4c’s

Chemo
It is 4a.m. the day after my second dose of navelbine. I am unable to sleep. I have so much on my mind that I could not get into a quiet space emotionally to be at rest. And I have been up for hours crying, praying and planning. I feel like many realizations have occurred to me lately and my day was filled with a wide array of interactions that pressed on me.

The chemo feels like chemo. I am nauseous, tired, have heart burn, and restless. And even though I am not plagued by chemo brain and chemo coma…I am still on chemo. Kelly and I spent hours today afterward running errands and buying our last gifts. We managed to avoid corporate America almost completely in our purchases and I am very happy about that. But the day left me spent.

Charity
In the middle of all of it I blew off an opportunity to pray with our pastor. And rushed a visit with Mary Lynn who drove 2 hours to see me and tell me how successful the Prayers and Poinsettias fundraiser was. She has set it up as a non-profit organization that will happen yearly and will benefit my children for life. She wrote me an incredibly moving letter ..a promise letter to continue to help care for my children after I am gone. She wrote one for each of them as well with her number and email. She told me that her whole Christian life she had heard Christians claim that God called them to do things. Internally always thinking though that they had just decided to do something. And then God called her to help me and she finally understood. I was moved to tears. Thank you Ruthie, Mary Lynn, May, and Brian for your help and support. It truly does put my mind at ease knowing that no matter what my children will not need for things.

Children
Jesse’s principal called me while we were out. For most parents of teenagers there is always a tinge of sickness when this happens..oh man I’m in trouble. I called Chris Lehman right away. He wanted to let me know that Jesse had been chosen among only ten students in his school to go on a trip to Liverpool England. I cried. Last year he was struggling so hard with everything. This year he is doing incredible. He is in a happy and stable relationship with a beautiful girl that we love. He is doing very well in school. And at home he is an absolute delight. Chris mentioned that his only “concern” was that maybe Jesse was feeling that if he just is the perfect kid everything will be alright. That may be true. But he also mentioned that he felt Jesse was handling my diagnosis with more grace and dignity than most 40 year olds. And that is likely true as well.

I spent a long time on Wednesday night talking to the kids again about the “future”. Reminding them that God’s plan is perfect. Reminding them that they are loved by so many people. That they have each other. That they have a relationship with the Lord. That they should never be angry at God for their lot in life. That God is good. I asked them to help care for Kelly and Clay in my absence. And they assured me they would. And I reminded them that this chemo may work..or it may not. And that is something we will not know for some time yet. I promised them that I will always be watching them as they grow. And that I am proud now and will continue to be for all of their lives. And I told them that what I know now is that they are truly the best things I ever accomplished in my short life.

What I am starting to realize is that while my cancer and sickness is hard on me physically. I am still able to find a lot of emotional comfort. I have acceptance and peace. I have a sense of humor that allows me to see the upside to cancer and an early death. But I am seeing that death is actually hardest on the living. It is why I removed a blog about dying young. It hurts my loved ones more than me to think about my cancer progressing. I am sick. Chemo and surgery are painful and death is a relief from pain. It also just feels good to accept whatever God gives me. But for those left to grieve a loss it is something quite different. And for that reason I am sad. That thought is the only one that has ever brought me to tears. It is that thought that makes me choose to go through a multitude of painful treatments in an effort to remain here to love and nurture my children and husband.

I hope that that was clear and not overly dramatic because it is surely not intended to be. The reality is that my cancer is spreading quickly and I feel I must prepare them and myself for the reality of my treatment failing. To do anything else would be unfair.

Tonight Jeff brought us dinner and a special gift. A 3ft. statue of the blessed Mother. She is so beautiful. I have her in the living room for now because I do not want to hide her away in a bedroom. Kelly was very concerned that Clay would pull it over. I assured him I will move it out of Clay’s reach. Even though I am not a catholic I have always found a true connection to Mary. I love looking at images of her in art history. I like thinking about how she is depicted in the bible. And when I think I am failing as a mother I remind myself that she once lost Jesus when he was 12 years old. And then I feel a lillte better. I make jokes sometimes too. Jesus was perfect and without sin. Even as a toddler. If Mary said “Don’t touch that” Jesus did not touch that. And then Mary and Joesph had real children. Sinners. She was woefully unprepared for real parenthood. Do you think she was the first mom to say why can’t you be more like your brother?

Comfort
So I am going to let this end with the comfort in knowing that this cancer thing is hard on all of us. I don’t like chemo. I don’t like the idea of not being able to be better. But I am doing all that I can to love and cherish my family. And them me. It is hardest on them. But we must have faith. Not necessarily faith that we will get the outcome we want, but the one that we get. God is good. He comforts me. He comforts my children. I pray He comforts Kelly. I am learning a lot about being sick and acceptance of a long term illness. I am learning about finding joy in all the small things. And learning that I need to slow down and let myself be at peace.

