20 August 2006

The Post I've Been Avoiding

Most of you probably know I lost my dad in March. I've written more about it on my old, now-unused blog, MadMom and Mutt, if you want to read about it a bit. Check the February and March archives. Hell, check out April, too, if you want. Just no snickering...that was my first foray into public blogging!

It was a tough time for me and a difficult process. We didn't have much time to get used to it, really. Less than a year prior, Dad was only beginning to complain of feeling seriously short of breath on exertion. He was still robust enough to tinker around the house, go to the shore house most weekends, travel, etc. until July of 2005. He was on home oxygen for only nine or ten months before he died. He had a procedure done late last July which drained 2 liters of fluid from the space surrounding his right lung...the pathology came back showing no evidence of cancer. Dad's recovery from that relatively minor procedure was terribly slow and no one could understand why.

It wasn't until 10 weeks before his death that we had a definitive diagnosis of mesothelioma, the "asbestos cancer." He was only under hospice care for 11 days following cessation of chemotherapy. Only eleven days of resigning ourselves to having no more hope. A week and a half to say all our good-byes, to forgive all the old sins and slights, to heal decades of old wounds. It was not enough time, not nearly enough to get used to the idea of living in a world without Dad.

Over the course of the spring, I discovered a wonderful blogger named Liz from Granny Gets a Vibrator. Liz is 52 and fabulous! She's the woman I wanna be someday. She's mother to two (okay, so I'm not having another kid to be like her) amazing, talented, feeling, gorgeous, self-confident grown sons; arty as the day is long; has impeccable taste and great hair! I'd French-kiss a slug to be one tenth as cool as Liz!

Was it really less than a month ago that Liz posted about some upcoming diagnostic tests for the nagging cough and dyspnea she'd been experiencing for a while? Asthma, right? Sure. 52 isn't too old to get asthma. Or some freaky form of COPD which will affect healthy, middle-aged, athletic, regularly-exercising, healthy food-eating women who never smoked. Yeah. That's the ticket. Not bad news, God. Not bad. Have a heart.

Liz doesn't have a definitive diagnosis yet. She's still in that initial investigatory phase, getting tests, biopsies, seeing specialists who are trying to figure out just what this is that is making her breathing so damned difficult while raising a massive tumor behind her mediastinum.

It's not easy to read Liz now. There are too many similarities to a pain that is still so fresh. The parallels are too great. But, read her I do. How can I stay away? She's so fresh and honest, so intuitive and open, so energetic and optimistic, so real. How could I not read her now?

In 1984, my 19 year-old sister was struck by a car and killed. A few days later, as my mom and I were out shopping for the funeral, we witnessed a woman get hit by a car. It was nothing like my sister's event. This car was going very slow and had braked hard when the woman walked in front of it. She seemed to be unaware of walking into traffic. Turns out she had diabetes and probably was not aware of much when she walked into the street.

I made a deal with God. Okay, you took my sister. Let this woman live instead. I'll forgive you for taking Lisa if you let this one, who was also hit by a car, live in her place. The woman, whose name escapes me now, lived for a few weeks but ultimately succumbed to her other, chronic illnesses and their complications.

About a month after Lisa died, I began taking care of a 19 year-old girl with a rare form of ovarian cancer. Back in those days, women used to stay overnight on a unit like mine for their chemotherapy so we all got to know Joanne quite well over the next several months. Joanne was a challenging patient. She was a pampered child whose parents thought the sun and moon rose around her. She might have been an only child, I can't recall. She couldn't accept the things that were happening to her body. She cried and cried over her hair loss, her nausea, her pain. Once again, I bartered with God...let this 19 year-old live to make up for taking my beloved 19 year-old sister.

No deal, said God. Joanne died in the spring of 1985, about 6 months after my sister. I don't think she had any idea that she was really dying until the very end.

So now, in Liz, God throws me another opportunity to seek that elusive trade-off. My dad's mystery lung illness. Granny's mystery lung illness. How can I not make the comparison? How can I not try to make the deal?

I won't. I will pray for Liz and root for her and offer any advice I can. I will wish for her and keep her and her loved ones in my thoughts but I will not ask God to keep her alive to make up for losing my dad. I don't have a very good track record, anyway, so Liz might be better off if I don't. There is no substitute for my dad, just as there was no substitute for my sister. Liz's good thoughts and prayers are all her own, not a phony deal I'm trying to make with God to shield me from my pain.

