aging · health · poetry · relationships · writing

Cancer. Support.

Cancer.
The fear reverberates, ping-pongs
through our community –
seniors with hope,
fresh start
desire
after years of toil, children, woes
we congregate, create –
new family,
future,
plans rise
yet, we know, existence is
unpredictable, key
in another’s
hands – God
drives, we
follow, fulfill, crave redemption,
or at the very least,
a few year’s rest,
pleasure
unchecked
before the ‘C’ word is unleashed
and hearts throb with sorrow,
band together,
support.

(Written for Dark Side Of The Moon’s Cinquain Poetry Challenge.  This is a Cinq-Cinquain.  Check here to try out this form. Image from personal collection.)

health · Uncategorized

Life Challenges Continued

I started this blog four years ago while awaiting the results of a lumpectomy, facing the possibility of cancer and questioning life.   I ducked the bullet, but a year later my husband was not so lucky – he started treatment for Stage III prostate cancer.  Then, to complicate matters, he ruptured his quad tendon and needed reparative surgery, which had to be repeated ten weeks later when he re-injured.  The second surgery became infected and after a nightmare six months and five more operations, he was finally on the mend.  We thought the worse was behind us until I was struck down by a life altering debilitating illness that has confined me to home.  Roles in our house reversed and after a year of caring for my husband, he now has to look after me.  It is a reality that we have learned to accept, believing that the worst is behind us.

We have been naive.

A recent visit to the doctor for a routine physical has resulted in a barrage of further tests and Thor finds himself back in the care of the specialist who originally delivered the cancer diagnosis.  “There’s only a fifteen percent chance that this is cancer,” the doctor has told him, but we’ve both heard that before, and somehow, we are not as confident this time.

We are too familiar with all the signs.

So, as I write this, we are back to that awful place of waiting:  waiting for the tests that will confirm or allay our fears; waiting to know if life will be put on hold yet again; waiting to know when it is safe to plan again.

Are we being tested?  Is there opportunity in the midst of all this anguish, or is life just a random draw, and we have pulled the short straw?

In the end, we really have no control over what happens to us, and while we would not have chosen this path, there is not much we can do to change it.

We will put in our time these next few weeks, immersing ourselves in trivial distractions,
desperately trying to think about anything but the worse that can happen.  “One step at a time,” we tell ourselves.

Forgive us if we falter in our obligations, or if we appear distant or disinterested.  We have a lot on our minds.

Uncategorized

Day 238 One Woman’s Quest

I started this blog in 2011 as a gift to myself.  I had just undergone a lumpectomy to remove abnormal cells from my right breast, and was awaiting the results.  Because of the Christmas holiday, I would not hear for five weeks.  Those were five long weeks, and a whole gamut of thoughts and emotions.

Since that time, my husband has been diagnosed with and received treatment for Stage III, Prostrate cancer, and while I escaped the ‘C’ word, I am now confined to my home with ME/CFS.

But life has not been just struggle.  At the same time as I awaited word, I found out that my middle daughter was pregnant with our second grandchild – a joy that never ends!

Nor were these the first challenges that I had faced in my life, just more in a long line, actually.

So why a quest?  What is that a woman of mature age quests for?

Let me try to answer.

I seek a sense of autonomy in my life – to be able to feel that my decisions/ needs/ wants are not overshadowed by the dictates of another, or a past that is always looming.

I want to know what it means to feel truly empowered.  To know, for once and for all, that I have laid the victim to rest and instead, embraced my authentic self.

I want to live life from a place of inner peace; a trust that no matter what life throws at me, I can continue, because I believe in myself.  And in that peace, I want to know what it feels like to live without guilt, need for permission, or a sense of unworthiness.  I want to be able to forgive (myself and others) in order to be free.

I want to be able to breath freely and stand firmly upon this sacred Earth and make a difference.  To engage with life.  To seek understanding and share passion with all people – no exclusions.

I want to live a life that at the end of my time I will want to celebrate, so that my dying words will be:  I did it!

I am not there yet.  As Robert Frost said, I have “miles to go before I sleep”, and so I quest on.

At least now you know what I am looking for, and if at some point you and I should meet in these pages, maybe you could share a little of your wisdom, and I might come closer to finding my own truth.

 

 

Uncategorized

Day 131 “Desires”

Thor has just undergone a third surgery to his knee to remove infection.  After yet another week of IV antibiotics, the doctor is threatening a fourth surgery next week if the healing does not progress.  Compromised by his cancer and the radiation treatments, it feels as if he is scaling a steep, and dangerous, cliff wall.

What we desire right now is relief:  a sign that things are turning around and that a return to health is imminent.

There are no worldly things that can calm the anxiety of uncertainty.  Even our summer travel plans, which had previously given us something to look forward to, are now cancelled.  Life is on hold.

The kindness of friends brings reassurance and warmth, but the reality still looms, stifling.

Rationally, I know that grief has many stages and that bargaining is just one of them, however, that is exactly what I want to do:  negotiate.  I want to make a deal with God that I will give up all my material wealth if only He will promise me that my husband will be well.

It is a desperate and hollow plea.

Instead, I must find inside myself the courage and strength to carry on.   Surrendering to  fear is not an option – my husband deserves more than that.   Fiercely, I must attack this enemy with all the love and compassion that I possess.

It is all that matters right now.

 

health · life · nonfiction · relationships

“Exactly Right”

Thor and I have a favourite game: fantasizing about what we’ll do when we win the Lottery.  We like to play it Friday nights, before the draw.  “What’s the first thing we’ll do when we win?”  Thor will ask.  We’ve spent countless hours indulging this dream.

