Life

As you may have noticed, I have not posted anything the last two weeks. I have been dealing, almost twenty-four/seven, with a family crisis. On April 14th, my ninety year old Aunt Ruth fell, fracturing her wrist and hip. She never had children; I am her closest relative. Ruth is my mother’s younger sister. When my mother received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1989, my aunt and I were really the people who took care of her. That brought us a lot closer.

Both my Aunt Ruth and her husband, my Uncle Norm, functioned as surrogate grandparents for my two sons since my father died before I ever had children and my mother, who died in 1999, had Alzheimer’s. My uncle died in 2009.

When I read over what I have just written, there is a lot of loss reflected. That is probably why I am determined to help my aunt make as full a recovery as possible. I am not ready to let her go yet.

April has turned out to contain the circle of life – from birth to old age to death. Luckily no one has died but my cat who is anywhere from 20 to 25 years old has lung cancer and may not live much longer.

Bella is a rescue cat; friends of ours found her running back and forth on a major highway near where I live. We named her after my mother, Beatrice. Bella is a calico and has always been very pretty. Even now when her coat does not have the same shine, she is still good looking. Bella is a diva, somewhat clumsy and often mischievous. We haven’t always gotten along. As long as my oldest son, Louis was at home, she was his cat. Once he left Bella switched her allegiance to my husband, Aaron, probably because he feeds her.

Because we had to fly to Florida suddenly, we boarded the cat at the vet. While there, Bella stopped eating, so the doctor put in a catheter, took an x-ray which showed her tumor has calcified and put her on prednisone. This, obviously, resulted in a huge bill, which is not really the point.

When the vet first told us about Bella’s cancer, I though we had all agreed on letting her die peacefully, providing only comfort measures. As a nurse, who has watched many people die, I think it is important for any individual and their family to be clear about what they want to have happen as death nears.

With my aunt, both the hospital and the rehabilitation facility inquired about whether or not she had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. My aunt doesn’t have a DNR, but she does have a Living Will which specifies what her wishes are. As far as Bella goes, she can’t tell us what she wants so we have to decide for her.

I have had so much stress that Bella must have decided I needed some more. When Aaron brought her home from the vet she urinated in the carrier and it leaked onto the seat. This happened Friday; the smell has finally faded today. At first, I was tempted to buy a new car, but I realized that was an over reaction Since I don’t want to cry, I will have to laugh about this.

Amidst all the crises and illness, there has also been joy. On April 8, Nina, who is my cousin and like a daughter to me, gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Judah. On Saturday we drove to Beverly and met Judah which gave me so much pleasure. I got to hold him and feed the baby a bottle. I couldn’t have asked for a better antidote to my stress. Judah is a gift to the whole family.

If you lead a full life, you will encounter both great happiness and immense sorrow. The past few weeks has taught me that lesson, again.

 

 

 

Cancer, Revisited

Earlier this week,  I attended the first annual Kay Johnson Memorial Lecture. Kay was a Hampshire faculty member who died in 2019. I knew her really well because our sons were best friends from birth to the age of 5.

Kay died from metastatic breast cancer. In honor of Kay, I am reposting a piece from 2009.  At that time, my Uncle Norm had a diagnosis of lung cancer. He died a few weeks later. 12 years later, we have still not made enough progress in the fight against cancer. Hopefully once President Biden gets COVID and the economy under control, he can turn his attention to defeating cancer.

Cancer  12/16/2009

As part of my research for my new book, I have been reading short stories from various eras of Harper’s Magazine. One written in 1949, “The Lady Walks,” by Jean Powell, deals with a faculty wife who has breast cancer. Although my original interest in the story was because of the faculty wife character, Ravita, as a nurse I found the description of the cancer treatment clinic she goes to unsettling. The description did not seem that different from clinics I have worked at various times in the past fifteen years.

After reading the story, I have concluded that things have not changed as much as we might think or like in the area of treatment of cancer. Today I participated in a Cancer Care teleconference, “The Latest Developments Reported at the 32nd Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.”  It was very interesting; there are new drugs that might prevent bone loss in cancer patients as well possibly prevent the re-ocurrence of cancer.  However, treatment for certain kinds of breast cancer is a five-year process, which seems extraordinary long.

Around Thanksgiving, I read a story in the New York Times about a recreational lounge for cancer patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, a hospital in New York City. One of the patients is Seun Adebiyi, a young Nigerian immigrant and a Yale Law School graduate. He has lymphoblastic lymphoma and stem-cell leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. He is also trying to be the first Nigerian to compete in the Winter Olympics in skeleton. His goal is 2014. I have participated in a bone marrow drive but I have never received a call to donate.

I have had friends who have died from ovarian cancer and relatives who have experienced lung cancer. Although we may not have made as much progress in the last sixty years as we would have liked, let us hope that we can make significant progress against cancer in the coming days.

 

Busy Week

This past week I was very busy. As I wrote last week, Saturday was the first night of Passover. We had  a great time with my sons and daughter-in-law. Next year I hope we can have even more family attend our seder.

Passover is one of my favorite holidays ,but eating just matzah for a week is tough. The change in diet gave me some minor health issues, primarily the stomach kind. Regularity begets regularity, if you get what I mean.

Because at the end of last week, I was getting ready for Passover, I fell behind on some routine tasks, such as mail, email (the bane of my existence) and bills. This week I had to play catch up.

As a result, I spent most of the week not actually writing anything. I did finish reading and taking notes on two books that had to go back to the library.  Although I didn’t write much, I had writing experiences due to the two groups I am involved with.

This was week was the first meeting of a new ten week session from Nerissa Nields’ Writing It Up in the Garden. I switched from her group that meets Wednesday evenings back to the group I was in last year, Tuesday midday. I like the people and I got good feedback on some pages I read from the chapter I am currently working on.

One of the people in the group read something about ALS, which was hard for me to listen to. I have known several people, including my brother Fred, who have died from that terrible disease and my first cousin, Lowell, is living with it.

The other writing  experience involved the year long Pioneer Valley Writers Workshop Creative Nonfiction Group that I am participating in. The first meeting was at the beginning of last month. One part of the program is having a different accountability buddy each month. I really enjoyed my first buddy, Jennifer. We have a lot in common and are working on similar topics. It was great to talk about my book to a fellow historian.

Although the week had hard parts and was busy, I did do some enjoyable things. Last week  was the World Figure Skating Championships. I couldn’t watch them in real time so, starting this past Monday, I watched repeats of all the events. It ended last night with the ice dancing. It was a pleasure to watch the superb skating of all the athletes. I love skating and, in fact, I am going skating today. The week is ending on a good note.