Posts Tagged ‘death’

Unwanted Anniversary Part 2

After my diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, I was embarrassed, mortified. What had I done to cause it? Had I worked too hard? Was I too much of a Type-A personality?

Please let me continue the excerpt from Fine Black Lines:

"Aside from Les and our children, I told no one about the diagnosis for two years. I tried to hide my symptoms, rested on the sly, and made excuses so I wouldn't have to do so much. I felt a sense of shame in having an illness that was portrayed with such triviality in the media. CFS was dismissed as the trendy disease of the late 80s–the Yuppie Flu.

"It felt neither trendy nor yuppie to me. I was 58; I was a little old gray-haired piano teacher, for goodness' sake. But I discovered what it is like to not know at 10:00 a.m. how I will feel at noon, to stand at the foot of the stairs and wonder how I will make it to the top, to be too tired to lift a pencil or hold a book, to have to rest two hours every afternoon and go to bed by 8:00 or 8:30, to play the piano and have a finger 'lock up,' to have to wear a jacket with pockets (even on a summer day) to carry my arms, and to forget an entire thought in the middle of a sentence.

"When I was diagnosed with breast cancer a year later, I almost felt validated. At least everyone understood that disease and its implications. Almost everyone has heard of the terror, the incredible sense of loss, the fear of disfigurement and death.  [At this point, I’m not so sure how many people actually understand, but that’s how I felt then.] 

"There has been no way to sort out how much of my weakness and fatigue comes from CFS and how much has been caused by the cancer surgeries and treatments. I do know it is likely that CFS has caused at least some of the difficulty in recovery and some of the residual pain in the surgical areas.

"And I know that writing has been a lifeline to reality and healing.

"Still, I did not intend to write a book. But when I shared my writing with doctors, nurses, and friends, they encouraged me to share my experience with a wider audience.

"Sometimes I laugh and say I had three things to get off my chest–this book is the third."

To be continued…

Declutter – A Faded Poem

And there, in the scrapbook, right next to the newspaper clipping that I typed into my previous post, was the carbon copy of a poem, barely legible with all the smudges, strike-overs, and years.

It doesn't say who wrote it, but judging from the words and the mentioned date, I'm pretty sure it was my Uncle Bill, searching for, hoping in some way to find peace.

Dad never had so much to say;
Jogged along in his quiet way
Driving his horses, Mike and Queen,
As he turned the soil to the golden sheen.
Used to say as he slapped the mare,
One thorny hand in his tangled hair,
"Rest in joy when your work's well done,
So pitch in, son."

Sometimes he and I'd not hitch;
Couldn't agree as to which was which.
Fought it out on the same old lines
As we grubbed and hoed 'mong the runnin' vines;
And his eyes would light with a gentle quiz,
And he'd say in that old soft way of his,
As he idly stroked his wrinkled chin,
"All right, son, you win."

Dad was never no hand to fuss;
Used to hurt him to hear us cuss;
Kind o' settled in his old ways,
Born an' raised in the good old days
When a tattered coat hid a kindly heart,
An' the farm was home, not a toilin' mart,
An' a man was judged by his inward self;
Not his worldly pelf.

Seems like 'twas yesterday we sat
On the old back proch for a farewell chat
Ere I changed the farm and the simple life
For the city's roar and bustle an' strife.
When I gaily talked of the city's charm
His eyes looked out o'er the fertile farm
An' he said as he rubbed where the hair was thin,
"All right, son, you win."

'Member the night I trudged back home
Sinkin' deep in the fresh turned loam;
Sick and sore for the dear old place,
Hungerin' most for a loved old face.
There stood dad in the kitchen door,
An' he says in a voice from deep within,
"Hello, son, come in."

On the sixth of May, after the latest snow,
He went the way that we all must go;
An' his spirit soared to the realms above
On the wings of a simple-hearted love.
An' I know that when I cross the bar
I'll find him there by the gates ajar,
An' he'll say, as he idly strokes his chin,
"HELLO, SON, COME IN."

Yes, looking for a peace that he never found.

Questions No One Should Answer

Telling Knots has a great post on the thoughtless questions people ask of breast cancer patients and how people try to find reasons for illness and/or death.

Somehow we think that if we can assign blame and identify what the patient did to get cancer, we will know what dumb things not to do and therefore we will be safe from a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent recurrence. This also extrapolates to any other randomness of biology and whatever accidents one can imagine. 

Her blog is very apropos for October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because over 40,000 breast cancer patients still do die every year. No way is it their fault. 

And most breast cancer survivors do hear many of the things Telling Knots has heard. You will be very interested to read her post. She nails it. 

What I liked best was her conclusion that the tactless questions others direct at us actually say more about them than they do about us. And instead of answering, perhaps we should say, "Why do you ask?"

This makes me think of the afternoon that my Uncle Bill called, soon after my second mastectomy. After some small talk he got right down to the nitty-gritty and asked: 

"So they cut off both your tits? What will Les do now?"

I did not write a poem about the incident. If I had, should it have said

Good grief
Beyond belief
Should I debrief?

What are some better ways to relate to your friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Mother’s Birthday?!

(See end of post for special offer.)

I meant to post this yesterday, because September 20 is my mother's birthday, but life happened. Anyway, here we are today:

September 20, 1995 –

Today is Mother's birthday. It is a busy day for me. I have a presentation at 9:00 a.m.. at Southwest Medical Center here in Oklahoma City, a luncheon speech at Baptist Medical Center, and a reading at 5:30 p.m. before the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Komen Foundation.

I wonder briefly if my overscheduling the day has anything to do with the fact that it is the first birthday since my mother's death in May.

After Les and I fight the rain one last time and return to the hotel, weary and cold, I feel let down. I've been hoping against hope that our new grandchild, due next week, would arrive on Mom's birthday.

I try to call Keith and Kara several times, but the line is busy. It is already 10:30 p.m. I check my messages and there isn't even one saying that they have gone to the hospital. Kara's first labor was very long. I know it is too late. It is simply too late.

Fifteen mintues later, the phone rings. Keith says, "We did it. We have our little girl."

On Mother's birthday? Was Kirsten Nicole really born on Mother's birthday? Oh, joy of joy!

The circle of life continues.

(Excerpted from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, (c) 2002 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

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Just Stay Positive?

"You will be just fine" has long been a problem for me. No matter what horrendous circumstance one is facing, what one needs is support and validation, not cheer-leading. Discounting a person's feelings and implying that everything can be solved by being positive does a great disservice to the ill or injured or depressed or bereaved.

But at one time or another, I suspect we have all said it. I know I have. Do we say it to reassure others? To reassure ourselves? To deny what's going on?

And beyond that, there is "Just stay positive." Another soul shrinker that:

  • implies you caused your own cancer with your negativity
  • burdens you with being in charge of getting well
  • causes infinite pain if cancer eats at you until you die

I have a poem to share with you:

You Will Be Just Fine

Please do not trivialize
my suffering.

You who are healthy
You whose mortaility is as yet
Only dimly preceived–
Please do not say
"You will be just fine."

I may well be–someday–
But I do not know…
You do not know…

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness, (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad. All rights reserved.)

And tell me why you think we keep saying, "You will be just fine."