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.
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.
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.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I cannot help but wonder what is going on in this 62 year old body of mine. It will be four years next month since Jeremy's accident; Haydn did not expect me to see the first year out. Why would he say that? There is no doubt that he knew, better than most, the affect on me of the loss of my youngest child. The pain was simply 'different' because he was my youngest not 'better' or 'worse' than for any of my beloved children. Jeremy had not chosen a life partner, unlike Damian, Megan and Carla. He was 'my baby' just as Ray was to his Mum.
So, there is no doubt in my mind that stress was a contributing factor in my breast cancer recurrence, leading to metastatic infiltration of the right thoracic nerve outlet. Was my pain not great enough? I believed my Radiation Oncologist when he told me that the radiation would relieve the pain, and 'cure' the cancer, whatever that means. And it did! But only for one month. I have no idea why it was not longer. I did find the side affects from Arimidex unbearable and was relieved to be told to stop taking it. Within a few days the pain returned; I have written about that and that is not really what this post is about. Actually, I do not know what this post is about. It is simply my confused mind!
I had previously booked tickets on a flight to Melbourne, and then felt the need to cancel. Haydn and I were to visit my family. Both Damian and Megan live in Victoria and I see them far too infrequently. I was looking forward to spending time with them. When Dr Sales referred me for another Doppler, due to his concerns about the extent of the blood clot in my right arm and neck, I realised that I would be putting myself at risk. I was also trying to deal with the feelings of lethargy and general malaise which, according to About.com is a non-specific symptom associated with nearly all infectious, metabolic or systemic diseases. Depending on the disease, malaise can develop quickly or slowly. I have no idea if my problems are due to my cancer, or the medications that keep me relatively pain free and, more importantly, alive. Or, so I am led to believe!
I know that my problems are not helped by my restrictions with food preparation. I rely on Haydn to help me in the kitchen. And then there is the banana toffee loaf that Haydn's daughter Alex makes for me ,and the delicious sticky date cookies that we purchase at Coles when we do our weekly shopping.
So, on one hand, I am exercising, meditating and eating relatively healthy, albeit simple food while, on the other, I console myself with a piece of cake, or a cookie as I drink my herbal teas.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Today, 23 October 2010 marks the fourth anniversary of the passing of my mother Valerie Ellen Townsend; it is also the month in which she was born. I wonder as I write this if others have connected dates as I do with births and deaths?
There is certainly a tinge of sadness as I reflect on my upbringing. What was it in Mum's life that allowed her to dwell on negativity as she overlooked the intrinsic goodness of life? Although family members had visited frequently for some months prior to her passing, and I had been there just the day before, it was not until later that I mentioned to my sister Toni I found it odd that Mother had not mentioned that she loved me and yet she managed to tell my ex-husband Haydn. By the same token, I realised that I had not declared my love for Mum. Quite frankly, I think I feared rejection. Toni then told me that her experience was the same, although Mum found it in her heart to tell Brian - Toni's husband. Interesting! I then asked my other three siblings to share their experience. I soon learned that at least Mum did not discriminate. She died without telling any of her children how she felt. Love me, love me not, love me, love me not...
I remember a discussion in which I virtually accused Mum of not wanting me. Her reply still echoes in my ears ' I did not want any of you!' Odd sentiments for the mother of five children! Did Mum feel like that always, or was it just that point in time? Does it really matter now? Although we were raised in what appeared, at times, to be a loveless household, I have just found a card from Mum. It was sent in early 2006 and I suspect Mum knew then that there was something happening within her body. She told me that she loved me. Alleluia! She said she loved all of us declaring that she had not been one to tell us. Were we supposed to read her mind and to know from everything she did? Being somewhat perceptive I felt she did things out of duty.
So why do I still live with, and 'hang out' with my ex-husband Haydn when I tell him, on occasions, that living with him is like living with my mother? Even he recognised that Mum carried out her responsibilities as a matter of duty. Or so it seemed. Maybe somewhere within me I see this as an opportunity to allow Haydn to see that there is another way.
I do know that there is not a single day that I do not think about my Spirit Child Jeremy, and the wonderful gift he has given me. Between he and his beloved Dad he taught me about unconditional love; something I will carry with me always. I recall my oncology social worker pointing out that she thought Jeremy had allowed me the freedom to be the person I most enjoyed being. I knew immediately that thought resonated with me. To be accepted and loved unconditionally is a true blessing.
