Category Archives: Illness

A Recent Reality Check

Lucky is not something I have been especially feeling lately.  We have stumbled over a few roadblocks and things haven’t been going very smoothly.  I’ve definitely slipped into a rut.  It is very easy to feel sorry for yourself – and much harder to pick yourself up.  I try my best to emulate the old adage “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”, but it can be difficult to be the strong one.  Sometimes, I want someone else to pick me up.  Fortunately, the positive, strong side of me knows that eventually things will turn around.  I hang my hat on the theory that everything happens for a reason and I have only been given challenges that I can overcome. Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone.

Social media has become a great way for us to keep in touch with people who we don’t get to physically connect with often.  Whether we live near or far, we are all busy and struggle to find time to spend with everyone we would like to catch up with. This has made it is necessity to reach out via news feeds and photo sharing.  I love seeing all of the August posts filled with back to school photos and end of the summer beach happiness. These posts lift my spirits at a time when I am watching our first baby prepare for 7th grade and our last baby heading toward what he excitedly refers to as “big school” (and I breathe a sigh of relief that it is only pre-school).  Days like this make me realize how fast life moves and how luck I am to share each and every day with my soul mate and best friend. Cancer did not beat us and for that I am eternally grateful.

At last count, I could count 11 cancer survivors in our extended circle of friends and family – and that’s without really thinking about it.  I’m sure, I could come up with a few more who have been in remission long enough that I rarely use the term survivor to identify them any longer. The number alone is a shocking revelation of how significantly “the big C” has changed my life and my friends.

Social media has also become a way for us to share sad news with our extended network of friends without having to do so face-to-face.  It gives us the ability to prepare the delivery and we can avoid saying the wrong thing or reacting in a way that the person is not prepared for.  Lately, that has happened to us far too often.  Of the 11 people that we do, and always will, consider survivors, four of them have recently received the news that they are no longer in remission.

In addition to feeling horribly for their families – I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through – these diagnoses scare the living daylights out of me.  I know my husband saw the oncologist in the spring and continues to be in remission, but this provides me with the reality check that there are no guarantees in life.  All of a sudden, the memories that I have suppressed of holding hands during chemotherapy sessions and  long nights in the ER have come flooding back.  The fear that every day would be the last has crept back into my sub-conscious. I see the moments of fear in the eyes of my husband that he is going to be next and that’s when I remember that I need to be strong.  I have 3 very important people counting on me.

In the grand scheme of things, we are only here on Earth for a short time.  We need to make the most of it.  Take the life that you have been given and run with it.  Hug your family and friends and be good to one another.  Make memories that will last more than your lifetime – they will be your legacy.

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A New Beginning

Hi to all who continue to follow! Although it has been a busy 6 months for me, I’m happy to announce that I will now have more time to dedicate to this blog.  After 2 years of constant classes and homework assignments, I have recently completed my Bachelor’s degree.  It’s long over due, but I now hold a BS in Healthcare Administration.  This would have never been possible without the love and continuous support of my husband and children.  Working full-time, being a mom and going to school can be challenging, but if I can do it, anyone can!  I highly recommend online learning as a way to complete any degree program to advance your education.

I went to New England College, which has a traditional campus in Henniker, New Hampshire.  This allowed me to actually walk across the stage at graduation.  It was an experience that I will never forget and an experience that I’m glad my daughter was able to witness.  At 12 years old, she is very impressionable and I want her to understand how a college education can be – and I selfishly want her to be proud of me.

Screenshot_2015-05-16-19-35-41_resizedFor more inforamtion about online degree completion, visit http://www.universityalliance.com/

Of course, while all of this was happening, I continued to be a Survivor’s Wife.  My husband had a second spinal laminectomy as a result of chemotherapy-related vertebrae compression.  We have now been told that he will be permanently disabled and will never return to work.  This has definitely been a blow to his ego, as he has always done his part to financially support our family.  Until this final determination, a part of him had held onto the hope that some day our life would return to normal.  Well, it may not be our old normal, but, as survivors, we know that this will become our new normal.  To be honest, I’m a little bit jealous.  He will get to continue to stay home with our children while I am at work, something I have never had the opportunity to do.  This is just another change in a constantly evolving life.

Until next time, I hope you all are well.

A Long Overdue Return

Good afternoon all!  I would like to start out apologizing for my absence.  The snow we are getting here in the Northeast has turned our lives upside down.  Some days, the logistics of navigating a city with 4’ of snow is exhausting.

I’m happy to say that, in my absence, we have survived another oncology appointment with a clean bill of health.  We are adjusting to a winter season of our new “normal”.  Other survivor spouses out there know that there is a new normal for everything.

