They are two wonderful people...one of the many reasons I was lucky to marry Bill (great family members)!
If you are, by chance, looking for a great cause...donate to Julie's walk! And let me know if you did so that I can thank you! And THANK YOU ALREADY to Aunt Barbara and Uncle Richard, and our darling friend Kathy Westerlund, who donated to Julie's walk after I posted the need on facebook.
And so the refinishing: I do still hate "cancer-free!"...but more when non-cancer people say it. If a person is a Survivor, she or he can still say whatever she or he wants. I may even be impressed that the Survivor can say "cancer-free!" (with the exclamation point). There is something awesome about putting aside all of the possibilities and going for pure hope.
Also in my mini-retraction, I should also write here that I DO like to get a rise out of myself and out of people, so I like to put the most miserable moments on the blog. One should never think that I am mostly in those miserable moments, though...not Pam Lucken! I like to visit them, touch them, make them hurt, and then go do something mindlessly fun and amusing like play Farmville for hours. So the amount of time I spend ruminating is less than one would think if they read my blog and didn't see the other (useless and amusing) ways I spend my time.
HOWEVER...I must still be sad and upset because daily I am looking for things to get rid of (donate, throw out, or just not buy). In addition, I CANNOT BRING MYSELF TO PLAN NEW GARDENS. That is shocking. It's a good thing I started 2 big new gardens this year already, and expanded one in a dramatic manner, and added significantly to three others. I can take a grief-inspired break and still have accomplished a lot in 2009, at least in the garden (though I do understand it matters to the world about as much as my playing around on Farmville...but this suburban housewife likes to feel like she has at least learned or transformed something in this year, aside from raising 3 children incrementally more).
Anyway, after a few weeks of craziness, it seems the Lucken family is hunkering down for some family time a bit. We had my Dad's crazed and fast demise, the funeral, the death of a kitty, the 3-day, then some cottage/extended family time, then a visit to my sister's in Evanston...and here tonight we are all back in the same room again. Dad and his Cub on the couch watching the Tigers, the girls lying around taking turns talking to themselves (usually Emma) and playing Webkinz (mostly Katie), and Mom walking on the treadmill and playing around on the computer. It's really nice to just be together and be relaxing for once. (And fitting in all the screen time we should have in one week in one evening!)
Let me start out with saying that yes, I was lucky to find my breast cancer early. My oncologist (and my husband) truly believe that I have been "cured." Furthermore, I AM proud to be a breast cancer survivor. However, I want to cringe whenever anyone says "she's cancer-free!" I don't believe in that statement AT ALL...not for me, and not for anyone else for that matter.
NO, I don't think I am having a recurrence of my breast cancer. I'm not experiencing any crazy symptoms. BUT, I will probably never feel "cancer-free" ever again - not after having given away my body parts, having watched the image of my youth shatter in front of my face, and most especially, having watched cancer take two of my loved ones from me this month. Cancer will always be a part of my life - every time I try to fill two cat bowls instead of one, and every time I think to forward an email to my family and realize there is no one at email@example.com.
I am most in awe (and not in a good way) of people who can feel "cancer-free" after having had cancer in the first place. Here we all were, living our good little lives, and cancer came around anyway. So now, knowing that cancer can come and steal a little part of your world when you are doing everything "right", how can you go back to ever feeling "cancer-free!", especially after your bubble has been burst the first time? Didn't you learn anything the first time around? We aren't immune!
Well, my bubble has been popped for me. The preliminary pop occurred all throughout 2008...when I realized what I would have to give up, and then when I realized that I was going to have to live my life despite the idea that stupid cancer could pop back up, somewhere else, someday... and being a BRCA mutant, I feel even more at risk. This year really finished off the idea of bubbles for me entirely as I watched the life being sucked out of my loved ones.
So what do I think people should say? (Because if you haven't figured this out yet, I am totally opposed to the term "She's cancer-free!") I think I have settled upon the term Survivor. And yes, I hated that term, too, because I thought, "How do you ever really survive cancer? Doesn't it come back for you someday?"
