2017 is going to be a fantastic year!

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Happy New Year, friends!

As we usher in the new year, I’d like to reflect on 2016 and all that I was able to accomplish.

The big surgery is behind me, and I am making great progress! Physical therapy, while slow and difficult, is also incredibly rewarding. I typically have PT three times a week and I am able to see results as I increase my exercises, learn new things, and bear additional weight on my leg. Awesome sauce!

Dare I say, I am feeling like my old self more and more each day! I still get tired, especially after PT, but not nearly as much as before. There are some sleepless nights, but they are few and far between.

I will begin using a lymphedema pump and I will start seeing a lymphedema specialist in the next several weeks. The goal is to get this swelling in my leg under control. My leg is heavy and my PT gets a work out in during my exercises when she is lifting my leg!

Between PT and the lymphedema therapy, I hope to see improvement and continue to move forward. I hope that 2017 will be my last year of paying these crazy high deductibles! This is going to be the year – my year, if you will, where I get my life back. I can feel it in every fiber of my being.

I don’t make resolutions, as I try to live my best life every day. I do my best to enjoy and appreciate my many blessings.

Happy New Year to you! May 2017 be a year filled with good health, time spent with the people who mean the most to you, exciting adventures and peace and love in your heart.

Do you make resolutions? 

Until next time, be well and go out and do a random act of kindness.

Jewels

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Happy Holidays

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Greetings, friends!

I love this time of year! Winter is my favorite season and Christmas is my favorite holiday. Some of you may be shaking your head, thinking, really? Winter is your favorite season?!

It’s true. I absolutely love it. Having grown up in upstate New York, winter was a magical time of the year. Sledding, skiing, drinking hot cocoa … love, love, love!

The holidays can also be stressful, especially if you are sick, injured or in the hospital. I have recently been asked by folks who are kind enough to follow my blog, how I managed to get through the holidays when I wasn’t doing so well.

The great thing about having a blog is that you try to reach people and if you are successful, you will inspire someone or provide a little hope. So let me try to do just that.

Here’s what I know for sure … the holidays aren’t about the presents, rather, it’s about the presence of family and loved ones. It’s a time to get together and celebrate the year gone by and look forward to the new year that will usher in.

Two years ago at Christmastime, I was attached to a PICC line where I had to give myself infusions every 6 hours. This meant that the medicine had to be taken out of the refrigerator an hour before the infusion. I was exhausted as I wasn’t getting quality sleep.  I was also attached to a wound vac on my foot which at times would sound an alarm in the middle of the night, always when I had fallen into a deep sleep. Talk about being frustrated!

Besides the PICC line and wound vac, I was also on blood thinners which left me bruised. I was always cold. I had lost a lot of weight from my surgeries, so that didn’t help the situation, either. Literally, it was a miserable and exhausting time.

Even though I wasn’t feeling well and hardly festive, I always tried to put on a happy face. I always reminded myself that this too shall pass, and I tried to find the silver linings. That year, I didn’t have the energy to put the tree up or buy lots of presents, two things that I love to do! Trimming the tree while listening to Christmas carols is so much fun! Wrapping presents while drinking hot cocoa is also something I love!

You know what happened that year? My family and friends made that Christmas extra special for me. They put my tree up while I sat on the couch having an infusion and we listened to music and I “danced” on the couch.

Secret Santa’s were constantly surprising me by having food delivered as well as gifts. Beautiful flowers and wreaths appeared. My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter came home and made that Christmas so special. The beautiful people in my life lifted my spirits.

If you are like me and you like to do things yourself, shop for others, and be the one giving instead of receiving, let it go. For this one year, let people help you. The reality is that they want to help you and it makes them feel needed. Trust me on this. If you try to push yourself, you may feel worse, and who wants that?!

If you are in the hospital, (I know that stinks), be kind to the nurses. They are there, away from their own families so they can care for you. Hopefully you will be in better health next year.

 I can say with certainty, the holiday spirit will be renewed and you will truly enjoy and savor the hustle and bustle of the chaotic holiday time!

For now, rest up and get better. Know that better days are coming and you will get through your journey. Keep the faith my sweet friends.

Wishing you and yours, a holiday filled with peace and hope.

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Until next time, I hope you are showered with random acts of kindness!

Jewels

 

32 years cancer free !!!

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When I was a teenager, I started having pain in my right leg. At first I didn’t even realize how often it bothered me until my friend, Karen, asked me one day, “why do you always rub your leg?” We were sitting on the floor in my bedroom, doing homework after school as we did practically every day. I responded simply by saying, “my leg hurts.” Karen told me that I had been rubbing my leg every day for a while!

