May, 2010 browsing by month


The Caribbean, Vegas…LIFE IS GOOD!!!

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Minus that damn throat infection I got when I returned home from my world travels. :)  The important thing is that it’s gone now, it’s 8:36 AM and I’m hanging out at Volkswagen.  I’m enjoying my free French Vanilla coffee and feeling industrious as I sit here at my table, all my to do items set up before me.  I just found out the VW’s rear brakes will fail inspection…I knew I heard a weird sound!

OK, now it’s two weeks later, and I still haven’t finished this post I started at the beginning of April.  Honestly, this is so ridiculous.  I don’t blame you if you just write me off!  But then, if you do, you’ll miss out on all the excitement I’ve been having these past months.  Let’s begin with my trip to the Caribbean, to Canouan (pronounced “Can-oh-Juan”) Island specifically.

I must first thank Paulina for taking me with her on this trip.  She won it because she was the number one rep for her company last year!!!  Isn’t that wonderful?  The kicker to this wonderful adventure is that it was free…well, I did end up paying $450 because I indulged in seven, that’s right, SEVEN spa treatments (a manicure, pedicure, 2 Swedish massages, a head massage, foot massage and a body wrap).  I just told myself, “If anyone deserves this, it’s certainly me!!!!”…$450 isn’t bad for a week in paradise, complete with our own golf cart, yummy dinners, wine and of course, **the spa**.  My massage therapist’s name was Bang, and as you’ll see below, I took a picture with her to remember the many relaxing moments she gave me.  By the way, we got $2,000 between the two of us to spend on drinks and spa treatments, so the $450 I owed came in after that had been figured!

Prepare to be wowed by the piercingly blue waters, the jacked up turtles (they look like they’re on stilts compared to our native canouans–that’s right, “canouan” is the Carib word for “turtle”) and the movie-esque sunsets.  Are you surprised that I took a plethora of photos?  You shouldn’t be by now, that’s for sure.

There are so many stories to share, but being that I’m writing this over a month after leaving paradise, I can’t conjure up the details.  Let me run through the highlights:  our golf cart, yah, definitely the golf cart.  It was electric, so we had to plug it in every night.  Paulina and I both always wanted to drive it, but I tried to hold back my feelings because I knew she earned the trip and I was simply there for the ride, literally…I rode shotgun.  hahaha no, Paulina did share, but there were those times where she left me to fend for myself and I had to call the front desk to pick me up.  Oh well, it was her trip after all.  Still, I decided I’d like my own golf cart for my neighborhood…I never realized just how much fun they could be!!

Another highlight was the sailing trip we took to Tobago Cays to swim with the sea turtles.  They are incredibly graceful.  I struggled to keep up with them as I kicked my way through the waters.  I think the ones that did let me keep up were simply humoring me.  I touched their feet and their shells…the feet felt pretty smooth, but the shells were sandy.  They are absolutely beautiful creatures.  I framed one of Mary Ellen’s turtle photos and took it to work with me so I can recall my adventures with the turtles anytime I want.  You can imagine how calming it is.

Our week of pampering and adventure continued when we drove our golf cart up to the 13th hole of the golf course to watch the sunset…how romantic!  hahahaha  Paulina, Janice, Joelle and I had a spectacular vista of other Caribbean islands, and the clouds in the sky added a texture that somehow made it even more breathtaking.

But the beauty doesn’t end there.  The company arranged for dinner on the beach, and it was an experience I think I shall never have again in this life.  We were the only ones there, sitting at a long table, a few yards away from the water.  We drank, we ate, we were most definitely merry.  I enjoyed everyone in the group, and I dare say they want Paulina to bring me back next year!  :)  (Um, by the way, Paulina, how are you quotas?  Nose to the grindstone, my friend.) :)

Then there was the casino…thank you, Mary Ellen and Glenn, for your blackjack tips.  There were times I did well, and times I did not, but I learned that I enjoy blackjack.  I’m sorry I can’t say this helped me out when I arrived in Vegas a few days later.  In fact, I did rather poopy in Vegas, but it was fun nonetheless.

We were there celebrating Tiso…his 30th birthday and his deployment this June.  I think the photos speak for themselves.  It was a busy few days, and it was a lot more fun than the last time I was in Vegas when I was 18 and sat in the food court writing postcards while Ronnie played blackjack.  hahaha  Unfortunately, my parents couldn’t join us because my dad went and ruined everything when he had to have back surgery.  hahahahahahahaha Look who’s talking!  I’ve ruined more events than I can even count!!  My dad, by the way, is now officially……..retired!!!!!!  Many of you already know this, but in case you didn’t, he decided a few weeks ago.  Although it’s not the way he dreamed of doing it, he’s excited nonetheless.  I would like to share with you the letter he sent to his patients.  I think it says a lot about the kind of man and physician he is, and as always, I’m so proud of him:

Dear patients,

It is with great satisfaction and a sense of pride that I announce my retirement effective immediately.  There is nothing that I could have done during my life that could have provided as much personal and professional reward as the practice of cardiology.

While everyone at my age may contemplate retirement, the decision was accelerated recently by unexpected major back surgery.  A rare but large cyst had developed in my low back resulting in weakness in both legs.  Five weeks after surgery I am walking unassisted and working hard at regaining some of the motor strength in my legs.  Retirement is bittersweet.  The sweetness is of course the coming of some personal time well-earned, while the bitter is the loss of patients with whom I have become close and changes in my own personal identity as a cardiologist in our community.

