Today marks the one-year anniversary of my very miraculous liver transplant. The third of May was just one day of many last year in which I was tested mentally and physically so far beyond anything that has previously tested me in my 26 years of life combined. Today I fortunate enough to say that I am a living proof of a miracle. One of my favorite quotes says, “I’m not a one in a million kind of girl. I’m a once in a lifetime kind of woman,” which I think describes me quite perfectly.
For surviving transplant patients, their transplant anniversary is a very special day that will forever be celebrated. It is a magnificent and reflective day because it signifies the day you were given life, just like on the day when you were born and first entered the world, but it also celebrates all of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges you had to overcome to survive.
I learned it is a recognized tradition of transplant recipients to celebrate the anniversary of their transplant as their “new birthday.” This third day of May 2013, I celebrate this one day, of one year, of hopefully many innumerable days, and many bountiful years with the most MOmentous, MOnumental, meMOrable gift I will ever receive (I love throwing those “Mo’s” in).
Like I said, I’ve already received the greatest gift I could possibly ever imagine, which is the gift of life. There is not many people in this world that can say they have experienced, endured, and persevered what I went through, at my age, or any age for that matter. Twenty-six/twenty-seven is an age where I was/and am old enough to appreciate what a second chance is. It is also an age where I am young enough to really go ahead and start my life fresh and set-out to do things in my life that I might have not done in the past, due to fear of failure. The goal is to achieve ultimate satisfaction, love, and happiness with myself and others.
Every birthday, you have the chance to make a wish when you blow out the candles, and there is one wish that I do have for this particular birthday. I will tell you that my wish does not involve money or things. It does not involve anything far-fetched or unattainable. But it does involve something so close here, so close to me personally; my family. While I would rather not go into family details I will leave you with the lyrics from U2’s epic ’90s song “One” in which my only wish, birthday or not, is that my family could embrace the lyrics of this song and once again be one single unity, one alliance, one family.
“And I can’t be holding on to what you got when all you got is hurt…
One love. One blood. One life.
You got to do what you should
With each other
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
Well, I haven’t posted a blog in awhile, but in one way that is a good thing for me. It is good because I have been very busy this past month, and the way things are looking, I am going to be pretty busy for a while it seems. I am the kind of person I have do something all of the time; keep moving, keep going. If there is nothing for me to do, I find something to occupy my time. When I am home alone, with no mode of transportation, I discover and create ways to keep myself busy. I put effort into making each moment productive, in a way that can help me better myself physically and/or mentally.
Recently, I have been a huge fan of the work-outs provided on “On Demand” and I will do 2-5 of those workouts throughout the day (depending on how short/long they are). Killer Core is one of my favorites right now. I tried out one of the cardio dances, and let’s just say I will probably not be letting anyone see how ridiculous I must look doing that one! I’ve also been building a website for my aunt’s new organization that we are in the midst of establishing (I can’t divulge much about that now but stayed tuned!). My aunt is very excited about the organization and her big plans, and I am very excited to be her right-hand (wo)man and utilize my writing and computer skills. We both foresee very big things coming, and I am anxious to see how things pan-out.
The holidays are always a busy time for everyone, but through the holidays and shortly after I had several friends come to visit me, I went on a day-trip to Massachusetts for my cousin’s cheerleading competition, and then I spent two weeks in Florida visiting some of my family. Just like that, January came, and now it is just about gone. It was a great month, but I also have so much to look forward to and keep me busy in the next few months. A productive Mo is a happy Mo.
Four of my really good friends, (whom I’ve met in college at Furman), all currently live within a rather short distance of Boston (just a few hours from me), so we are having a re-union this weekend in Boston, which I am also very excited for! Besides my family, there is not one thing I love more in the world than my friends. Those whom I consider my closest friends, I will have their back no matter what, and I hope they would do the same for me. One of the best characteristics I consider of myself and my fellow Italian family is loyalty. So if I deem you to be in the “MO-fia” as I call it, you’ll always be in good hands; but if you’re not, better start saying your prayers ; )
Speaking of prayers, the following week after traveling to Boston, I have Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift concerts to look forward to. I can’t wait to be Livin’ on a Prayer at Bon Jovi, TSwiftski is one of favorites. We have a CD my aunt plays in the car, and when Livin’ on a Prayer comes on we crank the music up and we sing that song as loud (and it’s horrible) as we can. My aunt has told me that when she hears it she thinks of me, and Yale, and how I was “livin’ on a prayer”.
