Do You Believe In Magic?

13 01 2012
A sprinkling of pixie dust and we’re on our way! Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

First of all, let’s clear something up right from the get-go. Yes, that is my Disney hat. No, I didn’t buy it when I was a kid, but two years ago, when I was a full-grown adult. Yes, I wore it around the park. For days. With my name embroidered on the back. Yes, my family was embarrassed, but as in most things I do, they got over it. The ears were OK, mind you. It’s the long, trailing princess veil that might have been a little over the top.

Whew! So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…what’s a pair of Disney mouse ears got to do with it?

A lot.

Last September, I was on the phone with my friend Matt. We go way back to our mid-teens, having met first as employees at our very first job — a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream store where I came home nightly, covered to my elbows in multiple flavors of ice cream (those tubs are so much deeper than they look). Then, we reconnected two years later when, unbeknownst to either of us, we both hired in at the same Bill Knapp’s restaurant — he as a cook, me as a server who then came home nightly covered in ketchup. Now, Matt’s a successful attorney with a great family and as for me, well, you know my story.

Back to last September. We’re chatting and he says, “So, you’ve made plans to get away this winter with your family, I hope? Get some sunshine. Take a break from all that you’ve been through this year?”

Sure, I say. Matter of fact, in late October, I tell him, we’re going to Indianapolis.

“Great,” Matt said. “What are you going to do there?”

“Well, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment with a specialist on Friday, then we’ll spend the weekend with some close friends.”

“Hold on there,” Matt said. “When I said ‘get away,’ I meant without doctors. No appointments, no hospitals.”

“Oh,” I said, like this was a new concept — because it was.

After we got off the phone, I began to really absorb what Matt had said. He was right. We needed to get away, plan something special for just the three of us, a warm, sunny destination free of doctors’ visits and chemotherapy treatments, replaced by sandcastle building contests and the gentle feel of an ocean breeze.

So, I began looking around on the various travel sites. I came across a really great deal on a four day, three-night Disney Cruise. I’d heard these cruises are fabulous, but also quite pricey. I had to blink twice when I saw the price on this one. It was doable.

I talked it over with Don that night and we decided that we’d forego birthday and Christmas presents to each other in lieu of the cruise (we both have fall birthdays) — although of course, Santa would still visit Theo. Then, even better luck. I talked to my friend Julie Sturgeon, who is a travel agent, and she was able to find the same cabin on the same cruise for a few hundred dollars less. Now it was really tempting.

So, I booked it. And, via the Internet, I began to show Theo pictures of the ship and the cabins and all of the wonderful things we’d be able to do as a family while on board. He was so excited that he asked me to please print off a picture of the ship. I did, and he’s been carrying it in his pocket ever since. Every once and a while, he’d pull it out when we were with family or friends and say, “Look! This is the ship we’re going on!” He’s also been crossing the days off on the calendar.

Then early December came, and the incident at Kohl’s, which later proved to be a two-part break in my pelvic bone. That was followed by the small break in my right shoulder bone on Christmas Day, and an overall sense that I was just way too fragile to travel. I felt like a delicate glass vase that could too easily fracture into a million irreparable pieces. My heart was broken, as was Don’s, but our biggest concern was for Theo. He’s been through a lot during the past year since my diagnosis; all of us have. We are in need of some fun-filled, family time together.

Just a few days ago, a big envelope of information came in the mail, plastered with photos of Mickey Mouse. It was lying on the counter when Theo got home from school. “What’s that?” Theo asked Don. “Oh, nothing. Just some bills, honey,” Don said as he scurried to cover up the travel documents with a newspaper.

Then came yesterday. Earlier this week, my oncologist had called to say she had concerns over the Xrays I’d had taken last Friday, and that she felt I should consult with an orthopedic surgeon before our next appointment. I went to my appointment, flanked by my sister, Lisa; husband, Don; cousin, Lori; and bff Jennifer Levinson Nemeth.

I could see the tension in Don’s face. In everyone’s faces. There was so much on the line here. Way beyond a trip on a Disney boat. How many lesions, how big, and would they require surgery? I’d become less and less ambulatory in the past month, and had started using a cane to support my right leg just days earlier.

Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Kimberly Les walked into the exam room, bringing with her an amazing air of confidence and peace. Right off the bat, she began the conversation, “You don’t need surgery,” she said, holding my most recent Xrays in her hands. “In fact, you are already healing quite nicely.”

I knew that something had been working, because in the past couple of weeks, much of my back pain had disappeared. The only serious, debilitating pain that I still felt was in my right leg.

Dr. Les then pulled out a plastic replica of the human pelvis and femur bone. Though my pelvis had cracked in two places, she said, pointing to both areas, it was already showing signs of healing. And not because of the chemotherapy, she said. It was way too early for that. Rather, it was because I am young, I’d always taken good care of myself, and my pelvic bone reflected that as it began to heal in the month following the break. Oftentimes, it can take up to six months for a pelvic bone to even show signs of healing, and it can take up to a year for it to fully heal. In older people, the healing process can take up to two years.

