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.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mom's Mile


A friend of mine from one of the messageboards I post on (My mil. spouse one), is going to dedicate a mile in her next marathon to my Mom.

Sometimes people confound me with what I perceive to be thoughtlessness.

And then... I'm blown away by an incredible gesture like this--done by someone that I've never had the pleasure to even meet in person.

I feel so very blessed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


My heart, and mind, and spirit, and even body feel so full of missing people--Mom and Andy in particular--that it doesn't feel as if there is any room left for anything else.

Every thought that I have relates back to one of them. And while there is joy in that, there is pain right now too.

It is very wearying.

Friday, September 23, 2005


We have been so inundated with the mantra 'smoking causes cancer' (especially by the American Cancer Society, but that's another rant entirely) that any time the words "Lung Cancer" are introduced, it's all we can think of.

As a result people suffering from the disease or loving someone who is suffering with or has suffered from the disease are constantly bombarded with questions of "Are you a smoker?" "Did they smoke?" etc, etc.

I get it all the time. Today during my "Exercise with the Old Ladies" time at Curves, the manager was asking me about my Mom.

Now this lady was a Kindergarten teacher in my town for the last 30 years or so, and because of this she vaguely knows just about anyone who attended grade school here, or had a child do so. As such, I guess she feels more comfortable probing into areas of life that most acquaintences wouldn't touch for the sake of manners.

So today she was asking me about Mom. "Did your mother smoke?" was already covered during another exercise session, but it came up again today.

"If your Mom knew five years ago that she would go through what she did, do you think she would have given up smoking?"

Now what kind of a question is that??? Number one, I have no idea. Number two, given the statistics (See the post, "Let's Talk Lung Cancer Stats"), even if she had, because she was a former smoker, she still would have been at risk. Number three, given previously mentioned stats, even if she HADN'T SMOKED she still would have been at risk. (Especially with her family history)

I tentatively took the approach of, "Lung Cancer is bigger than smoking," and listed different factors that could have contributed to my Mom, or anyone getting sick, and tried to underline again that even NON-SMOKERS are getting Lung Cancer at an alarmingly increasing rate these days (I mentioned this in the previous conversation as well, and she answered, "Because of second-hand smoke, you mean?).

Now this lady is a breast cancer survivor, and she is deservedly proud of this fact.

And a very mean part of me wanted to say, "How would it make you feel if I started asking questions which strongly insinuated that you were to blame for your cancer?"


"I find it interesting that when a person is diagnosed with Breast Cancer the first thing people say is, "How can I help?" but when a person is diagnosed with Lung Cancer the first thing they say is, "Did he/she smoke?"

I just want to scream until people listen, "STOP BLAMING THE VICTIMS OF THIS TERRIBLE DISEASE!!!!!!"

I will not deny that smoking isn't good for you. I won't deny that smokers are at a higher risk for lung cancer.

But when a person has lung cancer--or worse has died from it, isn't it time to stop with the broken record, "Smoking causes cancer" crap????

Why do we perseverate on the issue of blame with this disease? Why do we forget compassion? Why is the image of a cigarette hanging out of a person's mouth the only thing we can let flash through our minds at the words, "Lung Cancer?"

Things have to change. Attitudes have to change. Yes, it would be great if smoking rates changed as well, but we'd still be dealing wiht lung cancer for years down the line.

Compassion. Bring back the compassion when thinking of this disease. Get rid of the blame.

No one deserves to be blamed for their own illness or worse, death from an illness.

And people who have suffered a great loss shouldn't have to constantly defend the honor of the one they loved and lost.

It is just wrong.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


It's the first day of fall. This day snuck up on me. The fullness of this last year has caused me to be confused about what season I was in or what day it was most of time.

For some reason this realization hits me in a strange and difficult way. In some ways, it felt as though this summer would be eternal. It felt as though it would go on and on and on being summer. Life would still be about being with Mom, caring for Mom, losing Mom, grieving Mom.

That is not the case, and I find my heart full of grief because I just left the last season that I had with my Mom. Part of me feels that if I can't be with her physically, I at least want to be close to her chronologically. This is just another symbol that though it feels like everything should still be stopped and taking notice that my Mom is dead, life is going on.

