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How did it change your life?

Tomorrow marks the day that our county changed forever.   I was sitting at my desk at Lycos, just starting my day.  Someone walked by and said “A plane just hit the world trade center”.  I didn’t think much of it.  I seem to recall that just recently a person with a parachute jumped, perhaps on purpose and hit the Empire State Building or something like that.  I also thought he was talking about the trade center in Boston. Perhaps a small plane?  I went to one of the news sites and didn’t see anything, so I went back to work.  A few minutes later someone said “you all need to go see the tv in the gym” (we had a gym in our building)  We went downstairs, and watched the first tower burning.  We were there when the second plane hit.  We watched in horror, as we knew then it was no accident.  The said it was an American Airlines Plane from Boston to LA.  My sister was on an American Airlines Boston to LA flight the day BEFORE.  We don’t remember now if it was flight 11 or not, but my heart still sank.  It could have been her, as she often changed her flights at the last minute.

When I got back to my desk, I had a message from my father – he was crying on the message, telling me what happened.   My sister called me later, and said “what the heck is going on? Dad left me a message and he was crying”. Because of the time difference, she did not know what happened.  I think about that same time, the plane had hit the Pentagon someone had shouted out “a bomb was at the Pentagon”   I told my sister she needed to turn on the news and watch.  We left work early, and I went to be with my dad at his office.

I would later learn a woman I went to college with, had been in the building, but made it out safely.  My cousin lost a very good friend as well as some former co-workers at TJ Max on that day. Outside of those stories, I didn’t know any one personally that was on the plane or in the buildings.  I did not have a direct lose that day, but of course things changed.  I remember I had a condo board meeting that night, and was thinking “how can just be sitting here?!?”  I went out for ice cream that night and it was very busy – I remember saying to someone in line “I guess I am not the only one that can’t watch the news anymore”.    I brought the ice cream to my parents and we watched more news.

The days passed slowly – I felt so helpless.  I could not donate blood, I could not go to NY to help.  I wasn’t a nurse at the time – my job was sitting behind a desk all day.  I can recall a few  companies cancling their advertising contracts – the reason “due to the events on Sept 11″.

A few weeks later, we were in a big meeting at work.  It went something like this: Be aware of those around you that may have been affected by the events, be aware of clients needs, but GET THE NUMBERS”  The world around us had changed forever, and all they really cared about was the bottom line.  It was then, I knew I needed a change.

Earlier that summer, I had spend a week at Camp Fatima during its Exceptional Citizens Week.  “EC Week” is a special week for people of all ages, with Special Needs.  Each camper has his/her own staff with him/her the entire week. There is Arts and Crafts, Swimming, Entertainment, all that you would expect at overnight camp.  Often people with special needs, can not go to a “regular” camp, so they can come here.  It is a wonderful week, Free of charge.  The campers have a great time, and the families get a much needed break.

That week had a huge impact on me.  After being there for a week, I saw there was more to life than just sitting behind a desk all day, making a whole lot of money.  I decided that I wanted to do more with my life.  My mom wisely suggested that I trying volunteering at different things, and perhaps working my budget to see if I could actually live off less, as people in that field do not make a lot of money.   I started doing some respite work, as well as volunteering at Perkins School for the Blind.  With one individual, he was living alone, so I was more of  a “companion” for him, and helped him with his bills.  We would go out to Dunkin’s and just chat for a bit.  The other individual was a young woman who still lived at home. I became a “big sister” to her, and while we do not get together as often, I still do things with her.  We have a wonderful picture of her and Alexander just after he was born.  She had a wonderful way with him

My volunteer work at Perkins eventually led me to apply for a job there.  In June of 2002 I began my work in the Human Service Field.  I worked there for about a year, then spent a very long three weeks working with autistic children.  They showed me the nice calm 5 year olds during my interview, but then put me with the not so calm 11 year olds!  I am glad there are people that are able and willing to work with those children, but I was not one of them.

I took a little bit of a break for a while, then worked with Adults with Brain Injury.  During my interview, one of the people said “why don’t you go to LPN school?”  I had never heard of LPN’s, never thought about nursing school, but looked to it, and off I went!  It was a long process for me that took me to two schools, but in the end I did it and I am very glad I did. (but that is for another post)

So, I didn’t lose anyone I knew and loved on 9/11/2001, it did have a profound impact on my life.  Would I have become a nurse if it had not happened? Maybe, maybe not.  But, I know that from that tragic day, something good did happen, and I hope that I can make a difference in the lives of my patients and their families, as I give them the love and care they deserve.


