I Hope You Know

I hope you know … above all else, you are the driving force behind what I do and what I fight for.

I hope you know … inside I’m crying when I have to do something for your own good that I know you won’t like.

I hope you know … it doesn’t hurt any less when I have to keep you from doing something you want to do when it isn’t good for you. “No” is not my favorite word no matter what you may think.

I hope you know . .. every time we go to the doctor and you complain, I talk about all the good that will come of it and remind you that things are so much better than they used to be because inside I also feel like complaining; I’m really saying all of of those things in an attempt to remind myself, too.

I hope you know … when you cry because you don’t want to wear your hearing aids or because something isn’t right inside a world that I can’t understand, I get frustrated because I can’t help you, and I know this is the way life is going to be. This is your reality. I give you the speech about looking at the bright side, but inside I’m so angry that you have to live this way that I can barely see straight.

I hope you know … when I hear another child say mean things to you, my heart shatters into a million pieces. Even if you don’t hear it, I carry it in my very soul. I pray every day, sometimes every hour, in the hopes you never have to know meanness and discrimination.

I hope you know … every time the phone rings when you’re at school, my heart skips a beat in fear that something has happened to you and I wasn’t there to keep you safe.

I hope you know … when I pick you up from school my stomach still knots up in fear that you’ve had a “bad day.” When I see your smile and your ‘thumbs-up” sign, my heartbeat slows down and I say a prayer of thanks.

I hope you know … these have been some of the most stressful, painful, heart-wrenching days of my life. Even when I’m smiling and laughing, there are days when I’m fighting so hard to stay positive that I’m surprised I haven’t broken in half. But…

I hope you know … none of it is a result of you; it’s in spite of you , and it’s because of you that I haven’t completely fallen apart.

I hope you know … even though I’ve been angry sometimes these past few months, I’m also grateful. I never thought we’d be dealing with all we have been, but I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished as a family.

I hope you know … I am in awe every single day. Watching you succeed in so many ways and seeing how happy you’ve become is amazing! Even when we have our backsliding moments, I find myself thankful of where we are. I’ll never be prouder of you than I am today… excluding, of course, all of the yesterdays and the tomorrows.


The Banquet of Life

I have a featured guest post today by Heather Von St James, a mother who was diagnosed with mesothelioma a month after her daughter’s birth. Reading her story offered me a touching glimpse into the life of a mother fierce with love for her daughter and family.

The Banquet of Life

After an uneventful and (mostly, until the emergency C-section) uncomplicated pregnancy, my daughter, Lily, was brought into this world on August 4, 2005.  Our family and friends who visited us often to bask in the glow of Lily and bestow well wishes upon us surrounded us.  Lily was perfect and now, so was our life.  We were completely unprepared for what our family would be facing very soon.

Things began to crumble about a month after I had returned to work.  I was lethargic and frequently out of breath.  At first I believed this was just how new moms felt, but persistent worry took over and I visited my doctor.  Many tests later, we knew this could not be blamed on new motherhood.  I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma , a type of lung cancer that is primarily caused by exposure to asbestos, in late November 2005, several months after the birth of Lily.  Apparently I had been exposed to asbestos in childhood, nearly 30 years ago.  My symptoms that I mistakenly thought were from being a new mom were actually because of the mesothelioma.

My doctor advised me that I had 15 very short months to live.  I thought of sweet Lily and my husband, imagining their lives without me in it, and I knew we had to find a way to save my life.  We took the most extreme solution offered to us and my husband and I were sent to Boston, home of the best surgeons for mesothelioma.  In early February 2006, I had an extrapleural pneumenectomy.  In simple terms, they removed my left lung.  Recovery consisted of an 18-day hospital stay as well as an additional two months waiting to begin chemotherapy, followed by radiation.  I endured all of this while being a first-time, brand new mom.

