We are often reminded by our circumstances that life rarely goes according to plan, and when it does, it is indeed a rare blessing that must be treasured. The past year alone has been a harsh and humbling reminder of this. But even with such uncertainty, one must always keep moving forward and appreciate that any situation has the potential to get better. It is with this hope that I have overcome significant challenges which have threatened my resolve on more than one occasion. I have also had the privilege of meeting others who inspire the same feelings through their sense of determination and their unwillingness to remain stagnant. As the end of October nears, I look back, proud of the accomplishments I have made as well as those made by others on similar journeys.
Firstly, I have to start by mentioning one of my new favorite bands, Broca’s Area, and fellow central-neurocytoma survivor, Chris Cusano, who with great effort and dedication to brain tumor awareness hosted an event September 19th, “Playing for the Cure…Brainstormin’”. The event was described as “A give back music festival to benefit the Yale Brain Tumor Center” and featured along with Broca’s Area, was the equally amazing, Goodnight Blue Moon Group. The night was filled with survivors, supporters, clinicians, musical talent, and the raw energy of those passionate about the cause. Mid-way through the event, neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Piepmeier, M.D. of Yale New Haven Hospital graced the stage and before starting an inspiring speech about the Cusano family, he humored us with the repercussions of his ill-fated choice of selecting none other than a Pabst Beer. After his perfectly delivered commentary about his subpar beverage, he moved us with his appreciation of the generous contribution the Cusano family has made to benefit the much needed and ongoing research efforts in treating brain tumors. More of Chris, his family, and the event can be read on his blog at:
Next, I was able to participate in the much anticipated, “Path of Hope” by the CTBTA at Hammonassett Beach in Madison, CT. Meeting other survivors and volunteering was truly inspiring and heartwarming, but nothing compares to the tremendous gratitude I feel for the CTBTA and Kimberly Canning for bestowing on me the privilege of announcing the Reginald Anderson Memorial Scholarship. It was started in honor of a young man who tragically lost his battle with brain cancer but who will forever live through his legacy of giving back. Additional information may be found at www.ctbta.org. With my own University of Bridgeport PAI graduate students present, I was not only allowed the privilege of honoring Reginald but afforded the opportunity to share my journey from being a clinician now working full-time in academia; hence, why I was so honored to have been asked. The event also featured guest speaker, Amanda Tronchin, who shared her harrowing experience, her triumphant recovery, and current status as a college student at Northeastern University. All the individuals I encountered whether they be survivors, caregivers or clinicians inspired hope and the feeling was truly infectious.
After the event, I signed up for a local gym membership at Retro Fitness to continue where I left off at with outpatient Physical Therapy. I could not be more enthusiastic about starting this endeavor as I feel I have been blessed to find a facility that is not only near my residence but also one with a staff that is caring and supportive. At first, I was apprehensive about using the equipment or participating in a fitness class as I have difficulty either maintaining balance or with keeping my right leg on the machines. I felt like all eyes would be on me but I quickly realized that others were inspired by my coming to the gym when they approached me and told me that if someone with a cane can come, then they had no excuse. So today, I celebrate two weeks since my return to the gym and I hope to keep going and participating in the classes offered.
Lastly, this past Friday I had my first 6 month follow-up after a year of having MRI’s every three months. As always, Dr. DiLuna provided me with the images from my MRI and thank God, I was blessed with a negative scan. I was grateful to share that since my last visit with him, I was now driving and had regained a little more sensation and movement in my foot. With some encouraging words from my surgeon regarding my own concerns, I was on my way with the hope that my progress will continue with more to report at my next appointment six months from now.
In conclusion, I have learned and sometimes still struggle to remember that you have to keep going and plan for tomorrow. If nothing else, this sense of determination will give you something to look forward to, but throughout the process, you just have to keep hope.