Friday, January 31, 2014

Fear Conquered...Today

Sometimes, the losses become too much.
Sometimes, saying I’m sorry is not enough.
Sometimes, I just want to stop where I am and cry with frustration, with sadness, with anger.
Sometimes, I feel so guilty that I am still alive when so many others have lost their lives to this battle, to this damn disease.
Sometimes, I just want to hide and pretend that I don’t know what’s going on, so that the pain and sadness can’t touch me.
Sometimes, I wish that cancer would just come back already so that I could stop worrying about it and just deal with it.
Sometimes I want to scream when people tell me how amazing or strong I am and say, “But I didn’t do anything!! It was the medicine! I didn’t beat it! If I did, why do I have to keep going to my oncologist? Why do I have to keep going in for scans?”

Those are the times that cancer has won... It beat me...that was a few days ago when I found out I lost another friend. That was yesterday when I came across an old classmate’s daughter who is now battling stage 4 cancer after complaining of a pain in her side.

Then I open my eyes and see my husband who stood beside me for every battle, every treatment, every surgery, every tear.
Then I hear my children running through the house, laughing, arguing, playing.
Then I think about my family who stood beside me, my friends who cheered me on, my sisters who held me up.
Then I look at the pictures of some of the sisters that we have lost and realize that I am letting them die in vain.

I revel in the fact that they called me sister.
I am amazed at the compassion and love they shared by continuing to love each of us through our own battles and challenges as they continued to fight a battle that they could never get in front of.
I think of the laughs, the stories, the secrets, the fears, and the legacies that they all shared with us.
I think of the family that they left behind, that is learning how to move on without their beloved mother, sister, wife, friend, daughter.

It is so easy to give up and walk away from my support groups, but then I will not be able to continue to gain a new appreciation for the life that I live. I will not be able to share my smile, laughter, and support for the women who do need it.

This week has been tough with recurrences, new diagnoses, and the death of 2 friends. I felt so tense this morning after a rough night, but then, I saw a post from a friend. She shared this video that just made my day. After some stress relief with my sons, I’m ready to tackle today with a big smile...just might get some homework done.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cancer sucks

This morning, while in class, my friend Michelle popped into my head. No reason except that I haven’t spoken with her in a while. I made a note to reach out to her later and focused on my professor.

While in Barnes and Noble, she popped into my head. Again, I pushed the thought to the side and book shopped with my husband.

This evening, I logged onto Facebook, posted and commented on a few posts, and then I went to leave a post for Michelle. I was not prepared for what I saw.

5 months ago to this very date, Michelle lost her battle to Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I sat, stunned staring at the screen.

Lost her battle? Michelle? She was fine damn it!! She told me that she was going to be fine. Sure she had cancer, but she told me that she would get through this and be fine...

That was then.

I read posts from her daughter, sister and friends and still couldn’t believe it.
I pulled my blanket up to my chin, turned toward the back of the couch and found solace in the warmth of the blanket. I woke up 20 minutes later and looked at Facebook again. It was not a dream.

I lost my first sister. When I joined my first triple negative support group, Michelle was there. She reached out in friendship and was the first person to ever call me sister. We checked on each other. We supported each other. We made each other laugh. We supported each other as we cried.
She was the first person to call me sister.
If she were alive and here right now I would say thank you.
Thank you for sharing your friendship.
Thank you for reaching out to me.
Thank you for helping me realize that I am not my cancer.
Thank you for calling me sister.
Thank you for treating me like one.
I love you.

It is hard to not live in fear, when there is death, recurrences, countless new diagnoses, and fear all around. It is hard to not feel such sadness, when you lose someone you respect or love. It is hard to feel hope when cancer deals such horrible blows. 
However, I will not give in to fear, instead, I will find a reason to smile every day. I will not give in to sadness, instead I will remember the laughs.  I will not give in to the hopelessness, instead I will continue to fight, let my voice be heard and support every person that I meet who is battling, is a caregiver, or is in need of support.

