cancer. it's not just an astrological sign anymore.

12.4.06

if the internet exists in heaven...

D

ear Sweetie,

I am so sorry that this happened. I have replayed the events of 17 March over and over in my head--and each time that I trace back through that day, I see another omen that I carelessly dismissed. I see more and more choices that I could have made differently that day. Would you still be alive if I had insisted on further examination at Johns Hopkins on 16 March? Would you still be with me if I had left work early on the seventeenth, or not gone at all? Would you have died a more comfortable death if I had been there when it happened?

The fact of the matter is that you and I were both coming to terms with the cold truth that we probably weren't going to grow old together. After the damn, fucking leukemia came back for the last and final time, there was a sea change in your demeanor...not as if you had given up your fight, but as if you acknowledged death as a possibility and were no longer afraid or angry. The last Saturday of your life, when we were at the mall with my sister and her fiance, we were sitting on the bench and saw that adorable elderly couple clutching each others' hands, slowly shuffling their way through the crowd...I looked at you and said (as I had so many times before) "That's us. That will be us in fifty years." But this time, your response was different. Instead of smiling sweetly and saying, "I can't wait, babe," you gazed off in the distance and said, "I don't know, babe. I'll try." The words terrified me at once, and continue to haunt me...did you know that the end was near?

I miss you so much--as do many others. That goes without saying. But losing a spouse is different than losing an adult son, a brother, or a nephew. You and I were a team, every day and in every way. Every small life event, the errands, driving, sitting at my desk, brings back a floodlight of memories. I miss your physicality, your sense of humor, the way that you used to sing in the shower when you were having a good morning. I miss the hair on your chest and the warmth of your hands. I even miss your snoring--you could snore every night, all night if it meant that you were back with me.

Throughout the transplant and your leukemia treatment, occasionally my mind would slip to that darkest of possibilities. I must confess, the reason why we went out last July and spent $200 (that we didn't really have) at one of DC's best steakhouses for your birthday was that if your twenty-fourth was your last, I wanted it to be a damn memorable and enjoyable one. We talked often about living life to the fullest so that when our time came we could go without regret.

Even though we thought we had prepared for this by filling out our living wills and discussing final wishes a bit, there is nothing that can prepare you for losing the love of your life. I want you to know that. I never thought that I would be "okay" if you passed--but no one tells you that grief will strike you so hard it will quite literally drive you crazy. There are whole large segments of time during the week immediately following your death that I simply have no memory of. I have been in the car, driving about for errands and thought that I was in one town when I was actually in another (this is quite frustrating when one is looking for a particular business). Sometimes when I read, I see words on the page that are not there--a second examination reveals that they were only a trick of the eye, but at first glance words like "Eric," "Oahu," "love," and "cancer" are typewritten onto the page as plain as day. There is also a part of my brain which (quite illogically) believes that you'll be back for me. I haven't been able to shut off your cell phone yet, for fear that you'll need it later. I am reticent to move to North Carolina with my family, for fear that you'll come back to Maryland and not be able to find me. I acknowledged your death in the most public of ways--damn near a thousand people came to the viewings and service--but I still worry that you are too cold up on the hill, that we didn't dress you warmly enough...I still look over my shoulder sometimes at work and expect you to be walking through the front door with flowers or dinner like you used to. People think that I am strong and doing well but they don't see the forgetfulness and sleepless nights.

For the most part I am stoic on the outside--although most ironically, it was that soulless bastion of consumerism that is Wal-Mart that finally brought me to my knees. I did not cry at the funeral home or church or cemetary when we were planning your services. However, I fucking lost it in the Men's Underwear Department. Your undertaker had asked that I purchase some underwear for you to wear since my parents forgot to grab some--and I was carefully picking out the very best, combed-cotton undershirts (the ones without the scratchy tag in back) and the very nicest socks and briefs that Wally World had to offer. I think that the gravity of the whole thing hit me when I thought, "I had better pick out the most comfy stuff since he'll be wearing them a long time." More than one shopper saw me blubbering away, hunched over the blue shopping cart with a pair of men's microfiber dress socks in my hand. Clean-up on Aisle 5!!

But please don't worry--I am surrounded by so many people who care. Friends from the Air Force whom I haven't spoken with for quite some time somehow tracked down my phone number and are checking in frequently. Your parents have taken me in like I was their own daughter--I was at their house quite frequently after it happened, looking for those hereditary traits that remind me of you. Did you know that you fold your hands like your mom, or that you inherited your bear hug from your dad?

My family is working overtime to make the move to North Carolina go smoothly. I am trying to get a little house with a fenced-in yard and a dog, just like we always wanted. And my dear friends from the blogging world have posted so many tributes to you, and were profuse with their words of love and remembrance...I hope that you can see how many lives you touched.

Please know that I think of you nearly every minute, and dream of you every night. I regret not being more spiritual in the past--if I had gone to church regularly and professed my faith in a God, would I be able to communicate with you now? Where are you--were you reincarnated as a sea turtle, are you in heaven or in Nirvana or is it all a lie that they tell us to make us less frightened of death?

