Birthdays

Great news! My latest scan was clear of cancer.  I was 36 years old when I was diagnosed and I recently celebrated my 41st birthday.  In three months it will be five years from my diagnosis.  The five-year mark has been in the back of my mind from the beginning. Stage IV colon cancer survival prognosis rates are based on five years out from the date of diagnosis.  My five-year survival rate was never high (7% at time of diagnosis) and after the cancer metastasized to my brain the rate dropped significantly lower.  I don’t know what’s in store for me, but I do know I will have a better holiday season knowing I have no evidence of disease.

I think off and on about the five-year date, but on the night of Anabel’s birthday party it struck me.  After everyone went to bed, I was sitting on my couch reflecting on the day, and I began thinking I’m alive and Anabel is five.  I truly didn’t think I would see her grow up.  Anabel was just under four months old when I was diagnosed.  Unknowingly and unintentionally, Anabel has helped my personal growth more than anyone.  When I was first diagnosed, I feared loving her because it would be too hard to leave her.  I thought it would be emotionally easier to have my walls up with her so it would be less painful when I died.  I tried to go through the motions with her.  But each time I would hold her, I would melt.  Each time I would see her smile at me, I would crumble.  It was pointless to try to have walls up because she would go right through them.

I adjusted my work schedule to make sure I could spend every morning with her. Our mornings consisted of lying around and talking about life.  I loved it.  I remember wishing for it to be like the movie Groundhog Day because each morning was special and I didn’t want to lose it.  She was my sounding board when I needed to get things off my chest.  She would laugh at my silliness.  She would nap on my chest.  I would hug and squeeze her, not wanting to let her go.  Often, I would look at her and wonder, What will she be like when she’s older? Will she remember me?    

I didn’t realize at the time that my perspective was backwards.  I was preoccupied with her memories of me more than focusing on my memories of her.  I know I cannot control what Anabel remembers, especially her memories of me and of us.  Looking back, I didn’t feel I had control of my life and I was grasping to control something that was impossible, her memories of me.  My memories of her and us are a treasure I keep.  Those memories of us are my own “Groundhog Days”.

So on the night of her fifth birthday party, I made sure to go to her room and sleep in her bed.  As I cuddled with her, I thanked God I was alive to have the opportunity to hold her, to have memories of her, and the grace to create more memories.  

Thank you for your prayers for me and my family.  All of you are always close to my heart.  Please keep my friends Frank and Sara and their families in your prayers.  They’ve recently switched to new chemotherapies in hope of better results.

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Me and Anabel one month after my diagnosis.  

 

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Anabel striking a pose before going out trick-or-treating

 

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Three years ago after my brain surgery, I was given tickets to an Eagles game, hotel rooms in Philly, got to go on the field with the players, and in the tunnel with the players.  A couple of weeks I finally got to meet the people who arranged it for me.  (Not pictured Kirk Meekins, who told them of my story)                    

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Thank you Lori and Laine for a great time.  Hope to get back down there for a longer visit.

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