Sunday, June 4, 2017

What Comes Next

I've had a lot of people ask what comes next in my journey. Instead of writing a million different messages, I figured why not another blog post. 

May 12th I finished my final day of radiation. It was one of the most exciting days that I had in a long time.  After my treatment was over I got to ring the bell. For those of you that dont know, when you finish treatments you get to ring a bell to represent the end of radiation. It was the first time in a long time, I felt there was a light at the end of the tunnel... 


5 weeks of radiation had nothing on the next few weeks. Even though I was finished with the treatments, they said my skin would be getting worse before it would get better. Boy were they right. I couldn't wear shoes other then house slippers, I had to use a cane for a bit because it hurt to walk, my skin was getting darker and gross every day. That light I thought I saw at the end of the tunnel started to get further away again. 

A few weeks after radiation ended I had my first appointment with my plastic surgeon. I always thought if I was going to need a plastic surgeon, it would be for a nose job, not reconstructive surgery for my foot. I guess that nose job is going to have to wait! 😀

So now what comes next. This surgery wont be a simple one. Since meeting my doctor, I've spent hours processing what comes next. The surgery is to go back into my foot, clear the remaining cancer and then finish up with a skin transplant. Because they want to make sure there is good blood flow to my foot after surgery they will take the skin and blood vessels from my left forearm and attach them to my foot. Then to close my arm, they will take skin from my stomach or groin. Because this surgery is pretty intense, they will be keeping me in the hospital for 5-7 days. The first few days, I feel are going to be the worst. I wont be able to get out of bed, move my foot, dangle it... I will be stuck with no place to go. After a few days they will start the process of allowing me to dangle my foot off the side of the bed. If all this goes well and there are no issues with blood flow, I will be released to go home. 

But thats not the end of it. It will be weeks before I will be up and walking on that foot. Lucky me, more days spent on crutches. I think about all this and sometimes I just want to burst into tears.  I'm no rookie when it comes to surgeries, however no recovery for those surgeries, comes close to what this will be like. The thought of being hauled up in bed for that long makes me crazy... good thing I like watching movies! 

As time gets closer to the surgery, the light that I saw a while back, is starting to get brighter again. There really is an end to all this. Part of me wishes this journey had never begun. But the other part of me is glad it did. A few months ago, everything was different. I look back and realize how strong I have been, how I was able to get through this difficult time, how I kept putting one foot in front of the other, even though I felt broken at times. I've realized that a few months can do a lot to a person. It can show you the person you want to be. One who wants to live in the now, rather then in the past. One who knows who her real friends are. One who is willing to take the road less traveled and be different. 

A few weeks, months, even years from now, I'll look back on this time and be able to say, remember when I had that crazy thing called Cancer? I still dont know why God chose this life for me, but I will always be grateful for the life I have. I have an amazing family who has bent over backwards for me, friends who have given countless hours out of their schedules to be with me for appointments, or lunches. Even strangers who see me in the store, or at lunch and tell me they will pray for a good outcome. It may feel as though my life sucks at times, but deep down I know I have the best life God could have given me. 

This is just a speed bump in the road. I am choosing to take the road less traveled, and in the end, it will make all the difference.  


Saturday, April 29, 2017

My Journey

This post is about the interesting journey God has taken me on. Back in 2015, I began to have the most excruciating pain in my left foot. Usually it would happen at night when I laid down but sometimes it would continue throughout the day. After weeks of this pain, I went into my Dr. where he took an X-ray and basically told me I was crazy. He said there was nothing in the scan to show that anything was wrong. He put me on some medicine to help with the pain and sent me on my way.

Fast forward a year, in July of 2016 I was offered the Youth Director Position at St. Basil the Great Greek Orthodox Church in Houston TX. As hard as it was to move away from family, I knew this was what God wanted me to do. Mid August, I moved to Houston. That is when I realized not only was I still having pain in my left foot but a lump had begin to grow on my ankle. The lump grew to a pretty big size. I had many people look at it and they all said it seemed to  be a cyst. Everything I had read about cysts, didn't make me too concerned or in a hurry to get it checked out. Boy was that a mistake.

In January 2017, once my insurance kicked in, I finally decided to go to the Dr. to get the lump checked out. By this point, it hurt all the time and I couldn't wear any shoes other then sandals. Again my Dr. said he thought it was a cyst and referred me to a podiatrist. The next month I met with the new Dr. She took an X-ray said it was a cyst and scheduled me for surgery. On Friday February 24th 2017, I went in to have the mass removed from my ankle. The mass was almost 8 cm long. A week later when I went to get my boot she told me that it wasn't a cyst and she was waiting to hear back from pathology on what exactly it was.

