New Pics Posted and Home from the Hospital!!!

I hope everyone had a yummy Turkey Day and that you all enjoyed a nice long restful weekend. Mom, Dad and Neil came up to the hospital on Thanksgiving to visit and we had so much fun visiting and playing board games. There were lots of laughs and at one point I was laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face and I swear I almost peed my pants! We were playing “Battle of the Sexes” that a sweet friend had given us a couple of months ago. If you haven’t played it, it is a trivia game but for things about the opposite sex. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did watching Dad and Neil try to figure out what PMS stands for. “Is it pre- or post-?, Is it Menopausal or Menstrual?” Mom and I about fell out of our chairs watching them try to figure it out with such seriousness.

Yippie!!!! Home at last! :)

Anyway, I am very, very pleased to report that I was discharged from the hospital Saturday and I am THRILLED to be at home! I am no longer “flying naked” without my immune system as my counts are on the rise and the stem cells are officially “engrafted”. Neil and I went in early Sunday morning for what I thought was going to be the usual 6 hour, 2 bags of IV fluids only to be told that I was doing so well that they were not only going to cut it back to one bag of IV fluids, but now every other day in the clinic vs the original everyday visits, AND they moved me to the afternoon schedule so we don’t have to be there at the crack of dawn. It was especially nice to have a short day on Sunday as we celebrated “Phillips’ Thanksgiving” that afternoon and I had thought I would be lucky just to get home in time to eat let alone do some more things and help mom prepare dinner. My mom is a wonderful cook and out did herself with a modified version of our normal Thanksgiving meal. I was even able to make my famous (OK only “famous” in our family) low fat pumpkin pie the night before. So I am sittin’ pretty right now and feel wonderful, full of lots of energy and feeling better than normal. I don’t question it, I just say thank you!

Me & Mom hanging out on Thanksgiving Day

I spent the first whole day “nesting” aka organizing, getting caught up from being gone for 9 days and baking. I’m a “everything has a home” type of girl, so it felt good to get everything clean and put away. It was also fabulous to not have to lug around an IV pole everywhere I went, sleep through the night without being woken up for “Midnight labs”, 5 am vitals and weight followed by 7am shift change and assessment. It’s so funny because they do the labs at midnight and come back in at 5 am and ask “So how did you sleep?” And I’m thinking “I don’t know cause I’m not done yet, but I’ll let you know around 8 OK?!” Don’t they know we are trying to heal?! :)

Speaking of, I have a funny story about my first night’s sleep in my own bed. Somewhere during the wee hours of what was technically Sunday morning Neil was woken up twice from being all warm and cozy to having the sheets and blankets pulled off of him and me poking the entire side of his body and then being covered back up again. Only to fall asleep and woken up again but this time the covers were rolled down off of him and again a hand poking the entire length of his side. Finally he said “Honey, are you OK?” and got a “AHHHHH!!” scream as a response. Apparently I was half awake and half asleep when I was doing this and I was trying to figure out “what” was next to me in bed. After sleeping in a hospital bed for 9 straight nights and the fact that our bedroom is completely pitch black with black out curtains (we all it “La Cava”/The Cave) and was confused as to where I was. I vaguely remember trying to figure out what was next to me by touching “it” to see if I could place it but keep feeling different kinds of material…tank top, boxers, sheets. It wasn’t until I hit an arm or a leg and felt skin that I got freaked out and was also around the same time Neil asked me if I was OK. Too funny. I’m telling you, there is never a dull moment around here!

