Last fall we lost my Grandpa unexpectedly. I haven’t shared about it because the bigger the news the more time I need to process & put together my thoughts. But today I find myself thinking about the man my kids called Big Grandpa (since he was older than my dad, who they affectionately called Little Grandpa), the man who made me feel important by letting me sit at the adult’s dinner table on holidays when I was still a child.
I remember our last phone call. I’d brought up a challenge Michael had (I don’t even remember what it was) & my grandpa, always the engineer, talked about how when you come to a problem you find a way to solve it. You don’t give up. You work through it. That approach to life was engrained in my Dad & in me. You might say it’s in my Anderson DNA. I’m grateful for the good meals we shared together (sometimes at El Torrito or old town San Diego), the many palm tree Christmases we enjoyed in his beautiful home, the gorgeous books he often gifted me (a good balance of science texts & classic fairy tales), and for his continual support of my education.
He came out for my high school graduation even though I’m sure traveling at that point was hard. How special it was to have him there, sitting by me as my Dad sat on the other side for my fancy graduation dinner, surrounded by their support.
It was also incredibly special to see him interact with my kids. We spent the little savings we had to go visit him last spring. I felt like if we didn’t, we would miss the opportunity. We bought a new-to-us van that could make the trip & I drove with the kids to CA to see him. He didn’t remember much of his full life but he still LOVED. He gave us big bear hugs & told us family was the most important thing. He thanked us repeatedly for coming so far. We had many visits in those few days. After each one the kids did an audio recording of what he’d taught them.
I’m sharing to encourage you to connect while you can – tell stories, take pictures & to share the lessons life has taught you. Some day you will be missed. But the heartbreak is less when there are meaningful photos & memories. So don’t miss those memories. Take the time to make them!
Love you, Big Grandpa. I hope you & Daddy are at peace together.
Sometimes our temples are our cars. Sometimes our places of meditation are parking lots. Sometimes we receive long awaited answers from heaven at the most unlikely moments. Be believing. Keep trusting God. You never know when an answer will come. It might be when you least expect it. And isn’t that incredible?
Emotional healing journey after a mastectomy and hysterectomy at 34 when you are a homeschooling, dancing, running go-getter and (at times) a perfectionist with anxiety and depression:
1st anniversary year – Wow! We did it! A whole year. I’m still super sore and not back to feeling like myself yet, but I should start feeling better really soon. Doctors said three months should see me feeling mostly like myself again. Others said to give it a year. So I’m a little behind, but the worst parts are over!
2nd anniversary year – Hmmm…still feeling SUPER tight and achy with occasional shooting pain. I wonder why it’s taking so long to feel like myself…I feel like I’m less than others and not healing as fast I should. I definitely am not like my old self, but I’m trying to trust and have faith anyway. Praying. A lot.
3rd anniversary year – What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with the doctors I had? Why did we have to change insurance companies and lose consistency of care? Why didn’t I bravely do more research on this process instead of just going forward without more education? I know I should just be grateful I’m alive, but I miss the life I had and would have had without this huge change…but maybe I wouldn’t have had it. I don’t know. I’ll just keep doing what I can to be grateful and take care of everyone. I wish I could afford to check-in and see a Dr to follow-up. Still trusting God the best I can. Finding moments of gratitude when I’m less sore and getting stronger. Savoring the little victories through the struggles. Grateful when I can lift something without help because I remember the trauma of not being able to…enjoying those little victories! Then feeling torn between wishing there wasn’t any trauma at all and feeling blessed that I can appreciate basic mobility in my arms and chest. Two confusing sides to this coin. I wish I had more faith. I wish I had more self-love and didn’t see so many setbacks. I wish we hadn’t lost those years…but maybe we would have missed more if I hadn’t done the surgeries.
4th anniversary year – Accepting a new normal, or at least starting to as I still deal with minor pain. Wishing I’d made this choice for the right reason – to be empowered, not because I felt like I had to sacrifice myself for my family. Praying lots more and trying to forgive others and myself. Losing some resentment as I learn to know and love a new, different me. Seeing the positive more as I recognize how grateful I am to be here, the love I have surrounding me, teaching me to love myself fully again, and thankful that I never had to hear the words, “You have breast (or ovarian) cancer.” Also, feeling guilty that I won’t. Trying to tell myself I’m not weak for being preventative. Still frustrated at times to have foreign silicon in me. Still, sometimes, missing kids I’ll never have and meet in this life. Choosing to be grateful for the beautiful lights of kids I do have and the ways I get to teach other children in my community. Wondering if I’ll ever teach fitness classes to adults again or run without the “zingers” of pain in my nerve-damaged muscles. Sometimes I run anyway. Sometimes I dance anyway. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I pout. Overall though, I keep moving forward through the occasional downpour of tears as I accept reality. Having faith in the middle.
