Best days of my life?

About a year after I had finished my run-in with breast cancer, Tony Snow (the former White House press secretary) returned to television for the first time since having been diagnosed with colon cancer.  It was a school/work morning and Rich and I were trying to get ourselves and the kids up and out the door.  “The Today Show” was on and we were half listening to the interviewer when he asked Tony for reflections on what he had been through.  He responded by saying that it was “the best year of his life.”  Rich looked at me and asked me if I knew what he meant.  Indeed, I did.

Whether it is cancer, or a death or a divorce or a little boy announcing that he is really a girl, difficult life experiences have this crazy ability to turn logic on its ear and prove to be wonderful times in one’s life.  Sounds insane, I know.  But, having had my fair share of trying times, I can honestly say that with each crisis, once the hysterical part of it has passed, I am a little bit better for it.  I am a little bit stronger and have a whole lot more faith in mankind.  Would I wish for any of these things?  No fucking way.  But in a strange and beautiful way, I wouldn’t take them back, either.

I always thought that feeling this way was peculiar at best, morbid at worst.  Not really a glass half full kinda gal, it isn’t necessarily my nature to find the positive in any given situation.  It is easier to get caught up in the fear, anxiety, anger and “why me?” than to see the upside of things like facing down a bi-lateral mastectomy  just days after my father-in-law lost his battle and my father was en route to losing his.  I could have opted for a complete shutdown when I landed in the hospital with a herniated disc in my back which provided me with what I can easily say was the worst pain imaginable.  And when George came to us to tell us that he felt that he was a girl, it would have been simpler to keep it to ourselves, go underground as best we could and simmer in the angst that any parent would feel when their child makes such a major announcement.  But, when you see the love, support, encouragement and strength that the people in your life are willing (no, not willing, but eager) to share with you, it results in a paradigm shift that can only be fully appreciated during well, a crisis.

Like many people, I am not particularly good at asking for help.  It used to be a source of pride for me – an indication that I was a strong and capable woman.  And then I got sick.  My family and I needed help with the everyday crap that doesn’t go away.  We needed dinners, and drivers and shoppers.  Once I acquiesced, it was mere hours before a cooler was outside our door and a sign-up list was fully populated.  We were fed, driven and attended to for weeks and weeks and weeks.  It not only saved us in the day to day, it saved our spirit, too.  (It also served to add several pounds to my midsection – a few too many delicious lasagnas with brownie chasers!)

Right now, no one (thank G-d) is ill.  No one is physically compromised.  We are, however, emotionally spent and mentally exhausted, yet not struggling.  We aren’t struggling thanks to the undying support we have gotten from family, friends and even strangers.  Those who approach me (even those who do so tentatively) are ready to lend their support in any number of different ways:  maybe it is by forwarding an article or sending a gift certificate (go Justice!  go Clairs!), or passing along clothing their daughters have outgrown…it doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that everyone, to a person, has reminded us that we are loved.  And, any time you know you are loved is always a good contender for “the best year of your life”, no?

I’m not going to lie – this ain’t easy.  At every turn lurk surprises, successes and failures.  I have no idea how this is all going to play out but I do know that everyone in my family, perhaps my life, will be different (read: better) for it.  There are moments, hours, even days that I pray for a rewind to life before (such as it was), but I know, deep down, that I will someday be able to look back at this and be grateful for the lessons learned.

223 thoughts on “Best days of my life?

  1. Bravo with a capital B. There’s so much that I respect about this post, I can’t begin to tell you. Partly, it’s how well you express yourself; partly, it’s because you express a universal truth I personally relate to. Thank you…

    • wow! this is true amazing and something that we can all pass on to one another. you never know what life is going to throw at you or how it going to open your eyes to something wonderful that you will cherish. Like for example, battling a disease that reaches other not physically but mentally and makes them want to reach out and make others aware of it. Example to when someone you either know or don’t know says something and you have no clue what they meant. when you ask them and find out you get a whole new perspective on either your life now or life in general. you learn to then apply that and grow and then passing it on to others who can become better people. it is just one of those things that can help us see others, learn from the them grow ourselves and be better at who we are so we can to make a difference. Very touching and well done.

