“Sukree, you are in remission”: What does this mean?

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What is remission?

Complete remission means that tests, physical exams, and scans show that all signs of cancer are gone. Some doctors also refer to complete remission as “no evidence of disease.” That doesn’t mean you are cured. There is no way for doctors to know that all of the cancer cells in my body are gone, which is why many doctors don’t use the word “cured.” If cancer cells do come back, it usually happens within the 5 years following the first diagnosis and treatment. Some cancer cells can remain unnoticed in the body for years after treatment. If a cancer returns after it has been in remission, it’s called a “recurrence.” It’s normal to be concerned that this will happen to me since I had recurrence in June 2016 after treatment ended March 2016. Every situation is different, and there’s no way to predict what will happen to me or to someone else with the similar disease.

What does all this mean for me?

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Current picture as of December 12, 2016

As of September 12, 2016 I have been in complete remission. This does not mean treatment stops. It means simply no cancer cells found in my body per the PET scan. Since then I have undergone 3 additional treatments every 21 days. My last treatment was on November 3, 2016.

The month of November was very busy. First, I consulted with my treating oncologist, Dr. Maen Hussein http://flcancer.com/hussein, and lead oncologist, Dr. Garry Schwartz http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/hematology-oncology/about_us/gary_schwartz, on the next steps. They both agreed I should consider the maintenance chemo which is basically spreading out the treatments from 21 days to every 6 weeks. The same dosages, but less frequent. December 12-16 is my next treatment on this new 6 week plan.

At first I wanted to stop all treatments, however, I was advised otherwise since apparently this cancer type have the tendency to return and when it does, it is usually very aggressive. With that said, I agreed to undergo 4 treatments, 6 weeks apart ending April 2017. At the end of this period, we will regroup to figure the next steps.

Also, I obtained a 3rd opinion from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. They have one of the oldest Sarcoma clinics around. Dr. Damon Reed https://moffitt.org/providers/damon-reed/  came highly recommended. He also agreed that the 6 weeks maintenance is the way to go for now. He has agreed to manage my care in Tampa which is closer to my home. I feel blessed to have a great team of doctors and nurses at my side.

This may seem like a cake walk, right? Believe me, it is not. Every morning now starting around November 25th I am tracking my pulse rate, blood pressure, body temperature, oxygen level and weight. In addition, I am noting any new, constant or recurring pain especially in the areas of my lower back and left neck/shoulder. These were the areas where my initial pain began and then reoccurred back this past June. For me, this is critical for my personal peace of mind as well as my ongoing care.

Area in lower back where pain usually starts

Area in lower back where pain usually starts

Area around neck where pain usually starts

Area around neck where pain usually starts

I am also working out in the form of cardio, primarily dancing, and trying to harness a stress free life. This has been a balancing act and requires dedication and utmost discipline and focus. I stay away from any sweets (well I had 2 small pieces of cake this week) and try to not look at any sweets (I clearly looked at those 2 small pieces).

I am trying to increase my vitamin D level as blood test shows it is very low. I am taking 5000 IU chewable daily. This is critical as this helps boost my immune system and bone strength.

Other natural products I am taking after some research are as follow:

  1. Bitter Melon (Karaila) http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-benefits-bitter-melon-that-makes-even-more-worth-eating.html
  2. Moringa leaves (Sygan) http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-22401/10-powerful-benefits-of-drinking-moringa-every-day.html
  3. Black Seed Oil https://draxe.com/black-seed-oil-benefits/

These are foods that would be consumed either by cooking it or just taking it in supplement form. Other than the Black Seed Oil, I cook the other 2 or take supplements if I run out of cooked portions.

No one knows, including the leading oncologists, what course this disease may take in my case, but I know I am trying every angle of treatments, natural products and prayer to keep it in remission.

Drug Education as a bonus

For the purpose of education, I would like to share the drugs that are used to treat Ewing Sarcoma. They are a five drug regimen of vincristinedoxorubicin, cyclophosphamideifosfamide, and etoposide. Thus far my initial 7 treatments from October 2015-March 2016 were strictly Vincristine, Doxorubicin and Cyclophosphamide. Since then I have maxed out on the Doxorubicin. Now I have alternating treatments of Vincristine/Cyclophosphamide (1 day infusion) and Ifosfamide/Etoposide( 5 day infusion). More details on these and other drugs can be found at http://chemocare.com/.

As of the date I am posting this blog, I am enjoying the holidays and living life as normal. I only focus on the positives and try to stay upbeat and happy. When things come my way that causes worry, I deal with them quickly and move on. My support structure of family and a few close friends keeps me grounded. I am working on projects at home and continue to read and write. Life for me has always been a gift and I am treating it with utmost care.

My Zen Pergola Space complete!

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Full moon view from my hammock in my pergola

Full moon view from my hammock in my pergola

As the year is coming to a close, I would like to thank a few people who have made this journey a pleasant one. Nina Singh, Joshua Singh, Jason Singh, Jennifer Singh, Misir Budhram, Taijwatte Budhram, Jasodra Deowdhat, Rami Deowdhat, Beta Jacob, Data Jacob, Artie and Sudesh Jacob, Nina Budhram, Tony Olive, Lakhram Boodram, Shirley Boodram, Gwen Six, Tom Six, Denise Knowles, Joseph Knowles, Esther DePedro, Bruense Aplin, Dennis Aplin, Glenda Rodriguez, James Henny, Ann and Larry Cohen, all my wonderful staff and work colleagues, all my nurses and doctors, all my care givers and finally my son, Randy Deowdhat and daughter Samantha Deowdhat for being there for me at my beck and call at home. Most importantly, God whom without His divine guidance, I would have been lost. Love you all and let’s keep praying

Until we meet again. Have a blessed Christmas and a remarkable new year. May 2017 be a blessed year for all of us.

Pictures of my Oncologists:

Dr Damon Reed, Moffitt Cancer Center

Dr Damon Reed, Moffitt Cancer Center

Dr Maen Hussein, Florida Cancer Specialist

Dr Maen Hussein, Florida Cancer Specialist

Dr Gary Schwartz

Dr Gary Schwartz, Columbia University Medical Center

Resources:

http://www.webmd.com/cancer/remission-what-does-it-mean

http://chemocare.com/

My Pray of Acceptance

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This is Sunday October 11, 2015 at 8:30am while sitting in this peaceful solarium overlooking the East River and Roosevelt Island in the beautiful Upper East Side of Manhattan. My beloved brother, Lakhram Boodram, captured my prayer.

