SO many updates (and lots of pictures!)

Wow, so much to recap. I haven’t been in a writing mood as of late, which is uncharacteristic of me. As of late I have been incredibly fatigued so any free chance to just zone out and rest is usually spent in front of Netflix or a book.

California Trip:

This is VERY late but I first want to talk about the trip that I took to California a couple weeks ago to visit my brother and his “west coast family”. I was in San Jose for 5 days and I would say that it was the most relaxed and zen I have been in months. My brother, his beautiful girlfriend Lacey, and his friends went out of their way to make sure that I had the best experience possible. I felt like an absolute princess.

Adam’s house, first of all, is gorgeous. I am so proud of this milestone in his life. Also- check out this guest room! (deco credit actually goes to his girlfriend since Adam may or may not have had a minor Bed, Bath and Beyond meltdown)

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We really packed in the activities! Adam was sure to take Lacey and I to one of my favorite restaurants in Capitola, Shadowbrook Restaurant. As seen below (in a picture borrowed from the Shadowbrook website) the restaurant is situated on a steep hill and there is a cable car that can take you down to the restaurant. The food is amazing and we feasted on lobster, scallops, steak, and wine. We were also laughing so hard the entire night (mostly due to my brother’s corny temperature jokes) that we were incapable of taking a normal picture.

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In addition to an extravagant dinner I was also treated to club seats at the Giants v. Cardinals game the next day in San Francisco (thanks to Lacey’s company). The weather was beautiful and we had a blast together. I cannot imagine a more beautiful stadium. Baseball to your left, sailboats to your right, hot dog down the gullet.

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The next day was pretty laid back. Adam’s adopted family Tina and Sumi hosted a seafood boil at their house. So the vast majority of the day was spent lounging in the pool and eating our weight in crab, shrimp, corn, potatoes, and other delights.

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My last full day was sadly spent without my brother since he was busy being a star athlete/drunk person babysitter at a charity golf tournament. His girlfriend was kind enough to take the day off from work to keep me company. I’m pretty sure our terrific lady day surpassed Adam’s golf tourney. We had lunch, got massages, and had a glass of vino in an open air wine bar in Santana Row. Lacey made sure that my last day was entertaining and memorable. I don’t think I stopped laughing the entire day.

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All activities aside some of my favorite parts of the trip were simply spending silly moments with my brother whether it be driving in the car or watching garbage tv in our jammies. We live over 3000 miles apart but our relationship as siblings is always loving and steady. The majority of our time was spent joking, laughing, and watching old WWF Royal Rumbles from the 1990’s (no joke- amazing). I will admit I had one small vulnerable moment when I was reflecting on my health challenges and Adam stopped, gave me a bear hug, and reassured me that I was doing better than I feel I am in the moment. I couldn’t ask for a better sibling, friend, and personal comedian.

I want to thank EVERYONE on the west coast that came out to visit, took time out from their busy schedules for outings, and made sure I was happy and comfortable.

Coming home was challenging. Internally I left Adam’s car and entered the San Jose airport kicking and screaming.

Favata-Farrell Wedding:

The weekend following vacation was another busy one. Sam Favata (my longtime friend, Cory’s Sigma Nu brother, and the person responsible for introducing me to Cory) married his college sweetheart, Alicia. The wedding was a blast! Alicia and Sam couldn’t possibly look happier. The music was amazing and as a result my feet were super swollen the next day from endless dancing.

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Congratulations Favata fam! I hope you are having a blast in St. Lucia!

Health Update:

So enough about recent activities. As you may remember from my previous entry my last blood test results were disappointing. Honestly, it upset me and I felt pretty down. It resulted in a frank conversation with my oncologist about expectations. The long and short of it is that I will be in some sort of treatment for the long haul. It doesn’t look like there will be an end to chemo anytime soon.

I had another blood test when I returned form Calfornia and not surprisingly (to me) it increased again. My last recorded CA-125 was 777.

777slider¬† Why can’t I get that lucky at Foxwoods?!

So the CA-125 was again not the most favorable but still didn’t go up enough to sound off any major alarms. We will stay the course with this treatment and only scan if it increases enough to cause concern for a third month in a row.

As my brother has reminded me- I cannot be a slave to the numbers and there are roughly a million reasons why it could have increased including the week off from chemo that I had for vacation (which I think was MUCH better for my soul and quite necessary). Again, disappointing news but it wasn’t my undoing this week. Let’s just hope for some sign, ANY sign, that we are moving in the right direction next month.

Other than test results I can report feeling extremely tired all the time. Much can be attributed to a combination of chemo, a high-volume time at work, travel, and what not. Every day this week (except for last night) I passed out on the couch for at least an hour after work before I could even make dinner. Last night I had steroids in me (a Taxol pre-drug) so I have unfortunately been awake for 26 hours and counting…

Everyone cringes when I talk about my fingernails but they are still incredibly sore. It can be best described as similar to the feeling of “the aftermath” of shutting your fingers in a drawer. What has helped tremendously is nightly soaking my nails in warm salt water, keeping them painted to hide the disgusting discoloration, keeping them short so they don’t catch on anything, and wearing rubber dish gloves while I wash dishes or clean my apartment. So far I have all 20 nails in tact. Fingers crossed, they stay where they belong.

2015 NOCC Walk:

We are 15 days away from the 2015 National Ovarian Cancer Coalition walk in Roger Williams park, Providence, RI. So far, thanks to your love and generosity, I have raised $1070 dollars!!!! This is amazing.

