Thursday, September 1, 2011

Amy has passed from this life to NEW life.

Amy Sockaci  - Obituary
Posted: Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A short life is not a wasted life, especially when that life was lived by Amy Beth Sockaci.

Born February 27, 1979, she was nicknamed 'Mighty Amy' because she was the tiniest baby in the nursery but screamed the loudest. Amy passed from this life to more life on Monday, August 29, 2011, at the tender age of 32. Mighty Amy always lived life to the fullest.

Amy graduated with highest honors from Riverside High School in 1997, where she was coached in Cross Country and Track by her dad, setting school records in the 1 and 2 mile relays. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from Kent State University, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2001. For the last nine years, Amy was employed at Burt Hill in Butler, PA, achieving certification as a Registered Architect in 2009 in the midst of battling cancer.

Amy demonstrated time and again in her beautiful life that with God you can transform loss into gain. When first diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma four years ago, Amy repeatedly bounced back from radiation and chemotherapy with the most radiant smile, and she wore her unusually gorgeous bald head with pride. She was an inspiration to other patients, as well as hospital staff or others who encountered her, many of us realizing by her example how much we have to be thankful for and how much stronger we can be.

When relapse required a Donor Stem Cell transplant, she responded to its coming limitations by embarking on a six week adventure backpacking through Europe with her best friend Sherri and trying new things - such as paragliding over the Swiss Alps and hot air ballooning over the German countryside. This trip also achieved another item from her 'Life List', visiting the landmarks of her mother's childhood in Germany with her mother and sister Erika. Upon her return, her health had improved enough to cancel the scheduled procedure!

One year later, a Donor Stem Cell Transplant was required, and she again went on an adventure, realizing a dream of traveling to Alaska. She blogged about her experiences - sharing her faith, her hope and her joyful love of this life. At, she described herself in this way: 'I'm Amy a joyful, colorful, perennially hopeful lover-of-life! I believe that each day is truly a gift from God, and I strive to make each one count. Even when it doesn't quite go right, it is still an adventure to - hopefully - be enjoyed (or at the very least learned from).'

Amy recognized the Source of her vitality as the Spirit of Jesus Christ living in her. She could often be seen on Sunday mornings praising God down front at Victory Christian Center, her arms outstretched, her head lifted. She adored her church family and highly valued how much they supported her every step of the way. Her favorite activities included Victory Gardeners, the Happy Campers, and Friday Night River Services.

In mission trips to various places - Los Angeles, CA; Tijuana, Mexico; Coatepeque, El Salvador (twice); Post-Katrina Mississippi (twice); and Samaritan's Purse, NC - she applied the skills she learned from her father in building and construction. In her free time, Amy was always generous with her creativity, making gifts of her photography, sewing, and writing.

The last item on her life list is, 'To do something really memorable and special to impact the world and leave an amazing legacy.' Amy may not have realized that she did indeed accomplish this goal, touching everyone she encountered and leaving an amazing legacy - 'Every day is a Gift from God . . . every day is an adventure. Enjoy the journey!'

Amy is survived by her parents, John and Elizabeth Sockaci, of Ellwood City, PA; by her sister Erika Sockaci of Los Angeles, CA; her sister-in-law Jennifer Deaton, also of Los Angeles, CA; her grandfather Zachary Sockaci of Fombell, PA; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. She was preceded in death by her grandparents Erna and William Bartley and Helen Sockaci, and her cousin Stephen Sockaci.
Services will be held Wednesday, August 31, at Victory Christian Center, 3899 McCartney Road, Lowellville, OH 44436 ( Calling Hours will be held at the church from 4 to 7 p.m., with a memorial service immediately following at 7 p.m.

Graveside services will be Thursday, September 1, at 11 a.m. at Lillyville Church of God cemetery, 408 Hickernell Road, Ellwood City, PA, 16117, with a luncheon to follow in the Lillyville Church fellowship hall.

Memorial contributions can be made in Amy's name to Family House Shadyside, Pittsburgh, PA ( and to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Monkeying Around

I was just laying here on the couch, eating some kettle korn and surfing the internet – a pretty pleasant way to spend the evening after a long day at the Stem Cell Clinic receiving a drug infusion and a couple of units of blood – and the theme song from “The Monkees” began running through my brain. Now, I know that seems very random, and really it is, but earlier in the day I read something that referenced them. So naturally, it lodged in the gray matter somewhere, only to pop out again now.

