A couple of weeks ago, I had my three-month follow-up scans and appointments. I am happy to report that my scans are clear and my next follow up appointment will be in a year from now!!
We are excited about moving forward, excited about being able to enjoy our present while inventing and building our future.
My desire to help others and give back to the community is now stronger and I am directing my energy, talent, and knowledge to engage in fulfilling and meaningful activities.
I have two big projects lined up for 2016: One is to continue learning and for that I am going back to graduate school again, this time to get my MBA at the University of Maryland. The second project is related to connecting people through simple acts of kindness especially during tough times. (Stay tuned!)
I am grateful for life, for kindness, for friendship, and for love.
Today is a special and emotional day. A year ago, on September 16 of 2014, I was in the hospital with Dave and my parents patiently waiting for the harvested bone marrow cells my brave sister Caro donated on a pure act of unconditional and endless love to save my life. I am forever grateful to Caro, Dave, my parents, sister Cris, my in-laws, Marsha, brother-in-law Rafa, my friends, colleagues, and extended family for their prayers and support.
The fact that today I was able to run more than three miles at my fastest pace on record is a result of a joint effort and countless hours of care from my family and the talented team at Johns Hopkins.
Thank you to the love of my life, Dave, for serving as the Caregiver-in-Chief who made sure I had everything I needed to get back on my feet. You are my inspiration, my everything. I love you!
Thank you so much Marsha for sharing your expertise as a nurse to take care of me during the tough first period of post-transplant. I am incredibly thankful to my mother-in-law, Kathy, who dedicated over two months to take care of me and helped us with multiple chores at home, you have served to remind me that love and family matter the most. Thank you to my father-in-law, Terry, for his support, patience, and humor during extremely challenging times. Thank you to Dr. Kanakry, Laura, Dr. Bolanos-Meade, Viki, Laura, and Lynne.
Thank you to all my friends and colleagues who shared their love and encouragement in multiple creative and thoughtful ways.
Although this year hasn’t been easy, I am thankful for the gift of life and the opportunity of having a future free of disease. I am certain God has a plan and a mission for me (God, this is just a reminder that I am here, I am listening, I am ready, show me the way….)
Each three months I have a PET scan and a series of studies as a follow up post-transplant.
I just want to share with you a quick note and great news. I got the call from my doctor today confirming my scans from last week show NED (No Evidence of Disease), this means there are no signs of lymphoma = remission.
I feel happy, grateful, and blessed!
Yesterday we were blessed with a beautiful and warmer day so I decided to go for a run outside!!!!. I am happy to report that I completed 5.25 miles.
I ran in Quiet Waters, a park near home that is located on the Chesapeake Bay. I was able to run most of the time, but I had to walk and slow down on the hills. Indeed I struggled some moments, but I was determined to go as far as I could and I took it slow. I captured the photo on the right when it was time for me to run back home.
When I got home I was so happy to notice our flowers on the front and back of the house started to bloom. Spring brings new beginnings.
Tomorrow the port I have kept for three years is being removed. It is a minor surgery. I am so looking forward to not having this device anymore.
After 10 days of anxiously waiting for my scan results, my oncologist said the word we were praying to hear “Remission”.
We are grateful, happy, and excited to leave in the past these very challenging three years and a half. It was a long and difficult road that taught us the importance of having a support network of friends and family, the critical role of healthy eating and exercise to heal the body and to keep it strong. We witnessed and experienced the power of prayers, hope, and faith. And certainly we are blessed with the gifts of life and love.
I am no longer the same person and now I am on a mission to create a better version of myself. I know and believe I have a grater and bigger purpose in life to accomplish.
Certainly, life is about the moments and relationships we create, it is about enjoying the time with family and friends, it is about overcoming difficulties and leaving the past behind. Life is about seeking balance, practicing kindness, being grateful, and pursuing a better version of yourself.
Thank you for keeping me in your prayers, for giving me strength and hope when I needed it the most. May this experience serve as a reminder that life is a precious gift.
I hope you had a terrific weekend and celebrated love. And yes, it is great opportunity to take a pause and cherish love and friendship. Many of you might be surprised since in Mexico Valentine’s Day is the day to celebrate not only love but friendship. I have great memories from High School when we celebrated El Dia del Amor y la Amistad (The day of Love and Friendship). Each year high school seniors dressed formally and delivered letters, roses, flowers, and brought Serenata (Serenade) on behalf of others. It was a lot of fun not only because seniors will raise money towards graduation or a trip, but because classes were interrupted by deliveries, guitars, and short love songs. I also remember girls always competing to see who will receive the highest number of roses and letters. Obviously your heart will be broken if you didn’t receive a rose, flower, or a letter (not fun). Regardless, even though Valentine’s day is a popular and commercial day I like the reminder that love prevails and surrounds us. Love is manifested in many shapes and forms through our friends, colleagues, family,our faith, even strangers, and our furry friends. But most importantly love is a gift from God.
