Saturday, January 10, 2015

Life 3 Years Later

This day three years ago, was the day we got that fateful phone call that Spencer had leukemia.   It marked the beginning of one of the most difficult times we'd ever faced as a family and I still dread this time of year because of some of  the negative memories that it brings back to me.  Looking back on it now, though,  I see with different eyes that it was also a time when we felt the nearness of God more keenly than we ever had before.   I don't pretend to know all the reasons why God allows these kinds of hardships into our lives, but I do know that we are never, ever left alone during them.  Besides feeling acutely that God was very aware of the details of what we faced, we were also enveloped in the love of an entire community around us.  I will ever be in awe at people's kindness and generosity that was showered upon us during that time and we could never even begin to repay all that was so freely and lovingly given to us.

Thank you!   Thank you!  Thank you!

I'd like to say that we're 100% better people than we were before Spencer got sick, but I have to face the fact that cancer did a number on all of us.   Besides gaining 30-lbs and turning my hair grayer than ever, we are a little more jaded and a little less optimistic than we once were.  Although  I've always known that bad things happen to good people,  when they happened to us it made us all the more  aware of how possible the  bad is.   It doesn't just happen to other people…it already happened to us.   I never have been a pessimist, but after getting the "worst" news once, it somehow makes every potential negative outcome  seem more likely than it did before.

Another thing cancer did to us was shake our confidence as parents.  I've heard so many people in my life saying, "As long as they're healthy," about their kids and we have one with  refractive epilepsy (Ellie), another with severe eczema (Cami), another that needs another eye surgery (Emma),  and one who had a life-threatening illness that continues to hang over him and alter the way he chooses to live his life (Spence).  So what if they're not healthy?  Being a mom who has always been very health conscious--breastfeeding for 12+ months, keeping them away from the tv and other electronics, cooking mostly from scratch,  choosing whole-foods over processed, and making sure they get plenty of time to play outside--realizing that our kids are not necessarily the picture of health as our society views it, has made us  have to make a huge shift in how we process the world and view ourselves.   I know academically that I could not have possibly caused all these health challenges that they're facing, but I still constantly battle the feeling that somehow I failed my kids.

And I have to admit that I am not the same mom I was 3-years-and-a-day ago.

  For instance, I attribute our decision to homeschool Ellie and Adam as a direct result of Spencer getting sick.  It made me realize that childhood is too short and I felt very acutely that I did not want to waste any more days with my kids at school all day with my only time spent with them jam-packed into the hectic evening hours. Especially with how exhausting school was for Ellie.     I had homeschooled Spencer just for 8th grade and I thought many times during his illness how glad I was for having done it.   I knew that no matter the outcome of his treatment, that I had had my year reconnecting with just him and I would have no regrets about the time we'd spent together.   Slowing down is exactly what we all needed and I am thrilled to have several years at home with the other kids!

Spencer getting sick also helped us put away the extraneous things in our lives that were distracting us and  helped us to focus more on what was important.  I mostly stopped food blogging while he was sick and I never could let myself get back into it, because I couldn't convince myself that it was something that mattered one iota in the scheme of mine or anybody else's lives.  Same now with Facebook and other social media.  Not that those things are bad, but that they were distracting us.  

In these past three years, I have been trying very hard to live my life more deliberately.  It's been a more difficult transition than I would have expected, because I am naturally quite an unorganized person with lazy tendencies, but I can't lie….it's better now.  I feel like instead of a wiling my way blindly  through the maze of parenting five kids, often with far too many things on my plate at once, I am more controlled, more deliberate, and more likely to say, "no," when it becomes too much.   I want to be present for my children.  I don't care how many activities we're "supposed" to sign our kids up for.  I don't care that people think we're crazy for pulling our kids out of school.   We are choosing  the path that is right for our family and my only regret is that it took my child having cancer to give me the courage to pursue it.  

While I would never want to relive some of things we went through during that time when he was in treatment, I can honestly look back and say now that our lives our deeper and richer for having lived through it.



Anonymous said...

I feel the same way as you do! My 18 yr old daughter is in her 2nd year of treatment for AML (relapse) and our perspective has changed so much. I laugh about the little things I used to worry about, and I cherish our time together as a family so much more. Cancer has changed our family, for better and for worse. Thanks for writing about this. It's easy to feel like I'm the only one who thinks these things!

Jennifer McArthur said...

Beautifully written. One of the things I enjoy very most about your blog is the "heart" and "soul" you put in to what you write. The "realness" of what you share and how beautifully you share it. Thank you.

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