Slainte 

  
Two years ago today, I crossed off the final mark on my “days down” whiteboard. I had started it during my first stint at the hospital after being diagnosed as I wanted to remind myself of the number of days I had been “locked up.” Then with a little Irish luck on my side, my counts crossed over the mark we were waiting for and I was released from the Brigham on St. Patrick’s Day 2014. Mike drove me home with my parents behind us and we celebrated with a pizza and salad from Reginas Pizzeria- my absolute favorite. I remember walking in that door with Mike, having left my house the morning of Februrary 20th just a normal day at work and hadn’t been back since. I was home. I didn’t cry when I walked in, I simply smiled. I felt so much pure joy to be in my house again. As Mike had stayed with me every night in the hospital, he too had not laid on our bed for almost a month. So we did. We jumped in our bed and just laid there together, so thankful that we were home. So grateful that God had granted me a second chance and that I was able to lay there beside him. We cuddled, and took in the moment before my parents came in with pizza. It was a moment I will never, ever forget. 

Today, I have 12 days left to go until I cross off my final “day” as a leukemia patient in active treatment. Two weeks from today, I will no longer be an “active” patient. My treatment plan will be over and I’ll be a patient in remission that has to go to the Dana for check-ups every 6 weeks- that’s it. And that’s incredible. 

I can’t believe it. I’ve decided I’m never erasing the top part of this board- it means too much. It brings back a lot of memories and it reminds me that as long and hard as the race looks originally, with a little resilience and a lot of faith, you can get thru just about anything.

#neuktheluke final campaign has officially begun. 

Lots of love & light,

Jessy 

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I Get By with a Little Help From My Friends

Yesterday we were so lucky to spend some time with very close friends. They had rented a house on a lake in Maine with their family so we decided to visit and stay over before we start our mini vacation in Portland (writing this from the beach now! 😍) Anyways, while we were there, I was able to try paddle boarding which I’ve always wanted to do. So, at the before going in for dinner, I decided I wanted to take one out once more and went by myself. I started rowing and thought to myself, “wow I’m really good at this, I’m cruising.” So I continued rowing and found myself floating along the lake, completely in the moment. I kept looking up at the sky and then down at the water flowing around me and couldn’t help but feel so blessed and so thankful that I had been given this moment. I kept thinking to myself that it was about a year ago at this time that I was hit with pancreatitis and it was then that my most difficult physical troubles began. So I felt so lucky that I was strong enough now to be doing something active like this by myself. 

Time continued to go by and I continued to not have a care in the world. When I got to a certain point, I decided it was probably time to turn around. I started to switch directions. Difficultly #1. After multiple tries, I got the board turned around started rowing towards the house, which at this point was far, farrrrr out of sight. So I start paddling, as hard as I could but wasn’t moving too fast anymore. Oh well, I thought, no big deal. Then all of a sudden I see Michael paddling along in a kayak. “Rescuer #1” has arrived. He gets to me and instantly asks if I’m okay followed with “what the hell are you doing?” I’m baffled. Doesn’t he mean, what the hell is he doing? I’m fine. I’m having a great time. After telling him he can leave because I’m good on my own, he decides to stay and kayak next to me as I try to adventure back. So I go a few minutes passing a house with a family sitting on their deck. Tired, I decide to pause to take a break. As I stop, I realize I am FLYING backward; right pass the family I just passed a few minutes ago. Uh oh. Difficultly #2. So Mike says, you need help? Nope, I say. I’ve still got this. So I start paddling again and as the wind picks up, I begin to realize that I’m going at a rate of  about 1 inch a minute. Gotta change my strategy. So I sit on my board and decide that’ll help the situation. No such luck. Now Mike starts insisting that I let him help. So, begrudgingly, I say okay and we tie my paddle board to his kayak and it’s decided that he’s going to try to tow me back. Difficultly #3. I’m determined to pull my own weight so I try paddling while he is as well. Too many cooks in the kitchen. Next I decide I’m going to get in the water behind the paddle board and start kicking as I hold onto the board so he doesn’t have my weight to pull along. Difficulty #4. As that’s failing miserably, I let go of the paddle board and decide I’m just going to swim back. It takes a few minutes for him to notice that I’m swimming alongside but once he does, that doesn’t go over well. Difficultly #5. We then start arguing as he’s convinced that it’s going to either take hours for me to get back to the house, I’m going to drowned trying or at the very least “puke blood.” So as the words “my parents paid for 13 years of swimming lessons for a reason, I AM FINEEEEE” 🏊🏽 are being screamed out of my mouth, “Rescuer #2” comes up in his kayak. We’ve now both been gone for so long, everyone at the house is beginning to seriously worry. I then tell our friend Nate that I’m just swimming back and he gives me a definitive “that’s not going to work.” It’s now decided that I’m going to get in his kayak and he’s going to be able to paddle board back. So we pull over, I eat shit as I attempt to get in the kayak and then am finally successful the second try. Then, finally, all three of us find ourselves rowing back into our dock. Mission complete. 

