Facebook reminded me that this image of Corryn and I was posted exactly one year ago today. My sister Kate Lockwood was in town helping me to recover from my second emergency surgery. The surgery that took what I had left of my right breast. Everyone who loved me was starting to realize that I really did in deed have cancer and most importantly they were starting to realize just how serious and scary my situation was. Where I was starting to see how important it was that I document special moments for my daughter to have and to remember me by. I know I have said it before, but when you are first told that you have cancer, the only thing that runs through your mind is that you are going to die. In a lot of cases this is scary and consuming, but if you are a mom of a young child, you immediately start to plan for a life for your child/children and husband without you in it. What it is you can do now, what you can do to prepare them, and what you can do to make things easier on them when they do face life without you in it.
I remember the day this first image was take so vividly. My sister was in town so I was spending as much time with her as I could. I relaxed in a chair while she and my husband Jordan started spring maintenance on the yard. It was beautiful out, so I had the very last minute idea to take a few very unplanned photos of us as a family. During the week before this, I was mentally, emotionally and physically preparing to start chemotherapy on April 27th so I asked my husband Jordan and my amazing sister Kate if they would take a drive with me to a near by park and give me an early Mother’s day present. I wanted a few good photos of my baby girl with her mommy while I still had hair. Although I have grown in so many ways that I could never explain and I really no longer feel a personal connection to the “me” that is in this first image of Corryn and I, it does still hang in our entryway as a reminder of who I once was, and how far I have come.
In looking at all three photos together it is hard not to notice my physical exterior transition over the past year, but what I also see is that my sweet baby has become a beautiful, smart, funny and loving little girl. She was only 2 when I was diagnosed. Her funny, inquisitive, stage was just starting and she was very eager to learn anything and everything. It’s really sad to admit this, but I do feel that cancer took this past year from both myself and my sweet girl. My memories of her growth from age 2 year to age 3 are very blurred and grumbled with visions of my fight with cancer. Although I tried my best to give Corryn as many fun-filled normal days with her mommy and daddy over the past year, what stands out in my mind is that although I was the one who was fighting cancer and lost a year to treatments and surgeries, my sweet girl was also facing cancer, because she had to watch her mommy face each and every scary step. I wish I had a year full of memories of us playing at the park, visiting the zoo, and spending time at the beach, but what I remember the most about 2015 are things like explaining why mommy has bo bos and why Corryn could no longer sit on my lap. I remember trying to prepare her for the fact that mommy was going to get very sick and that my hair was going to fall out and most importantly I remember the disappointed look on her sweet face when I had to repeatedly say, I’m sorry honey, mommy can’t play right now, I’m now feeling very good. I know that my missing out on one of my sweet girl’s year life will be worth it because it could make sure that I will have many many more years with her. However, I do hate that she had to miss out on so many things with her mommy and witness so much fear and sadness in her mommy and daddy’s eyes.
My only hope is that this year was a great year of life lessons that will help shape my baby girl into a beautiful human being. I hope that she gained empathy, strength, and determination in watching her mommy face the scariest year of her life, and most of all I hope she some day knows that although she didn’t have a mommy that was able to run and play with her much during that year, she was her mommy’s whole world and she is what gave me the motivation to get up everyday and fight for my life. My sweet Corryn is now 3 going on 13, but she still looks up and points at that photo and says “look mommy that’s you and me…. and you have hair”, and it still melts my heart.
What’s crazy, is exactly one year later, It is beautiful out, and I am again at home recovering from yet another very painful surgery that is going to require a lengthy recovery, but I am also for the first time taking a real break from the many stresses that go with life, a year with cancer, and work and I am actually resting, putting my feet up and recovering from my first year with multiple cancer treatments, procedures, and surgeries.
As I look back on this these photos I first miss my sweet girl because she is spending some time with her grandmas on the other side of the state so that I can rest and recover. But as I also reflect on the past year, it is hitting me that I really knew so very little of what what coming my way a year ago, however I am also proud of the strength I blindly conjured to stand up and face cancer head on. I now have the outside perspective to know that although I wasn’t yet winning my battle with cancer one year ago today, I also wasn’t loosing my battle either and I find myself wishing I knew then, what I know now. The truth is, my battle was just beginning and I was walking into it with my heart full, my fists raised high, and my mind ready to conquer the unconquerable. I knew it was going to be a hard fight and I was ready to face it. But I still had the voice in the back of my mind reminding me that cancer does still take the lives of people even when they are strong and determined. What I wish I knew was that hearing the word cancer associated with your own name doesn’t always mean cancer is going to take your life and if it does, you could still have many many years left to live, love, and leave your mark on the world. CANCER IS NOT ALWAYS A DEATH SENTENCE anymore. Someone told me something months ago that has stuck with me. She said… and I quote “I know more people living with cancer then I know who have lost their fight with cancer”. This thought alone gives me hope every single day.
Looking back I don’t look at my actions, my thoughts, or even my words and wish I had done anything differently. Everyone who is forced to battle this awful decease must face it in their own way. My only advice is that if you ever find yourself in my shoes you go into your fight knowing that you are already winning even when it doesn’t feel like you are, and although you may not feel strong at the time, you will someday look back and see just how strong you really were even during your weakest moments. Cancer brings out the worst in you on the outside and makes the hearts of others weep for you, but it also brings out the best of you internally and gives you a real and meaningful reason to fight for life. There is no doubt that cancer sucks, it is not fair that some of us have to face it, it is not fair that it changes and effects your life forever, it is not fair period! Cancer does take far too many good people from our lives, but it is important to know that we who have or will face the awful-C are also given the gift of an amazing life perspective that only those directly affected will experience and for that I am grateful.
This year my physical exterior has drastically changed in every way possible, my anatomy has changed as I was forced to say goodbye to a lot of what makes me a female including the ability to bare another baby; but my heart has only changed for the better. Today I appreciate love and life so much more. I have reconnected with friends from my past, connected with acquaintances that felt like friends years ago, and I have met and deeply connected to some pretty amazing people who I believe will be lifetime friends going forward. Best of all, this past year has shown me who my real and true friends are, who will be there for me even when the chips are down, and who I can count on to lift me up in my darkest or saddest moments, which is especially important as I am learning cancer is not just a bad year, as I previously thought. It is and always will be a part of the rest of your life. It has taught me that I can no longer fixate on friendships that take too much work or seem one-sided and it has taught me that you should always treat your own friends in the way that you yourself would like to be treated when you’re facing your hardest days.
The best transition is that I no longer take little things for granted and do my best to always express how thankful I am to the people I am lucky enough to have surrounding me on this life journey. Early on, I was given a perspective that I don’t think many people on this earth are blessed to have, and I do not plan to waste it. I look at every moment as a blessing and although in the back of my mind the “awful C-word” will always be looming, I truly believe that I am here on this earth for a reason that is much bigger then me, and I plan to keep walking forward down the path that feels right in hopes that I truly can make a positive difference in this world.