Carrying That Knowledge of…




In making this decision to end the slow march of cancer, I’ve had to separate so many factors that it required talking with various people.  Carrying the kind of guilt I have for so long has to be a factor removed from the discussion at all costs.  While this is going to be a selfish act, I am trying to make it a selfless act as well.

I’m not sure how to make that part work.  The lawyer has said a few things, but he has also admitted that having known each other since we were teenagers colors his opinions on this topic.  The therapist has had her chance to chime in as well.  That has been about the absolute weight of my emotions that curl my shoulders and strain my legs most days.

It’s easy to plan for what becomes of your things.  Who gets what and who gets told they get nothing.  [sorry I have an aunt who would clean my house out before the body was cold.]  But the emotions that go into that are tough.  Some items mean a great deal to me and finding them a new home with someone who might also grow to understand that can be draining.

Strangely I have a teddy bear that will go up in smoke with the rest of me because that has been the pattern for the others who have the matching 5 other bears.  Odd since they are all handmade and I still know where each of the others are.

There’s a drawer full of letters.  All sealed and signed across the back so no person opens another’s without their consent.  It has taken time to write them.  Not a single one out of spite or anger.  I’ve done my best to only talk about funny or meaningful stories.  No reason to add weight to their journey.

I have even written a draft on this blog that eventually will get posted.  I won’t be the person pushing any buttons that day, but I’m a planner and a few people here need to hear how much I have enjoyed their writing.

My nightmares come from dealing with a few of the ladies in my life.  My mother, other mother Kathy, my niece and the two she has brought into my life to help get me through the days.  I saw what happened to the first three when we had to say goodbye to my daughter.  Family grieves differently than those reading my words.  I’ve spent a lifetime protecting them and I would give everything to protect them from what comes next.

It’s not like my father or brother aren’t going to be bothered, that’s not my point.  But they handle things so quietly I couldn’t tell you what they are going to do.

Like a few posts, I’m not sure of what the point has been.  My emotions are at times very difficult to get a handle on.  I’m confused about how to handle a few people and experiences.  That female who keeps knocking on the door asking what she can do has asked to be there.  For all of it, damn the laws.  But really who goes after someone who sat in a chair while another person drank a very medicated milkshake?

Maybe tomorrow we can talk about the road trip to get ice cream?  That sounds like more fun.  Especially since we ‘re letting a 15 year old drive part of the backroads!


My Guide to Ending It…


If you have read my stuff over the past 20 months, you know I’m sick.  Let’s push aside the depression issue that came with a few episodes and stick with the cancer diagnosis.  It’s killing me slowly and I have a new plan.

I’m going to help it along in a more definite way.

There have been talks with doctors.  Talks with lawyers.  And recently had a more exacting series of discussions with a few people so that we understand what I need to do and what I need from them.

In Massachusetts they don’t look kindly on people ending their lives.  It’s a criminal act and in some ways a financial lose if your insurance company wants to be difficult.

I’ve made sure to map out those details so there is no issue.  And cashing in my policy was easier than I thought.  A phone call, sign a piece of paper and the money was in my account a few days later.

There’s a stack of pills that could make even the best college rave a tame event.  Whenever they shifted some medicine, I just kept the leftovers.  And for anyone who has dealt with cancer or really any long term illness, they know the piles of colorful little capsules and tablets.  [the economist in me only sees the colossal waste in all of this!]

That conversation I tried to talk a out yesterday, all about how someone basically insisted on being there to hold my hand.  The argument that went with exposing someone to the potential pain.  I was loudly reminded that whether she was in the room or not it was going to hurt.  And the less said about the other people who have offered to stand in a room the better!

In plenty of things, control is a illusion.  We try to plan but something always gets lost along the way.

Not this time.  In my mind those things don’t matter anymore.  Which is where my mistake resides, I get that.

So I picked a date.  Circled in my mind.  There are no triggers for anyone.  For a brief moment I came up with a different date, but realized I chose for the wrong reason.  Revenge.  [yeah, still have some anger issues that fortunately remain mostly under control!]

There are a few things I want to do over the time I have left.  Simple things like visit my daughter’s resting place one more time.  [at least before I take up residence?]  Go to the aquarium and watch some penguins?  And definitely go sit at that baseball field I played so many hours on and remember when the only concern was keeping my eye focused on the ball.

So I have a plan.

