Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Get High With a Little Help from my Doctor

An ongoing theme in my grief thus far has been guilt surrounding any positive outlook I may have.

I love singing and everything the vice brings into my life. Singing fills me with joy and engages me in so many ways as I strive, continuously to become more talented. With singing comes performing, which I still find unnerving even though I still do it because there is so much joy in the act of performing and from watching audience members I have moved with my singing. Striving, performing, emotion, the act of giving and the act of receiving are all of the wonderful aspects of singing and when I am fully engaged in all of those aspects, grief is nowhere to be found. However, a pattern of mine has been attending the open mike, having a wonderful time and crashing upon my return home wondering how I could reach such heights when my poor husband got sick, endured pain and ultimately lost his chance to experience such joys.

Last night, before I left to go out, my emotions were all over the map and I arrived at the decision to quiet them with half of an Ativan. I knew I would be drinking wine at the open mike, but I don’t drink a lot, just one or two glasses a week, if that. Considering coke addicts, heroine addicts and a host of other kinds of addicts, I figured that half of a pill once or twice a week, whose prescription suggests that I take a whole pill, three times a day, isn’t really going to harm me in the long run, even when I wash it down with the sweet, fermented fruit of the vine. There are other, more effective ways I could destroy my own life if I felt so inclined, and even then, I would need a death wish or suicidal tendency firmly in place, which I no longer have, thankfully.

As a result of my decision, I had a lovely evening of singing, hearing others sing and socializing and I was able to bring the effects of last evening to bed with me, uninterrupted by guilt, longing and sadness. I liked it. I deserved it. I always deserve that.

So, what’s the harm in gleaning hope from my little bottle of happiness? I know what the potential harm is, but so far in my life, I have not displayed any addictive behavior. I am going to trust myself from now on, always keeping my doctor and therapist aware of my new decision because the good thing about taking my Ativan last night is that as a result, I was able to create and sustain a happy memory untainted by darkness. The more memories I can create like that, the further the “senseless” part of my grief will dissipate into my past and the more confidence I can cultivate in my ability to live a life mostly filled with fun, accomplishment and happiness. I can do this. I am not a junkie and I can do this.

And as long as my doctor keeps filling my prescription, I feel safe deducing that she does not feel that I am a danger to myself. Especially since the last time she filled it was in August and I am still in possession of 18 out of 30 pills.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I Hope

I am feeling very lonely tonight.

I had planned, since Wednesday, to go to a wine tasting/Halloween party tonight but I bailed on that plan to stay home and learn five songs for my show and get myself to a place where I could feel relaxed about the musical part of the show. Now all I have to worry about is stage movement and costumes.

I have not spent an evening alone at home in a few weeks because I have been trying to outrun my grief so I have been keeping a crazy schedule, which falls under the category of “decisions that felt right at the time.” My frenetic pace has left me feeling exhausted and stressed out, both reasons I stayed home tonight. Now I’m rested and less stressed because I am now more prepared and because I did what I am supposed to do.

Tonight ended up being good, but I kept breaking down in between learning songs, washing laundry and wishing one of my friends would call.

I had a coffee date with a man this morning, our second date, and when it was over he told me he just wasn’t feeling a connection. I didn’t expect to be rejected and my body flew into a panic. I felt grief rising up from my core to stick it’s ugly head into my business, making a simple rejection, which, by the way, is par for the course in the world of dating, seem like death all over again. When grief rears it’s ugly head, I begin thinking thoughts like, “Chris didn’t reject me.” and “How am I ever going to repeat the way I met Chris with another man?” and the ever-popular, “Why, why, why did he have to die?!!” I managed to talk myself out of the reaction by reasoning with myself. After all, I rejected Marc and I did it three months into our relationship, not just two days into it. I can’t help thinking that he must have been hurt, even though I didn’t think so at the time because just like this morning’s date, I wasn’t “feeling a connection.”

