Archive for February, 2008


Friday, February 29th, 2008


After chemo Kelly and I went for haircuts. I could not stand mine for one more day. It was just sticking up every which way butt with no style. And style is very important to me. So with my fatigue and nausea at bay for the moment I dashed over to visit my friend Becky. And I walked out with a short red faux hawk. When we got home from chemo I did nothing but drink water and watch movies until I totally passed out late last night. I watched No Reservations and Margot at the Wedding. Both were good. I like to just be pretty passive after treatment. I always watch a bunch of movies. Not about anything important though. No documentaries. Just easy to digest stuff. It is a bit challenging for me to focus on anything after chemo. I feel out of sorts, shaky and confused. That’s why I just like to keep my interactions to a minimum.

My plan was to leave for Virginia today. But alas everyone down there is vomiting and I just can not risk getting a bug that will take a big toll on my health. Plus babies throw up all over your stuff when sick. So I stayed home. With Clay and Bailey, the disappointed. I went to acupuncture this morning. I had a lot of symptoms outside the norm. I had a lot of arthritic pain in my shoulders. A nagging cough. And a pulled muscle in my chest. My high sugars. A needle for the lungs and liver. A needle for the pancreas.I got needles for everything. I had moxa burning on my belly button in this circular container. It stained the whole area orange. Ed did things with electrical impulsing in my ear. I got the whole bag of tricks. Yes I felt better when he was done. Much better. But getting from the depth of fatigue and pain that was yesterday to the sleepy dull sore of today is still not the easiest thing.

Back at home after treatment there was a non stop revolving door of friends. First Alys then Ruthie. Then Lauralynn and Naomi came to say goodbye and eat dinner with us. They were heading down to Virginia without us. I was jealous. I want to be healthy enough to not fear colds, viruses, flus, and intestinal war fare. Oh to be healthy. Eileen brought us dinner. Chicken empanadas and shrimp and corn chowder. Rice pudding and oatmeal cookies too. Everyone ate and talked. Jeeter (my ex) joined us as well. We were a loud group of 14. But this is almost the norm in the Collins/Smith home. Even on the day after chemo. Slowly people made their way home. And now the house is very quiet. The twins are with Eileen. Clay and Kelly are sleeping. Bailey and Jesse are almost literally just staring at the walls. I am typing this update because I was in such a bad space yesterday.

I don’t think this chemo went great. But it was not as bad as last time. Thank you for all the love, support and prayers. I am grateful. Next week I am totally off from chemo and my doctor said I do not even need to go into the office. I am thrilled. I will not need to go to acupuncture either. This means I have a whole week with only 1 appointment. How wonderful. A week where I can feel good and do nothing. Excellent.

Next weekend we are headed to see Spamalot on Broadway. It is Jesse’s 16th birthday present. We want to eat dinner at a place called Trailer Park. I am looking forward to feeling good. This is how I get through the chemo funk I am in. I force myself to remember how quickly my symptoms fade and all the wonderful things on the horizon. If anyone with a car wants to hook up on Monday or Tuesday with our kids let me know. I am home and will definitley be up to entertaining my toddler.

So right now I have an awful cough. And a very sore chest. I am quite tired but very happy. I got through another chemo. I did it with a smile on my face. I have two weeks before I do it again. That is 14 days of fun. Right ?

Chemo sobby

Thursday, February 28th, 2008


Today is chemo. It is 4:30am. I am stressed. I am waiting for the pain. I am dreading. This is certainly not the attitude I will put out when I get to chemo. No. I will smile and make jokes. I will be the happiest chemo patient ever. I will cheer up the other patients. Like Ann. She is just on Herceptin now. I never let anyone see how upsetting all this is. The brave face. I just can’t let my guard down. I guess this is normal. Whatever that means. Normal. I usually don’t care for normal. Right now I just want to believe I am not on the verge of a psychotic break. It is hard to wake up on chemo day and know you are going to feel like crap in a couple hours. Not even ordinary crap. You will be more tired than you can explain. Your body is shaky and mind too. I am sometimes lose my balance. I need to be close to a bathroom. I am in fear of the worst and hoping for the best.

