Thursday, November 28, 2013

To Be Thankful

To be truly thankful.  That word has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  Three years ago today I can remember waking up in the hospital in my transplant bubble lonely, sad and scared.  Instead of cooking and baking and preparing all the yummy fixings for the the big feast, I was lying in bed barely able to sit up.  I wasn't going to be watching the Macy's parade in our pjs with the kids or having them help me set the table with our china we use twice a year.  I remember wanting to just sleep the day away hoping the pain and sadness would melt away.

Flash forward three years..... I am sitting here today in my kitchen, puppies at my feet under the table, hot cup of coffee by my side, blessed beyond my dreams.  I am fortunate enough to be in "remission".  Three years out, and there is no M-Spike present, ( Monoclonal Protein Level).  Unfortunately, some  of  my Myeloma friends are not so lucky.  Many have had recent relapses.  Why not me?  This is a constant reminder to me of how truly fortunate I am.  Myeloma is still an incurable cancer,  the goal is to keep it dormant for a long as possible.  Today I am thankful my Myeloma is still sleeping!

Having a diagnosis of an incurable cancer has brought on many other challenges.  Learning to live truly present and to engage back in life has been my biggest challenge yet.  I think for so long I just wanted to get better and get back to living like a "normal person".  What I learned is that things were not going to be back to normal.  In fact they never would again.  How could they?  I am not the same person I was back in 2010. After many sessions with my therapist, some good anti-depressant drugs, a very patient and understanding and loving husband, and learning to let go of guilt,  I am re-engaging back in life.  I am learning that it is ok to say the word "no" and to spend my time doing things that are good and positive for me.  That includes learning to nurture those relationships in my life that are positive and to let relationships go that are draining and negative.  It has not been easy to get to this point.  However, I know that it is what I need to do to continue on this growing path.  At times guilt sneaks up.  That is when I need to dig deep and remind myself how hard I have worked to get to where I am today.  I don't expect everyone around me to have the same "live in the moment outlook" that I have.  Heck it took me a cancer diagnosis and facing my own mortality to truly get it.  However, what I do know is that for me it is critical to surround myself with things and people that fill my life and not drain it.

It amazes me the people and opportunities that  have recently come into my life.  I have learned so much about myself and continue to everyday. I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams with talented incredible people at work who have encouraged and inspired me to take risks and trust my instincts. And have provided me with an outlet for a passion that I have always had.  I am thankful for the wonderful friends I have made at work who have become family to me.  And I'm sure my husband thanks them too as he is painting our cherry cabinets white.  Lol!  He is a saint for putting up with me:)

I am thankful for friends and family who continue to fill my life with love and laughter.  Who remind me everyday how good it feels to be happy.

I am thankful for a strong body with no chronic pain.  This past October Mike and I ran the BayState Marathon together.  We had a great race and it was so awesome to do it together.  Mike taught me to train and fuel correctly and it was great to cross the finish line smiling and not being carried off to the med tent. Will I do another one?  Absolutely.  Just waiting to find the right one.   Since the marathon, I run a couple days a week.  No schedule,  I just do it when it feels good.  I've also started back up with kickboxing/crossfit classes.  I'm trying to get there 3 days a week.  Again, no pressure, doing things when they feel right.

My kids have really been the source of my inspiration.  Everyday they amaze me. When I find myself getting caught up in a "Myeloma Moment"  they can snap me out of quicker than anyone or anything.  I am so thankful for my 4 beautiful angels who are truly a blast to be around.  Being their mom is my greatest accomplishment in life.

Yesterday we just booked tickets for my parents to come here for Christmas.  This will be the first time my dad will be here for Christmas in over 12 years.  My parents have been Mike and my greatest support during the past few years.  Our relationship is on a level that is so precious and we truly love having them here.  I am so thankful to have my parents and am looking forward to making incredible memories this holiday.

I am grateful for Dr. Munshi, Dr Hakemian, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, and all of my Myeloma friends.  I am blessed to be here 3 years later after my stem cell transplant. And I continue to be filled with hope for the future.  Although no one knows when I will relapse, I know there will be options and treatment available, as well as a whole network of support.    Today I am truly grateful for all that is.

I am dedicating this blog entry to my husband Mike.  Words cannot even begin to express how thankful I am for him.  Over the past 3 years,  he has been right by my side.  He has supported me, loved me, held me and lifted me up countless times when I needed it most.  I am sure that it has not been easy for him.  The diagnosis, the unknown, the depression.  But he is there for me.  He is truly the one constant in my life that I can always count on.  I love you Michael Dreyer.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving surrounded by all the blessings in your life.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Husband's Journey to 70.3

My awe inspiring husband just updated his blog.  He takes the reader on the incredible journey of his first Half Ironman, every stroke, every pedal and every step all the way to 70.3.  Be prepared to be inspired and to grab a tissue!  I am so proud of this man I am so blessed to call my husband, best friend and partner in life!  Just click on the link to read.
My incredible husband

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

3 Years Later

This week marks the 3 year anniversary of when I was first diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma.

It has been just about 10 months since I've written.  For all of you who have wondered  out there on cyberspace, no,  I have not died.   I am happy to say I am still here and still enjoying a "Complete Response" (ie: no Myeloma Detected!).  So why have I been so quiet?

