie , and all the other party planning friends that brightened my stay. I would list you all but I can’t find your letter at the moment. Forgive me. It was so sweet of you all to send flowers, especially since we haven’t even met. Hugs.
And surprise visitors made it better, too.
Ree , it meant so much to me that you came by to visit. Miss you lots.
Oh and did I mention that while I was in the hospital that I gained 16 pounds in the first two days. Sixteen pounds of fluid that they pumped into me to help fight the infection.
I was miserable and swollen all over, but so happy to see family and friends like Ree, and Julie, Zoe, Danny, Monica, Amy, and Kerry and Robyn  who visited during my transplant stay.
So, there were definitely good things mixed in with the bad.
Like when I got back home, this was waiting for me. A dutch version of Cake Pops!
And in May, I was able to spend time with friends that were attending Blogher Food. (Photo from kevinandamanda )
Thank you guys for making that a great day. So, fun things happened too while I was still on dialysis. And that helped. A lot.
This is the clinic where I spent many hours over the next few months. I would get off work and come here four hours a day. Three days a week. And then go home and go to bed because I was still so tired. I have so much respect for the nurses, technicians and staff that work in dialysis clinics. They see a lot of sadness every single day. The beds were always full, unlike this photo I managed to take in between patients arriving. You walk in for your appointment and as soon as someone is done with theirs, they clean the bed, change the sheets, clean and prepare the machine to get ready to connect the next person. It’s a constant cycle of patients, many that were much, much sicker than me, coming here to stay alive. It has to be hard on the people that work there to see that everyday. And especially hard when someone suddenly stops showing up for their appointment because they are in the hospital or even worse.
It was definitely not somewhere I looked forward to going to. On the good side, I was very tired everyday, so I did get to lay down and rest and watch TV – as long as I didn’t get the bed that had the broken TV.
(Warning: Blood stuff coming up next.)
And then if I got bored, I would take pictures of myself to remember what being on dialysis was like.
Here I’m trying to tell myself how much fun I’m having. Woohoo!
I have a bunch of sad pics too, but I promise you don’t want to see those.
The white bandage near my neck keeps the area where the port is, covered and clean. It would get changed and the area carefully cleaned every time I had a treatment. The big sheet was just to keep my clothes from getting any stains. The port had two lines. One would remove my blood and the other would return it. Good times.
This was a temporary solution though. The area where the port goes in is an extremely high source of infection because there is a direct line to my heart and an opening at the end of the port where you connect for treatment each time. And the area couldn’t get wet, which made taking showers a real pain. I would cover it with these large plastic adhesive sheets which were so big that it made my right arm immobile. If I lifted my arm, it would create a gap in the covering and allow water in. Washing your hair with one hand is hard. And showering each day was filled with worry that I would get it wet and get an infection. And prolong my chance of a transplant.
If I had needed to stay on dialysis permanently, I would have had to have a permanent fistula made in my arm as an access to circulate the blood for hemodialysis. Or either plan a surgery to go on peritoneal dialysis again. So I tried to delay either of those happening as long as I could, waiting on my mom’s test results to all come through and hoping she would be able to donate.
At the clinic, my nurse, TiTi would take care of me each time I came in. She was comforting even though she didn’t talk much. I developed an attachment to her. I didn’t want anyone else to connect me to that machine or clean my dressings. I trusted her and even though I was so happy to leave, I cried with her the last day I left the clinic as she prayed for me. And I felt bad for the patients I was leaving behind. The nameless faces I had seen every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I wanted them to feel better, too. It reminded me how grateful I am for my mom. Many people live the rest of their lives on dialysis. Not everyone is eligible for a transplant or has someone close willing or able to donate.
If you’ve thought about organ donation before, please think about it again and the people laying in those beds. It’s a gift that can help so many.
And if you are already a donor. Thank you. Generosity like yours gave me 19 years of life.
On the lighter side, during dialysis treatments, I was also trying to finish up a couple of projects for the Cake Pops Kit that came out this year. Not fun when you don’t feel good.
But even though I wanted to be able to do more new pops, I think the rubber duckies and penguins came out pretty darn cute.
Then, Cake Pops made it onto the iBookstore. I thought this was really cool. Probably because of my love for all things Apple.
By the way, Cake Pops was one of the iBookstore’s top ten Cookbooks in 2011! Crazy! CRA-zeeee!
I had a recipe published in Betty Crocker’s Big Book of Cupcakes. Thank you, Betty!
And I also had a recipe published in the book, Home Baked Comfort.