So maybe in another post I will explore what love means to me. To finish this particular post I will simply say 'I love you Mum. I so wish I had been able to do it better.' The following is from:
Thought for Today.org.uk.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Today I managed to make it to the Oncology Support Group meeting at the Calvary Mater Hospital. We were let down by technology, thus it was left to the lovely Veronica Fenning (Social Worker) to come up with a contingency plan. This she did beautifully. Several things came together, giving me a sense of satisfaction and the hope that others may find pleasure in something that leaves me feeling happy and fulfilled.
I was delighted to see photocopies of blogging information on the table; Veronica encouraged participants to take a copy. This pleased me, as I had previously spoken informally on the subject and I had then sent an email to Veronica leading her to a starting place. I enjoyed speaking openly about a subject that has become an integral part of my cancer journey. There were several things on today's list and these were discussed openly. I think we agreed unanimously that we do best to avoid anyone, or anything, that takes away HOPE. In a discussion on exercise, most felt it was important but did not quite know where to start. I pointed out that it is ironic, the very thing that works for fatigue is exercise at a lower intensity, gradually increasing appropriately. Veronica asked me to expand on that and also where group members would go if they were seeking such information. Big smile on my face, I said 'Where else but fellow bloggers.' It was then I thought of previous posts in which I mentioned my lack of energy. Brenda from Breast Cancer Sisterhood and Julie @ Fitness for Survivors both took the time to email me with personal offers of information and assistance. There is no doubt that I am reminded daily of this wondrous world in which 'Sisterhood' reigns supreme. I am very grateful to you Brenda and Julie. Then, of course, there is Carole who sent me a lovely long email, including list of supplements, that were recommended to her. Where else do we find others so happy to share of themselves?
After the meeting I headed up to have a doppler done to check on the blood clot in my right arm that was originally diagnosed in April. Today's scan was much more thorough and, although I do not yet have the report, I did learn that the sonographer found it very difficult to discern the veins in my neck. He asked about my radiotherapy and I told him that I had been given the highest dose possible. Apparently my Radiation Oncologist decided that any more would negate the benefits and increase the risks. Personally, I feel that many of my problems have come from the after-affects of radiation. How I wish I had the courage to stop at the time my body told me enough was enough. I have increasing amounts of fluid building up in the neck and throat area and the tears literally ran down my cheeks today as he completed the scan. The pain was dreadful! He did comment on the number of 'new' surface veins that are appearing around the chest and arm. I am still a bit in the dark as far as results go!
Dinner over tonight and I turned on the computer to find information from my ISP on a deal on software that will allow me to 'stop typing and start talking.' Once again I am reminded of the generosity of fellow bloggers as I say 'thank you' to Alli who, very kindly, asked a friend of hers about the software he uses to communicate online. What joy! Cannot imagine what it will be like to take up the challenge and learn a skill that will give me freedom on the keyboard once more.
Thank you for the joy that I feel purely because you have come into my life and from showing me that you care. Bless you
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Ray had lovingly accepted Carla's birth - why else would he have given me flowers on the 19th October each year? Somehow, with living overseas followed by different states of Australia, I was unaware of the changes to adoption laws which were different in Victoria and NSW. Having done nothing to prevent my daughter making contact, I believed it was simply that she did not wish to. Shortly after Ray's passing the NSW adoption laws changed. I registered with the Reunion Information Register and was advised that Carla was also registered. Our names were exchanged by the New South Wales Department of Community Services. I was excited at the prospect of meeting the daughter that had been given up at birth. Nothing happened! I could not believe it. Surely my daughter knew I wanted her? I had been advised her name was Carla, I had been given a copy of her Birth Certificate.
In reality, my daughter Carla was working through the issues that had been confusing her for many years. Not being renowned for my patience, I waited as long as I could before picking up the phone to call the number I had been given. Carla and I began chatting and it continues to this day.
As we celebrate Carla's birthday today, I am using her words to complete this post:
Monday, October 18, 2010
A visit from Adrian Quain, (Funeral Director) some time after Ray's funeral, provided an unexpected surprise. I was overwhelmed to learn that he had taken the liberty of collecting Ray's cremated remains from the Beresfield Crematorium, in order to minimise costs, and had been holding them on my behalf. He decided to take just the tiniest amount of Ray's created remains and to place them on the back of a Holy Card with the verse SAFELY HOME before having it laminated. He provided the explanation that this was not something he had previously undertaken and yet he was determined to do something 'unique' for me.
