Monday, November 7, 2016

Beautiful Grief

It was an especially busy day in the office. I was helping my colleague set up for an in-office Back to School product sale for employees. Of course, communications ended up doing most of the work and our awesome video guys helped us transfer boxes and boxes of product from the loading dock. My colleague was running around making sure everything arrived when I looked down at my phone to see Facebook messages from my Colorado friends (from my life-changing climbing trip with First Descents). I immediately panicked inside because we knew it was scan day for “LPMuffin.” She was one of the amazing souls I met in Colorado and had just fought off her cancer before going on the trip…but we feared it was back. I looked down at my Facebook messages and well, she said it was back, and it was not good…and she likely had it the whole time we were climbing in Colorado. WTF?! It was in her body when she was scaling rocks like a boss?? I felt like I was going to vomit and cry and didn’t know what to do because I had to keep working this event. I sat for a moment and then worked through the fog. I knew this could happen…meeting all of these cancer survivors…it could come back for any one of us. I just didn’t think it would happen so fast.

I went back up to my floor and sat in my cube. I knew I couldn’t hold it together and I just needed someone to be there for me. In the past I would have held it in, but I’ve learned that is just such a bad idea and it’s ok to allow people to be there for you. The thought of crying at work though – ah! I went into my boss’ office and sat in her comfy chair. I was all but three words in when I lost it. She is amazing and immediately shut her door, grabbed me tissues, and positioned me in the chair where people couldn’t see me through the glass window of her office. She let me cry, and she listened. She said something that really made me think about how I have all these people in my life now that had been sick, were sick, and could be sick again.

**

Today. Today I celebrated the life of Larry C. at his funeral. I wrote about Larry C. about a year and a half ago when Dana Farber awarded him volunteer of the year. To say Larry had a profound impact on my life would be an understatement. I got to see Larry just about monthly at our Patient and Family Advisory Council meetings. Although I didn’t spend a lot of time with him, it was so easy to see his soul, and who he was and what he had to give.

Larry was calm, humble, smart, compassionate, thoughtful…I could go on and on. Hearing what his loved ones had to say about him today was so special. What I saw in him each month was what he lived by. Larry loved the outdoors and would go on what most would call crazy camping trips in the dead of winter in the Adirondacks. His friend talked about how Larry never complained about the heat, the cold, the bugs…the challenge. He remembered Larry’s comment that, “Any day outdoors is better than a day in the office.” Everyone smiled and laughed.

Larry cared for his wife when she was ill with cancer for ten years and after she passed he spent his next ten years helping others at Dana Farber. He then, ever so quietly, started his own cancer battle in 2014.

Larry just had such an appreciation. Appreciation for his family, his ability to give back at Dana Farber and to honor his late wife, the outdoors…and just being alive.

Not only did I love Larry for who he was and how you were just drawn to him, but today I reflect on how many gifts he gave me and many others. He touched so many lives. He is the kind of man that makes you want to do better and remind yourself every second of every day that life is beautiful and we must spend our time finding the beauty in it and appreciating it. I can’t help but find the irony in his love for the outdoors and what the outdoors has done for me and so many other First Descents alumni. He was a true angel walking this earth and he is looking down with his infectious smile right now saying in is typical, humble way, I was just doing my job.

As I was walking out of the funeral with two friends/employees of Dana Farber, one of them turned to us and said that Larry wanted his donations directed to our Patient and Family Advisory Council. Well, wow. Of course he did.

**

After I processed that LP Muffin’s cancer was back, my friends and I went into full on support mode and began planning our trip up to Canada. LP Muffin lives her life with such beauty, grace, and adventure. She is a Yogi that travels the world and the way she handled everything was remarkable. She throws fear out the damn window. Today, she is doing extremely well due to a chemo drug with minimal side affects. Her future is unknown, but that hasn’t stopped her from living for one god damn minute.


My life is SO much fuller with LP Muffin and Larry in it. Was their pain when LP Muffin relapsed and when Larry was put to rest today? Yes. Pain, tears, grief…but also abundant gratitude and warmth. They have both changed my life. How lucky am I? How lucky am I at the age of 29 years old to continually be reminded that I need to be a better person, shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, value family and friends, and get out and live! When I am repelling off cliffs in Thailand next month I will have Larry in my heart – and when I get scared I’ll remember what the Rabbi said today at the funeral, “Life is not always about getting to the top, or the summit, we must focus on the journey.”

