Something in the Universe…

 

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It feels like I’m walking through mud lately. I’m not only physically exhausted, but mentally exhausted as well. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given what I’ve gone through in the last few months, but still, there is a part of me that questions it.

I suppose I’m still healing not only from my surgeries, but also from the mental anguish of being on a cancer journey. I think this may sound odd, but I don’t think I began to really feel the full brunt of everything until recently.

While mom was going through chemo and radiation, my father was dying and I was doing everything to try to help them. There was no time to feel anything but the constant need to push myself.

Now that need isn’t there. Dad has been dead for a year and mom is doing great. Her last cancer screen came back clear and she’s continuing to get stronger every day. Now it seems like it’s my turn to finally be the one who is in need and I don’t know how to handle it.

Stupid me, I just thought I’d continue on working like a fiend and coming up with project after project to work on and suddenly it was like something in the universe just said, “no.”

It’s a life lesson I’ve had to learn and relearn before. I can’t push everything back forever. Eventually I have to deal with things. I thought I was, but my exhaustion signals to me that perhaps that’s not true. I was there, I was present and I did deal with things as far as my parents were concerned. But as far as I was concerned, no.

I hid myself in my job and let it become more important to me than it should be and when I began to make mistakes, I couldn’t do that anymore. Now I’m slowly getting back to work and trying to keep things in perspective, and yes, I do have some projects that I’m working on.

By the way, I will be having hopefully the last of my surgeries on Tuesday, and then I will be done. The precancer I had removed, grew back, so this time instead of having it removed in a doctor’s office, I’m having it removed by a surgeon. I’ll be home the same day, and should be fine in no time.

Now, after everything I’ve been through, I have finally learned that caregivers need care and sometimes it takes something in the universe to help us come to that realization.

What cancer brings, is the realization that it’s as OK to be weak as it is to be strong. I am not made of stone, but flesh and blood.

Posted in breast cancer, Cancer, Caregiving, Coping, exhaustion, hope, Mom, Survival, wisdom | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Surviving Hurricane Cancer


Well, we’ve survived Hurricane Irene. By the time she arrived up here in the upstate New York region, she’d been downgraded to a tropical storm, so all we’ve had is a grey rainy day with some minor flooding in lower lying regions.

Perhaps this is how it feels to those of you who have survived cancer. We hear about it, prepare for it, but when it’s there it’s a whole different ballgame. So then, we are forced to face up to it, endure it and hopefully live to see another day. Of course, there is a huge difference between Hurricane Cancer and Hurricane (Insert Name). Hurricane Cancer does not just attack one region or people, it is global. It does just come and go in a matter of days or hours, but lingers causing damage and death for days, weeks, even years.

Last week, before all this talk of hurricanes, mom and I went to the New York State Fair. Supposedly, it’s the largest state fair in the U.S. I don’t know, but it’s a late summer tradition that we’ve enjoyed ever since I was a little girl. We went last year when mom was first recovering from chemo and was almost through radiation. Dad was gone and we desperately needed something to distract us, cheer us up, something.

When we went last year, mom was thrilled to see a booth in one of the buildings dedicated to providing information and selling various t-shirts and other things, about breast cancer. We didn’t notice that there weren’t any items for survivors. Perhaps this was because, at the time, we weren’t thinking in those terms.

This year we noticed, or I should say, mom noticed. She wanted something that acknowledged that she was a survivor and there was nothing there. Everything was about fighting or preventing breast cancer, which obviously we both believe in, but there was nothing for those who’d had it and survived. Having cancer wasn’t acknowledged in any way, and certainly without those who have survived and beaten cancer, we have no hope for own survival should we receive a diagnosis nor do we have the knowledge of what that journey is really like.

