New Way to be Human

Nov. 18 2004, my Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. I started this blog to chronicle her journey. July 19, 2005 she gave her life in the battle. This blog is my place to process through the journey I walked along with her, and now my journey through grief. It's also a place to discuss the effects cancer has on the lives it touches--survivors and caregivers alike. I'm a Navy wife, a Mom, and my mother's daughter now and forever.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Computer's Grand Adventure

This computer will begin a grand adventure very soon... So I will be blog light or non-existent until mid-September when I will be reunited with old, pokey, turtle computer (unless I write some today). Promise to miss me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Willie Nelson

I always thought it was weird that Mom liked Willie Nelson so much.

All of a sudden I want to listen to "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," and "Poncho and Lefty" over and over again.

She's still making me look at things a second time, and changing my tastes.

Ok Mom--but the intro to "Poncho and Lefty" is still really cheesy.


A few nights ago, after a relatively harmless exchange with Andy, I found myself with my head in my hands.

I was really feeling Mom's death and the hole that's in my life now. I was consumed with sadness over Andy's impending departure. I was feeling all in all bereft.

I sat there like that for a while assessing the pain, probing it like a nasty bruise. I held my breath and named it. "I’m in pain." "I’m alone in my pain. Alone." My soul whispered to Jesus, "Please... Come... Be in my pain. I can’t bear to be alone in it anymore. Come be in my pain. I don’t know what else I’m ready to let you into, but please, Jesus... Be in the pain or else I won’t survive."

It was the longest I'd talked to him in a long time--not because I'm mad at Him and not on speaking terms (I'm not and haven't been), but because it hurts to talk to Him. Lately I'm content just knowing He's with me. I acknowledge that and go on. That might make me something akin to a heathen, but in general I don't mind that.

What followed was the most raw expression of emotion that I've allowed myself... ever...

It's scary to invite Him there. He won't let me smother my pain with chocolate (mmmm... chocolate covered pain), or stay busy and ignore it. He'll make me feel it.

I believe ultimately it will be good, because He is good.

I'm sure there'll be days of consuming chocolate covered pain and partaking of other such coping mechanisms, but the invitation has been issued and I'll be drawn back by grace eventually.

This is one of those posts that I hesitate to push the 'Publish Post' button on. And yet, I think it is right to do so. At the very least it's not wrong. It seems cheap to only share the sanitized version of the story of my grief. It feels misleading too. I get frustrated at the 'shiny-happy' label people try to put on Christianity. If I try to put a 'shiny-happy' face on or offer only a watered-down version of my thoughts, I rob others who might need to know they aren't alone of potential fellowship... and I mislead everyone.

So post I will.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Month Ago...

My last day with Mom was a month ago. It was a quiet day. A long day. It started with me on the phone to airlines trying to get Andy home. When that was taken care of, I went in and sat beside Mom and that's where I stayed for most of the day. Mom's friend Sarah and our pastor came and sat with us. We talked casually about Dad's airforce days, and Carolyn's growing fast. We cried. I played some music for Mom. Carolyn played in her room. I found out for the first time that the doctor's didn't even think she would be able to have kids....

The nurse's aide came over and gave Mom a bath that afternoon and used Lavender and Chammomile bath soap.

I said in my other blog once before Mom died, that the smell of Carolyn after a bath with Lavender and Chammomile bath soap was the smell of heaven...

So, I guess I was right.

(Even so, I can't use the stuff for Carolyn anymore. The smell of heaven makes me sick to my stomach now)

We waited knowing it would be soon, and I was suprised that she didn't leave us that day. Andy got there, and said hello to Mom, and we sat a while longer. I kissed her good night, told her I loved her and then went to sleep.

Only a month ago... It still feels so new, and so very, very raw. I feel like a month should give me the feeling of some distance. But it doesn't. Not at all.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Shut-Down Confession.

A few days before Mom died, a friend of mine helped me understand my coping strategies. She very succinctly said, "You cope by shutting down."

Well... I must be full out coping.

Here comes the confession: It's 11:30 p.m. and I'm in my p.js which wouldn't be unusual except that they're the ones I put on last night.

I've done nothing today and I have a sink full of dishes to prove it. Laundry desperately needs to be done, a few other basic clean-up tasks would be helpful. I *might* get some dishes done and do some clothes transfers with the laundry, but I'm not expecting a whole lot else to happen tonight.

I don't know if I should feel guilty for not doing anything, worried about myself slipping into unhealthy habits, or just be gentle with myself and figure this is how I got through *today* and I'll get through tomorrow in tomorrow's way.

