Wednesday, July 30, 2014

About Family

It seems like if you are lucky, you start out your life in love with your parents. They are your everything and are meant to give you infinite amounts of love and support, shelter and nourishment. I was no exception to that and as I have written before, was privy to a wonderfully rich childhood where I never felt deprived, unsupported or unloved. But we all eventually grow up and in that period start to demand our independence and desire to find our own place in this world – AKA teenage hood. We go through a time where we don’t need our family or parents so much and that is perfectly okay. Independence is a natural step in our evolution and most parents value their children’s desire for it. It is as one would say “a developmental milestone.” But what I have noticed in recent years is that the pendulum spins back around and we begin to need or perhaps just want to be with our family more. Maybe it is triggered by starting our own families or other major events that allow us to see what our parents saw all those years ago…what is really important.

I just finished having my mother here for 2 weeks and it was wonderful. Just this morning when we were heading out the door to the airport, I said to her what I would miss most – her company. I have loved having her in the other room, to sit with and have a tea, giggle over silly things from the past, take a walk, get a daily massage…just knowing that she was there when I came home was comforting. She felt the exact same way especially seeing as she lives alone back in Canada. Being intertwined in our little displaced family for this time made her feel good. We both acknowledged how lucky we are that we genuinely like to be around one another as that is definitely not the case for everyone. Of course we quarrel and disagree but more often than not we enjoy being together and I feel a genuine emptiness when she is gone. This morning at the airport, the tears flowed and thankfully I had had the foresight to use waterproof mascara that day (thank you Maybelline). As my daughter and I walked away, I really started crying and my little cherub starting to do the same without truly understanding why we were crying. All she knew was that her mommy was sad and that she should be too. It reminds me of one of my most vivid and earliest childhood memories. I woke up one morning to the sound of crying. I went downstairs to the family room and my whole family was weeping. Being the youngest by 5 years, I was at an emotional disadvantage and didn’t quite understand that everyone was crying because my grandma had died. I was maybe 2 or 3 years old so I just started to cry too just like my daughter did today. It is easier to fall in line than to hang back on the sidelines. Maybe that kind of sums up the idea of family – it is much nicer and far more comforting to be part of something than to exist on the outskirts. I value the idea of family so much more now and maybe in doing so sometimes pushes me to make unrealistic expectations of them. Because that is the other side of it – family can also be shrouded in deficiencies and dysfunctions. It is only natural really for a group of people who spend decades together to encounter some sort of konflicts. We all carry unspoken expectations of one another and can sometimes be overly honest and harsh with one another because “we are family.” We push the unconditional love bit a little too far at times. I do feel that I have learned so much about family from my own and try to instill the same ideals and qualities into team Norcan. You learn a lot about family in times of crisis and I have had more than my share of it these last few years. It is only natural to put far more pressure and expectation on family than friends but the chance for disappointment than becomes far greater. Even family doesn’t always react the way we want or wish and we often put each other onto the highest pedestals. I am not sure what is the magic ingredient here to making everyone happy - maybe it is impossible to achieve. All I know is that everyone should feel safe, included and loved regardless of environment or circumstance because more often than not, we all just want the best for one another and no one wishes any ill will. Because in my view -  life is far too short to quarrel over “stuff.” Unless someone has killed somebody else, you can get past it because the one certain thing is that you can never ever get time back. Once it has passed, it is gone forever. I understand all too well how fragile time is and hate to see it wasted. We sometimes lose sight of the important stuff and more importantly the big picture.

So as you can see I am quite melancholic and reflective in the wake of my mother’s departure. It is so hard to say goodbye especially with so many tough things around the corner. It feels like the fun times are over. The dreaded scan is in two weeks, summer holidays are done and I am already worrying about the dark cold winter approaching.  Talk about looking at the glass half empty! Everything seems so much easier basked in warm sunshine! Again I have no gut feel as to how this scan will go and my body feels quite numb. I know on some level my body is feeling stress though as it appears in different ways like the way I run my tongue across my gums to the point of inflammation, the constant burning in my stomach, difficulty concentrating…I recognize the signs. 7 months have dwindled down to a couple weeks all too quickly. Like I told my mother this morning – I cannot do this a third time. Twice was enough and I am done with interruptions. So it must be that life will just have to continue on for me and everything will be okay. But it does help to remember that whatever will be my mom will always be there for me. And an army of family and friends wielding swords and shields wildly at whatever enemy appears. Because that is what love is – just being there when it matters.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nine Lives

Okay  this is getting downright ridiculous. I just deleted an entire blog entry for the third time in three weeks! I just cant find my groove and I just cant figure out what to write. I know for certain that I want to write but the right words keep escaping me. Maybe my life is just too boring and non eventful now compared to the previous entries that were full of crisis and real life-death moments. The mundane just isnt as inspiring to me. Work, home, tv, sleep...

