Thursday, February 28, 2013

In the Eyes of One Child.....My Child

Well it's been one thing after another today.  My thoughts were racing this morning which resulted in two blogs being posted.  Now, this evening, something occurred between me and my son.  It was a very emotional moment that involved hugging and tears.

The evening began with all of us having dinner at the table.  The kids decided they wanted to have a "family game night". We collectively chose Thursday evenings.  We decided to play a game during supper to save time so they could complete their homework later.  We began to have a 'Spelling Bee' around the table.  We were having a good time and I was loving it because they were learning at the same time.  After dinner, the children began to work on their homework.  My son, we'll call him "C", had a lot of homework due to school being cancelled the day prior.  Once we had gone through his homework and he was writing the final draft of his essay, I was printing out hard copies of each of my blog posts.  After I was done and "C" had finished his essay, it was time to get ready for bed.  I had jokingly asked "C" if he wanted any reading material before he went to bed.  He asked what I had and I told him my posts from my blog.  He immediately became somber and said that he couldn't read it because it would probably make him cry.  Even though I was joking with him, I felt horrible that he became so emotional.  "C" then stated that even without reading the posts he was beginning to cry.  I walked over to him and laid my hand on his shoulder telling him its okay and to just let it out.  He immediately reached out to me and held me so tight while burying his face into my shoulder.  We sat together and held each other for a few minutes.  I reassured him that it's okay to express his emotion and not to hold it in.

It had been such a long time since he has shown any emotion since my initial Leukemia diagnosis.  During my treatments, prior to and during transplant, he wore his emotions on his sleeve.  Whatever he was feeling, there was no question as to what it was.  However, after my transplant and upon my return home, he didn't express very much on what he may be feeling or thinking.  As more time passed, all of us, started getting more back to normal.  My cancer and transplant wasn't such the main focus anymore.

Then tonight it all came back to him.  "C" is a very compassionate child and very empathetic to others.  He is very sensitive and is always worrying about how someone else may be feeling.  He was reliving those moments of being scared, of not truly understanding what is going on and what it all means, to the possibility of losing his mother and never being able to have my physical presence and all that that offers.

As bothered as I am that he even has had to experience something so traumatic, it was a tender moment we shared with each other.

I am so proud of him and I didn't hesitate to acknowledge all of his greatness's and strengths.  I made sure he understood the pleasure he has brought to my life and how proud I am of him.

What is Your Legacy...and Your Dash

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines LEGACY as:

1. a gift by will especially of money or other personal property
2. something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

What is your legacy?  How have other people's legacies affected your life?  What do you want people to remember about you after you pass on?  I had thought of these questions, even before I had cancer.  I had received a chain email with a poem written by Linda Ellis called "The Dash".  It really had me thinking about my actions and how I interact with others, personally and professionally.  It made me more aware of not only what type of person "I" want to be but what impression I want to leave on those I leave behind, especially my children.

I want my children to learn what it means to love unconditionally and to always have room for forgiveness.  I want them to know it doesn't serve any purpose to be angry, hateful or malicious. That to have those type of feelings can only be toxic to your body, mind and spirit.  I want my children to know to be careful of how you judge others because you don't know that person's life experiences and journey.  That just because you may not agree with another person's lifestyle, it is not for you to judge or push your beliefs on another.  As long as that person is not causing harm or are malicious in their thoughts and actions, it really isn't any of your concern.  If they do find that another person's actions could be considered harmful to another then they should take the appropriate steps so that harm will not befall on another.

I am in no way expecting them to not stand up for themselves and their beliefs if they are challenged.  But that they can choose their reaction.  They can choose to retaliate through malicious thoughts or actions or they can stand up for their beliefs with respect.  Now I'm aware the people can be quite cruel in their words and actions, and you must protect yourself from harm whether it physically or verbally.  And it is a person's natural instinct to protect themselves from harm and there will be times our initial reaction may not be the most appropriate.  But after, when looking back and reflecting about the past incident, if your able to see the "wrong and right" and have the ability for forgiveness or remorse that it will be less of an internal burden to carry. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you need to forget what occurred or was said.  You will always have the knowledge but that that toxic burden will not be there.  That toxicity is what leads to anger and hate.

Overall, it is mostly about living your life with "respect".  Respect for yourself and respect for others.

If your interested, please read the poem "The Dash" by Linda Ellis.  You may copy the following link in your browser...Enjoy!!!

Constantly Changing...

Life is about making changes.  It's so easy to get stuck in a rut and do the same thing day in and day out.  My life before cancer was quite predictable.  It was the same thing each day, wake up, get myself and kids ready for school, go to work, come home spend time with kids and homework, eat, read/watch tv, get ready for bed and do the same thing again the following day.  Weekends were usually spent cleaning the house and washing laundry and getting caught up on things that couldn't be done during the week. Then cancer entered our lives and we had to adapt to that change. Some things were still the same, getting kids ready for school and doing home work and keeping home and laundry in order, but the responsibilities changed.  My husband was solely responsible for the children, home and finances.  My main job was trying to fight and survive cancer.  

