As parents we all feel a deep sense of pride, a heart overflowing with love and an abundance of special memories, don’t we? We wonder where the years have gone and how in the heck they have gone so fast. We smile. For me, each year on the 10th of January, I have all of the above plus a very strong and very deep sense of gratitude.
Today is my son’s birthday. Matthew is 14 years old and every year on his birthday, I feel like it is my celebration, for I was the one gifted someone so special.
At 5 weeks old Matthew was diagnosed with the chronic life threatening disease, Cystic Fibrosis (CF). CF predominantly affects the respiratory (lungs) and digestive systems, and produces a thick glue-like mucous. The mucous is an ideal environment for bacteria and infection to form, causes an in ability to digest fats and is the major factor in the resulting decline in health.
At the time we were told his life expectancy would be 28 years. 28 years old!?!?!?!?! I beg your pardon? How disgusting, that based on statistics alone, someone I don’t even know gets to put a timeline on my child’s life and to make that the focal point of his existence. This was my beautiful perfect little boy and here I was being asked to face the end of his life when his life was just beginning. He was perfect! All I could do was hold him.
For any parent, to have a diagnosis with a timeline put on your child’s life cuts to the absolute core. It is beyond distressing and will easily consume you if you let it. In amongst the outpouring of tears, the broken heart and despair grew feelings of defiance – a will to conquer and a protectiveness I had never felt before. I was not to realise the extent of that protectiveness until 9 years later when I truly became a lioness protecting one of her cubs.
Matthew is a quirky little fellow. He has endured more bullshit, more struggles, more trials, more pain, more hurt and more challenges that most of us will in a lifetime. Then, one day, four years ago on top of everything else, he fell out of a tree and suffered a serious head injury. It was then that I really understood what I was dealing with. In no uncertain terms I understood that I as a parent I would do ANYTHING for my child and I clearly understood how flipping lucky I was and how bloody lucky the rest of the family and our friends were that Matthew was here and – dare I say it – breathing!
I remember days, maybe a week after his accident, after being in intensive care, through those times of the unknown, meeting with the rehabilitation staff to go over treatment plans saying, “I don’t care what we have to do, I just don’t. He’s here. We will do what it takes, we are just so lucky he is here”. I meant every word I said with every bit of my heart!
Every inch of my being was driven to do what ever I could to help my boys – almost to the detriment of myself. Gosh we worked hard, did it tough – really tough. Typing this brings me to tears. I remember thinking, jeepers it was supposed to be CF that was going to take him, but it could be anything. Life is precious. There is no promise of tomorrow. All we have is the now. Nothing more and nothing less.
As a society we have become incredibly focussed on the future and the ‘What If’. We live in worry and fear about what may or may not happen. We often focus on materialistic BS and the things that don’t matter. The small stuff. All that really matters is people. My people for me. Your people for you. Then other people for all of us. But it is people before ‘stuff’ that matters. Always.
About 6 months after Matthew’s accident I came to a realisation. I knew in my heart of hearts that the only way forward was to make the best of every day. I had to choose my attitude and change my mindset even more. I have always believed there is a positive in every situation. I believe it is true, that as hard as it is to see light through the darkness, there are reasons for why things happen. Fair or not, there are positives there, you just have to look. At that time, I changed everything in our family’s life. Everything.
I went from a victim to a victor. From burying my head in the sand to dealing with things head on. I realised life is such a gift. It is precious. It is not promised.
So each year on the 10th of January I thank my lucky stars that I have had the pleasure of having my beautiful boy with me for another year, a year that was not promised. Knowing that what ever may happen in my life, I surrender control. In doing so I take every opportunity to live a full life with my babies and to give them the best opportunity for good health, happiness and fulfilment as people.
Happy 14th birthday Matthew! You have gifted me more than you will ever know. X