Tuesday, September 5, 2017

THREE YEAR CHECK-UP

We are searchlights, we can see in the dark

I had my 3 year follow-up exam at Royal Marsden today. It is always an anxious time the week leading up to the appointment.

I had more than 10 hours to think about the appointment and life in general and in detail during my drive down to Falmouth last weekend to drop the oldest off at uni. Do you know how much thinking you can do in 10 hours? To make the journey more bearable, I had my new favorite song on repeat for a few hours. Listening to the same song, over and over again, allows your mind to wander on many levels. (Too bad I still can’t sing.) Here are my “life thoughts” while letting P!NK’s new song "What about us?" carry me home.

Being in remission is sometimes dark because you are frustrated that your body is not like it used to be and in most cases you can’t do anything about it. The searchlights are friends that care about you just the way you are. I am blessed to have so many searchlights shining right in my face. That’s on a personal level.  

The world is an amazing place but there is always darkness and we each need to be a searchlight. We are all humans. Why do we say nasty things to others? It serves no purpose to use negative adjectives before someone’s name. It shows lack of respect and compassion. Why is this so rampant today? Have these people never heard of the “20-second hug?”



Who is your searchlight?





Driven past numerous times now, must visit soon.

 
We are rockets, pointed up at the stars
After chemo:
Year 1 for me was life with a chemo brain “fog” (don’t know how I did so many things and don’t remember half of them)
Year 2 for me was “ok, it’s time to move past (ignore) the chemo brain and focus on training for the London to Paris cycling event for Bloodwise.”
Year 3 has been “sitting on the couch” trying to get the energy levels up but still do all those things that make life amazing.
DREAMS AND GOALS for YEAR 4 will be finding purpose and that journey begins now!
DREAMS AND GOALS for YEAR 5 will be tackling London to Paris with Bloodwise and making it up every single hill without cussing and to actually enjoy the experience while it is happening. (Who is with me this time?)


We are billions of beautiful hearts
We are humans. My children attend an International School. There are over 50 different nationalities and 20 languages spoken. I have “mom” friends from many different countries. There are many types of greetings and it took a while to master who gets what, i.e one kiss on the cheek, one kiss on each cheek or in some cases three kisses alternating between cheeks. (British, French, Dutch)
At the start of this school year, I’ve decided I am just doing hugs (although not a 20-second one). I feel better and I hope they do too. It puts us heart to heart. So far so good. One small action can make a big change.


And you sold us down the river too far
Don’t we all want to believe in the good? I can not understand the people who think they are better than anyone else. LET ME REPEAT: WE ARE ALL HUMANS.

What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy-ever-afters?
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
I have experienced all of the above this year: know-it-alls that know nothing, dreams not being fulfilled, vacations that had to be cancelled.
In the moment, I didn’t always handle it the way I wanted but as time goes on that never give up attitude bubbles up and lets me make new plans. I am ever hopeful. (A perk of being a cancer survivor is living to see another day in this amazing world and appreciating it.)

What about love?
What about trust? What about us?
Do I give enough love? Am I open enough to receive love? How do I handle broken trust? Are my expectations unrealistic? I am me. Not everyone agrees with me. (that’s ok) I always make better decisions once I have perspective and facts. I feel confident being me. A 20-second hug usually helps when it’s from my youngest son. He is the best hugger.

Who can we trust in this world? Are we critical thinkers? I am fascinated by social media and how it affects us. We are humans. We are complex. We have more in common than we realize. We all need a hug. (It can’t hurt anyway, right? ;-)

We are problems that want to be solved.
OMG – all these problems in the world and I can’t fix all(any) of them (and would never claim to be able to.) The only one I can fix is me. If something is missing in my life, I do try and fix it. (This leads to way too much stress sometimes but life would be boring without it.)
Missing Sophie, our black lab that passed away December 2015, led to a spontaneous decision to get a new puppy. Skye arrived into our family home on April 23, 2017. I had forgotten how it was with a puppy…….
Now she is six months old and she is not Sophie, she is Skye. She has her own personality and little idiosyncrasies but our house is again filled with dog hair and chewed up items. (gosh, how I missed that)
 