Monday, December 7, 2015

Beyond Your Mind

Sometimes I have so much “Becky time” (or alone time) that I start to analyze every motion or movement I make; what day it is, who I am, what I’m doing…and then I think stop, stop, stop. Get out of your head!

A few weeks ago, my favorite Soul Cycle instructor, Sal (no, I will never stop talking about him) starting yelling to us during a sprint – he said, “Your biggest obstacle is…your biggest obstacle is…your mind.” I thought he was going to say that you are your biggest obstacle, but he took it one step further and said it’s your mind. Welp, my mind was blown, because it was so god damn true. I pedaled the shit out of the rest of class and went home and kept repeating Sal’s words in my head. Every scenario in my life where I have been challenged and felt like I couldn’t do it – my mind was telling me ‘no.’ The night before each of my surgeries when I was scared to DEATH, my mind was taking over. What if they don’t get all of the tumor? What if I need a colostomy bag? What if the surgeon doesn’t get enough sleep? What if I can’t tolerate the pain? What if I don’t get my own room in the hospital?

What I’ve realized is that all the work I’ve done on myself – and for myself – has been to overcome my mind. Exercise, surrounding myself with the people I love and love me back, family, and just feelin’ and workin’ my shit out…it has all said, “Hey mind, take that! I’m stronger, braver, and not only can I do this, but I will.”

Three or four years ago, I would have never gone on my rock climbing trip to Colorado with a group of cancer survivors. I would have thought, I can’t rock climb; I’m afraid of heights. Why would I want to be scared like that? I have a weird tumor, so I would be out of place with a bunch of cancer survivors. It’s also really uncomfortable to be with a group of strangers, why would I want to do that?  I also would have NEVER gotten up in front of 500 people and spoke about my cancer journey. Thoughts on that one: Be – dare I say – vulnerable in front of other people, let alone a crowd of 500? Hell, no. They will totally feel bad for me and I don’t want their pity. I don’t need them.

Present day, the score is definitely Becky beats Mind in overtime. All the work I have done to understand how my disease has affected me has really been a gift, because I have learned how to push through thoughts that don’t serve me, and reach even higher than I ever imagined. I am so proud of myself; proud because the thought of something today, would have never been an option in my mind years ago. I am currently raising money for First Descents and if I reach my goal I get to go on the next level program, which is an international trip to surf, go on a Safari, ice climb, or whatever other exotic programs they dream up, and I am not even that scared! Well…maybe a little, but I am not scared enough to prevent me from going!

The simple fact is, the more I push myself and surpass my thoughts, the more I learn who I am, and who I continue to evolve into. You are never done growing, living, stretching, imagining, loving, and being. How exciting!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Buttermilk Feathers

Fear is a funny thing. It’s a thing that I have been thinking about a lot lately – does the way we face fear affect us? Do we face fear differently as we grow? I’m going to answer that question with a big fat yes.

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a risk-taker, but my climbing trip in Colorado with First Descents forced me to push my boundaries and look fear in big, dark pupils. Almost all of the young adult cancer survivors that go on these white-water kayaking, surfing, or rock climbing trips have never done these activities before and are scared of heights, the water, or flipping in the kayak. But, that was the point – to look fear in the face and overcome it. And hey, guess what, something really cool is on the other side.

On the last day of our week in Colorado we had our “graduation day climb,” which was a multi-pitch climb. This means that we kept going up, up, up, as the guide made different paths for us, so we could eventually get to the summit. I went into the week scared of heights and only had moments of fear throughout the week, but it was always something I could talk myself out of. Well, the graduation climb was a different story. I did ok on the first two pitches (or legs) of the climb, but as I started out on the third one, what they call “the exposure” hit me. I was hanging off the side of a cliff, hundreds of feet off the ground with a rope as my safety. As I was about to start climbing, I shouted out to everyone around me that I was scared as shit, ‘cause of course telling everyone made me feel better, ha! After my first two steps, I just freaked out and started crying. Everyone near me – as they had all week – encouraged me to just let it out and feel scared ‘cause hell I was hanging off the side of a cliff. Before this week, I would have never let myself cry it out, especially in front of all those people. Would I have given up? No. But, would I have gotten the same thing out of the experience? I highly doubt it. After crying it out for 30 seconds or so, I continued my climb and kicked its ass! I stared that big bastard named fear right in the face and I said hell I’m going to feel you and overcome you. In that moment, I think I discovered a new piece of myself and continued on my journey to take in all the beauty in life.

