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 🙂

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 🙂

Final check ups before the big move…

Once the high from the half marathon wore out, it was time to countdown the days before my last radiation treatment. It was a bitter sweet good bye but, on February 14th, I completed my last treatment and said goodbye to the group of technicians that within a short period of time, had become family. Looking back, I can’t believe how quickly the time passed. On my last follow up with the radiation oncologist, I was given the 2 thumbs up and a, “we’ll see you again in a few months”.

Next I had to follow up with my oncologist so that he could start me on my medication, and let’s not forget about the gynecologist. I still needed to get his opinion on the area in my pelvis that had raised a red flag before.

I went first to the gynecologist and after reviewing the results of the tests that were done, he was pretty convinced that there wasn’t anything I needed to worry about. He did however, recommend I establish with a gynecological oncologist once I moved so that I could have it monitored. I made note of the recommendation, and with great relief, crossed off “get a second opinion on pelvic results”, from my to-do list.

The last person I checked in with was my oncologist. After finishing my radiation treatments, he started me on a medication called Tomaxifen. Since my cancer cells had come up 100% positive for both progesterone and estrogen receptors, it was imperative that I take this medication to help reduce my hormone levels. I was warned of the possible side effects but lets face it, the pros out weighed the cons.

I was happy to report back to him that so far I had been handling the medication very well except for a small visit to the gynecologist. Unfortunately, the medication can increase your chances of an infection because it throws off you bodies natural flora. It didn’t take long before I got one, but luckily, the nurse practitioner at my gynecology office was able to recommend a few things that could prevent it from happening again.

So with future my appointments in hand, I said goodbye to my doctors. It was amazing to feel like I could finally focus on my move. It was however, sad to be leaving everyone behind. I loved my co-workers and was going to miss my friends and family more than I could ever imagine. I hadn’t mentioned it before, but for a small period of time I began seeing a therapist to help me through the emotional part of my journey. You didn’t think I was going to leave all up to the antidepressants did you? No way! I needed to reach out as well and find a comfortable place for me to share what I was going through. It is something I would recommend to anyone going through their own struggles, regardless of what your journey is.

Leaving her behind was hard too, because she had helped me get through some really tough times. I was beginning to wonder if I was ready to make such a big change until I reminded myself of the gift that came with a pink ribbon. I had already gone through such a difficult journey, and if I kept the same attitude, there was nothing I wouldn’t be able to accomplish in the future.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

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Today, June 18th 2014…

Though I’ve begun to fulfill what I feel is part of my purpose in life, I still feel like I’m meant to do something more. I’ve begun to share my story but, what’s next? Is what I’m doing enough? Am I really helping others to my fullest potential or is there more I can be doing? It’s a question I hope to find an answer to soon, but in the meantime, I just have to trust that my life is unfolding the way it’s suppose to, and do my best to learn from each experience I encounter.

On a completely different note, I have some growing concerns about the upcoming appointments I have next week. I’m scheduled to see my oncologist and radiation oncologist, as well as, have my first follow up mammogram since my surgery. It will be a busy day and, can I be honest with you? I’m really nervous about it. I’ve been feeling discomfort and at times pain since my radiation treatments and it terrifies me to think that something else could be wrong. I’ve reminded myself time and time again that it will be a while before things are back to normal but, a small part of me still fears the “C” word.

I’m sure it sounds crazy after how well everything has already turned out but, I suppose it’s just a natural response to the experience I had. Actually, it’s a relief to feel anything at all, considering how much time I had spent closing myself up and pretending all was well. And let’s face it, I’m in no way the poster child for perfection. I worry just like everyone else no matter how much I try to look on the bright side. It’s taken some time, but I’ve come to accept these feelings, and have learned that it’s not thinking about negative things that will hurt you, it’s dwelling on them that will keep you from moving forward and accomplishing the goals you’ve set out for yourself.

As my appointment date gets closer, I will be sure to pop back into the present and give you an update. For now however, I will continue to share what I’ve already experienced. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

*** Note to reader ***

You can find me on Facebook by going to http://www.facebook.com/giftwithapinkribbon . Be sure to click the “like” button to stay up to date on any daily posts or messages I send out.

For more information you can email your questions to info@giftwithapinkribbon.com

 

My thoughts on what I’ve learned along the way…

Writing and sharing my journey hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be. It’s made me relive a lot of moments I’ve learned now I hadn’t dealt with. On the other hand, it’s allowed me to work through those emotions with all of you as my support system, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.

