In Spite of Hell and High Water


Well it’s been another eventful week here at the old homestead. We’ve had a couple of doctor visits because mom was supposed to get her hip x-rayed after her latest fall to make sure she didn’t have a fracture, and the sewer backed up in the basement.

Thankfully – and yes, I am thankful, when the sewer backed up, the only things that came into the basement was soapsuds (because I was using the washing machine) and musty old leaves. The guy who snaked out the sewer said if it had flooded again, well, there wouldn’t have been any reason to be thankful.

So, yeah, I’m definitely thankful.

I’m also happy that mom’s hip isn’t fractured and she’s on the mend. I think she’s finally learned that she needs to use her walker at all times until she gets her strength back and that she hasn’t lost any independence by using it.

I’m not writing about being thankful because of the holiday coming this week, because I don’t believe in only taking one day aside to acknowledge thanks to God or anyone else. I find this especially true after the year I’ve had. I have found multiple reasons for being thankful and I express it on a daily basis. Sometimes it just pours out of me because I am overwhelmed by the love and support I’ve constantly received even in the midst of death, cancer and my almost constant exhaustion.

This has been a hellish year. I can’t think of a year in my life that was worse. Perhaps that’s because so much has been hoisted on my shoulders. When I was a child and undergoing abuse, I had no responsibilities, except to go to school and behave my teachers. I didn’t have to worry about cooking meals, paying bills or any of the things adults have to concern themselves with on a daily basis. I should also add that some of the particulars of my childhood are a blur, so while I remember what happened to me, some of what I endured exists in fog. While those years were tough, and no doubt, truly the worst of my life – because the scars from that time still affect me – I can honestly say this year has come close to surpassing that time. But I am made of strong stuff. Being an abuse survivor has helped me endure this experience as well, because when you’ve survived something like that and are tested to that degree, you receive a certain confidence or perhaps it’s a belief that you can get through things, no matter what.

Does that mean it’s been easy? No. But it does mean that I had the resolve not to fall apart. I’ve come close to it or at least felt so overwhelmed that it seemed inevitable, but in those moments, my determination or perhaps pure cussedness came to the surface and I got through it somehow.

There were times I truly felt like the personification of the poem, “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley, but I suspect that every person on a cancer journey feels that same way at times. My mom likes to quote this poem, so it’s something I’ve grown up hearing and repeating.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this poem, here it is:

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The truth is, I think all of us have unconquerable souls or selves. We are all stronger than we realize and sometimes it takes something like cancer to make us aware of just how powerful we really are. Of course, as you know, I haven’t been alone. There is strength in numbers and my friends continue to bless me with their love and support. So that even in the midst of my father’s death, my mom’s cancer and everything that these events have entailed, I’m OK.

Perhaps in the end, being thankful is a way of being defiant in the face of so much turmoil. It would be so easy to just fall apart, but in the end, I’d have the task of having to get up and get myself back to where I am now, and who has the energy to do that? To be honest, falling apart sounds like a luxury at this point and it isn’t time for such things. So I call doctors, and use a wet vac and do whatever I need to do to keep things going for mom and me.

Life does go on and we all have the choice to let things conquer us or conquer them ourselves. Do I think I’ve beaten mom’s cancer? Of course not, but I’ve beaten the despair that almost destroyed me when she was diagnosed. Do I still have moments of sadness? Of course I do. I’m human, but they pass and the truth is, they always will. Some say happiness is fleeting, well so is grief. It’s all fleeting really. Everything passes sooner or later, so you might as well find whatever joy you can to help yourself get through it.

I want to add a special thank you to everyone who reads this blog whether you leave comments, write me personal messages or not. I appreciate you taking the time to read my words. Please remember to be thankful every day and that means even on the bad days. We are all of us blessed in so many ways and so often, we don’t even realize it. You are blessed with being alive, with your families, friends and loved ones, with whatever gifts you have, with your strength and most of all for being your own unique wonderful selves.

I hope I’m not sounding saccharine or sentimental, because I truly hate that sort of thing. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I definitely have a cynical, sarcastic nature. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from this hellish year, is that I am blessed. I wasn’t aware of it so much before, but I am now. I have been changed, for the better I hope, so yes, I am definitely thankful.

This entry was posted in Abuse, breast cancer, Cancer, Caregiving, Coping, Death, Friends, Mom, Survival and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to In Spite of Hell and High Water

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention In Spite of Hell and High Water | What Cancer Brings --

  2. William Reschke says:

    Sister, knowing you the way I do I can feel these words streaming from your innermost heart. You have always been a strong woman, a brave person, a steadfast and true friend and a ferocious advocate. Those that love you, love you dearly. You reside in their hearts as you reside in my own.

    These words will always stay with me:
    “Some say happiness is fleeting, well so is grief. It’s all fleeting really. Everything passes sooner or later, so you might as well find whatever joy you can to help yourself get through it.”

    Now, cut the sentimental crap and let’s play Exquisite Corpse! Love you, sister!

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      LOL Bill, yes it’s time we had a nice go round of Exquisite Corpse. We’ll have to get Cindy to play with us too. Such fun.

      Thank you for the comment, but most of all, thank you for being my friend for almost twenty years now. Dang we’re old.

  3. SaraZ says:

    Such a perfect sentiment, Ray. There’s a power in being thankful even during the roughest of times. It’s easy to say, “Why me?” But it’s wiser to say, “Thank God it’s not me more often!”

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you Sara. I sometimes have those “why me?” moments, but really in the end, I know I’ve been blessed to be strong enough to get through this. It doesn’t mean it’s easy, but this experience isn’t supposed to be easy.

  4. Genie Rayner says:

    And I am thankful for you, my friend — as we share in caregiving duties for our respective parents, our writing, our hearts and souls. Bless you always!

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Genie, writing is therapeutic. This blog has been a lifesaver to me throughout this whole experience. I’ve met some wonderful people who’ve shared some amazing stories with me. We’re all shoulders in arms, I guess. I certainly feel part of a community now. In the beginning, mom and I felt completely alone, but we definitely can’t say that now. Bless you right back

  5. James K. Blaylock says:

    You’re so very right, none of us are truly aware of our blessings until they cease to be… and they are just gone. Then we’d have time to sit and sadly reflect on what once was. Regret can be a blood-thristy beast too!

    I love that poem! I had never really heard of it until about ten years ago. But now it has so much meaning for me. Yes, I guess we all have our mountains to scale and demons to fight. This life throws stuff at us daily, and it’s better to face the oncoming bullets and arrows than to hide. Even if we’re tough as leather afterwards.

    I hope your mom does stick with using the walker until she truly is strong enough to do it for herself. Really we all want to prove to ourselves that we still have got it, but sometimes we simply overdo it. Then bad stuff can sadly follow.

    I hope you’re finding some time for yourself as well. That way you can calm you mind, body and soul. After all you’ve dealt with enough heartache and pain for a very long spell Rach. Focus on yourself, as well as your mother’s needs. Both of you deserve a nice peaceful rest. Be blessed!


    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you James, and yes, mom and I definitely need some peaceful rest. Of course now I have a cold and all I want to do is sleep, so perhaps that’s part of my rest. Thank you also for being such a good and supportive friend James.

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