1990 – A brighter world through the tears

I didn't cry much the first two years. All my energy went into intellectualizing why I would live. Maybe I was so full of rationalizing why I would live and hanging on to my "self" that there was no room for tears – or the feelings that would bring them.What I know now is that tears are the chemotherapy of the spirit. We need them for healing just as much as the chemicals that kill the cancer. We should look at tears as medicine for the soul.As I mentioned in the last blog, I finally began to cry sometime in early 1989, around two years after my treatment ended. I learned during that time how healing tears can be. We called it the "summer of the great flood," and it took me to the day of diagnosis again to begin the emotional journey I had never begun.When I was diagnosed, I moved quickly to a place where I felt safe -- a place of little feeling because any feeling held layers of unfelt issues with the cancer. It was a grand day when I began crying. Colors were brighter, laughter clearer, joy purer.I learned in this time of pain and emotion that on the day of diagnosis, I had seen the future without me and been driven inward to a place where that picture dimmed. When I heard the word cancer, I shut down. It was fear that dictated what I did and how I acted. My worst fear – that thing that we cannot hold in our consciousness – burns a picture in our minds that drives us crazy.For me that "snapshot" centered on raising my daughter, Kirtley, only 12 months old when I was diagnosed. I remember thinking, "What will Kirtley wear to the prom." I know, I know. But one thing I have learned in 26 years is that mothers can worry well into the future about their children.In this vision were all my worst fears about not being around to raise my child. My own adolescence had been horrible. No money, no taste, no way to fit in. Merely thinking of high school brought up images of pain that I vowed my child would not experience.If I died, what would happen to Kirtley. I knew my husband, Tom, would take wonderful, loving care of her. But what about shopping and girl stuff. How would Kirtley thrive with no mother. It was that vision I saw late at night and it could keep me from sleep at its own will. My vision resolved itself in the journey when I looked at it and talked about it and dealt with it by putting friends in charge of Kirtley's needs should I die. I literally appointed women friends to be in charge of aspects of her life. Her godmother Diana would teach her how to make wonderful, beautiful knitted and sewed hand crafts. My friend Suann would be her spiritual guide, and my friend Terry her educational guide. There were others in charge of money management, shopping and hair and nails. Since I didn't die, God resolved it for me by giving me a child who liked big T-shirts and hated to shop. When she ultimately went to the prom, she had her older sister Kari (a professional costume designer) make her dress. The design was great, but I would have picked a different material and definitely a different color. Oh Well. But the day I became aware of my snapshot, the vision was one that I feared losing more than anything. I began asking women if they too had a picture – a worst fear that came to them with the diagnosis and stayed with them. Many did."He doesn't know how to curl their hair," said the mother of three young girls."Who will take the cat. She's too old to start again with someone else.""I'll die in my mother's house, loveless, childless," said a young women, afraid that being one breasted meant no man would love her (not to worry, she married and has two children)."I'll never see my first grandchild.""Who will care for my husband in the nursing home."Our roles and responsibilities drive our fears, and our role as caretaker in the family is often the hardest one to pass on – leading us to deny our own need to be taken care of. If we allow ourselves to be taken care of, what happens to our role in the family. Yet, many women struggle to do cancer right and be the good patient, the uncomplaining mother and the in-control wife. It's why we give out the message to everyone that we are fine and don't need help. I had one husband tell me he was getting angry at his wife for telling everyone they were fine and didn't need help. "I need help," he said. "We have three small children and while she is out of commission, I don't know how I am going to do it all." It was her fear of appearing weak or losing her snapshot of being the strong one that lost him his help. So back to the basic message here. Don't be afraid of tears. They are your friend. Cry, it feels great when you are finished. It feels great to feel.