2 Years Later….From Sadness To Heart Prints

June 3, that date will forever be a day that I will always remember.  It was 2 years ago exactly, that I received a call that forever changed my life.  That morning started off just like every morning.  Enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee, sitting with my dog Flower for a few peaceful moments before the morning craze of making lunches and getting all 4 kids off to the bus on time.  I can recall that I was looking ahead to my morning workout after the kids got on the bus.  I was already planning my workout schedules for the last few weeks of school, knowing that once the kids were on vacation, workouts would be more challenging to squeeze in.  Instead, our days would be spent having fun at the lake and beach and entertaining my kids for the summer.

As a Type A girl who is constantly planning her days ahead, my big stresses in life were getting my kids up and out of the house in the morning (with as little drama as possible), making sure beds were made and the house was clean (yes, I am a total neat freak), all laundry was done and put away, morning workouts done, grass was cut and green, the fridge was packed with healthy yummy food, kids homework and projects and driving my kids to all their after school activities and sports.  And of course, making sure the house was orderly and somewhat calm when my husband came home on a Friday night after traveling all week.  Day in and day out this is what my days looked like.  I seemed to fill my days completely allowing myself very little time to sit and ponder and think about what more life had to offer.  Or to think about relationships I wanted to work on or goals (other than fitness) I wanted to set for myself.  Life was pretty great.  It was pretty predictable and very routine, just the way I liked it.  
But one phone call received on the morning of June 3, changed all that.  In other words, it disrupted the neat and tidy little package of my” predictable scheduled life”.  That call was from a Plastic Surgeon who removed an “annoying cyst” on my sternum, that ended up to be a malignant tumor.  A tumor that today, I am so grateful existed.  I was one of the lucky ones who actually had a tumor that exposed itself and all the destruction that was taking place inside my physically fit body.  From the outside I looked strong and in great shape.  Yet inside my cells were being plagued with cancer and my bones were weakening.  Over 80% of my plasma cells were being destroyed by Multiple Myeloma.  Many patients are not so lucky.  In fact many do not even discover that they are sick until their kidneys are no longer functioning.  
I was a strong healthy woman who felt great.  I was in the best shape of my life.   How could I have cancer? How could I have an incurable cancer with one of the poorest survival rates when I feel so great?  I never smoked, I ate healthy, exercised, wore sunblock.  Yes, I enjoyed my nightly glass of wine.  But cancer!  No freaking way!!!  This was a cruel joke!!  
This was no joke.  It was real.  Who am I kidding?   It was hell! My hell!   Mike and I were slammed right in the face with the brutal reality that life was not going to be the way we had planned it out to be.  Someone else was in charge and it wasn’t us.  We were helpless, terrified and desperate.  We had a life with plans.  We had 4 busy kids and a busy life and we did not have room for unexpected surprises like this.  I can’t be getting sick.  I can’t be dying. This was NOT Fair!  I was a good person.  And good things should not happen like this to good people.  What did we do to deserve this???
Wow, were we ever naive.  Cancer has no prejudices.  It doesn’t matter how good you are, how healthy you are, how successful you are.  Cancer affects everyone.  And I guess my number was up.  So I was the one sitting in the oncologist office squeezing my husbands hand every so tightly as the doctor was giving us my diagnosis.   It was just like how you would imagine it to be, an outer body experience.  I could see the doctor mouth moving and and sounds coming from his voice.  Yet I could not even focus on what he was saying.  My husband Mike was asking the questions, staying strong and I just sat there totally unfocused and in total disbelief.  In my mind, I was dying.  I had very little hope and I had never felt so lonely, scared, mad and heartbroken.
Today, it is June 4, 2012.  The last few months since my last post have been a whirlwind of exciting life changing moments. Where to begin?  I think a photo of one of the greatest moments in my life will get us started!

Suz and I crossing the finish line of this year’s Boston Marathon!