On March 9th, I went back to have my stitches removed and that is when my whole world flipped upside down. I could tell something was off from the moment I walked into the room. The Dr. was quiet, distant and looked like she wanted to cry. She sat down next to me and told me the original pathology report stated it was a sarcoma. She informed me that they had sent it to MD Anderson for a second opinion and that was all I heard. I left the office in tears. I immediately called my mom and told her what the Dr. told me. I was in shock, I couldn't believe what she had told me. There was no way this was correct, it had to be a mistake.

A few days later we got a call from the Dr. with the final diagnosis. They labeled it a Myoepithelial Carcinoma. This is a rare form of cancer usually found in the salivary glands... mine was located in my ankle. At that point, I knew it was real.  The first few days of knowing were a blur. I didn't know what to think. I found myself staring off at nothing, wondering how this happened. I would begin to tear up just thinking about it.  My mom came to stay with me and some of my family came down to surprise me.

That was exactly what I needed in that moment. My whole world was crashing down on me. I was a month shy of 28 years old and I had cancer. I knew that I needed to get the best care and I was in the best city for that.

 I called MD Anderson and got an appointment in the sarcoma center. The first day was exhausting. 12 hours at the medical center for blood work, CT scans, MRI's, Ultrasounds and to meet my oncologist. A couple days later, I got a call from the nurse telling me my scans showed nothing had spread. For the first time in weeks, I felt relief, but I knew it wasn't the end. On April 3rd I went in to meet with the Radiation oncologist. He informed me, I would have to go in 5 days a week for 5 weeks and receive radiation on my foot. After that was over, I would have a few weeks rest period and then another extensive surgery to clean out the remaining stuff in my foot.

On April 10th, I began my radiation journey. The first week was a breeze, but as time has gone on, I've noticed a difference in me. I'm getting more tired, my foot is red, swollen, dry skin and I have marks up and down my leg. I just finished my third week of radiation. I am more then half way done with this part of the journey. Two more weeks and I will be done with radiation! I can't believe it has gone by so quickly!

I think about all of this and wonder why me? Why is this happening to me? Was there something I could have done to prevent this? Why didn't I get it looked at sooner? Why didn't I ask my first Dr. to do more scans? Through all this, I have had a lot of mixed emotions. Mad because this has happened, happy because I'm lucky I didn't have to do chemo, sad because cancer sucks.  I will never really know why, but I do know that God has a plan. He has a plan for all of us. I do know that God wouldn't have sent me on this journey if he knew I couldn't survive it. A few years from now I'll look back and remember this time and be able to say I did it. I made it through that difficult time. I beat cancer.

This chapter in my life is definitely one I'll never forget. I would never have been able to get through this without the love and support from my friends and family near and far. I'll never be able to repay those who have taken so much time out of their busy schedules to take me to my appointments or help me keep my mind off everything that is going on. To all those who have sent me get well cards and gifts. All the calls, texts and messages. I truly am so very lucky to have each and every one of you in my life.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I Made it!

The last time I posted in the blog, I was in my final year of college. I remember writing the post like it was yesterday. Talking about the people who helped me through college, about how many times I changed my major and I remember being absolutely terrified with what was going to come next. 

In my last year of school, I was working as a nanny for my aunt and uncle. I knew once I was done with school that I  would continue being a nanny for a few years at least. When C started to walk, Barbra and Alex had informed me that they were enrolling C in school two days a week. Honestly I was totally okay with this because that meant 2 days a week I could sleep in. 

In May of 2014, exactly one year after graduating from college, they told me they would be putting her in school full time. At first it didn't bother me because it was summer time and I would be gone most of the summer with vacations and camps. Then I realized that once school started again for her, I would have nothing to do until 3:00 everyday... Now for some people that would be great, but for me, I couldn't handle it. I kept my eyes opened for something to do during the days but nothing had come up yet. Then one day Barbra came home and asked me to send her my resume. At first I thought, what in the world would she want with that. Then she told me that she had been talking with the director at Betty Rowland and they had an Assistant position available.

That night I went home, pulled up my resume, fixed it and sent it on its way. I was excited yet nervous all at the same time. I had started out my college years as an education major, and quickly realized that my dream of becoming a teacher was just that, a dream. I had switched my major to Psychology and knew that eventually I would get a job in that field. After sending my resume to my aunt for her to take to the school, I sat down with my parents to discuss this decision. I remember asking them if they thought this was a good fit. If i would even be a good teacher. what if I got the job and then they realized that I'm not suited to be a teacher.

A million things went through my head and my parents told me that whatever happens in my life, is gods plan. They were right. Yes this is my life and I may have things planned out for myself but in the end, he has bigger and better plans for me.

