Onto 2016

2015 was far better than 2014. For many reasons, but most importantly this year brought me much improved health than the year prior. That improved health allowed for other blessings throughout the year and I’m grateful for the improvements so I wanted to write down some things down that were absolutely awesome about this year. 

1. Spent about 95 days less overnight at the Brigham 

2. Had hair. ALL year. Plus a pony tail at the end.

3. Had way less spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies 

4. Puked a hell of a lot less 

5. Did a thing I like to call “be a working woman”

6. Switched jobs and ditched the long commute 

7. Ran a 5k 

8. Went on vacations with people I love

9. Learned how amazing stand-up paddle boarding is

10. Became a God mother to the sassiest, most beautiful, most hilarious little girl

11. Made a speech about my journey to about 1,000 students at my alma mater 

12. Stood beside an amazing friend as she got married 

13. Saw my girl T-Swift with all three of my besties and a bunch of other ladies I love!

14. Bettered my yoga practice & began learning about different philosophies & teachings 

15. Last but certainly not least, became a pup mother

  

I have mixed emotions going into this night, however. I got the pic below in my TimeHop and I got thrown into a surreal feeling of looking at my happy ass before my life got flipped upside down. Mike and I had such a fun night 2 years ago. We went to an incredible dinner in the North End, drank red wine & champagne then hopped over to the best little hookah bar where we sat and sipped martinis until about 11:50. Paid our check and ran over to the water to watch the fireworks go off in the absolute FREEZING cold! It was a glorious night and I remember it so vividly and relish in those memories when I think about my “life before.” 

  
Thinking of that “before” makes me a little sad honestly cuz I’d love to live that night over again. But that’s not how life mworks, you don’t get to go back in time. You only have today and that’s what today’s still pretty good too. It’s different than two years ago… I’m already in my pajamas, we have a pup snuggled up with us and there’s a lasagna about to go in the oven that was made by my amazing nurse Andrea who makes her own pasta, sauce and ricotta!!!   

  
PLUSSS, we just got this picture of these beauties which really just couldn’t have made my heart any warmer. #ILoveBeingAnAuntie 

  

So net net is tonight’s still pretty nice too. 

I have waited 22 months and 11 days for the clock to strike midnight and my phone to say 2016. I can’t really believe it’s here, I can’t believe we’re about to hit the year that I’ll get to begin to close my cancer chapter. But I’m excited so let the countdown officially begin.

Thank you to all my amazing family, friends, nurses, doctors, coworkers, blog readers, and incredible boyfriend for your continued support and endless love. I am grateful tonight and grateful always. 

All the love & light in the world going into 2016.
Jessy 

Holiday Season Smiles

My heart was so full yesterday as I was able to bring 150 Smile Cards to The Brigham. What’s even more amazing is that I had just brought a ton about two weeks ago and I know I have about 50 more to bring next week! 

Before I left TJX, I sent out an email to the entire marketing department asking for their help in my little task, especially going into the holiday season as I wanted to be able to bring many cards as this is an especially hard time to be “locked” up there. I had thought it’d be nice if I got a few of them, hoping some people would be motivated enough to write up some. And then I got this picture….

  
The entire HomeGoods creative team, crafting and putting together some of the most beautiful smile cards that I’ve ever seen! 

   
    
    
    
    
    
   
These came in a box FULL of cards. Full of different kinds, different sayings, different notes but all the same sentiment– love and compassion. One of the amazing employees there had put a box out in the common area and encouraged people to write a few and simply drop them in the box. I couldn’t believe it. SOOO much more than I expected but what an incredible surprise!

   
 
And THEN I get an email from a co-worker who let his sister (who’s a teacher) know about the initiative and she wanted to get involved. So I’ve since been in contact with this amazing lady who’s gotten her class to do it and has enlisted many of the classes throughout the school! I couldn’t be more ecstatic! 

To all my friends, Michael, my family (and my moms school!) and all the TJXer’s and the family and friends they’ve gotten involved in this little initiative… THANK YOU. From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful for you taking the time to bring someone else a smile, to remind them that they’re not alone in what is obviously an incredibly difficult time. You’ve chosen to make a difference in a strangers life and that’s truly a beautiful thing. 

Lots of love & light,

Jessy 

Thankful For So Much

When I was growing up, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Thanksgiving. I was a picky eater. I focused on the fact that I didn’t like the food. If you don’t really like vegetables and you’re not into turkey, good old T-giving can be a tough day. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized what an incredible day it really is. I’m happy to say that now that I consider myself quite the foodie, I absolutely love all the delicious food I get to stuff my face with BUT I love even more to have a day that’s specifically dedicated to giving thanks. It’s a day focused on being grateful for all you have and to be with those you love and reflect on all that you have together.

