This month, I have been giving thanks each day to different people or things in my life. I really like doing this – it helps keep me focused on the positive and reminds me to not take anything for granted. Usually, this is pretty easy for me to do. I like to think of myself as a positive person and I am pretty good at not letting things get me down. Over the last couple of years, though, it’s been more and more difficult to do. My positive attitude was first tested when I lost my mom to breast cancer 3 1/2 years ago. My mom was a good person: she did daycare in our home for 15 years and then worked at the local before-and-after daycare program. She shaped the lives of hundreds of kids. She was kind, and patient, and told you the truth even when the truth hurt. I miss her calm and patient presence.
Six months after mom died, my father-in-law was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He died one year ago. Mike was a good person: he was always willing to lend a helping hand. He spent an entire day helping me build a lattice around my deck even though he was tired and sick from the chemotherapy drugs. He always made me laugh with his funny voices and nicknames for everyone. He had a sparkle in his eyes that I often see in my husband’s eyes. I miss his steady presence in our family and his ability to fix anything.
Six months after Mike died, our dog Lucy was diagnosed with skin cancer. She died 3 months ago. I adopted her from the Humane Society 6 years ago when she only had one week left to live. I’m so glad that she got to know what it was like to have a loving family. Lucy was a good dog: she was always rubbing up on your leg for attention, she was a good snuggler, she was serious about protecting me. I miss her loyalty.
It’s hard to find the positive in all of this heartbreak and loss.
When Jaxson was born 4 months early, doctors warned us that he might not ever leave the NICU. We did not know if he was going to live. And if he did live, we did not know what kind of life it would be. Would he have cerebral palsy? Would he have brain damage? Would he be blind? Would his lungs allow him to breathe? What was positive about this? Not much, to be honest. I was scared (terrified) that I would have to say goodbye again. How much more could we really take before it was impossible to see the silver lining?
But then Jaxson started getting bigger and stronger. He was surprising the doctors with his progress; they said more than once “wow – he’s a miracle!” Today we got even more good news. Last month, Jax received eye injections of the chemotherapy drug called Avastin to combat his aggressive Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). Jax’s eyes are healing! The injections are working: he is now considered Stage 1, Zone 2 with pre-PLUS disease. (This is a huge improvement from the previous diagnosis of Stage 3, Zone 1, with PLUS disease.) He will continue to be monitored every two weeks and he still may need more treatment, but for now, things are looking good.
How can a 23 weeker be doing so well?
Maybe it is his guardian angels: Grandma Gwenn, Grandpa Mike, and Doggie-Sister Lucy. Maybe they became angels to take care of Jaxson when he is sick and scared and too tired to keep fighting. Maybe that is the silver lining of all this loss. Maybe Jaxon’s here because they are not. I think I will “see” my mom and Mike and Lucy again – I think I will see them in Jaxson: Grandma’s patience and Grandpa’s handiness and Lucy’s loyalty.
Today, I am thankful a chemotherapy drug that could not save my mom, Mike, or Lucy is saving Jaxon’s sight. Today, I am thankful that Jaxson has guardian angels!