Thirty-two years ago…

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Thirty-two years ago today, when I became a mother at 7:32 PM, on Wednesday, August 13, 1986, I had no idea of the difficult road ahead. No parent-to-be knows for sure what to expect in their new role, of course, but there’s a continuum of “typical” and there’s off-the-child-development-charts “unpredictable.”

If you’ve followed my story, you know where my motherhood experience fell.

I thought I was ready to be a mom. I had loving role models in my parents, I was an attentive big sister, and I babysat as a teen. I had a supportive husband, a fulfilling career, a cozy house with a crib, and a changing table stocked with onesies, cloth diapers, and blankies. I took my prenatal vitamins and shunned alcohol and attended LaMaze and breastfeeding classes, and read every page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

I was prepared for a typical child. And I expected to be a perfect mom. Matthew and I were neither.

But we’re resilient. Matthew’s recovery from his brain tumor, diagnosed when he was 11, is profound–unpredictable in a good way. Every time I see him, I think he’s smarter than the last time, and the last time, he was reading The Communist Manifesto. 

He’s one remarkable human being. I am so blessed that he is here today so I can wish him:

Happy Birthday, Matt.

Love, Mom

Happy Positivity Day!

Today is Friday the 13th, a day some people truly dread. For others, these unlucky Fridays provide a whimsical excuse for all that goes wrong. April was the most recent time a Friday fell on the thirteenth. When I shared some thoughts about it, I received a comment by this writer suggesting that every Friday the 13th should be considered “simple life day.” I loved the idea.

But I’ve changed my mind.

Today, I declare that Friday the 13th henceforth will be known as “Positivity Day.”

There. It’s official, at least, in my world.

I have good reason to choose this new designation. One month ago, on an unlucky Wednesday, a family member called to say she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was too early to reveal her identity, but now I’ll tell you that it was Mary Beth, my only sister, my confidante, my beautiful, talented, caring, spirited, chronic illness warrior partner.

It was the second time a brain tumor crashed into my world. The first time, it was Matthew, my 11-year old son, who was no longer my “Little Einstein, or my “gazelle,” and we couldn’t figure out why until a brain scan revealed the problem.

There are so many similarities in Mary Beth’s and Matthew’s stories, it’s eerie. “Surreal,” my sister and I kept saying on the phone.

My sister’s tumor, a benign meningioma the size of an orange, was removed in a nine hour surgery. Last week, I flew out to spend time with her, and saw first-hand that she is doing amazingly well. Amazing as in, less than a month post-surgery, Mary Beth is feeling and functioning better than at any time in the past five years when her journey of pain and weakness began.

Matthew’s recovery was not so dramatic, but equally amazing. At 32, he manages his independent life better than many older, wiser adults. If you didn’t know what he’s been through, you’d never suspect what he’s been through. My memoir, in progress, tells of my struggle to parent Matthew through his challenges, a struggle that exposed the depth of my personal weaknesses. A perfect life could never have taught me so much.

My own brain still struggles to wrap itself around this recent brain tumor surprise. There are life lessons hiding in it, yet to be discovered. With time, I’ll find them and work them into my writing. I have to get back to work on my memoir manuscript. It has a new chapter. Or perhaps a sequel, as my sister suggested.

Today, I’m going to find positivity in everything. Already, the day is exploding with examples: the sky is blue, the sun bright, the AC ready for the afternoon’s humidity. My Rose of Sharon shrubs have popped with pink and purple flowers, the white balls of blooms on my hydrangea are bigger than my head. My coffee was perfect this morning, and I’m sitting in my PJs tapping away in my quiet, cool dining room. Matthew will be stopping by this weekend to visit, and Mary Beth texted this morning to say she is full of joy.

It’s working! Positivity reigns!

 

If you find positivity in an unusual place today, or any day, please share it with me! You just might nudge another reader (or me) toward the same discovery.  

 

 

 

 

Brain Tumor Awareness Month, Day 11.

Another vocabulary word from the day my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor: Hydrocephalus. Water on the brain. 

I had heard of it before that October morning in the radiology lab. I had the notion that babies were sometimes born with hydrocephalus, and it caused their heads to swell, since the plates of the skull are not yet fused. 

For an 11 year old, the skull is solid. Excess fluid in the brain will push against and compress the soft tissue, the grey and white matter that controls every aspect of our ability to function.

Normally, cerebrospinal fluid flows from the spinal column up into the brain, and then exits back down again. Matt’s tumor, attached to his brain stem, blocked one of the exits, so the fluid had no place to go.

That’s why Matt’s symptoms were so pervasive—cognitive, physical, emotional. His poor brain was literally being squished.

Had it gone undetected much longer … I shudder to think of the outcome.

So I don’t.

I think about how lucky we are that Matt’s brain, and our family, has recovered.