Since being diagnosed, I have found true strength when I count my blessings. When I consciously think about all the things that I do have in life, no matter how hard the day, my mindset is always helped. It helps ground me and helps put things into a necessary perspective. So today in honor of this amazing day that is completely dedicated to being thankful, I am going to list out everything I feel so lucky to have in my life.

I am thankful for…

  1. My Michael
  2. My family
  3. My Phoebe
  4. My friends
  5. My incredible doctors (especially Dr. Mandy & Dr. D)
  6. The most amazing and caring nurses (especially Andrea, Rachel, Margo, Deb, Kristen!)
  7. To be a patient at the most amazing cancer institute in the world— Dana Farer
  8. To have a job
  9. Having a roof over my head
  10. Having food to eat everyday
  11. Being an American
  12. Living in New England
  13. Being a Patriots Fan
  14. Being able to practice yoga
  15. Sharing a home I love with a person I love
  16. Music!!!
  17. My under desk bicycle
  18. Having a safe car
  19. Dancing
  20. Technology
  21. Fresh flowers
  22. Queen B
  23. T-Swift, in particular, “Shake It Off”
  24. One Direction
  25. Buddhism
  26. The ability to opening my mind to alternative ways of thinking
  27. Clothes & Shoes that I love
  28. A working pancreas
  29. Good food and being able to eat it!
  30. Buffalo chicken
  31. Strawberry strudels
  32. Being in remission
  33. Having hair again
  34. Soft, fuzzy pajamas
  35. Last but certainly not least, I am thankful for this blog and most importantly thankful for all the supportive and wonderful people that have followed my journey. I’m thankful that you’re part of my life and thankful for everything your support has provided me throughout a challenging portion of my life.

I hope you all have a beautiful day, and remember to truly give thanks to all that you have in your life. Even if you’re going through a tough time, try to think of at least one thing that you can feel true gratitude for — whether that is as important as another human being in your life or as simple as being able to have a glass of wine. Whatever it is you’re thankful for, be truly thankful, down to your core.

Happy Thanksgiving, loves!

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Lots of love & light,

Jessy

Days full of sunshine & happiness 

Well, what a 6 days it was. It has been two years since Mike and I stayed in Portland and it was that trip that we “discovered” Peaks Island….  
That weekend was really special, not for any reason other than the fact that we got to relax and explore a new place together. The day we spent on Peaks Island, biking around the small village, looking at the beautiful ocean views off the cliffs and watching ferry boats come in and out as we ate and drank beers, is one of my all-time favorite days ever. During difficult and painful procedures throughout the past year, the doctors or nurses would tell me to try to relax and imagine I was in my favorite place in the world. Every time, I found myself on Peaks with my Michael. This unplanned, quick visit of a small island on the outskirts of Maine has brought me so much peace of mind and strength when I’ve needed it most. So to be healthy enough to be back there, with Mike, was magical. What’s more magical is that this trip was made possible because of the kindness and generosity of other people. Because a group of team members at HomeGoods started a pool last year and made me this beautiful booklet (that’s what happens when you have an incredibly talented art director heading up the project) to explain that they wanted me to “go back to peaks” for some rest and relaxation to make up for our cancelled Domincan trip in March 2014. This is from a team, I actually no longer get to work with at TJX, as I had been transferred to our Marmaxx division before getting diagnosed. But they came together to do something out of the kindness of their hearts just to make me smile. How lucky am I? These are the people who will ALWAYS be my TJX work family because they truly care about me as a human and not a number or just another employee. It’s a true blessing to have this type of connection and bond with people at work, so although I do not get to work with them regularly anymore, I will always be grateful of the relationships I was able to cultivate during my time with the most fabulous brand in all the land, HomeGoods.

With all that said, I want to share a few pictures with you all of our much-needed days away in Maine.

It started with a lake house with friends on Friday…

   
 
Then we headed to the beach near Portland where we went for long walks during the day and stayed at the Portland Harbor Hotel at night. I treated myself to a bath for FOUR days in a row. How much more relaxed does it get than that?! We ate at some of the most delicious restaurants, including Holy Donut. Wow, is Portland a winner for foodies! 

   
    
    
    
 
Then we packed it up, and took the ferry over to Peaks Island and stayed in a gorgeous little Inn. We started off by renting golf carts to explore the island where we found an old war cave/gun storage thing that is now completely full of graffiti but there’s such a beauty to it. We also spent time walking on the beach and making rock castles on a cliff with about 100 other “castles.” It’s like a natural version of Jenga, so cool!

   
    
    
    
    
   
We spent the next day riding our bikes, laying in the beach and HORSE BACK RIDING! Something I’ve wanted to do together for so long so it was so amazing to make it a reality. 

   
    
   
    
   
   

Yesterday it was back to reality. It was back to the hospital (but my numbers all look great so there’s nothing else I could ask for). 

