(On Tuesday - March 15th - we will honor Charli's cancer-versary...I KNOW if I wait to post until morning, I will forget all together!!)
You all know her story, but yet on this day - 4 years after we heard "we think Charli has cancer" I feel compelled to talk about it, write about it, get it out...whatever it is. I will admit that each year gets better and better. Year #1 I was a wreck in February. She had just had surgery, I started a new job, it was so fresh, etc. Year #2 was a little better, yet I think I was just starting to really "deal" with what we went through. Year #3 was all about making it a celebration for Charli and now are are at year #4. It truly is a celebration, had the cancer not been found - I know I wouldn't be writing this blog today. That is something to celebrate.
I have always said that life will never be the same, and it won't. From the outside I am sure it looks the same. We work, the kids go to daycare, we play on the weekends, the kids fight, they get in trouble, they learn, they love, they grow, and they do all the typical things they should do. The difference is, we have done it all with a cloud of the past above us. Each milestone and each highlight in Charli's life is amplified. Should it be, maybe not. But is it, yes. Regardless of the reality we have been blessed to have, there was a time it was all unknown. There was a time I had doubt, there was a time I didn't have hope. These were short lived, but they were still there and the black hole (while small) is still present enough...not that I still feel that way, but I can still remember HOW I felt when I felt that way. I am not sure how to put that into words. The fact of the matter is that while I know Charli is a vibrant 4-year old with the world at her finger-tips I can still remember standing in wal-mart thinking "will she..."and that is a feeling that never-ever goes away. I can laugh it off now, as just a moment in time when the unknown beat out our hope and faith, for a small-small moment in time. However, being forced to face that and feel that way will never be something I can laugh at.
Having said all of that, what a path God put us on. Humble is the only word I can use when I describe how being Charli's mom can make me feel. I look at our life now, this week, this year and I think of all the greatness we would have missed out on had this not been our life. I have an awesome opportunity to travel the state and share Charli's story as a Hero of Hope for the American Cancer Society. Most days I shrug the "big-ness" of this off...but today I am going to relish in it. As Relay season picks up I am able, almost weekly (!!!) to share Charli's story of HOPE. I, Brenda, am able to look others in the eye and I can see their fear for themselves or their loved one, and I can see if fade. I can see them take Charli's story in and see that lives are being saved - I can see the weight fall off of their shoulders sometimes. I see them look at Charli with all the wonder and awe in the world, and know that God delivers miracles. There are times I can actually feel their pain go away. Does that seem possible? I have met survivors of childhood cancer and I have met mothers of angels. I would not have understood that 4 years and one day ago. I was too self-absorbed to feel the pain of others. I know the phrase "I feel your pain" is over-used, but I CAN and I DO feel their pain. Gosh, just ask a few of my close friends who have seen me go off the deep end each time someone I care about in treatment takes a step back. I have said that sometimes it is debilitating. But, it is worth it. To be able to connect to people who sometimes feel like no one understands...
Four years ago we adopted the phrase "expect miracles", and we do. Not only do we, but I know others do too!! One thing I will never get sick of is seeing pictures of my three "young" nephews (25, 22, 16) and seeing that they sport, everyday, Charli's bracelet from four years ago. They are not "too cool" for that. The oldest two have gotten tattoos in honor of that with the phrase "expect miracles" on them...I expect Derek to follow suit when he is old enough (no pressure, just think he will!!). What amazing men, to be so faithful to their cousins journey. I say men, even though to me they are still little, because it is a sign of maturity to be so kind.
sidebar: (I think that when I am at a loss for words I ramble, case and point - now!!)
Through all of this, we have had great friends and family stand by us and push us on when we probably couldn't have had we not had them there to be watching. I often think about the calls I would make to my friend Linda, I could call her just to cry...and in the next sentence still love hearing her talk about her trials in raising a "tween"! I think about how excited my sisters girls were to finally get to play with Charli when she was all better...and all the suckers they at the first time they got to play at the farm together after treatment! I remember her oldest, Ryen, whose imagery friend had cancer and couldn't be around lots of people. I remember strangers sending notes and leaving messages of hello...and I remember someone apologizing to the moon and back for just weeks before telling me how horrible it was to name a girl "Charli" (in the house of God no less!)!!!! (she felt like such an ass when she found out Charli had cancer!!!)
I remember thinking, man when she goes to kindergarten here is no way I am going to cry and be sad..I will cry with tears of JOY because that means FIVE years!! You know what, I will cry both kind of tears!! I remember just wanting her to be normal, more than anything else. And, last summer when she had a very typical "childhood" moment and I was left devastated, it was my sister who called and left a teary message of "brenda, three years ago you wanted nothing more for her than to feel good enough to play a little rough" -- and she was right. A naughty kid means a healthy kid - and I thank God we have those moments!!
I guess what I am trying to say is that on Charli's 4th cancer-versary I am filled with hope, sadness, anxiety, faith, worry, and happiness. While this is not the life I planned, I am thankful it is the life I have.
Thank you for still coming back to check on our family! We have added a little brother who thinks the world of his sister, just like the rest of us!! They will never know - they will never understand..and I am okay with that. My goal, my wish, is that with the work Chad and I continue to do they will feel the desire to keep it going on their own freewill someday. Might be a stretch, but it is my hope!
In honor of Charli's cancer-versary I challenge you to go do something that makes you think of Charli today!!! And - I would LOVE to hear about it!!