    • Yes, not only great lessons learned but growth in character that will allow you to be more passionate towards others and their challenging situations!

      Thanks for sharing and fighting to see the glass half full!


  2. Your posts, especially this one, has reduced me to tears – happy and grateful ones! Having been home recuperating these last 4 weeks, with another 4 to go, I have yet to be alone. Family and friends come and go and check in daily to ensure we are okay. And we are. How can we not be? They have made a scary time less so and provided so much comfort. When I sadly left the JCC in June to pursue another opportunity I was given the most beautiful card that read, “What do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?”. In my family we also call that “circling the wagons.” In good times and in bad we’re here for you and also for each other. Just the way life oughtta be as far as I am concerned. When you need people the most is usually when they show up, really show up and that’s exactly how it should be! Your post is a reminder that we have the ability to reach out with love, advice, support, food and gift certificates:). Life is more beautiful when we rally for one another … corny but oh so true! Xo

    • I love that quote…”what do we live for if not to make life less difficult for each other?”. You, Caren, did that for me when we were struggling so during our awful stint you know where. And, I am so happy to hear that your recuperation is going well and is filled with support! xo

  3. This is the letter I would write if I were you:

    Dear Georgie:

    Thank you for being in my life.

    Thank you for wearing me down and relentlessly speaking up (loudly and daily) telling me exactly who you are, exactly what you want, and refusing to accept the notion that you did not deserve it all.

    It is because of you, and the journey I have had no choice but to be on with you, that I was finally able to speak up loudly and daily telling my friends and family (and fans?!) exactly who I am, exactly what I want, and oh yeh, I deserve to be heard.

    Not quite sure I would have gotten here without you so thanks for the nudge.



      • Julie- I am following your journey with interest and awe. You seem to be handling it all with grace and strength. I am of the mind of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger- You go girl! Joy

      • Joy! So happy to hear from you. And I think you and I can both relate to the whole “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” concept! Love to you.

  4. Julie, you so powerfully articulate feelings that many of us have experienced. It is impossible to imagine and defines logic that what presents itself as a major “life malfunction” morphs, at some unidenitifiable point in time, into an event chock full of seriously life affirming silver linings. The undeniable ground swell of love and support that you never in your life imagined existed, from family, friends, and even strangers, literally lifts you up; your perspective is broadened and your “malfunctions” become less daunting. Not sure why this happens but thank god it does.

    • Thank G-d is right! I started looking for silver linings when I had my bilateral mastectomies and still revel in being able to wear a cami without a bra. True. xo

  5. I read regularly. And I just read the Phoenix article, too. Thanks for sharing it all – you sure have a prize-winning way with words and emotion.

    My own personal story of being a gay mom and parenting Ben solo (since the beginning…T-minus-9-months and all) now completely pales to the Ross family adventures. Way to up me! But can I just (selfishly) say how *fucking* (sorry) awesome it is to have another unconventionally-great family right here in my own hood. Yay.

    I applaud your parenting. Jessie is very fortunate to be surrounded by all of your wonderfully supportive friends and family.

    Keep posting.

    • It is all a matter of perspective. To me, you are the winner because you have done this solo. I am sure of very little, but I can assure you, I would not be able to do this without Rich and Harrison.

      And, furthermore, one never needs to apologize for hurling the F-bomb around me. Ever.

  6. this is a well written reflection of your life’s happenings. that’s such a strange feeling, when hard situations occur and they change you completely, knowing you cannot go back, but a part of you longs for that innocence you had about the world and dreams.., Yet you’ve also developed a deeper level of compassion because of the trials that you wouldn’t want to trade off.
    great post.

  7. Really great attitude to have after such a trying time as it seems you’ve had. You’re right, it’s easier to shut down and ignore things, but I think facing it head-on was the way to go. Do you ask for it and would you do it again? F no, like you said, but I’m sure you’re stronger for the experience. Can’t wait to read more posts on your blog!