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

The president has declared September to be Childhood Cancer Awareness Month


I am sure it will go by for most without much fanfare.  There won’t be any Gold (the color for Childhood cancer) Lids on the Yogurt tops, or people Petitioning Facebook to go “Gold” for a month.  For most, the month will go by as any other – the start of school, a long holiday weekend, thoughts of Apple Picking and all that goes with it.

Of course, this year, much of the month will be taken oven by Memorials of that tragic day 10 years ago when are country was forever changed.  I do not want to take away from any of that, but I also do not want this month to go by without notice.

Although for me, two years ago, this month meant only those things I have already mentioned – in addition to remembering my dad’s Birthday.

Before then, I “knew” that kids got cancer, but I never really thought much about it beyond that. I supported the Jimmy Fund Every year by eating ice cream at the Scooper Bowl  and bought the raffle tickets at Stop and Shop and Burger King every year.  I knew about St. Jude’s hospital, and remember watching the shows looking for money.   As a kid, I read a book about a girl who got cancer.

Outside of those things, I never really gave it much thought.   That is until March 8th, 2010 when I heard those horrible words “I am sorry but we found a mass in Alexander’s Abdomen”  The next few hours were a whirlwind of activity.  We met Dr. Kelly and his Oncology team, we were brought to the Pediatric Cancer Unit.  I was in the hallway and a woman came up to me saying “I am not really meeting you, I hope I don’t have to really meet you, but in the mean time here are some gift certificates and parking tickets”.  Alexander was brought to MRI where he was fully sedated.  We left him there wondering “what the hell just happened, and will we see him alive again?”  The next days were filled with so many tests and questions.   Our once happy little boy, wouldn’t give us any of his wonderful smiles.  He was in pain, a lot of pain.  He had a surgery to put in a central line and do a biopsy, he started chemotherapy.  We started down a long road.

When were first found out Alexander had Neuroblastoma, we were told that because they caught it before the age of 1 he about an 80% chance of beating this horrible disease!  We would take that percentage.   Of course, as time went on, we learned that Alexander didn’t “read the book” and decided to be more of a challenge.   While he was showing some signs of improvement, he was not progressing as they would like him to.  It was time for a change – to a new High Risk protocol.  His “odds” went down at that point, and after that I never asked again – I didn’t want to know – I wanted to focus only on the GOOD, even if it was so little.

The fight went on, and at one point, he had some good scans, and good lab reports.  We thought we were doing okay.  But that how it can be with cancer, wait just a minute and things will change in a heartbeat.  Another scan, more labs tests, not so good results.  It was decided that his only hope was to get more of the tumor out.  The doctors worked hard – very hard for 16 hours.  However, Alexander’s little body and heart just couldn’t find any more and he went home to be with the Angels.

We have talked to do of the doctors that were at the surgery as well as a nurse at the hospital. Everyone was very upset about his death.  It was not “suppose” to happen (but then kids aren’t “suppose” to get cancer but they do)

It has been 5 months since we lost Alexander, and 18 months since we heard those horrible words.  Our lives have been profoundly changed forever.   Changed for the good, because we had Alexander in our lives, even though it was for a very short 21 months, he was the joy of our lives. Even in his sickness, he brought great happiness to those around him.  I know he taught the doctors, nurses, students a lot, and that he will not be soon forgotten.  During his 13 month treatment we met some wonderful families.  People we would not have otherwise met.  Some of those kids beat their cancer, some are still fighting, and some lost their fight like Alexander – Dury – 1 year, KerriAnne 9 years 9 months, Thomas – 4 I think.

The loss of Alexander is a sadness I can not really describe but I will try to explain.  The house is so very quiet now.  No laughter, no crying – just silence.  Our days are spent sitting at the computer or watching tv, because when we aren’t working we don’t have anything else to keep us busy.  I look at his pictures every day around the house, and remember how wonderful he was.   When I am out I sometimes think “oh Alexander would have liked this or that” and get very sad because I am not able to show him things, or teach him new things.  It makes me sad to think that if we ever have another child, he won’t get to wear an “I’m the Big Brother” shirt, and do all the things that a big brother does.

So – what do we do now?  We move forward – one day, one hour at a time.  We continue to pray for those that are still fighting, and for those looking to find a cure.

What can YOU do?  Below are a few ideas for how you can support those fighting childhood cancer:

1.  Call your local Children’s hospital – ask for the Childlife department and see what they need.  Maybe you can donate new toys? Make blankets? Fun sheets for the hospital beds. Hold a BandAid drive (for the fun ones!)

2.  Eat at Chili’s on Sept 26th!

3.  Hold a lemonade stand:

4.  Have a bake sale:

5.  Make Pillowcases:

6.  Support a family in need (our friends)

7. Ride  a bike!


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