Importance of Family Love & Support: For all times

Tags

, , , , ,

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.

IMG_4263

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!

 

Advertisements

Regaining My Independence: My Renewed Firsts

Tags

, , ,

The mind is a powerful thing and amazingly things we learned in the past can be relearned after a period of pause. Things I took for granted in the past is now greatly appreciated. I am excited to share some renewed experiences following my third chemotherapy session. We hear a lot about how ‘bad’ chemotherapy can be. I am not going to talk about that, instead I am going to share some of the ‘firsts’ and the joy that comes with them. I believe focusing on the positive things minimizes the not so positive. These may seem inconsequential to some, but for me they are monumental feats. I am happy to share them with you.

First Shower:

Everyday most of us jump in the shower and may not even think of it, instead we wonder about other things such as being late for work, what’s for breakfast, what’s for lunch, etc. Like most, taking a shower was a mindless thing. Not anymore! After one month in the hospital and an additional one week at home in bandages covering three open wounds, I finally had to face the inevitable: A SHOWER! Please don’t think I was starting to grow mold. I was doing wipe downs each day. I had the port implant on my upper right chest, two arm biopsy with stitches yet to be removed and a back biopsy in bandage. I was scared to have water on those areas. However, one fine day my sister, Nina Singh, said that it is time I shower….I am starting to stink! I was a little apprehensive at first since my left arm was still not working and my port implant not fully healed. Nevertheless, I heeded and stepped into the shower with my hanging arm and a taped up protective plastic over my port implant. Oh my, that water felt like a fresh waterfall on my head. I could not stop myself from laughing and just wanting to stay there forever! I stayed in that shower for over 30 minutes singing, talking and just being silly. This is a doctored up picture of that first shower. I had to do a lot of cropping because Nina seemed to have a little issue with just taking the picture of me laughing and looking like a balding Ogre. I was also told that I left a ‘ring around the tub!.’

That is a heartfelt laugh after 5 weeks....first shower!

That is a heartfelt laugh after 5 weeks….first shower!

First time going for a walk…alone:

I am always accompanied by someone, mostly my sister, when I go for my daily walks. At first we started slowly then I increased my pace over a few weeks. I look forward for the walks each day. We generally walk between 2-4 miles a day. Some days harder than others and often I have to stop and rest for a while then off again. One day I told my sister that I am going alone. With some resistance, she finally gave her approval under the condition that she ensures I was well dresses. This is a picture of how well dressed I was. I felt the only thing missing was a pacifier and stroller! Nevertheless, I walked and walked to Dunkin Donuts for a cup of their toasted almond coffee with cream. I cherished that first cup of coffee after several months without it. I carried around that cup the rest of the day since I could not drink all that caffeine. It was like a security blanket. Thanks for the person who discovered coffee…I bow to thee.

Very well dressed!

Very well dressed!

My first cup of coffee by myself

My first cup of coffee by myself

First time driving a car:

Last I drove a car was September 21, 2015. I had a few months plus some before I got behind the wheels again. At first it felt as if I was either going too fast or too slow. Focusing on traffic took some effort at first, but as they say….it’s like riding a bike…once you learn…you just get back on. I was a little irritated by the traffic and the noise, but soon that faded away. I was free again! I can drive myself somewhere. I am regaining my independence once mile at a time! This is a selfie while waiting for my sister to finish her banking. I guess when you are bored…take a selfie!

First Car Drive

First Car Drive

First time taking the bus and train to Manhattan:

Public transportation in New York City is in abundance. You can live in this wonderful state without a car your whole life. If I ever move back here, I will not own a car. One of the things I always enjoy here is taking public transportation around New York and New Jersey. This is a risk for me in my current condition, but like a warrior with a mission, I took 1 bus and 2 trains this past Monday to my Oncologist’s office for my post chemo shot. Along the way we stopped at a corner café for breakfast, Padoca. This place is awesome. I had the hearts of palm and the mushroom stuffed pastry. If you are in the area, pay them a visit. Their website is:

http://padocabakery.com/?gclid=CJvI8LXe48kCFcGRHwode0kHew

I felt right at home in the bus and train. Well I did stand out since I was the only person wearing a mask. It is amazing how generous New Yorkers are. As soon as they see me, a seat is offered. I think I might just wear a mask all the time just to get a seat on the train! Seriously, I am grateful to those who offered their seats. My lunch stop was at one of the best lobster roll places in New York City! I had a soup and half of a spicy lobster sandwich. I so wish I could eat more, but I have to eat small portions for a while. Feel free to visit them.

http://lobstercraft.com/lobstercraft-nyc/

City Bus Transportation

City Bus Transportation

IMG_4293

NYC Subway Platform

NYC Subway Platform

First time cutting my own nails:

This is something so small, yet monumental for me. I was not able to cut my own nails for a few months. I had help from my sister, Nina Singh and my sister-in-law, Jasodra Deowdhat. Both of them took turns in cutting and manicuring my nails both in the hospital and at home. I would playfully scream once in a while when they are clipping my nails just to spook them. It’s self entertainment for me…they know I’m joking. On a more serious note, my blood clotting ability was greatly reduced and was advised upon discharge not to use any sharp objects or get any manicure or pedicures. In addition, for those who may have had chemo will know that our hands tend to shake a bit. This past Sunday, I took my time and cut my own nails. This was not as easy as you may think. First, I had to battle with my sister for the nail clipper. She insisted she had to cut my nails! I cried like the baby I am and she gave in, but under her supervision. It took a while, but I finally did it! I cut and file my own nails! Yeah!

