Thursday, December 30, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
What the Butterfly Would Say:
On the Wings of Transformation, Hope, and Life
By: Jakob Cutter
We have a particular fascination with butterflies. Not only are they amazing pollinators, fun to watch and beautiful, but they instill in us a wonderful sense of transformation, hope, and life.
The life of a butterfly is a journey of stages and rebirth and it reflects changes in our own lives. It is easy to understand why we would find inspiration from them.
As I write this, I have a specific condition in mind: cancer. However, the metaphor extends to other physical conditions, as well as conditions of the mind, heart, and spirit. It extends to the difficulties of life, in general. We are always enduring and thriving.
As we know, the butterfly begins its life story as an egg and from there it becomes a caterpillar. The most notable change is from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Now, I don’t know much about butterfly psychology—whether they anticipate their metamorphoses from caterpillar to butterfly, but they certainly do make it look easy.
It is not an easy feat though. When the butterfly emerges, its wings are soft and folded. The process is usually bloody, or what appears to be a blood-like substance. Once out, their soft wings unfold and harden, at which time the butterfly takes to the sky to do their graceful aerial dance. Even then, the life of a butterfly is not easy; there are predators, parasites, and pesticides that threaten them.
I don’t know if the butterfly knows its destiny, I don’t know if it looks forward to becoming a butterfly, but I believe that it is the journey that matters. A person close to me who is undergoing chemotherapy told me that when he sees a butterfly, he sees that it chose life. The butterfly’s journey is life affirming despite all obstacles.
I cannot fathom the difficulties of undergoing treatment, living with, and surviving cancer. I cannot fathom the courage it takes to face something so scary. I won’t pretend to understand. The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual toll it takes on the person living with cancer is enormous. It is transforming. The toll it takes on family is massive. In a time of so many scary changes and uncertainty we must look to hope, for which the butterfly is a classic symbol. I'm reminded of a quote, paraphrased: “But we rejoice in our sufferings because we know that trials build perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.” We can look to the butterfly for this.
Imagine what the butterfly may tell us about these things, about transformation, hope, life... uncertainty. If that graceful aerial dance was an interpretive dance, I believe the butterfly would say: “Even with a broken wing, I still hope! I still live! I still fly!”
Jakob Cutter is a graduate of Indiana University with degrees in History and Psychology with a minor in Sociology. He is currently working as a butterfly farmer at Butterfly Dan’s in Kissimmee, Florida.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
It is now 5 years since my surgery. I am just one year into my treatment with Femara; 4 to go! God willing! It is nothing short of a miracle that I am still here. Somewhere along the way it appears that I have lost myself. According to Haydn I have not recognised the loss. Although I consciously grieve for the many losses in my life, I had not been aware that I might also be grieving for the loss of self. Haydn is struggling with the person I have become while I would have said he did not even notice. He simply gets on with his life. I understand Haydn's frustrations. After all, he is my ex-husband; I know him well. We have been together 14 years. Although we separated, later divorcing, we have never been apart. I simply moved out, taking Jeremy with me. This I did to protect myself and my child. We continued to fraternise.
I have noticed for some time that the relationship has become strained. I am used to Haydn and his need to retreat into his 'cave' at the appropriate times. It is his 'thinking' time. I was quite unprepared for the outcome this time. For the first time he laid his cards on the table with complete honesty. I appreciate that. Many things were said. It is not my intention to go into them here other than to say that it has given me plenty to think about.
Each time I go to discuss the situation I burst into tears. He then says it would have been better to say nothing as he cannot handle my tears. I reassure him that tears are good and I wish I had cried more as they are a great emotional release. There is no shame for him to admit that he feels let down by what has happened in his life and wants to 'grab' life and run with it. Strange, I feel exactly the same way. The question is 'Can we do it together?'
Haydn feels he is 'missing out' while I see him as 'living his dream.' He loves the farm. Being out in the paddocks, on his tractor, or with his cattle is what he loves to do. He has the freedom to hop in his vehicle and go wherever his heart takes him. His family are close by; he can see them whenever he chooses. There are things in our relationship Hayd finds difficult. At just 63 he has much to look forward to. With the 'right' partner, in good health, life could be good for him.
On the other hand, I rely on him to take me to appointments. I miss out on so much rather than ask him to give up his time. I miss my family and my friends. I love my cyber friends who fill a HUGE void however, I miss personal contact. I feel the need to find my passion! I am no longer interested in 'housekeeping' and the fatigue prevents me from participating in many activities.
It is interesting to note that Haydn does not share the same point view. I am grateful to him for his honesty and have explained that this is like a game of 'hot potato.' The 'hot potato' is in my hands and it is now up to me to decide what to do with it. My feelings are that this is something I need to 'hang onto' until the New Year, providing I don't get burnt.
At the end of the day it takes two very special people to survive all that we have experienced in our lives. Simply put, maybe we are not the people we thought we were.
