This is my final Ay Mama! blog.
It is also the final blog of Ay Mama!
After today we are completely shutting things down.
It makes perfect sense; all of the fabulous Ay Mama! bloggers are much busier now than when the site launched three and a half years ago. It's no longer practical to continue. We had a good run and we're proud of the little blog we collectively created, but in the words of Boyz II Men, "Although we've come to the end of the road, still I can't let go..." You see, while my mind is right with the decision, my heart is sad. I love this little blog. I'm going to miss Ay Mama!
It's been said, time and time again, that you don't know what you've got until it's gone... Truth is, I've neglected this blog. I haven't nurtured it, tended to it, cherished it like I should have. Life got in the way and now Ay Mama! has slipped right through my fingers. So, I'm sad. I should have given it more attention, but the last several months have been difficult - I've given birth to my third child and we recently moved - and I haven't found the time to write.
So here we are, but the question is: How do I say Good-bye? And more specifically, how do I wrap up a story that's still unfolding? The journey that still continues? How do I step back from the warm embrace you've held me, and my family, in for three and a half years?
I don't have the answer, exactly, but one thing I know is that I'll keep posting updates about Atia and my family on Atia's Project Ladybug Fund's (APLF) Facebook page. Are you on Facebook? If you are, LIKE the page. Just click here and LIKE it. Then we'll still be connected. If you don't have Facebook, check out APLF's website and blogs. I'll be writing there every once in a while, too.
But in the meantime, here we are wrapping up this extraordinary blog. I've had so much fun and owe it all to my very dear friend, Ana Belaval. Ana has been a blessing from the moment I met her, and I am very fortunate to have the privilege of calling her my friend (for the record, she's just as cute, genuine, funny and kind as she appears on TV #truth).
I had no idea when she hand-selected and generously invited me to blog beside her that so many wonderful opportunities would come my way. She's the catalyst for many of them; without her Atia's Project Ladybug Fund wouldn't exist. It was THIS platform, THIS blog that helped build my credibility and give Dina Manzo, founder of Project Ladybug, a reason to continue our relationship. The blog and the ladies I blog with, well, they've simply been wonderful. It's been an honor and pleasure writing with them.
It's also been an absolute gift "meeting" all of YOU. You've brought so much to my life, making it fuller, richer, sweeter. Thank you for reading, for keeping me company each week, for taking my family under your wing. You will never know how much your kind comments, encouragement, love, compassion and humor energized me. They helped. They helped big time. The truth is, I was struggling. I was struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy while living in complete mayhem - cancer can do that to people - but there you were, my shelter, my refuge. Writing and sharing my story helped me process my grief, confusion, fear. You listened. You cared. You lifted me up when I needed it most. You were "people helping people," and I the fortunate target of your humanity. Thank you for that. Thank you.
And so this chapter ends, but the the journey continues...
If the last three and a half years is any indication, I can only imagine that the next three and a half years will be wild, filled with unexpected ups and downs, obstacles and victories. As the great Bette Midler sings, "You've got to win a little, lose a little, yes, and always have the blues a little. That's the story of, that's the glory of love."
For you see, in the end, my story, this blog, was never really about cancer or the journey through it, but rather my love for my daughter, my son, my husband, our family and the life we share; the life we hope to continue sharing. The true honest to goodness glory of love. Unconditional love. Love that you fight so hard for that you'd be willing to sacrifice your own life for. Time after time I wished I could take Atia's cancer from her, suffer her pain, ease her fear, swap her health with mine, but I couldn't. All I could do was love her with all I had, and all that I was... that's the Glory of Love.
So there you have it, as I sit here waxing on and on, it's come to me. The only way to conclude this blog is to reflect upon where we've been and how far we've come. To celebrate Atia's life and survival. I'd be honored if you'd join me on a proverbial walk down memory lane.
It all began...
- Then: my first post on Ay, Mama! was on January 12, 2010
- Now: August 19, 2013 my final post on Ay, Mama!
- Then: Atia was 2 years old. Asher was 2 months old. Ayla didn't exist and the thought of a third child was incomprehensible.
- Now: Atia is 5 years old (almost 6) and nearly a kindergartner. Asher is 3 years old and beginning his second year of preschool. And Ayla is 3 months old.
- Then: Atia was in the debilitating throws of pediatric cancer treatment. She was fighting for her life and had just resumed her ability to walk (after loosing it for a while). Asher had recovered from a two week stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after birth, and was doing normal 2 month old stuff, like eating, sleeping, growing, crying and waking us up several times a night.
- Now: Atia tested into the gifted program at a highly sought-after Chicago Public School. She's also been invited onto the competitive gymnastics and dance teams. Asher is taking gymnastics, baseball and rocking it in ice skating lessons.
- Then: Make-A-Wish of Illinois, Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, Flashes of Hope, and The Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation helped make our journey a little better, for which we are so thankful.
- Now: Atia's Project Ladybug Fund exists. Atia is its namesake and its mission is to ease the struggles of childhood cancer, directly helps folks who are walking the same, or similar, path we reluctantly tread years ago.
- Then: I was overwhelmed, living in fear and recovering from a bout of postpartum depression after giving birth to Asher. It was a dark time for me, as I was suffocating and unable to process everything my family was undergoing - Asher was born prematurely during one of Atia's most difficult points in her 2+ years of daily cancer treatment.
- Now: I am the mom of three happy, healthy, beautiful children and I'm grateful for the delicate gift that is their life._______________________________________________________
- Then: I had merely scratched the surface of the disparity in funding for childhood cancer research. I had just learned that less than 3% of the federal cancer research budget is allocated to pediatric cancer, that only two new drugs have been developed in over twenty years, and that many cancer charities that showcase children in their advertisment campaigns dedicate only pennies to helping children. I was infuriated, appalled, confused and determined to do something about it, though I had no idea what to do or where to start.
- Now: I am proud to have spearheaded an initiative to add the Illinois Childhood Cancer Research Fund check box to the voluntary deductions section of the 2012 state tax forms. The wonderful residents of Illinois donated $67,728.99 to the cause. That money will be given directly to researchers in Illinois to further pediatric cancer research.
- Then: I was skeptical anyone would care, read or follow the writings of an inexperienced blogger, someone who'd once been told she was a "terrible writer."
- Now: I have you, the most amazing circle of talented, compassionate, gifted and incredibly loyal friends. Folks who love Atia, and our family, as if we were their own. Folks who have taken time out of their lives to follow mine.
- Then: I prayed that Atia would survive.
- Now: She is in complete remission and two years post-treatment (nearly four and a half years since diagnosis). She 's undergone a multitude of spinal taps, absorbed countless CCs of chemotherapy, steroids and supplemental medications, and has spent a multitude of nights in the hospital as a result of complications, infections and side-effects along the way. She continues to be followed closely and will be for the next eight years. At each appointment she endures painful blood draws, which really frightens her.
- Then: We marked time with a kiss.
- Now: We still mark time with a kiss, we're just a little bigger these days.
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