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.