Parenthood…and real life.

Oh, Parenthood.

As I’ve mentioned multiple times before, after I got diagnosed and realized I was going to be at home quite a bit, I knew I needed a good show to binge watch. I had watched Parenthood when it originally aired, but didn’t pay attention as closely as I should have. I knew the characters, the plot, etc., but I didn’t make near the connections I did this go round.

This time around, it held so much more meaning. Every episode had something that was eerily relatable to my life right now.

I’ll spare you the details of each episode/season, but there were a few moments in season 4 that I feel the need to write about.

The whole show is based on an old couple (The Bravermans) who have 4 grown kids (Adam, Sarah, Crosby, and Julia)–each kid is/was married and have kids of their own. The show tells the story of the ups and downs of their family while the dynamic of their family frequently changes, thus adding drama.

In episode 2 of season 4, Kristina (who is married to Adam Braverman), goes to the doctor for a routine appointment and is ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer. [Cue the waterworks.] I cried the first time I watched this show…and now that I’m on the other side, experiencing similar things as Kristina, this episode took on a whole new meaning. The devastation they felt when the doctor revealed that she had cancer. The fear of the unknown. The hesitation to share the news with everyone…everything felt so similar. The writers and actors did such an incredible job portraying such a emotional experience.

I was amazed at how accurate this scene depicted a chemo session. Before my regimen changed, I did my first round at my doctor’s office. I went in early in the morning, sat in a chair/recliner identical to the one in the picture. You have a pole next to you holding your chemo…and you are curled under a blanket because it’s an ice box in there. And, you see so many other people going through the same thing…some of the old, some completely alone, but all experiencing the same thing.

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But wait, it gets better.

Later in season 4, while Kristina is undergoing treatment, she has a moment of weakness. (Wait, that’s acceptable?) Kidding. I have a lot of those. Side note: Kristina and Adam have 3 kids, Hattie who is in high school, Max who has Aspergers and is in middle school, and Nora, a precious baby girl. No, Danny and I don’t have three kids…but what struck a cord was going through this with a baby. It just sucks.

At one point she is frustrated because so much is going on. She wants to make dinner, pick up Nora, and just do “normal” things around the house…and because of the chemo, she just can’t. She puts everything down, starts to cry, and says, “I just want to hold my baby. I want to wake up and things be back to normal.” Me too, Kristina, me too.

I want to run and scoop up Hudson when Danny gets home from picking them up. I want to run and play soccer with Harper in the backyard. I want to build forts and chase Hudson around while he gets into EVERYTHING. But you know what? I just can’t. [Sidenote: I am NOT writing this for sympathy. I’m not writing so people will feel bad because things aren’t “normal” right now. I’m writing this because I was so touched by several episodes of this show and was so impressed with the way it was written. And honestly, it’s helping me validate my feelings/fears/etc.] Continue on.

The week during treatment, I obviously spend very little, if any, time with the kids. Hudson tends to have some sort of crud that’s contagious, so he typically has to stay away. And Harper…she has only come up 1 time so far. It’s probably not the best atmosphere for kiddos. We FaceTime every night, but it’s just not the same as loving on her in person.

The week following treatment is typically orchestrated by the devil. That’s the week when my bones hurt, head hurts, and I just want to stay in bed and sleep it away. In other words, I’m ZERO help with the kids. It physically hurts for me to try to pick up Hudson–it could be the chemo, or it could be the fact that he’s just fat. 🙂 Either way, it’s not good. That entire second week, I don’t move far from the bed. I’m rarely able to get up and eat dinner with them…1 because nothing sounds good, 2, it hurts to get up, and 3, my two babies are noisy…and busy…so it’s overwhelming.

These scenes pretty much sum up how I feel that second week.

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**I’m going to come back to this picture and share some of the conversation between Adam and Kristina right after this scene because it really struck a cord with me. Adam reminded me so much of Danny.

The third week, for the most part, is a good one. I’m able to be up more, help with the kids, etc. I still find myself extremely weak and fatigued, so I can’t pick up and haul Hud around like I used to be able to…but I’m much more present during this week. I’m so thankful for weeks like this. I try to take it slow and soak it all in as much as possible. I pray that the days will go slowly because when week three is over…it’s time  for treatment again.

So once I’ve started feeling good for a few days, it’s time to pack my bags and head to the hospital for the next round. These three week cycles go by REALLY fast.

The point of that connection was, I (and Kristina as well) just wish things would be back to normal. To where I could scoop up Hud and run around and not feel like I got run over by a truck.

But you know what? If things were back to normal and none of this had happened, we would not be receiving the love, support, and prayers of thousands (literally thousands) of people around the world. We would not have realized how precious life is and how incredibly blessed we are…in every aspect of our lives. If this hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be fighting this fight together.

Okay so moving on. In another episode during season 4, Kristina and Adam are arguing about their son, Max, going to a school dance. Kristina really wants him to go and Adam doesn’t. Max is adamant about not going, and Adam supports his decision. For Adam, it just does’t seem like a fight he’s willing to fight. So why wouldn’t Kristina just let it go?

Here is their conversation:
Adam – “…there will be time for that.” (Referring to going to dances, experiencing milestones in middle school, etc.)
Kristina – “I feel very optimistic about everything. I do. But I also feel like, and I just want to be honest with you, I don’t know how much time there is. None of us do. I don’t want to miss out on any milestones.”

Girl, preach it. I know my time isn’t coming to an end in a month, or even in a year…but we have no idea how long we have. It just reminded me to take the time to enjoy the little things. Do things you wouldn’t normally do…you may never have another chance to. And like Kristina, I am optimistic. But at the same time, I’m terrified. In my heart, I feel that I will be healed and will be able to look back and share my story. But at the same time, I find myself questioning why? Why me? Why cancer? Why right now?