There are days, like today, when I do not want to imagine going through this for years. How am I going to keep this up? Maybe I need to talk to women who have done long term chemo. Maybe I need to practice what I preach and live in this moment, in this day. Fair enough. Today I am scared. I feel good. I want to stay that way. I have no peace about this. I want to turn on my optimistic charm. The one I turn on for others. People say mind over matter. Its in my control. I am not so sure. I wish I had control over this. Like a dial I could adjust the severity of my symptoms with. Sometimes its not so bad. But all I ever remember was the last dose.

I feel bad that I am not being positive. This regimen is better than the old one. And I know I feel better after acupuncture. But right now the anxiety has a good grip on my spirit. It is hard to see this as my saving grace. It is hard to believe this is my life. Even after 9 months I am still kind of amazed that I have cancer and that I need to get treatment all the time. Its like I think someday I will walk in the oncologists’ office and she will say I am cured. Or that they made a mistake. But that news never comes. I just go to chemo. Dutiful and scared.

I will write more later. Thanks for listening/reading by ramblings.

Self help

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008


I spent the day with Clay alone. This might actually be the first full day I have spent with him in which no one came by to help or hang out. I appreciate all the help. It makes it easier for me to get through the day.I was pretty tired by 4pm. But it was also kind of nice to have a really quiet and private day with Clay. To do it by myself. Since he has a head cold he was a bit less exhausting than usual. I was thankful for the laid back demeanor but not the snot that needed to be continually wiped from his upper lip. Today I entertained him with Tupperware. He scattered it around the house. He also learned to climb out of his crib. I watched him throw his “blankie” out of the crib first then his bottle then he flipped his left leg over the rail, then the right, and he slid down the rails to freedom. He picked up his stuff and looked very proud of himself. He took the time to gather his things before embarking on his little journey. I am impressed.I am also horrified. Now there is no place to contain my active toddler if only for a minute. He screamed every time I had to go to the bathroom. It broke my heart. I just couldn’t figure out where to put him so he would be safe. Can you really ever baby proof a room?

A month after my surgery Dan Gottlieb the therapist and radio show host asked me to do an on camera interview for an upcoming television program he was putting together. I said yes of course. Tonight I got to see the premiere of his PBS program entitled “Learning from the Heart”. It will air nationally on PBS stations during the month of March. In this area it will air Monday March 3rd at 9pm, Friday March 7th at 11pm, and Saturday March 15th at 5:30pm. There was no mention of my little blog. So I am thinking that there will be no crazy increase in readers. Which is fine with me. The show…Honestly, I was pretty impressed with the entire show. I have grown very fond of Dan and his insights and wisdom. He has an anti self help attitude. Instead his focus is on accepting life for what it is. Knowing that it rarely is perfect or neat. Dan asks people to consider what is going on in their minds and hearts but not strive for perfection. He believes we need to see the awe in every day. And not be consumed by self involvement but rather to focus our energy outward and help others. We ( Kristine and I) had a lovely time. We ate raw vegetables and also met an organic farmer. Which made the whole event worthwhile for Kristine because she apparently eats a case of organic cucumbers a week. ( No she’s not crazy..she is an organic raw vegan!) I complained about not being able to eat the delicious cookies. She looked at me like, ” girl I can’t even eat the bread. That’s life. We always think we have it tough until we see what other people have going on.

My friend told me that a recent study indicated that anti-depressants only work for about 10% of the population. Most of the effect is a placebo. This is not a huge surprise to me. And it does verify that we are an over medicated bunch of people here in the U.S. We are also highly depressed. It seems very much in line with what Dan was talking about tonight. We as humans are so in need of order and predictability that we are thrown off course by anything outside of our control. It needs to be said more often that life is chaotic and unpredictable. Our plans are seldom those of God’s and our lives are rarely neat and tidy. Sometimes bad things happen. Ultimately, we need to view these “bad” things as challenges. As testimonies to our inner fortitude and strength. There are those of course to whom depression is beyond a good pep talk. I am certain of its ability to make some powerless. But for the vast majority an emotional set back should be just that a set back. A time out for reflection. A breather in the game of life. I think that is why the troubled childhood I had or the difficult years with my ex or even my cancer do not depress me. Do I cry? Of course. But I do not dwell on any of it. It makes me who I am. It makes me value the good things I have. It makes me an empathetic being. And it makes me enjoy living for today. But it does not depress me or define myself as a victim. I am anything but.

