Sometimes the Worst Moments Give you Strength
Thank goodness October is here — August and September felt like the longest months of my life! I had been meaning to post about a few personal issues lately that really pulled on my heartstrings but I just didn’t have the energy to go back there and relive that whole ordeal. I kept thinking about it and finally I thought that I should just get it out of the way since in some respects, those dreadful experiences did in some weird force me to reconsider some of the choices I made and to reevaluate what’s important.
It all started with the final couple of weeks of my young cousin’s life. He was battling cancer and me not being so close to my family, I observed the progress over Facebook. Me being the worrier that I am, decided that I should probably schedule a few appointments just to make sure I was OK.
I started by visiting a dermatologist to get a screen cancer test, after all, I do spend quite a bit of time running outdoors and I do have a few moles/spots on my skin that I sometimes worry about. After stuffing my purse with a some SPF samples in the waiting room, I was directed to the examining room. Practically naked, wearing only a pair of undies and one of those paper gowns, shivering and waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the doctor (of course once the doctor came in the actual screening probably took less than 10 minutes). In a nutshell she began by asking me questions like, “Do you wear sunscreen?” and then briskly but thoroughly began scanning my entire body. I was so embarrassed even though I knew it was standard procedure and caught myself extremely tense when she had to practically pry my legs open to check my inner thigh area. I can only imagine how red my face became. The whole procedure happened so quickly that I forgot to question a few specific markings that I meant to ask her about. I was so relieved she told me that everything was normal and that she would see me again in one year. Before I left, she briefly told me remember this simple test when examining myself.
A (Assymetrical) – Moles and spots should be assymetrical — one side should mirror the other. A few examples would include circle, spade, heart, square, whatever.
B (Border) – The border of each marking should be consistent and not thicker in some area than others.
C (Color) – The mole/marking should be the same color all the way through. She also said that most people develop the same color markings on their body, sometimes you may develop one that is completely different in color and you should have it looked at.
D (Diameter) – Any markings that are bigger than 6mm in diameter (think of an eraser on a pencil) should be looked by your doctor.
E (Evolution) – Keep an eye on marking that change over time — they shouldn’t get bigger or change colors.
*Of course these are just guidelines, annual exams should be scheduled regardless.
Finally I thought to get a physical and a blood test since I rarely go to the doctor unless something is noticeably wrong. I was pretty confident that everything would be OK but I was still a little worried and it didn’t help that the phlebotomist did something weird that caused me to feel severe pain while filling one of the vials. They notified me that they would only be able to do a partial physical since they were in the process of moving and that I could schedule the EKG and chest x-rays at a later date. 72 hours later I called to get the results the person who answered the phone said the doc would have to call me back. A few hours later the same girl, not the doctor called me back to say everything was fine and the results came back normal. I asked her, “If everything was not fine, would the doctor have called me instead?” She assured me that would have been the case. I hung up the phone feeling very happy until a few days later I noticed that my cousin had passed away, and I found out from Facebook of course. Damn it.
Obviously I was really upset, not because of the way I found out but because the way I found out had become the typical way of finding out what is going on with my family. Where most of us recognize how social media has changed the way we communicate with people, for me it actually had started bringing me closer to family that I wouldn’t have normally been in contact with. Unfortunately I hadn’t been in “real” contact with my cousin for what seemed like 12-15 years but we had shared some closeness simply because of some common experiences. I was also mad at myself for not visiting him when it was clear that time was limited even though he had already began refusing visitors.
Soon enough, details of his memorial were posted on FB, his own page which had become a way for everyone (family and friends) to check-in, show support, offer words of encouragement and express love. His page would soon change to a memorial page that was managed by his widow and still very active today.
The night before his service I was literally out of my mind. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t stop crying and I was flooding my boyfriend’s cell phone with text messages, telling him I couldn’t go, I didn’t want to go. I seriously even told myself I would rather die than go. He of course promised me that everything would be OK and that he would be there holding my hand and I could get through it. What you don’t know is that this anxiety was about more than his passing, it was about dealing with reality and seeing my family (mom, dad, brother, everyone) while feeling so weak and vulnerable. I just couldn’t imagine getting through that day which would literally put me in front of some family that I hadn’t seen in more than a decade. Mostly feeling angry about my childhood, angry and everyone for their decisions and even more angry at myself for moving far away as soon as I had the opportunity. And of course I was scared everyone hated me for distancing myself so much, assuming I thought I was better than them when I really just wanted to get away. Out of sight, out of mind.
We drove two hours to get to the service in Taft which lasted less than an hour. It was a great service filled with his family and tons of friends reminiscing on their precious time spent together. It was eery to watch the powerpoint presentation full of pictures that I was already familiar with from seeing them on FB and my boyfriend and I both had envisioned what ours would look like substituting his dirt-bike racing photos with our marathon and race photos. Something to really think about.
I of course was cold to my parents, I didn’t say much, I just wanted to get home RIGHT NOW and I even decided to skip the reception that followed. As we headed out, I asked my boyfriend if he’d like to see the places where I had lived and the schools that I attended growing up. Having just met my parents for the first time ever, he quickly obliged, probably surprised that I would utter such a thing and after a few hours of driving around and visiting these places, I gained the strength to change my mind, stop being selfish and decided to head to the reception to at least hug his wife and meet his 11-year old son for the first time.
I am so glad that I had changed my mind, it was a relief and so much weight was lifted off my chest. I knew things weren’t fixed but I knew that things were headed in the right direction. A first step of sorts. We left the reception a few hours later and I asked my boyfriend if he’d mind if we made one more pit stop to my parents house before we headed back. They had decided not to go to the reception and I really only got to say a handful of words, not so nice words, before they left. Of course he said yes and our night ended with some hugs, laughs and a new desire to work on these issues with them and more importantly myself.
A few days passed when I commented on my cousin’s memorial page on Facebook and I received the most amazing message from his wife:
“I just want you to know that even though [he] was 42 he looked up to you. He took such pride in showing our son all of your posts and pics about running. He was so excited that you were in the Boston Marathon. I think deep down inside he wished that he would have taken the chance and opportunity to leave this town the way you did. That’s why we push [our son] to know that sitting in this town is bad and it’s why we put so much of our income in an account for [him.] It’s sooo important that [he] leave this town and go to school over there or anywhere that he will learn a new lifestyle… LOL. He told him so many times that you set out and accomplished everything ON YOUR OWN. When [he] starts track again, maybe you can come down and show him some pointers.”
Seriously? My heart dropped, I just read the message over and over (I responded of course) and I cried too. It was a message that I needed to receive and I told myself it was time to change.