Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Live for Joy

I have been truly blessed.  Back when I was first diagnosed, five years ago, June 15, 2011, I set a goal.  I wanted to see my youngest, then 14,  graduate from high school.  In my mind, that event put a period on the job I was supposed to do - raise my kids.  

Setting a goal a few years in the future when living with metastatic cancer is playing with fire, of course.  This disease will take you when it wants to take you, we don't get to choose. We have that Sword of Damocles hanging over our head, but being able to look forward to an event helped me focus my eyes forward rather than up. 

That high school graduation was an event that would have made me happy and proud without having cancer, but having cancer, it brought me true joy, and a sense of relief and accomplishment.  I did it, I raised my son.  He was prepared for college, he was able to live on his own if necessary.  Whew.  I don't take credit for his intelligence, drive, grades or anything but his ability to survive without me. He can cook, do laundry, is able to interview, find a job, understands paying the bills.   He doesn't need me at all, which is the goal in raising your kids (slightly heartbreaking, but it is the point of being a parent).

I got to see that period on the end of his childhood.  And then, my luck continued.  I have gotten so much more than I ever hoped for.  In the past five years, my stepdaughter became pregnant, gave birth to my first grandson who is an insanely beautiful, blue-eyed, blonde, curly-haired boy who is now two.  And, of course, he is a genius, speaking in full sentences, fully potty-trained - and he knows his Grandma Ann. We had a crayon sword-fight at the wedding.  He is unlikely to remember me unless I live much longer than anybody expects, but somewhere in his brain, I live.  Joy.

Wait, what wedding, you ask?  This weekend, on a glorious bright blue day up in the Sierra Nevada, my oldest son married his love of eleven years.  The wedding was a reflection of this couple, simple and classic, funny and sweet, creative and imaginative.  Watching your son vow to love his woman forever is heart-melting.   This little boy that you read stories to, kissed boo-boos for,  cooked dinner for every night, this boy whose hair you cut and clothes you bought and who you taught manners and hugged every chance you got - the fact that he is able to give his heart completely and honestly to somebody else,  that, my friends, is pure joy. It doesn't hurt that I love his wife like I love my stepdaughters.  

At the wedding, people asked me what my next goal is.  Many are under the impression that setting goals to live for is what keeps me going.  In reality I stopped thinking that way after the graduation.  I am not asking for more, in any sense except that I'm going to keep going with the treatment and the appointments and the unending cancer lifestyle.  I'm not giving up, but I am not going to focus on the future.  My next big event is my son's college graduation in two years. I hope to be there, of course, I do - but big events are part of life.  There will always be one in the future, and the time will come when I will no longer be there, as happens to us all.  At this point, I'm satisfied with the day I am in.

Our regular days can bring plenty of joy if we look for it.  A bird nesting outside on your eve, a rainstorm, a dog chasing its tail.  The big events bring true joy but the little things make life happy. I've had plenty of both.

So my advice for you newly diagnosed metsters is, as it has always been, to take each day as it comes.  You indeed have a sword hanging over your head, but don't give it power.  It will drop one day, or maybe, just maybe, you will be in the lucky 2% and it never does.  I just know that staring at it above all the time means you miss the joy below.

Bride and Dad

Here Comes the Bride

Groom and Bride


Me chatting with relatives

Me, my cousin, my sister, my husband at rehearsal dinner

Me and my husband


After the Ceremony