Even though I was there beside mom during her cancer treatments, I have no idea what it felt like to receive a diagnosis or battle cancer. Mom lives with the reality every single day, that even though for now, she is cancer free, she may not always be. Again, I have no idea what that’s like. I only know that her cancer came without a warning bell or siren. There were no high winds or water, just a slow progression of tiredness that after time, couldn’t be ignored. Cancer is a hurricane that never dies down. You may exist in the eye, but there is always the fear that the storm will return to devastate you even more than it did the first time.

So yes, mom and the other survivors out there definitely deserve their own booth at the fair. Now perhaps there is one; the New York State Fair is huge to say the least. The midway itself is over one mile long. So hopefully when we go again tomorrow with some friends, we’ll find that booth.

Mom already has a survivor bracelet. Ironically, I was shopping with my dear friend Diana, at Michael’s the day after mom and I had gone to the fair, and there was a display of breast cancer decorative items. Among the streamers and pink ribbon decals, stickers and lord knows what else, was a little rubber bracelet that simply said, “survivor.”

Here’s to you, mom and everyone else who has survived the storm. Here’s to those who didn’t make it, but fought, just the same. Here’s to you. Here’s to all of you.

 

Posted in breast cancer, Cancer, Coping, hope, Mom, Survival | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

What Really Matters

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Surreal by Robson Batista

To begin with, I’m sorry I haven’t been here in a couple of weeks. I’ve been having some computer problems. But along with those computer problems I’ve received some realizations that I want to share with you. You know how things go, you think everything in your life has finally reached that comfortable non-stressful place and suddenly something happens to jar you out of that dream state and back to reality.

First, my laptop started acting wonky and then my desktop monitor died. It took me several days to get my laptop working correctly and then a dear friend gave me a new monitor because she’d recently upgraded her system. So once again, I was feeling like life had reached that happy place we’ve all heard so much about.

That feeling didn’t last for long, because my desktop, which was working perfectly, suddenly wouldn’t turn on. I prefer to do all of my professional work on my desktop because I have it in the family room. It’s downstairs and since mom prefers to stay on the main level of our home, I pretty much have it to myself. It’s a great room with a fireplace, a comfortable couch and my work station.

So anyway, after all this I got quite stressed. I could feel myself become anxious and my left eye started twitching, which was quite distressing. Suddenly a little voice of reason said, “if this is the worst of your problems, you’re actually doing OK. So quit over-dramatizing this and move on.”

After I had calmed a bit, another realization surfaced. I had choice in this situation, so why was I getting anxious? I could either buy a new desktop or take it in to get fixed. Either way I had power over how this situation turned out.

This may seem like a no-brainer to you, but to me, who was really feeling like I was on the verge of losing it, it was what I needed to hear.

Ever since mom’s cancer diagnosis, I have learned that really, outside of our friends and family, nothing else really matters. I knew this before, but cancer has a way of really drumming down that particular truth. In fact, I feel like whatever I knew before pales in comparison to what I know now.

Before I used to be so worried about things that I could just care less about now. Mom is OK. She is irreplaceable. I can click a button and buy a new computer. So, in the end, it doesn’t really matter.

During this time of realizations, a dear friend who was supportive of me during the time mom was ill, found out that his wife had terminal cancer. I won’t use his name out of respect for him, but hopefully if he reads this post, he will know that what I write is meant as a tribute to him and his beautiful wife.

I’ve known him for a couple of years and one of the first things I learned about him, was this wife was the love of his life. He wrote about how they met, how she made him laugh, and about how much she meant to him. She was diagnosed with one of the types of cancers that kills quickly. During the time she was ill, he poured out his feelings on his blog about what he was going through. It broke my heart to see him in such pain. Within a few weeks, she was gone and now my friend is left to find some of way of going on without her.

My computer has been in the shop for two weeks now. It’s fixable and not for too much money either. I wish every problem we face in life were this easy to fix.

But more importantly, I wish my friend peace in the wake of his loss.

Image by ~robsonbatista at deviantART.