I think I will have a look at the movie EAT PRAY LOVE. There may be something there for me.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I am also grateful to my doctor and my dentist. My dentist advised me of an Australian Government programme providing dental treatment to patients living with chronic medical conditions, and complex care needs as verified by a General Medical Practitioner. I approached my doctor who duly ticked all the boxes and decided that I was indeed eligible for the programme providing AU$4,250 over two years. Although I am no longer a taxpayer, I have paid taxes all my working life. Maybe this is what Karma is all about?
Given that the condition of my teeth, and gums, are deteriorating as a result of medications taken to prolong my life it is imperative that I receive regular check-ups. It was at my scheduled appointment yesterday that I discovered there was a glitch in the system and my application had not been processed. On learning this Dr Amna Khan, my dentist, advised me there would be NO CHARGE for yesterday's consultation. Not only is she a wonderful dentist she is a superb human being.
So, to the Australian Taxpayers, my doctor, my dentist and Blog Buddies I say 'THANK YOU.'
Thanks also to my wonderful Case Manager Trish. I was excited at the prospect of having a Scribe for 4 hours. She was due here this morning at 10.30am to do my Christmas Cards. I waited in anticipation, knowing there are friends with whom I have had no contact this past 12 months. A Christmas message lets them know I am still around. This is another funded service; maybe it's a case of 'good help is hard to find.' Apparently the Scribe claimed she could not find our place; rather than contact her employer for further instructions, she left the area.
I am left waiting...waiting....waiting.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
more powerful than any darkness we may encounter.
We sometime lose sight of this force
when there is suffering, and too much pain.
the spirit will emerge
through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call
and answer in extraordinary ways.
Night two I did my usual 'early to bed' in anticipation of sleeping soundly. It was not to be! At 9pm my inconsiderate companion decided it was time to make her very personal phone calls. The clock ticked slowly and the phone calls seemed to go on... and on... and on. The following morning I suggested to her that the arrangements were not working for me and it was my intention to approach the nursing staff in order to ask about relocating. My room mate was appalled and suggested I do nothing; she would make every effort to be mindful of her actions in future.
My five day stay in hospital went well from then on. It surprised me to find the food was good. I was able to 'slip' (not literally) downstairs to have my hair shampooed and dried. The coffee shop allowed me to 'grab' a coffee to be enjoyed in the sunshine. Life was good - the future looked bright!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
As it is now past my bedtime, I will leave you with some 'homework' should you choose to read Starry's Post. I believe this is a very important subject and I look forward to further discourse.
Take the time to enjoy the season and feel the joy in each new experience.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
‘Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him when he falleth; for he has not another to help him up.’ – Bible: Ecclesiastes
Yesterday I suggested to Haydn that I would be looking to make plans to move next year. As you know, I struggle with the isolation and loss of independance. My cancer has robbed me of that! As only Hayd could, he said 'Where would you go? Who would look after you, nobody wants you?' Good one Hayd! Fighting back tears, I said little except that the decision would be mine. And mine alone! I live with the belief that 'things work out best for people who make the best of the way things work out.'
The past couple of days have been particularly difficult. There have been many tears shed, and much swearing, particularly when I found myself unable to throw the sheets over the line. I now have limited range of movement in my right arm and shoulder. My pain meds have been reduced in the hope that the chronic fatigue will miraculously disappear however, I am adjusting to increased sensations in the inflamed nerve endings.
I have taken the following lines from Paul who opened my eyes with his posting of Desiderata....
'But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.'
It seems, at times, the fatigue and loneliness is 'playing with my mind.'
This afternoon Haydn arrived home with his 'Shh! Don't say a thing! Just listen to what I have to say.' He proceeded to tell me that he thinks it would be a good idea to buy a caravan. Last year we purchased a new Mitsubishi Pajero 4WD with that in mind. I think it was my decision that it was all too hard; my pain had returned with a vengeance and I was not in a good place. The thought of being organised enough to pack and unpack a van seemed like hard work. As the owner of industrial sheds in Newcastle, there is always work to be done; Haydn likes to be busy. We would be able to take the van down and stay for a few days, allowing Haydn to work on the sheds and me to receive much needed therapy for my lymphoedema etc. Of course, there would also be the opportunity for socialising. Haydn feels we could take the van across to the coast and spend time. I am a little uncertain as Hayd is a 'worker' and finds it very difficult to relax. He does not enjoy being a 'tourist' so it would mean changes. The big PLUS for me is that we would be able to visit my children. God willing. Yeah!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Thank you for your comments which mean so much to me. Recently I have dropped behind with my replies and, God willing, I will manage to get caught up. Please don't hold your breath, just in case! I can promise I will do my best.
The popular conception of therapy usually goes something along the lines of client, couch and therapist, coupled with a notepad and talk. Yesterday went well! Jeremy's birthday passed smoothly! Many candles were lit on his Memory-of site and I received countless personal messages, giving me a sense of being personally blessed. This led me to Google 'Group Therapy.' According to Georgetown University Counseling and Psychiatric services, Group Therapy is a powerful venue for growth and change.The isolation of farm life, along with a degree of disability, gives me more time to think than I would like. Definitely, time to grow and time to change! Therefore, being part of a group allows me to connect with others in a similar situation. Although the circumstances of my breast cancer recurrence appear to be somewhat unique, the blogging community provides a safe forum, along with emotional support, in my daily battle. Social Networking also gives me access to a large diverse group of individuals offering warmth and providing support. This is the perfect forum to say a huge 'Thank You.'
