Griefly Week

December 9, 2018 will mark the end of the worst three years of my life, and honestly, I’m kind of terrified. It was supposed to be one terrible year, then it was two even worse years and then three absolutely godawful years. I have no reason to expect the worst from here except that I’m good at noticing patterns. With all that’s changed these three years, it almost feels wrong to hope for good; I think my best chance is for a new version of good.

The elevator pitch of the last three years (that would never sell) is that my mom got cancer, then my sister got cancer, then my mom got better and my sister died. My grandmother also died, but seeing how she was 97 and virtually neck-and-neck at the finish line with my 39-year-old sister, her death didn’t leave the same lasting impact. Sorry, grandma.

Here’s a more detailed timeline of the last three years done in bullet points, because who doesn’t love a good list?

  • July 2015- I move to New York City! The world is my oyster and nothing could possibly go wrong!
  • December 9, 2015- find out mom has stage IIb breast cancer- treatable and a “garden variety” of breast cancer (a good prognosis).
  • January-August 2016- I “live” in New York but fly back and forth to Texas a lot to be with my mom for appointments.
  • August 15, 2016- find out mom’s chemo + two surgeries worked, after some radiation (she won’t need help for this) she’ll be done with treatment! Hurrah!
  • August 17, 2016- I move back to New York for good, the world is my oyster again!
  • August 19, 2016- my sister is diagnosed with breast cancer. Stage I, very treatable, but tests are coming back weird so they run a bunch of other tests before saying, “Yep, pretty confident it’s breast cancer!”
  • September 2-22, 2016- mini-crisis where I learn that I have a lump in my breast and might also have breast cancer. After the worst experience at the worst health clinic (plus a lot of panicked phone calls and freakouts) learn that I just have cysts.
  • September 9, 2016- I get cast in a national tour of a kids’ show. I’m worried about my mom and sister but they have all the support they need and I need to live my life so I hit the road with the funniest show I’ve ever been in.
  • October 28, 2016- mom finishes treatment and gets to ring the bell at the hospital.
  • December 25, 2016- sister’s chemo schedule allowed for a good Christmas, we are thankful everyone is on the right track and look forward to a better 2017.
  • December 26, 2016- sister’s back MRI comes back and her kidney looks weird. Will need further testing.
  • January 6, 2017- I’m sitting on a hotel bed in Hershey, PA when my mom tells me the test results are in. My sister was misdiagnosed and has kidney cancer that spread to her breast making it stage IV. And terminal.
  • January 7, 2017- I do a two-show-day playing my role of Happiest Human Ever To Live in a kids’ show and continue another three months. Part of me has no idea how I survived this, part of me thinks this show is the only reason I did survive.
  • March 26, 2017- tour ends and leaves me living back in New York. The oyster is MIA.
  • May 9, 2017- my sister comes in town for work with plans to stay for a fun super-sister’s weekend in NYC. After she lands we get bad news about her cancer spreading. She stays in NYC anyway- as she said, “We planned an awesome weekend and we’re going to have an awesome weekend.”
  • July, 2017- I’m a hot mess. I wake up, cry, do puzzles while watching movies, then go to bed again. It’s not a good look. I decide to put my life in storage and move back to Texas to be closer to family.
  • August 2017-February 2018- I live with my sister. She has a lot of normal days in the beginning but by November things are consistently bad.
  • November 2017- my 97-year-old grandmother dies (my last grandparent). I cry hysterically at her funeral but more for the funeral I know is coming soon.
  • February 2018- my sister dies. It feels like yesterday and a million years ago and I hate both versions of that.
  • February-July 2018- I live with my mom. We work on what I call a “distraction renovation” at her house.
  • July 2018- I decide I’ll never really feel ready to go back to NYC so I just rip off the band-aid. I know there’s an oyster somewhere but I don’t know where and now that I think about it, I don’t really like oysters anyway so I’ll work on my own expression.

And here we are. I’m a 34-year-old single lady with no career, very few friends or personal connections and a painfully strong desire to feel like I’m moving in the direction of a stable career, wife, kids, and community. Plus I’m navigating that while learning all the ways grief affects me, (these Griefly Week posts will likely be about whatever way grief seems to be hitting me that week).

I do have some really solid things to celebrate.

  • I got to live with my sister the last six months of her life, and the relationships I developed with her and everyone else in my family (especially my mom, niece, and nephew) are worth more than six months spent anywhere else.
  • I’m back in the city I truly believe I’m meant to be in.
  • I have a job that will at least pay my rent, and it gives me structure around which I can build my life.
  • I have my health, as do many important people in my life.
  • I’m in a bereavement support group that’s helped a lot.
  • I found Griefcast, a podcast that’s been a tremendous comfort and helped me articulate a lot of things I’m feeling.
  • I managed to work TWO bullet lists into a writing format that should just be prose.

Until next time, I’ll think about a clever way to sign off.

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