Night time used to be my favorite part of the day. The time when Mike and I would cozy up in bed together and I would half jokingly, but half seriously, prod him to tell me his "hopes and dreams" for the future. In a particularly funny voice, I would say it the same way every time, "Sooo....what are your hopes and dreams?" He would always laugh and roll his eyes at me and it became a silly game we would often play. But all joking aside, I loved those conversations about our dreams for the future....where would we want to live, what trips were we going to take, what did we want to name our kids. Mike has always had this incredible way of simply living in the moment and being completely content with that. While I have always been a planner and a dreamer. Not to say I wasn't content with where we were in that moment, but I loved dreaming of the future and what our life would look like. It's one of the most difficult things that cancer has taken from me.
I am grateful that after almost five years of living with this disease, I have learned how to plan and dream again. But it's simply not the same. I have to add little disclaimers to my hopes and dreams now when Mike and I talk about them...."If I make it to 40, let's do _______", or "let's go on that trip next year...if my scans are okay." Have you ever seen "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"? When I think and dream about the future, it's like a scene from that movie with these incredibly beautiful landscapes, bright and vivid colors....and then all of a sudden it's as if my dream balloon pops and I am struck in the face with the reality of living with an unpredictable disease, and my dreams turn to black and white, void of all the magic in that colorful fantasy world. No matter how hard I try, I cannot dream with the same reckless abandon that I once could.
Of course every situation has two sides to the story and I like to believe there is always a silver lining to be found. Over these last few years, I have come to appreciate living in the moment more than I ever did before. I have learned that I can still have dreams of the future, but instead of 10 or 20 years down the road, I talk to Mike about my dreams for next year and what we want our life to look like. I suppose it's all about learning how to handle the cards that are dealt to you. It reminds me of one of my very favorite quotes....
I am so grateful that many of my hopes and dreams have come to fruition over the last few years. And even more recently, a big one was a family vacation we all took to Mexico the day after Christmas. The older I get, the more I realize that we really don't need much to be happy in this life. All of the material possessions just don't do it for me anymore. I have the hardest time trying to give my family ideas for gifts for Christmas or birthdays. All we really need is to be surrounded by those we love and share experiences that bring us joy and memories we can hold onto.
I was so happy when my family agreed with me last year that rather than exchanging gifts for Christmas, we should take a family trip together. I don't think I had been on a vacation with my brother since I was in the 7th or 8th grade! We all left for Mexico the day after Christmas and not only celebrated the holiday there together, but Mike and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary and we all rang in another new year! I am so grateful for this time together and it was a week I will cherish forever.
I have been feeling really well overall. Just dealing with some fatigue that seems to be worse lately and some aches and pains that truthfully probably have more to due with aging and having a physically demanding job. Can't blame everything on cancer I guess. ;) I am scheduled for another round of scans on Monday, March 13th and will get the results that Thursday, on St. Patrick's Day. I am taking that as a good omen for this Irish girl! And hey, if the results aren't good, at least I can drown my sorrows in some green beer, right?! :) Please keep us in your prayers at that time in particular, because I am still enjoying a very good quality of life on these current meds and truthfully, I am fearful that treatments down the road might not be so kind.
I am going to try to make more of an effort to keep up with the blog. Not only to share what has been going on with me, but also because it is a cathartic experience and I think it's important I make it a priority for myself. There are times when I am feeling down that it really helps me sort through my feelings, or look back on all I have been through in order to help give myself a little pep talk to keep on truckin'. I am also grateful it has served as a time capsule of sorts since this journey began and I want to make sure I contine that. I can't believe I only posted twice last year so hopefully I will take some time to document some of the great things that happened, like throwing out the first pitch at the Tigers Game! It was a pretty amazing experience!
So, now here I sit during my new favorite time of the day...the very early morning (of Saturday or Sunday in particular), before the sun rises. If I haven't run myself ragged the day before, I am able to crawl out of bed when Gracie wakes me at 6:00am. The house is dark, as is the entire neighborhood. After feeding the dogs, I start the fireplace and sit with a cup of coffee on the couch. This is the one time of the day where I allow myself to bask in the quiet, in the stillness that surrounds me, and be alone with my thoughts. It is in this time of the day that I enjoy the gift of another sunrise, another day full of hope and possibilities...and that in itself is enough...a dream that has already come true.
ps - Happy Valentine's Day to all of you...just an extra excuse to tell those you love just how much you appreciate them. Nothing better than that. So with that said, I hope you know how much I genuinely appreciate all of you who continue to be amazing friends and devoted family and those who keep us in our prayers even if you have never met us. Sending you lots of love today!