IMG_4279

First time peeling a fruit:

After about 3 months, I can peel my own fruits without fear of cutting myself and bleeding resulting from low platelets. Cancer patients are advised not to eat the skin on fruits for fear of bacterial infection. I so miss my berries! Have not had them in months. I think I might have done more harm to this poor mango than I intended to. Peeling with a knife is slow and I am very careful. I did enjoy the ‘fruit’ of my labor and savored the mango. I also am using the knife a lot more and becoming back to normal…as they say…practice…practice…practice. I just can’t sit around anymore and be lazy…I am finding joy in the simple things….like cutting a fruit.

IMG_4302

First time shopping for a wig:

Oh boy…this is going to be a hard one for me. My bald head seem to stand out and it makes a lot of people stare. It does not bother me that I have a bald head, but I think being an introvert, the staring is starting me make me uncomfortable. With that said, I was taken to a wig shop in New Jersey and thanks to Jasodra and husband Rami, for letting me have fun with the different hair pieces! It just feels odd wear a wig. I am in bandanas, scarfs and knitted hats mostly. So, I will let you all figure out which of the two wigs I should purchase. I had fun, hope you enjoy my crazy pictures and some crazier hair do.

IMG_20151128_152922IMG_20151128_153516IMG_20151128_153758IMG_20151128_153928

Just for laughs:

All my hair fell off except my eyebrows. Amazing as I thought my eyebrows for sure will fall off too. I had my black sharpie waiting to draw lines of precision over my eyes! So, the other day I walked into a hair salon and sat down waiting my turn. The attendant asked me what I would like to get done. I replied, “ I would like a haircut, trimmed in layers and my eyebrows done.” “Okay, come sit here.” She ushered. Of course I had my knitted hat all this time. I sat on the high chair and she asked how long is my hair. I said to her, “Well, why don’t you see what you can do.” I slowly removed my hat. At first she was expressionless and probably thinking…what a nut! We all had a good laugh. She did thread my eyebrows first time since September, but it never grew. I just wanted to be like all the other pretty girls down the avenue on a Saturday plucking their eyebrows! In the end she did take a pair of scissors and comb to pretend hair cut…so we all had fun. One can cry about the current situation or sulk or laugh. I choose to laugh and have as much fun as possible.

IMG_4339IMG_4340

Lessons learned:

They say when life throws you lemons, just ask for sugar and make some lemonade. I do need to make more lemonade since I have to drink about 2 quarts of liquids a day! What will be my next first? I have no clue, but like the other firsts, I will be prepared, ready and waiting. Rediscovering oneself is an amazing thing. I am so happy I am not a resentful or angry person. I feel being calm is helping me get through the process and enjoying each moment. I do feel this is a journey that we only walk once. No turning back. I am making the best of each second of each day. Overcoming hurdles takes courage, faith, hope and a great support system. For me, my family has been my backbone throughout this process. My next blog will talk about the importance of family support and the importance of family. So, watch for my next blog in a few weeks as I continue to keep this journal of my wonderful journey through recovery.

Current Status:

My next chemo session is January 5th. Retest of full body PET scan to see current status of the cancer is on January 11th. I expect another biopsy of the lung, but not sure when that will be, but it might be sometime in January. I started a post chemo shot, Neulasta, with my first injection administered on December 7th. Some slight side effects, but nothing major. My pulse rate, thank God, is going down and stabilizing around 83 beats per minute. This is still high for an ‘at rest’ rate, but better that 130-140! I am praying each day for favorable results next month. Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes. I am grateful to many. Bye for now. Watch for my next blog sometime early January. I am taking some time off to reconnect with some loved ones over the holidays. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Be safe.

 

My Medical Side Effects and Treatment Course

Tags

, , , ,

Side effects as a result of my condition:

Just having cancer is one issue to deal with, however, there are a few other medical issues that came to fruition that had to be treated urgently to keep me safe and healthy. I am learning one has to be stable both physically and emotionally when taking chemotherapy treatments. Having to juggle the emotional impact of this illness and keeping a holistic balance is probably like walking a tight rope with total concentration. However, as I look down I can see the net under the tight rope. That safety net consists of the team at the Oncology center, especially Dr. Elizabethe Popa. I refer to her as my angel in disguise. Her information is located at the link below. I highly recommend her.

ecp2002

https://weillcornell.org/ecpopa

http://meyercancer.weill.cornell.edu/

Anemia/Anemic:

For several months the feeling of exhaustion and tiredness resulting from the high heart rate I spoke of in my prior blogs. Upon hospitalization it was discovered I was anemic. Over a course of a couple of weeks, I was given 3 blood transfusions. The hope was to have a blood level high enough to withstand my first chemotherapy. I understand and learned that when my blood level is low, my heart has to work harder to push blood to all the parts of my body. This was the reason for my highly elevated heart rate. As soon as I was given blood, my heart rate slowed down. Temporarily this was under control to withstand 2 chemotherapy. However, on November 19th I had to have another 2 transfusions and was hospitalized for 2 days. On December 3rd I was administered my 3rd chemotherapy. This round of therapy was higher in concentration that the last one. I am feeling more nauseated than before and some more discomfort.

