Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Worth Living For

How do you get someone excited about life?
You give them something they can look forward to.
I am glad I have people who remind me of many things worth living for.
When my daughter Charlotte was born over 26 years ago, I got a breast infection that turned into toxic shock syndrome. Mom came to help take care of me while Mike took care of Charlotte. Within hours I was in so much pain, and so out of it, I told my mom I was ready to die. She said in her most I-am-your-mother-and-you-will-doo-what-I-say voice, "No, you will not die! You have a new baby in the next room and she needs you. You need to be here to take care of her."
Something in the back of my fevered brain remembered, "Oh yeah, I have a baby. I want to hang around  and get to know her."
Things got worse before they got better. I was soon in the hospital. The doctors told Mike they didn't think I would make it. Miraculous, and I mean miraculous turnaround. I spent 10 days there before being able to go home and recover completely. But the whole time I was thinking of getting strong enough to take care of Charlotte, and get to know this amazing little baby.
She and my mom called me back to life.
5 years after that when I was pregnant with Joseph and daughter #2 Anna was 3, she caught a cold. We thought she had gotten better, but didn't realize the infection had settled in her lungs. By the time I got her to the doctor she was taken directly to the hospital with serious pneumonia.
While I was sitting next to her hospital bed, trying to calm her fears, and feeling total mother-guilt for not realizing how sick she was, I saw that "I give up" look in her eyes. It was too scary, too painful, too hard for her to keep trying to breathe.
I had to think of something that would get her excited about life, get her to want to keep breathing.
I asked her which videos we wanted me to bring her from home, and I told her that all the limits about only watching one movie a day didn't apply in the hospital. I started talking about her favorite stuffed animals, and the trips we had made to Sea World and Disneyland to get them, and how we would go there again, and that I would bring all the stuffed animals for her to have on her hospital bed. Then I promised her new markers and crayons and drawing paper so she could make all the pictures she wanted while there. And I promised she would never be alone, either her dad or I would be there with her day and night. And we would read to her all she wanted.
The doctors told us she would be in the hospital at least 7 days. She came home in 3, and recovered quickly. She wanted to be able to play again.
We reminded her she had something to live for.
2 months ago some dear friends of ours in Utah invited us to join them for a weekend in St. George to relax, visit, bike, hike and just be able to spend time together. They were willing to move it to the last weekend in January so I would be as strong as possible and so Mike could come. They said if I came, I could just sit and they would make sure I would relax. This invite came when I was at my radiation treatment weakest, when I could hardly walk, and I was wondering how I would handle another surgery in January.
But these friends are some of my favorite people in the world. I miss them and love spending time with them whenever I can. I started feeling stronger just before the surgery, and worked hard to recover well after. That weekend was something I wanted to live for. I wanted to be strong enough to at least ride the bike a little, and go on walks with them.
The timing was perfect. The sides effects of the oral chemo had not yet taken over, and I had recovered well enough from the surgery, so I was able to go on a long but not too hard hike. And I was able to ride the tandem with Mike through stunning Snow Canyon. It felt so good to ride again, through such beautiful scenery, I wanted to yell with joy. And I loved seeing so many dear friends, visiting with good people who are doing so much good in the world, and having a great time with them.
These wonderful friends had given me something to look forward to.
Since then I have continued to walk and to ride the bike on the trainer. But the side effects of the oral chemo have gotten much worse, and some days the thought of five years on this medicine seems like forever. I know that I will make it through this, I know there are harder things, and everyday I see so much to be grateful for.
Best of all, people I love give me so much to live for. My kids are each moving on to new stages in their education, work, lives. My family and friends keep reaching out to me with patience. And Mike is there, always. We always have an adventure planned. Some involve scuba equipment, some involve sitting next to each other eating a bowl of popcorn while watching a movie, some involve talking about the books we are reading, some involve holding hands while we walk the dog and talk about jersey designs for the next bike event.
Mike makes them all become something to look forward to, all worth living for. I think I will stick around for that.