How is it that time just passes in the blink of an eye? All of a sudden, here we are at the end of another year. It never ceases to amaze me at how fast life continues to roll on - no matter what we are dealing with. I suppose that is a good thing in many ways. It helps drag us along during those tough times, until finally we can feel the weight start to lift and the sun shine on better days.
As I sit here reflecting on this year, I feel such a mix of emotions and thoughts - all of which culminate to one overriding message. Perseverance.
The year has been filled with many up's and down's - which is true for all of us - although especially lately, it seems like the lows have been more frequent and deeper to crawl out of. We have had many blessings including a new home, continued good scans, and countless great memories with family and friends. But, this year has also brought many challenges for us emotionally which have tested our faith and trust in the greater plan that God has for us.
The past few months have been the most challenging for me emotionally since my initial diagnosis. Due to a variety of issues, I hit a new low and struggled to even find the joy in each day. For the first time, I truly wondered if I was being punished for something. I felt an overwhelming sense that we were continually knocked down and made to endure heartache after heartache, while it seemed like others around us, received abundant blessings and joy. It is a very dark and lonely place to be.
As I have worked through these times, I have simply resigned myself to the fact that our lives will forever be filled with pain and heartache. Living with this disease has impacted our lives in countless ways, many of which I am just now starting to fully understand and experience. The continued physical toll is heavy, but the emotional toll is often times unbearable. I have recently felt as though this can turn you into a pretty selfish person - focusing on how hard you have it - how sad you may feel - how your future will never look like what you always thought it would. I fell down a slippery slope of sadness and guilt and failed to see how I was pulling Mike down right along with me.
The one positive aspect of hitting your own personal rock bottom, is that you have no choice but to go up. To make the slow climb out of the darkness and back into the light. It allows you to take time to reflect, to evaluate, and to reset your life's compass back on the path that you would most like to travel.
I share these personal struggles not only as a cathartic tool, but to also help remind myself that it is okay if I am not able to feel grateful, positive and optimistic 100% of the time. I have struggled with guilt and feeling like a fraud when I experience these tough times because so many of you always think of me as being so happy and positive. I am trying to release myself of these chains that bind me to the sense that because I am alive, I must be grateful at all costs - because I have lost friends that would trade places with me in a heartbeat. I am learning that because I have been able to stay in remission, doesn't mean the collateral damage of this disease will leave me - and that it's okay and perfectly human to have moments of despair, sadness and even self pity. Yes, I am so grateful - for so much - but this life is also very difficult at times - more difficult than I would have ever imagined.
Life is about perseverance. It is about riding the waves of the good times, but being able to pick yourself back up when you get knocked down with your face in the sand. It's learning how to brush yourself off and get back out there to try to ride that wave of happiness once again. Because in the end, those moments of pure joy are worth every second of despair and defeat that may be encountered along the way.
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Seems like I have sand and surf on the brain, huh? :) Well, that's because Mike and I are leaving for California the day after Christmas. To say that I am excited, is definitely an understatement. We have wanted to take this trip and venture along the Pacific Coast Highway for years and I am so glad we are taking the time to do it. That is one gift that living with disease can give. It makes you realize that there is no sense putting off your hopes and dreams if you have the ability to make them a reality. Do it today. Do it now. We never know what tomorrow will bring. We need this time away together so badly and I cannot wait to see the ocean, and the Redwoods and watch the sunset with Mike by my side.
Not only will we be celebrating our 6th anniversary on this trip, and New Years Eve, but we will be celebrating another round of great scans! I saw Dr. F last week and found out that everything still looks great! He is very please and so are we - to say the least! I will continue with my current meds and 6 month scans - no need to change course. Thank you all so very much for your prayers and support. Going through those tests is such an anxiety ridden time, and your loving words of hope and encouragement mean so much to us.
Thank you for loving us and supporting us along this journey. We hope you have a wonderful holiday season with your nearest and dearest. We look forward to great things in 2014. See you in the New Year!
Can't wait to share our images from California in the next post. Until then, a few iphone pics of my beautiful friends, family, pup and yard. :)
New favorite word #1.....STABLE! The scan results are in and everything looks good! Stable...no evidence of active disease...nothing new...continued healing of the affected spots throughout my spine. Can I get an "AMEN!".....Woohooooo!!!!!!!
Second favorite word..."Boring". That's what Dr. F called me today and I take that as the biggest compliment I have received in a long time. I have yearned to be "boring" - medically speaking, anyways. Although Dr. F doesn't get all excited and enthusiastic, he did express his satisfaction with these results and said we will just keep the course since it seems to be working well and keeping my disease dormant...and that's what we are hoping and praying for, for a long long time!