Recently, we won a different lottery:  Thor has been diagnosed with Stage III cancer.  I can safely say we have not speculated about this possibility, and now that it has happened, we no longer have the luxury of speculating about what ifs.

Some say that everything that happens in life is exactly as it should be.  I have sat with this idea for weeks now, unable to respond.  What could possibly be “exactly right” about cancer?

Coming to terms with the diagnosis and choosing a treatment path has caused many sleepless nights and a whole gamut of unexpected fears.    The delusion of a lottery win has been replaced by the cold hard reality of our life situation.  ‘Someday’ is now ‘today’ as we find ourselves forced to make tough decisions and clean up our lives.  Finances, health, and unresolved issues have a new immediacy.

“Your quality of life will change,”  the doctors warned.  Even though we haven’t started treatments, it already has.  We will be downsizing our living space shortly, and the trip we planned for the upcoming holiday season has been cancelled.  We have rid our cupboards of unhealthy foods, and plan to make self-care a priority.  The physical trials that Thor will endure are yet to be seen.

Through all of this, one thing has remained constant: our love.  Family and friends, who have always mattered, become even more precious.

Now that we have made decisions, and taken actions to support a healthy life, we are both feeling calmer.  Is what is happening exactly right?  Ask us ten years from now.

As for now, “Don’t be so sure we didn’t win the Lottery,”  Thor tells me.  “If we didn’t find the cancer, we’d be telling a different story.”

adversity · Family · health · life · nonfiction · relationships

A Diagnosis

My intention in starting this blog was to chronicle my journey through cancer, however; after a lumpectomy and a brief recovery time, the threat was gone.  Nothing to write about, really.  I kept going anyway.

Yesterday, life as I knew it took an unexpected twist.  Thor was diagnosed with cancer.

“High risk,” the doctor informed us.  “Your only options are surgery or radiation, but we’ll want to do more tests first to ensure the cancer is contained.”

I felt the room spin.  My eyes were fixed on the doctor, hopeful that he would add something else, anything, uplifting.  Oh my God, I thought, my poor husbandWhat must he be feeling?  Without shifting my focus, I reached for Thor.  He needed to know that I was there for him, no matter what.

“I’m sorry, doctor, but I want to be clear.”  I struggled to keep my composure, but the tears were already breaking through.  “What do you think is the best option?”

We had arrived with a list of questions, which Thor now thrust at me.  Prepared as he was, he couldn’t access them.  I glanced at the paper, but nothing was making any sense.

“Well, I really can’t say,”  the doctor hedged.  “There will be side effects, of course.”

Together, we managed to breath through the consult, but I fell apart outside of the office.  Thor remained stoic.  Shh!  he gestured towards another patient.  How can he be so calm?

“I was expecting this,”  he told me on the way out.

“I’m so sorry,”  I blurted out.  “You don’t deserve this. I mean, you are a good person…..”

There are no right words, and mine certainly sounded empty.  Truth is, goodness has nothing to do with it.  I knew that.  I’d seen so many people suffer with cancer; sat with them through their pain and suffering, watched them die.  And I’d witnessed others who’d battled and survived.  None of them deserved the suffering.

“Even the blackest hole has silver somewhere,”  Thor offered.

Damned if I can see it, but I sure hope he’s right.

adversity · Family · health · memoir · relationships

An Unexpected Lesson

On April 15, 1978, I married for the first time.  It was also the day my eldest sister was diagnosed with leukemia and given one month to live – a year, if she had any fight in her.  I was nineteen.

As a young woman, I viewed life’s issues as black and white, and was often intolerant and impatient of others.  Now, thrown into a world of uncertainty, I was ill-equipped to cope.  Jo was a single mother of one, and asked for my help and support.  I vowed to be there for her, but had no idea what that would entail.

Even though we were siblings, my sister and I could not be further apart.  Eleven years my senior, Jo was born with a hole in her heart, a condition that saw her constantly in and out of hospital as a child.  At thirteen, on the brink of death, a new procedure, open-heart surgery, saved her life.  Much of our family’s energy and attention centered around Jo’s well-being, which was always a difficult task.  Coddled as a child, and setback by illness, Jo was temperamental, self-centered, and high-spirited.  If there was a fight to be had, she would instigate it.  She was reckless, impulsive, and emotionally immature.  At nineteen, she was unwed and pregnant.  She insisted on marrying the child’s father, but it didn’t last.  A string of bad relationships followed, along with several moves, in and out of our family home.  It seemed, Jo had a knack for creating chaos.

In contrast, although fifth born, I played the role of the responsible, sensible child, often trying to mediate calm in our tumultuous lives.   It was the natural order of things for Jo to turn to me for help.   I signed on as legal guardian of my niece, and accompanied my sister to medical appointments.  She underwent intense chemotherapy, and many times we thought we were losing her, but Jo would rally round again.

I learned from my sister, that life is often grey –  that uncertainty, and change are givens – and this rattled my sense of self-righteousness.  I felt inadequate and overwhelmed.  Pursuing education in the medical field was never an option for me, as a I was a fainter.  Instead, I sought understanding of the psychological and spiritual aspects of illness.  It would lead me to years of study and a career.

I don’t know how much I actually ever helped my sister.  She was never open to any of the ideas or approaches that I studied, and she never became any easier to get along with.  Her survival, fourteen years beyond the initial diagnosis, can only be attributed to an incredible fighting spirit and will to live.  She never changed.  I, however, was forever altered because of her.

I was with my sister the night she died, holding her hand as promised.   She was one of my greatest teachers.

(Image from Pinterest)