Tag Archives: cancer

Blessings

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This afternoon I had a video call with a childhood friend.  A friend whose life changed drastically after a tragic accident.    As I watched him talk, process, thinking diligently about answers or response, my heart sang with joy that this very kindhearted, intelligent friend of my bro’s is still the same person he was probably 40 years ago now.

I can’t tell you how nice it felt to talk to him, he had me laughing hysterically over things that I “forgot” he knew.  You know, when time divides you from your childhood and life happens, sometimes the hardest part of life, and you hear old stories, or see reactions that you haven’t seen in years, it’s sweet.   It’s nice to know that SOME things, some people do not change.

After we spoke I was smiling, thinking about the kid, the teenager he used to be, and my mom and I started sharing stories, and we laughed to our hearts delight.    I always encouraged my brother to hang onto this guy as a friend.    He was such a decent being way back when.

Most of us are aware of the crudeness, the blatant evil that exists now, how beautiful it is to me that while life dished him out some major hard balls, that he’s still the kind, caring, compassionate and wonderful person he was before life put it’s ugly talon’s into our flesh.

In a world where you only know what someone wants you to know, how refreshing, how sweet it feels to revisit youth, and share a laugh or two regarding things long since forgotten, or buried.

I haven’t had it nearly as hard, nor do I care to compare heartbreak with anyone, but I know for myself, I have tried to always remain kind, to remain uninjured, still “soft”, so as not to harden like leather that many people have had happen.    It happens.  Life is not a picnic for all, and sometimes it’s just damn hard to walk through a day with all the knowledge or what is happening in this world.

But today, tonight, I am smiling that this kind soul, who knew me long before the many depressions or hardships that has occurred in my life, and that he, too, is still “soft”.  What a delightful conversation, and as I watched his eyes move as he was talking, I was reminded, pleasantly of how philosophical he has always been.  Even as a youngster, he really listened, and he answered questions after processing, and in spite of all the hardships we both have encountered, we were still able to conjure up things from our long ago past, and laugh hardy.

What a gift the past week has been for me.   Spending time with good, kind, “real” people, kindred spirits.   I’ve been truly blessed with these experiences.

 

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Walking through grief

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The past couple days have been rough, with migraines and frustrating bitchiness.   This morning I was allowing myself to get really bent out of shape over nothing, when I sat down and jumped on facebook.      I hope the migraine(s) are behind me, I think it’s related to barometric pressure, my head feels like it isn’t attached to my body.  Strange, and adding to the Bitch of the Year award!

As I surveyed my facebook feed, I read a post from a friend who is really a very lovely woman, a woman of faith, ridiculously talented, and kind to the core.     She posted about two children who touched her deeply today, and made her smile while she was gassing up her car.    It lightened up my mood, until close to the end where she spoke about telling the kids mother how much their kindness and friendliness meant to her, and today or all days, as her sister died early this morning of cancer.   Tears flowed down my face then.

I immediately sent her a message, offering condolences, and thanking her for her share.   My mind swept back to the very days my sisters succumbed to cancer.    I was broken, and I was angry at God for allowing this to happen.  And so began a war between he and me, for months on end.   I defied my morning praises, and no longer prayed at all.   How could he allow this to happen?

In time, I learned and accepted that death is a part of our life, and that fairness doesn’t really play a role here.  But my friend, who had just said goodbye to her sister, was talking about how good God is, and how much this experience helped her, and made her smile.   I cried as I reread her beautiful, lovely, words.    How amazing that she was at peace, or I should say, more peace than I had when my sisters took their last breaths.

I sat in silence, trying to compose myself, get my emotions into check, and while I would like to say the bitchiness melted away, it did not, but I was so moved by her share, and her eloquence, awestruck with her compassion and faith.     When she replied to my message she spoke words I understand too well, about not knowing how she will do this without her sister, her first best friend.    Her words lent clarity to me of how I felt, too.

I remember thinking how cruel it was that the birds still chirped, that life still went on, even though my sisters lives were over.   I remember people telling me “time will heal”.  I also remember being firmly (and probably belligerently) adamant that NO ONE would tell me how to grief, how to walk through this atrocity which had been handed down to my family.   Grief is a journey, a necessary journey that is so individualized.   There is no right or wrong way to grieve, though I hope I handled it with even a small portion of the grace that my friend did this morning.

At this time another friend texts me that she knew and was related to the pedestrian who was hit in Brattleboro yesterday and who died later from her injuries.    Many eyewitnesses have shared that she walked right out in front of the car, the driver was not at fault.  But that driver?  Is devastated.    I saw pics of him with his head in his hands, crying.  Of course he was.  What person wouldn’t be?    And then she shared that this person had also just lost two siblings to cancer.    I was relaying all this to my mom, and we shared how grief is an alternate existence, if you will.   You’re not in your right mind, your preoccupied, sad, emotional, and that may be a part of why she aimlessly walked into traffic.  How incredibly sad.

So, tonight, as I write this, I’m thinking about all that transpired this morning and how it changed and altered my piss poor thinking.   I am still working through some crap, but for the most part, I’ll be crawling into bed very grateful that my day may be frustrating, and my head may ache, but I had a fairly uneventful day given two other peoples lives that changed drastically in a moments time.

