Marty and I were asked to be interviewed in a new program at San Leandro Kaiser. It is called the Lunchtime series. The series is for Kaiser staff: social workers, nurses, doctors, techs, dieticians, chaplains, most anyone who interacts with patients. The purpose is to help staff understand the emotional side of a deadly diagnosis and what more they need to do once we leave the hospital, ER. office visit, whatever. We were interviewed for an hour for the interviewers to learn about us. Then yesterday was the real show.
I was really dreading this. They had asked us to talk about some hard stuff, like death, what had we lost from the illness, and what had we gained. Could I do this without breaking down, could I stand to watch Marty talk about what it had done to him? This was going to be emotionally draining. We wanted to do it if it would help one person see what goes on when the patient is home.
Being the vain creature I am, I obsessed about what to wear. Staff would be in "medical" uniforms, so I shouldn't be fancy. This is California everything is pretty casual. At the same time I was being interviewed and should not be real causal. Being a Southern Belle I was taught to dress for the occasion, and never go out of the house looking "like something the cat drug in". I try to live up to the Southern standards.
Marty wasn't home and I wanted to send this a picture of the outfit to some friends and family. So I took the dreaded in the mirror selfie. Tacky, but it worked. Everything was built around the hat and glasses. As I posted on Facebook, I think I look pretty kick ass.
We get to the conference room and it looks nice. Since it is lunchtime there was food for the audience, and us if we wanted it. We didn't want to be eating and talking at the same time. So we ate earlier.
Getting ready to start. I was a little nervous. What if chemo brain struck and I couldn't make a complete sentence?
We began with my family history, both sides, of cancer. My father, mother, grandmother, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, niece all had cancer. Some made it some didn't. We talked about how in the 40's and even up into the late 60's you didn't talk about having cancer. It might be catching, it made you different, there was almost a shame to having cancer. It was all very secretive. Except in our family.
We talked about it. As a 5 year old I knew how sick my father was. We discussed Grandmother's treatment. And Ernestine's, and Mother's,and the lady's down the street. Talking helps to grwo a scab on the hurt in your heart.
They asked how I handled all the sickness and death growing up. Well, you only know what you live with, I thought my life was normal. Other people have doom and destruction in their lives too. You just keep on keeping on.
There were questions about what I had lost (I didn't mention no hair, but they showed a picture of Marty shaving my head) and what I had gained from having cancer. I lost a friend, I lost freedom because I can't drive. I lost my two fabulous volunteers jobs. marrying couples and working with first graders. I lost a way of life.
I gained an even stronger marriage. Some spouses can't handle sickness and disappear. Marty has been incredible. Our son has really stepped up and helped us. I gained deeper friendships in many areas of my life. People have helped us in so many ways. My Prayer Warriors all over the world, my babysitters, the ladies who drive me everywhere, my phone friend who is 88 and can't drive to me. I have my friends who visit me. Friends brought meals. I have friends who check on me on Facebook, email,or texting. I have friends who protect us from too much friendship and put the word out don't bother them now, we will let you know when things are better. I do feel the love.
Finally they asked the big question, how do I live with knowing I have a death sentence, how do I keep going on. I did break down a little then. I told them we live day to day and we do have a good life. But I also told them this is not just my death, it is Marty's too. It is the death of a marriage, but not of love. It is the death of a way of life.
I told them I have a little bit of denial still, this isn't real. I have hope, cures are found everyday, so I have to still be here when they find one for me. I told them I do believe in heaven, read my Bible, go to church when able and when the doctors will allow,
There were a lot more areas covered. Afterwards was Q n A from staff. They were so grateful for us sharing our story. They came up and hugged us, told how touched they were by our willingness to share. They also were happy we were pleased with the care I receive from Kaiser.
This was hard to do and hard to write. Today is maybe a bit of me venting my emotions. This wasn't as funny a post I have done. But trust me I made them laugh, more than once. And I made some of them cry.