A rock feels no pain, and an island never lies…

Many of us experience isolation and walk alone in our cancer journeys. Regardless of the stage or type it's difficult and frightening, causing emotional strain and stressing the infrastructure of even our strongest relationships. My husband is in the third year of his depression. Although he’s trying, the lows and valleys run into and erase from memory the days and weeks with small glimmers of hope. He makes sure to remind me of the roof over my head but seems to have no recollection or reasonable understanding of how his depression continues to effect my health and the stressors of my 19 year old step son who lives in our home and does nothing but sleep and play video games with the door to his room shut.

He’s caused innumerable problems. After an hour he returned when I threw him out two weeks ago, with the encouragement of his own biological mother, and I feel trapped like a lab rat on a sinking ship. My pain is worse then ever and I am worse for the wear. I feel like there’s no way to find peace and air and light. I am stuck in a paradox worse than Xeno’s – staying in the current situation is de facto stressful and lonely; if I leave it’s de facto stressful and lonely. I’ve tired going out all day and keeping myself busy but I get so tired I find myself just sitting in my car sometimes wasting time and reasoning through unreasonable questions and behavior.

I've put years of my life into helping this boy. He’s spoiled and he’s not appreciative of how the foundation of a good life he’s rejected will bite him in his rear end when he gets older. Although he’s very much aware that he’s making my fight harder, it seems he does it quite purposely to create fights between my husband and I so I don’t have the veto to block his father from financing requests for undeserved expenses – he’s failed 11th grade three times now and he refuses to just do the little work to pass. I got him into the best charter school in our area and he's lied so I cannot show my face on campus but for the embarrassment.

As if this could get any worse I lost insurance for over a month and was switched to Medicare from Cal-Med -no paperwork from the government , just a call saying I could not go to the infusion center for my faslodex, xgeva, and zolodex and my appointments were cancelled until I had everything worked out. Ummm….yeah? Like this is a way to treat a 2+ year patient with a 10 year outlook?

I wonder if 10 years prognosis can make someone feel no better than a 2 year or less outlook or have a cold false smile from positive test results . Awful as it feels to say this I cannot help believing that emotions like happiness and joy cannot be a part of this life. What is my raison d'etre anyway? I cannot seem to make my husband believe I'm worth it to work at lifting the veil of his depression and stop blaming me for the natural course of time to take his son and let him find his way already. If he weren't depressed I know this kid wouldn't be here and my husband would not feel guilty if he were himself again.

But if wishes were dollars I would be very wealthy woman.

For whatever reason there is – biological or sociological or psychological – the stepmother reminds everyone of a failed marriage, a failed mother, a failed family. The new family units popping up everywhere are the norm now, not the exception. I think that some steps are better equipped than some biological parents to rear children, not to say a kid doesn’t need their parents somewhat like comparing that situation to an adoption. Not in my case. However, my husband happens to be adopted and has no real need to locate his biological mother or father. That said, he had an idyllic childhood and his biological mother did him a solid by giving him to people who really wanted to raise him and could afford to do so. Not that money buys love. It can't.

If I told you some of the shit sandwiches I've had to eat over the past 10 years, you'd never want to eat again. It's ingesting the worst kind of manipulation possible and allowing it to become part of our life's fabric. We cannot help the guilt and the pain that our steps go through – we do our best, many of us anyway, to help them rise above choices they didn't make. But so it goes, the bio mom has a lot to do with the kid's attitude as we enter these situations with the best of intentions. If intentions were dollar bills I'd be Bill Gates. I love both of those kids – regardless of the behavior each has bestowed upon me. My younger one now 16 apologized for his less than stellar behavior, calling me a gold digger and his dad a stupid bread winner not believing I looked sick enough to have cancer. This coincided with his pre-teen hormonal hell. He is kind, loving, and helpful to me as he was prior to puberty – quite the opposite of his brother.

My husband’s guilt won’t allow him to drop kick him out to find that in the real world there aren’t private bedroom suites with bathtubs and house cleaners and magic fridges that fill themselves, and magic cars that have gas and pick him up and drop him off anywhere for free anytime, and juice containers to put your unbrushed mouth full of germs on and drink the freshly squeezed juices I make, or lock yourself up in a bedroom with a lovely daybed cum couch (excuse the double entendre) and play guitar or xbox until all hours and sleep until 2 in the afternoon, or talk to an adult by yelling and cursing and without a modicum of respect, and I won’t go on…

So, the loneliness sets in deep.

May we all not have to get used to being alone, as there are too many of us to have to be done with people just because we have a metastatic cancer. In educating people who do not have active cancer, they’re surprised to learn that although there’s no evidence of tumors or worse, thankfully, because their immune systems recognize and erradicate them.

It seems like an eternity still, two years and three months since my diagnosis. When I hear comments from people who know little about the disease, and mostly from rather snarky people who say, “oh, you’ll be fine” or “you look too good to have cancer” or other demoralizing, ignorant statements as such, I do not mind educating any of them. It seems, however, few want to learn. In education we sometimes find a fear that we needn’t have uncovered so late in life. But is ignorance bliss and lying to ourselves better than knowing the truth?

