Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living With It?

Something I am struggling with is figuring out how to live with my son's cancer.  Wow, that's the first time I was able to articulate that.    Until right this very minute I could not identify the struggle.

Two things I know.  First, I know that most of the time I am in an uneasy state.  Second, I know this unease is connected to my son's cancer.

There are times when the feeling of uneasiness is simmering low inside. Going about the tasks of my daily routine is usually enough of a distraction and I am able to cope.  

I have other days when the uneasiness is continually percolating.  It's on those days that I find the distractions have to be somewhat stronger.  Knitting or reading can usually help.  If that doesn't work, then a visit with my children and grandchildren always makes it better. (Jen, I'm not just saying that cause I know you sometimes read my blogs, really I'm not .)

Of course, my strength, my rock is Ross.  He is always there to listen with hugs.  And if that doesn't work,  he will whisk me away to the beach.  (Ross, I'm not saying that just because I know you read my blog every day, really I'm not.)

Since his diagnosis I have been trying to identify this struggle.  I feel as though I am trying to punch my way out of a paper bag.  It should be easy, right?

My son has cancer.  Isn't it normal to feel uneasy?  Isn't it normal to worry?  Aren't feelings of depression, frustration, anger and anxiety normal?

I play back the day that he was rushed to the hospital over and over in my mind.  I re-write the script.  My ending would be a happy one.  The doctor would come into the waiting room after my son's surgery and tell us that he had an attack of appendicitis and that he was going to be just fine.  Isn't it normal to do that?

Joe and Anne seem to have learned to live with his cancer.  My son has a calmness and serenity about him.   I imagine an appreciation for life, for his baby son, for his wife, for feeling well enough right now to live a somewhat normal life is how he lives with his cancer.

I only imagine that is the way he feels because I have not found a way to talk to him about this.  When we are together, we I ignore the elephant in the room.  We I pretend that everything is just fine. I think I do this because I don't want my time with him to be about the cancer.  I want to spend the time listening to him tell me about Domani's first tooth, or him telling me what it felt like to take his 7 month old son to his first baseball game. Or "how bout those Mets, huh Joe?"

I know that Joe did not have an attack of appendicitis on January 20, 2010. I know that what he does have is incurable stage IV colon cancer.

I know that I may never be able to live with my son's cancer the way that he does.

But what I have learned today by writing this blog is that I am living with it, in my own way.  The way that perhaps any mother probably would.

It has been one week since I have seen or talked to Joe.   I have to give him a call today to find out if Domani has taken his first step yet.  



  1. First - I think your writing this out here is a very good thing. Second - my only thoughts are more "textbook" as far as having an understanding of being faced with the idea your son has cancer. It cannot be easy but each of us has to have a way of coping. Yes, it is normal to be frustrated, depressed, angry, anxious, and a host of other emotions. There are a lot of reasons the 'abnormal' becomes normal - and this is one of them.

    I can't offer much but I can say that if you want to talk then I'm here and that someone is praying for you and your family.

  2. Thank you Chris.  I was touched by your reply and  I appreciate you reaching out.     

  3. First, my prayers and positive energy is being sent your way. Second, our family found this book helpful when dealing with my father's cancer - Full Catastrophe Living: Using Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness by Jon Kabat-Zinn - for what it's worth. Third, I was having the same issues dealing with my father's cancer when I realized at this point in our medical advancements, we often have the power to cure such illnesses, and if not that, then a close second is to view it as a chronic illness - something to be managed, if not cured. I also gained much peace of mind as I took my father's cue in how he would deal with his illness.  I think what he taught me, and others said the same, was how to live each day with the illness not being the major focus, just a part of who he was, not his identity. Once I figured that out, it was easier to offer comfort, joy, ease, help, whatever he needed without letting it define our relationship. Hope this might ease your mind. :)

  4. i think you are being incredibly brave writing about it here, and I can't pretend to know how your son is feeling, but he may be happy that you talk about better things than what's wrong with him. i can tell you care about him a lot. Sending you lots of love and strength.

  5. Thank you Emma.  I welcome your support.

  6. When I  find myself wandering into the future and thinking about what may be, I try to think about the fact that the medical treatment my son is receiving is keeping his cancer under control and allowing him to live a pretty normal life for now.  Remembering that does give me a little hope and peace of mind. Thank you for the book recommendation.  I will check it out.