Monday, December 30, 2013

Believing in Memories

Today is my last chemo of the year. I'm going into my fourth chemo and unsure how many treatments next year might hold. I heard from friends that the 3rd is usually the worst, so I was dreading it and planned on feeling down and out for the holidays. I definitely felt more tired, but the holidays were upon us- I can't say I was any worse off than anyone else. For me the 3rd round was the toughest so far emotionally. I can definitely attribute that to the holidays and to the chemo.

It's exhausting. The waiting, the hoping, the wanting. I'm not talking about presents. The gift I wanted most could not be wrapped and put under the tree.  Yet it is also a time for reflection. I remembered the years Bob and Dad were sick and tried to think back to what gifts were given and received and I could only think of one. The last Christmas with dad I gave him a copy of the Polar Express. We sat and read it. It was ultimately a gift for me. A gift that I cherished, the gift of a memory. After losing Bob, I knew there was nothing I could give dad that would really matter. Things are things. They can make us more comfortable and bring us smiles, but many times this can be accomplished in non expensive ways. It was my way of saying that I believed. That I believed in Christmas, that I believed in hope and that I believed in him.

I spend a lot of time believing with all my heart these days. Believing I can try and make a difference. Believing that chemo is going to work. Believing I am on the path I am meant to be on and it is not finished quite yet.

It has been a year of loss. My mom's health has not been great and she's had to make some tough choices this year. Some choices were out of her control- as many end up being for us. Sometimes it's hard not to get bitter when this happens, yet sometimes it makes the path clearer.  My mom is at a point in her life where she needs to be around family- both emotionally and physically. And we, being the bulk of her family are on a pricey island in the middle of the pacific. On paper it seems like a perfect retirement- yet rationally - living in paradise comes at many costs.  The other option for her was to move near her brothers, which put her further from us- but nearer support. And then just weeks away from her big move- we find out that my aunt has pancreatic cancer and that my cancer has metastasized.  There is nothing like cancer to put your life in perspective.

Just like that, there is nothing more important than family and yet neither one of us is in any position to help or care for the other. These are the times when tough calls are made and you just have to get through. So I stopped in Denver to see her, so she could see that I was Ok. So I could see that she was Ok. I can't imagine the sense of loss she has been feeling for so long.  I can't believe where we are. It wasn't supposed to be like this.  Yet here it is and this is what it is. So you pick up the pieces that mean the most and you move on. Sometimes all you can carry with you are memories.

This Christmas was hard, knowing she was going through so many changes and I couldn't help. Stupid cancer. This was the year we talked about going home for the holidays. Yet suddenly we were in no position to make that happen. Then it hit me, home wasn't really there anymore. And yet I had my littlest elves looking for reindeer in the sky and surrounding me in belief. I have to believe we are all on this path for a reason and everything will work out. They were there reminding me of my purpose. I remember when we moved to Colorado- how we hated it at first. We had known no home but Ohio. And then Colorado became the only home we could imagine. And to think it's been 15 years since I've lived there, but I still think of it as home. And I think what makes it home are the memories.  And so when my kids asked what I wanted for Christmas- that is what I wanted. I didn't want them to remember it as the year mom was sick. I wanted to give them happy Memories. Memories for them. Memories for me- so when the road gets rough- they can believe it will be Ok because they will remember- it was OK. I think we succeeded. We went to the Nutcracker, and to see Elf and did the Jingle Rock run through the town lights. I watched the girls perform Christmas songs and sing with residents of a retirement community.  I helped my son give to the Angel Tree. We made cookies and visited with friends but most importantly we made memories. 

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Lily Kay Monkey

Lily Kay Monkey
November 2008 Photographed by Shelley Detton (7 Layer Studio)