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.

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Survivor

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day.   A day to celebrate and honor survivors everywhere.  A day to plant seeds of hope for future fights.  I thought a lot today about the road to here; and somewhere in reminiscing, I remembered one particular day in Tessa’s treatment.

It was the second week into Tessa’s second round on a bright Saturday morning.  Tessa had been in isolation due to influenza for about a week.  The effects of isolation as well as the effects of chemotherapy were catching up with her.  She needed a break and so did I.  Just as we were both about to reach our breaking points, a volunteer happily waltzed in like the breath of fresh air that we both needed.  I waited as Tessa adjusted to the new face in her room.  Ten minutes later, I grabbed my computer and my phone and headed to the seating area on the main level where the sun shines brightly through the walls of glass.

I found an open chair and set myself up to clear my head.  To my right I could hear the hurried sound of little feet followed by adult steps.  A little boy of about five years zipped by to the chairs across from me.  His mom and dad were just behind.  They set down their things and had a brief conversation while the boy ran circles around them.  They had my attention, but I was pretending to work behind my laptop.

The hospital photographer, adorned with his gear, greeted the family.  They discussed options for pictures and Christmas greeting cards that they could make from the pictures they were about to take.  It was obvious that the boy had been or was a hospital patient.  The photographer set up his things, and he let the little boy take test pictures by letting him push the shutter button.  Mom pulled a small green chalk board out and carefully brought it to her son.  They were ready to take his first shot.

The chalk board was turned my way.  The word “Survivor” written beautifully across the board with a small yellow ribbon above.  I froze.  Survivor.  The yellow ribbon being the symbol for childhood cancer, and the word across it applauding his fight.  He did it.  I could not see his whole face, but I could see from the side how much his cheeks were pushed back from the size of his smile. Dad placed his arms around his wife as they watched their son take some of the most influential pictures of his life.  As tears rolled from eyes, I bowed my head to privately dry my cheeks.  That little boy held up his sign proud.  I thought to myself, he is here.  He is a survivor.

Suddenly that break that I was needing so badly felt too long.  I collected my things and heading back to the fourth floor.  My pace became faster by the step.  In what felt like the longest elevator ride back to our floor, I told myself that someday that would be Tessa holding her own “Survivor” sign.  Someday that would be her family kneeling beside her to take the same pictures.  Someday her smile would stretch that far again.  And someday she, too, would be a survivor.   

And in times of uncertainty and despair, when hope was just out of reach, prayers rushed in.

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Survivor, she is.  Hallelujah and amen.

I thought hard about what it means to be a survivor.  In order to be a survivor, the odds must be beat and the adversity must be toppled. But the word survivor only exists because there are those who do not make it; never because the size of the fight was not enough.  They do not lose because they gave up.  Their fights end this way because they gave everything they had and there was nothing left to go to battle with.  Some say that is when cancer wins.  I say that is when peace beats cancer.  Freedom from this disease comes two very different ways.

While I do not have Tessa captured holding a sign indicating her survivorship, I do have her here with me every single day.  And, that my friends, never escapes me.

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