In the midst of my grief reaction I regretted breaking up with Marc and I even thought about e-mailing him to ask if we could talk. I imagined myself finally allowing myself to fall apart right in front of him and telling him how sad I really feel most days at this point in my grief. I told him all of that before, but my poker face did not support the truth. At any rate, I bounced back into reality and realized that if I act on my desperation at this point, I could end up hurting him worse in the future. We did have fun together, but I am still not sure of my reasons for ending our relationship. I cannot figure out if we were a mismatch or if I was panicking out of grief. I couldn’t figure it out then and I can’t figure it out now. I just knew I had to get away from him quickly and retreat into my secret, safe cocoon. Even if it was possible, I wouldn’t suck him back in, unsure of whether I would spit him back out, again.

I allowed all of my tears to flow freely tonight, just like Diane said I should. I cried a lot, but I felt better after each burst, even if I am never going to feel better about my loss.

I am feeling so afraid of ending up alone, and so pressured to find a man to fill the void as soon as possible. I don’t like feeling desperate, but I can’t help worrying about my age. Diane said that when she was widowed, she felt old and also felt like others thought she looked old. That’s exactly how I feel all of the time, now, and I don’t know how to get out of that harmful and sad thought pattern.

What if nobody ever loves me, again, as much as Chris did? The thought conjures up an image of a deserted corner of a cemetery where my gravestone lies beneath weeds, my epitaph faded with time, not a beam of sunlight reaching it’s face. I know this description sounds dramatic, but some days, I really feel like my existence could end that way.

If I could have my wish tonight, I would wish to forget about men for the time being and just have fun, do my thing and live my life. If I can achieve that goal, I believe companionship will follow. I hope.

Friday, October 27, 2006

My First Session with the Grief Counselor

I like Diane. She’s a very down-to-earth woman who, pretty much, tells it like it is. I will probably see her a couple of times from now until January and then, once my insurance benefit kicks back in, I’ll begin seeing a grief counselor who takes my insurance. Diane doesn’t take any insurance, which is fine. If I don’t find a counselor that I like as much as or better than her, then I will just continue going to her without insurance. She’s worth it. I'm afraid of leaving Clay. There's a part of me that loves our sessions together and a part of me that needs and feeds off of our sessions together. I feel very sad thinking about never seeing him again. Everything feels like grief, now.

When I sat down she asked me to tell her what happened and as usual, I began the story, employing my tough exterior, and I gradually morphed into a sopping puddle of grief.

I told her how I feel punished by God and that I fear it will happen all over again with the next man I meet and fall in love with. She put an interesting rebuttal on the notion, pointing out all of the days leading up to the diagnosis and asking me if I ever think about how I wasn’t punished on all of those days. She’s right, of course. I felt some of my pain melt away.

I confided in her about all of the conversations I have in my apartment with people who aren’t even there. I constantly talk to people, dead or alive, when I’m at home and I usually think I am losing my sanity. Who does that? Who talks out loud when they’re all alone to people who aren’t even there? Diane said, “You spent years talking to your husband who was there with you to hear all of the things you said and felt and now he’s gone. You’re just doing what you’re used to doing.” I loved her for saying that.

Diane really knows what I have been through and how it feels for me now. Her husband died eighteen years ago when she was only thirty-one years old. She knows. There is nothing more valuable to me than that. She soothed my pain with her understanding.

We laughed a lot and I cried a lot and I felt like a fetus safely enveloped in her womb.

She asked me if I ever put aside time to allow the grief to come on full force and I told her that I have been trying to stop doing that because nobody is going to understand that I am still crying after two years. She said what Clay always says. Two years is very early in the grief process. It’s going to take a long time to process everything that has happened. I hated her for saying it but she knows. She has been through it and she knows.

She equated my grief to an injury that has left a huge scar on me. She said that scar is going to be with me always and even though it will heal and get better with time, it will never go away. She described grief as a fancy set of china she takes out on special occasions. This set of china, she uses and always hand-washes and puts away until she needs it again. She said that after eighteen years, she can pull the grief out when she wants to and put it away when she needs to.

