Celebrating 27 years of life in Nashville, TN!

I believe in the existence of soul mates. I believe in connecting with another person so perfectly that you're sure that their presence in your life isn’t just coincidence. Before you read on and think, this poor girl sits in on Friday nights watching way too many chick flicks (which is only a little bit true), I'm not talking soul mates in the romantic sense.....  I'm talking about the girls. 

"If you do something out of duty, it will deplete you. If you do something out of love, it will energize you," right? I have the energy-creating friends. I’ve reached the wedding-every-weekend-age, which also means bachelorette parties, bridal showers and everything in-between. As the quote explains, this can be a blessing or a burden depending on the circumstance. Because my friends have stayed consistent since the firefly catching days, these milestones mean  i n c r e d i b l e  celebrations and I welcome these events with open arms.

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Nicole's bachelorette party led us to Nashville, TN for 4 days of honkey tonks, fried food and live music. I absolutely love country music and being in a city full of insanely talented people who can sing your requests as well as (if not better than) the actual artist is like a dream. (That's not just the whiskey talking!)

A common method to exploring a new city is to do a bar crawl, is it not? The city of Nashville kicks this idea up a notch with its Pedal Tavern - A man-powered bar/bicycle to pedal your way around the city. Our tour guide (a former American Idol contestant) played all the right music and our friend Meghan served all the right drinks. I'm not typically into the touristy things, but I bought a t-shirt, you guys. #sellout #whoami #ilovedit  

Our next stop was Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame. I'm not going to lie . . . . I thought this stop would be a little museum for us to shuffle through, take a few photos and move on with our day but it was kind of a blast. We got our T.Swift & Miranda Lambert education on, tested our country music knowledge by playing games AND recorded our (not so beautiful) voices in a sound booth.

And then we were back to the bars to sing way too much Eli Young Band......

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I spent October 19th, my 27th birthday, celebrating with this crew. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday, or as my college roommate says, "6th anniversary of my 21st birthday." ;) (Yeah, I'm talking to you, Brandi!) 

If the opportunity to hop on a plane to Nashville with a group of girlfriends presents itself to you, I strongly encourage you not to pass it up. There is so much fun to be had in Nashville. A weekend of booze and burgers won't kill you. That's why God invented gyms.

 

;)



Charleston, SC

I spent a summer living in Los Angeles, as you know by now. On day one of my extended getaway, while settling into my accommodation at the University of Southern California, I met 2 blonde bombshells (so So-Cal) named Rachael and Meghan and we went on to spend our entire summer attached at the hip. We suffered through our internship on Sunset Boulevard, creating swag bags  D-list celebrities. We ventured to Malibu on weekends with nothing but a surfboard and a six-pack. We spent nights partying in the Hollywood Hills and days napping on Venice Beach. We spent an entire season without a single care in the world, aside from choosing the best place to brunch.

Rachael married her high school sweetheart this past spring in Charleston, SC. Shortly after receiving my wedding invitation, my surgery was scheduled. This meant no wedding. No South Carolina. No reuniting with my favorite blondes. Hitting the pause button on life before this particular event was tough but I tried not to wallow in too much self-pity, knowing that I can make a trip to see Rachael and her husband when the time is right.

 

As for South Carolina…I immediately added the destination to my ‘Places to Go’ list. I was shocked to see how quickly my Southern prayers were answered when I was invited to join a long weekend in Charleston for Labor Day Weekend.

Though my time in Charleston was short, I enjoyed the city’s hidden surprises.

 The old colonials that lined the cobblestone streets weren’t always family homes, passed down from generation to generation, but top-notch restaurants that made you feel at home. The aroma of deep fried food lead tourists straight through rot iron gates,  past porch swings and into ‘homes’ where they were welcomed with open-arms. This type of dining brought  ‘Southern Hospitality’ to life.

Trying to choose my favorite part of this trip was tough. Was it our beachside mansion in Isle of Palms? Could it have been our boat ride, watching dolphins breach at sunset?  What really made the top of my list? Recruiting a new travel blogger! I don’t even have to give you the details, because you can check out megwilliamsway.com and find out for yourself!

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I'm not finished with the South, just yet. . . . . . .

My next destination bachelorette is fast-approaching and we haven't quite finished recruiting all of Miami's big-name's, but there's time to change that. ;) 

We don't pop molly, we pop B12. ~ Miami Beach, FL

If Los Angeles and New York City had a love child, it would be named Miami.  Miami has the high rises of NYC next to the soft sand beaches of SoCal, resulting in it’s own unparalleled nightlife. For that reason, I couldn’t think of a more perfect location to celebrate my sister’s bachelorette.

 Eight girls flying from Boston to Fort Lauderdale at 6am with zero checked bags is nothing short of a miracle. Our Jetblue flight crew provided a full (free) liquid brunch, thanks to our "Team Bride" T’s and the rest of the trip followed much the same……..