**

About a week after I got back from my Colorado trip, I got the news that one of my best friends from the week received bad scan results. This beautiful, fun, vibrant, adorable, silly, brave, remarkable 26-year-old’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was back with a vengeance. Having all these new, wonderful friends that are cancer survivors, I knew this was a possibility, but that was a fear that was simply easy to overcome. The fullness I have in my life from the people I met and my friend who I will call Lemmon Poppyseed Muffin is indescribable. I am better for knowing them.

My three friends and I just got back from an amazing weekend visiting LP Muffin. She is about to start a chemo regimen, but in the mean time, she is living the SHIT out of life. Every second we were there; there was a smile, a giggle, a dance move, a funny face from her – so much amazing energy. She defines lighting up the room. I am not a huge cuddler or toucher – I mean sometimes – but not huge ha, and I cuddled the shit out of LP Muffin and my other friends. I played with Muffin’s hair, gave her a back rub, sooo many hugs, and lots of dancing. When we were in Colorado I was able to get a tiny ponytail in her hair that stuck straight up and she was so excited (it’s still growing back from chemo), and on this trip I was able to make six little ponytails! She looked like a character from Dr. Seuss and it was hilarious! She was just so excited that her hair was long enough to get six mini ponytails in. By the way she has the best, softest hair ever so we deemed it Buttermilk Feathers.

The weekend was full of laughs, love, exploring, crying, and so much more. As I was reflecting on the trip last night, I just continued to marvel at LP Muffin. Her relationship with fear is beyond anything I have ever seen. My little Lemon Poppyseed Muffin has cancer all over her chest and in her pelvis and she is breakin’ it down on the dance floor and traveling every moment she gets. She is living. She is learning about herself each day, growing, loving more, seeing the beauty that is all around us in this world, and touching lives like mine. There is no way I can put into words how lucky I am to have her in my life. Her presence and inspiration demolishes the big bad fear bastard. Hanging off the side of a mountain? Hell, that’s nothing. HI FEAR, MY NAME IS BECKY.


FILU DR. METH.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Acceptance

It’s been two weeks now since I got back from one of THE MOST AMAZING experiences of my life – my First Descents rock-climbing trip in Estes Park, Colorado. I thought I would be itching to write and have so much to get out, but the thing is, the week had such a profound impact on me that I am having trouble articulating it. I know, I know, when am I ever at a loss for words?!

Every night when I go to bed, I have been thinking about how to write about it – what I can say that will truly encapsulate the experience. Honestly, that is something I cannot do. The week was something that I shared with 13 other young adult cancer survivors and First Descents staff members that only we can understand – and only we are lucky enough to take with us on our journey through life.

While running this morning to Kelly Clarkson, of course, the word acceptance came to mind. The reason I even applied to First Descents, actually went on the trip, and was able to absorb the experience was all because of acceptance. I have worked so hard to accept what I have, and that I have cancer. A part of me always thought I had, because I am a “these are my cards” kind of person and never, ever say, “why me?” Well, yes that is part of it, but the other part is articulating it and living it. All this volunteer work I have been doing has come with me talking about my cancer and “coming out of the cancer closet.” I’ve really looked at it as – I am telling my story to help other people. When friends or my family say, well it’s helping you too; I kind of shrug it off and say “yeah, yeah.” Well, HELL YEAH it has helped me too, it just took me a little time to open my goddamn eyes to it. I sort of realized it when I was getting ready to go on my FD trip. People would ask me where I was going and I would start with, “…it’s a rock-climbing trip in Colorado and I don’t know anyone.” They would keep asking questions so then I would say, “well I’m a cancer survivor and it’s a trip for young adult cancer survivors.” The words actually rolled off my tongue pretty easily and I was, dare I say, proud to say them.

**

When I arrived at the FD camp, I had no idea what to expect. There were all these people, from all over the country and Canada (whoop whoop), and I was worried that I wouldn’t relate to them or they would be “different” than me. I have a “different” type of cancer and never had chemo…

On the surface we were all very different people, but on the inside, we were so similar and so full of love. As the week went on, it was honestly a pleasure to get to know everyone, hear their stories, and understand their lives. I truly think I am a better person for going on the trip and now having a whole new family in my life. I don’t think I would have gotten as much out of the experience had I gone sooner. I had to accept my situation before I could accept that of others. At the end of the day we are all humans living in the same world; everyone has a battle, a story, and a will to live, and when we look inside each other it is only then that we form the most beautiful connections.  