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I was a patient at New York Presbyterian  Hospital and was most likely heavily medicated due to the cancer pain. I do not remember this, nor do I have any idea that I said a prayer which was recorded. A few months later, in December, my brother came from Canada to visit me in New York while I was still recovering. I was shocked, in tears and in immense joy all at the same time. Since we are embarking on the holiday season of thankfulness and appreciation, I am going to share my very personal prayer with you, unedited.

 “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.  I am ready to face death. I am ready to face life. I know I am not walking alone. But Lord, I alone have to bear the pain. I wish I had some more time to enjoy the things I worked so hard for. However, if I do not make it, there is nothing anyone can do. I am at peace and looking at the reflection of the sun in the East River. It is so beautiful here. I feel as if I am in heaven.”

It took me almost a year to share this publicly. I shared it with only a few close friends and a few family members. I wanted to hang on to it and keep it just for me. However, as I pondered for some time, I feel it is now time to share. I lived almost 1 year and 2 months since my diagnosis and plan to live much longer. I believe in this prayer and God did grant me the time I asked for to enjoy life with my loved ones, family and friends. I often reflect on this short prayer and realized something bigger than me was in charge that day. I tried many times to remember me saying this prayer, but to no avail. I simply cannot remember. Hopefully it will give another person hope as it gave me when I first saw it on paper back in December 2015.

Here is the original handwritten prayer captured by Lakhram Boodram on the reverse side of a New York Presbyterian Hospital Hotel flyer.

hand-written-prayer

We are embarking on the holiday and a time for giving, reflecting and loving others. If we just focus on this each day, our lives will be greatly improved. I cannot express my gratitude to those who are supporting and praying for me each day. I also thank those who were part of my life and for whatever reason, are no longer part of my journey. For the season that those lasted, I have learned and I am grateful.

Each day I am at peace, happy and elated to the point I do feel like dancing and speaking of dancing, I am dancing! I am dancing to lose a few extra pounds, so if anyone is up to it, meet me at my home gym around 6:45am each day and let’s boogie down to some of my favorite Bollywood songs! It is never too late or too early to start dancing. See you next time and please share this blog.

In case anyone is interested in my workout routine, here are a couple of them!

 

Do I have a bucket list?

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I was having breakfast with a close friend recently and he asked a question that no one asked me since I became ill. His question caught me off-guard and my answer was as surprising to him as it was to me. Here is the conversation as best as I could recall.

Him: So, have you made your bucket list?

Me: What bucket list?

Him: You know, things you wanted to do?

Me: No, I did everything I wanted to do. I did more than most others by the time I got ill and what I did I chose to do. No regrets. I will never have a bucket list because each day I do what is best for me and those I love. This is all I know. I was like this before I got ill, during my illness and will be the same after I get better.

Him: Wow, that is great Sukree. I am so happy to hear to say that.

Me: That’s all I know how to do and that is all I do. I live and enjoy life with a smile as much as I can regardless of the circumstances of my life.

empty-bucket-list

I could see the glistening of tears in his eyes, but all of us will not accept our faith the same way. I have not changed much since I became ill. I just became even more cautious in my words, my actions and where I spend my time. Family and those few close friends I have was and will always be the first things I focus on with a slight change; focus on me first for today and ensure I am taken care of both physically, emotionally and spiritually. Without my health, I am not able to take care and spend time with those I love the most.

My concept of life is simple. I shared this with my Oncologist recently. I believe life is one journey that started way before we are born and continues long after we die. Life in the flesh allows us probably a unique experience using our five senses. I do not know if this belief of mine holds water, but it is my belief. With this, I am quite comfortable with where I am and what I am doing. Regrets? I don’t think I have any. All my experiences have made me stronger and put me in the path of many kind people I would not have met otherwise, so bottom line, I am good where I am today. Tomorrow is another story, but given my track record, tomorrow will be fine too.

So, no bucket list for me. I live one day at a time and I try as best to be kind to everyone that crosses my path. Life goes on for me as usual with a few kinks such as treatments and doctor’s visits. Otherwise, it’s a normal day for me.

However, I do plan to engage myself in my gardening as this is the most peaceful thing I have ever encountered: Beautifying nature!

Human hand carrying plug plant in hand

Human hand carrying plug plant in hand is the best feeling in the world to me

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A year in review: Winning Cancer Continues

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Well 10 pounds in the past 4 months on. Good eating I guess

Today, September 29, 2016 marks one year since my diagnosis of stage 4 Cancer. As you may recall, this was a surprise to many, including myself. At that time there was little hope I would survive this very aggressive disease type. A year later, here I am. Still in treatment, but doing extremely well given where I was. This was not an easy journey and I could not have done it without the help of many others. Just a recap of some of the year’s highlights:

09/29/15   Initial cancer diagnosis-Hospital Admission

10/9/15    Official Ewing Sarcoma Diagnosis

10/13/15  Start of first chemo treatment

10/30/15   Hospital Discharge

01/13/16   First PET scan after treatment was clean with minimal trace

02/01/16   Return to work

03/18/16   Seven chemo rounds ended for Phase I of treatment

04/28/16   Second PET Scan completely clean, no trace

05/10/16   Partial Lung surgery to remove inactive cancer cells

06/10/16   Terrible pain and recurrence of cancer symptoms

06/20/16   Third PET scan shows active cancer

06/27/16   Phase II chemo began-Consisting of 12 rounds

09/12/16   Fourth PET scan completely clean, no trace

09/22/16    5th of 12 rounds of chemo continues

With all that said, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming year. First, I am looking forward to celebrating my 50th birthday on October 7th!

Since I am the youngest of many kids, I want to let them know they are all getting old, except me! My closest and immediate family will be celebrating with me here in Clermont/Orlando. I am truly grateful for all those who are taking the time to come and spend this special time with me and my family. Next, I am looking forward to seeing the next treatment course whether I will be completely off all treatments or will I be put on a suppression treatment. I am curious to know how this disease behaves and keeping this blog or journal may help another person with this same diagnosis.

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My dream Zen Garden. It’s ok to dream

I am also looking forward to do some home improvement projects this coming year. I would like to build a beautiful pergola as my Zen space in my back yard and continue to expand my butterfly garden. In addition, I am entertaining tiling my kitchen floor and redoing my master bath. For those of you who saw my enormous back porch, I believe I might also entertain putting air conditioning in there for those hot summer months.

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I will just sit in that chair and stare into space

A real vacation! This past year all my vacations, sick and personal time was used for doctor’s visits and treatments. I need a real vacation. So, for 4 days in November, I am just leaving the world behind and going away to the mountains of North Carolina to just do nothing, but enjoy me. I am hoping to see the beautiful colors of fall and knowing that I lived long enough to see another colorful year.

