• Jessi Stetina

Thank you

This week I completed my first stretch of chemotherapy. I’m going to cover all the details of that in another post this week, so stay tuned, but the first thing I need to get out to how truly humbled I am by all of my family and friends and their dedication to me and mine.

I’m overwhelmed. I don’t believe it.

I give off confidence in a way that people may assume it comes naturally, but I assure you, it does not. It is a defense mechanism, and I am always shocked when I find out people truly like and enjoy being around me. I can be a strong personality, and I know that has certainly made me some enemies in my time. I guess I never realized that the scales have tipped, and that more people care about me than I ever knew.

I didn’t have a great childhood. My parents split and divorced when I was an only child and very young, and I wouldn’t call the subsequent years as incredibly stable. I bounced back and forth between my mom and my dad, both who were struggling with addictions and poor decisions. We stayed at my grandparents houses sometimes, had apartments with roommates sometimes, and I have memories on more than one occasion of sleeping it out in our car with my dad. Eventually, they both found themselves in more stable scenarios, finding long-term partners and beginning to build families. Families that I always felt that I was an outsider in.

Time continued, and I continued to feel like an outsider. An abuser in my life for a long period of time made sure I continued to be isolated. With armfuls of childhood baggage, I naturally acted out and had some red flags. Instead of seeking to find the source and consoling this, this person used my every childhood indiscretion to further point out how I wasn’t a normal child and didn’t deserve to be happy or part of their family. I don’t hate this person now, because I recognize that she was so very broken. However, I do choose not to have her in my life, which is a decision I have not regretted for a second. I hope she has happiness, or finds it, but we are not meant to be part of that for each other.

So the isolation continued, until the ultimate act of isolation set me free. I was told I could no longer live at my house, but instead would have to live with my grandparents. What many people hear as a cruel act, I now count as my salvation. Raymond and Joyce Bathgate opened their home to me, their hearts already long being full of love and support for me. It wasn’t easy. I was broken, I was in pain, and I was scared. But they loved me. Loved me hard. Gave me space and support. And for the first time in my life, I felt that I might be worth love. I met my sweet best friend, Lindsey, living there, I grew, and had what I would say is a fairly normal high school experience (for someone who goes to high school with 13 people in their class, but that’s another story).

As wonderful as that part of the story is, it’s unfortunately not as easy as that. A few good years don’t fix deep emotional scars, and as I entered early adulthood, I began to suffer from a pretty serious depression. I pushed people away, and I literally ran away to another state, thinking I could outrun my own thoughts. I spent a few years there, growing, experiencing life and hard knocks. I made amazing friends I value to this day, but it wasn’t for me to stay. I was offered a chance to come back to Maryland and rebuild, and I took it.

So I share all of this because I’ve never been the gal with a billion friends. I’ve never been a bridesmaid. I value everyone I have, but I wouldn’t say I’ve ever had a ‘crew’. Scattered, very dear people, yes. So even as a 35 year old woman, I’ve always found it hard to believe that people really truly like me. I know I have the love and support of my extended family who always worked hard to make me feel included. I know I have an incredible husband whose dedication I have never doubted for a moment. I have children who are expressive with their love and sing my praise as a mother.

But am I truly liked?

You find out how much you’re loved and liked when you get cancer. I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone in the world, the uncertainty of my life, the toll on my family emotionally, physically, and financially. But I would have never in a million years believed I had the level of love and support I do. The amount of people who have cried with me. Who have cried for me. Who have offered up their time, their resources, their finances, their overall support – I feel I over use the word overwhelming, but there just isn’t another word that will do.

I’ll tell you what cancer has killed – it has killed the voice of a scared 11 year old girl in my head that tells me people don’t really care about me. She’s gone. Instead my head is filled with the kind words you all have offered. The support you have shown. The hugs given.

Thank you. I’m going to beat this, and I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to give back the love and support I have received.

And it will never be enough.


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