Monday, December 7, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

Every year at Christmastime (or as Ladybug said to me this morning "Oh, you mean the Christmas season...") I watch "It's a Wonderful Life." Hands down the best movie anyone has ever made.  I've watched it every year of my life - at least once, and up to 5 times a Christmas time.  Perhaps it impacted my belief system because I can't remember a year of my life that I didn't watch it.  I've watched it once already, but I think I may watch it again this week.  But I think it teaches us the biggest truth of life.  Each of us touches the lives of others and without us the world would not be as it should be.  Or as my friend Nazrina said this weekend, "Wherever you are right now is exactly where you are supposed to be in life."  Or even the most karmic of statements, "what goes around comes around."

In the past week, this couldn't be more true.  And I have to say it renews my hope - not just in my own life, but in the world itself.  I went to Atlanta and had a great time meeting A's baby and spending time with Belle and Craftygirl.  As I approached Atlanta with a painfully full bladder (I refused to stop for more than one refill of gas), I saw the skyline and thought "I'm home!"  And at first I really felt that way.  My friends are the good kinds - the ones you know are real friends because you pick up with them again just like you never left them.  Dinner with Belle and Craftygirl was the best fun!

Thursday I was at a new hotel in Buckhead for the CLE.  I knew exactly where it was and how to take the "back roads" to get there to avoid traffic.  I also had in mind that Mom was getting her biopsy report at 3:30 pm. that day.  Somehow I paid attention and even learned a thing or two.  I drank more cups of coffee that day than I think I've ever had in one day in my life.  The room was cold, and I did switch to decaf part way through the day (thank goodness).  At 3:30 pm, the segment was going for pro bono opportunities with the bar and my stomach was a bundle of nerves.  They mentioned the Northern Georgia Cancer SUpport Center and I almost burst into tears.  I knew in the pit of my stomach what they just told my Mom.  People make fun of it, but my Dad and I know things.  We knew from the moment my Mom told us she had to get additional mammography shots and a sonogram what it was.  We couldn't tell you how we know these things, but we do.  And we're accurate.  99% of the time if we have a feeling about something, we're right.  We hoped for the 1% error margin to kick in, but it was still a shock when it didn't.

On the way to Belle's house after the CLE was over for the day, I called the house.  My parents didn't answer.  I called their cellphone (which they never seem to have on) and no one answered.  I kept driving.  Part way home, my parents called.  My Dad talked to me a second, sounding a little cheery but I wasn't fooled.  He put my Mom on the phone and she told me.  Cancer.  No matter how prepared you are to hear it, it is still a shock.  To the point that I ended up driving to and pulling into my old driveway (in my defense, our old house is only a few blocks away from Belle's house) instead of Belle's house.

The good news is that it is DISC, which some doctors don't fully consider cancer but as pre-cancer.  It is called Duct In Situ Carcinoma meaning that it is located only in her milk duct (as far as they can tell).  The good news is that it does not look like it's invaded the breast tissue.  The bad news is that she has the one kind of it that has the potential to do so and that is fast moving.  The good news is that they can give her a hormone treatment to surpress the cancer's growth and there is a 96-98% survival rate, and they think they caught hers early even if it is 2 inches by 2 inches.  She'll have surgery, they'll check her lymph nodes, and she may or may not have radiation.  No chemo.  It's sort of the type of breast cancer that if you're going to have breast cancer, you should try for this one.

Mom has an appointment with the surgeon at 4:15 pm today.  She'll know more about dates and treatment, etc. etc. after that.  The day of her biopsy, my poor Dad had to rush my Grammy into the ER because she was bleeding from her "lady parts" as she would call them.  With her Alzheimer's and her serious prudity, the doctors and nurses had to pretty much wrestle her to let them examine her.  No tumor, but they think she has uterine cancer.  They can't really do a biopsy because she'd have to be awake for the procedure and after just doing the examination, no one was relishing that idea.  They also looked at her medical records and realized that not only with the Alzheimers but also with her cardiology problems and situation that even if the biopsy confirmed the doctor's opinion, that they couldn't do surgery on her anyway because she wouldn't survive the surgery.  So we just have to hope and pray for no pain as things progress.

After I finished talking to my parents, my phone rang again.  It was one of my best friends on the planet who I called earlier in the week about our concert on Sunday.  I told her what was going on, and she told me "remember when my Mom had breast cancer? It's the same type.  She's okay now.  No breast cancer recurrences at all."  I talked, she made me feel a little better. Belle came home and I was still in her driveway.  I told her the story, and as any good friend who is also a cancer survivor would do, she talked to me about it, told me it was all going to be okay and then got me drunk.  The next morning she said it was to make sure I got some sleep. But I remember that during our conversation, she said to me that it was wierd this was happening while I was there because she had a friend trying to convince her to give some talks for the American Cancer Society as a cancer survivor, but that she'd been resisting because she doesn't like to think of herself as a cancer victim to be pitied and that now she was rethinking things.  I told her it wasn't pity they were looking for, it was the strength she had from being a survivor.