God bless you all.

Surviving Lent

Sunday, February 24th, 2008


I was able to get to acupuncture on Saturday. Tucker came along for the ride with Kristine and I. He had a lot of questions about it so I thought Ed could answer them better than me. I just kept telling him I didn’t know I wasn’t an acupuncturist. Ed gave him a little lesson and gave him a gold needle( sterile;wrapped) to go home with. That seemed to please Tucker immensely. I was pleased that I felt a bit better. Less shaky. Less nauseous. I still felt quite exhausted. Kelly told me he thought some of this was psychosomatic. I prayed that he become a more enlightened being and left it at that.

I spent the remainder of Saturday on the couch. All of my children coughing and sneezing. I successfully passed on my cold to all who had the misfortune of encountering me. I apologize to everyone. Sunday was not without its issues, although physically I felt better. Well enough to make a quick trip to Trader Joe’s. And well enough to clean the bathroom and care for Clay. Naomi took Bailey and Clay to Ikea. I took a nap and went to church. I am very glad I had a little time for reflection. Circle of Hope is a beautiful group of people that I adore. It is sometimes the easiest and hardest place to be. I cried during worship (singing). Aubrey squeezed my hand. I am so aware of God’s grace. I need Him so much. As Josh spoke everything he said seemed so relevant and important. Lent is a time of trial. We are like Jesus in the desert. We say no to the powers that be. Awesome. I was moved beyond words. It is hard to be there when it makes me want to weep. I feel very vulnerable. My heart is very soft and I cry easily. Out of joy , sadness, or even reverence. It is easier to stay home and remain unmoved.

After some discussion with Naomi I have decided to take Clay and Bailey and go to Virginia from this coming Friday until the next Tuesday evening. Since it is a chemo week I will leave after acupuncture. Naomi will help me with Clay. And the twins will be with Eileen for all 5 days. Jesse will be here with Kelly and the dog. I think they will be fine. I need a bit of peace and quiet. I need to be rejuvenated. It has been a rough week emotionally. There are many things that I am praying about, trying to accept. I am struggling with the idea of long term chemo. I am waiting on the Lord. I am working through the uncomfortable place that is Lent.

I am waiting for spring. Rebirth. To feel warmth and happiness. This has been a bitter time in many ways. I am praying for some sweetness in my life.

Chemo chick

Friday, February 22nd, 2008


Today is the day after chemo and due to inclement weather here in the Northeast, I am unable to go to acupuncture. And I feel quite out of sorts. My limbs feel shaky. My head is spinning. I am very nauseous. And fatigued. I have taken some meds. Now I am just waiting to feel a bit better. Speaking of feeling better…this is a gross story. Read at your own risk. So I was telling you that I had this unbelievable head cold. No matter what I did I could not breath through my nose. It was awful. And I was in a lot of pain in my pharynx. You know the roof of my mouth. Last night I took a big snot inhale and coughed up a giant scab. Seriously it was the size of my palm, fleshy with blood, mucous, and other stuff. Everyone was so grossed out. Myself included. But now my cold symptoms are all gone. I can breath and do not feel any pain.

At my appointment yesterday I had several talks with Dr. Demichele. She was saying that my not being in pain was an indication that my chemo is working and that she did not see any urgency in getting re-scanned. I have an appointment with a plastic surgeon at the end of March who will need to see recent scans to determine whether I can get some reconstructive surgery. So in the end we decided i will get a pet/ct in about three weeks. Dr. Demichele also found me a new internist who practices acupuncture. He will help manage my sugars and be my primary care doctor. I will still see Ed every Friday though. Dr. Demichele thought he would be a good doctor for me and I have to agree.