Posted in Cancer, Death, Friends, hope, Mom | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

An Odd Sense of Comfort

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Endless Dream by Christopher Vacher

Today is the one-year anniversary of the death of my father. It amazes me how quickly the time has flown by, but so much of last year flew by in a blur mixed with both horrible and wonderful things, that it somehow all makes sense.

The very day after my father died, my mom had to start radiation treatments. So we barely had time to mourn his loss because we had to focus ourselves on that. But we did mourn him. I didn’t cry buckets of tears, but there were moments when this overwhelming sense of sadness would sweep over me as I remembered some happy moment that I put aside long ago. I guess that’s how it is for survivors of abuse. The bad times stick out and take precedence over the good. Perhaps that’s part of the wounds of abuse or some aspect of a survivor skill. I have no idea. This, like cancer is a journey and as with journeys of this type, you don’t always know what’s around the next bend in the road.

We picked up dad’s ashes from the mortuary about two weeks ago. It’s such an odd thing to feel the weight of a bag of ashes and know that each tiny grain was once part of someone you once knew.

Mom and I decided not to bury or spread them, so instead we have dad in an urn in our living room. Mom also has some of his ashes in a heart-shaped marble keepsake in her bedroom. I don’t feel any anger at her for this. She is going through her own journey too, so it’s not my place to judge, but to offer support and love.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to process the whole thing. But really is there an easy way to process death; especially when there are so many complicated emotions involved?

Just the same, there is an odd comfort in having dad home with us. I pat the top of his urn and feel such a sense of peace. All of whatever made my dad abusive to both himself and to me is dead, and neither of us will ever have to deal with it again. Except for my continued healing, of course. But, I never have to be afraid or keep my distance from him or my memories of him to protect myself. He is finally, peacefully OK and in that, I am finally, peacefully becoming OK too.

The first night after we brought dad’s urn home, I commented to mom that it was the first time we’d all been together under the same roof in years. Mom and I both smiled. You would think we would have been upset, but this was the way things worked out for us.

We are very much like the first lines of “Anna Karenina,” Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

I loved my dad, not all abuse survivors can say that or want to. But I can and it doesn’t mean I’m in a better or worse place than anyone else. It’s just how I feel.

I suppose I should feel sad that it took his death for me to feel what I do and for us to all be together under the same roof again, but I don’t. I feel an odd and wonderful sense of comfort. I feel it for dad as much as myself.

My dad made choices in his life that made our being together as a family impossible. I think we all wanted it, but because of his choices, our family history and a bunch of other things that I’m not going to drudge up, we couldn’t. We were always there for each other; dad took care of me on many occasions when I was sick, and mom and I did the same for him. We were the only ones with him when he was dying. We loved each other, but in our own way. And sometimes that love meant keeping our distance. That was our way.

Now we are separated by death, but somehow we are still together. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe dad is watching over me or in heaven or anyplace else. That belief system is not part of my spirituality. What I believe is that dad is finally at peace and finally free from all the troubles that haunted him in life. It’s a wonderful thing to know that he is beyond pain and beyond causing pain. My dad, a life-long insomniac, who often suffered for sleep, is finally asleep.

And me, my insomnia is improving after a long spell of sleeplessness. I have an odd sense of comfort to thank for that.

I love you daddy. I always have; in spite of everything.

And daddy, in spite of everything; I know you loved me too.

Posted in Abuse, breast cancer, Cancer, Coping, Dad, Death, hope, Mom, Survival, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

I’m Still Here, Honestly

“I’m Still Here.” Elaine Stritch first sang it on Broadway in Stephen Sondheim’s musical, “Company,” and Shirley Maclaine sung it in the movie, “Postcards from the Edge.” It’s a fitting song to describe me and this blog, because, I am still here.

I know it’s been a couple of months since I last wrote anything here, but I have been on one roller coaster of a ride since my last post. Don’t worry, mom is fine – better than I ever hoped really – but me, that’s another story.

