The Gift Is The Present

5 10 2011
Monopoly Junior — one of Theo’s favorite games. Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

Where have I been?

Thinking. Pondering, Wondering. Questioning.
The last 10 days or so have been particularly harsh.
I lost a good friend, quite unexpectedly, to a brain tumor.
I lived through a couple of days while doctors ruled out ovarian and uterine cancer in my sister, Lisa.
And I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to my niece’s surgery next week. As a carrier of the BRCA 1 gene, and the daughter of a two-time breast cancer survivor, she has opted to take the preventive measure of having an elective double mastectomy and reconstruction.
So many times in the last couple of months, since we learned her surgery date, which, ironically, would have been my Dad’s 76th birthday, I’ve wished. I’ve wished that I could change things, that her risk of developing breast cancer without taking this drastic step wasn’t 88 percent. I’ve pictured myself running into pre-op — just moments before the doctors whisk her off into surgery — with the answer, the cure, whatever it would take to give her a surgery-free, cancer-free life, without the emotional and physical pain of the surgery.
But I don’t have the answer. No one can offer a more reliable preventive step than what she is about to undergo next week. And so we move forward in the realm of what is current scientific reality — this is the best we can do, she can do, for herself, her husband, her brand-new baby boy, her family. It’s what must be done. But it doesn’t make it any easier for any of us.
I so hoped and prayed over the years that we would find a better way before it was her time. But we haven’t, yet.
We will. Someday — and I believe it will be in my lifetime — we will have a better answer to genetic breast cancer prevention. I picture myself far down the road, decades from now, a grandmother, telling my grandchildren the story of what we had to do to save my life, my sisters’ lives, my niece’s life, all those years ago. The surgeries, the treatments, the frequent scans and doctor appointments. I picture the shock on their faces as they hear the stories of the harsh reality that was genetic breast cancer early on in the millenium, much the way I recoil when I hear the stories of the best medicine had to offer in the 1920s, 1930s and beyond.
We’ve come a long way, and we’ve got a long way yet to go.
But I know we will get there. Medicine has already made amazing progress, with new discoveries every single day that will impact our present and our future.
In the meantime, I try to be aware of the place I am, wherever that may be — walking a trail with the crunch of fall leaves beneath my feet, at the Tiger’s Playoff Game #3 with my bff Jodi Wolford Krueger, watching as Justin Verlander strikes out batter after batter, on the floor with my son, Theo, and husband, Don, playing Theo’s favorite game — Monopoly Junior.
The squeal of Theo’s belly laugh each time one of us lands on “his property” is a beautiful sound. You can’t help but light up with joy when you hear it — even if you do have to hand over your Monopoly cash.
The gift really is the present and one of the best gifts we can give ourselves is to stay there, to be present, to create an awareness of the moment we are living in, and all of the beauty that is there before us to enjoy, lest we miss it.
It’s not realistic or possible 100 percent of the time. That much I know.
There will be times when each of us must grieve a loss, or wonder why life has put something undesireable in our path, or in the path of someone we love deeply.
There will be those times. I’ve been experiencing quite a few of them lately.
They’re tough. Grueling, even. But we must not let them rules our lives. We can’t change them, but we can choose how we respond.
We must make a conscious effort to truly be in the moment whenever we can, taking in everything that is all around us, stretching our senses to the very brink, whenever possible, whether we find ourselves skiing a Black Diamond run or listening to the belly laugh of a six-year-old child.
Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson
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10 responses

6 10 2011
brian Murphy

God, Amy, but that is BEAUTIFUL!

6 10 2011
Amy Rauch Neilson

Thank you so much, Brian. You were indeed a Happy Square during a tough week. But no surprise there. You always are.

6 10 2011
Jennifer Weallans

Amy it was wonderful to see you at The Pink Fund event. I feel for your niece. How old is she? I also am BRCA1+, had my siblings tested and turns out my brother has prostate cancer. He just had surgery last week and we are awaiting the path report. His 25 year old daughter was also tested and she is BRCA1+ too. Lots of pressure on someone 25 to learn of this news. The doctor told her they are removing her ovaries by 35 no matter what. It’s a burden, it’ a blessing. I am sending positive thoughts to your niece and make sure she knows how brave she is! XO Jen

6 10 2011
Elaine

Amy, Love reading your blogs and our thoughts are with you and your family for next week please let them know!

6 10 2011
Kate

Amy, as always, you truly know how to find the silver lining, which we all need to stop and do. Be grateful for every day and listen, look and smell the wonders of just “being” in every moment. It’s a blessing we all take too much for granted at times. Am thinking and praying for your niece and you, as always. Luv you.

6 10 2011
Laurie Horn

Prayers for you and your family as always. So sorry to hear about your friend as well as the nail-biting over Lisa. I pray everything goes smoothly for your niece and she handles it as well as her aunt Amy.

6 10 2011
Kristi Rugh Kahl

yep…you did it again……tears….some happy, some sad. Prayers to Natalie…we’ll be thinking of her. LOVE the belly laugh and can just see Theo doing it when you “land on his property”. Logan would give the big eyes and evil grin….like ahhaa….got ya! Fun!

6 10 2011
Lori

Aimers – This is a wonderful blog!

7 10 2011
Helene Rabinowitz

Honestly Amy, you never cease to amaze me and touch my heart. In the midst of a very dark time, you find your voice and give comfort and wise thoughts to others whose lives may be impacted by pain and fear. You expose yourself and therefore allow others to feel less alone, less despairing. You are a blessing, and as Brian said, “so beautiful” . I love you.

14 10 2011
cookie

Hi Amy,
I so enjoy your blogs and your awesome courage. You give to the end of the tunnel for so many.
Prayers are heading your way for you and your family.
So enjoyed your video of the bras for a cause. They were all beautiful as well as the girls wearing them.
Take care.
Hugs Cookie from Fla

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