At school Vicki and I rarely got into trouble. We were good girls. We did not smoke or sneak off or drink or do anything bad. We were a handful, don't get me wrong, but they referred to us as high spirited. We were responsible for other people getting into trouble. But that was because all the great ideas we would come up with, we knew were not something that good girls did. However, many of our school mates were not as smart and would like our ideas and actually do them, usually with negative results. We got called up to the office sometimes not to get into trouble, but to be reminded not to say our ideas out loud because others would do them. That was just hyterical to us. We did laugh a lot. Yes we did. Ok, we still do. And we still think of naughty things to do, but we still do not act on them......for the most part. We were smart then, we are still smart, mostly, and now maybe a little wiser, maybe.
The same has followed me most of my life. I worked hard in school, but teachers were always generous with me because I was not the smartest kid in the class, but I did try, and I was not good looking, but cute in a special way. Then in the work force, I tended to be an over achiever so again the bosses would treat me special, the golden child.
Now I have cancer. Am I dying? No, not yet. And I am doing better then so many of my friends with this disease. Today I went to visit my friends in Wakulla County, he has Stage 4 lung cancer. They asked me how I was. I felt horrible, I felt guilty. I am doing fine I said. That is the truth, but only paritally true. The whole truth is I am doing great. He is not, and has to decide each day what can he do. They are close and share a life that many would envy. They love each other dearly, and this disease has only reminded them how much they are both grateful for the life they have had together. They are a joy to be around because of this relationship they have together. I remember when Larry and I had that kind of relationship. It was a long time ago, when we were first together. We were a great team, and loved each other deeply. Things changed and eventually turned into a bit of a nightmare, but looking back at photos of our life together and the trips we took together, I remember that love. It was golden. He was a golden child also.
And now, I think I have survivor guilt. I hate to talk about my cancer around other cancer survivors because my chemo treatment seems so much easier then theirs; my radiation treatment, less then anyone else needed, and the results were the best that could have been hoped for. Being a golden child almost feels like a curse. Because I have been so gifted all of my life, do I owe more to others? I do try and be considerate and pay it forward, always have, but is it enough. I know others who give so much more then I do. I feel great, I look like I am well, not like someone with Stage 4 cancer. It looks like I could have a long, healthy, full, active life yet. Why are some people given so much, while others seem to have so little?
I try to rationalize it sometimes by thinking that it is not that I have been given so much more, I just appreciate what I have. Well, I do appreciate the life I have been given. I have had some challenges. Some of these challenges have been pretty difficult, but afterwards the bad, hateful or hurtful just faded away. Just disappear from my mind leaving me with nothing but good memories and few foggy mind movies of things that now don't seem so bad anymore. I know I have worked hard. I know that I have tried to be good, to make good karma. And yet, it just seems like I always receive more then my fair share. And why or how does that happen?
I don't know. I have tried to live a good life, a healthy life with good eating habits and exercise. I have tried to be kind and a good friend. And now I just sit back amazed at how many things I have been able to do with my life, how many gifts I have been given. One of the girl's in the play was talking about her bucket list. She had a few very interesting ideas about a book of stories and so on, but most of her list was things I have done already. I have lived my life doing those things that interested me. I have taken advantage of opportunities that have come along. I have worked to make things I wanted and to obtain desired goals. And I have relished and savored these wonderful days and opportunities. I remember them like jewels on a necklace. Each sparkling and bright, special and lovely. Each appreciated and enjoyed.
And yet, the idea of living with Stage 4 cancer does affect my life each day. Not because it is hard or difficult; it is not painful and I do not suffer. But it is like living in a pergatory of sort. Even waking up each day, fairly healthy and strong, but each day I wake up with cancer. I live each day grateful for the day filled with moments of grace, joy and beauty. But it is like living in the movie, Groundhog Day. I have stage 4 lung cancer, I am supposed to be dying, and yet I am not. I am living. I am living the life I would hope for, gardening, driving my toy with the top down, playing with my "kids", spending time with friends, playing at the Opera House. I can do pretty much whatever I want. The challenges just don't seem to match the gifts. I feel guilty for being alive. I grow weary waiting for the end. Don't misunderstand me, I am not rushing my death. But at the same time, where most everyone else I know just wakes up most days and goes about their day, not a wisp of a thought of dying. I realize there are others who suffer everyday and long for the journey to end. I am caught in between the two. I was talking to my friend with stage 4 lung cancer, and he understood completely what I was saying. He also has thought of plan B. What to do when you do not get to live your life, and yet you do not die. See, once again as the golden child I understand that quagmire. But as the golden child, of course, I have it easier.
I doubt that I will ever understand why my life has been more special, bigger, brighter, happier then so many others. I share some of the same challenges they have, and yet, my challenges have not affected me as much as others who have been through similiar things. I have been told more then once in my life that I was dying. I have prepared, and yet, I always get better. I have lost almost everything more then once, but always seem to get back more then I lost. In 2004, our house was the least damaged from Hurricane Charlie on our street. I have Hepatitus C, and yet, even though I do not take anything for it, like milk thistle, my liver is doing wonderful considering all the chemicals that it has had to process on this journey with cancer. And the cancer is one that is rare, special. But it is a cancer with its own treatment and someday it will not work like it does today, but that is more then likely years from now. I don't know what opportunities will still come along, but they are sure to be special.
Honestly, the only thing I could wish to add to my life, would be to have someone to share all of these gifts with. Someone to hold next to me at night when I am counting my blessings. Someone to wake up next to, to smile at and say, "good morning, sweetheart, it is another wonderful day." I do have special people in my life to share my good fortune with, and I am not complaining, I may still have time to find someone to share all of this with. I do have some very special friends who make me laugh, who make me feel good about myself. So I am thankful for that. And they each promise to come and visit. Each a different type of friendship. After all, The Sweet Potato Queen says each woman needs to have 5 different men in her life. You will have to read the book to learn about those men, and trust me you will laugh. But she is right, we do have so many different people in our lives and each of them bring their own special gifts. Once again, I have been given more then my fair share there.
I hope this does not sound like I am complaining. I am not. I am so very grateful for everything, challenges and gifts alike. Each brings something new to my life, to celebrate or to help me become a better person. But please understand, if I do not "fight" this cancer, but choose rather to accept it and the gifts that come with it. Please understand if I do not want to live forever. Please forgive me if it upsets you that I need to have a plan B to get through being well, still being alive. Please understand that all of us must choose each day to live it to the fullest or to let go, maybe ride with your hands off the wheel for a little distance. Or if I want to make sure that when my life is no longer a gift to me, that I have a plan to get though those times. The plan on how to die, is really more a crutch to continue to live in this world of inbetweens. I have always been aware of the inbetweens. So it should not be a surprise that my life has ended up in a place in between. A special place where live continues to be so very full and wonderful and amazing and yet teetering on death. But I am still human, and if I need to step back every once in a while to remember how wonderful my life is, it is still a heavy burden to be the golden child. Especially since it is not a title or a gift you can give away. You are who you are in this case. I have several friends who are golden children. My mother was a golden child. When she walked into a room it was like a spotlight held by angels turned on her, showing her grace and beauty to all those normal people around her. I appreciate growing up with such a wonderful example.
These golden children are the special ones in the family. They are the ones that glow a little brighter, not because they try to or even aware of it most of the time. It is just a gift, or maybe a joke, but it is put on you without your choosing. I am grateful for this joke or gift. I hope that when it is all said and done, that if I am remembered, that instead of remembering me as a golden child, I am remembered as someone who did a few good things, and who lived life to the fullest.