April 2009


Today is Israel’s Memorial Day to remember those who died in action defending the country, as well as those who were murdered in terrorist attacks. For those of you who don’t know, Memorial Day in Israel is nothing like the one in the US – it’s not full of sales and days off  and BBQs.

On the eve of Memorial Day, at 8 pm, there is a 1 minute siren to commemorate those who have fallen. Everyone stops in their tracks – literally. Regardless of when I leave work, I always get stuck on the road at this time, and other than a few select individuals, eveyone stops, even on the freeways, and gets out of the car. I took a picture so you could see how incredible it is – sorry, it was taken with my phone. See all the cars and the people standing outside? Breathtaking.

Traffic stops as the siren goes off

Traffic stops as the siren goes off

During Memorial Day, the radio plays sad music, and a somber mood completely envelopes the entire country. As people began slowing down in preparation for the siren, I found myself unjustifiably – and unfairly – hijacking the sadness of those who have lost family members. In my “defense,” though I am not sure I actually need one, my current sadness began the day before yesterday, so last night – and today – is just a continuation of what was already there.

I realize it’s only been two months, and I know that I am still in mourning, but Memorial Day is specifically geared towards those who have fallen, not everyone who died. If every day we mourn those we have lost, today is the day to mourn those who have fallen. There is a distinction between those who died in war, and those who just died. Not that my mom “just died.”

Sometimes I feel like it would have been “easier” if she had died in almost any other manner – car accident, war, whatever. Just because the suddenness of it, while painful in ways I couldn’t possibly imagine, doesn’t hold the same pain as seeing my mother fall apart, emotionally, physically, and mentally. The sister of a family member of mine, who lost her son in a car accident, even said the same. She said, while it was a shock and incredibly painful, at least she knows it was over with quickly. He didn’t suffer, or if he did, it was for a very short amount of time.

This is in direct contrast to my mom who suffered in every which way possible – and us along with her. The physical loss of dignity, the loss of simple abilities and knowledge (like our names and how to operate the TV remote), and the awareness of it all was, in my opinion, a lot worse than a sudden loss.

I can’t remember what my mom looked like – not before the disease – but that’s a whole different post that I cannot, for the time being, bring myself to write just yet. And I still don’t get it.

At least those who have lost their family members suddenly have the priviledge of remembering as they were, and for that I “envy” those who are mourning today, and I hope they aren’t angry that I joined them in their grief.

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“… And I’m getting it back on the road now, but I’m taking the long way around.” (From Taking the Long Way by the Dixie Chicks)

Today marks two years since my world turned upside down.

It’s been two years since my mother couldn’t feel a part of her face for a few minutes and went to the hospital.

It’s been two years since I found out who my friends are. Or, rather, who isn’t.

It’s been two years since my sister called me at 5:30 am when I was in Palo Alto for work to tell me I needed to come back, it’s cancer, and surgery was in a week.

It’s been two years since the term glioblastoma became so familiar.

It’s been two years since I have learned to sound like an episode of ER.

It’s been two years since I started having to hide myself even more than before.

It’s been two years since I became Talia 2.0.

It’s been two years since we celebrated my mother’s 55th birthday at the hospital. What are you supposed to say? Happy birthday?

Speaking of, tomorrow would have been her 57th birthday. Are we supposed to celebrate? Mourn? Ignore? Will April 22 ever look the same again?

Two years ago tonight, I was at dinner with 5 friends (3 of whom I am longer in touch with, and their absence is not felt in the least) when my dad called to say they were in the ER, but that everything was OK. I figured my mom had issues with her hand again – she had just had carpel tunnel surgery, and was having issues, so I figured it was related.

It was related, all right. She just didn’t have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, but a brain tumor. She had been misdiagnosed (shocker).

I won’t write out the whole process since it is detailed in the background post, and, for now, I won’t be “releasing” any more information. But it got me thinking that the top of my world has come crashing down six times in the past two years.

The first time was with tumor #1, first discovery of the disease, where we were still very optomistic.

The second time was tumor #2, when we thought things were going well, and almost a year to the day after the initial tumor, another one popped up.

The third time was just a few weeks later, with tumor #3 that paralyzed my mother’s right side.

The fourth time was in December when she lost the ability to talk altogether.

The fifth time was at the end of January or the beginning of February (can’t remember) when she could no longer recognize us or understand what was going on around her.

The sixth and final time was March 3, when she died.

(Comic relief: Every time I typed “six” I accidentally typed “sux” – Freudian slip?)

These were also the six times I lost my mother.

The first time was when we found out she had terminal cancer.

The second time was when it came back a year later, so quickly. We knew, at this point, that it was aggressive, and longevity wasn’t so much an option anymore.

