[By now, I suppose, you’ve had it with all the fear and gloominess I’ve been pumping into my posts of late. Maybe not; but I can tell you that I’ve had it. Dissolving into tears fifteen times a day can really wear you out. I’m exhausted! Besides, heartbreak and terror tell only half the story. Let’s take a moment to look at the other half…]
Dear, dear, dear family, friends, colleagues and all of you who have been so generous and so gracious with your time–
The first thing I notice, whenever I’m able to get off the ‘pity pot’ for a moment or two, is that I’m horribly behind on my thank you notes. You’re really going to have to let up on your wonderfulness because I just can’t do it justice. Just the same, though, I wouldn’t want you to think that my relentless carping about how much cancer sucks keeps me from noticing all the very touching things everyone has done and all the comforting things each of you has said.
As ugly as this diagnosis is, I can’t imagine a more powerful show of compassion than the support you’ve bestowed on me. I’m completely overwhelmed!
You’re not going to be surprised when I say I wasn’t at all prepared for my diagnosis, but there’s something else I wasn’t prepared for. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be showered with such an abundance of kindness, love, prayer and generosity from so very many people. In some ways, it’s been harder to adjust to that than it’s been to adjust to battling against a tumor.
Somewhere along life’s journey I must have heard this before, but until recently I didn’t really understand what folks meant when they say we can’t get through life without the love of others. I know what they mean now! I’d be lost without you, and that’s no idle chatter.
There’s a reason this has been such a difficult lesson for me to learn. It really goes against the grain for me to admit I’m not in control of my life. I wouldn’t need you, would I, if I were in control. I’d be able to handle things perfectly all by myself. That’s the way I expected it to be. That’s the way I wanted it to be.
The glioma has humbled me. I’ve finally figured out I’m not the one driving the bus. Not only am I not the bus driver, it turns out that I’m the poor pitiful passenger standing in back, desperately hanging onto a strap, looking as if she’s going to topple with each twist and turn the bus makes.
I can’t control my life, but I can mark its milestones. Right now, for instance, I’m half-way through Round I of treatment. I’ll be through on October 3rd. And then — yippee — I get a four week vacation. No treatment. No pills. No daily trips to the hospital. I am really looking forward to this vacation! Paul is hoping we can ‘do something’ which, to him, means ‘go somewhere’. If it were up to him we’d tour the world in four weeks. We’ll see. We’ll see.
Then, on November 8, we have our moment of truth. We get to meet with our super-surgeon, Dr. Mark Johnson, and review an MRI that will show us how well we’ve all been able to knock this cancer on its butt. After that, Round II — another six weeks of treatment. Then four more weeks of vacation — you get the idea.
By pure luck, I have one of the best medical teams in the world. Maybe it was more than that. Maybe it was all the people who went to bat for me. Until you’re down, you don’t know how many friends you have. It staggers me to realize how many people at the top of their field in medicine know me or know friends of mine and were willing to push, push, push on my behalf.
I just recently realized that some folks have to wait weeks and weeks for the kind of brain surgery I got the very next day after my diagnosis. I got the best of everything, thanks to all of you. What were we just saying? Something about needing other people’s love in order to get through life?? I don’t want to go all ‘Sally Field’ on you, but I can’t deny that you love me. You really, really love me!
There are things about treatment that I never would have predicted. For example, I’m actually happy that my hair is falling out. Sound weird? Well, since surgery I’ve had fifteen different colors manifesting themselves themselves on my head. The whole “hair thing” just isn’t working for me now. I’m going another way entirely: “Bald is beautiful!” That way, at least, I’ll get to show you my incision. I’m going to show everybody I’m the nastiest G in the ‘hood. Imagine me walking the mean streets of Watertown with my scar and mask. The toughest thug is going to run for fear. Watch out!
But, back to my public thank you. The humanity, kindness and generosity shown to my family by each and every one of you is daunting. The beautiful notes, the flowers, the delicious meals, the visits, the inspiring words. The vacation offers! Does cancer bring out the best in people? I’m beginning to think it does. I’m promising right now, before God, that when I’m driving again, I’ll never cut off anybody in traffic. And when other drivers cut me off, no more ‘one finger salutes’.
There’s still more in my ‘thank you basket’. I’m grateful for a husband who has been willing to cut back his clinical load from five days a week to three in order to spend more time with me. I’m grateful to my daughter for taking a semester off from Haverford and ‘settling’ for two classes at Harvard. I’m grateful to a family that, unasked, have come to my aid with visits and food and funny stories. I’m grateful that my niece Stephanie has accepted the offer of becoming my ‘Chief of Staff’. (Actually, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one.)
I’m grateful to my niece Karla who, singlehandedly, is trying to find all my favorite things — from popovers at Wood’s Hole, to Ben & Jerry’s New York Chunky Style Ice Cream, to beautiful stones from our favorite beach on the Cape.
To my wonderful in-laws. I could never have hoped that I would marry into a family I would love as much as I love mine. Especially my beautiful mother-in-law! Barbara, I hope you realize that you became my mother after my own mother passed in 1993. Thank you for loving me as you have; and thank you for being so very, very lovable.
To my wonderful friends who’ve been in my life for thirty, forty, fifty years. People don’t hang around that long if they’re not amazing!
To my parish community of Sacred Heart & St. Brigid — To Fr. Colletti, our pastor and to Fr. Le his associate — amidst the thousand things they have to complete every day, they have taken time to visit, call, and to offer support and encouragement. Sadly, the press only tells us stories about ‘bad priests’; but to worship with the Lexington Catholic Community is to get to see, first hand, what a priest is meant to be. To the parish staff that has been such an enormous resource; and to the good, holy parishioners who’ve touched our lives every day in ways I’ll never be able to enumerate.
To our wonderful ‘old’ neighbors in Belmont for the way they offered support. How lucky can you get!
I hit the jackpot when it comes to people in my life.
One thank you isn’t enough, a million thank yous isn’t enough. I hope that my attempt to show you the impact you’ve had on my life will give you some glimmer of an idea for the gratitude I feel.
Love, Love, Love