Friday, August 24, 2012

The Ties That Bind....

Ahh...alone at last. After having a house full of family for a week it's nice to get a moment of "me" time. Not that I didn't appreciate their help or their company; but sometimes you just want to hang around in your underwear. That's hard to do when your 5 year old niece catches a glimpse then keeps asking what the sparkles on your thong spell out (Angel, for the curious minded) Gotta love the little ones.

My parents have been staying with me during chemo weeks and, God bless them, I know it's been a lot of work. Mom makes sure I'm hydrated, fed and that I don't fall and kill myself while showering. Dad makes breakfast, cleans the house, assists me when I'm up to walking and chauffeurs Sean to and from work. It's a good system we have worked out, although it's not without its glitches. Having your parents basically move in with you after being on your own for a good portion of the last 17 years isn't easy. They have their way of doing things and I have mine. Everything is organic in my house so I'm constantly hearing, "Ugh, what is this tofu crap?" or "Don't you have any real food in this house?" I finally snapped and said, "Dad, you eat nothing but garbage and fill your body with preservatives!" "And look how well preserved I am!" was his response as he twirled around in my kitchen.  He did have a point. He'll probably outlive us all. Oh, and they hate my cats, excuse me, my "goddamn cats" as my mother so affectionately calls them. Sam scared the hell out of her by jumping off the bed when she came in to check on me. As I drifted off to sleep I heard her mumble, "I'm going to kill this little bastard." Sam should beware; this is NOT a woman you want to cross. 

A few things you should know about the dad is deaf in one ear and the other one is going fast. My mom is legally blind and this causes great difficulty for her in new environments. Together their handicaps, if in a movie, would be zany and quite hysterical. On chemo weeks, not so much! One morning Dad didn't hear me call out for breakfast then walks in my room with a fake mustache and a fedora to tell me a joke. When I lost my balance and fell in the kitchen my mom didn't see and almost tripped over me. She then asked what I was doing on the floor. Oy, someone should be taping this. 

I really can't complain though. They've been amazing. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for my parents to see me in this condition. I would rather suffer through this 1,000 more times than have Sean suffer through it once. I notice how they look at me and it tears at my soul. My dad won't break in front of me. He walks into another room or outside and will stay there for awhile, alone with his thoughts. My mom sits with me most times; rubbing my head or my back. She's not an emotional person but I do know she's hurting and I hate being the source of her pain. Cancer doesn't just affect the person with the disease, but rather all who love that person. I watch as my family struggles, each in their own way, through this with me. It pushes me on to fight harder; so I can ease their suffering along with mine. So that one day maybe we can look back and laugh at the absurdity of it and hold each other a little tighter because we made it through together. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Night At Farrell's

I walk in
Friends are there
Can't have alcohol
Smoke marijuana instead
Start feeling giddy
Run to jukebox
Select some songs.  
 Begin to dance
 Forget about cancer
Feeling like myself 
Joe takes notice
 He sweetly smiles
I smile back 
Guys love Joe
They drink beer
Watching, I laugh
He's a wasp
 Normally drinks wine
 He is drunk
 Truck is there
 He loves me
He gets emotional
 No tears tonight
Only good times
I look around
Surrounded by love
I am happy

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Last week was hell. I've never been that sick in my entire life and it's possible I might be that sick again next week. It occurred to me on Monday, as I sat in my bed and looked at the clock, that in 7 days I would be getting another treatment. The thought alone sent me into an emotional tailspin. Sobbing hysterically, I told Joe I didn't think I could do it again; wasn't sure I would be able to withstand two more months of this. He reminded me of all I have been through in the past year and firmly said "You CAN do this and you WILL do this." He must be receiving some lessons from my sister on how to deal with me because he used to be much more delicate! But, he was right. I looked down at the balled up tissues that littered my bed. What a pity party! This is NOT how I want to spend my non treatment weeks. So, I made a decision; I'm going to live those weeks to the fullest. I'll allow my body the rest and recovery time it needs after treatment. But then I'm kicking my ass into high gear as soon as I start to feel good again.

That's what I did this week and, honestly, it was the happiest I've been in a long time. I made the decision to be happy, to LIVE my life. I put my desire out there and the universe gave it back to me and then some. I saw a play, went to a jazz club, saw a burlesque show, danced to the jukebox at an old man's bar, visited with family, went to a piano bar and talked for hours with Joe, had lunch with Sean and got together with friends. I opened my heart and people made space for me in their lives. I'm so grateful to each and every one of them.

So maybe next week will be rough but that's ok. I can do this...I've decided.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Love and Marriage...

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Yesterday, I became an adult. This realization didn't come to me because I looked in a mirror and saw crow's feet (thank you microdermabrasion) or because I shook an angry fist at the neighbor's kid ( I've been doing that for years...those little bastards better stay off my lawn). It was a conversation I had with Joe over Sunday brunch.