The other piece of information was about my chemo. I guess I was under the impression that some day I would end treatment. Everyone else seems to eventually be stable, or NED, or in remission. According to my oncologist I will be on this Navelbine regimen until it stops working. She will leave me on it for an indefinite period of time. Years likely. She thinks that eventually my cancer will build up a resistance to it, mutate and begin to grow again. When that happens we will try something else. I guess I hoped that I would be off chemo at some point. But that is not likely the situation. I am thinking about my quality of life. I have a lot. I feel good a great deal of the time. Sometimes I am tired. Sometimes I feel sick. Like now. But it is not all the time. I know there are people with HIV who require a lot of medication to keep them alive. You do what you have to do. Its my medicine. I pray that something better comes along so I can stop doing chemo. Who knows what the future holds. In the meantime I am here. Relatively happy. A bit disappointed. But I am here.

I think part of me knows that at some point my small army will grow tired of making meals and running errands. I wonder what happens then. You all have been taking care of me almost 9 months. I fear the future of chemo with the downtime and symptoms. How much of this can I do on my own?Something/Everything? Do you get more accustomed to it or less? I just think that a long term chemo means always having to ask for help. And I am so tired of that. It is embarrassing to ask for rides and meals. I am glad that the medicine may be able to keep me alive for years, I just wish it wasn’t killing me in the process. I hope I don’t sound ungrateful or dramatic. Honestly, it is just very hard to imagine this on a long term basis.

This idea of permanent chemo also perpetuates this idea that I am sick and dying. Both to myself and others. I feel a compulsion to tell people I am still in treatment when they say I look good. I still have cancer. I am not healed. I am not better. They poison me once a week to look this good. I get a lump in my throat. I do not want to feel like a victim. I do not want pity or even sympathy. So why do I rush to say I am still sick? I have talked about this with close friends. Spiritually it is not good to cling to this I am a cancer patient mentality. I need to put that out of equation. When will I feel like a survivor?

I need to go rest. That was too much thinking and typing for this chemo chick. All my love Andrea.

Spare change

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008


Tuesday night I dyed my hair. Something I have been doing for most of my life. My hair has been black, blond, red, fire engine red, hot pink, blue, and all things in between. Whether this is an expression of some inner chameleon or just the fact that I get bored I don’t know. I do think dyeing my hair is something of a compulsion. To change or stand out. My hair is maybe 2 inches long and I have dyed it 3 times. Right now it is a dark red, not a real red, maybe blood or a rose. Whichever. I sweat pink. Really I was at the gym today and my sweat was pink. My bathroom shower has at times looked like we dyed easter eggs in there. It is clean for now. But who knows what will happen when this stuff starts washing out.

Change is good. At least most of the time. I usually have a hard time making big changes but I am pretty happy once I do. Lately, I am trying to change my eating habits. It is going ok. But there is so much more I could do to eat better. And exercise more. Its happening slowly. Other changes are harder. Personality and behavior are more difficult to change. For example, I like to be right. In any argument or discussion I only feel good if I sway you into believing as I do. This is so petty it hurts. I think it makes me intolerable. It goes hand in hand with my *never apologize strategy. I apologized to Alys once and she was so stunned she cried. Kelly too is amazed when I admit I was wrong. Especially if it is not followed by some well said “excuse” for my behavior. I am trying to change these things. {I do however apologize to my children because I read a parenting article that said this was very important in the parent/child relationship.}

I think change has to come from within. No one can really convince you to change. You have to want to. I wanted many people I loved to change things but until they were ready it didn’t happen. It is usually easier to see what others are doing wrong instead of what we are doing. It is for me anyway. A lot of the revelations that I have about my own behaviors are prompted by things that my friends or Kelly tell me. Sometimes they are hard to hear. Sometimes I do not want to listen. But I have to. I am not content to remain unchanged.