I know. I haven’t shared on the blog my thoughts and feelings about faith and it has been on purpose since I struggled to make peace with the challenges I faced and for a long time I felt I was left behind. It was until I started reading about faith that I understood that faith is about trust and letting go, about the belief of a greater plan for us, the deep understanding that we are not alone and instead we are blessed with love, resources, faith, and strength to persevere.
The last couple of weeks have been tough because I am going through a roller coaster of emotions and I am nervous about my upcoming scans in March 2. Physically I feel stronger and better each day, I am able to run a bit more and my hair keeps growing and the graft-versus-host on my skin is less painful and noticeable. Emotionally most days I feel super excited, positive, and great; but others I feel the complete opposite. Despite difficult days, I know I will persevere.
Time flies, today I am +124 days post transplant. My hair is growing back, I am working again (most days from home), and I am able to keep a steady pace for more minutes when I run. Although I feel tired, I am doing well. I think it is not only because I take my medicines and follow my doctor’s advice, but because I watch what I eat.
As a fervent believer of nutrition and its healing power, I always ask oncologists and other health professionals what do they recommend in terms of diet/nutrition to stay strong. The answer I always get is “just keep eating healthy”. But what does it exactly mean for someone struggling with a disease? What can a person do to stay healthy and eat better?
Since I couldn’t get a clear recommendation directly from my doctors, I started reading and learning more about nutrition, the nutritious value of food, and its role in healing the body. I learned about the importance of the quality of food versus relying only on calorie intake. The bottom-line? Nutrition is a matter of balance and a personal choice.
During my learning process I also found opposite views about nutrition from individuals in the field of traditional medicine and those in the alternative/holistic healing arena.
The traditional medicine field promotes treating and curing diseases using medicines, vaccines, and – in the case of cancer – through the use of therapies such as chemo, radiation, and immunoteraphy. What is interesting (and shocking!) to me is the fact that nutrition is not included into the patient’s care plan most of the time. In the hospital, many times I saw patients eating incredible amounts of food full of sugar and salt while receiving chemo or recovering from a transplant.
On the other side, most of the alternative/holistic blogs and sources I have read talk about changing your diet and skipping standard treatments such as chemo or radiation. These sources feature stories of patients claiming that their disease (and cancer) is in remission because they followed a raw diet, took vitamins, or became vegan. Although these stories are incredible and I don’t doubt the healing power of food, we have to remember that each case is different and it is always recommended to double check the source of information, and to verify the credentials of those making the claims.
Although there are very few great doctors in the U.S. and in the world that approach health in an integral or holistic way, I am hopeful this field will grow and get to the point where doctors and health professionals combine the healing power of nutrition with successful standard treatments. And yes, there will be cases which changing a lifestyle towards eating vegetables and fruits will suffice to cure a disease or health condition.
In my particular case, I need to stay healthy and strength my new immune system. So these are steps I take to eat healthier:
Cook my own meals anytime I can. This is how I control source, quality, and quantity
Look for the amount of sugar on each product I buy. I choose products with less or zero added sugar
Choose fresh food when available. When fresh food is not available I select products with the least amount of ingredients listed on the label. The fewer crazy ingredients, the better.
Say no to any “light” or “fat-free” products. I eat much less when I eat the regular version of the product (i.e. yogurt, ice-cream, milk, sour cream, chocolate)
Incorporate a vegetable into each meal. Although potatoes are delicious, they are starch, and don’t count as vegetables (sorry!). I always have romaine lettuce and make a simple salad in case I don’t have other fresh vegetable
Make my own orange juice. I know, it is time consuming, but this source of Vitamin C is totally worth it
Reduced the consumption of milk and animal products. I love milk and cheese, but I eat less than I used too. Animal products such as red meat are very limited on my diet
Keep and freeze ripped fruit for smoothies. I combine frozen bananas and strawberries with almond milk and a drop of vanilla extract
Do not drink soda anymore. I used to drink diet coke and sodas regurarly. Now I don’t. I only drink plain water and iced tea
Eat dessert and enjoy!. I like sweets very much and although I don’t eat dessert all the time, when I do I just savor each bite. No guilt!!
Eating healthy is a lifestyle and a commitment with yourself. For many patients eating healthier means to reclaim control over their bodies; it is certainly a personal choice.
May this new year bring health, opportunities, harmony, and peace to all of us.
I am grateful for starting a new year surrounded by family and friends. I value the support received and the lessons learned in 2014. Most importantly I am grateful for the gift of life.
During the Holidays, my parents and sister Cris visited and spent Christmas with us. We had a great time and celebrated the fact that on Christmas Day I reached 100 days post-transplant. And to conclude the holiday season, we welcomed the new year with my in-laws.
These 100+ days haven’t been easy but I have been patient. I am still in risk of infection and dealing with side effects on my skin associated with Graft Versus Host Disease – a common consequence of the life-saving bone marrow transplants.- However, I started walking and running again, I am not struggling with daily nausea anymore, my hair started to grow back, I am tired but it is manageable, and I will go back to work on January 5; all things considered I am in good shape.
I feel hopeful and I am looking forward to a great and positive year.