Finally, I am looking forward to seeing my kids getting close to the end of their academic careers. One should be done end of next year and the other one the semester following that. Once this milestone is reached, I would like to say to myself…my job is complete. I can even smell it from this point…we are very close.

sam-and-i

Me and my baby girl

Me and my son, a day out fishing

Me and my son, a day out fishing

My own hair for 3 months. Then off again

This is the closest I came to having hair during the brief pause between the two sets of treatment. I know one day, I will have my own hair again, until then I am happy to be sporting my shiny, bald head! I was always attracted to balding heads, well I guess I have the best of both worlds, in me! I could date myself!

I know a lot of my family, friends and colleagues have me in constant prayer and I do believe this is the reason I am doing as well as I am. Also, exercising is the key to ensuring strength and stability. I commend our trainer in the Livestrong program, Karen Butler. She is amazing and a key contributor to the health programs at the Roper YMCA in Winter Garden, Florida. I continue to walk between 3-5 miles most days, especially on weekends when I am home. I am gaining weight, but I won’t worry about that for now.

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A prayer goes a long way

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Exercise not to loose weight, but to be healthy

Overall, my year in review has been anything but interesting. I met some great people, especially in the medical industry and learned a lot about my body and what works for me. I continue to live life each day fully as I have my entire life and I still have a skip in my step and a humming in my head. Yes, there were sad times and trying times, but overall the good times way surpass those. I only focus on the good and happy times now. Everything else is left behind. Again, thanks for reading and always feel free to share. Until we meet again, Namaste-The spirit within me salutes the spirit  within you. Walk in peace.

Partial removal of my right lung (Lobectomy)

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What is a lobectomy?

It is a surgical procedure that removes one lobe of the lung that contains cancerous cells. In my case, I had the lower right lobe of the lung removed and pathology test shows it was 70% cancerous, but the cancer was contained within that lobe only and not the borders or surrounding areas outside of the lungs. (The right lung has 3 lobes, the bottom one was removed-The inferior Lobe). My surgery was on May 10, 2016.

Sections of normal lungs

Sections of normal lungs

Removing the diseased lobe

Removing the diseased lobe

Dr. Jeffrey Port, MD Weill Cornell Height: 1728 Date: 11/1/1999 Time: 16:57:50 DCS6XX Image FW Ver: 1.9.6 TIFF Image Look: Product Counter: [9789] Shutter: 1/60 Aperture: f-- ISO Speed: 200 Max Aperture: f1.4 Min Aperture: f16 Focal Length: 85 Exposure Mode: Manual (M) Meter Mode: Color Matrix Drive Mode: Single Focus Mode: Manual (AF-M) Focus Point: Left Flash Mode: Slow Sync Compensation: +0.0 Flash Compensation: +0.0 Self Timer Time: 10s White balance: Preset (Flash) Time: 16:57:50.085

Dr Jeffrey Port, MD Weill Cornell

This was not your traditional surgery but was a video assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). During this procedure, my surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Port https://weillcornell.org/jeffreyport

makes three small incisions and one larger incision around the surgical area. He then insert a small camera in one of the incisions and uses the other for surgical tools. This allows the doctor to perform the lobectomy without having to open the rib cage. Once the problematic lobe is identified, it is removed.

 

 

 

 

Total of 5 incisions with the drain incision. One 7 inches under my right breast

Total of 5 incisions with the drain incision. One 7 inches under my right breast

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Typical VATS surgical camera

This is a pretty routine operation performed often. My hospital stay was 6 days and recovery is about 3-6 months. Several medications for pain were administered and exercise programs, including physical therapy and breathing therapy. These begin right away. I had to start walking the very next day! And I had to cough too…boy was that challenging, but I did it with a smile or a tear or two. Let’s not even talk about laughing!

Walking the day after surgery. They gave me a cape too!

Walking the day after surgery.

I am recovering now since it has been 2 months. My surgery was on May 10, 2016 at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Preparation began the week before the surgery with blood work and vitals checked. A procedure called Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) was also needed to ensure my lungs are ready for the operation. I was all set and cleared for the operation.

Pulmonary Function Test-PFT

Pulmonary Function Test-PFT

I did not think it would be difficult and the actual operation was of course painless, other than the first needle. However, the recovery that followed was not. I had to take pain medication and medications to lower my heart rate for a few weeks. Sleeping on my back became a challenge. Getting in and out of bed seemed to take forever.  I switched to Advil about a week after leaving the hospital. Once in a while I am forced to take a pain pill if the pain becomes unbearable. There has been a few times where the pain became unbearable.

I returned to Florida after the operation on May 30, 2016 and was back at work the next day. It has been somewhat challenging, but I have help at home from my family. What a blessing to have them help me. I currently exercise about 30 minutes a day, pain or no pain. I cry when I need to and rest a lot when I am not at work. I eat well and tend to my home and garden when I can. I mostly rest in my bed or the recliner.

I had to go to the hospital once for a 3 day stay. The surrounding area around my lungs was filling up with fluids, known as Pleural Effusion. This had to be drained, by a process called Thoracentesis. That white area in the x-ray indicates fluid presence. The draining is done in radiology where they inject your back area with numbing medicine and then insert a very tiny tube in that area and drain the fluid into a measure bottle. It is done in an extremely sterile environment to prevent any chance of infection. I had this done twice. However, on July 7, 2016 when I saw my Pulmonologist he said the x-ray shows very little fluid buildup and no draining was necessary. Yeah!!

White area is fluid

White area is fluid

Actual fluid from my lungs area. This was the 2nd draining. The 1st one was a full bottle and some

Actual fluid from my lungs area. This was the 2nd draining. The 1st one was a full bottle and some

Next Steps:

I had my first of 12 rounds of chemo as part of phase II  of my continued treatment on June 27, 2016. One chemo every 3 weeks is the current plan. Every other treatment is a different set of medicines to attempt to kill any remaining cancer cells that may exists. The latest scan showed active cancer cells floating around in various parts of my blood and lymph nodes, to be on the safe side, this is the next treatment steps. So, I am losing my hair again, but for now, I am celebrating my growing short hair for as long as I have it. This hair was starting to grow on me! I hate to see if go.

I am under the care of a dynamic team here in Tavares, Florida at Florida Cancer Specialist. Dr. Maen Hussein is my Florida Oncologist working in tandem with my NY Oncologist, Dr. Popa. Together we all make a great team. With Dr. Hussein’s help I am confident that making the decision to continue treatment here in Florida is the best thing for me at the current time.

