Serious stuff

Changes and a New Focus: Dealing with Family Crises and Finding Balance

So much has happened in the many months since I’ve been here. Too much, really. My family and I have faced so much upheaval that we’re just now beginning to settle into our new normal. That has taken eight, long months and it’s a tentative settling at best. Let me back up and explain.

Eight months ago our definition of normal imploded. All within one week’s time we found out that a close relative was diagnosed with breast cancer, my husband was diagnosed with diabetes, and I had pernicious anemia (PA) and possibly multiple sclerosis (MS). It’s been an arduous journey to health and we aren’t even at the end. Jim has stabilized with changes to his diet. Our relative is (all fingers crossed) in the last leg of kicking cancer square in the ass. Me? Still in limbo, I’m afraid. I can control the PA with bi-monthly shots, but the other symptoms…not quite.

It all began because  I couldn’t walk without falling. The fall that sent me to the doctor frightened me. I was coming down the stairs after my morning shower and I toppled and hit the wall hard, literally and figuratively. I can no longer walk unassisted. I use a cane to navigate stairs and a rollator for all other ambulatory needs. I can drive only short distances, and then only if I absolutely have to. There are days I can’t drive at all because I can’t trust my feet or hands to do as I command. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for me. There are so many other physical changes in my life that I won’t go into here. It all boils down to one thing: I have to accept that I am handicapped now.

And that’s not something I am doing well with. I have always been fiercely independent. Asking for help was not an option I ever employed. If I wanted to go somewhere or do something I just did. Nothing stood in my way. And if I couldn’t do it, well, it just didn’t get done.

But here I am. Needing help every damn day of my life because you can’t just not wear pants because you can’t put them on yourself. You can’t just leave the house without shoes because your foot won’t lift off the floor. You can’t just not eat because walking across the room isn’t an option for the day.

And I hate it. I resent it. I cannot stand it!

The worst part? I am eight months into poking and prodding and testing and multiple doctors and I STILL do not have an official diagnosis. Ask how many Type A people would enjoy that. If you find one, please introduce us. I need help.

All this to say, I am grieving the loss of my independence something fierce. It truly feels like some part of me just up and died. Last August I was walking, driving, and living my life like every other person–going to my nieces’ dance recitals and soccer games, going to the grocery store, taking my kids back and forth to events, going to have lunch with my husband at work. Four weeks later I just wasn’t anymore. Two weeks after that, I was using a rollator once in a while. Eight months later, and the rollator is a part of my body. The fear that a wheelchair looms in my near future is so very real that I want to cry.

Don’t get me wrong. I know things could be exponentially worse. I’m still here, alive and watching my kids transition into the next big phase of their lives, watching my nieces grow, and reconnecting with long lost family. The recent loss of a friend who was only 12 days younger than me drove that realization home hard.  I sat at his memorial last week, weeping for the loss, aching at his mother’s face, his widow’s sobs, and I knew I was being selfish. Talk about forcing some perspective.

However, it’s still a loss I am feeling and grieving. I know, at some point, I will rise above this. I will learn how to navigate this massive change. Until then, I am trying to remind myself that this is not the end of the world. It’s just a hefty bump in my road–a road that I am travelling, like it or not.

For now, I’ve chosen to focus on what I CAN do. It’s the only thing I think will help. I’ve decided to kick my writing goals into high gear while I still can. I’m going to be sharing here about navigating the traditional publishing slopes. I am querying agents for my first novel. I am working steadily on my next novel. I am blogging again. Most of all, I have to remember that I am more than just my rebellious body.

I’m still a wife.

Mother.

Aunt.

Friend.

And writer.

I’m still me.

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Serious stuff

The face of hope

A pink fleece cap.

Wisps of blonde hair.

A smile to rival the sun’s brightness.

That is our Aunt Theresa.

I swear to you that if there is a Devil in this world his name is cancer, eating our bodies from the inside out.  But Aunt Theresa doesn’t flinch.  She has her faith.  She is fond of saying, “God led me to this, he’ll lead me through it.”  She isn’t letting breast cancer define her.  She treats it like just another hurdle, just one more chore to get out of the way.  I look at her and my eyes fill with tears for so many reasons, not the least of which is the inspiration she is to us all.

Even when she got the diagnosis, she was positive and up.  While I know she is scared and angry inside, she rarely shows it.  She won’t let this beat her.  She wears her faith like armor and knows she has family to bolster her.

When I entered the room of a recent family gathering I saw her, holding the latest addition to her string of grandchildren, five-month-old Ryan.  Her arms wrapped around him, bouncing him on her lap, she smiled the smile of one who is bursting with pride.  I thought to myself, “Little man, you have no idea the strength upon whose lap you sit.”  Because it’s true.  I know in my heart I could never be that strong in the face of such a demon.

My thoughts tend to run much darker, negativity being my go-to response.  When I see Aunt Theresa and my thoughts turn cold, she always warms them.  She tells me things like, “Don’t let others steal your joy.”  She reminds me that this life is what we get, the only shot we have at proving the Devil wrong.

Each positive phrase she gives me makes me thankful she has God on her side.  You see, Aunt Theresa is one of the few true Christians I’ve ever met.  She walks the walk and talks the talk.  She loves without measure or judgement.  She relishes the value of a friend and welcomes all with open arms into her life.  Her ability to forgive is something to behold and to which we should all aspire.

I am not a religious person by any stretch of the idea.  I don’t feel the presence of God in my life the way so many people do.  However, it’s hard to be with Aunt Theresa and not wonder that my own thoughts are wrong.  She has no doubt in her God.  She doesn’t question His path for her.  She goes willingly and with zeal.  She sees the light, always, and is quick to steer you in its direction should you wander into the dark.  The minute you start to feel down, like cancer will win, she gives you a wonderful gift.

Hope.

I’ve seen the face of hope.

It wears a pink fleece cap, has wisps of blonde hair and a smile that rivals the brightness of the sun.

 

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