I hate my grief. I want to put it away and never take it out again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Good In Between the Bad

Rehearsal was very nice this evening. All of the songs are beginning to come together into a repertoire of which we can be very proud. I’m very nervous that we’re not going to attract enough audience members. We should be able to, I think. I hope. I have next week off from Tuesday on and I plan to immerse myself in the music until I am solid on every single harmony, inflection, costume change and stage movement.

I went on a date last week with a man I met on Match.com. He’s very nice and he makes me laugh. I’m nervous, though, because he suffers from chronic depression. I’m not really sure what to do. He’s quite adorable and we have similar senses of humor. His demeanor reminds me of Chris’ demeanor and that’s never a bad thing. Still, I’m not sure how I feel about his depression.

He is starting his own business, which also means that he is currently unemployed. He’s got drive, organization, goals and a sense of humor, though. Whatever. Time will flesh out our story, if there’s a story to be fleshed out.

I have another date this Friday evening with another Match.commer. This guy is also very nice, so far. We have spoken on the phone twice. He’s a bit scary, but only because he’s manlier than any man I have ever dated. I’m not used to being with manly men. He has his MFA in theater and works in the school system as an administrator/acting teacher. That’s really cool. So this guy has a career, which is very nice. He has a creative streak, too, and actually acts in plays when he can. He enjoys Shakesperean plays. I like that. He likes music, too, and he seems to have a shred of an interest (possibly) in musical theater. I’m looking forward to meeting him. He’s coming into Boston to meet me and we’ll probably go to Faneuil Hall, unless I can think of a better place.

I can be happy. I just can’t be happy like I used to be happy. The happiness of today comes with interruptions for me. I’m physically tired from the roller coaster ride.

I wonder what Diane will share with me tomorrow night. A lot, I hope.

Dreams and Trauma

I dreamed about Chris last night. He was sick but getting better and the emotion I felt most vividly in the dream was one I haven’t felt for a long, long time; hope. I was full of hope in last night’s dream. I cried the very second I opened my eyes this morning and then fought the urge to remain in bed for an extra half hour.

Chris looked thin, like he had been through a trauma, but he was on his way out of it. We hugged and I was so overwhelmed with happiness that he was getting better that the emotion took over all else.

The other day, my boss, whose husband has been struggling with liver disease, told me and my coworker that he was not doing well. His condition is worsening and now she is going to move to Florida with him because he is on the transplant list there. She is worried sick, obviously, that he will die. He might die. She might be widowed. Only time will tell.

I know exactly where she is in the trauma she is experiencing. I remember it well. Panicked, hopeful, terrified, helpless. That’s where bargaining came in for me.

I keep having very vivid memories of snapshots of times I spent with Chris.

I was just sitting at my desk, when suddenly I was really walking down the Street in Santa Monica with Chris trying to decide on a restaurant to go to. I could feel and smell the California air and I could feel Chris walking beside me.

I was just still sitting at my desk when suddenly I was walking up Mass Ave in Cambridge with Chris on our way to buy Ellis Paul tickets two and a half years ago. We were laughing. We loved just walking together.

I’m not sure what is happening to me or what stage of my grief this can be categorized under, but I will be sure to talk about it with Diane tomorrow night in an effort to understand it and not be so afraid of it. It is causing me some grief reactions, though.

I have yet to admit that I have also been through a trauma and that even though I don’t have cancer and endure seemingly endless chemo treatments and surgeries, that I have been traumatized. I probably ought to try to deal with that at some point. I can’t do it alone, though. I’m hoping Diane can help or somebody.

No Clay this week. Diane’s my flavor of the week. I’m already grieving my loss of my appointment with Clay. I suppose once a loss is suffered and until it is dealt with, every other loss in one’s life, be it large or small, feeds into the big one.