There is no substitute for Liz, either. (I sure hope we don't find that out for many healthy years to come, Liz.)

I will continue to read her, as painful as it might be, because I love her indomitable spirit, her joie de vivre, her family, her hair and those incredible biceps. I'm sure she'll get back up to speed at the gym ASAP after her treatment is over. Liz is invincible.

I hope you might read her a bit. She blogs very honestly about her experiences. She can leave you feeling raw at times but it's worth it. Read her son, Finnegan, too. He's just such a cutie! Finn has a PayPal post up on his site, which I'll link here, if you'd like to donate to Granny's Shoe Fund. See, Liz is one of the millions of Americans without health insurance. So, not only does she have to deal with health problems and a whole new concept of her body, she's also got to learn to navigate the intricacies of obtaining health care without benefit of insurance. (Thanks go out to GWB and his ilk, the Republicans and Big, Bad Insurance from the, what, 45 million similarly afflicted Americans!)

Even if you choose to do none of those things, please offer a prayer or positive energy or wishful thinking or whatever good stuff floats your boat in her direction, for my sake. I'd like to think I've done something positive for Liz. I'd like to think I did some positive things for my dad, too, before we lost him.

Go, Liz! If anybody can do it, you can!

tags: blogging / cancer / health and science / health care / health insurance / life / life sucks but it beats the alternative / medicine / nursing (Guess which is the fake tag!)


At August 24, 2006 2:38 AM, Blogger Yvonne said...

(((Cher))) as suggested I went and visited Liz. Her blog took my breath away. I want to comment so badly but am afraid to say something horribly hurtful or rude without meaning to. What a fucking A.M.A.Z.I.N.G woman! If I had an ounce of the grit, determination, moxy and balls that she has, I would be one happy dragon.

Thank you so much for leading me to her. I lost my uncle to asbestos cancer in his stomach when I was 15. It was a horrifying ordeal to witness. The slow and remorseless wasting of a wonderful man, and saying goodbye to the husk that was left. And twice the man upstairs has tried to steal my Nanna via bowel cancer.

I have been reading for hours and will continue to read through Liz's archives before I check out her sons. For some reason I cannot fathom, I feel the need to get to know this woman. To place her firmly in my heart and prayers and wish her another 50 gym filled years. Words fail me and I CANNOT explain the compulsion driving me.

I also wont try to bargain with God, we made a pact a long time ago to leave each other the fuck alone.

I miss you, and I am reading, even if I can't think of a single damn thing to say :)

Love Yvonne

At August 24, 2006 3:01 PM, Blogger Cheryl said...

Thanks for caring, Von! She is a fabulous woman and I'm so glad I stumbled across her.

Love you and miss the old days! Maybe it's time for a BAGs reunion on MSN soon!


At August 24, 2006 3:46 PM, Blogger Drugs-about.com said...

Edward J.

Some more info about classes and pharmacotherapy of Mesothelioma and others medical conditions of Neoplasms:
Drugs-about.com - ICD-10 - Mesothelioma

At August 24, 2006 7:12 PM, Blogger Cheryl said...

Hmmm...I guess this is my first case of comment spam? I appreciate the reference but don't need it any longer, thanks.

If anyone else is battling mesothelioma, the link in the comment above is for a page about Alimta, the only drug so far specifically approved to fight mesothelioma. It didn't work for my dad but is certainly worth a try. It also has far fewer of the awful side effects associated with traditional chemo, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, hair loss.

Here is the FDA page on Alimta, if you need some unbiased information.

At August 24, 2006 8:57 PM, Blogger Yvonne said...

Oh Cheryl.... I miss you even more my sweet. I will meet you on the face of the sun if you want. But I miss the days of gars and msn horribly. Do you have any idea how pathetic I feel when I sit here for hours at a time just waiting for a comment, an email, for someone to go onto msn? STUPID! Just lonely and trying to avoid becoming one of the much hated mommy bloggers.

Mwah and licks for you :)

At August 28, 2006 2:08 AM, Blogger Cheryl said...

Awww...you are the sweetest and best, {{{Von!}}} I love ya more'n my socks!

Life just seems so fucking busy. I can't wait until I'm over this blogging thing.

Regardless what you write, Von, you could never be hated! Not by anyone with any class, anyway. I can't vouch for Jess's holy-roller sister.

Love ya...looko for new Brendan photos...I saw him Saturday.


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