Friday, October 31, 2008

"Only the Good" Friday

A blogger buddy of mine -perhaps you know her too -Shelley Tucker over at This Eclectic Life - has come up with a new post idea for Fridays and I decided I'm going to plug into this, give it a shot. The name of her post idea is "Only the Good Friday" and the idea behind it is that on Friday, do a post in which you write about "Only the Good" things about your life, family, country -whatever! A while back, I participated in another thing similar to this that I had found then at my friend, Terri, Terri's place.

Writing about the good things encountered daily - but often not realized -I realized later that in doing this, it brought me a lot of peace of mind. Just to think of my cup as half-full, as opposed to the half-empty really brings about a big change of attitude, ya know.

Today though, I've decided to select two things in particular to look at and hopefully put them into a different perspective for others, as both of these things have certainly given me pause to stop, think and regard things in a much different light.

The first thing is something that often strikes fear into our minds, our hearts, when we hear it spoken. Especially when it is named to be present in a member of our family, close friend, even just an acquaintance -Cancer.

That word was one I feared for many, many years. Both my parents died of cancer as did one of my Dad's brothers, my Mom's baby sister. My Dad's baby sister had cancer too but fortunately, it was caught back in 1991, she had a colostomy and lived another 17 years to the grand old age of 91. (Ah, see there -already a "good" thing -with advances in science, diagnosis, treatments compared to what was available for my parents, uncle and aunt.) I've lost others close to me too over the years to this disease and no, it was never an easy thing to go through especially a very good friend who lost his life 20 years ago this past September to a very debilitating form of the illness -cancer of the jawbone. At the age of 44, with three children, family, friends galore, it struck him down way before his time should have come -just much, much too young, you know.

But in March of 2003, I found myself in similar circumstances. After having had a test -colonoscopy -there was my surgeon talking to my daughter, Mandy and me, telling us that the results of this test showed a tumor to be present in my colon and yes, there it was, out in the open, that big, bad old "C" word that I had lived in fear of for all my life, really.

And, as he talked about the tumor, then went on to tell us what he had lined up in the short period of time since he'd been scoping around in that part of my anatomy, he explained that in two days, I would report to the oncologist at the hospital to begin Chemo treatments and that the following week, I would go to Altoona, to see the radiologist there and begin radiation treatments to shrink the tumor. Then, probably in June -three months hence, I would have surgery to remove what he hoped would be a much smaller tumor due to the radiation treatments. After that, there would be a period of recuperation and then, I would begin more chemo treatments for six to seven months after that. He had laid out a game plan and time line for me to follow that would keep me very busy for the next ten months, at least.

He never laid this out as something I had a choice about but rather it was very matter-of-fact and in a "You will do this and you will like it" manner! And you know what? That was very much a good thing because had he given me any choice there, I most likely would have gotten up and walked away, probably would have not had any or some of the treatments he set up and very possibly, wouldn't be here today to talk about this either.

I have to confess one other thing here too and that is that only a month before this revelation of my medical issues, my younger daughter, Mandy, had told me that I was going to become a Grandma again - for the second time -and this new baby was due to arrive in October of 2003. At the time she filled me in with her news, I was already majorly depressed because I was unemployed, had been having terrible problems finding anyone willing to hire an older worker such as myself to begin with, not feeling very good because of physical issues -obviously related to the now known causative agent and my thoughts about a new baby were not what they had been six years earlier when my older daughter had told me I was going to be a Grandma for the first time. I'd been absolutely euphoric at her news. Mandy's struck a really bad, very sad chord in my head as I just couldn't bring myself to be excited over her news because I was too deeply engrossed in many other things around me, in my life then. And those feelings of not being able to get really excited over what should have been such a wonderful event about to come my way haunted me until the day after that baby was born and I held her for the first time!

It took a lot of effort to make it through that spring and summer to October that year. Not from the chemo, the radiation, the surgery so much as from the issues I had after the surgery when my back "went south" on me! Days filled with terrible pain, not being able to move, therapy, other issues that harked back to the surgery and problems that cropped up there and the three months prior to the birth of my granddaughter were things I wouldn't have wished on my worst enemy but ultimately, they all worked together to change my perspective about life in general and that is to be thankful for every day, every hour, minute even, when you DON'T have pain as a constant companion! That was just for openers!

Just to be able to finally begin to walk a little better, a little easier, to be able to finally drive again. Not major things to some but to me, back then, just made each day a little bit better. Today, I'm still frequently very stiff, very achy, but as long as I can manage to pull myself out of bed in the morning, see the things around me I love -my children, grandkids, other family, lots of friends, watch the seasons change yet again, breathe the fresh air, sit at my computer and play with words, e-mails, meet new people all the time via blogs and such, just to be able to do the very mundane, often boring things life hands us too -washing dishes, a little tidying up around the old place now and then, reading new books, learning a new skill or refreshing my memory on crafting things I haven't used in many years -just so many things, too numerous to name, all give me so much pleasure now to still be around to enjoy life, with its good, bad and indifferent things, and see this all as wonderful today.

