Friday, January 27, 2012

A Trip of A Lifetime!

I'm back from California!  Although I just returned on Tuesday night, it seems like so long ago.  Yesterday, I was back in the infusion chair for several hours.  I was in for my monthly Zometa infusion.  My labs came back with my potassium low, which meant it was not going to be a quick visit.  After receiving a bag of fluids and potassium, about 4 hours later,  I was given the thumbs up to leave!  Never a dull moment living with MM!

Well,  that's enough with the drama, now on to the fun stuff!  What a trip Suzi and I had!  We were busy from the time we stepped off that airplane on Friday!  Let me first start off with saying how CRAZY the drivers are in LA!!  Everyone is in a rush to go who knows where!  Not to mention the multiple 5 lane freeways!  Thankfully we had a our little GPS friend "Betty" on my Iphone who got us everywhere! Sometimes she led us the long not so scenic way, but she got us there!  Our first day we headed to lunch at the Ivy in Hollywood!  No celebrity sitings, but we had an incredible lunch!  After that we headed to Rodeo Drive!

The next day, we hit Hollywood Boulevard!  It was fun to see the Hollywood stars  and visit the Wax Museum.  It is crazy to see how dirty Hollywood Blvd. is and how run down and not so glamorous it really is.    Once we got our  fair share, we headed out to the hills.  Yup, we did our own tour of Beverly Hills.  We just followed the numerous tour buses and headed to Robertson Blvd.  Our GPS buddy Betty led us some pretty crazy narrow hilly roads.  But we were able to find Michael Jackson's house!

Once we got our share of LA we headed out to Pasadena.  Ahhhh...... there was a definite slower pace there.  What a beautiful city!  It is full of beautiful shops and incredible restaurants.  Everything is beautiful and clean.  The drivers are polite and drive slower!  It has a little New England Charm to it, but on a larger scale.  Our first night we enjoyed a delicious dinner at a great Mediterranean restaurant.  We were able to walk everywhere from our hotel.  After dinner, we walked a couple miles back to our hotel, but realized we needed a chocolate fix.  So we headed out again and found a delicious pastry shop where we purchased cupcakes!  Again, we walked back to the hotel, put on our comfy pjs and indulged!

The next morning, Suz and I headed out to do a 12 mile run.  We were both a bit nervous. We hadn't run over 10 in a while.  We headed out towards the Rose Bowl to do our run.  We quickly were distracted by the incredible smells and sights!  The air smelled like Eucalyptus!  The flowers and lush greenery were beautiful and definitely a nice welcoming change to brown New England!   As we got closer to the stadium we noticed a lot of runners.  Well, it turned out that the Rose Bowl Half Marathon happened to be going on.  So what  did we do, join in!  We had a blast!  It was definitely a great way to see the city.  And for a few miles we were led on a dirt rocky trail with some challenging hills!  The spectators cheering us all on carried us through!  Although we didn't have a bib number, we were definitely invested in this race!  We crossed the finish line which ended right in the stadium with the crowd cheering and the announcing commenting on our smiling faces!  Once we finished the race, the people at the finish line tried to grab our timing chips on our ankles.  Oops !!!  We of course didn't have any!  The race was great!  We are definitely getting excited to run the Boston Marathon in April!  I am just so happy Suzi was able to run without any pain in her hip and I didn't have to visit the med tent!  After the excitement of finishing the race, we then realized we were still several miles from the hotel.  Trying to get our legs to move again was a bit of a challenge!  After we climbed the first hill, they loosened up and we ran back to the hotel!

