The End of an Amazing Vacation…

That night, after visiting Machu Picchu, we explored the city for the last time before heading back to Cusco the next morning.

Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. :D
Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. 😀

The following morning we took the train back to Cusco and settled into our hotel.

Arriving back into Cusco...
Arriving back into Cusco…

The next two days in Cusco were spent exploring the main square and visiting nearby ruins, such as the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. This was also the perfect time to break away from all of the touristy restaurants and eat like the locals. There is nothing worse than visiting a place and not experiencing the culture. The food was absolutely amazing! It was fresh and cooked to perfection. We even tried Alpaca while we were out there, and to my surprise, it was delicious! (I apologize in advance for any vegans reading this post)

Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! :)
Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! 🙂

Since we were there for Palm Sunday, we were able to visit the cathedral for their mass. It was beautiful, and the largest I had ever seen. Certainly a great way to end the trip. After leaving Cusco and arriving in Lima, we spent a little time on a guided tour, exploring the city before it was time to board the plane again. We stopped to eat at a place called Tanta Tanta. The food was delicious and although it was dark out, there was a nice view.

On our way back home I spent some time thinking about our entire vacation. I felt as though the trip had changed me somehow. It had opened up a new world of possibilities and fed my desire to travel and learn more. It also made me realize that I needed to stop living my life behind the scenes, or how others thought I should live my life, and I needed to share my experience with others. Not my vacation, but my journey. Everything I had gone through and all that I was to become. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I was going to find a way…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Machu Picchu…

The next morning I woke up with so much built up excitement. I had heard so many stories about the different energy levels found on the mountain, and I wanted to experience it all. I wanted to feel that euphoria people claimed they felt while visiting.

As I handed over my ticket and passport, I felt goose bumps traveling up my spine. “This is it! We are on Machu Picchu!” We were traveling as a group, but I remember leaving them behind a few times. It wasn’t intentional. I could just feel the mountain calling out to me, guiding me through its paths. It was almost as if I had been there before.

It almost fits in my hand...lol j/k :)
It almost fits in my hand…lol j/k 🙂

When we reached the top however, my feet were planted right to the ground. I could have spent hours gazing into the distance. I didn’t feel the change in energy everyone had talked about, what I felt, however, was absolute freedom. Maybe that’s what people were trying to explain? Till this day, just thinking about the feeling I had that day, brings happy tears to my eyes.

Enjoying the spectacular view :)
Enjoying the spectacular view 🙂

It made me thankful that I was able to survive my journey and have this experience. Thankful to hear each sound as it was, not as someone heard it, and to see and feel everything with my own eyes and hands, versus seeing it through the lens of someone’s camera and imagining what it would feel like.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

A photo recap of my first follow up visits last Thursday…

Checking in for testing...
Checking in for testing…
Faith, courage, strength.... 3 very powerful words
Faith, courage, strength…. 3 very powerful words
A little silliness prior to testing and my candid expressions after...
A little silliness prior to testing and my candid expressions after…
A snap shot of my visit with my Oncologist...
A snap shot of my visit with my Oncologist…
My Radiation Oncologist  and Nurse...
My Radiation Oncologist and Nurse…
Candid shots during my visit with my radiation oncologist....
Candid shots during my visit with my radiation oncologist….

Let my travels begin…

Less than 2 weeks into my move I was getting ready to board a plane for Peru. “Could I be any luckier?” I felt so blessed to be taking such an amazing trip, and couldn’t wait to explore another country. This was one of those vacations that I put on my bucket list, but never thought I’d have a chance to take. It was so surreal arriving in Lima the first night. “I can’t believe I’m actually here!”

Early the next morning, we were back on a plane, destination Cusco. One of our stops was the Scared Valley. There was something so special about being in those mountains. The weather was beautiful and the sites were breathtaking. That night we stayed in one of my favorite hotels, Casa Andina. The view from our room was something right out of a movie! It was gorgeous and everywhere we went the people were so kind and accommodating.

After waking up to the most incredible view I had ever seen, we had a quick breakfast and boarded a bus that took us to the train station. There, we’d board the train taking us to Machu Picchu. I must say, up to this point, we were very impressed with the booking agency we used. All of our accommodations were beyond my expectations. Many of them first class.

At last, we arrived in the town of Machu Picchu. It was small and so full of great energy. Our hotel was so close to all of the markets, dining and entertainment. It was the perfect place to just go exploring on your own without feeling like you could get lost. Of course, this also meant we did a lot of shopping too. 😉

The hotel provided the entire group with a spectacular dinner that evening. We really enjoyed ourselves, and were excited about going to Machu Picchu the following morning. I couldn’t wait to be on the top of that mountain, and take a moment to reflect on all I had gone through, and the many blessings I had received along the way…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

My new home…

I was finally moved into my new place, and officially done traveling to and from every weekend. It was hard while I was attending school earlier in the year, but even harder, later down the line, while undergoing my radiation treatments. After a year of traveling, I was ready to finally ground myself again.

I spent most of the first month exploring the city with the infamous “YELP” app. It helped me find some good places to eat and people watch. I love watching people go about their day. I often wonder what it is they might be thinking about and what kinds of things they have planned. Observing body language can really tell you a lot about a person too. All in all, I was enjoying my time off. It was a time for me to think about what more I wanted to do with my life.