Click here to reach Florida Cancer Specialist

Dr. Maen Hussein. Florida Cancer Specialist 352-343-1117

Dr. Maen Hussein. Florida Cancer Specialist
352-343-1117

My hair now! Oh my hair!

My hair now! Oh my hair!

I am enjoying each day and celebrating any small successes. I try not to focus on my pain and try harder to manage the pain, when it becomes unmanageable, I just pray and think about other things such as writing my blogs and going for a walk. I do not venture far from home or work. I have not really done much outside of that. I try to go to the movies once in a while. I am just taking it easy and not stressing. I want to extend thanks again to my amazing family for their continued help and support. Without them, I may not be alive today. In the meantime, be safe, be healthy, have fun and enjoy the warm weather all around us. Take care until next time I blog again.

 

Some more pictures taken on this special experience. Thanks Jennifer Singh, my beautiful niece, who took the time to capture my journey.

ICU after surgery

ICU after surgery

Being wheeled out after discharge

Being wheeled out after discharge

I try to still smile

I try to still smile

Drain tube inserted for 4 out of the 6 days in the hospital

Drain tube inserted for 4 out of the 6 days in the hospital

Being monitored in ICU extension

Being monitored in ICU extension  

Late Effects of Cancer Treatment: Is it Worth it?

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It is no mystery that Chemotherapy medicines damages cells within the body. This is the reason we sometimes experience hair loss and/or nail, skin or suffer stomach damages. This is why chemotherapy can cause temporary side effects. Side effects usually improve as the normal (or non-cancer) tissues repair themselves. However, the road to recovery can be a daunting one at times. I thought once I finished my last treatment on March 18th I was going to quickly get back to my normal life and activities. That wish could not have been farthest from the reality I am now experiencing; 6 weeks after my last treatment.

Not all chemotherapy medicines have the same late effects. A lot depends on the kind of medicines used. The dosage and whether chemotherapy was done with another type of treatment are also important. If an organ is damaged, a lot depends on whether it can repair itself. It is very important to talk to your Oncologist about side effects of the medications in your treatment program. I did and found out a very alarming fact. One of the medicines in my list causes heart failure and possible death if the treatment goes over a certain amount. This amount administered is a lifetime dosage. Education and key to understanding the medications we are administered is very important. I asked for the full list of medication and everything about them, including any associated risks. My Physician assistant, Dr. Jennifer Regan, provided them to me several months ago. I cannot say I did not know the risks, I did. Experiencing those risks is another story.

Some of the late effects of treatment can include, but not limited to the list below. Not everyone will experience these. I experienced or is experiencing the ones I discussed below.

Fatigue

  • Fatigue
    • I get tired fairly quickly, but the good news is that taking a quick break or just laying down for about 15-20 minutes helps a lot. It is important for me to rest my mind as well as my body. Thankfully, I have a job where I sit down in a comfortable office chair with a foot stool under my desk. This is a tremendous help. As the weeks get farther and farther away from the last chemo, I am getting less and less tired. I can stay up longer and little later at nights. Since I started back at work, I have to manage my day carefully. Extracurricular activities are limited to non-existent at this time. Occasionally, I go to the movies or out to eat. My weekdays begin at 6am and ends around 9pm. This is a long day for me. I love my weekends when I can get my rest and relax a more than the weekdays.

 Chemo Brain

  • Difficult with focused thinking (sometimes called chemo brain)
    • I find I am forgetting more than before. I forget names, I forget to turn the stove off, I forget my lunch at home, etc. Forgetting is part of being human and getting old, but when it is constant, it becomes an annoyance. I also forget that I actually turned the stove off. The stove is a big issue and I have to leave myself notes to remember to turn the stove off. Luckily, my son watches over and he turns the stove off a lot of times. This is going to get better from what I understand. I also forget that I remembered to do something, so I tried to turn off the stove when I already did! This becomes old and frustrating very quickly. Oh, then I dream I forgot to turn off the stove! This is happening less and less as the weeks gets farther and farther out from chemo. I am much better now that before.

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  • Early menopause
    • This is a touchy one and a very personal for me. At the first chemo treatment in October 2015, I went into pre-mature menopause or what would be considered immediate infertility. I was hoping to follow suit with my other siblings and not have to experience this for another 4-5 years at least, but no luck. I am too focused on my health than to think about side effects of that. I will embrace whatever is thrown my way from this. I am really confused on what are menopausal symptoms vs. cancer symptoms. I find I am spending way too much time analyzing this, so I just try not to focus on it and move on to more important things. You can look up the symptoms of menopause, but it is rather long. Not for this blog, maybe another one.

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  • Urinary problems
    • The urge to go to the bathroom on a very frequent basis was annoying in the beginning, but I learned this is due to autonomic nerve neuropathy and will subside is a few months. I am now very focused on where I go, how long of a drive I can take and where I can find a clean restroom. Before this, I would rarely use public restrooms now that is all thrown out the window. Most of us see the commercials on TV called, ‘overactive bladder’. Well, that is a really nice name for a peeing problem. I commend the drug and marketing industry for finding such a beautiful name for an annoying and embarrassing issue. My sister, Nina, said that to solve this problem temporarily (or permanently) she will insert a urinary catheter attached to a bag and strapped to my inner thigh.  Something like this?

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      BTW this is not a garter belt…just in case you are wondering. This is a pee holding bag!

 

Numbness feet

  • Nerve problems such as numbness and tingling leading to neuropathy
    • Lead leg as it is commonly know is a really heavy feeling as if I am carrying around weights strapped to my knees or ankle. It is very hard to get up from a sitting position or getting in and out of a car. I have to maneuver myself in my seat and with effort lift the feet in. This causes some level of instability as well as standing up and trying to walk, so I have to stand, get my balance for a few seconds then start walking. Once I start walking, I could walk for miles and miles with not much discomfort. This is supposed to last a few months from what I understand. My Oncologist is also asking for an MRI with and without contrast of the head and leg to confirm there is not any severe issues to deal with. MRI is scheduled for May 9th in Orlando at Simon’s Med.