IMG_4042

Low Platelets (blood clotting ability):

In addition, to a low blood level, my ability to have my blood clot was extremely low. The normal count is between 150,000-400,000. My count at one of the lowest points was only 10,000. I was bleeding through my nose for several days. Another transfusion was necessary of platelets. This is an orange color type, not red. That transfusion added about 30,000 platelets and the nose bleeding stopped. Since then I am growing my own platelets. Last test on December 3rd I had 89,000 platelets. I only had 1 transfusion of platelets and hoping there will be no more. I pray each time they take my blood that the results are positive as this is key in this process.

Left arm disabled:

My left arm was disabled sometime during my stay in the emergency room. I could not lift my arm at all. A quick MRI proved that I did not have a stroke rather just a loss of muscle on my left shoulder. For weeks it was very difficult to function with just one arm, but with a few months of occupational therapy, I was able to slowly regain mobility on my arm. It was hard work at first, but it was all worth it. Now I can raise my arm with some level of pain, but it is functional. Thanks to a great occupational therapist, Ms. Gladys Bayles-Panes, for pushing me each session until I got better.

IMG_4157

Muscle atrophy:

Being in the hospital for a month, I was finding it hard to stand up and walk. I was mostly in bed for the first several weeks. The last week in the hospital I tried as best as I could to walk. When I got home I could hardly climb one step on the staircase. Physical therapy was necessary. I was pushed hard by my physical therapist, Jim Kobetitsch. Each day I saw myself getting stronger and stronger, but that did not come without pain. I can now climb the stairs and walk a couple of miles before I get tired. I cannot walk very fast, but I am still walking and doing my exercises. I learned exercise is extremely important in this process. I am trying to exercise each day, no matter how long, but I exercise. It is hard at times, but I push myself and keep going.

IMG_4166

Rash outbreak:

After the first chemotherapy, I had a large rash that started in my lower legs and moved up to the rest of my body. I was told not to put my hands on it in order to prevent spreading. It was difficult not to itch. Medications to help contained steroids which I could not use per doctor’s orders. A skin biopsy had to be done. They took two, I would say chunks of flesh, from my right arm to test for any unforeseen issues. Results were negative and I was told I had a reaction to one of the drug in the chemotherapy. The rash went away in about 2 weeks and never returned. However, the mark from the biopsy left 2 scars which I hope will eventually fade away.

Severe numbness in chin area:

Currently my chin area including my lower lip is quite numb. I am told it will get better, but it is now two months and I see no improvements. My oncologist says we will look at that down the road as the intense focus now is to focus on the chemotherapy. Numbness is expected in this process and I understand from other cases, it might take a while to go away. In the meantime, I have to eat slowly and carefully. I tried to chew gum one day to help with the movement of my jaw, but that was a mistake. Chewing gum with numb bottom teeth is a bad idea!

The focus on my current status:

This past week was hectic. I had another biopsy on my back. This time under surgical precision. They are wanting to see if the cells in my bone marrow is active to produce blood. This is a result of my blood level still being low, but climbing rather slowly. I am below the average, but enough to have chemotherapy. My third therapy was administered on December 3rd. I have to focus on two things: The bone cancer and the blood stabilization. This is a balancing act as chemotherapy damages both good and bad cells. It is now up to my body to fight through this. I am doing everything possible to make this happen. I learned that eating sweet foods that contains sugar is not good for me. I have to eat foods that help enhance my red blood cells. This includes eating meats and fish as well as greens such as kale and spinach. I also am eating eggs and consuming milk products. I am advised to take a daily dose of protein called Pro-Stat. I was given this at the hospital and is now purchasing my own taking 1 ounce each day.

IMG_4181

I had gained back 10 pounds and is currently holding that and not gaining or losing any. This is a good sign according to my doctors.

Thanks to my sister and her family as well as the immense support from my brothers and extended family. They help with driving me to my appointments and ensuring I have all that I need to come out triumph in this process. I feel stronger each day as I prepare now to regain my independence and continue to live a long, happy and fulfilling live with my children, family and friends. Special thanks to my nephew Jason Singh who gives me great hugs and takes me anywhere I ask, no matter how tired I may be. I know I am loved immensely by many and that is a big motivation for me to push forward and not look back.

My Diagnosis: Stage 4-Rare Bone Cancer: Pathway to Acceptance

Tags

, , ,

Just admitted to NY Presbyterian hospital

Just admitted to NY Presbyterian hospital

On September 29, 2015 my sister, Nina, took me to a competent cardiologist in Queens, New York, Dr. Javen Suleman, to check out my rapid breathing and host of other symptoms. See link for this cardiologist below.

http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/javed-suleman

I began to explain the symptoms as stated in the prior blog. Those symptoms began in late July and became more prevalent as the months went by. Immediately an EKG was administered and it showed a clearly high heart rate in the 130s+. Along with the rapid short breaths, tiredness and signs of severe exhaustion, the cardiologist made an on the spot decision to ensure I had no blood clots. He ordered a CT scan at the local hospital. Upon arrival at the emergency room, I was immediately taken to the cardiology department and a CT scan was performed. Results of that scan was revealed to us about 45 minutes later. Diagnosis: Definitely no blood clots, however, it was worse. A mass or commonly called a tumor, was founder in my right lower lung. No other tumors were found elsewhere. At first it was a guess that it was lung cancer from just looking at the CT scan images. I never smoked so lung cancer was a low probability.

