The news of the iconic Valerie Harper’s terminal brain cancer has shaken the world. And she comforts those already mourning her death by assuring them that she’s still alive and is determined to enjoy every last minute of life. What an amazingly bold woman.
I can relate to what she must be going through, inside her own mind. When I was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor back in 2006, not only was I pregnant with my fourth child, but we didn’t know how much time I had left. For many long weeks---as Ms. Harper also had to endure up until now---we lived in a state of not-knowing. We had to await surgery to know for certain if this unwelcome intruder was going to snatch my life.
Once diagnosed, the initial shock subsided into sadness as I pondered my own mortality and the heartbreaking realities that could befall my family. During that interim time, my sadness quickly gave way to feistiness and I made the conscious choice to fight. Focusing on the children first and their need to be taken care of by Mommy, kept me going. It enabled me to forget myself in the process and uphold the normal household routine for the sake of the collective family sanity. In fact, the day I was diagnosed we were in the midst of moving as in packed boxes, debris and disorder everywhere. And yet, this move ultimately was responsible for keeping my mind in check and off my illness. It allowed me to channel most of my energy into providing a smooth transition for the kids.
When tragedy strikes, sometimes our own reactions catch us by surprise. We look admiringly at others who seem to embody strength, selflessness and hope and we're in awe of their serenity. We think, “that would never be me; I’d just curl up in a fetal position and never get out of bed.”
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Yet I believe that such inner strength is available to all of us. And we don’t necessarily need to be handed a death sentence to bring it forth. With great determination, we can all learn how to tap into it.
Stay tuned for my forthcoming book, Girl with the Crooked Smile...Stuck in a Moment, due out April 2013. Free gifts given away on launch day!