Autism's scary but Cancer's scarier- at least to a parent I guess. Autism isn't usually something that is completely life threatening, we treat it's symptoms and as a parent we go through the motions. We grieve the loss of the potential life our child might have had, and begin to move on to an acceptance of a "different" life and then begin to move on again- it's a process.
My friend Jill had a great way of talking about the grieving process a parent goes through when having a child with Autism and basically it's a never ending roller coaster of grieving and then starting all over again. For some parents the grieving is harder than others, but I have found a sort of 'kinship' among my community of Autism parents that has supported me and driven me to become stronger and do things I never thought possible.
Five years ago, I met my sisters through an online chat/blog. We started our own exclusive "island" that we know to be our safe haven, tucked away on the internet, exclusive only to us. This Island is a place where we know not only our deepest darkest secret feelings about Autism, but we know mostly everything about eachother. After a year of hanging out with my Island sisters, I found myself on a plane to Nashville to meet a bunch of women I only knew online. Strange- I know, but the best risk I have ever taken. These ladies have taught me I am stronger than I thought ever possible, and shown me unconditional love and support whenever I need it. I love my sisters!
But the kinship of Autism didn't just begin and end on the Island. It has been four years since I met my better half- Nicole. We met through our nonprofit- Autism Resource Network. Together with our awesome comrades Myca and Chris, we have put together the most important parent support network in Northwest Michigan. Nicole isn't just a buddy, girlfriend, co-worker, she's my sister. She has taught me through her chilled out, and sometimes socially odd ways, that everything's gonna be ok. She is complete opposite of me- she gets up early in the morning and goes to bed early. She makes her bed, cooks, is crafty, organized, attentive, completely level-headed, did I mention organized? Yea- that's my Nicole. She rocks in a crisis. She holds it together while I come completely unglued, dramatic and emotional. The best part is that she totally lets me. She just sits back and watches the show of my crazy, and then later in her calm manner and wisdomous way, tells me how it is, how she sees it, and helps me to move on. Nicole knows my deepest darkest secrets about how I feel about Autism. She somehow understands how I feel being about being a Mom to 4 kids when she has only 1 child. Nicole gets me. She doesn't judge and isn't afraid to kick my ass when I need a good ass kickin'- even when I don't want to hear it. Fearless- yea, that's my Nicole. Nicole is the reason I haven't closed up the shop on ARN many times, she brings me back to what's good and right and together we move on.
Nicole and I have solved the world's problems many times over hour long phone conversations, texting email and probably mental telepathy. We have solved Autism. We have found solutions and what-if's for every scenario. In the world of Autism and ARN, Nicole is the brains behind the operation- I'm just the operation. When you look at ARN you see me, but it's really Nicole. She likes it that way, she's not an attention hog and loathes public speaking.
Since we have solved Autism- or at least in our own minds anyway. What do we do about Cancer? Lymphoma? WHATTTT?
Yea- Nicole has Lymphoma, Cancer. Big blow- we just found out yesterday. What do you do with this? I mean, we just started to get Autism figured out and now Cancer? Honestly, I had this crazy fleeting thought of now running a nonprofit for Cancer?! I can't do it without my partner. Nicole and I have been buddies through all this, and I've just begun to see the kinship of Autism. Cancer is a dirty word....SSSSHHHHHHH! Make it stop!
Not that easy. I don't like it. I actually hate it. hate it.. hate .. hate it.. makes me want to scream.
My best friend Dawn died of breast cancer 7 years ago at the age of 32. I will never forget because Harrison's birthday is on the day she died. She knew we were trying to have another baby and were frustrated with the process, a year after she died we had our baby. Then 2 years later- we had Autism. Through the grief, I found sweetness in a baby boy that melts my heart every time I see him. It's really like no other. I have compassion and joy when I think of the challenges we've been through. Isn't that really weird? Maybe I'm cracked, but it's true. The thing I do know is Cancer was terrible. It took my friend and left me empty. What do you do about Cancer?
If Nicole and I have Autism we are a team, a force to be reckoned with. Cancer?? What do we do with that? I guess maybe she's my rock, and I feel like I'm not organized enough to rise to the challenge and kick her ass when she needs it kicked, or strong enough to hold it together when she needs support. Maybe that's where all this ambivalence is coming from.
So- ok... Nicole- if you have the Cancer, I have the Crazy enough to match it. Bring it on girlfriend! We can figure it out and kick this Cancer's ass. I know 4 years ago Autism was a scary beast but we tamed it and now Cancer is goin' down....