Leading up to the day of Calum’s diagnosis, which was the day after Christmas of 2016, I had a terrible, sinking feeling in my gut. Calum was suffering from a nasty cold and cough, and despite being in the midst of cold and flu season, I could feel something much worse was happening with him. He was so tired and, though he’d categorically been a great sleeper, he could have napped all afternoon if I’d let him. He barely took a bite of food without being coerced. He was so, so pale which was not as unusual for his fair complexion, especially in December, but he had an underlying yellow tone to his skin, and, though I had not previously relied much on the use of a thermometer, I recall him being warm to the touch for about six days running.
All of these signs leading us to Calum’s diagnosis could easily have been symptoms of things other than cancer, and no one suspected it was something so serious, not even his doctors, but I needed to get to the bottom of it. On Christmas day, I was talking with one of Mike’s cousins who has four young boys. I wanted to survey other moms to see if they’d ever dealt with persisting fevers, etc. and, eerily, I said to her, “I think Calum could have cancer.” At the time I almost felt like, if I said it out loud to someone, maybe it wouldn’t come true.
Getting to the bottom of Calum’s illness was one of the most challenging things I ever had to do. To push further and harder to get an answer I desperately did not want to hear was so incredibly difficult. I knew, however, the reasoning from doctors, though mostly logical, was not true to the feeling in my gut. My stomach would continue to be in knots until I could figure out why my son did not seem to be himself.
Since Calum got Leukemia I have done a lot of thinking and soul-searching. I have tried hard to harness the anxiety that comes along with caretaking for a sick child. I sought therapy for a few months, and I have read a lot about managing anxiety and fears. Through my “research” I have also found a lot of frustration. The other day, I was listening to a “Goop” podcast. In case you’re not familiar with Goop, it is Gwenyth Paltrow’s wellness/beauty/fashion/lifestyle brand. The podcast is full of interviews with interesting people and, though there is some great content, there are a lot of lofty and “fake” important conversations taking place. As I was listening, something about the alignment of chakras rolled off the tongue of some Goop guru, when it hit me how easy it is to feed into the bullshit that can easily foster a false sense of peace, and it really started to bother me. I’d been taking advice from someone who named their daughter “Apple” on how to breathe your way out of a problem.
I’m not dogging on meditation, or yoga, or lavender smoothies; I’m down for all that stuff, but you can’t only do that stuff and think it will solve your problems. Sometimes, we need realistic, tangible approaches to feeling better. Sometimes there are problems that are within our control, and they require action. If you’re feeling anxious about a difficult conversation you need to have with a loved one, or upset about not asking for a promotion at work when you know you deserve one, or down in the dumps about not having a job but haven’t truly done what it takes to find one, or worried about that weird brown spot you need to get checked out, or stressed about cleaning your garage or getting started on that business plan, then you have to go ahead and just fucking start doing those things. No amount of breathing exercises or raw, organic eating will make you whole. If you want those feelings to go away, you need to do your due diligence and leave everything on the proverbial playing field. Once you have taken action and, if the rest is truly out of your hands, then it is time to let go of control, align those chakras, start the breathing, and, most importantly, be ready to accept the outcome.
As I mentioned in my example with Calum, it was anything but easy to follow my gut. The thought of what I might uncover scared the life out of me but, because of what my gut was telling me, I knew it couldn’t be ignored. Unfortunately, trusting your gut rarely means taking the path of least resistance and may not always yield the rosiest of outcomes; sometimes it just means doing what is necessary so life can move forward. There are, however, truly amazing things that can only happen from taking that leap of faith, and I know I would rather get going with knowing than stay put with fear. I’m working on applying this lesson to my life in other ways, and I’m hopeful for some fantastic outcomes along the way.