Last night, I shocked my brother a little by saying, “I’m just doing my time here until I get to leave this fucking earth.” I shocked him with the darkness of it, I think. I feel that way, though. I suppose I would like to not feel that way, I never give much thought to the idea that I might be able to control my feelings. It’s just that sometimes I miss Chris more than I can even stand and sometimes I don’t know how I am going to get through the rest of my life without him in it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


This week has certainly been challenging in the way of working to meet too many deadlines, commitments and responsibilities.

This week I was faced with the dubious tasks of studying for a psychology exam, learning four songs for tomorrow night’s rehearsal and working like gangbusters to get a presentation finished in record time at work. My brain has enjoyed zero down time and zero down time is never a good thing where grief is concerned.

I studied for five and a half hours yesterday for tonight’s exam. My work paid off, but by the time I headed to bed last night, I was so wracked with anxiety and grief that I cried until I fell asleep.

Today I left work and took a walk for twenty minutes because I allowed myself to reach a dangerous level of stress that caused my body to feel numb.

Tonight, I am allowing myself some relaxation before I dive into the sheet music and make certain that I know my harmonies in four of the songs we are performing in our show, which opens in three weeks.

My life is not usually this crazy, but boy, I really packed it full of stuff this week.

My point is that I still have meltdowns when my life gets too busy and every single time I melt down, my anxiety and exhaustion resolve into grief. I feel almost powerless to stop my upsets from morphing into grief from my loss of Chris. There is usually a split second where I know that I’m not crying about my loss before I do a 180 and go there. I don’t know how much longer I am going to behave this way. Months? Years? Decades? Maybe the rest of my life? And am I pathetic for still grieving? Perhaps in the eyes of some.

I am very much looking forward to talking with Diane, the grief counselor, this Thursday. Diane also lost her husband so she will be listening to me from a different perspective than that of Clay’s. She will know what I am feeling and hopefully why. She will be able to answer my questions about how long I am going to melt down. She can tell me why I am still so angry even after two whole years and why I can’t seem to let go of my former life, even though everybody around me thinks that I have. It’s too hard. I can’t do it. I can have happy moments and happy days...happy weeks, even, but I just can’t let go. I am so angry that this happened. I angry that the man I loved is gone and that I have the stigma of “widow” attached to me. I am still very freaked out about what happened. I still experience anxiety on a daily basis and I still feel like screaming.

Granted, I nixed all of my antidepressant meds. I’m not taking them. I ‘m done. They don’t work, anyway, at least not long-term. My body adjusts to the dosage and then I have to keep increasing and increasing and I am just not willing to do that.

I try very hard to not to wish Chris was here because that wish is pointless. Instead, I try to allow myself to miss him, but I’m beginning to feel like that restriction is not feasible, anymore because I do wish he was here and I constantly ask myself, “Why not him? Why not me?” People survive cancer every day. Why couldn’t he? Why do I not get to be with him. I wonder who he would be today if he was here.

I’m looking forward to talking with Diane and I am terrified of talking with her.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Grief Counselor

Next Thursday I will be meeting with a real-life grief counselor whom I contacted this afternoon. I already like her and I haven’t even met her, yet. She, too, is widowed so not only does she understand grief, but she understands my grief. I am looking forward to our visit. She also waited a long while before she sought help. We seem similar.

Her fee is miniscule considering what many mental health professionals in private practice charge. I commented on it and she replied that although she is a full-fledged licensed social worker, qualified to counsel in many fields, she deals only in grief and has for many years. Her fee is low because she cares about people and wants to help. Maybe I can be like that, too, someday when I’m beyond my own grief.

Clay and I will be wrapping things up by the end of the year. He has been very helpful to me for many reasons, the least of which is my grief. I leveled with him in telling him that I chose a male social worker deliberately because I needed male attention. He’s sweet, soft spoken, comforting and very helpful. He has grieved loss before, but I’m looking forward to moving to the next step in dealing with my loss. Talking with somebody who has actually been there will be priceless for me. I feel sad thinking about putting my sessions with Clay behind me. I probably won't see him again after the end of the year.

