Monday, November 21, 2005


25 Days to Go

After posting my last journal entry about my fascination with Harry Potter, it occurred to me that I actually have cancer to thank for learning about him. (If you’re a HP fan and didn’t get a chance to read the entry, go into the journal history and look at it, because I gave a link to a really humorous site.) Of course I had heard of the Harry Potter series ….. who hadn’t? But I never thought I would enjoy it; sci-fi, fantasy, wizards and witchcraft … SO not my thing!

Then one day, three or four months after Kendrie was diagnosed with leukemia, she and I went to the clinic for one of her chemo appointments. I had gotten confused (imagine that) and thought that particular day’s appointment was a short one when in actuality it was a long day of IV chemo and transfusions. I was completely unprepared; no dvd player, no books, no magazines, etc. Kendrie, of course, was pre-medicated with Benadryl and slept through the entire process, but there I sat with six hours stretching out in front of me and absolutely nothing to do to pass the time. This was back before our clinic was remodeled and we didn’t have private transfusion rooms, so I couldn’t even stretch back in my chair and take a good nap myself.

In desperation, I walked over to the kids’ library cart, hoping to find ANYTHING to read to kill a few hours. As I browsed my choices (along the lines of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Curious George, and a few Captain Underpants books) I saw the only book that appealed to anyone over age eight --- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I scoffed a bit, since I just knew the book would be so stupid and boring, but hey, if you’re desperate, you’re desperate, and I settled in with the book, my introduction to Harry and Hermoine and Ron and the gang.

Needless to say, when Kendrie woke a few hours later and I hadn’t yet finished the book, I snuck it into my purse and stole it from the clinic! By the end of the week I had purchased and read every HP book written to date, and thus, my obsession began. (PS. I DID return the book at our next visit, just in case you were wondering about my kleptomaniac tendencies!) So anyway, I consider Harry Potter to be one of the unexpected perks of Kendrie getting cancer. In a very weird, twisted way. And I’m thankful.

I’ve heard people say that a cancer diagnosis is a gift; making us better people, more appreciative of the little things in life, more patient, happier with our children, more grateful for every moment we get to spend together, etc. You know what I say to that? I say blah, Blah, BLAH! (imagine me making little “talking” motions with my hands) I would much rather be less appreciative, less grateful, less patient, and a suckier person all around, if that meant my daughter never had to go through ANY of this! If you think I’m going to say I’m thankful she got cancer, you’ve obviously dipped into the holiday eggnog a little early this year.

But, like my discovery of Harry Potter, there are some things I can *indirectly* thank cancer for, and I think this Thanksgiving Week might be the perfect time to do so. So, here are my top five, "Good Things That Have Come From Cancer":

1) I have cancer to thank for getting in touch with my “feminine side”. While I am still anti-pedicure, and the thought of someone touching me for a massage gives me hives, I am able now to give hugs a little more freely and let people know how much I care about them. I’m not so uptight about expressing my emotions. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always cried at appropriate moments (like when they took “Thirty Something” off the air, and when Bill Clinton was elected President. Both times.) But now I find myself crying all the time….. reading books, listening to music, Hallmark commercials on tv … I’m pretty much a sobbing fool. And things that should be normal rites of childhood, like watching your daughter step up to bat for the first time at t-ball, or singing with her fellow kindergarteners at her Thanksgiving Feast … well, most parents simply smile proudly. I, however, am reduced to sniffling and dabbing at my eyes with Kleenex, so very thrilled with all Kendrie has overcome, unable to stop the torrent of happy tears that threaten. On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be thankful for the blubbering mess I’ve become. It’s actually quite embarrassing.

