Tag Archives: adversity

How to Save a Life

In our lives, we all have someone that we can rely on to lift our spirits and make us smile.  In the summer of 2008, I realized how lucky I was to have more than someone – I had an entire army of support and caregivers.  So without more, I dedicate this post to my guardian angels.

Dr. Piepmeier, Director of Neuro-Oncology, Yale New Haven Hospital – I do not even know where to begin to thank you and tell you what you mean to me.  From the moment you stepped into the consultation room and we met for the first time, I knew you were going to get the job done.  Your professionalism and courtesy to my family and I during such a tumultuous summer is never forgotten.  I often think of what it would have been like had another surgeon handled my case; fortunately, I never need to think about that.  My family can attest to the fact that, upon receiving the diagnosis, I was scared of the unknown, but after meeting you and hearing the plan of action prior to the procedure, I was at peace and prepared for battle.   Then and now, you provide me with a reassuring sense of confidence that I could not give myself.

Betsey, Clinical Care Coordinator, Department of Neuro-Oncology – When I received my diagnosis and spoke with you for the first time, you had a calming effect on me. I instantly knew that, as bad as the diagnosis was, the team of doctors who were assigned to my case were going to get me through this and back on my feet and doing all that I planned to do in this life.  I feel so fortunate to be able to rely on you as my go-to person to have questions answered.  But more importantly, you provided me the hope that I needed to assure me that things would get better and to keep the faith.  Your smile and positive outlook has had a profound effect on me and for that, I am forever grateful.

Aunt Linda – Thank you. You have truly played such an important role in getting me back to the point where I am at now in my life. Your patience and grace in working with me never goes forgotten. As a 24 year old, trying to re-establish the connection between what I saw and was thinking and trying to verbalize those thoughts was demoralizing.  As you were showing me those flash cards, you never lost the patience and willingness to continue to work with me even as I struggled.  Your emails made me smile and your cards with words of wisdom resonate.  You are a wonderful person and I feel extremely fortunate to have you a part of my family.

Dr. Quagliarello (Dr. Q), MD – Not only are you a great family friend, a father of one of my great friends I met in elementary school and baseball coach of Famous Foods, but you have been a great source of support, care and guidance.  I often flash back to the day I was admitted to the hospital after receiving the diagnosis…knowing my mom called Joyce, who in turn contacted you and you rushed down to the room where I was waiting to see the doctors just so that you could be there with my parents and I.  You were able to provide comfort to me in a time that I needed it the most, but I know that for my parents, you provided them with a sense of hope that I was in good hands at Yale and with Dr. P.  Thank you for always checking in on me during daily visits to Yale and the house, as well as providing support to my family during a tough time.

Ellen, Speech Pathologist at Gaylord Hospital – When we first met, I was in complete disbelief that my life had taken such a drastic turn that I was in need of speech and cognitive therapy but I am happy to have been referred to you.  The alphabet board; the flash cards; the exercises to restore my strength – what was I to do with those, I wondered?  You laid out a plan for me, never grew tired of watching me struggle and never lost faith in my ability – you knew I was in there somewhere and kept prodding and encouraging me to keep trying and practicing.  Sure enough, I did it and I owe a great deal of my recovery to you.  Thank you.

To all the nurses who kept guarded watch of me in the NICU: though I do not remember you by name, I know each and everyone of you cared greatly about me during that summer and I owe a great deal of gratitude to you.

Last but not least – to my tremendously supportive family.  Where would I be without your love, support, faith and comedic relief.  I was but a shell of the person I am today and I owe it all to you – you never gave up on me and continually encouraged me to strive to get better and persevere.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

As part of my ongoing quest for positivity, I never stopped believing my life would resume where it had left off prior to my diagnosis.  Even though it was now late August and my peers were in week two of classes, I was determined to get back there with them.  But not only was I determined, I whole-heartedly believed that I would be back at some point to resume my law school career.  For those who know me, this belief, or what some may call “stubbornness”, should come as no surprise as I have always been persistent and one to argue a point even when I know I am wrong.