This year, I have noticed that I appreciate the life that I have a lot more than I used to.  I appreciate that the stolen moments alone with my husband, even though they are few and far between in our busy life.  I see how much our daughter, who will be twelve in a few weeks, is growing into a beautiful young lady.  I even appreciate the joys of potty training our almost 3 year old son.  Who would have thought anyone would find happiness in that?

Aside from the pleasure I’m finding in the mundane, I am pleased to be able to tell you that our family is continuing our successful quest to live a healthier life.  I am cooking almost every day.  We are making much better choices on the rare occasions when we dine out.  We are using our YMCA membership regularly.  So far, I have lost 10 lbs. and my husband has lost 15 lbs. Disclaimer:  I started out much lighter than my husband and all of my fitness savvy friends tell me that the more you weigh, the easier it is to lose.

In addition to the obvious benefits of looking and feeling better, we have discovered a perk that we had not anticipated.  We have found another way to bond with our children.  Our daughter is a competitive swimmer, as we both were at her age.  She loves spending an hour with one of us in the pool…and has even beaten me in races more often than I care to admit.

Our son loves to sit in his stroller while we walk or run in the neighborhood.  Admittedly, we haven’t been doing much of that lately, but the weather has to get better sometime, right?

Lately, I’ve been cooking in the crockpot a few nights a week.  The cold weather makes me crave stews and I love way it makes the house smell for the whole day.  This weekend, we had one of my favorite new recipes.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Winter Comfort Chicken Stew

1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 lbs. butternut squash, cut into cubes

1.5 cups of fresh cranberries (our grocery store has them year round in the frozen fruit section. Just thaw them out.)

1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced

1 white onion, thinly sliced

1 cup of low sodium chicken broth

2 Bay leaves

2 tsp. Herb de Provance

I always start by spraying my crockpot with non-stick spray.  It saves time on clean up.

Place the cubed butternut squash in the crockpot.  Place chicken on top of squash.  Add 1 bay leaf and 1 tsp. of the Herb de Provance.  Add the cranberries, apple, onion and remaining spices.  Pour chicken broth over the top and cover.

Cook on high for 2 hours and low for 1 ½ hours.  I serve this with roasted red potatoes, but it would be great over rice too.

See you all soon!

A Survivor’s Loss

One of the first experiences I had after my husband became a survivor was of loss. In the traditional sense, we very rarely associate surviving with loss.  As a survivor’s wife I did not experience the same loss as I would have had my husband lost his life, but I did lose something nonetheless.

In 2012, when remission was confirmed and life started to go back to “normal”, I realized that what we both had lost was our optimism. Gone were the days of long-term future planning.  I saw us living our lives from PET scan to PET scan.  It was as if we were afraid to believe that he was healthy. Our lives had become so consumed by cancer; we didn’t remember how to live without it.  His initial diagnosis was so unexpected and so sudden that we were sure that the next time he went for testing, it would be back.

We have come to realize that our children not only deserve, but thrive off of our optimism. We owe it to them to give them a positive childhood.  Although our son is only 2 ½, he is visibly responding to the change in our behavior.  Our daughter, who was 9 when her dad was diagnosed, is becoming a much less serious young lady.  We hate that she had to grow up so fast at such a young age.  This is the time for her to have fun.  We need to lead by optimistic example.

It has been 2 ½ years since my husband went into remission and we are finally starting to come out of the fog. We have already made plans for our summer vacation next year.  We talk about the future.  We are still very aware that life is full of uncertainty, but understand that it cannot control our lives.  Now, we take the time to appreciate the things in life that too often go unappreciated – the colors of the fall leaves, a spontaneous hug or a chance encounter.  Whatever those little things are to you, enjoy them in the moment.

Welcome to my life

I am a survivor’s wife.  In 2011, we were leading the storybook life.  We had just purchased our first home and I was pregnant with our second child.  We had finally achieved the American Dream.  Then, coincidentally, on October 14th, our lives changed in an instant.  The love of my life was diagnosed with stage 4A Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  My first thought was “I’m going to be a single mom”.  Then I realized that this was my time to be the strong one…the caregiver…the rock.  My family needed me more than ever and I would not let them down. Seven Chemotherapy and thirteen radiation treatments later and my husband was in remission – and not a moment too soon.  Our son was born 4 days later.

I honestly believed that our life would go back to the way it was BC – before cancer.  I could not have been more wrong.  The husband I have now is not the husband I had three years ago.  He is the survivor I love and I am a survivor’s wife.  Welcome to my journey.