  8. As a cancer survivor, I understand what you mean. When challenges are brought upon us, no matter how big, it’s about perseverance. That first challenge is the hardest because its new. It feels like the hardest thing we have ever gone through and it may be true. Though with a good attitude and the right amount of love, we can get through it. After that, the challenges feel like they are less of a.. challenge. Congrats on being strong! Congrats on your love! Congrats on the lessons learned!

    This was a great read, click on me, I just published a post about the day I was told I had Cancer.

    • I will go read it now! Hope this finds you doing well and able to say that cancer is just a part of your history.

  9. As someone who fought bipolar disorder for years, I understand and thank you. I still have break-through symptoms, but those really bad years made me who I am, and I wouldn’t change them for anything.

  10. There’s comfort in hunkering down – sort of like being in your house watching a massive blizzard outside. People figure out what’s important and realize they’re lucky for having a house and a furnace and each other. Your situation is really interesting. I think I’m a new fan of yours.

  11. I’m of the opinion that all those trials in our lives are really blessing from God in disguise. I say in disguise because as we are walking through them we would rather be doing just about anything else. But once we have gone through them and are on the other side (or even, almost to the other side) we can look back and see how God has used those experiences to shape and mold and grow us into the persons He wants us to be. Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on being fresh pressed. It was well deserved!

  12. I feel really tired and low but better after reading your piece…thanks…it puts things in perspective very quickly…’it’…Peace to you…hope you enjoy this period of relative freedom from pain and worry…sounds like an awesome family!!

  13. I’m so excited to have stumbled across this blog! I really love your perspective – it’s so real. Especially with the speed bumps that you’ve gone through! You are inspirational and helping put wind in our sails! Thank you for being so open!! I look forward to checking out the rest of your posts.

  14. You truly are inspiring, I look forward to reading more – so grateful you were freshly pressed! I have raised boy and am now raising two stepdaughters…. I had to giggle reading about George now being Jessie because I couldnt help thinking “ah, too bad….boys are sooo much easier than girls!”

  15. As a single mother of three, dealing with chaos and fiasco are an everyday task. I smiled today, because you made me realize that in that sick “morbid” way, I wouldn’t take any of it back either. I’m a fan. Thank you.

  16. I’ve been there with my wife. Be strong, it will pass. Keeping blogging about it. Writing helps relieve the anxiety of not knowing what lies ahead. I used writing to overcome the grief of losing Barb who finally succumbed to disease twenty-five years after the major trauma of losing a breast and going thru the barbaric radiation and chemo of the era.

  17. Needed this today. My latest post was actually about the stress of having a 5 year old daughter dx’d with anxiety and possibly (likely, according to the psychiatrist) OCD. I feel like I am going to lose my fucking mind most days. Nothing makes sense and I struggle with negative feelings towards God for putting this on my baby. I hope I can look back on all of this one day–with something other than tears of anger and sadness in my eyes. After the shit you’ve been through and have been capable of finding a silver..or any other color..lining in it all, surely, I can too. Bless you and this post!

    • I feel your pain! With regard to the possible OCD diagnosis — a dear friend just lived through this with her daughter and it turned out to be a condition called P.A.N.D.A.S. which is related to strep and treated with antibiotics. Check into it and let me know if you want to be put in touch with my friend who has becoe an expert on the subject. Loads of good luck to you. We are only as happy as our least happy child!!

    • my son is OCD, because it was caught early and is not severe, we found that there are ways to manage it. Not to make light of it, but some of the habits & control techniques helped him to be a great student. Talk to as many people as you can as soon as you can !

  18. Beautifully written! I admire your spirit and the way you managed to express yourself. In a sense I can relate with what you have gone through (or still going through) and I know how difficult it is to express it in words.
    May you get all that you wish for and deserve in life 😀 Cheers!

    • At a certain point I had lost my spirit. The support from my friends, famiy and now the wider world have raised it further!