One day as I was taking one of my many daily naps with C, the phone rang. It was the director at Betty Rowland, calling me to set up a day to come in and talk with her. It was the end of the year and they were busy with the art show so we set up the meeting for the following Tuesday. That was probably the longest week of my life. The weekend before, I decided to attend the art show with my Aunt and Uncle. I wanted to see what the school was like and possibly meet some of the teachers.

Aside from the Director, the first person I met was the teacher in the toddler room. As I was looking around at all the pictures in her classroom, I came across a picture of a young man I knew from high school. I had asked her why she had a picture of this young man and she  told me that it was her son. I couldn't believe it. I said I was in the same graduating class as your son! What a small world. As the conversation went on, she asked me what I was doing now that I was out of college, I mentioned that I was a nanny and that I had applied for an assistant position at Betty Rowland. She told me that she would talk with the director because she felt that I would be a great addition to that family. Little did I know, that toddler teacher would become one of the greatest friends/mother figures I could have ever asked for. After looking around the other classrooms for a while, I met another teacher. She was the Pre-K teacher. When I introduced myself she told me that she had been in the office when the director was looking over my resume and she thought I was over qualified to be in assistant. When she told me that, It was the first time since I had turned in that resume that I felt like I really could do this. She is now one of my best teacher friends.

The next week I went in for my meeting. As I walked into the office, I felt my throat drop into my chest. I was so nervous. I don't think I had ever been that nervous in my life. The director started the interview and by the end of it, I was offered the head teaching position for the Older Three's Class. That was one of the easiest yes's and best decisions of my life. 

I started working as an assistant in the Pre-K class in July and I'm so glad that I had that opportunity, the teacher I was working with not only taught the kids but me. She really took me under her wing and I would not be where I am today without her help and support at Betty Rowland.

I'm now in my second year of teaching and I wouldn't trade it in for anything. As any job goes, there are days where I'm stressed, and days where the kids drive me completely crazy, but I couldn't imagine spending my days with any other people. These kids and other teachers are my life. I couldn't have asked for a better work family. 

I'm thankful everyday for the opportunity to teach these kids. I hope they get as much out of me, as I do from them... 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My family is my forever...

Hello Bloggers,

Those of you that have been following my blog over these past few years have read many posts about me being in college and changing my major and blah blah blah. Well I'm here to tell you that I am in my final year the the University of Tulsa. 6 years later and six different major changes I have finally done it!

I think back on all the good times and all the bad times I had in college and I'm happy to say that I don't have a single regret. I know I changed my major a lot and didn't care about school and honestly I think it was because I wasn't ready to go out in to the world and be a big kid. It scares me to think that soon I will be out of school, I'll be getting a job and paying bills and have to live my life as a grown up. I have been in school since I was 5 years old. It's what I am used too.

This blog post isn't just a repeat about my time in school, but more so about the people in my life that never gave up on me. There have been a lot of people who have helped me throughout my years of school but the ones who really helped me were members of my family.

My parents are my biggest supporters. They have stuck by me through it all. They may not have liked all the decisions that I have made throughout the years; however they have supported me through the good and the bad. There were plenty of times that I wanted to give up and quit but they never let me. I would get into fights with them and tell them that school was dumb and there was no need for me to finish. What did it matter if I had a degree or not. Most people don't get jobs that have anything to do with their degrees. Well I'm glad they never let me give up. In May I will be getting a degree in Psychology from the University of Tulsa and I couldn't be happier.

Another person who has been a big supporter is my Aunt Barbra. She has helped me with many projects and papers and without her I would not have made it through. I struggle with many things in school and she has given me enough help and confidence so that I can finish. When we get together to work on a project or have her proof read a paper she doesn't criticize me or put me down. She supports me and shows me what I did wrong and how to correct it for the future. Barbra and I have this relationship that others wont understand. A few years ago I went up to visit Barbra in Spokane and not a day goes by that don't think about those couple of weeks we were together and all the memories we have. I'm the luckiest to have her in my life.

My Aunt Karen and Uncle Allen are up on the list as well. They have been through so much with me over the years and I couldn't imagine my life without them. They are the ones I can call at anytime of the day or night and they will be there to listen, to tell me everything is going to be okay, to sit there and let me cry because I'm ready to give up on everything. I enjoy sitting down with my uncle and talking about school. He's never told me I couldn't anything. He supports me so much. Even when I'm down about a hard class he just tells me to do the best I can and whatever happens, is meant to be. He constantly tells me to keep my head up and to continue working hard and eventually I will succeed.

My cousin Jessica and Kyle. There were many nights I would be over at their house working on homework and I would get so frustrated that I didn't want to continue. They told me that its hard but that I would get there and finish. They have both helped me in so many ways. Not only with school but with life. When I tell them I need to talk and vent they are there to listen. They don't judge me or tell me the things I do are wrong. They support me.

