Gratitude is the new black

 

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In this blog, I usually try to focus on the positive elements of my illness, and certainly of life.  It probably goes without saying that having cancer – or any serious illness – can really force you stop and take stock of your life.  There is so much in the world that can be negative – it’s easy for us to focus on the people or times in life that have disappointed us.

Like many of us, especially moms, we all have so many things – too many things – going on all day, every day.  Without even thinking about it, we can get caught up in the day-to-day craziness. If I were to outline what a typical Tuesday looks like around our house – trust me, you would need a nap, a cocktail or both!

Much of what my  husband and I talk about these days is how we are going to get our three children to three different places.  And like many of us, especially moms, I usually moan and groan about how am I EVER going to be in so many places at once.

However, what hit me this weekend, at one of our three soccer games, was how GRATEFUL I was to be watching my children play.  Two Octobers ago, soccer was just soccer. One of too many activities we had to cart the kids back and forth from.  This weekend, as I watched my son score a goal, I cried. Yes, I ACTUALLY cried (thank goodness for sunglasses).  It was a nice goal but it wasn’t the technique involved or even that it was a winning goal (because they STILL don’t keep score in these games!).  It was watching his growth and seeing how far he’s come – and feeling grateful that I am here to see it.

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For the last three months, I have been home, taking care of myself and putting my well-being first. This time has been invaluable to me, my health and my family.  As difficult as it was to agree with my doctor and nurse that I needed to do this, it was without question the right thing to do. Putting ourselves first isn’t always easy or natural.  If you’re like me, guilt kicks in pretty quickly.  On top of that, who has the time?  As I wrote about in a recent blog, we all spend our days rushing from place to place, without stopping to reflect on how we actually want to fill our days.  What I have been able to learn more clearly since my diagnosis is HOW I want to spend my time – and WHO I want to spend my time with. Before this illness, saying yes to anything and everything I was asked to do (and even some stuff I wasn’t asked to do!) was my “chronic illness”.  This type of clarity is something I am not sure I had before I got sick.

For this, I am grateful.

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In a few short weeks, I will be the Honored Hero for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society‘s  (LLS) Light the Night Walk in Princeton, New Jersey.  I feel so lucky to have been recognized in this way – and to be able to share my story with others.  LLS is an amazing organization, whose mission is to “cure leukemialymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.  LLS exists to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. We are the voice for all blood cancer patients and we work to ensure access to treatments for all blood cancer patients…”

When I first became involved with LLS a few months ago I made a commitment to raise awareness and funds for the walk and to advance the mission.  Which means I have to ask for money from our friends and families. This is NOT easy for me to do but I do it, reminding myself the money isn’t for me, well at least not literally (ultimately the funds will be used benefit all blood cancers, which will be good for me!).  I have been laser-focused on being creative about how to raise this money. I have put aside my own insecurities and discomfort at asking for help (and especially for money) and have been astonished at the outpouring of support we have received.   Friends and family members are donating their time, money and/or resources to support our team’s fundraising efforts. Every time an email comes in, alerting me to a donation, I am humbled beyond measure.  People from all stages of our lives have been so incredibly generous to us, and have been since the day I was diagnosed.

For this, I am grateful.

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A dear friend has told me – since we became “cancer buddies”  – that we each fight our own fight and we must swim in our own lane.  What happens to me in my battle against this disease won’t be the same as what happens to someone else, even if they are the same age as me or were diagnosed the same time.  However, each day I am reminded how lucky I am.  I belong to several Facebook groups supporting Myeloma patients and their families.  I joined to be part of a community of others who are facing similar things as me.  It can be a forum to share experiences, ask questions and learn. But sometimes it is also place where difficult news is shared – someone has come out of remission, is entering hospice or has lost their battle.    Recently a “myeloma friend” (a connection initially made purely because we both got diagnosed around the same time) found out that she is no longer in remission.  We have much in common.  She too had a stem cell transplant (in fact, another transplant to support the first). She too has had similar treatments. She too lost her hair (actually, she’s lost it twice). Luckily, she too has an incredibly positive attitude, even about this most recent setback. I am confident she will be okay and will be soon be sharing the news that she has kicked Myeloma’s *ss again and is back in remission.  However her situation, and that of many others like her, reminds me just how fickle this particular type of cancer can be and how lucky I am to be solidly in remission.

For this, I am grateful.

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Those dark nights, two years ago after coming home from the hospital, I was worried ALL. THE. TIME.  I worried about leaving my husband far too early – and as a single parent, to care for our three children alone.  I worried about leaving our children with no mother at very young ages – would THAT be their story?   I worried about all three of them, but I would often lay in bed with our youngest and wonder – if I left them this soon – would she remember me?

After watching my son score that goal, I walked across the fields (because naturally two of our three children play at the same time!) and watched our 6-year-old play. And you know what?   She’s actually not that bad!  Nearly two years ago, when I was first diagnosed, she was just a baby.  I wasn’t thinking about her soccer prowess.  I was thinking – far too often – about whether I would be around to see her – all of them – grow up?

Well, this week that same little girl turned six (SIX??).  There were questions about whether I would see her start kindergarten but two weeks ago she climbed those bus steps and I was there to watch her do it. I am not sure I can promise to completely stop grumbling about the many things I have to do, the carpooling, the homework, the bedtime routines (I believe we moms complain about this but secretly love most, if not all, of it).  But I can promise this – that I will stop, as often as possible, and remind myself how lucky I am to be here and alive to do them all.

For this, I am so grateful.

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Every day brings us a new milestone – it may be starting kindergarten, or a lost tooth or simply looking at your child or partner in a new way, discovering something about them you never realized before. Perhaps your child won the spelling bee or scored that winning goal in hockey. Maybe you lost those last 10 pounds. Or maybe you said….to hell with those last 10 pounds and decided to treat yourself to that ice cream cone.  Maybe you connected with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while or finally decided to give yourself permission to block that annoying “friend” on Facebook until after the presidential election.  No matter what it is, you have the ability to make that choice – and are here and alive to do it.

And for this, we should ALL should be grateful. 

Take a moment and think about it.  What are YOU grateful for?

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Until next time….#gameon

PS if you’re interested in learning more about our Light the Night walk fundraising efforts, click here!  There is still time to donate!

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In October 2014, after being admitted to the hospital for an eye infection, I was diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma (never heard of it? Neither had I!). Since my diagnosis, I have had a Stem Cell Transplant (SCT) and continue to receive maintenance chemotherapy on a regular basis – and I am thrilled to say I have achieved a Stringent Complete Response (sCR).  I am a proud wife and a mom of three young children ages 9, 7 and 6. 

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2 thoughts on “Gratitude is the new black

  1. Great post! I love reading your blogs; while ‘perspective’ isn’t always the key theme, I think it’s always your message, and always has me taking at least a small step back to appreciate just how lucky we are in every aspect of our lives!

    Continuing to think of you and your family and wishing you the best health for the Fall season. Congratulations on your upcoming honor as well; what great recognition! I’ve been a little late on the donation front but it’s coming, I promise.

    Miss you!
    Justin

    Liked by 1 person

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