Skye, two months old

Skye, 3 months old

Skye, 5 months old



We are children that need to be loved.
My three children have had to take a lot of shit from me when my chemo brain clouded out reasoning during the last three years. Less patience, and small problem becomes a big one quickly. Don’t we say these things out of love? “brush your teeth now; take a shower you smell slightly; do your homework; elbows off the table; unload the dishwasher….”
The pressure to raise children that will contribute positively in this world and be secure in themselves is immense. (for me, anyway) I take my job seriously. Upon reflection, they are three fantastic kids that are well on their ways to becoming responsible adults. Lucky me to be their mom. Blessed.
(Reminder to self: tell them and show them more often)

We were willing, we came when you called.
But man, you fooled us. Enough is enough, oh
You get to the point where “enough is enough” and sometimes don’t even realize it but then you react and take action and hopefully make a change. It is so hard to realize that you have been fooled. The only option as I see it is to do something about it.  (chemo side effects, neighbors, dog training, different opinions, travel plans, world views, politics, manners…….)

Sticks and stones they may break these bones. But then I’ll be ready. Are you ready?
No broken bones, but I told the doctor today how I was feeling every morning as I get out of bed and all my joints are sore and slow to get going like a really old person. His response “that is typical with chemo.”

OH MY GOSH. Now he tells me this. Tomorrow morning I will be ready to rock and roll and shuffle out of bed and into the bathroom to start the day at 100 miles per year (;-) knowing that’s the new normal for me.

A barrier or a wall put in front of me doesn’t deter me it just makes me more determined to get over it, under it or around it any way I can. That makes me ready, right?!!!!   I AM READY for what life is going to throw at me!

It’s the start of us waking up, come on.
Are you ready? I’ll be ready.
Three years in remission. Yeah! The doctor examined me for any lumps, I cracked some jokes, he said “the results of your blood work was unremarkable” (got me thinking what he meant). I left him a copy of my blog post from the London to Paris Bloodwise experience and raising a huge amount of money for blood cancer research and he congratulated me. “OK, see you next year” he said. It was over too quick. I made next year’s appointment and left the Royal Marsden in a daze. I DID IT. I SURVIVED THREE YEARS. Thankful for all the good and bad times. Looking forward to more good times.

I don’t want control. I just want to let go.
I am a control person. Does anyone have the answer on how to “just let go?” I dream about this.

Now it’s time to let them know we are ready. What about us?
We can’t just sit by and watch things happen. We need to react and act on every level. (personally, our family, our friends, our town, our country and our world) We only get one life!!!    I AM READY. I am ready.

I am ready to: be more happy, raise more money for blood cancer research, show more love, laugh more, be brave, love life. 
Are You Ready?


What about us?  HUMANS
What about us?  HUGS
What about us?  HAPPY

Monday, November 14, 2016

BLOODWISE LONDON TO PARIS RIDE 2016.......I DID IT....

It all started 11 months ago when I foolishly signed up for the 2016 London to Paris 500 km bike ride with the blood cancer charity BLOODWISE to take place September 15-18, 2016.

We were the lead group heading to the finish line......(cobblestones are uncomfortable to bike over.....)
That's a long time to prepare and a chance to overcome each obstacle and convince myself it was possible for me to do.

I told myself I could only do it if certain things were in place to make me look and feel the part of a cyclist: custom painted bicycle with my "blood" red color and my motto "Be Brave Love Life," a cool Kask Helmet in the USA flag version, cycling sunglasses from Oakley with prism lenses and margarita flavored gel bloks with extra sodium in case I sweated too much.

Then the next hard part was getting on the bike and riding it- putting in the miles. My balance after the chemo hasn't been so good, along with loss of feeling in hands and feet while riding-made this more challenging.

The challenge of learning how to ride in traffic, picking myself up after a fall, and then three weeks before the ride, switching to clip-in shoes to use the power that I had built up and confirmed after my bike fit with Ben. (He complimented my long femurs which would make me a better cyclist.) 