I am only naming a few who have really pushed me over the years but my whole family has supported me. I know come May my family will all be there to support me at Graduation and knowing that means more to me then anything.

That's what families are all about. Support, Trust, Love. My family is big and goofy. But they are my family and I wouldn't want them to be anything then what they are. I love that on holidays and family dinners we can sit around for hours and tell stories, have dance parties, make music videos and laugh. I can sit back at a family dinner at my yiayia's house and just watch everyone and inside I know that I am so lucky to be a part of this wonderful family.

I love my family more then anything in the world. I would not be who I am or where I am today if it wasn't for all of them.
This picture was taken on our first family trip to Mexico. It's from a long time ago but it's one of my favorite pictures. :-)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Welcome Baby Claudia!

Hello Bloggers!

Today's post will be about my Beautiful Goddaughter Claudia!

One day I went out to dinner with my wonderful Aunt Barbra and she told me the best news in the world! She and her husband Alex would be expecting a baby! I was so happy for them both. Me being the person who LOVES kids so much I was excited because I knew there would be another precious baby I would get to watch!

On the morning of Oct. 31st 2012, The family gathered at the hospital for the arrival of the newest member of our family! 7 pounds, 4 ounces, 20 inches! Welcome Baby Claudia!

I was so happy for my aunt and uncle, I wanted to spend the whole day at the hospital with them, unfortunately I had to go to class. :-(
Miss Claudia makes us cousins an even 10! My Yiayia (grandmother) was very happy to have another granddaughter to have around! There is exactly 29 years between the first Grandchild and the Last! Crazy right! :-) She loves all of us so much but I know who her favorite is now! She loves Miss Cloudy! 

I'm so happy to have the opportunity to not only be able to watch her during the week but to be her Godmother! When Barbra told me the news I got the biggest smile on my face and immediately got online to look for a baptismal cross! This little peanut makes my day! 

I love playing with her, talking with her, giggling with her and even snuggling with her! We even got caught sleeping on the job one day! 

But how could someone get mad at us? We're so ADORABLE! :-)

Baby Claudia I can't wait to teach you all about the things I have learned over the years! You are very special to me and I love you very very much! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day Eight and Nine

Last two days in Greece! :(

We arrived really early in Athens and our hotel rooms were not available. So we had breakfast, changed and left for the acropolis. I went last year but it was nice going again. After we visited that we were going to go to the museum but it was closed.

We broke off into little groups and did some shopping! I bought a lot of stuff! Hah I love me some shopping. After shopping for a couple of hours me and the three other people I was with went back to the hotel. Me and my roommate Gigi went back to the hotel and took a 2 hour nap then got ready for the evening.

We went out to a nice dinner as group and then walked to get ice cream. Then we went to see the changing of the guards. I had never seen that before! It was so awesome!!

Then it was off to bed because it was going to be an early morning. I was dead asleep till the fire alarm went off at 2:00 am! Hah

Day Nine

We got up early today and got on the ferry to Aegina. When we got there we went to the monastery of St. Nektarios. I went there last year with the other spiritual odyssey group but It was nice to go again. This time we got to spend more time there. We went to the beach one last time! I love the beach. I wish I lived close by. After the beach we got back on the ferry and headed back to Athens. I went back to start packing up because we have an early flight tomorrow. :( I'm really sad to be leaving Greece. :(

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day Seven

Greetings from Patmos!

Today was our last day in Patmos. We got up very early this morning to go to the women's monastery for divine liturgy. It was so beautiful but very different then what we are used too. Men stood on one side of the church and the women had to be on the other side. After the service was over we went into their store and were able to purchase some stuff then it was a little tour about the monastery.

Next it was off to the Cave of St. John the theologian. Our group called it the "Man Cave". It was EXTREMELY hot but worth it. It was amazing. I know people are like wow she's weird to like a cave but this wasn't just a cave. This was where St. John had his revelation. There is a really pretty church inside of the cave.

Since church was so early we had the whole day to lounge and do whatever. Most of the group stayed at the hotel, napped and swam. 8 of us went to another beach about 15 minutes away. It was amazing. We laid out and got our tan on, we went paddle boating, swimming and of course had lunch! It was a nice relaxing day.

We made it back to the hotel in time to pack, shower and be on our way. We stopped some places and took pictures and then walked to the place we had dinner at. I was very bummed to have to leave Patmos. That was my favorite part of this trip.

We made it on the boat around midnight and were on our way to Athens. The boat ride was 9 hours but this time was a lot better because we had cabins to sleep in! We all got into bed and then some of the boys came to play cards... Slowly and one by one we all started to fall asleep. The beds on the boat were so comfy! I had a goodnights sleep!

Now we are in Athens and waiting to to get checked into the hotel. We are going to change and head to the acropolis and then shopping!

I'll post another later!