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Most Amazing Gift of All

Almost a couple of months ago now we buried my Nana – my last living grandparent. Nana (better known as Hun or Rosalie) was a petite little thing with red, red hair and a heart of gold. She loved each and every member of her family more than words could say, and was so incredibly proud of her 4 children and 11 grandchildren. Nana and Pop Pop, who she is now with, left such an amazing legacy that will live on in all of us. The funeral was really sad, but such a nice tribute to her life. My Aunt Lorri delivered one of the eulogies and she talked about how Nana was so incredibly selfless and she lived to do things for other people. Whether it was giving the mailman a pot of chicken soup, or making sure everyone had leftovers to leave with after Thanksgiving, she got such joy out of making others happy. I see this each and every day in my mom – she is her mother’s daughter, and my sister and I are my mother’s daughters. We love giving presents to other people, getting a coffee for the birthday girl at work, or sending a card of support when someone needs a pick-me-up. What better feeling is there than adding a little light to someone’s day?

**

Last Wednesday I had a Dana Farber Volunteer Reception to go to after work. I had a really busy work week and was running around like a crazy person, so by the time I arrived at Dana Farber that night I was pretty much just going through the motions. I didn't really know much about the reception, just that the head of Volunteer Services asked me to say a few words as Co-Chair of the PFAC. I was anticipating a smaller reception, but when I walked in, the cafeteria was completely filled with tables, WITH WINSTON’S FLOWER ARRANGEMENTS ON THEM, YES I’M OBSESSED, and a couple hundred people. It was a celebration of the 1,000+ volunteers at Dana Farber (yes you heard me) from people that push the food carts around in the infusion suites, to people who hand out newspapers to patients, to those that sit at the concierge desk – a room full of wonderful people.

I found a seat with some fellow PFAC members and started to read through the program. There were only a few speakers, and I was one of them. Shoot, should I have planned something more rehearsed? Nah, I like speaking off the cuff. All things considered, I made a beeline for the bar to get a nice glass of wine. The night began with remarks from the heads of Volunteer Services thanking everyone in the room for what they do and emphasizing what an impact it has on patients and caretakers. During those remarks I was jotting down some notes of what I would say, granted I did think about it on my drive into the city. I was up next…so I headed up there with the Co-Chair of the Pedi PFAC who was going to speak right after me. As I got up to the microphone, I was honestly struck by the fact that all these people, in this room, volunteer their time to help people like me. I started by introducing myself as a patient and the Co-Chair of the Adult PFAC, and thanking everyone for what they do. I told them that they have no idea how far their small gestures go. I told them that as a patient one tiny little thing can throw you off course, and at the same time one tiny little thing can get you through something like Scan days. I went on to share a bit about what the PFAC does, and what we have accomplished, and hope to accomplish in the future. Then, I ended with my favorite story – the story of my first rounds experience after my first surgery when 8 people marched in at 5 a.m. and started reading my case like in Grey’s Anatomy. I added in a few jokes before I got there about how my dad was worried I thought the pain button was a toy and my mom, the nurse, said, “Don’t worry Ron, it’s regulated.” Then I explained how I interrupted the doctor delivering his Grey’s Anatomy monologue about “my case” and said woah, woah, woah, then asked them one by one who they were. I finished by saying, “Well I’m Becky.” I told this story to help everyone in the room realize that something as simple as introducing yourself can make a HUGE difference to a patient, and that’s why I do what I do volunteering on the PFAC. If I can improve just 15 seconds of another cancer patient’s day, I’ve done something huge.

After dinner, it was time for the awards. Several remarkable volunteers were recognized – and the best part, they were all the most humble human beings you can imagine. One of the honorees was the “food cart lady.” I recognized her because she was there, there for me when I was coming undone. I was by myself and had just gotten the unexpected news that my tumor had come back, and my nurse, Kerry, and the food cart lady were comforting me. Kerry was distracting me with pictures of a lavish NYC wedding she just went to and I don’t even remember what the food cart lady did or said to distract me, but it was something, something that helped just a little bit. I went up to her after the reception and told her how much she helped me that day, and gave her a huge hug. She told me that volunteering at Dana Farber has changed her life.

