Clear Scans! Moving Forward

 

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My hair is curly and crazy

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.

Thank you for reading!

365 Days of Life

Sunset.  Foto Credit: Dave
Sunset.
Photo Credit: Dave

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….)

Today I celebrate life!

Thank you for reading

Grateful and in Remission!

Enjoying a beautiful day @ Chesapeake Bay
Enjoying a beautiful day @ Chesapeake Bay

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.

Thank you for reading and may God bless us all.

Love,

-Bea

The Healing Power of Eating Healthy

From the old saying: One apple a day keeps the doctor away.
“One apple a day keeps the doctor away” – Proverb

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:

  1. Cook my own meals anytime I can. This is how I control source, quality, and quantity
  2. Look for the amount of sugar on each product I buy. I choose products with less or zero added sugar
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
  5. 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
  6. Make my own orange juice. I know, it is time consuming, but this source of Vitamin C is totally worth it
  7. 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
  8. Keep and freeze ripped fruit for smoothies. I combine frozen bananas and strawberries with almond milk and a drop of vanilla extract
  9. 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
  10. 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.

Choose healthy and enjoy!

Love – Bea

100 Days on Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Happy 2015!

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.
Christmas with Family

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.

Love – Bea

70 Days – Grateful

Today is my day 70 post bone marrow transplant.

On day 60 I was discharged from the transplant unit and instead of going to the hospital daily or every other day,  I go only once a week now. My oncologist says that I am doing well and everything looks according to the plan.

I am taking many different medicines to keep my immune system healthy. Each day I feel much better and stronger, I even started jogging and walking again. I can’t wait to start running again soon.

My hair is starting to grow.
My hair is starting to grow.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving, an opportunity to give thanks, spend time with family, and remember what is really important in life: love and gratitude.

Therefore, I would like to thank my loving husband, my mother and father-in-law, and Marsha who took the time and spent countless hours in the hospital and at home taking care of me. I will be always grateful for your support, patience, and love.

Also I am very grateful and fortunate to have incredible parents and sisters. Caro saved my life and now we share an even more special sister bond. I love you sister 🙂  My parents have been fundamental in creating an entire network of prayers, good energy, and positive attitude. This group of family and friends has kept me strong and positive. I am very grateful for their support and love; believe me, it does make a difference!!

With B we Beat It!, Tagline of the video campaign Cris organized.  Thank you!
With B we Beat It!, Tagline of the video campaign Cris organized.  Thank you!

A couple of weeks ago I received a beautiful care packet from my sister Cris. It was a beautiful surprise that included books, a movie, and a video with the campaign “With B, we Beat it!” a series of uplifting, fun, and great messages from family, friends, and others that sent encouraging words to me. Thank you very much to all that participated. A special thanks to my cousin Nane and my friend Monica who helped Cris and Daniel to collect the videos. Thank you Nayelli for the logo and design. Thank you Cris for producing the video that lifted my spirit when I needed it the most.
Today I am particularly grateful for the gift of friendship and love.

Happy Thanksgiving / Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias!!!

And remember to give thanks 🙂

Love,

Bea

Day 32 Post Transplant

I didn't lose my eyebrows. LOL!
I didn’t lose my eyebrows. LOL!

Today is day 32 post transplant!!! I am tired but feeling better. This is the first time I have a day off and I don’t have to go to the hospital!!!

After the transplant I was feeling well, just tired. However, days later I started struggling with constant nausea and headaches that I have never experienced before; it was rough. Also I lost my hair on day 13.

During this 30 + days I go to the hospital 7 days a week to check my levels and to make sure that I am doing ok. I have to wear a mask most of the time to avoid bacteria and infection. So far I have received a round of platelets and two blood transfusions.

Two days ago I was allowed to go to a public space and we went to the groceries (wearing my mask), It was interesting to see the reaction of other shoppers when they saw me. 🙂

The Mask
This the mask I have to wear.

I want to take the opportunity to thank my husband Dave, my in-laws and Marsha who have served as caregivers and have been patient with me particularly when I don’t feel great. Thank you to my parents, sisters, family, friends, and colleagues that are praying and always ready to help.

Thank you very much for the lovely cards, flowers, gifts, and thoughtful posts on my blog and Facebook which always make me smile. I am grateful for the encouragement and love.

Regarding Music:  Many of you know that my talented sister Cris is on the show “La Voz” (The Voice) in Mexico. She passed the blind auditions, became a member of #TeamYuri and will be in the battles this Sunday. For my friends in Mexico tune in this Sunday at 8:00 pm. Thank you for supporting my sister.

Con todo Cris!!!
Con todo Cris!

Love, – B

September 16 – My Second Birthday

September 16, 2014 is my second birthday thanks to my brave sister Caro who donated bone marrow to save my life. Caro is now in the list of real heroes. Thank you sis, I love you. 🙂

Today I am feeling well, just tired and have been experiencing nausea.

Dave’s aunt Marsha, and my parents have been helping us out and taking care of me and my sister while we recover.

I want to thank all our dear friends and family that have been praying, helping, and thinking about us during this time.

A special thanks to my husband Dave, he is my everything. I couldn’t do this without his love, support, and humor.

Thank you for reading and I will keep you posted on my road back to full health.

Love,
Bea

Attitude is a Choice

I came across the following phrase, a good reminder. 

“Your attitude can take you forward or your attitude can take you down. The choice is always yours!”

-Jimmy Catherine P.

 

Round Three: Rough Times Ahead

I love this doll not only because it is how some relatives and friends call me but also because my hair right now looks like hers.
I love this doll not only because some relatives and friends call me Betty Boop, but because my hair right now looks like that.

Cancer is a horrible disease, it is not a blessing and it sucks. It interrupts lives and exposes the best and the worst of the human spirit.  Cancer doesn’t make you stronger, you have to become stronger because the alternative is to give up.

After multiple scans, a series of meetings with doctors, a bronchoscopy, surgery on my left lung, and many hours in the hospital, I am sad to report the lymphoma is back. I started a new regime of chemo two weeks ago and I will undergo a bone marrow transplant by early September.

This time has been hard, disappointing and sad. I haven’t shared much on this third diagnosis because I don’t have a lot of answers and sometimes I don’t know how to share that again I am going through this (I sound like a broken record). Definitely I am not the disease and there is no way that I will let the lymphoma to take over my time, my conversations, my days, and consume my thoughts and dreams.

At this point the treatment option I have includes three rounds of the new drug Brentuximab , chemo precedes a bone marrow transplant. Since I don’t have a 100% bone marrow match I will have a haplo or “half” transplant at Johns Hopkins. The transplant procedure sounds like something taken out of a science fiction movie or a super hero comic book; in a nutshell means “resetting” and substituting my deficient immune system.

Round three of this fight is hard both mentally and physically, some days I am doing great and others not so much. I know very rough times are ahead (which I cannot control). I definitely can control how I am preparing for September to fight like crazy and win.

Thank you for your prayers, positive thoughts, and encouragement. I will keep writing on my blog and keep you posted on the transplant process.

In other news: Mexico is playing today versus Croatia at the WorldCup. Good luck to our team! Vamos Mexico!!!

Love, Bea