I wish you a restful nights sleep, and an uneventful (almost boring) day tomorrow.  Life can change on a dime, and it does.  We find ourselves walking through life without those we love most in the world, and I have since learned that the birds still chirping as we walk through grief is really a gift, because life does go on for some.    How easily, how naturally we take things for granted, at least I do.   And I think I’m a pretty grateful person, but obviously imperfect and still learning about life.   Aren’t we all?

 

Sadness

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Today was a challenging day for me.   As fate would have it, I learned that someone I care about is ill, very ill.   Further complicated by a parting of ways between us.  I couldn’t even remember the incident, or exactly what happened, I knew I was upset, but the “final” visit, I have no memory of.    When I learned of this, haphazardly, I felt like I was going to toss my cookies.    It doesn’t sound good, not at all.

I had also been inadvertently told that she had just learned of this last night, and was home from hospital today.  All I could think of is being left alone to think about what she was told.  I had a full list of things to do today, rose early to do them.  The list was set aside two hours upon rising after learning this news.

When you learn something like this, it really doesn’t matter what happened.  I think it’s important for each person to acknowledge and say what they couldn’t say prior.  And that was the case when I walked into her home, her bedroom where she was resting.  I didn’t know how or what I’d find, I just said a prayer for strength and courage and went and sat with her on the bed.  It’s a HUGE bed that she hates.   I wasn’t sure if she was happy to see me or not, but I grabbed her very soft hand and said “I’m sorry”.     She looked away.   “I have something to tell you”, I nodded.   What she shared next was one of the “moments” I hadn’t recalled, and a bit of it came back.    She expressed how hurt she was, and how she didn’t even want to address it or try to fix it with me.  “Friends don’t do that to other friends”.   I said “Your right, they shouldn’t”.

It wasn’t easy hearing how I had hurt her.   And sadly I don’t recall the incident she spoke of, I had thought our estrangement was just a mutual thing after a couple bad experiences.  I said the words that I needed to say, “I’m sorry I hurt you”.

I helped adjust her pillows, asked if there was anything I could do for her.  Asked if she wanted me to leave, “no, I don’t want you to leave”.     Then she shared another incident that hurt her and I guess the look on my face said what I didn’t need to verbalize.   It was nothing I had done, nothing I could do.   She said I’m sorry, I thought you had.

My mom showed up a few minutes later, I guess she knew where to find me.  I had dropped her off to get her car that was being serviced, the second $400 we put into it this month, and just drove away.     I didn’t know if I should go see her.  I wanted to.  But I didn’t want to upset her.  I just didn’t want her sitting alone with this news.   What happened between us didn’t matter, was unimportant.

She was very tired, and apologetically needed to give in to sleep.  We said our goodbyes.   I held her hand before I left and told her I would be in touch, and that she could call me if she wanted or needed something.   She thanked us for coming and said “Donna, I’m really glad you came”.    As I walked out, drove home, I felt numb.   But numbness isn’t really the word for it, if it hurts, its not numb, right?

This is a person who I had spent many hours with, driving around back roads, in my home, or hers.  She’s almost 20 years older than me,  I’ve always tended to have older friends.   We have shared with each other things we’ve never shared with another.   We were good, close friends.   I was frustrated with her about a few things that need not be shared.  I was even angry at one point.    It wasn’t until she had brought up what she needed to say that I vaguely remembered it.

I thought about the couple things that I had remembered, that annoyed me.   And I questioned, was she sick then?  Is that why she forgot to do what she promised to do?    And at that very moment I was reminded AGAIN, how important it is that we be kind to others.  We know not what will eventually unveil itself.   It never occurred to me that she was sick when this broken promise happened.   I felt like shit, for a few minutes.  I allowed myself to feel bad about that, but then I had to forgive myself.  I didn’t know.  And it wasn’t that I was unkind to her, although her words said it was a look I gave her.

We think we have all the time in the world to make amends, forgive, or fix things.   We don’t.   This was a blatant reminder for me of the things I take for granted.  And I’m a pretty grateful person.    But I guess I had more to learn.

So, I decided I needed to go to bed, and I opened my bedroom windows.  We are being plummeted with rain.  Rumors are there was a tornado 40 miles from us.   I laid in bed, realizing, I needed to write about this.   It’s all consuming.    And now I’ll go crawl back into bed and listen to the rain fall, and think of what perfect weather it is for this day.   It should be a dismal, damp, wet night both inside and outside of my home.     Because today was a hard day, and I’m very saddened by what I have learned.

That’s all I need to say.  The rest I will wrestle with myself.    If there’s someone you care about and are at odds with, rethink it.   Is it really that important?  Do you have both sides?  Is the silence worth the loss of time?    Only you can answer that.

Grateful I went to see her.   If you want to say a prayer for her, I’m sure she would appreciate it.     Goodnight.

 

Acknowledgement

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For those of you who have experienced the loss of someone close to you, you will understand what I am writing about.     It never goes away, at least not for me.

Fourteen years ago today my kid sister died at the young age of 38.   She had been diagnosed just ten months before with Ovarian Cancer.   I’m not sure what hurts the most.   The journey through it, where we did our best to comfort her and bring her to any treatment allowed, or the endless missing.  I think it’s the missing.

Fourteen years and I still cry when I acknowledge this.  But if I don’t, it makes its way through illness or pain, so it’s best to nod to the memory than deny it, at least for me.

At 37 she and her partner had just bought a house and had moved in just two weeks prior to the emergency surgery that was previously scheduled a week or two later.   I remember it all so well, and I’m trying hard to not go there today.  To just honor her, and tell you what a great person she was.

