11 October 2010

Another one of THOSE posts

In my family, cancer goes back for four generations. We've seen colon, prostate, uterine, breast, nasal, bone, lung, and brain tumors. So we know our cancer in this family.

Perhaps, then, I was less surprised than others when Shaun's mom and dad, Mary & David, called at the end of August to say that Mary had breast cancer. But less surprised does not equal less devastated. In the last ten years, Mary has become one of my very best friends. She makes me laugh, inspires me in all sorts of ways, and we can commiserate over what it's like to be married to a Ganyo.

 (here's Grandpa David, making a leaf house for V this past weekend).

She had a mastectomy at the end of August, and her first chemo was 2 weeks ago tomorrow. Her next chemo is scheduled for Wednesday of this week. Her hair will start falling out, likely, in the next few days. But she will survive this round, and we are all so, so thankful for clear margins and good odds.

My grandfather died in 1979 of colon and prostate cancer, and since I was six, I have no real memory of him before cancer. He was already bald when I was born, and 78 when he died. But I remember my mother's heartache at his illness, and I remember being in the St. Ansgar's waiting room for hours at a time (back when children under 12 weren't allowed to visit patients).  I would've been almost exactly V's age.
My parents didn't talk to us much, that I remember, about Grandpa's cancer. We knew that's what he had, and we heard words like chemo and restraints. But I don't remember direct conversations about what was going on. We're trying to do things differently with V. We want her to know that Grandma had  a tumor in her breast, and that's why she had surgery to remove it. V knows that microscopic cancer cells were found in one lymph node, and that that's not as bad as we'd feared. She knows that chemotherapy is the medicine used to make sure the cancer goes away, to try to keep it from ever coming back.

She knows that the chemo is why grandma is so tired, and why she'll lose her hair. V also knows how crazy it is that medicine, that is, stuff that's supposed to make Grandma better, is totally going to make her more sick first. We try to focus on good things, like how lovely it is to lay down next to Grandma and watch cartoons, and not talk so much about why Grandma's not making cookies on this visit, or why we have to hug her gently until the surgeries (from drains and ports, besides the obvious) have time to heal. We draw pictures for Grandma, and send her postcards, and talk to her or Grandpa on the phone sometimes. Sometimes we go out for a short visit, like this weekend, when we were there for about 17 hours, which was just enough to wear Grandma out but hopefully also cheer her up.

We celebrate our time together everyday, and hold on, and try to ride it all out together. It's the only thing we know to do. 

1 comment:

roger said...

kkMy breakfast this morning could not be called inspiring. lol. But your blogs are always interesting.