In addition to the epiphany that it was my husband who was next to me and that I was at home, I figured out in a big hurry while I was in the hospital how little I really need on an everyday basis and also how much I do love being in our home and it’s simple comforts. Neil made a sweet comment about how happy he was to have me back at home and he said there is such a good feeling in the house when I’m in it and that it just isn’t the same without me…ahhhh shucks. But jokes aside, isn’t that true for all of us? It’s what makes a house a home…the people in it, not the stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love nice things just like everyone else but I see so clearly now that when you get down to it, it’s all really just extra stuff. We attach meaning to it and define ourselves by it, but really they are just things, nothing more, nothing less. Again, there are things I have that I love, hold precious and really enjoy and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that but it’s our perspective of it all that seems most important and that can be a slippery slope. We’re all constantly bombarded by beliefs and messages that somehow we are less if we don’t have certain things or that others will fill a void in our life if we can just get more of something, yet that contentment and satisfaction is so fleeting and can actually get you into a lot of trouble because it is a thirst that can never quenched that way.

Wow, I’m really on a soap box here but I do think it’s something to think about as we get into the holiday season and the stores/media are desperately trying to get people to buy things they don’t need because they are having a bad fiscal year. My vote is to let them take the hit and not let them transfer it onto us. Why not give the gift of quality time or seeing some place new that lets you get out of the “rat race” for a little while instead of spending a bunch of money on “stuff”. Why not invest in those you love and infuse your life with growth and joy because there is nothing more important? Why not invest in experiences rather than things? I assure you no one will ask for a refund or try to exchange it either. During the last 6 months and the nature of my treatment (have to have a “caregiver” with me everyday I am in the Clinic), plus being squirreled away in the hospital, I have been given the rare gift of space and time where I am able to spend a lot more time with Neil, my parents and Neil’s parents. I have also learned how much I cherish and love my friends as I’m not allowed to see them for quite some time. I have grown so much closer to each of them during this process and to the truest part of myself. I realize now that in my busyness I hadn’t made a lot of room for those who are closest to me. Even before I went on “lockdown” I spent so much more time with friends than I ever had before, and now the time I do spend with people has so much more substance than ever before. By shedding the cloak of judgements, insecurities and the need for outside approval, I invest myself more authentically and with love and a deliberate transparency that feels so good. I care less and less of what others think of me and know that what is really important is living the life I was put on this earth to live and honoring who I am, approving and loving myself and seeing others through this same filter. Everyone is just doing the best they can with what they know, if they could do it differently, they would. And we are all learning our lessons exactly as we are meant to and when we learn them, we move on the the next level, the next lessons. It is all only meant to grow us and free us for our sleep/unconsciousness. No matter what you are dealing with, large or small, it is all just a learning experience and, boy, have I learned! I continue to be thankful for the new insights and lessons I learn daily.

Hiking at Kennesaw Mountain (Ha, I had to get special permission from my docs!)

I’ve posted a new set of photos on the website, so log on and take a look if you like. You’ll see the latest members of “Team Alyssa” and some photos of a hike I took at Kennesaw Mountain just prior to the first high dose, some from my hospital visit, my return home and me and Neil at the clinic. For those of you in the Atlanta area, if you haven’t been on the trails at Kennesaw Mountain, I highly recommend it. We lived very close to the park when I was in high school and it’s where I started running and ran with my younger sister Lauren for many years. I try to get up there every couple of months and every time I go I remember why I fell in love with running. It’s also a great place to take your dog or children and pack a lunch for a day in the woods. There’s also a funny picture of a plastic goose (a piece of “yard art”…never understood that concept) dressed up as a turkey that one of the other patient’s wife brought in. Apparently he’s a firefighter and it’s a running joke that they “steal” the plastic goose and take photos of it in different places. The patient’s wife is also a nurse at Northside Hospital and she put her “altered” badge on it. The funniest part was that they had to sanitize the thing with special wipes before it was allowed in and then she dressed it up in the booties and gown that all outside people have to put on. Really funny.

Kissing "Tom Turkey" on Turkey Day in the Bone Marrow Unit

To wrap it up, I wanted to share a neat story my Mom shared with me. Some of you may have already heard this but it’s a great example of how you can choose to handle adversity and challenges as they come, and they will, as they are our greatest teachers if we chose to see the lessons in them. Here goes:

“One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

Life’s going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.”

With love and gratitude,

Alyssa

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