Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Finish Line

As runners, we measure victory in finish lines and finish times. After all the preparation, all the blood, sweat, and tears, there is just no better feeling than crossing the finish line after a grueling training cycle. The race might be hard, but the finish line is the reward after all that hard work.

The marathon is often used as a metaphor for a difficult journey. Some people use the word marathon loosely to describe any kind of lengthy experience. Like a Netflix marathon. I don't know about you, but there's not a lot of challenge in sitting in front of the TV for hours on end. Unless you are watching Guy Fieri (my husband loves him). Or American Idol.

That's not what I'm talking about here.

What I'm talking about is crossing a finish line where you've overcome some kind of challenge. Maybe it was a difficult race. Or sending your youngest child off to college. Or a positive pregnancy test after a long battle with infertility. Graduating from school. There are all kinds of finish lines in life. Most of these finish lines have no winners. The prize is in the finish and a job well done. Triumphant, because you've overcome the training, the journey, the adversity--whatever it was--to get yourself to the finish. The most meaningful finish lines, as in the marathon, are the ones crossed after the most challenging journeys.

As a nurse practitioner, I am privileged to share in many of my patients' journeys. Because this is a running blog, I don't talk about that much here. But today, I want to share a story about a very special finish line.


Almost a year and a half ago, in the middle of a busy afternoon clinic schedule, I walked into an exam room to evaluate a 6 year old girl with abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is one of my least favorite complaints because more often that not, it is usually due to constipation. I usually see at least 2 kids per day with this problem. I know what you're thinking. Living the dream, right? What's better than talking about poop all day long?

But this visit was different. As I entered the room, I introduced myself to Jolie and her mom. I noticed that Jolie's abdomen was really distended. My instincts told me this was not good. Her mom told me Jolie had an ongoing problem with constipation. For once, I hoped that this was constipation. But I knew better. As I palpated her abdomen, I expected to feel an enlarged liver or spleen. Instead, I felt a large, hard mass across her lower abdomen. My heart sunk. I knew this was bad. While I didn't let her mom know how worried I was, I sent Jolie to the ER where she could have a CT scan.

Later, I learned that Jolie was diagnosed with a rare tumor called rhabdomyosarcoma. The prognosis was not good, and the treatment regimen harsh.

Zuly, Jolie, and me Halloween 2014
Pre-chemo: Zuly (my medical assistant), Jolie, and me
In spite of the ups and downs that go with cancer treatment, Jolie's parents projected so much positivity that you couldn't help but be caught up in it. She was diagnosed right before Halloween, and my medical assistant and I visited her in costume, only to find her parents dressed up as well. Jolie was dressed as a princess. Later, when Jolie's hair fell out, her dad let her shave his head in solidarity.

We wore Team Jolie bracelets. Jolie's mom started a Team Jolie facebook page and posted frequent updates and pictures.

Last week, Jolie crossed the finish line of her very grueling marathon. In fact, I'd compare it to an ultramarathon. After 16 months of chemo, radiation, and surgery, Jolie was declared cancer free.

courtesy of Brandy Kneip
I attended Jolie's end of chemo party. We were invited to celebrate this beautiful little girl, but more than that, her parents wanted to celebrate all the people who were part of this journey. It was so fitting for these wonderful parents who found joy all along this very difficult journey.

It was a triumphant day for Jolie and her family. Realistically, they know there is still a long road ahead of them. But for today, they celebrated Jolie's finish line.

Jolie and me
So happy to be on the other side of this marathon!
When I asked Jolie's mom if I could share her story on my blog, I told her that my blog prompt this week was the word triumphant. I said I couldn't think of a more fitting story. Her response? "Do it!"

This one's for you, Jolie. Fighting the good fight. Inspiring all of us to stay the course. A marathon? Piece of cake.

If you want to follow Jolie's journey, you can join her Team Jolie Facebook Group. If you want to do something, Jolie's favorite charity is Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. You can also donate to Advocate Children's Hospital Cancer Care Program.

Have you overcome a life challenge only to emerge triumphant? 

I'm linking up with DebRuns' weekly Wednesday Word blog prompt. Today's word is triumphant.


78 comments :

  1. Wendy, this brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much for sharing Jolie's story! AMAZING!!

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    1. This was truly an amazing experience for me.

