Last week, my 12-year-old ran a 4K in his first cross country meet. By the time I was his age, I had run a mile once. I was not in attendence, but as he tells it, he started out behind the pack of about 75 runners. He passed a bunch of people (not the majority, but a bunch) and then toward the end there were some teammates cheering and encouraging him shouting, “You’re almost there!!” So he sped up and charged onward. This did not serve him well, because he is more accustomed to track distances, not cross country. He pushed through a few episodes of wretching, but eventually pulled off course, quickly threw up as he was passed by those he had previously dusted, and then started running again. And thus he completed his first official race.
Today marks the last day of summer for me. Phoebe’s first day of Kindergarten is tomorrow. Wearied by the summer’s beating, I will peel myself out of bed, get dressed, make breakfast (maybe) and with my husband, take our last child to her first day of Kindergarten. And then we will go to the hospital and I will have my 11th infusion of chemotherapy. I wonder how many moms are in the exact same boat…
This summer was distinctly marked by cancer. duh. Much to my own surprise, I have had an amazingly cheery disposition about this whole thing. That would be a combination of equal parts grace and denial. But, the weight of cancer has been starting to press down. Summers are always a challenging time for me. Teenagers and children who are just learning to swim go at different speeds. It’s hard on a mom. And so is cancer. It’s been a lot, but we were helped a ton, so that helped keep me afloat.
Just today, between Phoebe’s Kindergarten conference and a doctor’s appointment for her, I was lost in thought. So lost that I wasn’t aware of my speed. I was pulled over by a merciless officer who said all the stupidest things I have ever heard since I’ve had cancer. “This isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things…It looks like you have bigger problems to worry about…Don’t let this ruin your day.” I was bawling my eyes out because I haven’t had a speeding ticket since the 90s. And because I have cancer. And because I’m tired. And because he was being insensitive. And because I’m bald.
I was almost done with all my summer duties. I had almost made it across the finish line with that smile on my face. I was almost home free to have some space to grieve the loss of health, hair, and dreams…without the small audience of worried eyes…I held it together for three months exactly. And with summer’s finish line in sight, the straw that broke this camel’s back was a speeding ticket. I’ve sobbed off and on all day.
Anyway, back to my boy. Miles, who loves to philosophize, says, “Throwing up in a race isn’t a sign of physical weakness, but a sign of mental strength.” So maybe my version of throwing up–a big fat cry–doesn’t mean I failed at being a happy mother who has faced four kids and summer and cancer all at once. I made it this far. And here’s another thought from a new friend–a breast cancer survivor: “You have to look at each day as pass/fail. Did you get to the end of the day? You passed.” I didn’t quite appreciate the weight and simplicity of this mindset until today.
Today, it looks like I’m gonna make it to the end of the day. I’m SURROUNDED by helpers*. I’m HELD by God. And even mostly UNDERSTOOD (my love language) by my loved ones. And I’m gonna make it. Today, I passed.
*My crew of helpers have dubbed themselves “Team Jenna.” If you want to join them, follow that link. I’ve meant to post it on the blog as a few of you have asked. Please, do not feel pressure!!!