I've spoken about my mom's journey with brain cancer before (you can view it here), so I won't rehash the details again. What I want to do instead, as I near the 7 year anniversary of her passing, is share with you a few of the most important things I learned during that time. While the loss was painful, there were so many great things that we walked away with that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience.
First, we have some pretty amazing family and friends. When mom first was diagnosed - and every, single day after (and I seriously mean EVERY SINGLE DAY), she was showered with phone calls, visits, meals, laughs, stories, smiles, rides to treatments, shopping trips to get out of the house, having books read to her, manicures, cookie deliveries, and so much more. It was so awesome to see how many people cared for her, and how kind those we filled our life with, were. It was like an army just gathered around us for the battle, and held all of us up when we felt like we just couldn't go any further. I will never, ever forget how great these people are. Everyone should be so lucky to have people like this in their life!
Second, life is short. Yes, it's cliche but it is so very true. There are so many great things out there in the world to do, so many things to see. There are so many people to spend time with, and so much we should be saying to the people we care about. Never let those moments go past. Say "I love you" at the end of your phone calls, tell the funny stories about the past. Those shouldn't be reserved for the very special circumstances of holidays or illness - they should be handed out in abundance.
Third, anger gets you nowhere. Not that anger is always bad (I think you need a little anger sometimes for motivation and such), but when you let it build up and overtake your life, the only person that gets hurt is you. It's such a poison, and something we should avoid. The truth of life is this: whether we like it or not, sometimes bad things happen. They'll happen a lot, to very good people. We can't predict it or stop it. All we can do is accept it and believe that down the road, something better is waiting for us. I wasted a great amount of time being angry and the only place it got me was alone - not a very fun place to be. So be angry for awhile, yell it out, have a good cry and then let it go into the past where it should remain. Start every day fresh.
Fourth, take joy in the little things. Honestly - set five minutes at the end of your day every day for a week, maybe as you're laying down to bed, and list 10 things that you enjoyed about the day. Even on your worst day, there are bound to be some small events that made you smile. Like your son dancing around in a Mardi Gras mask; your husband mowing the lawn so you don't have to; the dog laying down by your feet to keep you company; your daughter batting her eyelashes to ask for one more cookie. They don't have to be massive gestures, just small ones that you are grateful for. Trust me - it makes the day a whole lot better when you take the time to be thankful for what you have.
Lastly, do some fun stuff. We spend so much time working or going to school, running errands, chauffering kids, going to meetings. Sometimes we forget to just breathe; to just live. I try and make sure now that at least once a week we do something we all deem fun. Maybe it's my writing club, or board game night. Maybe it's a glass of wine with the girls or going to a movie. Whatever it is, I make sure that I let a little fun in because the truth is that all the awards or degrees I earn during my life aren't going to be what matters to me 30, 40, 60 years from now. What's going to matter is who still wants to spend time with me and laugh and smile with. Work to live, don't live to work. You'll miss out on a whole lot of living!
So with all that said, go forth this May - which is Brain Cancer Awarenes Month - and think about those facing this battle. If you can't make time in your life for fun and happiness now, you may never have the opportunity. In honor of those like my mom who were cut short on years, make a promise to yourself to start living - and then go out and do it!