Grief, for me, is a wee hours thing.
I wake, disturbed, and see the hour on my bedside clock glowing 4 or 5.
My heart is heavy, with thoughts of Rachel or her beloved Anthony. Once again, I feel the troubling dissonance between pink bows and teddy bears and the disfigurement and death that is the reality of this disease.
I feel pain at her loss, bewildered by my lack of space for grief. On the surface my life moves forward, but I know inside my friend is gone.
Mourning, for me, is done best in the comforting receptive presence of others. I have had to search for that.
Life online is good for building community and making friends.
But it is overfull with voices, noise, and words.
My loss is an absence in my virtual world but online life is a place that offers me little comfort or healing.
The greatest comfort has been my blog, which has given me the chance to speak my grief. The comments I have received feel the closest to comforting receptiveness.
Thank you for that. It means a lot.
Tags: coping, grief, social media, talking
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Last night I dreamt of Rachel. We were both young and healthy and on an adventure together. At one point it seemed like we were in the South Pacific, and at another it seemed like the Mediterranean. No matter. Our adventure was about meeting people and sharing experiences, not seeing the sights.
As my grief over her death sinks in, I am starting to see the shape of the hole it has left in my life. This dream offered me a clue. Our friendship took place through an almost unspeakable experience, not a fixed place in time.
If I were to answer the question, ‘What did you do today?’ most likely I would describe activities like running errands, shuttling children, going to work, and cooking dinner. Rachel was not a part of the identifiable, geographically-bound fabric of my life.
But if you asked me what was in my heart, where my mind was, what concerned or upset or preoccupied me, I would say the questions of my health and mortality, the pain and injustice of being young with cancer, the persistent experience of people misunderstanding this disease that has upended my life. It is there that you would immediately understand who Rachel was to me and the nature of what we shared.
If my life is a quilt, our friendship did not live in the panels. It lived in the seams.
In fact, I have never been in the same place at the same time as Rach. We had plans to meet in real life, in a gathering of our online friends, next month. Although we had never occupied the same physical space, we shared a frightening psychological one. We both had breast cancer at an improbably young age. I have not had metastatic cancer but I lost my 36 year old stepbrother to it less than 2 years before my own diagnosis.
So where did our friendship live? It was born on our blogs, blossomed over email and social networks, took root on skype and phone chats. We were friends in all the in between places of everyday life.
We shared this experience, this hell of cancer. We talked about many things but one of our recurring themes was the Stuff You Can’t Write About. Although we were both plain spoken and unflinching, there was still territory in this shitstorm too personal, too raw and devastating, to broadcast to outsiders. I knew I could share those places with Rach and she with me. Even if we did not know firsthand exactly what the other spoke of, we could count on each other to listen and understand.
The emptiness I am left with is distinctly modern in its shape. A void in my twitter stream; a dim bubble on my Skype. But the depth of our bond belies the superficiality of those electronic connections. Our friendship went beyond the physical to the realm of the existential.
My life may look the same on the outside but it is lonelier without Rachel around to share it with.
There have been many beautiful tributes to Rachel on different blogs and I am sure there will be more to come.
Here are some of them:
Rachel’s Obituary on her blog
Jody Schoger’s tribute
Gayle Sulik’s collection of Rachel’s incredible comments on the Pink Ribbon Blues blog
Marie remembers on Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer
AnnMarie talks about Rachel’s contribution to our community
Tags: eulogy, grief, loss, social media, support
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I had my 6 month oncology check up yesterday. I am happy to report that all is well.
My husband came with me because we were feeling very unnerved by the intensity of the fatigue I have been dealing with the past few weeks.
My risk for recurrence is 20%, and the most likely time for it to happen is 2-3 years after diagnosis, which is where I am right now.
My blood levels were all normal, but the doctor believes that it comes from trouble metabolizing the anesthesia from my recent surgeries.
Even perfectly healthy people have setbacks with anesthesia. It takes 6 months to leave the body. Because of the damage from chemo, my liver
is likely only functioning at about 80% of normal, making any metabolic process more challenging.
Cancer: the gift that keeps on sucking.
Anyway, the doctor gave me low dose Ritalin to help me through this time. The fatigue has become really debilitating. I can take a 3 hour
nap, feel fine for an hour, and then feel tired again. It’s undermined any attempts to exercise consistently. My husband has had to pick up more
than the usual slack.
I have 3 kids and a big job, so I know tired and even exhausted. This fatigue is more like a light being dimmed from the inside. The bottom
is deeper than tired or exhausted can explain. I took a wee dose of Ritalin this morning (half of what the doctor normally prescribes,
given my sensitivity), and I already feel like the lights have been turned back up.
The plan is to do this transitionally until I get some more mojo back.
Will keep you posted.
Tags: changes, chemo, chemo rollercoaster, coping, fatigue, side-effects
Posted in Survivorship, Wellness | 7 Comments »