November 2009

This blog is usually about the negative aspects of my life as they relate to my mother’s death. However, it is important for me to point out that I have so much to be thankful for. This year took away one of the most important people in my life; But it also gave me many gifts.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’d like to list everything that I am thankful for:

I am thankful for my family. I probably wouldn’t have gotten through this year without them. As cliche as it sounds, they are my family and I love each and every one of them, even if they annoy me sometimes.

I am thankful for my health and the health of my family members. This was never under-appreciated, but it’s never been more appreciated than now.

I am thankful for my amazing nephew and niece. I don’t even have words to describe how much I love those two kids.

I am thankful that my sister and brother-in-law made them. 🙂

I am thankful that my mom had the opportunity to be a grandmother. While she was taken way too soon, and my children and nieces and nephews will never know her (my nephew remembers her, but he was 3.5 when she died), I am thankful she got to express the joy of having grandchildren.

I am thankful for the 31 years that I had my mother. When I’m feeling really down, I remind myself that many people didn’t have that long with their own mothers. Or those who have mothers, but not the privilege of having a wonderful mother like mine.

I am thankful for The Boy. He has enriched my life in ways I never thought possible.

I am thankful for The Boy’s family. They took me in as their own from the day I met them, and I can honestly say I love them all.

I am thankful for my incredible friends. Amazing isn’t a strong enough work to describe this point, but unfortunately there aren’t enough adjectives to describe how lucky I am in this department. It always amazes me how they were always there when I needed them, even at the expense of their own personal lives.

I am thankful for my dance studio. Other than losing about 20 lbs and making more of the aforementioned incredible friends, the studio was my refuge. It is what kept my head above water and kept me from sinking. It retained my sanity and gave me a sanctuary where I could be temporarily released from my thoughts and the darkness I was in for so long. It gave me a way to be with and around people without actually having to be with and around people. For that I will be eternally grateful.

I am thankful that I get to wake up every morning and go to a job that I love.

I am thankful that nothing happened at the break in when we just moved into our new apartment; That nothing was stolen and no one got hurt.

I am thankful that my father found a new companion.

I am thankful that she is a wonderful woman who we all really like. I know that I will grow to love her one day. I am already crazy about her sons.

I am thankful that through all our pain, we are able to see the many gifts that we have, and that, in my opinion, is the greatest gift of all.


Wikipedia defines a cancer survivor as “… an individual with cancer of any type, current or past, who is still living.”

I am pretty sure that the definition should be amended to include those who lost a loved one to cancer.

You see, we – my grandparents and sisters and dad, and all of my mom’s good friends and family – we are cancer survivors as well.

We are the leftovers of my mom’s brain cancer.

We are the ones left with picking up the pieces. My mom is gone, but we’re still here, and so many of our daily activities are constant reminders of her death. Whether it’s celebrating my niece’s birthday without my mom – and remembering she was at the previous one – or celebrating my nephew’s birthday – and still feeling slightly shocked that instead of my mother, my dad’s new girlfriend is celebrating with us – these are all symptoms of our survival. (Side note: We really love my dad’s new girlfriend and her sons – but that’s for another post.)

We are the ones who are grieving on a daily basis. The ones who need to figure out where we go from here, what changes we need to make, such as the previously-mentioned deletion of phone numbers and email addresses.

We are the ones who keep having to tell the story. Every time we run into someone who didn’t know my mom was sick and we have to tell them she died, we are survivors all over again. Even though the process isn’t as painful as it was at first, it still isn’t easy. When I speak of my mom as being dead, I am completely disconnected from the words coming out of my mouth. As far as I’m concerned, I could be talking about the rain in Minnesota. Because that’s my way of surviving.

We are the ones who feel the effects of her death every day, even in stupid things like accidentally saying “My mom would love that!” and then feeling bad for the person who heard it because they don’t know what to say.

We’re the ones who can randomly start crying at any given moment (this isn’t as bad as it used to be) and then have to start explaining why. And, of course, feeling bad.

We’re the ones who have lost additional friends – and even family members – because they don’t know what to say to us anymore. Now that our mom died, they’ve simply stopped speaking to us. This has happened on every level of friendship – and even family – that we have.

We are the ones who are labeled. The Ones Whose Mom/Wife/Child/Grandmother Died of Brain Cancer.

We are the ones who are looked upon with pity, both by those who know us and don’t how to talk to us anymore, and those who just find out.

We’re the ones who easily freak out about anything. Every time my words get mixed up or I use a feminine instead of masculine word or get a headache or can’t feel some random part of my body – I flip out, because those were my mom’s symptoms. Yes, I know that it’s not hereditary, and no, I don’t call the doctor about either of them. But just like every sound in my building has been scaring me since the break in last month (for the most part), this is something I can’t change.

My mom’s glioblastoma affected our life profoundly and forever altered who we are. It has changed us in every possible way, and its devastation is felt almost on a daily basis.

The original definition of “cancer survivor” is a positive one; It is one of triumph, one that shows that even though cancer has attacked, people can survive.

I can only assume, then, that we – the friends and family of those who have died – cannot be included in the official definition because we are the negative side of cancer.

But we are, in fact, cancer survivors as well.