Monday, December 29, 2008

Sweet and sour

Things have been a bit weird in Waffle land.

We had what was, with blinders on, a delightful holiday weekend. We didn't give or recieve a lot of presents, but what we did and had was meaningful.

We got to spend part of the 'smas with our favorite Naked Monkey friends.

On Boxing Day Jamie's sister and her daughter, who live in France, and a friend of theirs from Oregon, came for a visit and truly added to the pleasure of sharing in the best of Christmas spirit.

Minimal drama at home/maximum warmth. Lots of cooking, game playing and sweet, cozy times. In a normal world, the biggest blot on my horizon would be that the garbage pick-up didn't happen due to bad weather. Because? Chicken bones+wrapping-paper+boxes=Crap!

However, from an inner perspective, my holiday was...well, the suck. And typing this out makes my hands shake.

My oldest sister, easily one of the most vital, life-force-filled people I've ever known, collapsed on 12/22. Doctors found a mass in her pelvis and did a colonoscopy which found that her colon is riddled with tumors. Her liver shows some masses as well.

There are some good things to add, like her lungs are clear and the initial colon biopsy came back as precancerous. But basically, each phone call home delivered news that was/is more and more somber. By Christmas I was a wet wreck.

I don't know what to add to that. That she has 7 kids, the youngest of whom is 5? FIVE! That she JUST became a grandmother this year and needs to see him grow up? That she, more than any of my living family members, made the greatest impact on me as a person and I want her to keep doing that for a LOT MORE YEARS? That she talks more animatedly than anybody I've ever known and that a phone call to her is the most fascinating roller coaster about nutrition, green-living, education, and 45 other random topics which interest her at a given moment?

She's intense and a force of nature and SO opinionated. She loves books. She loves music. She loves helping people experience the best of things, particularly with regards to health and nutrition.

I don't believe in God, which is good for God and good for me, because I'd be SO FUCKING RADICALLY RABIDLY CRAZY if I thought there was a being anywhere in the universe who could change what is happening to my sister. Which is to say, I held it together for Christmas. Had fun with the kids. Was loving and loved. And now I'm trying to figure out all the random intricacies of being a supporter of someone with cancer.

How does anybody do this?


ame i. said...

I lost my husband in October of 2003 when my daughters were 3 & 5. His was a different cancer, a tumor that started on his shoulder blade hit his left lung before we knew there was a problem.
So many advances have been made for treatment of colon cancer recently. Despite the terrifying test results Sister may be getting right now, it is STILL NOT a death sentence.
My suggestion: get the help of a couple or 3 strong,capable friends or family members. It is time to circle the wagons. Sister will be hesitant to ask for help, so don't even give her time to. Grab a calendar, online or paper, and make a list of who will do what for her on which days. When a friend, relative, neighbor, co-worker asks what the can do, you will be ready to tell them what and when.
She needs: errands run; groceries bought; laundry washed, dried, folded, put away; a week's worth (each week) of complete outfits matched and held together by clothes pins for the younger kids; meals prepared; general housework done; kids taken to and brought home from school/daycare if necessary; movies rented or bought to entertain the kids.
Even on days when she is feeling well, as many day to day tasks that can be taken care of for her,the better. She needs plenty of rest. She needs to be able to focus on her children without having to think or worry about anything else.
Chemo affects people differently. Some are very sick to their stomach, some, like my husband, felt "fu-ish" for a couple of days 2-3 days after a round. Chemo also affects the way things taste. There were days Hubby only wanted to eat bacon. If Sis asks for certain foods, resist the urge to try to get her to eat more veggies and give her what she asks for.
Just move day by day, hour by hour on some days. Stay positive so she can, too. Do as much as you can so she can focus on herself and her family.
Sorry for such a long post, but I know what I'm talking about on this front ;)

Comptons said...

Oh, R! {hug} I'm so sorry. This is a tough thing to go through. And even harder since you are so far away. I've both had cancer and supported someone (my mom) who had cancer. Let me know if I can help in any way!

ame i. said...

oops, insert "flu-ish" where I wrote fu-ish. my l is malfunctioning

Irish Gumbo said...

(gulp) R., I am so sorry.