Dr Sales yesterday checked both the rash on my eyelid and the mark on my jaw line. Thankfully, neither is cause for concern. The rash is a scratch that has become slightly infected while the spot is a skin cancer but...NOT A MELANOMA! I have always used Curaderm for Basal Cell Carcinoma treatment so will probably do the same with this one. He was however, concerned about my current level of fatigue, as well as the results from the Doppler ultrasound, which showed a complete obstruction of the subclavian and axillary veins indicating extensive post treatment changes within the soft tissue of the right axilla.
I have an appointment with my radiation oncologist on Friday. Dr Sales has suggested I may need further testing. I am normally reluctant to undergo testing unless the symptoms suggest there is some sort of activity. I feel testing is essential at this stage, in spite of my belief that testing increases risks.. The problem could be radiation damage, tumour growth or very extensive blood clotting. Whatever it is, it is a cause for concern.
The one thing I have noticed is that when I feel well in myself I worry less about outcomes. I let my body be the barometer of the soul. As I have been feeling 'out of sorts' as well as fatigued I am 'looking for trouble.' Not a good thing!
On a lighter note, today I had a manicure and pedicure done. Not being able to do my own has become a nightmare. The nails on my right hand often look like 'claws.' I have only just located Tracey, offering a mobile service. In spite of giving explicit instructions about care being taken with cuticles etc I have been left with red, inflamed toes. I think rather than 'pushing' the cuticles back, they were 'shoved.' As you can imagine, I have been applying Tea Tree Oil all afternoon in the hope of reducing the risk of infection. Drat! There has to be a better way!
Monday, November 15, 2010
The week has not started well with this wretched fatigue being an ongoing problem. My morning Tai Chi class, normally uplifting, was tiring for some reason so I found my way to the sofa as soon as I arrived home. This afternoon, after checking the garden and spreading some fertiliser in anticipation of the rain, the fatigue got the better of me and I curled up on the lounge. There was no sense of feeling refreshed when I surfaced. Not a good sign!
Tomorrow I have an appointment with my regular General Practitioner, Doctor Milton Sales. The date is 16 November, which is also the birth date of my 'Spirit Child' Jeremy. The appointment will be slightly different to my 'normal' appointments which have come to be about prescriptions for medications and blood tests for INR levels. Being on Warfarin for the blood clot means regular testing as many have discovered.
I have not had results for the Doppler ultrasound on the blood clot so that will be a priority considering the sonographer did not appear able to find either veins or clots! I now have a rash that is beginning to spread across the eyelid of my left eye. Having a problem on the left side is certainly different! Until now, everything that does go wrong is on the right side of my body. Yesterday, with the sun shining through the en suite windows giving better light, I checked the rash on my eye. That done I looked at the area on my jaw bone to see if the rash had spread further; there was an itchy spot which was annoying me. I was amazed to find a spot that does resemble something like a melanoma. I self diagnosed my own in 1996 having spent many years in melanoma clinics with my late husband. His Death Certificate gives cause of death as melanoma. As you can imagine, I am a little shocked. Actually, that is an understatement!! You would know from my writing that I believe it is not what is given to us that is important, rather what we do with what is given to us that teaches.... I really feel like I could do with a break about now. Then again, it may not be as bad as I think.
There has not been a lot of proof reading for this post as I simply wished to put my thoughts on paper before going to bed for m,ore sleep.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Why is is that I am feeling that I have little in my life other than my cancer and my grief. Having mentioned the word 'coincidence' several times lately I have come to realise there is a 'pattern' to my life of late. It is not just a coincidence that I am in this place. It probably began at the time of my marriage to Haydn. In 1996 we returned from our honeymoon. On the way home I began to question myself, asking if I had made a mistake? Haydn and I were 'soul mates' during our courtship. Or so it seemed! Haydn's daughter Claire now says I was 'duped.' The person that courted me was not the father she knew or the man I married. Anyway, that aside, I suspect I suffered from depression in the early days and was very grateful that I found the strength to leave. I felt I had reclaimed my life.
My Breast Cancer diagnosis in March 2003 had little effect on my day to day activities and it was enough for Haydn and I to resume our life together. I had a melanoma removed in 1996 and considered myself blessed to have been referred to a surgeon that believed anything resembling a melanoma should be removed fully rather than biopsied. The world was my oyster. I was never going to see my son an orphan. I felt well and optimistic.