Dancing to salsa at Hosteria Romana, an Italian Hotspot. 

Preparing for sunshine on South Beach --> dancing in a downpour at the Clevelander

LIV --> Tables at Mango's until sunrise

Arriving at an unpredictably perfect view of the entire city.

15 Steps --> Juvia --> The Delano 

I've taken 20+ hour flights to unimaginable destinations but this trip (3 hours from home, surrounded by best friends and family) was better than all of that. Dinner in Paris surrounded by beautiful people and 5 star cuisine is nice and all, but mediocre French food next to an infinity pool in Miami, while watching your best friend gag at the taste of a pig ear? That's all you really need.

 

"This is ground duck feet, that's what the waiter said." - Nicole

"No Nic, it's duck confit." - Sherri

 

It's not where you are and what you do, it's who you're with that truly matters. 

Cheers, sis.

xo

No Longer Solo in the City of Romance - Venice, Italy one year later

"Henry James wrote in a novella that Venice is like an interior: an apartment consisting of corridors and drawing-rooms. You're always walking inside it, you're never really outside it. The outside doesn't exist, even in the street. Apparently (which is to say: maskedly) the Venetian passion for the mask was born from this need to be incognito, to protect your identity. Because this is a city where public life forces you to drag your character on the surface of your skin, to transfer it permanently from your soul to your face. You too become a character, vaguely puppet-like, a stylised form of yourself." - Tiziano Scarpa

One year ago, Venice was an enchanting stranger, testing my purpose and patience. Everything was a mystery and I craved information. I was in awe  of this floating metropolis and needed to examine it, piece by piece.

This year, I don't question how the same calle can go from overwhelmingly noisy to deafeningly silent. I don't ask why we take the vaporetto over the traghetti or which is faster. I never contemplate how many cathedrals were built as a result of the plague or why it doesn't change the way I pray in them. I do, however, ask how many falling flower pots have killed humans, but seriously, who wouldn't ask that?

This year, Venice is a handwritten sign in the airport. It's aperitivo on a docked boat. It's a trip to the market after Prosecco. It's a home cooked meal after the city has gone to sleep. It's a 40 minute boat ride only to buy lace. It's enjoying the warmth of the  sun when a cathedral is closed. It's a carton of fresh strawberries next to Accademia bridge. It's your history lessons. It's language charades. It's the breaks from you. It's the breaks from me. It's the needing each other back. It's your talk radio and your huge books. It's the glasses you never really lose. It's 1 bowl in the cupboard. It's dessert before dinner. It's traveling to find the perfect cookie. It's being lazy without feeling like time is being wasted. It's ancient locks and keys that turn far too many times. It's your need to write to the local paper. It's a piece of my journal. It's the accordian player outside of your window. It's your work suit. 

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For me, Venice will always be you.

Stop and Smell the Roses

There is something to be said about a long, peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. This heavy eyelid, lucid dreaming brand of sleep is made possible by the prospect of waking to your internal clock. Its side effects include (but are not limited to) – a clear mind, a calm heart and unlimited patience.

Unfortunately, this seemingly simple state is not easily achieved due to day-to-day stressors. A fast-paced, deadline driven day often results in tired eyes, teeth grinding and overall restlessness. 

During my time off of work, I’m reintroducing myself to life’s simple pleasures – An interesting book, a new journal, good company…

Sometimes it takes life forcing you to slow down to realize how quickly you were rushing through it. That’s the case with me, at least. It will be nice to return to a routine with the simple reminder to stop and smell the roses, ideally with all of the beautiful people who have sent them my way. 


It's Up to You to Find the Beauty in the Ugliest of Days

In case my hiatus didn't make it obvious enough, my physician's attempt at sclerotherapy (the non-invasive approach to attacking my tumor), was not a success. The tumor had eroded the bone surrounding it, causing the mass to "communicate" with my hip joint. If they were to inject the sclerosing agents, they would have compromised the function of my hip joint. 

This outcome led me to Massachusetts General Hospital, where I got a second opinion by a brand new doctor who also specializes in orthopedic oncology. I knew right away he was my guy.

On February 28th, I went in for a major surgery. The tumor was scraped out of the bone in the front of my thigh and packed with bone cement.  A plate and bone screws (for stablization of my weak bone) was then placed through the side of my thigh.  I've never seen the inpatient side of the hospital from a patient-perspective so it was all a bit scary (catheters and drains and bed pans, oh my!) But the support of my family and friends made it so much easier to handle.

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After a 5 day stay at MGH, I came home to stay with my parents. In the past 2 weeks I've upgraded from a walker, to crutches and I'm now taking baby steps. I'm like a 26 year-old toddler.  I'm happy to report that as the pain of my incisions diminishes, I'm realizing that the constant hip pain I've been experincing for the past 6 months is gone! My at-home physicial therapist is working to get me back on my feet and I'm pushing myself harder than I thought possible. 

