Many Blessings On This Thanksgiving Morning

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I woke up at 5 this morning full of emotions and thoughts racing in my head.  I decided to head downstairs while the house is still quiet.  I’ve poured myself a nice hot cup of pumpkin spice coffee and I’m going to just type away.

It seems as though life for us has found the “new normal”.  The kids are keeping us busy with school and sports and activities.  I have returned to subbing in the schools.  With the exception of taking a few pills a day  and going to the doctor’s once a month, I really don’t have to think about “cancer” all that much. It is crazy.  I wonder how I even got here.  Last year,  on November 18 I had my stem cell transplant.  Looking back at all my journal entries of that time, I can still remember every moment like it was yesterday. I can remember how the top of my  head tingled as my hair follicles died.  I can remember the smell of the Transplant Unit after I received my stem cells.  Ugh, who knew something that could save your life would smell so bad! If I close my eyes I can still hear the beeping of all the monitors in the room.  I remember the exhaustion I felt just from getting out of bed to go to the bathroom or to take a stroll in the hallway.

Last Thanksgiving, Mike, the kids, my brother Rob and my parents came in to visit me in the morning.  I can remember as they left to go have their dinner at my sister’s house, how sad I felt.  I was sad that I was stuck in the hospital on of my favorite holiday.  But even more, I was scared that this was a glimpse of how the future may be.  Was I ever going to be able to really enjoy the holidays again?  Would I even be healthy next year?  I was so scared and felt so lonely.  I can remember the nurses coming in and holding me and letting me cry on their shoulders. When I didn’t have any more tears left, I fell asleep and slept the day away.  I literally slept 18 hours.

The day after Thanksgiving it is our family tradition to go to our favorite Christmas Tree Farm in Sterling, MA and pick out our perfect tree.  We have been doing it for years, every since before the boys were born. Although Mike expressed to me that he didn’t want to do it without me, he rallied and did it for the kids. I can remember him sending me photos of them cutting the tree down.  Once again I was a puddle of tears in my hospital room.

It is really easy to let life get busy and just go through the motions.   When I allow myself to slow down and really reflect on the last year I quickly become overwhelmed with emotions.  I cannot believe a year, as difficult as it was,  has passed by so quickly.  I have way too many blessings to even count.  First and foremost is of course my health.  Today I still have no Myeloma detected! Thanks to incredible doctors, amazing medicine, and the power of prayer.   Family and friends are next.  Without all of you, I would not be here today.  You have given me so much strength and love.  There have been countless other people that I have met over the year.   Your stories inspire me and continue to give me strength.  I have seen first hand the incredible human spirit that exists.  The hundreds of letters, emails and messages I have received have touched my heart and kept my spirits up on my saddest days.

Last month I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation 2011 Fall Gala. The best way to describe the night is magical!  The gala took place in a beautiful tent, while a snow storm was going on outside.  Over 1300 people braved the weather and attended.   $2.1 million were raised that night.  Incredible!  There was a silent auction and Suzi and I won tickets to the Ellen Show!  Wahoo!  We can’t wait to go to LA!   Stevie Wonder, Michael MacDonald, Darius Rucker (from Hootie and The Blow Fish) and Javier Colon (winner of The Voice) were the entertainment.  Over the top, right?  Together on stage, they were amazing!  Stevie Wonder was honored with the Spirit of Hope Award.  His acceptance speech was very moving and he left us with this thought, ” Don’t just talk about it, be about it.”  That is exactly what the MMRF is all about.

Eric, Suzi, Mike and I 

I had the incredible honor of meeting Kathy Giusti, founder of the MMRF.  She is an incredible woman.    Being in her presence alone is in inspiring.  She is an incredibly warm beautiful woman with such awesome drive and determination.  I couldn’t help but tear up when I met her as I tried to formulate words to express  my gratitude for all that she has done.  She then told me how much I reminded her of herself.  Wow!  This is coming from the woman who has given me so much strength hope and has inspired me so much.  Meeting Kathy is definitely one of those magical blessing that has come out of my cancer diagnosis.

Suzi, Kathy Giusti and I

The MMRF 2011 video was played during the Gala.  This was the first time we had seen it.  It was overwhelming to say the least, listening to our voices and seeing us on the big screen in front of so many people.  The video came out beautiful and it truly was such an honor to be a part of it.  I have attached the file here so you can watch it.

MMRF Gala Video 2011

During the Gala, I had the opportunity to talk with so many people.  Both patients and caregivers.  One woman in particular Deborah Dietzler stands out in my mind.   Suzi and I were waiting in line to go into the ladies room when we met up with Deborah.  Her sister is the patient. Deborah’s energy was infectious!  I could just tell in the short time that I spoke with her how much she loves her sister.   Deborah has dedicated herself to supporting her sister in every way possible.   She has dedicated her time and energy to the MMRF.  She had just completed the Chicago Marathon in October to help raise money and awareness for Multiple Myeloma.  Her sister is about to go through the stem cell transplant.  I could see the fear in Deborah’s eyes.  It was wonderful to be on the other side of that, and show her how strong and healthy I am now.  My thoughts and prayers  are with Deborah and her sister and her family as they travel the difficult path that will hopefully lead to years of health.

Well, the table is set, the pies are made, the vegetables are chopped and the big 21 lb. turkey will be ready to go in the oven shortly.  Soon the house will be filled with the incredible aromas of a Thanksgiving and the kids will be sitting in the living room watching the Macy’s parade.  Our challenging year is behind us as we celebrate so much this year.  Thanksgiving has a whole new meaning in her home.  I have to pinch myself to really truly believe that I am here.  I am healthy and heck I’m hosting dinner today!  Amazing!  Tomorrow we will go to our favorite tree farm and pick out this year’s Christmas Tree!

On this Thanksgiving Day I wish you all beautiful moments of love and family.  You will all be included in my blessings around my table today.  Thank you for all your continuing love and support.