When the Pain Is Real

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I have been writing about emotional pain and suffering since I started this blog, but until last week I hadn’t had much experience with the concept of dealing with so much emotional pain and physical pain all at once. I like to believe I’m a very compassionate person, but until I suffered from what I’m going through right now I didn’t know I had ways to open up even more.

In a matter of weeks, I found out my “Gifted mother” (GM) (my dad’s partner of 21 years and too special to consider step or anything less) had stage 4 lung cancer and would not be fighting it. She was ready to be with my dad once again on the other side; a strange foot thing making my foot swell and sharp pains run over the top of my foot; discovering I had a basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) right above my lip; my book proposal needing to be finished; and my kid’s father stopped paying child support. I showed up for my GM as much as I could, and dealt with my foot issue including having to wear a soft cast on my right foot as I traveled  an hour and a half to go be with my GM as frequently as I possible.

I had surgery on my face that turned out to be a lot more intense than I thought it would be. The worst news I got from my Dr. was that I wasn’t supposed to smile, laugh, or excessively move my mouth for three weeks. I’m a positive person and all I could think about was not being able to help my GM feel comfortable in what could be her last week of life. After leaving my surgery, I get a text letting me know that my GM was unresponsive. I drove right down with a fully bandaged face. Her friend sent me a message saying she was waiting for me, and that she was talking now.

When I got there she didn’t recognize me because I had a bandage covering most of my face. If I had painted a little nose on, I would have looked like on of Dr. Seuss’ Who characters from Whoville. I knew I was where I was supposed to be. She talked and laughed all night passing messages of love and even humor with one of her best friends and I, then later her daughter arrived from a very long drive to get to her. She still was having beautiful moments until I left late that night. I wouldn’t have missed that time for the world. The next morning, I came in and sat quietly across the room as her and her daughter slept. My GM had a rough night and was now on a morphine drip and anti-anxiety  meds. She was so peaceful, we thought we would have a little more time, but at 9:43am, I was holding her hand in my hands as she took her last breath.  All of this happened within six long, never-ending weeks.

I sit here now with stitches still in my face, feeling out of sorts and not quite like myself. I didn’t have any idea of how much of my identity I put into expressing my emotions through my face. I have never stuffed any kind of pain, so to have to constantly restrict what I can do and how my face moves, along with watching my tears because I need to make sure to keep my wound clean, has proven to be more challenging than I thought it would be. I see now how people can feel like they lose their identities when they have an injury or illness that restricts them from doing and acting the way they usually do. I get how it takes time to process the feelings that I never even knew I had inside.

My lesson is one of compassion for others. As I walk by people and they look at me and smile a sympathetic smile, I have to look down instead of smile back, because it causes too much physical pain. I am now more understanding to people who are suffering from emotional, mental, physical, and financial distress, because I truly have no idea what might have happened to that person in the last week, month or year.

On a logical and practical level, I know not to take other’s actions personally, but going through everything I just did in these last six weeks, I finally fully understand it in the heart now. I have had to let people have their journeys and experiences through all of this. Everyone views the end of life journey so differently. My kids had to see me after surgery and get the news that their JoJo passed all at once. I had to understand how scary seeing me stitched up and covered in bandages was for them and that it was also embarrassing in a way. I get that, I still get a little embarrassed, I can’t expect they wouldn’t. I feel like I could talk about it openly and help them deal with the guilt of feeling embarrassed. I could also let them feel the way they needed to about their JoJo, which is still not quite real to any of us yet.

I know there is still a lot of powerful lessons in all that happened over these last six weeks, but I also know how blessed I am. So many showed up and helped me and my kids through this piece of a very big and unfinished puzzle. I’m blessed because all the right things came together for my GM to have the most peaceful journey possible. I’m blessed because though these next few weeks will be rough as I have to control how my feelings release on the outside, I still have my fingers to type and so much love in my heart to continue on and know I will smile again.

I believe the world is filled with Earth Angels and I’m so grateful that so many have crossed my path and helped me to continue to see all the beauty in humanity. Though I’m going through some tough life lessons, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be-Itchy stitches and all. Even when the pain is SO real! The love can still always shine through if we keep our hearts open.