The next honoree got up to the podium and started with the Matthew McConaughey, Alright, Alright, Alright. I thought, Hell ya! This dude is awesome!...and awesome he was. He volunteers a couple days a week and has such an incredibly positive attitude. I met him after as well and he was so nice – he said how impressed he was by me and that my speech was so full of life. He said it inspired him to get up there and have fun, starting with his Matthew McConaughey moment. I told him that he rocked it.

The final honoree and King of the night that was awarded Volunteer of the Year and a grant to direct where he so chooses was the one and only Larry C. Larry C. sits on the Adult PFAC with me and he is the cutest old man. His legs are always crossed with his hands sitting right on top of them and he has this look as if he is in deep thought. When has a thought to share, which are indeed always wise, he raises his hand by simply holding up his right pointer finger.

Going into this night I knew that Larry had lost his wife to cancer several years ago, and he was recently diagnosed with cancer himself. I knew that he loved to camp in the winter, which we are all amazed by and think he is crazy for at the same time. And, I knew that he not only volunteers on the PFAC, but is a Clinical Floor Specialist. He has selflessly dedicated this phase of his life to Dana Farber. The head of Volunteer Services and 4 Dana Farber staff members delivered some wonderful remarks about Larry before he was invited up to the podium. As he headed up to the microphone I noticed his adorable tie with little tools on it and the boutonniere that he wore so well as the King of the night. The head of Volunteer Services and I wondered what he would say because he is just so humble. Well, he blew everyone in the room away with his grace, sincerity, selflessness, wisdom, and charm. He spoke about his relationship with Dana Farber and how it spans about 15 years, as his wife was treated there for about 10 years before she passed in 2008. While at Dana Farber, Larry never called his wife by her name, he called her Miss America – and that is what the staff came to know her as too. He loved her so dearly and after she passed and he took some time to heal, he so courageously decided to enter the next phase of his life by putting what he learned as a caretaker to use, and helping other patients. He then mentioned how he is now a patient himself. My heart broke a little bit. It is hard to put into words how I felt when Larry was speaking. People like Larry truly make this world and better place, and I can’t even imagine how proud his wife is looking down on him. But, I am sure, Miss America is not surprised because she knew what a wonderful man she had in Larry.

At the end of the night I went up to Larry to give him a hug and congratulate him. In typical Larry fashion he did not talk about himself, but complimented me on my speech. He put his hand on my arm, looked right at me and said ever so slowly and poignantly, “My friend turned to me and said, that young lady is a bright light.” Coming from him, those words meant the world to me. I could only dream of helping others as Larry has.

I left that night on a high. The power in that room was tremendous – hundreds of people gathered to celebrate how they have helped others, and I was one of them. It has brought me such happiness and joy to know that I have helped other patients and caregivers. When someone comes up to me after a speech and says that I impacted them, that is the best gift of all. I always had Nana in me, but I have found where she shines the brightest – when I am having the courage to be vulnerable and put my story out there so I can help others. I love you Rosalie Dorothy Timpano. Thank you for the most amazing gift of all – the gift of helping others.

Monday, June 1, 2015

“Shine Bright Like a Diamond”

A couple of months ago I attended the Young Adult Program Cancer Conference at Dana Farber. It was the first time I was going to an event like this and, of course, because I’m crazy Becky, I was not only attending, but co-facilitating a session. The good thing about the session was that I was with my nurse who is like my Italian motha from anotha, so that was comforting! The morning started with my session, which was pretty small and we talked all about the importance of speaking up as a patient. Then, there were some patient speakers throughout the day as well as former Patriots player, Joe Andruzzi and his wife – he is a cancer survivor. To this point I found the day to be pretty sad – it was just a lot. I did make a couple friends at lunch though – a really nice guy fighting Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and his fiancé. She had come up to me after my session and said she really wanted her fiancé to meet me because we were a lot alike – kind of kept our story private and lived as normal as we could. So I had a nice lunch with the two of them and my Italian motha from anotha. I started to think…wow he is a lot like me.