   
   
And today I headed back to the office. However, I’m refusing to let my outdoor adventures cease so I headed to a state park across the street from work after I got out and rented myself a paddle board which I took out for almost two hours– paddling and stopping to do yoga on the water. How amazing! Now I’m sitting on the little beach here, watching kids splash around in be water and writing this post. Looks like even work days can be transformed into good days. 

  
I hope you have had a wonderful week and just think, tomorrow is FRIYAY!!!!! F

Lots of love and light,

Jessy 

Ponytail Bliss

GUYS!!!! This is BIG! Today I was able to put my hair in a ponytail. It may be a Cindy Loo Hoo ponytail but it’s a mother effing PONYTAIL and I could not be more excited! It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been able to use a hair-tie and getting to use it today literally made my heart jump. 

That is all, I just needed to share this milestone! WOOO WOOO! 

XOXO,

Jessy

  

Grateful for the Now

So much of our lives are spent wishing for the next thing. When you don’t have a boyfriend, you wish you were in a relationship. When you have a boyfriend, you wish you were engaged. When you’re engaged you can’t wait to get married and have all that stressful planning done and over with! It’s always on-to-the-next and I’m fully guilty of this. Certainly, I am guilty of this lately — I think almost daily about how much I can’t wait for this time period of my life to be over. How I can’t wait until I’m “normal” again. I can’t wait until I can have drinks again. I can’t wait until I don’t have chemo treatments every week. I can’t wait until this damn port is out of my chest. I can’t wait to have a dog. I can’t wait to get rid of my commute.
I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait.
I’m literally wishing away my life because it’s “hard” right now. Then I sit and think about it and I realize that it’s always going to be hard. Life is always going to have bumps in the road and obstacles to get over… you don’t go over one big wave and then have smooth sailing the rest of the ride. Navigating those rocky waves is part of being human. So although my hope is that this time in my life is particularly difficult, I need to stop pretending like this is the only difficult thing that I will experience in my life. What I really need to do is start living in the now and appreciating the day in front of me. I feel like this expression, “life in the moment,” is so overused and rarely ever acted upon but it’s the only way to say it. You truly have to embrace each day and feel grateful to be in it. Because as wonderful as tomorrow looks today, who knows if you’ll ever get there? That sounds bleak but it’s the truth. Tomorrow isn’t promised so if you spend all of today looking forward to tomorrow, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine that’s beating down on you RIGHT NOW.
Saying this and living this are two different things. It takes practice and a lot of actual effort to truly feel happy, to whole-heartedly embrace the day. I’ve realized that being happy isn’t something that just happens, you have to make a conscious effort to attain it. I believe that having gratitude for the things in your life and being grateful for the many blessings that you have, really helps in feeling that true joy we’re all looking for. I’ve been putting a conscious effort to act on this lately and have found that a few easy practices, have helped me take on each day with a better mindset.
that I have found helpful is meditating for a few minutes in the morning before I get out of bed. My type of meditating doesn’t consist of any “om-ing” or special rituals that take a considerable amount of time. Rather for just a few minutes before getting out of bed in the morning, I sit up straight with my legs crossed, close my eyes and think about how grateful I am for this day, how grateful I am for my life and the people in my life. Doing this starts the day off on a positive note– it is a reminder to feel thankful for simply being alive and getting to live this day.
Another thing I’ve been trying to do more often is to take deep breaths. I know this sounds so simple but it can be so impactful. It physically calms your body down when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Breathing deeply in through your nose and slowly out through your nose, can help reduce anxiety, which I think we all so desperately can use. While I’m doing this, I often say to myself, “I am strong. I am loved and I will get through this.” These three sentences have sort of become my mantra that I’ve been saying in my head since about February 21, 2014 but yours can be whatever you want. Whatever makes you feel more at ease, gives you confidence and makes you feel like you can get through whatever life is handing you. And the beauty about pairing deep breathing with a personal affirmation is that it can be done anytime, anywhere.
The last thing that I’ve found helps to ground you and bring your mind to the present moment is to look up at the sky. Really look. Throw your head back and look up at its beautiful openness. See how big it is. Think about how small you are in the world compared to it. It’s a humbling feeling and I find that it helps to give you a sense of much-needed perspective.
That being said, I don’t want to act like I don’t see the importance of planning ahead or being excited for the future. Being excited for what’s to come is what motivates us and gets us to push ourselves to be the best we can be so our tomorrow can be even better than today! It’s just important to remember to be grateful for the now, TOO. Be grateful for THIS moment. Even if it’s a hard moment, be grateful for it. It might be tough but it’s making you stronger. Be grateful for that. Simply said, be grateful for your life — it’s a beautiful one.
So, just like my gorgeous little Leni bear, I hope that every day you stop and take time to smell the flowers blooming right outside your window.
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Lots of love and light,
Jessy
p.s. I’ll probably have to reread this tomorrow when I’m sitting at work, wishing for the weekend. But hey! It’s all about making the effort.