I am not an expert on this, but from my own experiences with it (family and friends) it seems like (as Woody Allen ? said) 90% of this is just "showing up". Be there for her, breathe deep when you can, hold her hand if she needs it.

No easy route here, I know. I'll need to fly some more flags for you. (hugs)

Amy said...

My heart aches for you Rebekah. ame i has such good advice! Let your friends help nurture and take care of you while you are helping your sister, okay?

IB said...


Sorry to hear this news about your sister. I have no real experience with this kind of thing so can only offer good thoughts and virtual hugs.


Hedy said...

Oh Rebekah, I'm so sorry to hear this! Here's hoping that ALL of you can pull through this! Please let me know if there is anything I can do!


elliesmadre said...

I'm so sorry Rebekah. I don't know much about colon cancer. My dad was never very forthcoming about what he was sick with. But he was much older and in denial. Your sister has vitality and good spirits on her side. Please let me know if there is anything at all I can do to help you.

angstmonkey said...


I have no words that can help you. I have no advice that can prepare you. All I have to give is my love and my ear and my shoulder all of which you are welcome to anytime you need it.


Mama Nomad said...

darling rebekah, that is terribe news and i am so sorry for your whole family to be dealing with this heavy during this holiday (not that there is ever a good time to deal with cancer)

i was sure this post, when i saw the title, was going to be about the blogger mom who passed away a few days ago from cancer, who's last name was Lemmons and called her blog/books Lemmondrops: Sweet and Sour stories....just a weird freaky coincidence, i guess. (don't worry i am not suggesting its more than that as i too am a fellow non-believer.) i didn't even know the woman ans its been on my brain for days so i can only imagine what process you know...processing. like any mom with seven kids needs to deal with this. so much. oy.
nevertheless its good to hear you had a pleasantish holiday being close to your family--it really is what counts.


Anonymous said...

Oh R. First off, I'm so sorry to hear of your sisters illness. Please let me know how I can help YOU in any way. I can echo sentiments above, that it's all about showing up. If you can't be right by her side in person, show up every way you can otherwise, send food, send flowers ( when Joan was dying, having fresh flowers reminded her of so much beauty), send love. be open, be honest, tell her how much she means to you.
I'm here if you need anything at all.
xo xo

Rebekah said...

Thanks so much for all the beautiful comments. My sister lives 800 miles away. I want to show up and hold her hands every day, but can't. I am waiting to buy tickets home until the tests she takes this week are completed. But...deep breath in...I don't want to go say goodbye to her, so I'm terrified of what buying those tickets means. And sitting here in Oregon sobbing isn't very show-uppy.

Cinnamon said...

Hi there,
Visiting from Irish Gumbo. Just wanted to wish you and your sister lots of hope and support.
:) Robin
cinnamon & honey

Captain Dumbass said...

I lost my godmother to cancer this year. It is an evil f*ing disease. I wish you and your sister all the best. Good to hear it's not in her lungs and were caught pre-cancerous. And I guess how you do it depends on what she needs from you.

Ashley said...

Here from IG - Don't have much to add to all of these great comments, thinking of you and sending you good vibes...

Aunt Becky said...

Holy crap. Dude. I'm so sorry to hear about this. Crap. Shit. Damn.

radishly said...

Ugh, I hope something awesome comes out of this big ball of crap. I'm so sorry.

Jason, as himself said...

I am so so sorry about your sister. And I hear what you're saying about being mad at God, if you believed in him!

I watched my mom go through this, and I hate to tell you that it was grueling. Absolutely horrifying. She died when my littlest brother was 12.

There is some very good advice in the other comments here.

Jstar said...

oh scary. i don't know how people do it, but they do. my dad had a scary battle with bladder cancer (and he is currently ok). i'll be hopeful that your sister's cancer has been discovered early enough. talk on the phone with her as much as you can. and write letters. the good old fashioned kind that she can hold and re-read. it's hard when you can't be there.

Simplicity said...

I came via Irish Gumbo. I'm so sorry to read about your sister. I hope someday somebody feels the same way about me as you do about her! Talk about motivation to be more alive and animated! :) I understand the whole God thing. I don't know what I believe in...still trying to figure it out, but I secretly appreciate it when others put in a word for me...just in case! :)

I hope things are better for your sister.