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Speaking to the Children About Cancer

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Speaking to the Children About Cancer

November 12, Sunday


My days since Thursday have been about sleeping and talking and crying. Just four days ago, everything I thought about my life was different. How life seems changed even though it is not actually different in its essence from what it was on Wednesday. I had cancer then, too, but I did not know it consciously. I have always prided myself on being intuitive and having my intuition inform me. But, that somehow did not work in this case. Now Denis and I are conscious. And that changes everything.

Today the sky is gray-white—not terribly cold, but it is damp and dull. There are subtle colors in the field and the hedgerow greens. I stand at the dining room window to admire the hues. So much beauty around us. The raspberries have turned to bronze. Who thinks of raspberry bushes offering us bronze? The birds come to the feeder bringing wildness to the window. If I don’t move, they feed contentedly, but, as soon as I lift an arm or turn my head, they are gone. They understand danger.

I guess I do, too—now.

I am firm about telling Max first. I waited until this afternoon to call again. It was a huge pressure and anxiety to wait. I keep thinking how I am thrusting this terrible situation on these young adults who are establishing their lives and need much support. Mothering has been so important to me. I want to continue to mother them as much as I can and as much as they need. And here I am becoming a huge drain. But, that’s life. I can’t take their pain away from them. (When my father had his first stroke, I was 29. That really changed how I could be with him. I made it through his stroke and death. I want to think my children can make it through whatever might happen to me.)

It was very sobering speaking to Maxim. He was, of course, struck dumb, and I had to ask him several times for responses. Now he knows, and I still have to call Zoé. I am glad at this moment not to have more children!

I asked Max not to telephone Zoé until tomorrow as I wanted to tell her the news myself.

Since the massage (only five days ago!), I am in a higher degree of pain. Is there any relationship between the massage and the pain? I had this pain before Wednesday, but it was at a lower level and it did not grab my attention. The pain is in my groin (is my liver that low?) and in my back and in the rib under my right breast. The ER doctor gave me Percocet, and I am grateful for it. Of course, resorting to a drug has to be temporary. How do I get to being pain-free without the Percocet? How long will it take to get this cancer under control?

I am avoiding asking, “Can it be brought under control?”



What cancer can mean is terrible for both of us, but that meaning is different for each of us. My body is not at risk of death. Knowing that, I did not say, “We’ll get through this together.”

I feel numb as I drive into town. Gray sky, gray emotions. Life’s gone all gray. While my body is not dying, I feel my soul is. I am in such pain. How much more the pain—body and soul pain—must be for Martha!



While Denis was gone, I went online to get definitions for some of the terms in the CT scan reports. I came across a site that stated the life expectancy of person with breast cancer that has metastasized to the bones is 18 months from diagnosis. Eighteen months from now is around my 56th birthday.

It is less time left than I have been coughing. It is the length of my two pregnancies.

After Denis returned from the gym, we talked about “if I die”—the practical things we have to take care of: Mom’s property and accounts and her care and D’s and my bank accounts and joint property. In these days, we are living as if I will die, but we are saying, “We just don’t know.” The possibility is so unreal. But, there are the examples of Linda Atkins and our other friends, Margaret and Lisa. None of them, I can guess, said, “This seems so real! What a desirable outcome to have cancer to threaten my life!” And now, they are all three gone.

On Monday, I see Dr. Wyman who will serve as my primary care physician. Dr. Akerley is out of the picture now. How could I have been so loyal to her? Her lack of focus may yet cost me my life.

Monday will be the beginning of the end of “not knowing.”

I can’t write any more about this now.

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