No other real news to report - I will continue with my two injections into my abdomen every 4 weeks, follow up with Dr. F every 8 weeks and continue to be scanned every 6 months.
I wish there were better words for me to use to truly convey my appreciation and gratitude to all of you for your love, support and prayers...but really there is nothing else I can say except for a HUUUUGGGEEEE, "THANK YOU!" Thank you so very much for everything. Truly. You have no idea how much comfort and hope it brings me to know so many people are thinking of us, praying for us, and supporting us. It really does make a huge impact on Mike and I, and I hope you all know how immensely grateful we are.
What an incredible start to 2013! If these results are any indication of what this year has in store for us, I think it's going to be an amazing year. Happy New Year to all of you and I wish you all nothing but health and happiness in 2013!
I hear you will be coming to town tonight...and maybe even stopping by on my rooftop. I have long understood that your anticipated visit is contingent upon my behavior this year. What's that you ask?....Was I good this year? Did I behave? Have I listened to my mother, done my chores, ate my veggies?
Well, I can assure you that I have most definitely done the latter...I have surely ate well over my weight in kale, cucumbers, and spinach this year. Santa, I promise that I have listened to my momma (most of the time) and to my doctors (all of the time). I have taken my medications, cared for my radiated burned skin, and emptied my surgical drains. I have allowed my body to rest, but I've also pushed it at times when I wanted to feel like my old self again.
This year I have tried to make a difference. I have volunteered my time. I have shared my story. I have spoke to thousands. I have attended conferences and meetings. I have tried to be a source of support for those newly diagnosed.
I have returned to work, albeit on a (very) part time basis. I have started a small business that fuels my creative side. I have invested time, money, and energy into activities that feed my soul. I have traveled, visited friends, and tried to spend as much time as possible with those I love the most.
But Santa, I have to come clean and tell you that I have not been perfect. I must admit, I have fallen off the wagon with my exercise routine. That has really been bothering me and will definitely be a priority for 2013. I have been unsuccessful at giving up my beloved Diet Coke and I'm fearful I may now be considered an "addict". And while we are on the subject of confessions, I will acknowledge to you that I am still a terribly inconsistent flosser.
I have also been hard on myself this year, Santa. I have dealt with a lot of guilt, frustrations, and sadness. I have often felt lost while I try to understand how to live a life where I am not the PT that works the most hours and sees the most patients - where I am not a mother, nor will I be a "mother to be" -- I am a 30 year old woman that often feels worried sick about her husband and mother, should anything ever happen to me.
I am a constant work in progress - learning how to ride these waves until the storm passes, and hoping for many days of sunshine until the next set of dark clouds start to roll in.
Santa, although I am guilty of occasionally losing my patience, taking my husband for granted, or being sassy with my mom - I promise that I have tried my best to make it on your "good list" this year. I have tried to be positive and optimistic, open-minded and understanding, hopeful and grateful - each and every day. I have tried to be a good wife, daughter, sister and friend. I have tried to live each day to the fullest, to restrain myself from useless complaints, and to appreciate all of the blessings in my life and in doing so, take the focus away from the many hardships our family continues to face.
So, if I may ask for just one thing this year, Santa...I am please asking (or more like begging) for a good report from my scans on January 3. I would please LOVE clean scans that show no new growth of this disease, so that I may continue to enjoy this beautiful life. That I may continue to live each day with the same quality of life that I experience now. That I can continue to strive to reach my dreams with Mike. So I can watch my friends children grow up, and so I can be here to take care of my parents one day instead of them taking care of me - that's just not the way it's supposed to work.
Tomorrow morning I will wake up next to my best friend, and feel the weight of my pup at my feet, and I will smile like I do each morning. A smile of thanks for another day. As I make my way to the family room, I won't expect anything from you under the tree. I will hold out hope that the one and only gift I truly pray for will arrive next week in the form of a good report from my oncologist, Dr. F.
Thank you for listening, Santa.
Merry Christmas to you and to all of those that I love.
I woke up on New Years Eve and while still laying in bed next to Mike, I shouted, "Peace out 2011, adios, sayonara"...and I might have even thrown in a four letter word about how much I hated 2011 and how eager I was to bid farewell to the year.
But then I thought about it a little bit more and came to a few realizations. Not to sound dramatic, but dealing with a life-threatening illness gives you a perspective on things that's greater than what you realized was even possible. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how wonderful 2011 was, while at the same time being the most devastating and difficult year of my life. Doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense when I put it like that, huh?