182 Seconds of Silence


The pitcher is just far enough that I no longer want to reach for it. Someone should check the filter on something because I have asked any visitor to bring a bottle of water rather than taste what seems to be recycled sweat. Clearly it’s me and not the liquid, but some things never returned to their natural flavor after the chemo. In fact some things are better avoided because they are just reminders of items I enjoyed but know worry that cardboard will be the signal my brain receives.

I spent the past week being a captive of the medical establishment. At some point I really do need to ask if the drugs were designed to make things easier or worse? The entire task of getting up and walking a few feet didn’t work out as intended. Being dizzy just thinking wasn’t fun.

For 182 seconds I was dead. Nothing to report about that experience. I’ve needed the reports from the hospital to tell me what happened. Lots of people running around while I was laying on the floor of my den-mother’s living room. No bright lights, no angels telling me to go in either direction. Basically I was just there.

I’m glad I don’t remember or even understand all of it.

Being shocked back into some form of heart rhythm apparently doesn’t constitute a violation of a Do Not Resuscitate. Breathing being that line my body hadn’t crossed. Sure the heart was silent, but the rest of me was still trying to give it the “Old College Try”!

By the time people explained to me what had happened, my thoughts were about possibly making a few adjustments to what I thought I wanted versus what ended up occurring. The problem with that is this while depression thing that goes with basically everything surrounding my medical stuff.

I found a reason to not be so cavalier about my death. Not in such a rush to just let the cancer win out.

Every single attempt I have made to avoid letting new people in has led to finding the will of two people in particular to be stronger than my willingness to be alone. The therapist has always said I came back to Massachusetts to be around people who were going to push me to be more than I felt I was. But that is why she gets paid, to tell me things I don’t always see. Knowing that people did that same thing in order for me to tell them about economic forecasts, I get how much of a guessing game it can be at times.

The best thing I can offer is letting them have hope.  You can’t take that away from a person without it changing them in a very bad way.  They aren’t even hoping for a cure, it’s been about time and how best to spend it.  Facing simpler challenges that we might be able to conquer in an afternoon.  Something as simple as a puzzle or wanting to learn about a subject.

I know that there are times when people leave and that hug is about a full range of emotion.  Not too tight, but lingering long enough to carrying until the next time.

The funny thing I can say?  You drain too much water out of a person and they can’t concentrate on the world around them.  They slowly die.  You take away people who matter?  The same thing happens.

Punching the Ticket


All the important players were around the table.  Glasses dripping condensation on the wooden surface as one voice kept trying to be heard a little louder than the rest.  It was much warmer inside than out, even though the thermometer read 90 degrees.  Unusual for this time of year, but the kids were loving that they could pull out the shorts and tank-tops for an afternoon.

My parents had come into town to help manage a situation that was slowly getting odder and odder to trade emails or texts about.  Even the lawyer had taken a little time to speak from the beach, her voice calmly trying to answer questions while kids played in the background.  (Yes, there is a slim piece of land just north of Boston that we call a beach.  More rock than sand, there is a decent clam shack for those who are so inclined.)

If someone called me the ringmaster, they wouldn’t be too far off.  The circus of people with their differing opinions get heard, but in the end it is my decision to make.  Only I want them to understand how we got here.

Everyone gets the need for certain legal documents.  Even the ones that spell out how to handle my medical issues once I am no longer capable.  A game plan that I designed and hope others follow for the most part.  (I think one or two family members might be a little faster to pull the plug than others just to gain control over a few things.  But you can see them in the reptile house at the other side of the circus tent!)

Some plans in life shouldn’t need 15 year old girls being asked if they understand.  But the way my parents raised me means that they get a voice.  My niece deserves an opportunity to speak in a way that shows the adults she can handle what is being asked of her.  To just inform her and insist she act out of obedience isn’t fair.

My dad sits there and takes it in.  My mother is much more vocal, as is my den-mother in Boston.  I was taken back by the inclusion of a friend, but that was also something my mother requested.  It’s not a grand conspiracy, but I believe there is more communication there than I was made aware.  But she said she wants to help, be there in a way I need and sometimes forget to ask; so I don’t question any of this.

All of this was necessary because of an offer from the doctors.  They told me that by the end of the summer things are going to be bad.  Finding an exit strategy for me was something that needed to be addressed.  No one is actively asking me if I want to end my own life at some point, but they are asking if there is some mechanism in place if I chose that route.

