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Morticia's Roses

It can seem like forever when you're waiting for the roses to bloom and fighting cancer at the same time.

Having stage 4 cancer puts you in a whole different state of mind. I know, I've said that before. It's been 2 years now since we discovered that my cancer had spread to my lung and brain. It seems that we are working our way down the list of various treatments and chemo medicines, and they are less and less effective. We now seem to be just holding back the monster, rather than wiping him out. I follow the news closely to listen for any hopeful new development. I recently started taking a chemo pill that previously was used for treating kidney cancer and has now been found to also work for my type of breast cancer. It seems to be helping and I am cautiously optimistic, but won't know for sure until my next scan. I do find it discouraging that such a small percentage (5%, I'm told) of research funds for breast cancer go toward developing treatments for metasticized cancer.

Because of all this, I seem to approach a lot of things in my life with a certain amount of melancholy. I remember when I first heard of Prince William & Kate's engagement -- I wasn't sure I'd be around to watch the wedding -- I was. When I planted asparagus a few years ago, I knew it would be 2 or 3 years before it could be harvested, and I wondered if I'd get to enjoy it -- I did. I put away my summer clothes and wonder if I'll wear them again -- I have. When I pack up the Christmas decorations, I wonder if I'll unpack them next year -- here I am! I have a long list of books I want to read, but wonder how many I'll have time to finish.-- we'll see, I'm a slow reader. I don't mean to sound morbid -- I am at peace and do look forward to my home in heaven some day, but I am still melancholy about the things I would miss or leave unfinished in this life.

In front of our house, we have a long row of white rose bushes. I have seen the same kind of roses many places and they are loaded with beautiful white blooms. Ours, however, not so much. My husband is determined to "train" them to bloom at a lower height, so they don't get too tall and wild, and he regularly chops them down. I have repeatedly reasoned with him, explaining that his training attempts are futile and it is just natural for the plant to bloom at a certain height. Okay, okay, he promises not to cut them any more, then does it again a month later. I know he sneaks in a few snips here and there, thinking I won't notice. However, I really thought I'd finally convinced him to stop when we got a new gardener who promised to lovingly and expertly care for them for us.

Early one morning last month, I walked to the front window and pulled open the drapes, only to discover him red-handed, scissors in hand and about a third of the way across my row of finally-blooming roses. Like Morticia Addams (Addams Family), who chopped the heads off all her roses and left nothing but stems in her vases. I yelled and cried and retreated to another room.

A little while later, John & I talked about it and I told him exactly why I was so upset. I really loved those roses (you know me & my garden!) and looked forward to seeing them loaded with blooms, like so many others I've seen. But every time they started to blossom, John would chop them off. Then I would wait what seemed like months for them to bloom again. As soon as they did, he would chop them again. I cried and confessed to him that I was always afraid I wouldn't live to see them bloom again. There, I said it. That was the underlying reason for so fiercely protecting my roses. My sweet John would never do anything to deliberately hurt me -- he just hadn't understood my perspective. I was only now starting to understand it myself.

I recently had the privilege of talking with a wonderful and courageous woman who is a little further down the path than I am. Her cancer has widely spread and her doctors have stopped her chemo. She is home, enjoying the love and support of precious friends and family. She is thrilled to be done with chemo and the awful side effects. She has gotten her affairs in order and is joyfully looking forward to meeting her Savior. She is not looking back, but looking ahead! She told me that she's never been so happy. She really is an inspiration to me! I so admire her for her faith, strength, and courage. I haven't quite reached that level of peace, peace that surpasses understanding, but hope I will when the time comes!

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Nancy Wride December 05, 2012 at 10:36 PM
I love this piece, Erin, and I think it is a shared experience for those reckoning with mortality, their own or of their loved ones. After my Grandma turned 89, I used to pull out of her driveway in Whittier each visit, her waving through her screen door, me a bit choked up, wondering, 'Is this my last time with her?'
June Magilnick December 05, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Erin, as the mother of a 16 year old cancer survivor, your piece rings so true with me. I have worked hard to get past those feelings you described so poignantly and enjoy the 15 weeks since she has completed her treatments. I pray and hope that I will be able to enjoy being with her for years and years and that she lives a long and happy life. However, I have worked hard to learn to live in the moment and am continually working hard at not worrying about the future.... which is not happening now. God bless you and I wish you happiness and peace.
Nancy Wride December 05, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Pulling for her June. And because my MOM died at an early age, I started scribbling ideas as they came to me on blank paper folded in half, which I labeled, What I Want Him to Know. It ranges from brushing your teeth or you'll live to regret it, to writing thank yous, hugging first and apologizing generously. I can't quite do that videotape version but I respect that as well.
Nancy Wride December 05, 2012 at 11:07 PM
And doing what you both are already doing, which is to use common sense but not live your life looking at the rear view mirror.
tiny December 05, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Thanks for sharing. It seems to be the undiscovered country, (not to be), that is what is difficult to go to. But now when I think about it every day is really that and it would be foolish to try to hold things as they are.

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