Smile Cards

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As many of you know, I spent nearly 100 nights in the Brigham in 2014 (and a few in 2015). Being “locked up” in the hospital is hard— the days are long, the nights are kind of scary and the mornings are the toughest, as you feel like you’re waking up in a bad dream. During my many stays, the one constant that would always make me smile, even at my lowest points, was being able to open a card that someone had sent. My initial month-long stay, I was blessed to have multiple cards to open every single day. I would wait until morning to open them with my breakfast, as I was typically alone during this time, and it would remind me that people were thinking of and praying for me. Truly, every single letter helped to lift my spirits. I’ve kept each one as they made such a difference in some of those dark days. I know, however, that not everyone is as lucky as I was to be able to get cards so frequently. I also know that every single person deserves to know that people are thinking of them– at the very least. They deserve to know that someone, no matter who that someone is, is keeping them in their thoughts and prayers. They deserve to have something put a smile on their face during the day, even if just for a split moment.
That’s why Mike and I have begun writing cards to patients of 7D (the oncology floor I stayed on). The letters are not long or full of wisdom, just simple notes to let these warriors know that they’re not alone, that there are complete strangers that are keeping them in their thoughts. Knowing this, as a patient, really makes a difference. It’s a touching feeling when you realize that people really care.
In one of the cards that I received over a year ago said the following words…
“You are strong. You are loved. And you WILL get through this.” 
These words have rung through my head probably a million times over the past year. They have acted as a self-affirmation for me when I’m feeling down, or when I need to be reminded that I can do this. Those three sentences have helped me get through a lot of tough times— and I have the person who wrote them in that greeting card to thank for that.
I wanted to let you all know what we’re doing in hopes to inspire you to write a few yourself. They can be about anything— a funny story, an inspirational note, words of encouragement — whatever you feel fitting! Mike was hesitant at first as he thought he wouldn’t be able to relate to them since he’s not a patient himself, but I reminded him, it’s not about being able to say “I’ve done it too” but rather “I’m thinking of you.” SO, if you’d like to help in this little quest of putting smiles on the faces of some very deserving people— feel free to send me cards addressed to “one very strong Brigham patient!” I am going to begin dropping them off every Wednesday when I come in for my treatments.
My address is: 2 Webster St. Somerville, MA 02145
Many thanks and lots of love,
Jessy
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Tampa Times & Relay for Life Speech

It’s been over a week since I’ve written a blog post and it feels like an eternity. But that’s because I WAS ON VACATION! First vacation since being diagnosed. First time being on an airplane and getting to see palm trees and plop my butt in the sand and just relax. It was such a wonderful few days and something Mike and I really needed.

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We were greeted in the Tampa airport by multiple members of the fraternity I was a part of, Delta Sigma Pi. Their excitement to have me down and meet all the new members was infectious and something I felt so lucky to be able to experience.

So after deciding we no longer wanted a boring rent-a-car because we were on v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n,  we hopped in a mustang convertible and headed down to Clearwater!! The drive was perfect– the warm wind was in our faces, the music was on loud and I felt happy at its purist. We got so lucky as we were able to stay in a GORGEOUS condo that my friend Kelly’s family owns and were so nice enough to let us stay there for a few days. It’s right on the water, has a fantastic pool and jacuzzi, and the best balcony view of them all. We were so lucky to be able to have that opportunity! (so thank you thank you thank you to the Fitzgibbons!)

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We spent the next few days lounging on the beach, doing yoga in the sand, going for long walks hand in hand, sleeping with the doors open to hear the waves crash down, watching dolphins play in the water while we ate grouper sandwiches, spending time with some of my best girlfriends who came up for a day to visit, and watching the sunset go down atop the beautiful white sands! We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect few days.

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We then headed to Tampa so I could show Mike my old stomping grounds and get ready for the Relay for Life event that I was speaking at on Saturday. Friday night I got to meet all the wonderful students who have worked so hard over the past 6 months to fundraise in order to get me to Tampa and also to put on this incredible event. I was greeted by so many smiling faces, including old professors that came to support me– it was truly heartwarming. We then went out with some great friends for dinner and ended up at World of Beer for old times sake. It’s funny, WOB is right across the street from MacDittons, my favorite bar in college, and as I watched college kids go in and out, I felt old and almost like “could I do that anymore?” Funny how times change. Overall, it was a really special night to see so many close friends that I don’t get to see nearly as much as I’d like and just catch up and laugh together.

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Then came Saturday– the day we were down here for. I was anxiously awaiting my speech all day, reading it over and over by the pool and practicing too many times in front of Mike. Being the perfectionist I am, I wanted it to go smoothly and really make it worth everyone’s effort of getting me down there. The night came and my family, of course, was there to support me! Mom, Dad, Court, Stratos & Eleni were all there to cheer me on as I took the mic. With over 1000 people in attendance, I started to get pretty nervous– I haven’t public spoken like that in quite some time. But once I started speaking, I was reminded  that I’m talking about my journey– something I know a lot about. I could do this. And I did it. There was sense of relief when I ended but also real excitement. Overall, the ceremony was beautiful and so touching. It’s a night I will always remember.

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I’ve included the video below where you can watch my speech, hope you enjoy!

Again, thank you to all my brothers from DSP for making this trip a reality and to all my Tampa family who made being back so special to me. I love you all!