When I was in the significant throws of depression after my daughter died and her mother left, I told the doctor that I could see multiple ways of ending my life just from objects in the office.  My list bothered the therapist because it showed I had not only thought things through, my plan had so many contingencies that nothing was going to stop me.  I obviously stopped myself in time, with lots of help.  But the specter of the cancer was always floating right above my head.

Sitting around that table we went through everything.  Discussed options and what I wanted versus what other people needed.  It wasn’t just water dropping from glasses that left the surface stain with moisture.

This is an ugly mindset to need to have.  But also one that requires a level of strength from not only me but in time all those other people.

And the biggest problem is now we wait hoping something beyond our control occurs so that we never have to have this talk again.


Wednesday’s with Me…

There are lots of things that Cancer does to you.  Let’s not pander and overlook the obvious physical toll it takes.  Not only does the hair do odd things but even the toughest of people are at times reduced to needing help just to get out of a chair.  We see that part all the time.  The part most people are afraid of is the emotional side-effects.  Ones felt by themselves that they try to hid from others, while those same people are trying their best to act as if life is normal.

Most days I can keep the emotions in my little box, along with Shroedinger’s Cat.  Are they alive or are they dead?  But when the box does get a little peek of light, we end up with a more perverse version of Pandora’s little surprise.

Today I have been running from the feelings that would drive me to put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger.  Those are ugly thoughts.  Ones that scare everyone around me because they know for me to even admit them means they have been rolling around for longer than my words now hanging in the air.

What happened today?  I don’t know.  There’s no trigger in my past that has my memories flooding back.  No birthdays, anniversaries, or even some flashback to an event I may have once attended.  But it has a grip on me that is so tight that I needed to write about it.  These are the conversations that upset people around me and only drive my own guilt deeper inward.  Rational versus irrational, pure emotions or pure logic; one always wins.

I’m finding that as I make these lists of things I wish to do, some require my reaching out to people.  But logic takes over and makes me question if this is about me or for them?  Would I be doing the right thing in talking to people about my death or letting them read about it at some point in the future?  Deeper and deeper into myself is the result of that particular question.

I haven’t been able to answer for my therapist a very simple question.  Why haven’t I spoken with anyone?  Even the people who know about me being sick don’t know the extent of where I currently find myself.

While the doctors tell me that the time to do something is now, my brain wants to do an end-run and find excuses for waiting.  I’m running out of excuses and running out of time.  Sooner or later getting my thoughts out is going to get harder and harder than it already is.  The confusion that at times clouds my mind will get worse.  And I’ll not only not recognize my thoughts but possibly some of the people in them and unfortunately those in the room.

Self-imposed isolation is not a good thing.  I always saw those signs in someone else and worried daily about her ability to control them.  Hiding when doing something was always the better task.  But I got to a point where I knew I couldn’t change those things, only be there if she was ever ready to talk.  She never was…

For the last year I’ve tried to talk about how it feels to lose a daughter, her mother leaving and now my own life.  I still don’t know how.  All this progress I’ve made with anger is nothing compared to the need to progress with the one thing that matters most, admitting that the people in my life matter.  Not just as memories but as an active part of my life.

I’ve seen too much death lately.  Experienced it in ways that I shouldn’t, ways that make me send a package to someone telling them that this scarf is to remind them of a warm hug that I just can’t deliver.  My only thoughts being how much they mean to me without being able to tell them directly.

I know the words, understand their meaning, but yet I can’t seem to apply them to myself.  I haven’t reached the point where I believe I deserve them.  And it’s very likely I never will…

Starting a Countdown

262,800 minutes and the only reason I even know that number is because I’m have see the musical Rent once or twice.  It’s the amount of minutes that occupy 6 months.  The same amount of time a grim looking doctor gave me before they believe this boy is going to shift into a different plain of existence.  It was quite a conversation, and I’m still playing back most of the words in my head.

I’ve always been a morning person.  It was important to me to get my world in order so that later I could be available for other people.  That theory has long been the routine.  In simple ways it meant I wouldn’t have something hanging over my day interfering with spending time with friends or family.

The office world laughs because I would be in hours before some others were even leaving their homes.  The quiet allowed me to get plenty done and left plenty of time for me to be able to deal with the issues that my office mates would bring to my day.  Being the top of the food chain meant that at times my time wasn’t truly my own.

These days I try to do as much as possible, at least when my body is up for the challenge.  Day, night, an hour spent preparing for something that I know I might not complete until the next day.  Right now I have a list of things to do, one that while I knew had a clock ticking came to a very harsh reality yesterday.

