It’s all in the perspective

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Saturday was an interesting day for us.  We woke up at the crack of dawn because my sister, mother and I had the fabulous idea that we should have a multi-family yard sale to purge all of the things we no longer needed and clear out some space for the holidays. I had mixed feelings about this, since selling these things, even to families who needed them, felt like selling memories.  I remembered the first time I took our 12-year-old daughter out for a jog in her jogging stroller.  I remembered changing our son into his first Red Sox outfit in the pack ‘n play.  It was definitely a nostalgic day for me.

After wrapping up a successful yard sale, we were able to check Facebook for the fist time all day.  Part of me wishes we hadn’t.  Our news feeds delivered the message that one of our survivor friends had lost his fight with leukemia in the early hours of the morning.  This news hit my husband very hard.  A high school friend, they had been diagnosed around the same time and experienced chemotherapy together.  They carried a bond that most of us are unable to comprehend.

I suspect that this loss brought a little bit of nervousness.  Even though he has been in remission for over three years, there are triggers that will cause him to become apprehensive about his success.  It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’m sure that losing a friend is one of those triggers.

For me, this news put the items we sold into perspective.  Even though they carried tons of happy memories, they are just things.  The memories live on in our hearts.  It made me remember what is really important; the people who touch our lives and leave a positive, lasting impact.  Rest in peace our friend.  You will never be forgotten.

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Quality Time

It is not often that my husband and I have “kid free” time together.  We are always jetting off to some school event or swim team practice or work related responsibility.  Today, I’m happy to say, we were able to take some time to be together and enjoy one another.

We started out morning by dropping our children off to other people.  Our daughter strutted her way to middle school in her very stylish skinny jeans and baggy sweatshirt.  She’s just like her mama in that she loves the fall weather. Wait until she realizes that this is New England and she will be back in shorts and a tank top tomorrow morning.

Our son went off to his day care provider, where he was convinced that the “letter of the day” would be O.  I love that he has 3-year-old concerns.  I also love that he is social enough to be confident outside in the world.

Children deposited, we picked up Grammy (my mother) and headed off on our adventure to The Big Apple, a farm in Wrentham, Massachusetts.  We have been going to this farm for the fabulous homemade apple cider and donuts since I was a young child.  It is one of my favorite places because it really does make me feel like a kid again.  Nothing has changed in the past 40 years and I love their dedication to the history of the farm.  The ever-so-delicious caramel apples don’t hurt either!

Big Apple Farm Store

If you ever get the opportunity to venture to Wrentham, it is definitely worth the detour.  Close proximity to the Simon Outlet Mall makes it a double positive.  Since I couldn’t convince my husband to make a stop at the outlets, we hit a couple of stores that were necessities, then had a leisurely lunch.  It was a morning well spent and it was nice to spend time with both of them without constantly being interrupted with “Mama, I want a granola bar” or “Can I go to a friend’s house?”

However, 2:30pm is fast approaching.  Children will be retrieved from their respective sites.  Life will go on as it has for the past few years in our “new normal” and I will cherish the few hours I had to feel like we were dating again.  It is important to take the time to support one another in your own relationship and nurture the bond, even in small doses.

Swapped Roles

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I’ve known my husband since I was 8 years old.  Although we drifted in and out of one another’s lives for the first 28 years, the man who I married was not much different from the boy I met in the 2nd grade.  He would give anyone the shirt off his back.  He always thinks of others first.  He has always been a risk taker.  Prior to his back surgeries, skydiving and dirt biking were two of his favorite activities.  The world has always been his oyster and that balanced out my serious, studious nature.  We were always the yin to the other’s yang.

In the face of dealing with the re-diagnosis of several friends, I have watched my husband transition from a free spirit to a much more serious person.  He has become more reflective and sadly, fatalistic.  Today, in speaking about a friend he lamented that “my time is my time”.  I know this is his way of dealing with the reality that if people he knows can relapse, so can he.  I am now the positive thinker that believes with all my heart that we have beat the Big C for good.  Essentially, we have switched roles.  He needed to come to grips with his own mortality and I need to believe that we have a lifetime ahead of us.  I didn’t realize that I loved him until I had known him for 27 years.  Life is not cruel enough to take him away from me before we have the opportunity to make up for lost time. I am going to continue to believe that – and I have enough positivity for both of us.

The Soapbox (Part I)

soapbox

Although I’m happy to be back blogging again so soon (which is a rarity for me), my motivation for doing so is a little less positive.  I can see this exercise becoming a regular feature, so I’ll try to stick to the topic at hand.

As I mentioned I my last post, we have several friends who have not been as lucky as we have and are no longer  “remission families”.  We have learned recently that one of those families has come to the end of their treatment options and has begun to prepare for the next phase of this tragic journey – loss of life. This family has elected to involve their teenager in the decision-making process.  I, for one, think that this is commendable.  Every member of the family will have to deal with the loss.  Help them to transition by allowing them to be an active part of the process. Remain a family unit as long as possible, especially when you know the dynamic will be changing in the not too distant future.