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  2. I cannot begin to imagine. A triumph indeed. Wishing sweet Jolie and her family ALL the best going forward!

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    1. I'm so so so happy to have been a small part of this journey!

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  3. Loved reading this this morning. So often, we celebrate our own (small) victories. But what about the victory of a life that will now get to be lived?

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    1. That's exactly what her mom said on Saturday in a very heartfelt, tearful speech. I've been on this journey with other families, and it just never fails to move me. I feel very blessed to have been part of this.

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  4. Oh, thank you so much for sharing her story - and thanks to her family for letting you! We get so caught up in #firstworldproblems this is a great reminder to count our blessings and reach out to others who may have real problems they are coping with.

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    1. When Deb picked triumphant for this week's word, I couldn't think of a more fitting story to share. My own victories seem so small in comparison!

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  5. What a wonderful post today ! Go Jolie!!

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  6. What a sweet little girl with a beautiful smile and obviously a very strong will to live!

    I had a brother I never knew who died from stomach cancer. Obviously, this was many, many years ago and there weren't many treatment options available back then (or a Ronald McDonald House, or Make a Wish -- none of that stuff existed back then).

    Thank you for sharing Jolie's story!

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    1. That's so sad about your brother. I bet you mom and dad were forever affected by that.

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  7. She is triumphant. I'm so glad that she is cancer free. She's a very brave and strong girl to have undergone such a trial at such a young age with a big smile. Bravo!

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    1. This was such a triumphant day. And what an amazing family. I feel blessed to know them.

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  8. Well that definitely made me tear up this morning. What a beautiful story of triumph and courage.

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  9. What a beautiful reminder that there is more to life than our own little myopic struggles! It's also a lovely reminder that staying positive in the face of adversity can get you across any finish line. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. This was a beautiful story. I am so glad you shared it. I will say a prayer for her and her family. What a beautiful child!! She truly did cross a finish line like no other! Jolie and her family are an inspiration!

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    1. They really are inspiring! I've cared for a lot of kids with cancer, and I don't think I've ever met a family quite like this one!

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  11. I am so happy that little Jolie was able to cross the finish line triumphant! Thank you for sharing her story with us.

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  12. Go Jolie!!! What an awesome kid. Love her smile - thank you for sharing her story.

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    1. Truly amazing. I'm still on a cloud after this celebration.

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  13. Love this story.... Love the first paragraph about the various marathons in life and the finish lines... Love Jolie's smiling beautiful face (and yours) in all the pics... what a fitting name she has.

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    1. It's nice to have a happy ending to a story like this! I'm glad I was able to play a small part in her journey.

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  14. What a powerful post and yes triumphant indeed for Jolie! Wendy I am so very glad you shared her story with us. It reminds me that precious life should not be taken for granted and that we too can triumphant over any obstacle in our path just as Jolie has! Well wishes for her and her family!

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    1. I thought about her all through my marathon journey last fall. We get to choose to run long distances, she didn't get to choose her race. No complaints for me.

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  15. Tears!! SO many tears! What a beautiful story and a beautiful family!! Lots of prayers for continued health for sweet little Jolie!

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    1. Prayers are good! Hoping upon hope that she lives a long full life!

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  16. GO JOLIE!!!! What a fighter. Certainly puts the importance we put on our running marathons into perspective.

    Paul is going through chemo again but he is always positive. He notes that some KIDS have to go through it and he is lucky he didn't have to go through it as a child. He is such a good person. I have a feeling I would be wallowing in the "why me" but instead he looks at others who suffer greater than him and feels bad for them.

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    1. So many cancer patients I have cared for over the years have the same attitude as Paul and Jolie. It's so humbling to think about what they are facing and the trivial stuff we complain about.

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  17. Thank you sharing this story! So inspired by this little girl. Sending lots of prayers to this little fighter and her family.

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    1. There is so much inspiration here. I am so lucky to be a part of this.

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  18. well, it was a wise decision to take a pass on the mascara this morning #blubberingmess What an amazing triumph! Thank you for sharing Jolie's victory with us ;-)

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    1. I'll tell you, I'm not much of a crier, but her mom made me cry on Saturday! Tears of joy tho. And I"ve been on a cloud every since.

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  19. What an amazing story! Thanks for sharing. Sending lots of positive thoughts that the road ahead is smooth for her.