The Boston Marathon was such an incredible experience.  It was one of hottest days on record for the race.  Over 4,000 registered runners decided not to run on that hot morning.  Suz and I definitely had some anxiety as the temperatures climbed that morning.  I know for a fact, our families were not very happy that we were running on such a hot day.  Mike, my parents, and my sister as well as many friends and extended family members were hoping I would drop out.  But Suz and I had trained so hard for this day.  It was such an incredible honor to be running as part of the MMRF Power Team.  Together Suz and I raised over $8,000 with the help of so many supportive friends and family (thank you all so much).  We felt so honored to be running, we couldn’t possibly drop out.  Fortunately for us, the city of Boston came out and supported us, cheered for us, gave us ice, water, oranges, Popsicles, and everything else we could possibly need to help us  run the 26.2 challenging miles!  We met so many inspirational runners along the way.  The MMRF Power Team was a group of the most inspirational loving people all running in memory or in honor of their loved ones affected by Multiple Myeloma.  Each one of their stories touched me in so many ways.  I know that seeing me run gave those who had loved ones struggling with this disease, so much hope for brighter days ahead.

When we approached Heartbreak Hill, Suzi’s sister Lolly met us with a big sign with our names on it and ran with us up the challenging hills.  I can vividly recall one moment when Lolly and Suzi were running ahead of me.  Spectators were yelling” Go Suzi and Jeanie !” I became so overwhelmed just thinking about all that had occurred over the last 2 years.  How blessed I have truly been.  To go from feeling so sad and helpless and weak to conquering each step of  Heartbreak Hill in the blazing hot sun.  The crowd, the excitement, the emotions, my exhaustion, it all become so overwhelming and the tears strolled down my face.  And it hit me.  Life is so freaking incredible!!  This is what it means to really live your best and be all that you can be!  Cancer has indeed brought me a gift.  The smell, the taste, the joy of life!  Damn it is fantastic!  And it just keeps getting better and better!

I knew that our families were at mile 25 with the MMRF.  I think the heat and exhaustion got the best of me at about mile 21.  I lost track of what mile I was at.  Suz ran ahead ,( gotta love my Energizer Bunny) chatting with our husbands on the phone letting them know we were coming. My legs were moving but my mind was drifting.  I felt as though I was once again in one of those outer body experiences.  I could see the spectators cheering us on, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying.  My body wanted me to stop, but I kept going.   I just wanted to see the kids. I knew that once I saw the kids and Mike I knew I would be only a mile away from finishing.  Suz grabbed another bag of ice from the bag of spectators and threw it under my hat. It had to be almost 90 degrees.  Suz was getting very concerned and tried to get me to keep talking.  I finally got the energy to ask what mile we were at.  Just I asked we saw the mile 25 marker and saw the big orange flags.   The MMRF fans were just ahead!.  Our incredible husbands and amazing kids were there cheering us on.  They were there in hot sun all day giving out water and cheering on all the runners.  Suz and I were so proud of them.  When they saw us at mile 25, their smiles brought tears to our eyes.  They looked so proud and excited and of course very relieved seeing us still looking strong and determined to finish.  I know for me it was one of those life changing moments I will never forget.  I stopped and hugged everyone supporting the MMRF.  I didn’t even know some of them.  But I thanked each and everyone of them and gave them a big hug, as tears rolled down my face.  Just seeing them all gave me renewed energy.  Suz and I held hands as we ran the last 1/4 mile.  We did it!  We finished!  Final time: 5:23.02.

The greatest support system in the world.  Our families!  
Suz and I.  I absolutely love love this woman!  I am so lucky to have her in my life!  Together holding hands as we  approached the finish line!

Next on the agenda was our surprise trip to Disney.  The kids had absolutely no idea!  We woke them up on a  Friday morning at 5:30 AM and surprised them with the fact that they were not going to school and that the car was all packed up and we were heading to the airport.  Our first lag was to Dulles Airport.  So  as far as they knew, we were heading to DC.  Mike and I were bursting inside.  Our total Type A son Cam started to search on the IPhone in the car for things to do in Washington DC.  By the time we got to Boston Logan Airport (about an hour drive), he had the whole 
trip planned out.
Once we got to DC, Mike ran in the bathroom and came out with a Mickey T-shirt. It was the exact shirt he wore 17 years ago when he proposed to me in Disney World.  Our kids were totally shocked when we announced the surprise that we were actually spending the week in Disney.  In fact, our son Cam who is never without words, was completely speechless for the first time in his life!
We had a incredible week. The kids kept us going 14 hour days everyday.  We never stopped,  and still we didn’t see everything.  It was so great to just have a whole week of fun with the kids!  Our last night there, Mike and the kids surprised me.  Just as Cinderella’s castle was all lit up in pink and purple, Mike took out a ring that he and Sarah picked out at the park.  Mike once again almost 17  years later, 4 beautiful children later, a cancer diagnosis later, pledged his love and commitment to me.  It was beautiful.  Needless to say I crying with happiness just like the day he proposed to me. 

