Cancer Doesn’t Stop for Christmas: Reflections on divorce, hardship, and hope

I’m at Sloan Kettering with my father who is undergoing 40 daily radiation treatments for cancer. We believe he will be okay afterwards.

Well, we follow this assumption, anyhow, until someone tells us otherwise. So far, so good.

It’s quiet here, and very beautiful, even on this drizzly day in a cancer treatment center. Everyone is upbeat and friendly, if just the tiniest bit distant, as if they don’t want to get too close to people who might die at any time.

2014 has been hard. My beloved aunt A, who never smoked a day in her life, died from lung cancer on St. Patrick’s Day. Less than two months later, my uncle died of prostrate cancer that had travelled to his brain. My dad survived open heart surgery and many complications. My mother got strangely forgetful and developed some strange farsightedness that the doctors cannot seem to fix. I went back to work, full-time, after staying at home with my children for nine years. I sold my home and moved with my children to a new one. I survived a six-month custody evaluation followed by a three-day divorce trial against an NPD-addict-sociopath. He and the sociopathic Other Woman filed motion after motion to the court, prolonging the judge’s decision because she wanted her named redacted from every court document even though she appeared willingly at my trial to lie about just about everything – including me. The Other Woman kept alluding to some smoking gun but never elaborated, putting me and my attorneys into a frenzy of fear and paranoia that lasted months. Then my children started overnight visitation with their father, and I was nearly bowled over by my grief and worry for them.

. . .

Well, that’s one way of looking at things. We have the power to interpret our own histories, our stories. So here I am at Sloan Kettering on Christmas Eve, writing my story of 2014:

2014 was filled with progress. I finally got divorced after three years of hell. I fought to protect my children, and it made a difference. The custody evaluator and the judge believed me. In writing, my ex and the Other Woman were branded liars who impeached themselves repeatedly under oath – both of them attorneys, too. The smoking gun never materialized because there was never any smoking gun, and my fear is finally gone, replaced with a steely resolve to never again let myself be intimidated like that. I enjoy working (at least most of the time), and I’m learning how to organize my new life and juggle work and home. While working full-time, I fixed up my old house and staged it and sold it for more money than I ever expected. I bought a lovely new home for myself and my children. My dad is beating the cancer. My children are still doing well. My youngest brother got married to a lovely girl. My extended family, which has grown apart through the years, ended the year reunited through grief and a wedding.

. . .

I watch a woman leave the radiation room. She is beautiful and achingly thin.

Then old couple leaves. The wife is round and bubbly; her husband is frail. I am certain he is the one doing radiation.

“Happy holiday,” the wife says to the receptionist. “We’ll see you Friday.”

A pause. “God willing,” she adds and laughs darkly.

I smile to myself because “God Willing” is such a New York sort of expression. And now I watch the receptionist get up and I realize she is all dressed up in a bubble mini-skirt and the highest of high heels. It’s Christmas Eve and she must have plans other than work amongst the dying.

I like her shoes, I think. And her skirt.

Life goes on, I suppose. We keep trucking and hoping and living and wearing fancy heels even though life can be hard and messy and sad. I choose to believe we are coming out of the tunnel and back into the sunshine that I took for granted for so many years of my life. I’m told by friends that there is love and light on the other side of this tunnel, and I am reaching, reaching for it in 2015.

Happy Holidays.



12 thoughts on “Cancer Doesn’t Stop for Christmas: Reflections on divorce, hardship, and hope

  1. I wondered how you were 🙂 I thank the universe for placing you in my life, friend. ..and thanks for the occasional tug on my tears. Merry Christmas Madness.

  2. Merry (belated) Christmas – I’m so glad you’ve managed to keep a hopeful perspective even amongst all the darkness around you. Here’s to another year of growth and learning.

  3. I like how you pulled out the good from the past year. I know that I focused on losses far too long, and couldn’t see any good. I’m happy to say that it’s nice to be reminded it is possible to see the good through the writing of others such as you.

    • Thank you, April. I am trying. I was able to go to a therapist for the first year after the separation – when I was trying to absorb the magnitude of what my EX had done. She told me that when I could “tell my story” in a way like this, it would mean that I am on my way to healing. Of course she meant a complete and concise rewrite – and I’m nowhere near that yet. Anyhow, I’m like you – it takes a long time to let go of loss. And you can’t see the good when you’re consumed with loss. I hope 2015 brings us both lots of good. xx, M

  4. Thank you for this perspective. So many angles of your story I can relate to, including your caring for your father through his cancer treatment (in my case my mother). I have been really struggling with this … switching from divorce recovery to being the strong daughter for my mother. Thanks for being brave enough to write your story. It has really helped me through a difficult time.

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