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Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Last week on twitter, when hearing the news of Roger Eberts death, I tweeted this:

If cancer has blown your world apart, every time you hear of another death, a piece of you is cut out and trampled on.

It must have struck a chord with many others, it was “retweeted” and “favorited” and passed around many times.
It was what I was feeling, I didn’t know Roger Ebert. I used to watch Siskel and Ebert on Saturday mornings to see what movies they were bashing and sometimes praising and often I’d argue with the TV screen. But hearing of his death, like hearing of the death of Nora Ephron, or that girl I went to high school with, or the grocery checker who was always so nice… it affected me, they all affected me.

Cancer has blown my world apart, so often that I’m not sure if it was all one big explosion or several smaller ones linked together, like a mega roll of firecrackers rolled out and lit… the bangs go on forever — I hate firecrackers.

The aftermath of cancer, the picking up of the pieces, the stringing reality back together, the return to a normal existence… those are the things that take longer than it did for the cancer to take over a body and destroy it — cancer lingers. When someone dies of cancer, it doesn’t end there, because cancer has invaded you, your life, your world is now a world that contains cancer. It has you in its grips forever, you are never free of it — death does not destroy cancer.

It is the constant background noise to your life, the ceaseless ringing in your ears. I am not brave before it, I cower, I lower my head, I try not to be seen by it. But, it makes sure I know it sees me, there is no corner dark enough to conceal me from it.

I forget, briefly, in those periods in between hearing how its taken over another persons body. I forget. But, never for long. The periods of forgetfulness become shorter each day. Each day I hear of a friend who has been diagnosed, a spouse of a co-worker, a favorite professor, a screenwriter who made me laugh. When cancer has blown your world apart, every time you hear of another death, a piece of you is cut out and trampled on.

Pieces of me are scattered around — pieces from my father, pieces from my mother, pieces from my brother-in-law, pieces from my dog, pieces from friends and co-workers and friends of friends and complete strangers… I have been trampled on by cancer.

I wish I could tie these thoughts up like a beautiful package under the tree on Christmas morning — when you open it, out pops bravery and triumph and fearlessness. But, that’s not the case. There are no ornate pink bows big enough to cover up cancer… it’s ugly and ruthless and cunning.

Often now, my fear and cowering is accompanied by an over-bearing hatred. Maybe that’s what we should hope for, that we become so pissed off at this monster that we are moved to action, not just reaction.
After all, if you believe they put a man on the moon, the ability to stop this creature shouldn’t be far off.

Please visit the following sites:
Lisa Bonchek Adams Giving Page
Lisa Adams
Lisa Bonchek Adams Blog
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center
Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

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This is one of those posts… I hesitate, I pause, I take a breath.

What should I say?

What can I possibly say?

Why should I say it?

Two years have passed since my mother died from cancer. Two years that I looked at her bedroom and bathroom daily, knowing she would never walk those floors again. Two years since I started sifting through her belongings, deciding what to keep and what to toss and what to give away. Two years filled with new adventures and broken hearts and losses and finds and blogs and poems and learning to feel and learning to pause and learning… two years of learning. And still… here I am, lost in the depths of my own thoughts. Numb. Disengaged. Trying to breathe.

Last year, I seemed to be able to write exactly what I wanted to write about the anniversary. This year, I’m not sure about my words.

There is no time limit for grief, that’s a well established fact.

I sat down to write about my grandmother and how she talked with tears in her eyes about her father until she passed away at the age of 87, seems she grieved his death until her death made it impossible to grieve any longer.

I sat down to write about how my best friend and I can reminisce about our friend who died 23 years ago and we still get tears in our eyes thinking of her laugh and how she sang so off-key it hurt.

I sat down to write about the three dogs I have loved at various points in my life and who have died and how the absence of each leaves me wishing to hear their bark one more time.

I sat down to write about my father and how he was this gentle and kind man whose illness and death left us all drained and has surely still affected those of us who loved him.

I sat down to write about my mother whose battle with cancer was swift and fierce and untimely — her death was too soon.

There is no time limit for grief.

I sat down to write about how I’ve been left in an emotional well — digging and clawing my way, with my hand stretched out as far as I can manage, always reaching for the light that seems to be trickling in over the sides of the darkness.

But I don’t know what to write.

I have no words to describe loss.

I have no words to describe cancer.

I have no words to describe empty.

How do you describe empty?

How do you describe numb?

I have no words to describe a feeling that I’m not sure even exists — do I liken it to a color? If so, what color describes messy? What adjective describes vacant?

Two years since my mother passed away.

Two years of reaching out and pulling back and being stuck and moving on and begging and hating and loving and forgiving and wishing and mending… two years of learning to put all the pieces together. Two years of hoping I had all the pieces I need.

