M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Date: Fall 2008
Duration: 0 / 02:55
Return to Conquest Magazine
I'm gonna read her words. Why did my kid's behavior make me so angry? As with most people, rage is born of a kind of grief. My own childhood was filled with family illness and terrible trouble; infant death, my mother's decline into alcoholism, blindness for my father at 60. At about the same time my then 17 year old brother began with a siege with ulcerative colitis that left him a year later, with a colostomy and some degree of madness. Dr. Sun argues that adversity and human difficulties makes for a more substantive person. This may be true but most of us would say that we could do without either.
When I behaved badly, I did it after I was over 18 years of age. Having lived a life too much in service of the kids, I was outraged that illness now wanted the rest of the life that was left to me. I wanted what was left of my life. I had had enough of their lives. It was a standard despairing mother's response, look what I've given up and this is how you treat me? I wanted them to stand with me in this fight against the forces of darkness but they had their own demons to fight. Was it simply rage born of grief that convulsed our family?
Abby became a problem that competed with cancer - incidents of stealing and cutting were part of the fabric of our lives along with chemotherapy, birthday parties, and walks with the dogs.
Hanging over everything of course was the cancer, adding to my sadness and my anger. As I discovered in due course, patients can sometimes blame the messenger in cancer care. That has always struck me as a foolish way to proceed. The messenger in cancer care is often the surgeon or the medical oncologist who will define the strategy for treatment. Entering the kingdom of the ill and coming to terms with the cancer diagnosis is difficult, but it is important to remember that while these physicians and nurses will be a part of your world for the remainder of your life, they didn't give you the disease. The cancer began somewhere else. The human difficulty of coming to accept a life one didn't choose for one's self and the requirement that one behave in a civil and humane manner, can be very trying. I have seen and participated in all sorts of strange and finally useless responses to this human dilemma.
I'm gonna skip a small section and kind of talk about her a little bit more. She wrote not long after meeting a woman who was kind of having difficulty coping with her cancer. I happen to understand a conversation, I happened to overhear a conversation between 2 gynecologic oncologists and I realized that my own mind had become somewhat cloudy. With some irony one physician said to the other that 90% of his ovarian cancer patients thought they were among the 10% who would survive the disease. I was clearly part of that 90%. I had to be. I refuse to accept the possibility that I might be dying.
Return to Conquest Magazine
Videographer/Editor/Producer: Deborah E. Thomas
© 2008 The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
1515 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX 77030
1-800-392-1611 (USA) / 1-713-792-6161