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Dad, Mom, and baby Meghan

Dad, Mom, and baby Meghan

Meghan through the years

Meghan's age

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Trisomy 21 trio of cuties

10 Things Every Child with Autism Wishes you knew

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Survivor guilt

Today was bittersweet for me. I attended the memorial service for Ed Marston, a wonderfully kind man with a huge heart. Ed learned a few weeks ago that the weakness, weight loss and coughing he was experiencing were caused by late stage lung cancer. His family had time to come to his side and spend precious days with him before he passed unexpectedly, he went home with Jesus sooner than his family expected.

We did get to spend time with my dear friend B and got to see her mother, who has always been very kind to my family. My hearts aches for them, it is so hard to say goodbye to our loved ones.

I also got news that a fellow breast cancer survivor and a dear friend had "THE TALK" with her oncologist. The Talk; It is time to get your affairs in order" ( Oh yes, I remeber the talk with mom, two months before she said goodbye for the last time in this plane) K is a remarkable woman, even though she has had cancer treatment weekly for two years, she has continued to do everything she did before. She has energy, she has an incredible zest for life, she is a working mom, and she is an American woman living in Japan, far away from her extended family, she is a mom of 4. She is also a fellow BCSN sister and I truly love and admire her, and I am MAD that her cancer continues to fight chemo, though she is not mad, but calmly accepts this news with the grace she has shown all along. I know she would hate it, but she is my hero, I so wish I had half the class and faith she shows daily. I know K will be with us a very long time.

I just heard that Michael Crichton passed away today from cancer, he is one of my favorite authors, I am in shock, I did not know he was ill. The first book I read of his was called Five Patients, I went on to read Jurassic Park, Sphere, Congo, I adored Timeline, even had the audio book, and many others. He will never write another book, and that makes me very sad.

I think am wallowing in survivor guilt today, Ed should still be here, my friend should be in remission, and here I am living and thank HF, doing well. No, I do not want a recurrence, yes I want to live for decades, it is so hard to explain how someone passing from cancer affects those of us who have had cancer, but "There but for the grace of God go I" is always playing in my mind. Cancer does not care what you do to prevent it, it will grow unheeded no matter what some folks do. A horrid cancer resistant to everything, you may tell me, God is calling them home, but I will tell you, not everyone is ready to go when they are called.

From left to right, Me, Julia and Terry, who shaved his head around the time I lost my hair, I was glad not to be the only baldie in the family.

Yes, we can survive cancer, but it leaves it's mark on your soul, and it shows you how short life truly is. When we finish treatment; for me it was just surgery and chemo, we cherish every little thing from that point forward, the wind in your face, a butterfly landing on a flower, the smell of rain, a child's giggle, hearing your daughter sing, seeing your son in a play, feeling your daughters arms around your neck, talking to your sons about ANYTHING, and bringing two precious little girls into your home and your heart after you thought you may not be there to see your oldest daughter graduate. Just one second of life is precious, the world even with all the sadness, is truly beautiful.

The immense gratitude you feel for just one more day, the swelling gratitude in your heart the incredible joy, it shapes how you look at everything in your life. Right after my cancer treatment ended I remember feeling so very grateful just to wake up each day, I would pray, "Thank you God for the gift of this day". That never really went away, but as I get busy and cancer is a bit in the background, I do not pray in gratitude enough.

Today it was renewed for me, seeing Ed's family gather to remember him. However, it also made me remember planning my own funeral as I had read too many studies that told me, women with my cancer subtype did not survive past 3 years. I picked the songs I wanted to be sung when I would be in my room alone, too tired to move... I picked a song from my old church; "I Stand All Amazed", though it had been many years since I have attended the LDS church, the teachings and the music are a part of who I am. I can picture my mother sitting next to me in Sacrament meeting singing in her clear sweet voice, this beautiful song always brought tears to my eyes, and as I lay in the stupor following chemotherapy, it would play in my head and heart, and I would feel my mother next to me, comforting me. I knew should I pass, that this would be one of the songs I would want to be played to comfort my family.