So the 11 months went by and I prepared as best I could, nervousness crept in and laid itself just below the surface as the day to stand on the start line at Eltham Palace approached. 

There were almost 200 riders on the starting line but we were a team of friends united for the cause on the starting line.


Smiling before we realized what the day would entail.....
The awesome Ride Captains
The Be Brave Love Life Team: 
Peter, husband, my #1 supporter, a man who loves Lycra, he loves to cycle, he loves to talk and makes many friends 
Eileen, friend, St. Bonaventure University roommate, nurse and researcher, fantastic laugh, never gives up, made the journey from New York to support me and the cause
Aaron, friend, CFO for IKEA UK and Ireland, cycled in his youth, Australian, thoughtful and funny, a natural cyclist
Iannick- friend, very tall (an advantage when cycling), Canadian, has a funny sense of humor, strong rider to give that extra push to anyone who needs it


Eileen, Aaron, Iannick, Peter and I at the starting line at Eltham Palace.
Day 1 London to Calais
Early start, taxis with bicycles and luggage, nervous, nervous, tired, nervous, still naive!

Hills, hills, traffic, cursed by British drivers, heat, heat, ride captains, a story to tell, the last hill, the van, being in the "slowcial group" the ferry, hotels and bus problems, worry of crashing, losing feeling in hands and legs, seemingly relentless pace. 
Bikes -front wheel fit in taxi
Look ma, no hands
British countryside....
Helping hand up those dang hills.....
Day 1(according to Strava)
Data from Day 1: Cycled 115 km in 5:30 hours, total elevation 1,208 meters, 2,267 calories burned, average speed of 21 km per hour, maximum speed 52,2 km (holy crap)

Day 2 Calais to Abbeville 
Woke up early not feeling too bad thanks to the compression pants that saved me. Little did I know that today would be the ultimate MENTAL and PHYSICAL challenge. 
It was colder, raining, (I had only been a fair weather trainer), hills, hills, awesome ride captains, frustrations, by lunchtime- I was quite near to a mental break down, faster groups were already relaxing. Near exhaustion, physical fatigue and mental frustration- forces me to the van for part of the day- glad for that experience and chance to rest both the mental and physical me. Another perspective!!!


Another little hill.....early in the day...
I recommend resting in the van when necessary.


Another hill...in the beautiful French countryside.
Rejoin the group for the last 40 km in the pouring rain. For the last two hours I see nothing but the wheel of the biker ahead of me, tense in the entire body, wet like never before, wondered many times and why the heck I had signed up for this. Self-inflicted torture is not my usual modus operandi. 


Only Peter smiles in the rain!

Aaron and Iannick at the rest stop
The little French towns were very picturesque (when I could look around)
Eileen the determined one!!!!!
Before the rain.....


Pit stops in the middle of the French countryside included the ladies finding a hedgerow to hide behind as we emptied our bladder- not an easy or quick task- no vanity needed for this task. 

Felt good to finish- but no time to relish it as being the slow group and last to arrive, we had to hurry to the buses. I sat in my soaked clothes for about 45 minutes in the bus to the hotel on the Atlantic coast. Not so much energy left. Too tired to really think or appreciate what I had done that day. Ate dinner because I needed to and then it was off to bed and hoping that the 6 hours sleep would feel like 10 hours in the morning. Sleeping with compression pants was a saving grace.


Data from Day 2: Cycled 139 km in 6:44 hours, total elevation 1,487 meters, 2,809 calories burned, average speed of 21 km per hour

Day 3 Abbeville to Beauvais 

It was still cold but just drizzle and not pouring rain. Hills, I suck at hills, especially when I have to do hill after hill and no time to catch my breath- the amazing ride captains. I love ride captains (my saviours) and they showed up with a helping hand every time I needed it.

Arrived to Beauvais and we were welcomed by the town mayor - that was the first time I could breathe out and feel good and enjoy and look around a little bit. 
I think this was the day with the frolicking cows in the field- an amazing sight. 