I can tell you that she worked very hard and knew how to play.  She had a boat, snowmobiles, a toy for every season.   She loved to fish, to play sports, and was a natural athlete.   She had an old soul, I think about this often, wondering if this played a part in her short life.  A natural observer, she was always warning me when to shut my big trap, or when I had gone past “obnoxious” she called it.   Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.  It’s one that I experience a lot when I think about her.

One would think that after fourteen years you wouldn’t on occasion say to yourself “I have to call her, and tell her this!”    It happens less each passing year, but it still happens.

She was my dads bud.  I mean that with every part of my being.  She loved hockey, she loved fishing and shared these things with our dad.   We all share memories of this with her.   It was rather comical last year when my father admitted one day “Okay, Darlene was my favorite”.   The three of us laughed until tears came out of our eyes.  “What?”  “I’m sorry” he said.   “Um dad, we have known this FOREVER!”    I think he really believed it would shock us.   NOT.   I was sitting beside her on her couch the day she learned she was not going to recovery from this, and she called dad to tell him.  “I’m sorry, dad, I’m so sorry”.

So it was on this day that my, our lives changed.  For years I described things as “happened before she died, or happened after she died”.   I didn’t mean to.  It was just a game changer.    My life changed.  I changed.

I remember asking my cousin Marie, who came down to sit with me just hours after I learned she had died “How am I supposed to stop loving her?”   “You never will, Donna” she said.   How did she know?    It was through my sisters death and living life without her that I learned, love doesn’t stop just because someone you love died.   Nor does life stop, as cruel and vulgar as it seems at the time.   “How can the birds still sing?  How can people laugh, how can anything go on when my life has just come to a screaching halt?”   But it does.  But I have learned something beautiful within all the sadness and that is that love doesn’t ever stop, for me it continued and miraculously grew and still does, all these years later.

So on this day, I acknowledge that hope changes.   At first you pray for a cure, you pray for treatment to work, and then when that stops working, you pray for strength and a new doctor, another treatment, and more.   That is until you realize the suffering is going on too long, and you start to pray for God to be merciful with her, with them.  Please, take her soon.   Yes, hope changes.

I miss you every day.  There hasn’t been a day in fourteen years you’ve been gone that I don’t think of you.  You are part of me, you always will be.    I can still close my eyes and see your face, the little tiny mole above your eyebrow, and see that beautiful smile that radiated wherever it was shown.

Time does teach us how to coexist with such loss, but it doesn’t heal the broken heart.  I think because even when you pray for an end to the pain, and there is relief when that happens, the missing?  It never stops.

 

(end note:  I wrote this and posted it on 4/8 but for some reason it’s showing the 9th which I find interesting, because I actually found out about it just minutes after midnight on the 9th)

 

 

Rambling…..

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Another Christmas over, a new year quickly approaching.  Early December I celebrate my birthday, and while most of my life I haven’t liked being “a December baby”, I like that it is just a couple weeks before ringing in a new year, and assists me divinely in reviewing and renewing my year.

This has been a great year for me.   In January I went on an amazing cruise with my best girlfriend.  Spent time in Old San Juan, visited St. Croix, Barbados, and more.   It was great.  I came home to new windows, thus a new home, and new outlook.  This summer I spent time in Maine (Love New England, perhaps that’s why I’ve always lived here?) and got to spend a week with my siblings this summer, and visited my dad.

I travel taught, and in my home studio a few classes, and rang in another year cancer free.  (The Lucky 7!).  My mother and brother survived another cancer (both their third), and all in all, I’m really in touch with what is important to me.  Have been doing some soul searching as to what direction I would like to go in 2017, of course, all dependent on what my maker has planned for me.   But I have some really nice thoughts and plan to focus on the positive, and I have a lot of positive in my life.

I’ve come to realize (finally) that my life, my purpose isn’t any greater than anothers.  Ego baby, ego!  And while I know not if I have purpose now, for the most part, I’m happy with who I am, where I am, and in what direction I want to head.

I appreciate the little things in life, some that unless you’ve struggled financially, or with some things that I’ve gone through, you may not appreciate.   Likewise, in reverse.   I met a financial goal this year that was two years in the making.   It was not easy, but I succeeded, and I’m pretty pleased with myself.  Still, humbled in life, and feeling very grateful for my abilities, for all that I have (and have worked hard for).  I know that I’m blessed with much.  Gratitude.

I redid 75% of the inside of my house, with my moms help.   It’s looking great!

I’ve also been looking at how I am planning for my own future.  I question whether I’ve become complacent in my relationship status of single.   I don’t think anyone sets out to be single for 11-12 years, but during this time I’ve grown so much.  A friend told me how much I’ve matured.  Hey, it’s overrated!   But seriously, I do not look to another, and certainly a partner to make my life better, I look to myself.   It’s like looking to someone else to make me happy, content.   I have made myself happy.  I’ve had pain, but it doesn’t define me.  I have grown to understand its existence, and I live a pretty happy life!

For the most part, I live a pretty peaceful existence.   While many tell me I spend far to much time alone, I shrug my shoulders.  It is within the time that I have spent alone that I have been able to define myself.  When involved I tend to become a caregiver, and lose my identity.  But I’ve also been involved with men who really haven’t been able to provide stability, I’m very aware of that, and these men were men that I chose, and would not again.

