There are certain beings in this life that I love more than anyone else.
They are: my dogs Isabella and Camilla, my boyfriend Walter, and my Uncle Steve.
I lost Cami due to a brain tumor seven weeks ago. I have struggled to keep on top of my emotions – and by that, I mean that I have struggled to always face my emotions and not push them down. It has been very hard to concentrate for any length of time. And it has been hard to keep my motivation strong.
Last week was so hard that I couldn’t even sit down to write. That’s very unusual for me. And I wasn’t doing myself any favors by neglecting to face my thoughts and fears. I was overwhelmed.
This week, my Uncle Steve was rushed to the hospital. He is 93 and was generally in good health, except for the typical aches and pains and slowing down that elders experience. Well, after many tests, they have found a recurrence of cancer which has metastasized in his bones and lungs. I found out about his bones yesterday. I found out about his lungs today, and with it, a clear message that the illness is terminal.
I am numb and calm, and I know one thing for sure. If I hadn’t lost Cami last month, I would have been inconsolable and unable to function. But because I faced the knowledge of her terminal illness, and saw through my decision to put her to sleep to end her suffering, I know what it is like to see my loved one lifeless, to know that she has crossed to the other side, and to know that I can bear the loss.
Last week I saw a postcard that looked like a fire in several large windows of an industrial building. Glowing red and orange flames blazed in every window of two stories of a blown out building. I showed my boyfriend the postcard and said, “Look. This is how I feel inside after losing Cami.” Searing, out of control, inflamed pain within an outside structure that doesn’t appear to be on fire. That was the perfect illustration of my inner and outer lives.
The description said that the photographer captured the sunrise shining through an abandoned industrial building in DUMBO, Brooklyn, hence the lack of window panes. Sunrises are nice, hopeful, pleasant. Fires are not.
My heart inside my chest feels very still as I adjust to this news about my uncle. I don’t want to subject myself to sudden movement. I want to stay as quiet and balanced as possible. I’m going to need all my strength to keep myself together.
I have several work obligations for the next two weeks which prevent me from driving across the state to see him. I told him about my contracts that I have to fulfill and he told me to go and take care of them. Everyone else in my family says the same thing. But I feel guilty.
I will go as soon as I am able. And as his Power of Attorney, I talk to his doctors and physician’s assistants whenever they call throughout the day. I call other family members to inform them about his progress.
The oncologist will lay his treatment options before him in the next couple of days. Whatever he decides to do, there will be an end in sight due to the advanced state of the cancer. That is something else for me to deal with – knowing that I’ll lose two loved ones within a year. I can’t imagine life without either of them, but I’ve seen how I can go on without Cami, and this experience has allowed me to have faith that I can face the last months that Uncle Steve has, and then whatever will happen afterward.
I find it hard to focus on the living. Only the sick or the dead. I have to re-train my mind to see what (and who) is right in front of my eyes. I have to focus on what I have rather than what I will lose or what I have lost. That’s a great life lesson. I’m glad I’m learning it sooner than later.
God bless my little dog, who taught me so much just by living with me, and also taking her leave from me. Her timing was perfect. She came at the right time and gave me joy, and she left at the right time to save me some sorrow.