Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Carol Bolton Kappel: Birthday Wishes - A Postscript

Carol Bolton Kappel
The following article was published in the Jewish Advocate on 10/24/13. Carol Bolton Kappel has a long history of involvement at Temple Beth Shalom including serving as Sisterhood President as teaching the 2nd grade for many years. Her husband Jonathan is a Past President of TBS.
While taking in a magnificent panoramic view of Boston while running a 10K race last week, it dawned on me that exactly 3 years ago; I was composing a piece for this same column. However, that is where the similarities end. In 2010, I was writing an open letter to my daughter on the occasion of her 19th birthday a very sick woman in the throes of aggressive chemotherapy, treating the breast cancer I had been diagnosed with the previous spring. Over 19 months, I navigated the terrifying world of breast cancer and in the time since, I have been able to precariously heal both physically and emotionally. Consequently, on that brilliantly sunny and crisp day, while running those 6.2 miles; I celebrated my health and reminded myself of the lessons learned from this life altering experience. And as I crossed that finish line which lends itself as a metaphor for that dark and uncertain time, I determined that it only seems fitting to write a postscript to my daughter because on the other side there is light and guarded optimism. 

So to my wonderful and brave daughter, as you approach your 22nd birthday and with the difficult time we experienced as a strong and loving family as a backdrop, I offer these wishes in the hope that all of yours come true.

My wish for you is that you understand not all of your friendships will last a lifetime. Some people will disappoint you and it is perfectly acceptable to move on. There are times when we believe our relationships are more intimate than they are. A crisis has its way of demonstrating who your real friends are. Your dad and I were abandoned by some and held tightly by others. Instead of dwelling on the hurt, we rejoiced in the beauty of those strong bonds and vowed to be good friends back.

Take good care of your physical and emotional health. You have one body, make sure you exercise, pursue healthy habits and craft strategies that help you manage stressful times. For obvious reasons, this is especially important.

Realize your passion and use it for good. There are people who need you. Your voice whether individual or collective, can make a difference. I have become vocal and dogged around breast cancer issues and am pouring my energy into supporting the hospital that saved my life. I want you to live in a world that is free of this wicked disease and I am doing everything in my power to ensure that.

I hope that when the time comes and you commit yourself to that someone, he is a kind, decent, loving and loyal human being. Your father never left my side from the moment I felt the lump in my breast, to the heart shattering news confirming the cancer, as well as throughout this ordeal. He loved me bald, sapped of my strength and scared. In spite of that, we managed to bring humor and hope into our lives.

Speaking of humor, make sure your don’t take yourself too seriously. Even in the midst of a life threatening disease, I laughed and allowed joy in. Perhaps to the outsider, the humor seemed a bit maudlin, but it sustained me.

Recognize and surround yourself with good people. My chemotherapy nurse embodies what a truly good human being is. She took extraordinary care of me during a perilous time. If not for this nefarious disease, our paths might have never crossed and now that they did, I am grateful that she was and remains in my life as a cherished friend.

Appreciate every single day. Welcome and make meaning out of the mundane and routine. Every morning, I am grateful to wake up to another healthy day.

Take those risks. I assure you it will feel better than the regret. I don’t question one single decision I made around the toxic and aggressive treatment that was dispensed. The stakes were too high. You and your dad are counting on me for a long time.

Take the time to simply be. Personally, there is nothing better than sitting on a beach gazing out at the ocean and breathing in the salt air. I take it as my time for me.

Try to remain an ardent Boston sports fan. There is nothing quite like calling this city home and even if you move on, our teams give us a sense of identity and are just plain fun to watch!

My sweet girl, life is a series of moments. You can allow those moments to define you or you can grasp those circumstances and define them. You are poised to make your mark in this world.  We are proud of your resilience during a crisis as well as daily resolve and gentle soul. Now, three years later, I have every reason to believe that I will continue to share birthday wishes for a long time. Happiest of Birthdays!

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