Down but Not Defeated

when she stood, she stood tall….
words and image by sandie rossini

SOMETHING NEW

Life has been good to me and I try not to complain- in fact I actually feel blessed that it’s been just about 7 1/2 years since the brain surgery that saved my life. Every time I get a “good” MRI scan (meaning there’s no “new” cancer) my family and I are so grateful. I have been feeling pretty good in fact my doctors appointments were actually reduced and in July my doctor and I celebrated 7 years! Then everything suddenly changed…the cancer had returned. Words I never wanted to hear. As my doctor spoke I tried really hard to listen, to focus on the words he was saying… ”same side of your brain…but on the bottom half this time…surgery..radiation…” Needless to say my head was spinning. I decided that I would need to just try to be patient and positive while I awaited my doctor to call with a treatment plan. A few days later we received a phone call with more news- oh good-the plan? No, in fact a closer look at the scan revealed “something” else in a different area. It was too much for me- I had to walk away and take a breath.


TAKING A MOMENT TO BREATHE
Throughout my cancer journey thus far I have learned many things. A great lesson that I’ve learned along the way- if it all feels like too much, it’s ok to step away to take a deep breath. Panicking and worrying does not help so I know that I need to do certain things to calm myself down. Learning that after 7 years my brain cancer had returned was just too overwhelming. Stepping away from the situation to take a deep breath was how I dealt with this news. I am extremely lucky that I have a partner that can hold me up, hold me steady in times like these. I know not everyone has someone like that. In fact I see those people at the hospital who are alone and it breaks my heart. It makes me appreciate my amazing and strong husband.


ALONE
New rules- facing it alone. This time things would be different. Due to the terrible pandemic facing our country the hospital was forced to create new and strict guidelines- which includes no visitors. So that meant this time around I would be flying solo. The idea of doing this on my own seemed almost impossible and daunting but I had a choice. I could either get up and fight for my life once again or I could back away from the challenge and die- did that sound blunt? Well that’s because it is. It’s life or death and I choose life. I will always choose life.

WALK THROUGH FIRE
So, a new challenge. I must be brave- braver than I ever have before. I would fight to live, again. I’m going to fight for my husband, my loving family & friends, for my daughters- I am so desperate to see them to grow up. There are so many things to live for- I would give absolutely anything to live. I am grateful for what I have now, right now- but man do I want a future. I will go through all the painful treatments, I will walk into the hospital alone, but tall, with my held high and walk out alone into the arms of my loved ones. I would walk through fire to save my life. Just watch. Hey cancer- I’m coming for you.

Overwhelmed

ShoppingBlog-3words by sandie rossini: february 23, 2016

I could spend all my time getting overwhelmed by what I call the “big stuff” in life- like for example, brain cancer, but let’s face it, that’s just way too super scary for me to comprehend. What really overwhelms me is shopping. Not all shopping, just shopping at two stores in particular; the first store is Michael’s (which is a craft store, I love that store and have a tendency to go a little overboard with my spending in there and honestly I’m not really that crafty so you can try to figure that one out); the second store is Pier 1 imports (which I can only explain by simply saying that I just happen to be deeply and madly in love with each and every single item that has ever sold in that store.) This is all may sound very silly, it is.

Humor me as I walk you through what takes place during one of my complete and total mental breakdowns. Keep in mind that I am totally aware upon entering the establishments that this will all take place and I attempt to warn whomever is accompanying me about my “condition” however “first timers” always seem to be shocked. Friends and family are familiar and know how to handle the situation. As I enter the store I begin to see things that I want to buy, things that I feel I need to buy and all of those things quickly become things that I MUST buy. I tell myself that I can’t have any carrying assistance, i.e. bags, baskets, shopping carts; but without knowing it I have picked up a few items. My hands hurt, so I have to take a basket to relieve the pain from my hands, obviously. I see some amazing things that I must buy- everything is on sale. I’m being pulled by what seems like a magnetic force, I look down and realize I have 2 full baskets- how did that happen? I also seem to have lost my family. I should get a shopping cart. I feel a little dizzy, it might just be the lighting in here- oh my gosh, that frame is amazing, I’m getting it. I need a second shopping cart that way I can fit more things in it, I don’t want to have to come back, that would be silly- I could get that lamp over there and Christmas gifts for next year, can you imagine getting all that shopping done so early? Oh and my mom’s birthday’s coming up, I could get her that beautiful vase and fill it up with fresh flowers once a month, she would love that…now, if I can only remember what I came here for…

Ok, don’t judge me. I don’t overspend, I have never been in debt and I pay off all of my credit cards every month, I don’t spend what I don’t have…and no, I am not in denial. I actually tend to be a little prissy, I never break the rules, so I can do this because hey, if I’ve learned anything it’s that life is short and once in a while it’s ok for me to kick up my shopping heels and lose my mind for a few minutes, to smile, laugh to go into a dizzying shopping frenzy, to be pulled in different directions by awesome picture frames, sweet smelling candles & craft-making fantasies.

