The Story

 Taco, a Cold, and a Dream..
 PINTEREST... Yep, I'm going to give credit to this platform ... like serious cred!!! And if you're not on it, then I'm about to pre-warn you... There is a rabbit hole, that you might find yourself spiraling down into. One that helps inspire creativity, desire to change aspects of your house, explore your inner Julia Child and whip up some ahhhhmazing dishes! We like to call these Pinterest Challenges... Or Pinterest fails in my current experience!
 Okay, back to the STORY... That's what you're here for right? Hi, I'm Dana... Wife to Joe, and Mom to some pretty legit (CRAZY) boys... Yep that's right, some... As in THREE... As in, you think we would have stopped at one or two boys... But nope, God had bigger plans. Starting a family was hard for us! We struggled with infertility, child loss, and a failed adoption. In hindsight, I see a woman with this deep desire to become a MAMA and would stop at nothing to achieve it!!! Even if that meant sticking myself with needles, and drive clear across the country to meet our forever son. Adoption... a word that I LOVE!!! And a word that gave me that gift, the one I wanted so badly... The title of MAMA!!! I wear many hats in my life, but this one I have to say (as hard as it is at times) is my favorite. Soooooo Justice became Thing 1...And then SURPRISE Thing 2 made his debut in 2014... And TTTHHHEEEEEENN... Thing 3!!! Our miracle THING came into this world, lungs blazing in late 2016. "Are you trying for a girl?" The famous question I get asked often... NOPE, I'm out of commission, not because I fear God's humility of blessing me with triplet boys, but because pregnancy was hard... FREAKING HARD!
Keeping all those babies in... early labors, and the last one... well let's just say... I turned into a different human being. I like the human I am without growing a human... Soooooooo if we choose to grow our family again, we are more than likely going the route of Adoption...
THE BAGS!!! You're supposed to be telling the story about the BAGS Dana... JUST WAIT...This is the Story!
 Thing 3... OUR MIRACLE!!! 27 weeks pregnant ... Doing my wifey duties, and being the healthy mama I was, I was making dinner!!! TACOS again... BAHAHA! I was staring at the stove, browning the ground meat, and it just happened... LIGHTS OUT!!! I stopped... blinked and nothing!!! I couldn't see... I called for Justice (Thing 1) and in a non-panicking voice, I said: "Hey bud, can you grab mommies phone?" Which came out like more of a scared, squeaky stutter.  LIGHTS ON... The only way I can explain it is like this... Have you ever seen fireworks? Like the tiny starburst shapes that keep flashing high in the sky? Whelp, that was right in front of my face. Flashing a thousand beams, as I squinted trying to regain what felt like hours of blindness. WHAT WAS IT? Fast forward... I had the most amazing OB... I can't even begin to tell you, this man was phenomenal. He immediately sent me to a Neurologist. Brain Aneurysm!!! For 24hours I believed to fear the worst, and pray for the best. The longest 24 hours of my life. Well, GREAT NEWS... It wasn't an aneurysm, but it was something! I was diagnosed with a tiny Pineal Cyst. One in which I was probably born with, and was told: "FEAR NOT, your symptoms are not related, and you are in fact OKAY!!!" WHOOOOSH!!! I dodged a bullet. So I was just pregnant and miserable. Symptoms got worse, my eyesight got worse, to the point of getting glasses. I was dizzy all the time... VERTIGO is a real BIT**!!! Nauseous more than normal, hearing ringing in my ears, and the best part of it all... I was TIRED! I would fall asleep talking tired. NO JOKE!!! I slept all the time. It wasn't until after Thing 3 (Baby Norman) that I remembered, "Your symptoms aren't related to the cyst, it's all pregnancy." But I wasn't pregnant anymore... I got worse! I was irritable... Lack of sleep does not look good on me my friends. I was moody, and dizzy, and hid it all really well. I would drive and the world around me would sound like I was underwater. The ringing would happen and then POP!!! I knew it would be hours before it would clear.