Things like this, and especially all of your emails and messages and comments on the site really made dealing with being sick a lot easier.
By the way, dialysis stinks when it comes to eating, too. Your diet changes drastically because your system is so out of whack. The machine basically does the functioning of your kidney for you. But since it doesn’t do it all day, everyday, you have to be really careful what you eat all the time. I couldn’t eat cake pops. I had to stay away from foods that contain phosphorous and potassium and eat foods with very low sodium. A high phosphorous level can make your bones weak and brittle. Potassium is monitored closely to avoid heart problems, nausea and loss of consciousness. And sodium is avoided to help control fluid retention and blood pressure. That meant no potatoes, no chocolate, no cheese, no milk, no sauces to speak of, no beans, no sandwich meats, no bacon (ugh), no nuts, no ice cream, no orange juice, no bananas. Basically, nothing fun. And because my fluid intake was restricted, I could only have 32 ounces of fluid for the whole day. Boring!
I’m so glad that didn’t last long.
After a few months on dialysis, we finally found out that my mom was able to be a donor. Such relief and excitement for us both!
And on June 14th, my mom and I both went into surgery. That was the hardest part – knowing we were both being operated on at the same time, but I had complete confidence in the surgeons.
Especially mine. Because Dr. Larsen performed my first surgery in July of 1992 and again this year. He’s great.
I don’t know if I could ever put into words how much he means to me, but I am so thankful for him and his talent and kindness over the years. I just want to give him a big hug every time I see him.
The entire staff at Emory is wonderful. Everyone at the transplant clinic and the transplant floor of the hospital. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for taking care of me the last 20 years.
Oh and see that white bandage on my neck in the pic above? Yep, the port is still in.
They leave it in to make sure the kidney works before removing it.
The port isn’t pretty. I made them take a picture of it for me because I never saw it unbandaged.
Scroll by real fast if you get grossed out easily.
Yuck. And by the way that’s not blood on the port, it’s betadine where they would clean it.
I was so relieved to have this thing out of me.
And so grateful for my mom. I know she would do anything for me, but I would have never asked her for such a gift. She is amazing and my best friend.
Here’s a story that Emory posted on their blog  about us if you’d like to read.
So, A few months after the surgery and still feeling great, I started doing things again.
I made a new video for the book  with this guy. Actually, he made the video. I just did stuff like make silly faces when he wasn’t looking.
The notecards came out.
Where Women Cook  by Jo Packham came out in October. Thank you Jo for featuring me on the cover with such fantastic company. The book is beautiful and filled with profiles from great women like Ree of The Pioneer Woman , Serena of The Farm Chicks , Sandy of The Reluctant Entertainer , Molly of Orangette , Cheryl of Back in the Day Bakery , Helene of Tartelette , and many more.
Okay, this was something else really fun and a little unexpected. Say hi to Pop Star Jill in Illinois .
I received an email from Jill’s husband, Luke. They live in Chicago and he explained how much she enjoys the blog and cake pops and wanted to surprise her with a signed book or maybe even a lunch. So I said, sure and if they found themselves all the way in Georgia, then of course, I would go to lunch. Well, he did just that. He told her they were flying somewhere fun for her birthday, but didn’t tell her where until the day they flew. I’m sure when he told her Georgia, she was thrilled. So exciting, right?! But he explained it off by saying they were going to see and stay with some friends for a getaway.
Then, the next day, I was waiting at the restaurant and when the hostess brought Jill to the table, the look on her face was so priceless. And boy was I glad. It would have been a real bummer if she didn’t know who I was. But she did and it was a blast and she had absolutely no idea. We had a great time. I think it was as much fun for me as it was for Luke to surprise his wife. Hi guys. Hope you two are doing great.
And thank you both for such a memorable day.
These are meds I take twice a day. Everyday. They’re different medicines from the ones they were giving to patients almost 20 years ago, but they still have to give them to suppress my immune system so my body doesn’t try to attack my mom’s kidney as something foreign to my body. That would stink. So I take these medicines to help avoid that.
Even though I feel great now, it’s always on my mind every morning and night.
By October, I felt good enough to continue with the book signings I had begun back in the spring.
Of course, I had to visit Minneapolis first. It was such a good feeling to be there, seeing all your sweet faces. Happy smiles are like magic.
After Minneapolis, I visited San Francisco for a book signing and to work on the video for this kit .
Here’s a clip from the video. Cool.