I’m trying to develop a game-plan to help put this behind me, even though I just got a huge pang of guilt for saying that. But that’s what the grief-counseler is for.

I hope she can help me. I need to be helped.

Monday, October 16, 2006


It’s about that time, again. I am heading into the storm, into the anniversary season. I have read the accounts of other widows who say that the second year wasn’t as hard as they had expected. I’m afraid of it, especially after last year. Last year I wanted to die. Who am I kidding? Last night I wanted to die.

My grief overpowered me last night. Every follicle on my body hurt. The pain was too great to put into words. I just knew I was feeling as bad as I was humanly capable of feeling last night. There was no relief, so I prayed.

I prayed to God and to Chris to help me stop crying. The skin under my eyes feels like paper from a weekend spent rubbing tears off of my face. Last night, that skin burned all by itself from the irritation. I didn’t know what to do other than pray.

I’m not a religious person, but I swear to God, I felt better the moment the prayer left my lips. I felt calmed, assuaged, cradled and I fell asleep wrapped tightly within my blankets still quivering from the meltdown.

I felt better when I woke up this morning.

It’s tough to lose trust in happiness and lightness. I never used to give much thought to a good mood. Now, although genuine cheer is not difficult to experience in the presence of others, I am all too aware of black clouds looming above me or hiding behind trees preparing to jump out and extinguish whatever happiness I feel once I am alone. Going home is tricky these days.

I find that if I do what I am supposed to do, I feel better. Tonight, I learned two songs for my upcoming show and I read my psychology book. I updated a web site that I own. Completing those three tasks has put my grief to sleep for the night. All too often I find myself drowning in too many commitments and responsibilities that would be so easy to manage if I could just force myself to follow through.

Grief feeds on disorganization. Keeping everything in order makes me feel wonderful. Now I don’t have to explain to the director of my show that I still don’t know my harmonies. I don’t have to sit in another psychology class wondering what the hell the professor is talking about. I don’t have to feel incapable just because I grieve. I don’t have to let grief rob me of my self-esteem, self-image and confidence in my natural ability to succeed.

I do still feel as though I am walking across a 2 by 4 piece of lumber above a pool of acid. I can balance pretty well if I concentrate on getting across. I want to get to the other side and I want to get there unscathed, but sometimes I just stand there exhausted, hoping I won’t fall and sometimes I do fall.

I feel mostly like a bird with broken wings who has been trying to fly away for the past two years. I take off and hit a tree or a wall and crash to the ground sometimes worse of than I would have been if I never tried to fly. But I keep trying anyway because I keep hoping that one day I’ll make it past the tree and the wall and end up soaring above the log cabin on the white mountain that Chris showed me the night he died.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Un Un.

Okay. I’m done whining about my grief, now. I need a course of action. I don’t have one and I need to find somebody who can give me one. This is too painful.

I’m going to take a deep breath, reconvene and press on.

Still, venting felt good.


I want what other people have. I want to be married. I want a family life and a house and I want to share my time with a man that I am in love with. I had it. Almost. Except for the house.

I am not doing well. This sudden onlslaught of renewed grief is killing me. Chris is all I can think about. Us. The us that we were. My life was so much more beautiful then.

I hate everything. I’m reading my psychology book and I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why. Why am I doing it? Why and I in school? Why do I work?

I turned off my phone because I can’t deal with getting a phonecall right now.

People my age have husbands and homes that they bought together and hopes and dreams. They support each other emotionally, just like Chris and I did.