XOXO,

Jess

Body Thoughts

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I’ve been trying to work out a lot lately, eat healthy. do yoga, take the stairs. And as much as I’d love to say it’s all for my overall health, a lot of the motivation has to do with my body and how it looks. Knowing I’m going to be in a bikini next week stresses me out. I’ve been thinking about it all the time. Every time I go to get in the shower, I look at myself in the mirror and think “ugh.” Now I know what you’re probably thinking, “oh shut up Jess, you’re a small girl.” I hear it all the time and I get it. But I also know how I feel. I also am allowed and entitled to feel unhappy with my body if that’s the way I honestly view myself. It’s always really irked me when someone scolds me for complaining about how I look because they think I’m being ridiculous. I’m a petite person, I know this, but I also have flaws that I don’t like and I struggle with feeling good about myself. The reason for this blog post, however, is not to rip on people that “shoooosh” me or tell me to be quiet when I talk about my weight. But instead, it’s to vent about why I even feel this way in the first place. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and it really makes no sense. Why do I care that I have a roll when I bend over? Or that the lower portion of my belly sticks out a little bit? Those factors really don’t affect my actual life yet it affects my mental life. My body has done incredible things this year. My body has rid itself of a horrible disease called leukemia. My body has overcome pancreatitis, on multiple occasions. My body has taken round after round after round of toxins to help the leukemia never come back. Yet, somehow, when I think of my body, I think it’s not enough? If I’m being honest, that’s seriously effed up.

I really don’t know if there’s anything that can be done about this but it’s something that makes my mind move. It interests me that the brain works like this. That I logically know that having a “pooch” is really unimportant, but emotionally, I can’t seem to shake the fact that I absolutely hate it and want a flat stomach. Emotionally, I’m jealous of the tall (long haired) girls with lean legs and a flat stomach rather than maybe someone who’s short and stalky but brilliant and a doctor. When I really stop and think about it, I’m jealous of that doctor. I truly wish I could be a nurse or doctor but I spend more time fantasizing about having Candace Swanepoel’s body. I spend more time idealizing someone for having a nice stomach rather than someone who’s saving lives. That’s a sad fact.
I think we’re all guilty of this, however. Even the Candace Swanepoel of the world. And I don’t think it makes us bad people, it’s just who we are as humans. It’s the old “you always want what you can’t have” and having a better body always seems to be on the list. But I’ll tell you something, as much as I say I want it, I don’t know how much I truly do. Because, unlike the Candace’s of the world, I like my burgers. I love nachos. And beers. And pasta. And cheeeeeeeeeeeese. Good food makes life good. It’s an activity. It’s a part of life and one that I would never give it up just so I could attain that 6 pack abs look. Because “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” is IN-FRICKEN-ACCURATE. Buffalo chicken pizza tastes WAY better than a flat stomach would feel.
Till the next random rant.
XOXO,
Jessy
p.s. I hope this didn’t come off as “woe is me” or a back-handed way to get compliments, because that’s not what I’m looking for. I just wanted to openly talk about how I feel about my body image and body thoughts in general.

Push thru Tuesday Bluesday

“Make the most of the best and the least of the worst.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Having a hard time the past few days and really needed this reminder. Gotta make the best of what you’re given and pay as little attention to those negative vibes and feelings in your life.

Hope you all get through this Tuesday with good spirits and happy smiles!

XOXO,

Jessy

Strength from Within

Sometimes I dread working out. I’m not in the mood. I’m tired. I’d rather do something else…like shopping for example (“shopping is my cardio,” anyone?) but once I make myself do it, I’m always happy I did. My whole life I’ve been “an exerciser” but it means more to me now. It’s one of the few times I feel in control. So much of my life right now is out of my control; work, getting a dog, being able to drink (or smoke hookah apparently– just got that put on the banned list recently), and my diagnosis and treatment in general (soooo out of my control). I don’t have control over what’s getting pumped into my body each week. I don’t have control over how I feel afterwards. I should, but I often times lost control over my emotions. My emotions about how my life has changed, how work is going, or “what I’m doing with my life.” My emotions are all over the place lately.

So to feel that sense of control that I’m missing in so many other aspects of my life is empowering. What’s more is that I feel strong when I workout. Not as strong or conditioned as I once was but I’m getting there. Just a few short months ago, I was in the hospital going through physical therapy to regain the strength to walk again. Thinking of that makes me think, damn I’ve come a long way. Exercising also helps clear my mind, I get to listen to music and get out my frustrations from the day. It helps put the worries of my world on hold, even if just for a little bit.

I debated putting up the picture below because my hair has thinned so badly and you can really see it in this shot which I feel embarrassed about but at the same time, I’m doing a yoga pose, called Crow. I’ve been working on and struggling to be able to do Crow. Long before my diagnosis, I couldn’t do it. You can barely see, but my feet are elevated off the floor and I’m balancing solely on my hands. It takes a lot of balance and even more upper body strength. I still need to work on being able to stay there for an extended period of time, but I felt such gratification this weekend when I was able to get into the position a few times. It shows, once again, that if you truly put your mind to something, you can achieve it.

That’s all I have for my lecture today on the benefits of exercising. Sorry if it was preachy but I’m just feeling so grateful to be strong enough again to have this piece of my life back.

Plus, let me not fool myself… bikini season is fast approaching and I’m all about being ready.

XOXO,
Jessy

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