Well, THIS is how you SURVIVE cancer. You wake up, and you decide to live your life, despite the diagnosis. And then, you wake up, and you decide to find something good in your day, despite the pain of cancer treatment, despite the nausea, despite the fear in front of you. And then, you decide to do whatever you can to help other people SURVIVE cancer...you try to show them It isn't that bad. You can still be happy, and crazy, and life a full life, even if you are bald, even if you have only one fake boob for awhile, even if cancer is threatening and taking other people in your family from you. And you take your steps against the disease - you ask people to help you raise money, and to help you make a scene of pink for 3 days in the summer, because even though you know that YOU can survive cancer, you also know that there is a scared woman (and her family) out there somewhere who needs that money, and who needs that sea of pink. All of those things make you qualified to say you are a Survivor.
I take being a Survivor seriously...not because I have survived into being "cancer free!", but because I have survived looking at my mortality and not going crazy. I have faced cancer, realized what it cost me, what it may do to me in the future, and what it most certainly has done to my loved ones, and I am sure that I will still live to be a (basically) happy, vibrant woman.
But don't ever put an exclamation point (or several, like it's a party), after the words "cancer-free". And don't expect me to do that, either. And I will tell you why, another day...when I feel like telling you what it looks like to see your darling cat's tumors grow and bleed all over your bed and make her cough and stop purring. And you can hope that I won't tell you what it was like to hold my Dad's hand for his last 10 hours of life, until it was cold and he took his last breath.
After that, you'd never be cancer-free!!!!! either.
So let's continue with all of these 3-day musings (which are more fun to think about than other things, very honestly)...I'll do it in Q and A format. I'll be asking the Q's and answering the A's.
Q1; What is your favorite thing about the 3-day?
A: This year, last year, or the year before?
Q1, continued: All of them.
A, continued: Well, the first year, I was very inspired by all of the kindness I saw. It seemed so wonderful that all of these people were taking such big steps to do things for other people - and not only the walkers and the crew, but the other volunteers who just show up, and even the people at the cheering stations!
I also can't stress enough how great it is to take 3 days out of your regular life...and when my children were a little younger, that was a huge benefit for me! I wouldn't have taken 3 days out for anything else.
Last year, I was inspired by my friends. I was thankful for those who walked with me...they gave me strength to do the whole thing bald, with one breast, and just after chemo. They gave me the strength to train when I felt like total yuck. Spending 3 days with people who would laugh with bald me and dance with bald me was really special. I also made some new 3-day friends...and that was great too.
This year...it's hard to say what was the best. All of it was wonderful, because I'm used to the event, and because I'm not bald! Yes, it was harder for many people physically, but for me, this year was easier. I wasn't bald, and I had just gone through such a horrific time in my life...and the 3-day was a great escape. Of course, then I had to face everything again once I got back from the 3-day...and that is not fun.
But one thing that crosses over all 3 days is this...I just really love walking!
Q and A continued tomorrow. Tylenol pm and melatonin starting to work!
Anyway, HERE is why you should seriously consider walking the 3-day:
- It totally helps you forget that you are supposed to be miserable. If a woman can walk and have fun, just days after burying her Dad and saying goodbye to her darling cat of 13.5 years, you know it is a good time.
- When the misery begins to set in (after sisters are gone, and all the work of dealing with the giant holes in your life starts), you can still have great pictures to look at...and wonderful emails from your NNN teammates...and memories.
- My beyond-wonderful friend-from-high-school-and-roommate-after-college-turned-NNN teammate of 2 years STILL thinks it was a great time, despite needing to be hospitalized following the horrific heat.
- It turns strangers into friends, acquaintances into great friends, and friends into family.
- You will never regret taking big steps to do something wonderful for other people...and to do that with 1800 other walkers and tons of other crew members and volunteers is something really powerful.
- You can become a part of a very wonderful legacy!!! To date, Team NNN (Nancy's Naughty Nockers which is No More Naughty Nockers this year...Team NNN for short) has raised over $200,00 for breast cancer research and support. That is huge!
I am extremely proud to say that with the help of my family and friends, Bill and I have raised a total of $18,000 for the 3-day in the 3 years that I have been walking it! And I will never NOT walk the 3-day...not until there is a cure. I am signed up for 2010, and I would sign up for 2020 if I had a chance. I have children and other beloved family members and friends to protect from this stupid BRCA genetic defect.