Suz and I at the finish line at the Rose Bowl Half Marathon, Pasadena, CA

After we showered we got ready to meet some very special people for lunch.  Let me start by sharing with you, that since I was diagnosed I have been in touch with a guy named Mike from California who is also a Multiple Myeloma survivor.  During the first few weeks of my diagnosis when I wasn't getting much sleep at night, I spent a lot of time researching my cancer.  I was desperately looking for anything positive.  In a sea of negativity, one night I received a glimmer of hope.  I was on the MMRF facebook page.  There was a question about how Multiple Myeloma was affecting your life.  I decided to write in. In my words, it was quite clear that I was scared.  Mike responded to me about his situation. From that initial contact, our relationship blossomed from corresponding in long emails,  to text messages,  to long conversations on the phone.  Mike, was also 40 when he was diagnosed.  As an avid boxer and mountain biker he was in great shape.  Multiple Myeloma attacked him fast and furious, as he was in renal failure at diagnosis.  He had recently completed his transplant when he reached out to me.  His honesty and willingness to share his experiences with me helped me tremendously.  Although we had never met, I felt this incredible connection to him.  As we both were dealt the similar cards.  Mike and wife drove out to Pasadena to meet us.  As I exited the elevator in the hotel lobby I spotted Mike and his beautiful wife Kathy.  Tears filled my eyes as we greeted each other with a big hug.  That moment was so overwhelming.  I felt so connected to both of them.  We traveled a similar journey in a lot of ways together, although we had never met before that moment.  We all talked effortlessly at lunch.  Time seemed to stand still.  I could of spent hours chatting with them. Here we were sitting across from each other both currently enjoying life in remission!  We are both enjoying getting back into shape and figuring out life living with an incurable cancer.   When we walked back to the hotel and got ready to say good bye I felt sad.  I wished so much that my husband Mike could have met them. I felt so close to them and didn't want our visit to end.  Suz and I both encouraged them to come out and visit us in New England.  I really hope they do some day.  Mike and Kathy are two beautiful blessings that came into my life with cancer!

My good friend Mike and I in Pasadena!

After another awesome day spent in Pasadena we headed to Burbank for the Ellen Show!  Suz and I were so excited.  When we got to the Warner Brother's Studio we registered and we were handed our VIP Tickets!  There were so many people there.  At this point, we really didn't know what the significance of VIP tickets was.  There were several people with them.  We had also put together a present for Ellen.  It was here birthday this week so we figured, why not.  You should have seen us in Pasadena trying to pick out the perfect gift bag and card.  It is not everyday you get the opportunity to pick out a card for someone as special as Ellen!  In the hotel, we spent about an hour writing a message in her card.  We put together (with the help from our friends at the MMRF) a bag full of goodies!  A MMRF Power Team Shirt, and hat and socks, along with pom poms and Multiple Myeloma burgundy bracelet.  We also included a fun hair clip Sarah and Emily made for Ellen.  We were thrilled when people from her show collected our gift. Hopefully Ellen received it!  

Before the show started, Suz and I headed over to a local bar for a couple of glasses of wine to celebrate and loosen up!  We were so excited and nervous at the same time.  Suz had written to Ellen several times about my story.  Also our friend Alicia over at the MMRF had got in touch with a member from Ellen's production team.   Although we tried not to get our hopes up, we were hoping to have the opportunity either on or off camera to talk with Ellen.  She has made such a difference in so many people's lives.  She uses her platform in such a positive way.  It would be so incredible to share my story and educate her a little about Multiple Myeloma.  It is such an unknown cancer with such a low 5 year survival rate that affects 20,000 people every year.  Just the remote possibility of Ellen being touched and inspired to give this disease a little attention would be so wonderful.


Well the time came to take a seat in the studio.  With our VIP tickets in hand, we were told we could take a seat in the second row from the stage.  At this time, our tickets did not have our name on them or any other identification.  The studio began to fill up with music, excitement and energy!  About 1 minute before Ellen was introduced on stage, a member from her production team came up to us and confirmed that we were in fact Suzi and Jeanie!  Before we could even react, Ellen came out on stage! The show was so much fun!  Ellen danced right by us!  She is even more adorable in person!  We were very surprised that the show runs like a live show with no takes.  Ellen also doesn't interact a whole lot with the audience.  But it was a lot of fun to be there.  Sam Worthington from Avitar was there.  He was adorable and very charming.  Also Michael Strahan, former NFL Giant's player and current sport's commentator.  He was hot to say the least and so funny!  Also Ellen had the very first interview with Seal since the announcement of his separation from Heidi Klum.  Seal definitely has a presence.  He is so tall and handsome.  Who knows what the real situation is, but he came across very loving and such a gentleman.  And in fact, sounds like he is very much in love with his wife.  Although, it was very awkward hearing him sing "Let's Stay Together" based on his current marital status.  

