Danger and Opportunity

The Chinese character for “crisis” is a mixture of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” So, when my life felt endangered this week, by an mole in my eye, God in His mercy turned it into an opportunity. An opportunity to appreciate my life as never before.

I thought I was over the “it can’t happen to me” attitude when I had a daughter with Down syndrome, something that happens in about 1% of births to women in their thirties. I know it can happen to me. I have two friends, Lisa and Pat, who are breast cancer survivors, and one, Mary, who wasn’t. I, like Mary, can die in my late forties, if God wills it.

But still, I was taken aback when, last June, the ophthalmologist told me I could have a uveal melanoma in my right eye, right near the optic nerve, and that removing it — which might be necessary to save my life — could destroy the vision in that eye. I was paralyzed with fear, in my bed, watching my life pass before my eyes.

It took the prayers of my little saint, and many of you to get me back on my feet. Then a check-up at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary told me it wasn’t cancerous. Yet. I made an appointment to return December 6, relieved that the spot wasn’t cancer but wishing to be done with this threat on my life. It was not to be.

Yesterday, on St. Nicholas Day, Francisco took me into Boston and the re-check was good news, the “freckle” has not changed. Yet I was dismayed to hear that I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life, visiting Boston every six months for intensive and expensive eye examinations. This spot could change and threaten my life or vision at any time. It was hard to accept, even in the midst of gratitude for a reprieve. And a reprieve it is. For now. So I returned home with a renewed appreciation for the gifts I have been given. The gift of family, the gift of beauty around me, the gift of faith. Appropriate for the feast day of a man whose legacy is intertwined with gift giving in the Christmas season.

We ate lunch in the hospital cafeteria, overlooking Cambridge on the Charles River, eating hot chicken soup, mindful of the icy winds whipping up waves on the water below. Navigating through the city to the Mass Pike, I pointed out places the girls and I had enjoyed dinner, the preview of “Voyage of the Dawn Treader” or hors d’oeuvres with the Catholic New Media Celebration. Boston is a city with happy memories. I realized that it had been far too long since my husband and I were together in a big city. When we were single, Francisco was obtaining his green card at Immigration in Lower Manhattan, which brought us there a few times. Just before Christmas in 1991, we picked up my engagement ring at a Cuban jewelers on Canal Street. He didn’t put in on my finger in the store, he waited until we were in the multilingual bustle of a cafe in Little Italy. He slipped in on my finger, and, to his horror, the conversation halted; all eyes turned on us as smiles turned to applause. It was one of the highlights of my life, and walking homeward through Little Italy, as huge soft snowflakes fell, I felt as though I could fly.

Yesterday was just as magical. Driving home through the Connecticut countryside, we took scenic Route 169 past prep schools on rolling hills, past dairy farms and quaint antique shops, and though it was sunny, snowflakes filled the air. I was playing Christmas carols in the car, it was another moment of perfection in our lives as we planned when to buy our Christmas tree, and whether to have an open house with our neighbors for Christmas. We surprised Christina by picking her up at school and she yelled, “Daddy” and threw herself into his arms. Her entire class greeted her as they filed by, and we arrived home to a roaring fire and contented family.

Mom was going to be all right, for now.

Life is good. Life is very good.

Deo gratias.

Leticia Velasquez

One Response to “Danger and Opportunity”
  1. Jax says:

    Another beautifully said reminder of why we should cherish everything and everyone good in our lives.

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