Monday, March 4, 2013

I'm Not Afraid Anymore (Mostly)

I'm coming up on a very special day - my two-year diagnosis anniversary.  It's on March 11.

It's hard to believe that it's been two years since I got that unbelievable news.  It's still hard for me to process that I was only 29.  And I was 6 1/2 months pregnant.  And it was Stage III.  And I had no idea what would lie ahead.

But it's not a time to remember all of the stunned feelings and tears and shocked expressions.  It's a time for me to rejoice.

And I'm not doing that because I made it through (though, don't mind if I do).  I'm doing it because the weight has finally been lifted - I actually just realized it went away - and I'm NOT AFRAID anymore (mostly).

I'm not scared of my cancer coming back.

I'm not wearing a death sentence on my forehead.

I'm not worried that I will miss Evan's childhood or miss rocking on the porch at my 40th wedding anniversary.

I'm not living in fear of dying.

And the reason is because...I'm finally back to being ME.

I have my hair again.  I have my eyelashes.  I have eyebrows.  I have strength and I can run - I ran six miles last week - with Evan - in a stroller - on THE SAND.  I can lift weights.  I can swim in a pool and I can go shopping and I can play Thomas the Tank Engine for hours.  I can stay focused and pay attention and read books.  All of the things that I did before cancer, I can do again.  EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

And some things are different - for the better.  I am more aware of what I eat - I make smoothies with kale and ordered a cookbook on clean eating.  I haven't given up Jelly Beans or wine or ice cream, but I'm more conscious that I was before.

I prioritize my marriage.  Brian was always important to me, but he defined the meaning of "my rock" during my diagnosis.  He was married to me for six months before our world fell apart and he got me through.  Brian stood by my side and encouraged me and cried with me and sometimes, he kicked my ass (not literally, though I'm sure the thought crossed his mind).  He made me keep going when I wanted to give up and gave me a lot of reasons to do the hard stuff.

I don't do things that I used to feel obligated to do.  I'm working on my annoying eagerness to please others.  Reading a bad book?  Not going to finish it.  Feel like watching reality TV instead of the History Channel on Sunday night?  Done (although honestly, this never really happened).  My time is valuable and I appreciate doing the things that are important to me - not what I deem others think are important.

So - where did my confidence come from?

I did the hard stuff.  I followed ALL of the doctor's instructions.  I did the chemo.  I did the radiation.  I did the mastectomy - on both sides.  I did the Herceptin.  I'm doing the Tamoxifen.  I attached this aggressively as I possibly could and did it ALL.  I felt like I was dying, I was afraid I was going to die, I saw the look in other people's eyes that they thought I was going to die (that's weird) - and I DIDN'T. I'm I'm going to LIVE.

So my reward, is not living in fear.  And not focusing on it all of the time.  My cancer took up a presence - a big presence - for two very long years.  It overwhelmed me, it stifled me, and it paralyzed me.  It's had enough of me.  I'm moving on.  So long cancer - I win.  (But just in case you are the vengeful type, I'm just kidding - we can be equals...but I'm the boss).

Saturday, March 2, 2013

February! Florida! Fun!

The time approached as it does every year - the Michigan winters - Grand Rapids especially - is so dark, gloomy, cloudy, cold, snowy, icy, depressing, blah blah blah... Every year, Brian and I get the itch to get OUT OF HERE.  (We also begin to second guess why we live here since neither of us ski, ice skate, snowboard, snowshoe, cross-country ski, make snow angels, etc). It's time for the annual pilgrimage to somewhere warm.  Lately, it seems that Brian and I have taken the kids on vacation one year and then rotate a trip in for ourselves - 2013 happened to be family year.  It just so happens that our vacation this year was following a massively sick January/February in the Murray household, so sunny weather seemed exactly what the doctor ordered.

One overwhelming thought prevented me from getting on the plane...

Flying with Evan.  Flying is painful, airports are a drab and security is annoying.  Adding in an energetic, enthusiastic yet stubborn 22-month old seemed like punishment.

But the sun called.  And so did our better judgement.

