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Cancer and Relationships

When receiving a cancer diagnosis, more often than not, all relationships are impacted.
PUBLISHED June 26, 2017
Ellen was a teacher, drug/alcohol counselor and school counselor for 32 years. Always being fairly “unique,” she was diagnosed with a unique form of breast cancer – one tumor followed by two more malignant tumors – in 2007. Ellen and her husband, although native New Yorkers, have lived in Seattle for 41 years. They have two grown children, two grandchildren and two standard poodles.
When a cancer diagnosis is given, it not only impacts the person receiving the news, but other family members as well.  My illness touched everyone I knew. This included friends, neighbors, co-workers, casual acquaintances.  People I had never imagined to be supportive come out of the woodwork to be there for me.  Sadly, I also discovered there were others, who could not or would not show up.  It was as if I had a plague of some sort and they feared they could catch it.  Or, they didn’t know what to say or do, so …they simply said or did nothing.  
The relationship that surprised me the most was the one I had with my mom.  Although 3,000 miles apart, she came into my world in a way I never thought she could.  To this day, 10 years later, we are closely connected.  My poem “The Visit” speaks to our journey. 


Hopefully, others who walk this walk will have their loved ones right by their side. 
 
The Visit
 
decided to fly cross country to visit my mother
loved ones and therapist were not happy
akin to strolling into a battlefield
unarmed.
i went anyway
turbulent flight matched my agitation
 
 
she prepared a lovely breakfast
a seemingly “normal” occurrence, but not so much for her
we talked
i gently confronted her – asked if she had any idea how
the years of harsh treatment left me feeling less than;
how always being in her way left me feeling invisible
she said she did
and she was so sorry.
 
rather than make excuses or
tell me about how hard her own life was,
or going off in some rage,
she simply listened.
i looked in her eyes –
eyes that had shot darts
now radiated warmth
I held my breath
 
for the next few days, we shared this new place…
less tension and more connecting
a different visit for us both.
saying good-bye, we lingered longer as we hugged
unsure of our future
 
told her I had an appointment
the day after I got home
to check on this tiny lump I found
more like a pebble than a lump
nothing to be concerned about.
she told me to keep her posted
 
that lump,
more like a pebble than a lump
was more like aggressive cancer
 
attacking mind and body
a mind and body that
no longer felt like my own
 
i’m scared
i need you now
 
a caring mom
stepped in
at the age of 80
 
in a barely audible
whisper
a voice that resembled my own
spoke –
 
I love you, mom
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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