Now that I'm in remission, those roles have changed again.  I am beginning to maintain the house.  I'm helping the kids get ready for school and driving them to and from school.  I'm working one or two days a week (part-time) which helps lessen the financial burden on my husband.  I'm also watching a baby for a close friend of mine which help keeps me busy.  I'm enjoying this slower paced lifestyle compared to my lifestyle before cancer.  I'm actually easing back into living.  My pace started out slow and now, I'm adding more responsibilities. I'm grateful that I am able to do this.  We have had to adapt in many ways to how cancer has affected our lives.  Not only in our roles but even financially.  Going from a two-income household to one has been the most challenging.  However, we have been fortunate with a great support network of family and friends and even strangers. My husband's work can be flexible according to his lifestyle needs.  During my time of treatment, he was able to work at home and even, in the hospital or apartment, while I was going through my transplant.  

I'm finding that I'm no longer able to live that same, humdrum life that I had before cancer.  I'm constantly looking at new things and changing the way things are.  From the apps and icons and themes on my cell phone, to even the look of this blog.  I am constantly looking at or doing new things.  I'm not sure if its just wanting to experience and see so many things because it could be gone or taken away so quickly, or the fear of falling back into that predictable lifestyle before cancer.

Is this normal after a life-changing event, such as cancer? When faced with the possibility of my mortality, twice, in such a short period of time, has it made me more aware how quickly things could end?  I think that is part of why, within reason, financially and physically, I feel this constant need to experience as much as I can.

There are just so many things I want to do and not enough time (or energy) to do it.  Hopefully, I will fulfill all that I want to do. I just know that life is all about "changes" and whether good or bad, they have motivated me to keep going, to keep adapting and to keep moving forward.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another "Aha" Moment

Well, I have had another "Aha" moment.  I think I finally realized where I was going wrong and why I was continuing to get sick.  I was definitely pushing my body beyond its limits. Of course I understand that this is flu season and everyone is getting sick.  But, for me, I wasn't helping myself by pushing my limits.  I was actually wearing down my body.  I thought that because I was eating healthy and exercising regularly that I was doing my body "good" but I was actually wearing it down.

My body has been through so much and I really haven't thought of the "overall picture".  I have been mostly focusing on my life a week prior to my transplant and after.  I haven't thought about the year prior upon my initial diagnosis and several months of chemo treatments.  I didn't even have a full year in remission before I had my relapse.  Once I had my relapse, I was back in the hospital receiving my "lethal" doses of chemo to prep me for my transplant.  During all this time, my body hadn't had enough time to recover from everything prior. So, not only is my body trying to adjust to the foreign cells in my body, but all of the months and months and lethal doses of chemo.  I'm not sure why it has taken me this long to finally recognize the seriousness of what my body has gone through the past three years.

I guess all those chemo treatments and medications was not my main focus.  My main focus was "surviving". All the other stuff was just "stuff" and thought of just being part of the process.  Something that is considered normal when battling cancer.  I wasn't really focusing on how much stress my body was and still is being put through.  I have been beating myself up "internally" because I haven't been able to bounce back like I did before, and now, I'm understanding the reason "why".

When experiencing something like this, cancer and transplant, there are so many things to process and cope with.  Upon diagnosis of cancer your in the moment of survival.  Your listening to what all needs to be done and what works best and what doesn't.  With my form of cancer, I didn't have the ability to think too long on what avenue was the best.  I was working against time which I had very little of.  Decisions were made within minutes or hours because that was all I had.  Afterwards, during remission, it still was about survival and limiting my contact with the public with thoughts of "germaphobia" which are still present today.  Your conditioned, especially with my form of cancer, to be aware of germs and limit your exposure to the public.  Your conditioned to be wary and limit yourself from all that public contact.  It consumes your mind and thoughts, even when in remission. Even now, knowing I'm two years post-transplant, and my doctor saying I can live life more normally, it doesn't stop all those precautions that we (my family) were conditioned to do during my treatments.

So with all of these thoughts during treatment and the thoughts that occur after transplant dealing with all the external and internal changes, I wasn't thinking about what and how much my body has been through and the toll it has taken.

After having this "Aha" moment, I finally began to slow down.  I'm continuing to eat right and I'm still being active.  I'm just not pushing my boundaries of that physical activity.  I was burning myself out.  I need to condition my body to get back to where it once was before. I'm realizing that just because my mind is going a mile a minute doesn't mean my body is able to do the same.  I'm slowing down and I'm feeling so much better.  I'm taking it one day at a time and I'm listening and recognizing the signs if I'm doing too much.  I know I will get back to where I once was, its just going to take a bit longer and I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

With a Heavy Heart...