Adrian reiterated the affect the home visit had on him and the love he had experienced within the home. Guess it is slightly unusual to say that I not only carry Ray in my heart, but in my wallet as well. Oh well, I have often been accused of being 'different.'
I think you are probably struggling to put all the pieces of the jigsaw of my life together as you go from post to post. Suddenly, there seems to be so much to say as I awaken each day to the uncertainty of life. With the knowledge that we are born to die, it seems to be perfectly natural to be talking about life and death. Although it was my intention to leave the posts concerning Ray until March - the month in which he was born and died - somehow it has become far too important, so I intend to keep 'plugging' away.
So.. back to the days following Ray's passing. I was still feeling very emotional, and profoundly affected by the fact that the funeral director had suggested he was happy to waive funeral costs. On a subsequent visit, he shared with me that HE felt the love I had for Raymond (a Post for next time.) So, in spite of the many years of hardship as a result of Ray's illness, we still enjoyed a love that shone through. We literally had NO money at the time of Ray's death and here I was being told that Adrian was happy to be of service. I still smile to myself when I reflect on those days. I had a Mother that did not know me and a funeral director that felt he had 'summed' me up in just over one hour.
Once again Megan was more than happy to write a verse to be used as a Return Thanks. She wrote, as usual, from the heart and penned the following:
Written by Megan Louise Radford (born 1972)
Sunday, October 17, 2010
There cannot possibly be a 'right' time to lose a parent. I suspect, in the case of an older parent with failing health, death may bring a sense of relief, as was the case with my Mother. I was 12 years of age when my beloved Dad was killed in a triple tragedy on the morning of 17th October 1960. 50 years later, I am left reflecting on the circumstances of that accident, the father I was still getting to know and the grandfather my children never met.
According to the Coroner, the accident was one of the worst in the Wellington District. My father, in a panel van on his way to work on the Burrendong Dam, with Harry Brazier and accompanied by Cvitko Maksimovic was hit by train. It appears that the gates at the crossing had been left open and the vehicle in which my Dad was a passenger did not see the train, possibly due to the sun rising at that early hour of the day.
Mum said that as soon as she heard the news of the accident, she knew it was Dad. Therefore, she was not surprised to find, when answering the knock at the door first thing in the morning, that it was two policemen with the news that her husband, father to her five children, had been killed. Mum's reaction! 'I have no time for tears, I have a family to raise.' That is pretty much how it was! Mum simply 'toughed' it out.
There is a story [for another day] as to why Dad was the one that rocked the cradle, and my Aunty Pat mothered me. I was in good hands with both of them. It was a huge blow to find that Dad died just months after my Aunty Pat left our family home to marry Bruce Simpson. I have memories from that time; all previous memories eradicated by the trauma of the accident; or something else! I am fascinated to hear friends talk of childhood memories as I have none. I have asked myself on occasions if I may be concealing something?
So today I think lovingly of my precious Father Jack Frances Townsend who was born to this life on 4 October 1914 and entered Eternal Life on 17 October 1960. This is the first member of my family - that I know of - who died in the month in which they were born.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Although it was my intention to continue on from the previous post it has not happened. That will come later.
Why is it that for the past two to three weeks I have felt like I need to be scraped from the bottom of the bird cage?
My last consultation with Dr Sales was pretty much routine. The feelings of wellness did not last long. I found myself feeling tired and lethargic within days; maybe even a little sad on occasions. Putting those feelings aside, I readily agreed to book flights to go to Melbourne to visit my children. I had been happy to forego my trip to Floriade to spend time with family. Knowing that 22nd October is Damian and Tyneal's first wedding anniversary I went ahead and booked tickets for myself and Haydn to depart on Thursday 21st. I was excited! It has been far too long since I have spent time Damian, Megan or Carla and respective families/grandchildren. Two days later I experienced a major hiccup with bleeding from where the sun doesn't shine. Being on blood thinning medications adds to the problem. By Wednesday I realised that I simply did not have the energy for the flight and the driving the trip would entail.