It is right that it should do so, I suppose. I am going on. I continue loving on Carolyn and watching her grow and conquer one milestone after another. I'm thinking of new directions for the future, and investigating how to go those ways.

But today... I just want to stay here for a little bit. I don't want to get any farther from my Mom. I guess it doesn't matter. She is still gone today. I'm still not with her. If I was going to freeze time I should have done it a few months ago, or better yet, last summer before cancer had robbed my mother of her ability to do the normal tasks of living.

But we didn't know how precious and fragile life was then.

If I'd frozen time, I would have missed all of the good of this year as well. There would be no Carolyn. I would have been in Washington far away from my folks, and I wouldn't have had the time with them that I did. (And then there would be the perpetual morning sickness..... perish the thought!)

I guess it is right that the seasons will keep on changing, but there is a sting in it today.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mama Drama

I was down in the basement here at Dad's today. I passed by an open Tote box full of textbooks from college. I decided to go see if there was anything worth reminiscing over.

Tucked in amongst the textbooks was a semi-cheesy looking book. I didn't think much of it at first, but then I saw that the title of it was Mama Drama. I picked it up wondering, "Was that book mine? Was it Mom's? Did she get it to figure out HER Mom? Or did Mom give it to me to figure her out?"

I opened the front cover and discovered that she must have sent it to me at college. And it had an inscription that read,

"Val an instruction book--Not that you need it. After all, I'm so easy to get along with!! I love you very much. Mom"

So I lugged the book upstairs. I fear it may become a talisman of sorts. It's hit me in all kinds of strange ways. It was so wonderful and comforting to see the words, "I love you very much. Mom" in her handwriting--her steady, wonderfully Mom handwriting and wit.

It seems like a symbol. A symbol of what I did have, but don't now. A symbol of how wonderfully, frustrating and complicated Mom and Daughter relationships are and my relationship with Mom was. A symbol of how I took her for granted so often just shrugging her off with an "Oh Mom..."

I lost her when I was just starting to get out of the "What does Mom know?" phase and into the, "I better ask Mom" phase... When I was finally interacting with her as an adult to an adult. In the last few years, she had become my first and best confidante and my closest friend. She helped me figure out the world.

And of course she could irritate me faster than anyone on the planet. She knew JUST how to push all the right buttons. And I'm realizing, though maybe it's me idealizing her, that I loved even that. It was how things were 'supposed to be.'

It also made me think about all that I went through with Mom--Being the adoring little girl... The unsure pre-teen, the surly adolescent, the tentative college student (who turned into the college student who was always homesick the last two years), and then the young woman who counted on her Mom to be there to call for help with a recipe or to vent about crazy people, or to discuss West Wing, and then... being the one who helped Mom to the bathroom, and clipped her toenails, and helped her with her water.

It made me wonder how my relationship with Carolyn will mirror what I lived with Mom. How will it compare? Do I REALLY have to go through the surly adolescent years???

All in all, the book makes me feel happy. It makes me remember what a great Mom I had. Make that present tense. Have. She's just not HERE. I never expected that 'Mama Drama' of the last year. If it had to be this way, I'm glad I was able to be with her as much as I was. I'm glad I was able to say I love you out loud and by doing things like rubbing her feet, and laying on her bed and just talking.

I just wish she was here to be easy (or not) to get along with.

Friday, September 09, 2005


~~A Declaration of Today~~

I am not ok.

I don't want to be ok right now.

My Mom died. My husband is floating around in the ocean. I just got done travelling over 2000 miles with an infant.... Twice. I'm adjusting to new living arrangements.... Again.

And on top of that, I'm having a bit of a 'who am I and why am I here to take up space on this earth' phase as I seek to answer the question of 'what direction do I go now?'

So... I might cry at the drop of a hat right now.

I might seem distant or dazed.

I might not laugh as much as I usually do.

My temper may be aroused more quickly.

In fact....

I may just mope around and quit lying to people when they ask me how I'm doing.

I might just answer, 'excrementally, and you?'

If that's not ok, frankly, I don't know what to tell you because I claim my un-okness and give myself permission to be in it right now.

~~End of Declaration~~