I logged onto my message board today with a feeling of dread… I know that every day that goes by could be/probably will be the day that Erin (ForTheMoment) dies. She’s 31 years old. 31. Initial diagnosis at age 28. She has a husband and a 2-yr-old daughter named Kayleigh. I just don’t have any words. There are all the ones that have been said so many times… how it’s not fair, and she’s too young, and all that. But ultimately, words don’t matter anymore to her. Or her husband Steve. Or her baby daughter who’s never going to remember her Mommy. She’s NEVER GOING TO REMEMBER HER MOMMY. That is so, so, just so not right. And I knew this was coming. She’s triple-neg, just like Mama. Triple negatives don’t have an f-ing chance. They just don’t – there are not enough treatment options, it’s aggressive and evil, and when those ladies – the fresh batch that just joined because breast cancer’s always spreading its joy – say that they have triple-neg, it’s a death sentence. They are not going to make it. They will die. Maybe in 6 months. 9 months. Even 18 months. But it’s inevitable.
And today I logged on, and there’s no update on Erin. Only ladies wishing her well and saying that they’re praying for her. And here’s my question. What exactly are they praying for? She’s obviously going to die – she’s so doped up on pain meds that she’s slipping in and out of consciousness. So again I ask – what are they praying for? That she’ll be healed? It’s a little late for that. That she’ll have a few more days? Oh, so we can stretch the nightmare out just a little longer for her husband and baby? Or that she’ll die soon? That’s probably the most realistic, but it’s not really very nice. And plus, most of the ladies on that message board are in denial with a capital D. They think that they’re going to be the one who beats it. Just like I thought my mom would be that one. And some of them might. But not the triple-negatives.
So a part of me hoped that the post would be there today – the post from WendyV saying that Erin’s gone. I remember when it gets to that point… where all hope is gone, there’s only blackness and despair, and you realize that death is now the only option. Steve is at that point. I don’t know Steve; I’m sure I’ll never meet him. But I know, I know, he’s at that point. And I’ll never meet Erin. She’s such a genuine person – funny as hell, and able to always put others before herself. When she got a bad report, and others got NED (that’s No Evidence of Disease for you cancer-free folk), there was never even the slightest twinge of bitterness or self-pity in her posts. I’m sure she had those – and who, may I ask, would deserve a self-pity-party more than a 31-yr-old with triple negative metastatic breast cancer? – but she never, ever let it seep through in her efforts to cheer on the other ladies. I really think that in a different life, with a different set of circumstances, I would have considered myself oh-so-lucky to have Erin as a friend.
I hope that Mama goes to find her as soon as she arrives, and helps her through the transition.
I fucking hate breast cancer.
And yesterday was good times. Left work at 5 on the dot, and drove to Hospice of the Upstate to meet with Donna Davis, the Bereavement Coordinator. That’s just a jacked-up title. Can you imagine seeing on a business card? Anyway, so I pull up to this beautiful estate that’s only about 5 miles from my house. Flawless landscaping, a gazebo with a bubbling fountain, and wrap-around front porch. And it’s the place where people go to die. I drove into the wrong entrance and had to circle the lot to get back to the Bereavement Education Center (yet again, another lovely title) – there were all these little old feeble people sitting in wheelchairs out on their little patios watching me drive by. It looked like an upscale assisted living community. There were no 50-yr-olds. There were definitely no 31-yr-olds. So that’s nice.
I walked in 3 minutes late and found Donna Davis, the Coordinator of Bereavement. She was a little wizened old lady with frowzy hair and huge glasses and a long dress and patterned knee highs that showed when she sat down. I liked her despite her title. I perched in her office and gave her basic info – my name, my family’s names, blah, blah, blah. It was all going so well until she asked for Mama’s info…
Donna Davis: And, Sarah, when did your mother die?
Me, gulping for air: September 17th, 2007
Donna Davis: So that would be… (looks at the calendar)
Me, interrupting in a robotic tone: Six months ago on this coming Monday
Donna Davis: And what’s your mother’s name?
Me, voice cracking, eyes welling: Denise. Her name is Denise.
And then the floodgates opened – don’t know if Donna Davis wanted to be my impromptu counselor, but that’s what happened. I talked. And talked. And talked. Told her about Daddy – that he was also so detached and scary, and now, during the past 6 months, I’ve realized he’s human for the first time. About Sue, who is now my tenant and who I worry about all, all, all the time. About Jennifer, who has Maggie to soothe her soul and who doesn’t think about the bad things because she doesn’t have to. About my coworkers, who have sucked it up and accepted the new cynical, jaded and occasionally ill-tempered Sarah. About Bobby, who just doesn’t get it, either because he can’t or won’t or because I don’t give him a chance. And mostly about Mama. About her sense of humor. About her determination to live, to dance at her grandchildren’s weddings. About her refusal to believe what the doctors were saying… “when a doctor would tell us that Mama was going to die, we just found a new doctor.” About her role as the sun, and our roles as the planets… and without the sun, we’re wandering through the atmosphere, untethered, unfocused, lost. She asked about my ability to concentrate (um, concentrate?), if I’m experiencing mood swings (yeah, poor beleaguered Bobby could probably tell you more about that), if I’m sleeping well (if you like freakin’ horrible-ass nightmares every freakin’ night and waking up with your jaw aching and your head pounding from clenching your teeth for hours, then yeah, I guess I’m sleeping like a champ). An hour later, when she was finally able to jump into my steady stream of word vomit, she hastily handed me some paperwork and showed me the door. Not exactly like that, but kinda.
So on Monday, April 7th, we’ll be commemorating 29 weeks without Mama by attending a grief education class called “Grief Series.” They really know how to name things over yonder there at Hospice. I do think it’ll be good though… the description is:
This is a support group for people whose loss is less than one year. It meets for five consecutive weeks and offers information on how to cope after a loss as well as an opportunity to share with others.
I have some concern about my family’s social skills. We laugh when it’s funny. We laugh when it’s not funny. We laugh when it’s irreverent or sacrilegious or disrespectful or sad in any way. That’s how we deal with things when we’re together. When we’re apart, we mourn. When we’re together, our laughter gets shrill, our voices get loud, our jokes get unfunny. But we’re still laughing, damn it.
Maybe Robert Kiyosaki’s henchmen need to issue a warning to nice little Donna Davis and her band of Grief Professionals. (Don’t know who Robert Kiyosaki is? Refer to Mar 5th’s post entitled “The Weathers Clan Gets Ejected.”)