Surgery isn’t a good option with a pelvic break. It’s very difficult to get to the pelvis, and hard to piece it back together even if you do. There’s also no position you can assume that will take pressure off of the pelvis — not sitting, standing, lying down, back, front — nothing. The fact that many of the body’s red blood cells are manufactured in that area makes a surgical invasion even less beneficial. And, my pelvis is making progress on its own, so it shouldn’t be long before it’s in a pretty good stage of healing.

On to my femur. Ever since the Xrays showed a lesion in my right femur, Don and I have been very concerned that my right leg could snap at any time. Not so, Dr. Les assured us. In fact, she did not hold the entire femur bone replica in her hand, but just the very top. Most of my femur bone was very healthy, she said. But there is a marble-sized tumor near the top.

“If that’s what’s causing you pain when you walk, you’d feel pain when I press right here, she said, pressing on an area near my right hip. “Ouch!” I said.

So, the pain I’m experiencing, that keeps me up at night and makes it difficult for me to walk — the source of that pain seems to be originating from that area of my femur. Again, surgery is not the answer. But radiation could be. We talked about this at length and decided that a short-term bout of radiation to the Greater Trochanter (upper part of the leg, below the ball socket) just might get rid of that marble-sized lesion — and give me some relief. I may be walking without assistance some time in the very near future!

Finally, my cousin Lori had the nerve to ask THE question, the white elephant that had been lingering in the room. “They have a Disney Cruise planned in two weeks. Can they go?”

“Absolutely,” Dr. Les said without hesitation. “In fact, Amy is not as fragile as you might think. It would take a good fall for her to break that femur.”

Don and I couldn’t believe it! Such excitement! Not only was I doing well, we were going to be able to go on our Disney cruise after all!

We next met across the hall with my oncologist. She agreed with Dr. Les’s findings and we made an appointment for me to see a radiologist this coming Monday. We are hoping that I can complete my round of radiation before we leave on our cruise. And though radiation doesn’t often give immediate relief, I will start to feel some improvement within a couple of weeks.

My oncologist just continued the parade of sunshine and good news as she examined me post second round of Xeloda and gave me my second Xgeva shot. Though I won’t have another scan to gauge progress until I’ve completed one or two more rounds of Xeloda, everything is looking good. I do not have red, blistered hands or feet — the most common side-effect of Xeloda. My blood counts haven’t looked this healthy in over a year. And the fact that my body is mostly pain free, with the exception of my right hip area, is a sign that Xeloda is forcing the cancer to retreat.

A day that had the potential to go so very wrong in so many ways had gone so very right. So many of us have stopped believing in magic and pixie dust. Perhaps it’s time we revisit those notions.

Copyright 2012, Amy Rauch Neilson



45 responses

13 01 2012
Beth Johnson

This is the BEST news I have read in weeks. I am soooooooooooo happy for you and yours. I hope you all have a great time on that cruise!

13 01 2012
Marie Petrides

Amy here is to pickie dust and magic…..this is amazing news, may your body continue to heal it self….I am so happy for you and your family you all deserve a much needed vacation….Congratulations on this Fabulous News!!!!

13 01 2012

Woohoo for pixie dust!! Good news!

13 01 2012

Your report takes my breath away.

13 01 2012
Ken and Gay

Amy this is fabulous news!!! My ? is did you wear your Disney mouse hat to the Dr. apt.? Cause if you did then I’m certain it was very magical indeed!! I am also certain that our very loving Lord is holding you in the palm of His hand – “Fear not I am with you always”. Hugs and much love for you Don and Theo!!!

13 01 2012
Rita P

Amazing news! Thank you Lord for allowing them to ENJOY!
With respect and love,

13 01 2012
Kate K

SO happy for all of you!

13 01 2012
Carrie Neilson

Thank God. We both received the best news we could have gotten this week. Miracles truly do happen. Have a wonderful trip.

Love Jim, Carrie, Logan and Mara

13 01 2012
Teresa Phillips

Praise God!!!! Hope you have an amazing trip! God is able!

13 01 2012
Sharon L-S

You, Don and Theo will absolutely love the cruise. You may have a hard time getting Theo to leave the kids programs. The food is wonderful, lots of kids and Disney characters but not so over whelming. My hubby who is not a DIsney lover did the 7 day cruise with us and said he would do it again. Have a Magical time!!!

13 01 2012
Sarah E. Ludwig

Yay! So happy to read this, Amy! Thank you for bringing us up to date. You have so many people who love and support you. Hugs and love to you, Don and Theo.

13 01 2012

I want a bigger font to write YES!!! WOO HOO!!! Look out Mickey!

13 01 2012
Helene Rabinowitz

Great News!!!!Love to you all

13 01 2012
Sharon Frisch

The power of prayer is an amazing thing! I pray you have a wonderful vacation and may God bless you and your family today and always.

13 01 2012
Lori McGuire

Nobody deserves this Disney trip more than you, Don and Theo!!!!!! My Sister went on a Disney Cruise for her honeymoon and love, love, loved it!!! Take lots of pictures so we can all get a glimpse of the magical time you have. It’s amazing what a little fun in the sun will do for the soul. Have the time of your life Amy!!!! xoxoxxo

13 01 2012
Julie Sturgeon

OK, you made me cry, Amy. I’ve said so many prayers that this trip would happen for you!