The third time was when she was paralyzed. Whatever hope she still possessed with tumor #2 was completely taken away by tumor #3, The Paralyzer. This is when depression really set in. And if you knew my mom, you knew she wasn’t a depressed person at all. So we had taken her lead. At least I did. This was also the beginning of the loss of her personal dignity, since she needed us to assist her in basic functions that most of us perform on our own. I don’t think I ever told anyone this, but I think it was harder on me than it was on her.

The fourth time was when she could no longer talk and could barely move. At this point, the doctors told us there was nothing more they could do and they were taking her off chemo. They said it was a matter of days to weeks. While devastating, this was actually a relief of sorts. I had spent so long dreading hearing those words, that when they finally came, the relief of not having to wait for them anymore spread over me, but not for very long. These were really hard days. I spent them at her apartment (I had just been laid off, so the timing was great), and seeing her not remember our names – and be completely aware of it – was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with.

The fifth time was when my mom didn’t know who I was anymore.

The sixth time was when my mom was no more.

I no longer feel the stress and anxiety that I felt before she died. I was feeling so heavy for so long, and I didn’t even know it until she had died and suddenly the weight had been lifted. Now that weight has been replaced with sadness.

Sadness is easier to deal with, I think, because you just cry and move on. I haven’t had a big cry since she died – I haven’t felt the need to. That’s not to say I haven’t cried, because I have.

A wise person was able to put my feelings into words a few days ago: I want the sadness to be over, but, on the other hand, I feel it’s too soon for it to go away.

I feel the same about these six anniversaries. Will I be “celebrating” them for long? Will I forget them? Or will they just stay with me forever?

Happy would-be 57th birthday, Mom.

I miss writing mom with a capital M.

P.S. If you haven’t yet answered my short poll, please let me know how you found out about Daughter of Cancer and how you keep updated. Thanks!

Hi all,

I keep seeing very random ways that people arrive at my blog, so I wanted to take an informal survey see how people find my blog and what method you use to read it. It takes just a second.

Question 1:

Question2:

Thanks so much!

I bet I’ll be getting lots of hits for mentioning the Sci Fi Network in my title.

The 9 or so months leading up to my mother’s passing were characterized, at least on my part, by manic-depressive-like mood swings. I’m by no means bi-polar (not that it’s anything to be ashamed of), but this sudden swing between extreme moods left me confused and, for the most part, unhappy.

On a general scale of 1-10, where 10 was unachievable happiness in the face of the events surrounding my life, during those 9 months or so I would have given myself an average happiness grade of 5, where some days were 2 and others could even be an 8. My last 8 was probably when my niece was born, several days after my mother’s second brain surgery for tumor #2, and just days before tumor #3, The Paralyzer.

7s were usually my dance classes, where for some inexplicable reason I was able to temporarily forget the outside world, and random occurrences such as my friend Shanainai coming to visit from Houston or a friend’s birthday party. My dance class 7s, however, only lasted until the December’s Turn for the Worse when my mother was given weeks to live. Until about a week ago, I hadn’t seen anything above a 6, and that’s really pushing it.

Putting aside virtual friends, those who I have yet to meet face to face, I have made many great friends during these past 10 months. I’m not entirely sure how, considering the fact that I have not been myself in almost a year – 2 years if you count the entirety of my mother’s illness.

Nonetheless, these new friendships that I have forged have lead me to believe that, while I have not felt like my old pre-mother’s-cancer self for almost a year now, it seems that there have been flashes of my actual personality, though I have been completely incapable of seeing them.

About half a year ago, while talking to my friend The Pirouette, I lamented the disappearance of my personality. She said, “THIS is who you are right now. It may not be you want to be, but it is you and your personality.” I love The Pirouette dearly, but what she said only angered and saddened me more.

I didn’t want to be this depressed person. I didn’t want to be unpredictable as far as mood is concerned. I didn’t want to be this needy person who could randomly cry at the drop of a hat.

But, unfortunately, that’s who I was.

My hope was that when it all ended and my mother died, things would be back to “normal,” not that I remember what that’s like at this point. I didn’t expect to be back to my carefree self of 2006; I’m not naive enough to think the last two years haven’t had a huge impact on me.

However, I did naively expect the mood swings to stop. I saw my sadness as a bell curve, where the top of the bell curve was the worst, that is my mother’s death, with the sadness slowly decreasing until maintaining a certain stability. Instead, I should have known/thought/assumed/(insert other verb here) that it would be a lot more wavy. At least, that is what I am now finding out.

I was hoping that my mother’s death would be the beginning of healing, but it doesn’t quite feel that way. A few days ago I mentioned that I had an amazing week that basically made me temporarily forget everything, but that isn’t realistic.

Reality is, my mother died 6 weeks ago, and I guess the sadness will always come in waves, just instead of tsunamis, they will eventually subside to small tidal waves.

For now, on average, I’m at a 6.5, with definite peaks at 8, and not just my dance classes (which I just returned to).

Before I begin, I’d like to give a quick update on my last post. My grandfather is fine for the most part. He was supposed to be released from the hospital on Thursday afternoon, but he got up in the morning, changed clothes, told the doctor she’s nice – but he’s not staying, and went home.