After a while of explaining myself and apologizing, I went to an upstairs deck and laid on a hammock overlooking the lake and laughed to myself at the debauchery that had just ensued. But as I was chuckling to myself about what a disaster my original peaceful paddle boarding adventure had turned into, I also thought about how I did end up truly needing help. When Mike first arrived, I was annoyed to be honest. I felt like he was overreacting and not trusting me enough to understand that I am able to take care of myself. I was so determined to prove him wrong, and to show that I could do this on my own, we wasted a lot of time, attempting different ways that we could make it back, ways that ultimately didn’t work and made me more tired than I already was becoming. I tend to do this, in an effort to prove that I’m not weak, I over exert myself and don’t take the help when I actually need it. I’ve learned in the past year, that it’s so important to take help. Everyone needs help, we’re individuals but we can only survive by being dependent on first ourselves but then others too. I forget this often, as I did yesterday, but it was a good lesson to learn (once again) that sometimes you have to put aside your pride and just say yes when those that love you are trying to help you. That sometimes, taking the help can be the strongest thing you can do, not the weakest.

Moral of the story: be conscious of the currents. If you’re cruising down a lake the first time you’ve ever paddle boarded, instead of thinking “I’m Queen👑 of the paddle board🏄🏻,” you might wanna think, “the wind could be helping me and I may be screwed when I turn around.” Note to self: be more humble. 🙏🏼

Happy weekend friends.

Lots of love & light, 

Jessy 

  

Memories as Motivation

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This weekend, I went to the Taylor Swift concert with 7 of my girlfriends. It was such an amazing time– first because her show was SO good and secondly because I got to spend quality time with people that mean a lot to me. I had been looking forward to this day for almost 7 months as we purchased the tickets in December! So I felt a little sad yesterday that it’s “ already”over! That always seems to happen after big events, we look forward to them for so long that it feels like a let down once it’s in the past. But I shouldn’t view it as a let down, I should view it as a blessing. I was so lucky that I got to see an artist I love live, that I got to dance under the stars and hold hands and sing out loud with my best friends.

So today I remind you, as I’m reminding myself, that it’s important to try to look back at good times and not think “so sad it’s over” but rather “I’m so grateful that it happened.” Grateful that it happened and determined to make more memories like that a reality. Dream BIG and push HARD to make the memories you want in life.

Lots of love & light,

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

Fleeting Moments

It’s been a rough few days, Mike’s mother unexpectedly passed away this weekend.

When I first met Michael, he was living with his mom. I remember when he told me why, how taken aback I was. Here’s a successful 29 year old, putting his life on hold to be there for his mom in more ways than I could imagine. To make her dinners, and keep her company. To get up in the morning and do aerobics with her to keep her active. To watch football games with her and just chat. It amazed me how selfless he was. But Michael wasn’t alone in this effort, never for a second. His brother and sister were right there with her every step of the way. Giving every part of themselves to help their mom. Giving everything they had to help her live a better life — those three, together, are a true inspiration.

Rosemary lived a hard life. She struggled severely from mental disabilities, some that were inaccurately diagnosed which led to additional issues. I only knew her for three years but I felt for her, as so many of her issues she was unable to control. She was hard to understand at times but there’s a few things I knew about her for sure — she loved shrimp cocktail and italian cookies, she loved watching football and she loved her adorable granddaughters. One last thing I know is true is that she raised three amazing children. Three people that are strong, smart, beautiful, funny and caring. The three of them stick together through thick and thin and are always there for each other, no matter what. She raised a true family.

Life is but a fleeting moment. Moments strung together in the memory of your mind. Moments that define you, moments that shape you. What makes those moments magical are the people in the memories. The laughter, the silliness, the joy, the tears, the hugs & kisses, the smiles. With every moment in life, we are tested, some times much harder than others, but always tested. And with every test, we should grow, we should learn and we should become better people. When you lose someone important to you, who’s made an impact in your life, it can be difficult to remember that life is good, as you feel the pain that surmounts atop you and pushes down on your chest. You’re reminded how short life is, how nothing should be taken for granted and that tomorrow is never promised. With such a harsh reality, sometimes it’s hard to stay positive. But those moments strung together, those life-altering memories, are what can help pull you for air, just when you need it most. So remember the moments, cherish the memories. Because after all, memories are one of life’s biggest gifts.

To the woman that gave me the love of my life, thank you. I am forever grateful.

XOXO,
Jessy

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