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  • Nail Problems
    • This is a painful one. My nails became black and disgusting looking as a result of the treatment drugs. I just could not bring myself to show them in public and I do not generally polish my finger nails. I tried polishing to cover them up, but that did not last but a week. One of my toe nails is on the very of falling off and it hurts. Closed toe shoe is a no no. I have to wear a workout sneaker that is two sizes bigger than I need to avoid any pressure on the toe. Other times, I wear open toe shoes. So bye, bye vanity boots and shoes…some day we will meet again.

stomach

  • Stomach problems
    • After about 2 weeks of the last chemo, I started to have some moderate to severe heartburn. I was taking the prescription Pepcid, but that was not helping. I did some research and found out that the pure extract of Aloe Vera juice helps with easing some stomach problems. I purchased a bottle for about $35 from my local herb shop in Clermont, Florida. They have a wide variety of other natural products I use from time to time. Pay them a visit if you happen to be in the area. http://clermontherbshoppe.com/

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  • Bone, joint and muscle problems
    • I am aching a lot, especially about 2-3 weeks after the last and 7th I feel at time I am very weak in the lower part of my body. I stopped taking all pain and other related medications month ago, but I find once in a while, I am forced to take one. This has only happened twice since the beginning of the year. I also learned that this will diminish in time, possibly a few months.

Worth it

Is it worth it for me?

This was the question I asked myself and still do when I experience the pain and discomfort. When I am in pain, I am leaning towards it is not worth it. When I am not in so much pain I am leaning on it worth in. In other words I am on the fence on that for now. I cannot honestly say it is worth it. However, I know that I am making the right decision to seek treatment and to combat this horrific disease. I will continue to seek out all possible treatment. I will continue to go to physical therapy. I will continue to work out and stay strong and fit. I will continue because I have two beautiful children, a loving family, great friends and a beautiful garden to enjoy for as long as I possibly can. So, in short it may not worth it, but I am doing it because it is worth it for all the beautiful reasons I mentioned. If this disease is to consume me and results in my expiration, will I have any regrets? Absolutely not! Am I afraid for exiting? Definitely not! I am going to enjoy each day? Of course. Don’t panic if you read this. You see, the body I am in dies, but my soul lives on to come back in silence and watch over all of you. This I know and have known since I was a young person. This is the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism. I embrace both teachings.

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Next Steps

I am in a Livestrong Cancer workout program at the local YMCA and it is a much focused group to help us regain balance, strength and posture. I have a great support team and thanks to Karen Butler for helping the 5 of us push forward. This is intense 2 days a week. I also workout and walk a lot, lifting light weights and doing Yoga and starting Zumba soon.

Lobectomy

My journey continues. Cancer was found nowhere in my body besides the bottom lobe of my right lung accord to my latest PET SCAN on April 28, 2016. The lung has 3 lobes. The bottom lobe is going to be removed on May 10, 2016 at Weill Cornell/New York Presbyterian Hospital. A friend, Tony, so kindly remarked that it will be no different than a picture hanging in a butcher shop showing which part of the cow is being severed. This procedure is called a lobectomy. Of course my next blog will talk about that. Until then, keep me and my family in prayer and see you on the other side of surgery!

References used in this blog:

http://www.livestrong.org/we-can-help/healthy-living-after-treatment/late-effects-of-cancer-treatment/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/276768-aloe-vera-stomach-problems/

 

 

 

Chemotherapy 101: My Typical Chemo Day

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A few of my friends and others have asked me what does my treatment day typically involves. Let me tell you with a positive smile! I cannot say it’s just like any other day, but rather an intense day. Trying to relax is short lived with interruptions from the nurses, doctors and especially the bathroom! I really learned how to wear depends…they are great for a purpose. I am not sure how treatment may be for others as I see them having shorter and longer sessions at the Weill Cornell Oncology Center in Manhattan, NYC.

My day starts around 5am on the day of treatment. I am up, showered, dressed, have breakfast, prepare a bag of necessities including my meals and beverage for the day. An hour car ride into Manhattan leaving Queens around 7am, I finally arrive around 8:30am. (http://meyercancer.weill.cornell.edu/)

There are a number of steps that I go through and it is the same for each treatment. Here they are with some visuals.

  • Prior to the day of treatment, I have to have a blood test to see if I am able to undergo treatment or if a transfusion is necessary. This is done a few days prior to treatment allowing time for any transfusions.
  • On the day of treatment, I register at the receptionist’s desk (by now you would have already had an appointment set weeks prior. Diana always makes my appointments around my schedule. She is great to work with.) I sit in their tranquil and relaxing waiting area to be called.
  • I meet the nurse or technician who will be taking my blood. This is critical because the blood count determines if I am chemo ready. Generally, Denise or Chris are the vampires who loves my blood, or so they claim. It’s usually Denise most of the time.
Nurse Denise Usually Takes my Blook

Nurse Denise Usually Takes my Blood

  • I wait until the CBC (complete blood count) shows I am all clear for chemo. This is the white, red and platelets counts. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
  • I then go to a room to have my blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and respiration rate taken along with my height and weight. This is recorded so the appropriate dose of medicine can be calculated.

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  • I then have a consultation from my Oncologist, Dr Elizabeta Popa or her Physician Assistant, Dr. Jennifer Regan. Both are highly qualified and are very detailed. They don’t rush you off as just a number. They actually spend time with you. What a blessing that is for me. We discuss the plans for the day and we address any concerns from both sides. I am then off to my own treatment room and wait for my special nurse, Ms. Rose to come in and give me a hard time about anything. Seriously, she is the best in her field and I would rather be treated by her than anyone else. She holds a special place in my heart.
  • My port is prepared for the IV. This scares me every time, but it does get easier and easier. By the way, that smile….I wouldn’t read much into it. I am usually sulking, but I empowered myself to look bright and cheerful for this blog. But the video actually show some of my facial expression which I try to hide behind that awful grin!

A Port B Catheter (tubing) C Subclavian vein D Superior vena cava E Pulmonary vein F Aorta G Heart

A Port
B Catheter (tubing)
C Subclavian vein
D Superior vena cava
E Pulmonary vein
F Aorta
G Heart

  • My first set of medicine called “pre-chemotherapy medicine” to prevent nausea or an allergic reaction. I am also given fluids, which help the drugs to move into my system faster. However, it also drives me to the bathroom every 30 minutes. So that part about relaxing. Not happening. No one better turn on any faucets when I am in that room…or else a fast run to the closest bathroom, with the IV pole dragging along the way! Dignity out the window and I am seriously considering wearing depends!
  • Nurse Rose starts the infusion process. It can take up to several hours to finish the whole infusion process. There are several drugs administered over the day. Some from the slow drip IV and some injected directly into the IV port. The 2 below are injecting into the tubes directly into my port.
My Nurse Rose!

My Nurse Rose!