I have a nodule on my thyroid, had it for years, but in March for some unknown reason it became a problem. I could feel it constantly and it not only affected my voice, but also the way eat, breathe, everything. So naturally, I called my doctor who felt it and decided that I needed a thyroid scan and possibly a biopsy to find out what was wrong.

And naturally, I freaked out a little.

I know you haven’t heard me say this before, but yeah, sometimes I freak out. After the year I had and all the times I didn’t freak out when I easily could have, I figure I was due.

I didn’t throw fits or cry, but I started to feel anxious all the time. I couldn’t sleep, didn’t eat and felt generally miserable. So a lot of things started suffering, including my job performance. Now that was my real wake-up call, because I’m one of those people who always demands the best of myself. To be find out that what I considered was my best really wasn’t, was a kick in the head.

Thankfully my bosses know me and have been nothing but understanding. Just the same, it kind of killed me a little, so I decided to take some time off and concentrate on taking care of myself, because clearly I was having health issues and clearly those health issues, combined with my own stubborn drive and determination were affecting me.

And also because in all honesty, I hadn’t been taking care of myself.

I was great at taking care of mom, but taking care of me had not only taken a backseat, but it was in another car.

I began taking naps, which was something I rarely allowed myself to do during the entire time mom was undergoing cancer treatment. And it was during this time I finally realized just how exhausted I really was. That sleep felt like it had been blessed by angels and began to feel somewhat better, even though I was still dealing with the nodule.

I had the scan and it took over two weeks to hear anything back. I called my doctor to find out the results and he suggested that I just go ahead and have a biopsy anyway. This didn’t make sense to me, so instead I called a friend who is knowledgeable about vitamins and herbal treatments. She brought me some herbs that are supposed to help regulate your glandular system and some other ones that did something else. Within a few days I couldn’t feel the nodule anymore. To this day, neither my doctor nor my friend, know what the problem was, but the bottom line is that I didn’t have to have a biopsy and I don’t have cancer.

During this time, my doctor’s nurse practitioner  noticed a mark on my back that turned out to be a pre-cancerous lesion. I had that removed last month, with no freaking out at this point. The doctor who removed it was possibly the best doctor I have ever seen. He really put my mind at ease so that I felt that I was receiving the best care possible.

Now I am facing a more serious surgery to remove a grapefruit size tumor that was found during my regular GYN visit. I’m not nervous about this at, but needless to say, I am still feeling quite exhausted, and no wonder, right?

It honestly feels like mom and I haven’t had a chance to really relax after everything from the past year, but who says that we or anyone automatically gets time like that? I look at the news and realize that mom and I are both extremely blessed. Even with all we have dealt with and continue to deal with, we are OK.

Mom has been nothing but amazing. For over a year I have made all the meals and did the cleaning and she just took over for me. Let me say that it feels absolutely great to be taken care of by her. At times I felt like a little kid and it was nice to see her so strong and able again.

I got behind in writing here, because besides that I edited two books that I’m quite proud, and also because there were times when writing my name sapped my strength.

So yeah, I’m still here.

I think it’s time I learned the lyrics to that song.

The thing is, in addition to that song I also need to find some other lyrics to sing. Because the truth is, that life doesn’t always give us a break. Dealing with cancer, bad health or anything else doesn’t give you a pass on other life issues.

Think of all those who have survived some of the earthquakes or tornadoes we’ve all heard about on the news. It’s not like those people were all living perfect and pristine lives and then something horrible happened. They were dealing with all of the same life struggles we all deal with and then and in addition to all that, something horrible happened.

So yeah, I’m still here, but I’m also grateful and very well aware that even though things aren’t what I wish they were, they could definitely be worse.

By the way, I wrote this post in May and it’s taken me this long to post it. This is how insanely fatigued I have been.

I’ve had my surgery. The grapefruit size tumor grew to the size of a soccer ball. Even though it was a fast-growing tumor, it wasn’t cancerous. One of my workmates said that anything that large deserved a name, so I named it “Wilson.”

