I Have Breast Cancer

I had it. You have it. Breast Cancer sucks.

I looked at my phone wondering why she is calling me. Our kids no longer attend the same school. We are at most casual acquaintances. I answer a little hesitantly. She identifies herself and pauses. Then she continued: I had a mammogram, and I, well I heard that you too, uh….um. I have what you had, I have DCIS in my breast. I have breast cancer.”  Her voice is trembling.  The former social worker in me surfaces. I ask direct questions so that she can regain composure:

When was your mammogram, where did you have it done? When is your next appointment? With whom? Have you met with a surgeon yet?

She answered each question. She took a deep breath.

I said, “I’m so sorry. I am sorry this is happening to you. You must be overwhelmed. It’s strange to hear the words breast cancer.”

She agreed and added, “Why is this happening to me?”

I wonder that too, every day. And yet it is happening. My friend summarized it as: we all got married, we all started having kids, our kids started school, then sports, and now we’re at the age where some of us are getting breast cancer diagnoses.

Can we chalk it up to a developmental milestone?

After my caller went through her series of appointments, I gave a brief version of my summer. My June of being diagnosed and agonizing over treatment options, my July of surgery and recovery, and then August finally ending my summer of 2016. The kids returned to school. Labor Day is here. I am ready for the summer to be over, for my recovery time to be completed, for this ordeal to be ending.

I hope I was supportive. I hope I was educational and helpful. I hope she felt heard.

It’s strange to hear the oncologist say to me: come back in three months for your follow-up. It’s strange to have conversations with people about having breast cancer. It’s strange to experience a thrill over being contacted, being someone who has gone through something and can offer guidance.

She agreed, “It is strange to now be seeing an oncologist.”

My follow up is at the end of October. A ways off. Strange how much can happen in a few months.

 

Raising Teens in 2016

Raising Teens

We had been hearing her name a lot over the course of a few weeks: Maria is traveling to Canada for Spring Break. Oh, Maria is so tired from the traveling. Maria loves pancakes. Yea, Maria really enjoyed that movie too.

That sort of talk from my fourteen year old. Every weekend he sleeps in each morning till we notice the late hour and call out. He eats breakfast at 11A and lunch at 3P. I guess it didn’t bother me so much. He was bringing home good grades from honors classes. He’s still going to two hour sports practices each week. I wished he would be more social with friends face to face. During this school year, we noticed a dramatic increase in gaming online with a group of people. They chit chat about their lives, tease each other, tell jokes. But we don’t know these kids, their families, the locations of their homes. This year, my son has spent less time inviting friends over.

One day, he took a shower, came running down the steps and announced he was meeting up with friends at the school. He hopped on his bike and said he’d be back in a few hours. This was before 10a on a Saturday. Who are these people? I later found out SHE had texted him with the invite.

In the weeks that followed, he seemed in a stable, content mood. He settled into a routine every afternoon after school of having a snack while texting on his phone. He reported a bunch of kids were eating their lunches in the science teacher’s room these days, “It’s fun, a nice change from the cafeteria.”  So I started.Raising teens

I guess I was curious and not satisfied with the limited information I was getting verbally from him. I guess I wanted to assess the language used in the texting. And I just wanted to make sure they were not getting carried away with exchanging photos of a certain nature. I read the news, too. I was aware of what was happening in the world of teens and various forms of social media.

Their conversations were sweet — asking about homework, commenting on something that had happened in a shared class, a question about the other’s home life. I peeked in on these exchanges every few days. I felt guilty but justified. My friend supported me, telling me that she too had read her daughter’s phone messages. “So it’s not like the tv movie mom finding the diary under the mattress and then ruining their trust?”  Not in this day and age! Was her response. We need to know what our kids are doing, saying and sending each other.

The end of the year there was a field trip and a dance. There appeared to have been some events that occurred on the bus ride back to the school as well as the dance the following day. She inquired about his reaction on the bus. He explained in detail. Seemed to make sense to me that he didn’t feel like answering a truth or dare question from her friend.

“But why?” she persisted in her questioning. But why, what? I wondered. He didn’t feel like answering.

And later, my son wrote that he was upset, “Could you please let me know things are ok, I need to hear from you this weekend.” I ached inside for him. What happened? Could she write back soon to relieve the suspense?!

That week, he seemed more sullen.  I tried to be the cool, available mom. I waited patiently a few days, then asked, “Hey, I haven’t heard (her) name is a while, anything happening?”

My son replied, “Oh, not anymore. There were some things that happened at the dance. I thought she wanted to dance, then I couldn’t find her. Then I heard she was looking for me. It was messed up. I can’t really deal. I don’t know what she wants. It’s no biggie. We’re still friends.”

