What’s Gotten Me Through; Part Two: Family, My Everyday Heroes

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A typical family photo of myself and my two children. My eight-year-old son loves making goofy faces in pictures, he rarely will take a picture that involves a “normal” photo smile. My daughter is following in her brother’s footsteps but completely hams it up when she sees the camera! I caught her a bit off guard with this random selfie of us though ūüôā

Family. The people we sometimes take for granted because no matter what, they’re stuck with us. Family doesn’t necessarily mean blood relatives. It can be friends that have been there for us when we hadn’t the strength to be there for ourselves. The ones who pull us out of dark places, sometimes telling us what we need to hear and not what we want to hear.

Between my children, family and friends–my journey through cancer has been far more heartwarming¬†than I could have imagined. There has been an enormous outpour of love, emotional support and prayers, good healing energy since my diagnosis.

I come from a large family; five siblings, sixteen nieces and nephews–plus more cousins, aunts and uncles than I can count right now. We all have our differences, from upbringing to personality type. Admittedly, there are several family members that I consciously chose to eliminate from my life and the lives of my children because of their unhealthy life style habits. It doesn’t make them bad people, just individuals¬†who’ve chosen to make poor¬†decisions over time.

But those that are around me, have been there for me through all of this. My mother has driven me or dropped me off & picked me up from every single chemo session. Except for the ones where another family member stepped in to accompany me. These people have seen me in my moodiest, most exhausted and ornery state of being and continued to love me anyhow. They are not deserters, they’re emotional soldiers. Trudging through the mud of emotional chaos, never leaving me behind.¬†

I consider the nurses to be my second family. These women are such troopers. One day in chemo I overheard one of the patients talking down to the nurse a bit. He reminded me of my maternal grandfather whenever he was in the hospital, tough as nails and not happy about being so dependent on other people to take care of his health for him. The nurses bore a lot of the brunt of my grandfather’s crankiness. This gentleman was probably in his mid to late seventies and was no different.¬†

“Ya know, I haven’t got all day here. I’ve been waiting almost a half hour here. Let’s go.” He went on about how upset he was and how much he didn’t appreciate waiting around for so long. This nurse was exactly the person this man needed to see. She smoothed things out with him, calmed him down and charmed him right out of the funk he was in.

Can you imagine the number of patients, the contrast of personality types, the mood swings from treatment and everything in between that these nurses have to deal with from us cancer patients? I can tell you from experience, when the steroids kick in and I’m exhausted but too wired to sleep, I don’t even enjoy being around myself. And I happen to love my own company, alone time. They should be walking around with superhero capes as far as I’m concerned.¬†

I’m going to miss these women when treatment is done. The conversations about our children, or their grandchildren. I even discovered that one of the nurses has a younger sister who happens to be the librarian at my son’s elementary school! Imagine that.¬†I’m very fortunate to have so many people interwoven in my life, creating a structure of emotional stability. A web to catch me when I start to fall off the branch¬†of positive vibes and an uplifted spirit.

I’ve never been the type to mope about, throwing myself a “pity party” over what I’m going through. Everyone copes in their own way but for me it has been just the opposite. Cancer has changed me for the better. Little things that used to bother me before, I’ve learned to let go of. Everyday blessings are welcomed not looked over with a passing glance. Even without a life threatening diagnosis, life is still a blessing. But something about knowing it really could be over in an instant, fully grasping that concept, it allows for so much more appreciation to come into play.

Valuing family is something I was raised with an understanding of. Your family comes first, end of statement. Above all else, above your “friends” (meaning people who pretend to be there for you but really aren’t, true friends are absolutely considered family in my book). Above your job, above all else, family is always placed first. I always thought I’d done my best to live by this concept.

Until I was diagnosed with cancer. Once I began chemo and began connecting more with my family, I began to really comprehend just what that meant. I’ve always loved them but I began to truly see them with an open heart. I began to appreciate them more. To be more grateful. And I’ve never been closer to my family than I am now. Which is just plain crazy to me because most of us were already so close.¬†

Even though family has become part two of the “What”s Gotten Me Through” series of my blog, they really are number one in my life. And yes I may be bias because they are my children, but my son and daughter are absolutely the most amazing two people I have ever had the grace of knowing. I’m pretty sure they’re teaching more than I could ever hope to teach them. They both have these highly opinionated personalities, head strong and independent, goofy but wise. My daughter is fearless and my son could talk his way out of any contract or negotiation. One of his mentors once told me “that boy is going to be a famous lawyer someday and buy you your dream house!” It’s no wonder he’s been given the unofficial name of “The Great Debater” in my family. Couldn’t imagine were he gets that from!

My daughter is this feisty, fearless, independent little spit fire of a grown woman trapped in a three-year-old’s body. My son just said to me the other day “Mom, some of the stuff she says, she sounds just like a teenager. Where does she come up with it?” She’s always been that way. At nine months she would take the bowl of baby food and throw it on the ground when I tried to spoon feed her myself. She’s always wanted to do things on her own since the beginning.¬†

I’m blessed to know them, to love them, to be their mother. Some days are tougher than others and some are like a cake walk. But no matter what, I’m thankful for them being parts of my life. Thankful for the friends and even complete strangers who have been there for me along this journey. Thankful for the other cancer patients that I’ve been able to connect with. There’s a very special connection between us all, kindred spirits who recognize the aches and pains of chemo or diagnosis or radiation or all of the above and more. I wouldn’t change it for anything. If someone said they had the ability to go back in time and take away my cancer, I wouldn’t let them. The last nine or ten months have allowed me to accelerate the growth of my soul and shoot out rockets of desire for the most beautiful, wonderful things that life has to offer. My life has shifted from a place of complacency to that of drive, desire and passion. I’ve never been more grounded in who I am, as I am now. For that dear cancer, I will always be grateful.

 

 

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