I believe that it is all in how you look at it. Everyone has heard the old “is the cup half full or half empty?”

There is nothing fun about what I have had to go through these past nine years. But, I am choosing (because we all have choices) how I think about what I have been through.  On this one, let’s back up to my whole life and not just limit to the Big C.

My birth father left. I was, obviously, devastated. I was just a kid. Only I and one other child at Old Farms Elementary School had divorced parents. It was tough. BUT, if my birth father hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have gotten my step father who, in turn, gave me my beautiful baby sister Lori.  He also gave me a self-confidence that I would never have had a strong and steady belief system and a happy mother. I love him. Instead of looking at the fact that my birth father left as a horrible experience, I choose to look at it as paving the way for the family that would sustain me throughout my life’s journey.

Before my birth father left, and while there was turmoil in the house, my mother was sad a lot of the time. She cried a lot. I made it my mission to do anything I could to make her smile. SO, I made sure that I brought home A’s, I made sure that I got the solo in chorus, I made sure that I got the lead in the play, that I had friends and got accolades from teachers. In my journey to this point, I have learned that this was one of the most pivotal things to have happened to me.  I turned a sad song into something better by sheer will and determination. I would bring home that A and get a smile. I would sing a solo and get a smile (and some tears). Again, you choose what to do with the situation handed to you.

After my birth father left, and before my step father came, we didn’t have a lot of money. We had patches on our jeans and let ourselves into the house after school until my mom got home from work. My mother rolled coins on more than one occasion so that we could eat or pay the bills. Instead of being bitter that we weren’t rolling in the dough, I remember watching Rocky on my mother’s little black and white in her room, eating macaroni and cheese and playing Lincoln Logs at the kitchen table with my sister. I put on plays and read probably a million books. I used my imagination. I learned to twirl a baton. Most importantly, I learned that a man can leave and the woman can not only survive but, thrive. I look back on the lean years and think about how lucky we were to have had each other.

I lived my life in fear that my mother would get cancer, as she had it when I was just a baby. She was lucky to have survived. Instead of being angry about that, I am so very grateful. I NEVER took my mother for granted. Never. I always knew how lucky I was to have her. And, when she was diagnosed again when I was in my twenties, I didn’t rail against God but, rather, thanked him for letting her survive. It helped so much when I was diagnosed to know that my mother had been through it twice and beat it. If she could do it, so could I! Imagine how devastated I was when she had a recurrence just a year after I was diagnosed.  At first, I was terrified but, then, began to “turn it around”.  Now, I had the knowledge that you can even have a recurrence and survive! I once again thanked God for making us so lucky.

And, there it is. Lucky that my mother got cancer three times? Lucky that I got cancer? Lucky that my dad had a heart attack, heart surgery and a brain tumor?

We are more than lucky but, rather blessed.

We are still here. We laugh, we cry, we celebrate each other’s birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, weddings, births.  We are more grateful for each other than many people I know. Anyone who knows my family can tell you that.

My son was four months old when I was diagnosed. I found the lump when I was breast-feeding him. I had the type of cancer that feeds on estrogen.  Without getting too technical, it is likely that being pregnant accelerated the cancer. It was pretty aggressive when it was found. I used to worry that when he got older, he would realize this, put two and two together, and feel badly. But, then, I realized that I had to start “turning it around” for him now.

I explained to Jack that he is my “little angel” because if it weren’t for him, and the fact that I had been feeding him, I wouldn’t have found the lump and might not have gotten better. He loves to be my “little angel”. And, I have complete confidence that when he is old enough to understand, he will feel the same way.

He is his mother’s son and, it’s all in how you look at it, after all.