I remember little from that point on until about 2 weeks later. I remember looking at the images of my lungs on the computer screen that evening and then I went blank. What happened next is a recollection from my sister and others who were with me in the hospital.

I was transferred to New York Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan on September 30th.

White Building next to boat is the hospital. I had a waterfront view..small compromises

White Building next to boat is the hospital. I had a waterfront view..small compromises

http://www.newyorkpresbyterianhospital.com/

How I got there was a mystery until a few weeks ago. All I remember was being wheeled in a wheelchair across a busy New York City street by someone and hoping I did not get run over! I do not remember leaving the original hospital in the borough of Queens, New York. I do not remember arriving at the hospital in Manhattan. I was not on any heavy doses of any drugs to alter my mind. I could not immediately remember some basic information such as my name, what year it was etc. This I was told by my sister. All I remember vaguely are conversation and directives for me to follow. All this time, I was in excruciating pain and severe discomfort. I was told of my cries for help and the inability to sleep due to the pain. One of my brothers told me later that he thought I would not live through that ordeal. That night upon arrival at the hospital ER, the administration of pain management began. Three days later I was feeling some reduction of pain with the combination of morphine in the IV and oral oxycodone along with some sleep aid.

The Actual Diagnosis:

Ewing Sarcoma, stage 4 of a rare bone cancer attributed to children and not generally adults. This manifested within just a few months. From the size of the mass, it was estimated to be about 6 months and it metastasized in a soft tissue, my lungs. It was not lung cancer. I had all the symptoms of cancer, but those were not caught by my primary care physician in Orlando. Learn more about this type of cancer at the link below.

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/bone_disorders/ewing_sarcoma_in_adults_85,P00116/

This condition is not attributed to anything I ate or did. It is a genetic fusion of two chromosomes where #11 and #22 on my DNA string blended together and caused my body to develop destructive cells in my bones. There are only a few cases of this type of cancer in adults. I understand I am the first case of adult Ewing Sarcoma in the hospital and they were extremely cautious in preparing my treatment plan. This was now about day 7 in the hospital. By this time my pain was being managed better and better each day. After a series of Scans, X-rays, MRI and Biopsies, the confirmation of the cancer type and the treatment was decided upon by a team of doctors and oncologists. On October 13th I was given my first chemotherapy.

The Emotional and Mental Impact of my diagnosis:

I felt the reason I could not remember was from pure shock. The moment I heard the comment, “ …99.9% cancer…”, I went blank. I could not make a single decision for myself. Thank God for loving family and a sister who took the time to speak for me when I could not do it for myself. I felt like everyone was not talking about me having cancer, but about someone else. I was in severe denial. I later realized I was probably going through the stages of grieving for myself with the first stage being denial. The next stage is anger. I did not get angry at any point in this process. The third stage of bargaining was briefly felt when I began to ask God over and over again to take me back to the time and feeling prior to a few months ago when I was extremely healthy. Depression is the 4th stage and I fell into this stage head first or was already there.

About 2 weeks after being admitted in the hospital, crying became uncontrollable. When family would visit, I remember just crying and feeling as if I would never see them again. I kept replaying in my head my children and when I was a capable and healthy mom. I missed them tremendously. I kept going backwards in the past and not being able to focus on the present situation and the possible future. Eventually my doctors recommended I talk with the resident psychiatrist, Dr. Anne Dickerman. After about 2 sessions in my room, she recommended 2 drugs to help with my temporary depression. A low dosage of antidepressant and an anxiety drug to help calm my mind. I began taking those and about 7-10 days later I was able to refocus on the current situation and looking ahead. I was able to smile for the first time in months. I was starting to feel like I have some level of control over my thinking and behaviors. I was finally accepting my faith. I was ready to win this battle and come out triumphant. I was able to see my life years from now and I was gearing up for the bright future that lay ahead. I realized I arrived at the last stage of grieving which is acceptance.

Probably a first belly laugh captured by my sister.

Probably a first belly laugh captured by my sister.

About the 3rd week in the hospital, my wonderful children came for a weekend visit. I was able to have great conversations with them and tell them how much I love them and encouraged them to push forward and make their lives full and enjoyable while focusing on their goals and aspirations. I was finally beginning to feel stronger in spirit, mind, body and soul.

I was released from the hospital 30 days from date of admission. October 30, 2015 I walked out of the hospital eager to go home with my bald head! My hair fell off 2 weeks after the first chemo session. I did not care about that. All I wanted is to get home, put up a good fight and focus on my future. Chemo #1 was behind me. Now I am ready for the months ahead and the ongoing treatment.

Beautifully balding head!

Beautifully balding head!

The focus on my future:

I remain very positive and I feel blessed to have great kids, family and friends who are constantly supporting, helping and praying for me. Little things such as rides to doctors and appointments thus far have showed me those who are willing to stand with me and help without questions. This is a humbling experience for me as well as those around me who are my care takers and there are many. From those who bought me comfortable clothing, to good lotion for my drying skin from the chemo to those who took the time to cook meals for me and my employer for their unconditional love and support. I am blessed to have a sister and my brother-in-law who takes care of me 24/7 when needed. Thanks to those who send cards and flowers. They brighten my day each time I see read the cards and look at the flowers. I am no longer on any oral medications such as pain killers or sleep medications. I have gained back 8-10 pounds after losing about 30+ pounds during the ordeal. I still struggle with a few medical issues relating to the cancer. Those are actively being worked on for continuous improvement.