Flight one...he's somewhat skeptical. And has really short bangs.

This was Hour 2 of sprinting after Evan in the airport...and about 20 elevator rides later. 
Poor little bugger had just gotten over a bought of bronchitis a few days before we left.  The night before we left, I noticed that he had (yuck) all of the symptoms of pink eye.  I paged our amazing pediatrician, he called in eye drops and I was off to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy.  Crisis averted.

Until we got to the airport the next day.  After we had checked through security (and I paid $100 extra for my 62 pound suitcase - what a ripoff), we settled in for our wait.  And then I noticed all of the fluid that had accumulated in Evan's ear.  Due to the tubes in his ears, an infection will drain into the ear canal, but needs to be treated with ear drops.  Paged our physician again (who had to be so happy to hear from me on a Sunday, after already hearing from me on Saturday) who called in ear drops.  I left the airport, went to the pharmacy to grab the goods and headed back.

Let the trip begin.

So considering all of that nonsense, Evan did amazing on the flight.  Gavin and Cohen were great and very excited and safely made it to Remington Beach, Florida after 10 hours of travel.

Brian's parents, Ed and Cindy, rented a house for a month, right across from the beach.  Seeing Evan touch the sand and play in the Gulf for the first time was incredible. The boys had so much fun playing on the beach; seeing such big smiles and belly laughs is good for the soul; something you didn't realize you were missing until you see it.

Evan was hesitant of the sand until he realize it could be thrown/shoveled/kicked/moved.

Busy, busy.

My handsome boogie boarder.

Three little happy boys.
I'd love to share pictures of our whole family together, with Ed and Cindy, but the one night we took them, they didn't turn out.  But the weather was beautiful, the sun was shining and the wine was flowing.  Evan and I ran together on the beach every morning. I started Happy Hour every night at 5:00 pm (with or without companions) and slept until Evan woke up in the morning.  It was the first vacation in years without doctors appointments, surgeries or thoughts of surgery.  It was just time loving my husband, hugging my children and enjoying every moment with my family.

Celebrating Brian's Birthday on a Date Night at The Lobster Pot! (Look how long my hair is getting!)

Cohen eating alligator!  He loved it.

The three of them have such a special bond with each other.

Gavin, Evan and Cohen cuddling with Walter.

Our only family picture from our ENTIRE vacation.
Tricia and her entire family - Jim, Laney, Kylie and Jameson came down to Florida and their trip overlapped with us for a few days. I wish we could have spent more time with them but the second phase of our trip was waiting for us!

Evan and I headed over to Orlando to stay with my mom and dad and Meghan and Michael.  Instead of the beach, we spent time at the pool, visited with fabulous friends and family and had Happy Hour every night at 5:00 pm (no worries - always had companions when drinking with the Klines).

Evan and Nana proved to everyone they are best friends; actually, anytime Nana left the room, Evan followed along.  Evan's also a big fan of Boompa.  Evan actually prefers Nana and Boompa over everyone else (but they didn't want him to sleep in their room!)

I would love to show you how beautiful Meghan and Michael are, or happy group shots of Nana and Boompa with Evan, but again - I didn't take that many pictures.  I'm the worst. It's a good thing I don't have memory issues due to chemotherapy since I took "photographs" in my head - er, wait....

What I came away with is the overwhelming feeling that I am blessed.  I have all that I want in my life - the love of my best friend, healthy, beautiful children and incredible relationships with my family.  We have great jobs that allow us time off and the ability to take our family on vacation.  It's an amazing feeling.

Disclaimer: This feeling did escape me temporarily when Evan had a MAJOR meltdown on the flight home.  HUGE.  For SO LONG.  If I had to guess, he screamed for 40 minutes (but felt like 40 hours).  Huge tears, bright red face, thrashing in the seat we shared.  It was terrible.  So terrible, that I started crying too.  Ohmygoodness.  What freaking disasters.  Could you imagine sitting next to a screaming baby and then seeing his whack-a-doo mom start crying too?  While everyone was outwardly kind/smiling in judgment, I am sure they were thinking that I needed to get it together.  And that was how our trip ended.