I was privately sad and proud of him. He seemed to really enjoy the flirting and the fun. But I respect that he didn’t have the interest for ambivalence.

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Isolation as a Special Needs Parent

Isolation

We went camping with 12 families over the long holiday weekend. We were invited to join this large group for a three night trip. We had not gone camping for a while — my youngest not able to handle the usual activities of hiking, quietly sleeping with others in a tent and appreciating the outdoors. So initially, I was ready to spend just one night with her, ready to pack up our belongings and drive back home if necessary. Instead we decided our family would join the others early Saturday and return home late Sunday night. We all wanted this to work out.  I know the names of all the parents and kids. I can identify the makes of the SUVs and vans they all drive. I can closely guess the grades the kids are in and the professions of the parents. Yet, I really don’t know most of these families that well. What I did find out during that weekend was that in our group, about ten households had an issue. I came to this awareness from listening to a parent of each family unit describe something troubling going on with their child — behaviors, medical concerns, mood disorder and social issues, sexuality, and learning problems. We all had children with special concerns. We all needed to seek professional help for our kids. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I saw my daughter in a different light– a more gentle glow. And my hubby and I relaxed a little. We were not going to stand out, we were not so different from the others. All those times we suffered behind our closed doors, disturbances were occurring in the privacy of other homes.

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Giving Advice, Getting Advice, Wanting Advice

Giving Advice, Getting Advice,Wanting Advice

Reflection

I am listening to the new Radiohead album. It’s layered, moody, and sophisticated;  I play it every day while I sit with my pen and steno pad. I listen a little. I write a little. I think some more. I write some more. I listen some more. My initial reaction is conflicted. The music critics are lauding it, so I attempt to be patient and learn.

My therapist has told me it is time for the next move. She is no longer gently nudging me and giving me support around my household needs. She tells me I have lost too much of my identity. She says my kids keep getting older and I am not progressing. She points out that addressing my social isolation, identity voids, and personal interests will be better served with experiences outside the home. She reminds me that my volunteer activities were not satisfying. She tells me I am missing out. Basically reminding me that the world has continued to spin and I am stagnant. I have actively job hunted for over a year and remain unemployed.  She tells me that by our next appointment I need to meet with the Admissions Counselor at the local university to explore Master’s Programs. In our last session, I felt she was pushing her agenda. I returned home and cried my eyes out. Do I really need for someone to decide what is right for me and tell me what to do?  I don’t want to get another Master’s; I don’t want to return to school. Instead I am signing up for a six week series of writing workshops this summer. So there.

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Parenting and Partnering

Parenting and Partnering

Reflection – Friday

I’ve had this CD on repeat — Lord Huron’s Strange Trails. I am drinking a glass of white wine, a Pinot Gris I bought to use in a pasta recipe I will tackle in a moment. But for now, I wonder about having guidelines for us.

I cannot see her playing in the backyard; I had asked her to play in the driveway with her toys. Can you say something? I ask my spouse. I’d like for her to follow directions.

He sighs. “It’s just that you’re so restrictive with her.  She’s outside, she’s playing.” He shrugs for effect.

Wait, what? Come again? Could you repeat that? I laughed and said, “Yeah, whatever!”

There are so many guidelines that I put into place when it comes to her. It’s true. Where she can play, with what exactly, in sight, certain amount of time and so on. Why? Because I have learned with her, that if I give an inch she takes a mile. And if there aren’t any guidelines she will do as she pleases– at the risk of safety and civility. It’s my job to keep her alive and well-mannered. 

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Social Isolation – Parents

Social Isolation – Parents

Week 6

WeeWMrs. M tells me my six year old had a rough day in her classroom– she snapped at others and snarled, “Don’t look at me, stop staring at me!!” while screaming and crying. Mrs. M and I wonder if this irritability is a negative side effect of her current medication. She’s been on it for over 5 weeks. I am frustrated and disappointed and sad for her.  I know she wants friendships. I know she wants that closeness, that special feeling of being understood and accepted. That shared giggle. The eye contact and physical closeness when seated together by choice at the lunch table. The request to play a game and she says yes. The yearning to disclose an experience, to tell another of a personal situation. I know she wants it.

I feel like I have had difficulties forming meaningful friendships the past ten years. Do I unintentionally annoy people, do I snarl? We’ve moved a few times, I have three kids a range of ages, we have not joined a congregation, I have not worked outside the home, we live in a city. I could go on and on with possible barriers.  My therapist tells me I have justifications every time she explores this area of difficulty. I don’t want to come across as defensive. I want to be a good client– open, receptive, honest, willing to try.  Why do I even have any struggles? There’s famine in the world. People are serving our country and returning disabled. There are refugees risking their lives seeking a safer place.

I hate being a whiner.

I want to connect.

I feel more alone now as a parent of a child with special needs.

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