I will be back more regularly now. I’m recovered and growing stronger each day.

I am still here, but Wilson isn’t.

 

Posted in breast cancer, Cancer, Caregiving, Coping, exhaustion, hope, Mom | 3 Comments

Taking Off My Cape

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This week I received a wake-up call. I am not Superman. This realization has come after more than a year of pretending that I was a caped crusader, able to do anything without exhaustion or need. I took care of mom, while managing to not only do my job, but receive a promotion and special projects, while also managing several blogs, working on my writing and editing for private clients a little bit here and there on the side.

Looking back it all seems crazy now, but that is what helped me cope throughout this last tough year. You see, mom was in bed a good deal of the time recovering from surgeries or cancer treatments and I was left with nothing but this awful silence that I felt compelled to fill. In those moments, my thoughts often led me to fear and I knew I couldn’t allow myself to succumb to them. So I filled my time up with work and other tasks to force myself to be too busy to think of much else.

Thankfully, during that time mom recovered, but I have not. I never stepped off the treadmill I had placed myself upon. I told myself lies that I was fine, even as I continued a struggle that only seemed to worsen with time. I never took one day to simply rest, but continued on as if I was a caped crusader.

Well I’m not.

But even so, I needed someone to tell me that. I was too bull-headed to ever admit my own defeat, especially when what I was defeated by is my own bull-headness. Well I received that wake-up call last week. My health is not great and I haven’t performed as well as I normally do on my job.

This is so unlike me. I pride myself on doing great work while managing several things at once, but I have not been myself for a long time. Instead I have tried to be this person who could do anything that was expected of her without any sense of her own needs or humanity. I felt that’s what I had to be to help mom. After all that is who Superman is, leaping over buildings in a single bound without getting a scratch. Well, I had to not only help mom leap over every obstacle to her wellness, but also hoist myself over them too.

I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve seen other caregivers make these same choices. We are in an impossible position. Caring for someone you love as they undergo painful treatments or catastrophic illnesses is horrible. True, there may be good moments and hopefully, your loved one will recover, but still there is an uncompromising fear that you must do battle with on a daily basis, even as you strive to remain cheerful and untouched.

So we sit in waiting rooms holding our loved ones hands, exchanging pleasantries or pretending to be interested in jigsaw puzzles while combating our own fears. Or we go home and tend to whatever day-to-day necessities are required to help our loved ones. We do this while exhausted, in tears or with smiles, but most of all we do this from love.

Every time mom has an appointment with her oncologist, I am afraid until I hear that she is fine. Even now that they say she’s cancer-free and my fears should have subsided, it is as if, I have forgotten how not to be afraid. I think it will take me some time to learn how to stop being afraid. Cancer is a pretty scary thing after all. It creeps into your life without a sound and can just as easily return.

Superman is the only superhero who had to remove his outward clothes to reveal the truth of who he really is. Though I am not superhero, I too, must reveal the truth about who I really am.

I am strong, but I am also weak.

It seems that I am human after all.

Posted in breast cancer, Cancer, Caregiving, Coping, exhaustion, Friends, hope, Mom, wisdom | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Of Butterflies and Books

I know I’ve said this before, but this is going to be a short post this week. (Of course short for me is usually around 300 words) I have a lot of things going on in my life right now and yes, most of them are good. I’m editing two books right now, so those projects are going to be taking up a lot of time. I will still post something here every week, but right now, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I’m sure as soon as I get into my projects and figure out a schedule, I’ll feel better, but right now…wow.

Things are going back to normal again. Mom is doing fine and so am I, so for right now, everything is fine. Troubles come and troubles go, we endure, we survive, we become weak and worn out and then we embolden ourselves so that we can carry on the best that we can.

There is nothing more we can ask of ourselves than that.

One day at a time, my friends, which makes me remember the “Serenity Prayer” that my father used to recite. He learned it in AA, but it contains some real words of wisdom.