In step parenting and in metastatic cancer, as with being a wife to someone with long term depression and his inadvertency to get the help he needs to give me some of the help I need, I wonder if the human condition doesn’t somehow rely on lying to itself in order to continue to propagate itself.  As the line said in the title of this post, and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries. You Paul Simon, are a genius.

Here's a song to listen to as you contemplate the dense and intense feelings of both stepparents and cancer patients, as I wish for life to go o after me without the great isolation each situation causes it's victims. 

Simon and Garfunkel, I am a Rock

I, Sheherezade, I

“Function, sweetheart.”
A line in code,
Bogart, feeling the burnt calamity,
The sweat of cities,
And the hearts all pretty.

Served with new orders, realizing
She flinched dramatically yet faintly,
Rudely chortled, then crossed her “i”s.
He barely escaped a double, a body,
The usual. She’s pretty, toiling for trouble.
Yet Who’s the true Scheherazade?
Telling, her bruised cheeks and frozen eyes.
You down a frown waltz the promenade,
Long, dark obelisks hiding Rosicrucian spies.
Pinching and squeezing, the blues of your eyes,
Cover the exit doors, clues etched
Deep into jaundiced old parchment.

Film from a milk glass half full of greed,
Checking your pockets for cents.
Emptied at once and in the morass
Future opportunities. Past prominent.

Throwing queens and kings in with the cards,
Escalating the fight that night he sang,
He heard the door slam, hard.
The story left for another in chains
The first rights of refusal
And Persia called him Methuselah.

I can’t trace time…

As the miraculously sentient creatures of earth with the gift of forethought and planning, sometimes, our little giddinness producing miracles go sideways. New plans must take the place of a road not taken. Make some adjustments to life, or in other words, change.

Change happens regardless of those Steinbeckian mice and men and their ne’er do well notorious plans. Change cannot be adjusted to adapt to our busy day, or to a more pleasing time. Even if you can accept and understand how the new changes will fit into your future narrative, we must reconfigure too many other important things that we are rushing around to get to even acceptance for life altering style shifts in our lives. Yet we’re stuck waiting for “never” it would seem, when you can accept and integrate it seamlessly, not when a moment of  “nothing much to do” happens.  Change, accept it or not, happens at the worst times of your life. How large the richter scale measures the shaking, like change in a life, the worse the earthquake shifts the ground under your feet. Changes become your entire self when the diagnosis of cancer creates tectonic shifts in identity, spirituality, sexuality…all our -ity’s.

Change comes in no particular size, no unit of time, no structural blueprints – nothing measurable to understand how far the shift will take you – a foot or thousands of miles. For instance, there’s little sureties that must change during chemotherapy, such as your toothpaste for periodontal sensitivity and dry mouth from medications and opiate pain therapies.  Then you face the omni-encompassing, life circumventing tectonic shifts. A soul wrapped in a physical body begins to change because of the corpus crisis cancer creates.

The identifications of a  person’s life, defined by what they DO to make a monetary living means less than before, even ending in a firey, screeching crash for some of us. Then what are we? Take our careers away and what does cancer leave as our identities in its wake?  Our souls feel alone since in order to interact as part of a network of people who identify with us, now are those who barely remember our names anymore. We worked on projects once, but cancer took those projects and made them impossible for us to remain on the “team.” Our souls become alone again.

Change to our identities from cancer, especially metastatic cancer, comes from a scarcity of funds and the unkmown quantity of life in human years. The equation for how much for how long when both =x and divided by zero doesn’t exist.

It’s more important to love what you do than making piles of money. The difference between living and making a living, is love. So make love, so to speak. Love what you do all day and love those with whom you choose to spend time with each day. The love you give to your living and to the people who help you make it deserve your best self. On the days when my best self looks something like the sock sorter in hell for the devil himself, I still wear the best possible face I can find inside myself, and get on sorting those damned socks.

By the way, I absolutely abhor sorting socks, and if by some bizarre quirk in the space time continuum hell exists, then hell is not other people as Jean Paul Sartre said, it’s sorting socks! Shut-y. We all have our quirks,so do not be so judge-y. Existentialism aside, stay clear of anything that feels wrong to you, feels ugly, feels hurtful, feels boring. Walk out of a bad movie, put down a dreadfully written book! Consume only content that pleases your aesthetic sensibilities. Once you’ve chosen your next intellectual feast for your mind and with your integrity in tact, pour yourself a steaming cup of Pleasure tea, grab a honkin’ slab o’ Happy Pie, and relax blissfully in the arms of a loving chair. Your flavor. Your way. You’ll love each sip and every bite, and in return have more love for your living and the people with whom you live.

Change your selections in your jukebox to music you can dance to, because no one knows exactly how long they have. I mean really, you could get hit by a bus or something!

David Bowie – Changes