Being there for milestones

My dad had just recovered from a quadruple bypass when I got married. My fondest memory is his toast, where he said how blessed he was to be there on that day.

I just finished a story for my upcoming book, Miracle Survivors. It’s about Carole Kurbin, who has been living 16 years with stage IV breast cancer. One of the things she says that helped her was her desire to be there for her daughters’ milestones. I know that has been a driving force for me and other cancer survivors. Who wouldn’t want to be there to see their daughter walk down the aisle for graduations and her wedding?

I took a break after writing my first draft of her story and got on Facebook (my guilty addiction). Someone shared a Huffington Post article about fulfilling an 11-year-old girl’s wish to have her terminally ill father walk her down the aisle. They hired a photographer and had all the trimmings of a wedding. The images are both heart-wrenching and beautiful, in my opinion. I think it is a great gift for daughter and father alike.  I shared the link and was surprised by the variety of opinions on it.  Some thought it was inspiring and touching; others said it was too hard to watch. One friend said it bordered on child abuse and could soil the girl’s future wedding.

I found the discussion pretty interesting, and it made me think about my motives regarding milestones. I’m not one to dwell on death, but it certainly comes up given I have stage IV cancer. While my daughter’s milestones have always been a motivation for me to keep on living, I know that there is a possibility I won’t live to see them. I think that’s why I like watching Say Yes to the Dress with her; to share that time with her. I have even toyed with the idea of going wedding dress shopping with her if I knew death was near. But now I’m thinking, would that be fair to her? Would it make her sad or happy? I guess if I did something like that, I would make sure it was something she’d want, too.

No one knows what the future will bring. I’m doing well now and there are so many hopeful treatments in the research pipeline. I plan to, as my friend Suzanne Lindley (a 17-year, stage IV colon cancer survivor who’s also in my book) would say, “hitchhike” to the next treatment.” And I’m taking care of myself in body, mind and spirit, too (well I do have some pounds to shed …). So I have optimism I’ll be around for many years to come.

I am so grateful for all the milestones I’ve had the opportunity to witness since being diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer more than six years ago. I’ve seen my now 15-year-old daughter go through puberty, enter high school, have her first boyfriend … and soon, learn to drive a car. I cried with joy at her first band performance and look forward to seeing her run in first track meet. And I plan on being there, loud and proud, at her high school graduation, which will be here before we know it.

On April 4, I will be reaching my own milestone. It will be 12 years since I first heard the words, “You have cancer.” I never would have dreamed what would transpire since then, but I’m here, and l’m blessed.

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