Thank you for touching my heart today Michelle. I’m sorry that I’m too late to say goodbye and that I love you. Sweet dreams my sister. Your battle will help others, your light will forever shine in my heart. 
The rainbow doesn't always come when we would like to see it, but it's there. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Day!

“Due to inclement weather, school will be closed Wednesday, January 22, 2014...

I can honestly say that I didn’t listen to anymore of the automated message. As a mom, I was excited for my kids who would get to celebrate a few and far between snow day. As a teacher, I was excited to have an extra day to relax and get a few things together for work and for my own school.

In celebration, my children forgot about their bedtimes and stayed up playing, keeping one eye on the weather outside and the snow falling. Every few minutes, I would hear footsteps running through the entryway towards the front door. Then I’d see a face peek around the corner, “It’s still snowing,” and “The wind is really blowing. I think it’s cold outside.”  Then they’d run back down the hall.

This morning as my children woke up, we all were lounging around in our pajamas. My sons were relaxing and playing their games, my oldest daughter was on her bed, ipad in her lap watching a show, and my husband was getting his breakfast. I was on the couch working on a new plan for my class. All just lounging.

Then my youngest walked through the living room and said, “I’m going out to play in the snow.” Then she disappeared down the hall. Simple words from an 8 year old.

I followed her into her room and pulled out a couple extra layers for her to put on. Then one by one the rest of us all began to change into our clothes. We bundled up against the cold. We followed her out the door. What followed was a day filled with snowball fights, snow angels, sliding down the street on the ice, and racing through the snow.

My daughter’s boyfriend came to pick her up and at first opted out of joining in my kid’s fun since he didn’t have gloves. However, I told him to enjoy himself. It’s not very often that we get snowfall accumulation in this area. When we do, live it up because it might not happen for another while. He picked up a snowball and 15 minutes later my daughter, who was now peppered white with snow from her head to waist, was telling him that she was ready to go.

When we were frozen in our fingers and toes, pink in our cheeks and frosty nosed, we followed the fun with hot chocolate, homemade vegetable soup, and snuggling under the electric blanket to warm frozen fingers, noses, and toes.

My oldest daughter is 20 years old. I know that one day soon, she will graduate from college and start a life of her own. Days like today are made for memories to lock away and hold onto forever.

Thanks to my 8 year old, we all hopped off of our behinds, unplugged from the world, picked up a snowball and enjoyed each other.

As my 8 year old daughter and I snuggled together on the couch, the telephone rang...

“Due to inclement weather, school will be closed Thursday, January 23, 2014...”

My children’s cheers say it all. 
This is what all of my coworkers looked like!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Helping to Make a Change

I remember learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when I was in elementary school...a long time ago J I grew up an Air Force brat, surrounded by my family in the 70’s and 80’s, so I didn’t really understand the importance of him. Then I saw pictures and the videos that went along with this time and that put things into perspective for me. I couldn’t believe that people were treated so horribly just because of the color of their skin. The first time I heard recordings of his speeches, I cried because he was such a powerful speaker to me. I still cry. As an adult, I still because of his strength, but also because we still have so far to go.

I remember learning about the Lovings when I got older. This was the interracial couple in Virginia that had to take their plight to court and ask permission to get married, because of the color of their skin...ask permission because of the color of their skin. The court sided with them in 1967 and they were married and stayed married until he died several years later. This case stuck with me because my parents are an interracial couple and they were married the same year in Greece. I realized in the ‘80s that if my mom was born in the United States they might not have been able to get married. It didn’t matter that they were in love, didn’t matter that they wanted to share their lives and start a family. No, because someone didn’t like the color of my father’s skin, they would be able to dictate my family’s future.

