Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Día de los Muertos inspiration

I find it odd that I've been inspired to write a blog entry on the Day of the Dead. Especially since this entry is going to be primarily about how death and illness have changed me. A dear friend from college lost her teenage son, quite unexpectedly, earlier this year. To honor him and to help process her grief she started writing a blog of letters *to* her son. Honestly, those (nearly daily)letters have been a gift to me and I'm sure other friends/family who are reading them. They are funny, sad, grief filled tributes that have made me laugh out loud then cry within the same sentence. Today's entry inspired me to start writing my own thoughts again. (Not sure how long this will last but, hey, it's a start!)

This blog has morphed from a blog about Cancer treatment, parenting, recovery, death and grieving to one about single parenting and getting back out in the world without those labels of "cancer patient/survivor" or "ex-partner to sick/dying/dead mother of Sofie" as primary identifiers. Okay, the last one was a bit harsh but it's how I felt for a long time prior to and post Debra's death. I kind of got lost in all that happened. It's what I do. I push on through, not worrying about myself as much as I worry about others. It's easier that way.

I do have to say, I have changed for the better, in some aspects, as a result of all that happened during those few years. Ultimately I had to change, but I also need to change more. Life is a process, a constant growing, changing, learning, get the picture. I'm also the first to admit I've changed some things NOT for the better. As I said, I'm learning.

Let's get the bad out of the way because it's the hardest to write. Once this is out on the page, I can end with writing about the good. In many ways I feel I'm becoming the parent I said I'd never be. I'm not juggling very well and that creates unnecessary chaos in our lives. Instead of being organized about chores and consequences, I'm always on someone's case about all the things she needs to do in the morning, then lather rinse repeat in the evening. My overwhelm and default state of being is cranky, naggy mom. What happened to the fun mom of years gone by? I want her back, more consistently, in our lives. How do single parents really juggle work, parenting, and life without sacrificing their own personal space and life? Other parents do it with far less and I'm feeling like a spoiled middle class brat right now even writing this...but this is the bad, I do get to write some good.

This may seem ironic but one of the ways I've changed the most is that I've become a "glass half full" person as my default character. Sure, I'm whining in the previous paragraph but ultimately I know life is good great and I honestly believe it's only going to get better. Having survived Cancer opens your eyes to all that is good in life. Having survived Cancer, plus parenting a child through the death of another parent, really puts perspective on life. There may have been some "faking it until I made it" in the earlier years of this chapter in my life but I can honestly say I've become a much more positive person on the other side of things. As I'm getting closer to 50(okay, I still have a few years but I am on the down side of my 40s now!) I see more and more all the good things in life and know the bad are just lessons taught and challenges placed in order to show us we can persevere through ANYthing.

Sofie is morphing from a child to a teen right before my eyes. It's a struggle for her. She's had so much loss and she really doesn't want to lose her innocence/fun and grow up. (She's said that, I'm not making it up.) She views growing up as losing all the fun things in life. I've not been the best model showing that to be untrue.

Today I honor the old, stick in the mud Jamie. Let that part of me die, be gone. Honor that she was a necessary part of me to help transcend from single, part-time parent to single, "everything is my responsibility, especially a little girl with so much loss" parent. Focus on fun, focus on me, focus on teaching/showing Sofie that mistakes happen and it's not the end of the world. Today I begin a new chapter...unsure of the title but definitely a new chapter in the life of the complex one.

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation. – Rainer Maria Rilke

Monday, July 25, 2011

Flashback: July 25, 2006

Five years ago today, my life was about to of several life changes occurring that year and years to follow. Five years ago today, I was undergoing a hysterectomy because there were "suspicious" cells that returned from a biopsy. Those "suspicious" cells were, in fact, undeniably cancerous. I was, unbeknownst to me, about to embark on weeks of radiation plus several months of chemotherapy. My, what a year that was!

There will be no waxing nostalgic in this post...for that you can read the blog entries for that year. This is about looking forward and living life with no regrets. From those years of life changes I became fulltime parent to a wonderfully spunky girl. With that I have years of  looking forward to watching her become the tween/teen/young adult/etc. etc. etc. that she will evolve into. Fortunately for us, we get to share that journey with a wonderful woman who dropped into our lives about a year ago. Sofie and I both are looking forward to growing our family with one mom/partner and two more cats. (yes, we are crazy cat people!) Life can be full of challenges and growing pains, fortunately those also come with love and celebrations. To coin a phrase(or 80's one hit wonder), the futures so bright, I gotta wear shades.

In theory, the cancer was removed when my cervix, uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes were removed. So do I celebrate 5 years Cancer free today...or do I wait until next March, the 5th anniversary of the end of my treatment? Maybe this can be the YEAR of 5 years Cancer free? Let's get this party started!!

Okay a little waxing nostalgic. A heartfelt thank you goes to everyone in my life, new and old, who have been here for me during the last five years of "growing pains"...couldn't be the mom, partner or friend I am without a supporting cast like you all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Home phone dilemma

Up until very recently I've been quite content have no home phone. I'm not ready for my rising 5th grader to have her own cell phone...she doesn't even want one. I have, however, started thinking about adding a second line to my cell plan for home use only. Of course,  I research and realize there are so many other options out there.Tracfone, VirginMobile, Credo, etc, etc. What's a mom to do? What's a good, reliable, cheapish alternative to a land line?!?!

