Saturday, March 7, 2009

Making a Difference

Jackie's Relay got me to thinking the past couple of days. Thanks to all the family and friends who donated- her sailing team raised over $2000 for the American Cancer Society! So many people's lives have been "touched by cancer", well at least that's the phrase you hear, to put it delicately. I like to refer to it as 'metastatically rearranged' by cancer. It makes your heart hurt. It makes you feel helpless. It makes you angry, and sad, and reflect. It makes you appreciate the good times, and the little things like hugs and smiles. It makes the trivial things seem monumental. It motivates you and exhausts you. Cancer also has a cumulative effect. Each time it gets harder. The degree to which it gets more difficult is directly proportional to your relationship to the person. Having a parent with cancer is different than having a child with cancer and having a spouse with cancer is different than having a friend with cancer and having a sibling with cancer is different than having a uncle with cancer and having a coworker with cancer is different than having a grandparent with cancer. Loving someone who has survived cancer is different than loving someone who has died from cancer. It's all difficult in different ways. It's just different.

Even if it is different, if it's the 2nd or 3rd time you have to deal with cancer- it gets harder emotionally. When we started Lily's treatment- that's how they explained recovery from each round of treatment- each time it will take a little longer to bounce back because you start with an already compromised system. Yeah I get that. You gotta deal with old stuff to move on. Excuse me while I go get cozy in my cocoon.

I remember when my dad was dying, sitting through art class- which my counsellor thought would be a great outlet for me.....and fulfill one of the "necessary" requirements. I was a senior in high school and taking a full load. It felt like I was taking it right up the bum at the time, but now I only reminisce of how much easier it was then. And it was life altering, path redirecting, horrible. A freshman twit, and I use the term confidently as I had to endure hours of her babbling incessantly while I immersed myself in art therapy, sat next to me. I remember one day in particular she was going on and on and I got called into the hall and I don't remember why- it had something to do with a message about dad- nothing serious- maybe mom was going to be late from work because she had to get meds- who knows- I'm really surprised I can remember anything- I go back into the room and apparently there had been talk in my absence that my dad was dying of cancer. My twit looks at me and says- I know exactly how you feel, my grandmother died last year. I wanted to punch her. I wanted to verbally assault her until she was a dribbling puddle of goo. But I didn't , I told her I was sorry for her loss , packed up my stuff and while I was leaving made a mental note to never ever ever tell anyone who was going through something that I knew exactly how they felt. You can have an idea, but not exactly. Losing a grandmother in her 80's is loss. No loss is insignificant. But before my dad died, I had lost my aunt, cousin and brother to cancer. I felt like I had the market in loss. Growing up has taught me a little compassion because when I think of my loss, I now think of my mother's loss. She lost a husband and a child while working full time to support me. I think of my grandmother's loss- she raised 5 children in the 50's after her husband died of cancer. She has seen her siblings, 3 children, and 2 grandchildren claimed by the beast. And they go on. When people make irritating, insensitive comments- I remind myself where they are coming from. It doesn't always help. Accept people for who they are is the advice. Change how you let them affect you because you can't change them. Nice in theory- except when you are maxed out in dealing with treatments and appointments and more appointments and meds and lack of sleep. Then those people are flat out irritating. So I choose not to deal with them. Not the most mature way of dealing- but that's one of the things that I let give.

Phillip came home from school in a really bad mood. Phil had tried to talk to him, I tried to talk to him. He didn't want to talk. I made him promise to come to me or dad when he felt like he could talk about it. Appropriately enough, the supersibs organization( helps siblings deal with having a seriously ill brother or sister) send out monthly care mail and his arrived yesterday. After dinner he found it on his bed- it was a book called "What about Me? When a sibling has cancer" . Phil and I were upstairs going through the bedtime routine and Phillip stops me outside Lily's room. "Is Lily going to die?" We don't know when she will die buddy. Everyone dies and we don't know when. That's why we are doing chemo so she will beat this. We've talked about this. Did something make you worry about that? " Kids at school keep asking me if she's going to die. They say kid cancer is more important than grown up cancer. Why do they say that?" Wow. Well I guess because kids are young and they haven't lived life, so people have a hard time seeing them sick. Grown ups have gotten to see and do a lot of fun things so they don't want kids to miss out on that. All cancer is tough, no matter who has it. "Ok, can I watch tv now?" allrightythen.

Sometimes making a difference is a check to a nonprofit. Sometimes it's a meal to a family in need, or groceries, or just a card or a call. Sometimes it's telling people how you feel so that you feel better, or maybe so someone out there knows they're not alone. Sometimes you don't even know you've done anything to make a difference, but the fact is if it does- then that's the important thing. It's not about doing it for accolades, it's about living through and loving through and sometime just getting through makes all the difference. Well Lily would like to use my soap box now to play with while I go and make her another hotdog, for breakfast.


  1. Would you please write a book?!!!!!!!
    You are an amazing mom, friend, wife...person--stay strong. Mike said I should type "stay cool" like we did in all the yearbooks. :) Anyway, I love ya girl and I am praying for you all!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I met a woman in law school who had returned after taking two quarters off. Her father had died the year before, and her mother died several months later, around Thanksgiving. Then around New Year's, her husband committed suicide. She had no children or siblings. I wondered how she had the strength to stand, let alone return to school. Law school is a punishing place. How can we ever know what anyone else has been through--


Lily Kay Monkey

Lily Kay Monkey
November 2008 Photographed by Shelley Detton (7 Layer Studio)