At the time of Jeremy's accident in November 2006 Claire was preparing to depart for New York. Haydn sold the family home as it was our intention to retire in June 2007 and move to a new home at the farm. It was to be a 'new beginning' for us. Haydn's business partner put a stop to the Company trading account that June, being the end of our Financial Year. We ended up preparing for a court battle, as well as living in a site shed at the factory for as long as it took to wind things up. That turned out to be 18 months. I suspect the 'rot' began to sink in about that time. Friends that I had known for years appeared not to be able to handle my loss. I began to withdraw and preferred to be alone at the shopping centres where I could simply drink coffee and watch the world go by. There were less tears that way!
I realise that life with Haydn can be difficult due to his antisocial behaviour. He can be intolerant! He has more than enough good points to compensate. That was not a problem when I was well and we lived in town. I simply lived my own life allowing him to do the same. I loved my role in the Charismatic Renewal as well as my study to become a team member at the Newcastle Healing Rooms. It pleased me to have the opportunity to undertake the preparation to be a Prayer Counsellor. As long as I had a vehicle and a telephone I felt free! And then, of course, I was preparing to become a Funeral Celebrant.
'Is freedom a state of mind?' I am confused! I am lost! Today, I received a note from Brenda which touched me so deeply that I sat began to sob.
'If only I could understand the reason for my crying. If only I could stop this fear of dreaming that I'm dying' - Laura Palmer
Several times I have skirted around the situation with life as it is today. Yesterday I commented to Haydn that I do not like the person I have become. I even admitted to feeling resentment towards him, meaning that I see him living his dream while I feel 'trapped.' When he told me that his late wife Leigh had said the same thing warning bells rang in my ears.
For more than 2 years I have lived with the pain and uncertainty of life. That is doable! Today I realised that the love in my heart has been replaced by fear. Living with the uncertainty of my condition is bearable. I have come to the conclusion that I am not ready to die. This has come as a complete shock. I had believed that the date was written in the Book of Life. My role in life no more than simply 'being.' It may be nothing more than to be of service to others that will give me a feeling of contentment:
'Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy'....Lao Tzu
Since beginning this blog I have used my writing as a tool to keep me strong. And positive! Although it may seem that all is well in my little world, in reality I am afraid. I have recently used ideas from Brenda's Blog to resurrect tools acquired over many years to reclaim my life in the belief that I will return to a healthy state of mind allowing the fear in my heart to be replaced with love once more. For those interested in what Brenda had to say, the words that allowed the flood gates to open -
'Cheryl My Darling, You haven't given up on any front!! You've had so much loss to deal with plus your own cancer. I think you've done an exceptional job at surviving mentally, physically and emotionally. Yes, there are aspects of your life you wish were different, but you're taking back your power and making changes that will benefit you and Haydn. I'm so proud of you for putting more of an emphasis on yourself. The hypnosis tapes, meditating, prayer, will all help you get centered so you can move forward and make better decisions from a place of calm. Bravo! You don't have to fix everything, today, but embrace those small changes and tweak them in for the maximum benefit. I'm proud of you! You've got grit, girl! XOXOXO, Brenda'
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Although there was much to be done, the arrangements were being left to my inestimable family. Damian (always the 'rock' of the family) and Tyneal had the experience. Megan, in charge of music, was determined to make it a celebration to be remembered, just as Jezz would have wanted. When she suggested the venue should accommodate between 200 to 300 people, I questioned her. After all, Jeremy had only returned to live in Victoria more than 12 months after my Breast Ca diagnosis in 2003. Megs said 'Ma, have you forgotten what it is like to have Jezz around?' Even writing this entry brings with it a feeling of contentment; being with Jezz allowed me to be the person I most wanted to be. I began to wonder what it was like for others mourning their loss. His appeal had nothing to do with the way he looked, or the clothes he wore. It was simply his presence and, of course, the smile.
Damian approached Tobin Bros, appealing to them to allow him to collect Jeremy's body from Bairnsdale. He received an emphatic 'NO!' Definitely not! They did agree to allow management to make the decision and, given Damian's work record, as well as the circumstances, it was decided that both Damian and Tyneal would make the journey. I think I actually said somewhere that Tyneal was already undergoing training at the Victorian Police Academy. That is not right as they made the journey together. Thankfully, only a couple of years before, Damian had earned the nomination of 'Employee of the Year' and had won the award. He was held in high regard. Knowing that the accident that took his brother's life had been horrific, he was concerned about what it would be like for him to view his 'bro.' It was a big ask! He need not have worried. Haydn and I drove Damian's car, while he and Tyneal collected the work van. We set off on a journey to Bairnsdale; a journey that no family member should have to make.
Somehow the pain of writing this is overcome by the joy of knowing that Jezz was in good hands. Damian took with him Jeremy's Snoop Dogg CD's. I can imagine Jeremy's amusement as it would not be DJ's choice of music. What a ride the return journey to Melbourne would be. Damian had chosen a close personal friend at Tobin Bros to prepare the body for viewing; he wanted that for his brother.
Before we arrived in Bairnsdale I made a call to Brad Bennett, devoted Father to my granddaughter Ella. Although Megan and Brad are no longer together I asked Brad if he would consider singing at the service. I had always let Brad know that I would like him to sing at my own funeral. I would not have believed it possible; here I was asking the same for my son. Brad's choice was 'Time of Your Life' by Green Day. Perfect!
