It’s a peculiar time. The pandemic, while still real, no longer poses a crisis situation for most of us. By no means is this true for everyone; cancer patients, their families, and caregivers continue to be at serious risk. It’s just that the hysteria surrounding COVID-19 in earlier months has waned as the world now tries to live with a virus that isn’t going away anytime soon. It isn’t new. It isn’t old. It’s just our new reality.
Let’s call this in-between place the gray zone. I wrote about my own experience learning to accept gray earlier this year in The Reality of Grief. One of my all-time favorite writers, Abigail Thomas, who taught writing workshops for cancer patients after her daughter’s diagnosis, puts it this way in her book What Comes Next and How to Like It: “Part of what I’ve learned is that if it isn’t life and death, it isn’t life and death. I know now that cancer is not an isolated...
Life really is both sides now. It is happiness and sorrow, love and loss, triumph and setbacks all at once.
I learned this lesson as a longtime cancer caregiver where every day was like being in the already and not yet, somewhere in-between remission and recurrence. Any moment can move us from one side to the other.
May 21, 2001, began as the most joyous day of my life. That’s the day I became a mother. I had twins, a daughter we named Rebecca, and a son, Casey. More than anything, Brett and I hoped that the trauma of his cancer diagnosis and treatmentwould remain in the past. Not even the twins’ premature birth could dampen the excitement we felt for the future.
Later that day, Brett and I napped together in my twin hospital bed. We were in a groggy stupor when his cell phone rang.
“Hi, Dr. Balmaceda,” Brett said, as if he’d been struck by lightning.
He was silent. Dr. Balmaceda, his neuro-oncologist, had news...
When your loved one is diagnosed with cancer, and life seems to throw you one bad turn after the next, hope can seem elusive. For me, the randomness of my husband Brett’s medulloblastoma diagnosis, which typically affects children ages five and under, was devastating. We had no idea what to expect, how could we? There were no known protocols for treating adults with medullas at the time.
Life without hope though is no life at all. We moved forward with what little information we had at the time. Since a good percentage of children with medullas live, and because Brett’s response to the surgery and treatments were so positive, we decided to fulfill our dream of starting a family.
No one said to Brett, “you are cured,” but we wanted him to be cured so badly that we wished it until we believed it. “The only proof of cure is life,” said Brett’s Uncle Harvey, who of all bizarre ironies was a pediatric oncologist.
Harvey’s words resonated...