Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Thanksgiving Thoughts

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, but I am having a hard time being grateful. I know I should give thanks for all the time I have been given this year. At the beginning of the year the docs said it could be as long as a year or as little as three months. I never expected to live past the summer, much less Thanksgiving. I know I have been very blessed with all the things I got to do this year and time spent with family and friends, but this past year has been hard and sometimes I just do not feel very thankful.

Christmas is around the corner and I can not get excited about it. The last two years I have had an open house the second week of December. I thought that maybe we should have one this year and that would give me something to look forward to and maybe help get me into the Christmas season. But after the last two weeks of not feeling very good, I have decided I am not up for it. It is very hard to make plans since I never know how I am going to feel in a few hours, not to mention the next couple of days. Last week I was hit with what seemed like the 24 hour flu and while I felt better the next day I felt the effects for several days. Last Wednesday night I had a breathing attack that lasted over an hour and left me very weak. I had to cancel my plans for the next day. All of that totaled to three events I needed to cancel and countless hours in bed. I went out on Saturday and paid for it by spending Sunday in bed. Instead of just one nap a day, I am up to two or even three, but even though I am exhausted I have trouble going to sleep at night. It does not seem fair that I can fall asleep in minutes during the day and it takes me hours at night.

As I read back at what I have just written it seems I just went off on a tangent on the things I am ungrateful for. So much for trying to reflect on the meaning of today, let’s see if I can do better.

I can tell you that I am grateful for my parents and them allowing me to move back home. It has been hard and an adjustment for all of us, but it helps knowing that I am not alone if I get a breathing attack or need help with something. I am also thankful for all the love and support that people have shown me, especially my cyber friends. It cheers me up when I look at facebook and twitter and realize there are so many people out there that I have never met in person that are providing support. Thank you very much.

Last week a good friend that I used to work with undertook an incredible challenge. He participated in a 50 mile run. He told me last spring that he wanted to do this, but not just for himself, he wanted to run for me. In September he sent me an email and he wrote:

"I think about you often when I run. If I hit a tough patch and start to whine about being tired, I think about you and your fight. Somehow, I always run a little stronger and finish the distance."

He raised over $1200 on my behalf and that money is going to help other young adults with cancer. It is hard to believe that our friendship inspired him to undertake such a physically and mentally challenging task. I talked with him a few days befor the race and I was overwhelmed that he was doing this for me and could not find the words to thank him. I promised him I would keep him in my thoughts and send him good vibes so that he could have a great run. I thought about him a lot on Saturday and I think he is the one that gave me strength to do the things that I wanted to that day.

I once told someone that if I could help one other person by sharing my journey with cancer it makes some of it worthwhile. In the last two weeks I have been told by several people how I have inspired them. I even talked to a researcher from a national talk show and she told me that of all the people she has met, my story has touched her the most and she will always remember me. I guess that is what I should be thankful for – all the people who have listened to my story and been a part of my journey and the unending support I receive. From age 19, I always wanted to make an impact on this world and the people in it. I know now that I have, that this is my legacy. I may be dying, but I don’t think I will ever be forgotten and I hope that I helped others by sharing my life this way.

I started out writing post feeling very depressed, but now I am smiling as I think about all of you that will read this and how much each of you have helped me. So for today I am grateful to be alive, to be sharing the day with my family and for my connections with each of you and of course I am thankful for all the delicious food I will be stuffing myself with.
Below are a few pictures from moments this year that I am thankful for.

Please share with what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving.

The Ward Girls - Jan '09

37th Birthday Party - March '09

Easter '09 Family Pic

Easter '09 with Nephews: Adam, Sawyer, Zachary

Nephew Spenser's '09 High School Graduation

Beach Trip June '09
Spenser's growing too big for Aunti Alli's lap

Beach Trip June '09
Tickle time with Sawyer

Beach Trip June '09
Night at Trimpers on the Boardwalk - Bumber Cars with Spenser

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Leaving Home and Leaving a Part of Myself

Two weeks before my 25th birthday I bought a condo. It was a big step, but I was ready to move out on my own. It is a two bedroom garden style with a postage stamp yard, small kitchen and a fireplace. The walls were Pepto Bismal pink with pink carpet and the place was dirty, but it was all mine. After a couple of weeks of cleaning and painting I moved in with a new couch, hand-me-downed bed and a few borrowed pieces of furniture. Twelve years later it is not just a condo, but my home. I turned the place into my quiet haven. Each room has a touch of myself in it. Not only the sweat equity of painting the rooms, but pieces of my personality. I have created gardens in the front and back and made this place and the surrounding area truly my own.

Now on the eve of moving out, I look around and remember hanging each picture, picking out the curtains, making the cork wreath, taking and printing photographs and so much more. This place, my home is filled with memories and mementos of my life and travels, but also those of my family and friends.

Tomorrow I am moving into my parent’s house. Back into the home that has been in my family for over forty years and the bedroom where I spent my adolescence. I am moving home to my parents because as each day blooms, my cancer spreads and my body deteriorates. I am no longer able to be alone or take proper care of myself.

I gave up driving two months ago. I still use the car to drive the ¼ mile to the village center and get my Starbucks, prescriptions or a few groceries a couple times a week, but it is my parents that are driving me around to my appointments. As of tomorrow I will not be driving at all.

Giving up driving was hard enough, needing to use a cane even harder, but none of that compares to the loss of independence that is involved with moving back home. I am 37 years old, and with the exception of a couple of months while a friend stayed here, I have lived alone for over 12 years. I have been spoiled with the ability to come and go when I please, played my music as loud as I wanted, cooked whatever I craved and reveled in my quiet time. For those of you that have lived alone you know what is like. You can do whatever you want including leaving your dirty laundry on the floor, the dishes in the sink and shoes by the front door if that is what pleases you.

My parents are being great about me coming back to live with them. They are rearranging their house so that I may have my own space with some my stuff around me. But it won’t be the same as having my own room when I was growing up, because it is just more evidence of how my life is changing. I am happy that my parents live 15 minutes away and I will still be able to keep stuff in my house and can stop and get what I need or spend time here. I know it is the right thing to do, but damn it, why does the right thing sometimes have to be so hard.

I am going to miss my house, going to miss having all the little reminders of my life for the past twelve years within an arm’s reach. So tonight I mourn. I mourn for the loss of my independence, for leaving my home – my space of comfort and leaving behind so many of my possessions and I mourn for my declining health.

I remember the day I signed my name for what seemed like a thousand times that made me (and the bank) the official owner of my own home. I remember the trepidation, the excitement and the how if felt to know that I was starting a new chapter in my life. Tonight, I know that I am not starting anew, but in the process of finishing the last chapter of my life. They say you can’t go home again, but I am. It is not lost on me the symbolism of the return to where I grew up. I am closing the circle of my life. I started in my parent’s house and that is where I will end.