Posted by: Kathleen's Life Waves | September 14, 2010

The Big C is Cause to Live Life for Today Susan’s Cancer Story


A cookie, carrot, car, candy, cucumber, coke, crayon, ok you get the idea that all this could be Big but not as big as being told you have Cancer…sush!! do not say it loud. Do not tell anyone. You hear these stories all the time. Well maybe you don’t.  I, on the  other hand, have heard it, seen it, dealt with it indirectly.

I have been on many car rides or train rides home with friends and a sister, who, after being told to see an oncologist, so right off the bat you defenses go on alert, that my head is spinning so I can only imagine what is going on in theirs.

Do you take an ad out in the local paper, do you post it on your front door, maybe a sticker on your car bumper.  Most I know do exactly nothing for at least two days. They are trying to absorb it but for what outcome. To shield the spouse, children, parents, friends, work colleagues or  to shield the reality within themselves.  They do open up and tell  family and friends within  a few days and secretly hope that those they confide in will spread the word for them as to ease repeating and repeating “I have Cancer”.  In some cases this is good in other cases it can prove stressful.

They went into a Dr.’s  office  and came out with the label of  survivor.  Must have hope, must have faith, must be strong, must beat this beast.

So most cancer patients have to decide next which treatment is right for them. They need to educate themselves best they can and never go to a Dr. alone. Always have someone with you carrying a notebook.  No one can ever remember all the information you are about to receive and keep that notebook as long as you have to.

Chemo or radiation wow which would be more fun.  But for some it is not the path they want or can take.  Are they then not survivors, are they quitters, do they not have hope, not have faith or do they just accept the best way they know how and just deal.

Some go beyond chemo and radiation and enter experimental trial clinics.  Is that suicide? No not if it is what they wanted. And who has the right to judge their decision? No one in my opinion unless, of course, they are extremely irrational about what is happening to them which brings me to my Big point.

My  Big point I have in sharing this story is to be responsible for yourself. I believe everyone at 18  should have a will, a living health directive and be verbal about your life especially if you want certain situations to take place, in case, something were to happen to you and things do and can happen before you are 90.  People die everyday from many different situations,cancer is just one of them and most people do not die from cancer but from what the cancer has done to vital parts of the body.

What can be said to someone with cancer. How to deal with someone with cancer.

Do not keep asking them how they feel. Do not tell them they look great when you and they both know they look like shit. They want you to just be yourself. Not to treat them like a freak show. Do not visit them in the hospital or at their home and then be quiet and just stare and if they are most verbal about not wanting visitors you need to help figure out what is best for all involved.

I have had three friends tell me when I die whatever you do make sure my husband has my casket closed I do not want people staring at me telling all around that I look good.  My reply is did you tell him/them this info and their reply is usually ‘no’ so I have been elected to now deal with the grieving spouse. Not always a good scene. The words of ‘this is not what she would have wanted’ echos in my mind.

Well I have a friend and I decided to share her story. It is time. I have been watching ShowTime’s The Big C with Laura Linney and I am loving it and I am getting vibes from Susan. It is time to tell her story. Since I do not watch TV I think Susan in her magical way is the one who got me to even turn on the TV.

So Susan’s story starts here  she is pregnant and having problems with her husband who decides to walk out.  Susan is a strong woman and with the help of her friends and Mom she will be fine the baby will be fine.  Well that is not how it played out.  Meghan was born May 22, 1984 a healthy beautiful little girl. Susan, on the other hand, was delivered some not so good news. She had ovarian cancer.  How could that be, she just had a baby, was the baby covered in cancer, did the baby have cancer also.  Well four clinics later she was told point-blank that  her the cancer was so advanced that with treatments the best would be 4/5 years. One Dr. the eldest actually hinted she do nothing the outcome would be almost the same.   Time for Grandma Barbara to babysit so Susan and I could go listen to some good music, down a few drinks and talk.  She chose to do nothing. At  age 30 I personally found this a  remarkably courageous and admirable  thing to do. Since no else knew except her Mom and myself it was easy for Susan did not have to deal with stares or comments as to what is wrong with you fight! fight! She did fight she went to four clinics and made a decision.