Plus, I just really love walking.
When I was uploading the pics from the event from our camera, I came across pics of my Dad (taken a couple of days before he died, at my niece Natalie's birthday party). This has caused a few tears to erupt, and also has led to me signing up for my next event to try to make a difference in the world of cancer...the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network's PurpleStride Detroit event.
Please consider joining me on that day, either on our team or on another team. If you can't join me, then please donate! Pancreatic Cancer is a horrific disease, and researchers could use our support.
If you haven't donated and would like to donate (every donation helps!), I would love it. If you are inspired and want to walk next year, please join our team. (And use the discount code, POWER10, to get $35 off the registration fee.) Obviously, if I am looking this forward to it, having buried my father on Monday and my cat on Tuesday, and this being my third year, it is a great event.
You will never, ever regret taking such bold steps to make a difference in the world (and I say that with regard to breast cancer, or any other cause you choose to make your own). You might even find, like me, that doing things like the 3-day can get you through the hardest times in your life!
Other event details:
MAP - this year's route will be the best ever for me - going through all of our old haunts in Ann Arbor also!
Cheering Stations- to see this awesome event, come to one of these. People hand out goodies to the walkers, have signs, and just cheer in general.
The following Cheering Stations are safe, recommended places for your supporters to cheer you on along the route.
Friday, August 14:
10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Save a Lot
8244 N. Merriman Road
Westland, MI 48185
12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Mid 5 Center
Southwest corner of 5 Mile Road and Middlebelt Road
Livonia, MI 48154
Saturday, August 15:
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Intersection of Ann Arbor Trail and Main Street
Plymouth, MI 48170
11:30 am - 5:45 pm
Southeast corner of 6 Mile Road and Newburgh Road
Livonia, MI 48152
Sunday, August 16:
9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Main Street between William Street and Ann Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
AND, THANK YOU TO ALL OF MY SUPPORTERS THIS YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!
The Blackstone family
The Buckfire family
Donna and Kevin Carroll
Perry and Jim Carroll
The Blumbergs family
Rob Claar and family
Dave and Becka Clifton
The Cocagne family
The Curran family
The Davis family
The Durkin family
The Gorte family
The Guise family
The Hartwig family
The Hickey family
The Honet family
The Howlett family
The Kennedy family
The Leitao family
The Meyer family
The Moorhead family
The Murray family
The Nelson family
Michele Parker and family
Charity Petrina and family
The Reinowski family
The Sass Family
Kelly (Raczak) Seestedt
The Selecman family
The Simot family
Kate and Nick Spindler
The Stout Family
The Thomson Family
Thank you to the following who donated to my teammates for me:
John and Nancy Carroll
The Gibbs Family
The Kay Family
Melissa Mandl Mase
And thank you to everyone who supported the Cutest Pet contest and our NNN Night out at the Loving Touch...that money also supported my teammates.
In writing this all out, I realize what a lucky, lucky person I am. I am so grateful.
I also can't figure out how I can possibly close up the huge gaping holes in me, that these two individuals left behind. Yes, I know that it is the way of life for generations to pass...but with no living biological parents I sort of feel like the bull's eye is on me right now, and that is something I do not wish for with all of my heart. And yes, I know and always knew that my Nanners would not last forever...but it seems absolutely impossible that there is another cat out there who could ever come close to replacing her. (Before anyone tells me it will happen...know that it won't. No other cat will sleep on my huge pregnant belly...and I'm praying I'll not need another chemo companion, either.)
The holes are one thing I feel badly about, but there are other things bothering me as well. For example, I hate this, but I feel a little relieved that all of the suffering is over...and even Emma said something like that today: "At least the hard parts are over."
I didn't have the heart to tell her that THEIR hard parts are over, but ours are just beginning.
