Well, it’s been a while. I think my last post was some time in August. So much has changed for me in a few short months. I have been absent from this blog that I love so that I can focus on the new realities of my life. In September, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. She is receiving treatment, but the prognosis is not good. Our lives have been turned upside down. I am planning on trying to write and post when I can, but will be doing so always with an altered perspective.
For those of you who have experienced cancer in any way, I’m sure you would all agree that once it enters your life, it changes you. For me right now, every experience, social interaction, sporting event, time with my husband, fun with my kids, is lived with feelings of anger, rage, and fear always just beneath the surface. I am trying to look at life right now one day at a time, focusing on what I can do for my mom (and dad) each day, rather than allowing myself to become entwined in the worries and fears of tomorrow. So with that, I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve learned in just months since cancer came into our lives.
1. My parents are stronger than I’ve ever realized. Not once since this all started has my mother complained. Not once. She has been poked, prodded, scanned, cut open, lost her hair, and been told awful, sad news. She continues to stay positive and laugh and joke as much as possible. My father has become a warrior. Even through his own medical challenges, he is constantly taking care of my mother lovingly, carefully, and with unending determination. I am so proud of both of them.
2. I love my husband more than I have ever thought possible. From the very beginning of this, he has essentially become the default parent. He is balancing a full-time extremely demanding job, meeting the kids off the bus, doing homework, packing lunches, and gracefully handling both his role and mine in our family. He has been unyielding in his support and love for me throughout.
3. Kids are incredibly resilient. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s true. When we told our boys how serious things were, they each had a very different and unique reaction. My older son wanted every detail and asked lots of questions, including “Is she going to die?”. My younger son took in the information, but didn’t want to discuss it – “Can I go watch football now?” he asked. Through all of this, they have been cooperative, flexible, empathetic, and extremely understanding.
4. Be your own advocate. I can’t begin to tell you how much smoother things go when there is a designated person in the family managing and organizing the care of a loved one. Information is coming at you so quickly, people don’t always know what questions to ask – or even that they are allowed to ask and challenge a doctor or a nurse on anything. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with my dad encouraging him to “ask about this”, “find out what happens if”, and “don’t let them do..”. In this, I’ve seen so many doctors and nurses just bombard my mom with info, pushing her to answer tough questions about her care, and never once taking into consideration that they should treat the patient as part of a team or a family system. If you are going to advocate for someone, be pushy, annoying, ask lots of questions and expect answers. Call often, and make sure the professionals caring for your parent know who you are and that you should be consulted with everything.
5. We are blessed on so many levels. Friends, family, teachers, coaches, and even acquaintances in our lives have just been incredibly loving and supportive. From meals, to rides, to babysitting, pet sitting, and beyond – we are so grateful.
For now, my posts might be fewer and far between, but I am hoping you will keep our family in your prayers. I am also hoping that you can try to look for the lessons and the learning that happens with every mountain that stands before you.