Somehow, it was essential to ensure the message going to the young people at the service was about LOVE and HOPE.
Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received - only what you have given; a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage... St Francis of Assisi
Although I am a devoted Catholic I chose the Riviera Christian Centre as the venue. I wanted, as much as possible to keep this 'A Family Affair' therefore Tyneal's Dad, Mark, A Civil Celebrant, would perform the service. As a member of the Charismatic Renewal, I knew it would be possible for me to arrange with Father Tony Brady to lay Jeremy's body to rest in the Catholic tradition. God willing, that would be done on our arrival back in Newcastle. It would not be the first time we had chosen to 'think outside the square' for Jezz.
Megan's choice for the music for the Audio Visual display was 'Forever Young' by Youth Group while Claire agreed to sing 'You Are the Sunshine of my Life,' secure in the knowledge that Jeremy was all of that, and more to me.
My amazing family ensured that we did indeed celebrate Jeremy's life. On 28 November 2006 we managed to do just that, knowing that we had a lifetime to mourn our loss. As I complete this post I want nothing more than to express my love and gratitude to Damian/Tyneal and Megan for undertaking the arrangements. Although four years have now passed I know the value in voicing love and appreciation as we never know what each new day brings. 'We know not the time or the place.' With breaking hearts they made the arrangements that allowed me the freedom to listen to the messages that came into my head as Jeremy entered the final stage of his journey into Eternal Life. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been.
Was it another coincidence that we were able to use family and friends for many parts of the service? In spite of the pain of our loss we knew Jezz better than anybody else thus allowing us, in many ways, to stamp 'his' name on the service.
I remember a woman walking up to me with, what turned out to be her daughter. She explained that she did not know my son but she wanted to thank him, through me, for giving her daughter back her life. It seems to me that there is something special about the young who are destined for a better place. They leave this earth having made a difference.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
A continuation of 'Was it a Coincidence?'
On the night of 21 November 2006 at approximately 10.25pm I replaced the telephone handset. Death hung heavily in the air of the room in which I sat. My life had been forever changed; I had absolutely no idea of just how much. How could I say goodbye to 'the love of my life?' Jezz was my reason for living after the death of his Dad; he had been my focus. At the time of my cancer diagnosis in March 2003 I knew I would survive. Quite simply, I had no intention of leaving my youngest son an orphan. Was it a coincidence that he was almost 12 when he said goodbye to his Dad and 12 years later I was saying goodbye to him? I sat. I talked. I wanted nothing more than to talk about 'my child.'
Haydn held me and let me talk. Claire sat with us for awhile. She sensed there was nothing to be said or done, so she retreated to her room. I suspect she got very little sleep that night knowing exactly how much of my identity was tied up with that of my child. Claire and Jeremy had a relationship built on trust. She stood up to her Father when she felt the need to 'protect' Jeremy from Haydn. It was interesting to watch! Just as Haydn THOUGHT Claire could do no wrong, I KNEW Jeremy was always right! That's my truth and I'm sticking to it!
Haydn donned work clothes knowing full well that as Managing Director there was preparation to be done for our absence. It was 3am when he left the house. The sun rose soon after although it brought with it no joy. Time to book seats on a flight to Melbourne. Most of my personal things were at the farm. It would mean a trip to the farm before heading to Williamtown to catch the flight. I sat in silence for some time. The call to the airline left me feeling completely 'ripped off.' Good old Qantas, the Spirit of Australia! I was charged an arm and a leg for a booking based on compassionate grounds. Maybe money was not the real issue! The fact of the matter was the reason for making the trip.
Damian had asked me to find about 30 pictures of Jeremy for a video display. It was a mad rush to get to the farm, followed by the airport in time for the flight. I remember so vividly our arrival. We let the travelator take us up to where Damian and Jascha waited. I fell into Damian's arms asking 'How did this happen?' He simply said 'Mum, he's just a naughty boy!'
That nigh I had my first real experience of words coming into my head. Words that had meaning but did not appear to be of my doing. I definitely was in shock, not myself. As Haydn and I entered the kitchen the following morning I asked if Damian or Tyneal could help. I had been given the words 'You are so Beautiful.' Damian laughingly asked where I had been hiding during the 60's and 70's as I was giving him the words of a song sung by Joe Cocker. Bingo! I explained that Jeremy wanted that song to be played for me. A real turn around! I was unsure! Should I do it? Damian put Megan in charge of music and she had a copy of the CD. After listening to it she gave her approval and claimed it was perfect!
Is it possible to have the pain of the worst time of your life eased by the love and experience of family? My beautiful Number 1 son, together with his future bride Tyneal took over the arrangements for the funeral service. Jeremy was still at the morgue at the hospital in Bairnsdale. We were together in Melbourne; a distance of 350 kilometres. Was it yet another coincidence that Damian was employed by Tobin Bros as a Funeral Director's Assistant and I was preparing to become a Funeral Celebrant?