My loving sister, Nina and I

My loving sister, Nina and I

I will share in my next blog the medical issues, treatments, the reactions to chemotherapy and the new experiences as I continue to be optimistic for a bright future. I learned one have to always have hope and faith in oneself and a Higher Power on this arduous journey to recovery. I had to learn a new way of life and adapt to change rapidly in order to ensure success. I had to leave loved ones behind and shift focus 100% to myself and my recovery. I feel I am emotionally stable and acutely focused mentally on my recovery and well-being.

Again, thanks for the support and if you are healthy and can help or donate your time, please do. There are others out there who need help and who will forever be grateful that someone took the time to lend a helping hand. Finally, know yourself and pay attention on how you feel on an ongoing basis. Follow your gut feeling when it comes to your personal health. Thanks again, and watch for my future blogs on Sunday mornings.

Some well wisher and another caretaker. Thanks to all of you from the bottom of my heart.

Some well wisher and another caretaker. Thanks to all of you from the bottom of my heart.

IMG_4144

Getting feet rubbed by a family member

IMG_4179

Thanks for all the flowers and cards. Someday I will be able to thank you all in person

Challenges of Life: Coping and embracing each day

Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view (Digital Composite)

In July 2015 I started experiencing severe pain on my lower left back/hip area. At first I thought this was the result of me probably hurting my back somehow. I took some over the counter pain medications for about two weeks. Those did not help the pain much nor did the pain stop. Sometime early August I visited my primary care physician, Dr. Jeffrey Carr with Physician Associates in Ocoee, Florida. I realized after about two months of constant pain and numerous doctor’s visit, no one was able to fix the issue. I went from doctor to homeopathic medicines and from acupuncture to praying. The symptoms were severe back pain, constant high fever, excessive sweating especially at nights, loss of appetite, loss of motivation, depression and a constant heartrate between 120-145 even in a state of rest. The average heartrate for a person should be between 60-80, but anything over 100 should be considered as high. I had my annual physical both from my primary care physician and my gynecologist. Neither detected any condition warranted further investigation. I went back a few times to my primary physician and requested to be put in the hospital. I told him I was not getting better after several months. He neither put me in the hospital nor did be send me for any further tests. On September 17th I did an EKG in his office that showed my elevated heart rate, but still he did not send me to get that checked out. Instead he prescribed numerous narcotics such as Hydrocodone and  Valium. Nothing helped. I was getting weaker and losing weight rapidly.

My mom passed away September 21, 2015. Immediately following the burial, about 5 days, my breathing was noticeably rapid. My sister where I was staying noticed it. Those around me noticed it. I was trying hard to look strong and be a team player, but to no avail. However, my loving sister, Nina Singh, made the decision to take me to a heart specialist in Queens, New York on September 29, 2015. That decision changed the course of my life. The diagnosis was immediate. The emotional pain from finding out my condition was prevailing on myself and my entire family. The shock was overwhelming. I will disclose my diagnosis and my experience in my next blog. Please note, If you or anyone may be experiencing the above symptoms, please do not brush it off. Take those symptoms seriously and act immediately. It could be a matter of life or death.

The Movie ‘Shine’ by Director/Producer Anthony Nardolillo: An Independent Film.

Tags

, ,

Those who have money to invest in a project that will most definitely be successful, now would be the time. I am not going to talk about the movie and what it is about, one can easily decipher that from the various links and preview embedded here. I want to simply share my thoughts and feelings on Anthony. He is one of those persons you can sit, chat and walk away being inspired to change the world. I have no doubt this movie will do just that to his audience. Like he said, he has a story. We all have a story. The people in this film have a story. Our stories are what inspire us and those around us. I observed Anthony at work over a week period this year on a domestic violence project. I watched him go hours behind his camera. I watched him feel the message. I watched him lay on the ground trying to get a good shot. I watched him walk into areas rarely ventured by any cameraman.

10703707_905467496164048_467692970560554131_n

I watched him go hours without food and was grateful for my last food bar, which he claimed was all he needed to go on. As a single dad I understand his situation being a single parent myself. He has a career, a job and his children plus all his expenses. If I personally had excess money to invest, I will no doubt invest in this film.

Bottom line, take a chance and step up. Donate on the Kickstart link and make a difference.

See and like ‘Shine’ Facebook at:

Click to see and like Shine on Facebook

Donate here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/646207037/shine-new-york-salsa-music-dance-drama-feature-fil

 

 

Impact of Sexual Coercion and Violence on Young Adults

Tags

, , , ,

child_abuse_lead-thumb-640xauto-4646The following is one of my final research papers for my Psychology degree. I finish this degree this month and I was glad I did this research. I have focused all my research papers around abuse. Feel free to navigate my blog and use any of the material to help you and your community. These topics tends to make most people uncomfortable, but reality is what it is. We cannot avoid uncomfortable subjects that may some day be of importance. We never know who might cross our paths and need some guidance.

Abstract

            Various studies have shown that young children who experienced sexual abuse in most cases have lasting experience that affects their relationships as they grow into adults. These studies indicate there is a correlation between adults who were sexually abused early in their lives form romantic relationships in the future. These findings highlight the relative need for further exploration into the emotional and physical wellbeing of youths. The findings can aid significantly on how the legal and administrative authorities treat sexual abuse cases involving children. In addition, focusing on children’s emotional state can help link negative behaviors associated with negative sexual abuse experiences. Treatment centers and practitioners can offer concepts on how they can change or modify cognitive and behavioral strategies that facilitate the management of an abused child. The hope is to learn more to help prevent the escalation of sexual abuse and find more innovative ways to treat the negative symptoms. It is important to understand how sexual abuse can be a source of immense discomfort for a child as they grow and form future romantic relationships.

