I am blessed

As I pack my bag in preparation for tomorrow and kiss my sweet little man good night, I feel blessed. For so many reasons.  In ways that I cannot begin to comprehend or adequately express.

I have found the love of my life and am lucky enough to call him my husband.

I have the gift of a son, who keeps me on my toes and never ceases to amaze me with his love and sense of wonder.

I have a MASSIVE team of family and friends cheering me on and rallying for me to beat this.

I am surrounded by love and support everywhere I turn.

I have the ability to obtain treatment by an incredible team of people, who I trust have my best interest – and my life – in mind.

I have the beach in my (almost) backyard, where I can go and wash away all the cares of the world just by watching the waves and hearing the ocean.

I know I will beat this.

Because I am blessed.

You never know

Today the official countdown begins. My port will be put in place on Tuesday and chemotherapy treatment will begin next Thursday. One week. Someone told me today that I seemed calm, considering what the next week will bring.

I made a list of the things I wanted to accomplish before I begin treatment – a shopping list of things that will make managing the side effects easier, prescriptions to pick up, blood work, etc. While treatment will not be disabling, it will be uncomfortable and I want to accomplish what I can ahead of time to make life easier once it starts.

The prep work that goes into treatment takes up a lot of time. I’ve lost count of the doctor appointments already, plus the scans that are needed and the phone calls and the paperwork. Experiencing so much in such a short amount of time has given me exposure to a lot of people. My doctors and nurses are amazing – truly incredible. They have embraced me, reassured me and answered questions that I didn’t know I had. The overwhelming majority of interactions that I have had in recent weeks have been pleasant, if not wonderful. These interactions have made the experience just a little easier, whether it was through a laugh over the phone, a pleasant smile or the reassurance that I am making the right decision. They have been through this with other patients before me and understand the toll it can take.

There were a few occasions that went against this norm. People that seemed unhappy in general and spoke to me as a number or the “next in line” rather than a person – a person facing a life altering battle. It generally catches me off guard, when I encounter someone like this. I am ashamed to admit that on one occasion I responded to such a person with, “I have cancer. I just need your help to make this happen.” She helped, without further hesitation.

I learned today that two people I interact with daily are facing their own battles, similar to mine, and have been for many years. They are both strong, happy people who always greet me with a smile. Yet I had no idea that they were experiencing something so similar to me. You never know the challenge that someone is facing.

Maybe I am calm. Maybe I am taking this better than expected. I won’t put my life on hold for this. I won’t let it consume me. I won’t let it cause me to be unhappy. I won’t let it give me an excuse to be mean to other people.

I will continue to greet each person that I meet with a smile. I will continue to be kind. I will continue to treat others as I hope they will treat me. Because you don’t know the battle that person is facing. You don’t know the lives you may be impacting. You don’t know the way your smile may brighten someone’s day.

What’s in a name, anyway?

Last week I visited family. While one of my best friends was talking to me, she said my name. My nephew, who’s 6, quickly corrected her. He informed her that she was saying my name wrong and proceeded to correct her.

“MEGhan. Not MAYgen,” he repeated.

My friend played along and tried to say my name correctly but each time she started talking to me again, he would pipe up that she was saying it wrong. This made me smile.

Eleven years ago, I had the exact same conversation with my husband’s brother, Mike (that says something about my maturity at the time, huh?).

“It’s MEGhan. MEG. Not MAYgen,” I would say over and over again.

“Right, that’s what I said,” he would counter.

As much as he tried, “Meghan” just wasn’t happening.

“I’m just gonna call you Red. It works,” he said, pointing at my strawberry blonde hair.

And thus, Red was born. Many people at the time didn’t know me as anything other than Red. I was introduced as Red and answered to Red. I never thought twice about it.

When Mike passed away suddenly, being known as Red faded. It became a fondness that I looked back on and a memory that I would never forget. I still treasure the nickname because it represents a time in my life when I was fearless and free. It is a moment in time that I have captured and that reminds me to be me.

I told my husband during our family visit that I wanted to start a blog to discuss my journey but couldn’t decide on a name; an identity. I tossed around a few ideas, all of which had “Red” in it. My husband didn’t even hesitate.

“Red Phoenix. You are going to rise up and beat this. This is you.” He said as we drove. I smiled.

It was perfect.

Just as Red holds special meaning to me from a decade ago, so will Phoenix in time. It represents the person that I am now and the person that I will be.

I will rise up from this.

I will conquer this.

I am Red Phoenix.