Memories and Milestones

Nine years ago this week, I was a young wife and the mom to our just-turned-5-year-old son.

Nine years ago this week, I was a young wife and mom with end stage heart failure caused directly by successful, yet highly toxic cancer treatment that I received as a child for Ewing’s sarcoma.

Nine years ago this week, I was deemed ineligible, rejected for heart transplant by a local transplant center which –seemed to be– comfortable with just letting me die.

Nine years ago this week, I was fueled by a supernatural strength as I reached out to the Cleveland Clinic to arrange to be air lifted for transplant evaluation.

Nine years ago this week, I was successful though Cleveland was clear that they may not be able to help me.

Nine years ago this week, I was air lifted knowing that if I was not accepted for transplant and in the absence of a donor heart, I would certainly die.

Today, the physical wounds have healed, and I am the healthiest I have ever been: EVER.

Today, if you encountered me you would never guess that 4 out of the last 9 years were spent relearning everything from bowel and bladder control to sitting, standing, and walking not to mention navigating our hyper-connected culture with the balance of these 9 years devoted to overcoming the emotional trauma of the heart failure and transplant itself.

Today, if you encountered me, words like “health”, “wellness”, “radiance”, and “resilience” would come to mind, and while those are appropriate descriptors, they do not give voice to the totality of my lived experience of cancer survivorship and post transplant life, the wounds that come with the territory and can reopen without warning, the scars that have injured my ability to be vulnerable, transparent, to trust.

Lest you think, this is a woe is me post; let me assure you, it is not. I have consistently chosen not to be defined by my lived experience. Instead, I choose to be transformed by it, with the understanding that transformation is an infinite process, and I am a work in progress.

The days of this week are not easy to walk through as I find myself somewhat distant to the realities presently before me in 2017. It’s as if I relive 4/15-04/21, 2008 every. single. year. With that ‘reliving’ if you will, I am forced to face the reality that the memories I have are ‘popcorn’ memories. That is, memories that pop into my mind and may or may not be related to one another. I have gaps in my memory that others have had to fill in for me across time.

We don’t get to write our own stories. We do, however, get to decide how we conduct ourselves amidst the joys and the pain which includes our attitude. Are we going to be hopeful and optimistic knowing that life will continue to be sprinkled with uncertainty, doubt, trials? To that question, I respond with a resounding YES!

Nine years ago…

I chose to be hope[full] and to believe in my future no matter what it held for me: life or death.

I chose to accept in the face of rejection.

I chose to hold on, yet I was willing to let go.

I chose to love though I hated what was happening to me, my family, our friends.

I chose to be calm amidst the tumultuous, ever fluid throes of heart failure.

I chose to be still inwardly, and act on behalf of myself outwardly.

I chose to accept setbacks: onward march.

I chose to be thankful though my heart was grief stricken over the life lost.

I chose to live in order to honor my donor’s life.

I chose to believe that all things are possible no matter how remote that possibility may seem at any one moment in time.

In truth, the very things I chose none years ago are the things that I strive to choose THIS day, every day!

 

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