I’m not doing well. I shouldn’t be talking about what I wish I had or who I wish was still here. I’m not allowed anymore. I’m having a difficult spell. That’s all this is, but it’s wreaking havoc and making me feel very unloved, unworthy, unimportant and terrified that I will never be in love again.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Facing Demons, Part 4

It is so scary and hard to believe that a single visit to the hospital area could upset the balance I had begun to strike to the extent that it has.

Carol and her new boyfriend are in love and I have not been able to accept their relationship. She’s like a sister to me, she was there for me from the beginning and most days, I can’t face her. I don’t want to answer the phone when she calls. I don’t want to go out with the two of them and I am horrible company to her when it’s just the two of us.

I am not jealous of what she has. I don’t want her boyfriend for myself. That’s not the case, although, he is practically a carbon copy of Chris. I would like a boyfriend of my own, though, even though I hate that word. I thought I would never have to utter that word again once Chris and I got married. I need to see him. I think I need to watch our wedding again.

I have not really been able to understand my emotions lately. I am so out of control of how I feel.

I’m beginning to understand a little bit, now. I just took a Lorezapam because I can’t deal with myself. I took one last night, too. I feel like I opened a Pandora’s box by visiting Dana Farber and like this is never going to get easier, now. I feel like I closed the curtains on my life and it is never going to be light again.

At the present moment, I feel like I hate Carol. I hate her, not because of what she has or who she is. I hate her because she was single the entire time Chris and I were together and now that she is in a good, strong relationship i cannot cope. The fact that she is with a man and they are in love and they are now identified as a “couple” is glaring proof to me that Chris is dead, because if she was still single, I could pretend that he wasn’t. She is now too much proof that life goes on and it’s much too painful for me to be with her and hear her talk about him and how much she loves him and how they’re going to move in together and buy a piano so he can play and all that potential that used to be mine is gone because my partner is dead. As long as she stayed single, I could keep Chris alive and now there is no more pretending. He never knew her to have a boyfriend. Anything and everything Chris ever knew is changing and is going to continue to change until absolutely none of it is as it was when he was alive.

Carol moved on. Cafe China closed. The apartment Chris lived in when I met him has been refaced and looks nothing like it did when we met.

We had a life together!! We did!! And I want to fully and completely be able to place it in the past where it belongs! I’m so fucking tired of feeling this way. I can’t keep doing this. Every little change feels like another nail in the coffin.

I want to be completely happy for Carol. I don’t want my happiness for her clouded with grief anymore. I’m not a good friend. I’m a bitter, miserable, grief-stricken weak person.

Carol and Josh invited me to a movie tonight and I should have gone, but I couldn’t because of all of these feelings. I am becoming immobilized. I can’t let go. There are too many secrets in my brain and my demons are threatening to choke me.

I need help. Nobody knows. I need to tell Carol about this.

Facing Demons, Part 3

So, the past week and a half have been very tough for me. By taking the steps I took to face my demons regarding the medical aspects of Chris’ cancer, I essentially unlocked a door in my brain where I had conveniently compartmentalized all of the pain and anguish that resulted from watching his pain and anguish. I threw myself for a loop.

This past week, when I thought I was going to attend the bereavement group, I wrote the following e-mail to my professor, who works at Dana Farber with children who have cancer and their families:

Hi Bob,

A little over a year and a half ago, I lost my husband to cancer.

Last Wednesday, I went to Dana Farber and spoke with a social worker who recommended a bereavement group that is beginning this coming Tuesday evening at DF. The group is going to meet every other Tuesday evening for 8 weeks and the person who is running it hasn't returned my call to tell me if it's going to run again. I'd like to attend the meetings because the timing feels right for me.

If I attend every group meeting, I will miss the first hour of 4 psych
classes. If I attend every other meeting, I will miss the 1st hour of 2 psych classes.

Will you please tell me how either of these scenarios will affect my grade so I can make an informed decision?

Thank you.


I toiled over whether to send it or not. I was horrified and I felt strange, but I didn’t know why. I sent it.

Two days went by and he didn’t answer, but I figured it was a long weekend. People go away, they take vacation, etc...

