Thursday, April 2, 2015

Life Lessons at 30

Well, today is my 30th birthday. How in the hell did that happen? Wasn't I just in high school? Where my biggest concerns were studying for tests and practicing for an upcoming tennis match? Wow. Life was so incredibly simple back then, even if it didn't seem that way at the time. My education, my sports teams, my friends and my family were what my entire life revolved around. I could easily sit here and say, "Life was so easy back then. If only I could be 16 again." But in all honestly, there is something so beautiful about being thirty. About ME being thirty. I feel as though my life is so much richer at this point in time. Sure it has its varying degree of difficulty and stress. But my twenties taught me so much to help bring me to this place. They taught me things that can't be learned in school, or by reading a book. I have narrowed down what I think are the three most important things that I have learned thus far in life: 1) To always trust your gut 2) To rely on others and not be afraid to ask for help and 3) To love fiercely, and without abandon.

Trusting my gut is something that I never did growing up, or even early on in my adult years. I had a blissful ignorance about me, where I thought everything was going to be fine, and that it was all going to work out. So even when my gut was saying one thing, my mind was sweeping it under the rug and thinking glass-half-full. And in my situation, my gut is most always right, and it is most always telling me that something big, and often bad, is going to happen. When I was diagnosed with cancer, both times, I knew. Deep in my gut I knew that the original mass they found was something more. And when  my cancer returned, my gut told me to go to this appointment solo because it wasn't good. I wanted to absorb the news alone, before I told anyone that my sickness had returned. And sure enough, those scans lit up with cancer, just as I suspected. And even with my wonderful husband, Dan, I had a gut feeling that something bad was going to happen to him at some point in his Air Force Career. Which of course made each goodbye grueling and painful. I so wanted to be positive and annoyingly bright and sunny about his deployments, but I just knew that something was going to happen that would change our lives forever. It wasn't a strong sense that Dan was going to lose his life, but I knew that war was going to change him, change us, for the worse. And we all know how that ended. And lastly, the one time my gut told me something positive. Meeting my amazing boyfriend, Kris. Something felt so right immediately with him. It was a weird sense of comfort and safety. My gut was most definitely telling me that he was going to play a huge role in my life. And once again, my gut was right. He is my best friend, and my Love.

Relying on others. Asking people for help. Letting people see me in an extreme moment of weakness and vulnerability. This is not something that I was ever used to doing, because I never had to. But my twenties forced me to do this. Funnily enough, my twenties (referring mostly to losing Dan and two bouts of cancer) turned me into an extremely independent person with an "I do what I want" attitude. But along with that came the need to rely on others. Weird how two such extremes occurred at the exact same time. Starting with Dan's deployments, I had to rely on others when I needed support. Whenever I was worrying about his safety, or feeling lonely, I had to reach out to family and friends. And they were there. And after losing Dan, relying on others is what allowed me to survive. Even if they didn't know it, I relied on them to pick up the pieces on my bad days, or weeks for that matter. I relied on them to watch out for me if I was feeling a bit sad or depressed about losing my Husband. And again, they were there. My battles with cancer is when I really needed to rely on them, let them help me, and became the most vulnerable version of myself. There was a point where I couldn't even use the restroom or shower without assistance from my family. Even sitting up in bed took help at times. I needed someone with me 24/7 in the beginning phases of my recovery. I had to let go of all the pride and integrity I had and just let them take care of me. This was extremely hard at times, but it was necessary. My family and friends are a huge reason for my success, or survival, rather. Whether it be asking for a little company on a rough night, or asking for help walking up my stairs because I was too weak to do it alone. They were there. And they still are. Being pregnant and giving birth all while Kris was deployed took a village. The same village that has been there since day one. I sure do love my village.

Ah, my last and favorite life lesson. To love fiercely and without abandon. This is by far the most important thing that my twenties have taught me. From losing Dan, to dealing with my own illness, to giving birth to my little miracle, I learned how to love. To love hard. Not that I didn't know how to love or let others in before all of this, but I learned how important love is after experiencing the past ten years of my life. Loving someone so much and sending them off on numerous deployments is so incredibly scary. Because being without that person during those deployments hurts so badly. Worrying about that person's safety is incredibly overwhelming. And losing that someone is painful. Numbing. But the love that all of that takes is a strong one. And doing it again now with Kris just solidifies how strongly I love him. It is all worth it. And FEELING that strong sense of love and outpouring during my sickness was incredible. You really feel how much your family loves you as they are helping you clean your feeding tubes in your arm and stomach. Or holding your wig as your vomit. Or picking up any type of food that sounds good just to get you to eat even a bite. That level of love is one that I am so very thankful for. And my little family of three. I get chocked up event thinking about the love that I have for Evelynn and Kris. The way I feel for her is something I could have never imagined and I can't explain. Together, Kris and I created this perfect little miracle. I have experienced so many different types of love. And that is what has kept me going when I wanted to quit. I have learned to love with my entire being, my entire soul. Because this life is short. And although strong love can come with incredible hurt, it is worth it. Every second of it. So love those around you. Tell them. Show them. And do it often.

