I’m upset with myself for not realizing how ridiculously lucky I am. And the crazy part is that it’s because of cancer that I have that much more to appreciate. I’ve been dwelling so much on what cancer has taken away from our lives that I haven’t been able to see much past that. Understandable- sure, but unnecessary nonetheless.
I’ve always known that I have amazing children. No, they aren’t perfect, and I’m not THAT parent who thinks the sun shines out of their ass, but they really are just great kids. So different from each other but fantastic and awesome in their own way. Yet, the perspective I see now has changed.
Elena is an incredible spitfire. I have used this word long before she was diagnosed with cancer. Though, it had taken on a new meaning as of late. I feel as if she had not had to go through this terrible tragedy, Elena would have been my exhausting child. The one I chased around the house all day long, getting absolutely nothing done. Enjoying the time with her, of course, but never realizing what a gift her energy is. She is inspiring…to myself and to anyone that knows her or of her. Not many two year olds get to be that. And I’m so fiercely proud of her. For simply being Elena. For never allowing cancer to bring her down or slow her pace. For coming into her own with the greatest balance of affection and tenacity. For loving so deeply with all of her heart. For being able to laugh, and laugh good, hard and often, despite her constant need to fight. For learning and developing on schedule. This is huge for me, as we started the harsh poisons of chemotherapy at only 19 months old and I was unsure how she would develop. For being that child in clinic that every single nurse knows, and making sure she greets them with a “good morning” on the way in, and blowing kisses as we head home. She truly is amazing, tenacious and spunky, but in the best possible way.
Annalise has always been the warmth of the sun, and I’ve valued her nurturing personality from the start. Though watching her and how she has grown and understood the changes in our lives since her little sister’s diagnosis is simultaneously heart breaking and uplifting. I am so proud of how she handles the obstacles she has faced. From being stuck in her room for days on end while sick, hardly complaining because she knows how precarious Elena’s health is, to knowing exactly how to make her sister laugh while she’s not feeling her best. It’s bittersweet, seeing her mature as she has; for Annalise has learned life lessons that no six year old should have to. My heart breaks and swells with immense pride at the same time. In the beginning, just after Elena was diagnosed, I had thought that it was for HER that I had to be strong…that if she saw me crying and upset, it would break her in a way that I would not be able to fix. What I’ve learned, over time, is that it is the shared moments of heartache that I have had with her that has bonded us in an unbreakable way. It is in those moments before bed, when I tell her that not only is it ok to cry, but cry with her, that strengthens her. It’s important that she knows that showing emotions, even the painful ones, is not a sign of weakness, rather a sign of a big heart.
I’ve cherished how close my girls are, despite their difference in age. I’ve crossed my fingers that they would keep the adoration they have for each other as they grow. People have assured me of the opposite, that the time will come when they cannot tolerate one another. Though I truly feel differently, especially after what we are going through. They love and appreciate each other for all that they are, and for that I am beyond thankful.
So- to you, I say this: Cherish your family, whomever they may be. Look at your children, even on their worst days (and every parent knows that they have plenty of those), and value them, as they are and for all that they are. Because even traits that may seem to be more of a negative than a positive (i.e. tenacity and sensitivity), can end up being the best qualities about them. These could be the characteristics that will serve them best, when it is needed the most.