Birthday and cancer may seem like an odd title, but April 18th, would have been my mom’s 63rd birthday. She passed away 2 years ago, and I can’t help but think about her today. Losing a parent never really goes away. There are always reminders, birthdays, holidays, and family events that tend to make you stop and remember. Fortunately, I have a lot of happy memories of her, and that is what I like to remember about her.
I actually skipped the cemetery visit today. I’ve always gone on her birthday, and death anniversary. But this year, I don’t feel the need. I know she is in a better place, and even though her remains are buried, I don’t think her spirit is in the cemetery. Her spirit is in the memories my siblings and I have of her, and in our children. People often tell me what great kids I have, and credit that to my mom. She was a good mom, and I model a lot of my parenting after my mom. When I’m facing parenting issues I have no idea on how to handle, I think back to what she did, and 9 times out of 10 it works with my kids.
So today, in her honor, I’m going to spend some extra time with Ryan and Cole, and tell them a story about when I was a little girl with my mom. I have the picture books she put together, and I’m going to find the book with my first trip to Disneyland, when I was 6, and show those pictures to the boys, and tell them what I remember about it and my mom. I think that will do more to honor her spirit and teach my boys about their Nana, then going to the cemetery.
April 18, 2009 was the day I received the phone call from my doctor that changed my life- forever. I was told I had thyroid cancer. That day seemed so long ago, and yet, it seems like it was yesterday. I remember wondering what was going to happen to my boys. I remember my family and friends telling me I was going to beat this, and be okay. I remember being the most scared I ever was. I remember crying for hours and then stopping. Getting dressed and going out with my family and friends. Being normal, in an abnormal situation. Knowing I had to for my kids. Nothing else mattered. They needed their mom- every child does. I remember that night resolving no matter what, I was going to fight and do whatever I needed to do, to fight cancer, get healthy, and live so my kids didn’t have to grow up without me.
It isn’t always been easy. I have to do follow up visits every time this year, that stress me out and bring up all the “what if’s,” again. But, three years after a cancer diagnosis, with the help, support, and love of my kids, family, and friends, what I envisioned as hope, three years ago, is a reality.
I wish I had time to respond to all the emails I get from thyroid cancer patients, but I just don’t anymore. I am planning to write another post soon, addressing a lot of comments, questions, and issues, I’ve received in emails. I haven’t written about cancer in a long time, but this date is significant for me. No one knows what is around the corner, but those of us who have had cancer, happen to know some of what we need to deal with. My boyfriend, John, pointed out to me this past week, I know what I am dealing with, and can stay on top of it. It actually does make it easier in some respects.
The only way cancer wins out is if it steals your spirit from you. There were days when I was fighting cancer, I didn’t care if I was alive or not. Then I remembered my kids and family. Let them be your strength. Let people help you. Even though it is a battle, thyroid cancer is curable. Don’t let it take your passion, drive, and optimism away.
One of my favorite things I read when I was fighting cancer was, “Cancer is a word. Not a sentence.” Sometimes it is easy to let it become a sentence, but it doesn’t help you in the long term. Three years ago, as I was crying on my bed for hours, I would have never imagined I would be in the best health of my life, cancer free, biking, 30+ miles, placing in competitive running races, and thriving, within a few short years.
I want anyone who is fighting cancer, to know life is what you make of it- cancer or no cancer. Don’t let it become your “sentence.” Fight with everything you have to keep it a word. Fight with all you have, and then some, to beat it. It is hard at times- most things worthwhile are. But, three years later I can tell you, from being there and back, it is one of the most important things you will ever do.
My mom passed away before I got my cancer free diagnosis last year. But she saw me fight it, and continuing to live my life. One of the last conversations I had with her in the hospice, she held my hand with what little strength she had left, and told me I was fine. She told me to keep running; she could see how strong it was making me. She said she knew the cancer was gone- she said I was just too strong for it to survive- I was stronger than cancer. She was right.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you.
To all my thyroid cancer fighters and survivors: Keep fighting! Cancer is a word. Not a sentence.