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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My life story with Cancer

I was five years old when my father was diagnosed with leukemia. I never really understood what this "cancer" was all about until I was older. I can only say that my dad spent most of a year of his time in the hospital receiving treatments. I felt he would die. My mom never told me anything about his health. I mean how do you tell your five and three year old children that their dad might die because he has cancer?

When I was seventeen my grandfather (whom I adored) was diagnosed with lung cancer. My world fell apart. I knew from previous experience that he would die, and leave me here on this earth alone. I spent every summer with my grandparents and had come to be very close to them (I loved them).

Within a few years of my grandfather's death my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought that battle but the cancer morphed into colon cancer and she died. I was devastated. I couldn't figure out how to be there for my mother. I don't remember her crying outside of her funeral.

My mom was a tough cookie and she didn't believe in showing your feelings on your sleeve but instead to hide them away. This was what she believed made her strong. For years she suffered from the loss of her mother. She never really grieved her process. I don't think she could handle the pain. It was easier to shove it to the side, rather than deal with the pain of losing someone you love.

My brother was only 33 years old when he was diagnosed with skin cancer. He didn't think anything of the spot on his back. It looked like a pimple like the rest of them. No one looked to closely at it. He went to the doctor after it started hurting and was diagnosed at stage 4.

He had to do immediate surgery to remove the grapefruit sized tumor. There were "feelers," that went out to his organs and lungs. This the doctors cannot do much about. All they could do was surgery for tumors and treatment. He went through heavy chemotherapy and radiation treatments but in the end he lost. It took a little three years to take him down. He left a family of five behind with only their grieving mother.

They will never know what a wonderful person he really was. He will never get to teach them how to fish as we did as children. He will never take his boy out hunting and camping. He will never kiss them goodnight and tell them how much he loves them. The youngest a newborn. She will never say, "da da" in front of her father only to see his blue eyes sparkle and tears form.

But he does get to look down on them and watch them grow and he is not hurting anymore and is healthy in another world.

It felt like my mother still had her life in front of her, with so many experiences to do. She thought she had done all the right things. She went to the doctor and got all the tests to show that she was cancer free. She had her first colonoscopy and only one polyp that they took out. She was clear and free to move onto the next stage in her life.

It was only a year later and she planned to move closer to me, and I was helping her. She had been traveling out to California to visit me and my family every summer. She came one Christmas and how would I know that it would be the most special day of my life. It would be the last time, I would get to spend Christmas with her.

While visiting me that Christmas she became ill and I took her in to be seen. She was diagnosed with rectal cancer. It was inoperable (they said) and said the only thing to do now is chemo and radiation. My mom said, "ok," and they began treatment the next day. Within two weeks her kidneys failed. The hospital staff told me to let her die (it would be better for her they said).

I couldn't do it and I sent her to another hospital and found out it was just dehydration. She survived that one. But in the long run, cancer came back and got her anyways.

As I watched my mother decline, I began to shut down emotionally. I felt lost, angry, hurt, and full of sadness. After she died my anger turned to hate. I hated cancer. It took everyone that I loved.

Have you ever watched someone you love die? Have you tried to shove your feelings aside to protect you from the intensity of loss? Was it difficult for you to grieve the loss of that person?

I found it difficult to move through the stages of grief and to move from hate into another stage. I did however, find the tools I needed. If this story sounds similar to one of your own. Read my book, I wrote it to help others (like me). I wanted for those people to have an outlet and to learn tools that can help them through the grieving stage.

My book "Forgiving Cancer: A Mother and Daughter's Journey to Peace," can be found at Amazon.com and B&N.com and you can click on the book here in this blog area and go straight to the site. I hope you find peace in you loss. I know that I did.

Love them as they are still here on this earth with you and fill your heart full of their love for one day they will be gone, and it could be sooner than you think.