Yeah, I’m pretty happy with myself.  I need to lose weight, I need to get working on the book I promised myself I would do before I die, and I chuckle at how I think if I don’t write it, I’ll live longer!  But most of us know it doesn’t work that way!  If I died tomorrow, my six -seven years of blogging will have to account for the book I never finished.

Each time I see my dad, and I see how much he’s aging, and failing, I cry when we part ways because I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again.  While that’s not a great way to think, it’s practical, he’s in his 80s.  He has lived longer than either parent.   I don’t think I will live as long as my parents, my mother who is three years younger than my dad.  I don’t dwell on death, but I also don’t fear it.    Grateful for that.

And I think that 2017 is going to bring another one of my favorite things…. to be knocked out for surgery. I absolutely LOVE this.  I do.  99, 98, 97…

Hope you had a great holiday and wishing you a Happy 2017, if I don’t write before  then!  Shine!  Let yourself shine, even if you’re being dished crap.   Because it’s all over so quickly.

Love to you!

Hell’s Bells

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Tuesday evening I went and visited a close friend who was going in for surgery Thursday, hoping to offer her support, comfort.  Instead she offered it to me, as I dealt with what is probably IBS, or a spastic colon.   Washcloths on my face, laying on her bathroom floor until the pain subsided.   I pulled it enough together to come home and deal with the last two hours of it.  While doing this, I was also calling my mother to find out what time her appointment was Wednesday, she is being treated for advanced kidney cancer (her 3rd cancer).  MGH (Mass General Hospital) in Boston MA basically saved her kidney, thus her life.  She lost her other kidney to cancer a few years ago, and before that, advanced colon rectal cancer.  She was scheduled for surgery in November, but we had to cancel because I wasn’t fit to drive her.  One of my struggles is insomnia.   They go in and check out the ureter, kidney, laser off any tumors, and place stents.  She gets anxious, and misunderstood that she could now accept phone messages, and they had called her back 8 times.  She deleted them.  So after calling oncall service, I learned that we needed to be there at 11:15. Great.  I can hopefully get enough sleep.

Arrive at my brothers in NH to pick her up at 8:00, he tells us to take his car, because mine has no heat.  That was kind of him.  But my brother smokes in his car, and I get very sick when I’m around it.  But you do what you have to.  We arrive early, 10:45, check in.  We aren’t there too long before they call us in.  I look back at the large waiting room full of people, guesstimated, probably 60 between patients and their caregivers.  Everything was going well, until 12:15 came, and my mother who hadn’t eaten since 7pm the night before was getting irritated (who wouldn’t?).  At 4:30 they came and said “We’re going to take you to the o.r. now.   I wished her well, and hiked down towards the cafe.  The hospital is like a maze and fairly confusing, but I’d managed to learn my way around a few years ago upon my own stay there.  Upon reaching the entrance to the cafe the beeper starts beeping.  I need to go back.  Up I go.  They made a mistake.  It was now postponed until 6:30, then 7:00, then 7:30.  Ended up we waited for a total of seven hours before they took her in for surgery.  I’ll skip the whole ordeal because frankly, I don’t want to revisit it.  An hour and a half later I get a call from her doctor, NO CANCER.  Words most people would be delighted, overjoyed, very grateful to hear.   I was.  For a split second, and then I got angry.  Strange reaction, eh?  One I didn’t expect.

I texted my sister.  “Do you remember when they told Dar (kid sister) she was in renal failure and would fall to sleep and pass in her sleep?”  (If only that happened.)  She was afraid to sleep particularly that first night after being told, the next morning she awoke, and was so angry she was slamming cupboards.    “That anger is what I’m feeling right now”.

Every hospital, every surgery, test, procedure, every waiting room brings back very painful memories.  One would think it would get easier.  I had brought plenty things to keep me busy, but my mother nothing appealed to me, and I kept busy by talking to my mother and trying to keep her from walking out. (She has done that before).    Selfishly also because I knew it would be on me again, if this happened.    I was now in that large waiting room by myself.  They were closing the unit.  Someone came with her bag of things and brought me to another building, another waiting room.  One of the “conference rooms” where they pull you in to tell you dreadful news.   But there was no dreadful news.  I had already heard from her doctor.   Why was I feeling so emotional? So angry?   Where was my gratitude?

A few minutes later someone came to get me, to sit with my mom who had gotten VERY sick upon awakening.  The usual naseau meds that we ask for in the o.r. were no longer enough.  So they administered another drug, but only half dose because they wanted her to be able to get in the car so I could drive her home.  And by this time, this unit was shutting down.  Thankfully it worked. and rather quickly she bounced back, she wanted to be out of there as much as they did.  So I went to go find my brothers car (we use valet, it’s cheaper for patients than the garages), they had closed.  So I went to the parking garage that they advised me to, got the car and off to the Main Entrance to pick up my mother who was VERY uncomfortable.  Starting enroute, I was trying to navigate and help make her comfortable, she was all over the seat, wanting to put it back.  It’s not my car, I don’t know how to do it.  I text my brother, and my phone dies.  It dies.   It had been fully charged an hour before.  Where had all the battery life gone?  And the four year old iphone doesn’t always charge when I want it to.  Every attempt takes about 20 different times before it starts to charge.  Now, in Boston, with a patient, I missed a turn, lost my way, and I’m lost, with no gps (phone).     Anxiety is through the roof.  I’m trying to calm down, I pray, I ask my angels to help me, and my mother needs to now lie in the back seat.  So I find what I believe to be a safe place (?) and she maneuvers the doors and crawls into the back, my whole knapsack and pocketbook spill out on the back seat.   Also want to mention that the drivers side headlight is much less bright than the passenger side, I was having a very hard time seeing.  “There is no need in getting angry, it isn’t going to help, Donna”.  I said “I’m not angry, it’s fear.  I’m petrified.  I am lost, in Boston, without a phone, in the middle of the night with a sick mother”.  This lasted about 30-45 minutes until I found 2A.  During this time my mother wants me to stop so I can get her back in the front seat because she determined how to put the seat down.