2) I have lost friends, and I am, in reality, grateful. Being a military wife for the past eighteen years, I spent way too much time and energy trying to maintain friendships and relationships (some up-close, some long-distance) that really needed to die a natural death. I was the sort of person that always thought, “One more letter, one more phone call or e-mail, I’ll keep trying …. I hate to lose a friendship, even if I am the one doing all the work.” I know it sounds clichéd, but after Kendrie was diagnosed, we learned quickly who our real friends were. We had some casual acquaintances who stepped up to the plate and became good friends, and we feel blessed to have made new, valuable friendships along the way. We’ve even met total strangers who have made it their life’s work to help families in our situation. This experience has freed me up to say, “You know, if you couldn’t bother to call and check on us, or drop us a note, or check this caringbridge site, when our daughter was diagnosed with cancer, for Pete’s sake, then it is clear to me that our relationship was one-sided, and I feel no guilt about letting it go.” The people who are in our lives now actually care about us. Do you have any idea how empowering that is???? Plus, it saves me money on Christmas card postage during the holidays.

3) I have a much clearer perspective and can now see the difference between a crummy day and a true tragedy. I used to be guilty of complaining about “having the WORST day ever!!!” You know the kind, when you discover someone else finished the box of your favorite cereal, or you get a flat tire, or the shirt you want to wear is still in the washer, or your kid spills milk on your pants just as you’re walking out the door, or you leave your lunch sitting on the counter when you go to work, or you can’t find your favorite earrings, or your cable goes out and you miss your favorite tv show, or you get a “C” on a test, or you get a parking ticket, or any number of things that seem to happen to people on a daily basis. And my favorite (or least favorite, depending on your point of view) is how I can now put my own childrens' illnesses into perspective. If Brayden has a cough, or Kellen throws up or has a head-cold … yes, I feel bad for them. Yes, I comfort them and give them medicine and baby them just a bit. But I do NOT walk around believing (and complaining to anyone who will listen) that this is just the worst day EVER because my child is sick. (Or because I dropped the mayonnaise jar and it broke on the kitchen floor, or something equally inane.) When someone tells me how terrible their day has been, I want to look them in the eye and ask, “I’m sorry … did a doctor tell you today that your child has cancer? Because if not, then I don’t think your day was that bad after all.” And while it might sound harsh, an attitude like that is also sort of empowering. People don’t tend to whine around you when they realize they are not getting a smidge of sympathy.

4) The flip side of my crappy-day reason is that having known a TRULY crappy day, the day Kendrie was diagnosed, I realize there are people having much, much crappier days then me and it helps to stay in balance with my own feelings. I don't resort to throwing myself pity-parties near as often. Yes, I still gripe when the microwave breaks, or my kids are fighting, or the dryer goes out, or I burn dinner, or any other number of annoying things happen. It’s life, after all, and some days just don’t run smoothly. But I’m able now to remember that a crappy day is OVER at midnight and you get a fresh start the next morning. And as long as I don’t hear that one of my children has cancer ….. or has relapsed … or worse, which parents everywhere are forced to hear on a daily basis, then I know my day is really not that bad after all, even if the dog did throw up all over the living room carpet. And that’s empowering, also, to know that every 24 hours you get a do-over.

Obviously, I’m all about the empowerment. I just need to figure out a way to make weeping in public seem empowering, then I’ll be all set. :)

5) And ok, it’s trite and hackneyed, but I honestly do appreciate the good moments a little more. Sure, I still get upset with my kids (understatement of the year.) Not every day is gloriously happy, full of bunnies and rainbows, but I don’t take it for granted anymore. And while I know I’m not the best parent on the planet (Shoot, I’m not even the best parent in North America … or in Georgia … or in Byron …. Or even in my own house!) I do treasure the good moments, and enjoy them, and never forget to tell my kids I love them (when I’m not yelling at them for being obnoxious hooligans.)

So that’s it, my list of five things I can be thankful for *because* of cancer …. Because I will never be thankful for cancer. But I can be thankful for the changes it has brought about in me, hopefully for the better. (again, except for the crying …. I’m still trying to figure that one out!)

Hope you are all having a great week,

WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: I’m getting so close to the end, I almost forget there is supposed to be a worst part every day!

BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: No doubt, hands-down, going with my family to the Immunization Clinic on base today and watching while my dad, my mom, Brayden and Kellen ALL had to get their flu shots and knowing I already got mine during my last spinal tap!! Can you believe my mom said “Ouch!” louder than my brother or my sister? Obviously, courage doesn’t come with age, or she would have been the bravest one there!

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