Besides the concerts, I will be doing some travelling, and during which I will get to spend a couple of visits back in Greenville, SC (where I was living when I got ill). While many of my close friends are dispersed around the country, some of my closet friends still reside in Greenville, so I am thrilled to be able to go and see them. These won’t be your normal visits; we’re talking one of my best friend’s bachellorette parties in Charleston, and her wedding in Greenville, SC this spring with a group of us who haven’t all been together in the same place, at the same time, since probably college….I am already anticipating stomach pain from laughing so hard. I can’t wait to be singing karaoke, and fist pumping, and “livin’ on a prayer” with some of my best friends. Those are some of the best times I’ve had.
When I get excited about things that are going to happen, I often times begin reflecting on the good ole’ times, and can’t wait to have new good times. One of our favorite karaoke songs, and probably one of the most popular of all-time is of course, Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. Arguably, you could say I was; “livin’ on a prayer,” this past year. I often times find myself thinking a lot, about all sort of things. Why am I alive? Why are they dead? What if I did this instead of that? How can I make this gluten-free recipe delicious? How many days until Justin Timberlake’s new CD comes out? How is the Cowboy’s defense going to be next year? Why did so-and-so say that to me? How am I going to afford health insurance when my Cobra expires?–there is no telling what is going through my head at any given moment. Things that I question, I try to research and educate myself and by making myself some-what more knowledgeable on the subject. I usually just end-up attaining a lot of useless facts, and being left with a ton of unanswered questions.
For instance, how did I get a life-saving liver transplant on the very last day I needed one when just one day later I would be dead? How did I survive not one-but TWO brain surgeries for invasive aspergillosis which has a 80-90% mortality rate? How could my body endured three MAJOR surgeries with-in a five week span? How was I able to run the mile in 10:39 last month when I couldn’t even walk in May? The strangest part is, every negative thing thrown in my way this past spring/summer, not only did I come out alive, but I came out swinging! I know I strive to work hard to be the best that I can be in everything I do, but that certainly has it’s limitations. Just like I have my “MO-fia,” there is someone, something, somewhere that has my back. I am very grateful for what must be some-sort of divine intervention, which I like to think of as my guardian angels, and I don’t think I have just one.
I can’t explain the answer to these questions I asked above with a mathematical equation, or a scientific law. I also can’t explain it with a religion necessarily either. What I choose to explain it with is a lot of love and a frame-of-mind; a mind-set that is unwilling to compromise, unwilling to lose. I consider myself a believer-I believe in my family, I believe in my friends, I believe in my guardian angels looking over me, and most importantly I believe in myself. I work hard at my goals, because I believe I can achieve them. I am here now, alive and making great strides, and for that, everyday, I give thanks for everyone’s belief in me, my amazing medical team, my mental and physical strength, my family and friend’s love and support all combined into one big positive force that propelled me to push with all of my might through the numerous, death-defying obstacles in my way. I have gotten knocked down many times, but when I have gotten up, I only stood taller and stronger. I lost my pulse four different times, and I am still here, doing better than ever. I don’t believe there is anything or anybody out there that can knock me down, and keep me down, and whether that is true or not, it doesn’t matter because it is what I believe. Someone can try, but good-luck with that, you will have the “MO-fia” after you, and I’ll be too busy “livin’ on a prayer”. : D
“We’ve got to hold on, ready or not. You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got. Wooaaa, we’re halfway there. Wooaaa livin’ on a prayer. Take my hand and we’ll make it, I swear. Livin’ on a prayer.”
“Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
heart and soul”
My thoughts and prayers go out to the 26 victims, their families, and our grieving neighbors nearby in Newtown, CT. Teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary risked their own lives to protect their students from an act of pure evil. Even with their heroism, twenty young and completely innocent children had their very short, and unfulfilled lives swept away from them forever without any warning. May their souls live in a better place than this cruel and selfish world.