Change can be quite uncomfortable. My body, mind, and spirit have been through a great deal of changes in the last 10 months. I gained and lost 50lbs. I spent months feeling like a sausage. Now my clothing is hanging off of me. I was sick and tired all the time. I am finding a gradual but significant increase in my stamina. And I have minimal nausea. Mentally I was prepared far more for the possibility I would die than the reality that I am living. It never occurred to me to do anything but accept God’s will. I was at peace with that. Now that this new treatment is working there is a good chance I will be here for….well as long as God wills it. This is strange. But I am thrilled to take every day I can. Spiritually it has been quite a journey. I feel stronger in my faith than ever. I feel cared for and loved by a benevolent God. I am more happy and thankful than at any other time in my life. Simple things bring me great joy. People bring me great joy. I am thrilled to be here.

As my teenagers edge their way toward adulthood I have watched them struggle with change. Everything begins to feel and look different as you leave childhood behind. I have had many conversations with them, assuring them that this is all normal. The uncertainty is part of life. Change is inevitable. I told Jesse last week that who he is now is not who will be 5, 10,20 years from now. Not that we lose our identity entirely, but we change. At least in my world. I guess there are folks who don’t change. I know a few of those. I am not content to continue to make the same mistakes and remain unhappy or worse make others unhappy. Bring on the change.

Boogie Nights

Monday, February 18th, 2008


I spoke too soon about my head cold. I have been breathing through my mouth since Saturday night. The congestion in my head feels like I have corks up my nose. And I have a sore throat. Possibly from all the mouth breathing. My attempts to relieve the congestion with steam and the sore throat with gargling were unsuccessful. As was the over the counter stuff. I decided to see the doctor today just in case. I got a prescription for antibiotics that may or may not help depending on whether this is a bacterial or viral infection. While I was there I asked a few questions. My sugar count was still very high even though I stopped eating “sugar”. It’s probaly safe to say I am diabetic. Which sucks. I am going to do a fasting blood test on Thursday to see what my count is.

I also lost another 2+ lbs. I am happy about that. I think the next step in this whole sugar thing is going to be completely abstaining from white flour as well. I am not complaining. My friend Kristine just got back from Florida. She was at a retreat where you learn to eat only raw food. It is way harder than it sounds. No meat, no sugar, no dairy, no soy, and little to no fruit. Veggies sprouts nuts and wheat grass. That is sacrifice. She is hoping that this change in diet will have a significant impact on her health, thereby preventing a recurrence of her cancer. I hope it works too. But that is not something I could see myself doing. The sugar thing is hard enough. I need to read every label. But this should at least impact my sugar levels at some point.

My only other issue is that due to chemo my nails are ripping off. It is really painful and gross. I have tried different nail hardeners. But it is not really a vitamin deficiency…maybe it is. This entry is going to garner so much response. Everyone’s going to tell me what to eat. Not a problem. Go ahead. I am listening. I have nothing else to do except read your comments. I have no life. But apparently some of you don’t either. Everything else seems good. My nausea is minimal once I get acupuncture. My fatigue lasts two days. And that’s about it. The big thing will be in March when I get re – scanned. A new MRI Petscan and Catscan will give us some clarity about my condition.
Today my in laws took the twins and Clay to the zoo. They bought a membership. Now I need to make plans to go the zoo on a regular basis. So Julie, Megan, my mommy friends, on any day over 50 degrees let’s go. I guess if my non mommy friends feel like going to the zoo you can call me too. On Wednesday my friend Kristine gets her car back. I am so sad. I am back to needing a ride everywhere. Back to Philly carshare. I need a car. If anyone out there knows someone or of a cheap car let me know. It should be in good shape. All my recent cars have needed constant maintenance and work. It was very hard to keep them on the road. The money from fund raisers have been going into the bank. I am trying not spend any of it. I will need to save up for a while so I can’t buy one today.

I am going to leave this off and go watch Project Runway season 4 with Bailey. Again. If you don’t watch you should. I hate television but this show is as addictive as crack.

4 a.m.

Saturday, February 16th, 2008


I wake up at 4 a.m. every morning. Sometimes I go right back to sleep. Sometimes, like now, I find myself on the computer. During the day I have been ever consumed with stay at home mom stuff. Baby wrangling and such. Or appointments. 4 a.m. is a time when no one needs me and I have nothing to do. Sometimes I use it for prayer. But lying next to Kelly praying for myself and everyone else punctuated with loud snoring is not always productive. Sometimes this is more cathartic. So here I am in front of the screen with the blinking cursor and I have a million things swirling around my head. The heaviness of the last few weeks has lifted. Although still on my mind. The duties of today seem to push away the pain of yesterday. Is that not always the case?