I write this with a heavy heart today.  I need to "hold my head high" and go on living my life.  This is my day of closure and to help me process this somber day, I need to put my thoughts and feelings into this blog.

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I didn't have much time to think of anything but surviving.  Once I was considered to be in remission, I began to reflect on many things in my life.  One of the things I thought about were my relationships with the people that have touched my life.  I've thought of those from the past and present.  When thinking of my past relationships, I thought of those who have passed on and how much they affected my life and how much I continue to miss them.  I also thought of some past relationships where we have lost touched and I wondered how they were doing.  I wondered when we would be able to meet again and hopefully, pick up where we left off.  I thought of one particular relationship of a family member I was once close to.  I've wondered how he had been doing and how I wanted to reach out so many times but never made the effort.

It wasn't until my relapse and transplant that I thought about making that effort.  I tried contacting family members asking for any contact information.  I even made attempts to contact his spouse through FB but received no response.  I began thinking and blaming his spouse.  I thought his spouse was withholding my attempted contacts.  But, unfortunately, I learned today that he has been aware of my attempted contacts and has chosen not to communicate with me nor salvage any form relationship.

This was devastating to learn.  I rarely cry when someone I know or love passes on.  I believe that that person who has passed on has gone on to something better and something far more great than anything we can realize, so why should I be sad.  I need to be thankful for the time I had with them and treasure those memories.  But it is quite different when the person you lose is still alive.  It hurts deeply to be rejected, at least that what it feels like.  I just don't understand how someone, especially family, could just turn their back like that.  My heart is very heavy and my tears will not stop falling.  I've never in my 38 years in life have ever felt the raw edge of a knife in my heart.  I will forever hold on to those wonderful memories of long ago when times were better.  But now, I will need to "hold my head high" and begin to move forward with this third chance at life.

Now, I am going to move forward with this aspect of my life.  Not only am I mourning for the loss of the person who once was a big part of my life, but also mourning for them.  I'm morning for their loss.  They are losing out on what would have been a lifetime of memories.

So today, I put to rest, AJM, who will always have a special place in my heart and I still only wish the best for.  I hold no anger or bitterness, just sadness for what could have been.  God bless and my thoughts and prayers will always be with you.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ignorance is Not Always Bliss...but Hurtful

Not only have I experienced the "ignorance" of others but hearing and watching someone else go through it, angers and frustrates me.  Some people need to learn to think before they speak to someone who is going through a difficult time.  I get and understand the freedom of speech, which I'm taking advantage of right now, but I believe with that "freedom" comes respect.  I don't believe that it is meant to ridicule a person for the choices he/she make.  And if a person doesn't have the same beliefs as another person doesn't mean that that gives a person permission to chastise the other person for the way they think and feel.

Not too long ago, I had an experience with someone that called me "stupid" because she assumed I didn't want to listen to her way of living.  I would have had no problem listening to her and her advice but when I stated that I would think about what she partially said and thanked her for her input, I'm assuming, she didn't like that response and attacked me personally.  She didn't even truly know me and what she knew of me is what information I allowed her to know about me.  She began to verbally attack me, and though my reaction may have not been the best because I retaliated by posting her comments for public display. Looking back I regret that because I was hurt and angry that someone could be so cruel.

I recently came across someone, I'll call her KM, who has had a similar experience.  KM is also battling cancer and a stem-cell transplant.  She has posted pictures and a video of her journey.  She recently discovered that someone basically stole her identity by using her pictures and video as a way to get money from people.  This individual was reported and hopefully that is the end of it. KM posted about what happened and truly didn't have a problem with her pictures and video being shared as a way to share her experience but to use her media for another person's gain is not tolerable.  Some people were offended by this which I truly don't understand.  Some people used that as an opportunity to say hurtful things to her.  I just don't understand how someone could be so cruel to someone, but also especially to someone who is fighting for their life.

Then there are the people in your community that have knowledge of something going on in someone else's life and begins to cast judgment and say cruel things because they may not agree with it.  Well, who are you to say what is right or wrong for someone else?  Just because it is something that you may or may not do in your life, doesn't mean it's right or wrong for them.  You don't know what goes on behind closed doors and that that person only picks and shares what they want to share.  Your not living their life and you don't know all of their situation.

There are many blogs and websites out there that people begin because of something of "significance" has been or is currently going on in their life.  Many begin to express their thoughts and feelings to help them cope and heal or just to educate others of the normalcy of their situation.  I'm not totally naive to know that there are also many that ridicule and chastise others and I'm not speaking of those.  I'm speaking of the afore-mentioned where there is no judgment, no chastising, etc.  They are just trying to tell their story and then are "verbally" attacked.

