I know I started this blog back in July 2020 after I was hit with news of my Leukemia diagnosis. But I feel like I’ve “graduated” from writing about my cancer. I don’t have much to report. My labs are continuing to came back in the normal ranges and I’m beyond thankful and blessed. I’m still working through a disgusting amount of anxiety surrounding my cancer returning one day as well as some other lingering side effects of the transplant. I have to figure out which hormones I need to be on to get me out of menopause (shout out for you ladies over 40’s… I now understand the bummer that is *menopause* HAHA). I am also working toward rebuilding my bone strength to fix my “bridle 27-year-old bones” but I mean hot girl summer ’22 is coming up anyway – so let’s get it. HOWEVER. WITH ALL THINGS CONSIDERED… I’m doing pretty damn well. My hair is coming in hot. Dark brown and curly which is a complete 180 from pre-cancer hair BUT I’ll take it. I run and don’t look like a new born deer anymore so that’s progress. I am back up to 40 hours/week at work. And my health is doing as well as we could have hoped. Again, beyond blessed to report this.
As I originally started this blog to discuss my leukemia with the hopes of keeping my friends and family informed I kind of just assumed the blog would die off post treatment. But then I realized that this blog can actually continue to shift to be an outlet for an abundance of different topics that life throws at me. For example, EVENTUALLY we will have to jump into the adventure that is, IVF. I’ve searched the internet for hours with the hopes of finding a blog or book written about someone who has walked this path before us, and have come up short. Maybe one day in me documenting the process I’ll bring hope and reassurance to another couple thrown this curve ball in life… whether cancer was involved or not.
But for now – grief. I have been and continue to try to navigate some seriously murky waters. Grief is something that everyone will go through in their life. I can almost guarantee – you will not go through this life unscathed. Unfortunately. Now obviously some losses are significantly greater than others. I have absolutely no idea what it is like nor how to grieve the loss of a spouse. Or a child. Or a sibling. Or a grandparent. In that way, I consider myself very blessed. However – I now know what it feels like to grieve a parent, specially your mom as a twenty something your old female. The irony of grief is that the person that you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer here. LOL what a significant blow to the stomach huh?
For a while there, I honestly considered myself “totally fine.” I stayed busy with rebuilding my strength post transplant and upping my hours at work. Working out when I had the energy and surrounding myself with friends and family as often as possible. I even took up cooking LOL… I watched Master Chef like it was an addiction. I tried the “avoidant” method to my mom’s passing. I’m not a therapist or psychiatrist so none of these facts or words I’m using are science. LOL. They’re just my opinion backed with my personal experience. But like I said, and while looking back, I honestly think I put myself in “avoidant” mode. I did this when I was first diagnosed with cancer too. Cried upon initial diagnosis but then didn’t shed a tear for two months. I didn’t cry again until egg retrieval and my month of inpatient chemo was done and I was on the way home.
My mom passed only three months after my transplant. I still had such a long, rough recovery ahead of me. I didn’t have time or energy to let the passing of my mom consume my brain. I avoided it. Let thoughts about my own cancer recovery consume my worries and sadness. Obviously I was sad. Obviously I missed her. Obviously the night we held her hand as she took her last breathe wrecked me. I still have nightmares where I picture that very moment. Her opening her eyes, shedding one tear out of her left eye and then slowly closing her eyes for good. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment in time. It felt fake. It was numbing. To sit in a room with your family and panickily search the eyes of your dad for an answer. To panickily look to your dad to fix something that was so entirely out of his control. For the first time, he couldn’t fix it. No one knew how to fix it. Our hearts were shattered. Just like that. I don’t think I’ve ever cried harder than that night. My eyes were so swollen I couldn’t see straight the next morning. But shockingly I didn’t feel an immense amount of emotional pain the weeks and months directly after January 11, 2021. I did a pretty good job until this past Holiday season.
For Thanksgiving this year – I tried to start “new” traditions. We did a joint family Thanksgiving with another family because I thought that would be easier than sticking to our normal traditions and now having a flagrantly empty seat at our dinning room table. I was wrong. Too much newness for the first holiday without mom. My poor family sat in their seats, put on brave faces but I could see the pain and the lumps in their throats that they kept swallowing before they spoke. It wasn’t the move. I was wrong. And this is when I started to learn we (especially me) needed to stop avoiding the pain. We needed to stop ignoring the very hard truth. Mom’s gone and we won’t see her at another Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. She won’t be there to give us those Christmas presents that make absolutely no sense and are not even close to our wish list. LOL. Or the stocking stuffers. She LOVED the stocking stuffers and always got them so mixed up. The amount of sports bra’s that accidently ended up in my brother’s stocking year after year became comical. And when you start to think about having kids one day and that they won’t be able to get in on their grandma’s magic. Her feasts she cooked every Christmas morning. Her smile and excitement as you run down the stairs to see Santa’s presents. It is gut wrenching and completely devastating.
