Thursday, January 29, 2009

In Memory of Shin

Today I am saddened because one of my followers died. I knew it was coming, from her posts, but I didn't have the courage to look at them until today. As I read her blogs, I was aware that her fate could easily have been mine and still could be. There is no guarantee that I have beaten this thing.

I did not know this person, she lived in Singapore. Behold the power of the internet. I am honored that she "dropped" in to my blog. She was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in 2005 shortly after giving birth to a child. Her children are very young and I have been thinking about them a lot.

They will not remember their mother. She will live in the memories that she posted on her blog and those of her friends and family. But will they remember her touch or a song she sang to them? Probably not. As the years go by she will become a larger than life figure that could do no wrong. Not a bad legacy I guess. Except for the fact that she would have preferred to be the "mom that I hate" any day. We are all very fragile and yet we don't really recognize it until a tragedy strikes. This is a tragedy. A forty- two year old mother of two lost her life to this disease. She didn't deserve it and neither did her family. It is so unfair.

In spite of my desire not to be, I find myself being angry. Angry for the basketball games she will miss, angry for the first tooth that will come out that she won't get to see, angry for the ballet lessons that will go on in spite of her passing. I guess that I have the right to be angry about this. It is sad to see someone so young pass on to the other side.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Should I be Angry about My Cancer?

I thought about something I heard Patrick Swayze say the other day. He said he was angry about having pancreatic cancer and the fact that he was going to die within two years. I guess that is understandable. He feels like his life had been "pulled out from under him" so to speak. I suppose that is one way you can look at it. Randy Pausch didn't. I think that he had a great attitude even in his last moments.

Of course, I started to think of how I felt when I was diagnosed and going through my surgery and chemo. I am sure that I was never angry. Even when the initial test results were looking pretty bleak. I have spent a lot of time being angry about other things, but cancer was never one of them. Ask my husband; he has been the brunt of much of my anger over the last fifteen years. I still get mad at him for things that he did or didn't do when the children were young and I was a sleep deprived mother, but I never once felt angry at my cancer.

Maybe that is because one wise woman spoke volumes of virtue to me right after I was diagnosed. She said,"Don't fight your cancer, embrace it. God has given you a chance to slow down. Take that chance and look at life and how precious it is. Don't race through it or fight it. Accept life and your cancer with each passing day as if there is something that you were supposed to learn. Then learn it." She also explained that I would be spending a great deal of time in bed and that I should enjoy that too. I have to say that spending a whole winter in my pajamas and robe was a bit of a hiatus from everyday life. The hair loss and nausea aside, it wasn't a bad way to spend those chilly months.

I have truly tried to let go of any anger that I might have about anything in my life these days. I find it to be such an unproductive emotion. Maybe it is all the yoga I am doing that has helped me to let go. Who knows, either way, my husband is happy that I lost my anger. So am I.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Is Greed a Good thing?

I have been thinking a lot about greed lately. Our current economic crisis is because of the greed of bankers on Wall Street who took our hard earned money and squandered it on false and untested business practices. The average person did not see this coming and now we all are facing the prospect of many years of trying to make up the deficit in our retirement accounts because of the greed of a few. What lessons should we take away from this? Don't trust Wall Street? Don't save? Maybe, but what we need to remember most of all is that we should all try to live in the present and be in the moment as much as possible. We need to remember to live for today. As my husband so aptly put it, "We should be greedy for life."

Be greedy for those moments with your family and friends that help you to take a deep breath and pause. Last week my eight year old came home from school one afternoon and was in a different mood. "Mom, will you dance with me?" he asked. I was so touched. I welcomed this opportunity to stop what I was doing and put my hand on his shoulders. We sacheted around the kitchen while we hummed a tune and "preztled." After a few minutes, we got so tangled up that we ended up in a heap on the floor laughing as we went down. I can't help it, I am greedy for more moments like this.

