They say you’re never given more than you can handle – I call B.S.!
Those of you who know me, know that March 30th is my birthday and I am REALLY into celebrating just about anything. Birthdays are days that celebrate you – it’s meant to spend time with those you love the most, laughing and smiling, eating lots of cake and ice cream, and going to bed stuffed and exhausted! This year…I’d like to forget the day even happened…I’d like a re-do.
“How are the children?” is a common question, which I appreciate more than anyone knows. It means people are really thinking about me and everything that is important to me, not just picking up the phone or sending a message asking how I am. Until March 30th, I would have told you they were doing as well as can be expected and we were getting through this really well. They’ve had a lot of changes recently, but we’re doing okay. Ask me the evening of March 30th and the answer is completely different.
Up until this point, I thought they were doing well, as best as I possibly could have hoped for. Yes, we have had our moments. Yes, it’s hard on the days when it takes me a little longer to get out of bed. This day, I thought I was prepared for. This day, I thought I’d have the right words. What I found out, I was not ready for this day….the day when you find out the struggle is real for the little ones and none of this is fair to them…that she’s had to grow up much quicker than is fair to anyone her age.
Olivia had the breakdown I thought would have happened initially – I was not prepared at all. She cried and screamed the whole way home from school…how she hated cancer, how she wanted things to go back to the way they were, how she wished I had hair and wasn’t sick. What did I do you might ask…I sat in the front seat and cried…I couldn’t even find my voice to speak the words I needed and wanted so desperately to say to her. I think I finally mustered up enough of a voice to say “I know, I’m so sorry” and then I had to let my mother take it from there. When we got home I told them I needed to go to the bathroom…I shut the door and sat on the bathroom floor and cried…hard. One of my guy friends texted to see if I was okay and wanted to talk – no, I don’t have time…I have to figure out how to pull myself together and stop crying for my daughter. What I thought may have lasted all night, quickly passed for her, she seemed to be fine, I eventually was able to talk to her and get out more than “I’m sorry”. I hugged her, kissed on her and made sure I was by her side when we went out to dinner, and we had a lovely time at dinner.
When we got home our friends Meri and Lucy were waiting to have cake with us…it lightened the mood and made things easier. The week had been a hard one for us, my grandfather wasn’t doing well…we were beginning to eat cake we got the news, the news we all knew would be coming sooner rather than later…my grandfather had passed away.
Earlier in the day I’d driven to spend some time with him – he was sleeping most of the time now, not opening his eyes, but he knew when someone was sitting with him – he’d raise his hand, which meant he wanted someone to hold his hand. So that’s what I did, I held his hand until he no longer wanted to hold my hand. When I went to leave I said “Grandpa, I’m going to leave now” and he opened his eyes, something he hadn’t done all day. He looked right at me and I knew…I could tell he was saying “goodbye”. I told him I loved him and he did everything possible to get “I love you” out as well…it took so much effort for him to do so. My grandmother then said “can you tell her happy birthday?” and sure enough…he somehow got it out. I told him I’d see him soon and gave him a hug and one last I love you.
He was 88 years old, had a wonderful life and was never really sick, except for the last 18 months while he battled Stage IV lung cancer (not genetic, he was a smoker). In the end for him, was the beginning for me at Siteman and two days after I’d met with Dr. Hagemann for the first time I was having scans, while he was having radiation. He didn’t know what to say, so he just held my hand…kinda became our thing. When we couldn’t find the words to say, we’d hold the other one’s hand. He lived a long and wonderful life, and although we knew the end was coming, it’s still hard to say goodbye.
So, do I think that you’re only given what you can handle, no that’s a total crock! No one should ever have to feel like they’re sucking on a fire hose. I believe you’re given what life throws at you and how you choose to respond is up to you.
The friend that checked on me Thursday when Olivia had her meltdown also called on Saturday morning – did I cry while I talked to him? Yes, because he asked the tough questions…when I said I’m fine the response was “we’re like 5 minutes into this conversation and you’re crying, you’re not fine and no one expects you to be”. You see, less than 24 hours after all the above went down, I got the news that my white blood cells were not good at all either…the blows just kept coming that week. BUT, I eventually started to pick myself up and by Monday morning was doing much better.
Life doesn’t stop just because you have one of the most difficult things you’ve ever had to go through happening. You take the good with the bad, the overwhelming amounts with the light and fun days, and you learn from it. You learn that if you can get through this, the good days will come. And when they do, enjoy them – laugh until your cheeks hurt!
How are we doing 3 weeks out you might ask – pretty darn great, all things considered. There are still a lot of changes taking place, the next three treatments are going to be brutal, but we’re managing the best we can. Olivia and Jaxson are laughing and smiling and are aware I’m about to go down for 7-10 days, but once I feel better I am fully present and we do fun things to create memories. We’re all learning what it means to not have my grandfather here, some days are easier than others – my grandmother can tell you that, but we’re taking it one day at a time. And when you don’t have the “right” words…grab a hold of the other’s hand, it says more than any words ever could.