The theme song conjured up memories of summers at my grandparent’s house. My sister and I grew up without a TV in our house until I was 12. To pass the time, we did crazy things like color, read, ride bikes or create with Legos. In the summers and on Saturdays during the school year, we would visit my grandparents, Oma and Opa, who had an enchanted spare room with a closet stocked with Oma’s old high heels and costume jewelry, a sofa-bed and (drum-roll, please) a cable TV – heaven for a TV-starved 10 year-old girl! At night, my sister Erika and I would plop ourselves on the sofa-bed and turn the TV to Nick-at-Nite to enjoy a line-up of “I Dream of Jeanie”, “Bewitched”, and of course “The Monkees”. I think we were both captivated by Davey Jones and his accent. But who wasn’t!? Our “official” bedtime was something like 10 o’clock when we were at Oma and Opa’s, but Erika and I always turned off the lights and turned the volume down really low, huddling close to the TV to sneak in an extra episode or two before we would hear one grandparent loudly proclaim to the other from outside our door, “I’m going to go check on the girls now,” and we would hurriedly turn off the TV and hop under the covers, knowing we’d gotten away with it yet again!

Playing dress up with the TV in the background.  1983

Vegging out to the TV.  Is there someone else in the room?
 Anyway, back from the reverie and back to the point…

As the lyrics from “The Monkees” theme song were absent-mindedly strumming through my head, I began to think about the words, which I’d never really done before.  (I added the underlines for emphasis, hint, hint...)

"Here we come
Walking down the street
We get the funniest looks from
Everyone we meet.

Hey, hey we're the Monkees,
and people say we monkey around.
But we're too busy singing,
to put anybody down.

We go wherever we want to,
Do what we like to do.
We don't have time to get restless,
There's always something new.

Hey, hey we're the Monkees,
and people say we monkey around.
But we're too busy singing,
to put anybody down.

We're just trying to be friendly,
Come watch us sing and play.
We're the young generation,
And we got something to say.

Hey, hey we're the Monkees,
You never know where we'll be found.
So you'd better get ready,
We may be comin to your town.

Hey, hey we're the Monkees,
and people say we monkey around.
But we're too busy singing,
to put anybody down.”

After I laughed at the first lines about getting funny looks from people, which I do so frequently these days with my swollen face and hospital mask, a few important questions and thoughts popped out at me.

Am I too busy singing, worshipping, and praising God to put anybody down?

• As my Pastor has often said, “If you’re bored with the Christian life, you aren’t doing it right”.  Am I wasting time being restless, or am I looking to that “something new”?

• Finally, am I sharing my testimony of God’s power and saving grace in my life, and the truth of Jesus with others in friendship and through the example of my life?  Or am I too focused on other things to think about it, and possibly missing opportunities to be a witness for Christ? Am I sharing what God has uniquely given me to say?

These are not easy questions that good ole Davey Jones poses to me. I’m going to have to think hard and answer myself truthfully. And the truth is that I'm not doing all I could be...but God's grace is greater.  So, my choice at this point is to either be content with that answer and continue as is, or choose to accept God's grace and commit to doing something about it. 
What about you, how would you answer Davey?

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Gratitude

Last night I was reading the private blog of a fellow Hodgkin's Lymphoma survivor who wrote, what I think, are some very provoking thoughts on positivity and gratitude.  After being in remission for some time, she just learned that she has relapsed.  Here is an excerpt from her blog...

"I don't want any other cancer warrior to think I am bubbly and optimistic twenty four seven even after receiving such disappointing news.  There is a huge difference between being 'happy' and being 'grateful.'  The gratefulness piece is always in me. Always.  However, it was tough to get out of bed the last few days and to look at the bright side of things when the reality is that more treatment will continue in the future.  I think it's important for those that are ill or receive hard news, that we are still gentle with ourselves.  In the beginning I used to repress these feelings and ignore them, realizing they would only come out later to bite me in the butt.  Now, if I feel down for a few days, I let myself.  Usually after a week or two, I find myself back on my feet again and moving.  I am no superwoman -- none of us are, so I believe its truly important to let yourself 'be' in these types of situations."

Now, I am generally a very grateful person - and 99% of the time a very optimistic person - but I have to admit that this girl is one step ahead of me because I've only just learned what she already has, that it is ok to let yourself feel down when you actually do...and to let yourself 'be' when you need to.  Sometimes it is necessary to experience those feelings, and then they pass and you move on.  Like she says, for me the gratitude and hope are ever present, but I've come to realize that it is not just ok - but healthy - to let myself experience the emotions of sadness or frustration.

Over the past few months of dealing with chronic Graft versus Host Disease (since my previous post), I've had a few of these moments as my strength has been sapped and my body has been changing in not-so-pleasant ways from two months of being on high-dose steroids.  It has been a frustrating two months, and Wednesday I was admitted to the hospital yet again, while the doctors try to figure out why my blood levels all tanked over the past week.