People frequently mention how brave I am…or how positive I have been throughout this whole thing. And to that, here’s what I have to say. ‘Brave’ is a term that can be used loosely. I’m brave in the sense that I’m not scared to go in and receive my treatment. I’m brave when it comes to talking about my story. I became more brave as the time came to lose my hair. I appeared brave when I shaved my head.

But my friends…I am not always brave. On the other side of bravery, there was fear…worry…and doubt. Because of the support I have received, I have felt that I have no choice but to be ‘brave’. It’s not an option. When you’re told you have cancer, you have two choices…1) You address it, head on, and do whatever necessary to get it out. That may mean surgery, chemo, shaving your head, and whatever else.

Or 2) You sulk in your own self-pity and feel sorry for yourself. (I’m not saying it’s not okay to feel sorry for yourself, I’m just saying you have to do more than that.)

So, you have to make a choice.

Are you going to fight it and do whatever it takes to win? Are you going to do whatever you can to set an example for others and make them proud to know you?

Or are you going to sulk and wish it hadn’t happened to you?

I chose the first choice. It’s the only way I see possible to come out on the other side and win this fight.

After writing this, I feel pretty awesome. I’m a strong gal. But wait! I have my faults. I worry. I have doubts. I cry. It’s normal. In fact, these things happen more often than I care to admit.

I’ve debating even writing this next part, but many people have mentioned that they appreciate me being “real” about this experience…so, this is real.

I’ve caught myself laying in bed wondering…
-What if the tumor doesn’t shrink? Heck, what if it gets bigger?
-What if 5 years down the road, the cancer comes back…even more aggressive?
-What if the cancer becomes out of control and doesn’t respond to the treatment. It happens.

And then, it gets even worse.
-What if I’m not around to see my babies grow up?
-What if I’m unable to ever return to the classroom and teach all of the precious babies I was meant to teach?
-How will Danny make it as a single dad raising two kids? Will he find someone else?
-Will my babies remember me? Hud is so young. What will he remember about me?

I know these thoughts seem so horrible and even dramatic…but I have them. It’s normal. At least, I think it’s normal. It might not be normal for everyone…but for me, I think it is. Thinking those things hurt and they make me mad. No, they infuriate me. But you know what else they do? They make me want to fight with every ounce of my being. I’m determined for those questions to NEVER have to be answered.

Most days, I do pretty well. I feel positive. I feel blessed. And I’m fighting the good fight. But, like I said, there are times that’s I’m not so good…but that’s okay. Fortunately, the good moments far outweigh the bad…and for that, I am grateful.

**Before I make myself shut it down, I want to refer back to the picture of Kristina laying on the floor, sick as a dog, by the toilet. While she isn’t feeling well and is just “down” (both literally and figuratively), here is their conversation.

Adam: You gotta stay positive.
Kristina: Please, stop.
Adam: What?
Kristina: I know that you’re trying to make everything okay for me. You always have our whole lives. And I love you so much for that, but you have to let me be scared. I wanna be able to come home to you and just say, “Adam, I’m really scared today and I want you to hear it. I don’t want you to tell me to think positive or that everything is gonna be great, because right now, I’m not sure that it’s going to be. And I just want to be able to feel scared. That’s just what I need from you right now.
Adam: Okay. I can do that. I love you.
Kristina: I love you too, so much.

For those of you who know Danny (and everyone in his family for that matter), he is so incredibly positive. About.every.single.thing. He always has a smile, everything is always good, there’s no room for bad news. That’s one thing that made me fall in love with him.

But at times, in our current situation…I have to remind him that it’s okay for me to be scared. It’s okay for me to be down at the moment, whenever that may be.

Phew. That was a lot. Many of you have mentioned that you appreciate how “raw” and honest my posts are…and this one is just that…raw and honest. It’s not all pretty…and some of it I’m not too proud of…but it’s the truth.

I appreciate your prayers and kind words. Those are what get me through the low moments. Each and every one of you are the reason that I have more positive moments than negative ones. I am so blessed and I do not take that lightly. I am forever grateful.

P.S. – It’s late and this post is super long…there are probably numerous typos and parts that don’t make sense…do your best to figure it out. I didn’t proofread…like I teach my First Graders to. I may not be setting a good example of how to proofread, but I setting an example of how to be a FIGHTER. I think that’s more important.

Also, if you haven’t ever watched Parenthood, you totally should. Unless you don’t like to cry…in that case, don’t watch it. Ever.

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5 thoughts on “Parenthood…and real life.

  1. Love you, Ashley! I’m continuing to pray for you. This is such a beautiful post. You are so real….so honest. You are a fighter!

  2. Ashley, you are so much of a blessing and role model to the hundreds of people who are so very, very lucky to know you. God’s love is so evident in you and the way you and your sweet husband share your strength and positive attitudes is just outstanding. God bless your sweet family.

  3. You amaze me. I can’t say that enough.
    Not just with all that you are going through, but with the words you write. I’m so glad that you have a way to release and vent your thoughts and feelings.
    Know that you are lifted in prayers.

  4. Ashley, it is okay to have all the thoughts you have mentioned and many more. Cancer is scary stuff and everyone faces it in their own way. Me I wanted to get in bed cover my head and lie their in the dark. As you know chemo is tough on your body. I love reading your blog and seeing your beautiful face and lips. You give us a view through your transparency and it also helps me to pray. You hang in there and continue to allow yourself to…FEEL and face it with your faith.
    Love you,
    Pam

  5. Pingback: Dear Cancer…Thank You. | Less Hair, More Faith

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