I became very emotional. Knowing that crying was not going to achieve anything I picked up the phone to call Damian. I had offered to stay with Jascha, allowing Damian the freedom to do something special with Tyneal. Why I was being such a sook? I had no idea! I have always felt I had a strong constitution. Not any more! Although I started off crying, Damian soon had me laughing with his suggestion of wearing adult diapers and travelling anyway. At the end of our conversation he had allowed me to be convinced that my health must be the priority. They would simply make other arrangements for Jascha. Thank you Damian. You always manage to bring things back to an even keel.
Knowing that I have been feeling rather tired, and sad, I feel it is time to address all issues that may be contributing to my current crisis. The isolation at the farm is probably number one. Femara is right up there as the joint swelling and pain seems to be getting progressively worse. On reading Dr Aaaron Tabor's latest blog entry I became aware that having physical limitations as a result of breast cancer treatment increases my risk of death due to any cause by 40%. I rather think that whether the cause is the cancer, or the treatment, it is something else to overcome. I want so much to blog regularly, as well as keep in touch via email, with my favourite people, and I struggle to do that now as a one or two finger typist. Then of course, there is always the loss of a child. Although it will be four years next month since Jeremy's accident, the pain remains. I am fatigued and yet I cannot help but ask 'Is there something else going on?'
So back to today. Reflecting on all of this, I realise that it is necessary to make a decision; time to put a plan in place. Mentally, I have made a decision that I can live with and feel at peace with myself. Now it is time to hasten slowly.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Raymond is gone, so to is my headache.
As I climbed out of bed, after 5 days beside my beloved husband, I was very conscious of the fact that my headache had miraculously disappeared. It was now time to think about funeral arrangements. I called David Carty [Principal of St Mary's School] to ask the name of the Catholic Funeral Director. I was given the name Adrian Quain, although David suggested he would be more than happy to call Adrian on my behalf; I was happy to go along with that.
When Adrian knocked at the door I greeted him with a handshake. My Mother, sister Toni, brother-in-law Brian, and Lea Shelley were with me as I answered questions and spoke of Ray's battle with cancer. I found myself being asked about personal finances. It was necessary for me to talk openly and honestly; Adrian was probably trying to work out where the money was coming from to bury Ray. I explained that life savings had been used, particularly in the last 4 years, with our relocation from Lakes Entrance to Warners Bay. Ray had felt very strongly about being closer to his ageing Mother so we had made the move after selling the Squash and Fitness Centre. I also mentioned the fact that Damian worked beside Ray in any role that Ray undertook in an effort to keep the family budget in the black. After Ray's neuro surgery, I assumed the responsibility of managing the finances. I also failed frequently. Very quickly it became apparent to me that keeping the bank balance in the black is not easy, particularly with medical expenses on the increase. Damian was a champion and contributed wholeheartedly, working side-by-side in all roles we undertook to keep the wolf from the door. He made a great assistant at Kumon, and the children loved him.
Although I had previously arranged for Toni to take over with the arrangements in the event of my not feeling up to it, I found my love for Raymond overflowing making all things possible. I was determined to do everything in my power to have the mass celebrating his life a tribute to this extraordinary man.. The children loved and respected their Dad and I wanted that to shine through. It was important for others to feel that love.
The shock came at the end of my time with Adrian as I walked him to the door. He apparently realised that money was short and he told me that I was not to worry about the account; it would be taken care of. Of course, dummy that I am, found myself crying. How could I not feel deeply touched that a funeral director, unknown to me before this day, was offering to take care of costs? I did say that would not be necessary. That is a story for another day.
Megan arrived later in the day from Lakes Entrance.I asked permission to read the following verse at Ray's funeral. Meg has an amazing ability to write verse and it comes straight from the heart.. I remember the day it arrived; I was out. Ray was heartbroken that he was unable to read it on his own. There had obviously been more of a deterioration than I had realised. We sat together, I read, we both cried. Thank you Megan for providing such joy and for allowing me to use your words at Dad's Funeral Mass.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Although I managed to 'last the distance' with Ray, it would be dishonest of me not to admit that there were difficult times. Times that I actually thought Ray would outlive me. I wonder now just what was going through my head at those times. Ray was 51 and would 'celebrate' another birthday on 18 March. I was not unduly worried when he was prescribed antibiotics by the doctor on Tuesday 8 March, 1994. Coincidentally, it was the very date in 1990 [four years previously] that Mum arrived in Melbourne, from Dubbo. Ray had been referred to Damien Jenson at the Alfred Hospital after a CT Scan showed a large brain tumour. He was scheduled for neuro surgery at the Alfred Hospital on 9 March, 1990.
