Sometimes I wish I could go back in life. Not to do things over or to erase things that happened. Every moment, good and bad, are things that have shaped me into the person that I am today. I just want to feel some of those moments twice.
Those moments that can bring on an incredible feeling of happiness and solace. Those moments that can make your heart swell with more love than you knew you were capable of feeling. And yes, even some of those moments where you felt like you had completely hit rock bottom. The ones where you felt completely tapped out, both emotionally and mentally. Because as a mother, those moments are the ones that I will never forget.
I’d love to feel the flutter of her little feet one more time in my belly. I’d love to feel her little hiccups that never seemed to end. I’d love to hear her first cries, and to breathe in that sweet baby smell. I’d love to watch her take those first unsure steps, and to promptly run behind her and babyproof every room in the house. Her first words, her first holidays, her first trip to the beach. I’d do them all over again.
And then I’d have to relive that moment when I learned that she had cancer. Stage four. No cure. Survival rate of 45% Where could I go from here? Won’t all of these memories be ones that I don’t want to relive? No.
Because that diagnosis flipped my whole world upside down. Everything that I thought I knew about being a mother was tested to the limits. And you know what? I’d still want to feel it twice. I would still hold her hair from her face when the chemotherapy made her sick. I would still let her lay her sweet little head in my lap as I shaved it bald. I would still wrestle her still while she screamed during every needle poke. I would love to watch Toy Story on repeat for days on end. I would hold her in my arms until the anesthesia put her under. I would set her in the lap of another OR nurse as they wheeled her towards the operating room. And I would lay my head near her chest as I listened to her heart beat for the final time.
Because in those moments, Alexa taught me how to be more than just ordinary. She taught me to love harder, to show compassion, to see the best in others always. She showed me how to see the world through brighter eyes. She showed me that it’s OK to dance and sing like nobody’s watching. In those moments, both good and bad, I learned how to be Mom. And I will always want to feel them twice.
There was a time in my life when I didn’t understand how someone could be thankful for the difficult situations they faced in life. How can they find a silver lining when unspeakable tragedy strikes? What good could possibly come from it? If it were me, I would want to shut myself off from the world and continue to stay incredibly mad at the universe! How dare they smile and continue to be happy?! It wasn’t until I faced my own kind of heartache that I realized just how those people felt.
During Alexa’s three and a half year battle with brain cancer, I felt every emotion there is. I was sad that my little girl was missing out on the things that healthy kids her age were experiencing. I was angry that she was constantly being stuck with needles, held down by nursing staff, and pumped full of chemicals, to the point that she screamed. I felt helpless and could only hold her hand and try to reassure her that everything would be okay soon. I was jealous of everyone around me whose life was normal. Alexa deserved normal, and it seemed like she would never get it. But over time, I started to feel thankful. We were surrounded by family and friends who rallied when we needed them, and who helped us travel the most difficult journey of our lives. Alexa’s medical team went to great lengths to ensure she had the best chance at beating this monster each time it reared its ugly head, and when it came time for her to rest at home, we had an amazing Hospice nurse who helped make the transition easier. Those feelings of anger, helplessness, and sadness still appear from time to time, but at the end of it all, I’m thankful for the experience. The old me would have rolled my eyes at that statement, but the new me gets it.
I’ve found the silver lining to my tragedy. Although my sweet Alexa Lee is no longer here, I am thankful for the life lessons she taught me. And with her story, I am able to build relationships and help support families who find themselves on a similar journey when their child is diagnosed with cancer. There is no way that I can shut myself off from the world, although some days I would like to, because my voice is needed! I am thankful to be able to carry forward in her honor, and to be able to make some sort of a difference. This is what I have chosen to do with my grief, and as hard as it may be some days, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. One day, I hope you can find your silver lining in whatever personal tragedy you’ve experienced as well. You never know just how much your heartache and the story that goes with it could help someone else.