My first thought wasn’t even for myself.  My brain instantly went to how long can I avoid this conversation with my family.  Having them stare at the same clock isn’t quite what I would consider fair.  But it has changed some priorities.  I made the only other person to know swear to keep the information between us.

Later on will be the time to be scared or some other emotion that is going to paralyze me when I realize the true nature of my doctor’s words.  I’m not naive, I’m not trying to hide; but right now I have this manic need to get things done.

There are some ugly choices ahead.  Some of my theories changed when I had a daughter.  Now I want to spend my eternity with her rather than on some baseball field my family sneaks on to.

My heart knows that I no longer should worry about trying to find inner strength to reach out to a few people.  It doesn’t seem fair.  If asked, they know how I feel about them.  My selfish desire to get one last hug in just seems confusing.  Maybe I don’t really have a good plan, this is where my emotions will fight my resolve.  Who am I really protecting?

The best part of yesterday was stopping on the way home and picking up a gingerbread house for the little girl next door.  Kids sometimes know more than we give them credit for.  And the hug I received, one that shocked the other adults in the room since she had never reacted that way towards me, will stick in my heart for ever.

Mornings were supposed to be about acknowledging the new, a fresh start.  Now I’m not sure how to look at them.  This is one of those times when I wish I were just dressing a kid for school and rushing out the door.  Silly thought, but right now it’s what I want.

<a href=””>Because the Night</a>

This deserves a better title

The tablecloths were spread out over several tables.  White linen pulled tightly to each edge, the crisp folds still easily visible to anyone looking.  A table covered in blueish-silver bags for people to take home with them as they eventually would trickle back out the door hours later.  The screen was sitting where hopefully everyone could see  and know the only thing to do was wait.

We’d spend Friday night going through the paces, joking about how things should go but expected that they were going to possibly make us scramble for a minute or two.  After finally figuring out how to work the sound system, we nodded in agreement that things were the best they could be.  So homeward bound to reflect on what to wear or who we might see probably occupied everyone’s thoughts.

I made sure to lay out my clothes a little early Sunday morning as I went about trying to get a few things around the house.  My shoes polished a little brighter than normal.  It wasn’t for the people who were there, but for the possibility of who might.

As I got out of my car and walked towards the door, you could hear the laughter of people as they were telling the band where they needed to set up.  The locations of power and hopefully enough space had been set aside.  The classic drums, guitar, bass and keyboard to accompany the 5 women singing.

Hugs are exchanged, little children as running around hopefully wearing themselves out a tiny bit before they are going to be sitting.  The echoes of their laughter filling a hall where their very presence is going to be appreciated by most and celebrated by all.

I couldn’t help sneaking down the hallway to check out the food that was laid out throughout the room.  Cakes and cookies, sandwiches and platters of various fruit and cheese.  A veritable bounty that was more than enough to feed everyone.

Sounds like a pretty good party?  The kind being thrown elsewhere that day in hundreds of locations around the globe.  Only this was a different kind of celebration, one where the kids were going to be memories and pictures flashed with dates on that screen.  For a few moments those laughing children are going to be a a painful reminder of why we gathered that day.  Later a grateful feeling that those signs of life are still present around us.

As the band hit that last chord and everyone filed out of the church, taking one of those bags that contained a bulb for a flower, it was quiet.  Some of the faces were still able to smile and a few others needed to avert their eyes because they didn’t know how to deal with the emotions at that moment.

For some it might have been the only time someone heard their child’s name.  Saw a picture of that same child frozen in time from before.

When it was my turn to stand in front of the crowd and say even a few words about my daughter, I froze.  Just being there was sometimes difficult as I helped people towards the front of the sanctuary so that they could speak for the silent.  That part was easy, it made it worth everything else.

I could have spoken.  I was being encouraged to speak, but my normal ability to be strong falters at these moments.  The same weakness shared by every single person present.

Of those people, there are any number that would have stood next to me for as long as it took for me to utter a name, Abigail.  Light that candle and grab my arm.  I can think of one or two who would have been just as happy to say her name for me if I suddenly fell mute.

It’s easy to help people at times like that.  It can also be painful to watch as you know the grief they are experiencing.

I’ve come a great distance to get to where I am today.  I just know I’ll need to ask for a little more help finding my voice next time.
<a href="">Sorry, I’m Busy</a>