While I was there, I visited the FM  offices. They handle ads that show up on my site. They arranged a Halloween cake pop contest with a few bloggers and some of their employees. And man, they did a good job. Very creative and everyone was so sweet. Thank you for having me.
Here’s a slideshow of all the fun.
I also attended a San Francisco Authors Luncheon with my publisher, Chronicle Books  to benefit the National Kidney Foundation. It was so nice of them to donate money and invite me to attend with them.
If I haven’t said it enough before. Chronicle is great. The people. The company. Their books. I love them.
When I returned home, I had a routine kidney biopsy. Everyone that has a transplant has one at around 5-6 months after surgery.
That’s my new baby. My mom’s kidney. In me.
Kind of unbelievable.
Kidney biopsies aren’t as bad as they look when you consider the needle they use. Yeah, that thing in the upper right hand corner. Yikes! And I think that’s the new shorter one they started using. Don’t worry. They only go in as far as they need to depending on how much body tissue they have to pass through to reach the kidney. Thankfully, they didn’t have to go too deep.
The test showed everything with the kidney was doing great.
So I felt confident enough to continue on with the book signings. Or kit signings since by this time, those had been released.
Seeing this poster in the Orlando Barnes & Noble really made me chuckle. Me and Bill Clinton, signing books days apart.
A little birdie told me the secret service was there the day I was, scoping out the place and one of them even bought a book. Maybe it was for Bill. : ) But I doubt it.
While we were in Orlando, we made it to Disney World for a little while.
The place where dreams come true. Except ours already had.
It was my mom’s first time and my second.
At most of the book signing cities, we stayed at normal nice hotels. But In Phoenix, we stayed at the nicest or most unique of al the cities. To give you an example, this guy was taking us to our casita in a golf cart. You couldn’t drive to your room by car. To get around the property, which was beautiful by the way, you had to call for someone to come pick you up or walk there. We called. And they would take you to the pool, or one of several restaurants or shopping nearby. Where ever you needed to go. The room was fantastic, too, with a deck, living room, fireplace, and walk in closet. We did not want to leave. Ever.
But we did. And headed out to the next book signing in San Diego.
While we were there, I received a super invitation from Sarah who follows the blog and came to the book signing in Costa Mesa the previous year. Sarah invited me to come see her world. Sea World, where she works with some of the animals.
Including this amazing, cuddly creature.
I never knew a sloth could be so cute.
My mom and I made some new friends for sure. We learned a lot, too.
Thank you Sarah for showing us around and sharing your knowledge of these amazing animals.
Here’s a slideshow of some of the fun.
Before leaving San Diego, we decided to stop and get some breakfast at a place called the Hash House.
We ordered just two pancakes.
Yeah, just two.
We obviously didn’t know what we were doing. I just had to share this pic. I have never seen anything like it.
After San Diego, I visited Book People in Austin for the last book signing of the year.
I’ll miss seeing all of you guys… until next time that is ; ) . Thank you all for coming out and sharing your love for cake pops. This year would not have been the same without you, whether you made it to a signing, or simply said hi on the blog. I love you guys so much. Big hugs and a little dork wave.
The day after the last book signing, I went on a Girl Hunter weekend with my friend Georgia and a bunch of other blogging friends including Cookies and Cups , Bake at 350 , Confessions of a Cookbook Queen , Wenderly , She Wears Many Hats , Ivory Hut , Tidy Mom , Cookin Canuck , Georgia , Elana’s Pantry , Family Fresh Cooking , Deliciously Organic  and Recipe Girl . We laughed, shot clay pigeons, decorated cookies, learned to fly fish, sat by the campfire and ate way too much.
Georgia is something special and has just recently released her second book, Girl Hunter . It’s a fascinating read that follows her adventures on a quest to find out more about where her food comes from. And it takes her straight to the source. Here’s a video  by the talented White on Rice Couple  to give you a glimpse of what the book is about. And here’s a great post of our weekend by Georgia .
Check out the book, Girl Hunter  if you’re interested in the journey of knowing where your food comes from, too.
Here’s a slideshow of the really great time we had.
Once back home I received another nice surprise.
Cake Pops, translated in Japanese and another version in French, too. Can anyone tell me what it says in that circle? I’m trés curious.
Well, that’s just a little bit of some of the things from this past year that you didn’t see on the blog.
Thank you for listening. I just had to get that all out and get ready for a brand new year.
Like I said in the beginning. It’s been a year of kidneys and cake pops.
And my mom and I would like to thank you all for helping make it one we will never forget.
So thank you and here’s to a great 2012 for all of us.