It’s been two years since my mother died. Three years since my father died. Fourteen years since my grandmother died. Six months since I acted completely irrationally…

One minute since I hugged my youngest daughter. Ten minutes since I laughed with my son. Five minutes since my oldest daughter asked me for fashion advice. One day since I read an amazing book. A few hours since I contemplated booking the vacation I’ve dreamt of for years. Two days since I emailed my best friend — one second since I smiled.

Maybe I am learning. Maybe I do have all the pieces. Maybe sadness and mourning and grief are just pieces to this puzzle. Maybe they are just a part of what makes me whole. Maybe denying their existence is like denying a piece of the puzzle that is me. Maybe.

It’s been a while since I gave you a visual — I love visuals.

I am completely in love with everything Jen Lemen has to offer. Check out her etsy shop and her amazing web page.

My son walked into my room and put one of his ear buds in my ear and had one in his ear, he said “mom, you have to listen to this song.”  I think sharing ear buds is a perfect way to be present in a moment with someone. Let’s pretend we’re sharing ear buds… you have to listen to this song.

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When my father died, he was buried in a double grave. The grave would be the final resting spot for he and my mother. Being that it was a double grave, the marker would be a double marker as well. When my father died, we really didn’t need to think too many things through, except what would be inscribed on the marker. It takes several weeks for grave markers to be engraved so in the interim, they put up a nice picture of your loved one with their name displayed — that’s it, just a picture with their name on it. When you go there to visit you have a smiling picture to remind you that someone is missing — the person who is looking at you through that photograph is buried in the grave you’re standing on.

It took a little longer than usual for my fathers marker to be engraved because, being that it was for my mother as well — who was still alive, we had to come up with the words to mark her final resting spot too. The words for my father’s side of the marker were easy enough — father, husband, son, kind. To be honest, I don’t know what it says… I’ve never been able to look at it long enough to read it and when my mother and I were deliberating what it should say I remember giving many “uh-huhs” desperately trying not to hear the actual words she was saying. If I heard the words it meant I had to succumb to the realization that my father was dead.

Our angst at finding the perfect words for his marker was magnified by the fact that we also had to find the perfect words for my mothers marker, who, as I said, was still alive at this time. When we first began contemplating the marker, we were unaware of the cancer that was coursing through my mother’s blood stream. It was the cancer that was making it impossible for her to walk and eat and sleep and get dressed and care for herself. We thought she was overly tired from taking care of my father as he battled lung cancer. A short six weeks after my fathers funeral, my mothers diagnosis was complete — Multiple Myeloma. The saying on the marker became too much for us to contemplate once we learned that cancer was again infiltrating our world, a little too real, so my mother finally choose a saying without too much fanfare — mother, daughter, wonder woman. Again, I really have no idea what it says, I “uh-huh’d” when I thought she sounded sure of whatever she decided to put there.

I’ve never been able to look at it long enough to read it — ever. Three years after my father’s death and a year and a half after my mother’s death… I’ve never let my eyes rest on that marker long enough to read the words.

I can remember when I was young. I had a cousin who died — hit by a car. She was older than me, beautiful, smart, funny… my own superhero. A tragedy that has possibly affected and shaped my interactions to this day but that is another post for another day. I was 9 or 10. I went to her funeral. I saw her in the casket. She and I had played together a few days earlier. I cried. I shook. I couldn’t stop. A harsh reality that I was unable to avoid — as long as I was at my grandparents house anyway. When the summer ended, I went back home as I did every summer and I continued. My cousin and I lived in different states, we only saw each other during the summer so when I was at my home it was so easy to pretend everything was completely the same because at my house, it was. I didn’t have to face the reality until the next summer when I visited my grandparents and I would be repeatedly punched in the gut with her absence on a daily basis. But, then, at my home — I was free from the pain of loss. I didn’t have to see it.

It’s the same premise of not looking at that damn marker. If I never look at it, if I never read their names on it, I can pretend a little longer. I can pretend they’re at their house waiting for me to arrive with my kids. I can pretend we are all going to go on a hayride or to the movies or to the mountains. But once I look at that marker, it’s over. The fantasy ends. The reality begins. One look at that marker and I have to finally concede that they’re gone.

A concession I’ve been unwilling to make… until now. Seems my life has led me down a path of letting go, of making new connections, of relying on a community of friends and strangers to guide me in the lessons of this life. Seems an easy task, really. Holding your gaze on a few words. Reading the letters that form the words that signify the time to move is now. Reality is an awesome place. We can shape it and bend it and coddle it because we are the reason it is real. The reality is, it’s time for me to open my eyes and see where I’m going. The reality is, it’s time for me to see what that marker says. The reality is, it’s time for me to embrace reality. What about you? Any realities you need help to see?