Yesterday they performed another bone-marrow biopsy on me...and afterwards I decided that I needed to reward myself, since it is such a painful procedure.  This is another good lesson learned - how to allow myself rewards - and so I walked across the street from the hospital to Starbucks and treated myself to an iced mocha caffe with extra whipped topping!  Yum!  Now, that is something to be grateful for!  Also, during the biopsy I just kept thinking, "yeah, this hurts, but at least I'm not cutting off my arm with a dull pen knife!  (Have you seen the movie, 127 Hours?)

So, in addition to those two, I'd like to share a few other random things that I'm grateful for (in no particular order):

- back porches and hammocks
- having a car that is paid off
- dental floss (i love that feeling of freshly flossed teeth!)
- Sunday breakfasts with Sherri and Pam
- spring flowers and a mom with a serious green thumb

- chubby babies - they're just too cute!
- being one of the few people of my generation who has actually benefited from Social Security, and not just paid into it
- today I'm not sore from yesterday's bone marrow biopsy
- being able to encourage people
- wash -n- wear hair
- best friends, birthdays, ice-cream pie from Handel's, and licking the plate clean!

- the independence of being single
- joyful memories
- finding those perfect shoes that aren't just cute, but make your feet feel awesome...and then buying them in two colors!
- friends with campers who invite you over and feed you yummy camp food (Peggy)
- kids who innocently ask why that girl is wearing a mask, and parents who aren't afraid to give a real answer instead of embarrassingly shushing them
- new home office furniture that I will soon be's like a big jigsaw puzzle and I love it!
- Jesus, who never changes and is the source of my gratitude, hope, strength and life
- my laptop, cell phone, ipod, Netflix, and HGTV
- living next door to my parents
- wonderfully supportive friends at work who check in on me and two years ago helped send me to Europe
- looking forward to traveling again
- my nurses at the stem cell clinic who always make me laugh and smile with their antics

It's certainly not a comprehensive list...I could keep going - fruit, indoor plumbing, clothing with elastic, eyesight - but I'll stop for now and just ask this...

What are you grateful for?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Woo Hoo!

This is short and sweet, and sans pictures...
But I have GREAT NEWS to share.  Today I received the results of the PET/CT that I had on Wednesday... and it is No Evidence of Malignancy!!!  See, didn't I tell you, great news!  :)  This is scan no. 2 since my allogenic stem cell transplant last July.

The only downside is that I have had a flare up of graft vs. host disease (GVHD) of the gut, which has unfortunately landed me in the hospital for the Easter weekend, so that I can receive some high-dose steroids to reign it in.  My doctor promises though that he will release me so that I can eat Easter dinner with my family on Sunday.  Bummer though that I am missing both Good Friday and Easter Morning services at my church.  That's ok...God's here too!

Happy Easter to YOU!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Power Outage

I came home around 7 yesterday evening after a full and fun day that included a wonderful church service, breakfast with Sherri, and shoe shopping (yay!).  I also arrived home with two new pairs of shoes (double yay!)!  Famished, I flipped on the light switch in the kitchen to begin making dinner, and nothing happened.  So I looked to the clock on the microwave and it was blank...looked at the VCR in the living room, blank also.  Ugh, the power is out.  I guess that will really limit my dinner options - no stove, no microwave...

But my first priority, while there was still some daylight, was assembling as many candles as were available and lighting them around the house.  I gathered 23 in all and had them strewn about the kitchen, living room and bathroom.  I dug out my camping gear where my headlamp was stashed, and set about making my tuna salad sandwich, the only thing I could come up with that did not require cooking of any sort.

Then I sat down to a very lovely candlelit dinner while the chimes on my back porch played wildly in the wind that was undoubtedly the culprit for the loss of electricity.  Aside from the chimes, everything was so sounds from the furnace or the refrigerator...those barely noticeable hums that our electronic appliances eminate that just blend in to the background unnoticed, that is until they aren't there.

It was quite a beautiful evening actually.  Peaceful and calming.  And I thought to myself, why don't I just turn out the lights and turn off the electronics and enjoy this same peacefulness more often?  Why do I only enjoy it when it is forced upon me?

I couldn't help myself, but had to grab my camera and begin taking pictures of all the candles and the glow and reflections that they were creating.  It was enchanting.

When the power did come back on around 10 o'clock, I decided that I would just leave the lights out and finish the evening by candlelight until bedtime.  I did however appreciate having the furnace back on, as the house was becoming a bit chilly...