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  20. oh wow what an incredible story. You have me in tears! Thanks for sharing Jolie's finish line and how special that you were there to cheer her along.

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  21. What an awesome champion! Way to go, Jolie, and her amazing parents!

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    1. They are truly amazing human beings. We should all be so lucky to know people like this.

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  22. Thanks for sharing. Brought tears to my eyes.
    It was nice to have a peak into your professional life... such an important part of who we are, but that we rarely share on our blogs.

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    1. The theme for today nicely collided with my professional life. Fate, I think...

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  23. Totally crying. Yay Jolie! Such a beautiful post.

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  24. Thank you so much for sharing Jolie's story today. Jolie, her parents, and her team of health care providers exemplify triumph!

    Thanks for linking up!

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    1. I couldn't think of a better story for today's word! Talk about timing, Deb, you seem to hit the nail on the head every week. It's like you are living my life or something...

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  25. Such an awesome story, so happy she is now cancer free. What an amazing family, God really blessed Jolie with wonderful parents and Doctors who encouraged her every step of the way. What a triumph.

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    1. Such a positive attitude from Jolie and her parents!

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  26. Oh Wendy what a beautiful story. This actually gave me chills while I read it. You are so blessed to have an occupation where you are literally helping save lives. Congrats to sweet Jolie!

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    1. I never think about it like that, but you are right. It's amazing how one situation can really turn around your attitude. I'm feeling pretty good about my job right now.

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  27. Wow, what an amazing story! I'm so glad to see Jolie was triumphant in her battle with cancer. This post certainly puts a lot of my current 'frustrations' in perspective.

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    1. It really does change your outlook, doesn't it?

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  28. That is a very long process, so glad to see Jolie is triumphant! You blessed Jolie and her family that day, because you started her on the road to being cancer free.

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    1. What a nice perspective! Usually when I see kids who end up with a bad diagnosis, they don't feel very positive towards me. This was a nice experience.

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  29. OMG this story is incredible! I have nothing going on in my life like this, and yet I don't think I'm anywhere as positive as this family. Jolie sounds like an amazing little girl! She sure is lucky to have a doctor like you as well as a really big support team!

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    1. Exactly! I get so down about the smallest things...and then there's this.

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  30. Amazing story! I know not all your stories end in triumph but these stories have to make your heart sing! Thanks for sharing, what a beautiful young lady!

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    1. This is a story we didn't expect to end in triumph. That makes it all the more special!

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  31. It's not right to be crying this early in the morning but I am! WOW!!!! The power of positivity and obviously a very STORNG little girl. Thank you so much for sharing this story as it brings some MUCH needed perspective my way today. Just amazing!!!

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    1. These parents are so positive. I just don't know how they did it but they stayed the course.

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  32. What a beautiful story!!! Being on the 'behind the scenes' side of healthcare, we don't get to witness such amazing finish lines!! Thanks for sharing your heartfelt story. xo

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    1. It really is Jolie's story. I just provided the metaphor... :p

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  33. Indeed, the most inspiring post anyone could ever write about being triumphant!

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  34. What a poignant and powerful story, Wendy - I'm all teared up! It's clear not only how strong Jolie is, but what a blessing you are to her and her family.

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    1. I played such a small part in all this. I'm just glad to know this amazing family!

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  35. What a great story, Wendy. I'm so happy that Jolie's mom was okay with you sharing her story with all of us. She's such an inspiration.

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    1. It really puts everything into perspective, I think.

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  36. I'm so happy for Jolie and her family!!!!! The strength of a young person to fight that fight really touches the survivor in me. I love the image of Jolie with the boxing gloves. She knocked that cancer out!#CrossYourFinishLines

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    1. She sure did! With a great team of her parents behind her.

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  37. What a great story! and I'm crying... What a sweet girl and how awesome she has such great parents! Congrats to Jolie and her parents!

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  38. What a sad but yet beautiful story!! Thanks for sharing. Jolie is so lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people. I am so happy to hear she is doing much better.

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    1. Me too! It's just been an amazing journey.

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  39. This is totally awesome. I see so many of these kids in the PICU at their worse and see many NOT be triumphant. Cheers to Jolie!! What an amazing story and a very lucky little girl!

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    1. I'm so happy to share in her triumphant journey!

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