Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not Okay

I remember using the words "not okay" with Grayson when he was little to teach him that something was wrong. I'm not sure why we used "not okay" instead of "bad" or "wrong" - but I'm sure it was in tune with the current kinder gentler way of teaching kids right from wrong. For whatever reason the phrase has stuck with me, and I've used it since then on many occasions.

Over the past five-ish years I've wanted so much to respond that I'm "not okay" when asked the "how ARE you" question....Most of the time I did the kinder thing and lied, "fine" was the rehearsed answer. These days the "how ARE you" question never happens. I really am fine, most of the time at least.

The past few days I have not been fine. I've really been not okay. Not for the expected reasons - dead husband, only parent, too much work. This time it's cancer that has me feeling off kilter. The father of a friend from work was diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago. He went from a reasonably healthy 60ish cancer survivor who was feeling a bit under the weather and having some pain to an invalid receiving a death sentence and hospice care in a matter of two weeks. He was running a business and planning his retirement. Now, with the help of his son, he is planning his death.

A friend from work was diagnosed in October with the same cancer as Daniel. It was further along by the time it was diagnosed, and he was at M.D. Anderson within days. Flash forward through life altering surgery, very painful radiation and gut wrenching chemo followed by a heart attack. Mike passed away on Good Friday. He was 60 years old, just about to enjoy his retirement with his wife of 41 years.

You don't have to tell me that death happens to everyone and that the older I get the less surprised I should be when it happens to people I know. I get it. I've lived it. What I still find appalling is cancer. With all of the medical advances we've made, we can't beat this stuff. It creeps in quietly and it takes our lives away. Not in a single stroke though. That would be too humane. Cancer takes away our ability to enjoy the time we have left. And if the disease doesn't make you feel awful enough, the treatment is enough to make you wish you were dead. Cancer sucks your bank accounts dry, saps your joy, kills your dreams and the dreams of those left behind. Cancer scares the shit out of me and I am not okay with it. Not one bit. I'm so sick of hearing of the devastation left in cancer's path that I want to scream.

I'll be attending Mike's funeral this afternoon. I'll have to welcome another poor person into our unfortunate club. It's tragic and I'm not okay with it. Cancer sucks.

- Michelle D.

The goal for the Widow's Voice Blog team is to provide you with a good variety of perspectives on the challenges, and the triumphs, of life as a widowed person. With that goal in mind, I am pleased to announce that I will be sharing Tuesdays with Chris Weaver (who has guest posted for me recently). Chris is a fellow Texan and widowed person who also lost his spouse to cancer. He will formally introduce himself to you next week, but I wanted to thank him in advance for his willingness to share his journey with us. Thanks Chris. I look forward to your upcoming blogs!


  1. Great post Michelle. After losing my dad and husband to the beast, your words ring true. It's a lose-lose with cancer. You suffer the pain of the disease or the pain of the treatment.I try to remember before (thankfully only 9 months of treatment) but I feel for those who fought for years and lost the battle anyway. It really does suck.

  2. Michelle, first, thank you for letting us know that it is okay to "not be okay". I too would love to answer that very over used question "how are you " with the honest truth but usually take the kinder road as I'm sure most of us do. My husband died suddenly from a stroke. Although my children and I never got to say goodbye, we did not have to watch the man we loved so very much be taken down by the devil aka cancer.

    Thank you.

  3. Even as I am looking into recreating my life. venturing into dating land, there are days I stll struggle with explaing to friends and family, how despite feeling happy most of the time , there are still so many times that "it is not ok.", but I must go on living and trying to be happy, since not doing so will not bring back the person I most wan to see. You often feel like you are living in dual worlds! Cancer does suck and so does the treatment! It was not the cancer that killed my husband, it was the complications from the treatments and chemo, yet without it he probably would have died sooner, yet liver failure was really the cause as a result of what kept him alive. It too was a shock how fast it took him after being able to fend it off for so long! We really did not understand how little time you have left once things like that start happening!
    But on a happier note, I want to say to Chris, I think it is good for the rest of us to get things from a man's persceptive. I know ready Matt's blog has helped me see things from a male point of view. All the writers are wonderful!

