I'm feeling really upset today. We just found out some pretty bad news. VanGoghGirl has a girl in her class that she is distantly related to. They are very close friends and I've always been glad for her presence. She and VanGoghGirl have been the only two black children in their Gifted Class for quite a while now. The other girl and my daughter often turn to each for support since both had mothers with cancer.
Well, today we found out that the girl's mother died from her cancer. It had spread to her brain, heart and lungs and she could no longer breathe properly. She was in a lot of pain and her heart was about to give out too, so her family let her go. VanGoghGirl's best friend called us up with the news.
I don't know who has taken it harder, me or VanGoghGirl. This was a mother who had attended all of the same Parent/Teacher meetings, classroom parties, and plays as I did. She hadn't even had her cancer for as long as I have. It always made me happy to see her because I'd think to myself, "Even with these cancers, look at us here still around year after year".
The last time I saw her and her daughter was at the promotional exercises for our kids. When the little girl went up to accept her awards, I remember how much pretty she looked. She has red hair and this lovely caramel-colored skin with a face speckled with freckles from cheek to cheek. She was wearing a black shirt and a red and black plaid skirt. I had planned to tell her mother how much I'd like that outfit but in all of the hustle and bustle of the day, I never got around to doing it. Now, I wish I had.
This news really shocked and scared VanGoghGirl. Usually, when she hears something about cancer on television or from other people, she tells me about it and I remind her that cancer isn't as deadly any more as many people think and though many people die from it, millions of people live despite having had it. She's so accustomed to seeing me bounce back (from all of the rough times I've had with my Lupus and cancer) that it isn't that hard to quell her doubts.
At the support center that we belong to, there are lots of families that have come and gone and most of them stop coming because their encounter with cancer has ended successfully and they have moved on to enjoy a life without cancer's constant presence. As a result, The German and I know many survivors that we can personally point out to VanGoghGirl when we talk about what cancer can and can not do.
Still, this situation with her classmate's mother really made me feel despondent. I look at how our lives and experiences were so very similar. That makes me feel panicky because I start wondering how much longer I will live with all of the health problems that I have. At VanGoghGirl's promotional exercise, I remember being so happy because I didn't expect to live long enough to see that day. It made me think that perhaps I might wind up being around to see her graduate from high school. I had this watershed moment where I felt as if life might still be full of beautiful possibilities for me--but this other mother had also been at that event and she's now dead. How realistic can it for me to believe that I'll see many more special events in VanGoghGirl's life?
Hearing that she was in a lot of pain towards the end really bothers me too. There are so many great medications around now that I try to tell myself that perhaps I won't be in pain when I die. However, deep in my heart, I know what death from cancer can be like because I've witnessed it many times. It's going to take me some time to get to the point where I can again pretend that it won't be like that for me.