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

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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A Golden Birthday

A year ago today, I turned 25. A year ago today, I received the first round of my chemo cocktail. A year ago today, I started the journey that was my 25th year of life. And it was a hard one. The hardest one yet. Today, as I turn 26 on the 26th, I’m so grateful to be where I am at this moment. Turning a quarter century old, I wasn’t yet sure if I would be cured, if I would respond to my treatment plan, if I would live to see 26. I like to think that in my heart of hearts I knew I would beat this and I would win, but to be truthful, there is always that “what if” in the back of your head. But today I’m stronger and so much healthier than I was a year ago today. Today I know I’m going to be okay, that I still have a long road to walk but that I can do it and that I will do it. Today, instead of being in the hospital, eating the single worst meal of my life (an absolutely nauseating chicken stir fry), I’m going to be busy at work and then spending the night with my mom, dad and Michael at a delicious restaurant in Somerville! We will cheers over a delicious cocktail called the Dorchester (pink lemonade, vodka & a cucumber…so good!) and we will celebrate all that we overcame together in year 25 and toast to a healthier, easier, and just plain better year 26.
As I’ve said so many times, this situation has taught me such a great deal, but none more than how truly blessed I am for the support system that I have. My birthday seemed to come early this year when last week on my one year “anniversary,” #inspirationaljessy stories starting popping up on my newsfeed. SO many people reached out…close friends and family, previous coworkers, people I haven’t talked to in years, people I’ve never met at all but read my blog. It was incredible. It made what was supposed to be a day of sadness, a day of celebration and happiness. The love I felt on that day was something I will never, ever forget and I thank each and every one of you who made it so special. It was the best birthday present I could ever have asked for.
People say turning 26 on the 26th means it’s your “Golden Birthday” and I think there couldn’t be a better time to have a golden birthday. So my birthday wish is to to have a golden year, one that sparkles and shines, one that brings out the best in me and allows me to help others, one that continues on my road to recovery. My wish is that this year is truly magical. Because a girl can dream, can’t she?
XOXO,
Jessy
p.s. yesterday at clinic, my amazing nurses surprised me with a beautiful birthday cake and “happy birthday” sing-a-long. It was so sweet and absolutely made my day so wanted to share some pics!
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The New Normal

For eleven months, all I’ve been dreaming of is getting my life back— in particular, going back to work and being able to have a drink. I’ve said it time and time again, and that time is finally here. And it’s really, really….weird. Going back to work last week was overwhelming and exciting all at the same time. I was so thrilled to be back in the “real” world (however I’d argue that my life has been pretty real this past year) but I had forgotten that the real world isn’t exactly what I had cracked it up to be. Back to cube land, back to meetings, back to traffic, back to getting up early and getting home late, back to work clothes and no pajamas. I had gotten very used to my life revolving around cancer, revolving around being as healthy as I could be, focusing solely on myself and getting better. My days were lonely and boring but in a way, I had grown accustomed to it. So getting back into the grind of working is proving to be more difficult than I had expected. Everything just feels different. Physically, the day tires me out much more than it ever has and since I’m still going through chemo, there’s things like achey-ness and headaches that I have to learn how to just push through. What’s more is that my mindset has shifted so much from where I was a year ago. I feel so lucky to be here, so grateful to be alive and able to go to work. However, this feeling like I’ve been given a second chance at life is a bit overwhelming. I want to make a difference in the world and help other people as so many people have helped me. Instead, I do social media for a company that makes billions of dollars a year, so in reality I’m just helping the rich get richer. I am so grateful to still have a job but I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around going back to a work life where nothing has changed while everything in my life has changed so drastically.
The beauty, however, of the working world is the pure bliss that the weekends give you. After one short week, I was quickly reminded of just how rewarding a Friday night on the couch with a glass of red wine feels. Wait, wine?!?! Yup! I am able to have some drinks again and it feels ahhhh-mazing! Saturday night we went to a bar for Mike’s birthday with a bunch of friends. As I was dancing around in the bathroom while I got ready, I realized how excited I was to go “out.” How just the act of doing my hair and makeup, something I’ve often complained about in the past, was making me so genuinely happy. I hadn’t gotten to go out like a normal 25 year old in almost a year and that night, I was getting to do that. It was SO fun to have fun.
The past week and a half has been a whirlwind of old experiences with a new attitude. And that attitude is gratitude. Gratitude that i’ve made it this far. Gratitude that I was able to go back to work, to have a drink with friends, to workout at the gym, to exercise at all, to eat normally again…that I’m able to have a life again. i’ve still got a long road ahead of me and a lot of work to do but I’ve come a long way. I’ve got myself a new normal and I’m just going to have to get used to it.
XOXO,
Jessy