The next 3/4 years were almost normal (a word I feel is often misused) what is normal?  Susan enjoyed Meghan and her life and channeled out the future. She took care of legal stuff but did not sit counting days or complaining.  Who know anyway when our time could be up. We could get struck with lightning, drown, die in an auto accident have a heart attack. Heck, my best childhood friend was murdered when I was 16. We think we have control of our lives but we waste much of that time controlling it. We should not wait to live our life  we should appreciate and enjoy it each day we wake up. Yes life does get in the way sometimes and we can and do lose sight of that.  If we all knew our fate we would probably hide under rocks or do what so many newly told cancer survivors do. They start living.

Well Susan’s days went into weeks into months into years until year 4. BAM  Her mind was so powerful no one knew she had cancer, she worked, she played, she lived her life with her new baby daughter and her Mom. We even went to The Stone Pony a few times for the music.  She did a joke with me about looking like a bowling ball in her third year but heck I just told her people who do not know will just think you are a  baby making machine. She would laugh.

The Bam 4th. year started off a little rough but Dr.’s have drugs and we were prepared. Well personally I do not think anyone can truly be prepared but we had talked about a plan and I and her Mom were in control of this plan. All kinds of legal papers were taken care of  two months after she gave birth and Tom the husband just stayed on the side lines quiet.

Now it was finally time she told everyone she was sick, well she actually told everyone that she was dying and no one knew what to say or what to do.    She had avoided all this for three  years now the zillion questions the multi zillion cures the billion zillion you should go see so and so or you need to take vitamins and yes all were from concern.  Some people were angry that she had not confided in them sooner. For what to ease their conscience.  The meds worked for the first 6 months than all hell broke loose.  Blockage, dehydration, weakness never once complaining.  We had a system worked out. The new-born was now 4 aware her Mom was ill but the word ill or sick was never used. The word Cancer was.  Mom has cancer. One day she will sleep and God will call her to come live with him up  in the heavens. Heck we Irish with the heavens.  Susan was not sure about the heaven part but I told her that any God who would do this to any women better have his big Golden Gates Open to Welcome Her or have to deal with me. She would laugh so hard then pee the bed.  Oh heck, we come into this world in diapers and most of us will wear them again before we go out. Actually some of my friends wear  them on road trips(just in case) and after the day out with Bums this past Saturday I might be next in line.  I was drinking all day and peeing -I am not one for public restrooms.  I digress …

So Meghan was told that she  can always talk to Mom,  that she will always watch over us always.  A cloud angel. No, we will not see her again but we have pictures and story books all around of fun times together since you were born.

Dr.’s and Drugs kept Susan comfortable and at home where she wanted to be.  I or her Mom read her stories,we would laugh, cry, sing, talk and share our final months together. Painting in bed with a four-year old is some experience actually one that I treasure.

This little girl was losing her Mom. This Mom was losing her only daughter. I was losing a best friend, a concert buddy, a hang out college girlfriend. This girlfriend was losing her life and her daughter.

Susan died a peaceful death with a smile on her face holding the hands of all three of us.  The husband stood in the room with tears flowing. Susan and Tom had worked things out over the years for Meghan’s sake. Two years later Susan’s Mom passed away I swear from a broken heart. The loss of her daughter was too much for her to bear especially when Tom took Meghan to live in CA where we never heard from either of them to this day.  I have often wondered when I see 24/25-year-old girls could they be Meghan.  I never liked Tom it was no secret. I know I know you are not supposed to not like anyone but we all have someone who we just don’t like.  He was sneaky, I was never into sneaky.  I shoot from the hip, always have and always will. He probably felt he would punish Barbara and myself by taking Meghan away.  In my heart I feel Susan has watched  over Meghan. Tom would never hurt Meghan but this was his way of being in control. Insecure people need to feel in control of  things. He will not die a peaceful death when his time comes because he knew Susan would strongly disapprove of him keeping Meghan away from Barbara or myself.  I remember talking to my Mom after Susan died.  Maybe I should try to take Meghan away from Tom but two family lawyer friends said the courts would never rule in my favor it could be a mess in the courts and very unsettling for Meghan unless I had proof that he would harm her and in my heart I know he never would do such a thing.