In my defense, Carolyn has been very demanding all day long. Maybe it's teething. Maybe it's an earache coming on. Maybe it's a growth spurt. Maybe she senses that Mommy is "off." Whatever it is, every bit of oomph I had was devoted to calming her or playing with her. As for the rest of life, I'm oomphless.

This is a hard place, this spot between Mom's dying and Andy's leaving. I suspect that the spot after Andy's being gone will be even harder. Sometimes I think I'm doing ok. And sometimes I think I'm pathetic.

Eh... we'll get through this.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Yep. Laughter is still heard around here. Carolyn makes sure of it. Posted by Picasa

Ok, So Let's Talk Lung Cancer Stats...

I'm feeling kind of fiery about lung cancer awareness right now. I don't think it's a bad thing as long as I don't let it get in the way of my grief. In fact, I think it's really important.

So here are the shocking stats for those who might be even remotely interested:

Over 160,000 people will die this year from lung cancer. 70,000 will be women.

Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

Lung Cancer will claim more lives than breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, and melanoma COMBINED.

Over 50% of new lung cancer cases will be diagnosed at a very late stage—Stage IIIb or IV— and only 5% of those diagnosed are expected to live past five years.

It's JUST a smoker's disease? Check this out:

Current smokers: 35-40% of new lung cancer cases
Former smokers: 50% of new lung cancer cases
Never smoked: 10-15% of new lung cancer cases

Even if ALL smoking were stopped TODAY we would still face decades of people suffereing with this disease.

The survival rate for lung cancer hasn't improved in over 20 years. It is roughly the same as it was in 1971 when NIXON was president.

Over 50% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed in the late stages when a 'cure' is rarely thought to be possible.

There is virtually no process in place to screen for lung cancer. The only thing commonly done is chest x-rays which are a fairly unreliable way to detect lung cancer--especially in the early stages when more could be done to stop the disease. (However, it CAN catch it, so if you think you might be at risk or are experiencing symptoms by all means GET ONE!)

Lung cancer claims the lives of 85 percent of newly diagnosed patients within FIVE YEARS. That's a 15% survival rate That is a stark contrast to the 80% of those diagnosed with breast cancer who will survive five years or more.

What is perhaps most staggering though is the lack of funding lung cancer research receives. The figures break down like this:
$13,953 per breast cancer death
$10,318 per prostate cancer death
$4,618 per colorectal cancer death
$1,723 per lung cancer death

Pretty crazy, huh? Noise needs to be made, and I'm planning on making some.

I'd also like to add that it's not just Lung Cancer that gets lousy funding. There are all sorts of other types that are marginalized and under-researched. My friend Bob is fighting pancreatic cancer right now. The statistics are just as grim and the funding just as light.

However, I think the biggest part of our problem is the stigma associated with lung cancer. I find that VERY unfair. People think they are doing something for lung cancer when they start or support smoking cessation classes, but as the stats suggest above, former smoker are STILL at risk. More needs to be done for folks who actually GET the cancer without placing the blame ON THE VICTIMS.

If after suffering through all of these stats you'd happen to be interested in more information check out:


I think it's worth being educated about and worth DOING something about. There are lives at stake.

One more thing--

If you happen to be reading this and struggling with the disease remember that YOU are more than these statistics. YOU CAN beat the odds! Be proactive and don't let numbers get you down. You are a person with fire and spunk, NOT a statistic.

Hehe. That's it for my friendly public service announcement.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Sometimes life feels rather like this. Posted by Picasa

Addie and Cindi and Fay A. and Justakid Everyone Else

If you are one who prays, PLEASE pray for my friends at LCSC (Lung Cancer Support Community). The news there has been particularly dismal in the last few months. My Mom's passing was one of so many recently, and some long time much beloved members are just getting horrible news.

Pray especially for those that are having huge bumps in the rode. These folks are seeing recurrence, new staging, new mets, and all that goes with all of that. The collective heart of that online community is SO VERY heavy. All of us, but especially those whose battle has just become so much more intense, need many many prayers.

My heart just aches.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

She's Just Doing Dishes?

I actually tried to get some housework done today. I've been in a bit of a housework slump. Of course I didn't get the inspiration to get said housework done until Carolyn was very awake and on the verge of fussy.

So I'm doing the one armed Mom thing balancing Carolyn on my hip while putting away dishes and reloading the dishwasher. Carolyn is getting pretty heavy and my arm was getting tired, so I put her down just outside the kitchen door on the carpet.

Now, I set her down in such a way that when she wiggled just a bit her head was in a place that she couldn't see me anymore. All of a sudden she was not in my arms and she couldn't see me. She was frantic. Tears were rolling down her face, she was kicking her little legs, and that horrible little pouty lip wail came on with all of it's heart-tugging power.

