My Favorite Gift

While rushing out the door to attend Brian’s holiday party at his school today, the contents of my purse fell all over the kitchen floor. Tis the season to be grumpy- especially when you’re running late, so I threw everything back in the purse and continued on my way. It’s been one of those unusually fast-paced weeks, starting with a medical visit for Brian in Baltimore, plus the regular shopping, cooking, cleaning, never-ending laundry, and holiday preparations. Like so many others during this time of year, I’m already tired, feeling some stress, and it’s not even Christmas yet! Not to mention the 12 day break that Brian will have after tomorrow…

Holiday breaks are both a blessing and a curse for many special needs families: it’s great to be together with loved ones, but so many of our kids struggle without a set routine, so that means the parents struggle too. Yet, the school staff of course need a break and deservedly so. I’ve decided this year to really take one day at a time and try to plan “an activity of the day” for Brian, while simultaneously pacing myself. This is no easy feat, as I’m inclined to be on the go more often than not. However, I’m starting to really feel the physical toll of caretaking this year for the first time. I’m actually surprised that I’ve been able to maintain a good pace with Brian for 16 years without issue, but things have changed and I need to follow the cues of what my body is telling me. It won’t be easy, for most mothers suffer from guilt from time to time for not doing enough for their kids- I certainly feel that way! But a reminder from my wallet while reorganizing my purse early this evening, put my priorities back in their proper perspective..

It is exactly 10 years ago this week, that I was halfway through my chemo infusions for colon cancer. I remember my oncologist wanted to make sure I had treatment the week before Christmas so that I could enjoy the holiday and actually eat all of the delectables. My medical card from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that fell out of my wallet today, was my “ticket ” to colon surgery, chemo, bloodwork, and MRIs. This special card entitled me to everything that was necessary for my cancer survivorship, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Colon cancer taught me many lessons, especially those regarding self-care, for my life literally depended on it a decade ago. I continue to enjoy the privilege of cancer survivorship 10 years later, but, there is still a huge responsibility that goes along with that gift. It is critical for me not to squander time, waste energy, or guilt, when it does my mind, and especially my body that went through so much, absolutely no good. I still wear my “Purple Heart” through the neuropathies in my toes and finger tips, permanent nerve damage caused by one of the chemo drugs and activated by very cold temperatures.

All cancer survivors have special momentos that they will forever carry on their bodies, minds, and hearts from their treatment experience, forever changing them in ways they never expected.. That was certainly the case for me: scars from surgery, effects from chemo, and certain food aversions were just some of the physical effects. Mentally, I was broken for a while, but with treatment, time, and love from family and friends, I was able to rise like a phoenix from the roaring fire. My body became stronger and so did my faith in God, whose grace ultimately got me through the ordeal.

You really know when life has returned to normal when you start complaining about the ordinary things that used to annoy you before cancer. That certainly happened to me and continues to on a regular basis, case in point, dropping my purse today, and just this week in general. It’s a blessing to have ordinary aggravations again, not life or death concerns, such as wondering in December 2009 whether the chemo would work and if I was going to make it.. I realize how lucky I am to have the gift of life, over a decade after cancer diagnosis -it is my favorite gift! I have been able to be with my husband, raise our son, and watch him grow up to be a sweet soul- for this, I am most grateful. During treatment, I was so afraid that I would not be here for Brian; he was only 6 years old at the time. I’m so relieved that it is all behind me now.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that while living my life in the here and now, it is meant to be lived in all of its ordinary, messy, frustrating, and wonderful ways. Ordinary has taken on a whole new meaning in a good way for me. I am grateful for today’s reminder of my membership once upon a time in a club that no one ever wants to be a part of. I was given my life and the opportunity to live it with more appreciation and meaning. I continue to try to do just that and this gift will always be my favorite, especially at Christmas.

Until next time, thanks for reading! 😊

2 thoughts on “My Favorite Gift

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