That 14th day of December was a horrific and heartbreaking day and shall forever serve to remind every single one of us that life is not guaranteed for anyone of any age. Let the ones you love know you love them, for nothing is a certainty, and tomorrow is not guaranteed. To my family and my dearest friends, I love you with all of my heart, each and every day, and myself included, sometimes need to step back for a moment and really appreciate all of the beautiful and loving people in my life.
“Love life and life will love you back. Love people and they will love you back.” ~Arthur Rubinstein
Michael Jackson took the words right out of my mouth….
“I’m Gonna Make A Change,
For Once In My Life
It’s Gonna Feel Real Good,
Gonna Make A Difference
Gonna Make It Right . . .”
“I’m starting with the Mo in the mirror,
I’m asking her to change her ways
No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change…..”
Ever since I was hospitalized (first in Greenville in March and then at Yale in April), I have had no choice to make so many drastic modifications to my lifestyle in order to be healthy and stay alive. A transplant results in no drinking, no smoking, no raw sushi, and no salad bars just to name a few restrictions. I continually work out, and I am now fully dedicated to adhering to a gluten-free diet (in result of being diagnosed with Celiac Disease).
After my transplant and brain surgeries, I was having to swallow 46 pills a day, 46! Excuse my French, but holy $hi+ that is a lot of pills! I now am currently down to 29 pills/day, which is significantly less, but I still feel like an 80-year old doing organizing my weekly pills in one of those Monday-Sunday pill containers.
Swallowing a meal-full of pills several times-a-day, with all of the side-effects, on-top of feeling like my body had been run over by a16-wheeler was not fun. I could hardly perform simple tasks that you would never even think twice about doing like: walking, going to the rest-room by myself, getting my shoes/socks on without help, showering without sitting in a chair, without being constantly babysat.
One of my favorite lines in Adam Sandler’s “Big Daddy” is when Adam’s adopted son yells, “I wipe my own ass! I wipe my own ass!” The thought of this scene makes me chuckle to myself, and let me tell you why: when I was confided to the hospital bed (attached to what felt like enough wires to light up a Christmas tree), I couldn’t use the rest-room as I pleased. If I had to go #2, I had to buzz the nurse, wait for someone to bring me a bucket, do my thing, and then get my ass wiped, not by me, all while laying in bed (I am very good at back bridges when I do my workouts now haha). Talk about feeling violated, and privacy? Ha, I have lost all concept of what that is after my 52 days spent between the ICU and the transplant floor.
I endured a total of 71 days of hospitalization in the year 2013 which I later reflected on. I missed out on most of the spring starting in mid-March going through the end of April, the entire month of May, and half of June from the outside world being locked up in the hospital (except for a brief two-week hiatus when I moved from Greenville, SC to Danbury, CT). While it was a great feeling to be out of the hospital, I wasn’t exactly “free” and nowhere near being back to “normal”. I am not allowed to drive because of my visual field impairment which is not expected to come back (I have lost my peripheral vision in both my right and left eyes to the right, so unless something is directly in-front of me I can not see anything to my right-side).
My hair is finally filling in from where it was shaved in a line straight down the middle of my head for surgery. It is no longer falling out, which is very awesome to not have to pull handfuls of hair out of the drain every day. Since it is filling in, I no longer have to sport what I named a “Reverse MO-hawk.” I have gone from being completely independent and living on my own, to moving into my grandparent’s house. My grandparents are snow birds, so as they flocked to Florida for the cold winter months, I moved-in with my aunt and uncle and their two teenage boys, my cousins Robby and Rocco. I love my cousins, they are like my little bros, but if Call of Duty was never invented I think I would totally be okay with that.
My friends live in various states across the country, and I have no one besides my family here in Danbury. When I say no one, I mean no one. I love my family dearly with all of my heart, but sometimes I just want to be able to hang out with my friends, go out for a drive to clear my mind, or go to the store alone. It are those “little things” in life that I can no longer do anymore that I long desire.
I never realized how valuable those little things were to me, until they were no longer readily accessible to me. While my recovery is improving gradually and I am feeling much better, it still does not dismiss the fact that I am not exactly living the lifestyle of a normal mid-20-something year old.
