Saturday, August 9, 2014
And Life Goes On
I am able
to raw, open
It was during the twenty-sixth year that I developed breast cancer, which was an entirely new problem to grapple with. How to fit that into this whole recovery scenario? There were moments when holding up was hard. I had a difficult time reconciling these two life-changing events. It felt like an earthquake. I remember a persistent image I had of myself, sitting in front of a pile of rubble that used to be my life. It was my job to sort through all that and decide what to keep, what to rebuild, and what to let go of. The reaction from those around me (except my inner circle, especially Morrie) was surprisingly similar to when Sharon died. After the surgery and chemo I looked the same. The message was clear: don’t talk about it. “Now that it’s over, you’re OK, right?” It is hard and embarrassing to talk about the fact that after all the intensity and drama of the sequence of events around cancer, it is just over. Since the outcome for me was good, it seems ridiculous to say that going from being the center of attention to no attention was a bit jarring, but there you have it; again the loneliness. That is why my support group was so important.
I am still amazed by how little focus there is on the family members surrounding the patient, like husbands and brothers, as well as friends and everyone else. I was fortunate to have Morrie Shechtman in my corner during those very dark and frightening days. In addition to asking questions I wasn’t capable of, in the beginning, he fiercely found the best care available. The hardest part for others to understand is that he was able to tell me how angry he was that I had cancer. Why that is so important is that it made it possible for us to stay close during those terrible months. If he had not, those secret, unspoken feelings would have made everything more difficult, and I would have wondered what was wrong that we couldn’t be intimate. There were many other things he felt also, and keeping the relationship honest made the rest possible.
Women who have lost children and have had breast cancer are considered by many to be neither good moms nor sexy. At some point in this struggle, it occurred to me that life was going to go on whether I did or not, so I might as well join. I have not regretted that choice either. An important piece that helped me through that very difficult time was a persistent sense of being “held up” by all the prayers, good wishes, and positive vibes sent my way. I am not a religious person, but that sense was powerful and difficult to ignore. It was the spiritual equivalent of many hands holding up a person during a “trust fall.” I am eternally thankful for all those good wishes. Again, the choice I made was to let people matter and to allow their help to assist me. It is so easy to sink into a private, quiet, internal place that feels safe. The false bargain here is: “If I don’t think about her or talk about her, then she won’t be so gone.”
While fighting breast cancer, my sense of reality was once again upset and I needed to rework my life view one more time. After facing the death of my child, and then my own, my tolerance for political correctness is zero. The flip side of that is that my tolerance for people’s grief has increased. I very much understand people trying to hold on to life as they knew it. I am fiercely for a person grieving any way he or she chooses.