I just got home from watching my first adult movie in about 5 years and it was a movie about cancer. Uplifting eh! You see - just because I dont have cancer anymore, it doesnt mean I dont want to hear about it. I actually think it is a kind of obsession as I have seen pretty much every cancer movie out there and cried through them all.  It is called "The Fault in our Stars" and it made me cry. Actually it made me cry at a moment when no one else was crying and my tears were oddly absent when everyone else was wailing in the theatre. Different things affect different people. The story is about two teenagers who fall in love despite both being terminally ill with cancer. Definitely not a comedy here people though I did laugh quite a few times from the dark humour. It was this one scene where the main character woke up suddenly clutching her chest and is rushed to the hospital in a scene full of panic and fear. That scene got me...really deep down there. I used all my strength to contain the sobs that were building like a tsunami in my chest. I didnt want to cry but my body was doing everything it could to get its way. The reason behind my sudden reaction? I understood what it felt like to suddenly think you are dying and the scene brought it all back to me. My husband and I briefly discussed this over our recent holiday when I brought up some of my fears. When I pressed him slightly about understanding how I felt - he responded with " Kate - I know. I thought I was going to lose you twice last year. I get it." He is rarely so open and honest about his feelings so when he chooses to bear them, I listen. We both had the frights of our lives and the trauma still lives with us. I see it expressed in many different and new ways. I never used to be afraid of flying but ever since my tango with malignancy, I panic when we take off or land. Not to mention any kind of turbulance. One particular moment when my daughter and I were flying over the arctic at nightime shortly after I finished my first round of treatment, we were hit by sudden turbulence. It was scary but when we dropped suddenly and the whole plane was thrown into utter chaos - people flying, dishes crashing, voices screaming. It was terrifying and I remember thinking - How the fuck can I survive cancer, only to be killed in a plane crash a few months later! Luckily we made it out of that one intact but my palms sweat and my breath quickens when I am airborne now. Maybe it is my automatic way of thinking that takes me straight to the worst case scenario without passing Go that is to blame. Like the first night of our holiday a few weeks ago, I was the only one awake and suddenly my heart starting beating wildly and out of beat. I panicked and realised I didnt know what number to call in an emergency and then even still would they get to me in time? Is this normal behavior?

I have actually felt my hysteria and panic rising as the weeks are going by and as I get closer and closer to that next hurdle. My PET scan is in about 4 weeks and I honestly don´t know where those last 6 months have gone. But my body feels it and my crazy cancer behavior has kicked it up a notch. Just last night I started googling survival rates for women with my disease staging. I hadnt done that in a long time and I am more than aware that it is my futile attempt at finding some kind of info to tell myself that I will be okay. With the absense of actual fact, we go for the next best thing - statistics! But what do these numbers mean to me? Are they supposed to comfort or terrify me? And isnt it funny how the odds differ so widely depending on what you are using them for. A 1% chance of winning the lottery is actually quite good but a 10% chance of  getting a disease often makes most people feel slightly relieved that it probably wont happen to them. So what does a 40% chance of survival mean and does that number have anything to do with me really? When I am already part of such a tiny population of patients across the globe, do these numbers hold any bearing on my future? And if my scan was okay 6 months ago does it mean it will be the same again? I guess if I could choose, I would have preferred to be on the better end of 50 here but I  can hear my biostatistician friend telling me that numbers mean nothing especially in my situation. But then how come I can´t let them go? I am always seeking answers to the questions I can´t know. I always remember one of my favorite oncologists, Dr Sunshine, telling me she couldn´t possibly answer my questions because no one knows but the deep confounds of my body and its millions of cells. Yet enquiring minds need to know now!
The sand is almost all at the bottom of the hourglass now and the next judgement day is fast approaching. It actually hit me today when I was sitting down with someone planning out an event and realised that it would be happening the same week. Bam - the cancer stick bitch slapped me back to reality! It wont be long now until all will be revealed as they say. I try to stay positive and feel silly even talking about the bad stuff but like I told a friend tonight - I have learnt to not put my hopes on anything and try to instead just remain indifferent. Indifference means less disappointment regardless of outcome. There is definitely some comfort to take out of sitting on the fence. Because  when the shit hits the fan twice already, you become cautious. Now don´t get me wrong, of course I dont wat to get cancer again - who the hell would? But I am scared. Scared of what could still happen. I feel like I am a cat who has run out of lives and that things can only go one way or the other now. The gray matter in between is gone and there is so much more to lose or win all over again. It is just so damn terrifying and I get tired of being brave. It still shocks me some days when I think about what has become normal and acceptable aspects of my life. I thought about it when I watched that movie tonight and how so much of it was normal. PET scan - check, central port in the chest - check, thoracotomy - check, crazy toxic chemo meds - check check . How did that happen? How did things change so quickly? Now I just need to hang on and wait for that moment when I can finally exhale again. Hmmm... when will that be? In the interim though, I will be okay. I always am. There is much to look forward to tomorrow.