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. :)
Yesterday, I was introduced to NED! "No evidence of disease"!!!!
I saw Dr. F for my results of my latest round of scans and immediately burst into tears when they told us that the scans looked great and that I was still boring just like 6 months ago. :) But, what shocked me even more was the fact that the bone scan said there was no evidence of metastatic disease in my bones! Well, hello there NED!!!!
Now, let me please explain that Dr. F doesn't put a whole lot of stock in those words. He said he doesn't get "overly excited or impressed" and that these scanning machines are not perfect. He says it's much like looking down from an airplane and trying to see a dandelion in a field. It's near impossible to spot just one but if there are a lot of them in a big patch, you can see them easily. So, he basically means I still could have little isolated cancer cells in my body but right now there isn't enough of them to be detected on the scans. I have always understood this and I am okay with that. I understand that sometimes people hang their hats on "NED" and then they have a scan a few months later that shows a change and they have a huge let down after feeling like they were as close to "cancer free" as possible.
I truly understand that and I have always been happy to hear that I am "stable"...but for right now...for just a few days (or months)...I am going to be extremely thrilled that I am hanging out with NED! I know it doesn't mean I am cancer free or that I am cured. It means that right now my medicine continues to work and keep me in remission. It means that I can continue with my current treatment. It means that my bones, although still damaged, are healing. And most importantly, it means that I can continue having a really amazing quality of life. The few side effects I experience from my meds (hot flashes, fatigue, joint aches) are so minimal in the scheme of things and I don't let a day go by where I am not grateful for that.
There are still little things we will keep an eye on. My platelets are on the low side and I have been having a lot of issues with bruising. If those continue to drop, I will have to have a bone marrow biopsy to see if my meds are impacting my body's platelet production. There are a few other minor issues I have been having but nothing big and nothing that Dr. F is really worried about.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for all of your support, love and prayers! I couldn't be happier and couldn't be more grateful. I do believe in the power of prayer - I believe in God's ability to work miracles and I am not giving up the faith that maybe there is one in store for me. It has taken me this long to truly be able to even put those words out in the universe, but maybe - just maybe, I could live a long, healthy life in complete remission without this awful beast robbing me of my future.
For now, I am believing that this can happen for me and I will continue to fall asleep each night with a smile on my face...dreaming of NED. ;)
With a grateful and overjoyed heart,
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