January 24, 2011

I Get By With A Little Help From My (Blog) Friends

Dear Mom,

This weekend made me realize just how much of a real community I am now a part of. I know it seems silly that I consider my fellow blogging companions my 'friends', but they truly are, in every sense of the word.

When I first started my blog, it was Chez who contacted me with an idea on how else I could honor your memory; when I was hurt by a comment someone annonymously left me here, I immediately deleted it and e-mailed Nancy for advice; and when I learned that Daria, a blogger I have followed since the summer, passed away from breast cancer on Saturday, Carly's inbox was instantly flooded with an overly-emotional message from yours truly. These people, among others, have quickly woven their way into a huge part of my every day life, and I am so thankful for each moment they are a part of it.

Over the past few days, I have seen numerous posts acknowledging the heartache and sadness that has overtaken many of my blog friends' hearts after discovering that Daria had died. I guess I never really thought about the fact that we not only read each other's blogs, but follow the same blogs as well, making us even more interconnected.

While I commented on Daria's blog half a dozen times or more, she never wrote on (or maybe never even read) mine. It always confused me. Did she not find my life's story interesting? Did she think I was too young to befriend? No matter the reason, I became addicted to her journey with cancer and hung on to every word each week.

It wasn't until Daria's husband posted that she would no longer be able to write on her blog herself that I finally had an epiphany-- Daria may not have wanted to know my story. And I can't say I blame her. Maybe she didn't want to read about the struggles of a child trying to carry on without her mother or the recollections of the toll that death took on a family. My blog is really the epitome of every cancer patient's worst nightmare: that there's a chance they might not beat it; that there's a chance their loved ones will be left to pick up the pieces of their shattered hearts. I am the constant reminder to mothers with cancer of the heartache and emptiness their children will feel if they are forced to say goodbye. Sometimes I don't even want to know me, so why would they?

This realization made my head spin. How can any of my closest blog friends even read some of the things I say? I will never fully understand why or how they find the strength to be a friend to me. Even on my weakest days, that's when they send the most heartfelt messages. They put aside their fears and worries for me, a person who just a few months ago was a complete stranger.

These women are nothing short of a gift, and something tells me I know exactly who sent them. Thank you, Mom.

Take good care of Daria.

I love you,

The Sweetest Word I've Ever Heard

Dear Mom,

Coming home from Belize, I learned that two of my blog friends had received some outstanding news! Carly, my wonderful little Ovarian Cancer Warrior, found out that her AML is in remission! I am estatic! Now the chemo can focus more on what's left of her ovarian cancer and really get down to business. Little victories = big results. I'm so happy for her. Also, Tina is officially in remission! HOORAY! I know she hasn't been as thrilled as she should be because it is still there, just dormant, but I hope in time she is able to see how amazing that is. It's dormant! It's not growing! That's amazing! Great news for two great people. It made my vacation-high linger days after I returned.

Their news reminded me of the day we found out that, three months after your last chemo session, you were still in remission. That was easily one of the best days of my life.

We had taken two separate cars for some reason (I think I secretly feared I would need some alone time in case we learned otherwise; I never liked crying in front of you). We sat in Dr. Wiper's office and breathed a huge sigh of relief as he spoke that sweet word: remission. At 18 years old, I had never felt happier. Of all of my big moments prior to this, like getting asked to prom junior year, getting my license and first car, or winning the regional cheering competition that season, none could compare to how I felt that afternoon.

After the appointment, I looked over to see you and Dad practically floating through the parking lot. Your smile, so relieved, so thankful, shined brighter than the sun did that day. The second I closed my car door I broke into sobs... and it was the happiest cry I have ever had.


January 21, 2011

Adventures in Belize: Part 3

Dear Mom,

A majority of our trip was work-related, but we did take some time to be those wide eyed, bushy tailed tourists. In order to refrain myself from eventually posting 'Adventures in Belize: Part 30', I'm limiting myself to only sharing 10 non-work-related things I loved best about my two weeks in Central America. Oh, and this list is complete with pictures... impressive, I know.

1. I fed this wild monkey a banana!

2. John and I climbed some really tall Mayan ruins... and I was sore for two days after. Embarassing.

3. We met another couple from the US staying at our hotel and became fast friends.

4. The view from our balcony area was utterly priceless.

5. We went zip lining over the jungle!

6. We visited the zoo (where John also held a huge snake, but that picture didn't make the cut today).

7. We had a hermit crab race on an island, which I won since John's crab crossed over to my side and raced to the finish for my team.

