Endings, beginnings and purpose in life

time to rest and recover this week. Tuesday marked the end of the school year for both kids. Any parent or teacher knows that this is a particularly busy time of year, filled with final exams and then celebrations. My oldest daughter is now a Junior in high school. My younger daughter is finished fifth grade and now moves on to middle school. While I feel joy for my girls when they are about to embark upon an exciting transition, I cannot feel a little bit of sadness right now. After having had a child in elementary school for 11 years, that era of our lives is over.

My illness turned my daughters’ lives upside down this year. They were both affected in different ways, I think my younger daughter was more impacted by my surgery, hospital stay and recovery. I was definitely not the mother she was used to seeing for quite a while. My older daughter, I believe, struggled more with the long term possibilities. Would her mother ever be the same? Would she lose me? When one family member becomes ill, the whole family is left to struggle with the fallout.

Nevertheless, my daughters went on to have good years at school and they came out of everything with their spirit still intact. I give a lot of the credit to some special teachers in my daughters’ lives. I have to acknowledge Peyton’s fifth grade team at Explorer. I appreciate the fact that they went the extra mile to keep both normalcy and humor in Peyton’s life. Also, they made sure she never missed out on anything that was really important to her. Who knew that dissecting a squid would turn out to be possibly her favorite activity of the year? Also, there is a special teacher who retired the previous year who made time in her busy schedule to have lunch regularly with Peyton and to mentor her interest in the stock market. She did not have to continue to spend time with my daughter, but she did, and for that I will always be thankful.

At Rampart, Riley really grappled with some of the superficiality that comes with being a teenager. She found herself thinking about things that few other kids just could comprehend. On the days when Riley just needed an adult to talk to, Mel always made time for her. Words will never be able to convey how much this woman did for my daughter and for our family. I could live a thousand lifetimes and I do not think I could ever repay her for being a mentor and source of support to my daughter throughout this school year.

Since I got my cancer diagnosis, I have spent a great deal of time assessing my life. Have I done enough? Do I matter? Has my life been purposeful? If I did not have another day or month or year, would I be satisfied with the person I have become? I know my values have changed over the course of my life. When I was young, I thought money and a high powered career were the most important things. When I eventually got pregnant and gave birth at the age of 28, those values underwent a radical transformation. My priority became my family. I could not imagine anything more important than shaping the little people with which I was now entrusted. I was no longer living for myself but for others who were dependent upon me. When I was younger, I wanted to be an “Important” person. As I got older, I realized what was important really was my relationship to my husband, my children, my parents and my close friends.

I have friends who struggle with depression. At one point in my life, I personally struggled with depression. Frankly, it haunted me until I finally made a conscious decision that I would no longer allow myself to be depressed. This is an over simplification, of course.It was hard work and took a great deal of effort to change my thought patterns. The point is, that I took steps to find meaning in my life and to be grateful for what I had. When I was sitting in chemotherapy the other day, I was scrolling through Facebook reading comments from friends about how horrible their lives were. I looked around me at people on oxygen and people who were  too sick to walk. I saw husbands holding their wives hands as they received treatment. I saw people with upset stomachs and others sleeping awkwardly in their chairs. While I know my fellow patients must be struggling with their own demons, it struck me that in the face of tremendous adversity, all of these people had made a conscious decision to fight for their lives, no matter the personal cost. It’s funny how a potentially terminal illness makes you feel thankful for whatever life you have. You realize you would do anything in your power to get one more moment with the people you care about.

Find meaning and purpose in your life, whatever that may feel like to you. It may come from your job or your family. It may come from being a volunteer for an organization you care deeply about. It may come from pursuing a passion or a hobby. If you do not think you have something meaningful in your life, take steps to change that right now. We all need to feel useful and purposeful. It gives us a reason to get up and face every day.

Treatment 17 is today. Sixteen down and two more to go.

 

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