Daughter of Cancer Revisited – guest post

Sitting in the attic/office of my son’s house in Boston in front of a familiar iMac.  The twins are asleep.  So is Tish.  She’s still not feeling well.  Outside the weather is dreary and rainy.  The easiest thing for me to do is look for a Guest Post.  I decided to return to Honor Roll members.  I hit a winner on the first click.  I returned to “Daughter of Cancer” and found a wonderful recent post entitled “What they don’t tell you happens when your mom dies.”

Again, I’m writing a post at 3:30 am, but this time I’m not crying. Since this blog exists so I can purge what’s on my mind, I’ve decided to write in hopes that it will allow me to sleep (however much time I still have left).

I’ve come to feel, over the past month or so, that we lost much more than just our mother. We lost our family as we know it, and the dynamics have completely changed. This was to be expected, I guess, to a certain degree, though I honestly didn’t think about it when she was dying.

But we’ve lost so much more. The family and friends of the family who we would see on a regular basis (at least a few times a year), who we have seen once or twice, for example (excluding my mother’s memorial, since that doesn’t count as fun). I promise that I am not angry – I know that my immediately family doesn’t not own exclusive rights to mourning my mother.

With all the good intentions possible, and as much as some people keep in touch (and others really don’t, and I don’t care, for the most part), once the initial mourning period passed, everyone had to go on with their lives. This includes us, of course, and my mom’s friends and other family members.

The thing is, that along with the dreams of having my mom at my wedding and babysitting my kids, a few other dreams have died. People who would have us over – basically since birth – at least a few times a year for little celebrations, holidays, or just because, suddenly overlooked us during these events this year.

It’s OK – no one owes us anything. We aren’t their children or their responsibility. However, my dreams used to include many of these people, and I’ve come to realize that these dreams have passed with my mother. This isn’t out of cruelty – having spoken to one of the people today, I fully understand her pain the hard year she’s had in losing her best friend. On our side, however, it feels like we have been gently pushed away because dealing with my mom being gone is hard.

I’m the last person who can be angry about this – I have pushed away many people this year. At least, in the few months before she died and the first few after. Again, I am not complaining about anyone’s actions – I doubt anyone had the intention of purposefully shunning us from their lives. However, not being invited to birthday parties, brits, and other family events has definitely contributed to the sense of loss.

If my mother’s death can be seen as a pebble thrown in a pond, each ripple around it is one more aspect of our life that has completely changed as a result of her loss. Her physical absence, with all that comes with it, followed by changing family dynamics, family who has moved on without us, friends who don’t know how to talk to us, and there are probably more ripples that I have yet to discover.

I’m very lucky, however. With all that I’ve lost, I know there is so much I’ve gained. I have a great family who, despite everything, is still very close. We may not see our father as often as we’d like to (his new wife lives far from us, so they split their time until her 17 year old finishes high school), but when it comes down to it, there’s no doubt in my mind that he will be there when we really need him.Plus now we have 2 brothers. We always wanted brothers. :-)

People who used to provide emotional support have been replaced with others. I have wonderful friends who, luckily for me, did not give up on me when I stopped talking to the world. And lastly, but totally not least, The Boy and his family, who couldn’t possibly treat me as more of a family member, including the teasing, calling when I’m sick to see how I am, and buying me random gifts because “she saw it in the store and thought of me.” That’s a really big gain.


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


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