My week was full of some rather enjoyable moments. I met with my friend Megan . And aside from Clay mauling her son as they left, it was a lovely visit. On Wednesday I got tattooed. My first since my surgery. I am not allowed to get tattooed on my arms because of my lymphedema. And my pt Nikki cautioned me about tattoos from the waist up but in the end said go for it. So I chose the day when I would be off from chemo to give myself the benefit of a higher white blood cell count. I got a lovely script lettering across the top of my shoulders that says, “Poisoned Girl”. It has tiny poison bottles anchoring each side. It took my friend Topper about 20 minutes to do it. I am so thrilled. I will have to get a picture of it and put up on the blog. If you need an explanation it’s a chemo thing, they poison me. I have let myself be poisoned for the last 8 months and will continue to for an indefinite period of time. I guess it is empowering to say ,”Yep I chose this crazy treatment.” Someday they will find a cure and future generations will not be able to understand chemotherapy anymore than we understand blood letting and leeches. But for today it’s what I rely on to stay alive. So I am a poisoned girl.

On Valentine’s day Kelly and I had a lovely and romantic dinner at the Melting Pot fondue restaurant. It was 5 courses. I gave up after three. Actually, we ate a lot. It was a set menu and we had a really good time. We had reservations for 4pm. Which was perfect because Jenny had Clay until 6pm and we were home by then. Note to parents, it is not hard to get a babysitter early on holidays. Early dinner/lunch dates are so much fun. Kelly and I try so hard to steal away time together. He works from 11am until whenever. Lately whenever is 1,2,3, a.m. He tattoos more at night because that’s when people walk in the shop. So there are days where we barely see him. The older kids not at all. But we try to have fun when he is home.

Tomorrow we are going to the Franklin Institute science museum with Kelly’s parents. They are in town from Cali. The F.I. has a Star Wars exhibit that everyone wants to check out. I am so glad it is my off week from chemo so I can enjoy this as well. We made all our plans tonight as Bill and Karen sat in our living room. Karen likes to plan too so I do not feel bad saying, “OK let’s decide right now exactly what we are going to do for the next 2 days.” In fact, it is a bit compulsive for me to do this. But that’s how I roll. I plan the route I am going to drive places. I plan everything in advance if possible. If I could schedule when my kids were sick I would. I know what off weeks for chemo are for the next year and a half. I also note when my scans will be and everyone’s birthday. Thank goodness for my calendar.

I guess that means that I am planning for my future. This is a good thing. I think there was a time when I was planning only for the days and weeks that seemed tangible. Now the future seems possible. One day at a time I am going to outlive you all! Ha ha. Like I said before 5 years from now people will see me and say, “Isn’t she dead yet? Drama Queen made us think she was going to die.” I am doing quite well. Who knows? I got my second cold since starting chemo this week. It was a sniffly running nose sneezing thing. I was over it in 48 hours. My friend Cindy said I am the healthiest immuno- compromised person she knows. Yeah.

The good week awaits. I will no doubt fill it with baby wrangling and house work. I will fill it with appointments and friends. I will fill it with prayers and blogs and phone calls. I pray for and thank you all.

So here’s to health, long life, and a cure for cancer. God bless you all.

Life is short, pray hard

Thursday, February 14th, 2008


I have been hesitant to write. Sometimes when I post something emotional or whatever you call it, I seem to get stuck. If I write something else it may detract from this other thing. In any case, the comments have been very helpful to me. I am feeling a real heaviness of death around me. Several people have died in the last few months. I think I am just feeling like death is a little too close to home. I pray hard for my friends with cancer. I pray for many of you. I try to pray for myself and my family. I want a brownie so I pray instead. I can’t sleep so I pray. I am putting Clay to bed so I pray. I am in the shower so I pray.What else can I do?I hope that God is listening.

