Tag Archives: Cancer

The Saving Grace of Jello

I don’t really know what cancer is, but mom’s in the hospital having surgery because she has it. I think that’s what Aunt Barb had and she died. I hope mom doesn’t die, too.

We’re visiting her today. She might be ready to come home, but I’m not sure. I hope so. She’s in a nice private hospital. Her room is almost homey with wood trim and soft lighting, not sterile like a typical hospital room. She’s sitting up in bed, propped up with pillows behind her. Her noon meal sits half eaten on the portable tray; she was always a slow eater, but this hospital food seems to have caused her to pick even more than usual. I climb up on the bed next to her and eye what’s left. “Can I have your Jello?” I ask. A half smile crosses her lips as she reckons I can help her clean her plate. “I have to eat it all before I can go home,” she says.

I wasn’t there the last time she went into the hospital. That time it was colon cancer. No one called to tell me she’d been admitted again or how bad it was, so I wasn’t there to eat her Jello. Maybe if I had been she could have come home again.

Rays of summer sun
Overshadowed by dark pall
Cancer beckons death

__________________________________

It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse Poets Pub and guest host Lady Nyo is calling for haibuns involving a childhood memory. If it was May or August, I might have conjured up a happy memory to share. But it’s January and I’m missing my mom so this is what I’ve got for today.

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Her Hideous Scar

Once I saw her without her shirt or bra
revealing the scar where her surgeon
first took her diseased breast then
sloppily gathered excess skin in a
quick running stitch of sutures
leaving her hideously deformed

It’s no wonder I seldom saw her smile

_______________________

De is running the show at dVerse Poets Pub today for Quadrille Monday where the word of the day is scar. The pub opens at noon PST so head on over and check out some of the great 44-word poems offered by patrons today.

My poem today is a rewrite of part of a description of my mom that I wrote this past week in my writing group.

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She Always Called Me Sweetie

The little room was suffocating
I sat there with my sister Suz, my brother-in-law Dick,
and the shell of my sister Peggy
I wouldn’t have known it was Peggy in the bed
if Suz hadn’t also been there
I hadn’t seen Dick in 28 years; he’d changed,
looked like Grizzly Adams after a month in the woods alone

And Peggy? She didn’t look like anyone I knew
The last time I’d seen her she didn’t look too bad
And she had been hopeful, ready to fight and win again

But she wasn’t going to win this time
She would breathe her last in that tiny, sterile room

I’m not a fan of hospitals or of cancer
Twice when I was young my mom went into the hospital with cancer
She’d survived but her hospital rooms were no more pleasant than this one

As I listened to the beeping of the machines
Feeling the oppressive pall in the room
My mind drifted to memories of my dear sister
Of how she always called me Sweetie

Oh how I wanted Peggy to open her eyes right then and say,
It’s okay, Sweetie
But it wasn’t okay
She wasn’t going to wake up and reassure me
I’d never again hear her voice

As darkness descended outside the window,
It crept into the room as an impending doom
And we waited, quieter now

The quiet in the room became noticeably quieter as Peggy stopped breathing
At that moment I prayed that God knew her heart
I prayed that if she had not been a believer, as Dick said,
That Jesus would have come to her in her sleep, in her dreams, and called her soul home

I prayed that I would hear her voice again someday in Heaven

___________________________

I’ve already posted my Lenten poem for today, but the dVerse Poets Pub prompt for today was to write about a room or a memory involving a room, and I immediately thought of a chapter I had previously written about my sister’s death. I decided to take that chapter and reduce it to focus on the room. I was going to save it to post and link tomorrow, but I changed my mind once it was done.

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You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday

I’m working on my book proposal today. I posted the draft Prologue last week. I’m determined to finish the proposal this week so an editor friend can review it before I submit it to the publishing house editor who requested it at the Faith & Culture Writers Conference. I had a breakthrough this week when I realized the Chapter 1 I’d drafted started in the wrong place. This is the beginning of the new Chapter 1.

I’m planning to include a poem on the title page of each chapter. The poem for this chapter is one I wrote a week after the events recounted here.

You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday

Last Breath

Breathing
in, out again
no other sound so dear
except if you spoke, one more time,
I’d hear.

I sat in that suffocating little room with my sister Suz, my brother-in-law Dick, and the shell of my sister Peggy. When I had arrived earlier in the day I wouldn’t have known it was her in the bed if Suz hadn’t also been there. I hadn’t seen Dick in 28 years; he’d changed, kind of looked like Grizzly Adams after a month in the woods alone.

And Peggy, she didn’t look like anyone I knew. The last time I’d seen her she didn’t look too bad. She admitted the cancer was back, but she covered up how bad it was pretty well. And she had been hopeful, ready to fight and win again. But she wasn’t going to win this time—she would breathe her last in that tiny, sterile room with just the three of us there.

I’d woken up that morning with plans to go to the dentist in the morning—even though I was dreading it—and then in for my annual mammogram and breast MRI. On Friday I was going to go visit Peggy in the hospital. I was told she’d probably be feeling better by then.

