9.25.2013

If Sarah Can Do It

I've had plenty of what I call "come to Jesus" moments over the last 2 years. Those moments in life where you have to assess what's before you and make life changing decisions on how you are going to proceed down the yellow brick road. It's in those moments, where the ruby slippers meet the road, that we find out what we are made of and we choose the path we are going to take. They are the moments where we have serious reality checks.

I've had my share of "why me" moments and "so glad that's not me" moments. And plenty of moments that make me look at my life and be grateful. I've touched on being grateful before, but it's a subject that has been stirring in my heart for weeks as I've seen and heard first hand how my life and this blog are reminding people to be grateful in their own lives; despite the struggles they face.

I saw no irony when multiple people I encountered over a single week began to share some of their personal struggles, and then rounded out the conversation by telling me that I was a reminder to them that they could get through what was being thrown at them. That if I could get out of bed every most mornings despite the physical drawbacks and plug through the day filled with things like parenthood, surely they could get through their own struggles in good health.

But who am I to complain?

I think we all have the right to complain, but listening to NPR on the way to school every morning gives me daily reminders from around the world that keep my reality in check and remind me of how blessed I am.

I've admitted to my weakness, frailty and struggles already. I've told you that I felt defeated on more days that not over the last few months. I struggled to get through those last few treatments, often parenting from the bed or couch; battling the often painful side effects that impact my quality of life and robbing life moments from my kids. I've stood on my front porch, in my pajamas, bald head exposed, while crying on my 87 year old neighbor's shoulder at 2 in the afternoon. Merrick has heard me say "Mommy's too sick," "Mommy doesn't feel good," and "Mommy can't," more in the last 2 months than he has in the last 5 years. He has stood there on a Monday morning when I was too weak to even stand, and watched as I completely broke down.  "I didn't know you ever cried mommy."

But even I have my reality checks and my reminders that I have plenty to be grateful for. I think it's important to have those those things in our life. Maybe you read this blog just to me reminded of what you have.

I am grateful that I have a very curable form of cancer. When I walk into the oncology building or read articles and blogs I find on the Internet, I'm reminded that not all cancers were created equal. Some spread quickly. Some are found too late. Some do not have "cures," but merely means of buying time. On my very first appointment, I can remember my doctor saying that there haven't really been that many new drugs introduced to treatment colon cancer over the last decade, because what they have works. And clearly, it's working for me. Though I still have cancer, I am grateful that it is so tiny and manageable. It is cancer that I can live with.

I am grateful that I don't have any genetic mutations linked to colon cancer. Sure, I have that whole "family history" thing going for me, which is vital to know for early detection. But I don't have any of the mutations that are known risk factors. I will not pass on an even greater risk to my children, and I am even more receptive to the chemo drugs because of it.

I am grateful that my doctors had a heads up to my potential metastatic state before it was even confirmed to be cancer. For so many, metastatic cancer is a death sentence. By the time it is discovered, tumors have taken over, invaded and are large. The tumors in my lungs were on the radar before they were even confirmed as tumors. Over and over again I heard: "But they are so tiny." So tiny that I even came home one day and took out a ruler so that I could visualize exactly what tiny meant. The cancer in my lungs was being watched before it even had a chance to really grow, which in turn gave me the early advantage of fighting it.

I am grateful that I am young and strong and have the health to fight this with all my might. Because of age or general health, so many people in the cancer fight can't take a full punch or the highest dose or the strongest medicine. I sat in the infusion room one day and listened as a patient told her nurse she didn't think she could do any more treatments. Just 1 round had left her so weak from the nausea and the diarrhea, that she didn't think she could do it again. Granted, she was much older than I was, but I understood her angst. Chemo can be brutal. But I am young and I am strong and I can take it, even if it leaves me weak and in tears. I know that no matter how miserable I am one day, there is a light at the end of the tunnel; even if I only get to leave that tunnel for a few days before having to enter another.

I am grateful for all the drugs that counteract the drugs. While listening to the lady mentioned above talk to the infusion nurse, I was touched at the sensitivity, calm and patience that nurse had, despite the patients she had waiting. She talked about all the drugs available now to help counteract the nausea, the diarrhea, the mouth sores and all the other things that make chemo so miserable. She even pointed to me and said "See Sarah over there? Her counts are so low, that 30 years ago we would have admitted her to the hospital immediately and put her on antibiotics as a precaution. But instead, I'm going to give her a nice, painful shot in the butt to boost her white blood counts and send her home to take care of her dirty children. 30 years ago, people were sent home and spent weeks throwing up from chemo. Now we can give pre-meds before treatment and have pills and patches to keep nausea and vomiting at bay." And I think we all know how much I love my nausea meds and how dependent I am on them to make me a functioning member of society.

I am grateful for my perfectly healthy children. One way that I keep my own life in check is to keep up with the intimate lives of others. I'm sure that's how many of you view my own blog. For several years now, I've been following the very personal blog of two mothers with a very special son. I have read about their struggles, fears and minute-by-minute battles to just keep it together at times. It reminds me to be grateful for the son who drives me absolutely nuts with his constant talking, questioning and challenging. It reminds me to be grateful that I can put this exhausting child to bed every night and walk away, knowing he will sleep peacefully through the night and wake up in the morning just has healthy and happy as I left him. I appreciate their honesty and vulnerability, and it gives me a glimpse into what my own blog does. It is voyeurism to a degree, but healthy voyeurism.

I am grateful that I have Batman. All I have to do is turn on the Bat Signal and he appears. In a more practical explanation, all I have to do is go on Facebook and say I need help and it's there. Not only does Batman show up, but so does Wonder Woman, Spider-man and the Fantastic Four. At times, it seems every citizen of Gothom is at my door step ready to provide some type of support to get me through.

No matter how petty your struggle in life, you have to find something to be grateful for. We all have it; big or small. And the beauty of blogging is that we can get a very personal glimpse into the lives of others. We can enter the homes of complete strangers and feel an amazing intimacy with them we might not know face-to-face.

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