Well, although 2011 brought the "C word" into our lives, the year was also filled with many other amazing things....
- The birth of 4 of my best friends babies
- Mike & I took a fabulous trip to Seattle just weeks before I was diagnosed
- We were spoiled with 2 visits to Michigan from our favorite Floridian friends :)
- We were still able to attend 6 of our friends/families weddings (out of the 12 we were invited to)
- Experienced the unforgettable 3 Day For a Cure event with my amazing team and all of you that came to support us
- We not only visited Seattle, but went to Petosky, Nashville, Ludington, Sage Lake with my girls, and Fort Lauderdale - all while I was undergoing chemo - and Chicago the month after my surgery
- Had 3 of my wonderful sorority sisters come visit for a weekend while they were here for the 3 Day For A Cure event
- I went to my first U of M football game at The Big House! ...and it was their first ever night game....and they beat Notre Dame!
- I met Kris Carr - a true inspiration
- Had a visit from Sarah, one of my best friends and roommates from college who came all the way from Denver
- Was able to get together with 4 more of my wonderful college roomies just after Christmas
- Mike and I had the huge honor of becoming Godparents to sweet little Alice
- I have met and forged friendships with so many amazing people that I likely would have never known if it weren't for my diagnosis this year
- And had countless other wonderful moments with our friends and family - whether it was a quick visit, a night out together, or the incredible "Love Fest" - we have made so many great memories with everyone!
So while it would be easy to say how awful this year has been, how much heartache and tears it has caused, how much we have had to give up and miss out on....how can I possibly look at it in such a negative way when I look at that list of incredible moments from this year.
During a time when I could have curled up in a ball, stayed under the covers and felt sorry for myself, I chose to live! To get up each and every day and try to make the best of it - whether I am feeling a little sad or achy, tired or frustrated - I have never let it stop me from living my life and doing all of the things I love. I have heard many people say that cancer was somewhat of a blessing in their lives because it taught them how to live life to the fullest and enjoy each moment. Well, I am so thankful that I have always lived this way. Mike and I have always packed our calendars with amazing things like 10 or 12 weddings in a year, weekend getaways, and countless nights with friends. Sure, my cancer treatment has slowed me down a bit - but it has not taken over my life or stopped me from creating these lasting memories with the people I love.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to each and every single one of you that has helped me get through 2011. Whether you are one of my best friends that I talk to regularly, a neighbor that waves hello on the street, or someone I have never met that prays for me and my family....Thank you! I have no idea how I would have made it through these difficult months without you. I feel your love and support each and every day and it is what helps me pull back the covers and get out of bed on those tough mornings. I am so grateful for all of you and the way you cheer me on, boost my spirits, and inspire me to keep going.
I can only imagine what incredible blessings and memories this next year will bring. The great thing is that with Mike by my side, and all of you supporting me, I know that I can get through anything. If 2011 has taught me anything, it's that I am a lot tougher than I ever gave myself credit for. I know I will be able to overcome any obstacles in my path and move on to bigger and better things. I am confident 2012 will bring even more happiness and great memories than this past year did and I pray that it brings me a renewed sense of health so that I am able to tackle even more this year and start to give back to all of you that have helped carry me through this year.
Mike and I would like to sincerely wish all of our friends & family (and all of you that follow that blog that we have never even met!) a happy New Year! We wish you nothing but health and happiness for 2012...thank you for all you have done to support us through 2011 - we are beyond grateful!
xoxo, Meghan....and Mike too! :)
Here's a few quick snapshots from some great times with our friends over the past week...
Momma Jan, Court, Kate, Kel, Alice, Wrig and I...always a blast when I get together with some of my very best girls!
Mike snuggling his sweet little Goddaughter during a visit after Christmas
Some of my wonderful college roomies from 210 Campus Avenue :) So grateful we were able to meet up in Ohio after Christmas. We missed you Nikki, Kim, Sarah & Jules!
Our last pic of 2011 - just before midnight ♥
To be honest, the holidays have been difficult for me this year. I don't like complaining and I genuinely feel grateful for each and every day - but that doesn't mean that certain times aren't rough. I am the type of girl that normally gets really into the holiday spirit. I love decorating the house, picking out the perfect gifts, and spending tons of time with family and friends to celebrate. But I have struggled this year - struggled to get motivated to do my shopping, struggled to get excited about putting up my outdoor Christmas lights, and struggled to muster up the energy for all the parties and social events of the holiday season.