This may be hard for some people to believe, but before I got sick, I was an extremely shy and quiet person and didn’t talk that much. So while my leg was bothering me, it was completely normal for me not to complain or say anything about it.

At first the pain would only last for a few days, and it was something I could tolerate. As time went on, the pain started lasting longer and was becoming a constant. I finally said something to my parents and off to the doctor I went.

After seeing my pediatrician, it was determined to be growing pains. I was 13 years old at the time and very athletic as I ran track, played basketball and soccer, so that made sense, I guess. The Mayo Clinic states, “Growing pains are often described as an ache or throb in the legs – often in the front of the thighs, the calves or behind the knees.” My pain was in my femur, so my family and I thought this was the case and it was something I would outgrow.

About six months later, the pain was far worse and I was being sent home from school because it was too difficult to focus. Back to the doctor I went and I started having tests done like x-rays and blood work to see what was going on. The tests were coming back fine and not indicating that there was a concern. I was told to stop playing sports and to stop running, which was a passion of mine.

Six months after this, I started limping because my leg hurt so much. There was a day where I was curled up in a ball on the couch, crying, because I was in so much pain. My stepfather had pulled some ligaments around this time and said he was going to take me to his orthopedic doctor, just to see what his thoughts were.

It was a hot Friday afternoon in August when I saw this doctor, and I was wearing shorts. I was sitting on the table in the doctor’s office and the first question he asked was, “how long has this bump been on your leg?”I looked at my leg and was surprised to see this bump as I didn’t recall having it there that morning when I showered.

I was sent to Boston Children’s Hospital that Sunday evening so I could have a biopsy done in the morning. When I got to my room, my roommate was a girl named Amy. She had a biopsy done as well and we stayed up talking all night. I was very naive – I thought I had pulled ligaments like my stepfather and had no idea what a biopsy was, let alone what it implied.

Amy explained what a biopsy was and how I had a tumor in my leg. WHAT? I will never forget how she said that I want the results to be benign and not malignant. This was very important information! She was going home the next day and I wouldn’t see her after I got back from the biopsy so we exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.

A few days after my biopsy, my parents and I were taken into a room where we told that I had a malignant tumor and I had Ewing’s Sarcoma bone cancer. I don’t remember hearing anything after that as I kept replaying the conversation with Amy in my head. My mother was crying hysterically and I sat there, stunned. I was 14 years old and had cancer. A rare form of bone cancer!

Things happened pretty quickly after that. I started chemo and was so sick! I practically lived in the hospital. When I went home, I rarely made it two days before I spiked a fever and was back in the hospital. My hair fell out; I had no appetite; I was freezing all of the time; and when I was at home, my parents couldn’t cook in the house as the smells made me vomit.

After having only 4 cycles of chemo, I made the decision to stop. At first my mother begged me not to but ultimately she said the decision was mine. I just felt as though I wanted to live the rest of my days – however many – in peace and not in sickness. This wasn’t the end though, as I had radiation treatments to get through. I agreed to complete those.

My stepfather at the time was a Teamster, and they had a van that would pick me up every weekday to take me on the three-hour round trip to Boston for treatment (which was literally a one minute zap), and then it was back home I went. Because I had stopped chemo, I was given 2.5 additional weeks of radiation.

I finished my radiation treatments and my doctors were not happy with my decision to not pursue further chemotherapy. The outlook was bleak. Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer is a rare form of bone cancer and the percentages of survival or saving the limb were low back in those days.

As silly as it sounds, I knew in my heart that I would survive. There were many deals made with the Big Guy upstairs. I was and have always been very stubborn! My oncologist calls me a pain in the ass. Literally.

I always said that I was going to beat cancer! There was no question in my mind.

Here I am, 32 years later. Cancer free.

As we know, the “radical” radiation I had caused extensive damage to my leg, but I went 30 years on this damaged leg before my bone broke and this journey started. In my heart, I know this too shall pass. I will walk again, get my life back and thrive.

While I met a lot of people during my hospital stays as a teenager, Amy is the only person I kept in contact with. (I told you, I was shy!) I am happy to report that Amy is like family to me and she has been a wonderful, supportive friend. I am blessed to have her in my life.

We never know what life has in store for us, but one thing I do know – never give up, even when the battle seems insurmountable. The human spirit is remarkable and will carry you through the darkest of days.

32 years cancer free!!! This girl is very blessed and knows it.

Until next time, be well and go out and do a random act of kindness.

Jewels

*Here is a picture of me after treatments and still bald. My parents bought a very expensive wig but it itched too much so I always wore this hat. The other picture is when my hair first grew back.

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