Zoe's Story: Raise a Glass (Week 16-18)
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
The festive season came and went quicker than ever this year. In fact, with reflection so did 2020 one day it was March 18, and I was shutting down life as I knew it due to COVID-19 and, in the blink of an eye it was January 1, 2021.
2020 was a year that we will all remember with a level of disdain. In time, as the pain subsides and normalcy resumes, we may find ourselves sitting together sipping wine and laughing uncontrollably about the panic buying, toilet paper shortages and copious use of the word 'unprecedented.' Until that day arrives, I am sure I am not alone when I say, I woke up on January 1, 2021 elated and ready to firmly close the door on the year that had just gone.
My sense of optimism for the year ahead was quickly shaken by the complete loss of all my hair. I do not really know why it upset me so much because I knew it was coming, and in preparation, was sporting a short buzz cut. When I got in the shower and opened my eyes to an entirely bald head, I guess I became acutely aware of my own mortality, a sensation I had never experienced so intimately. As I scooped up handfuls of the evidence to share with Sonja, I cried for only the second time since getting my diagnosis. I spent the day reciting the powerful words of Helen Reddy’s song (I Am Woman) that became an enduring anthem for the women’s liberation movement. By day end, I was ready for the next chapter of my life and ready to embrace the year ahead with renewed optimism and enthusiasm.
I had my first chemotherapy treatment for the new year on January 6. Prior to my treatment, I had a meeting with my oncologist Dr. Charles Vogel, only to be advised that he was leaving UM Sylvester. As the words he was delivering were drowned out by the pounding of my heart in my chest, I honestly felt nauseated by the gut-wrenching news I was receiving. He was meant to deliver my remission and the options he was talking me through felt like distant second alternatives, and most certainly not the well laid-out plan I had painstakingly put together when starting this journey. I left his office to walk down to the CTU unit for my chemotherapy treatment and my level of anxiety was unusually high, but as I mulled over the options and then spent the next couple of weeks doing what I do best (planning, investigating, and finding solutions), it became apparent the universe had another plan for me.
I say the universe had a plan because when I first received my diagnosis, I was approached by an inspirational woman to be an ambassador for ResearcHERS. Olivia from Boca Magazine and creator of Protect My Shoes, whom I have had the honor of working with over the years (but more importantly, call a friend) coordinated my involvement. ResearcHERS is a cause I have embraced entirely, because without clinical studies and trials to establish cures, more men, woman and children will die daily from cancer - and I want to be part of the solution. We all meet monthly and the American Cancer Society invites guest speakers to share with us all the tremendous work that is being done. Turns out, the new oncologist that I was sitting discussing my current treatment plan with was the very Dr. Mahtani that was the guest speaker from week one. When I got home, I pulled up my ambassador’s page and found our bios listed, not only on the same website, but the very same page launching the Palm Beach Chapter. The coincidence was simply too impactful to ignore. I am now under the care of a wonderful oncologist by the name of Dr. Reshma Mahtani, DO.
Currently my chemotherapy treatment plan remains as it was laid out with Dr. Charles Vogel and I just completed treatment six. I am having some side effects that include nosebleeds, mouth sores, mild nerve, and muscle pain, but mostly I operate fully and without too much discomfort. I still have all my finger and toenails, and to date, have not had any neuropathy. Hopefully, the weekly ice therapy will not have been in vain. Chemotherapy is not a joyous experience, but I have learned that the only day I need to focus on is today, and if I am lucky enough, eventually all my todays become the years I crave. These treatments, whilst unpleasant are the key to unlocking my future. This mindset makes the weekly treatments tolerable and I am now 1/3 of the way through!
When I first embarked on this journey, I thought (as I guess many people do) that once treatment ends, life resumes as it was. You go back to who you were and what you were doing before cancer veered you off in a horrific direction. Instead, the end of treatment will mark the start of a new era, where I will step out from under the umbrella of active treatment to the downpour of uncertainty. Learning to live with the uncertainty of reoccurrence and embarking on treatments that may eliminate entirely the chance of recurrence will be the next round of this fight. The chance of reoccurrence for me is high because of the amount of lymph nodes that were diseased; this fact regularly grips me with fear. I understand that fear is part of being human. It is my reaction to unknowing and uncertainty. It is about understanding why I am afraid and finding ways to cope. For me silencing that fear by harnessing my power of positive thought and using my God-given talent to help others is part of managing the fear. The other way I manage my fear is being proactive and having a well laid out plan. Dr. Mahtani is as eager as am I to start planning the last round of this fight, by investigating and planning out medications and clinical trials that may help reduce or eliminate entirely the chance of reoccurrence. Her proactive approach is empowering and comforting and exactly what I need to quiet the fear.
Globally, most families have been touched in some way by the cruel hand of cancer. Daily young and old are affected, treatments are awful, and life is snatched cruelly and without warning.
Just this week the talented Heather (Local Mom Scoop) a dynamic local businesswoman and blogger, loving mother and wife announced she too was dealing with her own cancer demon. This horrific news was a reminder that I need to summon up some energy; put my fear of COVID and infection aside. Rally the incredible women from around our community together, and plan an event that we can all enjoy and that will also raise awareness, highlight the importance of finding cures, and generate some well needed funds.
Fifteen years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Grace for the first time. She is a valuable and beloved member of the team of professionals at the Addison. She is also a mother, grandmother and just recently became wife to Ross. I have had the pleasure of watching her three children grow up, graduate, get married and become parents themselves. Sarah, her middle child, is a dynamic young woman who recently took on the role of Operations Director at the Grieve Family Winery.
The vineyard is nestled in one of Napa’s coolest and most remote growing regions, Lovall Valley. Owners David and Kathleen Grieve purchased this magnificent property in 2002, and using site-specific, organic farming methods (along with their winemaker Philippe Melka), have produced some delicious wines that we will showcase at our Raise A Glass / Kick Cancers A🎗️🎗️ event scheduled for February 28, 2021. Executive Chef Patrick Duffy, with Cheney Brothers and Mr. Greens, will create a mouth-watering brunch which will be paired with the delicious wines donated by the Grieve family. Munoz Photography and Timeline Video will be documenting the day, and Daniel Events will create his unique brand of floral magic. We will dine in the magnificent outdoor courtyard of the Addison. Wine will be poured in abundance; laughter will be shared and together we will raise a glass, generate funds, and KICK Cancers royal behind! We hope you can join us.