Five Summers of Cancer.

Five Summers of Cancer.

1482755_10203899994593948_103048544696751785_nHow was your Memorial Day? I’m lucky. Many of my family have served but I’ve lost no one in conflicts of that sort. I think the last family member was an ancestor during the Civil War but I’d have to do my research to be sure. Not sure what that means if anything. Did they keep their head down? Stay to the back of the line? Perform their service in kitchens and hospitals? Who knows? I know nothing about the military. I’m rambling. Wool gathering. My mind tends to do that.

I spent my 3-day weekend in the garden for the most part, making up for lost time because of the soggy month of April we’ve just endured. Glad the forest fires are out but my okra and habaneros aren’t. Lost most of them to mold and just plain wet.

I did get out enough to go judge a chili cook-off on Sunday at Foods of All Nations to benefit Service Dogs of Virginia. It was fun but I can’t say it was the best of times. Which is totally my fault. I got so busy I didn’t check to see when I should arrive and so I got there three hours early. Then when I returned after spending the time writing in the nearby Barnes & Noble over an iced coffee and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookie because fuck it I’m never in the Barnes and Noble and I just got up way too fucking early on a Sunday morning to be somewhere, I discovered I was late for the judging. There was no room at the table and stern looks from the others because of my tardiness. Evidently chili cook-offs are serious business.

So I sat after making some snide comment about being the first one there, because I was, although they didn’t know that. I made the best of it. The chili was delicious for the most part and it didn’t make me sick which is always a concern. And the height of irony considering I’m a food writer and podcaster. I’ve said it here before, I’m the food writer who loves food but can rarely eat much of it. Go me. Start the tiny violin orchestra.

Needless to say it wasn’t the most fun day I’ve had. I was irritated at getting there first early, then late. Then irritated because no matter how much I talked with these folks they gave back blank stares. And I couldn’t figure out why. But when I stepped outside of myself and looked in, I realized I was probably coming on too strong. Too bitchy by half. Too much smartass and too little smiling. And again I wondered why.

It wasn’t until I was halfway home that I realized. It’s because my cat Dolly has cancer. And I haven’t really come to terms with it. Last week during a routine examination the vet discovered a vaccine sarcoma in between her shoulder blades that only extreme invasive surgery could remove. Dolly is ten. I refuse to put her through such measures. So I put on a brave face and a strong countenance and continued on with my life. I would cherish each day as if it were her last. I would smother her with kisses and treats and every day she woke up asymptomatic? I would be grateful.

But on the way home it hit me. This is the FIFTH summer in a row The Hubby and I have dealt with cancer and its aftermath. Four years ago our sister-in-law passed away from multiple myeloma. Then three years ago we attended the unveiling of her tombstone because in the Jewish tradition you wait a year out of respect. I understand why, but after taking a year to get used to the fact she’s no longer with us it’s unbelievably hard to have it shoved in your face all over again. It’s like going to two funerals. Two years ago both The Hubby’s father and our beloved dog Lois passed away from cancer. Letting go of her was harder than saying goodbye to my own mother. This meant last summer was spent attending another unveiling. And now this summer, the fifth one in a row, cancer has surfaced again. I’ve barely had Dolly two years. I got her to heal my heart when Lois died and she did that in spades. Now I can’t imagine a life without her. I knew it wouldn’t be forever when I adopted her. She was eight after all. But I thought it would be longer than this.

This is why I was bitchy Sunday. This is why The Hubby and I have been sniping back and forth over trivial things the past month. We’re emotionally shell-shocked. In disbelief. That for yet another summer we will have to deal with cancer and possibly death. Rather than dealing with the underlying fear and sadness, I chose to cover it up with indignation and anger and self-righteousness. No wonder I was so crazy mad.

It doesn’t help I just turned 49. The age my Momma was when she drove headlong into a tree on an icy road in the middle of the night. Possibly drunk. Irrevocably damaged. I’m so hyperaware I even know the exact date I’ll be her exact age when it happened. Sigh. I should probably be in therapy but my last therapist fired me and I’m too emotionally fragile from that to even fathom looking for another. Instead I write. And meditate. And keep talking to people and learning from them. Listening to their stories. It helps. A lot.

I don’t mean to be Whinging Wendy here. I’m very grateful for my life. Things could be way worse. Thank God they aren’t because I’m not sure my spirit could take it at this point. I guess I figured my only life lesson this year would be to get through age 49, to pass through the age my Momma’s life changed forever and reflect on that and write a lot about it. But life doesn’t provide you with lessons spaced out in nice little packages. It rarely throws you curve balls when you’re at your strongest. Just as everyone on this planet has their own journey and lessons to learn this is mine. I was just hoping for more peace and less sickness and death this summer. One thing I do know is when things get bad, it’s a good thing to reflect on what you do have. And for me that is a lot.

Not sure why I felt the need to write this today. Maybe to remind me to feel the feelings instead of bottling them up or covering them with huge amounts of peanut butter cookies. Maybe to share it’s okay to feel angry, but maybe stop and look to see what’s underneath that iceberg of hate before you lash out at someone else. Maybe it’s to ask for help and advice on how to get through yet another summer, my favorite season, which might be colored by loss? I don’t know. I keep waiting to cry for Dolly. It hasn’t happened yet. The anger is too great. So in the meantime I’ll post this and head back to the garden. And grow things. Give life where I can. Cheers.


Leave your comment

two × 3 =

  • Lee


    I read this post and couldn’t help but sigh. I turn 49 next month. My aging parents live with us, and my Dad is not well. I take care of them, my 16-year old daughter. I have a demanding job, and a marriage that rightly demands attention, close family who have died because of cancer…. All this to stay, I felt every word of this. Thank you for sharing what you are going through. It helps to know none of us are alone. I’m sorry for what you are going through now.

    • Jenée Libby


      Lee, thank you so much for your thoughtful response! So many things I want to say. I’m sending you a private email…..wishing you love and light *hugs*