The other factor that has come my way is also something that tends to strike fear, dread in fact, into the hearts and minds of so many who learn that their child (sometimes children) have been diagnosed with the disorder Autism. Yes, if you've been following my blog for any time at all now you know that the two younger of my three grandchildren have both been diagnosed with Autism.

Thursday (yesterday now) morning, watching the Today Show, they had a segment on pertaining to Autism and I cringed as I heard Matt Lauer describe the reactions of so many parents upon learning their child had received this diagnosis as it being a "tragedy." And I thought that is so wrong, such a fallacy. The only tragedy in Autism is ignorance.

Maya and Kurtis, my beautiful little grandchildren, are actually so much like any other child of the same ages, just a little more difficult at times to figure out what's going on inside them that makes them act, react, learn in a different manner than do other children.

They are both little imps! No two ways about that, for sure. Funny -oh my yes! Entertaining? No doubt about that either. Doing things that create messes? You better believe that too! But how does that make them any different then than my own three children were many years back now when they were 2, 3, 4, 5 years old? It doesn't!

Is it more difficult to try to raise a child with autism as opposed to one who doesn't have this disorder? At times, yes -somewhat. But I think the difficulty lies within the adult doing the raising too -in that we have to re-order our own thinking patterns to find a new, a different manner in which to teach the child the simple differences between right and wrong for openers. We have to re-order our thinking process to find a way to help the child to find his or her voice -literally and figuratively! Because they don't always react, respond the same way as other children may in learning how to talk, how to behave, to play, to react to other children and interact with them as well as adults, is not the end of the world. It is however often a thing that to cope, to counter at times, and to do it in a way that is best for all concerned, often brings about a major change of attitude, a higher level of patience then with it.

At least, that is one of the many benefits I have seen within myself that has come to me since Maya and Kurtis came into my life -into our home here. I am very much more patient today with them than I ever was with my three children when they were little! VERY much more patient! Not that I don't sometimes lose that patience level and get very frustrated at times but that is actually all a part of the process that comes with dealing with any small child -autistic or not! It's simply the nature of small children to test their limits by testing ours at the same time!

The very first time I laid eyes on Maya, held her in my arms, looked into her eyes, something spoke to me then and there that told me this child was very special and that she needed me. Not that the autism factor was known to us then -far from it -but there was just something there -a feeling that passed through me and told me this. It was her arrival that actually culminated my healing that year from the cancer, back issues, pain, nausea, etc., and enabled me to accept some physical limitations and change what I could in the process.

She provided the light, the inspiration to keep moving and deal with any setbacks by thinking positively about them. When a little over two years later her brother, Kurtis, came along, it just increased that positivity within me as now, I had two more joys in my life to watch, to assist in the growing process, to teach, to enjoy, to love without reservations.

Today, these two -along with the older grandson -my Prince -Alex -provide my life with so much beauty, light, acceptance and expectation, pride, and sheer love and excitement that there is nothing bettert than that here on this earth.

Cancer and Autism -two unlikely events that so many look on as being the end of the world and I see both of them as life changing, yes for sure, but all to the good!

They both have worked on me over the past five years to make every day, not just Fridays, very "Good Days" indeed!

Come join Shelley -and me -and start celebrating "Only the Good Friday" won't you?

7 comments:

Palm Springs Savant said...

hang in there, I'll keep you in my prayers. Hope you can see a little trick or treater tonight that will make you smile.

This Eclectic Life said...

Wow! Having that positive attitude of yours after fighting cancer is wonderful! And, I like your take on autism, too. Great post, Jenni. Every day is indeed a good day! Thanks for joining in with me.

Dianne said...

"the only tragedy of autism is ignorance"

Amen to that Jeni - that statement pertains to many other things beyind autism as well

I'll try to join in next Friday :)

SnoopMurph said...

Love without reservations....that is it. It's our opportunity to grow as parents and human beings as well with more patience and digging deeper into ourselves to help our children. Autism is not a tragedy, not an affliction.

I loved this post and your words are inspiring and empowering for parents raising children with autism.

Keith said...

Jeni,

Wow! This was a helluva FANTASTIC post. You are such an encouragement to me personally and I am absolutely certain to others as well.

A positive attitude and looking at the glass as half-full, is a great trait to have. I am sure it got you through the trials as well as help from Papa.

Keep pushing on my friend. You are very blessed and you are definitley a blessing to others as well.

Peace!
Keith

Mary said...

Jeni,

I see so many parallels here between Maya's birth and Brandon's. The day I had my surgery for surgical cancer is the day my daughter told me she was pregnant with Brandon.

We didn't find out that Brandon was autistic until he was 6 years old. That is the age when any funding to help children is cut off in Ontario.

Brandon was my pride and joy and two years later, Jordan came along. Jordan is legally blind in one eye and as their caregiver over the years I've learned many things from both of them. Jordan is not autistic but brings different challenges. Brandon is autistic and not much different than any other child except, as you say, you have to teach them differently.

I certainly enjoyed your post and your insight into autism.

Blessings,
Mary

Debo Blue said...

Girl, you go!

This is an incredible post. Thank you (and you know why I'm thanking you).