The first few months after I was discharged, I wasn’t allowed to be home alone. There was a chance I could have more seizures, or fall, or that something else could easily go wrong with me. It is nice to have people around and be there for you, but everyone needs a breather by themselves every once in awhile; it is too often I lock myself away to catch a “breather” away from everyone else.
Although I’ve had to do a complete 180 with my life, I don’t wish to go back to the way I was living, not even for one second. I was going down a dead-end road, and wasn’t paying attention to the signs to tell me to pump the brakes and turn around. Sure I was having the time of my life, but deep down I wasn’t really happy with myself. Each day felt unfulfilled and I was yearning to do something with my life that was actually admirable. I wanted to feel proud of myself like I had once felt in my junior golf and college days.
Now, I finally am proud of myself again. I look in the mirror each day and I am in shock. Each day I see myself and when I see the “Mo in the Mirror” I’m like, “Wow, Mo, you’ve come such a long way, in such a short amount of time.” That feeling that I get when I see the new, improved, healthy Mo is what gives me the “Mo-tivation” to keep trucking along and give each day everything I have to offer.
Besides doing physical therapy I keep myself active each and every day. My over-anxious-self tried doing the Insanity work-outs within the first two months of being discharged, and that was probably the most idiotic set-back of my whole healing experience. Even though my mind was ready, my body was no where near being ready for that kind of physical activity and movement. So after that set-back and spending the last few months trying to heal from those injuries, I now finally feel SO much better and I can now begin to increase my physical activity gradually.
On Sept. 30, 2012, I participated in the Liver Life Walk held in Stamford, CT and walked 3-miles, which is my farthest recorded walking distance since being discharged from Yale in June. A few days after the Liver Life Walk, I felt like a small car ran me over, but that is definitely better than a 16-wheeler! My legs were giving me large amounts of trouble, so unfortunately, I regressed once again. I continued out-patient physical therapy and ended that treatment in early November. Now, on my own, I work out in my aunt and uncle’s house with their treadmill, small weights, resistance bands, swiss ball, and use my own body strength with certain exercises and yoga poses. I walk a minimum of a mile each day, and sometimes I go up to 2.5 miles. My times have continued to improve as I continue to get stronger and gain more endurance. I incorporate a minimum of 100 crunches or similar type exercises to strengthen my core because that is very important to getting my entire body stronger.
I started off doing around 25-minute miles. I didn’t really keep track of my times at first because I was so slow–“Slow-Mo” you could call me, ha. Now I have started to keep track, because comparing times is really the only way to truly know if I am getting quicker or not.
Two-weeks ago, I did a 19:00 mile, two days after that I did it in 17:52, and the day after that I pushed myself really hard and did the mile in 14:09! Of course that is not an awesome speed or anything but I did shed over three-minutes in one-day, and with these chicken legs and everything else considering, that is a pretty big accomplishment! I left the treadmill with a big smile and felt pretty proud of myself, ready to set my next mile mark for 13:30.
On January 9th, 2013 I ran the mile in 10:39! I was so excited and proud of myself. Yes, my legs did hurt and I had to take-it-easy for a few weeks after that, but it was very much worth the gratification of kicking so much ass!
Everyone is different in what motivates and inspires them to succeed, but I have found that my “mo-tivation” comes from seeing the results. When you can actually see a difference or a change for the better, that makes you feel like all of the hard-work you put-in is actually paying-off; and that is a damn good feeling. When you can look at the clock and see your times have gone down, or you can see in the mirror the physical changes taking place, that is fulfilling. I don’t know if it is the same feeling for you, but it gives me the inner drive to set goals and work harder at attaining them. I will work until I reach that goal, and then once I reach it, because I WILL reach it (and not let anything stop me), I then set higher goals to achieve.
I believe if you have a fierce mentality, you believe in your goal, and put the work into it, you can do anything you dream of. You have to believe in your goal, but most importantly you have to believe in yourself. When you can get to that point, the work won’t seem like work, it will be overshadowed by your strong desire to succeed, and you will succeed.
