Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cancer, Cancer Go Away. Come Again...um, Never!

When I was a little girl I never thought about money or the financial gyrations my parents went through to provide for me. I never thought about taxes, or insurance, or politics, or illness and disease and death.

Illness and disease and death.

Three little words, really. I know I can't ignore them or pretend that they don't effect everyone on the planet at some point in their human journey. After all, what is the saying? Nothing is sure in life except death and taxes? So why am I so bothered by them lately? Bothered to the point of wishing for the return of my childlike view of the world - a world where my mother held me when I cried, my dad worked to pay the bills, and my biggest worry was if my friend would be at home when I knocked on her door carrying my pink Barbie case under my arm.

Sleeping in blissful peace

I can't go back, but Lord knows I've tried in the last month to lock my vision on the shiny parts of life and ignore the rest.

Today I'm taking the blinders off. Here is the ugly and hurtful truth. People I know and love are going to get cancer, all shapes and forms of this dreaded disease. People I care about are going to die of cancer and die quickly in some cases. People I like and admire who have had cancer are going to relapse. I might even relapse. Ouch, that one stung but it's painfully true.

I visited the doctor today. She ordered a chest x-ray because I shared with her how I've been feeling lately. "It's nothing, I'm sure. Let's just be proactive," she said as she wrote the order.

"Yes. Let's do that," I replied as those three little words played like a scratched record in my head.

Illness, disease, death.

I'm vulnerable to this droning music because, lately, the point has been hammered home that the earth could suddenly move under my feet. Again. I'm well now but who says I'm going to stay that way? In the last few months I've been reminded over and over how fragile our bodies can be. It's left me shaken.

Since I have not asked anyone's permission to write about them I will honor my beloved friends anonymously.

Except for this one, as I now have permission. Mrs. Theresa Beauchamp lived in upstate New York. She raised a large family, giving everything she had to her children and their children. Her smile and dancing eyes lit up all the photos I've seen of her. She lifted, lugged, remodeled, and worked around her house well into old age because it made her happy. She gathered with her family at the lake and reveled in the noise of passels of grandchildren playing in the water. Late last year she was diagnosed with cancer and to her family's dismay was gone seven weeks later. I mourn her because I love her daughter, Terry, and through her daughter I see all of this glorious lady's accomplishments. She will be missed.

Terry and her mother

There is a man who loved kids so much he taught them English for many years. He loved to write. He loved to play basketball. He was the fiercest critic of my writing. I am better and more skilled because of it. One evening not so very long ago he passed out on the basketball court. He had a brain tumor. He stopped  going out and I missed the way he'd line through and scribble over my manuscripts. One Monday evening last year he showed up at a writers' group meeting. I was lucky enough to be there. Afterwards, several of us went out to eat. We talked and laughed until my sides hurt. My friend joked in his usual off color way. I was so happy to see him but I could tell he was fading. We talked on the phone a few times before he moved across country to have the support of his family. He died in December. I cried when I saw the picture of his headstone. I can't bring myself to erase his number from my phone.

Another friend is recovering from breast cancer. She seems to be as sassy and vibrant as ever but I can't wait to hug her and look in her eyes. I need to see for myself that she has come through to the other side. And yet another friend is in the hospital again, working her way back to remission and normal life.

And a few days ago, a dear friend in my home state of Georgia shared that she's been diagnosed. She's reaching out to me because she knows I will understand. I'm her big sister in cancer. If she were pledging my sorority I'd turn her around and face her toward the door with marching orders to never come back. Sadly, life is not a college campus and she doesn't have a choice in learning the secrets of the breast cancer club.

Since I have been in her shoes, I can't go on blissfully saying bad things only happen to other people. I can't say that someone else will be there to provide comfort. It's not okay if I look the other way until the crisis is over. If I put my fingers in my ears and sing la, la, la, one day I will have to take them out, acknowledge that life is scary and not at all fair. My parents knew it. Every generation before them knew it. It's my turn.

Illness, disease, and death.

Don't ignore.



Be strong.

And, there you go. It's all anyone can do.


  1. Lisa, you express yourself so well. Those things we never want to acknowledge sometimes sneak up on us and slap us in the head. Then we can't ignore them.

    So, don't ignore them. The better thing is to cry when we need to but face what's ahead knowing that we really can't influence the outcome in a big way, but we can in a small way. If the bad news comes as it inevitably will for some of us but not all, attitude can be your friend or your enemy. Sometimes it is hard to be positive when it seems like everything is crashing around you, but find those little nuggets that you can focus on. The things you can be optimistic or positive about, not angry and negative. That what I did and my doctors all said I was a "poster child" for good attitude. All of them also felt that is what helped my successful and quick recovery.

    Things don't seem to hurt quite as much if you can manage to smile. Of course, next to many who are facing so much more than I did that's not an easy assignment. My personal heroes are my cousin who is battling multiple myeloma (incurable) and manages to keep her uplifting spirit and her sense of humor going full force. Without chemo and other treatments, she was given six months to live. She chose the chemo and after a year is now in remission, although no one can know how long it will last. She will be on chemo the rest of her life but is enjoying every day for what it is and knows one day a week she definitely won't feel good. That's the chemo day. She tells me every day is a gift to be cherished.

    Then there is our mutual friend who continues to battle leukemia despite setbacks--one truly amazing woman who is a real fighter.

    Keep writing Pink Planet. I read every post.

  2. Morgan,

    Thank you. We have to keep each other lifted up, don't we? Thank you for doing that for me today. And yes, our mutual friend is an amazing woman. I pray for her every day. I'm glad that you are reading. Just writing this helped me to purge the sadness. I have many ideas for posts that are flowing freely again. Sometimes it just takes regurgitation on the written page to get me moving again...kind of a symptom of being a writer at heart. Of course, you know that first hand!

    Love you,

  3. Beautiful, again. I love your writing, Lisa. And I, too, sometimes wish I could rest my head in my grandmother's lap and have her stroke my hair. XOXO

  4. Linda,

    Thanks...and we have a mutual admiration when it comes to writing, but you know that. My grandmother and I made a playhouse together out of an unused room in the smoke house on their farm. We would go out there together and I'd cook for her in my "kitchen". I really miss that and her.

    XOXOXO back to you,


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