I began to panic about sending the e-mail. I wished I hadn’t done it. I started to think that I didn’t really want to go to the group and that I had just experienced a weak moment in which I felt I couldn’t shoulder the grief alone, anymore, without others who know firsthand what it’s like to lose a spouse. I wrote another e-mail to my professor:

Hey Bob,

I am not going to attend the group, after all. I'm going to go on the assumption
that it will run again in January.

Last week was very rough for me, but I rode out the wave and, truth be told, I'm
enjoying psych too much to miss any class time. My only regret is that I didn't
come to this conclusion BEFORE I sent my first e-mail. Ugh.

Never mention this to me. Ever.

Thanks. :)


Please disregard my last e-mail.

I felt very ashamed about my e-mails and I didn’t know why. I felt very silly that I had sent them, at all and I wished I hadn’t.

Bob replied:

Hi Robin

Sorry to be delayed in getting back to you. I was going to suggest you do
whatever is best for you. It seems you have reached a decision that seems OK
for now. PLease let me know if I can be of help. -Bob

His reply was very nice. I thought that he would be nice, based on his vocation. It takes a certain type of person to work in a profession that requires complete selflessness.

When I went to class Tuesday evening, after feeling as though I had been gone for a month on grief-leave, I walked into class and took a seat at the back of the room. I was afraid he was going to say something, even though I had asked him not to.

During the break, he told me that he e-mailed me and I said I knew and thanked him. Then at the end of class, I grabbed my stuff, issued my weekly “Thank you.” and fled the premises before I could end up alone with him.

I was relieved that it was over.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Facing Demons, Part 2

I didn’t know that by visiting Dana Farber, last week, I essentially bought myself a ticket for a a runaway train of grief, depression, low self-esteem, anger and panic, to name just a few emotions.

When I left, after talking to the social worker, I felt like a ghost wandering the streets surrounding the hospital. I felt hideous, conspicuous, fat, ugly, directionless and like no matter how quickly I walked, I could not get out of the area fast enough. My legs felt like lead, as did my spirit. Knowing I was walking the same walk Chris did two years before for five days in a row, every single month was too much for me to take. I felt like there was no escape from the feeling that I had jumped into a giant vat of cancerous toxins that I could not wash off of my skin.

I took the entire day off to do this and also go to my doctor for my annual exam. I was beginning to regret that decision.

I felt compelled to go back, though, and face the past. I needed to. I’m not finished yet. I know I will go back there and wander around and try to bring the reflection of the memory of what happened into focus in the here and now. Until I do, I will feel haunted.

I know the doctors at Dana Farber help people every single day, but for me, the hospital is a place where Chris could not be saved. I know that happens. Lots of people are too sick to be saved. That isn’t Dana Farber’s fault. It’s nobody’s fault. It is what it is.

The only thing I wanted to do was to go home, close the curtains, lay down, close my eyes and cry. Knowing that is what gave me the strength to scrape my spirit off the bottom of my shoes and make my way to the Boston Public Library, instead, my laptop in tow. I sat for a couple of hours designing a web site and reading my psychology book and when the time came, I packed up my stuff and headed to Davis Square for the dreaded GYN.

After my exam, my doctor mentioned that she felt something in my uterus and wanted me to go to the hospital to have an ultrasound to rule out anything serious. I didn’t care, or at least I thought I didn't care. I thought if I have cancer, I will just go through the motions, like Chris did. I know the drill. The only difference is that he wouldn’t be here to see me through, which actually makes me feel better in some ways.

I requested that the office assistant schedule my appointment with radiology and headed home. I didn’t know my appointment was going to be scheduled for the very next day. When I found that out, panic set in. I remembered that when Chris went to his doctor to point out that his stomach felt hard, the doctor told him, without hesitation, to get straight over to the oncologist immediately. That was the start of our ordeal.