When we got back to New Hampshire, my parents flew up from Florida to watch the kids while Mike and I flew to Bali, Indonesia!  Wow, I still can’t believe all the traveling we have done.  I went years without going anywhere, and the miles that we have flown this year is just crazy!  We literally were home for less than 5 days, and then we flew across the world. This time it was just Mike and I.  The furthest we ever went away together since having the kids, was Vegas and that was for a long weekend.  So before we got on that plane, we took a ride over to our lawyer and completed our Will.  Just in case!  Thankfully we didn’t need to use it.  But we felt more like responsible parents having completed it.  After getting the Will done and spending countless hours figuring out the kids schedules for my folks and making calendars for them with every possible activity, responsibility, appointments, etc. it was time to get on that plane and head overseas!  After a very long delay in Chicago, we finally headed to Hong Kong.  After hours and hours of traveling (I think it was over 30 including the layovers, we finally landed.  We were only checked into our beautiful hotel for less than 12 hours.  But we managed to squeeze in a fun night out with one of Mike’s friend/coworker who showed us some of the city’s great night spots!  Our next stop was about a 5 1/2  hour flight to Bali.  
Bali was an incredible trip.  It was our first experience going on a Platinum Club Trip.  I am so proud of Mike for having such a successful last few years (even with all that we had going on) and being recognized for his efforts and earning this trip.  Although we didn’t know many of the people on the trip at first, by the end of the week we connected with so many people who work for his company from all over the globe.  The accommodations were beautiful.  And every evening there was a beautiful gift in our room.  The gifts included beautiful handcrafted treasures from the people of Bali.  We were fortunate enough to have guided tours around Bali.  We saw so many beautiful Temples as well as little villages and the beautiful rice fields in the countryside as well as the lush jungles.  Unfortunately, to get to these remote areas, we spent way too many hours on a bus driving around in the crazy streets of Bali.  The streets are narrow and the cars travel on the left side of the road.  The road is filled with buses, cars, countless mopeds sometimes with a family of 4-5 including an infant, wild dogs, chickens and roosters.  Oh and no one uses directional signals at all.  It is a free for all.  Yet no one seems to have road rage???  Of course all of us on the bus were having anxiety attacks!  But somehow we all made it out alive, and none of our buses got into an accident. 
 One of the most memorable nights we all dressed in sarongs that were given to us as a gift.  All our buses received a police escort to a small village.  Once we got to our destination, we were greeted by the whole village.  Over 400 men, women and children lined the streets all dressed in their finest beautiful traditional clothing.  They sang and danced as they formed a parade.  We then joined the parade, which led us to a beautiful Temple.  It was decorated so beautifully, as if it was a wedding. The entire village served trays of incredible traditional food to us,  while we were entertained by beautiful traditional music and dance.  It was such a special night.  

Getting Ready to go on the bus all dressed for dinner!
At the Temple for Incredible dinner and night hosted by the most wonderful people of Bali

Stopping for lunch along the countryside!
We also had the awesome experience of playing with dolphins!  It was incredible.  They are the smartest, most playful creatures!  I wish they have hidden one in my suitcase to take home.  
Giving Kisses!
And a hug!
Even Mikey got some loves  from our little friend!
One of other awesome Bali adventures was driving to the jungle and going on an elephant safari.  That’s right, we rode the elephants!  Incredible!  Our guide has giving elephant rides for over 12 years. We rode through the jungle, which was full of so many sounds and sights, including the “Tsunami”, (as our guide called it)  every time our elephant needed to relieve himself.  I would not want to be the one responsible for cleaning that mess, Yikes!  

