Sunday, May 12, 2013

Life and Loss: Making friends with Uncertainty

I woke this morning, grateful …. Grateful that I woke up and grateful to still have my precious Ahnung with me, and yes, grateful also for Missy, Mister and Legacy. I realized this morning that yes, I celebrate every day but I also realize with every ‘special’ day or event, I have an ever greater sense of gratitude. When life begins, we celebrate a lot of Firsts … first breath, first step, first word … and first birthday, first Christmas, first New Year’s, first Easter, first Hannukah, … I now notice, how I find myself asking "will this be our last ____?"

After Ahnung was diagnosed with mammary cancer in July, 2011 I didn’t know how much longer I would have her. When I was diagnosed in April, 2011 with a rare heart disease (left ventricular non compaction) that would lead to heart failure with an unknown time of when that would happen, or when the disease would progress … would it come slowly, would it hit me suddenly? .. I too wondered how much time I would have on this precious planet.

In 2011 a new acquaintance came into our lives, Uncertainty. I admit when Uncertainty crashed down our doors, she wasn’t really welcome. She snuck in through our back doors. Since then she has made it clear she is here to stay in our lives. She has made herself comfortable in our living room, in our studio, in our den, in our dining room. In April, 2012 with Ahnung’s second diagnosis with cancer – this time a rare, aggressive cancer (invasive adenosquamous carcinoma) – I once again went through a rush of emotions: fear, anger, deep sadness, and yes, anticipatory grief lingered with me. We had a Celebration of Life party for Ahnung in April, 2012 and every special event or day was a significant celebration for us. We went to the 2nd spay/neuter and vaccination clinic in August, 2012 up at Leech Lake Reservation; we celebrated Thanksgiving … and shortly after Thanksgiving and after I returned from visiting my mother in the Philippines, I learned Ahnung’s cancer had metastasized to her lungs. Another jolt with Uncertainty. We tried chemo for a month to no avail … but yes, we still celebrated Christmas and at the end of 2012, made the decision to stop chemo and together we would walk the Final Walk together. I realize now that our acquaintance, Uncertainty, was no longer an acquaintance … she was now a friend, a family member. She too has been walking with us on this Final Walk, guiding us and teaching us along the way.

We celebrated a New Year on January 1, 2013 and in the back of my head I am always asking … will this be my last New Year’s with Ahnung? Whenever I fast forward, I imagine a day without my Ahnung, my north star, and the sharpest, deepest pain cuts straight through my heart. Uncertainty reminds me we don’t know how our stories, or Ahnung’s story, will unfold. She reminds me to embrace her and to live in the moment. She reminds me how I feared Ahnung wouldn’t be around much longer after her first diagnosis with cancer in July, 2011; how I thought her Celebration of Life party in April, 2012 would be her only Celebration of Life Party … and yet, in April, 2013 we had yet another amazing Celebration of Life party for Ahnung. My precious girl was also able to go with me to the 3rd spay/neuter clinic we had up at Leech Lake Reservation in March, 2013 and we are gearing up for our 4th clinic next week at Leech Lake.

Ahnung continues to feel great and to be so full of life. Yesterday, she was rolling around in the backyard, playing with her brother Legacy. Moments later I see her take off and instigate a play of chase with Legacy. With 2 luxating patella and arthritis in her back, I fear Ahnung will hurt herself so I immediately run out into the yard and put a stop to their game of chase, much to their dismay. I recall how one of her young friends, Ian, introduced Ahnung to his friends at the Family Fun Night event we were blessed to be a part of at St. Mark’s Episcopal church …. With a big smile on his face he said, “and this is Ahnung. She has cancer. But she doesn’t know she has cancer.” Later that night Ian learned how to make a medicine wheel .. the theme for the night
Ahnung and Ian at her 2nd Celebration of Life Party
was Native American culture and how we are all neighbors. At the end of the night, he walked over to me and Ahnung, offered me the medicine wheel he had made and said, “this is for you ….. and for Ahnung.” Ian is right. Ahnung doesn’t know she has cancer. She doesn’t know she has 2 luxating patella and arthritis in her back. Through her actions, her way, her presence, she communicates to me: “I am not my disease. I am not a label. I am not Cancer. I am Ahnung .. and I am alive.” And so through Ahnung I have learned that I am also not my disease. Yes, this so called heart disease will eventually cause my heart to fail. And as my friend Uncertainty tells me, “there is only one thing that is certain. That we will all die. No one knows When.” There are simply some things we can’t control.

Ahnung has already defied the odds. As of March, 2013 the largest tumor in her lungs is now 4 cm. It’s been another 2 months since her chest x-ray … who knows how large the tumors are in her lungs at this point, or even if they are still there. I have decided I don’t need to have an x-ray to dictate how I feel. What I need to do is to simply Be here for Ahnung, to listen to her with all my senses, and to notice if she has any symptoms … what I do know is that today, she is full of life and she is pain free and symptom free. Tomorrow, or later today, who knows … but what matters, is today, this moment. And so it goes … this precious moment, and the next precious moment, and the next .... and when I string all the amazing precious moments together they create the most colorful, soul-filled memories.

So to our friend Uncertainty … Thank you for walking with us on this Final Walk. Thank you for taking us on the scenic, joyous, adventuresome route. And thank you for being our Guide, our Mentor, our Teacher.

1 comment:

  1. The hardest part of loving is losing. But please don't let the thought of losing her taint the time you have left to make more wonderful memories. Just as you've given her something amazing, she's given back to you and many more. Know that many love you both, and are thankful for the time you've had and the time you have left.