This was our first day in Melbourne. Damian had asked Tobin Bros if they would be prepared to undertake the service. That would mean several trips between Bairnsdale and Melbourne and yet it seemed 'just right.'.
So! We had one song from Jeremy to me. I had the following verse in readiness for the days that I would become a Funeral Celebrant, and was prepared to read it myself. I had never thought it would be at my own son's funeral and yet it was 'perfect:'
Thursday, November 4, 2010
If you read my blog frequently you will know that it is an eclectic reflection of my life. What is it that others may observe as 'thriving' in the face of adversity? My so called 'interesting' life is 'normal' to me. I know nothing else! Who am I to draw comparisons? I endeavour to learn, and inspire, from each new challenge and experience. If there is any truth in the thought that we are here to learn lessons, then I am going to learn quickly.
Was it a coincidence that I watched an episode of Packed to the Rafters on Tuesday night? I was left with are tears streaming down my cheeks. Mel's death in a motor vehicle accident was just to close to home; so many memories. Just as I am affected by the passing of anyone as a result of breast cancer, so to the emotion raw and unchecked as I sat watching the programme and Mel's death in a trafic accident.
I am taken back in time to the morning of Tuesday 21 November, 2006. Was it a coincidence that I received a text message from Jeremy? I read the message and surprised him by calling, rather than texting a response. As usual, he was overjoyed to hear from me and did not try to conceal his pleasure. We chatted about the previous weekend; he had apparently had a fabulous time. It pleased me to hear that life was good to him, and that he was getting on with it. He let me know that he had decided to take more interest in his personal appearance, making an appointment to have his hair cut and coloured on the Thursday night. My thoughts were that there must be some truth in a comment made by a radio broadcaster... young men began to mature around the age of 24. He had turned 24 just 5 days previously. I remember thinking to myself 'He is safe now.' We laughed together and, when his boss Nudge arrived to take him to his job as a plasterer, we finished our conversation. My final words on that morning, 'Love you Sunshine.' Little did I know these would be the last words between us. On reflection, or was it a 'coincidence' that Claire chose to comment that few things stirred feelings of envy in her, but our relationship was definitely up there. I don't remember to many times that Jeremy and I were together, or chatting on the phone, that there wasn't joy and laughter. Others sensed the shared energy; his mates loved 'hanging out' at our place.
Was it a coincidence that I went to bed at 7.45pm on that night but had difficulty sleeping? Normally, I would sit with Claire watching our favourite television programmes. I was unsettled, continually telling myself to 'go to sleep' with no effect. It seemed odd that I was still wide awake, therefore not surprised when the phone rang at approximately 10.10pm. It seemed to confirm my worst fears. There had to be a problem! It was my beloved eldest son Damian who, on this occasion, was the bearer of heartbreaking news. Damian, and Tyneal, live in Melbourne; a three hour drive from Bairnsdale. It still amazes me that it was Damian who received a phone call advising him of the tragic accident that took the life of his younger brother Jeremy.
I learned that Damian (who is employed in the funeral industry) and Tyneal (a then student at the Victorian Police Academy) on receiving the news, had made the necessary phone calls to the Bairnsdale police. It was confirmed that Jeremy was deceased. In the meantime, Megan had also learned of the accident and she rang me as Jason drove her to the scene of the accident. My understanding is that she was hysterical, and vomiting, unable to function. When she arrived and found the rescue workers cutting her gorgeous, 6ft 6in brother from the wreckage, she was inconsolable knowing that her bro was in that car. It was too much for her and the police asked Jason to take her to the morgue at the Bairnsdale hospital to wait. It was the very place at which I had given birth to Jeremy 24 years previously.
I believe Megan regrets that she did not have the opportunity to hold Jeremy in her arms one last time. She was allowed only to view him from behind glass at the hospital, although she was the one to formally identify the body. If only I had known; I would have begged her to come to Melbourne to view his body. I believe it would have helped enormously with the grieving process. Was it a coincidence that Jeremy died with a smile on his face? In spite of the horrific nature of the accident that took his life he was smiling. Was it Michael's jokes, or was it because Jesus laid His hand on him and gently whispered 'Come with me?'
Jeremy was not alone as he took his last breath. Was it a coincidence that Jeremy was comforted by a complete stranger named Michael, telling him jokes as he held him in his arms? Jeremy received the sacrament of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation the year his Father died. Was it a coincidence he chose to take Archangel Michael as his Patron Saint? He wanted a powerful guardian angel! As onlookers stood around watching on that night, Michael made the decision to be there for Jeremy. He stepped up to the task knowing only to well the heartache of losing a child. He had held his own baby in his arms as he lay dying. I asked Michael later why he thought jokes were what was needed at that time. Michael simply said he felt he had been led. I will be forever grateful to Michael; I believe he truly was like a 'Guardian Angel' to Jezz.
Although there are some things that are blurred about that time, I am going to try to put some of the pieces together in the next post. I now believe it is possible to receive messages from our deceased loved ones.
