It’s been a hard week. I am not going to lie.
In the past four months I have had nine biopsies, three surgeries (in five areas), multiple ultrasounds, mammograms, countless Doctor’s appointments and over one hundred stitches. I have been diagnosed with cancer twice (three times in one year). I am now scheduled for surgery on Feb 9 to remove an abnormal breast mass to be sure that I do not have breast cancer. I am not going to lie, it is getting hard to catch my breath. I am not dying, I am strong, I am positive and I am learning a lot about myself BUT sometimes it just hits you….like a ton of bricks. I feel like every time I get back up on my feet and back into the groove of working out or back into the routines of life, it comes to a screeching halt and I am faced with another health set back.
I started thinking, a lot. I started to reflect on my past nursing career when I worked in a pediatric bone marrow transplant unit with the sickest of the sickest kids who’s only chance at surviving was to undergo a bone marrow transplant. These kids had to endure intense Chemo and have their immune systems totally wiped out before they could even get their transplant. I watched so many beautiful, sweet, innocent children fight harder then you can ever imagine. To say they endured pain and sickness is an understatement. Remembering what these brave children went through and witnessing too many of them lose their tough battles reminded me that if they could do it then I could handle my own much smaller health set backs. I started to really think about how these amazing children handled the obstacles they were given. I remembered a conversation I recently had with a friend who’s daughter is a cancer warrior and survivor. She told me something that stuck with me. She said “kids with cancer deal with their illness because they don’t “think” about it, it’s not in their head”. I realized now exactly what she meant. As adults we “think” too much. We think of the “what ifs”, we think of the “what will be?”. It’s natural, its human nature. Children take things one day at a time, one game at a time, one happy moment at a time. I never realized how much all of this had gotten into my head until I realized that even working out was tougher then normal. Not because of the stitches or the physical limitations but because my head has not been in the “game”. I have been emotionally exhausted. I worry about my husband, my children, my family, my friends and what the consequences of all that is happening has and will have on them.
My goal (and I am working really hard on this) is to fight these battles like a “child”. To take each challenge one step a time and to try to enjoy each day as it comes. Some days this is easier then others. Looking in the mirror each morning and seeing the fresh scars is a reminder that these past few months have been tough but I am also reminded that I am here, I survived, I conquered and I have so much to live for, to fight for and to be grateful for.
I started realizing that the years I worked in the pediatric bone marrow transplant unit, in the pediatric ICU and in CF research giving my heart and soul to these amazing and unforgettable children and their families was coming back to me tenfold. I have been blessed with some of the most amazing and caring health care providers. I AM LUCKY. My health care providers are working hard to catch my cancers early and to help me live a long, healthy and happy life. During my recent breast biopsy the very sweet Dr that performed the procedure was extremely empathetic to my situation and told me something that I will cherish for a long time. She said “Tracy, I am so sorry that you have to deal with all of this all at once. I believe in my heart that you are getting all of these things and issues out of the way now so that when you are 80 you will be healthy and you will be out dancing every night”. You know what. SHE IS RIGHT. I am going to be a dancing old lady but I also need to remember that I need to be dancing now too, not just walking from one appointment to the next.
This week the boys and I made brownies for breakfast on one of their days off. We licked the bowl and ate raw batter, it was awesome! I have noticed the boys stopping and hugging me randomly. What kind caring souls they are and I believe they are learning such valuable lessons from all of this. One morning this week where it seemed that everything went wrong, we were running out the door for school and my youngest son dropped his spinach smoothie all over himself, the car, his backpack….everywhere! Both boys looked at me nervously waiting for my reaction. A few months ago I most likely would have lost my patience but on that morning I started to laugh, and laugh. After a moment they joined me. Together we acknowledged that it was a tough morning but sometimes that is how life goes and the way that we choose to react is what matters. I hope that I can always remember my own words….”the way we choose to react is what matters”.
So now I am choosing to react to what matters both with my health and every day situations. I am choosing to focus my energy towards the positive and I am searching for new ways to make huge jugs of lemonade with some of these lemons I have. I have said it before but I must say it again. The kind words, messages and hugs that I receive daily from loved ones, people I know well, people I barely know….THEY ALL MAKE a difference. It is what gives me strength. It is the best medicine of all and I am truly humbled by the love and support I receive every day and I am truly blessed.
Even though I am forgiving myself and allowing myself to have had a tough week I am not planning on making that week turn into months. I am pulling up my happy socks, putting on my smile and remembering what is important and remembering that I have to dance every day instead of walking from appointment to appointment.
Thank you for all of your love and support. I have some big, exciting things in the works to help raise awareness and funds for Melanoma Research….stay tuned. The jugs of lemonade are about to over flow and be shared.
If you have read this far, thank you for listening.
Much love and gratitude,