You could say that my greed for the small moments in life comes from battling cancer. That is probably true. But as we see this economic downturn continue, I believe that everyone will have a greater appreciation for the mundane. So let's be greedy in a good way; let's be "greedy for life."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Loving Out Loud

My brother called last night. He was in Houston, Texas browsing around a bookstore. He had flown in for his semi annual check up at MD Anderson. He is a cancer survivor too having been diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the tender age of thirty eight. Twelve rounds of chemotherapy, two surgeries and three and a half years later, he is doing well and happy to be in remission. I am happy too. The farther away we get from it, the better.
"I am going over to have dinner at La Madeleine." He told me. Then I remembered the significance of this comment. After his initial surgery, he had to stay in Texas for three weeks to recuperate. His wife was there for the first week but had to go home to care for their son. My mother and father moved into a temporary apartment with him for the duration of his stay. I also flew out in an effort to be supportive.
Several nights after I got there, the four of us went out to dinner at La Madeleine. This was Jim's maiden voyage out of the apartment after his surgery. We were all a little apprehensive about how he would feel, what he could eat or even if he would eat. Then the moment came when we heard him crack one of his corny jokes. We all gave each other a knowing glance. Our Jim was back. His wacky sense of humor was shining through and we knew in our hearts that he would be okay. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The thought of Jim going back to this restaurant brought a flood of emotions to me. Before that year, we were just like every other brother and sister. Sharing our childhood, moving into adulthood and finally becoming parents. Now we have something else that we share which has made us a little bit wiser and stronger. Our cancer made us glance at our mortality when we weren't ready to look. We won't take much for granted these days.
As I hung up the phone I said, "I love you Jim." There was a slight pause. "Jeanne I love you too." Prior to our illnesses we might not have told each other this. Now, we both understand how precious our lives are and how important it is to let the ones you love know it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Self Revelations



I had a revelation about my post cancer self the other day. I had lunch with a friend who I hadn't seen in quite a while. I was expecting her to comment on my curly, unruly hair but then I remembered that she is much to polite for that. Instead, what I did notice, was that she kept staring at the belt that I had on. It is not that the belt is a really great belt, so I knew that there was something else that was on her mind but I let it slip out of my mind until I got home. When I did look in the mirror when I returned home, I let out a chuckle. Oh, my! My belt didn't match at all. How could I have missed this?
Well, the truth is that I miss a lot of things like this lately. I am not sure why, but I tend to be a little too forgiving with myself regarding my appearance. Next thing you know, I will be wearing checks and stripes. It is probably related to hair loss and regrowth. My hair fell out a little over a year ago and started to grow back around May or June. I haven't had a haircut since it has grown back and I vowed when I was bald that I would never cut my hair again (although this is quite impractical in reality, I was under the influence of chemotherapy).
Now I look at the rolls of auburn locks and the sprouts of gray and wonder if I should give in and cut it. Should I color it too? Should I wear a matching belt? It all means reentry. Reentry into the world where those things really matter. I kind of like being out here on the fringe where I can dip a toe in when I want to or pull away if it gets to be too much. That is what cancer has done to me. Given me a little too much detachment from the mundane. I am not sure that it is all good when I can't even dress right. It also lets my rebellious side have a little too much free reign.
So I will ponder it. To cut or not to cut. To color or not to color. And finally, to match or to not match.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy 2009

As my husband and I sat down on Saturday night in front of the fireplace with a nice glass of wine in our hands, I heard an audible sigh of relief. "What was that for?" I asked as I watched my husband's shoulders sink back into the couch. "It is finally over. That terrible year. Hopefully we can move forward this year." I hadn't quite realized how bad the year had been for him. Sure, it was a bad year for me but everyone who knows me knew that. He is more of the stoic type, preferring to wait until it is all over to let you know how bad it was for him.
"Last year at this time we couldn't even think about a future. We didn't know what was going to happen with your disease." It is true. We are in a completely different place than we were twelve months ago. Now we have health and no retirement savings, but what the heck, health is more important.
I too am relieved to see the end of 2008. It was a brutal year for everyone. Maybe this year will be better, maybe not. It has already started off better for me. Last year on January 2nd I was getting chemo. This year I went for a day of skiing with my family. With hair. That is a good start if you ask me and at this point I hope that the rest of the year will follow suit. Here's hoping!