With Love and Gratitude,

Rachael Wolff

 

Love on A Cancer Journey

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One of the journeys through life that can be so different is watching someone’s cancer journey. I come from a large extended family and both of my parents found new and amazing partners who brought me even more extended family. I have had to watch multiple family members and friends have to travel down the cancer road. I’ve been blessed with people overcoming amazing odds and I’ve watched people fight so hard to survive and then have to say goodbye. The love that shines through has always been what touches me most.

Just like anything else, people have so many different ways of dealing with cancer. Family members and love ones have their ideas and the person going through the diagnosis has theirs. Sometimes they can be much different. One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn to do is honor every person’s space when they are faced with this hard life lesson. Cancer is a lesson for anyone that it touches, whether it is loving someone with cancer or going through the journey ourself. Sometimes, we forget all the people who are affected by one person’s case of cancer and each person has a personal journey through it.

I’ve been amazed at what people have done after being touched with cancer. Things a person would never even thought of before the diagnosis touched their lives. I’ve seen organizations formed, money raised, community outreach, and all kinds of support and love come together to help. In my life, I’m amazed how my life and schedule open up when people I love really can use me being there. When my dad was dying, my boss and co-workers were so incredibly understanding and gave me the time and space I needed to be with him, and my mother in-law stepped up to help with the kids, so I could fully focus on my dad in his final moments of life. Recently, the same opportunities (thanks to my amazing family) opened up to be there for a family member going through getting a stage 4 diagnosis.

I’ve been able to be there to support her choices of how she wants to travel her road. I’ve seen miracles and road blocks leading us to everywhere where we are led to be. I have seen so much love. I’m brought to tears when I really think about all the incredible love that has embraced my family through this process. I’ve never been this close to finding out a person’s diagnosis and decision making process. I didn’t have any idea what to expect as every piece of information kept coming at us during the moments before knowing what we were dealing with. I didn’t understand how hard it was to keep people in an ever expanding loop of loved ones wanting to reach in with love and support.

As prepared as I thought I was, nothing could have prepared me for the feelings that have come from this experience. Each person’s journey is so different and listening to all the ideas and views along this path have been overwhelming, but they have helped me to understand so much more than I ever did about the process. I have to remind myself to let each person be where they are and not judge. I may not agree with all the decisions made, but I don’t have to, my job is to honor and love each person involved.

When we know the outcome, because of a person’s choice not to fight the cancer there are a lot of different feelings and emotions that people go through. The person in their end stages are wrapping up loose ends, reviewing their life, sharing their love and gratitude with their loved ones, and coping with all the changes  happening in a very short time frame. This is just the beginning of what is going on, not to mention what happens with all the mental facets as more drugs have to be administered to keep them comfortable.

As a loved one, all the quick changes take a toll too. So many different thoughts, feelings, and emotions come through. Sometimes it is not always thoughts that we want to have and we have to reconcile feelings of  guilt and shame for emotions that are completely natural, but we still need to figure out how to forgive ourselves.  We have to make decisions that we know are going to have a lasting effect on our lives. Being far away while all this is going on can be brutal. It is hard not being right there because you don’t know what is going on and your brain can go crazy with scenarios and fears. For me, there are moments I can be there and there are times I can’t. What I’ve seen is that when I’m not there someone else is and that is their piece of the journey. I’m only there when I’m supposed to be there. If I’m meant to have a different role, I need to trust I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

I have a couple family members who want to be here, but circumstances don’t allow for it. They have both struggled being so far away, but I don’t think they know the importance of their roles. If we are not meant to be around the people we love, we won’t be. We can share e-mails, texts, Facebook messages, and provide support to the other people helping. Each person’s journey through this is important to the peace and love that the people in the trenches feel to help them through this challenging time. The people who are meant to be there will be. I know it has been hard for me to trust that (which is why I keep repeating it), but it has proven true time and again. When we are going through this experience we have to remember the power of love. There are no boundaries. Love can reach out to any corner of the globe with no obstacles.

In my case, I know my loved one going down this path feels the love. I know she doesn’t expect anyone to do more than they are doing. She is in awe of the outpouring. That’s what matters most. The cancer journey is not easy on anyone involved. The best gift we can bring to the table is love. Trust that all the people and situations that will be best for our loved ones  will show up. Keep loving energy at the core of everything! If you send love, you are helping. Please don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t do. Focus on what you can and do it.

As a very personal note, I want to thank all my loved ones for their love and support. I’m so blessed to have each and every one of you in my life.

With an ABUNDANCE of Love and Gratitude,

Rachael

From A Loving Place