The elephant actually placed this wreath over our heads!
We had such an incredible time.  It was so wonderful just to be that fun loving couple spending so much time together exploring and and just being “us”.   After the crazy unexpected path our lives took two years ago, to be where we are today is just pure bliss.  I am so grateful to my mom and dad who came out and watch the kids and made it possible for Mike and I to take this trip of a lifetime.  Love you Mom and Dad!  Maybe next year we can book you again?  Lol!
Since we have been back from our adventures, we have celebrated some great events:

Our Beautiful Sarah on her 9th Birthday!

Our Beautiful Emily on her 9th Birthday!
Me and my girlies at Sarah’ s first piano recital!  Sarah was a rockstar!
School will be ending in a couple of weeks.  Yeah!! I think I just might be more excited than the kids.  It is hard to believe, Mitch and Cam will be graduating from Upper Elementary School and be going into 7th Grade at the Middle School.  Sarah and Emily will be graduating from the Elementary School and heading to the 4the Grade.  All my babies are growing up!  Our nights and weekends are spent most of the time at the baseball field (when it isn’t cancelled for rain).  Mitch has been selected once again this year to be on the Hollis/Brookline All Star Team!  We are so proud of him and can’t wait for the many games ahead!  Sarah and Emily have their big gymnastics show this weekend!  Most of their days at home are spent doing back walkovers and cartwheels!  And Cam has been very busy starting his lawn mowing service.  He already has two customers on our street!  With all the rain we have been getting he will be pretty busy over the weekend!  He is quite the little Entrepreneur.  And his new favorite show is Shark Tank and he has been taking mental notes!  I expect to see him on that show someday!
I have not retired my running sneakers.  However I am enjoying nice shorter runs with my favorite 4 legged running partner Flower.  I am not missing the long training runs.  As a family we will be participating in the Hollis 5K coming up on June 14!  I also have dusted off my boxing gloves.  I have gotten back into another one of my passions that I took a break from over the last couple of years.  It feels so great to hit and kick that bag and get my butt kicked a few days a week with kickboxing and cross fit training.  On my days off from my workouts I look forward to carving out more important time to catch up with friends going out for lunch, coffee, shopping and taking our dogs out to play.  I realize I have not been the best at taking time for those special relationships that I am so lucky to have.  So that is going to be one of my priorities this summer.  It is all about bringing back balance in my life.
On this second anniversary since my diagnosis,  I would like to take this opportunity to look Cancer right in the face and say a few things to it:
You may have smacked us right in the face with your unexpected and unwanted arrival.  
You may have scared us and made us sick to our stomachs with fear and sadness.
You may have made me lose my hair, made me weak, and made me stare at death right in the face.
You may have put fear in my poor innocent children.  You may have made them grow up and face the harsh reality of life that they may lose their mommy.
You may have made my husband feel helpless and scared and think that he may lose the love of his life.
You may have made my parents feel like they can no longer protect me and that they may lose their baby girl.
You may have made my sister and brother think they are going to lose their sister.
You may have made my friends feel helpless and scared and desperate to do something to take the pain away.
Although we did not choose to have you in our life and have all of this negative energy that comes along with you,
we do thank you for the hidden blessings we have discovered because of you.  The little whispers in life that we may have ignored before.  All the precious beautiful moments that we may have been too busy to notice and enjoy.  We thank you for our new found open spirit to celebrate life everyday and take risks and adventures that we may not have taken before.  We thank you for pointing out all of the beautiful relationships we have with so many wonderful people in our lives who have shown us just how amazingly loving and supportive people are.  We thank you for reminding us to tell our loved ones everyday just how much we love and appreciate them.  
We know how blessed we are that YOU have not yet won this battle.  You have however taken the lives of TOO many loved ones close to us and continue to show your presence with TOO many.  Every day we hear of a new loved one struggling with your unwanted arrival,  our hearts sadden and tears are shed.  However, YOU will not break our spirit.  We will be stronger and ready to fight,  if and when you return.  Until then, WE LIVE, WE LOVE, AND WE CELEBRATE!
Love and Hugs,