Divorce vs. Cancer, by Mary Beth

January 20, 2012

I have not blogged on this site in quite some time. I just had my 5 year and 6 month check-up and I am good, a few minor problems but let me emphasize minor. The past year has been a very difficult and trying one. After 28 years of marriage I found the courage to ask for a divorce.

I have always been afraid of divorce. I am not sure if it was because I was so young when we met. If I was afraid of being alone… which is a funny concept because I have felt alone for much of my marriage. I was afraid of what others would think. I was afraid of the kid sharing. I was afraid that once I asked for a divorce he would not support us. I was worried about money, which is also a funny concept because I was worried about money with him too….probably more so. I was afraid because he was my first love. I was afraid to have to try to meet someone else to spend my life with and now even more so as a cancer survivor, with a double mastectomy. I was afraid because I love the idea of marriage and family and I desperately wanted to have a long-term marriage and a good family life for my kids.

We had talked about divorce many times and in fact were very close in 2006 and then the cancer diagnosis. We stayed together, but in hindsight I think that was the final nail in the marriage coffin… thank goodness in was not the final nail in my coffin. I learned so many lessons from my cancer, mostly what is truly important. It changed me in so many ways. I guess I thought it would change the others close to me too. I have learned that just because we learn lessons, it does not mean everyone else does. So many times after the cancer I felt like the glorified nanny and housekeeper. There were many issues that I could not talk about then, that I hope someday I can share in case other women experience the same with their marriages.

Over the past 5 years since my diagnosis, those that knew of my marital problems would say “you survived cancer, you can survive divorce”. I heard what they were saying, but I just could not find that courage. I felt cancer was different. I had a team of doctors that I trusted. They said “do this” and I knew I would do it and follow their directions to the letter. There is no trust in divorce… another funny thought because there was no trust in my marriage either. I was not blessed with being able to trust those who are supposed to love and protect you.

I was so afraid of asking for a divorce and then having my cancer come back, what would I do? I don’t know if my cancer will come back, but I know if I stayed it definitely would. I found the courage. Divorce is hard, but cancer is harder.

On the tough divorce issue days I think of the other Mothers on this site who are fighting their cancer daily, hourly and by the minute. I think of the women that we have lost and their valiant fight, they remind me everyday what is truly important and then I remind myself… “if I survived cancer… then I can survive divorce.”

Please say a prayer or lots of prayers and healing thoughts for one of our fearless and amazing leaders, Susan, she has been having some breathing and pain issues and was admitted to the ER on Tuesday.


aware of the irony

November 9, 2009

Life is funny.

This morning was perfect weather for a bike ride. The sun was out and the temperature climbed to 17C (that’s 62.6 in American). It was my first time on the bike in more than a week – since before the plague toppled my family, like a series of dominoes.

It was a fun ride, and I didn’t even mind the big hill I have to climb on my way to the hospital. I arrived twenty minutes after I set out, a little sweaty and with my heart pumping. As I locked up and headed into the cancer centre, I noted with pleasure that I hadn’t been coughing.

“It feels good to be healthy.”

I very nearly said it out loud.

I was suddenly struck by the absurdity of my situation. Here I was, going to get my bloodwork done the day before chemo and thinking about how healthy I am.

Three years ago, at almost exactly this time of year, I learned that my cancer had become metastatic. I don’t think I could have imagined this day, when I’d be riding my bike up Smythe Rd. and thinking about how healthy I am.

So, as I was saying at the beginning of this post – life really is pretty funny.

Cross-posted to Not Just About Cancer.


Death Be Not Proud*

October 26, 2009

(cross posted on Coffee and Chemo)
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You know, I am good. I mean, I have cancer and everything, but I am good.

Mostly, I feel good, and I do things, and I even work a bit.

Most of the time, I do not feel that cancer defines me.

But it does.

I am unquestionably in the cancer world.

Even taking chemo in pills (at home), I still have to go to the hospital several times a month — for doctor’s visits and blood tests (every 3 weeks) and my bone treatments (once a month).

But that is not all. No, no, that is not all.

I also have to go to the hospital for regular CTs, MRIs, bone scans, echocardiograms, ultrasounds, and whatever other tests or procedures are deemed necessary by my team of medical caregivers.

Everywhere I go, I meet other cancer patients.

Over time, many of the cancer patients get better and “disappear” back to their “old life,” the life without cancer.

But not everybody.

Some people, like me, are not going to get better. We meet regularly, week by week, month by month. We get to know each other. We get connected.