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I'm constantly reminding myself that getting through this recovery is mind over matter and because of that, my head is in a great place. I have some serious goals lined up for the next few days, weeks, months, even years! I'm keeping in mind that this procedure will make my goals a possibility. Once my 30 day supply of lovenox injections run dry & I'm back to flying without the fear of blood clots, I have some serious plans in the works.

Stay tuned for the adventures of 2014! We've got A LOT of ground to cover.

Your Body Hears Everything Your Mind Says, Stay Positive!

 My 2014 started a bit differently than I had planned. In October, I moved into an apartment in the North End of Boston. It’s an old building with beautiful exposed brick, dark wood floors and “character” all throughout. I didn’t mind that I would have to climb up and down 5 flights of stairs to access my new home because walking out my front door with my morning tea and capturing a sunrise over the Boston waterfront would make it worthwhile, or so I thought.

 Immediately after moving into the apartment, I began to experience an intense pain in my right hip. It started as a dull pain, that would bother me on my walk to and from the train and soon intensified to the point where I had trouble walking at all. Because I suffer from “sesamoiditis” and “chronic regional pain syndrome” of my right foot, due to a man (nodded off on heroin & driving in the wrong direction) hitting me head-on 3 years ago, I assumed the pain was arthritis of the hip from bearing weight unevenly on my affected foot.

After weeks of physical therapy & deep tissue massages, my pain worsened. After a 9 hour work day, I would get off the train and walk back to my apartment with tears streaming down my face, before even climbing the stairs.

When I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer, I finally gave in to having an MRI of my right hip. On a normal day, I could sleep right through the study, regardless of the loud banging noises the magnet makes. But on this day, 20 minutes in, the tech came on through my headphones and asked me if I’ve ever had a gadolinium injection. I told him I had not, but I was fine with having it done.

Now, being in the healthcare profession, I know that the only reason a tech would inject contrast, would be if a radiologist took a look at my imaging and saw something they needed to take a better look at. So before exiting the facility, I asked for the disc.

When my imaging was read, I learned that there was a “lesion” inside my femoral neck (the top of my thigh bone). The doctor who read my imaging reached out to the chief of orthopaedic oncology and I scheduled an appointment.

The orthopaedic oncologist told me that he didn’t think my “tumor” looked scary, but to be sure I had to visit X-Ray and get my labs drawn before leaving the hospital. After that, Interventional Radiology would be contacting me to schedule a biopsy of the tumor inside my femur. In the meantime, I was told to use crutches in order to prevent pathologic fracture.

Oncology. Tumor. Biopsy. Those are 3 words  I never expected to apply to me at age 26, but there I was, in a state of panic, praying for a positive outcome.

On the day of my biopsy, my Mom and sister took me Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. They sat by my bedside while I got an IV, learned the play-by-play of a CT guided biopsy and signed a consent form. They were also ready and waiting when I was wheeled back out. Although my sister, the nurse, thinks I'm crazy for allowing her to take these pictures, she plays along with my antics and makes the situation much easier to handle.

The biggest fear we possess is fear of the unknown. Let me tell you, the 9 days waiting for results felt like an entire month. When the day finally arrived, and I was told that this cystic lesion was benign, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. Unfortunately, it was proceeded by, "In order to successfully remove this tumor, we would have  to dislocate your hip, which I am not willing to do." The surgeon went on to explain a technique he would try (alongside a trauma surgeon), which would involve scraping the tumor out through the opposite side of my leg,  shaving bone off of my iliac crest and using the bone to fill the empty part of the femur before grafting and placing screws for stabilization.

But wait! There was another option. My surgeon recommended 'Sclerotherapy" as a first approach to shrinking the lesion. Sclero is a non-surgial technique for healing the type of bone lesions that I have.  The Interventional Radiologist injects special chemicals into the cyst in order to promote the creation of scar tissue. This scar tissue eventually heals and hardens into the bone, healing the lesion without the need for surgery. As luck would have it, I work with the physicians who perform these treatments and I am confident in the outcome.

I'm sharing my story because I think it's easy to say "why me" during a difficult time, when the truth of the matter is that it gets you nowhere. If there were no obstacles in life we would be extremely bored. We should embrace life's struggles as a way to become a better version of ourselves. 

For those of you who don't know me all that well, I am the Program Coordinator for a Speciality Clinic in a Pediatric Hospital. The cases I see day-in and day-out give me perspective. - The children I want to cry for end up making me laugh. The doctors forced to deliver bad news, provide hope at the very same time. The parents who devote ALL of their time and energy to the care of their child, express endless gratitude rather than frustration.

In the long run, this was meant to happen. This stage of my life will plant empathy deep in my heart for the families that I will be able to relate to on a completely different level. For THAT, I will be grateful.

 

xx