Fast forward four years. On 9 March, 1994, we opened the blinds in the lounge room to enjoy the early morning sun rising in the East. The day appeared perfect. Ray sat in his comfortable chair, with the sun streaming through the window warming his back, while I made his morning coffee. For the 27 years of our marriage, Ray had taken his tea and coffee black and, for reasons I do not remember, he found he loved his coffee made with milk. He was looking forward to the pleasure of that early morning 'cuppa.'
Writing about these times brings the memories flooding back; like reminiscing on yesterday. It took no time for me to realise that there were changes going on at that moment that Ray did not understand. He had the cup to his mouth and, as he went to lower it, his actions stopped. Literally! This movement appeared to be in slow motion. The coffee cup, removed from his mouth, on the way down, only to find it stopped midway. I am unable to explain the reasons for these changes, it seemed unimportant to ask the doctor later exactly what had taken place. I know that I was alone with Jeremy, our 11 year old child, and we had a situation that required action. I gave no thought to calling for assistance when I realised that Raymond was no longer able to do for himself. It seemed his body had simply 'shut down.' No discomfort of any kind. A cup of coffee only half drunk.This makes me smile now when I think about the saying that 'an optimist sees the glass as half full while the pessimist sees it as half empty.' This was neither; it simply was.
I asked for help from Jeremy and, together, we lifted Ray from the chair and carried him into our bedroom. There we lovingly placed him into bed. In hindsight, I could have made the bed with fresh linen but that thought did not enter my head at the time; I simply wanted Ray to be comfortable. Somewhere in my sub- conscious, maybe I was expecting him to make a recovery of sorts. It is a task I had never invisaged asking my youngest child to undertake. Ray was no longer able to communicate. It was something that, even to this day, I do not fully understand.
It was this day that we also lost a very close personal friend. I had worked with Val Crowe at GMAC and her husband Tony was Godfather to our firstborn son Damian. Val had succumbed very quickly to her pancreatic cancer.
I recall the phone call to my Mother in which I asked her to come to Newcastle. She replied that it would not be until Monday. Something made me say that I thought that would be too late. Thankfully, she agreed to catch the coach from Dubbo and would arrive Friday the 11th.
Mum's arrival gave me the freedom, and the peace of mind, to climb into bed beside Ray. I was content to stay there as the succession of family and friends called to pay there respects. Among the visitors was the local Parish Priest who administered the Last Rights. Our very dear friend Helen Staley arrived from Melbourne to stay with us. She was able to keep Jeremy occupied at this time with bike rides and movies. I will be forever grateful to her for her presence; it lightened a very heavy load. The time spent with friends was delightful as we recalled past memories and wonderful times. Close friends came and went throughout each day. I felt sure Ray was aware of everything that was said and it seemed only natural to tell tales that were uplifting.
There was one exception when Mum, wringing her hands, began crying and saying loudly that she had no idea how I would be able to manage on my own. At that particular time, Helen was holding Ray's hand, and she shared with me later that she felt him give it just the slightest squeeze. I could not help myself and asked Mum just what she meant by her words. Mum said that she did not believe I would be able to live without Ray and there is no way I could manage as a single parent. I whispered gently that it broke my heart to think that she did not know her own daughter.
On Sunday 13th Ray's breathing became very shallow. Lea Shelley, a Registered Nurse, called early after finishing a nightshift at the local private hospital. Lea's son Matthew had befriended Jeremy when we arrived in Warners Bay from Lakes Entrance. I had no idea that my darling Raymond was close to having a bedsore. Lea was absolutely amazing as she bathed Ray's body and anointed him with beautiful oils. I could not have done any of that on my own and, to be honest, was not aware of how beautiful it could be to experience a close friend tend to the body of the man you have loved for 27 years.
I was aware that I was living with a fearful headache. Apart from the odd breaks I had been alongside Ray constantly, leaving his side as little as possible. Each time I returned to the bed I became conscious that he was making some sort of super human effort to edge closer to me.
