This I Believe

Irene - Lakewood, Colorado
Entered on May 30, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe I have discovered the meaning of life. It has been a process, a journey – if you will – a long, windy, painful road. It has been full of unforeseen detours and closures, but they have all led me to my destination.

When I was 29, my mother passed away from three malignancies. It began with breast cancer – she went in for a biopsy and came out without a breast. Devastating chemotherapy and radiation ensued; she lost her hair and her energy, only to be given another diagnosis of colon cancer six months later. Prior to this, she and I had been planning a road trip that we would never get to do.

At the same time, the man with whom I had a six year relationship, was given a diagnosis of Nonhodgkins Aggressive B-Cell Lymphoma. He had too much pride and pushed me away, though I tried to be there for him, in my stubborn devotion. His illness distracted both of us from the fact that our relationship was self destructing. I walked away from him feeling a loss of self.

All of a sudden, in my late 20’s, my life was cancer. Spending every moment of every day living with the tension of death.

My mom’s final diagnosis was leukemia. I recall her joking even as the oxygen-deprived brown blood was drained from her weary body: “I’ve got quite the collection going…” she said.

It was Easter time when she was having weekly transfusions and I brought her a little basket with some candy and fake grass. She ran her finger delicately across the grass, “Cute,” she whispered, unable to produce full voice, though in her mannerism of speech that resonates throughout my mind to this day.

I look back at the past few years, not knowing how I survived. Everyday I dealt with the reality of losing the two most important people in my life. At the same time I had the distraction of learning a new career, completing my fellowship and working long days.

I lost myself in my sister’s anger, my father’s denial… I researched cancer… prayed …. dreamt of what was not to be…

Oddly, through it all, an optimism, an inner strength was revealing itself. Despite the uncontrollable, I learned to live.

Life IS learning, life is your choice of perspective. It’s wonderful, majestic, enticing, even in absolute devastation.

I’m now engaged to the love of my life who shares my perspectives. In hardship, we have both transformed and could not have found each other otherwise. The pain of life made me who I am today, and thus, I’m ready to love completely. Everything happens for a reason, we go through the things we do because we’re meant to, living and learning. I wear my mother’s wedding ring as my engagement ring. She is always with me.

I’m a different, better person from the pain. From the bad comes the good. Nothing for granted. Every second matters. And for that I’m grateful.