Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Times Three No. 13
Every day has been a struggle for dear Jacquie. But she is braver than the bravest and will not fail.
Every day has been a fight to trust that we can get through this. To trust that our love for our families and each other is more important and has more of a call on our hearts than anything else that can try to take us down. Every day I lose that trust many times over.
I made plans and said God willing. Jacquie made plans and said God willing. And then he willed otherwise.
Sheldon got sick and died and we were all affected. We cannot allow ourselves to be dispassionate about each other’s lives. We are all in this together.
When I was first diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer I would sit on my couch (I called it my coffin) and cry. All I could think of was what a loser I was. I lost and everyone else won. My children lost and their children won. I felt less than. I was a diminished person.
Jacquie and I talk about this many times, because now Jacquie feels that she is the loser and it is my turn (just like she did for me) to tell her that she isn’t. “Did you think I was a loser when I was diagnosed?” ‘No.’ “Well, either are you. We’re not losers, we’re just sick.”
And now I understand, but sometimes it is hard to let those thoughts go.
It is a really long road. Once you step on the road marked ‘Cancer’ it is near impossible to get off of it. And if you are like Jacquie, Flo, Sally, Noreen, Daria and I and many others, well then you just don’t get off that road; period.
Jacquie is not well. These past few months have not been easy. The typical textbook of cancer attacks on both your mental and physical health: pain, sickness, loss of appetite, loss of weight, sadness, loss of energy, and mostly loss of hope are all pounding at her daily.
I know that if Jacquie is given enough time that she too will come out the other end. Wondering what hit her, but able to know that she can go on. I have only seen one other person as brave as Jacquie and that was her son Sheldon.
Almost four years is a long time to be sick. A long time to be told that you will be dead in six months and then when you are able to live past those six months, know that you are on borrowed time and the bomb WILL drop and when it does you better be ready.
Jacquie has been sick for almost four months but with her not being able to move you may as well times each of those months by twelve. It is a long time to be sick. Never mind the loss of her dear boy Sheldon.
It is a really long road, it just is. And I know I really know that it gets old for people. Unfortunately for some of us we don’t have the luxury to step off the road or to take that well-needed break. Trudge on, trudge on, and do not give up.
Jacquie and I are different in many respects to our cancer and what we want from people. I never wanted anyone (because I had my family and Jacquie) and Jacquie (always being the nicer sister) wants people. Not only does she want them, she needs them.
Meeting with Jacquie’s oncologist we heard very good news. That the tumor had shrunk remarkably. It is a victory. I am over the moon. Jacquie, Ben, Gil and I are all there, and what Jacquie really wants to know is if she will regain some motion. The doctor feels she will. Another victory, one that makes Jacquie at least feel ‘Well maybe?’
Jacquie started chemo again last Wednesday and is dependent on people (which she never has been in her life). It is a really long road. It just is, and it is very hard to make people appear out of thin air.
In the beginning everyone calls all the time, they have all kinds of offers, they remind you to ‘just give me a call if you need anything.’ They will come over to visit all the time……but after the weeks drag on (after all, all the time is a very long time) its like people get sick of you being sick.
They see your phone number come up and they are just too tired to answer because they know you may actually ‘need anything.’ So what happens is your phone number never comes up because you just know not to call. They are relieved and now can pretend you are getting everything done (the top hat and the rabbit must be in the house), as you are not calling them. After all, they did offer.
Last week I was so tired and coughing my guts up at Jacquie’s and she called me from the bedroom because she needed something, I was like ‘Oh God, I’m so tired; I just want to go home.’ But then I knew that it isn’t Jacquie’s fault and I knew that I would have to get my shit together and go and help her. Jacquie did everything and anything for me. For shit sake she gave me enemas. I tell her and through our tears we laugh our heads off.
It is a really long road, it just is. It is not a road for the faint of heart.
I get sick of not doing anything fun, not seeing anyone, sick of even answering the question ‘How are you feeling?’ Because the truth is no one wants to really know. When you find that person who really does want to know (few and far between); the funny thing is you don’t feel sick of answering the question.
To the many other people who ask the question the usual response is ‘fine’ because to be honest it is easier. You may as well let them off the hook in the first few minutes. Many people don’t know how to react or don’t want to hear it.
I see that Jacquie has learnt this already. I see her get the phone and say ‘good, fine, alright’ even though she is feeling far from all of those things. On the other hand what do you say ("I mean I’m not dead, so I guess I’m fine").
I know that we are all entrenched in our own personalities and lives and loves and tendencies. I know that we sell and buy our own excuses. I know that none of us like change and we all like our comfortable life if we are fortunate enough to have one.
I am thankful that I had Jacquie and my family who took exceptional care of me even when they needed a break, even when it got old, even when they got sick of hearing me say “I feel like shit.”
Jacquie and my family did that for me because they knew I needed them. I needed other people too….
Jacquie was throwing-up and having to go to the bathroom, poor girl. I was helping her and then went home. I too was throwing-up and Nathan called and said ‘Auntie Jacquie needs you, can you go back?’ I was just about to and phoned Gil and all I can say is thank God homecare came, because I was sick and Jacquie was sick and the last thing I wanted to do was go anywhere.
Jacquie just like you did for me, whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, you won’t have to ask me and you won’t have to thank me. And I will always be sick of being sick, but never ever will I be sick of being there for you.
The light shined bright the other night though. There was a Beast, Belle (dressed as Cinderella), a Witch and her Mama, and a Grandma/A.J. all on a crisp Halloween evening laughing and going door to door. I drove up and lunged towards them like Quasimodo because I can barely move my leg and pounced on Grandma/A.J. in the wheelchair and asked if she had fun and she did. I could see it.
Beast (Ben) pushed Grandma/A.J. (Jacquie) while Mama (Angelique) went up to the houses with Belle (Kayla) and a Witch (Josephine). Amongst all of this magic there were many creatures running from door to door, there were even boxes walking around.
But best of all it was a good night where a mother and her other brave son were able to go for a lovely evening stroll.
*artwork by Kelly Vivanco