At my request, a meeting was set up with my parents, the Assistant Dean of the law school and I.  The purpose of the meeting was to inform the dean of my progress and basically let her know how I was doing.  All along, I fully and firmly believed that law school was still a possibility for me and that after I can make some progress, I would be back.  Not so fast.  I walked into a conference room and was unable to say a word when she was talking to me.  “Maybe it is just nerves and I need to relax?” I thought to myself.  Nope.  The entire meeting was full of confused and muttered responses…as well as no responses at all.  On top of my cognitive deficits, the nerves and anxiety of my surroundings left me completely unable to make a positive impact and prove that I had what it took to make a recovery and return to school in pursuit of my dream.

Suffice it to say that it did not take long for the dean to ask to speak to my parents in private for a moment.  I did not have the mental capacity to even process what they could have been speaking about, but I knew that it had the potential to be bad… and it was.  When they came back into the room, the dean broke the news to me that I never expected to hear: based on my deficits and lack of progress, my pursuit of earning my juris doctorate degree was officially over and that I should return home to live a comfortable life.

I wanted to jump up on the table and rattle off the elements of negligence and go into a long-winded spiel reciting my oral argument I gave three months earlier.  I couldn’t though and I watched as my parents’ faces had turned from pessimistically optimistic to completely hopeless and sad.  All that I had worked so hard for over the years was gone – the tumor had robbed me of everything.  The two-hour ride from Rhode Island back to Connecticut was full of tears and sorrow by all of us.

It was déjà vu all over again…

After graduating cum laude from The University of Connecticut in 2006, I sat for the LSAT and applied to five schools.  After rejections to four schools and being waitlisted by UConn for the entire summer before learning on the day classes were to begin that I had been rejected, I felt completely helpless.  One of the schools I applied to was Roger Williams University.  Prior to receiving an acceptance or rejection from the school, I was being inundated with mail from the school regarding financial aid, the pro bono work done there and letters from the Office of Career Development.  Given my low LSAT score, acceptance was a long shot but all of the mail left with an ounce of hope.  The Assistant Dean of Admissions invited me to come up and see the campus, go in for a tour and meet with the career development office and you better believe that I accepted it.  With my mother, the two of us made the drive up to Rhode Island.  On a good day, the drive is about two hours but on that particular day, due to the pouring rain and wind, the drive turned into three.  Figures.   Pachaug Trail - "Welcome to Rhode Island sign" at Beach Pond, Hope Valley, RI

During my meeting with admissions, the dean wanted to discuss my low LSAT score along with my high grades at UConn.  “How do I describe the disparity” he wanted to know.   I couldn’t.  Well, the answer was buried in my brain but nobody knew at that point nor were there any reasons to inquire.  On the drive home, my mother and I both recapped the meeting and tried to find any positives to take home with us, but there were none….except that the rain had stopped and over the highway, a full rainbow had developed.  My mother took this as a sign that though things had not been working out for me, that rainbow was certainly an omen of good things to come.

Unfortunately, a short while later that summer, I received a small envelope from the school and inside was a letter from the Assistant Dean of Admissions notifying me that I had not been accepted for that year but encouraging me not to give up hope.  Well fortunately for me, I did not give up hope and remained determined to master the LSATs.  I spent the year working for a law firm in a variety of roles and then went full-steam ahead with an LSAT preparation course.  My hard work had paid off and I improved my score immensely.  I reapplied to all five of the schools, but the moment I received my acceptance from Roger Williams University, I notified them of my acceptance and could not have been happier.

Back to the present day, here I was, back in the car heading home after a horrible meeting at Roger Williams.  But life is funny like that.  I believe that everything happens for a reason, both good and bad, and while that reason may not be apparent at the current moment, it will become evident at some point in time.  For me, the reason I did not get accepted after meeting with the school on that rainy day and the long drive with my mom was that my acceptance a year later allowed me to enroll with Ashley and find my counterpart…the one who lived this battle with me moment I left her that voicemail notifying her of my diagnosis.

So what’s my point, It’s that you cannot give up.  Keep going, keep searching and keep fighting.  Through it all, you will find your rainbow.