I’d say the biggest adjustment I had to make after moving to the city was coping with traffic and the aggressive nature of some of the people that live here. Being raised in Naples, people were far more relaxed and approachable. I felt like people in the city were always in a rush to get somewhere. Too busy to even smile. It’s such a foreign concept to me. Now, put these people in cars and you’ve got yourself a serious problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone show me “the finger”.

I’ve learned to brush it off though and just move out of the way. Life is just too short, and to be honest with you, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to live in a place that offers so much adventure and new possibilities. That includes the possibility of building new friendships. Even though I’ve had some unpleasant experiences, I’ve also managed to find some really great individuals.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

*** Note to Reader ***

The amazingly adorable dog in the picture with me is my cute little boy Chico. He’ll be six this year. 🙂

Coming together as a community…

Good morning everyone! I have a huge favor to ask of you all. Someone I hold very near and dear to my heart has been asked to have a biopsy done, after finding a mass on her mammogram and ultrasound results. Would you please include her in your thoughts and prayers?

My wish for her is that the results come back negative, and that this simply be an opportunity for us to come together again as a community, to support one another just like you’ve all supported me. Her name is Josefina. Thank you so much and I wish you all a very blessed day.

With endless gratitude,
Elizabeth 🙂

Results are in…

Good evening everyone!

I’m happy to report that the results of my first check up since surgery and the completion of my radiation treatment are in and I’m clear!

Thank you all again for your prayers and words of encouragement. I really appreciate all of you. 🙂

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Photos and details to follow…

Another milestone…

The day has finally come!

I’m officially on my way to Naples this morning to follow up with both of my oncologist’s, and to have my first follow up mammogram and ultrasound since the completion of my radiation treatment.

Though I feel all will turn out okay, I can’t ignore the small part of me that is very nervous and anxious to know my results.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my outcome…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Saying goodbye…

It was officially my last day at work and time to say goodbye to the people I had worked with for over 11 years. I was excited to be starting a new life on the other coast, but I was also sad to be leaving everyone behind. My coworkers had become my family and my best friends.

These were the people that watched me grow into the person I am today, and taught me so much along the way. To be honest with you, even through the tough times, this was the kind of place people only dreamed of working in. My boss is the kind of doctor that works “for the people” and not “for the dollar”. Yes, we all know it’s a business but, he taught me to be compassionate towards my patients, and by example taught me, that without a good patient/doctor relationship there is no business.

As I cut my cake and we shared a few laughs, I remember reflecting back on my experiences and with a smile on my face thinking, “These people will always hold a special place in my heart”.

Goodbye to my life here in beautiful Naples, FL. It was now time to head on over to the place I would now call home. A place full of new opportunities and adventures to come, Miami, FL.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

The importance of organization & reviewing your medical records…

I can’t stress enough how important it’s been for me to keep all of my medical and financial records in order. Since the start of my journey in November of 2013, I had an insane amount of paper work to keep track of. Even the educational materials I received in the form of books and pamphlets were starting to accumulate.

I immediately decided at that point to come up with a system that would not only keep my information organized, but also make it easy to travel with. A binder was the easiest way for me to achieve that kind of organization and portability. The educational materials however, I left in a designated spot at home.

I kept my binder pretty basic, so that anyone that had to access it could clearly understand my method. To start, each doctor was labeled and separated with a divider. On each section, I printed the physicians contact information. This made it easy for me to share this with any other doctor that needed it.

Now, the testing I had done could have easily been filed 2 different ways. I could separate it by location of the facility or, simply place the test results in with the physician who ordered it. I chose to place the results of each exam in accordance to the physician that requested it. Most of them were ordered by my primary doctor anyway, and I wanted to reduce the amount of dividers in my binder. Whatever method you choose, just be sure it’s the right one for you, and that it’s user friendly to the person that will be assisting you during your journey. They may need to reference it during a time you may not be feeling your best.

After a while, however, I had to keep the financial records aside because my original binder was starting to get to crowded. This was an easy binder to divide as well. I made a tab for radiology, doctors, pharmacy, hospital, Moffitt, and pathology. I also included a spiral notebook for me to keep monthly track of my expenses, as well as the mileage associated with anything medical. I highly recommend documenting these things, as it will make it easier to calculate later for your taxes. Now, you may opt to do it with a software program which is great. I just like having a hard copy of everything, just in case. This goes for medical records as well. A few people I’ve met have chosen to scan their records and keep them on a USB. That’s a great idea but, you may run into trouble if you come across a doctor who is unable to load the information into his system. Bottom line, I found keeping a hard copy to be much more effective.

My last piece of advice for today is simply a reminder. As a patient, I encourage you to exercise your right to request a copy of your medical records. Often times, your physician is able to give you a copy right after your visit. If not, most offices are happy to provide you with a copy by mail. Many doctors now even offer the option to access your chart online through your patient portal. Remember, an informed patient is a good patient. Too often patients assume doctors never make mistakes and that’s not true.

Doctors are human too, and though they don’t mean to, they can document something incorrectly or forget to document it at all. For example, you may have mentioned an allergy you now have to a medication, but while expressing that to your physician, you also mention another symptom you were having or the amazing vacation you just came back from. In the moment your doctor is intently listening to what you have to say, they could easily forget to go back and input that bit of information. I know it’s happened to me before in my own life when trying to multitask, so why would it be okay to assume it couldn’t happen to my physician. What is it that I’m trying to tell you? Review your medical records. It could prevent something terrible from happening later…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

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