Many are like me. They are good. They are living with their cancer, and they are really living. Struggling, like me, but living. Even, I would say, living a good life.

But not everybody. Not all the time.

Sometimes people disappear and I do not know why. Have they simply switched treatment days or….? I am afraid to ask. Afraid to know.

It is hard. Hard to keep hearing about people dying of cancer.

Hard to keep my head buried in the sand, denying the threat of death, when death is all around me.

When I was first diagnosed, I stumbled onto the devastating statistics: five years after diagnosis, only 20% of women diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer are still alive.

I desperately needed to find other young women who were living with cancer for more than 10 years, to know they existed, to know it was possible, to believe that I could be one of them.

It was surprised (though I should not have been) that it was not easy to find these women.

I contacted Sharsheret, a support organization connecting young Jewish American women with breast cancer, who connected me with an amazing woman. Though extremely private about her cancer, she generously shared details of her challenges and accomplishments. She was still working, full time, as a professor in a university! She inspired me, and gave me hope. I spoke with her several times, until I found more local support via Beit Natan.

I just found out that, a year ago, she passed away suddenly, leaving behind 8 children. She battled cancer for around 10 years.

Her sudden death shocked those around her. But not me.

I have already learned: cancer is devious.

A cancer patient can seem fine one day, and the next day is critically ill. The situation can revert back to being stable or the patient can be dead within a few weeks. There is no way to know.

We never know.

Every death is devastating. Another reminder that living with cancer is uncertain.

Everything can change in an instant.

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footnote: Death Be Not Proud, by John Donne (Link includes full poem and Wikipedia article)


Cancer vs. The Common Cold

January 15, 2009

(cross posted from Coffee and Chemo (here and here))

It occurred to me that having a cold might affect my ability to receive chemo tomorrow.

I emailed my oncologist, who wrote back: “come and we will decide tomorrow–sounds like you will get a little break”

What does that mean?

Do I have the nurses open my port as usual?

I am scheduled to receive both Taxol and Herceptin. If “we” (and by “we,” I mean “he”) decide to postpone treatments, do we postpone both medications? By how long? A few days? A week? What is a “little break?” (To me, a “break” would be at least a month! We know that is not happening, as we have already established (here) that we can not postpone the Herceptin by more than a week)

Last week, my doctor told me that we would evaluate the efficacy of my treatments in the next two weeks. How does postponing treatment affect our ability to evaluate if the drugs are working?

All these questions, just because of a stupid cold, from which, we agreed last year (see here), cancer patients should be exempt!

It seems that when push comes to shove, the common cold trumps the cancer card!

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Apparently, a “little break” is one week.

I received Herceptin today, but no Taxol. My next Taxol treatment will be next Thursday.

I was a little nervous about skipping the treatment, but my oncologist was pretty insistent. When I pressed him about it, he offered to give it to me if I was willing to sign a waver, taking full responsibility for any possible complications. I politely declined, to which he responded “I thought that’s what you’d say.”

So, I will focus on kicking this cold, which is pretty much taking up all my energy and then some.

I felt a bit better this morning, but by the time I got home I was wiped. I went straight to bed and slept for three hours!


New and Improved! Now even better than before!

October 28, 2008

That’s me.  New and Improved.

The obvious, of course, is that experts have worked hard to remove all cancer from my body.  As a result, I am now Cancer Free.  And we all know that the less ingredients something contains the more it is worth. Today, however, I received an unexpected upgrade.

This afternoon I had my optometrist appointment.  The first one in a little over two years.  I hadn’t really remembered much from my last appointment.  My main goal is always to get my contact prescription refilled and get on with my life.  But that particular year, 2006, I was in the midst of breast cancer treatment.  I had just finished 8 rounds of dose dense chemotherapy, had just had my first single mastectomy and was regaining my strength in anticipation of 6 months of oral chemo in concert with 6 weeks of radiation therapy.  In short, I had other things on my mind than my eyes.  So I was a bit nonplussed when Dr. E asked if my cataract had been bothering me.

I didn’t even remember I had a cataract.  Once he said it, though, it all did sound vaguely familiar.  Something about a very small developing cataract that we were going to keep an eye on…

At any rate, Dr. E settled in to begin my exam.  “Let’s get a look at that fading near vision.” He says as he hands me a card with impossibly small letters on it.  As he logged my results in my chart it was his turn to look a bit confused.  It seems my near vision is better now than it was two years ago.  I reminded him that I had been in the midst of chemo last time and under a significant amount of stress to boot.  Perhaps that had effected my eyesight.  He was skeptical.  “Maybe… but that has never been my experience.”