Yes, my 90 year old grandfather ran away from the hospital. 🙂

Back to the matter at hand.

Last night was the first night of Passover. It’s my favorite holiday. My brother in law’s family invited us over for the seder and we went there instead of spending it with family. I wasn’t planning on going. I didn’t want to spend the first Passover without my mom with people who I don’t know very well. I didn’t say anything to anyone since it has only been a month since my mom died, and I thought we were emotional enough.

For the past month, I had every intention of “calling in sick” at the last minute, but when it came down to it, I decided to suck it up and deal rather than confront my family. It was actually really nice, and, in retrospect, it was probably a lot better than had we spent it with close friends or family.

Today we had a Passover lunch at friends/family. I call them that because we are technically not related, but it’s only technically. My parents’ best friends invited us over and there were probably around 25-30 people. It was so much fun. The parents are like an aunt and uncle and their kids are like our brothers and sister. The “breakdown” came after lunch.

I have had a really great week. It started on Thursday, the day after the unveiling of my mom’s gravestone, and events that transpired, which I am not going to get into at the moment, have helped me forget everything that has been going on. No tears for a week. But it was bound to come back, and it did at the most inopportune time.

I was basically talking to my mom’s best friend (the mom) about stuff that I never had a chance to tell my mom, mainly because it was something that happened after she died. But the fact that I didn’t have the opportunity to tell her – and I know how happy it would make her – just really got to me, and I started to cry (in my quiet tears-are-falling-down-my-face but I’m-still-smiling-ish way). Thankfully, them being very close family, no explantion was required. They didn’t think it was an allergic reaction to the gefilte fish.

So while I had a great lunch/dinner (we were there for a zillion hours), it was hard. I guess I was able to avoid this at the seder last night because we weren’t with close family, but today just had to happen, especially since the events from the past week have basically made everything else disappear, but it couldn’t stay like that forever. I am still grieving, I guess, and everyone says it will be that way for a while.

After all, who would have thought last year at the seder that my mom wouldn’t be here for this one?

And not just because of what you are thinking (as if my mother dying weren’t enough).

My day started out great – I’ve been in a good mood, I haven’t cried in two whole days (tears in my eyes don’t count) – I even tweeted that I was smiling.

But it seemed The Gods of March 2009 decided to give us one more kick in the ass before leaving for good.

At around 1:30 pm I got a call from my grandfather who said, “I’m going to join your mother, take care of your grandmother.”

You know those TV shows where people say they could feel the blood drain out of their body? It’s an actual feeling – take my word for it.

At first, I thought he was going to hurt himself. He’s OK most of the time, but they just lost their daughter, and they don’t work all day like we do – they have much less distractions – so I’m used to hearing him cry, but this was new.

Once I got a few more words out of him, I could tell his speech was slurred – it wasn’t just crying. I asked him to put my grandmother on the line – which he did – and she told me he seemed to have had a small stroke, but he won’t let her call an ambulance.

At this point I’m thinking, “Dear Universe, if this is your idea of an April Fool’s joke, then 1) it’s not April 1 yet and 2) it’s not funny. You suck.”

It took about 5 more hours until we could get him to go to the hospital. Considering we’ve already had more than our share of hospitals for 2009 (my 27 year old sister was admitted the day before my mom back in January with an enormous blood clot in her leg), I can’t blame his lack of desire to submit to all those tests.

On the other hand, I’m thinking, “Just because you bought plots by Mom’s grave, doesn’t mean you need to use them now. I’m almost positive they don’t come with an expiration date.”

My grandfather, who turns 90 in May, is actually a very healthy man. He only takes meds for high blood pressure and that’s it. He has no diseases, is on a regular diet where he can eat anything my grandmother will allow him to eat (I call it the “You Know Who Wears the Pants in this House” diet), and doesn’t even have allergies. He has had a stroke before, though, about 10 years ago, when he was 80, back when he was young. But nothing happened then.

I was at the hospital until half past midnight with my grandparents, getting him through the CT scan which came out normal, and then getting him admitted, which took about a year.

He’s fine: His right eye and the right side of his mouth were drooping a bit in the evening, but not as bad at midnight when the doctor, Diego (no relation to Dora), came to see him. His speech was almost back to normal, a big feat considering 1) it was midnight – which is known to be the 4th time he gets up to pee at night and 2) he didn’t have any teeth in (don’t tell him I told you that).

All in all, he is going to remain in the hospital tomorrow and, most likely, tomorrow night, too.

This comes at a particularly bad time since tomorrow marks 30 days since my mother died, and we have to go to the cemetery for the unveiling of the gravestone.

At least we know he’s feeling better and back to his really bad jokes (hopefully all will be OK tonight).When Diego (no relation to Dora) asked him if he’s sensitive to anything, he answered, “only 17 year old girls.”

I think he’ll be fine.