Lessons Learned in 2012

What a year!  Just months after our diagnosis of Cowden’s Syndrome in the fall of 2011, Meghan and I took on 2012 completely unsure what to expect.  As a matter of fact this very week last year, I was anxiously awaiting word on her thyroid biopsy slides that I had had transferred to a new hospital.  Ironic that I sit tonight, waiting to hear when the next thyroid biopsy will be.  The more things change…

In 2012…

I lost the ability to say, “I can’t.”  Instead I gained “Nerves of Steel” attacking this syndrome head on.

I lost my self pity and gained determination watching my daughter start her own awareness campaigns.

I lost my fear of driving on highways and in big cities.  Now I navigate NYC like a (cautious) professional, and even venture to hospitals in NJ and Boston.

I lost my fear of ridiculously large medical bills.   Instead I get to them when I can, knowing in most cases they are fortunately not mine to pay anyway.

I lost about 3 more sizes, and have finally settled into clothes that fit.

I lost my muscle tone, as wild days kept exercising at bay.

I lost sleep, and more of my brown hair to gray as worrying kept me up many nights.

I lost my breasts in a bilateral mastectomy, but replaced them with perky new silicone ones, and with that…

I lost my fear of breast cancer and those ridiculous breast MRIs!

I lost my feeling of loneliness after my surgery when I got to spend a week chatting it up with my Mom.

I lost some of my close friends, who understandably tire of hearing me repeat the same stories without resolution, but I gained an incredible online support “family,” through Facebook, through PTEN world, and through my blog.

I lost that sense that we are alone at this battle against Cowden’s Syndrome, and I gained a deeper appreciation for the friends that call, message, and connect me to organizations like NORD, and the Global Genes Project.

I lost my uterus, and my ovaries, but I was done with them anyway,  and I gained permanent birth control and instant hot flashes!

I lost one of my Grandpas who I know I was so lucky to have for so long, but whose loss is felt deeply.

I lost my old cell phone, and finally traded it in for a “smart” phone.

I lost my old church, for reasons that still break my heart, but my family has been welcomed home at a new church where we are still marveling in God’s mercy and grace.

I lost my negative attitude about Staten Islanders when I watched my friends and neighbors rally to help the victims of “Superstorm Sandy.”

I lost my car in a ridiculous accident, but this week replaced it with a 2013 Hyundai Sonata.

I lost the way I sometimes took my grandparents for granted after Grandma Edith fell this fall.  I always loved them with all my heart, but I will remember how lucky I am each and every day.

Family shot in front of the New Year's Eve Ball.
Family shot in front of the New Year’s Eve Ball.

In 2012 I gained tools I will use every day as I move forward.

I gained…

Determination – that we will beat this!

Focus- on what matters most.

Perspective- that everyone suffers.

Forgiveness- because negativity hurts me more than them.

Gratitude- for the kindness of family, friends, and strangers.

Compassion- as I watched my little girl continuously open her heart to others.

2012 had plenty of hard times, but like my car, it was far from a “total loss.”

Here’s to the lessons to be learned in 2013.

Wishing you all health and happiness!

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The Changing of the Calendar

Every year, this same week, I sit down with my calendar, and one for the following year.  I carefully transfer all the important dates I need to remember.  I write the birthdays, anniversaries, and other important “days to remember.”  There is probably some much more high tech efficient way to do this on my iPhone, but this is a job I am not looking to simplify, or give up.  I enjoy the time spent reflecting on the year that passed, and wondering what the next year will bring.


calendar

During the course of the year, around all the birthday and  anniversary reminders, the basic events of life fill in the blanks.  I can look back on some weeks, and months – where there doesn’t seem to be an empty box, and wonder how we got through.   There are the basics, PT, swimming, dance class, music class.  There are some parties, and celebrations.   Around them are peppered annual exams, like the cardiologist and the eye doctor.  There are some “sick” visits with the  pediatrician in there too.

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But last year was a “special” year.  Between us there were three surgeries.  Tonight as I reviewed the calendar I saw a higher than normal number of pre and post op visits.  I saw consultation appointments with surgeons, and each month seemed to remind me of a surgery that was, well life changing in its own way.  There were certainly a lot of firsts in 2012.

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And, sadly there were some lasts too.  I couldn’t bring myself not to write GGPa’s birthday on the calendar.  It would have been in just a few weeks.  Instead I wrote it with a heart around it.  This year he will have his cake among the angels.  Nor could I stop myself from remembering his and GGMa’s anniversary the same way.  It didn’t feel right to leave it off.  I am sure she will appreciate a call or an Email anyway.

GGPa, GGMa, Grandma, and Pop (left to right)
GGPa, GGMa, Grandma, and Pop (left to right)

I remember lots of birthdays on my calendar.  Some for the very young, and others for those quite senior folks I love so much.  But, even as I ink those special days into 2013, I know there are no guarantees.  I know that my writing their special date doesn’t ensure that we will all celebrate together.  It is reality.  It is sometimes tough to swallow, but we are not in control.

In Newton Connecticut many young lives were tragically altered.  “Calendars” forever changed.  No rhyme or reason.  No notice.  Gone way too soon.

I attended the wake of a colleague tonight.  A 45 year old, happily married father of three.  He died suddenly Christmas Day.  I can not say we were “friends” outside of work, but I can tell you not a person that met this man easily forgot him.  His every breath was consumed wither with song, or words of his love for his family.  And tonight as I paid my respects I carried a heavy heart, and the reality again, that there are no guarantees.

Meghan was sick this morning.  Sicker than I have seen her in quite some time.  I was home alone, as Felix works this whole week before New Year‘s.  As she lay screaming on the bathroom floor, begging me to make the pain stop, I was terrified.  I called my sister to bring me Pedialyte and some essentials.  We lay there for quite a long time, at points her eyes were rolling – reacting to the pain in her stomach.  I held her as best I could and I prayed, hard.  I needed guidance.  I needed answers, and I needed that pain to be relieved.  He heard me, as He always does.  She vomited several times over the next hour or so, eventually ridding herself of whatever she had eaten that was bothering her.  I hadn’t seen that agony since the days of the gall bladder attacks when she was three.

We had had plans today, to celebrate my grandparents 67th wedding anniversary with them.  Even as the color came back into her cheeks, and the spring back into her step. we stayed home.  The lunch date that was on the calendar – unattended.  Our warm wishes sent with a phone call instead.

Grandma and Pop in December 1945
Grandma and Pop in December 1945

The calendar is a nice guide.  A road map of sorts.  It tells us where we hope to head.  But, as every day reassures me – it, like life, offers no guarantees.

This week the phone will ring.  Appointments will be set.  A thyroid biopsy will be scheduled.  A surgeon for my spleen may even get written in to the calendar as “consultation.”  2012 for us will end as it began.

Although as I tossed the calendar into the trash tonight, I couldn’t help but feel… somehow older, wiser, and even more appreciative of those who somehow come across my calendar each year.

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