Have Patience. We’re not superheroes.

img_2479

As much as we would like to be invincible and able to accomplish every pressing task at lightening speed, lets face it- we  aren’t able to.

Today is September 29th, 2016. Just 7 years ago today, a 21 year old me got on plane and rode all the way to the UK to be with my 23 year old cancer-stricken husband. I remember it like it was yesterday. My husband and I (he was my fiance’ at that point in time) were forced to be separated during his re-diagnosis and stem cell transplant. I had to apply for an expensive fiance’ visa, which was a very long and nerve-wracking experience. Every day while I wondered if my fiance’ would survive the next day, I was also wondering whether we would get approved or not, whether we would be able to finally be together for good. I had to submit all manner of personal documents and photographs – enough to over fill a 2 inch binder. (Many of which I would never get back, so I couldn’t even keep this folder as a memory).

There are so many holidays and special dates that hit a nerve with me. This day is one of them because while this should have been one of the happiest days of my life… it has turned out to be a very sad occasion. It’s now nothing but a memory of a dream, of a tiny sliver of joy I experienced. It’s almost like being awarded a million dollars and then losing it all the next day by dropping it into a shredder on accident. (Okay that’s a horrible analogy lol but that’s because nothing really compares to how this loss feels to me). Of course I’m happy that I was lucky enough to ever be married to my husband, my best friend. However, I’m eternally anguished because of how I lost him and the fact that I had to lose him at all.

This whole week, even while I was in beautiful Destin, Florida. While, I was on the powdery, white sand and overlooking the clear  blue ocean, I was filled with anxiety. I woke up with a terrible panic attack on the 25th and was reminded what time of year it is. Today, someone said something to me that has stuck with me all day. Now, this lady, (a new manager at my new place of employment) probably had no idea that it would affect me so much. She made a comment saying that it was good to see that I had “moved on”. I don’t want to discuss the context of the conversation, but the fact that she assumed that anyone could ever just “move on” and the fact that she thought that everything in me has healed disturbed me.

Sometimes, I like to think that I am a super hero. I like to pretend that I don’t ever hurt and I often use my smile as protection. I place such a huge burden on myself to be this image of the person I want to be. When I don’t reach those expectations immediately, I feel like I have not only failed myself, but other people, possibly my late husband. Ever since my husband passed away, I felt that I had to be strong for everyone else. This was in part because people would act different around me and I lost “friends” who judged me for certain decisions I had made during my grief. Truth is, I’m human too.

Right now, I’m learning patience. I’m learning to allow myself time. Sometimes I exhaust myself trying to do everything for everyone else and neglect myself. Then, I rush to do the things I need to do, leaving no room for me to relax or even consciously think. I’m a people pleaser. I love to see other people happy and knowing that I had even just the tiniest part in their happiness makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.

I think we all just need to stop and let ourselves be human. Even if it’s just for 30 minutes a day. This is why exercise and even meditation is so important to me. I’m learning that even though my best friend died over 6 years ago, I never really allowed myself to deal with it because I was so afraid of not being strong enough to bear everyone else’s burdens. So bear with me as I’m in the beginning process of writing my creative fiction book based on our love story. It has been helping me open up doors that I’ve closed and allowed me to open up to myself. There are times when I have to take a break or even start over because some of it is still very raw and painful. However, it’s helping me to remember, both the joyful and the painful memories so that maybe they can all reside together in… dare I say… peace.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September marks the beginning of Childhood Cancer Awareness month.(Although it’s every month for me!)September-Childhood-Cancer-Awareness This cause is something very near and dear to my heart. My late husband was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma before he could even get to really experience his teenage years.

There aren’t currently any specific treatment regimens that are catered to children specifically. Despite nearly 46 children each school day being diagnosed with cancer, childhood cancer still only accounts for less than 1% of new cases of  cancer diagnosed yearly in the US. So, it’s very prevalent, but I guess not prevalent enough to get the funding it needs. There also hasn’t been much research conducted in the area of childhood cancer.Most of these children either go into remission and if their “lucky”, they make it to the 5 year mark (like my husband did). However, they usually relapse with a second form of cancer which was caused by the all of the toxic treatments from the first cancer. Then, there are other children who die almost immediately or are diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a few months or weeks to live.

Lots of times when doing research on childhood cancer, you’ll notice that there is so much talk about this “five year survival rate”. However, it’s just that- a 5 year survival rate – children like my husband went into remission for 5 years. I went to the doctors with him for his final appointment. He was a healthy, happy, man with so much ahead of him. Not even two months after that, everything went down hill. He relapsed with Acute NK cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia. (They  originally thought it was T-Cell). The only form of treatment was a bone marrow transplant where basically your whole immune system is destroyed making you susceptible to death by contracting even a common cold. Many people do not even survive the BMT because it’s very taxing on your body and your immune system is being suppressed so that as much cancer as possible can be destroyed.

David survived the bone marrow transplant and we were able to get married. Things were looking up and he was happy, gaining weight and growing his hair back. THEN, 6 months later, we were back at the hospital on the TCT ward ( a specialized ward for young cancer patients) with what we thought was a regular chest infection. Little did we know that he was in septic shock and they needed to yank his Hickman Line out immediately. Yes, they had to yank it out with no pain meds or anything. After that ordeal, he was laying in bed watching Egg Heads with his mum and I. We were laughing and just waiting for him to get his medications. He was excited to finally take a real shower since his Hickman line was finally out. We had no idea that in a few minutes our whole life would change drastically. Suddenly, a whole team of doctors and nurses came in to tell us that unfortunately his cancer had reemerged and there wasn’t anything that could be done. The first words that I remember David saying were “but I’ve only been married for 6 months, I’m not ready”. His oncologist was called at home to inform him of the findings in David’s blood and he truly didn’t want to believe it himself, he actually went to the lab to look for himself before breaking the news to us.

Now you tell me whether that’s fair or not. You tell me whether you would ever want anyone you love to have to experience that. Most likely not. Now, I can go on and on about case after case of children who had their whole life ripped from them. About parent’s who have lost their children way too early. No one wants to believe that it can happen to them, but it can and it will happen again to someone else. That someone could be you or someone you love and care about.

This is why I’m spending this month trying to raise awareness and donating to different charities. I never want anyone to go through what I have. Children are supposed to be our future leaders and we’re supposed to be looking after them. Funding for research is SO important. Imagine if every body just donated $5, how much we could accomplish. it’s also important to know who you’re donating to and being aware of where their donations are going. This is why I’ve written a little list of some of my favorite charities below:

https://www.thetruth365.org/

https://www.teencanceramerica.org/

Arms Wide Open: https://awoccf.org/

http://smashingwalnuts.org/

https://www.stillbrave.org

**Note** Teen Cancer America is solely to help institute cancer wards specific for young adults and children. This is also very important in the morale of the patient. I can attest to how much it helped my husband while he was battling cancer. Before he was placed on that ward, he was on a ward with older adults who were usually dying or very sick. On the Teen ward, he had access to all sorts of games, his own room, his own shower/bath, a fully stocked fridge and cabinets with essential foods, televisions and music. There was also an activity coordinator who helped organize events and crafts etc. Most importantly, he was surrounded by people his age who could relate to him and what he was going through. This is also a great cause.

Here is a list of some of my sources:

http://www.cancer.gov/research/areas/childhood

http://www.cancer.org/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cp