July of 2006 my husband was diagnosed with malignant melanoma skin cancer. Based on the oncologist’s discussions with us if he was going to live 6 more months, taking interferon cancer treatment would help him live another 18 months. The doctor was just giving a projection. My heart sank as she spoke her upbeat prediction with a hopeful smile.
As the weeks and months rolled on we went from test to surgery to test to surgery for three years. Every three months was another scan. The building up to the day of testing and the results following were either good or “we saw something and we are just going to watch it for another few months….” became our lives. He endured surgeries to remove moles that appeared to change, painful skin grafts and lymph node biopsies. He started the gruelling interferon treatments about two months after his diagnosis while I was still nursing his surgical sites. Jordon defied the odds. He was one of only five patients at Duke Cancer Center to make it through the twelve months of treatment. He was brave and wanted to finish the treatments for the sake of our son, Jackson. And he outlived the medical communities’ predictions.
During those days my life became dictated by life and death. I rode the waves of test results and doctor visits. That’s exactly what they became, waves of emotions. Unbelievable fear and sadness with intense amounts of love and compassion seeing the love of my life suffer like nothing I had ever experienced before. I took on some of his pain somehow. Somehow I would wake up with his symptoms. I would feel his nausea. There is an intuitive, empathic response we feel when we are close with our loved ones who are suffering. It’s the prayer we make. “Give it to me, God… Don’t let him suffer..” And God shares it with you to ease their suffering and you help relieve the one you love of their suffering.
From this empathic response ~ it began to happened. My health and my mind began to bend and take on the enormous weight of what was before me. A year and a half later I buckled under that traumatic weight. I fell into severe depression, anxiety, and panic from the worry and the seeing and experiencing the trauma of the waves that continued to crash over me. Just like the ocean. The waves never stopped. This experience turned into anticipatory grief, the trauma of what is to come. What could happen when you put a name to impeding death.
About two years into the waves of tests and scans and Jordon’s pain and suffering from the interferon- I fell apart. My doctor diagnosed me with a mood disorder instead of focusing on the disorder and chaos in my life. I don’t blame her. But now is the time to bring this to light. Anticipatory grief is a real process. It is a real, often misunderstood form of grief. It brought me to my knees and to the open door of a day hospital for psychiatric patients.
I felt out of place. I was stable but completely crushed and defeated by the fear in my heart and I had gotten to a point where I couldn’t stop crying and my emotional plate was full. My sharing at group during those two weeks was about Jordon and the trauma of seeing him after surgery. Having to work a high level corporate job. Raising a 5 year old boy that couldn’t understand why daddy couldn’t play rough. Maintaining a home. Caring for a very sick husband. All the while keeping it together.
This is the basis of what drives me to help others understand grief in all its facets. Mine is different from yours or from hers or his. We need to re-define and re-adjust our approach to this human experience that we all will go through. The only way you escape grief at some point in your life is if you are the first to go. The time to share openly, honestly, and authentically is now.
Our children are simply not going to be prepared for the world we are handing them if we keep heading in the direction we are in. It’s a two-fold reason.
1.We shelter them from so much. Remember our childhoods where we disappeared into the woods for hours only to emerge at dinner time? Wasn’t that an awesome experience?? But because of the state of our minds these days we collectively shield them from all the negativity out there in the world. And even with our most intimate family relationship struggles we don’t tell them what’s happening and the authentic reasons why. We want to protect and preserve their innocence of not knowing what we know. This does not serve them for their own growth and understanding of how the family dynamic can work with positive outcomes (whatever they may be) so they understand and use the knowledge gained as a means to build their future relationships they form.
2.We are creating that world that we want to shelter our kids from. We are the cause and effect of what we don’t want for our children. This starts at the level of individuals and how they treat each other all the way to global communities.
For this simplistic reason alone we must learn to love and trust each other again. We need to put focus of the positives in this world through our own eyes and thoughts all the way to what the media wants to show us. If we want positive and ask for it- they will show it. If we as people gravitate towards the positive, the “powers to produce” will create opportunities in the media to show us that which we ask and yearn for. It’s both our responsibilities. We look for the negative because we want to be informed by what’s possible out there so that we may protect our children and our own well-beings. Which is a just cause. But only to a point. Somehow the energy and focus of negativity of the hardest-core, farthest end of the spectrum took over as a 1% occurrence or less and became all encompassing in our minds as shown through our media and the actions and reactions of all of us. The 1% horrible, negative took over our fears, and then took over the media, which then feed our minds that we were correct in our assumptions about that which we fear the most. But it was only an illusion of our worst fears that began to then manifest. Folks- this is dangerous and we are headed in this direction. This is where our momentum and focus began to shift and the manifestation of our fears came true. We need to pull the reigns of the horse of life and turn her back to galloping into the sunrise of a new direction and perspective of our futures and the human race itself and what we want to hand to our children.
Seek out the positive. It takes less energy. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel safe. It makes you feel love and compassion for the people around you. And it makes you happy. When we collectively turn our focus towards positive types of energy and actually want and ask for it???? Our families, the media, governments both local and national, the governing world bodies and organizations will have to take notice.
We will save ourselves by starting with how we treat the person next to us with loving, respectful, compassionate intent.
Jesus’s message to us about turning the other cheek when you are struck by your enemy is a very simple one and often times the focus is mistakenly on the one receiving the strike. Toughen up. Take it. Don’t let them see you cry. That line of thinking is what is often seen as the meaning behind this story. The act is then thought to shame the one who’s silent and who stood by to take more.
But that is not Jesus’s intent in this message at all. His intent and message is for the one who is doing the striking. If you are willing to strike at someone who chooses not to strike outwardly at you- then this message is for you. Be aware of your actions towards others and the perceptions you leave in the wake of your strike. Gossip unanswered is gossip. Nothing more.
Karma has a way of playing itself out.