A Few Words...

What is written here is my opinion and personal experience only. I am not qualified to give advice - medical, legal, or otherwise. Please be responsible and do your own research regarding treatments, diets, doctors, and alternative therapies.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I have two blog posts in me today.  I'll start with the one that has consumed my thoughts this week.  It is about suffering.  The most intense, unavoidable suffering.

A friend is dying, losing her life to breast cancer.  My relationship with her has been one on a social level amongst mutual friends and as volunteers at our kids' school.  She is our acting PTA president and I was previously the co-chair of one of the committees, so I've had the pleasure to observe her natural, beautiful ability to bring people together and lead them toward a common goal.  She exuded leadership, grace, energy, and an overt love for life even from afar.

This past year when her cancer returned, we had a couple of conversations about watching life pass us by while holed up at home with our respective illnesses and how much it sucked.  She knew I had Meniere's disease because last year I felt I had to relinquish my PTA responsibilities due to the unpredictable nature and disabling symptoms of the disease I was experiencing at the time.  And I knew her cancer had returned when I saw her at the community pool last summer.  Admirably, she has had an honest and open policy about sharing her diagnosis and treatment with those of us around her in a very public, yet graceful, way.  She seemed as concerned about how her friends and family were coping, as we all were about how she was doing in this most difficult time.

What really, really sucks is that she has an 8-year old son and a 7-year old daughter.  Need I say more?

My last direct communication with my friend was an email she sent to me about three weeks ago.  She asked me how I was doing (!) and said she reached out to me because she felt I could understand the frustration she was feeling with being confined to her bed due to the weakness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea she was experiencing from chemo (and, in hindsight, the progression of the cancer to her liver).  She hated that life was going on all around her and she couldn't be a part of it.  She didn't have to say it, but I'm sure she felt the worst about not being able to care for and be there for her children.

I always fear saying the wrong thing to someone in these sensitive situations.  Having my own chronic illness has taught me a little more about the fine art of offering support without hopefully saying something stupid.  In this case, though, I wasn't sure if I was successful... she was never able to reply to my email and therefore we didn't get a chance to discuss it.  But what I told her in my email was that I did understand what she meant and that I, too, hated watching life go by as a bystander to all the action.  I then shared my favorite mantra with her, with the caveat that "it works for Meniere's, but I don't know if it works for cancer."  It is the Buddhist saying I've shared here before, "Suffering is the result of wanting things to be different than they are."

Less than a week later, she entered the hospital.  After a last ditch effort at more chemo, the doctors delivered the bad news - there's nothing more that can be done.  She is home now, surrounded by her family and close friends, being cared for and supported by hospice.

While I think the intent of the Buddha was to teach us to accept what is and our suffering will be relieved, I just cannot accept that a 43-year old mother with young children to raise, a husband to love, and friends and community who need her should die.

So this week, I have embraced suffering.  Spat it back in defiance at the gods.  It's not fair and none of us wants to accept that this is happening.  I WANT this thing to be different than it IS.  Everyone who knows and loves her wants with all their hearts and souls for this not to be.

Yet - it is.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful Angelea!! So wise, so real and so true...feeling it from here....deidre