Friday I sat through the CLE, ran into an old sorority sister who is now practicing law in Atlanta, and talked with another of my bestest friends in the world, who told me the best thing ever "if you need me to be anywhere or to do anything, including getting on a plane and coming to wherever you are, you call me day or night."  And I knew right then and there, that I was not alone.  I told Nazrina about the situation and she said, that's so wierd - I never wear pink and I'm wearing it today and I couldn't find a pen and used my breast cancer awareness pen this morning. 

I went and got my nails done after the CLE was over, and it hit me.  Atlanta is not my home anymore.  I was meant to live there when I did, and now I'm meant to be in Orlando.  2 1/2 hours away from my Mom while she goes through this.  Involved with organizations that let me do what I am passionate about - trying to raise money for cancer research.  It's my 2nd cancer Christmas in a row.  Last year was Angela.  This year it's my Mom, Training Buddy, Doug, Grammy, and at least a cancer scare for another friend.  I realized yesterday that I've found my life cause.  Irradicating cancer from this world, so no one else has cancer Christamases.  Now to just figure out exactly how to do it as my life's work.  I told Mr. Darcy about it all and he agreed.  I need to figure out what to do and do it.  Medical school will not be involved, but I have other talents to use.

As I drove to Mr. Darcy's parents' house from Atlanta on Saturday, I started to worry about my Mom.  She's a wonderful person.  She has a true heart of gold but was raised in a family that taught her not to share her feelings, not to show love or other emotions - even to those you felt them for.  Until you get to know her, which is often hard to do, she seems like a bit of a meanie and uber serious.  Once you get to know her, you realize she is the sweetest and kindest person even if she sometimes can say and do things in a way that comes off like sandpaper on an open wound... she's trying to do something because she cares.  She is first one to cook meals for someone when they lose a loved one or have a surgery, to pray or send a kind word through the mail to someone.  But she has a REALLY hard time of reaching out to people.  And I've never been sure of whether she has any women friends.

But I talked to my Dad on the phone and God has been busy sending her Angels of his own, like Clarence in It's a Wonderful Life.  A woman who my Mom cooked meals for when her son died, called and talked to her for over an hour offering rides to the doctor, etc. People she works with told her they've had breast cancer too and offered to talk to her any time.  A childhood friend's Mom went through her line at work and asked her if she were okay because she didn't seem herself, my Mom whispered to her that she has breast cancer, to which the woman replied, "We'll have lunch you and I.  I had a full masectomy 8 weeks ago. No one knew but me, Husband and Daughter."  The support system I was worried about was springing to life - all because my Mom is that person who never asks for anything return but always acts from her heart.

And the worries I have about my Dad through all this seemed to be a little relieved too.  He told Aunt (who in my opinion has never given my Dad enough credit for things in life) about my Mom and Grammy.  She cried and then she told him that she always thought she was stronger but that now she realizes he is the strong one in the family.  He sounded more relaxed than he had in awhile when talking about her.  He told me too that he walks 45 minutes a day.  I told him that I am here for anything and everything they need or want and that family is more important than anything else in life.  He agreed that I am the back up.  I told him I'm better than the Marines and I give hugs and kisses.

Mr. Darcy says I like "It's a Wonderful Life" because I'm George Bailey.  But I think we're all a little bit of George Bailey, perhaps I'm just a little more like him than some in Mr. Darcy's eyes.

My Mom said something to me on the phone the other day when I checked on her the morning after the news. Something about her wanting me to live my life and enjoy it.  I think it's the best advice she's ever given me.  The best part will be knowing that she'll be here to share a lot more of it.  I told her she's going to be Okay, but things might suck for a little bit.  In the end, the web of good she's woven will be just like George Bailey's - no matter how things go.  That's another thing I feel in my bones.

So I leave you with 2 quotes from the best movie ever made, "It's a Wonderful Life." The first is said by Clarence (Angel 2nd Class) when George doesn't quite understand why everything he sees is so different from before (when he existed). It is why we must be the good in the world, why we need to know that we are just where we need to be at every moment of our lives - whether good or bad,
"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

The second, that is just a good reminder: "Remember George, No man is a failure who has friends."


  1. Well said my friend. I totally agree with you.

    We are all successes because we have friends. I am here for whatever you need.

  2. I had to read your post a few times to try to come up with the right comment and really couldn't do it justice not matter what I came up with.

    I think the value of hope and friendship is often underestimated until you need them. Then you realize how powerful they are and how they change everything.

    Wishing all the best.

  3. I had to do the same as ^^^, true friends are there when you need them most.

  4. Yes, friends are invaluable. So sorry to hear about your mum's illness but as you have said, she has a good chance of a full recovery.

    Take care, CJ xx

  5. Nice post, hope you don't mind that I stumbled across it online... I'm always on the lookout for people who love It's A Wonderful Life. I wrote a song called George Bailey, would love for you to take a listen... you can hear it via my website below, or watch the youtube video. My nieces, 4 and 1, love the video, so hopefully your kids will too. Thanks and happy holidays!

    Carolyn Sills