I’m on Rte 2, I try to calm down, adrenaline rush that has my head throbbing, and feeling like I was going to get sick.  She is now calmer, lying still, hungry.   30 minutes later I arrive at our normal stopping point, and get out of the car to find the money that once was positioned nicely in my purse, in my knapsack.  We order, I just get a drink.  She is eating, and I’m driving looking for a route to NH that I’ve only driven a couple times. She lives in NH, I in VT.  And she wants nothing of coming to my house, nor would I, I would want to be home in my own bed.   We find it, we think, now mind you, it’s pitch black, no street lights, I know I’m not where I’m supposed to be, nothing is familiar. (As familiar as it could be at dark).  I’m praying, looking for civilization.  This lasted for another 20 miles, finally found the route and brought her home.  I arrived home at 1:45am.

I sit on the couch to unwind, each time I close my eyes I see cars coming at me.  So I try to meditate and release the angst.  Decide on a glass of chocolate milk.   I drink the milk, and so begins the cramping and repeat of the night before.  This time, thankfully, I’m home, on my own bathroom floor.  Two hours later it subsides.  I crawl into bed, turn on the tv, and my legs start cramping.  Up I am again.  At 6am I’m finally ready to fall asleep, which I did. Set the alarm, call my mother at 10 “Go back to sleep, I’m okay until afternoon”.  Three hours later  I wake to the alarm at  and look at my phone which had miraculously charged to 60%.  There is a text telling me my girlfriend made it through surgery, it went well.  I smile, I thank, I praise.  I’m up, jump in the car, picking up her meds, some meals for her, and a freshly baked raspberry pie.

She is happy and grateful to see me, and was thrilled about the pie.  We have a piece together.  Calm, peace, gratitude set in.  And something else, familiar, but couldn’t yet define it.   I get into my car to drive home and it hit me… STRENGTH.   My strength returned only 2 times more powerful.   Okay, all is well, now you can rest, now you can wholeheartedly offer praise, and thanks.   All is well.  My family is blessed with a nice holiday season.  Two more cancers survived this year.  We are fortunate.

I arrive home, look at my cell (which charged up to 30% this morning) “Unknown Caller”.   “Hey Donna!  Calling to set an appointment for your mothers next surgery in six months!

I breathe, mumble about pouring salt in a wound, and then laugh.  I can do this.  I’ve got this.   Thank you Lord!

 

Sometimes

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Sometimes something happens, or you witness something that gets you in touch with how normal, or abnormal your life is.  I think life can be very difficult.  That is not to take away from all the beauty, and triumphs, but there are times when I find it hard to face my days.  I think we all experience this to one extent or another.  I’m not saying that I’m any different than anyone else when it comes to challenges, lessons, and choices.  But I do believe I do not handle it as well as many others when life throws me curve balls.   Or am I being unrealistically hard on myself, yet again?

My sister texted something to me the other day that really made me realize how crazy the life of a family with two gene mutations, and an extinguished list of cancers can experience.   Multiple diagnosis’s, treatment, appointments.   I find it overwhelming, and have now for a few years.

Currently two members of my family are considered in cancer treatment.   What remains (minus two who lost their lives to it), are survivors themselves, trying to make the most of their days cancer free, while supporting those going through yet, another battle.

I was burned out with this four years ago.  I.mean.burned.out.  But still, I forged through, being primary caregiver to my elderly mother with her third diagnosis. I think it has become acceptable and expected that I am the one to do this.  And that angers me.   My health isn’t optimum, nor is the life of a single woman trying to make it in New England easy.  It’s hard for everyone now!    If you know not financial frustrations or inadequacies, then I applaud you, but I also wonder if you can fully understand what it’s like to live through this.

I’ve had contractors in and out of my house since November, the whole process actually starting in September.  It is old.    My house is filled with piles of things that have been misplaced, shifted for work.   I’m actually surprised I haven’t ripped someone’s head off with this stress, alone.  But I choose to focus on the good of it.  The work that has been needing to be done for years is getting done.   So when I start to feel the stress of the situation, I’ll purposely sit and look out one of the new windows, or look at the changes that are happening, and it’s nothing but positive.

I’ve come to learn that it’s the conglomeration of, the accumulation, the consistent and longevity of struggles that takes it toll on me most.    I dive into whatever it is I need to, or I deem necessary, but it’s very hard to maintain it after so many years OF IT.       I’m resentful that once again, my life is twisted and turned upside down, without true acknowledgement from those who offer moderate support.   That is not to say that there are not excuses, or reasons, I’ve also learned with resentments that it really doesn’t matter about that… the bottom line is, here I am, again, responsible for a loved ones care.   But I will always do what I can for my parents.  This is who I am, and I while sometimes I wish I could blow off this responsibility, I know deep down, I could never do that.  This is what life has handed us, this is what we have to get to, and through.  I’m in.