  19. Wow. I thought from the title this was going to be all saccharine and almost didn’t read it. So glad my curiosity got the better of me. Thanks for telling it like it is. Very inspirational post. Congrats on learning from adversity and sharing what you learned.

    • I can assure you that nothing I ever write will be sacchariney. Ever. And, I, too, am glad that your curiosity won this battle.

  20. I loved your post, very positive without the slightest hint of “woe is me” such a good read! You sound like you have an amazing family and a great network of friends. Good luck you you all for the future and glad to read that everyone is well :0) take care

      • no problems! and to be honest i don’t blame you. I think everyone going through tough times is entitled to heave them. If you get a chance would you be so kind to have a read of my blog? i really want blogging feedback and how to make it good and interesting for the readers as I’m new to wordpress and blogging!

  21. We can always understand pain of someone, once we open our heart..
    This is really amazing… Once a writer writes a universal truth or experience, everyone will really appreciate it…

  22. This is the first time I’ve come across a Freshly Pressed post where the author has taken the effort to reply to each comment! 🙂 I loved your post and your efforts to show your readers how much you appreciate their response. What struck me most about this post is how you are able to look back at the difficult times in your life and take strength from them. I’m a person like that: I derive strength from the most painful and difficult times in my life. So, I could really relate to your experience. Really touching, not to mention written most beautifully. And congrats on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

    • I’m really trying to respond to each comment — it is become a full time job! Thank you for such kind words!

  23. So true. Change brings us to a crossroad of Threat and Opportunity. It’s up to us which path we take and how we perceive the experience.
    A beautiful post, and so well written. Congrats on FP!

  24. Pingback: Back with a Bang! :P « Roshrulez's Weblog

  25. Very nicely said, and I agree 100%. Working through any difficult situation and coming out stronger and happier on the other end is a blessing. Not everyone can see it that way. It’s all about attitude and you have a very unique and positive one. You’re blessed for sure!

    • I love being called a strong woman! I often question whether or not I am so it is great to have someone tell me how they see it.

  26. Thank you for this amazing post! The other day I was complaining that my life is too complicated. And now I realise I’ve been foolish. I haven’t even reached “complicated”. Thanks for changing my outlook. May God give you and your family all the strength u need to tide over your problems.

    • Complicated means different things to different people on different days. I look at other people and what they are dealing with and it makes my situation look simple. It all depends…

  27. Your post is so relatable. Especially for me. I am also not an optimistic girl, but as the time goes on I know grumbling doesn’t make anything easier. Maybe that’s because we planned too much about our imaginary perfect life. But if we live it without planning it, even that sounds irresponsible, maybe we could be a lot happier.

    • There is something to be said for not planning. What’s the old expression: You make plans, G-d laughs. Yep. We never planned to go on this adventure, but it has changed our lives in more ways that we ever could have imagined.

  28. Wow, what a remarkable story you and your family have there. This was a wonderful post, full of honesty, respect, and truth. I can’t imagine what you have gone through to get to this point in your journey, but I’m glad to have read about it a little. Congrats on FP as well, totally deserving.

  29. I am a firm believer that we all have our share of difficulties throughout our existence. The main difference is how we each cope with them.
    IMHO you’ve done great so far, especially concerning your daughter, which I’m pretty sure must be the hardest part because let’s face it, as women, we are able to take whatever life throws at us (that herniated disc you talk about, I had one last year, and the pain was so bad not only did I faint, my left leg remained numb for months), as long as it’s aimed at us, not at our children.
    Good luck.

    • Precisely. Mess with me, don’t mess with my kids. And seriously, I have given birth without drugs – the herniated disc was WAY worse. I am still not anywhere near being pain free, but I no longer want to kill anything in my line of vision. I sincerely hope that your back is better, too!

    • Lest you think I am some sort of Wonder Woman, let me assure you…I spend a fair amount of time wishing for things, too!