Where Do I Go From HERE?

Reservoir-Rain-WhereDoIGowords & image by sandie rossini: may 22, 2014

What comes next? Where do I go from here? What’s the plan? Will I need more treatment? Will it ever get easier? So many questions. The doctors told me to stop thinking beyond today, focus on THIS step, don’t worry about the next one until I get there. Well how do I do that? I’m not the type of person that lives in the moment, who doesn’t think of the future in fact I’ve spent my whole life planning out my next step. So how do I just stop doing that? My next step wasn’t too great and I would soon find out that worrying about it wasn’t helpful, it actually had the complete opposite effect. Worrying was bad, worrying gave me anxiety and if I was trying to live in the moment and enjoy my life then anxiety couldn’t be part of that plan. So there it was- the answer, right there in the middle of all the worrying. My plan would be to not think of what’s next when it came to my cancer, to actually live day by day, moment by moment. I wanted a future, I needed to believe I had one, so I began to focus on my wedding-that was something in the future. I focused on my kids- they were in my future. I would take on projects that would happen in the future. There was a balance, I just didn’t see it before. I could focus on today and not worry about the future of my disease but plan my life, my future. I knew one thing for sure- my future plans do not include cancer, cancer will not win. I will win. I will fight for my future and in the meantime I would be happy and grateful for every new day and really mean it.

Baldie

Baldieby sandie rossini: 4.21.14

You know how on TV and in movies you see people shaving their heads as they start to lose it during cancer treatment? They’re always empowered by it. Not me. I was definitely NOT 1 of those brave individuals. I had really long hair and it was hard when it fell out. My hair fell out from radiation and the doctors weren’t sure if I would get it back. When we shaved it I didn’t feel empowered, I felt like I looked like a cancer patient and I struggled with that. Dark circles, bald head, huge scar? I had the cancer look and I couldn’t embrace it. My hair was spared down the middle so I had what I called a “Receding- Mohawk”, not on purpose; it was just the way it happened. One day I felt brave, took a picture of my head and posted it on Instagram & Facebook. As it slowly grows back I still struggle with the way I look, but I’m glad I took this picture.

I’m Not a Statistic

NaplesSUNSET(words & image by sandie rossini)

You should always get a second opinion. I suppose that’s true. My gut is usually right but I do like to hear other opinions when it comes to… basically anything. That was most definitely true when it came to choosing my doctor and the hospital where I would be receiving my chemotherapy and radiation treatment following my surgery. I probably wasn’t thinking clearly, I mean I just had BRAIN surgery after all so I took the advice of my family members and went to the hospital just across the street from where I had my surgery and saw another doctor. The two hospitals were actually connected and shared information and research but it felt like I was entering a different planet. It didn’t help that I felt horrible that day. I was still recovering from surgery and I had a painful, throbbing headache that made it hard to see. I felt nauseous and couldn’t eat and I also was too weak to walk so I sat in a wheelchair. I was angry, very angry. As I sat in a torture chamber I was forced to listen to a screeching loud noise that sounded like someone’s nails on a chalkboard. I was then wheeled down a dark corridor and forced to wait for hours and had to listen to loud clicking noises and had to answer endless questions. After that I was then wheeled into a small room and surrounded by many men who then asked me more questions, which I was forced to answer. Then we waited, and we waited for an hour and then another hour. I demanded that someone wheel me out of the room but no one would. I had enough. I had made up my mind before we even met the doctor but I tried to give this place a chance but I was done, I couldn’t take another second of- then suddenly the doctor walked in casually. So I stopped my negative thinking. I gave him a clean slate. I began to understand that the screeching noise in the lobby may have been a young lady playing a harp to relax patients, the questions were probably reasonable and the clicking was most likely keyboards, my anger was most likely caused by the steroids that I was on to heal the swelling in my brain, the headaches and pain- well that was from my surgery and I shouldn’t be taking it out on this hospital that didn’t seem so dark now that I looked around. So I took a deep breath and said hello and shook this doctor’s hand. Unfortunately, he blew it. He began with the “at the most 5 years” speech and that’s when he lost me. That’s not what I wanted in a doctor. You see MY doctor needed to understand that I am NOT a statistic and that I was going to BEAT the odds. So yes, use your numbers, get the facts, do the math, the science and get me the best treatment out there but understand this- don’t ever tell me how long I will live because YOU sir, do not know that information. No one knows that. The doctor I chose- was my doctor from the start. I had a team of doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA. My surgeon was a superhero who performed a miracle & removed the monster in my head, my Radiologist beamed positivity into my soul and my Oncologist is brilliant & continues to shield me from the evil of cancer to this day- and I can tell you that I’m positive I made the right choice. My doctor has always told me that I am NOT a statistic.

