The longer one hangs out in Cancer World, the more apparent it becomes that it is not a wondrous, happy, healthy, healing place. It just isn't. No one exits without deep permanent scarring. The shocking kind that can be hidden, yet still exists under the long sleeves.
I often wonder if anyone is really interested in watching the Cancer World train wreck day after day, week after week, year after year. Does my writing help anyone? Do I do it because 12 years of living here have taken away my ability to write about anything else? Does my constant haranguing make people desensitized to the entire journey? Cancer World is simply a grind. An endless plodding grind.
One with an ambiguous ending.
People want happy endings, evidence of great triumph over adversity and life-affirming stories. The grim reality of Cancer World is there are no happy endings. Many many children die long horrible deaths. Some receive reprieves and believe they are done. Families celebrate "End-of-Treatment," "Cancerversarys" "One Year Off Treatment," "Last Dose of Chemo." No Hallmark card fits any of these situations. Very few children ever hear the words "Cure." They are told they continue to be "NED."
Many are told they are in "Remission" This is not a word that warms the cockles of our hearts. Simply a reprieve. Some are short, some are endless. We all live with the fact next word we will hear is "Relapse or Recurrence." We know cancer comes back with a vengeance. There is no way out. We are here for perpetuity.
Mary-Elizabeth is currently doing great. She seems to have settled into her little universe of side-effects. She handles the GVHD. She sees the endocrinologist. She manages her hot flashes. She weeps on occasion for the loss of the chance to have a child that carries her particular group of DNA. She is hyper aware of any changes in her body. A bump, a sneeze, a strange feeling of concern. She addresses each of them. I only try to put my worry in the way back of the fridge and hope it is not growing something disgusting.
Others have not been so lucky. We have met so many people over the years and know many many families that have come to the end of the road. They simply take their children home to die.
These deaths are painful and agonizing in so many ways. There is no way to describe the veiled anguish of every Mother's post. They put their best face forward and try to have something happy to say.
They acknowledge they are counting on God to perform a miracle and have their child with them again. Yet they know, they know all too well, the time of the last smile, the last breath, the last gentle kiss is coming. The sand is rapidly escaping the hourglass, and there is no way to stop gravity. The entire process is just overwhelming and excruciating.
Time does not heal the wound of losing a child. The pain does not lessen or diminish in few months or few years. This is a gaping, car-swallowing sinkhole kind of wound that never ever heals. The pain of losing a child remains forever. Life does not get easier, nor does the pain lessen.
The reason we fight so hard to beat such a demon is that somewhere in our mother souls we know. We know the depth of the love, the deep well that burrows into the center of the earth and out the other side to connect with the Universe. We know how much we love our children and losing them is not an option.
I ended the blog because I couldn't keep from talking about all the sadness that had been the last few months. There had been so many losses of such lovely children. Too many funerals, too many "Joyous Life Celebrations" too many deep sighs choking back tears moments.
I don't keep count anymore. I cringe every time someone celebrates the last dose of Chemo or the end of treatment. I just hold my breath for them. I know too much.
We were at the end-of-treatment to only have the monster return seven years post-remission and 57 months after the last dose of chemo. What the Hell!? She is now 5 years post-transplant, and no one is talking cure. No one has said we don't have to worry anymore. No one is saying much. I think we are all just waiting.
I certainly am.