All God's angels come to us disguised.
-James Russell Lowell
Sunday, October 31, 2010
A cancer diagnosis can change the dynamics of a family. Without doubt, it changes the way we interact. It seems to me, as we journey through life, and through no fault of our own, we sometimes find ourselves right where we do not wish to be. I am thinking of myself, and many of my friends, as I say this.
There is a sadness in my heart as I write this post tonight, however I need to go back in time to set the scene. At the time of Jeremy's accident I was fortunate to learn about the potential of memorial websites. As I could find nothing in Australia, I set up a Memory-of site which I think originated in the USA. While reading personal stories on other sites, I observed the amazing graphics that set these sites apart. I wanted that for my child and yet I had no idea how to go about achieving it.. I wrote and asked a family how they managed to have the precious photos of their loved ones converted into keepsakes for life. I was then told about Angel Families Online. I immediately joined and found myself surrounded by the most amazing, caring, individuals going out of their way to ease the pain of the grief journey. As a way of finding an outlet for their grief, Angel Family members 'connect' with those of us struggling to come to terms with our loss, while at the same time lighting candles to help ease the pain and keep their Eternal Flame burning.
Little did I know at the time that I would also find the love, strength and support essential to me in my battle to beat this disease (cancer) and find quality in my daily life. If you imagine (for just a moment) our move to the farm, at the time of our retirement, and my cancer recurrence shortly after. It is all thanks to my online friends that I have not hit 'rock bottom' spiralling downwards into depression. It is my little band of friends, reading my blog, phone calls occasionally, lighting candles for Jeremy and leaving messages on FaceBook that bring joy to my days. With my disability, and unable to drive distance, I feel 'sort of' trapped at the farm. This is certainly a time to say 'thank you' for all that you do to get me through the days. I have formed such beautiful friendships in the blogging community also that I am quite excited at the prospect of using Nuance's Dragon Naturally Speaking software that will allow me to 'talk not type' for my entries. Once again, it is thanks to my blogging friends Alli and Spun Chops that I have become aware of this software.
So, today it was a call from my very special Angel Family friend Kaz, with an update on yet another, recently diagnosed with lung cancer, that got me thinking about the effect of illness, and in particular cancer, on family members. In this case the patient is struggling to come to terms with the fact that she is estranged from her daughter at a time that she really wants to be able to enjoy, and share, the love that has always been there. I understand this situation as I found last year, while undergoing radiotherapy, it took enormous courage for my daughter to call me and tell me that she simply was unable to cope with my illness, and treatment, at that time. I appreciated her honesty, and, as difficult as it was for both of us, I understood her need to suspend contact for as long as it took. I knew that it was nothing to do with love, or lack of, it was simply more than she could cope with at the time.
Megan lived on a farm with Ned and Bert after we moved from Lakes Entrance to Newcastle. Ray had wanted to make the move to be closer to his elderly mother as his illness progressed. This allowed Megan to keep her horses and not pay agistment. Today I was taken back in time to Ray's visit to Megan at the farm just prior to his passing. He asked Bert to take care of 'his little girl.' Megan was 18 when her beloved father died. Bert was there for her when her own Dad could not be. She later had to deal with finding Bert face down after a massive heart attack. She put everything she could into CPR, doing her utmost to revive him and keep him alive until the ambulance arrived. Unfortunately, Bert did not make it. She was then instrumental in organising his funeral. She was also very close to Jeremy. Each Christmas he would do the 15 hour coach trip, on his own, to Lakes Entrance, where he would spend the Christmas holidays with Megan and the children. He also lived there for some time when he returned to live in Victoria after my breast cancer diagnosis. Quite simply, Megan has been too close to death for too many years. I understand how difficult it is for for her to deal with my illness. She is currently undergoing a 12 month treatment programme herself, and, for the first time in my life, I feel completely useless as a Mother. When I so desperately want to be there for her and the children, I am simply unable to take care of myself, let alone my family. My beautiful daughter understands this. She recently posted on my FaceBook wall:
......'I love you ma xox and i miss you terribly I wish we lived closer and you were in my life every day, i would chop all your vegies and feed you like a queen and be your other arm.. my kids would be everything else and I have an 8 seater wagon which means i could drive you everywhere x0x I LOVE YOU'
Tonight I give thanks for my life, knowing that I may use the gifts that you bring to our friendship enabling me to grow to be the person I would most like to become. I am grateful for the many blessings that come with your friendship. Love and gratitude dear family and friends. You are teaching me well.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Just have to do a 'quick' post tonight while I am still feeling uplifted. Each night Haydn goes to bed at approximately 8.30pm while I sit in the living room, catching up with my favourite television characters and communicating with my treasured cyber friends. Thank goodness for computers, and, in particular notebooks, as mine goes where I go. Incidentally, that has not been too many places recently, however, I intend to change that. In anticipation I spoke to one of Claire's friends today; he has agreed to look out for a new PC for me. Watch out all you people hooked up to Skype!