8. We got to see this when we woke up.

9. We had long layover where his brother lives, and he got to finally meet his 1.5-year-old nephew and 6-day-old niece!

10. We got to share it all together.

Honorable mention (there were just too many good moments!):

10A. We spent many afternoons wandering into town and getting a chance to see how the locals lived.

10B. We laughed, a lot, because of things like this (click to enlarge it and read the top and bottom signs!):

Wish you were there (and that I still was too!),

January 19, 2011

Adventures in Belize: Part 2

Dear Mom,

For some unexplained reason (that later revealed itself), I heard your voice over and over in my head days before we left saying, "Make sure you pack enough clothes to last a few days just in case they lose your luggage!"

My luggage has never been lost before, yet I continued to repeat to John, "They might lose our luggage, so pack your toothbrush and extra clothes!" Well, he didn't listen to me... and they lost our luggage. Oh, the irony!

My annoyance over the suitcase fiasco was quickly erased because from there, we were the only two passengers on our short flight to the Corozal Town district! We felt like a pretty big deal.

Upon our arrival, I am sad to say that John hit it off with another woman. Her name is Pepper. She's a bit hairier than I thought his ideal woman would be, but her warm chestnut eyes clearly melted his heart. They spent many afternoons playing fetch with a coconut in the ocean and paying each other an overwhelming amount of attention. Eventually, I won him back, and she admired him from afar... every single night... for hours. The nerve!

He actually caught the attention of most Belize natives during our stay. I am officially nicknaming him the 'animal whisperer'. It was quite entertaining.
And that was just the first 24 hours. We were in for a treat.


January 14, 2011

Adventures in Belize: Part 1

Dear Mom,

No worries, I haven't forgotten about you! I have been in Belize, Central America for the past few weeks filming my short documentary on maternal mortality improvements with John. This trip has been nothing short of amazing in every aspect. There is so much to tell you! I will save those ramblings for another day when I am back home cooped up in the house avoiding frostbite, but tonight I do want to share one quick story with you.

Over the years, I have found that traveling has a way of removing me from my 'real life' mindset. My brain takes a vacation too, and I find little-to-no time for grief. It is wonderful. Sorry, but missing you is hard work! It's nice when the pain ceases for even a few days.

Obviously I couldn't go two whole weeks without thinking of you (I still can't wrap my head around the fact that you are constantly on my mind every day after three years, although I'm starting to see that as a blessing as I can more easily remember our happy times together). Last Tuesday, we were were busy spending the day as tourists since we had no interviews lined up until the next day. We went cave tubing and zip lining about two hours from where we were staying, and the manager of the hotel had lined up a driver for us. He was a young Belizean guy wearing baggy pants, a Sean John shirt, earrings, and a crooked hat-- not quite the person a young lady like myself is eager to drive off into the jungle with-- but it turned out he was really nice, informative, and worth the overpriced fee.

He and John spent the day chatting away while my mind raced about my film and upcoming interviews. I overheard them talking up front as he described his wife of 11 years and bragged about his 6-year-old daughter that was second in her class. I finally snapped back to reality when I noticed we had pulled off the main road on the way back to the hotel. I didn't recognize where we were, but knew we were at least another hour from our destination. We came to a stop in front of a small house on a dirt road. My heart raced a little faster.

A woman and a little girl came strolling down the walkway to the car and hopped in beside me in the backseat. It was his wife and daughter, and they were coming along for the ride to keep him company after he dropped us off.

Our only interaction in the back of that cab was a simple exchange of hellos, but it was what they didn't say to me that spoke volumes. Watching that mother and daughter interact next to me like no one else was crammed into this tiny car with them was one of the sweetest things I have ever seen. They had notebooks in hand and spent the next hour reviewing her notes from school, studying how many quarters make one dollar, praising her when she said four, and giggling together when she said, "and one half dollar equals... a dollar?!" The mother wrapped her arm around that little girl and pulled her close as methodically and effortlessly as if she were just an extension of herself. And just like that, they were happy; a cab driver, a gas station cashier, and a 6-year-old with a bright-colored scrunchy holding up her long black hair, without a care in the world.

Flashbacks flooded my mind of the four of us spending long days at the sandwich shop that you and Dad opened one year; the summers we spent in a small cottage at Barker's Pond; our Christmas videos that capture the years when I was convinced footie pajamas and Kool-Aid mustaches were the best attire.

Looking beside me in this cab, a part of me wanted to cry and say to them, "Don't you realize how quickly this happiness could all be taken from you?! Enjoy this! Soak this in!"

But then the other part of me took over and smiled... because I knew that's exactly what they were doing.