I was nervous. Did my doctor see something? I didn’t know. I went to my appointment where I was subjected to a reasonably invasive internal and external ultrasound, administered by a technician who was about as gentle and understanding as a robot. The procedure hurt and my pain and panic angered her causing her to exclaim, “If you can’t tolerate this I’m going to have to stop!” I had to beg her to continue, or risk having to come back again. As Chris would have said, “I basically bent over and took it up the ass.” except that I was lying down and in actuality, I took it up the vaginal canal and into the uterus.

When it was over and I was dressed, panic began to set in again. I was experiencing raw crampiness and I became convinced that I was feeling the cancer she had found and aggravated. I began to think about how I would handle actually having cancer and having to take care of myself without a partner to help me through the nightmare. I imagined myself in a hospital bed, chemo drip-drip-dripping into my veins. I imagined how I might feel walking to the train station afterwards feeling like a strung-out junkie and like death had a hold on me and nobody could help. I tried to call my friends by nobody answered their phones. I felt so alone and very sad.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Facing Demons, Part 1

I thought I had nothing more to write, but I was wrong. For a while, it seemed I kept writing the same two stories over and over again. I’m okay. I’m not okay.There is more, though.

This past Tuesday, I contacted a social worker who worked with Chris at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I had been thinking about her over the past couple of years and I even bumped into her in Whole Foods one day. She recognized me, strangely, even though I looked like utter hell the entire time I knew her. I say that because the last time I had seen her I was in a total state of shock and functioning on about four hours of sleep and a cat nap here and there during the four-day period before I was informed that there was nothing more that could be done for Chris.

I sent her an e-mail, re-introducing myself and asking if she had a few moments to meet with me and help me understand what Chris may have gone though, physically and emotionally throughout the duration of his illness. She replied to my e-mail right away, stating that she no longer worked for Dana Farber but inviting me to continue an e-mail conversation with her. She gave me the name of another social worker, Diane, she thought might be able to assist me.

I met with Diane Wednesday morning at 8:00am at Dana Farber. I hadn’t walked through the doors of that place since Chris’ last couple of weeks of life.

I got off the train at the Longwood stop and as I made my way up the street, crossing the Riverway and Brooklinle Avenue, I focused on trying to see my surroundings as Chris saw them on his many trips back and forth from his infusions. I saw the beauty in the trees lining the train stop, impatiently waited on the corner for the “walk” sign to light.

When I reached Brookline Avenue, the Longwood Shopping Mall in the distance on the far left corner, my anxiety began. My breath became short as I neared the corner and grew as I neared Binney Street. The words, “Binney Street”, are loaded for me. They mean so much more to me than a street label. They mean fear, terror, pain, impending doom and death. They mean lonliness and helplessness. They conjure up images of doctors that were unable to help, shots Chris didn’t want to get, hours and hours of time he had to spend in a hospital bed having poison pumped into his body and his voice. I remember his beaten, tired voice on the other end of the line calling me after each infusion.

I rounded the corner where I could see the DF banners blowing in the breeze and my pace slowed. I wanted to go in, even though I didn’t want to go in. I walked through the doors and checked in with security. Diane was there waiting for me, right in the very spot where a choir was singing Christmas Carols the year before Chris died. I remember thinking how odd music seemed filling up the air in such a dark and forboding place.

Diane asked me what it was like to be back and the floodgates opened. I couldn’t get to our private room fast enough.

We sat and talked for an hour about the period from Chris’ diagnosis up until the present time and I used up every single one of the tissues in the room. I told her about the medical stuff, dealing with it for the first time since experiencing Chris’ nightmare.

I confessed to Diane that I didn’t really know why I had come, that I had acted on an impulse. I thought I was going to be talking with Rhaea, Chris’ former social worker. Rheaa knew Chris. She has seen him alive. Diane apologized for not knowing him.

She set me up with a bereavement group that meets every other week at Dana Farber. I think it will be helpful and the timing feels right.