On Monday 14th March, 1994 I sat with Ray, Helen by my side, as we, once again, watched the sun rise in the East. Ray's breathing was now intermittent, and we spoke gently of times with the Radfords, Staleys and friends out of the Singapore office of International Harvester Company. We described the spectacular view of the rising sun as my beloved husband took his final breath at approximately 6.30am, just 4 days short of his 52nd birthday.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
"R U OK? is an independent, not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to provide national focus and leadership for ending suicide. Let's empower as many people as possible to make a difference, encourage open and honest communication and drive real connection.
Thursday 7 October is a national day of action to reduce suicide. Although it is geared around Australians, it applies the world over. Today we can make a choice to connect with people in our life and ask 'Are you OK?'
Although I feel strongly that it is not my place to discuss circumstances, I can tell you that I know first hand of the difficulties of marrying into a family that lost a wife and mother through suicide. I have found it extremely difficult to find the words, or actions to provide comfort for Haydn and his family. Haydn says very little about his first wife, but I can say that it seems feelings of guilt penetrate every fibre of his being. There is a huge part of him that has 'shut down.' Through Jeremy's memorial website I have met families from all walks of life that have lost family members to suicide. There appears to be little that can be said to comfort. I have found it works best for me to give them every opportunity to open up and talk about the person they have loved and lost. We all like to be heard.
There is much more I would like to say about the subject but today is not the day. I will resume the story at a later time. Maybe even ask permission from my stepdaughter to include just a little about what it was like to have to live with the 'Stepmother from hell.'
Today I ask you to consider those around you; reach out in support and friendship. I ask you 'Are You OK?'
Posted by Cheryl at 10:05 AM
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Like my thoughts, at times, these Posts are 'all over the place.' This comes about primarily as a result of comments to previous posts. You know how it is with someone like me. One thing leads to another and 'hello' there is another thought and, surprise, surprise, I have something to say on the subject. My children, and friends, understand this only too well.. This was exactly what happened when there was a whisper of financial hardship and another of being interested in Ray's journey into Eternal Life.
Knowing that my children have lived in another state most, or all, of their adult lives, there are many times they were completely unaware of exactly what was happening at home. The last couple of months of Ray's life were memorable. Hard to believe I know, but true! Definitely deserves a mention here.
Ray was not a catholic, and I think he was even a little concerned at the thought of approaching his Mum to tell her he had met the woman of his dreams. How would he go about explaining to her that I was a catholic? I remember the trip from Dubbo to Sydney knowing that it was time to tell her that we would be marrying in the Catholic Church. His Mum Pearl was thrilled and had no problems with anything her 'baby' did. Ray was the youngest of 5 and, till the day he died, was referred to as her 'baby.' Ray was happy for the children to receive the Sacraments and to be raised as Catholics but gave no thought to it for himself.
Then in January 1994 Ray asked for my thoughts about him converting to Catholicism. I agreed that if that was what he wanted, I would be delighted to help in any way I could. We had been attending Prayer Meetings, and were involved with the Charismatic Renewal where we both experienced the Power of the Holy Spirit working in a deeper and more meaningful way in our lives. Under the guidance of Father Tony Brady and Tina Martinelli at St. Patrick's Church Wallsend we experienced the most amazing healing. We were both looking for a miracle for Ray and, in many ways we found it, although not in the way we expected.
Ray had been receiving treatment for his cancer for many years, which consisted of immunotherapy, including adjuvant immunotherapy under the guidance of Professor Peter Hersey. There was no further treatment available and he was living 'one day at a time.' I took Ray to see Father Brady to receive instruction. After a short time, on our very first meeting, Father said that instruction would not be necessary in Raymond's case. He was a already a 'Child of God' and Father could see that there was a miracle, of sorts, happening. I remember meeting Robin, the secretary in the office at St Mary's Primary School. She was familiar with the family as Jeremy was a student, I ran a Kumon Study Centre and baked my favourite Carrot Cake recipe for her regularly. The school principal, David Carty had offered Ray the opportunity to keep the lawns and gardens of the school mowed. In actual fact Number One Son Damian did most of the work, with assistance from Jeremy and myself, without taking anything away from Ray. He was able to feel good about the contribution he made to the family. David had a heart of gold, allowing me to run my study centre from the school free of charge, we also received payment for the lawn mowing which helped enormously at a time that we struggled financially. Robin spoke of the joy of seeing, and touching, Ray as it gave her a feeling of having been blessed. She claimed that there was an aura surrounding him that had not been visible previously. I knew exactly what she was talking about. I felt it was no longer a level playing field at home.
