True Horror Show

She went to sleep with the dawn. Moonglow had become her sunshine, evening her sunrise, darkness her domain. No vampire here. There would be no teenagers waiting to hear of her next literary exploits. Her existence was too real, too inane to elicit such devotion.

Six am the numbers glowed in the early morning hush of the room. Time to get to bed. She’d only have four hours until she had to get up and fix her mother’s breakfast, make sure all was well, begin another day.

There were no doctor’s appointments today, so she might have time to get some work done, finally watch that Netflix video she’d meant to watch for the last two months, and perhaps even take a much-needed nap. It didn’t happen. It never happened.

After going outside to get the mail and smelling the ozone in the air, she flicked through the mail to see if there were any bills or get well cards, and placed it on the table. Then she checked to see if her mother needed anything and after having tended to that, sank into the soft comfort of the chair that held her supplying the only comfort to be had from the pressure of constant care.

The ill wind had blown into their lives months ago and with each day came another southbound train roaring through the dust of forgotten objects, trampled hopes and the fear that seeped and spread across the floor like grease. It was no one’s fault. Cancer is the ultimate boogieman. It came out of the shadows one afternoon in a doctor’s office and had revisited them through cancer treatments and conversations. They’d been overwhelmed by a carousel of doctors, appointments and information all riding up and down without letup, shining behind overly friendly smiles that seemed painted or tainted or something false and foolish.

She wondered if those smiles had been handed out to them, along with their diplomas from various medical colleges and universities. “But perhaps I’m being unkind,” she thought. “They do seem to care. They seem genuinely concerned in helping us find a happy…”

The words trailed off into vapor, along with all the other lost words, plans and dreams that faded away and dispersed inside her exhausted mind. She exhaled deeply unaware of any of this. Her mother needed lunch and a fresh diaper. Diapers had become a much-needed necessity due to the side effects of her third chemo infusion.

After throwing it and its contents away, washing off the remnants of feces from her mother’s bottom and the back of her legs, and emptying and cleaning the potty chair, she washed her hands for the seventh time that day. This had become so commonplace that it had made her a liar to her former self who had never believed she could or would ever do such things without retching or running away in revulsion. But there was no place to run away to. Besides her mother needed her and there was no one else who had made themselves available to help.

True, she could have gotten a nurse or a nurse’s aide, but she still felt able to manage all that was expected her. Even as thoughts of her mother’s death plagued her despite the doctor’s assurance that she was not terminal and was expected to make it, she remained resolved in her duties.

They were champions, the two of them, each struggling to win the same battle, each battle scarred and bruised. They would never be the same again. Cancer had changed them, their relationship, everything. Cancer would always be looming in the darkness like a thief waiting for an opportunity to strike. It had taught them a new language. One in which every word, no matter the subject was grayed in shadow.

Normal would never be the same, even if all was well and the cancer was eradicated. They would have to find a new normal, though new normals were born every day as they made their journey from sickness to recovery.

“This was the true horror show,” she thought. “If only it was as easy as being a vampire.”


27 Responses to True Horror Show

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention True Horror Show | What Cancer Brings --

  2. Somehow I’m thinking this is more truth than fiction. I wish you only the best in your difficult journey and hope that if I ever fall ill I have a caring person to take care of me too. Much love, Blackbird. 😉

  3. Suba says:

    Just as she gave you life, you give life to her as well. This is how it should be. Let us all learn from you.

  4. Wow, some honest words giving us a glimpse into the life of a caregiver. The dark side is told with much love and clarity. That onening paragraph was very poetic and really set the tone of the piece. Well done, Rachel.

  5. Khat says:

    I see so much of my family’s story in yours. Thank you for putting this into words. You are doing good, even on those days when you feel useless and alone. Caregiver = hero.

  6. Wow, Rachel, that is one powerful piece of writing. I’m sure it was hard to write, but very beautifully done. Remember to take care of yourself too. My thoughts are with you.

    I’m curious, is the artwork on this page your own? I suspect so. It is stunning.

  7. NL Gervasio says:

    Beautifully written about a topic that’s not so beautiful. I know how close to the truth this is and you have my prayers and thoughts. I also know how hard it is to step into this role, and you are far stronger than I am, and I pray for the same strength and resolve when I have to go there again.

    Love you, girl.

  8. Blackbirdsong says:

    Thank you for the comments everyone. Yes Carrie, it is closer to truth than fiction. It was just easier to write this way for some reason. J.M., not the artwork isn’t mine. My own work is very close to this, which is why I selected it. I do need to find the time to do some artwork again. I need it.

  9. soesposito says:

    This is heartwrenching, honest and as beautiful as life gets. May your new language be love and compassion for yourself, as well. {{{{hugs}}}}}

  10. Kurt says:

    I’ve missed your work – no matter the subject, you’ve always conveyed such a deep understanding of the character and her perils. While I know this piece runs perilously close to non-fiction, it does not convey a feeling of journalism, but is instead wrapped in that poetry that always fills your prose, that ability to capture each image in living detail and wring the emotion from the reader. Nicely done.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Long time no read or review, Kurt. We must work on that. Thank you as always for your kind words of support.

  11. Phyllis says:

    You have all my respect, Rachel. I know it’s more than I would be capable of doing. And then to write about it so movingly. It certainly puts all the DS crap in perspective. I’m proud to be a sister Hellion of yours. Hope things are becoming easier for you both now that chemo’s over.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you Dr. Phyl! Well chemo is over and radiation looms in the not so distant future, but we’ll get through it…somehow.

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  13. Gracie says:

    How beautiful and heartbreaking this is. This is real love portrayed here. Very poetic.

    I’m sending you my best wishes and some hugs, even though this is the first time I’m meeting you.

  14. Genie says:

    I join with all the others in their praise for this piece, Rachel, and add my prayers as well. Blessings to and for you both. “Been there, done that,” and likely will again, so I know the source and the need well. I just wish I could write about it as beautifully as you do.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Genie, you’re too kind, but we’ve been each other’s literary champions for how many years now? Yes, we both know this particular subject all too well. We’ll get through this somehow. I saw an interesting documentary on HBO the other day and it mentioned that there is a life after care giving. So perhaps a subject for another piece here. Perhaps we should collaborate on something.

  15. Jim Bronyaur says:

    Beautiful… a well told story that I understand may be more truth than fiction but if you can write a piece this powerful, I’m sure you’ll be strong enough to carry on any journey that life throws at you.


  16. 2mara says:

    I think this hits close to home for many of us these days. It is beautifully written.

  17. Absolutely one of the best things I’ve read this week. So real, so sad, so common, so horrifying. I like the way you compared the real horror of cancer with the pretend horror of vampires. The bloodsuckers don’t hold a candle to cancer.
    Best of luck to you.

    • Blackbirdsong says:

      Thank you Cathy. Sorry I’m so late responding to your very thoughtful comment. The best to you too.

  18. Kris says:

    Sometimes the best fiction can come from truth and experience, and I felt you had experienced a lot.

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