October 6, 2008

Legacy is not a curse, but reminder of what is precious

I'm sitting here at the chemo and radiation clinic, in the middle of hour number 4, as my father-in-law sleeps quietly behind me, the silence pierced but the clicking of his IV machine and the quiet hum of the nurses at the nearby station. I've got school books at my feet, a 20-page paper minimized on my desktop, and cell phone by my arm as I take in the peace and quiet around me to catch up on a myriad of stuff to be done ... papers to be written, preparing families for the Soldiers (in my unit) comming home, scheduling a major banner creation party, etc.

Oddly, for me the busy world inside of a hospital is comforting ... but let me start at the beginning.

For as long as I can remember, cancer has been a part of my life ... my legacy, of sort. My mother was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with me and not much hope was given, but she fought and we are both driving each other crazy still today. (Seriously, we can't be together more than an hour, how did we surivive 9 months!) My maternal grandmother was diagnosed, fought and over came cancer as well. So did my aunt, grandfather and step-grandfather (mother's step-father). I have spend many nights in the hospital reading books, walking the halls, running to get food for family visiting. You see, it is my family's legacy to fight for life, not to die from cancer. They have all survived. We are survivors. As a child, I did not wish to never have cancer, but instead to be as strong as my family had been when my time comes. It was like a rite of passage in my eyes.

No matter how far apart we are, the hospital has been a place where we came together and share our stories, greet new cousins and ward off questions about when we will be settling down/having children/graduating college from senior family members. I come from a large Hispanic family, and while we are not close in distance, we come together at a moment's notice when one of us is sick.

Just two weeks ago, my mom called to say her father was at the VA Hospital and they didn't give him much hope of recovery, cancer and masses in his liver and lungs or something. He was one step below ICU. But 4 days later, he walked out complaining that they made wouldn't let him wear his fedora and (I'm sure) looking for a beer and "decent food."

I've searched my memories and I cannot think of one Family member who died under the age of 75 ... my great-grandparents were in their 90s when they passed.

It's weird sitting here alone now, though my family has repeated asked George if he'd like them to visit or bring food or magazines, but he continues to decline. For him its a show of weakness to be seen like this I think, but for my family is a chance to show you care. Even if they don't know his father well, they know and love George. But my family is fighters, and I am scared to imagine what my "tough as nails at a mere 5-feet tall" grandmother would do when his dad starts talking about just giving up or letting him go to a hospice and us going back to our lives. She's the feisty one in the bunch and she'd tell him exactly what she thinks about giving up.

It's a hard legacy to live up to, but I've got a lot of people showing me the way, and I plan make them proud!

Until our next cup of tea ...

4 Tea Party Guest:

ancient one said...

Different people cope in different ways. And I've always heard let the person with cancer call the shots..they know if they are ready for visitors or not.

It is good that you are able to sit with him for his chemo..and you can encourage him by just reminding him of all your family that has beat cancer. It will give him hope.


Sheila said...

I agree about having to fight back when diagnosed with cancer. But perhaps that's easy for me to say, as I've never had it. But I do think a positive kick ass attitude goes a long way to helping you recover from many ilnesses.
Maybe your folks should do what they feel is right, and then George will see that it can help, and is not a sign of weakness.

Love and big hugs, I'm thinking of you during this time..

lime said...

wow, that is quite a long family history you have there. no wonder you're such a strong person. it is odd how different families cope with similar situations. glad you can be an example even outside your family.

Sue said...

You know, I tried three times to comment on this at work yesterday but apparently no one can read the "Out to lunch" sign that we are all required to place on our desks during lunch hour if we are still at our desks. And so, because your post is so heartfelt, the comment needed to be written when there were no distractions.
You are blessed - not because of the legacy you hold, but because you appreciate the messages God sends to your heart. It's reality, yes, but also an understanding that you know what's important. Sitting at your George's dad's bedside, which I am sure is sooo comforting to him, and your appreciating your mom's recovery - even though it might be a difficult relationship at times. Knowing that cancer might be in your own future is also something that you are contemplating and reckoning with. But you have faith, you have George, and you are strong.
Please allow me to share something personal which I hope doesn't take anything away from what you have shared in your post.
When Ron's mom was terminally ill, she stayed here and I took care of her. No big thing in itself. We moved our bedroom furnture to the family room and gave her ours. It wasn't easy for her to accept until she finally realized that she needed me. And that I truly did mean the words "I love you" during all the years I spoke them. Until then, our relationship (hers and mine)had been a series of uneasy truces because she didn't understand or believe how much I loved her. And so finally, when she was ill, she only wanted ME to take care of her - did not want the aides that Hospice offered. This in itself was the greatest blessing in all of it - some may find it hard to believe there was a blessing, but there was. I shared that because I knew you would understand it. And I shared it because of your words about your family wanting to help George.
George knows that your family cares about him - this too is important. And when he looks back on this time, even if he doesn't say yes to their offers, he will REMEMBER them.
May God bless your family - He has already given you strength...but may He also give you a long legacy of blessings.
Hugs to you my friend.