In the afternoon I attended a session about having relationships while battling cancer, and I honestly think it was one of the most important things I have ever done for myself. It was a room of about 40 patients and caregivers opening up about their feelings and challenges (something so, so foreign to me). The things people were saying were heart-wrenching, but what stood out most to me was that I was not the only one out there that was fighting cancer, yet looked totally normal. A bunch of people in the group even used the phrase, “coming out of the cancer closet.” I was not alone, or crazy for that matter! And, you’ll never guess what happened next. I raised my hand and SHARED MY FEELINGS and…I even CRIED IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE. Yes, everyone in the room was crying and sharing their challenges, but the strength in the room was palpable…and I was one of those crying people…I was and am one of those strong people. I left this conference emotionally exhausted and went home and stared at the wall for a while because it took so much out of me. Yes, it was really difficult, but I think it was the tipping point for me. I had to be okay with my situation and be confident in it before anyone else could. And when I raised my hand in that room, tears streaming down my face, the words I said were so, so comforting to other people there. They were not alone either.

**

I have struggled enormously with when to “come out of the cancer closet;” mainly because I can’t let myself miss a beat and it means being vulnerable. What I realized that day at the Young Adult Cancer Conference was that missing beats, crying in front of others, being vulnerable and sharing my story is STRONG and helps not only me, but others.

My journey to “go public” has been a gradual one, that is still going, but each step I take is honestly exhilarating. My first big break – no I didn’t land an acting job, but shit that would be awesome. Guest appearance on the next Orange is the New Black? yes, please. Ha! Anyway, I am obsessed with Soul Cycle, which you know if you read my blog. So, a couple months back I contacted the Soul Cycle email box because I saw that people were sharing their stories about their Soul Cycle journies and where their inspiration comes from. It took me two months, but I finally put my Soul Cycle story together and submitted it. She replied right away and said we had to arrange my photo with my favorite instructor, Sal. I was so excited! I got to meet this mini celeb (to me, at least)! We got the photo and the story posted a week or so later, and now Sal and I are buds, a.k.a I high five him after class. If you didn’t see it, here it is. When I hit post with this article on my Facebook page, it was one of the biggest steps I could have taken! I went public.

What I really want to talk about is last Friday night when I spoke to a crowd of nearly 450 people about my cancer journey – yes, you heard me. AND, I got a standing ovation. One of my great friends, Tara Shuman recently wrote a book called Hope is a Good Breakfast about her breast cancer journey. She is an INCREDIBLE woman and it is an INCREDIBLE book. You must buy it and read it! So, Tara organized this amazing book launch event and asked ME to be one of the keynote speakers. I was not only flattered when she asked me, but terrified. I knew it was something I had to do, and deep down I really wanted to do. The good thing was that my journey to go public had been progressing nicely up to the point of the speech last week and my confidence was building.

**

I was at table number 3 surrounded by the most loving support system – my parents and 5 of my best friends. We were well into the program and Tara had read portions of her book, which brought most of the crowd to tears, the first speaker, Tara’s CT tech gave a wonderful speech, and this BRILLIANT doctor was now up there talking about the importance of cancer research. I was listening to the doctor and really enjoying her speech, but my mind kept going to my sweaty palms, what I though was a stomachache (I couldn’t decide), and which side of the stage I would walk up. Before I knew it, Tara finished an introduction (of me) that brought me to tears, and I was walking up to the stage. I have always liked public speaking. I get nervous when I walk up, but then I get in my groove. Let’s be clear here though, I have never spoken to a crowd of nearly 450 people…about something SO personal. I got up to the podium, adjusted the mic and started with a joke in true Becky fashion. I honestly think the nerves faded away after the first paragraph and then it was like I was in my world. I felt every word I said and the crowd was right there with me. They clapped, laughed, cried. It felt right. They were with me.

I ended the speech with a few words about Tara, that of course, brought me to tears. As the applause started she came up to give me a hug and a gift, and I turned around to see the whole room standing. Every single person. I headed back to my table, careful not to trip in my fabulous 4-inch stilettos and hugged my parents so tight. I then sat down next to my teary mom and was so surprised by what came out of my mouth! I turned to her and said, “that was so much fun!” She cracked up! What a thing for me to say…but really that’s how I felt. That is where I "shine bright like a diamond" – up on that stage. I actually just looked up the song lyrics to that Rhianna song to see if I could include a quote from it, but they suck! Same words over and over again, typical.
       
When the event program concluded the amount of people that came up to me was overwhelming – even the wait staff! They were touched, inspired, and in awe – of me?! I was so, so happy. I really think that was one of the best moments of my life. I had exposed one of the most vulnerable aspects of my life and received such a positive response from the crowd. They didn’t feel bad for me – which was always my greatest fear – they admired me.