Gratefulness & Good

In many ways, it feels like time stood still the six weeks we were in the hospital. As such, I can’t shake the feeling of being six weeks behind present day. To me, it feels like it should be mid-October and not nearly Thanksgiving.

Even so – I can’t help but feel thankful for the good around me. To say it’s been a challenging year is an understatement. It would be easy to drown in the darkness, despair and sheer unfairness of it all. And some days it does get the better of me.

So I’m glad that today I can actually see the good and the light. I’m woefully (and eternally) behind on thank you notes, but here is a list of everything I’m thankful for this year:

1.     My health. Last December, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. A week later, Anna came down with mono. If someone had told me then that cancer was NOT going to be our biggest healthcare crisis of the year – and that Anna’s mono would become a red flag for something much more serious – I would have never believed it. But, by the end of January 2016 I’d had an 8+ hour surgery to remove my thyroid and 24 lymph nodes (19 of which were affected with cancer), been through a three-week recovery and was back on my feet with a new, lifelong prescription for Synthroid. And Anna still had mono…

2.     My husband. Marriage is hard. Marriage with kids is harder. Marriage with a child who has a life-threatening disease absolutely puts your marriage through the ringer. But it would have been 100 times harder without him. I’m amazed at how well we worked together and supported each other through all of this. It definitely wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t. But he has been the backbone for our family. I couldn’t love him more.

3.     My kids. I truly lucked out in the kids department. Anna is so brave and determined. She has inspired me to dig deep and fight harder. Margaret is so kind and loving. She keeps us all laughing and reminds us to lighten up, which is incredibly important to us these days. I wouldn’t change one thing about either one of them. They’ve made me the woman I am today – mostly for the best.

4.     Family. There is no way we could have gotten through the past year, or will get through 2017 and beyond, without our family. They come help us at the drop of a hat, whether that means a two-hour drive or a four-hour flight. They supported Margaret when we were at the hospital with Anna and gave us much-needed respites throughout the whole ordeal. And, all the grandparents went in on an apartment together to stay at when they’re visiting, allowing us not only the help we need and a sick bay when needed to keep germs out of the house, but also the space we need to heal as a family. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

5.     Our friends. I can’t single anyone out here, because it would fill a book. People we know well, people we know a little, people we don’t know at all. Friends of friends. The outpouring of support across Arizona and the country has been nothing short of amazing. The mail. The cards. The gifts. The crafts. The stuffed animals. The phone calls. The text messages. The emails. The wine. The meals. The gift cards so we don’t have to worry or stress about meals. The Fun Run. The bake sales. Sooooo many people and sooooo many thank you’s. All my love. All my gratitude.

6.     Anna's Medical Team. I could write a book on the incredible staff and service at Phoenix Childrens Hospital, and especially the BMT team at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. From the nurses and techs on the 7th floor to the nurses and staff at clinic, to the dedicated doctors. The Child Life Team. And Michael Borum with One Darn Cool School! We feel so lucky to be a part of this family. Dr. Holly Miller is as impressive as they come, as are Dr. Adams, Dr. Alex, Dr. Dana, Kristen, Chrysta, Chris, Josie and Melissa. I could never name all of them but know that, even though attention is the last thing you seek, the PR pro in me wants to make sure the entire state knows how wonderful you all are. The same goes for the team at Step By Step Pediatrics and Dr. Tanya Horner, and the LONG list of specialists we saw in the first half of 2016 when Anna's illness was still a mystery. Our lives have been forever changed, and we will continue to support you and advocate on your behalf always.

7.     Bridges Preschool. For the past four years, we’ve been so blessed to be part of the Bridges community. Anna started at Bridges when she was three years old and stayed through Kindergarten. Margaret started as soon as she turned one and is still there in Ms. Karen’s “famous” Begindergarten class. Not only are they providing quality education but they are providing a loving environment where the teachers and administrative staff truly care about each child. We’ve felt so much love and support from the staff and other Bridges families, some we don’t even know. But I am humbled and grateful for their love, support and friendship. Posters, pink hair, cards, support, care packages and so much love. Thank you to Maria, Regina, Marissa, Dina, Ms. Karen, Ms. Mahala, Ms. Stacey, Ms. Samantha, Ms. Cassidy and the whole team, for loving on my girls and supporting us during this time.

8.     Tempe Village. Some say it takes a village to raise a child. We live in a development called Tempe Village, and our neighbors have been by our side from the beginning, and then some. We couldn’t do it without you. 

9.     Our work. We are so fortunate to work for organizations with a “family first” mentality. They have been incredibly understanding, flexible and supportive, especially the last few months. Our heartfelt thanks to the Arizona Cardinals and Axiom Public Affairs for supporting us every step of the way.

10.   Grace. A colleague of Tim’s recently saw a picture of Anna’s bald head yet beaming face and said, “That girl was put on this earth for a reason. She has a beautiful light and shining spirit.” Enough said. We couldn’t agree more.

With love,

Melissa

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