Home > Uncategorized > What I’ve learned on the 10th anniversary of my unexpected blessing

What I’ve learned on the 10th anniversary of my unexpected blessing

I don’t remember anything about March 31, 2004.  A quick check of the internet tells me it was a Wednesday and four American contractors were killed in Falluja. My Google search showed countless stories about it.  I’m sure it dominated the airwaves all day.

For me, I’m guessing I woke up in my 2-bedroom apartment on Davis Lane I shared with Kevin around 6am.  I probably woke the kids, fed them breakfast, and readied them for school.  Next, I probably dropped 7-yr-old Dylan off at Cowan Elementary, 2-yr-old Katie off at The Children’s Courtyard, and headed North on MoPac to the American Cancer Society on Kramer Lane where I was a supervisor for a team of Quitline counselors.  Once there, I’m sure I continued packing up my desk because I was moving into a double supervisor’s cubicle (nicknamed “The Doublewide”) with Heather Adams the next day, but I don’t remember it at all.  I’m guessing it was a pretty ordinary day.

But I remember April 1, 2004.  Not because someone pulled a great, memorable April Fool’s Day prank on me or someone I knew, either.  I spent the morning moving into the left side of  The Doublewide.  It was around 11am and I had my top desk drawer open, arranging pens, paper clips, etc… when I received my first phone call at my new desk.  I glanced at the caller ID and it said “Austin Diagnostic Clinic.” As I reached for the phone, I took a deep breath.  I had seen a neurologist earlier in the week to make sure some symptoms I had been experiencing weren’t serious and after a successful neurologic evaluation, followed up the appointment with a “just to be safe” MRI of my brain.

“Hello?” I offered.  “Hello. This is Dr. Reading with ADC.  Is this Shelley MacAllister?” “Yes,” I responded.  “I just got off of the phone with the radiologist who read your MRI scan and it looks like you have a bleeding brain tumor.” I think that’s almost verbatim what she said.  I can’t quote the rest of it, but it was a relatively quick call.  She had scheduled a follow-up appointment with a neurosurgeon off of MoPac/2222 at 5:30pm that day.  She apologized for having to share this information with me, I think.  I was in shock.  The call ended and I sat there for awhile.  Heather wasn’t there with me so I was alone in The Doublewide.  I just sat there, trying to absorb what I’d just heard. Bleeding brain tumor.  In my head.  Neurosurgeon.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the greatest unexpected blessing I’ve ever received, besides the births of my two kids.  Many of you know the story and some of you lived through it with me.  Here’s a link I wrote about it from 2011… http://wp.me/p1f5C8-26.

No doubt about it, it changed me. I’m trying to think of a way it negatively impacted me, but at this point, I can’t.  It gave me new life.  Recalibrated what I considered “good enough.”  It was hard as hell at the time, though.

I’ve felt alone many times in my life, even when I’ve been around people I care about.  That’s what depression and anxiety will do to you.  But what I went through with my brain scare was different.  It’s hard to describe, but I knew if I was going out, I was doing it alone.  I’m not sure if it was my mind’s way of reconciling what might happen to me, but I searched for peace from within.  “Peace from within” hadn’t resided inside of my heart too often before 2004.  I was acutely aware, no painstakingly, acutely aware, that my life had become a collection of reactionary living.  What I needed was at the bottom of every list, of every facet of my life.  This initial diagnosis threw a mirror up in front of my face and I couldn’t turn away.  I made so many changes in my life that year.  Some were devastating, but had to be done. I basically started over and reset my standards of who I wanted to be, how I wanted to live my life, and what I needed to do to get there.

After 10 years, though, I’m not going to act like it hasn’t been a struggle at times.  2005 had peaks and valleys.  2007 was a really hard year.  2012 was a super tough year, too.  But through it all, some of the seeds planted back in 2004 continue to flourish and mostly thrive from within.  Here are the most precious gifts I still have from my unexpected blessing:

1. Strengthened my relationship with God – this hasn’t changed.  In fact, it’s getting better and better.  “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me came on last night on my car radio.  I was just thinking about how lonely I felt when I was first told about the angioma in my brain and the song popped on the radio. I think it was God reminding me that I was never alone and he’s right.  The most peace I would feel through the scariest parts of 2004 was when I’d think about joining God in Heaven and how it would be.  I could feel this warmth wash over my body and spirit.  Like God was bathing me in His grace.  In His mercy.  In His hope.  In His promise of everlasting peace.

2. Taught me that good things can come out of any situation, even the really bad ones.  This is something I’ve shared with many people around me – friends, family, and strangers – and it’s a very precious view to have of life. A very remarkable gift.  You just don’t know what is going to happen next sometimes.  Spend your time assuming the worst or expect the best.  Either way, what’s going to happen will happen.  Don’t you want to spend it being positive? I can lose sight of this at times, but I always come back to it.

3. I truly understand gratitude.  Gratitude for time, gratitude for energy, gratitude for health, gratitude for my family, gratitude for peace, etc… I know what gratitude means.  Sometimes I have to remind myself and this one can get away from me pretty quickly, but I can always get myself back on track when I stop and breathe for a moment. Okay, I can get myself back on track eventually.  The foundation has been set for #3, but I still have work to do to live in the moment long enough, just to be present and not living in the past or looking too far into the future.  Being present in the “now” is the key to gratitude.

4. It’s okay if my needs come first sometimes.  In fact, it’s mandatory.  I can take time and do things for myself and my mom guilt is tolerable.  This is soooooo important and leads into my next gift…

5. I’m a runner, now, and not just ANY runner.  I’m a Northside Runaway with Rogue. This one is big.  I don’t think I ever would’ve had the confidence in myself to be a runner if I hadn’t gone through the experience of my health scare.  I most certainly wouldn’t have thought it was okay to run on a WEEKDAY EVENING when school was in session and on Saturday mornings, too.  No way!  But that was my old way of thinking.  New Shelley learned the #4 lesson.  My kids have a healthier mom – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, too.

For these next 10 years, I hope I can do a better job of living in the moment and having a more sustained sense of gratitude.  I hope to continue focusing on what I have and letting go of my “what if’s” and “what’s next.”  I was beyond lucky 10 years ago to be given this unexpected blessing.  I never would’ve had the sense of urgency or clarity or strength to make the changes in my life that I made back then.  The trajectory of my life is still on an upswing thanks be to the grace of God, a very loving support system of family and friends, and the series of my own personal decisions 10 years ago to use this unexpected blessing to put my life on a better path.

Peace out –

Shelley

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