Father simply said that he thought the best time for Ray to be received into the Church would be the Healing Mass on the third Wednesday in January. There are no words to describe the presence of the Holy Spirit on that night. My Mother visiting from Dubbo and, along with my sister Toni, sat fascinated at what took place that evening. I only wish I had the words to describe the energy in the room. The mass was not held in the church. Like all Healing Masses, it was held in the school hall. It was obvious to all present that something very special took place that night; Ray was truly blessed ,just as we all were by being present.
After the mass, complete strangers embraced Ray and showered him with precious personal gifts. They will always be treasured within our family. How I wish we had a video recording of the night. Ray received personal items such as Lourdes Water and Rosary Beads that had been blessed by the Pope. The very fact that people were prepared to part with personal items spoke volumes about the affect the service had on them.
Stay tuned. My 'regular' entries do not always go according to plan as I am being greatly effected by fatigue at the moment. It appears that my metastatic lump has moved upwards and I am unsure of the most appropriate course of action. I think the next entry will be....towards the end. Oops! Meaning for Ray. Not me.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Following on from my Unsent Letter Post, I felt Mum would not mind my sharing more of her letter if she were still here. In fact, I believe she would feel very proud. Mother had no formal education and yet was a most articulate person; she faced hardship throughout much of her life. Dad was killed in a level crossing accident on the way to work in October 1960. My parents had only just purchased a home. Prior to that they, together with Mum's sister Pat, had run a mixed business which was sold when the first supermarket began operating in our town. The writing was on the wall so to speak, as they could not buy stock for what it was being sold for in the supermarket. Mum tells of the hardship of being widowed shortly after.
...."I just want a country where all poor people will be given enough of those worldly goods that most of us have; at least give them some pride. If a person's pride is taken away from them they have nothing. It was only too clearly spelt out to me as a widow of three weeks with five children, three dependent on me. Mrs Stevens drove me down to the police station to get a Relief Cheque for $4.10cents - converted from pounds, shillings and pence - [you had to be there between 9am to 12 noon or the cheque was sent back to the State Government] Then widows and children, poor people, such as deserted wives, had to depend on charities like The St Vincent de Paul Society or go hungry. The policeman said 'You can't keep on getting this, you should be getting a Widow's Pension IN A LOUD VOICE, and while trying to explain and fight back tears to tell him I was waiting for my pension to come through. [$12.50 a week to keep us all and no money at all except $40 Syd gave us and $200 Dick later LOANED me to pay bills as we had paid out all our money for the deposit on the house. We had loan repayments of $10 a week plus $2.30 off the refrigerator. We were left with 20cents a week, plus endowment, to keep my three children aged 4, 8 and 12. With Aunty Pats, and many kind people who brought us vegetables plus the board you and Pam paid, we got by, and if the neck of mutton stews and soup bone soup with rice got a bit monotonous, we were all able to keep our health till better times came.
Toni, I lack the ability to express myself in words but when I write it comes from the heart. Confucius once said ' From a man's mouth may come sharp arrows to wound and fiery brands to burn. Take good heed then that neither issue from your mouth to the injury of others.' Why then did God not give me the wisdom of Confucius? It is when we have time to survey the years that are past that we can look with keen critical eyes at the part we played throughout them. 'There can be no harsher court than the tribunal of self-judgement when it sits upon the errors and omissions of the years.' Not my words but written by Sir Herbert Barker in an address.
In a way, each of us gets the old age he deserves and when I write that I am not thinking of material rewards, but of those consolations that no man can steal from another. 'For just as the bee gathers honey for the winter, so too we fill the storehouse of the future with the trash and treasure of our choice, for when the heat of the day has passed, and evening has come, we shall draw upon whatever we have gathered through the years, but if all we remember is the wealth we have been able to gather, we will all be empty in the evening of our day.'
In old age beyond the minimum of needs, there is but one want the old desire and that is to be loved. 'Human love needs human meriting.' We are loved as we deserve to be loved."
My Mum died in October 2006; the following month my youngest child Jeremy was killed in a tragic motor vehicle accident. 'Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever'....Psalm 23:6
Saturday, October 2, 2010
I recently came across a blog titled 'Unsent Letters.' The concept is one that I find interesting! How often have we been told the solution to many disagreements is to put the problem in writing and then to burn the letter? Maybe there are letters that should not be sent.
