Friday, December 9, 2011

So Many Things To Be Thankful For

NOTE:  This original post was written right around Thanksgiving, but I forgot to post it!  I hope you enjoy it anyway :)

I'm sitting here in another hospital room as my mother sleeps with nothing better to do than take stock of the past year.  From the outside looking in, a person could be horrified by all that we've been through.  Since that fateful day in April 2010 when we found out that our unborn child would have a heart defect and be born with Down syndrome, we've been slammed.  First Jacob, his birth, 3 weeks in the hospital for sepsis and meningitis, then time for his heart surgery, next time in the hospital for failure to thrive, and recovery.

The same week Jacob was finally given a clean bill of health, KC broke his leg in what is apparently the worst possible way you can break an ankle, including both bones, and all the tendons and cartilage in between them.  Now, 9 months later, he has FINALLY given a clean bill of health by HIS doctor.

 In June, the same week KC was allowed to begin working light duty, Nathan had surgery on HIS leg - lengthening his Achilles, and grafting bone to two places on his foot.  The SAME DAY that Nathan got a clean bill of health from his doctor, Elisha broke HER foot in a volleyball game and was out for 6-10 weeks.  Because we apparently didn't have enough to worry about,  there was Courtney's visit to the emergency room because she'd gotten into a bottle of Excedrin PM (luckily we discovered that I'd found her before she ingested any).

Within a week of Elisha's clean bill of health, we found out that Jacob has progressive hearing loss (we're not sure if it's temporary or permanent yet).  A week after that, his blood work came back hinky, and we had to re-test to rule out cancer.  And 3 days after that phone call, we found out that my mother has cancer (ultimately we found out that it is inoperable Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer). In the last 18 months, we have had no more than 3 DAYS that have not been mired by illness or injury and I do not see and end in sight for a while.

With all that has gone on in the last 18 months, how can I POSSIBLY find anything good in it?  Well, I must admit that I have shed my share of tears, especially as of late with the knowledge of my mother's cancer.  But how can I not see the good in all of this? Dwelling on the bad would literally drive me crazy anyway - as if I need any help!!!

 First off, I have often said that kicking and screaming will do me no good.  It only wastes precious energy that must be used for more important things like caring for my family both physically and emotionally,  and making sure that they know that I love them.

I've been blessed with the opportunity to realize how important each and every one of my family is to me. And because of this, I am so much less likely to take them for granted. Especially with Jacob.  I know that I'll most likely regret it as he gets older, but I spend every chance I get just gazing into his beautiful blue/brown eyes marveling at his perpetual happiness, and resilience. I marvel at his strength of character and of body. I can't help but squeeze him tight whenever I pick him up, and often find myself breaking out into random grins as I watch him grow and progress.  At 13 months old, he is already standing on his own, and has even taken a step or two.  This is HUGE for a child with Downs.  They're supposed to be delayed. They are not supposed keeping up with the other kids their age.

With my mother's new diagnosis, I have the opportunity to tell her how much I love her, what an impact she has made on me in my life, and how she has made an impact on the lives of my children.  Cancer is a horrible thing. But it also enables our family to mend broken relationships, and become closer to one another  - something that would not have happened without such a life-altering event. And its something that my mother has always wanted in our family. I just happen to think this is an awfully extreme way of doing it, mom! :\

I have been blessed with patience.  There, I SAID IT.  I've acquired patience!!! (family joke - NEVER EVER pray for patience!  Things like the last year happen when you pray for patience!).  I've found that the little things don't bug me nearly as much as they used to.  I've learned not to sweat the things that I cannot control.  I can't control injuries or sickness.  I cannot control whether or not Jacob will be able to hear, or if he needs hearing aids in the future.  Therefore, I often find myself saying, "Whatever".  I take what I'm given and I deal with it.  I don't stress over what may or may not happen (OK, I did with Jacob's cancer scare - his blood work came back clean, by the way).  I just roll up my shirtsleeves and and get to work.

I am thankful for less grudges.  I have noticed as of late that those things that would have once hurt me or would have festered into resentment or hatred in the past, now roll off like water on a duck's back.  I don't have the time or energy to hold a grudge.  I say my piece and get on with it.  It's enabled me to hold onto relationships that, in the past, would have been discarded over petty disagreements, or being unintentionally offended. And it has enriched my life with people who touch it in so many good ways.

I look around my house and I see dirty dishes, toys on the floor, unfolded laundry, and a messy desk.  Yes, my house is messy. Every day.  Regardless of how hard, or how often I clean it.  It comes with the territory of  a family of 6.  4 children (1 of which is a human tornado), 2-3 therapy appts per week, doctor's appts, sports for the older kids, driving them to and from school, groceries, church, and working nights till 2 a.m. to name a few.  I could sit in a corner crying because my house is dirty, by why?  A little dirt never hurt anybody.  And I've got bigger battles to fight.  When I look at my dirty home, I know that my time was spent doing more important things: being a mom for my children and a wife for my husband.  We have food on the table, happy, relatively well-adjusted children, a roof over our heads, a job that KC LOVES to go to every day, friends & family who love us even more, and so much more.

Yes, I have so much to be thankful for.

I used to think that your health was the the ultimate.  It didn't matter what you went through so long as you have your health.  But it isn't until you no longer have health that you realize that this mentality is sooooo not true!  What matters most is that you have love, and laughter, an eternal perspective, and friendship.  What matters is that you keep plugging away at whatever life and God gives you, making the most out of every moment, because those moments, however many or few, are what matters - and what you do with them.

Never ever give up.  Ever. Never let life get you down.  Ever. We have been given these trials in our lives for a reason.  I'd surely like to find out what those reasons are so that I can learn from them and move on! But until then, I continue to be thankful.  For life, love, happiness, family, friends, my testimony of Jesus Christ and the life hereafter, forever families, and everything that has gone RIGHT in my life.

Thank you for letting me get up on my soap box.  I think I shall get off now....and get back to work! :)


Andrea said...

You are an amazing woman, and I am glad that I get to know your amazing daughter!

Brianne said...

Wow, Sue. I had no idea some of those things were happening. Considering I live close to a lot of our family, I'm out of the loop apparently. Thanks for keeping me up to date with your blog. It's so nice to feel a little more connected to you guys up there.

So glad to hear that KC and your kids are all healing from their surgeries and injuries. Man, what is it with feet in your family?? I'm sorry to hear Jacob is having hearing problems. But, can I just tell you I melt every time I see a picture of that boy. I just wanna kiss those cheeks...and I guess I will get my chance in about 6 or 7 months.
I'm also sorry to hear about your mom. I can't imagine how difficult that would be. Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. Love ya!

Tawni said...

Susan, you are amazing!! You're such a great example of strength and "patience" :) and your testimony helps me more than you may ever know.
I love you and I'm sooo blessed to call you my friend :)

Susan Allred said...

Thank you everyone for the words of encouragement. It was a rough year and we're looking forward to being able to move foward in 2012 and not look back! :)