Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Celebrating Resilience ~ Role Models

The women in my immediate family are imbued with an innate resilience that has given us the where-with-all to not just survive but thrive in challenging times.  I continue to be amazed by the strength of spirit that surrounds me.

In 2016 my 85 year old mother has experienced sacral fractures and pelvic fractures that left her bed-ridden for several weeks followed by surgery, rehabilitation, occupational therapy, physical therapy and the needs to re-learn how to walk independently. Just as she had achieved the ability to ambulate unaided, she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. Rather than withdraw into herself and mourn the setback, she acknowledged the diagnosis, scheduled surgery and planned the rest of her summer. Regretfully, the pathology report revealed the cancer had transitioned into the axillary lymph nodes, which indicated mastectomy. Undaunted, she adjusted her plans, made the decision to move forward and declined to wallow in self-pity. She had people in her life that she loved with far worse prognosis. Her sheer force of will has served her well and she plans to drive herself to radiation treatments.

My younger sister has been living with lupus for 10 years. Overnight her life changed. Following a lumpectomy, the latent condition emerged from its hole and altered her ability to process gluten, lactose, fats, caffeine, alcohol and cherries. The lupus attached her pancreas and digestive system. She experienced extreme pain and lost pounds she could not afford to lose. The condition took 6-7 years to diagnose despite years of experts reviewing her medical records, shaking their heads, and experimenting with alternative therapies, adult stem cells, and medicines.  But she kept her sense of humor, laughed often and continued to work as a college professor. The options? Give into the disease or live life to the fullest. She chose to live life and has reached a place where most days are good.

During my youth I had the privilege to know my Great Aunt Mary. She developed complete blindness in her teens. However, she refused to be a victim. She learned to read braille, sold handwork to send female relatives to college, raised my father and his siblings after their mother died in the 1930’s, cooked and managed the house for my grandfather, liberated herself at the age of 50, lived independently for decades, worked, went to church, and the symphony, and was one of the most well-read individuals I’ve ever known. She lived a full and vibrant life when many others would have curled up in a corner and mourned.
She truly inspired me.

The “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality that is celebrated within my family gave me the courage and where-with-all to survive and thrive when I faced my own adversity.  I sought help through Al-Anon to learn the tools of recovery necessitated by my marriage to an alcohol addict. A coworker introduced me to Doreen Virtue and “Healing With The Angels”. In my search for wellness I discovered yoga and meditation. I embraced gardening. I rebooted my internal hard-drive to refocus on the positive rather than dwelling on the negative. I learned that I deserve happiness, love, success, excellent health, a beautiful environment, peace, serenity and joy. I learned to be resilient. My undaunted role models surround me and give me the strength and guidance to keep moving forward.