Tag Archives: hope

It’s A Beautiful Day

Fall is my absolute favorite season.  Humidity gives way to crisp air, trees transform to an array of stunning colors and then there’s the food… enough said.  Aside from all that, fall serves as a subtle, beautiful reminder of the transient nature of life – all that lives eventually dies.

Lately, Chris and I have heard many stories of people suffering from brain tumors that haven’t fared as well as him.  Hearing these heartbreaking stories leads to such a heavy feeling of survivor’s guilt.  Why did Chris survive and other worthy, amazing people have not?  Was it divine intervention or just pure luck?  I’m not sure what I believe, but I often wonder if we are living our lives as we should considering the enormous gift we’ve been given.  Perhaps we should be experiencing every ounce of life we can – going on African safaris, skydiving, volunteering as much time as we can to those less fortunate.  Can the way we live our everyday, middle class America, 9 to 5 life ever be enough to say thank you for the gift of life?

The fact of the matter is I’ll never know why Chris survived and the alternative will likely forever haunt me.

In terms of survivor’s guilt though, I think I do have an answer.  While driving to work this morning, I opened the sunroof and commented to myself on how it was my favorite type of autumn day …and then it hit me.  We don’t need to win a Nobel Peace Prize or travel to some far away land to really live.  To do justice to those who haven’t survived, we just need to live it well – no matter what we’re doing.  So do me a favor today.  Take all of your everyday experiences and try to make it worth something.  Smile more.  Laugh until your belly hurts.  Really taste that morning coffee.  Do something nice for someone just because.   Life doesn’t have to be “big” to be wonderful and fulfilling.

Take joy in all the simple things for those who can’t.

Submitted by Ashley Cusano

Celebrate We Will Because Life Is Short But Sweet for Certain

So you didn’t get that job that you applied for?  Or maybe you got a C as opposed to B in that class?  Did you stay at the office late today, and yet still have piles of work to get through?  Your car’s broken down…again.  Sure these are all legitimate problems and life sure is full of them.   What matters is how we deal with them and how we come out on the other side.

Coming home in May, not even a year removed from receiving my diagnosis, I had a new outlook on life.  My first semester back at law school was eye opening.  Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to do well and maintain my class ranking, but I also refused to push myself too hard and kill myself over schoolwork.  During my hospital stay, my medical team constantly reminded me that I would never be measured by my classroom or courtroom experience.  No matter what happened after my hospital stay, I would always be defined by my determination and perseverance in overcoming obstacle after obstacle.

During the ensuing months following my surgeries, I was a spectator to life.  I viewed everyday occurrences with an open mind.  No longer did I stress about getting an A.  Did I want to?  Of course (I am Type A, after all); but I knew that if I attended class throughout the semester, analyzed the readings, studied and completed practice exams, I had done all that I could do and whatever grade I earned at the end was okay with me.

From day one of the first year, the focus is finding a job and earning exorbitant amounts of money.  Now, let me clear this up for you right now – that’s a fallacy.  Unless you finish in the top 25% of the class, you bounce around from job to job or maybe even through temp agencies and in real life, never make those millions you imagined were possible.  After my performance first year, I didn’t even concern myself with making it into the top quarter of the class, but even if I did, I’d be crazy to push myself that hard.  Life is far too short and fragile to let one insignificant thing in the grand scheme of things consume you.  I watched countless friends obsessively agonize over outlining and analyzing cases and statutes to earn the grade they were striving for.

The same holds true in practice.  I am simply amazed by how many of my peers stress over getting the hours in or getting their motion heard on the court calendar.  I just watch in amazement and think to myself “what if?”  When I witness such events, it takes every ounce of energy out of me to not say something, but I understand it – we all work hard and want good results for efforts.  If you work for a law firm, you have billing requirements that you must meet by years end, and after all, we need to keep our jobs to put food on the table.  But at what cost? It makes me wonder why as a society, we have created all of these human manufactured stressors.