  4. I thank you too, for this Michelle.

    Elias and I were on the cancer roller coaster for a while - yet his death was still sudden and came so much earlier than expected. I remember at one point saying to him, "I would just love a 'day off' from cancer." Now, I would just love a 'day off' from widowhood. Nothing easy about either, that's for sure.


  5. First, great post. Have had cancer in my family more than once and understand. Second, I'm looking for help from my fellow widows. 18 months down the road. The past few weeks have been ridiculous trying to deal with personal relationships, and I need support. It's been rampant with people telling me to move on. It's been rampant with people who are in my inner circle, and who I count on the most, who have totally either forgotten/or are finished with the fact that I am still bereaved. Let me add I have done nothing to offend, go to work everyday at a demanding, professional job, take care of my responsibilities as I always have, just don't travel/socialize as much as some expect. NOT "MOVING ON" fast enough for these folks. I don't burden them with my issues. I think they are sick of thinking about me and my loss, even though I have been very proactive in therapy and fighting hard to not be a "victim personality." Help me out, bloggers and readers. Backstory..28 years of happy marriage, husband fought two cancers and won, then dementia struck...six year battle. He was so vulnerable and sad at the end it was unbearable. I fought very hard for him and stuck by his side through the whole event. I am disgusted with everyone, I know I need them but feel like I'm ready to dump everyone. Reaching out for help, I've really hit a bump in the road.

  6. Thank you for sharing another post. I can relate to it in so many ways.

  7. Michelle thanks for the post. I'm sorry that you had to attend your co-workers funeral today. My Dave was diagnosed with Esophageal cancer and died 6 months later at 45 of an 'old mans cancer'. And he didn't smoke. Chemotherapy not only didn't help to slow the progress, it likely shortened Dave's life.
    The war on cancer is not much of a war. The more we waded into Cancerland the more appalled I became. I had never considered what chemo and radiation really was or did to a body. It certainly is a case of the 'cure' being worse than the disease. And it certainly is no cure at that.

    I too am still astounded that after decades and decades and decades of research that cancer is escalating at the rate that it is. The system is not right in North America. How can it possibly make sense that the treatment for cancer is a combination of poisons that are known to cause cancer, and radiation that is also known to cause cancer. And the reality is that cancer is a multi-billion dollar industry. Yes, it can suck your bank accounts dry as your watch your loved one fade away, and yet somewhere a pharmaceutical company is turning a hefty profit.

    The saddest part is that cancer stole my hope. We believed with all our hearts that Dave would beat the odds, even though the doctors gave him NO odds. Now I have an acquaintance who has a facebook page devoted to her mother's fight against brain cancer. (I kept a blog to keep friends and family in the loop during Dave's treatment.) I read her posts and I see myself a year ago. So passionate and and very full of hope. Cancer seems to have stripped me of those qualities. I'm not OK.

  8. Hey there anonymous "not moving on fast enough" - I hear you, the frustration is real and I have felt the same way, still do sometimes. The funny thing is that if you were moving on more rapidly, those same people might think you were moving on too quickly. We can't make them happy, and it is bad enough that we aren't able to make ourselves happy for quite some time. You can't judge grief, and only those who have experienced it know how hard it is, and how individual. We all have our own path to walk. It might sound like non-advice, but my recommendation is that you just take care of you. If you need to stay in and be less social, that is what you need to do. You don't have to defend your choices to anyone, but if you feel compelled, tell your friends and family the truth and explain to them how they make you feel. Sometimes people don't realize how much pressure they are putting on you and may be horrified to see how it looks from your perspective.

    Whatever you decide, know you are doing what is right for you and that is what's important. This is hard work. Make sure you give yourself the space to do it. Hugs to you.

  9. Thanks so much Michelle, that is good advice. It's great that someone understands how I feel. I do feel pushed and pressured. I really appreciate your response!