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Bags of fluids prepared

Bags of fluids prepared

In the meantime, you have several bags going slow drip at the same time. I usually get sleepy or anxious, but I typically make it through the day without any incidents. I eat my snacks, lunch or chew on ice and drink tons of water. Sometimes I write my blog, such as this one or watch a movie on my laptop or the TV. About an hour or two into this treatment I seem to get emotional and cry…I still wonder if it’s the med or me just being a big baby!

drips

  • My Oncologist usually sees me again before the end of the day and we go over the plans and dates for the next treatment. She addresses any concerns I have and we might share a few stories.
Dr Elizabeta C Popa, My Oncologist

Dr Elizabeta C Popa, My Oncologist

Dr. Jennifer Regan, Physician Assistant to Dr Popa

Dr. Jennifer Regan, Physician Assistant to Dr Popa

  • When my treatment is over, my IV is removed, vitals checked, bandage over the port and I am ready to head home. Usually it is now around 4:30pm.
  • I arrive home around 6:30-7:00 as traffic at that time is very congested. 14+ hours later I am ready to crash.
  • 24 hours after treatment, I have to take a Nuelasta shot to help my bone marrow increase production of my white blood cells. In the beginning I used to go back to my Oncologist for the shot, but I now obtain it from a script and have it injected at home, preventing another long trip to Manhattan the next day.

My sister, Nina, is usually with me for all my treatments. It is preferred that someone is with you or drives you. I don’t think I would have been able to drive in and out of Manhattan on the day of treatment. Knowing me, I would take the bus and train.

My loving sister, Nina and I

My loving sister, Nina and I

This is my typical day. I am usually is good spirits and try to maintain that, however, difficult it may be at times. I read, write, chat with close friends and family. Anything negative or stressful, I try hard to eliminate from my thoughts. Emotional pain and discomfort can quickly change my whole mood. Being as sensitive as I am, this is hard work for me. I am not going out as much since I started treatment, but hoping to resume that in time. I stay close with family and a few friends.

At long last, 7 chemo treatments later..what’s next?

As you may or may not know, this is my last treatment session today March 18, 2016 as I am writing this blog. Considering I could barely remember my first treatment on October 13, 2015, this is a milestone. This does not mean the end of treatment for this cancer. There are several more processes I have to go through such as the decision to or not to remove the dried up tumor in my lower right lung, when will my port get removed or if not removed, where I will get it flushed monthly. My next PET Scan is going to be scheduled for April 28th and results on April 29th. I am also starting a Cancer support and workout group (Livestrong) at the YMCA funded by UF Health which is the cancer treatment center for Orlando Regional Hospital Groups. This starts April 12th and runs for 3 months. The will aid in strength, balance and endurance training. There are a few other related procedures and tests which I will be undergoing as well locally in Orlando. Those are minimal in comparison to what I have experienced in the past.

In closing, I am grateful to God for giving me this chance to experience what many others experienced and some are no longer with us. We never really know what lessons we are being thought, but in my case I am sure I have learned a lot that I can continue to share. Completing my treatments is the best 50th birthday gift I am giving myself this year with a lot of gratitude and humility.

At long last, this is what my treatment days are like and  please ask me any question here on comments or privately, if I know the answer I will answer. If not, I will try to refer you to someone who might be able to help. My next blog will talk about addressing emotional and mental healing processes now that physical treatments are over.

So what am I going to do now that Chemo is over? DANCE…..

...Just like Aishwarya Rai

…Just like Aishwarya Rai

Breaking Free From Medication: My Pain Management Process

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DUI-Drugs-Bottles

I debated for several weeks whether or not to post this blog as it relates to medications that were administered while undergoing cancer treatment. I decided not sharing this would go against my personal commitment to share my journey so that 1 person may benefit. So here I go.

In a nation where almost every other commercial on the television is pushing some drug for various conditions, you would think taking a pill to cure any ailments can be a good thing. Think again. Most of the drugs have an array of side effects. These are usually in the fine print which we can hardly read or see. So, taking a drug for one condition could very well lead to a new condition, one we did not have before. This was my primary concern when I fell ill. I had to take several drugs to help alleviate the pain and discomfort of stage 4 bone cancer. Without them I cannot say to what extent my pain would have escalated. I am grateful for the medications and the temporary purpose they served. However, there came a time when I had to start the intentional process of weaning myself off of them. I learned that narcotics such as morphine and oxycodone can be very difficult to wean off as they give us a sense of comfort and takes away the fear that the pain will return. Sometimes we continue to use the narcotics even though the pain is gone or has lessened. This can turn into a habitual use and can eventually lead to an addiction.

Medications I was prescribed (these are not the chemo drugs):

  1. Morphine for pain
  2. Oxycodone for pain
  3. Fentanyl patches for pain (high levels of narcotic content)
  4. Lidocaine patches for areas of high bone cancer presence
  5. Lorazepam for anxiety
  6. Docusate Sodium for constipation
  7. Senna for constipation
  8. Miralax for constipation
  9. Citalopram for depression due to chemo meds
  10. Famotidine to protect the stomach from chemo meds
  11. Zolpidem for insomnia
  12. Ondansetron for mild to moderate nausea due to chemo
  13. Dexamethasone for severe nausea due to chemo

Medicates currently taking:

6 months after initial diagnose, I am happy to report I am only taking 2 of the above, Famotidine and Citalopram. Both are to protect me from the effects of the chemo drugs and once my last treatment is over, I will stop those soon after. As you can see from the above list of 13, at least 4-5 are considered heavy narcotics that could lead to an addiction. This was of most concerning when it was getting towards the end of my hospital stay.

My process of stopping my medications:

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During the last week of my stay at the hospital, I asked to be taken off the morphine injections in my IV. This resulted in a more frequent dosage of Oxycodone. The last three days of hospital stay I stopped taking the Oxycodone and may have only taken 1 over a 2 day period. Both of these resulted in some mild withdrawal symptoms such as chills, insomnia and sluggishness. Since I was in a hospital setting, this was closely monitored. I did have pain, but it was not as severe as it was earlier in the month. I was also shaking, but not sure if it was related to stopping the meds or the chemo.

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Upon discharge I was still wearing the Fentanyl patch, replacing it every 72 hours. This patch has a very strong level of opioids such as in morphine or oxycodone, but it releases slowly in the body, in my case through the skin. I kept that patch on the longest, for about 2 months after discharge. My first attempt to stop it was unsuccessful. I had the dosage lowered to half and attempted it again. This time I was successful, but not without some rather severe side effects. I had night sweats, insomnia, irritation, nausea, headaches, dizziness and shaking a lot. I understood the side effects, and braced myself through it. This lasted about 3 days and eventually I was able to sleep again and the symptoms started to go away. All other medications I took as needed. By the 1st week of January 2015, I had stopped all the medications except the 2 I stated earlier.

