Monday, January 12, 2009

A Despicable Twist of Fate

There are some things you just can't anticipate or prepare for. The kinds of things that, if you think about them long enough while they're happening, will break you down so much that you can't bear to go on. Instead, you try to hold on to normalcy as much as possible in the hopes that things return to the way they should be. We're going through one of those situations right now, and I've avoided writing about it, because that makes me face it. But the time has come, and even though reality may smack me upside the head and say, "Wake up, sweetie, nap time is over!" when I'm finished, or even while I'm writing, here it goes.

We found out a week ago that my stepmother, who really is a second mom to me, and not a "step" anything, has lung cancer. There were clues, and as any good English teacher will tell you, the foreshadowing usually leads to something. I, however, looked for other possibilities anywhere I could find them, and actually had myself convinced it would be something more treatable, or curable, even though Edna herself knew better.

Now, lung cancer, for those of you who do not spend your days poring over internet statistics, is the least friendly of all of the cancers. It sets up residence, sometimes even building vacation homes throughout the body, and proceeds to kick the ass of the neighborhood watch in a heartbeat. So quickly, in fact, that a seemingly harmless cough can lead to someone being practically an invalid in a matter of days, and that's what's happened here.

What we all knew as reality is now gone. Every conversation is interspersed with comments somehow related to the diagnosis and upcoming treatment. The things that used to matter, don't, and none of us have even had time to process, deal, or comprehend the fact that this is happening. Each one of us is on auto-pilot and reacting the way we always do to "normal" situations, but amplified by about a thousand--I'm gathering information and learning all I can; my dad is micro-managing; one of my sisters appears to be completely avoiding the issue, the other stuck between wanting to help her mom and wanting to hold on to her own life; my husband is drawing the inevitable comparisons between his own mother's death from cancer years ago. The one thing that we ALL have in common is that we all want to believe that she will overcome this, no matter what the odds are, no matter what the doctors say. And SHE needs to believe that too, which is the hard part. We are all scattered throughout the stages of grief (for life before diagnosis), while she seems to have skipped right ahead to acceptance without fight. It's in my nature to fight, for some reason, or at least to not give in to things that are wrong, and I'm trying to will some of that energy her way.

I'm not big on prayer, God, etc., but whatever it is that you do in these situations, please do it. Light candles, get Buddha on the phone, draw circles of salt on the floor, and if you know a voodoo priestess, I'm willing to call her. Sorry, that's my poor attempt at humor in my request for positive energy sent in Edna's direction---the more energy sent that way, the better.

In the meantime, remind me NOT to read Brian's Song with my classes anymore, because for some odd reason, that's what I planned for the classes after Winter Break. The irony is not lost on me that I have to teach a story about a guy with lung cancer while this is going on--reading should be an escape from reality, not salt poured into the wound.


youarekiddingme said...

I'm sorry.

Looking for Hope said...

I was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in May 2008. Having been an active, healthy, non-smoking woman all my life, this came as quite a shock. You are right... after that cancer diagnosis, nothing is ever "normal" again. But it is possible to be accepting and yet hopeful all at the same time. I've scheduled a hot air balloon ride for my 70th birthday (May 2009).

... P. L. Morningstar
Looking for Hope

Steve and Ali said...

Tamara, James, and Andrew,

We love you. I hope you already knew that. But whether you did or didn't, it bears repeating.
Ali and Steve

Anonymous said...

We are sending you all the Kick Cancer's ass vibes we can!! She needs to keep her positive attitude!! The power of mind over body can be quite amazing!! Wish we could take away some of the fear, hurt, anger and frustration that you are having right now!!!!! Lisa Stickley and Scott.. whatever name you want to give him! :)