Even though I already have another blog post that I’m editing, I’ve started writing this one because it just feels like something that needs to come first.
Mom is having her last radiation treatment today.
It feels monumental and I guess it is.
This is big and I don’t want to lessen its impact. I do that enough with other things and it’s habit I need to break. I do it with myself all the time. When someone tells me how strong I’ve been in taking care of mom while also dealing with my dad’s death, and all the emotion that came from that, my typical reaction is to shrug it off. But the truth is I am strong in spite of myself and this moment is big.
It’s been five and a half weeks of weekly treatments. It’s also the last of the big cancer treatments that mom will have to endure. From now on, she will take pills that will help to prevent a reoccurrence. Beyond that, I have no idea except that mom will finally be able to recuperate and we will both have to find our way back to whatever is left of our old lives. We’ll do as I said in a previous posting—find a new normal and slowly learn how to navigate that particular terrain.
In the meantime, I’m going to take some time off for me. I see a few days ahead of me vegging in front of the TV watching old movies or catching up on some of the doctor’s appointments that I’ve missed. Who knows? I’ll figure it out. Part of that process will of course include getting back to work. I’m lucky. My lead editor has been amazingly understanding throughout the course of this whole experience, and told me to take off whatever time I needed. He also told me that my job would be there when I was ready to get back to it. I know many caregivers don’t hear those words and are forced to make tough choices about whether to continue working or not. So yeah, I’m lucky and fully appreciate that things could have been much different.
Mom is lucky too. She’s not terminal. I’ve repeated this to myself at various times when she was sick much like the way a child wraps themselves in a comfortable blanket. So we’re both lucky, because many people don’t get to hear those words, I see some of them in the waiting room at the oncology center and it’s hard because this is such an arbitrary situation. None of us has any idea about the how or why of this situation. We’ve all heard about people who smoke cigarettes who never get sick and those who never smoked but managed to die from lung cancer.
The truth is that cancer is a senseless thing, and there are no easy answers as to why one person gets it while another one doesn’t, or why one person is terminal and another one isn’t.
It’s not fair, but few things in life are.
I hope that the doctors are right about mom not being terminal, and it’s going to take some time for me to relax into that possibility. I do know that I will never take any of this experience for granted. There’s no way that I can. First of all, I am not the same person I was at the beginning of all this. I have grown in ways that I haven’t even begun to fully take stock of. And I think I’m a better person than I was before. I started this journey in a fetal position and slowly learned how to stand up and walk. At first everything felt overwhelming and impossible, but now those impossibilities have become possibilities and what was overwhelming has become manageable.
Cancer also taught me how to put things in perspective.
Mom and I were talking about how things that used to upset us before don’t seem as important anymore. We’re both pretty feisty women at times, but we pick our battles now and that’s a good thing. I’m sure that others can tell similar stories about the changes they’ve seen in themselves and others as a result of a cancer diagnosis.
I think the most surprising thing is that it hasn’t all been bad or as bad as I expected it to be. There have been moments of sadness and fear, but there have also been moments of joy and happiness. Most of those moments of joy and happiness have occurred because of the wonderful support system of friends and medical personnel who have helped us to get through this. I hate to think how we would have made it without them.
There is so much I could say, but it’s getting late and I need to get to bed. Tomorrow is a big day after all, I want to be fully able to enjoy it.
I hope that everyone who reads this has a similar day someday. There are so many good people out there struggling with cancer, cancer treatments and caregiving, and I wish there was something I could do to help them. But I barely have enough energy to do what I have to for mom, and even with that I always feel like I’m not doing enough.
I started this blog as an outlet to help me process my feelings and try to find some positive aspects of this experience. But it’s like that old adage about dropping a pebble in a pond and having no idea how far the ripples flow. I’ve been happily humbled to find that both cancer patients and caregivers have read this blog and found some of my postings helpful. I want to thank each one of you who has commented here or written to me personally. You have no idea how much your words have meant to me and encouraged me to keep writing.
The truth is that cancer sucks, but cancer patients and their caregivers don’t.
Thank you for your support. I wish you the very best.