*This post tittle “What Happened to My Future?” is the start of a new blog post series I’m calling “Cancer Confessions.”
The moment I heard the words “Acute Myeloid Leukemia,” my future was ripped from me. I no longer owned it. It wasn’t something in my grasp. My future dissipated in a matter of seconds.
All of the things I wanted to do in life were taken from me; I could no longer feel my future in front of me. Dreams were diminished. Places and experiences I’d aspired to do were no longer a possibility. Moments every person or parent looked forward to disappeared.
So many major events I’d never live to see raced through my mind as my doctor told us I was her first patient diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, in her nearly 30-year OBGYN career.
But my attention while I listened to my “options” slowly waned to silence, tuning out all of the noise in the room, and I fell into a zombie-like state. I was a living being, nodding along, not crying nor showing emotion, but I wasn’t the same person I was minutes before.
I felt like I lost the war before even one battle began. The word “cancer” would forever follow and haunt me, regardless if I made it out of this or not.
My mind drifted to the past–memories of me as a white-headed cotton-top little girl running around happily and carefree. Then my brain would suddenly bolt into thoughts of the future. Did I have a future anymore?
The more I thought about the future, the more I seemed to lose grasp of it. It was like a flood of future moments/images I could see zooming before me and I couldn’t catch or stop them from being pulled away.
All of these future moments were so beautifully etched in my brain and so vivid, they seemed real, touchable even. Images of my sons’ weddings, graduations, and growing old with Klay–to name a few–were just some of the many moments I had yet to experience. And now I’d never live to see them.
The doctors continued to talk to Klay and my family explaining as much as they could about this disease while my future fled from me. I saw my future as a tiny box filled with these moments, getting smaller and smaller until they floated and disappeared into nothingness.
Then every time I thought of a day, a month, or a year from then on, I could no longer envision it.
My future was now dark and empty–nothing to see, nothing to look forward to. My mind couldn’t imagine life beyond the present. Everything was gone. I was no longer a person with a family and life ahead of her, I merely resided in a body overrun with mutating, cancerous cells that would eventually consume me.
Imagine your life as if every detail were written in a book. Some of the chapters (your past), the story is written and the ink has already dried; there is no changing, going back, or editing it. What’s done is done. Now you’re in the semi-middle part of your life or perhaps the beginning of the end of your young adult life (I mean like your party years) and a plot twist is thrown in.
BAM! You’re diagnosed with a life-threatening disease (while 29 weeks pregnant, if you want to add that to your story). Your future or what you’d like your life to look like in your later years has now been torn out, cutting your book short and changing how you pictured the ending.
Your book is now a third of what you thought it would be. The rest of the pages were ripped out with no place to document the days you once knew lie ahead.
That was me the day I heard those three life-changing words: “Acute Myeloid Leukemia.”
My curtain had drawn and all went black.
But I Did Have A Future, Even If I Couldn’t See It.
My “book” didn’t end abruptly short like my mind presumed it would–not yet anyway. I’ve slain the thing we call “cancer” for now.
However, the war is far from over; I’m currently coping with the side effects from my stem cell transplant and trying to adapt to living with chronic Graft versus Host Disease or GVHD. (Read more about that here).
So it’s no secret that I’ve lived to see more than I assumed I would. And, slowly some of my dreams and visions of events that await in my future are coming back into view laying down foundation little by little each day.
Many days and moments in the future flashed before me the day of my diagnosis. Of course, there were the obvious ones like when my kids’ graduate, get married, go to college or celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, exploring new places and having more adventures with Klay and the boys, meeting our grandbabies, and talking to an old and gray-haired Klay about where all the time went.
But there were some specific things I didn’t want to miss. And with all of my recent health scares and issues, I was concerned I may be in the hospital for some that were coming up. Brody’s first day of Kindergarten was one of them.
Major Future FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Brody’s first day of school was one of the first important moments that flooded my brain when I learned of my cancer. The thought of not being there for Brody, Klay, and Bex on that first day of school wrecked me.
All I could picture were brief glimpses of what it would look like without me there.
I could see Klay holding hands with both boys walking into the school alone. The heartbreak in Brody’s eyes as he wished his Mom were there plagued my brain. I imagined the strength Klay would try to show to comfort the boys letting them know that everything would be OK without me.
I could hear Klay’s thoughts as he was imagining I was there. He pictured me snapping endless amounts of photos, wanting to get the perfect shot just right so you could see and feel everything about Bro’s first day of Kindergarten.
Flashes of Brody’s hand interlaced with his teacher’s leading him to his desk saturated my brain along with glimpses of Klay’s face as thoughts overwhelmed him. He imagined how I would have cried and how nervous I’d be for Brody. Then, he anticipated Beckham’s first day realizing he’d never know a life with his mom around.
These visions clung to my brain, haunting me like daily reminders that there was so much to miss and a damn good chance I would never live long enough to witness any of them.
The Big Day – Brody’s First Day of School Came & Went
This was a huge day for my little guy, and a dream come true for mommy. The blank pages of my future were slowly returning and the present was being written–I was going to experience this significant day in Brody’s life.
It was vital for me to assure Brody felt at ease and excited walking in on that first day of school with Klay and I there to support him.
We walked into his beautifully decorated classroom and Klay and I said our hellos and chatted with the teacher.
I looked for some of Brody’s friends that were supposed to be in his class hoping the familiarity of having someone he knew in his class would calm any nerves he had.
Then, I noticed a royal blue shirt and a familiar-looking dirty-blonde headed boy turned away from us sitting on the rug with the other kids. Brody had already left us to join his crew of friends and new classmates.
Although he totally rocked it and didn’t have a care in the world where we were, we (or more like I) had to call him back over to us to say our goodbyes. And, I wanted to so snap a few final pics so I could hold on to this moment–a moment I never thought I’d live to see–forever.
Here are some moments from his first week of school!
[ backpack | shoes | blue shirt | letterboard ]
I Was There.
On August 22, I was breathing and alive. My future–and this major moment I feared I would never get to witness–became the present and as the ink began dry, it slowly became another moment in the book of my life.
I made it. I may have looked like shit, but I was there for Brody’s first day of school. And, damn it, I was proud to be a nervous mom sad to see her baby–my first born–grown up and going to school. I immersed myself into that day–cherishing every moment, every emotion, every smile or frustration–soaking it up like a sponge.
Tables have turned: I am now the annoying parent that needs to capture every second of this big day, snapping a billion photos of my Kindergartener who, annoyed with me, was anxious to get to school. I’m the parent now and no longer the kid constantly sighing and asking, “Are you done taking pictures, Mom?”
And so the child becomes the parent.
Though he doesn’t know it now, Brody’s first day of school was a milestone for both of us. It was the beginning of his many years of school, learning, and independence, but it was also the moment that I got something back–pages torn from my book. It would now document experiences I’d lost hope for in that hospital room the day of my diagnosis.
I look forward to the countless memories that will be made, stories to embarrass my kids in the future, and in case they don’t remember them, I have 9383943 photos to document it happened and I was there.
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