Whether or not you agree with the way a family chooses to cope with illness and/or loss, criticizing their methods is never the answer.  Blasting them on social media or to their friends is counter productive  They are already dealing with a very, very sensitive issue the best way they know how.  If you cannot actively support their decisions, please stay silent.  Not only are you making a horrible situation worse by being critical, you are potentially destroying your future relationship with the family.  Everyone deals with pain and loss in a different way – your way is not better or worse, but it is not the path they have chosen for their unique situation.  Be a supportive friend or family member by honoring their wishes.  Your opinions are your own.  The consequences of sharing them will be felt long after the damage is done.

American author Gail Sheehy once wrote, “People in grief need someone to walk with them without judging them”.  Please be mindful of the pain words can inflict on those already suffering before passing judgment on decisions you cannot begin to understand.  When in doubt, be kind.  Life is too short.

A Recent Reality Check

Lucky is not something I have been especially feeling lately.  We have stumbled over a few roadblocks and things haven’t been going very smoothly.  I’ve definitely slipped into a rut.  It is very easy to feel sorry for yourself – and much harder to pick yourself up.  I try my best to emulate the old adage “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”, but it can be difficult to be the strong one.  Sometimes, I want someone else to pick me up.  Fortunately, the positive, strong side of me knows that eventually things will turn around.  I hang my hat on the theory that everything happens for a reason and I have only been given challenges that I can overcome. Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone.

Social media has become a great way for us to keep in touch with people who we don’t get to physically connect with often.  Whether we live near or far, we are all busy and struggle to find time to spend with everyone we would like to catch up with. This has made it is necessity to reach out via news feeds and photo sharing.  I love seeing all of the August posts filled with back to school photos and end of the summer beach happiness. These posts lift my spirits at a time when I am watching our first baby prepare for 7th grade and our last baby heading toward what he excitedly refers to as “big school” (and I breathe a sigh of relief that it is only pre-school).  Days like this make me realize how fast life moves and how luck I am to share each and every day with my soul mate and best friend. Cancer did not beat us and for that I am eternally grateful.

At last count, I could count 11 cancer survivors in our extended circle of friends and family – and that’s without really thinking about it.  I’m sure, I could come up with a few more who have been in remission long enough that I rarely use the term survivor to identify them any longer. The number alone is a shocking revelation of how significantly “the big C” has changed my life and my friends.

Social media has also become a way for us to share sad news with our extended network of friends without having to do so face-to-face.  It gives us the ability to prepare the delivery and we can avoid saying the wrong thing or reacting in a way that the person is not prepared for.  Lately, that has happened to us far too often.  Of the 11 people that we do, and always will, consider survivors, four of them have recently received the news that they are no longer in remission.

In addition to feeling horribly for their families – I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through – these diagnoses scare the living daylights out of me.  I know my husband saw the oncologist in the spring and continues to be in remission, but this provides me with the reality check that there are no guarantees in life.  All of a sudden, the memories that I have suppressed of holding hands during chemotherapy sessions and  long nights in the ER have come flooding back.  The fear that every day would be the last has crept back into my sub-conscious. I see the moments of fear in the eyes of my husband that he is going to be next and that’s when I remember that I need to be strong.  I have 3 very important people counting on me.

In the grand scheme of things, we are only here on Earth for a short time.  We need to make the most of it.  Take the life that you have been given and run with it.  Hug your family and friends and be good to one another.  Make memories that will last more than your lifetime – they will be your legacy.

A New Beginning

Hi to all who continue to follow! Although it has been a busy 6 months for me, I’m happy to announce that I will now have more time to dedicate to this blog.  After 2 years of constant classes and homework assignments, I have recently completed my Bachelor’s degree.  It’s long over due, but I now hold a BS in Healthcare Administration.  This would have never been possible without the love and continuous support of my husband and children.  Working full-time, being a mom and going to school can be challenging, but if I can do it, anyone can!  I highly recommend online learning as a way to complete any degree program to advance your education.

I went to New England College, which has a traditional campus in Henniker, New Hampshire.  This allowed me to actually walk across the stage at graduation.  It was an experience that I will never forget and an experience that I’m glad my daughter was able to witness.  At 12 years old, she is very impressionable and I want her to understand how a college education can be – and I selfishly want her to be proud of me.

Screenshot_2015-05-16-19-35-41_resizedFor more inforamtion about online degree completion, visit http://www.universityalliance.com/

Of course, while all of this was happening, I continued to be a Survivor’s Wife.  My husband had a second spinal laminectomy as a result of chemotherapy-related vertebrae compression.  We have now been told that he will be permanently disabled and will never return to work.  This has definitely been a blow to his ego, as he has always done his part to financially support our family.  Until this final determination, a part of him had held onto the hope that some day our life would return to normal.  Well, it may not be our old normal, but, as survivors, we know that this will become our new normal.  To be honest, I’m a little bit jealous.  He will get to continue to stay home with our children while I am at work, something I have never had the opportunity to do.  This is just another change in a constantly evolving life.

Until next time, I hope you all are well.

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