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!
Have you ever had one of those out of body moments where you feel like you are floating above your physical self and somehow watching what is unfolding rather than truly experiencing it? That's how I felt on New Year's Eve during my first radiation treatment. It was almost exactly three years ago that I first laid on that radiation table. I have said this before but it's true in this circumstance as well...some days it seems like yesterday that I was diagnosed and first went through radiation, and other days it feels like a lifetime ago. As I laid on my back in that lovely hospital gown and looked up into the bright flourescent lights, reality struck me and I almost couldn't believe I was there. It hasn't necessarily been smooth sailing, but all in all, I have been doing amazingly well throughout the past three years since I last had radiation. And although I had a sneaking suspicion that something was wrong, it still takes me by surprise sometimes that I am in the thick of things again..waging a full out battle against this disease.
Once again, I have nothing but the best things to say about the amazing Karmanos Cancer Institute where I am treated. My radiation oncologist, Dr. M has made me feel very confident in this process and I am grateful for that. Originally Dr. M stated that he really wanted to do a special targeted high dose radiation called Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy - also known as Cyberknife or Gamma Knife treatment. You can read more about it here but basically it would be a higer dose radiation that only requires 3 treatments and has less side effects. We did the entire simulation for this which required a custom molded cast of sorts of my body which would ensure I wouldn't move during radiation, as well as a bar across my abdomen so that I couldn't take a deep breath which would cause too much internal movement. I had the tattooing done as well so I could be lined up perfectly on the radiation table. During the simulation they also do a few CT scans to determine exactly what the radiation field will be that will receive treatment.
Unfortunately, the night before I started radiation, Dr. M called me to say that once he completed the planning after the simulation, he realized that too much of my spinal cord would be within the radiation field. The spinal cord is able to take some radiation, but not at the intensity that the Cyberknife would be. So I have been receiving more tradiational radiation treatment like I did to my chest 3 years ago but thankfully, I only need 10 treatments. I head to radiation each morning before work or on my way home from work and truthfully, it's a super easy and straightforward treatment. It's pretty similiar to what I wrote in my previous post 3 years ago about radiation so if you want to read more details about the entire process, check that out here.
I have completed 7 treatments so far and I am so happy to report that I am definitely feeling relief. My hip is feeling much better and although I am not painfree, the difference is truly noticeable and has restored my ability to sleep and relax comfortably while sitting. I am barely taking any medicine for pain and my overall quality of life is significantly improved. So cheers to that!!!
Thank you for the continued support. The calls, texts, flowers, blog comments...it all means so much to me.
Hope 2015 brings continued happiness and good health for us all!
A glimpse at my Groundhog Day routine at radiation....
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 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 ♥
My blog to keep you all