Tomorrow I will leave my house at a time I usually am going to bed, and will drive the long distance to Boston, hitting both rush hour traffic hours.  I will sit alone, and wait to hear how my mother’s surgery went, and the status of her cancer(s) and what care will be required.     I will play, once again, the familiar cat and mouse game with her doctors eyes, her surgeon, trying to determine from the look on her face, before I am approached, the verdict of all.  And the past 14 years of family diagnosis’s and struggles will all come back to me.

Then, late afternoon, thankfully I was able to rearrange my appointments (for the minimum of 8th time), to see MY oncologist, for the first time in almost two years.    There are issues that will be addressed, and I’ve no doubt I myself will be heading back to surgery, but I will make that this summer.  It isn’t anything pressing, hopefully.   I will arrive home probably 13 hours or more from the time I left, and I will not be able to sleep.  My head will be filled with possibilities, both good and bad, and while my body will crave sleep, it just won’t happen.    It will be two days before I am “normal” (if I can ever be called normal) again, just in time for the clock to roll in the 13th anniversary of my kid sisters passing.    Anyone who has loss knows that the body knows long before the head of upcoming anniversaries.  Am I right?

My own diagnosis was 7 years ago on the 1st of April, and it was two long grueling years for me.  Boston no longer scares me, nor does driving in it.   But that doesn’t mean it isn’t exhausting.   And it’s not like these trips can be doubled with museums, or fun things.   There is no time.

As a cancer survivor, I do not dwell on what I have been through.  Like the work that is being done on my house, I try to collectively gather all good, and sit my ass in front of those facts.   I am alive.   It is hard not to “remember” or think about it, each day when I undress or dress, the scars are always there as a reminder.    And while I am now (hopefully) still in remission, there isn’t one appointment of any of my family members (all survivors, too) that we don’t have in the back of our minds…. What is this?   Will this turn out to be another diagnosis?   Another life altering experience?  More fighting?   But I’m here to tell you, every day in life is a fight for me.  A fight to hold onto the good, the positive, and continue with and through that which I need to do.

I will do this, get through this, in spite of my own struggles with major depression (which I’ve learned to not really share on) and fibromyalgia.     I will do this in spite of my own need to work, and to get some composure back into my home.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  None of us do.  I do hope for the best, and after being in a potentially very bad accident yesterday, walking out of it unscathed, I am hopeful that tomorrow may and will offer good things.

“Oh Donna, you’re strong!” I’ve been told on numerous occasions in my life.  Yeah, I am strong.  I have walked through some very difficult terrain and made it out the other side.  I am strong because I have to be.  I have high expectations of myself and others, when it comes to family.  But with every new diagnosis or responsibility I start out on the path strong, and knowing,  I am one step closer to falling.   It’s just the way it is.

I have also learned in my life that acceptance?  Acceptance is key.   In order to be at peace, even among st all the challenges, I need to find acceptance.  And sometimes?  Most times?  That journey begins, first with willingness.    It also comes much easier when I know I have done and am doing my very best.   I can’t nor should I ask anymore of myself.   When I lay my body down at night to rest, knowing many times sleep will not come, I can feel good about myself and my involvement, my commitment to help my parents in the twilight of their years.   For me, it’s not only the right thing, it’s the only thing to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My kid sister

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51 years ago today, a beautiful soul was born into this world.    She was as cute as a button, and a very happy baby.darlene3 001

My sister had an old soul.   She was chronically wise.  A natural observer, she would often sit back and watch me open my big mouth, or do something that would inevitably get me into big doo doo’s.   We were 2.5 years apart in age.   When it came to common sense, she was born with it.

She had the biggest brown eyes, beautiful woman.   She had a great smile and she wore it more than most.   She was a happy person.  A hard worker, who equally played hard.   She lived wisely, she lived well.

It has been twelve years, maybe more since she was taken out of this life, too young.   Too young.   But when I say that, and I do feel that way, I am reminded of one of the many trips to Dartmouth Hitchcock for treatment, when we walked into the chemo ward and there was a child, a baby really, being infused with toxins to save his life.   “I guess I don’t have anything to complain about, do I now?”    I think of those words often, not to dwell, but to remember her strength, and to learn from her courage, her wisdom.

She died 10 months to the day of diagnosis, ovarian cancer.   She was 37 at diagnosis.    As I sit here typing this, all these years later, the journey through treatment, the painful truths that were worded carefully, revealing her fate, fills my chest cavity with void, with pain.    I don’t believe I will ever “get over” this.   And that is okay.   Death is a part of life, an important part.   I have come a long way in my grieving.   I seldom cry anymore, tonight I am.    Because I’m remembering the difficult journey she walked, and she did it amazingly well.  I never heard her complain.  Ever.  Please don’t say “I’m sorry”.    I was so fortunate to have known her.