 LuLaRoe... (No opinions please) I slung clothes... YEP! I jumped on that train around the same exact time I found out about my little friend growing in the center of my brain. That little friend, I told it to SHUT UP, and I did what any mom does... I hid it in a box and shoved it in the back of my closet. It was springtime 2017, and my bestie and I (this woman is a freaking ANGEL from heaven y'all) were headed to a GOOB party. (GOOB = Going Out Of Business) A fellow military spouse was closing up her LuLaRoe shop, and a group of retailers were going to shop her inventory to make it easier for her to pack it all up, and send it back to the company. While there, I found the most shocking discovery ever!!! As my best friend questioned the retailer closing up shop, she revealed to us that it was due to a BRAIN TUMOR, one that grew rapidly, and she just couldn't keep up. I'll never forget these next words... Even as I sit here and type, my eyes swell up with tears and goosebumps cover my body. "I was diagnosed with a Pineal Cyst about 8 months ago... Well it grew and my symptoms are ...." THAT'S IT... I couldn't hear anything else as the bile rising in my throat, was keeping me pretty occupied. I turned WHITE, nope not WHITE... I turned translucent!!! Monica, my BFF, noticed and immediately asked me what was wrong. I made some excuse about needing to pump (y'all breastfeeding is hard) and that I would need to leave soon. We finished up... I got in the car, and we drove off. The first time, I said it out loud... I told Monica EVERYTHING, about the symptoms, the official diagnosis, and the challenges I was having currently... Ones that I was keeping to myself. I hadn't told ANYONE in almost 7 months!!! She encouraged me to connect with the other retailer, the GOOB one... Remember her? So I did!!! She was just as shocked as me. She added me to some Facebook groups, and I quickly discovered I wasn't alone... I wasn't crazy... AND I was very very very sick!
 The day I told my husband I wanted to get a follow-up scan, he didn't question... He knew something wasn't right. He also knew I would have to come around to it at my own pace. I'm stubborn okay!!!
 So we're going to rewind real quick... For the past 9 years, my husband had served our country in the United States Air Force. He was at the point of the road in his service of being allowed to separate to the civilian world or stay on for another two years. So at the discovery of pinning on Major, he chose to trade in his pin for his permanent position in our household. Daddy would be staying HOME... No more moving, no more deployments, and no more not knowing. God knew the plan... HE set it into motion!!! This was in June 2017.
 On July 14th, 2017 I went in for a follow-up scan. An MRI that was loud, and frankly just as scary without being pregnant, than with a baby kicking my ribs as I'm being told to lie still... YEAH, picture that one! I played dance
scenarios in my mind to the beat of the machine. 1 Pas de bourrée, 2 Pas de bourrée... OVER and OVER until the beat changed. BOOM BOOM CLANK, BOOM BOOM CLANK... I was starring in River Dance, and my clogs were keeping up with the fast beat... CLLLLAAAANNNN, CLLLAAAANNNNN ... I was now on Broadway... Starring in the musical CATS... haven't seen it? It's amazing. "DANA..." I heard over the speakers, "We're all done, you did amazing." I did amazing??? I laid there still... I didn't do much... But thanks!!! Just waiting to see if I’m, you know, being taken over by a crazy Pineal Gland eating tumor.
 The diagnosis...
 It was 6:30 pm on a very HOT Phoenix day. The boys and I just moved to Arizona from California to get Thing 1 settled in prior to school. I guess when you welcome autism into your home, you have to follow all these insane steps to start Kindergarten... That's another story or more like a novel! Remember when I told you, Joe chose the road less traveled and said ADIOS to the military? Well, that road took us to Arizona... He would have to serve his last 6 months in California, and we would only see Daddy on the weekends.  My phone was ringing... I completely forgot my phone could even ring, as vibrate was my ringtone of choice... But I had a little special someone who LOVED changing my tone every now and then. "Mommy your phone is ringing ..." Thing 1 calmly protested. "Mommy it could be daddy, go get your phone..." I was sitting on the cold bathroom floor, helping the baby not fall in the slippery tub. I grabbed my phone and saw my neurologists name flash across the screen. "HUH?" was the only thing that came to mind. It had been 4 days since my follow up scan... 4 DAYS!!! But it felt more like a lifetime. "Hi Mrs. Buchanan, I hope I'm not catching you at a bad time." Dude your calling to talk to me about my brain, I'm sorry but I don't think any time is a good time... LMAO!!! The following words will forever remain hazy. It was like one of those movies, where the actress gets the horrible news, but you really know that no one is on the phone... Then their world shatters, and you're left with the pending thoughts of "WHAT DID THEY SAY TO YOU?" Well, that was me, watching myself. "Dana, did you hear me?" SPLASH... The baby fell back in the shallow water and immediately started to scream. Yes, umm thank you for calling... I'll be in touch. "NO, I can't help you, you need to contact a specialist... I recommend a Neurosurgeon who specializes in this particular area. I went numb...
I found the best! I flew to the best! I fought for the best outcome!
 I fought...
 See there is this misconception. People hear I have a brain tumor and they automatically assume I have BRAIN CANCER. Those two are NOT the same. Yes, they can be connected... but let me lay it out... Nothing should be in your brain, except your brain. POINT BLANK!!!