Saturday and Sunday nights Haydn listens to Carter Edwards for the short while it takes him to fall asleep. He enjoys Carter because he sees him as a patriotic Australian which is a rarity in today's society. Carter is both a radio broadcaster and an entertainer. Haydn suggested we attend Carter's Show at the Hexham Bowling Club. We have not been out at night since moving to the farm. That is probably one of the things that has me believing life is passing me by. Today we paid our $10 entry fee and arrived for an 11am start.
Carter performed for the first hour with a guest spot from a bloke named Gordon ,who appeared from nowhere carrying a guitar and claiming he could sing. And. Sing he could! Although he performed only one number he had a very powerful voice and his 'easy' style was enjoyable.
We then went downstairs for our $7 lunch. Everything went smoothly; we both chose Chinese which was very tasty. At this stage we had spent $17 per head. Cheap!
As newcomers, we introduced ourselves to Carter's wife Debby who was sitting behind us. Debby ensured we met Carter. Carter was very personable and sat with us for a chat during the break. He spoke of the ruination of this fabulous country and the fact that our imports far exceed our exports. It is no longer a case of 'Home on the sheep's back.'
Lunch over, we were introduced to Drew Ashley. who currently entertains on the cruise ships. Drew commenced with the story that he believed he had been given the lead role in Man of La Mancha only to find he was understudy to our infamous Australian Anthony Warlow. Anthony apparently did not understand the word 'sickie,' hence Drew sat in the wings for the duration of the running of the show.
From the first note of Impossible Dream I was in love with his singing. He was, without a doubt, as good as any singer I have seen perform. I have a passion for Musical Theatre. Drew was brilliant! Tonight I sit with lyrics and melodies of Man of La Mancha and Phantom of the Opera flowing into my very being, bringing with it a sense of peace and healing. Debby shared with us that just prior to the concert Drew had been signed up by an American agent. Maybe today will be my one and only opportunity to enjoy him perform.
We also introduced ourselves to another couple and learned that the husband is currently undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. He was preparing his funeral plan while his wife Jan said it was more important to 'live.' Seize the day! They went out and bought motor bikes and, between treatments, travel all over the country. Just the way it should be! I mentioned to Haydn on the way home that was what life is about.
It really has been the most amazing day. And, at pensioner rates. It is now 11.21pm and I am feeling very tired. I really hope, when I look at this tomorrow, it makes sense.
May your days be blessed and your lives fulfilled.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The past week has seen changes in this household. Those reading my ramblings regularly understand that I often question my relationship with Haydn, even challenging why I am here. I began to notice changes in Haydn about a week ago. I simply became the observer. Sunday morning we were not at all interested in attending the 'Big Breakfast' in the local park, purely because the rain was falling heavily and it would have been impossible to stay dry. Although it was our desire to support the local ladies in their endeavour to raise funds for Breast Ca, we both agreed that breakfast at the Bolwarra Cafe had much more appeal. The old Haydn would have wanted to stay at home.
Yesterday I could no longer contain my curiosity. When I asked him what has changed he denied there has been any change. He stated emphatically that he is the same as he has always been. OK. I simply said I appreciated the changes and thanked him. Mmmm.
This morning I approached the subject again. It happened simply in response to an article in the current edition of the Women's Weekly. Kate Mahon travelled to the tiny Brazilian town of Abadiana, in search of healing. Kate had been told that medical science had no answers for her; she faced almost certain death from breast cancer which had metastasised in the brain. She hoped that by visiting John of God at his healing centre, known as Casa de Dom Inacio, she would be healed. I observed it was something I may be interested in. Haydn gave it no thought before replying that there was money in the bank account if I decided it was 'right' for me. That is one of the things that sets his aside from the rest. I have never expected anything from him and often wonder if that is why he gives so easily.
The conversation continued. Haydn stated that I was the one that reminded him I lived with the uncertainty of a malignancy for which there was little more than treatment to keep me alive for as long as it worked. Hello! Haydn, I am not dead yet! How do you explain to someone that just does 'not get it?' I want no more than for Haydn to show compassion and understanding, rather than to harden his heart. I told him that I enjoyed the 'softer' version allowing me to make more of my life. Thankfully, he responded by letting me know that it is OK to remind him when he reverts to his 'old' ways.
I think I have some understanding of how difficult this has been for Hayd. After all, his first wife was sick for many years and was ready for her life to end. Now he has to deal with my illness. As a result, I have offered, on numerous occasions, to walk away, giving him the freedom to rebuild a life with someone else. He normally responds with humour by saying something like 'Where would I get a one breasted, one armed woman that can do what you do?' or, 'I have already had two women in my life with significant health problems, why would I want to tempt fate again?'
I think we have had a break-through. Haydn has been so busy preparing for the time that I am not here, he has forgotten that, right now, I am very much alive. Maybe we have just peeled away another layer. Alleluia! I apologise for commencing the last two paragraphs with 'I think' however, each time I go to correct it Windows simply stops working. I give up!
Thank you for sharing my journey. My life has been enriched by the friendship found on these pages.