OK, I keep waiting for the year when Papa will ask us to write about PROCRASTINATION, as I’m sure I could write a lengthy piece on that subject!!! BUT, I suppose that procrastination is not always a desirable character trait, and one that I have been struggling with my entire life. Nevertheless, I always seem to come through at the last minute with whatever needs to get done!
Papa gave the parents a few options for topics this year – Courage, Wisdom, Faith. All of these can certainly be intertwined in ones’ lifetime, but as I think about each one of these, “courage” seems to be the one which perhaps some identify me with, given my health struggles over the past 15 years. As some of you know, I was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer almost exactly 15 years ago. I was very young (34 – I know that seems old to you now, but believe me, it is YOUNG!), and up until then had been blissfully healthy and happy. Joe and I had just moved to Atlanta and had a two year old and a 9 month old. Without going into all of the details, I suddenly found myself in a hospital bed, in unbelievable pain, listening to a doctor tell us the prognosis. I would start chemotherapy immediately, I would lose the baby I was carrying (I was 12 weeks pregnant at the time), and I had a 50% chance of being cured of the aggressive cancer with the two rounds of almost daily chemotherapy over the next 3 months. I can still remember the helpless feeling of things spinning out of my control. Thankfully, Joe took control and asked the doctor all of the relevant questions, took copious notes, and made sure that we had all of the relevant facts about my condition and treatment. Mimi moved in with us for 3 months to take care of me and drive me back and forth to the hospital, and Joe’s dad moved in as well, serving as “nanny” for the boys during my treatment and recovery.
Thankfully, the chemotherapy was effective and although it was physically and emotionally draining, I was declared cancer free 18 months after my initial diagnosis. I returned to my “normal” life, caring for the boys and thankfully we were blessed with Kendall, against my doctors’ advice, who was not convinced that having another baby was the right thing for us to do. I spent my days SO HAPPY to be alive and thankful for each moment I got to spend as a mom (and I STILL DO).
Fast forward 10 years. I had skipped one annual mammogram (for those of you who don’t know what that is, it is sort of an xray of a womans’ breast tissue to check for indications of breast cancer). The next year I went for my mammogram and they asked me to come back for some further tests. Long story short, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Really?? I could hardly believe it…most people my age are never affected by cancer, and here I was with ANOTHER type of cancer and I was only 45 years old!! I had to undergo several surgeries to remove my breast tissue and have reconstruction. I also had to undergo 6 weeks of radiation treatments to ensure that all of the cancer cells were destroyed. I am on daily medication to prevent the cancer from returning, and thankfully it has been 5 years and I am still going strong.
So, when people hear my story, they almost always think of how I faced all of these health challenges with a tremendous amount of courage. What most of them don’t know is that I didn’t FEEL courageous at all. I was scared, confused, resentful, tremendously sad, and in pain. In hindsight, I know that deep down I had to have some courage to endure the treatments and recovery, but at the time all I could do was to pray that the doctors knew what the best treatments were, and that God would have his hand in helping my body to heal. I read a quote recently that sums it up perfectly.
“Anyone can give up, it is the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that is true strength.”
You are all very young and your life ahead of you will have many twists, turns, bumps in the road, and some of those bumps may be boulders. Having the courage to go over and around the boulders in life is not for the faint of heart, and it may be painful and scary. Keeping a positive and prayerful attitude is what helped me to have the courage to scale those boulders in my life. I certainly hope that none of you will have to endure the challenges that I have faced, and that there will be a cure for all cancers in your lifetime. Know that your family will always be there to help you through whatever life throws your way!