Sometimes, I feel like I have been dealing with cancer for years.
It is hard to imagine that I am only two years into the game.
In the beginning, I was desperate to find other women who have been living with cancer for ten years or more. I needed to speak with real live women who were beating the odds.
They exist. And they are amazing.
One of the women in my support group has had cancer for 19 years. She still works every day. She has married off all four of her children, all of whom were little kids when she was first diagnosed. (One of her sons, and his family, lives down the block from me.)
All of the women in our support group are still very active. We are all busy women who also happen to have cancer. Cancer is not what defines us, even though it is our common denomenator. There is vitality in our group of vibrant women.
Our group has created a "safe space," filled with faith, hope and optimism, despite the fact that we talk about our inermost feelings and our deepest fears.
Currently, we are in the middle of a 4-5 part series with a psycho-oncologist whose specialty is parenting. Many of us felt the need for several sessions focussed on issues of parenting.
I constantly wonder about my childrens' behavior -- how much of their behavior is "regular adolescence" and how much is affected by cancer?
This past Sunday, we gathered early, to talk about the recent passing of Pia, one of the members of our original group. When I arrived, I learned that another woman from the group, B, just died this past week (She only came to our support group once or twice, but I met her in the hospital on several occasions, and other women knew her from previous groups/events).
Within the first few minutes of our discussion, I learned that a fourth women from our group, Tz, had died almost two months ago. I did not know.
I was caught off guard and did not know how to process the information.
When I commented on the fact that four women from our group had died already, I was corrected. ("What? You did not know?" ) Apparently, Y died a while ago too.
I did not know.
How could I know? I did not ask and nobody told me.
I wish somebody would have told me. I did not like finding out this way.
All of a sudden, I was faced with several deaths.
I know that in many ways my situation is different. That does not change the facts.
In less than two years, five women from our support group are no longer with us.
Six of us are still here.
Five of us still meet regularly, at our current support group. (the sixth lives in Dimona, over 3 hours away)
Four of us meet almost weekly, at Sha'are Zedek, where we get chemo on the same day (the fifth lives in B'nei Brak, as does another women who has been part of our group from the beginning of this year).
Three of us have the same oncologist.
Our lives are all intertwined.
These women form such an integral part of my life. I see them, and speak with them, more regularly than almost anyone else. We share intimite details of our lives. We seek advice, comfort, and support from each other.
I do not want to consider the possibility that we will not all be here in another two years.
This week, three more women joined our support group about parenting.
Once again, we are a group of ten.
I cannot help but wonder who will still be here two years from now.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,