The truth is, no matter how severe it is, cancer is scary, period. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “breast cancer is such a popular thing now a days and is so much easier to treat, you’ll be fine”. It’s true, there are many treatment options today, however, that doesn’t change the fact that cancer is frightening, and that there is no way of determining if treatment now will guarantee you won’t have it again in the future. Nevertheless, I found myself thinking those very thoughts and even repeating them in conversations with others. I had brainwashed myself to think that my journey wasn’t that big a deal.

If you are currently going through your own cancer journey, please know that you are entitled to feeling however it is that you are feeling. It may be sad, scared, angry, confused or all of the above, and hiding it from the world, or denying those feelings will only make it harder to deal with later. It will also make it hard for those around you to understand your needs. If you come across as though everything is perfect, people will do the same and not offer the assistance you may need. My experience showed me that it wasn’t others that didn’t understand my feelings, it was me that wasn’t being honest about what I expressed to them. Communication is key, and though it doesn’t mean you wont ever deal with a difficult situation, it will keep you from creating unnecessary road blocks along the way.

It doesn’t hurt to be forgiving either. If you do come across a person that has a nonchalant attitude regarding your situation, try not to get to worked up about it. Often times, the response comes from lack of knowledge or the inability to express themselves well. The news will come as a shock to them, and their first reaction may be to say the first positive thing that comes to mind. It may not be what you want to hear but, do your best to put yourself in their shoes and take that opportunity instead to educate them by sharing your experience.

One other very important thing is remembering to do your part. As a cancer patient, it’s easy for us to lose site of the struggles our loved ones are going through because we are thinking of our own. At times it even feels like we are going through the worse parts of the journey alone. Just remember though, fearing the loss of someone you love or watching them suffer is also hard on your loved ones. They too are confused and have no control of the situation. No matter how much they wish they could take your place or make it all better, they can’t, and that can be difficult to cope with. So be patient, communicate and just like they do their best to make things easier for you, try to plan a “time out” for them so that they too can be physically and emotionally balanced.

Lastly, I want to thank you all again for reading and continuing to follow my journey. I don’t have all the answers and still have more to learn but, I’m embracing the changes that come my way and looking forward to sharing them with you in hopes that someone out there will find it helpful… 🙂

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

 

A few weeks into radiation…

I was starting to wrap things up at work when I looked at my watch and realized I needed head over for my daily radiation treatment. I had grown more and more excited about going with each day that passed. Not only was I one day closer to finishing, I was also meeting some really nice people along the way. To my relief, I hadn’t been experiencing any pains or serious burns either. I had started mountain biking again and was even feeling confident about running the half marathon with my partner. It was only a week or so away and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I really couldn’t understand why I had read stories of so many people having such a terrible time.

To my surprise however, shortly after those couple of weeks, my energy level did start to decline and my left breast had become inflamed and extremely painful. It began to interfere with my work, sports, sleep, and was wearing me out emotionally. I had tried several over the counter creams to help alleviate the burning and itching but nothing worked. I eventually mentioned it to the radiation oncologist during my weekly check up. She suspected the possibility of my having mastitis of the left breast and prescribed me an antibiotic along with  a cream to help with the itching and burning of the skin. Within a couple of days I was starting to feel a difference in the amount of pain and swelling I felt but, I was still tired and worn out emotionally.

Psychologically, I had reached my max. I know it sounds crazy, but I would compare the way I felt to the feeling you get after eating a meal to fast. Think about it, you eat really quickly, ignoring your stomach’s chemical signal telling you to stop. You than realize you ate way more than you could handle and now you’ve given yourself a stomachache. That’s how I felt. I had filled my emotional storage space to its max without even picking up on its distress signals and was officially on overload.

During my previous episodes of emotional ups and downs, my radiation oncologist had suggested the use of an antidepressant. I refused it, feeling that it would be a symbol of my weakness and inability to balance my emotions on my own. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need medication to do that. I had already been down that route years ago and had found a better way to cope with my stress through running and staying active. I remember asking myself, ” If there were other people out there that got through this without medication, why should I be any different?” I now realize that, not only was I comparing myself to other people , adding unnecessary pressure, I also wasn’t considering everything else going on in my life that made me feel so off balance. I was leaving my job after more than 11 years. I was moving away to another city leaving my family and friends behind. These were major life changes I was going through, all while juggling everything that came with having had cancer.

I continued on this slippery slope, hoping I could wake up one day feeling different but I never did. The closer I got to finishing my treatments and moving away from everything I knew, the more anxious and depressed I became. Going to my treatments was like a safe haven for me. I felt like cancer couldn’t come back while I was being treated and I feared what would happen when it was all over. I could no longer focus on work, family or my relationship with these thoughts clouding my brain. I wasn’t even enjoying my running and biking anymore. It was then I realized I was in over my head and agreed to take an antidepressant which turned out to be the best decision I could have ever made…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