I remember when I moved back to the United States. It was a hard adjustment for me because race was a hot topic with so many people, but nobody could tell me why. I once was asked where I was from and when I told them that I couldn’t really answer that because my family went wherever the Air Force sent us, the question was changed to where was I born. Easy enough, but when I shared the state I was born in, the response was, “Oh that’s where your good hair came from.” Really? So came my first taste of the stigmas and stereotypes. I explained that where I was born had nothing to do with how I looked. Then came the questions about my parents. When I asked about the fascination, it all centered on my “good” hair. I was shocked and it continued throughout high school as race continued to be a hot topic and a friend and I were actually asked which side we would take. Umm, my side! I didn’t understand then and I don’t understand now. Neither did they and I can only chalk it up to ignorance.

This past Friday afternoon, I talked with my students about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. All of them had heard of him and could tell me about his speech and that he wanted equality for all people. They didn’t quite know what that meant, so we talked about it. By the looks on some of their faces, you could tell that they understood that it all came down to skin color. Some of the students that I come across today are so quick to tear someone else down just to try to lift themselves up and it is heartbreaking to me. These will be the students to grow up and continue the cycle that we see in so many of our adults. I’m trying to help make that change in them. I want to see them all succeed; I want them to succeed together. Working together. Helping each other. Celebrating each other.

One day out of the year, our country recognizes the role Dr. King had in bringing equality to all people. The other 364 are up to you. Instead of complaining that you are being held down, lift yourself up. Instead of picking up a gun, pick up a book. Instead of putting someone down because of the color of his or her skin or the way they look, put a hand out and help someone succeed. So many people fought and died to help get us where we are. Now people are fighting and dying to get nowhere. Help start a change. I live it in my house with my children, and work on change with my students in my classroom. Are you helping or hurting?

They know what we teach them. Teach them tolerance, patience, respect and love. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In The Doctor's Office

What goes through your mind while sitting in the doctor’s office? Today, I was called back by a nurse and was asked the typical questions. She was new to me, so we talked about what I was there for and how much fluid went in the shot. Now, I have to tell you that when I go see this doctor, I end up getting one of the giant shots full of saline into my chest and then I do everything I can to get comfortable for the next few days.  I love my doctor and all of the nurses, but I do not like why I’m there, so imagine my face when the nurse steps out to wait on the doctor and there on the counter are 2 big shots waiting. Umm, yeah I was going to have to get that straight.

I waited about 10 minutes before the nurse stepped in to tell me that the doctor was coming but was just in with a patient that had a lot of questions.  So I sat and waited. And waited. Waited some more. I even dozed off, but still I waited.

My husband, who started off with me, had to leave to get our younger 2. 45 minutes later and I started writing this blog on my phone. Notice I did not say complaining, no...just waiting.

Then I began to think back on my day. This was my early morning post on facebook:
I woke up, my husband is safe, peeked in on my babies as they're sleeping, worked out and thinking of many people today. So many blessings and it's not even 6:30a.m. No matter what this day brings, I know mine will be good.

Yes, my day lived up to being that kind of good day. Not because of any one thing, just because.  

Finally, the doctor comes in, checks me over, and after he gives the shot, he proceeds to tell me that this is the last time that I have to come in for this. I asked him to repeat himself just to make sure. YES!! Last shot. That means the only thing left is surgery.

So I walk into the seating area to set up my surgery date when I see a couple that I saw out in the waiting room before my appointment. She begins to talk about her general surgeon who happens to be mine as well. I told her how awesome the surgeon was right before she was called back to set up her own surgery for a double mastectomy.

The conversation was quite loud and I would have had to plug my ears not to have heard. The scheduler first commented on the fact that the woman has breast cancer.  Healthy, ate well, exercised, but there she was. She asked her a few questions, but the woman couldn't answer any questions about size, grade, type or anything regarding her breast cancer. But what she did have was the spirit that she will need to beat this disease. I couldn’t hang around and wait for her to come out because I had to get to my son’s school to pick him up from soccer. However, when I walked past the door, I gave a little nod her way, smiled and then said under my breath, “That's right pink sista!! Fight on!!”
Today is one of those days that will remind you that YOU are in control of the type of day you have. Pain, stress, illness, sadness...none of it will ever be able to steal my joy. Oh and of course we got the shots straight. I only had 1 and the other, well it ended up going down the drain.