Cancer Can S a D

2010 has not quite kicked off in the way that I had hoped. Life has thrown a huge curveball and boy, is it a doozy.

It all started in October when my grandmother was complaining of some trouble she was having swallowing her food. We thought this rather odd, but it seemed to be a simple case of acid reflux and her inability to keep to a prescribed diet. The immediate solution was to start her on some medication and limit her diet. This didn’t seem to be any cause for alarm and things continued along as usual. However, she soon complained of a pressure on her esophagus, especially when she was swallowing food. My dad scheduled an appointment for her to have this checked out and, after many rescheduled appointments, they found that she had a golf-ball sized nodule pressing on her esophagus. Whether it was cancer or not was TBD, but after the biopsy results came back it was confirmed: this shit was malignant.

Cut to the first full week of January 2010. My grandmother’s stage 4 cancer was not only in the form of a nodule in her chest, but also in tumors up and down her spine and neck. In the time span of 1 week the cancer spread to 2 places. How did this happen in such a short time? How was this not detected earlier? My grandmother is a cancer survivor, having had breast and lung cancer in the past. She was always able to to bypass chemotherapy in favor of radiation and this time it seemed like she would be able to do the same.

Cut to this week. She was admitted to the hospital last Friday and they’ve been trying to make her as comfortable as possible. She was on some drug cocktail that made her a bit loopy and unable to even eat pureed food, but that’s been taken care of and she’s hooked up to a good ol’ morphine drip now. I visited her in the hospital yesterday and she was in good spirits. For someone whose body is wracked with cancer she looked a million bucks, although her usually perfect coif was just a touch out of place. While I was there she had a snack of strawberry Ensure, the first “real” food she had had in days. What she really wanted, though, was a hot dog with mustard on a soft bun. She was being cute about it.

I spent the good part of the day at the hospital just visiting and spending time with my family and grandmother. The whole experience was emotionally draining and it took all the will power I had within me to stay strong. Only one other time in my life have I gone through such an ordeal: May/June 2008, when my other grandmother was slowly failing. I feel like I’m reliving that experience all over again. Losing my mom’s mother was the single most traumatic experience of my entire life. I don’t think that anything will compare to the loss I have felt from her passing. I’m not even sure that I’m entirely prepared to lose another grandmother. How can I be prepared? One doesn’t expect to lose a loved one. You always think that your grandparents and family members will live forever but that’s not how reality works. The higher power that governs us chooses to give and take life when he/she sees fit. It may not make sense to us but we have to accept it.

Things have gotten a bit worse since yesterday’s visit. The radiation treatment my grandmother was to undergo these next couple of weeks has been stopped. The pain she is experiencing has become interolerable. The hospital staff has unhooked her from all the machines she was tied up to save for the morphine drip. The goal is to make her as comfortable as possible in her final days. It is not her wish to have her life prolonged unnecessarily; she would like to pass peacefully and with dignity. The worst part of this is the waiting. We’re unsure as to the amount of time she has left on this planet.

I may sound matter-of-fact in my description of my grandmother’s illness but in real life I’m crumbling. My family is crumbling as well. It must have broke my dad’s heart to go to the funeral home today and plan the wake and funeral for his mother. It is sheer torture for my mother to go through this again not 2 years after her own mother passed away. My grandfather is beside himself, restless and nervous for the day when his wife leaves him forever. My sister has been ever-vigilant at the hospital, visiting with my grandmother and other family members.

I can’t even describe what I’m feeling right now. I feel so apathetic toward my surroundings and those around me. I can’t even register a real emotion. I’m like a god damn zombie. The muscles in my neck are tense and tight from stress. I hardly have any semblance of an appetite.

I wish she would recover. I wish she could sit in her chair again and piece together the afghans she so lovingly creates. I wish she could have the simple joy of going to the hairdresser. She was always so diligent about her appointments, and no wonder, with beautiful, thick hair like hers. I wish she would make ask me if I had “met any nice girls”.

I guess I just needed to write down my thoughts and sort of make sense about everything that’s been happening. It feels like so selfish to call up a friend and just blab about this kind of thing. I’m aware that that’s a totally irrational statement, by the way. I know that I have great friends I can depend on; I just hate being a burden.

My grandmother is Greek, and I only find it fitting that I include the Lord’s Prayer, in Greek, as I think of her tonight.

ΠΑΤΕΡ ΗΜΩΝ Ο ΕΝ ΤΟΙΣ ΟΥΡΑΝΟΙΣ
ΑΓΙΑΣΘΗΤΩ ΤΟ ΟΝΟΜΑ ΣΟΥ
ΕΛΘΕΤΩ Η ΒΑΣΙΛΕΙΑ ΣΟΥ
ΓΕΝΗΘΗΤΩ ΤΟ ΘΕΛΗΜΑ ΣΟΥ,
ΩΣ ΕΝ ΟΥΡΑΝΩ ΚΑΙ ΕΠΙ ΤΗΣ ΓΗΣ
ΤΟΝ ΑΡΤΟΝ ΗΜΩΝ ΤΟΝ ΕΠΙΟΥΣΙΟΝ
ΔΟΣ ΗΜΙΝ ΣΗΜΕΡΟΝ
ΚΑΙ ΑΦΕΣ ΗΜΙΝ ΤΑ ΟΦΕΙΛΗΜΑΤΑ ΗΜΩΝ,
ΩΣ ΚΑΙ ΗΜΕΙΣ ΑΦΙΕΜΕΝ ΤΟΙΣ ΟΦΕΙΛΕΤΑΙΣ ΗΜΩΝ
ΚΑΙ ΜΗ ΕΙΣΕΝΕΓΚΗΣ ΗΜΑΣ ΕΙΣ ΠΕΙΡΑΣΜΟΝ,
ΑΛΛΑ ΡΥΣΑΙ ΗΜΑΣ ΑΠΟ ΤΟΥ ΠΟΝΗΡΟΥ.
ΑΜΗΝ.

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4 thoughts on “Cancer Can S a D

  1. oh love, i know these feelings so very well and they’re still so fresh. it’s a heart wrenching situation but i’m sure just being there helped her so much. lots of hugs and martinis. xoxo

  2. I know this was awhile ago, but you put the feelings into words carefully. There’s nothing like a family tragedy and then sitting back and observing how each person is effected to make you exhausted. Love to you and Yia Yia.

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