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

I’m not a believer in repeating the same prayers day after day, but there are some elemental truths in these words.

We cannot change cancer. We can fight it and hope we survive. We can change our attitudes and how we deal with things. We can even change our lifestyles in hopes of preventing cancer or other ailments. Of course, the bottom line is having the “wisdom to know the difference,” between what we can change and what we can’t. I can’t bring back my father or mend the relationship we had, and I can’t make my mom’s cancer go away or her breasts grow back, but I can decide to do something proactive for the cancer community, which is part of the reason I write this blog every week.

There is something in the offing here, but I’m not going to announce it just yet.

So back to wisdom. Many of us forget to be wise. I know I’ve forgotten it on more than one occasion.

For me, right now my wisdom comes from knowing that I need to step back from a few things, so that I can work on these projects, while having the energy to take care of mom and myself.

I’m feeling hopeful, which is great. It’s been a long time coming. I feel like a butterfly who is easing out of its cocoon.

I wish us all the serenity of those words, along with hope, strength and wisdom.

Have a great week.

Love,

Rachel

Posted in Caregiving, Coping, Dad, hope, Mom, wisdome | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

The Windswept Seas of Mourning

I used to believe that grief and mourning were processes that only lasted for a set amount of time. I have no idea why I believed that, but I think it’s a holdover thought from my childhood, when I felt emotionally more resilient than I do now.

I say “felt emotionally more resilient,” but in truth, I know I’m stronger now. Back then, I hadn’t gained the courage to feel my emotions. I have that courage now.

Nothing ever seemed to affect me in those days, even though clearly it really did. I didn’t cry when I was abused. I didn’t cry when my grandmother – who I loved more than anyone – died. I didn’t cry about anything and existed in a perpetual state of numb. I’ve had years of healing and therapy that have shown me that my non-feelings were not the norm, and in fact, were pretty unhealthy. But that is what I knew, and that is how I survived. I essentially had to act my way through my childhood because my home was dominated by an alcoholic parent who could sometimes turn abusive. He was the child in our house and I was sometimes his parent. My mother, who ended up having a nervous breakdown from all the turmoil of our lives then, ran the gamut from being emotionally shutdown to raging through the house like a thundering she-devil. In those moments, dad was a little wounded boy and I was the one who safeguarded him. I was to play that role here and there throughout our lives, until the day he died. It was me, after all, who told him to go to sleep that last day and gentled him off to that long, great goodnight with the words, “don’t worry I’ll take care of mom. Go to sleep now, daddy.”

How many times had he sent me off to sleep with a similar sentiment?

“Go to sleep Rachel, there are no monsters under the bed or in the closet. Remember daddy always loves you.” (That’s the goodnight I got, if I was lucky.)

I said that part too that last day. I told him I loved him and what a journey it was from those words back into my younger self, who felt nothing and didn’t cry.

I don’t remember telling my father I loved him in those days. I do remember questioning if I did love him at all, which is an odd question for a child to ask herself, but there you have it. That is what living in an abusive household is like. You are forced, beyond your years to navigate odd roads of reason in an attempt to make sense of your situation; in order to survive.

I can remember the thought as clearly, as if I was back as my six-year-old self, already feeling weighed down by life. “Did I love mommy and daddy because I really loved them or because I was expected to love them?”

Yeah mom was in there too, because I was too young to understand what she was going through and also quite angry with her for abandoning me so much of the time. She was either not there or chose not to see a lot of what went on, and I was left alone to deal with it.

So yeah, mom was in that question too.

Now here I am, and I know what the answer to that question is. Yes, I love them and no, it is not because I have to. It is a choice. I will not say it was an easy choice, because it wasn’t. I had to learn how to love them, and in that act, I also had to learn that I had the right to set boundaries and make my own rules for whatever that love was to be.

I’m not talking Hallmark Cards here.

This was something uniquely my own and of my own creation.