I'd been watching her to detect any changes in her behavior that might indicate she was really near the end, and they finally came: she was trying to sneak outside, it seemed like nothing made her comfortable, and she had already stopped eating at least 2 weeks ago. Last night, my pup Hope was trying to clean her up, and I decided to give Annie a real bath - her breast cancer had turned to inflammatory carcinoma, and she had an infection on one side, which was horribly stinky and gross. After spending an hour getting her washed, brushed, putting ointment on her wounds, and just lying with her, it seemed to me that it would be most humane to help her to her final resting place. After seeing all of the insanely crazy steps of suffering that lead from nearly dead to totally dead (in a cancer death), I was determined to save her some of the insanity.
So I spent time with my little Nanners today, and after a bawling goodbye from the 3 children, Bill and I drove to the veterinarian's office (where he agreed with my judgment). Tears rolling down our 3 faces, we saved our darling cat from the coming misery - and sort of jump started our own, if I am completely honest.
I can't believe that she is gone. though...after all of those years, all the houses, all the hunting to find her when she slipped out the door, all of those hours of pregnancy lying with her on my side, all of those surgeries for various ailments, all of the purring and writhing, ALL of her unexpected little things...my Annie is no more.
Rest in Peace, my little angel.
I'm taking some comfort in feeling like I am representing my Dad well, in knowing that I tried my very best to give him some comfort in his last week and days, and in feeling that he really did live a very good and full life. With his crazy schedule and the many different aspects of his life, he really did pack about 110 years into his 63 years of life.
That's not really taking away my nightmares that seem to pop up every night. I keep dreaming he is dying in bed next to me, and I have been not caring for him, or he is nearly gone but alone in his suffering, or I haven't been helping him enough, and he's not safe. Once so far Bill had to have a long conversation with my sleeping self to tell me that my Dad had died, in his home in Grosse Pointe...that it had already happened and I could stop living THAT part of the nightmare. The loneliness part gets to start now.
And I do wish to say, if you haven't seen me weeping at the funeral home, and if you think that means I am not so sad...you're wrong. I just don't think my Dad would really care for that kind of a show. I save it for when the people leave, and I have a few minutes alone, thinking about what has just happened to my life.
Rest (or live on, in a nicer way) in Peace, my darling Dad.
John W. Carroll, Jr.
6/19/46 - 8/5/09
Funeral Arrangements for John Carroll
Visitation: Saturday, August 8th, 1-5pm and Sunday, August 9th, 2-8pm
Prayer Vigil and Memory Sharing: Sunday 5pm
A.H. Peters Funeral Home
Mack and Vernier
Grosse Pointe Woods
Funeral Mass: Monday, August 10th, at 10am (In State at the Church: 9:30am)
St. Paul on the Lake
Grosse Pointe Farms, MI
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
As you know, it is my way to emote online...so I am sure I'll be doing a lot of that here soon.
Over the past 2 weeks, I have slowly watched my father disappear (at least physically) from my life. He is shrinking before our very eyes, as this horrific cancer steals all of his ability to nourish himself. His ability to communicate with us is also shrinking - whether from lack of energy (a few days ago), to lack of lucidity (yesterday), to lack of our ability to understand what he is saying (today).
At the same time, I have watched my family come together. My sisters, their families, my uncles, aunts, and cousins have flooded into our homes and our hearts. Yesterday, while my sister was finalizing the hospice sign-up (it has gone so quickly, we hardly knew we needed it yet just 3 days ago), my step-mom's sisters were making lunch, while my aunt and cousin were visiting with my Dad, and my husband and I were moving beds around to make room for the hospital bed.
We are meeting with Hospice tomorrow to see what we can do to help control Dad's pain and to bring him some comfort.
Amy is in town, with Matthew, staying with Dad and helping.
Julie and Tyler are flying in today (in just two hours), with their two little children (Natalie is turning 2, and Noah is 3 months old). Julie plans to move to Michigan on September 1st, but she may just plan to stay as/if things continue to get harder and worse. Tyler has (thankfully) been given permission from his firm to work from Michigan as long as he needs to, but he will be flying back on August 8th to finish up there (and to move the family, with the help of his parents). Julie and family are moving into the Lucken compound in the meantime, poor things.
I think that is about it. I have no idea what I am supposed to be doing to help with things, or what else I am supposed to be communicating...so email me if you have any questions!