On top of trying to figure out your own grief and how you can manage and cope – you quickly learn that the people around you grieve in very different ways. It becomes a very jumbled mess when your loved one needs to be alone while you need that same person by your side holding your hand. In a very dramatic way it reminds me of the Titanic. Everyone is drowning. Trying to find their way through this new life that none of us have had to experience before. My dad hasn’t ever had kids without my mom by his side. Us kids have never not had a mom. We are all fumbling around in the icy water trying to stay afloat to the best of our ability. Everytime someone jumps on the other persons back to be supported, the other person sinks a little more into the icy water. Now I know you’re thinking “wow shouldn’t they be supporting each other rather than drowning each other?” HA. Consider yourself lucky because you have absolutely no idea what/how true this analogy is. Especially in regards to what happens when families grieve together. When you have a large variety of personalities and temperaments. With a multitude of different triggers all wrapped up into a Christmas dinner. Exactly… Now you’re trackin’.
However, in this same light, I’d consider my family very lucky. Although we are all fumbling around in icy water, trying to stay afloat and adjust to life without mom, we have each other’s back and always will. Do we have complete freak-outs where we lose our minds on each other over something completely irrelevant? Yes. However at the same time, we understand each other in a way that we never did before. The amount of depth we’ve gained out of experiencing this. It’s something that can’t be bought. Can’t be replaced. To go through something like losing a loved one, and sharing in on the tremendous amount of grief is a special bond that we will share forever. It brings you back to each other. It makes it so after a fight, you call the next day, say I love you and you just get it. I agree with what you’re thinking. Probably not the healthiest to freak out on each other. Should probably work on supporting each other… but you know what? No ones perfect. Grief is messy. It’s hard and it’s unapologetic. It doesn’t care if you’re already having a terrible day. That song that reminds you of your mom will still come on the radio. You will still be sitting in I-25 traffic sobbing because you want your mom. And then when your Dad calls to complain about dirty dishes you left behind LOL… look out Tex.
So I guess what’s the point of this post? I hope that if you’re reading this while grieving a significant loss this will give you permission to be a little bit of a mess as you navigate. I hope reading this helps you learn that avoiding grief to survive is okay for a little bit but IT WILL catch up to you, like it has me. I hope it helps people supporting a grieving person understand that if you’re all of a sudden getting destroyed because your dishes are dirty, out of complete left field, it has nothing to do with the damn dishes. But rather, that the person is in immense pain and doesn’t know how to express they’re hurting. They don’t know how to mend the giant gash in their heart that won’t ever be able to be replaced. Healed slightly… MAYBE… but never fully healed.
I know this makes us sound like none of us are okay. But the fact of the matter is we are okay. We survived the first year without our mom, wife and best friend. And we not only survived we kicked life’s ass at that. We fought back with everything we have. So please give yourself grace. If you feel like an absolute psychopath because you’re fine one day and the next you watch a sad commercial and hyperventilate. It’s normal. And you need to feel all the feelings when you’re in them. It doesn’t give you an excuse to be hurtful to others, or stay in bed for months avoiding life and your responsibilities. That’s the last thing the person you’re missing would want for you. But it does give you permission to have moments of being entirely not okay. I’ve been there. And what you’re feeling is normal. I hope this post gives you comfort and peace with the fact that you’re not alone in your grief. You’re not alone in not understanding the process. Or the stages. Or what to do or how to fix it. I am still trying to adjust to this substantial loss and probably will be trying to adjust to this new life for the rest of mine.
Love and hugs to all who know the pain of loss or have seen the pain of loss on someone’s heart. Grief is the absolute worst but know you’re not alone in your feelings. Millions of people have been/are currently in your very same shoes. You’re strong and will make it through your days of immense sadness and grief. Just think about that beautiful guardian angel smiling down on you. They’re so proud of you and how hard you fight to get through such a significant beast by the ugly name of grief.