Emotions are roads that we must navigate for all of our lives. We do not stop until we are either completely shutdown or die. And in this journey, along with learning that I loved my parents was the lesson of learning how to love myself. Actually, I think that lesson came first, and as that grew I was able to extend it more fully to them.

Years ago, I couldn’t hug anyone. I didn’t want to be touched by anyone, even if it was in friendship. I couldn’t decipher good touch from bad, and was repelled by any hugs, except when they came from my mom. I had a friend who used to stand in front of me with open arms and allowing her to hug me was a completely uncomfortable thing. In those days, I was not only removed from my emotional self, but my physical self as well. That is not who I am in any way now.

I embrace all of my friends with a freeness I never had then, and I can’t tell you when it began or why. It just simply is and I think God that it is so.

So here I am today, mourning the loss of my dad and learning that grief has no time limit. It comes like waves that just hit you and then roll back, and that process returns and ebbs and flows from day-to-day. You may wonder what I am mourning since I have mentioned how he was abusive; well I am mourning the father who wasn’t abusive. I didn’t often see him until he was up in age, but he’d make an appearance every now and then and it was wonderful. I could never trust how long he’d stay, but it was usually great when he was there. Of course sometimes those visits were short-lived, because my father would say something hurtful or inappropriate that sent his better self away.

So, I had to be on my guard with him or felt that I had to be, because that was just the nature of our relationship. I never felt completely safe with him and he always gave me reasons to justify those reservations. So, yeah I’m mourning him, but I’m also mourning the fact that because of choices he made, we never had a normal father/daughter relationship.

Sadly there are things you can’t return to and make up for in the future. I lost a spelling bee in the third grade, well I have won other prizes since, but I can’t win a new father and I can’t relive my life in hopes of fixing all that was lost.

And here it comes, another wave of mourning as I stand here on the shore feeling the mist of the salty air upon my face. It feels like I’ve been cast adrift and though I know I will eventually find my way back upon the shore, right now, I don’t feel quite so hopeful. Right now, it feels like I can’t find my footing and I don’t want to float out to sea.

Maybe, I’m mourning myself too. Mourning the loss of my childhood that died too soon. I will get through this. I will find my way to solid ground, even as the sea beckons me to look back upon it’s windswept shores.

 

Posted in Abuse, Coping, Dad, Death, Mom | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Happily Hibernating, but Waiting for Spring

There are stories about people going crazy because of cabin fever. Mom and I have been snowed in for a few weeks now. OK, mom has. I live in fear of her falling because even though she’s stronger, she’s still a bit unsteady (in fact she fell today). I’ve had to trudge out to get groceries, but to be honest, I’m content to stay in. I don’t mind the snow. I’ve lived up here all of my life, but ice is unforgiving and I’m not great at walking on it, especially with a bum leg. I don’t fall very often, but since mom has been sick and now that she’s recovering, I’ve become especially mindful of keeping myself healthy for her sake. In other words, I’ve become paranoid about falling.

But don’t worry about us, we haven’t gone crazy and in fact, we’re warm, well-fed and content.

I think mom and I must have an ancestor who was a bear, because we’ve always been content to hibernate. We even used to play a game when I was a little girl, where we pretended to be momma bear and baby bear.

Mom still thinks she’s the momma bear, of course. But really, I think most moms are like that. Cancer did not remove that protective, overbearing (no pun intended, OK maybe just a little bit) aspect of her that both gets on my nerves and endears her to me.

I’ve kept myself busy doing my job (I work from home), taking care of things around the house and spending time with mom in the evenings. Some would find this boring and perhaps those are the types who get cabin fever, but as I’ve said, mom and I are related to bears.

But just wait until spring comes. We’re already planning how we’re going to go for walks. First, we’ll start with the driveway and then as mom continues to get stronger, we’ll graduate to walking up and down our streets, the mall and beyond.

OK, so maybe that’s not exciting to you, but for us, it’s big.