All during the show there were unexpected moments.  Suzi and I kept thinking are we going to be called up on stage?  Why did the producers point us out?  Ellen sat in her chair and announced she had a letter to read.  And our hearts began to pound.  Unfortunately it wasn't our letter.  Before we knew it the show was over.  Ellen came out on stage one more time when the cameras stopped rolling.  We thought, maybe this is it.  But instead she informed the audience that the paparazzi was outside hoping to get information from the audience about Seal's interview.  There was a little part of us that was crushed.  We almost wished that the producer never approached us.  The show ran long, and perhaps they were planning on doing something but ran out of time.  We will never know.  It wasn't that we wanted a moment of fame, we were really just hoping to give Multiple Myeloma some much needed attention.  I am still hopeful that she will be touched by our gift and card.

Well that is a little recap of our fun girls long weekend away!  It was a trip full of fun, excitement and emotions!  I am getting back to my "mommy world" now.  I have a sick boy home from school today. Yesterday with the day spent at the hospital  I haven't had any time to run this week.  I am hoping to get in a nice long run this weekend!  The Boston Marathon is only 79 days away.  I feel so blessed to be healthy and strong enough to be running!  I would love to honor all those who are fighting for the lives and those who have lost their fight.  Please visit my page if you would like to sponsor me.  I will proudly write your loved one's name on my running shirt!  Every little bit helps and together we will run miles to save lives!  The innovative treatments that are being funded by the MMRF are also being used in over 30 other cancers.  The MMRF has recently been awarded by the Charity Navigator, America's premier independent evaluator of charitable organizations, its 4-star rating.  It is the highest rating possible for the ninth consecutive year, demonstrating exceptional fiscal responsibility in the MMRF's efforts to bring patients the next generation of treatments and find a cure for multiple myeloma.  You can be sure your donation will go directly to improving and extending the lives of so many.

Enjoy all your blessings this weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A New Year.... New Adventures!

Happy New Year!  I cannot believe it has been so long since I last posted.  That is an indication of how well life is going.  Life has resumed to it's busy pace.  Lately it has been hard to carve out some quiet time to myself to reflect and to write.  Today before the kids rushed off to school I was giving them all a lecture about being responsible for their gloves, hats, etc.  Yup the small stuff matters again, yeah!

The holidays this year were wonderful.  It was great to be my energetic self again.  I cherished every moment of decorating the house, picking out special presents, the wrapping and of course all of the baking.  The smells and sounds of Christmas that fill our home is absolute heaven!  After being so sick last year, it was so great to have a big hand in creating the "magic" of Christmas!

After the holidays, as I was packing up all many boxes of decorations, I couldn't help think what next Christmas may bring.  I can only hope and pray that life continues to blossom and that we will be all together celebrating.

In my previous posts you may have read how my friend Suzi and I won VIP Tickets to the Ellen Show at the MMRF Fall Gala in October.  Well the time has finally come and we are flying out to California on Friday.  We are so excited!  It is so funny how irony works.  When I first got diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in June 2010, Suzi wrote to the Ellen Show.  She shared my story and all the efforts we have been making with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.  Although we never heard back from anyone from the show, I believe it planted the seed for what was to come.  So in October at the Gala when Suzi and I saw the auction item for the The Ellen Show, we knew we had to bid.  When we found out we won the tickets we were so thrilled!

We are not quite sure what VIP tickets mean.  What we do know is that we will be at the studio on Monday, January, 23 for the taping of her show.  I think it may air on Tuesday, Jan. 24.  We hope we get the chance to meet her.  The MMRF is putting together a fun package that we can hopefully give to Ellen personally.  I will be sure to post lots of pictures!  Look for Suz and I dancing in the audience!

In addition to getting ready for my trip I am in week 14 of my training for the Boston Marathon.  This Friday Suz and I will be doing our long 12 mile run in California!  It's been so cold around here lately so we have had to run indoors.  It will be so great to run outside!  I think we will definitely make it a nice coastal run!  Hard to believe race day is only 88 days away.  This time around, I am following a comprehensive running/strength training schedule from the book The Marathon Method, by Tom Holland.    Hopefully being better prepared in my training as well as with my nutrition and fueling I will avoid the medical tent this race!

Please click on the link to visit my fundraising page.  We are running as part of the MMRF PowerTeam!  My fundraising goal is $4000.00  I appreciate any contributions!  If you would like to honor a loved one who is battling cancer today or has lost the big fight, please sponsor me a $1 per mile for the big day, and  I will wear your loved one's name on my running shirt!

I will keep you all posted with our adventures in California.  Now time to figure out what to pack!  Have a great day!