I also have an amazing team for the day of the walk. Thank you to those that have signed up so far: Stack Goldman, Michelle Fabs, Sarah Breen, Emily Nason, Kelly Blessing, and Brian Eastman! It is not too late to join this rag-tag group of misfits! If you would like to walk with us on Sunday, September 27th at 9:30am there is still plenty of time to sign up online through my donation page.

To those of you that have donated or shared my donation page, my heart is VERY full. Thank you SO much for your kindness. You have no idea how your donations will help to improve the lives and care of women like myself.

NOCC Walk- Jessica’s Personal Donation Page

I hope everyone has a great week ūüôā

Vacations & Expectations

*Blows dust off of keyboard*

I have been slacking on the entries this month. Not for lack of interest or not having any thoughts to share but every time I sat down to articulate them¬†I just couldn’t. But here I am- on a plane with several hours to go. I might as well use this time to collect my thoughts.

Right now I am en route to beautiful San Jose, California for a real, much needed, vacation. I will be visiting my brother and hoping so see some of the friendly faces that make up his adopted “west coast family”. I already told Adam that since my appetite is in working order that an In N’ Out Burger (animal style of course) was a necessity.

I opted for the cheapest¬†flight through Southwest and was blown away by the affordability. To no one’s surprise that means flying from Providence to Baltimore to San Diego THEN San Jose. Despite a long day of flying I have been fortunate to be seated next to some lovely people (and avoid the Detroit airport for once).

As I lined up to board my first flight, distracted by matching up ‘B17’ with the appropriate place in line, I hear a familar voice in front of me say “oh hi!”.¬†It was Erin, a resident at Women and Infants.

If anyone is new to the blog or needs a refresher, Erin was the doctor that was responsible for inserting an NG tube into me during the first intestinal obstruction. It was traumatizing for all parties involved. She felt so badly about it that she visited me in the hospital after her shift every single day. In fact, she always seems to find me when I am inpatient which brings a smile to my (often delirious) face. In short, a surprise catch-up with Erin on our way to Baltimore was beyond exciting.

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With the exception of a surprise plane ride alongside Erin, I am free of the hospital for this week. My oncologist kindly granted me a week off to travel. Actually, Dr. Robison mandated that since I am in California I must eat a burrito, like a good one. Welp, doctor’s orders.

A week off from treatment couldn’t have come at a better time. The time I would have spent this morning getting blood drawn and rushing to work was spent entirely in bed easing into the day. Bliss.

Over the past few weeks I have gone through periods of feeling a little deflated. I recently had a discussion with my oncologist about expectations. Dr. Robison can see that I am disappointed that there is no established “end date” for when the taxol (chemo part) might end. We had a healthy discussion about, based on what we know, what this means for my immediate and long-term future.

From a clinical perspective, the goal is treat to prevent new tumors. From a patient perspective, my perfect-world scenario would be to treat to prevent new tumors and get rid of the ones I already have lurking around my abdominal cavity. I constantly toggle between feeling wildly optimistic that I can achieve a cancer free life (someday) and settling with the fact that the cancer may never entirely leave me but with treatment/maintenance I could still live with a pretty good quality of life.

After I left treatment last week I was frustrated, I didn’t want to be made to¬†reconsider my expectations. After a week of sulking, crying, writing and rewriting I think the only conclusion that I can draw is that it is important that I recognize that this process is going to continue to be long term. It is important that I dig deep and accept that if these tumors are going to be freeloaders and live inside of me for the long haul but aren’t growing, I am still winning. Most critically, it is essential that in accepting these realities I still allow myself to believe in a world where I no longer have cancer.

No one knows the outcome of this story. Establishing realistic expectations and dreaming do not necessarily negate one another. So I choose to accept and believe simultaneously to the best of my ability.

I know it sounds like I have this all figured out in a nutshell but I assure you that I will continue to grapple with it until the cows come home. Friends and family are ever important in maintaining the balance. Strangers too…

I am currently sitting next to a woman on the second leg of this journey (Baltimore –> San Diego). It feels like a chance encounter¬†where we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. This woman noticed that I was drafting a blog entry and asked: “are you a blogger?” from there we discussed blogging, writing, etc. Naturally it came out that I write about living with cancer to which she responded: “I am a cancer survivor too, breast.” Her name is Billie and she is a minister. She is returning from a trip visiting her grandchildren in Virginia. She has overcome many devastating tragedies in her life, yet maintains such honest and positive perspective.

We spoke a lot about our common thread, cancer. Treatments, surgeries, being bald, confronting changes in the body, menopause, relationships evolving and dissipating. We also chatted about books, goals, and bucket lists. Billie is the type of person that has a lot to say, but no words are wasteful. She opened herself up to me in a way that was not imposing and I found her to be most insightful. She is a walking, talking, breathing reminder to keep living and finding comfort and joy in the simple pleasures.

Thank you Southwest, you’ve nailed this trip thus far.

Speaking of thank-you’s I would like to thank everyone that has donated to the 2015 National Ovarian Cancer Coalition Walk to Break the Silence. On Sunday, September 27th I will be joining the Rhode Island chapter of the NOCC for their annual walk. I created my fundraising page just two or three days ago and already donations are pouring in! I am in awe of your generosity and support.

I would also like to thank Miss Stacey Applesauce Goldman and Emily Nason for registering as team members. In speaking with other friends, it sounds like we are going to have a solid posse on the day of! If you would like to join this team, Teal All Your Friends, you can do so through my donation page in the top right corner.

Seriously though…