8 Responses to “4c’s”

  1. Heather says:

    Andrea, your grace and acceptance move me. I have never even met you and I feel a sense of loss when I read your posting that come out and say “terminal”. I can’t imagine how your husband and children feel. I only hope they get to keep you for a long long time and your cancer goes into remission. I know that’s not a realistic hope, but wishes aren’t supposed to be realistic.
    This world is a better place because of people like you, someone who cares and loves as much as you do. You take everything in stride and acept it so easily. It frustrates me, sometimes, tha it would be a family like yours to suffer with this, but I feel there is truly a reason, your family is meant to go through all this to be a stronger family, and better people. But to think of them not having you angers me deeply.
    I wish there was a way to just take it away and start fresh for you and your family. But I know that’s just another falling star wish.
    I know we haven’t met, but I do keep up with you in the blog and feel like I know you well, though you don’t know me, and if there is anything you or your husband or children need from me, please don’t hesitate to ask, I will do everything in my power to help long distance.
    Blessings of peace and a pain free day.

  2. Jenna says:

    Andrea,

    Man, that was good. I wanted to write to remind you about Art Shop this weekend, and now I’m sitting here weeping at my computer 🙂 You and your family are so loved.

    I’m not sure how you are feeling and if you can come out, but tell all your friends because we’re raising $$ for YOU baby! A bunch of artists have donated things for the raffle. It’s going to be great.

    Art Shop – indie craft fair featuring 75 local artists!
    Tonight from 7:00 – 10:30, Sat from 11:00 – 4:00
    Circle of Hope, 1125 S. Broad Street (broad and washington)

    love love love you,
    jenna

  3. imstell says:

    Andrea,
    I have found your site through WhyMommy. I feel blessed to have found a kindred spirit. I too had IBC, though, thankfully, am just past my one year mark with NED. Your words on death are quite eloquent and not overly dramatic at all. You have written down my feelings exactly. Thank you. What lucky children to have a mother to walk them tenderly through such a difficult process as losing a parent.

  4. MaryBeth says:

    Andrea, I found your blog accidentally. Ida Mae’s had a food review on philly.com and I went to their website to see their menu because my husband grew up in Fishtown. I saw they had info on a benefit for you and your family and I wanted to learn more. Since then, I read your blog every day when I come to work. Tears are often streaming down my face when I read it and today I wanted to let you know that you, your husband, and your family have touched me. Actually, you also make me laugh sometimes with your observations, like the other day when you tried to get a check cashed.

    Anyway, I didn’t want to let another day go by without telling you how awe-inspiring you and your beautiful family are. My husband has been wanting to get a new tatoo for a while now and we are going to make a trip to the city to Kelly’s shop sometime soon. I don’t know if it will be before the holidays, but if not soon after that. We feel so helpless and want to help in some way…getting a tattoo doesn’t seem like enough. But just know that you have many people, both friends and strangers, wishing they could make things different for you and those who love you. You are an amazing woman and if I was faced with even half of what you have faced, I don’t know if I could be as strong.

  5. Linda says:

    Andrea,

    I find that reading your posts help me deal with living in this modern world beyond words. Thank you so much for the time. energy, and honesty that you put into your writings. I agree so much with the comments others leave, especially about your humor and your courage as a parent.
    You are giving your children such an invaluable gift by not trying to avoid dealing with the uncomfortable truth, and you are modeling to them the beauty and power of love over fear.
    As someone who has lost a parent, I can tell you that is possible to learn from grief, and for the relationship between a parent and a child to become even stronger after death. I truly believe that in the end, no matter what happens, we will all be okay.
    Warmest wishes,
    Linda

  6. joshua says:

    don’t worry about today with me. i cant wait to give you a hug, though. your family is incredible (as you seem to know).

  7. shayna and jahna says:

    we love you. we love you. we love you.

  8. Denise says:

    Hi Andrea,

    Do you remember me? I was one of your Bradley students back in 1996! In fact, you were at the birth of my daughter Rachel!

    What can I say? I’m in shock. We came back from our vacation and lo and behold I pick up the paper and there you are on the front page. I can’t believe how much time has passed. It seems like yesterday that we marched up the steps into your house each week for class, I remember when you announced that you were pregnant with Bailey. I remember going to the naturopath with you in Narberth to get a homeopathic remedy for her. (I was so amazed!)

    I can’t believe this is happening to you. I am so sorry! Ever since I read the article I’ve been thinking about you every day. I am still married to Steve and we still have the two kids…
    As a family we have gotten more religious, so I want you to know that you are in our prayers. Steve, especially seems to have a direct line to the big guy. One of his parents’ friends was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 6 months to live. Well, that was over a year ago. Steve prayed for her and she went into remission!
    Do you have direct email? I don’t want to post anything too personal on the blog…
    I would love to talk to you, help you in any way I can…

    Denise