I remember walking into Higgins Hospital in Wolfeboro NH, she was getting a transfusion.   I walked into her room, and she was white as a sheet,  double fisted in pain.   I asked when her meds were due.   “I could have them at 3pm” (it was 3:45)   “They’ve been really busy”.    I stood up, walked out into the corridor and down to the nurses station.   “My sister is in pain, her meds were scheduled for 45 minutes ago”.   “Yes, we’ll be right there”.    5 minutes later, 10 minutes later.  I walked back out into the corridor, this time offering no kind tone “MY SISTER NEEDS HER MEDS….. NOW!”     Within a couple of minutes she was given her meds.      I sat beside her bed, rubbing her arm, talking to her, trying to distract from what was obviously horrendous.  But you don’t really distract from that, do you?  Can you?    “Donna?”   Yeah, I said.  “Thank you”.    If you knew my sister, this spoke volumes of what her pain level was.   She didn’t like discord, and certainly didn’t want to ruffle any feathers.   She would roll her eyes at me when I would.   Night, day.

This woman meant the world to me.  If you have sisters and are close, I needn’t say more.  She lives on, in my heart, and my memories have faded some, but not drastically.    I can close my eyes and envision her sparkly brown eyes that lit up our fathers eyes, soul.   I remember that she didn’t like to try on clothes, so when we shopped, I would slide the pant leg up my arm.   If it came to the end of my fingers, they would fit her.   Laughing now.

Sometimes I think about the loss I have experienced, and I am not seeking sympathy, but reflecting on my life, on the lives of those I’ve loved and lost, and I just cannot believe I survived it.   But when I wrote her eulogy, I vowed to live every day of my life to the fullest.  I wanted to live a good life, to live a purposeful life, in her honor, in her memory.   Sometimes I think I’ve fallen short, I don’t think she would agree with that.  Sometimes I feel my best isn’t good enough, and it is.   I can hear her saying that to me.   “It is!   All you need is encouragement”.

So on this day, her birthday, I am going to do something kind for another, randomly, for her.   And I am going to do something kind for myself.    I am a better person for having her in my life for 38 years.   I know I, we, truly were fortunate to have her in our lives at all.   She was everyone’s favorite.

If you want to do something kind for another today, in her memory, I would love that, she would love that.  Remember, kind can be just a smile!   I will light a candle, and I will follow the ritual I have done since she passed.   It is a special day.   Today, 51 years ago, a beautiful soul was born into this world.  I know, because I was fortunate and blessed to call her my kid sister.  Today I, my family, will celebrate her life.

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I HATE cancer

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If I were to share with you my families plights with cancer, I doubt you would believe me, or you would say “Where did you grow up?  It has to be environmental”.   Well, yes, I do believe some cancers are environmentally induced.  I also understand too well the mutations of genetics.   My family has two gene mutations.  TWO!   When I was being treated at Mass General Hospital with breast cancer I was tested for HNPCC (Lynch syndrome) to which I was negative.   Well, that’s a saving grace for my sister and I.  My brother?  Not so lucky.  Anyway, the genetics counselor said “Did your parents meet at a hereditary cancer convention”?   Which was really a stupid question because it wasn’t until the 90’s when these two were identified to the world.

The past couple of months have been challenging, at best.  My mother was diagnosed with kidney cancer.   She had one kidney removed six years ago for cancer.  This is another primary, all total THREE primaries for her.   There has been delays here and there, and my sister and I are grateful that her grade is 1 (slow growing).    It has been one thing after another in what should have never happened.  Finally, she has an appointment tomorrow at Mass General Hospital, a consult with a doctor who specializes in a certain treatment that is not available locally, including Dartmouth Hitchcock.   I cannot go.  My brother is bringing her as I have a class to teach in Massachusetts.    This will be the first time I have not been with her through her appointments.   I’m told by my sister, close friends and therapist that this is okay.

Tomorrow will we find out treatment?  Dates?  I’m not holding my breath.  With 9 rounds of battle against cancer, I have learned not to expect answers when you want them.  It doesn’t happen that way, at least not for me and my family.   I also made another difficult but important (for my future) to continue with my plans to go to CA for a convention.    I have no idea where my mom will be, hospital? home?  I won’t go any further than that.    I have been handling all of this well, living in the moment.  Today, however, not so much.  It began last night actually.    I sat in a meeting at the local hospital and on the white board was a drawing of a person and certain “parts and fluids”.   The words, lingo came right out of my past.  I didn’t realize until today how much it bothered me.  I just knew I wanted to bolt, but yesterday.    Today I am very unsettled, anxious and struggling with it all.

We are talking about TWELVE primary cancers in my immediate family.  Fucking TWELVE!  My youngest and oldest sisters lost their lives to ovarian cancer, an insidious awful disease that unless its caught early, and there really isn’t measurable tests like there are with breast cancer for early detection.   It’s a savage cancer.  Not that any cancer is great.  I FUCKIN HATE CANCER.

I have a fairly good perspective on things.   As I’ve watched both of my parents age and deal with health issues, I remind myself how fortunate I am to still have both parents.  I am 52.  I still have both parents.  My sister only lived 38 years and even as difficult as that is, there are much worse cases.   Children whose lives were shortened by infliction of this disease.  I remember one chemo treatment with my sister.    Obviously, upset, anxious, we walked into the chemo ward and there sat a child getting chemo, no older than 6.  We looked at each other and said “Guess we don’t have it so bad”.

Notice I refer to “we”.   I believe there are more “survivors” than the patient.  I consider those who are left behind, caregivers, family, friends, those close to the passing of a loved one who has succumbed are also “survivors”.  It isn’t easy to walk this difficult trek with those we love.  I found it easier to deal with my own battle with breast cancer than my other siblings battles.   I think somehow I felt I had control over it, I don’t know.  None of it is easy.   It’s hard to walk beside them, sometimes carrying them, and being strong for them, being hopeful, encouraging when sometimes, in the circumstances of both sisters, there really was no hope.   Not for survival.