Introduction

Extensive research on sexual violence on youths and young adults have only begun a few years ago. There was not much research done prior to 2012. This paper focuses on very recent published reports from 2014 and 2015. The intention is to present updated information and statistics so we can see the current trend as it stands today.

The statistics looks grim around child sexual abuse issues. Each year increasing numbers of children worldwide come into contact with the legal systems, social services, and child welfare systems as a result of child abuse (Katz & Barnetz, 2014). In the United States, almost 3.5 million investigations or assessments are conducted each year in responses to suspected child maltreatment issues.  In Israel more than 15,000 children were referred for abuse investigations during 2011. This alarming statistics does not just exist in a few countries; they extended to other countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia.

Globally sexual violence impacts roughly 25-33% of women (Rahill, Joshi, Lescano, & Holbert, 2012). According to a recent 2015 report published in the Journal of Affective Disorders by the University of South Florida, 50% of females in Haiti after the earthquake experienced sexual violence. This is one of the highest levels of sexual violence known and recorded. The perpetrators in these alleged cases were primarily non-intimate partners’ sexual violence. The situation is grim in some countries that the World Health Organization recently called for more research especially in disaster-affected countries.

Less is known today about the impact of sexual coercion and its effects on long term relationships. However, there is hope that future research studies may be able to shed light on this once closely protected secret that is starting to unravel little by little. As we know, an important milestone for young adults is the forming and development of romantic relationships.  It is clear from recent studies that adolescence who experience sexual violence or sexual coercion that the consequences are both long-term and very significant. It is still unknown how significantly romantic relationships are affected. However, research did show that individuals who have been sexually molested or victimized report high levels of fear and anxiety as well as lower self-esteem and poor social development. Sexual coercion in adult samples is associated with sexual difficulties, such as negative sexual perception, lower sex desires and lower satisfaction rate (Collibee & Furman, 2014).

The research field is yet to explore the extent of victims’ sexual and romantic relationship on a more long-term basis and how possible treatment may aid in the recovery process. There are only a handful of studies thus far. The focus of this research paper is primarily around sexual violence and sexual coercion. There are three peer review articles used as a demonstration of the current findings. The first research focused on the impact of sexual coercion on romantic relations of young adults. The next one focused on the symptoms of these experiences in female victims. Finally, we will take a look at the behavior patterns of abused children based on testimonies obtained during the research.

Methods

The published research in 2014 that focused on the impact of sexual coercion on romantic relationships involved participants who were part of a longitudinal study.  A total of 200 10th graders, consisting of 100 males and 100 females with a median age of 15 years were surveyed. Selections were made from a diverse range of neighborhoods in Denver, Colorado.  In order to secure time with the families and explain the project, $25 was paid to the families for the time spent in their homes. The demographic was represented by African Americans, Hispanics, Native Indians, White American, Asians and other ethnicities. Several waves of this project was conducted and compared over a long term period. Only those participants who reported sexual violence or coercion was included in the research study. From the initial 200 selected, the final 94 consisting of 44 males and 50 females were the basis of the research. 32 of the 94 reported more than one incident of sexual coercion.

Participants completed interviews, observations behaviors, and self-reported questionnaires. The measurement was conducted for sexual coercion, romantic support and negative interactions, relationship satisfaction, jealousy, dating experience, and analytical strategy.

In 2015 a research was published that focused on the symptoms of a sample of female victims of sexual violence. The goal was to measure the trauma and stress related disorders from the experiences. This would give researchers added information on the related cognitive and behavioral patterns of the participants. This study as approved by the University of South Florida. Data was collected in 2013 and results published this year. There were two focus groups and special attention was paid on crisis intervention and follow-ups with local mental health providers. Demographic information such as age, education and ethnicity were gathered for analysis.

The final research published also in 2014 focused on the behavior patterns of abused children based on their stories and testimonies. This is one of the most important aspects of any study as the thoughts, experiences, and feelings come directly from those affected. This study attempted to bridge the two areas of interest. First, the forensic line of studies that identified the ways children can be interviewed and next is the clinical line that explores the ways professionals can intervene (Katz & Barnetz, 2014). 224 alleged victims were referred by the welfare services following suspected cases of sexual abuse. 102 boys and 122 girls ranging from ages 5-13 with a median age of 10 participated in the study. 48% of the children were interviewed following sexual abuse and 52% were interviewed following physical abuse. The children who were sexually abused about half experienced the abuse just once and the other half experienced abuse multiple times.  15% of the sexual abuse cases, alleges their abuser was from a family member.

 Results

The studies show negative interactions and quality of the relationships affected negatively as a result of sexual coercion and/or sexual violence. In the case of negative interactions, the studies show levels of negative interactions increased following incidents of coercion (Fig. 1). In addition, jealousy driven by low self-esteem showed increased jealousy rates following those incidents (Fig. 2).

Serious dating by individuals who experienced coercion or violence declined at a steady rate but then recovered slightly, but not to previous levels. The conclusion was that youths exhibited less increase in serious dating. The reduction in serious dating may be related to their past relationship experience. After sexual coercion relationships, victims may not see the merits in a serious relationship. In addition, victims showed increase in sexual frequency and number of sexual partners. This can be due to what is called re-victimization where the victim needs to prove to himself or herself that they are worthy of having a relationship. Nevertheless, those relationships do not last and leads to less and less long-term serious relationships.

