I Am An Archipelago
November 15, 2010
Where does strength come from? I have no idea. I know many people believe that God gives them their strength. But I’m not a religious person. I know my strength comes from within me.
I wouldn’t be able to draw on that strength, or replenish it, without the help of others. I know that. I acknowledge that without question. My friends and family (IRL or virtual) most definitely help me draw and replenish my strength during rough times. I used to think of myself like Simon & Garfunkel, “I am a rock. I am an island.” I’ve always been a bit of a loner, preferring to do things my own way. Guarding myself to keep from being hurt. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need others. I gradually learned that that’s a very unfulfilling way to live. So perhaps I’m not a lone rock or deserted island. Perhaps I’m more of an archipelago – an island with lots of close neighbors. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts. Maybe we even reach Peninsula status. OK, I think I beat that metaphor to death. 😉
But even with the help of my friends and family, lately I’ve felt pretty certain that I had reached the bottom of that reservoir of strength. Like a keg, I felt tapped. Stick a fork in me, I was done. I just needed to curl up in my cave and lick my wounds and wait until time and the love of others helped me recover and replenish that strength.
But life doesn’t always work that way I guess. With barely any time for recovery I got hit again. And not a little bitch slap. It was a punch to the gut. A “You sunk my battleship!” hit.
On the heels of my bizarre ectopic pregnancy and 10 day hospital stay my father’s cancer came back. I’m still going for weekly betas. If I POAS’d right now it would come back positive. And yet I have to forget all about what’s going on in my body, mind and soul, and focus on getting my Dad to chemo and making sure he eats. And just in general being there for him.
He wants me with him. He says he feels himself “going.” He doesn’t think he’s going to make it through this one. Whether that’s him just giving up, feeling bad from chemo or some sort of premonition… I can’t say. I just know that he wants me with him when he goes. He doesn’t want to die alone. I can understand that. And I can’t say No.
But it’s rough to think about. Even though it’s not like it’s out of the blue. This is his THIRD battle with cancer. Lung cancer (yes, he smoked). He’s not supposed to be alive. I’ve been caring for him off and on for almost 6 years and he’s not supposed to still be here. He’s supposed to already be dead. I know that. I’ve confronted it with each diagnosis. Somehow this one feels different. I think he might be right. I don’t think he’s dying just yet (he’s most likely got a couple of months at least). But I do think he’s not going to make it through this one.
The thought of actually being there when he goes… that’s one thing I haven’t really thought about before. I can’t deny him that. But it’s… um… BIG. It scares me. I worry I won’t have the strength for it. I have to be strong not just for myself but also for him. I don’t want him to die watching me cry. I don’t want either of us to have to see the pain in each other’s eyes as he wastes away. I can only hope he goes quickly.
I know my brother can’t help me with any of this. I know he doesn’t have the stomach for it (and he’s not here physically). He couldn’t stand to be in the room 5 years ago when our father was on a respirator in the ICU. I sat with him for hours on the off chance that, on some level, he could hear me or was aware of my presence. So I know my brother couldn’t do this. I don’t judge him for that. I’m just pointing it out as a fact. There’s only one person I can think of to help me with this.
A friend of mine lost her mother to breast cancer when she was about 20 years old. I don’t know if she was with her at the very end but I do know she understands my pain. And the pain of cancer. The obligations and exhaustion of caregiving. This is the same person who offered me her eggs so I could have Right Guy’s child (although it turns out we didn’t need them). I think I’m going to have to lean on her a lot in the coming weeks. It’s weird… I’ve only known her for 3 years yet she’s done more for me than people I’ve known my whole life.
I am so lucky to have friends like her. And tweeps and blog readers like you. Thank you all.