  30. I will soon be a three year survivor of breast cancer! You and Tony Snow nailed it when you said it was the best year of your life. Once you got past losing a body part (my husband still hasn’t come to grips with how easy it was for me to say, “let’s go for it, how soon can we schedule the masectomy”…..and in hindsight I should have had that Bon Voyage Boob party a co-worker wanted to throw for me the eve of the surgery), the rounds of chemo and losing your hair, I have to say it was the best year of my life as well. I laughed more in that year than I think I have all of my life. Good luck in your journey as a breast cancer survivor, and especially with George/Jessie. You are an inspiration for accepting and encouraging your child no matter what your personal beliefs may be, and for being that face in the crowd that people in your situation can look up to for guidance and encouragment.

    • Congratulations on three years! I am at just over seven now and really consider it just another part of my history. Stay strong and keep laughing when you can…it really helps.

  31. There aren’t even words that can describe how incredible you are. Good luck with your journey! And though I don’t really know you all in person I send you and all your family joy and sunshine.

  32. You are a goddess. I wish you could be less than that, since life would be easier for you, but what we truly are isn’t necessarily what we want to be. Congrats on FP, and to the person who chooses the FPs for getting it right this time.

    • I will have to tell Rich and the kids that I am a Goddess. They would likely dispute that! And thanks for the compliment regarding FP!

  33. I’m a cancer survivor. Within 2 months of my diagnosis, I lost my job, couldn’t collect unemployment (couldn’t work), the health insurance company I kept under COBRA tripled my premium when they found out I had cancer, and I wasn’t eligible for any help because I was single without dependents. Within a year, I had to withdraw my 401K to pay medical bills (the insurance didn’t cover medicine!) and my live-in boyfriend of over 20 years lost his job. I felt as if I were in a well falling deeper and deeper. In true despair, I called out to G-d, and He answered me. My boyfriend and I separated and I now live by my family. Did it happen overnight? No. But I am closer to G-d than I have ever been thanks to a Spirit filled Pastor and and a faith filled church. I went from begging G-d to kill me to praising Him for everyday of life. Recently my sister sent me a story about a brick that I posted and it hits on this very well. Whether it’s a brick or cancer if it brings us closer to G-d, well, that’s proof that G-d can turn around what was meant for our harm to our good. And that’s LOVE.

    • Why do these things always happen one on top of the other? You have had your fair share! Here’s hoping it is all behind you and that you are doing well.

  34. Great post. Studies on happiness have shown that people who face adversity as an opportunity (not always easy to do) are much more successful and happy in life. I don’t think your attitude is strange, but I do think it’s unfortunately rare.

    • I try to look at the positive, but it doesn’t really come naturally to me. I guess I know that there are far worse things we could be facing as a family right now, so that makes it easier to take like a big girl.

  35. This is the first time I found this site. You are really quite a gal. Your family is also
    womderful, I know,

    Love to you Elaine

  36. This is so wonderfully well written and inspiring!!! As a once optimist turned pessimist, it’s wonderful to read of the optimism of others which in turn helps me be just a little less cynical each day. So thank you for making my day just a little more positive!

  37. you are amazing – to battle through all of these and still keep a neutral, practical, realistic attitude, i.e. i’m no optimist and things that’ve happened never made it any better. maybe, we’ll turn back to say there’s something to learn from all these, but clearly i would’ve preferred not to have needed to learn it the hardest way … nonetheless, cheers to you and your family. stay strong there!

  38. wonderful post. have been blessed with a reasonably healthy life so far and that’s a blessing i count everyday. heath problems have been many in my family, be it my mom-dad’s heart problems, my husband suffering a heart-attack or my mom-in-law who’s bedridden for the last four years. all make me appreciate my own health. and yes, it’s at difficult times like these we realize the overwhelming kindness of people around us sometimes from people least expected. wishing you a happy healthy life..

  39. Well written. I guess the old adage “What doesn’t kill you…” is there for a reason. Glad to hear that you have so many friends and acquaintances to lift you up in your time of need. In this sometimes scary world, it’s easy to lose sight of the generosity and empathy of mankind. I always welcome a reminder.