RIP Susan 1989         RIP Barbara 1992

This blog is Dedicated to Meghan.   If you are out there, somewhere, reading this, I loved your Mom, and she loved you so much. I can only hope that all the books we put together for you during your first four  years your Dad shared with you.  My  heart tells me that he did the right thing once in his life for your sake. As for your Mom well we had one hell of a good time at concerts and classes at NYU. We shard a friendship of fun times together that I will treasure always. Mom and Your Grandma Barbara are  watching over you all these years until you meet again.      Peace and ♥

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Responses

  1. Oh, Kathleen, this is at once beautiful and heartbreaking. Losing loved ones to cancer is sadly inevitable at some point in our lifetimes (I lost a dear friend to cervical cancer a few years ago).

    Sharing their stories brings us all closer together.
    xo B

    • Thanks Barbara, Sorry for the loss of your friend.
      Yes it is inevitable at our age to start losing parents, friends. It is Life’s Cycle.
      As I mentioned to you after your health scare you see life in a different way. All these situations with friends are what have molded me with a strength to accept life today for tomorrow might not come. So when I post something like this so many come back and say oh my you are always so upbeat, great sense of humor, etc. and yes I am because these losses have shown me the path of appreciation of everyday living. xo

  2. Hello…I, too, feel your pain. I am going through treatments along side my sister right now. She, too, is being brave and all, only to realize that each day is a new batlle and brings its own surprises, shagrins and stamina. She is amazing to me, so I write her story. Here is a link if you are interested: http://cjhasek.wordpress.com God Bless you and your family. Cathy Hasek

  3. So very touching Kathy…Susan was sitting on my laptop smiling and grateful for your love. Apparently you lost 3 people at once – that includes Meagan…Keep writing and putting your feelings out there. We love it! xox

    • Linda your words are always so comforting, thank you. Last weeks episode of The Big C I LMAO and just could not get Susan out of my mind. I went to bed and for the first time in ages I could not sleep. It was like she was telling me go ahead tell my story so I just got out of bed and started writing. The next day Bums read it before work while I was still asleep and he was touched. Yes it was another difficult time but another event in my life that instilled in me more strength and, in time, comfort to realize that she was with me at concerts. The first Springsteen show without Susan by my side was surreal but as he started to play I started to cry then laugh out loud. Terri was with me(her first Springsteen concert with me or anyone) and she just looked at me and I said. Shit..Susan is here with us(they had never met) and damm she gets front row seats to any concert she wants now, at that point Terri laughed and we all enjoyed the concert. Love You, xoxo

  4. Indeed having lived the ravages of cancer, having the need to leave behind a legacy of treasured memories, make what you have shared here, a beautiful plea for others to embrace. Cancer creates its own drama, its own chaos, its own call to spirit and transformation. For me, for my son, it defined survival, a letting go, another chance to live days with purpose and gratitude. I, a 28 year survivor, my youngest son an 8 year survivor.