So as I approach this new decade in my life, I can only imagine the new life lessons that my thirties will teach me. I am sure there will be ups and downs, good times and bad. However, I can't wait. I can't wait to watch Evelynn grown and learn new things. I can't wait to make new memories with my family and friends. I can't wait to see what is in store for Kris and I, and our life together. My twenties were filled with some of the absolute best and worst times of my life. Marrying Dan. Losing Dan. Battling cancer. Twice. Falling in love with Kris. Giving birth to our beautiful daughter. Wow. What a whirlwind. I am aware that my thirties may bring change. Big change. Perhaps a reoccurrence of my cancer. Maybe a move for Kris and I to wherever the Air Force sends us. Either way. I am ready. I feel like a better person for what I have learned thus far in this life. So am I ready to turn 30? Absolutely.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

An Update on my Life as Mommy, Girlfriend, Widow, Cancer Survivor

I cannot believe that it has been over a year since my last post! Wow. But boy does it feel good to be writing again! I don't make New Year's resolutions often, but this year, I vowed to blog on a regular basis. I have so many thoughts and experiences that I can't wait to share with you all. But for now, let's just play a bit of catch up! Bare with me, this might take awhile!

As many of you know, I am the extremely proud mother of a beautiful and perfect baby girl! Evelynn Bre is now one year old! Holy crap. Wasn't I just pregnant? The past year of my life has gone by so incredibly fast. Being a mother is amazing, and more than I ever thought possible. But it is also exhausting. Scary. Frustrating. The list goes on.

I am going to be one of those annoying woman and say that my birthing experience was a "breeze." I didn't realize that I was in labor until I was 5cm dilated and told to go to the hospital ASAP. I was admitted around noon, and delivered Evelynn at 3:20pm. I pushed for about 30 minutes and out she popped! 6 pounds and 5 ounces of perfection! They always say that you fall in love immediately and that it is a love that you have never experienced, and they were right. I was just holding her. Staring. Breathing her in. Her scent was intoxicating. I couldn't believe that she was mine; forever. She took to breastfeeding immediately and we never experienced any issues with that. I was very lucky to have such an easy delivery experience. And my brother and sister were amazing. Each holding a leg and encouraging me the entire way, all while Kris watched on the webcam. The three of them were the best support system that I could have asked for!

Kris was obviously deployed for the birth, and the first six weeks of our little girl's life. It was just me and her against the world. I remember our first night at home. I thought I could do it alone, and sent my family on there way. I was so confident. I couldn't wait to sleep with my little miracle in my arms. Ha. That did not happen. I ended up just staring at her as she cried, crying myself. I had no idea what she wanted. I didn't know if I was breastfeeding correctly. I didn't know if she was comfortable. It was so difficult! And that is when I knew that motherhood was going to be much harder than I could have ever imagined. We eventually found our grove, and got to know each other. The six weeks without Kris flew by, and before I knew it, we were a family of three! Seeing Kris hold Evelynn for the first time was amazing. I think I fell in love with him all over again. And even though Kris has been gone here and there for work trips, we have been able to experience all of her firsts together. Her first solid food feeding. Her first time rolling over. Her first steps. And I couldn't love my little family of three any more! Being a stay at home Mom is tough. But each day as Kris gets home from work, and I see them together, my heart is full of such love, joy and devotion. They are my world. And I am so incredibly lucky to get to spend every day with them.

Along with being a Mother, I am a cancer survivor. I am still getting routinely tested and checked for cancer. And I hate to say it, but I don't think I have seen the last of it. It is just a gut feeling. And if you know me, you know my gut feelings are not usually wrong. But I have a whole new reason to fight. SHE is my reason to fight. I remember laying in bed years ago, sick and weak, thinking that if I died, that would be ok. But now the thought of dying completely terrifies me. I have to be here, for her. I want to experience all the things that Moms experience with their daughters. School dances, first dates, boyfriends, weddings, children. If I do have to fight this thing again, I will do it with a completely different outlook. I have beat it twice, and I have complete confidence that I can do it again.

Mother, cancer survivor, and very much still a widow. It has been a tough transition to make from grieving widow to doting Mommy and Girlfriend. I so feared telling Dan's family about my relationship with Kris and about my pregnancy. And not to my surprise, they were incredibly supportive and loving, and continue to be so. I am so blessed to have them as my family, and to have them as an active part of Evelynn's life. We are so loved and supported. My family, Kris' family, Dan's family, all loving on my daughter and welcoming her into their lives. And I couldn't be happier. A part of me is sad that Dan never got to experience me as a Mother. But I know that he would be proud of me. And one day Evelynn will know that her Mommy had a very special man in her life, and that Daddy had a great friend. She will know his story, and what a Hero he was. Kris and I proudly display all of his awards, metals and pictures in our home. I must admit, I always feared what my "new" life after Dan would look like, and how my new significant other would feel about Dan and my love for him. I never thought that I would be so lucky as to fall in love with someone who knew Dan, and respects him and his sacrifice as much as I do.

Whew... that was a lot. So to sum it up, I am a Mommy. A girlfriend. A cancer survivor. A widow. A writer. I have experienced such pain, grief and sickness in this life. I have looked death in the face. More than once. And I have experienced love in so many forms. I have a Hero in Dan, who sacrificed his life for our country. And I have a Hero in my wonderful boyfriend, Kris. I am so loved by him every single day, even when I don't deserve it. I have my good days. And my awful days. But as corny as it sounds, this life is a journey. It has ups and downs. Ebbs and flows. And don't I know it. But if I look at my life right now, as I sit here, wow, good for me. I have a crazy supportive family. Great friends. A wonderful Man by my side, and the best little girl I could ask for. I'd say I am doing pretty good for myself! I don't take anything for granted these days, and know that everything in my life is a gift from God. He is why I am here today. Happy. Hopeful. And ready to continue my journey!