Whatever, I know what stress can do.  A bit of blurred vision is the least of the possibilities.

Then he moved on to “get a look at that cataract”.  Only he couldn’t find it.  You read it correctly.  He looked and he looked.  He used about three different lights and all but crawled inside my eyeball his own self.  Seems I no longer have a small developing cataract.

Dr. E is such a jovial man.  It was wonderful to see him all but scratch his head and smile while he said that it just must have been the chemotherapy because there certainly wasn’t any cataract now.  He declared me “Too perfect.  More perfect than last time.”  and sent me on my way.

A little over two years ago I had Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a small cataract, fading near vision, and cough-variant asthma.  Today I am cancer free, cataract free, have perfect near vision and no asthma issues to speak of.  I’m a advertiser’s dream!

More importantly, I am blessed beyond measure.

Cross posted at I Can’t Complain Any More Than Usual


2 years and counting

October 21, 2008

Yesterday was my 2nd anniversary of the end of chemotherapy. I’ve had 668 days on this Earth since my cancer diagnosis. Each and every one of those days has been a gift and a blessing. Even the ones when Danny made ungodly messes on the floor. And the ones that required extra parental patience. And especially the ones where God’s presence was paraded in front of me like a slide show of perfection.

I can’t imagine not having spent these last 668 days with my kids and Daddy-O. And I am blessed to be spending the last few months with you. That being said, I’m finally beginning to lose that waiting for the other shoe to drop feeling. I’m starting to feel like I just might stick around for a while.

My mom and I were talking about just that topic this morning on my way to work. About how neither of us ever really worried about ourselves while undergoing treatment. All our resources were utilized worrying about our children – me with Ben and Danny; she with me.

Isn’t it odd that neither of us worried about our own mortality? Today is the first we’ve spoke on this particular topic, yet we have matching views. I know from my dad’s death when I was 14 that dying is the easy part. Being left behind is where all the hard work is. I guess we both figured we’d be pretty good at dying so there was nothing to worry about there. Ha! Who ever thought “dying well” would be a necessary skill set?

However, my new goal is “living well”. It looks much better on a resume, anyway.


“I Feel Good” (cue James Brown)

September 29, 2008

I wasn’t a blogger when I had cancer. Mostly I think that’s a bad thing. It would have been interesting to read back over my posts from those first days after diagnosis – to hear the shell-shock in my words. Or those days of chemo and radiation and pure exhaustion. But other days, I feel that it’s all for the best to have those memories locked up inside me in a place that only I will ever see. Overall I am an extremely positive person, but there were some fairly desolate hours during treatment.

All of that only makes me more aware of how far I’ve come. How good things are these days.

I have always had a strong constitution yet the year or so before my cancer diagnosis (when I was pregnant with Danny) I was plagued by irritating physical issues. I wasn’t sick, per se. I was, however, very “run down”. I developed a cough that wouldn’t go away and eventually made it so difficult to catch my breath that I found myself spending New Years Day 2005 in the Emergency Room. This was not my first trip there either. I’d been twice before for the same thing. I would just cough to the point of (wetting myself) and not being able to get any oxygen. The very act of talking was almost more than I could handle at times. Those of you who know me understand how torturous that was. The long and short of it was Cough Variant (Bronchial) Asthma irritated by my pregnancy. Those were bleak days. Hey… maybe that’s why chemo wasn’t so difficult for me. At least I could breath.

So… the point I’m trying to make is this…

Here it is, our End of Fiscal Year at work, and I’ve been working my tail off. I worked 58 hours last week and 56 the week before (including weekends). I go home and have visitation with my boys (that’s what it feels like these days), order in some dinner and collapse on the couch until everyone under 4′ tall is asleep and I can finally go to bed myself. Then it all starts over again the next day. And yet, I feel wonderful. Exhilarated. Tired, to be sure, but good.

I can breathe. That’s always a great thing. I’m not so short tempered as to be a shrieking harridan with my husband and kids. Shamefully, this has not always been the case in the past. And I have enough energy to go to and enjoy Ben’s soccer games, surf the internet and manage my fantasy football team.

It’s funny how we tend to lose sight of our blessings – like good health and abundant energy – in the midst of our work-a-day world. Those all important things that we take for granted until they are pulled from us. Today I am counting my blessings.

Side note: I just got a sad call from Daddy-O. All male members of my household are home sick today. Laid low by head colds.

Cross posted to I Can’t Complain Any More Than Usual