January 9, 2014. One of those “feels-like-a-lifetime-ago-yet-just-like-yesterday” kinda days. Surreal is probably a good way to describe it, I suppose. Still searching for a way to verbalize it in a way that really encompasses the extreme intensity of it all…not sure I ever will.
It was the day the doctor oncologist walked stoically into our hospital room to give my 15-month-old daughter her diagnosis and me, a new identity… Cancer Mom.
He didn’t use those words, of course…but that’s what he said.
Danica was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia a year ago today. Her prognosis was good, given her “stats” (age at diagnosis, amount of detectable cancer in her blood, etc.)…and in fact, we’re told ALL is the best of all cancers and that we were lucky. Lucky. Let that word roll around in your head a bit.
A few days later, as the initial devastation from her original diagnosis was wearing off and my “let’s do this” mentality was going into effect (I could literally hear the Rocky theme song in my head sometimes)…further testing revealed a rare subtype of leukemia, which would require more intense chemotherapy than we thought. In addition, it was suggested we do some genetic testing on Dani’s only full-biological sibling in case a bone marrow transplant would be required. Our “luck” had flown out the window…
Our 5 year old was tested but was not a match. Now it was time to fight and pray like crazy that we wouldn’t have to go there anyway. Fast forward to day 29 of treatment when her bone marrow aspiration and testing confirmed that Dani was in remission. But regardless of her remission status, her treatment will not change…she will continue chemotherapy for the full 2 ½ year protocol.
Cancer Mom. That’s me.
I’ve heard the saying “what happens to you doesn’t define you”. I used to really like that statement. One of empowerment, rising above, choosing your attitude. But here’s the thing…I’ve come to disagree.
I’ve come to believe that happens to you DOES help define you…how can it NOT?
My definition is long, ever-evolving, and probably considered a bit complicated. It includes things like growing up in a beautifully diverse and completely non-traditional family…marrying my high school sweetheart after an 8+ year “break”…being allowed the opportunity to help raise my two amazing step-daughters…the loss of my first child just before birth…infertility issues…adopting my incredible son…surprise “miracle” pregnancies…more miscarriages…this cancer diagnosis…
ALL those things – good and bad – things I’ve chosen and things no one ever would – DO contribute to what defines me. They’ve written on the wall of my soul and shaped me into who I am today…and I will never ever be able to go back…whether I want to or not. And if I don’t acknowledge those things as a part of who I am, they can manifest themselves in some pretty, let’s just say, crappy ways.
So I’ve chosen to acknowledge it…embrace it…deal with it…and use it for good.
I’m told all the time that I’m “inspiring”, that our family is “so strong”, that people “don’t know how we do it”…and that’s humbling. Like really, really humbling. In fact, even starting this blog based on the idea that ANYONE might feel inspired by what I share in any way is actually really hard for me to digest…and quite frankly, WAY outside my comfort zone.
And there’s a little bit of pressure too. Because sometimes it’s hard to be positive or “inspiring”…or to be happy or kind or excited or full of energy. There have been SO many days on my life journey that I’ve wanted to just curl up in a ball and cry…and I’ve even taken that opportunity to do so on occasion. NOT.very.inspiring.
But whether it’s in my comfort zone or not…and whether I feel “inspiring” or not…God kept putting the blog thing in my path again and again and again and again. As if to say, “yep, I closed a few of those doors you thought you’d be walking through in this life…let me open another and give you a BIG HUGE KICK IN THE BUTT to shove you through it.”
So…here I am. Still not sure exactly what’s on the other side…but I have a stronger faith than ever that it’s where I’m supposed to be right now.
Life isn’t easy. No one ever said it would be. In fact, God promises the opposite…that in this life we WILL have trouble. I’m willing to bet you’ve had your own set of defining moments…situations…issues…stuff yourself. But when I look at what defines me – my definition – the one still in progress – the one I want to be proud of – the one my kids know and will someday, remember me for…I want it to include everything. The good, the bad, the ugly. And more importantly, how I responded to it all.
So I’m intentional every.single.day. about living life in HONOR of my kids. So that when life brings THEM trouble…whether it be losing a lego, being picked-on at school, or God-forbid a life-altering diagnosis…they will recognize the power of that moment. And they will make a conscious choice to embrace it as an opportunity to contribute to their own definition…one that will inspire others to live with intention, walk with grace, practice humility, seize the day…ALL those cheesy-sounding clichés that actually aren’t very cheesy at all. At least not to me.
The things I’ve had to been given the opportunity to learn this past year – and all the years leading up to it – have led me to some revelations. And that’s what I hope to share on this blog. How I’ve been able to see light in the darkness, how our priorities have changed, how we continue to work through struggles, how – even through all of this pain – in many ways, I’ve become happier, healthier and more faithful than ever before.
I most certainly don’t have all the answers (although my hubby might tell you I believe otherwise 🙂 ). I’m a work in progress and often feel I have SO far to go. But I do my best to head in the right direction every day by knowing better…and doing better. And if that can be inspiring to any one in any way…I’ll take it.
So yeah…among SO many other things…I’m now a Cancer Mom. And believe it or not, I think I’m pretty.damn.lucky.