My journey began 9 1/2 years ago when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma – a blood related cancer that lives in the bone marrow. After a stem cell transplant in 2000, I also became an incurable optimist.
I tried to resume a new normal life. I no longer could work because of a compromised immune system. Having worked in the school system, I was told, at 54 years old, I had to retire. I learned to adjust my sails and to grow personally and to reach out to others in a meaningful way. Having lived in Maine all my life, I started a new adventure three years ago. I sold my home and my daughter and son-in-law built me a mother in law apartment, which I call my penthouse. That was the just the beginning of my adventures. Having a doctor at Mass General (Dr. Raji) I had been on a drug called Thalidomide, which was in pill form and it was no longer working for me. I needed to start a treatment called Velcade in an infusion twice a week.
Well the heavens opened up for me when I found Dr. Barbara Shea/Civiello at Wentworth Douglass Hospital. She is the most compassionate, thoughtful, considerate, respectful, and the most inspirational doctor that I have ever met. Having been on Velcade on and off for 1 1/2 years, neuropathy developed, in my legs and feet were literally burnt from it. I asked Dr. Shea not to send me to Boston anymore because I could not travel there anymore by myself. She said, “Don’t worry, Rina, Amy’s Treat will pick you up at your house and bring you back after your appointment.”
On the day I was to go to Boston for my appointment, I met Michael, who owns a tour company. Well, I don’t know who talked the most. On Amy’s behalf, I would like to thank Michael for all the rides he gives to cancer patients. I will never be able to show my gratitude to Amy’s Treat for helping me keep my independence. Her memory will live on forever through the cancer patients she has helped, with gas cards, dinner, and travel for people finishing a grueling treatment of radiation and chemo.
My sister in law, Robin, was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago. She had no choice but to undergo chemotherapy radiation treatments if she wanted to try and fight her cancer. I went with her to her treatments nearly every Tuesday for the last 4 years. The treatments were both physically and emotionally tough on her, and often made her feel more sick than before she went. Despite the tremendous pain the chemotherapy had on her, she was able to maintain a positive attitude at all times. It broke my heart to see the toll that Robin’s treatments had on her; I felt helpless because I could only hold her hand, when all I wanted was to take her pain away.
After her treatments (if she was feeling strong enough), Robin and I would play a little game we called, “pick a new place to visit”. We went anywhere from bookstores to yarn shops, to restaurants, all in hopes that her day would brighten a little. I came up with this game to help transition her thoughts from what she had just gone through, to something more positive, that would keep her spirits high.
The excellent care of the cancer center’s medical staff allowed Robin to live long enough to see the birth of her granddaughter, MaKenna over a year ago. She adored her as much as life itself and cherished every minute of her time with her. She also fought her cancer hard enough to watch her youngest son, Ryan graduate from high school in May 2010. She was thrilled to learn that he was accepted to Colby Sawyer College. Sadly, she died soon after.