August 11, 2013

The C-Word: When Life Changes Overnight.

Photo: Brandon Downing

Life changes, oh yes it does.

I recently heard someone saying that nobody gets out of this life alive. There is that turning point that changes everything; this was one of mine.

Thanks to that series of events, I learnt some of the most powerful lessons in my life.

Life tests your faith.

I used to wonder why other people’s lives did not change as much as mine did, in a matter of a second—I have come to a point where I understand it better. Although at the time I looked around to the people I knew and even though they had been through hardships, I felt like my reality was turning non-stop, in a moment in my life where I was truly happy.

Almost two years ago, my mom separated from my dad and moved to the other side of the country with her sisters.

Three days later, she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer—a battle hard to fight. My sisters and I decided to move with my mom to be with her and support her.

At the time, I was at a point where I was experimenting with new and amazing things; doing one of the things I love the most, practicing Pediatric and Neonatal Nutrition. The patients I had fallen in love with for the last year were there. I connected with new people during this time; I was building unexpected and great friendships with whom I had plans and dreams to share.

But then again, the plans we make are not always in tune with the one’s we are about to face. After receiving the awful news about my mom, my sisters and I returned home to get rid of what had been for me 22 years of life—a lifetime of memories.

Life shows you true friendship.

This is a time when you wish you had your friends to help you feel a little less miserable. But sometimes, it just doesn’t happen like that. We called our friends to help us, but not many showed up. I got to say it hurt—I have always been the girl you can call when you are feeling down. I would be lying if I said I did not expect a little bit more support from friends to help me carry my life out of the window.

Fortunately, two of my friends did show up. To them, I am forever thankful. (Particularly to one of them, who was with me from the very beginning of this rough roller coaster ride, keeping me sane.) Sometimes we underestimate the time we have; we leave things unsaid or things undone. I wish I had done more, but I guess I did what my rumbling mind allowed me then. Now I know my real friends from back then and appreciate them even if is from far away, but very close in spirit.

Life teaches you material things are not that important and the memories are the ones you should hold on to.

We sold most of the stuff, some other things we gave away and some others people took away taking advantage of the situation. As we were trying to make sense of what to choose to get into the suitcase, which memory to take and which was too heavy to get in the plane; people started to pass uninvited to take things, pieces of furniture or even demanding to be the first choice to get the house when we finally move out.

Life teaches you to actually appreciate life.

Even if at the moment life was cracked, it was still life. Especially precious life with Mom and it should not be wasted. We started living with one of my aunts and my mom started her treatment.

However, the countdown of days without speaking to my dad had unfortunately also begun.

We turned into a family of 26 people. Aunts, uncles, cousins and my grandma became one of the most beautiful companions at that time. I got to know a big loving family that was with us every step of the way.

From hair loss, apathetic days and change of moods to visits to the ER and hospital stays. Fortunately, the hospital hosts self esteem and positive thinking meet-ups and although it helped, my mother’s feelings changed often; sometimes hopeless, other times devastated and moments when she felt lost without a compass. All of this keeps reminding you just how unexpected life is.

My mom reconnected with her sisters. She had great days in their company. The changes she experienced were more bearable thanks to the company of the people she grew up with. When you feel life escaping through your fingers as she did at the time, being in the company of the people you love makes a huge difference. They also had their battles to overcome and we stood together.

Life keeps turning and does not wait.

As one of my aunts once said, not everything is as it looks. One of them started her divorce process from her husband, a rough one. Her sons and we had become like siblings. The long talks made us closer; we had more in common than we had expected.

As my aunt was in the divorce process, she showed a side of her where she saw only her benefit in many aspects. This issue was the one that ended up crushing the relationship that had been built throughout this journey.

Sadly, she talked about us and said harsh and untrue things to all the members of the once unbreakable pack. Things in the family took a sour turn and the relationship continued to bend and break and ben again. There were times were we where called bitter names and special celebrations that we were excluded from.

That was not even as remotely devastating as it was seeing my mom crying almost on a daily basis and saying that she wanted to die because she was fed up with sadness and betrayal.

I am sure they have a side of the story that must be different than the one that was lived from my perspective; otherwise I want to believe that things would not have turn so fast so ugly.

One thing true is that if cancer was not going to take my mom, certainly these circumstances were not going to do so either. We ended up by ourselves, my mom, my sisters and I.

Life teaches you to appreciate your parents.

By this time, I had started making contact with my dad again. Those were torn conversations. I regretted not having doing it sooner; this situation was on my mind every day. Eventually, I decided to move back with him because I could not handle knowing he was by himself.

Life allows you to breathe again.

This is a bittersweet story; my mom thankfully has beaten cancer and is still recovering. Afterwards, she and my dad also got together again in hopes that their relationship would get better.

We moved to the other side of the country and there we were on the road again, with my 16 year old dog and everything else behind. Again.

We are nowhere near perfect—everyone has their issues to work. Everyone still has covered wounds and buried feelings from that time, but I am making every day count. I do not want to lose the true friends I have; I want to seize every moment and every person in my life now.

That’s all I have—material things are just things and the spirit is what I want to keep nurturing.

And let’s live for today.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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