Kenny has epilepsy.
I never in a million years thought I’d be so happy to know one of my boys suffered from such an affliction. The flip side, however, is that his seizures could have been caused by a brain tumor or liver failure.
I’ll take epilepsy any day.
“It means I’ll probably be taking medicine for the rest of my life,” Kenny said calmly on the phone yesterday, “but other than that, I can do anything I want.”
That’s the way life is. It’s a series of trade-offs. You’re diagnosed with epilepsy, but you don’t have a brain tumor. You cut off your boobs, but you don’t get breast cancer.
The CallThatNeverComes came. My surgery date is Dec. 16th. But I feel nothing but thankful today. It’s like the old Biblical story of Jacob wrestling an angel.
“I will not let you go until you bless me!” Jacob told the angel.
Sometimes, you have to wrestle an angel or two for the blessings in your life.
Tomorrow, everybody in my family, including my young stepbrother Nolan and his fiancée, and my youngest sister Caroline and her family, will be under one roof to celebrate Thanksgiving together. We’re gathering a little earlier this year because Deb’s surgery is Tuesday. We couldn’t possibly have Thanksgiving without Deb. Who would organize the yearly Christmas gift draw? So tomorrow evening, all 60 of us will descend upon my brother Tom’s house where he and his beautiful wife Sheryl will calmly deal with the masses.
My stepmother Kris is lugging over 20 pounds of mashed potatoes, my husband John will make his world famous stuffing, and Terri will bring the corn and macaroni casserole that I crave every Thanksgiving. We will eat and laugh and thoroughly enjoy each other. And I will be as thankful as I’ve ever been in my life.
This Thanksgiving, it occurs to me that I’m not only thankful for my family, but I’m thankful for those special women in my life who have wrestled blessings from angels.
My lovely friend Lisa Willman is a breast cancer survivor, and she’s never looked back. In our growing community, she’s the woman who keeps our town progressive as she organizes hundreds of volunteers to man our Events Center for the State Fair and the state volleyball tournament. If that’s not enough, she and my other friend, Julie Pfeifer, co-founded our town’s GRACE (Grand Island Area Cancer Endowment) Foundation that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to help women with breast cancer.
Julie, like my sister Terri, is the beautiful mother of six kids. She was one of the first people I turned to after Terri’s diagnosis. A five-year breast cancer survivor, Julie underwent a double mastectomy, treatment and breast reconstruction and has been so comforting and informative.
Jane Kittridge, in her 70’s, is one of the most striking women I’ve ever known. Ten years ago, she elected to have breast reconstruction after a double mastectomy for cancer. “Don’t be afraid of this,” she looked my sisters and me straight in the eyes dispensing motherly encouragement. “And when you’re my age and everybody else’s boobs are down to THERE,” her eyes twinkled, “you’ll be upright and perky!”
Donna Northup is like a second mother to me. The mother of nine, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 60’s, but her deep faith carried her through and has inspired me for 25 years.
And, of course, there’s my sister Terri. “This mastectomy and reconstruction stuff is no big deal at all!” she promises. I’ve been a little crazy lately, but I know full well I’d be a disastrous mess without my beautiful little sister showing me the way. Terri makes Deb and Mary and me brave. She’s wrestled her angel to the ground, and she helps us believe we can wrestle ours, too.
Finally, I will think of Mom this Thanksgiving Day. Mom didn’t win the battle against breast cancer, but she wrestled for the ultimate gift – Heaven. It’s because of Mom that her daughters will survive. We will see our children grow to adulthood. We will be there for weddings and grandchildren and old age.
But I know Mom’s been with us for those special events, too. She and Dad are both with us, and their presence is strongly felt in all our lives. I have no doubt they will be with us for our Thanksgiving celebration – enjoying the laughter and the stories, caring for us, loving us. They will stick close to my sisters and me as we complete this journey together.
And they will help us wrestle our angels.