We’ve all heard the saying “it takes a village” and my “village” enveloped us with love, support and prayers.  Kind people came from everywhere to help and, sadly, some that we thought we could count on let us down.  I suppose a positive of being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer is that I finally saw very clearly who my true friends were.  It would have been impossible to give Lily the attention an infant needs in Boston, so she stayed with my parents in South Dakota.  They had a “village” of their own, consisting of girls I babysat when I was younger–girls with families of their own–and their church.  Lily was very well taken care of.  In Boston, my husband and I thrived on the sheer love and support of new friends some that were going through the same exact thing.

The hospital staff laughed with me and fought back tears as I shared Lily’s life with them.  My mother would email me poor-quality photos of Lily trying solids, Lily learning to crawl–Lily, growing up without me.  Lily was the driving force for this fight, the reason I was in Boston saving my life.  I could take comfort in the fact that Lily was being raised by the wonderful people who raised me and that she was creating an amazing bond with them.

My favorite quote is “Life is a banquet–and most poor suckers are starving to death!”  My family takes nothing for granted now and we welcome whatever it is that this often-difficult life has in store for us.  We believe we did the best we could with the hand we were dealt.  As bad as it is to have cancer, many good things came from it, such as our new friends and Lily’s bond with her grandparents.  For those things, I can be grateful.

Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog .


Pure Matters

I was offered a great opportunity by Pure Matters a month or so ago, and I jumped at the chance! I’m a huge advocate of healthy living, especially for my kids, so when they offered me free samples of the Pure Matters Sugar-Free Multi-Vitamin Gummies for kids and the Pure Matters Complete Biotic , I was thrilled.

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GUMMIES: First and foremost, I love love love that these children’s vitamins are sugar free. It’s so hard to find sugar free vitamins that taste good, and these definitely fit the bill. In fact The Older, even with his aversion to foods that are squishy and he isn’t familiar with, pronounced, “I want you to get these every single every time you buy me vitamins. These are super awesome!” The Younger liked them too, although her sentiments were a little less vocalized; I believe there was a “Mmmmmm” and a “Yummy!” in there somewhere though… These are gluten free and vegetarian, and there’s also no milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, gelatin… My only disappointment was that there is no iron supplementation listed, and since The Older is borderline anemic, I have to either switch this vitamin to something else or get him an extra iron supplement, which is probably what I’ll end up doing since he loves these so much.

BIOTIC: I have had (ahem) “issues” all my life with staying regular. I can go d-a-y-s without visiting the bathroom to go potty, and it messes with how I feel. I get bloated, tired, and feel generally icky a lot of the time, and I’ve just chalked it up to being something I’ve had to live with. I’ve tried probiotics before, but I could never keep up! The majority I tried indicated that I had to take them 3 times a day with meals, then one before bed, and let’s face facts: I am not that committed. I’d start but take things halfheartedly, and then I’d just give up. So, imagine how happy I was that I only had to take 2 of these, and they could be taken at the same time! I started them the day I got them, and I have to tell you that I am beyond thrilled with the results. Within 3 days things were moving, I was feeling better, and I had none of the side effects that go along with actual stimulants. I have taken these every day since, and I have no plans to stop!

I hardly ever do reviews on my blog, but I had to do this one because I am so happy with this brand of health products. I’m even going to switch from my usual brand of B complex vitamins to Pure Matters as well because the price is right, and I am so pleased with the results of these other two products so far :-)


Simple Words

We had a low-key Mother’s Day here at the house, and it was great. We cooked out with my mother and father, my MIL, and one of my best friends and her son. We hung out for hours, and it was a relaxed, laughter-filled day.

I got cards from the kids, DH prepped and cooked out as my gift, and my parents got me an awesome jogging stroller so I can walk with my mom in the mornings again. However, my favorite gift came in the form of a handwritten note from The Older:

M other I like when we make cookies together.
O ur Love
T he best thing is I love to have a Mom like you.
H ot days I like when we go into the pool together.
E xcited when I sleep with you.
R ide bikes together.”

I’m happy to know that when he thinks of me and our relationship, he’s thinking about love and all the things we do together. Nothing could make me happier than to know that my son feels loved and appreciated!