It was this time last year that I first starting experiencing back pain. Of course I quickly dismissed it as a sports related injury and carried on with all the merriment of the holidays. I threw Jay a surprise 40th birthday party, attended Christmas parties, saw the nutcracker, baked Christmas cookies, traveled all over Michigan to spend time with family. I was so happy. Joyfully singing Christmas carols around the house and making our elf do all kinds of crazy things. I love the holidays and a little back pain wasn’t going to slow me down.
This year I feel like I am watching the world celebrate and laugh and toast friendship & good health. And I am kind of in a sort of daze. Bogged down with anxiety of what will happen next. Paranoid that each ache and pain I feel is another cancer tumor. Tired and unable to multi-task like I always do. Unmotivated to make 40 jars of granola for all our neighbors, teachers and friends. Avoiding making Christmas cookies because I don’t eat sugar anymore and that would just be torture. Living in this world, but not truly feeling it. The warm fuzzy feeling I get when I light the Christmas tree and put on Christmas music isn’t here this year. Instead I am fearful and anxious and sore and tired.
There are moments each day of happiness. Usually involving being close to my boys – a snuggle on the couch, listening to them talk about something they are excited about, watching the three of them throw a football or seeing Bennett’s excitement when he takes off the advent calendar number…
Yet, the further away I get from my old self the more I miss it. You’d think it would get easier. But, right now at the holidays I am just really angry that our old life was taken away from us. That I have to be intentional about being happy instead of just being happy. I focus on optimism and hope as my go to coping mechanism. I don’t know if it will extend my life, but It certainly will make the time I have more fun. It’s just not always that easy.
Last Christmas I spent an afternoon with my friend Sandra while she got a chemo infusion right before Christmas. I remember posting a picture of us together and encouraging others to remember those who are sick or afraid during the holidays. Sandra died of metastatic breast cancer 5 months later. I can still hear her sweet voice as we talked about our hopes for 2014. She wanted to wear a fancy dress and dance with a handsome man. Neither of us could have imagined what 2014 would really bring.
That’s the hard part of living in uncertainty and facing a diagnosis that has no cure or finish life. You live your life with hopes and dreams. You make plans and carry on. You look healthy. There are no more meal trains or “team Lara” tshirts. I am not “sick” right now… I should be so happy. Yet I am livingly dying.
So this holiday – remember those who are weak or afraid. Cherish your carefree laughter and all the running around that drives you crazy. Don’t get bogged down with the peripheral stuff. Focus on what matters, take time to feel the warmth and magic of the holidays and make exciting plans for 2015.
life is beautiful.