Unravel Cancer: Experiences with family battling cancer: October 2010
23 October 2010
23:08 Stanley Cup for Cancer: Family Update
It's been quite a week. My brother went in for a shunt to drain his excess spinal fluid into his stomach. Word from his wife is all went well, he's awake out of pain (mostly), and itching to go home. The little one ran the last TD in for his team this afternoon, even though they didn't make the playoffs. The oldest won his game & is headed for playoff-ville. Life continues on & all are doing well given the situation.
Two weeks ago marked my 10-day visit to Denver and the whole crew. We had a really great time. It was a shock to see my brother's mobility so compromised. There were several occasions where he fell & I had to pick him up. Thankfully, I was strong enough.
But, all in all spirits were high. Mickey cracked jokes & complained about politics in his usual manner. He really enjoyed any & all time spent with the kids. He pushed himself quite hard to get up & help take them to school. He can't drive anymore, so he would be a passenger while I drove.
The end of the week was topped off by a hockey game. It was the season opener for the Colorado Avalanche, and the beat the Chicago Blackhawks. Mickey & I were in Blackhawks regalia, and the kids cheers for the Aves. They also had the 1998 Avalanche Stanley Cup winning team come on the ice for a reunion ceremony. It was really cool! The lady next to us said it was the first time they had a sellout crowd in a long time though. That's a shame.
What made it so much fun was we played dress up:
The kids especially enjoyed this. The oldest is in 6th grade and already trying to be "cool". So, it was a chance for them both to be just kids & be silly.
It seemed the struggle was mostly on me this week. My emotions fell into a low spot once I began to fight off a cold on the weekend. I didn't take good care of myself & got worse & worse. Several acupuncture visits and herbs seemed to not make a dent. Finally, my back went out Friday night, as I was trying to put air in one of my car tires.
Needless to say, I was pissed. It's one thing if I was climbing, or doing yoga or whatever - but filling air in my tires?! And, all week was spent in bed because I was so sick. I wasn't kicking up my heels around town every night.
It's really a mirror for my frustration. Since leaving Denver, it just seems like my brother has gotten worse & worse. My fear is he's on the "slippery slope" to the end. Maybe now with this shunt procedure, he'll feel better, gain some mobility and energy back. Somehow, though, things feel ominous to me. I just can't seem to shake it.
This feeling lead to survival guilt, in full force. The survivor guilt hasn't come around in a long time, but it sure did this week. I began to feel somehow responsible, or was getting hard on myself for not fixing the situation.
But, what I can focus on is I showed up the best way I could that week. Despite a rental car setback (Note to self: you can't rent a car on an expired license), I truly did the best I could, and the whole family appreciated it. I helped Mickey with many chores & errands that have now become very time consuming because he can't use his arms & legs well anymore. I helped take the kids to school, fill prescriptions, wash windows, do laundry, and offer the ear of comfort to my sister-in-law. Mickey & I had some great talks tooling around in his BMW convertible sports car, nicknamed "Mood Elevator". Truly you can't drive the thing without a big grin on your face.
The Lesson: Take care of myself. This is the umpteenth time my love, care, and wish for another reality has cascaded me down the canyon of despair, illness, and crankiness. I'm no fun to be around, and I'm unable to live my live, get my job done, get chores done, and do things for me, like write. It's no good all around.
My new commitment is to radical self-care, not evidenced by the fact it's 11:45PM and I'm still writing this post. But, I can start over at any time, even in 5 minutes.
A new pledge to my sleep, food, hygiene, work, and career transition has dawned. Starting...tomorrow. No sincerely, it's started right now, even before I wrote this. Already today I've done many things to care for me, like not going to a friend's party because I was too wiped out, etc. Every new step in this direction, no matter how big or small, is a step towards healing & growth. People keep telling me I can't be of service to anyone in my family if I"m a blubbering cranky mess.
The survival guilt is very strong though. It tells me I shouldn't be happy or live my life, because of what's going on with my brother. Somehow, I must sacrifice happiness and "a life" because he is losing his. No, it doesn't make any sense, but that's what's happening. Hopefully by writing about it sharing, reaching out to friends & family, talking about it, getting body work & sleep & eating well, I can overcome this guilt & continue to live my life in the best possible way. My brother would want it that way.
I leave you with beautiful fun images of nighttime at Black Rock City, from Burning Man.
In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life — It goes on.
ROBERT FROST, as quoted in William Nichols' A New Treasury of Words to Live By
I'm a 30-something professional woman who's mother & brother were both diagnosed with Grade 3 Astrocytoma tumors within about a week of each other. My mother's tumor is in her brain, and my brother's tumor is in his spinal cord, causing him to lose feeling in his arms & legs. These writings are about my experiences dealing with them, coping, loving them, loving myself, and living my life knowing that they are both dying. I hope you find inspiration and courage from my writings to help you get through whatever is going on in your life.