Saying goodbye is very difficult for me.  Over the past thirty-seven years I have developed a sense of friendship with many of you as you asked for my help during difficult and stressful times in your lives.  Medicine cannot be truly successful without the cooperation and participation of the patient, and I feel especially fortunate to have so many patients who embrace the idea of joint participation in their health care.  Over the years I have aggressively focused on the prevention of heart disease, and many of you have followed a comprehensive course of lowering risks for future cardiac events.  I encourage you to continue to do so.

As the world of health care changes, cardiovascular disease presents ongoing challenges for physicians and patients.  I realize that my retirement presents you with a decision regarding finding a new cardiologist.  I am pleased and confident in recommending Rogan and O’Brien Cardiovascular Associates for your continued care.

I am blessed to have enjoyed a career which allowed me to go home each night and know that I have made a difference in someone’s life.  I wish you good health.

With sincere gratitude,

Bob Matthews

So a new era begins for my parents, and I look forward to watching them flourish.  And now, please raise your imaginary (or real, if you happen to be drinking and reading :) ) glasses to Dr. Robert Matthews and Carol Porter, RN!  You touched the lives of many, often without realizing, and your kind and healing ways will be forever remembered by all.  In the words of someone else (anonymous), “May the dreams of your past be the reality of your future”.

Speaking of future, I signed up for two Team in Training events this fall!!!  I will be walking the VA Beach Half Marathon as well as the Nike Women’s FULL marathon in September and October, respectively.  Stay tuned for fund-raising inquiries.  :)  Fall kickoff is next weekend, and I will be happy to be among the many picking up their new TNT jerseys and practicing our signature cheer……..GO TEAM!!!!!!!!!  Boy will it feel good to once again attend kickoff as a participant.

Life just generally feels like it’s coming together.  I’m working, and I’m really enjoying it.  Our new website is up, and it looks great…there are a few kinks here and there, but I think you’ll like it:  I’ve even posted some blogs!

I’ve also…drum roll, please…joined!!  And as a matter of fact, I have a date tomorrow…what do you think about THAT?  It all feels so normal.  :)  I wondered if I would ever feel that way again.  I am torn about how to introduce my cancer self to dates, but the fact that I am able to date is so…I don’t know…healthy.  I wrote a post for Side-Out this week that’s not published yet, and I figured I’d share it with you because this post isn’t long enough yet (hahahaha), and I know how you like to read the details of my feelings.  :)  Hey, even if you don’t, it’s just too bad!!  You ready?  This might be a tough read (as I was told by my mom):

I recently joined an on-line dating service.  I’m 32, I’m decent looking, I have a job I enjoy and family and friends I love.  My motto is “go with the flow”…well, more specifically, my e-mail tagline is “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” (Yogi Berra).  But I’m wavering a little bit at this fork.  I ended up telling a guy over a text last night that I’m a two-time cancer survivor.

In my defense, he had asked me why I was still single if I’ve lived in this area my entire life.  He asked this in a teasing way, but when I read it, my heart sank.  I told him I used to be shier than I am now, that I haven’t ever worked in an environment conducive to meeting single men, and then I put it all out there, the single most pertinent reason for my absence from the dating scene:  I’m a two-time cancer survivor.  I felt as though I would be lying if I didn’t mention this to him, because, after all, I’ve been dealing with leukemia in some form or another for the past five years.

My secret was out.  I waited to hear back from him, and I did.  Part of me hoped he would write back “Good for you!  Congratulations on your newfound health.  So anyway, about this date…”, but the rational me knew that wouldn’t be a practical answer.  I know that, however laid back I am about my cancer, others perceive it differently, especially when they are just meeting me.  My sister (the marrow donor) once teased me, implying that I went around saying “Hi, I’m Julie.  I had leukemia.”  We laughed as she pointed out how awkward this can make people feel, although obviously that is now how I intend it.

When he wrote back, he mentioned something about how if nothing else comes of this, it’s always nice to meet good people.  I know I was feeling overly sensitive at this moment, but I couldn’t help but think he wrote this because I told him about my cancer.  I sat there a few seconds and I was struck by a sudden sadness at my whole predicament.  Those who know me know I’ve never considered cancer a predicament.  I took each day as it came, and I always found reasons to smile and look toward the future.  Even as I’m writing this, I’m tearing up because I am only now contemplating what cancer took from me.

It took a sense of normalcy, it took prime dating years, it took my ability to have children.  I discovered just before Christmas that treatment put me into early menopause.  This represents another hurdle I will come to in my dating life, but it is something I do not intend to share until I’m in an established relationship (let’s hope they don’t read this blog! ).

So I worry.  I know I will find that great guy who will accept and love me “just as I am” (as Bridget Jones would say ), but how do I best represent myself when I’m meeting new dating prospects?  Do I hit them with the info right off the bat or do I hold off until they see me as someone special with whom they want to spend more time?

I will always be grateful for what I gained from life with cancer, the most important being life in its simplest form.  I am alive, I learned what it is like to face the possibility of death and I can always apply perspective to situations that may otherwise be overwhelming.  I hope someday soon I get to practice applying that perspective when I’m complaining about something my boyfriend did.

And there you have it.  Despite the sadness in that post, I am truly happy right now.  I am living, and I mean that in the deeper sense, not the literal.  Indeed, I do exist, but what matters more is that I appreciate, I am grateful, I am content.

I feel so secure in this contentment that I am in the process of stopping my Lexapro.  For two years, it helped me to focus and to lessen my worries during a difficult period of my life, and I am ready to leave it behind.  So much happiness awaits.  But I will always remember, “the soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears” (John Vance Cheney).

Enjoy the photos and the link below…an extraordinary woman on a remarkable journey finds inspiration on the way.