Scars

FarmTunnelby sandie rossini: 11.19.2014

We all have scars. Some are visible to the world, some are internal. My biggest scar is one and the same. I have a large scar starting from my forehead across my head, it’s from my brain surgery. It’s a daily reminder of what I’ve been through over the past year and a half. Not that I need to be reminded, my surgery and cancer is something I can’t forget, no matter how much I try. Most of the time I wish I could forget and there are times that I do but then something happens- like I hear the news in the other room saying someone has died of brain cancer and it makes me feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. It makes me feel dizzy, off balance, like my world is being turned upside down…but only for a moment. Somehow I have learned to right myself. Some people ask me- how do you stay positive? My first answer is faith. Secondly, I ask- what’s my alternative? The scary negative thoughts are just that- scary. I can’t live in fear everyday and I won’t.

No Easy Way Out

Underpassbby sandie rossini: 7.30.14

I would love to take the easy way whenever possible and I can honestly say that up until last year I was a hard worker but I never was faced with any major obstacles in life- like cancer. Now there is no easy way. People tell me I’m strong but I tell them they would do the same thing in my situation. On days that I have to go in for an MRI I am terrified, I do whatever I can to mentally prepare myself. I pray, sing, laugh, think positively- I even meditate. This underpass seemed a little scary for me and my girls but it was the only way through to the other side.

Maybe

Maybe-Sky(written by sandie rossini: 9.30.15)

Maybe I really am different now. I think it’s almost impossible not to be. I don’t just say that I’m grateful for each new day, I really am. If I said that prior to cancer, I wasn’t lying, it’s just different now. I always tried to look at the bright side, to find good, even in bad situations but now I really understand. On this day it was sunny and when the sun slipped under a cloud, just for a moment, I heard someone complain. When I looked up I didn’t see the cloud covering the sun, I saw the sun shining through the cloud. Maybe I didn’t need cancer to show me how to live my life better, but maybe it just ended up working out that way. Someone asked me for some advice recently and here’s what I said- don’t take your health or happiness for granted, don’t wait for a disease or loss to change you. See the good, if it’s not there, create it. Maybe you can have everything you’ve ever wanted, why not just go for it? I am.

The Second Chance

RainyWindshieldSummer(written by sandie rossini: 5.4.16)

 

I was given a second chance, that was the only way I could look at what happened to me, it was the only way I could make sense of it. When I woke up from my brain surgery it took me a little while to make sense of what had happened and to comprehend that I still had a battle to fight and that it wouldn’t be easy. For a while I refused to say the word cancer, I would just say that I had a small piece of tumor leftover that I needed to get rid of and for some reason that made it easier. While I tried to calm myself of the anxiety that began to fill my body, first in my stomach then up to my lungs and throat- but then I remembered a story in the news about a woman who was simply walking across the street who was struck by a car and died instantly but before that car hit her she was able to push her children out of the way. I remember thinking she was a hero, she was only given a few seconds and gave her life to save those children. Then there I was, I had a chance to live and at that moment I wasn’t sure for how long, but the point was none of us really know how long we have so perhaps we should all live like this is our last day. We should all seize the day and live for the moment and in the moment. So at that moment I decided I would live for that special heroic woman who didn’t get that chance and then that anxiety and fear started to fade and I chose to fight for my life. No one knows how long they have to live that’s why each day we are given is a gift and I will not waste a single moment.