The following is not one of those letters; my Mother wrote it in 1975. It was addressed to my sister Toni in response to a statement made by Toni regarding her political views. Somehow this letter found its way into my personal papers.
On 19 October 1965, as a 17 year old, I was admitted to the Mater Hospital in North Sydney where I safely delivered a beautiful baby girl. On that day I became an unmarried mother.The following is taken from Mum's letter;
..'has left a scar in my heart and mind that nothing can erase.
Ten years ago, in October this year I turned a deaf ear to a cry of "Mummy, please take us both home" and in my [as I thought] wisdom, I turned a deaf ear to that face, with tears running down both cheeks and two days later she signed away her child and my grandchild. I did not have the courage to "give it a go" as my sister Paul Mum's sister] did with Gregory, and face the barrage of ridicule that would have followed. I try to pretend that I did what I did for Cheryl's future happiness, but deep down I know that it was to preserve the facade of respectability that had been ingrained in us all. I used to condemn Paul's way of life, but now I know that she had the courage I never had. She is now rewarded by the love of a grandson whom she adores and to him "Nanny" is probably the best and most important person in the world. She is so good to him too. He is spoilt rotten, she has not got the tortured mind of wondering where her grandson is and is he happy and do the people who have him love him that I have. I can only say "God take care of the little baby and fold her in your loving arms" on 19 October each year. I can say Happy Birthday darling but she can't hear me. I only hope her new mother will tell her that her birth mother did not give her away because she did not love her but because her Grandmother "thought it best" because she was a widow and 42 years old and was afraid she might get sick and not be able to care for her until she was grown up and just lacked the courage to give it a go. It is easy to be wise after the event but as the years go by the scars get deeper and believe me Toni, the agony of a stroke of a rattan could not be worse than the scars of guilt I'll live with for the rest of my life. I now know I was wrong. How easily we could have made a second mistake 6.5 years ago when WE decided Robyn [now daughter-in-law] could do the same thing. Fortunately, against bitter opposition from my side of the family Glad and Horrie were the wise ones. They used the "right" words "It would kill Dad and me if you gave your baby away Robyn" Glad and Horrie were more fortunate, they had security and proved to be wonderful backstops. I often wonder if they look at Kylie [Garry and Robyn's first born daughter] and wonder what might have been. I thank God every day of my life for their God Given Wisdom.
Toni, there will be unmarried mothers right through civilization but thanks to Bill Hayden [Labor Politician] they are now given a chance to keep their babies in Australia because of the Unmarried Mother's Pension [A Labor Policy] Cheryl could only get $4 per week in 1965 for 6 weeks after the birth and then 50 cents per week endowment for her baby.
When I mentioned to her in Singapore that Lee [Amah] worked hard she said "Mum, I know what it is like to work from daylight till dark for nothing." That was the price paid for the sin of having a baby out of wedlock. She got nothing at all at the hospital at Nelson Bay, except to work all day and help to lay out dead bodies in return for her keep and a shelter to hide her "shame." I keep looking at the wedding ring she wore which she got from Dinny O'Brien [Pawnbroker] and I'll never take it off because it is a reminder of the saddest period of my life [not that I need the ring as a reminder.] I had the tag off the baby's wrist, but Cheryl asked me for it and also her Birth Weight Card. I know I was wrong to see the baby because her beauty made it all the harder to bear when I look at my other grandchildren, but it put the 'crown of thorns' on my head as I already had the cross on my back.
I did not refer to it on the 19th in Singapore and Cheryl said "How come" and I replied "What's the use," but that was not what was in my heart. She said "Between you and Ray I'll never be allowed to forget it." Ray always gave her flowers on 19th October. As Cheryl gets older the scars will get deeper, because that is a fact of life. I just hope she will have enough compassion not to blame me too much for the part I played, because I already have enough guilt of my own. I've often thought about giving the money I have to Saint Anthony's Home for Unmarried Mothers because it broke my heart to go there when I tried to get Cheryl in, but perhaps my first obligation is to my family.'
Cheryl says......in 1995, after 30 years, I reunited with my daughter Carla giving my Mother the opportunity to make her peace.
You may find this Post appears again as I originally scheduled it for 2nd October @ 1012pm thinking it would show Australian time however, it appears to be 'floating' in cyber space. My apologies.
Love and peace to all.