As much as you and I tried to live a life of no regrets, strangely enough, now I am questioning so many of my choices...except the one where I gave myself completely to you. I love you, as truly and strongly and purely as two people can love each other. Wherever you are, I hope that you can see this and know it with all of your being.

Love,
Amanda

**This is my last post at "cancer. it's not just an astrological sign anymore." I may blog at another location at a later date.**

posted by amanda @ 10:18 PM 104 comments

29.3.06

F

rom December:

"to those of you who are still reading this manifesto, if you carry nothing else away, please remember this: never take anything for granted. although we would like to believe otherwise, human beings' mortality is a fragile thing. there is no guarantee that you will wake up to see tomorrow--and it doesn't matter if you always wear your seatbelt, eat your veggies, or floss. the only way to truly acknowledge this fact is to live each day as fully as you possibly can. eat a cookie for breakfast every once in a while. do something random and crazy at least once a month. reconnect with old friends. challenge your own boundaries, fears, and prejudices. you may not get the opportunity to do this tomorrow, a week, or a year from now."


Those words seem so empty now...

posted by amanda @ 4:18 PM 30 comments

19.3.06

conclusion: Eric W. Shaffer, 7/21/81-3/17/06

E

ric passed away on Friday night at home at approx. 11:30 pm.

As such, this blog is closing. I hate this fucking thing. Most of all, I hate you for making me think that I had something worthwhile to say. Each of the thousands of words on these pages are moments that I should have spent with Eric. I will never get that back. Fuck this.

posted by amanda @ 8:27 AM 98 comments

17.3.06

cyclical occurrences...

A

quick update...

Eric and I are doing OK. His primary oncologist doubled the dosage of Gleevec for him, which is the only chemo that he was still on, and increased dosage is making him quite sick to his tummy. Having this to deal with, on top of the bad news, has been tough for him. But the docs are working with us to at least manage the side effects, so he should be feeling better soon.

We had what was supposed to be our 6-month, happy-go-lucky, clean-bill-of-health appointment at Johns Hopkins yesterday. The docs there are nothing short of magical and told us that the failed transplant was in fact NOT the end of the road as we had feared, but that there were two more treatment options for Eric--the first being enrollment in a clinical trial. There is a new class of drugs called "Super Gleevecs" (none of which have FDA approval--YET)--but they're in the final stage of trials, which means that they are done testing the meds on lab rats and monkeys and are now testing them on people. The plan is to enroll Eric in one of those studies and see if the new meds can help him. The final step would be to transplant a different type of cell from his brother (the original donor)--but that would be an absolute last resort because the potential for life-threatening side effects is high. So we are keeping our fingers crossed that he'll be admitted to a clinical trial.

This just sucks. We were so eager to put this all behind us and move on wit our lives. We had begun to lay plans for the future...Eric had applied to a couple of jobs with various environmental agencies, we were looking at leaving this area for one with a lower cost of living so that we might be able to buy a little house, and I was eagerly counting the days 'til I could say goodbye to the military for good.

Now, we're right back at square one...again.

Keep your fingers (and toes) crossed for us. And if you have the time, bug your congresspersons and senators like hell to fight Bush's proposed cuts to cancer research funding and programs for the next fiscal year.

You can e-mail your state's representatives at LiveStrong, go to the main page and click on "Tell Congress NO to cuts in cancer research."

posted by amanda @ 11:26 AM 24 comments

the image game...

I

'm usually not one for games, quizzes, and the like, but this one is different--it's a unique and fun way for one to pay homage to their blogfriends. Invented by aka_Monty, I hijacked it from Lucinda and Jessica. No, I'm not very original right now, but I have a bit of an excuse. So here goes:


Jessica: Wise







Minerva: Inspiring







Debutaunt: Fearless







Being Made: Resilient







Dave: Funny





(now I know why he's a Vegetarian)


Karen: Talented



posted by amanda @ 8:49 AM 10 comments

16.3.06

real cancer, real lives

E

dition number fourteen has been posted by the lovely Minerva of A Woman of Many Parts. Please stop by for a read, and click on the logo in my sidebar if you are interested in helping out with this blog carnival project.

posted by amanda @ 11:13 PM 7 comments

8.3.06

holy fucking shit...

I

t's back. Eric got really sick last night, we were both up all night, and he went to his local oncologist today while I was at work.

The leukemia's back.

posted by amanda @ 4:58 PM 37 comments

7.3.06

another milestone...

J

ust a brief note to point out that the ACS Web Badge (the "I Fight Cancer" graphic underneath my profile) has reached a participation of over one hundred websites! When I added it to my site, the counter was in the mid-fifties--which means that the number of sites displaying this badge has doubled in just a few month's time. If you haven't added the badge to your website or blog yet, please consider doing so!

Here's more on the project, from acswebbadge.org.

What does it mean to say "I Fight Cancer"?
When you display an "I Fight Cancer" badge on your blog, you commit to one or more of the following:

-Write a blog entry on your experience with cancer
-Invite 5 bloggers to display the badge
-Talk to your friends and family about getting screened for cancer
-Wear a matching American Cancer Society wrist band
-Get involved in local American Cancer Society events and programs, like Relay For Life or Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.
-Or, make a donation.

posted by amanda @ 12:05 AM 15 comments

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