Afraid of Forgetting – guest post

This will be an unusual post.  It is always sad whenever I page through the blogs list looking for something good to use as a Guest Post, and then I stumble upon it – a cancer survivor/blogger has passed away from us.

Christine was a colon cancer survivor whose life passed in July 2009.  Her friends and family still maintain her blog Colon Cancer Sucks Ass.   Her she is remembered by Mandy, a nurse who works with Alzheimer’s patients.  Mandy’s work in turn causes her to think back about her friend.

Afraid of Forgetting?

I like to think of myself as a good and caring nurse. I also consider laughter to be great medicine (a belief reinforced by Miss Christine). So, I am hoping that my patients find it funny when I ask them if they remember why they are taking their Aricept or Namenda pills (medications sometimes used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s). At least I hope they are able to giggle a little at the irony of the situation when they cannot recall what pill they are taking to improve/maintain their memory 😉

I need to be clear that I do not make it a habit to “pick on” my memory loss patients — in fact, lately, I have become more and more certain that I will be joining their ranks in the future. Although, if I continue on my current path of forgetfulness and absent-mindedness, I should manage to fly under the radars of my loved ones before they ship me off to a nursing home 😉

I worry mostly about forgetting my most cherished memories. Memories and images of loved ones who have passed are particularly important to me — stories that I can continue to share with future generations and keep each unique spirit and personal impact in this world alive and well.

They say that time heals all wounds, but it also seems to make the past a bit hazy. Thankfully, it seems to have a way of erasing some of the really bad stuff and bringing the happy memories to the forefront. But I still find myself wishing I had written down the finer details — smells, sounds, images, quotes, places, dates, times, etc.

I am afraid. Afraid of slowly losing my friend — again. Oh, I know I will always love her — I know that the ginormous imprint she has made on my life even time cannot completely erase. But that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t remember the funny thing she said that day a few years ago that made me choke on my coffee on the way to Target. Or the reason why, exactly, she felt the need to throw her stuffed animals at me every morning when I was sleeping on the floor of her room. Or the secret ingredients that made her pie crust and chocolate chip cookies so yummy…

There is the other side of the coin, too. That being that I find myself thinking about Christine and others who have passed when I least expect it. There is a poem written by Edna St. Vincent Millay that perfectly expresses this phenomenon:

“Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide!

There are a hundred places where I fear
To go — so with his memory they brim!
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, ‘There is no memory of him here!’
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!”

Ah, Memory — such a fickle friend!


~ Colon Cancer Sucks Ass


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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