We’ve been drinking a lot of lemonade so a few weeks ago the girls and I decided to try and make it from scratch. We only had one lemon, so I had to stretch my incredibly limited math skills to adjust the recipe (#thankyougoogle)…but it turned out pretty good if I say so myself. So much so that the girls have been asking for an encore.
So yesterday the girls were psyched when, while wandering around everyone’s favorite warehouse – Costco – I discovered a HUGE bag of lemons. I’ve never bought so many lemons in my life. But they loved it since it made it possible to make a whole lot more lemonade.
It was awesome. They loved taking turns juicing the lemons and Chelsea ran the clean up operation by stacking the rinds as tall as she could and then laughing, hysterically, at herself as they fell.
As I giggled with them I couldn’t help but think of the saying: “when life gives you lemons…” You know, the one that’s so famously used to describe a terrible situation.
My mind jumped to two amazing lemon-themed cards I received during my treatment… (yes, I remember all the cards and yes, I still have them all…) so I pulled them out. There was this one from a treasured co-worker:
And, this especially appropriate gem from one of my best friends, picked specifically to honor the day of my surgery…
And there it was…some of my lemons: I realized that tomorrow (today), July 18, was the second anniversary of my double mastectomy. It’s true. Facebook verified:
It was clear as I reflected: being diagnosed was like playing Food Network’s “Chopped” with the Universe as the judge and they packed my picnic basket with a whole lot of lemons. But it was also clear that, with a little sugar from my family and friends I had just what I needed to turn it into a pretty tall glass of lemonade.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed, and you’re reading this, don’t hang up on me just yet. Hear me out…during my treatment I met several people who told me: “cancer changed me for the better.” If I’m honest I thought they had lost their minds…at first. And it may take you a while to get there, too… and that’s ok. You need to “feel all the feels”… but my guidance is to really lean into the happy ones. I did… and now I get it.
I got this basket of lemons on April 1, 2016. And at first that’s definitely all they were: lemons. I was absolutely terrified. I was confused. I felt powerless and out of control.
But shortly thereafter I got the sugar. Our family was embraced and carried by so many: bringing meals, sending gifts and cards and helping us take care of the kiddos. For someone that never liked to ask for help I was being helped nearly round the clock, especially following my surgery… and instead of feeling powerless and out of control… I felt loved. And then I felt happy. And then I saw promise.
And, over time… I had lemonade. By focusing on the good – big or small – I found those happy feelings, that little bit of promise, evolved into a new appreciation for nearly everything. My outlook on love, family, and work changed. It loosened me up a bit and I was suddenly more willing to try things I had always put off. I committed to eating better and taking care of myself… for real this time, with changes that stuck (read: being totally 100% ok with no more hot Cheetos for breakfast). My wardrobe changed… from a sea of black to a colorful palate that my high school bestie would be quite proud of. Heck, even my vocabulary: I watch very mindfully how I describe my less-than-good days…the words “stressed” and “bad day” have completely different meanings now. I cherish the time I get with my favorite guy even more (if that was possible). I kiss my kids pretty much non-stop (like in that annoying and embarrassing only-a-mom can kinda way). I get out of my own way. I spend more time outside and by the water…and realize and embrace how truly happy that makes me. See? Lemonade.
Two years ago. following my diagnosis – and thanks to the thoughtfulness of an amazing family friend – I was also led me to try and pull together a few chemo care totes…say, 20, for strangers on this journey at a local center. Flash forward and this week we sent our 461st tote…each to someone I now consider a friend as I so enjoy the opportunities I have to stay in touch with them and their families. More. Sweet. Lemonade.
I’ve never met someone who – when offered a fruit platter – would pick a lemon. But as my diagnosis, these past two years, and – most recently – my girls have reminded me: it’s not about the lemon but about what you do with it that matters. It took tasting a lemon for me to realize it and I’m thankful every day for the opportunity to be here, today, making (literal) lemonade with my girls and sharing (metaphorical) lemonade with so many others…in hopes it might help even just one person on their journey the way it helped me.
Wishing you a tall glass of lemonade and a life that gets #bettereveryday,
#bettereveryday is a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides resources, support and inspiration to help cancer patients – and those closest to them – live a life that gets #bettereveryday. We’re fully-funded by donations. Help us continue to provide a little “lemonade” to others by donating to our annual campaign by clicking here.