The study that focused on the symptoms following sexual violence resulted in varying degrees of many areas that affected the participants. These include lack of sleep, feeling scared, always feeling like the rapist is near, and uncontrollable crying are just a few of the more severe symptoms. Other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, eating and hearing beats racing are a few more consistent symptoms. The figure below is a depiction of these and other symptoms following sexual violence experiences by the participants.

The final study published in 2014 based its research on actual testimonies of victims. It was concluded that the pattern of behavior by children is one of self-change. The two self-change patterns are fight or flight. The percentage of children who displayed each pattern is about equally split between 39-43% each. The result is presented in the Venn diagram displayed below.

Discussion, Strengths and Limitation

The consequences of sexual violence have a severe risk on youths and adolescents as they enter new romantic relationships. Negative behavior patterns surface as a result and long-term relationships become difficult to keep and maintain.  Increased negative interactions were consistent in all the studies where victims have a heightened sense of ambiguous or negative partner behavior even in relationships where sexual violence is not present. In addition, victims tend to lower their expectations from partners which in turn placed even more risk of being in a relationship with someone that is less of a contributing partner or someone who may be abusive. Dating behaviors were also showing a decline especially for long-term dating. This can result in a dissatisfaction of the dating experienced and this hinders the development of adolescents into the early adulthood years.

It is important to note that participants are apprehensive to share all the information relating to sexual violence especially when the alleged perpetrator is a member of the family, especially a parent. The results may be skewed due to a lack of full disclosure. This study on sexual coercion was the first longitudinal study and may have limitation as there were no prior studies to reflect and learn from.

In the study relating to the symptoms, there are limitations and results may be negatively skewed since most of the participants have not participated or had the opportunity to express their feeling and emotions. This study was conducted on all females and is not a good representation of the population since it excluded male participants.

The dynamic of abuse within the family by family members poses the greatest risks for children and their development. Children depend on their families for food, shelter and clothing and one of the biggest limitations is the tendency for children to protect their abuser by justifying their abusers’ behaviors. Still very few children disclose abuse especially when it is in the home. The 15% of participants who said abuse occurred in the home is only based on reported cases. Many more cases do go unreported and this could negative skew this percentage.

 Conclusion

Each of these studies may lead us to understand factors that have lasting adverse consequences that have affected our youths’ mood and behavioral symptoms as a result of sexual violence. Future studies should explore the mechanisms or underlying processes by which these experiences included wellbeing of children as they grow into adults. Studies should also explore other positive parental behaviors such as physical affection to better measure the influence of feeling loved and cared for by your parents. It has long been affirmed by various health organizations around the world that child sexual abuse is a global issue that is in the infancy stages of understanding the long-term impact as they grow into adulthood. We are now seeing testing and diagnosis being done on our younger population and a heighten focus on sexual violence is at the core focus on this type of research. The inherent issue we face is the ‘shame’ factor where youths do not want to disclose they are or were sexually abused. This stigma is slowly becoming a thing of the past. As more and more youths, or even adults, speak openly of their childhood experiences, the hope is that we might be able to offer the right help they will request to mitigate the negative impact of their abuse.

These studies are the first steps in a new direction that requires further and continuous exploration. The new direction to join the clinical and forensic contexts is the direction of future studies. Hearing the children’s stories and voices may enhances and enable society to better direct services and interventions in a way that responds to the children’s needs in a more sensitive and smoother manner (Katz & Barnetz, 2014).

Some sites that provide help in the US:

http://www.nsvrc.org/

http://www.safehorizon.org/

 References

Collibee, C., Furman, W. (2014). Impact of Sexual Coercion on Romantic Experiences of Adolescents and Young Adults. Arch Sex behav, 43, 1431-1441.

Rahill, G.J., Joshi, M., Lescano, C., Holbert, D. (2015). Symptoms of PTSD in a sample of female victims of sexual violence in post-earthquake Haiti. Journal of Affective disorders, 73, 232-238.

Katz, C., Barnetz, Z. (2014). The behavior patterns of abused children as described in their testimonies. Child Abuse and Neglect, 38, 1033-1040.

 

 

 

What a Wonderful World!

Tags

, , , ,

My feeling precisely at this moment and I wanted to share it. Being grateful for a world where we live and dream and where unbelievable things happen. We love, we live, we experience, we learn, we grow. I am blessed to live in a free land where I can share my feelings with others. Music has always been part of my life and I am learning each day about the wide array of music we have access to. Enjoy this old and never old tune with lyrics below.
 7048
“I see trees of green, red roses, too,
I see them bloom, for me and you
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky,
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, sayin’, “How do you do?”
They’re really sayin’, “I love you.”
I hear babies cryin’. I watch them grow.
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself
What a wonderful world”

How important is it?

Tags

, , , ,

Getting back to one of my loves, writing. I can’t believe it has been months, but life pulls us in different directions at times and a healthy break results in a lot of new ideas.

goal

“ In life we must focus on the goal and work towards that. If we constantly stop to validate ourselves, compare our efforts or martyr ourselves, we have lost sight of the goal. Instead we become like most others; too self-absorbed and our goal drops in the priority scale. Most who have succeeded in many aspects of life, kept the focus on the goal and less focus on their individual contributions..”