I tried to reassure her, "Carolyn honey. Mommy's right here. You maybe can't see me, but I'm right here."

And... I burst into tears. All I could think of was Mom. "I'm right here, Val. You can't see me or touch me anymore, but I'm right here."

Once upon a time I thought I had this afterlife stuff figured out. I used to think I had a lot figured out. Now all I know is that I don't know. But somehow I believe that while I am certain Mom is in the place of no more tears, maybe in some way she is checking in.

But gosh what I wouldn't give to just feel her hold me one more time.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Dana Reeves

And now Dana Reeves has been diagnosed with Lung Cancer. Will the beast never stop?

I know Dana Reeves knows a thing or two about beating the odds. I pray that she will do so with this battle as well.

As horrible as it is for people like Dana Reeves and Peter Jennings to have had to suffer with this blasted disease I am glad that it is finally getting some press.

But at the same time I'm irritated because the news can't get away from blaming it on the patients. Yes smoking increases one's chances of getting lung cancer. But I will never, ever understand why the first words out of people's mouths when they find out a person has lung cancer is, "Did they smoke?" It's so much bigger than that.

More people die of lung cancer each year than from breast cancer and prostate cancer. Yet Lung Cancer gets FAR LESS funding for research. That doesn't shock anyone because the underlying feeling is that Lung Cancer is the fault of those who have it. That's poppycock. We fund research for those suffering from strokes and heart attacks when many of those can be prevented with a healthier lifestyle. We fund research for other cancers that can be linked to poor lifestyles and food choices. But since smoking is an easy target, we think it's logical for us not to fund a 'preventable disease.' That's a stigma plain and simple folks. It's wrong. It's unfair. It's hurtful to people suffering from such a debilitating, devestating illness.

I think my new mantra is We need a Cure. Not a Stigma.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Too Much Perspective

Sometimes, I am totally out of perspective and I allow the things I am dealing with to just look so huge.

Other times, though, I feel like I have TOO MUCH perspective. I guess it goes back to me needing to keep my eyes on my own paper rather than playing the comparison game. Really if this is the comparison game it's a pretty twisted version of it.

I look at what other people are struggling with and minimize my own feelings. Like right now with Mom being gone and us being on the heels of this deployment with Carolyn only five months old--that's hard. I mean, I think that's legitamitly hard. But then I think of a person I know whose husband died in Iraq while she was pregnant with their first child. I think of people who've lost both parents. I think of people who lost their Mom when they were really young. I think of Andy losing his Dad our freshman year of college and how he didn't even get to see Andy get married, and didn't have the chance to even know Carolyn would be on the way. I think of how much harder it would be to lose my husband or my child.

I see all those things and yes I do the thankfulness for the things I have, the time I've had with Mom, and the time I've had and will have with Andy thing, but somehow in my strange little head I get to thinking that along with being thankful I shouldn't feel pain about my own losses and struggles. I allow that to short-circuit my own feelings. Maybe it's a convenient excuse. Maybe it's an over-developed guilt complex. I'm not sure. And I am sure it's not the only thing contributing to my 'stuckness.'

But some days I wish I didn't have so much darned perspective.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Peter Jennings is Gone

Peter Jennings died of Lung Cancer today. Or at least, the news broke today.

That is another sock in the stomach.

So much loss... So much loss to this terrible beast.

I really, really hate it.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I Don't Know How...

I'm not sure I know how to grieve.

I can't figure it out. I don't know how to feel. I feel sad. But I can't seem to do anything about it. I don't cry. I don't talk about it. I blog a little about it.

Mostly I just go through my days like normal. That's worked so well for so long...

But what about *FEELING* this? My Mom just DIED. Why can't I cry? Why don't I cry?

In the last three weeks other people that I know, have lost people close to them. That has hit me like a ton of bricks. I feel those like a stomach punch.

But most of the time I equate the feelings I have about Mom with a casual head nod.

"Yeah. That happened three weeks ago. Sucks."

My emotions feel stuck. They have for a long time. I'm afraid to unstick them, but I think I probably need to.

Is it survival mode? Do I need to still be in that? Andy leaves in three weeks (found out today deployment got moved up... Bleh). Will I not survive if I kick out of survival mode?

I just don't know.

I don't even feel like I can write well because it's all stuck. I feel insecure about every word I put down. The feelings are stuck, so the words are stuck.

Do they have a manual for this? I'd think it was all canned and wrong even if they did.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

One of the last photos of us with Mom. Posted by Picasa