I don’t mean to diminish your worries.  They are real and legitimate.  At the same time, I urge you to never stop focusing on the big picture and seeing what is truly important.  It seems to me that we too often take for granted what we have and lose sight of what really matters because we are too busy focused on nonsense.  Ever since I’ve recovered, I’ve felt like my life is moving in fast motion.  I have since learned to make sure I then take a deep breath and calmly approach the situation when I find myself getting stressed or frustrated.  My persona has changed immensely and I know this is a blessing in disguise.  Gone are the days where I rushed around, driving myself nuts to get everything accomplished by some arbitrary deadline.  I got my second chance, and I refuse to waste it by missing out on life’s joys.

For me, when real trouble arose, the question was not “do you want to have brain surgery?”  There was no option or decision to make – it was  “Chris, you need to have brain surgery.”  Not once, not twice…but four times, in addition to one gamma knife surgery.  I had brain surgery...This was my life and the cards that I was dealt and I coped with it all.  Like other situations, it’s not ideal, but unlike any of the scenarios in the first paragraph, this is a REAL problem and there’s no time to think about it or mull over your decision.  Instead, you have to rise to the occasion and learn to grow from it.  My obstacles have aged me years beyond my date of birth and I no longer stress over situations like those I mentioned here.  I’m the first to admit it – prior to my surgery, I focused on school and finding a job.  However, after my diagnosis, I realized that the important things in life are those that we have in front of us – family, friends and health.  With those three things in hand, the goals are infinite and life is good.  Yet, I still find reasons to throw on this t-shirt…

Mama If That’s Movin Up Then I’m Movin’ Out

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Have any of you ever had a day where you feel like you have no purpose in anything you do, go to bed and repeat?  Well that was my life every day in the ensuing months post-operation.  Despite the many moments that made me just want to cave in and succumb to this new lifestyle, I refused to give in.

“Purpose.  Must find purpose.”  I was determined to not live my life by simply waking up, spilling food all over myself, wandering from room to room forgetting I had just been in there or asking myself “why” I walked into that room, working on my naming skills, trying to read and write simple words learned in kindergarten, watching some TV without any idea as to what the show was even about, sitting at my piano attempting to play just one bar of music, going to bed and repeating. It was a nice thought but reality set in.

After being released, I was still battling a deadly infection and this meant that I would need medication and additional care.  When I saw a car approach the house and two nurses come walking to the door, I thought to myself  “Are you shitting me?”  Luckily they only came to put in the port for the IV and teach my parents how to administer the medication intravenously for the next two weeks.  I couldn’t be happier when they left.  “See ya!  Bye, thanks for coming!”  Wait though – I’m supposed to let my mom handle giving me medication through an IV three times a day for two weeks??

As if I hadn’t known already, that summer reinforced upon me what an awesome mother I have.  She was meticulous in giving me the IV and doing it at the same time every day…yet, I think she was around the nurses a bit too much as she started asking the typical questions such as: “From one to ten, what level of pain are you in?  Do you have a headache?  Do you remember what you had for breakfast?  Can you tell me where we are?  What is your name?”

While it was great to be in the comfort of my own home and surrounded by my family and friends, life was difficult and I was going nowhere fast.  I had moved out of the hospital but not out of the woods.  Something as simple as taking a shower became a hassle.  In order to protect the IV port from getting wet, my poor mother had to cover the port with a medical sleeve, but then for extra measure, she would wrap my arm inside a plastic bag, tape the bag tightly and then cover it all with saran wrap.  Yes, I’m serious.  I felt like Randy from “A Christmas Story”…”Can’t put my arm downnnnn!”  Oh, the triumphs and battles I endured.

At the end of the day though, I didn’t care.  I was alive and I felt that my brain was getting stronger every day even though it was not showing to those on the outside.  While I could never express it, I felt alert and oriented to my surroundings and cognizant of the activity that was taking place around me.  My purpose became clear – I was to smile and enjoy the little things in life, simply because I could, and that I did.