Lunch time day 3.....

Bus to hotel at end of day 3.

Our recpetion at the end of day 3 at the local fire house with the mayor!
THIS. GROUP.
Also an amazing sight is the line of 200 riders dressed in the same kit, sweating, pedaling up and down each hill and all cycling for the same cause- TO BEAT BLOOD CANCER.

Day 3
Data from Day 3: Cycled 119 km in 5:56 hours, total elevation 955 meters, 1,947 calories burned, average speed of 20 km per hour

Day 4 Beauvais to Paris 
It's the last day, still apprehension on my part, the end in sight. I have determination. Peter and company ride with me and give the moral support that was so needed, that extra support with a hand on my back was an unspoken signal that they care and were there for me. Forever humbled by their actions.

The kit for the ride into Paris. LAST DAY!!!!!
Our team and some others had matching socks.....

A bike path just outside of the city center.

The Be Brave Love Life team just before the last 25 km into Paris.
Just outside Paris, we regroup and will all ride the last 25 km together. No stopping allowed because the motorcycle outriders close the roads and guard each intersection and the schedule can't be altered in any way. This makes me nervous and puts the pressure on me to keep cycling even though I can't feel my feet or hands at times.

At every regrouping during the 4 days- the command (suggestion and helpful hint) from the ride captains was "all slower riders get in the front" yep, they were talking to me!

So at the last regrouping, I was at the front with Peter, Aaron, Eileen, Iannick, Louise, Mo and Allan. We rode in together and they helped me keep up with a gentle hand on my back when it was needed. It was an exhilarating, exhausting and emotional feeling as we rode up the Champs Elysses, got bumped up and down over the cobblestones past the Arc de Triumph and rode past the Eiffel Tower to the finish line which I crossed first. I was almost last at every other pit stop during the 4 day ride. 

It was a dream to finish and to survive in one piece. The hardest thing I have ever done. 






Day 4
Data from Day 4: Cycled 103 km in 4:52 hours, total elevation 946 meters, 1,831 calories burned, average speed of 21 km per hour, max speed 51 km

During the 4 days there was a photographer and video crew on hand to record this event for posterity and to raise additional funds for this amazing charity. All the fantastic professional pictures taken here are by Digi Dave Hayward Photos.

This year's song was "Can't stop this feeling" by Justin Timberlake. I even got a "part" in the video at the 1:40 mark. This is a must see video: click here.


Finish line celebrations!

That's me.

Those medals look good!

The Medic and I

Happy and delirious



All for a good cause!


FINISH LINE CONCLUSIONS
A personal challenge for me. 
Only possible with the support of friends, family, the ride captains, support crew. 
I am only able to do it because I received chemotherapy at the right time two years ago and it worked. All thanks to cancer research made possible by the Bloodwise charity and their focus to beat blood cancer. 
So even though I was torturing myself- I was earning the money that so many have generously donated to my BLOODWISE page- knowing first hand that every penny counts.


Two years in remission have been a struggle.

Do I love cycling? No. (It still scares the shit out of me.)
Do I like cycling? Yes. (I proved to myself that I could overcome so many obstacles.)
Would I do it again? Not sure yet (I did enjoy immensely the personal interaction with the other riders, ride captains and support crew and the amazing French fresh pain riche with cheese on Day 3 lunch.)


So I kindly thank all those that have donated to this worthy cause!!!
And I kindly ask those of you who haven't yet donated to do so- for me and for the cause (and because Aaron and I are having a little friendly competition on who can raise the most and I want to win....) (we are at just over £8,000 and would be overjoyed to break the £10,000 mark with your help)


Here is the link to my page: Teresa's London to Paris    


PLEASE DONATE TODAY(hint, hint, hint)

Here is the link to our BeBraveLoveLife team



LOVE TO YOU ALL. 
THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT. 
HILLS. TRAINING. 
CHALLENGE. FUCK CANCER. 
BEAT BLOOD CANCER. REMISSION. 
TEAM. LOVE. FRIENDS. 
A GOOD CAUSE.