I published my last post, about my cousin with aggressive brain cancer, on April 2. He passed away on April 8. It’s been a hard couple of weeks, just wrapping my head around how quickly the cancer spread and took over. He hardly got a chance to fight the cancer… it was more like a bloody massacre. 3 days after having surgery to remove the two largest tumors, it had regrown to the same size.

I wanted to head east to be with family during this difficult time, but it ended up not coming to fruition that way, for many reasons. Not being with my family on the east coast during this difficult time does not mean I care any less. I just have to be resourceful and do my mourning on my own. I found a great way to say that in a photo meme recently, so here it is as I pass that wisdom on to you.

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It also happens to be my busiest time at work. Literally, all the things came at me this week, demanding attention before Friday. So I didn’t feel like I could take adequate time to mourn anyway. I took Monday off, but it wasn’t enough. People asked me why I was out Monday on Tuesday when I returned, and being the honest person I am, I told them, not mincing words.

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People I work with at my new place of employment are incredibly smart, funny, empathetic people. I really enjoy working with them and they provided the right mix of what I needed to help get past recent events. Distraction has been a great tactic for dealing with grief this time around, and when you have people around you who keep you laughing, it’s even better. Yesterday, I tackled everything that had piled up and shoved all that poop onto other people’s desks, effectively removing it from my own. It was fantastic.

My taxes were done a couple of weeks ago, and refunds have already been deposited. All the furniture I’ve needed in my new place is here, with the exception of a couple handmade Adirondack chairs I ordered back in March that take two months to custom make for each order. Those will undoubtedly be worth the wait. Life at home is coming together, though I do have a few small repairs I need to tackle. (Yes, “a few small repairs,” are lyrics from the Shawn Colvin song “Sunny Came Home,” and I did that on purpose.)

Overall, I’m taking it one day at a time, and trying to find joy and happiness everywhere I can. Moving to Seattle was absolutely the right move for me. I’ve made a couple good friends, and those can be hard to come by. There is a phenomenon called the “Seattle freeze,” I think I’ve experienced the tip of that iceberg (pun intended.) I don’t have quite as many friends here, or people I keep in touch with on a daily basis, so it can get a little lonely. People here don’t seem to want or need that kind of contact. Especially when mourning the loss of a loved one, I don’t need anyone to be my rock or take care of me, but a little extra care would be nice.

I’m actually proud of myself, as I think back to my many dances with grief. I’ve written past posts on the matter (see Grief and Recovery), and I’m probably the least graceful person at letting go. But I look at myself now, and I’m impressed that I’ve been able to grow each time I’ve encountered grief to be able to be on my own, on the other side of the country from my family, without much of a friend/support network, and be OK. I didn’t know it was happening, but I’ve been growing. I’m strong. It feels pretty good.

In other news, this is my 200th post to my blog. I started my blog in June of 2014, after moving back to San Francisco from Australia. I look back to my many posts and can’t believe I have something incredible to show as a diary of sorts over the last two years. I guess you could say I’m in a brief period of reflection, and I like what I see (said in my best Australian accent of Kath from Kath & Kim, the Australian TV series.)

So here’s to you, and here’s to me, and if we should ever disagree, fuck you, and here’s to me. Cheers, mates. Thanks for being on this journey with me, even if only as an extra, sipping coffee in the background.

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A storm to eclipse all other storms

The storm clouds roll in for a severe thunderstorm as predicted by all the weather apps on my phone. Yesterday 65mph winds tore through the state, downing trees, cutting power, and chilling me to my very core for the time I spent outside in it. My only thought right now, watching it approach and envelop is, “Good,” as it adequately reflects my mood.

Adulthood really is like looking both ways for cars before you cross the street, only to be hit by an airplane. Saturday, I got some bad news about my cousin. I’m only close with two of my cousins and he’s one of them. He hasn’t been feeling well for about a month or so, and finally went to the doctor. The doctor had him admitted to the hospital right away due to super high glucose levels, somewhere around 230 when they should be 90. Scientific measurements that seem too clinical to be real. Long story short, after a bunch of tests, the doctors diagnosed him with diabetes, then said he has a virus affecting his pancreas which could also be affecting the glucose, so it may not be diabetes. Symptoms could subside once the infection goes away, but he’s responding well to insulin treatments.

They also did cat scans and MRI’s and found “masses” on his brain. Now, after getting results from a few more tests, they’re no longer calling them masses, but tumors. And there are a lot of them. All over, some close to his brain stem, which would be inoperable. What I’ve heard is the doctors ran tests on the rest of his body and it didn’t spread from somewhere else, as there is no cancer elsewhere in his body.

He’s terrified, and doesn’t usually show his emotions, but he’s been crying and telling us he loves us. He’s only about 9 yrs older than me so he’s the first in our generation to have any problems – but he is the oldest of my cousins and me. The doctor has suggested chemotherapy for those tumors near his brain stem, and they’ll also have to operate on some of the others. And they can’t commence any operation until the diabetes is fully stabilized. Well, fuck.

My family is small, but it is mine. When something happens to someone I love, shit gets real. I don’t have family members to spare, I mean, not that anyone does. A life is a life. He’s my blood. And he’s a good guy. Sure, he swears a lot, and he’s not perfect. But he’s always tried to do the right thing. He’s been a great dad, involved in raising his daughter. He goes to work everyday, when he’s not in the hospital, and it’s not a glorious job. People probably don’t thank him nearly enough.

More news came along this evening which bears an update: it’s an aggressive form of cancer, and while no evidence can be found elsewhere in his body, the way his brain is reacting (swelling, etc.) indicates it’s moving quickly and likely spread from elsewhere. He has surgery scheduled for Monday to extract as much of the two large masses near each other forming one large mass, but for the at least 4 other masses and other lesions, chemo will need to be done. However, no course of treatment can be determined until the mass is extracted and studied. The large masses are on his temporal lobe, which controls speech and language, but there are also some on his cerebellum which ultimately control motor skills. Since he’s left handed, and the masses are on the side of his brain that controls his dominant side, extra caution and precision will be required in Monday’s surgery.

The deluge of information from different sources is a lot to handle right now, and the story changes as we go, and depending who I talk to. My uncle also had surgery scheduled for next week, for a couple of months now, so now, more than ever, my family will have to learn to pull for one another, be strong, and come together.

Lightning. Thunder. Rain. Anger. Sadness. Support. Strength. Tears. Shock.

The storm never presented lightning or thunder from what I experienced this evening on my commute home. Maybe the worst case scenario doesn’t always present itself, despite forecasts and best guesses. I don’t know how things will be on the other side of next week, but sometimes, the only way out is through. Hold on folks, the ride’s about to get bumpy.

And in the mean time, love your family and the one you’re with tonight. Even if it’s just yourself. Things may not be perfect, but you’re breathing, you’re alive, and you’re still here. This isn’t the first time this has happened to a family, nor will it be the last. I’m glad my cousin went to the doctor when he did, or else they may not have discovered this in time to do something about it, and it would be far worse. So also, when you feel like shit, and think going to the doctor is a pain in the ass, just bite the bullet and go. It could save your life.

Sending out love to the world, so it comes back around. I feel so many feelings tonight. When my father passed away, I was halfway around the world in Australia. Now, more bad things happen to people I care about when I’m on the other side of the country. There’s nothing I can do from so far away, except lend support, talk, text message, communicate, and calm my family down whilst their world turns upside down. It’s easy to be strong when distanced. Even if I don’t feel very strong. We all contribute and help how we can. Like Mr. Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”