Lord of the Rings is one of my all time favorite movies, and when I the last of the three was released in December 2003, and I heard Into The West, I knew, it too would be a song I would want in my funeral. I was not being morbid, but I was trying to prepare myself, my cancer was serious, something called triple negative breast cancer, and in the 5 years since my diagnosis, I have lost three friends with the same pathology.

I thought I understood cancer and the emotional damage it wrought in our lives, I lost my mother after she fought it for 4 years, she was barely 45 years old, I was 16, when she left me, I truly was alone. My father lost in his own grief and guilt, my sisters far away, one who just gave birth and missed Mom's funeral, and bless her heart, she still feels grief over this, another living with our aunt 100 miles away. Nothing would ever be the same again for any of us. Until I found my breast tumor November 9th 2002, I thought I knew everything about breast cancer, as a daughter who lost mother, but when I felt that lump, I realized, I knew nothing about cancer. The floor fell out from underneath me and I knew in an instant, it was not a harmless cyst, this was something that would challenge me for my life.

I tried for months to deny this thought, the doctors agreed, it was likely a deep infection following a massive breast infection, a lumpectomy April 15, 2003 showed we were all wrong.

If you have never had cancer, would you know how it feels to lose a beloved friend, a sister really, or how you feel when you survive and they do not? Until you walk in my shoes, or those of the millions of people before me, you cannot imagine the pain of loss or the bittersweet joy of survival. My life, me being alive and doing well, is truly God's miracle. What having cancer and surviving has done for me is simple; I no longer tolerate hateful attitudes, immense greed, prideful gloating, or unkind actions. I cry more easily, I feel more deeply than I did before, and I was an emotional woman to begin with so I am usually found weeping over many different things daily. I get hurt more easily and I truly cannot understand why anyone wants to hurt another, how can they, when the life we are given is such a gift? I want to be, as Gandhi said, The Change I want to see in the world. This quote is posted before me at my computer desk, to remind me of my purpose in the life I was given back.

In the 70's Richard Nixon declared a war on cancer, today, the cancer rates have increased, and survival is about the same as it was then. We are losing that war, do not let ACS tell you differently, all they did is include pre-cancers into their data to make the numbers look better, statistics, who can truly trust them? Maybe we need to FINALLY do what we can to prevent it in the first place, beginning with our environment, the foods we eat and the products we use. Maybe our children cannot have this threat in their lifetimes? We can pray it is so.


GoldenAngelsWorks said...

I pray Ed's family receives peace, love, comfort and hope. He sounded like a wonderful man.

I pray for K that should her time come that it will be a peaceful passing. I pray that her family and those that know her can receive peace, love, comfort and hope. I can only hope that should I have to go through something as devastating that I will go through it as gracefully and full of peace as she is.

Kris, my wish for you is love, peace, comfort, hope and faith. I believe God had big plans for you when he allowed your body to go into remission.... THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS IN YOUR LIFE!!!! I pray that you have many years to show them just how great a mom you are. Giving them love abundantly....

carol said...

What a wonderful blog entry.I pray you find the peace that you need. I will pray for your friends and their families. I am so glad that you are one of the suriviors. I am proud to be called your friend.
carol n

WheresMyAngels said...

Prayers and hugs for you. Prayers also out to Ed's family and all those battling cancer.

It has been an emotional year for cancer, I swear, everywhere I turn, someone I know or their child is being hit by it. I lost my cousin whom has just a couple years older to me to cancer. The doctors told her that her pain was all in her head. Six months later she was dead. She was such a good person and never ever let life get her down, even though she had many struggles. Her brother told me that he doesn't understand. He told me, him and his other brothers, smoke, they drank,did bad things and were always griping. Debbie never did, yet she is the one who is gone.

Cancer needs to be wiped out!

Nia said...

I love you, Mom. Very much. And I am very happy that you are still alive.

My thoughts go out to Ed's family. It's good that they have someone like you to talk to through it all.

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