I guess there are a number reasons I have been silent for a while.  The easy answer would be that life got so busy that I didn't have the time to write.  Or perhaps I didn't have much to say?  Or maybe for a while I just wanted to try to get some sense of normalcy and not think about my Myeloma? In a way,  it is all those reasons.  But if I look back at my last post in August of 2012, it is difficult for me to read it.  I had opened up and  shared that I was struggling with my "New Normal" .  At the time,  I didn't realize just how dark my world had gotten.

When the kids returned to school last fall, I made an appointment to see a therapist.  I had struggled for so long.   I remember how nervous I was waiting in the waiting room. Wasn't it easier to just carry on and block out all that bad stuff and stay busy?  Did I really want to share all that happened?  Did I  really want to go back there?  I wanted to just get up and run out that door.  But before I could, a woman came out and called my name.  Within moments I felt completely at ease with this person.  I felt safe.  And at the end of my first session, I learned that I was in very deep depression,  and had been for quite some time.

I believe that people come into our lives not by chance.  That if you are truly present you realize the gifts that are sometimes right in front of you.  Well, I have had quite a few gifts lately.  One in particular, is a beautiful woman named Robin.  She is one of the most compassionate people I know.   Robin owns an incredible antique, collectible and home decor store.  It is like no other store I have ever seen.  In fact, customers often say that going to Robin's Egg is their therapy.  That it just feels so great to be there.  I was one of those customers.  For a long time, I would find myself coming to the store just to walk around and take in all of the beautiful things inside.  Robin always had a warm smile on her face.  I felt peaceful and happy there,

Week by week, I was making progress in my therapy sessions.  I was also finding myself visiting Robin's Egg more and more.  I started to experiment and play around with paint and began refinishing furniture.  At the end of November, I asked Robin if I could help out at the store.  I told her she didn't have to  pay me.  I  would volunteer, I just wanted to be there.  She took me up on the offer.  My son Cam often told me that I was crazy to work for free.  But I assured him that I was getting something much bigger than money in return.  He of course could not comprehend this.  Each day I spent there, I found myself feeling happier.  I just loved meeting and speaking with all the customers coming in and I loved learning from Robin and all the talented people who worked there.  In fact, I began to feel that passion, that spark that I had lost for quite some time.

Doors began to open.  Opportunities came along.  And things just started to feel right.  I now not only work at the shop, but I am dealer there.  In fact I have been pretty successful.  I have a garage full of projects.  I'm enjoying every moment of it.  I love finding the treasures, bringing them to life, and sharing them.  I love that people appreciate my work and actually purchase them!  I love the women I work with and the friendships we have formed.  But I am most appreciative for Robin, for coming into my life and helping me discover something totally new and finding that spark, that thing that makes me feel alive!

My kids just have about a week of school left.  They have had a wonderful year of growth and achievements.  They are really coming into their own.  And although we need a chalkboard in the kitchen to keep track of where everyone needs to be and when, I just love how full of life they all are.  My boys loved their first year of middle school.  Cam loved being on the Cross Country Team, Wresting Team, Flag Football, Track and Student Council.  He also has achieved his Brown Belt in Karate.  Mitch had an incredible year discovering his love for piano, and enjoyed his first year on the  Football Team.  He played on  Basketball Team, Flag Football,  Track and of course Baseball.  All Stars has just begun and we have our first of many baseball tournaments this weekend.  Sarah and Emily are completely passionate about gymnastics and compete on Team.  I am in complete awe as I watch how they can move their little bodies.  Sarah has also become a beautiful pianist.  I just love listening to her.

It has been at times painful, yet amazing to watch my kids live everyday knowing that I have this incurable cancer.  We may not speak about it everyday, but it shows up in their poetry, their writing and sometimes their doodles I find at the bottom of their backpacks.   The boys in particular, as they are older, try to make sense of it all. Sometimes the boys will tell me a fact they have read regarding the life expectancy of a person with this disease.  And they tell me I guess we are one of the lucky ones.  I can see them worrying about me relapsing.  Sometimes I can see the worry and concern in their eyes.  When I'm tired or if I am not feeling well, I can feel them worry.  If they hear of someone dying of cancer, the worry returns.  As a mom, it is so hard to watch them struggle.  I never had to worry about having a sick parent as a kid.  This makes me sad.

My husband Mike has also had a year full of discovery and new passions.  In the fall he completed his first marathon.  This is the same guy, that ran his very first 5k 3 years ago and always said that he could not understand why anyone would ever want to run 26.2 miles.  Well he did it, and he rocked it!  He didn't stop there.  He has spent the past several months training to compete in his very first Half Ironman.  Crazy!!  I have never seen anyone so disciplined.  Mind you, this is a guy who travels for work and is pretty much a workaholic.  Now throw in the training that is required for this event.  Well if anyone can do it, he can.  And this Saturday, all that training will come together as he crosses the finish line.  I am so proud of him.  He is doing this not only as a personal goal, but also to raise money and awareness for Multiple Myeloma as a member of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation Power Team.  Mike has kept his own blog on his training.  Please click on the following link to support Mike

Tomorrow I have my appointment with my Oncologist and I'll receive my Zometa Infusion.  I actually missed my appointment on Monday.  I couldn't believe it. My favorite nurse Leslie called to see where I was.  She laughed and said that it is a good thing when life gets busy and a cancer patient forgets their appointment.  It is nice to finally be at a place where the first thing I think about in the morning is not the Big "C".

Three long years.  But here I am.  Grateful, happy, healthy ,busy and filled with passion.