I had a wonderful few days last week when my friend Sarah was visiting. After Sarah left on Thursday, I fell into a bit of a funk. I think I was just exhausted from radiation, physical therapy, and running all around town showing Sarah a great time while she was here. I spent much of Friday and Saturday fighting back tears - and often times losing that battle - and just crying for no apparent reason. My poor husband would look over and check on me every 15 minutes or so to ask how I was doing - he could sense it and see it all over my face that I was just feeling down. I couldn't perk myself up, couldn't force a smile, and just felt like I wanted the holidays to be over - as much as I feel ashamed to say that because I know I should be grateful for this time with friends and family. It just felt like a bit of a blue Christmas this year.
Christmas Eve we had Mom, Doug, Mike, Diane, Dan and Melissa over for dinner and we had a great time. It helped distract me from my funk for a little while. Christmas morning we headed to Mom & Doug's for breakfast and gift exchanging. As always, we had a wonderful morning together, along with Jeff. But, I felt exhausted already. My eyes were burning from the second I woke up and I just didn't have the usual excitement about the day like I normally do. For the first time in my entire life, I didn't spend the rest of the day with my family. I decided to head back home with Mike instead of going to my aunts, and then to Mike's aunts later that night. I put on my pj's, laid on the couch, watched Home Alone (my favorite Christmas movie ever - along with Love Actually) and didn't move for the rest of the day. Of course I felt guilty not being with my family, but it was the first time in my life I didn't have to run around to a bunch of places on Christmas day. Not only did I want and need to let my body rest, but I just felt like being alone - at least alone with Mike and the pup. I can't really explain all of my emotions well so it might be hard for others to understand. The bottom line is that sometimes all of this is a lot to handle and it can be really tough - really, really tough - and I guess the holidays this year has been one of those times.
It's also hard to face coming to the end of a year that was filled with so many hopes and dreams. Every year I set goals and make resolutions for the upcoming year and Mike and I talk about all the exciting things that we hope might happen. I had such high hopes this year - dreams that didn't come true, and may never come true now that cancer has entered my life. And yes, I know that I have accomplished a lot. I know that people will say, "But look at all you have been through and how well you are doing". I know that I have so much to be grateful for and that I will set new goals and have new dreams. But, I also think it's only fair to let me mourn the loss of my old ones.
I had such a blast with Sarah last week. I am so grateful that she took the time to come and visit. Love you friend!
What gets me through each of those dark times, is my best friend. His love and support mean the world to me. During those difficult times, he knows exactly what to say, or not say - when to hug me, and when to give me my space. He knows me better than I know myself sometimes and I would be lost without him.
Our fate was sealed with a kiss on a unforgettable night 13 years ago. It was New Years Eve of 1998 and I had a serious crush on a cute senior boy, one year older than me. He was the star of the basketball and baseball teams and although we had known each other since we were in elementary school, we had just recently become good friends. A friendship that quickly turned into stalling after our respective basketball and volleyball practices so that we could see each other, phone conversations that went on for hours into the late night, and re-routing how we walked to class so that we could "run" into each other throughout the day.
I will never forget that New Years Eve. I remember exactly where we were, who we were with, and what I was wearing. I remember when Mike asked me to go outside to "talk" which led to that first magical kiss. It started as complete teenage puppy love - I was a few months shy of my 17th birthday and Mike was 18. We have been together ever since.
You aren't supposed to marry the first boy you fall in love with, right? You are supposed to date a bunch of people to figure out exactly who is right for you and weed out all the jerks before settling down and getting married. But what happens when you meet the love of your life as a kid? All I know is that I thank God every day that I recognized how incredible Mike was back then and how special our relationship was....I held on tight and never let go. And the rest is history.
Even before this recent roller coaster started, we had been through a lot together. We spent 4 years in a long distance relationship in college, supported each other through personal and family struggles, and endured the loss of Mike's mom together. By the time we were married, it felt as though we had been through more than many couples that had been together for twice as long as we had. I thought we were surely in the clear for awhile - that we had dealt with our fair share of heartache. I would have never guessed what was waiting ahead for us.
But through it all, we have remained absolute best friends. There is no one I would rather be with on this planet than my husband. And although we have surely had more difficult times than many people our age - the amazing, wonderful, and hilarious times FAR outweigh the tough ones.
Tomorrow we will celebrate 4 years of marriage, and 13 years together - nearly half of my life spent with the most incredible person I know. I am so blessed...but I am greedy and I want many, many more....100 more years would still not be enough.
Happy Anniversary to a man that lives out his vows each and every day. I am so honored and proud to be your wife. ♥
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