Last Friday, I wrote about Angelo Merendino's photo exhibit in Cleveland. That was another dust-up of rather epic proportions. The nonsense here was amateur hour compared to what was going on with Angelo's beautiful art. I stayed out of the fray and simply spoke my mind to the best of my ability. Hopefully I was able to cut to the heart of the matter. Hopefully I was being respectful of Angelo, of Jennifer and most importantly, of their love which is at the heart of the photography.
Who's heart did I reach? Mom. My Mom.
(Mom.... here's the part where you should just stop reading and know I love you and maybe you don't want to recall this stuff.......)
In 1987, when my mom was diagnosed with her first round of breast cancer, immediately followed by renal cancer, my dad never left her side. He was with her for every appointment. When her surgical bandages were removed, the doctor asked my mom if she wanted my dad to leave the room. "Your dad saw what I looked like before I did."
Every chemo, every follow-up for (I think) ten years until she was finally released from the care of her oncologist, my dad was by her side. Her records were kept in an orderly and meticulous fashion. By dad. In 2007, when she was diagnosed with a new cancer in her other breast, my dad had just died three weeks earlier. I had just completed my final surgery two weeks before that...... Then she got the call. Something they were "watching" had "changed." I went with her for her stereotactic biopsy. She came out of the examine room in sunglasses. I knew why. My dad should have been in that waiting room. Not Me. And, my dad should have been with her when she got that phone call. Instead, I was beside her in the surgeon's office an hour later. It should have been my dad. Not Me. Let's just say that 2007 was kind of a really sucky year. REALLY.
Last Friday night, at 11PM, I found this message in my inbox. It was from my mom. She had just finished reading the blog and in her words, she was able to see this from both sides. Except, she wasn't talking about the sides between Angelo and The Gathering Place... she was referring to Angelo. Just Angelo. How she appreciated the way he cared for Jennifer...... it reminded her of what my dad did in 1987. And then, she switched roles and stepped from the role of being cared for to the person with the broken heart.
"I can see this from two sides of the fence. Angelo is an amazing man and only makes me realize all the more everything Dad did for me.
True, I was lucky to survive with the support of a husband that was willing to give up everything to see me through.
He loved me through it all. I do not have the answer to why I survived and his wife did not.
On the other side of the fence, I know first hand what he is going through. Losing the love of your life is losing part of yourself.
Please convey to Angelo my thanks for being the man he is, and helping me remember the kind of man Dad was.
What a wonderful tribute to Jennifer. I don't really understand what TGP did, but I know for sure, Angelo's heart is in the right place."
My dad's devotion to my mom was unending. The love Angelo displayed for Jennifer as he held her up throughout her illness struck a chord with my mom. His shattered heart stuck a chord with my mom. The photos struck a chord with me on such a personal level. I recognize those gowns, I recognize those exam rooms, I recognize those hospital beds. I recognize the outside of that building. I was in those gowns, those rooms, those beds. Like my mom, I too, don't know why I am here and so many others are not. The guilt of NED while others are dead or dying......
I reached a pretty gigantic milestone on Friday. Those of us who have been burned by the words, "You Have Cancer," never forget "those" days. The dates. Whether we choose to acknowledge them or not seems to be yet one more thing we can debate ad nauseum. The bottom line? Friday, July 27, LAST Friday.... the line was drawn in the sand.. the line that divided my life into two distinct parts. July 26th, I was BC. Before Cancer. I was up for twelve hours before it dawned on me..... "Whoa. Six years ago today you were sitting in one of those gowns, in one of those rooms...."
I've been living "in the fog" and it would appear I will continue to live in that fog. And it's okay. It's taken an entire year of writing and volunteering and meeting so many wonderful people to finally bring me to the other side of the calendar: Officially AD. The simple fact that I didn't even REALIZE it was a day that holds such tremendous significance in my life until 7PM, made me realize something far more important. I have truly embraced AD. Indeed.... I am:
AD. It IS officially here. Step out of my way because I'm not leaving any time soon. Not until I see an absolutely
No, it's not here. YET. But I AM Here. Determined......
Adamantly Determined to see an Astonishing Difference.