Over a glass of wine with a friend, under the warm blanket of the  Florida night sky,  conversations in my backyard begun to take a different tone. Outside of the normal pleasantries and griping about our days and how aging and tired we are getting, we started to reflect on our lives. How did we end up where we are? What are some of the things we like or not like. I used to, in my  younger days, thought the world was perfect. Everyone was honest. People helped each other. Everyone means what they say and a person’s word is as good as gold. No hidden agendas. As I became older, at least in my early 40s, I realized I may be slightly off on some, if not all, of those closely held beliefs. The absolutes in my  head were ‘everyone’, ‘all’, ‘everybody’, ‘all of us’, etc. are starting to be replaced with more timid pronouns such as ‘some’, ‘a few’, ‘ a handful’, etc. I was told a while ago that the first time you meet a person it is not the true self of that person. Some facet of that person’s facade is masked to protect or prove something. I look at myself as this light hearted conversation forced me to look inwardly at myself. Am I a person trying to hide something? Feelings probably, but not my traits. Is there something I don’t want someone to know? Probably not, I am pretty open. I don’t have time to keep track of what I said or did not say. I say what I mean and mean what I say. I expect this from others and that was my disappointment and awakening that I need to pay more attention to what I hear and what someone means. I cannot interpret what I hear based on my merits. It has to be interpreted based on their merits. I have a difficult time analyzing what someone means. I take their word at face value and sometimes it is not what they say,  but how they say something. I see my world as black and white most of the times, but I also know there are shades of grey in between.

download

May not be 50 shades of grey (there are however 50 shades here), but some shades of grey. I just have to look closer. Circumstances around the person’s life or how a person is feeling may impact for they communicate. For example, when I ask someone, ‘ ..how are you doing?..’ and the reply is ‘..fine..’, I am assuming they are fine. I could be wrong so I have to pay attention to their tone, body language, demeanor, etc. This conversation pushed me to think about people’s goals, objectives, stands, rewards, recognition and a whole array of things. As I complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and completing my second book, this conversation helped me a lot in knowing how to communicate better. I listen more and try every day to talk 30% and listen 70% of the time. Not talking and listening is also communication. If I talk too much, I am not hearing the other person. Being introverted, external and social stands have never been my forte. Over the years I have learned to adapt well while keep true to my introverted self in an extraverted world.

An analogy that was used to help me:

 Imagine a horse race. The horses have blinders on. Their only goal is to reach the finish line as fast as possible. They do not care about the horse aside, in front or behind them. Their goal is to get there first. They get there and do not compare themselves with the other horses, but instead they reached the goal/marker and they move on…in preparation for the next race and the next milestone marker. 

images

This silly example helped me to see things I can do to improve myself more. Things I can do to communicate better. In the end of this conversation way after midnight, I walked away with a few things. Most of all I walked off with a statement that motivated me to continue on my mission to achieve my personal goals as I set them. That is the opening statement of this post. I will reiterate it once again: “ In life we must focus on the goal and work towards that. If we constantly stop to validate ourselves, compare our efforts or martyr ourselves, we have lost sight of the goal. Instead we become like most others; too self-absorbed and our goal drops in the priority scale. Most who have succeeded in many aspects of life, kept the focus on the goal and less focus on their individual contributions..”

One never knows what the calmness of the night, a glass of wine and the fresh air will lead to. This night it was this and I was not disappointed.

Know the facts about Alcohol Dependency

Tags

, , , ,

alcoholism  More than 17.5 million people in the United States abuse or are dependent on alcohol. However, substantially more men than women are alcohol dependent or experience alcohol-related problems. In addition, rates of alcohol problems are highest among adults ages 18-44. The risk of alcoholism is increased in children of alcoholics, especially when they engaged in binge drinking as adolescents and young adults. Alcoholism is viewed by most experts as a from of addiction, which means that alcoholics demonstrate physical dependence on alcohol and experience withdrawal symptoms when they do not drink. Dependency occurs when a drug, such as alcohol, becomes so incorporated into the functioning of the body’d cells that the drug becomes necessary for normal functioning. Alcohol addiction occurs over time as drinking alcohol alters the balance of some chemicals in the brain, causing a strong desire for more alcohol. These chemicals include:

  • Gamma-aminobutyric  acid (GABA), which inhibits impulsiveness
  • Glutamate, which excites the nervous system
  • Norepinehrine, which is released in response to stress
  • Dopamine, serotonin and opioids peptides which are responsible for pleasurable feelings.

Excessive, long term drinking can deplete or increase the levels of some of the these chemical, causing the body to crave alcohol to restore good feelings or to avoid negative feelings. Additionally, other factors come into play:

  • Genetics
  • High Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional pain
  • Close friends or partners who drink excessively
  • Sociocultural factors that glorify alcohol.

Most people seeking treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence are young adults. The most widely known treatment is Alcoholics Anonymous which was founded in Akron, Ohio in 1935 by two recovering alcoholics. Other treatment approaches include inpatient and outpatient programs at treatment centers, behavior modification, cognitive behavioral therapy, aversion therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, and acupuncture therapy. Typically the goal of these programs is abstinence.

Reference: Human Development: A Lifespan View, Fifth Edition by Robert V Kail and John C Cavanaugh. Pages 368-369

Click Alcoholics Anonymous to learn more about AA:

http://www.aa.org/