Sunday, November 13, 2016

I Just Want a Coke!

My dear friend, Christina was diagnosed with lupus nephritis a little over 8 months ago. Her symptoms came on quickly and her body was experiencing kidney failure when she was diagnosed. Immediately, she began chemotherapy and started taking a huge regimen of daily medications to keep her symptoms at bay and to allow her kidneys to heal. This all meant that she was immune compromised and the life she was used to living had to be altered. The plans she had upcoming had to be cancelled. Her daily routine became daunting as fatigue set in. Overall, life changed.

Last week, Christina challenged me to take the Cut it Out 14 day challenge to end lupus. I agreed to give something up for 14 days in support of my friend and will make a donation at the end of the 2 week challenge. Without thinking, I followed the others I saw joining and said I would give up Cokes.


Here is what you need to know about me. Every afternoon, I drink a Coke. I've done this for as long as I can remember. When I was working, it was a little pick me up to get me through the rest of the day. When my kids were babies, I planned my Coke time during naps so I could truly enjoy it. When Tillery was in the hospital, there was no "afternoon Coke". I would drink one in the morning, another in the afternoon, and even have another once she went to bed during my unwinding time (don't judge unless you've lived it!).

I began my challenge last Thursday. I'm literally 4 days in and it's messing up everything!

Thursday's I teach and I normally get a Coke on my way onto campus and sip on it through my 2 classes. Those little bubbles keep me going through back to back lectures on the same material. Sometimes, I skip my pre-class Coke and instead, opt to get one on my way home. A celebratory beverage after surviving 3 hours of college students.

Thursday was different. Instead of my peppy Coke during class, I had water. It was fine but not nearly as fun and the ride home without my extra caffeine boost was no fun either.

Friday, I again missed my pick-me-up and noticed I was getting pretty run down and irritable in the afternoon. I was feeling tired but my usual caffeine boost was no longer an option.

Saturday was a long day with a big church event that took all morning and kept me busy. I came home and the kids went down for naps and I wanted to do my usual routine. I even thought of cheating and having a Coke to reward myself for the busy morning.

It was as soon as I had that thought that I immediately flashed to Christina and how much she must wish she could cheat. She has missed time with her daughter and travelling with her husband because of the fatigue. She has missed participating in group meetings and outings because of germs, and when she was able to participate, she had to wear a silly mask that immediately made her stand out in the crowd. She's had to change so many things in her life and give up so many of the things that bring her little bits of joy. The same kind of joy that my afternoon Coke brings me.

I got sad. I started thinking of all that was running through my head about my Coke and how it all could relate to my friend's struggle.

"Why can't I just have one?"
"It's not fair that I can't but anyone else around me can."
"Would it really hurt to just do it once?"
"I miss my routine."
"I miss my energy boost."
"I'm sad."

I am sad! I hate what Christina misses and how her life has had to change. It brings tears to my eyes to think of this sweet friend, who always does for others, having to make sacrifices in her life. To think of how it must hurt and how that hurt probably comes and goes so she never really feels like she's over it.

For the next 10 days, I will miss my Coke. When Thanksgiving Day arrives, I will leap out of bed and rush to get my favorite bubbly beverage that I miss so much. I will give thanks for Coke! I will also give thanks for my friend, Christina, who is currently in remission. She's done with chemo and done with masks. She's celebrating her life and I'm happy to be a part of it.

Cheers to you, Christina! (Water cheers while I wait for my Coke!)

**To donate to the Cut it Out Challege, Click Here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hope in Milestones

A little over 2 years ago, we travelled to visit a friend in North Carolina. On our visit, he introduced us to his new girlfriend. We really liked her and she seemed to be a good match for our friend. Over the days that we spent with her, something was revealed...she had cancer as a child.

This was the first time I can remember meeting someone who had cancer as a child. I remember thinking it seemed odd. After all, you don't hear a lot about kids having cancer and I just imagined them bald and sickly in a hospital bed. I couldn't picture what they might look like if they survived and grew up. Did they survive? Did they ever recover?

I didn't think too much on it and I didn't really ask her much about it. We enjoyed our visit and then came home with hopes that we would see this girl again, as she seemed like a good partner for our friend.

I thought of her again a few months later, on the day that my daughter was diagnosed with cancer. As my mind immediately conjured up those images of bald, sickly children in hospital beds, I remembered our friend's girlfriend. She was an adult, lived on her own, had a job, and appeared very normal. She made it! I started trying to think of her every day. As we sat in the surgery waiting room, I thought of her. As we started chemotherapy, I thought of her. As my child had scars, bald patches, and started to look sick, I thought of her.

I didn't know her well. I only spent a few days with her and I couldn't really remember what we had talked about. Just normal stuff. She was just a normal person. In the scary days at the hospital, I clung to those very normal, almost non-memories I had with this woman. She was the face of survival for me and she was what I hoped my child could grow up to be.

Tomorrow, Joe and I travel again to see these friends. This time, we are going for their wedding. When Joe got the call from our friend to let us know they were getting married, I cried tears of joy for our friend. We love him dearly and I was so happy that he had found his match in life.

Then, I cried a different kind of tears. I thought of all this girl had gone through in her childhood. I thought of how much was stolen from her in life because of her diagnosis. I thought of the things she probably missed out on and the things she never thought she would get to do. I thought about the milestones in life we all experience and was so overcome by thinking of this girl who survived so much to be able to get to this moment to walk down the aisle.

Saturday, I will be joyful, like many, over the union of these two who are so right for each other. But Saturday, I will also be filled with another emotion...hope. Hope for a future filled with milestones and normalcy.

Congrats Chris and Sara! May you experience all of life's milestones together!