One thing that I have found that is critical to achieving almost anything, is having patience. I am half-Italian and my last name is Gesualdi, so being patient isn’t exactly a characteristic that comes naturally for me. I have never really been patient in my life, but somehow, somewhere, during my ill-times, I dug very deep, the deepest I hope I will ever have to dig again, and found this patience with-in me that I never had before. My family was shocked. I was even shocked. It came out of nowhere. I don’t really care where it came from, but it was there, and it was crucial to saving my life. Without that patience I could have so easily given-up each and every time a doctor gave me negative news that pretty much suggested I had a greater chance of dying than living. Like I’ve said before, I firmly believe in mind over matter, and that is what got me through.
If you want to make a change, you have to start with yourself. It feels real good, it makes a difference, and it makes it right. That’s why I want you to know, I started with the “Mo in the Mirror”, and if I can do it, so can you, and so can anyone, you just have to believe you can 🙂
“You never know a good thing ’til it’s gone You never see a crash ’til it’s head on Why do we think we’re right when we’re dead wrong? You never know a good thing ’til it’s gone…”
“Yeah, we gotta start looking at the hands of the time we’ve been given If this is all we got, then we gotta start thinking If every second counts on a clock that’s ticking Gotta live like we’re dying….”
Very true. Appreciate what you have and don’t take the little things for granted. Sometimes you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone, and then it is too late….
This is a mash-up of R.Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” and Nicki Minaj’s “Fly” (sung by the cast of Glee)
This song inspires me and when I listen to it and I feel like one day that will be me, and I am going to “fly” “…Then I can do it if I just believe it, then there’s nothing to it….”
“Cry my eyes out for days upon days, such a heavy burden placed upon me, but when you go hard your nay’s become yay’s…..I came to win, to fight, to conquer, to thrive, I came to win, to survive, to prosper, to rise. I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky….”
I know Christmas is right around the corner and you have probably been decking the halls while jamming to some “Jingle Bell Rock,” but in case you wanted to give your ears a short break from “Santa Baby” you can with a song I love called, “Roll if Ya Fall” by Barefoot Truth. I love me some Christmas music, but most of us can probably agree that Christmas songs can get old pretty quickly, especially after you’ve heard, “Frosty the Snowman” for the third time in the past hour. I like to change my music up all of the time, and sometimes a good song is exactly the thing you need to motivate you to get going in whatever it is you have to get done.
“Roll if Ya Fall” just sparks something inside me to just feel happy. When the song first begins, it always seems to put me in a day-dream where I am sitting on a beach somewhere with friends relaxing, sipping on a nice cold beverage, living the life. The first time I heard the song, during the instrumental intro, I found myself bopping my head around and tapping my shoes to the beat of the bongos heard in the song. So I’m feeling it, I keep listening, I hear the lyrics and I realized that the song actually has some depth and meaning behind it. Hold-up…this song has a chillaxin’ DMB essence to it, and it’s lyrics are somewhat motivational?!? That is right up my alley, and that’s what I call a Mo-tastic song!
As I listen, the song describes life as a “game”, and the little things we do in our daily lives contribute to our final “score.”
“And when we add the score at the end of this life, I wanna say I won the game.”
Being the competitive person that I am, this really has my attention now. Whether you are competitive in nature or not, if life is considered a game, that is one game that I an sure you do not want to lose.
Eventually, one day my time will be up, all of ours will; but mine will not be right now. I have already proved on more than one occasion, that if you are going to try to take me down, I will go down swinging with both arms swinging. If you knock me down, I will get back up. You can even knock me down a few more times after that, and no matter what, I will get back up, and I find a similar sense of action is found in the lyrics of this song.
Another reason I love this song is because it asserts being tough, without the intensity, but rather in such a cool, and relaxing way. “It’s a simple inspiration, it always gets me high…,” I always find inspiration in song lyrics and try to apply those lyrics to my life because a simple lyric can become a simple inspiration for me. When I’m inspired, and it doesn’t take much, there is no doubt I’m going to “roll” if I fall. Even though this past April and May I fell, and I fell about as hard as you can go down, I got up, and got “rollin.” I plan on continuing “rollin” even “if flat shadows get me down, I’ma roll if I fall.” I advise you to not stand in my way, because more than likely you will get your ass run over!