March 28, 2014 – Miami Beach, Florida.
I am writing this post from South Beach, the home of beautiful people. Of gorgeous sun and roads lined with palm trees. I feel like I am in heaven!
My mind wanders to the last time I was in Florida. I had just completed 18 weeks of chemotherapy treatment for Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. I was scheduled to start a new set of chemotherapy treatments and, possibly at the time, a stem cell transplant for Stage 3 Multiple Myeloma. I was tired and sick. Boldly, I asked Dr. Tiedemann if I could go to Florida for a week before continuing with the treatments. I fully expected him to say No. He said yes. And Nagib immediately booked us on a flight before Dr. Tiedemann could change his mind!
This was in July 2012. I needed a wheelchair at the airport as I was too weak to walk. I remember being so tired all the time. Eating was a challenge. My suitcase was packed with medicine and medical supplies. I had a PICC line in my right arm. I had no hair and had to wear a big hat to protect me from the sun. It turned out to be a wonderful trip. Sabrina, Nagib and I savoured every moment because we realized that I would have an uphill battle once we returned home. Here’s a picture of me from Tampa International Airport on August 1, 2012:
Now, we have returned to Florida after 20 months. And, everything is different and it’s the same. I walked with Nagib as we navigated our way through the airports. I am able to eat with gusto. I have more energy. I have my own hair that I can actually comb and style. My chemo brain is gone and I actually feel smart again. In 20 months, it is almost as if my world has turned upside down (or should I say, right side up). Here’s a picture from nearly the same spot – Gate F89, Tampa International Airport, Florida — 20 months later:
Everything is the same – yet, strangely, it’s all different.
Time has an interesting way of making us forget. If I don’t think about it consciously, I can easily forget the past two years and pretend that the cancer did not happen. In some ways this is a blessing because it allows me to move forward. Yet, I do think that there is value in remembering and reflecting. It keeps me honest. It allows me not to take things for granted. To treasure every experience.
Reflecting on the past and keeping the best of it, while moving confidently into the future, is a balancing act. In the past two years, I have learnt the value of family and friends. Of competent health care professionals. Of taking care of yourself. Of making a difference in the lives of others. Of giving back. Of doing work you love to do. Of being mindful. Of making time count. Of appreciating what you have. Of keeping hope alive at all times. And most importantly of the miracle of prayer – thanks to your prayers and encouragement, I’m here, in Florida. With Nagib in meetings, I’m by myself — shopping, eating, galivanting on Lincoln Road…