We had an amazing vacation thanks to Memories of Love!

To travel is to liveI love to travel. I love to visit other places and think I love it even more now after my surgeries. I always feel most alive seeing a new place!

Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to travel much in my life. However, my fun travel has been limited this past year due to my health.

Thankfully, we just came back from an amazingly special vacation! Ironically, it’s similar to the one we took last March, but this is so much more meaningful.

After our family vacation to Florida last March, I ended up in the hospital diagnosed with another stroke. (It had been 14 years since my last stroke.) I was then diagnosed with a rare brain disease, Moyamoya disease. There is no cure for Moyamoya but the recommended treatment is brain surgery. I had to leave my children to fly across the country with my husband to California in June for two brain surgeries a week apart. It was a trying time but I was able to get through it with faith, support, courage, amazing doctors and love.

We returned to California as a family in January for post-op testing and received the amazing news that my surgeries were successful.

Upon our return from testing, my husband and I discussed the possibility of a family vacation. Many of our friends were traveling out of the country which wasn’t an option for us. We weren’t sure what we could/would swing when an amazing opportunity basically fell into our lap.

A fellow Moyamoya patient on my Facebook support group posted about a family trip that she just took thanks to a nonprofit organization called Memories of Love. Their mission is to create joyful memories for children whose parents have a life-threatening illness.

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Created in loving memory of Marty Gottlieb, Memories of Love helps create lasting and loving memories by sending the entire family for five days to Orlando, Florida for a fun-filled vacation which include five nights/six days in a hotel and tickets to Universal Studios and Sea World. (www.memoriesoflove.org)

I was intrigued and soon spoke on the phone with the organization to learn a bit more. The staff was just delightful and so helpful. We were advised to fill out an application for a wish.

We knew our window of opportunity for escaping the New England winter was short and a bit limited due to other obligations. Yet, just two days after submitting the application electronically, we were sent a hotel confirmation for March and instructions for getting our amusement park tickets. This quick turnaround enabled us to make flights to secure our trip.

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We are so appreciative of this giving organization. It’s been a rocky year so we were overjoyed for this opportunity. Relaxing by the pool and experiencing the fun of the amusement parks created amazing memories for all of us. We were treated so well the entire time- I can’t sufficiently compliment his generous and loving organization! I probably took 300 photos but here are a few of the highlights.

Visiting Springfield, Home of the Simpsons, at Universal Studios
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Enjoying a Butter Beer at Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure
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Family smiles at Sea World
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The Shamu Show at Sea World
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Enjoying the pool at our beautiful hotel!
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Meeting Shamu at Sea World

A huge THANK YOU to Memories of Love for giving us this opportunity.

Again and again, I feel so blessed.

Flashback: My life before everything happened…

I look back at the photos of my life last March and it seems like a lifetime ago. I was leading a very full and extremely busy lifestyle.

Happy familySure, I was probably doing too much (a lesson I’ve learned this past year) but I was loving life. I was serving as a National Go Red for Women Spokeswomen for the American Heart Association, serving as Vice President of the Parent Teacher Organization, leading a Girl Scout troop of 24 girls, playing tennis twice a week, doing my kids’ library twice a week, being a room parent, and driving my kids to/from multiple activities each day. I was busy but satisfied. A few key events that happened in early 2015 were our annual family vacation and an amazing heart month in February while serving as a National Spokeswomen.

Being selected as a National Go Red for Women Real Women in September 2014 was such a cool experience. I was asked to share my personal stroke story with a national audience along with eight other ladies (my heart sisters!) We were flown out to Los Angles for training and photo/video shoot. We were treated like the “talent” and didn’t feel like a bunch of survivors but rather old friends with something very special in common. I still giggle at my serious photo that was used nationally for awareness. So funny considering I smile most of the time.

Official Go Red photoFebruary was the busy month starting with a trip to New York City for the Go Red Fashion Show during NYC’s Fashion Week and culminating with the local GRFW luncheons. My heart sisters and I were also treated like celebrities during these events where we raised awareness and had a ton of fun. Some of the highlights are captured in the photos below.

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Our annual family vacation also took place in early March. I traveled with my husband, kids and my parents to Orlando. We laid by the pool, relaxed, went to Universal Studios where we rode every exhilarating ride, ate out tons and just had a blast together! You can see the pure joy in our family photos.

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Another highlight from last March was a friend’s 40th birthday party. Held locally, it was a fun mixture of some of my closest friends and some school acquaintances. The party was a great crowd with yummy appetizers, plenty of drinks and old school music. I may have even hit the dance floor 😉 It was a fun, carefree night that I often look back at as my last hurrah!

My last hurrah!