It’s so important to have friends, family, and probably a friend would be best, when they/we are going through treatment.  I heard entirely different things than my sisters heard, my mother, my brother.   Even with the future pictured on a scan hanging on the wall in front of you, you grab onto hope.  Hope changes.  And for those who don’t understand what I’m about to say, I have to say, good for you and I hope you never understand this.  Hope can be debilitating.   Pessimist?  I don’t think so, not at all.   But for many, myself included, hope can be frightening, paralyzing.   That’s as far as I’m going with that explanation.

So, if you will keep my mother in your thoughts and prayers as she embarks on new care now in Boston, MA.   If you will keep my family in your thoughts and prayers as we embark on the latest cancer diagnosis, thus battle I know we would all appreciate it.

I know this isn’t about me.  This is about my mother, her options, choices.   Much more immature when we went through this with my kid sister, I was brokenhearted and I was in the throws of my own pain with it.   I was there for her, I did right by her, but I so wish I could go back and say some things to her now as I look back on it all.    But we can’t go there, we can’t get back our yesterdays.  If only.

Now I shall go and get busy again.  I’ve vented, I’ve purged, and I am quite confident that this will be a sleepless night for my family.  What tomorrow brings, we know not.  What we do know is the opponent is a fucking awful disease that has taken so much from us already.   Is that the right attitude to have? No, I know this.  But for today, for the first time since we learned about this diagnosis, I am angry.  I am very angry.

I do want to end this blog with a plead to all.  EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES.   Get your mammograms, prostate exams, colonoscopy, endoscopy, and whatever other test keeps you in the know.  Knowledge is power.  Empower yourself with knowledge.

Did I say I fucking hate cancer?

The large lobby

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I sat in a chair that was designed exclusively for industrial use, staring at the vending machines across the room from me. The “out of order” sign that was on one of the machines was still displayed from two weeks prior.  As I watched, out of the corner of my eyes, others walk randomly up the corridor and by the lobby where I sat, memories from a decade before came flooding back. The scrubs, surgery cap dressed the bearer of news that would and did change our lives forever. Would the expression on the face of this most recent “bearer” tell another painful story? If I avoided eye contact, would the news be fathomable?  Is that a word?   I took a deep breath, rested my head against the wall and closed my eyes. I know all too well the agony that can ensue while playing the waiting game.   Thankfully I’ve learned that worry does not, nor will it change any outcome. I   said a prayer asking for strength, focused on my breathing for a few minutes until the wave of calamity passed. “I can do this”, I told myself. “I can do this”.

I was thirsty.   It had been hours that I sat in the lobby that was described by hospital staff as being “large”  . On first sight I laughed. This lobby is about the size of 4 bathroom stalls at Massachusetts General.   But in a small hospital nestled deep into the mountains, no doubt it was their largest lobby.  My cell reception kept fading, as I tried to access my facebook, email, text my sister and girlfriends.    Any distraction would help. I opened my purse and pulled out two wrinkly dollar bills, walked over to the vending machine with the out of order sign. There was only one other person in the “large lobby” and I could feel his eyes on me as I reached down and plugged the machine into the closest outlet.    On it came!     I slid the dollars into the slot  . Flavored water, yes, that is what I want.   I pressed the relevant number and watched the water drop to the collection bin. “Wow, it worked!” I looked over at the gentleman who sported a large grin. “Should I unplug it?” I asked. He replied “That’s up to you!”  Pleased as punch that I got a drink, I left the machine plugged in, walked back to my seat and resumed earlier position. Suddenly there was a very loud clunking, clanking noise coming from the vending machine.  It sounded a bit like the machines from Terminator2!    The gentleman who had no opinion now had one,  “I think you’d better unplug it!”

I was not in a mood to socialize, though I wanted a distraction. I put the book that I had been reading for a couple of hours down when I found myself reading the same paragraph over and over and once again resumed position with my head resting against the wall behind. I closed my eyes and took another deep breath thinking about how long a minute can seem when playing the waiting game. Equally short when involved with something enjoyable.

I was impressed with the manner in which I was handling things. I thought about how grateful I was that I have learned powerlessness. I cannot change what is happening. The only thing I have/had control over is how I handle the situation at hand (and sometimes not even that).

I hear the familiar sound, stride of clogs on the tile floor coming down the corridor.   As I look up I see the doctor walking towards the lobby towards me. When our eyes connected I looked away. I will know soon enough what is happening. If I look away, perhaps I can hold strong to those few seconds, and things would remain normal, status quo.   I take another deep breath, stood up as she approaches me.   “She did well, Donna.    She is in recovery”.    I immediately close my eyes, said a prayer of thanks. One thing at a time. One thing at a time.

As the conversation continued she said “The questions you are asking, the unconfirmed truth you are seeking is not common. Your family has been through this before?” I nodded my head. “A few times” I replied. “A few times”.    Arrangements were made to chat next week when she had results of the tests.  With this, I know better than to expect concrete answers.  It doesn’t work that way.  The wait and see game gives you only pieces of the 50 piece puzzle you are working on.  Only time will reveal or unveil the journey itself. Only time will tell.