Jenni said, “God has different plans sometimes, than the things you beg him for in the darkness.” This comment struck a chord in me. It is something I am profoundly aware of when I beg God for a cure for my cancer. Or for more time here with my children. My midnight tears. I never cry or beg during the day. Its only when the house is quiet with sleeping loved ones that I beg for more time. Part of me wants to believe that this is possible. And part of me knows that God sometimes has other plans. I work very hard to accept that His plans are not mine. Here I am praying that this time your plan is the same as mine…but somehow I doubt it. Not exactly but I mean when was the last time you and God had the same idea about anything.

This may be the hardest part of life. The truth that we are mere humans. Mere mortals. We do not know what our future holds. We do not know how long we will be here and how our lives will go. We do not know when people we love will be gone. I can not wish my friends back to life. Or beg or pray or plead. I know that death is a part of life. We should expect it. Sometimes that is a real challenge. I think it is hard to understand too that everyone I know who died in the last six months was under 45 years old. 2 suicides, one cancer, and one aneurysm. I am at a loss. What possible thing can I say here. Death is on a roll.

I grasp for something enlightening and positive to come out of this parade of tragedy. I am not “depressed” about it..but it is really sad. And I do want to think there is some lesson here. If nothing else it makes me pray harder( for wisdom, for acceptance, for a cure for cancer, for the right words to say to my friend suffering from depression). It makes me hug my children tighter. And it makes me want to be nicer. I do not think I am about to die myself. But there does seem to be a lot of it going around.

I do not want to leave this on a sad note. In many ways I believe that everyone of these people is happier now. Outside the earthly body that had cancer. Free of the depression that plagued them. Hopefully, enjoying the beauty of God’s Kingdom. But this is not really about them. As so often the case death is always more difficult for the living. I am struggling. But Rachel and Merle are not.

The next step

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008


I have had a lot of things rolling around my brain the last few days. On Saturday night my friend Mariko informed me that the midwife that we had for Clay committed suicide. I was stunned. Merle had a 7 month old baby girl. After some discussion I was given more background. She had been depressed after the birth. She had a history of depression. She was having difficulty adjusting to motherhood. After years of helping so many women through every conceivable postpartum problem she likely felt like she was supposed to fix herself. She spent months with her family in New York. She left her baby with her family and came back to Philadelphia and took her life.

Took her life. That’s where I get stuck. How and why does one get to the point where they no longer see this life as important. No doubt surrounded by loved ones….what happened here? I think about times in my life in which I was despondent, sad , or depressed. I think that part is easy to identify with. Its the next step that baffles me. I always felt that I owed it to my children to be here and be productive. I did everything in my power to be present and healthy for them. Why did this lovely intelligent woman end her life?

I think about my friend Rachel who fought hard to keep her life and lost. And myself I would give anything to be healthy. It is a very long hard road to do this cancer chemo surgery radiation thing. There is no simple thing to cure cancer. Even if you chose some alternative way to cure your cancer its a difficult undertaking. No one who is sick like that and fighting to stay alive can really understand the next step. We want to be here so badly that the idea of letting go is very abstract…until its not. Jenni’s dad died of cancer two weeks ago. He wanted to be here to be healthy. So did Rachel. Why not Merle?

I am surrounded by a loving supportive group of people who have made it possible for me to wake up and face each day. My friends and family make my life happy not just bearable. I know for a fact Merle had a loving support system too. But maybe she was hiding the pain. Maybe she convinced them it would get better. I don’t know. I thought she was so strong. But what is strong? What does that even mean? Strength is something I am accused of all the time but I rarely feel it. Frequently, I feel as though I am being carried . I rarely feel isolated in my pain. My loved ones empathize. That is good enough for me.

I am so sorry to air all this in this public forum. I am fairly certain none of you know the lovely lady I speak of. I am struggling to understand the decision to end one’s life. I am white knuckle holding onto mine. I am desperate for health and life. I wish for a lifetime, not just the two or three years I can expect. Maybe I will get it. Maybe there will be a cure for cancer in my lifetime. But what about a cure for depression?