Journaling Through allows every participant to write mini-memoirs page after page. Today’s blog is from a follower that chooses to stay anonymous, but invited me to publish an extract of her journal for every breast cancer survivor.
I ordered both Journaling Through Breast Cancer and Journaling Through as Support, since I did not want to burden any family member with my illness. Funny enough I started with the latter journal and the part that intrigued me mostly was where I came to know that I am from a quite dysfunctional family if I may say so myself. Competitive to the point where my breast cancer and treatment propelled them into pains unheard of, doctors’ visits, organized chain prayers and soon my inbox was overflowing with what-to-do and what-to-avoid; the staying positive message as the all-time and ultimate cure.
A few days before my 43th birthday and after a year of surgery, radiation and chemo my oncologist - bless her soul - declared that I’ve been in remission which meant that the cancer cells have been killed. I knew that gave reason to throw all thoughts of hardship off and celebrate life, but that was not the case and simply because -- well the journal explains the aftermath.
Back to my dysfunctional family and myself on planning the golden Thanksgiving weekend. They did not ask about my health-status, avoiding drama and assuming the worst. My three siblings pushed me aside or in their words I had enough to deal with let alone helping to organize the golden anniversary of my parents’ marriage over the 2016 Thanksgiving weekend, a very appropriate date. “Them or me?” I wanted to ask. My parent’s relationship could be described as mostly hell and explains why I pledged to stay single until my dying day, that thankfully passed on me this time around.
When I looked for my travelbag to put in the new shoes and dress to show off my reconstructed breasts I found the note of a friend that I have met during hospitalization. “Was she still with us to celebrate Thanksgiving 2016?”
Trembling for no reason I entered the number on my phone and was tempted to hang-up when I heard her voice. “What are you up to?” and in the spur of the moment I confessed. “I have to do my eulogy again,” I said “Even though I am clean.” “I know what you are saying, Gal,” she said.”You need a cheer-up.”
Wilma came over and brought with her four friends alike to spend the evening together. I told them about the upcoming celebrations, me being the third daughter and when my brother made his appearance some forty years ago my parents forgot all about me. But that was also the reason that I made a success out of my career. The eulogy in Journaling Through did not completely happen again, because we got stuck in humbling our fears and then giggled about our future dreams. By daybreak the friends that stemmed from Cancer-support drove me to the airport.
Soon after my coming home Mother showed me the dress with matching purse she preferred I wear and that would be tasteful for the occasion. My sister gave me a welcoming gift, a designer piece of jewelry.
To be expected the parents’ golden anniversary was a crystal and roses; fur, diamonds and pearl gathering as we listened between served cuisine to the praise from colleagues, family and friends. Our father mentioned the stress children can put them through and also that no parent wanted to bury a child, looking straight at me. I simply let go of that unanswered, because I was thinking of how my newly gained family of cancer friends celebrate Thanksgiving. Father then went on and on about my siblings and their spouses whom all have lovely children, not to forget that they also graced them with grand-grandparent status. Props to my parents that stayed together long enough to have more alcohol-free champagne.
Late afternoon we all went to church for the Thanksgiving service, traditional and an appropriate way to end the festive golden anniversary. Guilty by their judgement that was true that I have not seen the inside of a church since one of many competitive siblings’ baptisms. At least I had the opportunity to now wear my own outfit and blister-free flats. The church was packed with known and unknown farmers and locals. At some point during the service the congregation got from their pews to lay down their enveloped offerings under the “Hallelujah” from the choir that I broke down to the disgrace of the family. They all stepped past me and proudly walked to the front, except for me. When Father walked back down the aisle he handed me a neatly folded white handkerchief and hunkered down next to me. ”I am saved,” I sobbed.
”Is that not what Thanksgiving is for?” he asked. “To recognize the mercy of God.”
He then put his eighty years jaded arm around my shoulders and pulled me in under his wing. “I am blessed that you are here,” he said.
I left the dress and purse from my mother and piece of jewelry from my sister on the bed. On my flight back I wrote this letter and did one of my favourite meditations from the Journaling Through Breast Cancer journal.