Any sage advice for me, do share your wisdom!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My nightly view point


This is what I get to see any time I'm horizontal and my stalker cat is around

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fence sitter or what I believe about the mom who is losing custody of her children "because" she has Cancer

All my life I've considered myself someone who always sees both sides to a story, a fence sitter, as it where. That trait has benefits although it doesn't make for a passionate defender. Honestly, I wish more people could see both sides, maybe our world would be a more peaceful place to live. That's why I was surprised to my initial reaction to the story of a woman who was losing custody of her kids, allegedly for having Cancer. Of course it pushed every liberal button in my body. I was outraged that such a thing was happening and it was happening in my own backyard! This was personal, too. The five people that read my blog know what the last five years of my life have been like. For those new to reading me, here it is in a nutshell:
  • Former partner(and primary care provider to our daughter) diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer(2006) after our wonderful Primary Care doctor thought something was off with the symptoms Debra had.
  • Surgery and chemo begin immediately
  • Three months later, I was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer after a hysterectomy was performed due to "suspicious cells" found during a biopsy.
  • As her chemo is winding down, my treatment of surgery, radiation then chemo begins.
  • Less than 6 months after completing chemo, cancer returns for Debra.
  • We are simultaneously going through chemo since I had 3 treatments to go.
  • Debra doesn't respond well to the chemo after the recurrence and dies December 2007.

The mom in question has some major PR backing. There's a Facebook page dedicated to the "wrongness" of the actions and much of mainstream media has jumped on the "mom was wronged because she has cancer" bandwagon. Since this is a family law type issue I don't think there's a ton of  facts from either side out there. Why are we not hearing the Dad's side? Maybe he thinks the protection and privacy of his children are more important than the media show. Maybe he is a loser, although I highly doubt it since he seems to genuinely care for the well being of his children. The mom is holding onto every ounce of hope that she'll beat the cancer and I wouldn't expect anything less. Debra held on until the very end when she realized her body was riddled with cancer throughout her entire abdominal area, including her liver. It's the patients job to fight for their life! When there are children involved, it's the other parent and family to guide and prepare them through what may be the ultimate outcome...losing a parent.

When Debra and I were faced with her terminal cancer we quickly decided there was one main priority...Sofie. Not that we weren't thinking of ourselves in this situation, we were just thinking more of a little 7 year old who was about to lose a parent. We weren't living together so it took patience, understanding, collaboration and love to work through what was best for the kid...not what made either one of us feel better. We moved past our issues with the other adult and concentrated on spending quality time together and a family unit, all the while making the shift from Debra being primary parent to me being primary parent. Essentially we had 10 months from the time the recurrence occurred until Debra was arranging hospice to come assist her through the last week or so of her life.

What upsets me most about this case is the way the mother is being played the victim when actually it's the kids who are the true losers in this situation. (I am in no way insinuating she's playing the victim. Please note I said "played"...the media is really working the "because she has cancer" angle!) None of us know the full story but many folks are jumping to a conclusion (like I initially did) that may not be in the best interest of the children. As I've been pondering this case I can't help but think of how it would have affected Sofie if I weren't in the picture. Debra was really sick, especially near the end, so my condo became a place of respite for both of us. It's a time where we could spend quality time strengthening an already strong bond while others took care of Debra. There were definitely times that being around a very ill parent wore on Sofie. I couldn't imagine her having to endure that environment 24/7. I also couldn't imagine her not seeing Debra at all...thus my place firmly perched on the fence. My hope is there's a good team of people fighting for the kids in this case. A lawyer, social worker, psychologist...whoever can work together to make sure the kids get time with both parents in a way that supports their grief and growth.

What's right in this situation? Bottom line...whatever is best for the children.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Room Without a View

RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Upon reading many reviews *after* I read Room, I came away feeling justified with and having a better understanding of my love/hate relationship with this book.

The plot of Room isn't really a secret anymore. Girl gets abducted, girl is held prisoner by creepy man, girl has baby by said creepy man, girl survives by making her son her #1 priority, boy turns five and after living in an 11x11 room, with no view or comprehension of the outside world, they accomplish the great escape. (That's only the first 1/3 of the book!)

Honestly, when I first started reading this book (well before my book club chose it), I was a little creeped out by the writing style and my own preconceived ideas about Room. I was worried there would be gratuitous violence or scenes of rape or torture graphically depicted.

After my book club chose it I decided to hunker down and push on through. From the point at which I really started reading the book, it took me nearly a week to read the first 1/3 of Room. That was the hump I needed to get over in order to get to the true essence of the story. (As an aside, I started writing this review at 4:30AM, less than six hours after finishing the book.) Once I got over the hump it took 2 days to finish.

Other reviews of this book left me intrigued by what inspires people to write book reviews. This is my first attempt at writing a review and I can say what drove me to write it was solely the understanding I came away with and feelings I experienced as I was reading.

A perspective I haven't seen in any other reviews is that of a mother of a child who started life in an Eastern European orphanage. You might think, "WTH does that have to do with Room?!?" I'm here to tell you, as that mother, it has everything to do with it. The emotions and "ah ha" moments I experienced while reading Jacks perspective of experiencing sensations, after five years of captivity, were quite profound. I recognized many of his reactions as the same ones my daughter had in her earlier years, post orphanage. So much light was shed on the sensory issues I've witnessed my child experience. Although her "captivity" was less than two years and she was taken outside daily, the parallels I found in the reactions Jack had versus my on daughters were at the very least, fascinating. I found Donoghue's descriptions to be on target, especially in relationship to wind, smells and noises.

With all that said, I still admit I struggled with the stories incredibly short timeline, gaping holes in the story and the inconsistency of Jack's spoken language. All in all I do give Room two thumbs up. Any book that causes me to wake up in the middle of the night to write a review deserves at least that.

View all my reviews