Recovery from chemo can be slow going, I guess. But in my experience, healing is always a slow going process. We take our steps, one at a time, through snow, ice, good weather and bad, until we are walking beyond the past into whatever the future brings.

Until then, we are snowed in.

(P.S. I know the photograph I used isn’t of hibernating bears. But a photo like that would probably be dangerous to take and it would only show sleeping bears. Mom and I aren’t sleeping. We’re both keeping busy. I however, am not riding her back anymore. Well, not unless she’s getting on my nerves.)

Our front lawn

Posted in breast cancer, Cancer, Caregiving, Coping, Mom | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Requiem

My cousin died this week. Ironically, she died on the anniversary of my mom’s double mastectomy. So on the day that mom and I were celebrating her life, my cousin was losing hers. Obviously, this is a sad occasion, but what makes it worse is that my cousin did not have to die. And it is because of this that I find myself feeling unable to mourn her loss.

You see my cousin was a drug addict. She had been offered all kinds of help for years and always obnoxiously refused it. The last time I saw her, she was in the hospital trying to get her druggie friends to smuggle marijuana brownies up to her. She was happy and smiling. It’s a nice memory, except for the drugs and the fact that doctors had told her if she didn’t change her way of life that she wouldn’t make it. But she there was smiling and happy, seemingly oblivious to the goblin knocking at her door. She balked at the doctors one and all, giving her usual three-finger salute to them in defiance.

But that was my cousin.

Years ago, she had a prestigious job making 70K. Then through a course of bad decisions and destructive relationships, her life just spiraled out of control.

Now she’s gone and I’m feeling kind of numb.

Perhaps it’s because I’m so emotionally exhausted from everything I’ve been through this past year that my emotional resources or drained. Or perhaps it’s because I no longer had a close relationship with my cousin having allowed it to drift away. Think of me what you will, but after growing up with a parent who had an alcohol and drug addiction problem; I felt completely unable to cope with her problems too. But I think it has more to do with the fact that for the past year I have watched people valiantly fight to keep living in the face of cancer.

After being exposed to that kind of strength and courage on a daily basis, it just feels impossible to have much sympathy for my cousin right now. True, drug addiction is a medical issue, but she had more resources than most and more chances than I can think of to help herself. She didn’t have to die, but for some reason she chose to.

I don’t know if she didn’t take the doctors seriously or she just didn’t care. Perhaps she was tired. I don’t know and there was no way of getting an answer out of her. She was so drug addled the last time I saw her that it was difficult to decipher much of what she was saying.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m judging her harshly, because I’m not. For some reason, she chose a tragic existence for herself that hastened her death. That’s horrible. I couldn’t save her, even though I wanted to. But there comes a point when you’re dealing with someone like this, that you realize that you can’t save them. They have to save themselves.

My dad was able to overcome his addictions and I was hoping the same for my cousin, but it wasn’t to be and it had nothing to do with fate, but with her own poor choices.

Just the same, I loved her, and yes, this is a loss, and not only to my family, but the community at large. You see, before drugs took over her life, my cousin was a social worker. I remember being amazed at the stories she’d tell of the people she’d helped. So, it’s ironic that she, not only became someone who needed help, but also someone who refused it. She had devoted her life to helping people in situations like hers and she did so much good. God only knows why even started taking drugs to begin with. She’d seen firsthand with so many of her clients how much drug addiction can destroy lives.

Maybe I’m a little angry at her. I don’t know.

I tell myself that I stopped missing her a long time ago, because the person she became was not the person I used to know and admire. But that’s a lie. Perhaps I’ve already mourned her and maybe that’s the reason why I’m feeling the way I do now or maybe this is another lie and I’m just stuffing my feelings for her deep down inside because this all hurts so much.

Even so, I loved her, even if right now, I feel too hurt or numb to even shed a tear.

Goodbye Gail.

Posted in Cancer, Coping, Death, Mom | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments