Dear Tessa: Three Years Remission

Dear Tessa,

We celebrated three years remission from leukemia yesterday and tomorrow you will visit your oncologist. Sandwiched between the two days is a trip to get labs drawn. These are regularly scheduled labs to check your TSH (thyroid) and CBC (complete blood count). The latter of the two bringing the most anxiety for obvious reasons. And right now your mama is nervous.

I see you every day and I know you are fine. But knowing what I know about leukemia and your history with it keeps the fear fresh in my mind until I can actually see your lab results on paper. I have fooled myself into thinking that taking you to get lab work done would get easier the further we got out from treatment, but the reality is that it is not easy. Ever. There is no simple, painless, straightforward way to go about drawing blood from a small child.

My heart has raced all morning and my nerves are shot. Experiences such as labs open the door to days passed. It is as though we are suddenly catapulted into unknown again, while at the mercy of things I still lack control over; and hoping with every ounce of me that we can ease our minds once more.

You will put on a brave face because that is what I will ask of you. Holding you tight as you cry, I will tell you how proud I am of you and how much I love you. When you are not looking, tears will run down my cheek but I will remind myself to wipe them away before you notice.

While the anxiety attempts its takeover, I think back to yesterday and how quickly three years have gone by.

How can I feed the fear when you have reached this incredible milestone? 

Today when I told you I was taking you to get blood drawn from your arm, I told you it was okay to be scared and that I would be there. You grabbed my face with your little hands and said, “It’s okay Mom. I can do this! Okay Mom? I can do this! I will be so brave.” 

From a once very sick little girl to a now strong and healthy big girl, you have really grown. You have a t-shirt that say “This Girl Won’t Stop.” There is a reason it is my favorite, and it isn’t because of the gold glitter font. Although that certainly helps.

Three years of growth, change and endless opportunities to live like a kid again. The reward of remission far exceeds the angst I may occasionally feel. Most importantly, you are happy.

Love you sweet girl,

Mom.

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Random Reflections

It has been a wild last few months from moving to a new place in the country, a school change for Tessa, juggling the weight of our workload, traveling and making necessary lifestyle changes. All of which contribute to this transitional phase in our lives right now.  Some days are better than others.

But at the end of every day, my heart is full and my faith is constantly restored. It feels good to find contentment in change…finally.  After a long period of heartache and chaos that came into our lives without warning, I am certain that this adjustment was the right move for our family.

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We are healing and growing from our life experiences; gaining perspective along the way.  None of which happens in a day’s time.  And none of it happened immediately after we were no longer confined by a disease that held my daughter–and our family–captive.  In the process we face hardships and frustration and we learn hard lessons.  Recovery is a long process.  When treatment ends, it absolutely does not mean that it is entirely over.  We are never going to be free from this.  Never.  Every single day it remains with us…not because we choose it that way, but because that is just a part of it. This is something many people struggle to understand, and I would not expect that understanding either from another point of view had I not experienced it myself.

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Where I once shook my fists at God, demanding an explanation, I now have peace; appreciating the road less traveled because it has opened our eyes to other things in life that we may have otherwise missed.  It also gave us the chance to really realize our dreams after all was said and done.  To have the opportunity to chase them down and live them out without justification.  It has not been easy. These dreams have been met with resistance on several ends, but I am learning to let it go.

We battle self-doubt, fear and all kinds of what-ifs; but we let it go.  When others use words or actions to try and reduce us, our achievements and even our happiness…we let it all go.  And you know what?  It is amazing how freeing it feels to do so.  To literally not give a damn about any of it; to stay solely focused on what we have going on and to know that nothing can break us down or hold us back.  Because I can’t control how, when or if negativity will approach us; but I can control how I react.  That is the mantra I roll with.

The best thing I do for myself is to spotlight my own dreams, not someone else’s; by living freely each day for myself and not in spite of anyone or anything else.  Life is incredibly short and extremely fragile, and it can change in an instant.  Knowing that, I cannot allow my energy to be exerted on things that only add unnecessary weight on my mind and heart.

We know where we have been and we know where we want to go.  Our feet are steadily planted in a path we are choosing to follow–for the first time in a very long time.  We are days away from the anniversary of the day that changed our lives forever–Tessa’s leukemia diagnosis.  The significance of this day is not lost on me.  I will struggle on that day and the days that surround it; I won’t even lie about that.

As we head into the season of giving and gratitude, this landmark occasion serves as a good reminder for me to pay attention to the present; to look past the trivial things and soak in all that is good and well; recalling how things could have been very different for her…and for us.

Give thanks.  Life is good.