The reverb10 prompt today was community… this post is just where I ended up.

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I have a friend (I love saying that even though we’ve never actually met), she’s a writer — a real writer. Like a kick-ass-slap-you-in-the-face-and-make-you-stand-up-straight writer. Her mother died recently, a long drawn out emotionally draining death to that bitch cancer. But here’s my take-away on a piece of this… she’s writing. And it’s amazing. And she’s touching my soul and making me think about things I thought I was quite comfortably past.

My father died in November a couple of years ago. He had been in the hospital for over 30 days, a week of which was in the hospice unit. During those 30 days, I visited everyday — everyday. I spent many nights in that horrific chair that folds almost flat. If my day at work brought me close to the hospital, I would stop in there for lunch in the cafeteria with my mom — usually 2 or 3 times a week and every weekend.

My routine was simple, I went to my dad’s room. He would immediately say, “Hi sweetheart” or “Hi bulldog” (he took to calling me bulldog during that last month for some reasons I might talk about on another day), then he would say, “take your mother out of here”. My mom would already be getting up to come with me to the cafeteria. It wasn’t an enormous amount of time we would spend in there together — maybe 30 or 40 minutes. But it was our time — time to not worry about the cancer that was taking over my father’s body, time to not worry about the next test or medicine or oxygen levels. We would peruse all the various staples the cafe had to offer then we would sit off to the side and people watch — the greatest pastime of all. We would eavesdrop on conversations and smile at the familiar nurses as they walked by. We would make plans on what do to when they finally let Dad go home — a hospital bed and nursing care and a wheelchair… we had it all worked out. When we were done, we would head back up to Dad’s room (I always stopped at the coffee kiosk to get him a cup of coffee and mom one too), I would kiss him goodbye and let him know which night I would be staying with him and which day I would bring the kids by — and I would leave and carry on with my day. This was my routine… for a month, this was my routine.

After my mom died, I felt I was mourning both their deaths because it all happened so quick. I was numb for a while — in the beginning. One day, I found myself driving in a familiar area at lunch time — my car guided itself into the hospital parking garage. I walked to the cafeteria and perused the various offerings. I sat off to the side and I eavesdropped on a few conversations. I smiled at a few familiar faces. I stopped at the coffee kiosk on my way to the waiting area on the hospice floor. I sat down and drank my coffee… and I left and carried on with my day. There were no thoughts, no cognitive processing — just physical actions. I did this about 3 or 4 times over the next month or two — I don’t know why… but it felt good, the routine, the familiarity of it.

So, my friend, the kick-ass writer — brought that deeply buried memory of that routine to the forefront of my thoughts. Words do that for us sometimes. Words matter. They help us, they heal us, they break us, they anger us, they sadden us, they make us shake in fits of laughter. That’s my take-away from this — I don’t know why… but it feels good to experience all those things.

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Cancer

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I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m pissed off.

Cancer is so strange. I don’t understand it. I don’t know why it exists or why is chooses the people it chooses or why it goes away or why it leaves families broken or why it leaves — I don’t understand it.

I’ve never had cancer. I don’t intend on getting cancer — does anyone? But cancer crawled silently into my life a few years ago when it took up residence in my fathers lung. We decided to give the lung to cancer but the selfish bastard decided to creep in to other organs and then decided to invite some friends over to wreak havoc on the remaining lung so my father was gone — just gone.

In the meantime, cancer decided to sneak in to the colon of my brother-in-law and force a surgery to save his life that went horrible wrong and left him a paraplegic. Then my brother-in-law was gone… 6 weeks after my father left — just gone, both of them.

The day after my brother-in-laws funeral, we took my mother to the emergency room where cancer was waiting like a spineless mugger… waiting in the shadows for a weak target. We kicked its ass for a bit then it decided to infiltrate her body at such a rate that all we could do was — nothing, we could do nothing. And then she too was gone — just gone.

It won’t leave us alone — it won’t leave me alone.

I hate watching those idiotic movies were that babbling whiner always asks what she did to deserve so many bad things, what she did to deserve to have the people she cared about leave, what she did… like cancer was targeting her — like she was the one being poked and prodded.

I don’t know what I did.

I don’t know why the people I care about leave.

I don’t understand cancer.

So for now, I wait… patiently. Maybe understanding will come. I’m battle weary. But I will put the armor back on if that’s what is needed, I will grab the facade and place it back in place if that’s what is needed, I will fight… if that’s what is needed. But until that time, I will assume the best, I will pretend cancer is a word that I’ve never heard — I like pretending.

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