With the chaos of the restaurant swirling all around us, we were quietly holding hands across the table when I looked down at our wedding bands. As I sat and stared at them I was overcome by emotion. I reflected on our wedding day in Virginia 7 years ago. We went down to Williamsburg for a family vacation and quickly realized this was where we wanted to marry. See, we didn't want a big wedding and whenever I sat down to plan something, I would become overwhelmed by the whole process. I had been down that road before and didn't need the big dress and fanfare. I knew it wasn't the ceremony that makes the marriage; it's finding the right person that matters and I was pretty certain I got it right this time. So on that warm spring day there stood Sean, Joe and I under a gazebo on the sprawling lawn of Colonial Williamsburg with a pastor the hotel had recommended. He was straight out of a Margaret Mitchell novel; an older gentleman with white hair and a linen suit to match. He had that slow southern charm that's just incomparable to anything you might encounter up north. He began the ceremony with a prayer:

Now you will feel no rain
for each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold
for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there will be no loneliness for you.
When I heard those words spoken on our wedding day, I didn't fully comprehend their meaning at the time. But, I do now and, clearly, so does Joe. How can I convey to him how much he means to me? How do I thank him for being so true to the vows we took that day, for making me feel so damn special and for always being my shelter from the storm? Still holding his hand, I simply looked at him and said, "I love you with everything I have to give." Not with the desperation of a child, but the devotion of a wife. He was quiet for a bit then responded, "All I need...all I want, is for you to get better." We sat in silence for a while, allowing the gravity of our exchange to settle in.

I've been with Joe for over 12 years but I don't think I really knew him before this year. Truth is, I don't think I knew myself either. This experience has stripped away all facades. We may still keep our game faces on for others but, when we're alone, they're too much work. What we're left with is the  vulnerable side that we share only with each other. We can scream at the horror of what has happened, laugh at the absurdity at times and cry at the sadness of it. And I love that, just like I love our inside jokes, our sideways glances and our shared love of Mob movies and the amazing quotes they contain (... get to live the rest of my life like a schnook) 

So this is marriage? Now I understand. It means something. It's not just a piece of paper and a party. It's standing in the kitchen when the party is over and cleaning up the mess together. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

You Can't Handle The Truth

Everyone always asks me how I'm feeling but, really, do people want to know the truth? I think they want the sanitized, "I'm doing great" version. Well, the truth is I'm not. This new chemo is unbelievably rough, I've never been more sick in my life. Just imagine for a moment being trapped inside your immobilized body. Your mind makes demands that your body can't carry out. I can't leave my bed for days, I can't walk without assistance and I can barely feed myself due to the neuropathy in my hands. It takes about 5 days for me to even begin to feel normal. I'm weak and I'm nauseous and I fade in and out of consciousness. I can't believe anything this horrific is actually benefitting my body.

I've been told, "well at least you're not throwing up" or "at least you're not in pain." Really? Live one day in my life and then dispense your pearls of wisdom. If I seem angry to you it's because I am. I'm pissed that this is my reality for now. Don't tell me I only have 3 more months of this and expect that to bring me comfort. Thinking about one more hour of this makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and cry.

You want the truth, there it is. Can you handle the truth?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Misty Water Colored Memories....

I've been doing some fierce strolling down memory lane lately. The last few weeks have been spent going through numerous photo albums and getting all teary eyed. Damn you, emotions!! How is it possible that people I loved so deeply are no longer in my life? How did I let these relationships fade away? More importantly, how can I reconnect?

I began by reaching out to an old friend I hadn't seen in a while. We met for tea one afternoon and it was like slipping into a pair of great, old jeans; you know the ones you're shocked still fit and make you add a little bounce to your step?? We talked for hours, not about the past, but about the present. We discussed our kids, our lives, our journey. I've always admired her strength for soldiering through some pretty tough stuff and was honored to know she felt the same about me. We shared laughs, war stories and scones and promised to never let so much time go between visits again. It was exactly what I needed to push me to reach out to others.

Since the diagnosis, I no longer take my future for granted. While yes it's true that life itself is terminal; people with a life threatening disease are acutely aware of the fact. We live each day knowing our lives could turn in a moment and that turn could be devastating. I've stopped putting off what I need to say and how I need to change. Now I'm working on reaching out to those I care about. I want the people who have affected my life to know what they mean to me today and never have to wonder. I want to document our time together. I want pictures of backyard bbq's and drunken bar hugging and dancing in the streets. I want it all and I want it now. Why wait? Tomorrow isn't promised.

There is a great line from the movie 'Fever Pitch' where Jimmy Fallon is talking about his undying love for the Red Sox and a kid asks him, "Have they ever loved you back?" I think about that line often and when my answer is yes, I know I'm going in the right direction. I guess, in the end, I want to know I made a difference in a positive way. What have I taught you, what have I learned from you, did I make you laugh? Did I love you and did you love me back?