 October 25th, 2017 I underwent a Craniotomy... Which is a fancy term for, I had freaking BRAIN SURGERY!!! I had one of the countries top Neurosurgeons take a scope between the two hemispheres and travel it to the center of my brain. He plucked my 1.5cm little friend... And this man right here gave me my life back...
 If you know someone or you yourself have ever had a TBI (traumatic brain injury) than you know exactly what I'm going to describe. Recovery from surgery is like being in HELL!!! Everything hurts... My head was the baseball in the 2018 World Series, and the Boston Red Socks were not leaving that field without a win! Someone took a bat to my head and hit it over and over again. Also the scariest part of it... I woke up, opened my eyes, and it was lights out! I blinked... NOTHING! I cried... NOTHING! I was blind!!! I remember reaching for Joe's hand and being able to feel it for the first time in months. 100% of my tingling and numbness was GONE! I paused and waited for the twitching in my face to return... IT WAS GONE! As hours went on, I noticed things that I was living with, dealing with, telling myself on repeat that it was okay... ALL GONE! But I still couldn't see...
HATS... I wear a ton of hats. Do remember early, like in the first part of this novel, I was telling you about my favorite hat I wear? Well, my second favorite hat is... I'm a photographer. I tell stories by freezing time with a camera... And nothing makes my heart get giddier than being present during two souls becoming one and vowing to live life together. Or when a baby comes into this world screaming. Or when loss happened, and there was a rainbow at the end of the storm. I document life, I tell stories... It runs through my blood, it gives me life... And I kind of need to be able to see to do that. Don't I?
 November 25th, 2017... 1 month after surgery, I was on a plane and flying back to Arizona to hug my babies for the first time. Kiss my husband, who I hadn't seen in 3 weeks, and recover some more. I was partially blind... I had to wear an eye patch and trust my overbearing senses to help me navigate life. Thank God for my best friend, the one that was with me at that going out of business sale. She took care of me, helped me, she was my EYES, my EARS, and my ANGEL. Joe was officially out of the service. Full-time Airman, turned to full-time Mr. Mom... and Dad... he had to do it all. Talk about culture shock!!! I'm honored to be his wife, I'm honored to be a parent with him, I'm honored to do life with this man...
 Recovery Sucked... (insert hibernation) 11 months post op. My vision was steadily returning, life looked a little different, but it was my new normal. Rainstorms killed the plates in my head. Normally with one of these episodes... I was down for the count... and would mostly just sleep it off. I was laying in bed on Pinterest, daydreaming about WHAT IF... I was at a crossroads, and deciding to close my shop up?!?! No more slinging clothes... And I wanted to just focus on photography... full time. But WHAT IF... I create something to tell a story and share a story... Something to help others tell stories! WHAT IF... I create a camera bag? Not just any camera bag... A one of a kind camera bag!!! But who would want it? Who am I? I'm nobody! Others have already done this, and they are successful...So why would I be? Negative Nancy done had to go kick some rocks... Cause she and Debbie Downer were killing it that day!!! And then there it was... The answer to my questions...
 Why Guatemala? Honestly... I wish I could say my love for tacos was enough, but I would be lying. When I was on the LuLaRoe roller coaster, I fell in love with a particular style of bag and design, that was really popular amongst the retailers. I dreamed about owning one of them someday, and every time I tried, they were out of stock! So when I decided YES!!! I would make a bag... I knew I wanted to do research and figure out how to bring this to LIFE, in this beautiful country!!! So I searched... I took a chance... AND now... I'm honored to announce the launch of DanaJo&Co!!!
 I'm Dana... AND my husband and sidekick Joe (JO looks so much cooler on the logo LMAO) and you are OUR &Co!!! OUR company, OUR friends, OUR reason we do what we do! Your life has a story... You are the author of it! Our artisans in rural Guatemala have a story, and I'm doing what I do best... I'm telling it!!!
 So without a dream...
I wouldn't have started having babies!
I wouldn't have slung clothes!
I wouldn't have met my guardian angel!
I wouldn't have birthed my miracle... he saved my LIFE!
I wouldn't have fought for my life!
I wouldn't have fought to see!
I wouldn't have fought to get a YES!
So this isn't just another "BAG COMPANY"... It’s a MOVEMENT!!! These bags are a MOVEMENT!!! And you, my friend, are now apart of it!!! THIS isn't just a STORY!!! THIS is more of a story of dreams or desires to be bigger than ME!!!
A story of life and finding one's way. Of loss, love, and passion. This is my story... and I can't wait to tell theirs!!!
Their Life - Their Story

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