Why can't we just listen more? Why do many feel the need to "verbally" attack another just because their beliefs are different?  I know that it's just not limited to social media but many aspects of life.  This has been an issue since the beginning of time and we may never find a solution.

Today, I'm just venting my frustration of the "ignorance" of some people.  I'm venting my anger and frustration over the cruelty and ignorance of some people towards those who are going through a difficult time in their life, whether its financial difficulties, difficulties in their relationship(s), and/or health issues, the last thing they need are the cruel judgments and statements by others.

What I'm trying to say is before you cast judgment or speak ill of someone, remember you have not walked in that person's shoes.  You do not know everything about that person and their life experiences.  Look within and at your own "misgivings" and work on those because no one is perfect and there may be someone looking at you the same way and saying hurtful things.  Remember how that makes you feel and do you honestly want to make someone else feel that way just because you don't agree?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Living Life and Being in the Moment = Happiness ;-)

I slept off and on all last night which is very typical for me.  I woke up really early this morning, 5 AM, and began getting ready for my part-time job at a local fitness studio.  Even though I am really tired right now, I just can't stop feeling so happy and grateful for everything.  Believe it or not, having cancer was one of those things that opened up my eyes and mind to life.  It made me so much more aware of what's important and the things that are not so important.  It has taught me to embrace life and enjoy all that it offers, even the things that may not feel the best at that moment in time. My battle with cancer and my stem-cell transplant was not the most pleasant experience which put a lot of stress on my husband, children and family.  And even knowing the amount of stress many of us were under, I'm not angry or resentful that it had occurred.  I truly believe that there were then and still are now many life lessons from trying to survive. These lessons do not just involve me, but my husband and especially, my children.  I look at my children now and I can see how the past few years has affected them.  Some days, they carry on as if nothing happened and others, something occurs that they see or hear, that triggers a memory of those difficult times.  It opens their eyes and teaches them so many things that I continue to reinforce.  I no longer think of my diagnosis of cancer, relapse or transplant as something negative.  I look at it as something that actually has strengthened me.  It has made me take a closer look at what truly is important and all the other "stuff", is just "stuff".    

My children do not have that false-sense of reality with the fairy-tale "happily ever after".  They know that things can change in a matter of minutes.  And if that "something" that happens is discomforting, at least they have the skills to cope and process and heal. It has taught many of us to live in the moment and be happy with who we are.  And as long as your not malicious in your thoughts and actions, and you truly live life to the fullest and take every minute to embrace it, overall you'll be happy.  Life will have negatives and it will have the positives, and the only person who can choose whether you are happy living it, is YOU.

So embrace ALL things in life, both negative and positive, because it shapes who you are.   It truly does make you HAPPY to just be in the moment!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Moving Forward...

Well, I think I'm finally beginning to feel better and that I'm getting over whatever flu bug I had out of my system.  This is my time to begin moving forward, again.  I'm beginning to learn and notice how all these setbacks that I have encountered these past few years are not really setbacks.  But may be signals from my body giving me a reality check and letting me know that I need to slow down and let myself heal more.  I'm that type of person that when I have something in my head about what I want to do, I go full force and put all my energy into it.  I used to be able to do that and keep doing my other daily activities.  But now, like I said, I'm beginning to realize that it's just not possible right now, which doesn't mean it will never be possible again.  I just need to quit beating myself up when my body can't keep up.  I need to keep telling myself that I'm not weak, that I am capable and that it's just going to take a little longer until my body has fully or almost fully recovered.

I have also been so confused as to what my doctor has been telling to me.  He has said that all my numbers are normal and that I can begin living life normally again with a few exceptions.  I was taking what he was saying and thinking that I shouldn't have anymore limitations, I shouldn't feel nauseous anymore or have that "blah" feeling.  I've just realized that that's not what he is saying.  He is saying that I can begin to live life more normally but that I need to be aware of my limitations and continue to allow myself to heal both physically and mentally.  I may not have as many restrictions now as I did after my transplant but that I'm still healing and trying to recover.  I'm beginning to learn my journey isn't that unfamiliar in the transplant community.  I'm discovering that everyone of us shares similar experiences and experience ones that are quite different.  I'm learning and telling myself that just because I'm unable to do something that maybe someone, who has been through a similar experience, can do, that I'm not weak or even lazy.  It's just that my body is taking a longer time to heal after everything it's been put through.

Approximately, a month ago, I began paying more attention my diet and I have increased my physical activity/fitness.  I'm beginning to recognize the signs of when I'm pushing myself too far.  And this time, I'm not beating myself up over not being able to complete my full workout circuit or complete an entire workout that I'm watching on TV or DVD.  I need to be thankful that I'm becoming more active and I'm paying more attention to my diet with the hopes of becoming healthier and stronger so that I can "keep moving forward".