    Keep up the good fight!

  40. Bravo! Beautiful post- It really touched my heart! It offers some much needed perspective–I get so wrapped up with small things, but your story and the way you have faced the ups and downs is inspirational!

  41. thankyou for this post… i know what you mean by “Would I wish for any of these things? No fucking way. But in a strange and beautiful way, I wouldn’t take them back, either.”…
    some things in my life makes me relate to this post

  42. I totally get it… and almost anyone who has had a life threatening illness can relate. You have shared your journey beautifully and I wish you continued good health. Kudos! 🙂

  43. When we are born God gives us a certain amount of energies. then he wants to see if we are able to use them apreciating the good and tiring things he offers to us. When we are able to organize in one month and a half the wdding of our daughter not complaining but only smiling, when we put our energies trying to catch oir children doing good things, He konws it is enough for us. And doesn’t send anything requiring new energies…

  44. It’s so hard to remember, when you’re going through Hell, that there are people on the outside hurting for you and wanting to help. Thank you so much for this post. And your attitude is phenomenal. I hope it rubs off on me. ^_^

  45. Your incredible blend of all facets of human experience is touching and rewarding to read. I can’t imagine and yet I empathize with many of the virtues and values you described as I too struggle to ask for help. What amazes me is your ability to take it all on and to remind us that although we are emotionally exhausted and downright depleted, this doesn’t mean we are struggling. This is an important distinction as it reminds us of the safety net, and your wonderfully phrased, “best year of your life” as I realize that I must view my life in this measure as well.

    Thank you for reminding me that we are loved, indeed. 😀


      • Yes, totally! I have to remind myself to seek support as being tough and strong doesn’t mean we aren’t vulnerable at times. I’m so amazed by your story! May you always remember the compliments and forget anything less than that. 😀

  46. You totally rock! And by that I mean the integrity you have and demonstrate to your kids to live their lives the way they feel it to be true for themselves. Letting Jessie be Jessie instead of forcing her to be George. You are an incredible parent, and you are absolutely right about secrets. Once we reach wide, it is difficult to control naysayers, but I LOVE your protective mothering side that chooses your children over the critics. I think too many parents choose the critics over their children, and that is what makes me sad.

    You have also given me courage to continue to support the LGBTQ community as an ally in their development of whichever path they choose, which I have still kept fairly hush due to the um, bashers that exist in my religious community, but whatever, they gotta deal with ME before they bash the youth that I hope to support in fostering care, self-love and respect for their decisions that’s right for them.

    My prayers to you to be protected from doozers, and may you always do what resonates with your heart. I think it’s made out of gold 😀


    • Oh, yeah…I have long been known to say, “mess with me, don’t mess with my kids”. By some miracle, no one has yet…perhaps they have heard of my mean side! Thank you for the wonderfully supportive note!

  47. With all of the things you shared in this post, the ‘Like many people, I am not particularly good at asking for help. It used to be a source of pride for me – an indication that I was a strong and capable woman’ stood out. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it & just keep going 🙂 I look forward to reading more

  48. This was fantastically written. It’s so enjoyable to read from competent writer. You mentioned relatives who were not so fortunate as you. In speculation, how might one assess seemingly similar scenarios (yay for alliteration!), on behalf of they are survived by, which had different outcomes, in a similar, optimistic way. Steinbrenner, Jobs, and most recently, Hitchens, are examples too.

  49. A year ago, my wife suffered from kidney infection and like you, I, or in this case, we had experience getting help in every way we can. … It makes me cry every time I remember that moment where I felt despair surrounding me. Thanks to the Aura up there who carried us during that time of despair. A lot of lessons learned since then.

    Thank you to people like you giving fire to the not so bearable side of life. Life in always beautiful, because there are plenty of good people out there.

  50. I just want to tell you that I’m beginner to weblog and truly enjoyed your blog. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You actually come with awesome article content. Thank you for revealing your website.

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