13 01 2012
Maija Kibens

Yay!!!!! Awesome, wonderful, superb — just like the great time you all will be having in two weeks. What a terrific day!

13 01 2012
Amy Lange

Great news – and a fabulous cruise soon on the horizon – you all deserve warmth and sunshine and happiness! Have a wonderful time!

13 01 2012

So excited for you and your family Amy – here’s to the best vacation ever!!!!

13 01 2012

So happy for you guys!
Enjoy every minute of your vacation!

13 01 2012
Cathy Carey

Fabulous report!!!!! Have a wonderful time on your cruise.

13 01 2012

Just so happy for YOU and not to forget the FAMILY!!! To the best vacation ever! 🙂

13 01 2012
Laura Kasischke

SO HAPPY!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

13 01 2012

You have no idea how HAPPY, how very very happy, I am for all of you! This is amazing news for you, and you get to spend some wonderful time in a magical setting with your beloved boys! 🙂

13 01 2012
Deborah Ann Peters

This news is just so amazing Amy. I am so happy for you and your family. Have a wonderful cruise. If anyone deserves this wonderful vacation it is you, Don and Theo. Just in time to get away from our very delayed MI winter. Enjoy the sunshine and warmth.

13 01 2012
Demmy Lionas

I don’t know about majic and pixie dust… but I DO know that GOD is faithful and hears our prayers! Have a wonderful and safe trip! May the healing continue!

13 01 2012
brian Murphy

WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!! Love, BLT

13 01 2012

So wonderful to hear! You deserve no less than great news after the last month. We’re continuing to pray – God Bless!

13 01 2012

Abra-Cadabra!!!! What wonderful news! All that vitamin D you will be soakin up in the sun is gonna do you wonders too girl! So very happy for you guys!

13 01 2012
Kimberly Brown

I needed a few moments to catch my breath and wipe my tears of joy!! And a Disney cruise on the horizon….dreams do come true!! I can’t tell you how very happy I am for you….you and your precious family deserve every minute of sunshine and fun…..
Blessed Be dear one..

14 01 2012
kerri daugherty

Yaay so happy for u. Prayer is everything. Enjoy family vacation. U guys deserve it. Love you

14 01 2012

Such good news to hear. Have the time of your life with your husband and Theo.
You will remain in my prayers.

14 01 2012

That hat is most terrific!!

Congratulations for good news AND for being able to go on your cruise. Have a terrific time!

(I’m just tickled that I know exactly where the greater trochanter is. All that cramming for anatomy and physiology really paid off. 🙂 )

14 01 2012

Great news indeed….will be excepting a TON of photos!!!

14 01 2012
Wynne Brown

I’m SO happy to read this… and can’t wait to see the photos of you on the cruise — wearing The Hat! 🙂

14 01 2012
Debbie V

So happy for you and your family, I hope this trip is everything and more for all of you! Have a great time.

14 01 2012

TERRIIIIFFFIIICCC!!!! Mind, body and soul…keep caring for all three!!

14 01 2012
Cindy Straub

When I was a little girl, I saw Tinkerbell on my kitchen counter leaving pixie dust behind. I think she has moved to your kitchen counter!
After wiping tears away as I so often do after reading your fabulous stories, I am so happy for you, Don and Theo. Have a great cruise!

14 01 2012
Sandy Sherman-Sarlund

I am SO excited for you & your family!!! You deserve the “Happy Squares” coming your way 🙂

15 01 2012

Praise God! Amy, I have had the privilege of meeting and seeing Dr. Les years ago when I had a bone tumor! You are in the best hands! 🙂 We are so happy that you will be cruising with Don ,Theo and Mickey! Enjoy the magical moments!

Love you!


15 01 2012

Great news! I’m delighted to hear you sail forth on your cruise plans!

15 01 2012
Janis Mitchell

I am so thrilled to hear such wonderful news not only regarding your health by the Disney trip you are going on. You, Don and Theo will have a wonderful time, me and my husband went for our honeymoon and there is so much to do and it truly is a magical experience. What a wonderful way to start the new year out for your family and no one deserves it more than you all do. Have a blast and tell Mickey and Minnie hello.

16 01 2012

I too believe in pixie dust & magic!
So thrilled for you & your family!!!

16 01 2012
Sharon Dumas

Reading this blog was the best way to begin the day. Looking forward to hearing about your trip. The three of you deserve some fun.

16 01 2012
Rita O'Connor

AMY!!! I am probably the oldest in your cheering section! HOORAYYYY…AMY!!! One thing is certain….you live life to the fullest, and THAT is giving back to God.
I have been away for a few days with the family, but I’m “home again Finnegan” now.
p.s. Plans are underway here for Sean and CJ and family and me to move to Trav. City area in a month or so. They bought a place on the water. More on that later.
You are always in my prayers. Love, Mom Reet

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