But Suz called early that morning and said Peggy had taken a turn for the worse. “You should come as soon as you can. Dick said she was pretty bad.”

I called my cousin Noryce to tell her what was going on with Peggy and to just talk. Noryce always has good advice and knows just what to say.

“I don’t know what to do. I have these two appointments I have to keep, but I want to go see Peggy. Maybe I can just wait until tomorrow to go,” I said. “I should have just gone to see her on Tuesday.”

Noryce, in her infinite wisdom, replies, “You can’t go back to Tuesday. What are you going to do today? What’s the worst that could happen if you cancel your appointments and go? What if you wait to go until tomorrow and she’s already gone?”

She knows the story of when my dad died and I wasn’t there. He had called me and said, “Come see me.” But it cost money to fly to Desert Hot Springs where he was and we didn’t have a lot of money at the time. So I bought an inexpensive ticket for two weeks out. He died a week later. I will always regret that decision.

So I called the dentist to cancel my appointment, worried that they would be upset and charge me for the appointment anyway. “Don’t worry about it. Go see your sister. Give us a call when you’re ready to reschedule.”

Then I called the hospital to cancel my mammogram and breast MRI. They were even more understanding given that my sister was dying of breast cancer. I don’t know why I was afraid they wouldn’t be.

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Last Breath – A Cinquain

Breathing
in, out again
no other sound so dear
except if you spoke, one more time,
I’d hear.

I wrote this cinquain for dVerse Poets Pubs FormForAll. It is my attempt to capture my experience of Thursday last week as I sat in my sister’s hospital room, praying she had it in her to keep fighting cancer, but knowing she did not.

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Fighting Cancer

Many members of my family have experienced cancer first hand. My mom had cancer three times, and the third time finally killed her. Her sister and father also died from cancer. My dad died of lung cancer and three of his sisters had breast cancer. One of my sisters recently had breast cancer and survived, but even for survivors this disease takes its toll. I have cousins and second cousins who are currently battling, have survived, or have died from cancer.

I also have many friends who have had cancer. Last year one of my friends died of cancer, and there are at least seven people in my church who currently have or have survived some form of cancer.

And so this weekend, I am walking in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Hoquiam, Washington. This event is a 24-hour walk to raise awareness of the devastating effects of cancer and to raise money to fund research to find a cure for the many types of cancer. From 6:00 p.m. on 6/4/10 until 6:00 p.m. on 6/5/10, I will be part of my sister Roberta’s team, the Daydream Believers, and we will have one of our team members on the track at all times.

When the Relay is over, cancer will not be vanquished. But we will have raised money toward our goal so that someday maybe it will be. We will have laughed, cried, walked ( a lot), shared memories of those we have lost, met some new people, been encouraged by the many survivors (wearing their survivor medallions), and been in awe of the 24-hour walkers who do on their own what we take a team to do.

If you know someone with cancer or have experienced it first hand, my prayers are with you. If you post a comment with your name, I will add you to the list that will go with me around that track. If you would like to donate to the American Cancer Society as part of this particular Relay for Life, click here and you can help me reach my $100 fundraising goal.

I know that someday God will take away all pain and sickness, when He creates the new Heaven and new Earth spoken of in Revelation. But until that day, I want to try to make the lives of cancer patients and their families and friends better one person at a time.

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My Smoking Soapbox

This post is going to be a bit different from my usual because it is about my earthly father instead of my heavenly Father. This past Sunday would have been my dad’s 89th birthday. I say “would have been” because he died when he was only 72. I miss him a lot, even though it has been 17 years since he died. I think I will always miss him.

My Dad, Christmas 1977

My son, who is 15, has never met his grandfather because my dad died before my son was born. I show him pictures and talk about my dad, but it’s not the same. My son knows he is taller than both me and my husband in large part because his grandfather was 6′ 5″ tall, but only because I’ve told him that. This makes me sad because my dad was a great guy and a terrific grandfather to his other grandkids.

My son is like his grandfather in other ways, too. He has a sense of humor and loves to talk to people, even people he doesn’t really know. We used to go camping when I was a kid, and my dad would walk around the campground striking up conversations with other campers. My son does the same kind of thing, like the time when he was 7 and started a conversation with the people at the shuttle stop at Disney World. I think my dad and my son would have gotten along great, but they will not get that chance in this life.

This week, as I have thought about my dad’s birthday and how much I miss him, I have been more aware of people around me who are smoking, whether it be in the smoking area at work as I drive by or in a car in the grocery store parking lot. Many of these people are young women and men, some are people I know are well-educated and should know better.

My dad died of emphysema from 50 years of smoking cigarettes. When he started, the dangers of cigarette smoking were not well known. But we have known cigarettes cause cancer and kill for a long time, and I don’t understand how people can still smoke.

If you smoke, I urge you to quit NOW! If you have kids, do what you can to increase the chances that their kids will get to know you. None of us has control over the number of our days on this earth, but we certainly owe it to our family and friends to not do something that is highly likely to shorten those days.

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