    Health and blessings,
    Rose Marie

  5. Rose Marie: Thank you so for such warm, comforting, powerful words. Purpose and Gratitude For that you are here with us all sharing and spreading that inner calm and appreciation of our universe. Open your eyes people and live each day as it might be your last. Enjoy, embrace, LIVE LIFE.
    Health paths sometimes cause us to stumble yet we learn we all have an inner strength to clear that path and continue on.
    Health and Love to you Rose Marie and to your Son Peace Kathleen

  6. It would be so easy to find her now on facebook. My best friend died 12 years ago on the 12th of November. Leaving an almost 6 year old and a 9 year old. From diagnosis to death was just 5 months. She thought she was going to live and didn’t want her kids burdened with thinking she would have cancer for their whole lives. She had surgery after chemo and radiation and the surgeon said he had bought her 20 years but her body was so compromised she died from ARDS (lungs become like cement). She of course had done nothing about DNR or what happened next. Her husband was a fabulous father and now both kids are in college.
    My son has a friend with young children who has been dying for 2 1/2 years and in that time just told his kids and prepared nothing but a will. No DNR and right now is on life support with family believing he can come back. The odds are a billion to one or higher. They want to him to wake up and talk to them and didn’t realize it could be so fast (embolism and kidney failure). I am amazed they never discussed anything always thinking he would beat it. No guidance from the oncologist. She was speaking to the choir and not giving up-no plans and now regrets a plenty and this is saddest of all. I don’t fear death and I have lost 3 great friends and soon to lose a third. I live in the hear and now but am already prepared. I have my plot and a DNR and my kids have my wishes. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

    Kathleen, thanks for this beautiful tribute to your friend, Susan.

    • Oh Madge, I felt for you the other day. How difficult it is to lose a close loved friend and with such young children but yes thankfully they still had their Dad. There is a fantastic book out based on a Dad and his kids called Making Toast.
      How strong a man he must have been to guide these children while he himself was also experiencing such loss and now to know that they are entering college is wonderful.

      There is no right or wrong as to how to deal with cancer or any terminal illness except I do think a person should be responsible for their estate starting at the age of 18.
      It does help those responsible to have some guidelines for no is ever prepared emotionally for what might be. We just do it but it is weeks later that the mind replays the actual event. Why some benefit with chemo/radiation and others do not will we ever have those answers? I am sorry your son is also finding himself in limbo with his friend and how difficult it must be for him and that family also.
      I do not fear death either I have not since I was 30 to me it is a part of life that will happen when it is supposed to. I have always believed that the day you are born you celebrate as a birthday but that other date is already fixed just unknown.
      Susan will always be a part of my life for she along with a few others have taught me to live more, appreciate more, and has guided me for I have this powerful strength to deal with the unknowns.
      Love and Peace to you and your son and all those in the world dealing with illness, loss, and LIFE.
      May we all should appreciate each day best we can and LIVE it, Explore it, Discover it, Share it.

  7. Thanks Everyone, I reposted this blog I wrote a year ago for my dear friend Susan and by request of another friend. It is a true story and very personal to me. Opinions vary and should for anyone making a health decision. I feel that all do well with the decision they make themselves not when others make it for them. None of us every want to be told what to do or how to do it~ Peace~Kidget~

  8. I love your story Kathleen of your friend Susan…my reaction is one of so many thoughts & feelings…there have been many family members & friends in my life die from it…
    This June, I had my 2 yr birthday celebrating from the day of surgery…an almost cancelled colonoscopy revealed stage 3 colon cancer-which is what my grandfather died from…
    The whole journey in my mind is not just about diagnosis & treatment…it’s about how to go about living…it’s rethinking about is I want that will bring quality to my life…about love-caring-support…and as importantly it’s about giving back in what ever way I can to say thank you for the caring & love I’ve received…
    It’s about letting loved ones in my life know that I love them…letting go of relationships that are toxic…
    The medical group I belong to just started a program where those who’ve gone thru treatment will become partners with those just starting…

    I’m eager to help in whatever way God leads me…volunteering where my talents help…
    I want to live my life the best way possible…to be healthy in spirit-body-soul…
    No doubt Susan & Barbara are watching over Meghan…
    I’m glad you’ve shared your story & hope that one day Meghan finds her way to you…
    Thank you, Judy


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