Tomorrow, our transient lifestyle will finally come to a close. Since May 1, 2008, Carson and I have resided in 5 different locations (1. SIL Suzette's in Orem, Utah. 2. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 3. My parent's in Ashburn, Virginia. 4. SIL Jeanel's in Layton, Utah. 5. Rick's parent's in Crossville, Tennessee.) Let's take a moment to compare that with our original plans for this summer. Rick and I planned on being in Cambodia all summer, and then flying back to Virginia just before medical school started at Georgetown. A nice, simple plan. However, Carson and I ended up coming home to the safe haven of my parent's house to reside until Rick also came home earlier than planned. However, we then learned of Rick's sister Jeanel's diagnosis of IBC. We decided to go spend two weeks with her family, and a spontaneous trip back to Utah very soon followed. Now, we have recently arrived in Tennessee to reunite with all of our wonderful material goods that have been in storage here all this time. We will drive them out to our FINAL destination TOMORROW!!! I am ecstatic that I will soon be able to put my suitcases away, and that Carson will finally sleep in his first crib rather than a Pack 'n Play.
An update on Carson's little life: He is definitely mobile. He's quick, too. I just set him down all the way across the room to write emails, and a second later I almost squished his little fingers under the leg of my chair. He still favors the army crawl, and his elbows have rug burns to prove it. He eats like his dad. The other day he consumed two large, whole bananas with rice cereal in one sitting. We love how, when he sees us mashing up a peach or a pear, he tilts his head up and opens his mouth wide in anticipation like a little bird. He also learned to wave, opening and closing his hand repetitively.
I have recently learned some very important lessons from the challenge that Rick's sister Jeanel is facing. About three weeks ago, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer. This was a huge shock. She is young, healthy, and has three little boys ages 6, 3, and 1. I have heard so many stories of people with terminal illnesses, but never understood how it feels to have it happen in your own family. My emotions were all over the place, but being with Jeanel and her family for a couple of weeks helped me feel some peace, since she and her husband are both so strong, with firm testimonies of Jesus Christ and His healing power. It was still heartbreaking at times when I took pictures and videos of Jeanel and her boys, realizing that these may be the memories they keep of their mom.
I now believe that all cancer screenings should be taken very seriously. Jeanel's husband, a family practice physician, will now always recommend that women have mammograms at age 35 instead of the usual 40. Also, I think it's important that anytime a woman has even an inkling that something is unusual is going on with her breasts (redness, bruising, etc.), that she should take that very seriously and get an ultrasound immediately. (Mammograms can't always catch IBC, since the cancer develops in sheets instead of a lump.) Ladies, let's pin on our pink ribbons and all go get mammograms! Just kidding, but I do think it's important to promote that awareness.
The other lesson I've learned is to stop living as if nothing bad will ever happen to me. It's so easy to just assume that we'll always have perfect health, financial stability, happiness, etc., and to just sort of let life pass us by. For Jeanel, one day everything was normal, and days later she had an extremely serious diagnosis. I want to be prepared for disaster to strike, in the sense that my family relationships are happy, I feel spiritually at peace, I've accomplished some major life goals, and that I have things ready to leave behind, like journals, pictures, and even this blog!
Those thoughts reminded me of a talk by President Thomas S. Monson. He tells us to not "fritter away our lives," and to learn from the past, prepare for the future, and live in the present. He tells the story of a lady who changed her life and said, “Now I spend more time with my family. I use crystal glasses every day. I’ll wear new clothes to go to the supermarket if I feel like it. The words ‘someday’ and ‘one day’ are fading from my vocabulary. Now I take the time to call my relatives and closest friends. I’ve called old friends to make peace over past quarrels. I tell my family members how much I love them. I try not to delay or postpone anything that could bring laughter and joy into our lives. And each morning, I say to myself that this could be a special day. Each day, each hour, each minute is special.”
Jeanel was given a special blessing by her dad recently, where she was told that right now her job is to make each day the best and most special day it can be. I think that could be wise counsel for everyone.