Actavis' Lidocaine Topical Patch 5%.(PRNewsFoto/Actavis, Inc.)

I stopped the Lidocaine patch a week after my hospital release. I felt no withdrawal from it even though it is a narcotic. I was on the patch each night for 12 hours for about 5 weeks. Eventually I stopped it one night primarily because I had no one to place in on my lower back. I felt nothing the next day, so I stopped. This was purely by accident.

What did I do instead of taking Meds:

For pain, I started doing a lot of pressure points such as in the palm of my hand, bottom of my feet and ear lopes. I would either squeeze or massage those areas to redirect my pain. I also did daily meditation in the mornings and nights. I increase my exercise to walking several miles a day, dancing and light weights. These tend to distract me from the pain. I cannot honestly say I was not in pain, I was. Standing up took effort and still does, but a lot less than a few months ago. Waking up in the morning takes a ton more effort, but over time it got easier. Walking and working out helped tremendously as well and remaining positive and keeping away from situations that caused me pain or worry.

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For constipation (you may know opioids or narcotics causes severe constipation) prunes and prune juice became my best friends! Along with high fiber fruits such as apples, pineapples, papaya, mangoes, etc. Drinking lots of liquid is a must! I learned a lot from my Oncologist and my health insurance coach on pain management. I also browsed the internet a lot. There is no one thing that works great I think, but rather a combination of a few things work well. Getting ideas from those who walked the journey before me is also a good resource.

For pain today, what do I do?:

First, I try home remedies and meditation first, then I try sleeping or going for a walk. Most times these work, however, there are times I am forced to take a pain medication. Since my release from the hospital on October 30, 2015, I took 3 oxycodone and 2 Lorazepam. This is over a 5 month period. I felt inclined to take them either because of a biopsy or right after a chemo treatment. My last one of these 2 were back in December 2015. So for approximately 3 months, I have been pain meds free!

How has this helped me?:

First, I am not walking around feeling like my head is clouded. I am not falling asleep all day and night. I can get back to basics like reading and having a coherent conversation. I had to do a lot of memory games such as playing cards, coloring books, and juggling 2 balls. Writing my blogs and reading helped the most. I did some basic math and statistic problem from a 9th grade book I had. All of these helped a lot. I adjusted my sleeping hours. I stopped sleeping during the day (this was hard) several months ago and going to bed around 10pm and up around 6am. Sleep helped me function better during the day. I also was given about 1,300 meditation songs on a USB which has helped in my meditation and falling asleep.

What have I learned and in summary?

I learned that if I do not push myself and force myself to improve my mental state, it only gets worse. I would have loved to stay in bed all day and not move, but I was afraid that would be where I would remain. I was not able to do this alone. I sought out the help of my Oncologist, family, friends and the internet. I continue to go 3 days a week to occupational therapy for the continued improvement of my left shoulder and arm. At times the pain is difficult, but I persevere through it and remember the saying..no pain, no gain. I cry when I need to and laugh just the same. I still feel broken at times, but that is just a feeling I know will change from time to time. I have come a long way and my journey made me a better person with more maturity and awareness. I have 1 chemo session left to be administered on March 18th. I am getting excited and bracing myself for that last punch. My next blog will focus on what is chemo and sharing  what my 7 hour chemo day consists of. I will call it CHEMO 101. Until then, be good, be well and remain focused on your health and the health of those you love.

 

 

Status of my continued care and recovery from bone cancer

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God blesses the hands that treat me

God blesses the hands that treat me

As you may already know, my first 3 month PET Scan on January 11th proved a very rapid recovery and a definite road to full recovery. This sounds like it’s over right? Well, it’s not over. It is over when the lead Oncologist says it’s over and he is not saying that. What he is saying is that I responded extremely well to the chemotherapy. The lung tumor shrunk to a small strip from a round mass back in September 2015. He said from all tests review, this started in my lower right back, pelvic, ribs then into the right lower lungs. The PET Scan showed cancer cells activities in the bone marrow as well, but overall the activity is very, very small. Nevertheless, there is minimal activity that can be treated successfully.

So, with all that said, what is the next step? Chemotherapy continues as usual. My next two sessions are scheduled for January 28th and February 18th. I am due for a lung puncture biopsy on February 16th. After than there will be monthly chemo until all cancer cells are eradicated from my entire body. This is the personal commitment by both oncologists, Dr. Elizabete Popa and Dr. Gary Schwartz. In addition, I was informed of certain risks. This current treatment course cannot exceed 6 sessions. The session on February 18th is the 6th session. Any more treatment using those types of medicine can severely damage my heart and could lead to heart failure. As a result there are plans to modify the treatment or add a heart protectant potion to the current course. That will be decided upon for March and beyond. One weekend a month I will be spending in New York undergoing treatment. In between treatments will be seeing my oncologist in Florida, Dr. Maen Hussein with Florida Hospital Cancer Center in Tavares, Florida as needed.

What I learned recently:

Pattern of Malignant Bone Table1

Ewing Sarcoma under my age group (41-60) show zero cases

On January 21st I was educated more on my condition. I learned that Ewing Sarcoma was extremely difficult to diagnose. It took them days to finally come to a final decision after eliminating all other cancer type. I am also the first Asian adult that they are aware of since this type generally affects children and in adults mostly Caucasians. In addition, the fusing of DNA# 11 and DNA #22 only occurs in the cancer cells on the genetic string. It does not switch or can it be found in the good cells. Once #22 is moved, the mutation of the cancer cells is prevalent as #22 is the genes that prevents cancer cells from multiplying. I asked what causes this to occur in healthy persons such as myself. I was told there are no reasons known, except simply bad luck. It is also suggested that the two DNA may have switched back thus preventing cancer cell division. One February 16th they will be testing to see if the genes have returned to their respective spots on my DNA string. Mortality rates for adults is lower than those of children. There is a 70% survival rate in adults for 5 years and a 37% survival rate beyond that. I am praying God places me in the 37% rate. I was also told this is the most painful type of cancer. I can attest to that personally. The pain I felt was nothing I ever felt in my life! It felt like bones breaking like a dry twig and it happens over and over again. I am no longer in pain. Most, if not all the pain went away about a month after the treatment began.

What is my role in all of this?

