Monthly Archives: March 2011

In Love, With Cancer

It always starts the same way…a phone call, a finding, “We’re hopeful that…”

Cancer has been my constant companion for more than 10 years now.  It tapped my husband first and took me to my knees as the hours, days, weeks passed.  He survived but at a series of terrible prices which I will share over the coming weeks and months.

Four years ago, my oldest brother was diagnosed with a malignant cytoma in his brain.  The Cyber-Knife showed a sister tumor and they sewed him up.  He died in two months.

Last May, my brother Bob had a cerebral hemorrhage brought on by a large, malignant tumor in his brain.  He died in two weeks.

Today, right now, my older and dearer sister is battling for her life, a 25 centimeter ovarian tumor taking over her abdomen and her every conscious moment.  She is in an ICU, on a vent and still has another surgery to go.

With each of them, I have suspended my life, shut it down to the 10 foot by 12 foot white prison cell called a hospital room.  Watching, caring, calling out what I see and demanding attention when it was needed.  Day after day, and in many cases all through the night, I have lived with them, breathed for them, watched them, prayed for them and advocated, always advocated for them.

Everything else fades away and life narrows to the hospital bed, the pinpoint that demands all your attention.  You are tired to the bone and still you stay, you watch, you help, you cry.  You ache in your joints and in your heart and still, you stay, soothing, calming, trying to reassure.  You forget what day it is, when you last ate, what a hot cup of tea tastes like, what it’s like to lie down in a bed to sleep instead of a chair and still, you stay.

That’s what it means to be in love…with cancer.

Heading back to the hospital to hold her hand, tell her where she is, what is happening and what will happen next.  I will write more about this, about the nurses who are heroes every day and about the good, the bad and the ugly of health care and hospitals.

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Filed under Healthcare, Life & Death, Medical Writing

Five Steps For Saving The World

Changing the world, that’s what I thought I would do when I was young.  It was the 60’s after all.  We, the young people of the United States, broke the back of the Vietnam War and brought our brothers and fathers home.

We looked at a world of inequality — a country where people of color had to use separate facilities and had no opportunity and a country where a woman couldn’t get a credit card, a car or even an apartment in her own name without a co-signer and decided to fight.  We marched on Washington and won equal rights for all, regardless of race, religion or sex.

We really thought that we could make a difference.  Then we got married, had babies, went to work and stopped fighting for causes.  Oh sure, we wrote checks; I still do but I’m not rich–I’m unemployed.  So the money being sent to organizations like the  Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Audubon Society just doesn’t seem like very much.  In fact, in light of all the ecological problems this island, Earth, is facing, it seems downright pitiful

Stuck in the circular thinking of I can’t solve all the problems so why bother, I was left wondering just how can one person make a difference?

Then a card arrived in the mail.  It was a small, nondescript card from an organization unknown to me and asking for a donation.  And although I don’t have much money, I sent them a donation the same day I opened their envelope.  Why?

They answered my question.

The Ocean Conservancy asked for $18.00 if I could spare it.  In return, they offered me five small steps — steps that one person could take and, literally, start a “sea change.”

  1. Don’t pour harsh chemicals down the drain or into storm sewers.  The only end up in the drinking water down stream.  DO seal and wrap them in the original containers and call your city or county waste center for disposal instructions.
  2. Don’t litter or throw trash in streams, on the shoreline or in the ocean. DO volunteer to help rid our seas of the trash that can kill or entangle marine wildlife.  Volunteer for the Ocean Conservancy’s coastal clean up by calling 1-800-262-BEACH.
  3. Don’t use commercial cleaners – products that contain bleach and ammonia.  Substitute the ones our grandparents used, like white vinegar, baking soda and borax.  They clean as well and cause much less damage.
  4. Don’t drop your boat into the water and drive out into the lake or the ocean with loose debris or packaging that could blow off the deck.  DO look for and dispose of anything that could drop overboard before setting sail.
  5. Don’t keep flushing thousands of gallons of usable water down  your toilet.  Do fill a plastic water bottle with water and place it in your tank.  You could save up to 5,000 gallons of water every year.

Everyone can do every one of these things.  Not one of them costs anything to do. If you are living on this planet and enjoying this diverse community we call the world, you can join people from all walks of life and make a difference.

Thank you to that person, toiling somewhere in the offices of the Ocean Conservancy, who like me probably thought that one day he, she, I, we could save the world.   Because he or she reminded me, we can.

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Filed under Budgeting, Life & Death