The weekend my daughter flew home for her biopsy was one of my best in awhile. We went shopping and to the movies. We went to the beach and called her big sister to rub it in. We had a nice meal or two, with and once without Dad. The pace was perfect, with the errand-running and the mandatory housekeeping seamlessly integrated. By the time she boarded a plane back to college, a fog of fear was lifting. And what trace amounts had lingered evaporated instantly with a call a few days later. She did not have lymphoma.
Of course, we were all grateful it was merely “reactive lymph nodes,” swollen for months in response to some yet-determined, persistent viral invasion. But a part of me felt guilty, knowing that for every one of us whose dread is cancelled, somewhere someone else’s is confirmed.
Then, hours after watching the Boston Marathon on television, my doctor called with my MRI results. The source of my migraines remain a mystery, but an anomaly found in an earlier screening registered as normal on this more precise scan. Well, within normal range anyway. I still have some work to do, like balance drills. I suspect I’ll be the only person under 70 in the therapy room. But that’s okay. I’m still here, thinking and breathing and laughing and running and blogging.
I secretly hoped that the stress of the unknown was the cranial culprit, and that once all of the good news soaked in, I’d be flush with headache-free days. But that hasn’t happened. I still have mild “Motrin days” and the occasional, severe “morphine night.” And yet, something did give. I thought long and hard why that weekend before the biopsy seemed so perfect despite the circumstances, and over the next several weeks I realized it was because I gave myself permission to focus fully on my own life and no one else’s. If the tissue samples had turned up cancer, or the MRI had affirmed a cerebellum under siege, the outsider embargo would have continued.
The reward of being given a new lease on life shouldn’t be to once again assume our old roles as caretakers of other people’s problems. Such avenues of anxiety rarely merge with the path to personal growth. Yes, we should always be there to listen and to offer assistance when warranted. But at some point, the people we love who are in constant crises need to figure life out for themselves. It can be painful for everyone, but if all goes well, those obstacles will later be remembered as opportunities. As Nelson Mandela once said, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”