Holistic Balance is the key to recovery

Holistic Balance is the key to recovery

Wow! My role? Let me see where I can start. First, I have to ensure I eat healthy as well as eat carbohydrates. This is to prevent weight or muscle loss. In addition, I have to consume foods that will help rebuild my blood to prevent more blood transfusions. Gaining weight and staying fit is a key in this recovery process. Next, I have to ensure my mental and emotional state is stable regardless what is around me. A lot of letting go of things and people that may cause be stress. I have to follow the strict guidelines of drinking a lot of fluids to flush the toxins from the chemo meds from my body. I have to be willing to give blood often and not be in fear of needles! This took a while. I can now say I am getting used to it and as they say no pain, no gain. I experience some bone and muscle aches from the post chemo shots that protects my white blood cells. I have to keep moving regardless how I may ache. I have to take it slow, watch where I walk, pay attention to how I use knives and learn to relax a lot more. Most importantly, I must keep smiling!

Over the next few weeks:

I am looking forward to going back to my home after several months away. I am extremely happy to be back with my children again. I miss them both very much. Working in my yard again is a dream at the moment, but soon to become reality. I have had several home improvement projects that were put on hold. I can plan on restarting those again. Going back to work is on my agenda as well. I miss being at work and doing what I love with people and leaders I care for and respect. Balancing my work, home and treatment will become my primary focus the remainder of this year.

I am prepared to walk that rope now!

I am prepared to walk that rope now!

Another factor in my life is dealing with the escalating medical bills. This will only continue to climb as my care will extend to the remainder of this year. I have to shift some focus on payment of those services.

I feel at times I was knocked down on my knees. I just had to get up brush off the dust and keep walking. I am not looking back. I plan to try and forget the pain and the hard road I left behind. The future looks bright and promising. I may not have all the things I wanted, but I know I have the things I need. Family and friends have been a great support system and I want to extend thanks to all those who encouraged me and stood with me. In times like these, we truly see who cares.

Gardening will be my meditation

Gardening will be my meditation

Finally, I am happy to share my weaning off medications in my next blog. This is one of the most profound things I did on my own; coming off prescribed medications. So, watch for my next blog. Until then, be safe, be strong and may God shower His blessing on you and yours.

 

 

 

Importance of Family Love & Support: For all times

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I feel capsuled with love from this group

I feel capsuled with love from this group: We got you, is the message I hear

Family. What is family? Family is defined as “…a specific group of people that may be made up of partners, children, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents…” according to the dictionary. However, this really does not lend credence to what really ‘family’ means to me. For most, we may look at it as branches of a tree, with each branch going in different directions, sometimes not even crossing paths again. However, for me I look at family as an eternally united bond that cannot be broken because regardless where the branches extend to, we all share a universal root. That root is embedded in one key element that can never be diluted. It is the element of LOVE.

What my family means to me in my recovery from cancer

As my journey continues, I am excited to share some wonderful news. All scans show no cancer in my bones as of January 11, 2016. This is now roughly 4 months after the initial diagnosis and 7 months since the onset of symptoms. Also, following 4 very intense chemotherapy treatments, a month in the hospital, 2 ER visits and several blood transfusions. I cannot honestly say this was not a rough journey. It was, but one thing that made my journey smooth is the unconditional love and support from my family. I am primarily speaking of my immediate family: My children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and extended families and significant others.

Nieces and Nephews gathering on December 12, 2015

Nieces and Nephews gathering on December 12, 2015

I am truly shock to see the level of support I received from all members of my family, including the families from my former husband, including my former husband. Sometimes I would sit quietly and ask myself, “what did I do to deserve this grandeur of love?” There are no answers I would come up with other than it is purely love that has intervened within us and miraculously brings us all back to our roots. One by one, my family climbed down from their different branches and came to the base to help me get back up to my branch after I had fallen.

Now if you are thinking that our relationships have been all bed and roses. Think not! There were times, and many times, when we disagreed, said things about each other we later wished we could take back or just not communicated for no specific reason. I am going to share some of these instances as examples only. I remember one of my brothers and I really having intense arguments over the phone which ended is some vulgar language and phones hanging up. We forget these eventually and we learn to apologize and end other phones calls with, “I love you.” Ego and pride has to go in order to realized that family is family and no matter what happens or who was wrong or right, in the end we learned to say we are sorry and move forward. Another instance was with a sister I did not see or speak to for a while. I guess life got in our way, nothing concrete led to the lack of communication for about 2 years. When I got sick, she was the last person I expected to see. Surprise, she was one of the first. She stayed one week in the hospital with me curled up on a chair each night. This is family. This is love.

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The conversations are intense, controversial and tons of fun!

Finally, the sister who takes care of my needs during my most crucial times. One who goes to all my doctors’ appointments. One who speaks for me when I couldn’t. One who feeds me, holds me when I could not walk, bathes me when my arm was disabled. This sister you would think we always got along perfectly. Surprise, we did not ALWAYS got along. We are closest, but there were time, we were at odds with different opinions. Remember the element that cannot be diluted? LOVE. That is the element that overlooks all odds and forces us to say sorry, forgive and rekindle relationships.

Like any family, there will be disagreements, but what is most precious with my family is that we know how to forgive and forget. We know how important it is to be honest with each other. We know the values our parents instilled in us. We know that it takes one person to say sorry to open that door of communication again. We know that we all need each other. We know how to share. Most importantly, we know that in times of need, all bets are off and we stand strong with each other. This is why I am very proud of my family in the past, today and years into the future.

The next generation learning the meaning of a bonded family

The next generation learning the meaning of a bonded family

Last night I went to one of my brother’s home. He is about 65 years old and he kept saying repeatedly how much he loves us and how much his family means to him. We are not shy to tell each other we love them. This has been a standard behavior since we were kids. As our siblings grew up, got married and have children of their own, these traits carried on to the next generation. Not all of us were lucky to find a spouse with the same ideals, but that did not change us. We are strong and we persevere through anything, together. I can say this without a doubt. Anyone who ever attempts to break this bonded relationship is only making the bond stronger.

Always around the kitchen counter!

Always around the kitchen counter with food and drinks!

In conclusion:

The lesson I am walking away with from my family is that it is my responsibility to make amends for me if I want a relationship with my family. I cannot look, point fingers or thinks magically that relationship will always be good and no effort is needed. Effort is needed from everyone, however, I can only make the effort for me and not for others. I will continue to express love and care where I can and expect nothing in return. I will continue to trust and believe in my family above all. I plan to ensure each and every member of my family knows I love them. It is not up to me to make sure they embrace it. I am only responsible for my actions and not the action or inaction of others.

It is a new year and a great time to start over. So, if you have been or currently at odds with any family member, just pick up the phone, send a text, send an email and let them know you love them and want to start over. We can always start over and leave the past in the past. Hug often and say ‘I love you’ even more often.

Happy New Year and may 2016 brings all families closer than ever!