5th anniversary year – Peace inside regardless of the line I can feel under each breast of scar tissue, simultaneously both numb and painful, like pins and needles that will never stop feeling that way. It’s ok though. Really. I’m ok. I’m not bothered by my hormone meds or the routine of having implants. Not too much. It is what it is. No life is free from pain. Has it really been 5 years? Isn’t that funny? I was already planning on having a fresh start on some health goals, and this anniversary in a way feels like my body giving its blessing for those efforts. Years of prayers and processing have given way to new confidence. Love for God. Hope for my future. Some mourning and regret for times I was bitter, but pride in my sense of grit. Recognition that all the emotions – up and down -were part of this healing process. Will I lose the silicone? Maybe. Will I keep trying to exercise through the tight muscles and nerve damage. Definitely. Would I wish this on anyone? Never. Would I do it again? Yes. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I would. Because I trust Eva from 5 years ago. And as hard as it all was, there have always been shining moments where I could feel the correctness of this choice, even if I didn’t understand it or necessarily choose it for the right reasons. But I did act out of love, and that is heroic. I see that now.
Today I walk with my head held higher, less by fear and more by faith – faith in the healing journey, the forgiveness journey, the growing journey, the resilience journey, all part of God’s journey for me. I love me and who I’ve grown to be through this process, though I do wish I’d had more grace through it all. I give myself grace now for those dark moments. I was too busy keeping it together for my family to get to this place of healing sooner, but little by little, I’ve taken time for myself over the years to meet and get to know this new me, to love her anyway, scars and all.
Above anything else, I love where I get to be in these journeys thanks in part to crazy-supportive friends and fiercely loving family. I will never be able to adequately thank everyone for the part they’ve played in my healing process. You are all pieces of me and the sum of your unconditional love, selfless service, and endless kindness is so much more than anything any doctor took out of me. Thank you for filling my life with incredible beauty in the moments where all I could see was loss. You are all why I am still complete. <3
It’s been 5 years since that last doctor’s visit, and I’m ready to let it go. As I move forward feeling more whole than ever, I know that today is just the beginning of everything else this life is really about… It’s time to close that chapter and embrace this life I have today, the one I’m still lucky enough to be living. <3 Here’s to what’s coming next!
Sunrises are proof that beauty and inspiration can come from the dark. Even though there’s been good times too, I’ve been in a bit of a funk this fall. I’ve doubted my purpose and my place in my home, life and universe. Things that were recently bright and clear felt muted…or almost silent.
What did I do? I just “kept swimming” the best I could at a different speed. For the most part, I allowed my self to cut the extras and keep the essentials – religion, relationships, real food (as much as I felt I could) and rest.
And you know what? Between the frustration and emotional aching, eventually, I felt some warmth. Then enough warmth to feel a little joy. Then a little more motivation. And some determination which led to doing some adulting things, which I allowed myself to be proud of – yes, we can and should pat ourselves on the back!
Tough moments still came, but I was handling them without denial or despair.
Then this morning, the light rose. I mean that I got out of bed with a smile on my face and hope burning in my heart. And after happily and deliberately doing some of my kids’ chores (What?! 🙂 I know, right?!) I witnessed half of my house get flooded with this stunning, fiery lavender warmth of sunlight. And it felt like the universe was welcoming me back to life.
I keep feeling like the good vibes are here to stay and then shrinking and hiding from that thought because I know now they won’t always. They can’t always. Which makes me not want to enjoy them now either. In fact, in recent years, I’ve allowed myself to feel like a failure because I had encouraged healing that isn’t necessarily possible for everyone right now. My mental health was flourishing but I knew the case wasn’t true for many of my close friends and family, no matter how hard I tried to help them. So I didn’t want to allow myself to feel those joys either. How could I if I couldn’t share them with the people I loved?
Today what I understand (again – it’s something I must remind myself of often) is that focusing on what I can’t do brings discouragement and darkness, the opposite of God’s light. Doing what I can do brings His light into this world. It’s not my job to heal everyone or even make them happy or hopeful. My life’s mission is just to share hope. That’s it. I’ve accepted that sharing hope is accomplished whether or not people are in a place or season to receive it. Just as the sun shines whether or not people wake up to see it or are in the side of the world where they can, it shines anyway.
We are all on our own journeys with the Master. Isn’t that great? It means that if our hope or light isn’t for someone, it’s ok because HE still walks with them. And though we may love others so deeply it hurts, if we can’t reach them it will be ok in the end. For me, that thought makes things OK right now too. God’s life-giving light shines on all so, eventually, their sunrise will come too.
But I can’t stop shining because I’m waiting for that to happen. None of us can if we want to feel better and make this world brighter. Rise anyway. Shine whatever light you have anyway. If your heart feels dark, move at whatever speed you can until you can warm up that soul-light again. That’s faith! Just keep believing it will turn back on and doing the essentials (not the Pinterest projects or other pretend “needs,” ok?) because when it does return your joy WILL be so much greater.
Your spirit’s sunrise will be worth the past season of darkness because its colors will be all the richer for the challenges you faced. The complexity of trials, humility and obedience brings a unique beauty we could never have designed or anticipated, but eventually, with God’s vision and strength, we can see Him in us, glowing with a love and light that’s eternal. We will be found shining with the light of Christ’s hope.
Sunrises DO come after darkness. Believe you have a beautiful one just behind that mountain.