It is true what they say. It's the unexpected moments that get you the most. It's the time when you are just going about your "normal" day that you suddenly get knocked down to your knees. A seemingly ordinary moment to some, is so painful that it takes your breath away.
This was today for me....
...the first day of school.
A day I didn't expect to be much different than any other Tuesday morning. And perhaps that is what makes it sting all the more. That I didn't anticipate the pain - that it caught me off guard.
Today was yet another reminder of the most difficult part of this journey. A reminder of all that cancer has stolen from me. A reminder of how deeply it has derailed my life and my future on so many levels. A reminder of what it has not only taken from me, but what it has robbed from Mike as well.
The devastating reality that I will never hear a little voice call me, "Mom" and that I will never have the chance to watch Mike become the amazing father I always knew he would be. A reminder that we will never get to experience that moment of taking our child to their first day of school.
I saw what seemed like one million facebook pictures of little ones headed off for their first day of school today, I drove behind the school bus while leaving our neighborhood and heard my co-workers talk about the excitement their kids felt as another school year began. It didn't even really hit me then - not until later when yet another patient asked me how long I had been married, followed next by asking if I had children. The question I always dread from those that don't know my dirty little secret that starts with the big "C". After replying with my fake grin and frequently recited, "no, just my 4 legged fur baby", my patient made a remark something to the effect of, "oh you are waiting awhile, huh?" I get this comment a lot, along with...."how old are you...you better get started", or "what are you waiting for?", or even "people your age are selfish nowadays and want to just travel or do other things besides start a family." His question felt like pouring salt in an already excruciating, raw wound. Albeit this is nothing new for me, but I just wasn't expecting it today.
I expect the heartache during certain times such as baby showers, photographing newborns, or hearing of others pregnancies. I guess I have learned ways to protect my heart a little bit during those moments. But days like today just take me by surprise. Just like last night did...as I pulled out of a Starbucks parking lot, I saw a little girl fall and skin her knees on the concrete. There was a second of silence, followed abruptly by her loud cry of one word..."Daddy!" I watched him gently scoop her up and soothe her while that sweet little girl clutched her daddy's neck and began to calm down, knowing everything would be okay now that he was there to hold her. I drove out of that parking lot with tears streaming down my face. Not tears for cancer or tears for myself - but tears for Mike. That he may never know what that is like to be the hero in the eyes of his child. Because that is surely what he would be.
This is one of the few topics I have never really discussed on my blog, and that is for a few reasons. Not only is it extremely painful and extremely personal, but it is also extremely complicated. I have wanted to be a mother my entire life, and from the second I fell in love with Mike, I couldn't wait to see him become an incredible father to my children. That is the single thing I looked forward to most about our future together. When we began having difficulty trying to get pregnant, I thought it was the worst possible thing we could go through. Then when I learned of my diagnosis and that I would likely be on meds that wouldn't allow me to get pregnant for another 5 years, if at all, I then thought, well, I could always adopt. And I was truly happy with that. But, everything changed after my Stage IV diagnosis.
I could write a million paragraphs that attempt to convey the thoughts on my mind and heart about this, but I just don't have the energy. And, in the depths of my own exhaustion and emotional fragility, I am not sure I would do my true feelings justice right now. What I can say is that we have always dreamed of becoming parents, whether our children were biologically ours or not. But, living with Stage IV cancer doesn't bode well for us as adoptive parents and as we have continued along this road, we have learned that even if it was an option, it might not be what is best for us. The decision to pursue adoption brings a lot of risk and potential heartbreak along with it, and I am not sure I am ready to take that on...we have had more than our share already. And even if we were prepared to take that risk, is that what is best for a child? To have a mother that lives from scan to scan with an incurable and deadly disease.
As my dear friend Lorri once said, "What's behind their smile? I bet they would never guess what's behind mine." Please remember that everyone you encounter has a story. Just because someone doesn't have children, doesn't mean they don't desperately want them. And even if they could adopt or become a foster parent, it doesn't mean it's the right decision for them. It doesn't mean they are selfish or weird or aren't loving people capable of being wonderful parents. Perhaps it was their choice and they didn't ever want children - that is okay too. Just remember that all of our situations are complicated and that sometimes questions can open wounds that are barely starting to heal.
Please believe me when I say that I am truly happy for the blessings bestowed upon my friends or family members that have been able to start a family of their own. I still love documenting the initial days in the life of a newborn through my photography. And part of me doesn't want to completely let go of the hope that I might be able to become a mother some day. But after attending Lorri's funeral service in Cleveland and seeing her two young children there, I just don't know if it's right to bring a baby into our lives, knowing what this disease will likely bring.
All I know for sure is that I have a husband that loves me and wants to always put my health above all else. For that, I will always be truly grateful.
So, for now, I will try to remain focused on all of the many blessings that I do have.
And be thankful that it will be another 364 days before the first day of school again.
ps - Thank you for all of the kind words regarding the loss of my two dear friends, Lorri & Genevieve. Unfortunately, another one of our friends entered hospice shortly after Lorri died. My friend, Jen is truly remarkable and a single mom to an adorable 6 year old boy. Please keep her and her son, Corbin in your prayers that this time is as peaceful and painfree as possible. Thank you!
It's been a wonderful, busy, emotional and difficult summer - all wrapped into one. Thankful for many great memories and experiences, including last weekend at Torch Lake with our friends and their kids. Here are a few quick shots (some from my phone & some from my actual camera) of our relaxing Labor Day weekend....
My blog to keep you all